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  1. Fascinating. So glad that now I won’t have to read Crichton’s loopy book.

    Many thanks for putting up this blog, it’s a tremendous resource.

    Comment by Chicago Jason — 13 Dec 2004 @ 11:36 PM

  2. Great site!

    I’m sure you guys must have seen Crichton’s climate change lecture. See here. I think it gives you an insight into his position on this issue without having to delve through the book and the characterizations.

    You mentioned computer simulations being published in journals. How much work is done on the validation of the models? IMHO, a model that is unvalidated doesnt deserve journal recognition. My eyes glaze over when I’m reading projections on GIGO models passed off as science. I do have utmost respect for papers that show actual measurements, references to understood physical processes, etc.

    Response There is a vast literature on model evaluation, and a good place to start is the IPCC report, chapter 8 – William.

    Comment by TangoMan — 14 Dec 2004 @ 2:38 AM

  3. Re the 1940-1970 cooling:
    There are several factors that might have impacted the 1940-70 cooling. The Second World War for one. The massive fire raids in Germany and Japan could be expected to inject a significant amount of particulate into the stratosphere. The war itself probably caused a net reduction in economic activity and emissions of CO2. I have read chattering about the injection of krypton-85 into the stratosphere from above ground nuclear testing as a potential climate impact, but am not qualified to evaluate that. Finally, the 1963 eruption of Agung in Indonesia was one of the 20th Century’s five climate-significant eruptions.

    Comment by Jim Dukelow — 14 Dec 2004 @ 3:53 AM

  4. Of course I have filial bias (Eric Steig, one of the site contributors) but this is exactly the sort of analysis to which I will be so happy to point the readers of Crichton’s work that I will inevitably meet over the coming months. The challenge is to get this site in the media’s consciousness as the “go to” site for views on climate change subjects.

    Comment by Joseph Steig — 14 Dec 2004 @ 5:58 AM

  5. Re: the hansen scenarios graph – very impressive but isn’t it about time it was updated. I note that the last ‘observed’ reading appears to be in 1998. I’m sure it’s only coincidence but this was particularly warm ‘El Nino’ year.


    Comment by John Finn — 14 Dec 2004 @ 6:04 AM

  6. Excellent tour de force. I spotted one thing that looks like an error though. You say:

    On p368. “Croplands are warmer than forested lands”. This is probably a confusion with the urban heating issue, but the actual impact is the opposite – croplands have a higher albedo than forests, reflect more solar radiation, and are thus cooler.

    He’s probably referring to Roy’s study here. A quote:

    In addition, a warming effect was found along the Atlantic coast where croplands have replaced forests. Compared to forests, croplands are less efficient in transpiration, a daytime process where water evaporates from leaves during photosynthesis and cools the air.

    Of course, the albedo changes are probably overidingly important. As is the release of CO2 from deforestation. Folks who are interested may want to read Matthews, 2004

    Response: Thanks for pointing this study out. I think I’m still right, but I’ll look into it anyway – gavin

    Comment by Tom Rees — 14 Dec 2004 @ 7:06 AM

  7. Well, it’s no surprise Crichton took the position he did. The anti-liberal crowd has been sourcing his spiel on scientific consensus as a refutation of climate change for a while now.

    Comment by American Pundit — 14 Dec 2004 @ 7:52 AM

  8. Sorry to be a nuisance but I did actually request an update on the Hansen graph. It is , after all, six years out of date.

    Response: see above (I had to photoshop since I don’t have the original figure in a nice format) – gavin

    Comment by John Finn — 14 Dec 2004 @ 11:56 AM

  9. Fisking Michael Crichton?
    RealClimate » Michael Crichton’s State of Confusion.

    Trackback by City Comforts Blog — 14 Dec 2004 @ 1:04 PM

  10. Crichton, as he deserves
    RealClimate rips into that anti-science schlockmeister, Michael Crichton. Crichton has written a new book (fiction, of course) in which the villain uses global warming hype to aid terrorists, somehow, and the book apparently argues that global warm…

    Trackback by Pharyngula — 14 Dec 2004 @ 1:17 PM

  11. In the NYT story about Crichton and this book:

    He was particularly dismissive of the various computer models for climate change, saying, “You have to remember, I come from an experience where you can use a computer to make a photo-realistic dinosaur, and I know that isn’t real.”

    Somehow, I fail to see the connection between understanding CGI and climate modeling. True, they both make use of computers but beyond that, I’m at a loss. Perhaps it’s taken out of context and he actually has more to say on the matter. It does seem to smack slightly of arrogance, however.

    If Crichton really wanted to make a difference, he would do more to enlighten people about how science actually works. It’s not static. It’s not a cabal of evil-doers trying to get more from the government teat. It is largely a community endeavor to try to understand the truth.

    There is a huge push in this nation to try to discredit uncomfortable facts and it seems even the once highly regarded arena of science is falling prey to PR driven reality. I applaud this site and its aouthors for their efforts to slow this trend.

    Comment by Jim Beck — 14 Dec 2004 @ 2:36 PM

  12. “… Crichton actually visited our lab and discussed some of these issues with me and a few of my colleagues. I guess we didn’t do a very good job.”

    I’m sure you did an outstanding job, just like you did with this article. Put the blame squarely where it belongs: on those who use your name and misrepresent your research to further their own agenda. Remember, the corporate polluters and their supporters don’t need to be right or accurate to win this debate. They only need to build the perception that the issue is so confused and contentious that the truth is ultimately a matter of personal opinion. That’s why investigations like “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” (Science, Dec. 2004) are important to show that most of the basic disagreements are nothing more than manufactured media spin.

    Comment by Laurence Aurbach — 14 Dec 2004 @ 4:25 PM

  13. “He argues, that since eugenics was studied in prestigious universities and supported by charitable foundations, and now, so is global warming, they must somehow be related.”

    I haven’t read the book (or its appendix), so consider me ignorant, but –
    Is this paraphrase of Crichton’s argument a fair characterization? Perhaps his point was that the simple fact that the research enjoys university and charitable foundation support does not necessarily mean that it will appear valuable in hindsight – or to put it another way, that “argument from authority” does not always lead one to truth.

    If so, he’s correct in an absolute sense – however it’s a pretty good heuristic.

    Response: I absolutely agree that “argument from authority” is not good science, but the converse (no good science comes from “authority”) is certainly not true, and this is what is implied in the appendix (It’s short, just sneak into Barnes and Noble and read it). – gavin

    Comment by Anna — 14 Dec 2004 @ 4:53 PM

  14. Hmmm. So Crichton cherry picks the data, twists the facts, and actually makes stuff up. That must be why he’s getting so much attention on Fox News. (After all, it takes one to know one…)

    Seriously, as a journalist (and a professor of journalism), I’m wondering whether scientists think they should even bother responding in a very public way to Crichton. It seems to me that you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If you respond by going on television, you increase his publicity and book sales. (And the broadcast media will play it in typical “he said, she said/global warming: yes or no?” fashion.) If you don’t – if, for example, you simply stick to the blogosphere, like this – his big lie will stand unchallenged. In other words, he wins no matter what, because he is a celebrity and the rest of you are, well, mere scientists doing serious work. (At least you guys are still trusted more than we journalists are…)

    My opinion: Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. Blow him out of the water! (And try to forget that even if you win the battle you’ll probably still lose the war, at least on television.)

    Tom Yulsman, Center for Environmental Journalism, University of Colorado

    Comment by Tom Yulsman — 14 Dec 2004 @ 6:26 PM

  15. Crichton also spends quite a bit of space arguing that Greenland is cooling, rather than warming. The recent Arctic Climate Impact Assessment has an impressive figure showing that the area of Greenland experiencing summer melt is dramatically larger in 2002 than in 1992. (see at page 10). Can you shed some light on this subject.

    Comment by Dan Lashof — 14 Dec 2004 @ 6:37 PM

  16. I think you are being rather too hard on Crichton. He is a novelist not a scientist. I like many thousands of others loved Jurassic Park but it is of course filled with the most arrant nonsense. I don’t mean the DNA retrieval or even the species resurections. I mean all that stuff about chaos theory. In Shakespeare and Victorian adventure novels there is often a seer or witch who predicts the future to give the reader a warning of the impending catastrophy. In Jurassic Park Crichton uses chaos theory in just this way. There is still some of this in the movie. The Jeff Goldblum character can see that the park will fail because of MATHEMATICS. Not because of sabotage or bad construction. His math tells him the dinosaurs must get out.

    Using the math of chaos theory to predict actual outcomes in the real world without any measurements is a truly goofy idea. Yet as a drammatic device its pretty effective.

    When I was little every week I saw a movie about how nuclear war or waste would cause people to shrink (or enlarge). A whole generation learned that atomic enegy brought mutant monsters. Maybe that’s why nuclear power is so unpopular. I don’t know but I don’t see a ready solution. Movies and books need drama. Crichton is not interested in climate science so as to teach accurately. He wants only enough to supply a veneer of verisimilitude. All we can hope is that no one takes pop culture as their only source of scientific information.

    Comment by pat — 14 Dec 2004 @ 7:25 PM

  17. Crichton next raises the apparently unrecognised (by the lawyer character at least) fact that the interior of Antarctica is cooling (p196), an issue discussed in another post (Antarctica cooling, global warming?). This is more or less correct (given the obvious uncertainties in long term data from the continental interior), but analogously to the example above, local cooling does not contradict global warming

    Yes, but the polar cooling does flatly contradict the climate models that are the basis of the global warming hypothesis. Not only is the bulk of the Antarctic continent cooling, but temperature stations all around the Arctic rim have shown no overall temperature rise since the late 1930s.
    See Godhab Nuuk, Tromo, Ostrov Dikson, Ostrov Kotel, Dzardzan, and others.

    There’s no way out of it: if the greenhouse gas theory were correct and the climate models were really modelling the “real climate” then the high latitudes would be warming the fastest. But they aren’t. They are barely warming at all on timescales where real climatic variation counts (and by that I mean less than 50 years).

    Also to claim a warming on the basis of a multi-decadal oscillation back to the 1970s (when the temperature had been falling since about 1940) as some sort of significance, is beyond risible.

    Regional patterns of change appear to be linked more closely to internal variability (particularly the 1930’s warming in the North Atlantic).

    The 1930s warming wasn’t just visible in the North Atlantic but as far away as Cape Town, South Africa (which also shows the 1930s, not the 1990s, as the warmest decade, natch), but Punta Arenas, Christchurch, New Zealand, Quelimane, Indian Ocean

    So the reference to the warming of the 1930s being limitied to the North Atlantic is simply false.

    Response: Look at all the data instead of just cherry picking the stations that agree with your prior hypothesis. To make things easier for you I have the calculated the global anomalies (w.r.t 1951-1980) for the 1930’s and the 1990’s from the same data set that you quote. It’s readily apparent that the 1990’s warming is significantly more extensive than for the 1930’s.
    As for your other point, I doubt that pointing to a climate model that shows Antarctic cooling will be sufficient, but it might help… – gavin

    Comment by Art reader — 14 Dec 2004 @ 7:25 PM

  18. The book seems to be a “Mary Sue”. From

    MARY SUE (n.): 1. A variety of story, first identified in the fan fiction community, but quickly recognized as occurring elsewhere, in which normal story values are grossly subordinated to inadequately transformed personal wish-fulfillment fantasies, often involving heroic or romantic interactions with the cast of characters of some popular entertainment. 2. A distinctive type of character appearing in these stories who represents an idealized version of the author…

    Comment by Paul Farrar — 14 Dec 2004 @ 8:28 PM

  19. I think Crichton’s book goes in a direction opposite responsible laypersons should go. Scientists rightly have to worry about false positives – claiming something (like global warming) is happening, when it is not, or their reputation might be harmed (and no one will believe them when they call wolf next time). They need the magic .05 significance level, or something approaching it. Laypersons, such as Crichton, his readers, and myself, should be worried more about avoiding false negatives: doing nothing to abate global warming, when in fact it is happening. We do not need high scientific proof to start screwing in compact fluorescent bulbs, low-flow showerheads, etc. In fact I have reduced my greenhouse emission about at least 3/4 and am saving $hundreds per year (we reduced by 1/3, then went on 100% wind power from Greenmountain Energy). Energy experts, such as Amory Lovins, figure we can reduce our energy consumption in the U.S. by 3/4 without lowering productivity or living standard with, off-the-shelf technology and conservation habits. So for laypersons a true negative (we do nothing to reduce GH emissions, and GW is not happening) would be much worse economically & re other environmental problems, than a false positive (we abate global warming, when it is not happening).

    I can’t imagine Crichton’s thesis of people using a “false global warming” for evil ends. What I see is people thwarting action to address a highly probable “true global warming” for evil ends. What I find in daily life is that very few people know what global warming is (many confuse it with the strat. ozone hole), and those that do know about it, think it has been disproven. I very rarely meet anyone who thinks it’s a problem, and even more rarely meet anyone who is actually trying to reduce their greenhouse emissions – even those easy steps that save money.

    I’m happy I found this site, and am happy bonafide scientists are addressing errors of the skeptics, who seem to have little concern about avoiding false negatives (or our biological and economic welfare) and are excessively fearful of false positives for whatever reasons.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 14 Dec 2004 @ 9:39 PM

  20. To TangoMan who wants to see model validation. The essential problem with this approach — to validate a model you need experimental results. Well, the experimental results take time to develop, and the future world is the only validation lab we have. And by that time, it’s too late. Kind of a catch-22 we have here.

    Comment by Webster Hubble Telescope — 14 Dec 2004 @ 11:01 PM

  21. Thank you for putting together such an exhaustive answer to Crichton’s rubbish about global warming. Though not specifically in relation to Crichton’s book, will also be a useful tool in taking it apart: it has a large section about DDT and the so-called DDT “ban” which allegedly led to millions of deaths, another dubious claim that Crichton twists in much the same way as climate change.

    Beyond his pseudoscience, I think I was a bit more saddened by his rhetorical “dirty tricks”…. the old canards that are always tossed out against anybody arguing the pro-environmental position. We’ve seen it a zillion times, yet Crichton acts like putting it in print *one more time* will make it less false.

    For instance, his stand-in narrator asserts that “conserving nature is foolish / dishonest, since extinction and change are constant!” Thus writes a former M.D., presumably dedicated to the conservation of human life – what a foolish endeavor since extinction and change are constant! I also assume that Michael Crichton M.D. was paid for his services with money, which he put in a bank account – again, what a silly thing to do in a world where nothing matters since change and extinction are constant!

    Another low-blow he uses in SoF is that “by spending money on the environment, you’re not giving it to the poor! – Well -. yeah. That’s how money works. By spending it on ANYTHING, you’re not giving it to the poor. Same thing goes for military spending (remember what Eisenhower said?), the space program, publicity campaigns for Crichton’s latest hack-work, and lots of other things that get way higher funds than environmentalism. So why single that out? Simple: to try to get the presumed bleeding-heart supporters of environmentalism so consumed with guilt that they’ll abandon it. As one newspaper reviewer put it, the author’s wise to cloak his anti-environmentalism in the rhetoric of a third-world do-gooder, but rest assured that Red Riding Hood can see the wolf’s tail sticking out of grandma’s robe.

    Comment by TTT — 14 Dec 2004 @ 11:11 PM

  22. To Gavin,

    Whereever did you get that data? If I point my browser at the warmest points on the Arctic rim (according to both your graphs), the nearest stations with records that show the 1930s all show the 1930s as being warmer than the 1990s.

    Response: It’s from the GISTEMP site – the same place you got the station data, and it comes from the combined GISS+Had/Reyn analysis. -gavin

    I did not compare them with the 1950-1980 records but with each other, because I was establishing that the 1930s were warmer on the Arctic Rim than the 1990s. And they were. Practically every station record from the high Arctic shows this.

    I note also, that you don’t even bother to tackle the issue of the statement that the 1930s warming was purely a North Atlantic warming because it’s clearly untrue. That warming was shown in records all around the globe.

    As for your link to a climate model predicting the Antarctic may be cooling because of greenhouse gases, my reaction is similar to Homer Simpson: “Models! Is there anything they can’t do?”

    Comment by Art Reader — 15 Dec 2004 @ 3:58 AM

  23. In response to comment #16 (“He is a novelist not a scientist”). I think you are too easy on Crichton. He is also a popular public speaker who loves to make up “facts” to suit his particular agenda. A good example is his well-known statement that “DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die”. It is true that DDT has not been demonstrated to be carcinogenic except at very high levels, but this is true of most suspected carcinogens — most data is clinical, not epidemiological. And the evidence that DDT causes bird egg shells to thin, resulting in lower birth rates, is overwhelming.

    Comment by Eric Steig — 15 Dec 2004 @ 11:34 AM

  24. In response to #22, saying “Models! Is there anything they can’t do?”

    Climate models are simply computer code that incorporates radiation and the physics of fluids on a rotating sphere. There is nothing magical about them, and there are a lot of things they “can’t do”. The point that some models show Antarctic cooling is simply that Antarctic cooling is therefore physically plausible in an otherwise warming world. In any case, this entire discussion is a bit of a red herring because the degree of cooling appears, from the data available, to be quite limited in spatial extent and temporal duration. Making a big deal about this is like pointing to the bad economy in say, Louisiana this week, and concluding that the country’s economy as a whole is going down the tubes.

    Comment by Eric Steig — 15 Dec 2004 @ 1:12 PM

  25. A response to comment #19 from Lynn Vincentnathan “that very few people know what global warming is (many confuse it with the strat. ozone hole), and those that do know about it, think it has been disproven. I very rarely meet anyone who thinks it’s a problem.”

    Actually, polling shows quite convincingly that the vast majority of Americans accept that the globe is warming and that humans are at least partly responsible. For details on this polling data – which have been consistent since 1997 – see “A Myth about Public Opinion and Global Warming”. The bottom line is that for seven years running, between 70 and 75 percent of Americans believe that global warming is a reality and are concerned about it.

    This suggests that maybe the news media are not doing as bad a job in reporting on this subject as is frequently argued, and that greater public knowledge of the scientific basis of the issue won’t necessarily lead to better policies. Perhaps prompting greater public support for action will require a re-framing of the debate, as Roger Pielke, Jr., frequently argues, from “global warming: yes or no” to the benefits we might derive from tackling energy issues regardless of whether climate change is a problem. Many if not most policy prescriptions recommended for dealing with climate change are so-called “no regrets” policies. And if these policies were actually discussed publicly in that way (as being beneficial for many reasons other than mitigating global warming) perhaps we’d get out of the trap that Michael Crichton and his ilk continue to set for us.

    — Tom Yulsman, Center for Environmental Journalism, University of Colorado

    Comment by Tom Yulsman — 15 Dec 2004 @ 4:08 PM

  26. A lot of the modeling depends on what exactly you assume – for example if it is a trend model if you take a moment in time and track it back to a previous low or high then you will get the upward or downward trend. so if I say now to 1970 I can get an upward trend if I use now till begining of the industrial revolution I might get a flat line. You could take a random graph and draw such a trend.
    I notice such graphs tend to start in 60-70 and end now coincidentally that is also close to a low point is it not?
    Anyway – results with more extreme results are more likely to get attention, and fit better with likely researchers mindsets for “usable data”, both for those trying to prove no effect and those trying ot prove an effect.

    Having said that a strong study should stand on its own and if the studies are reliable it should be possible to list a basic set of major assumptions that differ between them and explain how they effect the results. I am also disinclined all things being equal to argue that scientific consensus is outright false unless there is hard evidence with which to do so.

    > For lack of better information, if we (incorrectly) assume all the scenarios are equally probable, the error around the mean of 3.6 degrees is about 60%, not 400%.

    This assumption is of course the most favourable possible for your own conclusion jsut like he chose the most favourable possible for his own conclusion – actually your 60% and his 400% are the same. Your scale after-all does not even go up to 400% so it would be highly unlikely a person would sit there and thing 400% difference refers to a 400% difference on either side of the mean. (still – you are welcome to point out another perspective)

    > Laypersons, such as Crichton, his readers, and myself, should be worried more about avoiding false negatives.

    The problem is a layperson can do nothing about global warming by himself, only collectively can anything be done and we are doing nothing really. Anyway it is a false comparison to compare old temperatures with new temperatures when asking “wht should we do” you need to compare “our solution” with “their solution” If you are advocating a political strategy you need to accept current proposed strategies will probably still result in the majority of the global warming predicted in the ordinary scenario (if not all of it – a point which I can argue if you like).

    > “argument from authority” is not good science

    It is a hard thing to say but eugenics is not “bad science” in and of itself. It is just immoral and dangerous, rather like nuclear weapons. Genes are in part responsible for intelligence and one could theoretically breed for intelligence, we reject it for social rather than scientific reasons. Similarly Global warming does not appear to be bad science but are we really willing to do what it takes to do anything about it?

    Comment by GeniusNZ — 15 Dec 2004 @ 5:24 PM

  27. Gavin:

    Interesting and informative critique of Crichton’s criticism of global warming theory. I am far from sold on this theory so I appreciate your analysis. Thanks for updating the graph to include current numbers. My interpretation is that you have to back off the statement that so far the data follows scenario B the best. It looks to me like the trend is more towards the lower end of the prediction scenarios, either B or C. But your major point about the 300% off statement is right on the mark. As an earlier commentor pointed out Crichton makes great hay with his consensus argument. But sometimes consensus just means that there is a consensus of skeptics (e.g., Wegener’s theory of continental drift was proposed in 1912 based on continent shapes but was not widely accepted until 50 years later because the smoking gun – deep sea rifts – hadn’t been discovered) or there is consensus because the data is overwhelming (e.g., descent with modification).

    Comment by PeterArgus — 15 Dec 2004 @ 5:29 PM

  28. Bad Science, Bad Scholarship, Bad Journalism, Popular Fiction
    My first exposure to Michael Crichton was The Andromeda Strain. It came to me with a reputation as a science fiction “classic”. It turned out to be just dumb and predictable. Since then, Crichton has pumped out barely-believable fiction with…

    Trackback by smijer — 15 Dec 2004 @ 7:45 PM

  29. As I understand complex modelling it uses iterative techniques such as monte carlo simulations–Can it also use Covariance Structure Modelling? (LISREL or AMOS for example); is it possible to determine the amount of variance explained in a complex model from the independent variable(s) attributed to human involvement? or is this even a valid question. Is there a text recommendation anyone can provide that would shed light on these questions? Thanks in advance.

    Comment by RogerA — 15 Dec 2004 @ 8:11 PM

  30. Art,
    As for your link to a climate model predicting the Antarctic may be cooling because of greenhouse gases, my reaction is similar to Homer Simpson: �Models! Is there anything they can�t do?�

    And you would prefer that we predict changes in the earth’s climate… how? Examining chicken entrails? Comments like that- dismissing the entire scientific process- suggest that you are not interested in refining errors in that process, but (like Crichton) in wrecking it somehow. Why? Because, deep down, you know what having virtually all of the experts disagree with you means- it means that you are wrong. So, casting aspersions on the process is (presumably) the best outcome you can hope for.
    Normally, Id refrain from considering (let alone attacking) motive in discussing science, but I think an exception must be made with creationists and other science-defying ilk such as yourself. When it is so easy to infer that your goal isn’t adding to scientific knowedge, I see no reason to even begin a scientific discussion of the merits. And, the wisdom of this position is seen in watching your argument change from ‘what about these specific data’ to ‘models are useless’.

    Comment by Carleton Wu — 15 Dec 2004 @ 8:26 PM

  31. Gavin Schmidt writes, “He (Crichton) also gives us his estimate, ~0.8 C for the global warming that will occur over the next century and claims that, since models differ by 400% in their estimates, his guess is as good as theirs. This is not true.”

    I agree. That’s not true. Michael Crichton’s guess of ~0.8 degrees Celsius for the 21st century is far, far better than the IPCC projections of 1.5 to 5.8 degrees Celsius (from 1990 to 2100). I discuss this fact on my website (my own prediction is for ~0.7 degrees Celsius warming in the lower troposphere):

    A review of IPCC projections versus historical and likely future trends

    The IPCC projections are completely unrealistic, in part because:

    1) They include completely unrealistic projections for future atmospheric methane concentrations, and

    2) They include unrealistic projections for future CO2 emissions, and for future CO2 atmospheric concentrations.

    Mark Bahner (environmental engineer)

    Response: So your point is that working on no information (i.e. Crichton), is better than working with the limited information that we have? Curious. Can improvements in information improve forecasts? Yes. But arguing that because we don’t know everything, we might as well pull a number out of thin air is a little odd. – gavin

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 15 Dec 2004 @ 10:22 PM

  32. “Plot is a literary convention. Story is a force of nature.”–Teresa Nielsen Hayden

    I think responding to Crichton is very important. Stories are one of the most important ways humans understand the world. So far the most popular stories about climate are very conservative; based in the common fear of change, which is a fair way of describing both all of Crichton’s work I have read, and disaster movies like The Day After Tomorrow. It probably isn’t enough to respond critically, though; criticism never catches up with history. And this is a new story. One of the newest elements is the relatively quick emergence of global scientific consensus–what does that mean? And while ecological problems in the context of a vast coherent economy are not new–Rome knew them, IIRC–the scale is unprecedented. Equally, the speed with which information is moving around the globe is unprecedented.

    Yet there has been oddly little art addressing this. Oh, there’s Bruce Sterling’s Viridian list and website, there’s Worldchanging, and there has been political debate. But in terms of serious art on the subject…nothing is coming to mind, though a world under climate change has been a background of several SF novels. For a long time, I’ve been comparing the situation with the science-fictional scenarios of world-wide disaster I grew up with. And the differences are so striking I think they deserve comment. It’s not a lone scientist, offering the warnings. It’s not even a group of scientists, or outcast scientists. Though there are scientific critics of the IPCC’s work, there are no more climatologists among them–the last holdout, Lindzen, wrote a chapter in the Third Assessment (he still claims climate change probably will not be a problem, however.) And heroic businessmen? Nowhere to be found, though the current CEO of BP is fairly reasonable about the issue. Villanous businessmen and politicians, on the other hand, we have in large numbers, most notably US Vice President Dick Cheney. And European politicians are taking the lead. Who’d’a thunk it? Japan, too, though perhaps that is not so surprising. Russia? Putin the Stalinist? Wow, my head is spinning.

    Which all sounds pleasantly perplexing, at least when I am not quaking in my boots. But I think the differences bear some examination. The people who wrote those novels had what are in retrospect, big gaps in their thinking and I think those gaps are the gaps in our culture’s thinking. What else have we missed?

    By the way, economist Brad Delong, a popular blogger, has given you a notice. Expect your readership to rise, along with the crackpot level.

    Comment by Randolph Fritz — 16 Dec 2004 @ 5:06 AM

  33. Regarding post 26:

    “The problem is a layperson can do nothing about global warming by himself, only collectively can anything be done and we are doing nothing really.”

    This does not follow. Collective action is made up of the actions of individuals. You and I _can_ do something about global warming – we can reduce how much CO2 we pump into the atmosphere. How? Avoid using cars; use renewable resources for energy production (solar, wind, tidal, etc); lobby/irritate your government into supporting/pushing/subsidising renewable energy resources. The list really does go on and on.

    We (as individuals!) cannot afford to cop out with the attitude that “if some huge quantity of people don’t do anything about global warming then we’re screwed, and noone else seems to be doing anything so I won’t either”.

    These are thing you and I can do now, today.

    Comment by Frank Shearar — 16 Dec 2004 @ 9:20 AM

  34. Michael Crichton did not convince me of the premise that man-made Global Warming is a myth perpetuated by environmental Gods determined to control our “vision of the world”, it was hysterical environmentalists themselves who convinced me to question their motivations and facts when I discovered after twenty years of fear-mongering that our world was not going to perish in an Ice Age.

    I grew up with the theory that it was the Ice Age we should “beware” however, since this did not happen, the environmentist movement created a “Global Warming” theory we must all “beware”. I liken today’s hysteria to the time when man believed the earth was flat and if we sailed to the end of the horizon we would fall off the Earth and die. That said, I imagine we will still be around long after the Ice Age/Global Warming fears have disappeared.

    The problem with the enviromental movement is it’s use of unfounded theories to panic the population into believing false information.

    The fact is climate changes and Mother Nature is bigger than all the scientists and all the environmentalists on the planet, we would do service to her in recognizing this fact. Scientist and environmentalist cannot predict the future nor climates. Nature changes and adapts regardless of human existance, our human desire to micro-manage our planet is a waste of valuable time and resourses.

    Perhaps undertanding how we can adapt to nature’s power is an approach long overdue. Having lived “close to nature” most of my life I have come to understand that at any given time nature can kill me in an instant, I do not need environmental Ice Age/Global Warming fears to instill such knowledge.

    Comment by syn — 16 Dec 2004 @ 10:16 AM

  35. Further to the Hansen graphs. I had a quick look at Hansen’s abstract. It said “Scenario A assumes continued exponential trace gas growth, scenario B assumes a reduced linear linear (sic) growth of trace gases, and scenario C assumes a rapid curtailment of trace gas emissions such that the net climate forcing ceases to increase after the year 2000”

    From that form of words I would assume, as Patrick Michaels seems to have, that the “business as usual” scenario was indeed the upper curve, which now looks to markedly over-state warming.

    Can anyone confirm which of the Hansen scenarios used a CO2 growth closest to the actual over the past 16 years?

    Meanwhile, I’ll remain quietly skeptical.

    Response: Scenario B has been closest to the actual growth rate, and as Hansen said in his testimony in 1988 it was the most probable scenario. -gavin

    Comment by John Davis — 16 Dec 2004 @ 10:40 AM

  36. Having just finished the book, I find this characterization of it somewhat misleading.

    Much of this commentary blurs the lines between the characters’ various opinions and statements in the text with Crichton’s overall point of view.

    For example, Crichton uses individual weather station data in the context of a lawyer showing how the defense will try to pursuade a jury. The author of this piece suggests that the “good guy” says “there’s your global warming.” In fact, this “good guy” is a lawyer ignorant of the data. Crichton seems to wholeheartedly agree that “Only by amalgamating all of the records we have (after correcting for known problems, such as discussed below) can we have an idea what the regional, hemispheric or global means are doing. That is what is meant by global warming.”

    The issue of Urban Heat is duscussed at length in the book, and one of Crichton’s main points is that the UHIE is a known issue that is factored into global warming estimates. One could read this article and get the false impression that Crichton failed to mention that UHIE is factored into estimates. Yet Crichton covers this extensively only to point out that such corrections could be challenged and we’re not dealing with raw data here.

    This article suggests an error: “Greenland shows that, in the last hundred thousand years, there have been four abrupt climate change events.” In fact, this statement is made by the bozo actor character in the context of a speech that is grossly flawed. No reader could seriously infer that this is Crichton’s point of view, when the bozo character is humliated soon thereafter for his naive view of the constancy of climate and environment.

    There are some good points brought out in this critique, but overall I didn’t find the book to be a slam on global warming science was much as it was a slam on exaggerations and overstatements based on that science.

    Comment by Benton Maples — 16 Dec 2004 @ 12:51 PM

  37. From a complete layman who read the book: Is Crichton more correct, or is the IPCC more correct? Is man the cause of global warming?

    Honestly, what I got of Crichton’s point of view is: We simply cannot predict the effects of global warming, or if it’s happening at all, or if we’re the cause. So we shouldn’t be making radical changes.

    Seems to be plenty of scientists here, so I ask you all, what’s the real deal? In layman’s terms.

    Comment by Jason Merrell — 16 Dec 2004 @ 4:48 PM

  38. great article…..have you done a book review, or letter to an editor to any newspaper…..

    Comment by alicia — 16 Dec 2004 @ 5:32 PM

  39. In my previous critique of this critique, I left out a glaring point.

    The “curious train of logic” Crichton uses in comparing global warming to eugenics is that both shared the same hallmarks of social movements supported by politicians, academics and celebrities, despite little hard science backing the claims of the movement.

    The claim, “He argues, that since eugenics was studied in prestigious universities and supported by charitable foundations, and now, so is global warming, they must somehow be related.” is a gross mischaracterization of Crichton’s argument.

    He specifically points out the following similarities between the eugenics movement and the global warming movement:

    – Both won support of politicians and celebrities around the world.
    – Both urge legislation that has little basis in hard science.
    – Both shrug off harmful effects of urged changes, asserting vague benefits.
    – In both cases open and frank discussion of the data and issues is supressed.

    Comment by Benton Maples — 16 Dec 2004 @ 5:33 PM

  40. – Both won support of politicians and celebrities around the world.
    – Both urge legislation that has little basis in hard science.
    – Both shrug off harmful effects of urged changes, asserting vague benefits.
    – In both cases open and frank discussion of the data and issues is supressed.

    I haven’t read Crichton’s book, but if you’re accurately representing his statements, then every one of them is a blank assertion or logical fallacy.

    1) The mere fact that a theory or methodology is widely accepted in its time–particularly among non-scientists–does not make it scientifically valid. The latter only comes from a firm foundation of empirical evidence. This cuts both ways, and that is both appropriate and expected in science. Regardless, the comparison is a non-sequitir, since eugenics fell out of favor not due to a lack of empirical evidence, but because it was recognized as poisonous to universal principles of human rights.

    2) Eugenics had a firm basis in the genetic theory of inheritence. It wasn’t bad science, generally speaking. It was science put to an immoral purpose. As for the legislation that was urged by the “global warming movement” and has little basis in hard science…Care to give an example? Citation? Detailed refutation of the scientific evidence entered into the legislative record for a specific bill? Or are you just accepting Crichton’s assertions as fact?

    3) I don’t even follow this one. Eugenics, by definition, advocates taking on certain costs–whether the economic price tag or the unpleasant moral implications of sterilizing hundreds of thousands of human beings–in the pursuit of racial purity, public health, reduced economic drag over the long term, etc. How does this have any parallel in the “global warming movement”–which, presumably, consists of scientists and informed laymen who agree that a preponderence of empirical evidence exists affirming the reality of anthropogenic climate change? What are the “harmful effects” of the supposed urged changes? What are the suupposed “vague benefits” being proffered?

    4) I’ve never met a single scientist who wasn’t interested in critically examining evidence that contradicted his or her own data. Science requires an open forum for sharing of data and honing of theory. Care to point out an example of “suppression” of facts in climate change? Or even in eugenics, for that matter? Or perhaps C Crichton is just referring to science’s unwillingness to entertain anti-intellectual political whining from those whose lifestyles might be perturbed a touch by the reality that science has described?

    BTW, what the heck is the “global warming movement”? Maybe I didn’t pay my dues, but no one told me about that particular movement. I guess the meet in the same shadowy corridors as the Bavarian Illuminati and the Priory of Sion?

    Comment by Andrew Wyatt — 16 Dec 2004 @ 7:11 PM

  41. “The mere fact that a theory or methodology is widely accepted in its timeâ??particularly among non-scientistsâ??does not make it scientifically valid.”

    Which is precisely Crichton’s point.

    “Regardless, the comparison is a non-sequitir.”

    I don’t see how it is a non-sequitir. His claim is that eugenics resulted in immoral public policy, masquerading as policy based on hard science.

    “Or are you just accepting Crichtonâ??s assertions as fact?”

    I’m not accepting his assertions – just trying to accurately convey his arguments.

    “What are the â??harmful effectsâ?? of the supposed urged changes?”

    Crichton doesn’t go into this in his discussion on eugenics. But he clearly believes that environmental principles (he refers to “sustainable development” and the “precautionary principle”) have the effect of preserving the economic advantages of the West.

    “Care to point out an example of â??suppressionâ?? of facts in climate change? ”

    As evidence of his assertion, Crichton argues that “so many” of the vocal critics of global warming are retired professors who don’t have grant money on the line, and do not have a need to appease colleagues.

    “BTW, what the heck is the â??global warming movement”?”

    I’ll have to be more precise in my wording. He refers to the “eugenics movement”, but I don’t recall him referring to the “global warming movement.” Crichton invents many environmental groups (many of them are effectively PR agencies or legal funds) that are heavily involved in fund raising – particularly with the Hollywood crowd. These groups form the center of what I’m referring to as the “global warming movement” in Crichton’s book. But it seems he thinks these groups exert heavy influence on academics, politicians and the press, while effectively stifling dissenting opinion.

    Comment by Benton Maples — 16 Dec 2004 @ 7:58 PM

  42. >This does not follow. Collective action is made up of the actions of individuals.

    Three parts to this answer the first is the obvious one that I assume you understand already Secondly a idea slightly harder to grasp but simple economics and third is related to what we are proposing as a solution

    1) The problem is that whether or not everyone reduces CO2 output you can be 100% sure YOUR CO2 output wont make a significant difference thus it is not surprising if some people can’t get the enthusiasm to do it. (of course that is why we have governments to force people to take collective interests into consideration but as you will see later even this is not sufficient).
    2)not only do you make only the slightest difference to the total but your non use drives the price down making it easier for others to use more as well as making no change at all to the fundimental economics of burning oil, therfore your reduction in usage increases other peoples usage – not just in your own country but in the world.
    The only way to solve the problem is on the supply side – safely dispose of the oil OR prevent it from being removed from the ground (by buying it there or via force).

    > “if some huge quantity of people don’t do anything about global warming then we’re screwed, and noone else seems to be doing anything so I won’t either”.

    That argument is valid in a sense but it is even worse than that – even a small quantity of people don’t do anything about it – you are still screwed. And EVEN WORSE
    3) EVEN IF everyone does somthing about it and slows consumption by some arbitrary percentage you only delay the inevitable. (if you change the date by which all the economically feasible oil is burnt from 2100 to 2110, who alive in 2110 will care?)

    One also has an additional problem that global warming is likely to be good for a not insignificant number of people.

    Comment by GeniusNZ — 16 Dec 2004 @ 8:47 PM

  43. In my comment #31, I wrote, “Michael Crichton’s guess of ~0.8 degrees Celsius for the 21st century is far, far better than the IPCC projections of 1.5 to 5.8 degrees Celsius (from 1990 to 2100).”

    Dr. Schmidt responded: “So your point is that working on no information (i.e. Crichton), is better than working with the limited information that we have?”

    No, that is not my point. My point is that the information we have supports Michael Crichton’s guess, and does *not* support the IPCC projections.

    For example, according to the IPCC, there is approximately a 50/50 chance that atmospheric methane concentrations will rise to approximately 2500 ppb by 2060, from a value of approximately 1750 ppb in 2000. That’s an average increase of 12.5 ppb per year. But recent increases in methane concentrations have not been remotely close to 12.5 ppb per year. They’ve been more like less than 3 ppb per year. What justification is there for the IPCC projecting that methane will increase by an average of 12.5 ppb per year for the next 60 years?

    Similarly, according to the IPCC, there is approximately a 50/50 chance that atmospheric CO2 concentrations will rise to approximately 560 ppm by 2060, from a value of approximately 370 ppm in 2000. That is an average increase of approximately 3.2 ppm per year. But over the last 20 years, the average increase has been more like 1.5 ppm per year. What justification is there for the IPCC projecting that CO2 concentrations will increase by an average of 3.2 ppm per year for the next 60 years?

    Dr. Schmidt concludes, “But arguing that because we don’t know everything, we might as well pull a number out of thin air is a little odd.”

    Such an argument would indeed be odd. (It would be as odd as an “argument from authority” that the IPCC’s projections should be accepted, simply because they are the “consensus” of the IPCC!) But that is *not* my argument.

    My argument is that available evidence supports Michael Crichton’s guess of ~0.8 degrees Celsius, and available evidence overwhelmingly does *not* support the IPCC’s projections of 1.5 to 5.8 degrees Celsius (with a mean of 3.6 degrees Celsius).

    Response: IPCC did not attach any probabilities to any of the scenarios (which I think was probably a mistake, as Steve Schneider has also argued). However, it is not inconceivable that the current rate of growth of 1.4%/yr in fossil-fuel related emissions could reach 2%/yr or more due to rapid economic growth in the developed world. Growth rates averaged 4.7%/year between 1945 and 1973 for instance. It would be negligent not to include scenarios that are in some sense a worst case as long as other scenarios with different assumptions were also explored. We regularly use scenarions that are different from the standard IPCC ones for precisely this reason. However even the moderate scenarios which have eventual stabilisation give more warming than 0.8C. Even in the extremely unlikely event that there is no further growth in emissions, the current planetary energy imbalance (estimated to be almost 1W/m2) (due to the ocean thermal inertia) implies that there is around 0.5 C extra warming already in the pipeline that will be realised over the next 20 to 30 years. Any growth of emissions above that will lead to more warming. Thus the probability of a warming as low as 0.8C over the next 100 years is extremely low. – gavin

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 16 Dec 2004 @ 9:02 PM

  44. While I thought the book was poorly written, I actually appreciate what I took to be it’s central message.

    It is clear that we, collectively, still do not know what is happening to the world’s climate at the moment. Unfortunately, that does not stop journalists, environmentalists, politicians, and even scientists from speculating and pressing for us all to “do something”. The fact that the impact of these “somethings” is even less understood than the problem doesn’t seem to cause anyone any concern.

    Personally, I believe in a century we will look back on the global warming crisis as a low point in the history of our society. It seems to be impossible to express an opinion on the issue without attempting also taking a shot at any dissenters. It’s quite common to hear people justify their belief in global warming as “Well, a whole bunch of people say it’s true”.

    The fact that so many people in the world believe, without understanding even the basic concepts, that global warming is indeed an issue should be a point of concern, not cause for celebration.

    Comment by Bruce — 17 Dec 2004 @ 11:19 AM

  45. Once again, Michael Crichton exaggerates and in fact reverses the evil. In Disclosure, he pretended that the danger of a woman sexually harrassing a man (which occurs very rarely in real life) was far far far worse than that of a man sexually harrassing a woman (which happens far too often). Now he blames ecologists for terrorism. Didn’t Tom Clancy already do that in Rainbow Six? Just like Crichton ripped off Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book for his Timeline.

    Comment by Tom Beck — 17 Dec 2004 @ 12:56 PM

  46. I am interested in understanding the accuracy of the IPCC model. There are graphs showing the model
    predicting observed climate changes, but these are not enough to give an observer any confidence unless
    answers to the following points are given:

    a) Are components (eg the ocean model) developed separately and used unchanged, or re-parameterised?
    b) Are parameters adjusted by comparing predicted and observed values? How exactly?
    c) How much of the existing data has been used to fit the model parameters?
    d) How many model parameters (tweakable, not fixed by the underlying physics) are there?
    e) Are those scientists who evaluate the model aware of which data has been used in fitting?
    f) Has any attempt at cross-validation or other regularisation of the model been made?

    If these questions have not been considered then the model has been poorly evaluated and may be worthless.
    Answering these questions will also allow the accuracy of the predictions to be estimated.

    Have these questions been answered?

    Response: Modelling groups spend pretty much all their time trying to answer these kinds of questions. A summary of results can be seen in the IPCC reports of course. However, we intend to expand upon this in future posts. Watch this space! – gavin

    [Response: you say *the* IPCC model. This is wrong. Thre are several, not just one. Different groups would answer the various questions you have above differently. For example, HadCM3 was built to produce a stable control climate resembling the average of, say, the last 30 years. It wasn’t tuned to fit the temperature change over the last century or so – William]

    Comment by Toby Kelsey — 17 Dec 2004 @ 3:06 PM

  47. Bruce, simple question for you and other skeptics. Given these three alternatives,

    (a) Everyone goes to university and studies climate science until they are capable of assessing the evidence themselves

    (b) Most people use the heuristic that “a lot of people” (i.e. a lot of climate scientists) believe that anthropogenic climate change is real, and go with that

    (c) We ignore all the climate scientists and believe noted founts of wisdom like Michael Chrichton, Rush Limbaugh, and George W. Bush (no wait, even he now agrees that global warming is real – as do the CEOs of two big oil companies – so you’re more extremist than Bush, if you don’t)

    …which alternative do you think we should go for? Or do you have a better alternative?

    Second in terms of the effects of political measures. All sorts of political policies have effects that are difficult to measure precisely. However, you can make broad-brush claims. A massive global move towards sustainable energy sources is likely to hurt the oil companies, but not the US economy as a whole, for example.

    Also, what many environmentalists argue is that we have to look more at quality of life measures than at GDP. Oil spills may increase GDP, but not many people would argue that oil spills are a good thing. Therefore, GDP is not a perfect measure of what economic policy should aim towards. Plausibly, we can improve on GDP as a measure of “well-being”, by augmenting it with things other than money. Which makes sense, because pretty much nobody accross the entire political spectrum thinks that money is the only thing that matters in life.

    Comment by Robin Green — 17 Dec 2004 @ 8:53 PM

  48. Let me begin with a caveat-the unsubtle distinction between my views on climate change and those of a certain other Seitz are set forth in the summer 1990 issue of The National Interest.
    Mike Crichton’s latest pageturner has drawn on my earlier critique of the epic overselling of “Nuclear Winter” , but fails to mention how I categorized the media hype in dialog with Steve Schneider at a 1987 symposium:” Nuclear Winter is a joke played at the expense of the credibility of the climate modeling community on the eve of the global warming debate”

    Plus de ca change, two decades later we have ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ with its title extending that of the seminal Freeze Movement TV extravaganza of the Reagan years slugging it out with Mike’s latest opus. As paradigms of how to educate the public, they differ no more in quality than Godzilla and Mothra.

    The raillery both film and book evoke from the politically offended, or the ideologically scandalized ought to be cause for introspection. At least Mike represents an intelligent Republican _trying- to think about science, and I believe a bipartisan duty exists to acknowledge that science politicized is science betrayed.

    Dick Lindzen will be amused to know that Crichton’s sense of humor is still in gear- the MIT protagonist Kenner is the namesake of the conservative Yale professor tasked with teaching several generations of Bush’s English, but more generally famed as the author of ‘A Rhetoric Of Motives’ .
    Perhaps some public spirited NSC type will incorporate that excellent book into some morning’s PDB.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 18 Dec 2004 @ 5:15 PM

  49. It never makes sense to me, those who attach evil agenda to environmentalism. What is the supposed motivation behind “eco-terrorism”?

    Comment by Joel M. — 19 Dec 2004 @ 8:11 PM

  50. Let me pose a simple question, and follow it up: if Michael Crichton had written a book which supported mainstream climate science on global warming, would he potentially sell as many copies as he will with “State of Fear,” a book which tells the story of a global warming conspiracy? Or putting it another way, “Which will sell more copies: Crichton’s ‘State of Fear’ or the IPCC’s ‘WG1 Report?'”

    Couldn’t we who prefer the scientific mainstream convince authors equal to Michael Crichton to write novels?

    Comment by Roger Coppock — 19 Dec 2004 @ 8:42 PM

  51. Dear Dr. Schmidt:

    In my comment #43, I asked: “What justification is there for the IPCC projecting that methane will increase by an average of 12.5 ppb per year for the next 60 years?”

    You didn’t reply. I assume you can’t think of any justification, either. The only possible justification I can think of is a collective case of “methane madness.”. It certainly doesn’t appear that methane will increase by an average of 12.5 ppb for the next 60 years, based on recent trends.

    I also asked: “What justification is there for the IPCC projecting that CO2 concentrations will increase by an average of 3.2 ppm per year for the next 60 years?”

    You didn’t reply directly to this. But possibly you replied indirectly, when you wrote, “However, it is not inconceivable that the current rate of growth of 1.4%/yr in fossil-fuel related emissions could reach 2%/yr or more due to rapid economic growth in the developed world.”

    ‘However, it is not inconceivable’ Hmmm.

    Over the last 5 years, Barry Bonds of the SF Giants has hit 258 home runs. That’s an average of more than 51 home runs per year. “It is not inconceivable”that Barry Bonds will average 51 home runs per year in the next 5 seasons. But next season, Barry Bonds will be 39 years old, so the probability that he will average more than 51 home runs a year for the next 5 seasons is very low – almost certainly less than 1 chance in 10. In my opinion, the odds that human emissions of CO2 will increase by an average 2% per year or more for the next 30 years is lower than that (i.e., lower than 1 chance in 10). What is your estimate of the probability that CO2 emissions will increase by an average of 2% per year for the next 30 years?

    Finally, you conclude, “the probability of a warming as low as 0.8C over the next 100 years is extremely low.”

    I disagree. In my opinion, the probability that the lower troposphere will warm by ‘as low as 0.8C over the next 100 years’ is approximately 50 percent. What is your ’50 percent probability’ estimate for global warming in the lower troposphere over the next 100 years?

    Response: Let me try again to make my position clear, since you obviously failed to grasp the point earlier. I (and other climatologists) are not in the business of fortune-telling. I do not know what CH4 or CO2 levels will be like in 100 years time. This may come as a shock to you, but it really shouldn’t. So, given my ignorance on what the future may bring, I therefore attempt to bracket the possibilities through the use of a number of different projections -some produced by IPCC, and others created in-house (such as Hansen’s ‘Alternative Scenario’). Some of these have large increases in CO2 and CH4 while some have smaller changes in CO2 and reductions in methane – and it is correct to consider all of them, precisely because they are conceivable, not because they are necessarily likely. Unless you understand this, there is no point in continuing to dicuss.

    With respect to the uncertainty in CH4, I will add that the growth rate has changed from over 10 ppb/yr in the 80’s to close to 0 ppb/yr over the last few years. Since we don’t have a full understanding of why this is, it is premature to assume it will continue. There are a number of factors that control CH4 concentrations that are extermely poorly understood and are mostly ignored in the scenarios – the dependence on other gases (such as O3, and CO), the impact of increased temperatures and changes to precip on tropical and boreal wetland emissions, the existence (or not) of a significant methane hydrate source from permafrost or continental shelves, the climate impact on the atmopsheric chemistry of CH4. Throw in a huge uncertainty as to whether commercial exploitation of methane hydrates is possible and what impact that may have, I am quite comfortable in projecting a range of variations for CH4 levels in 100 years time.

    However, there are good reasons to expect CO2 levels to continue to grow. Any conceivable growth rate (even a constant 1.5ppm/yr) will add by 2050, another ~1W/m2 to the climate forcing. Add in the current radiation imbalance of ~1 W/m2, you have at least 1.5 deg C surface warming to come (assuming a canonical 0.75 C/W/m2 sensitivity). So I repeat, the probablity of only 0.8 deg C warming by 2100 is extremely low. You are entitled to your opinion, but your estimate is apparently just based on you saying so. – gavin

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 19 Dec 2004 @ 10:38 PM

  52. Gavin

    re : the Hansen graph (thanks for your efforts btw)

    Which temperature record are you using. I assume it is the GISS (Land + Ocean) record, but which is the mostly widely accepted record CRU or GISS.

    Don’t the IPCC use the CRU record?

    Response: It’s usually a good idea to have two or more groups try and produce the same ‘record’ using different methodologies. The GISTEMP data are processed differently from the CRU data, and I don’t have any particular reason to prefer one over the other. In most respects they are extremely highly correlated and so it doesn’t matter much which you use. – gavin

    Comment by John Finn — 20 Dec 2004 @ 1:42 PM

  53. “So I repeat, the probablity of only 0.8 deg C warming by 2100 is extremely low.”

    When you say this, are you referring specifically to greenhouse gas forced warming, or warming overall?

    One of the things I’m having trouble with is the uncertainties of aerosals and their effects on cooling, or the possibility of volcanic eruptions producing particles that result in cooling. It seems like there’s a good many factors that could offset warming – many of them unpredictable and relatively unstudied and not quantified.

    I’m not suggesting that an alcoholic with liver problems should keep on drinking, hoping something else will come along and fix his liver.

    But I’m trying to understand the confidence level in the totality of these predictions vs. the narrowed scope of forcings from greenhouse gases. Would particle forcings be irrelevant long-term as they don’t have the lifespan of grenhouse forcings? And could temporary stability switch to more radical climate change if these kinds of forcings offset greenhouse gases over the next century?


    Response: The different timescales do make a difference. Because aerosols only stay around for a short time (weeks), the concentration goes like the emissions (i.e. double the emissions to double the concentration). For CO2 however, it goes like the accumulated emissions over past decades to centuries. Thus to keep up with the CO2 warming, the emissions of aerosols would have to go up exponentially. For various reasons this is not going to happen (not least because of negative public health effects), so eventually CO2 is going to ‘win’. In fact, it is much more likely that aerosol emissions will decrease in coming years. However, aerosols are complicated and include both absorbing and reflecting types, and have complex interactions amongst themselves and with atmopsheric chemistry. Therefore our uncertainty about their future impacts are high. Due to the timescale issue though, that uncertainty will be less and less important as CO2 increases. Volcanic aerosols have a clear cooling effect (c.f. Pinatubo, El Chichon, Mt Agung) but judging on past frequencies/explosiveness are unlikely to have much impact on longer time scales than maybe decadal. My comment about the unlikeliness of 0.8 deg is about the overall warming, which by 2100 is much more likely to be dominated by CO2 than the present warming. – gavin

    Comment by Benton Maples — 20 Dec 2004 @ 6:52 PM

  54. I’m not a scientist in the area of geoclimate or the environment (I do have a background in physics and numerical computation). So I appreciate the expert comments addressing inaccurracies in the book (I read it).

    A point that comes across in the book is that these models shouldn’t be trusted without significant empirical evidence, particularly when policy is being based on them. And I tend to take the book’s side on this perspective. (The poster seems to be focused on computational models as part of his research)

    [Response: The best place to start looking at the models and their comparison against reality is the IPCC report chapter 8. The vast wealth of scientific work on validation of models appears to be ignored in the book – William]

    I respect that climate scientists employ highly complex and intensive models to describe and simulate the most complex phenomena in nature. Due to the enormous complexity of the subject, these models tend to lack the tighter coupling with empirical evidence – when contrasted in an area such as computational physics (when validated by theory and experimental results).

    As a outsider, I wonder how many variables are hidden? How much precision, drift or inaccuracy builds up due simply to limited computational power? How are results are skewed due to a trend in the use of certain statistical approaches? What are the limitations caused strictly by the numerical approaches? What focus has been put on understanding and improving the sensors themselves? All the same things that effect every computational models – but are exacerbated by a problem which seems intractable (modelling the climate).

    To any experts out there, what are the guidelines for interpreting results from a computational models? What has worked? What doesn’t? What percent of climatology research is based on these models?

    It seems that there is enough evidence to support or argue either perspective of global warming (or other major climate models/theories).

    Comment by Sanjong — 20 Dec 2004 @ 9:50 PM

  55. Crichton’s science was abysmal in Prey, an anti-nanotech screed. I wrote a review explaining just how bad. It seems he’s continuing the trend. Let’s get the word out: Crichton is *not* any kind of scientific authority.


    Comment by Chris Phoenix — 21 Dec 2004 @ 12:24 PM

  56. In your response to posting 51 you say “However, there are good reasons to expect CO2 levels to continue to grow. Any conceivable growth rate (even a constant 1.5ppm/yr) will add by 2050, another ~1W/m2 to the climate forcing. Add in the current radiation imbalance of ~1 W/m2, you have at least 1.5 deg C surface warming to come (assuming a canonical 0.75 C/W/m2 sensitivity). So I repeat, the probablity of only 0.8 deg C warming by 2100 is extremely low. You are entitled to your opinion, but your estimate is apparently just based on you saying so. – gavin”

    1. Why do you say “ANY conceivable growth rate…will add..another ~1W/m2…” when the discussion is about the IPCC’s claim of a 1% growth rate (about 3.8ppmv) and the long-term observed rate which is less than 50% of that figure? Surely a difference of more than 50% in input values will produce different output values.

    [Response: I meant “ least 1W/m2…” If the actual concentrations grow faster than 1.5ppmv/yr, the forcing will obviously be greater. – gavin]

    2. Over in we find “In other words, CO2 does not initiate the warmings, but acts as an amplifier once they are underway.”. Can you explain why you say that increased CO2 is causing warming but this other article says that increasing CO2 merely amplifies existing warming?

    [Response: Post 13 is talking about inter/glacial transitions in the assumed absence of human forcing. In those cases, there is no obvious reasons to assume that CO2 would inititate the forcing (though one could think of some if required). In the current case, there is an excellent reason to think that CO2 is initiating the forcing – we can watch it accumulating and we know we’re doing it – and the short timescales rule out astonomical forcing – William]

    I note that if CO2 merely amplifies warming then the reasons for warming remain unquantified and this casts doubt upon climate models. Conversely I note that if CO2 directly causes warming as you appear to be claiming, the fact that ice cores show that temperatures increased about 800 years before a CO2 increase (and a latter decline in temperatures before CO2 levels declined) casts doubt upon CO2 as a driver.

    Please tell us how many degrees of warming we can expect from a 10 ppmv increase in atmospheric CO2 if no other climate factors are varied. In other words, let’s see your base value for CO2-induced warming before we consider the influence of the various positive and negative feedbacks. – John

    [Response: if you want to know, you can read the appropriate numbers off the graphs in the IPCC reports, though you may need to clarify your question a bit – William]

    [Response#2: The standard for comparing responses across different models is to look at the radiative forcing at the top of the atmosphere – for 2xCO2 it is around 4 W/m2 (read the new National Academies report on this for a much more detailed discussion of the concept). Temperature responses to that radiative forcing have to involve at least some feedbacks (LW, Sensible Heat, Latent heat, evaporation, etc.) so your question is a little ill-posed. In a simulation with a simple mixed layer ocean, the temperature response to 2xCO2 once all the fast feedbacks have happened is around 3 deg C (current range among models being analysed by IPCC is 2.6 to 4.1 deg C). Note that 2xCO2 is the preferred test since the impact of 10 ppmv depends on the base amount of CO2 (i.e. 280+10 ppmv has a different response that 380+10 ppmv due to the roughly logarithmic change of forcing with CO2 level). – gavin]

    Comment by john — 21 Dec 2004 @ 8:46 PM

  57. I read the IPCC summary of the climate models, and was impressed by the last sentence:

    “The overall assessment of coupled models was that “current models are now able to simulate many aspects of the observed climate with a useful level of skill” and “model simulations are most accurate at large space scales (e.g., hemispheric or continental); at regional scales skill is lower.”

    That is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

    Several questions on models:

    1) Has anyone run these against known initial conditions circa 1800 to determine how well they replicate known climate over the succeeding 200 year?

    2) As the resolution of models has increased, is there any trend regarding the predicted temperature changes?

    Also, am I reading the last graph incorrectly, or is the climate acting a whole heck of a lot like scenario C?

    Response: The IPCC statement is a fair assessment of the current state-of-the-art and could be paraphrased as saying that models are not perfect, but they are useful. No modellers have ever claimed anything different. Simulations from the pre-industrial to the present are being done all the time, and are currently being heavily analysed for the next IPCC assessment. The main result is that the global mean temperatures (including short term dips as well as the recent rise) are actually well modelled when you include as many of the forcings as you can. (I will post a discussion about this soon, including figures to make this clearer). At a regional scale the simulation are not as good a match because of uncertainties in the regional distribution of aerosol forcing, the fact that there is simply more variability at regional scales, and the noted performance issues of the models at that scale.

    As resolution increases many things improve (such as the definition of frontal structures , storm tracks etc.) , however there is no indication that climate sensitivity is a strong function of resolution, that is much more tied to the physics in the models.

    Scenario C has the same forcing until 2000 as Scenario B, after which it is constant at 2000 levels. The apparent difference between them earlier on is simply due to the chaotic nature of the system (i.e. the different ‘weather’ in each simulation). In the real world, forcings continued to increase after 2000, much closer to scenario B. – gavin

    Comment by Jeff Guinn — 22 Dec 2004 @ 12:59 PM

  58. Thank you–your reply is very thorough and informative.

    Comment by Jeff Guinn — 22 Dec 2004 @ 3:12 PM

  59. There are many scientists who think we are entering the next ice-age. The temperature of the Earth’s surface is not static, and has changed considerably (in many-thousand year cycles). Quite frankly, there isn’t uncontroversial scientific evidence either way. In the meanwhile, environmentalists use this propaganda to lobby statists into grabbing even mroe power. See this article and this article.

    Comment by David Heinrich — 22 Dec 2004 @ 4:06 PM

  60. POINT ONE: You missed Crichtons point in his prediction of a rise of 0.812436 degrees C/
    Quotes from his book follow:
    . “Nobody knows how much of the present warming trend might be a natural phenomenon” .or..” man made.”
    . “Nobody knows how much warming will occur in the next century. The computer models vary by 400%, defacto knowledge that nobody knows. But if I had to guess… I would guess the increase will be 0.812436 degrees C.”
    .”I think that for anyone to believe in impending resource scarcity, after two hundred years of such false alarms, is kind of weird”
    . “The ‘precautionary principle’ properly applied forbids the precautionary principle. It is self-contradictory.”
    . ” I am certain there is too much certainty in the world.”
    .”Everyone has an agenda except me”

    When taken in context Crichton is predicting EXACTLY 0.812436 degrees. He obviouly knows ONLY TOO WELL that 6 significant figures is absurd. AND HIS PREDICTION IS STILL JUST AS GOOD AS EVERYONE ELSE’S, given all the uncertainties you all are talking about.

    POINT TWO Similar comment on Eugenics- the point is that Politicians, state Governments, the US Supreme Court, the media, the public, & concensus CAN be wrong when implementing policy. We once believed in in a flat earth.

    QUESTION: Why on common sense grounds is CO2 a more significant driver of the greenhouse effect & warming than water vapor? With water vapor at 2-4% ~40,000ppm & increasing, & CO2 at 379ppm and increasing HOW can CO2 be significant? If you claim that CO2 initiates other impacts, amplifiers etc then why is the impact of sunspots decreasing cosmic rays decreasing clouds NOT JUST AS IMPORTANT(AND EQUALLY JUST AS UNKNOWN.) Likewise for the uncertainty associated with water vapor driving clouds etc?
    Why is it justifyable for Ca EPA , Sierra Club etc to claim that CO2 is the biggest cause of the greenhouse effect when quite clearly water vapor is larger. When you answer that with anything containing manmade only – then answer WHY is man made CO2 any different from nature made?

    Finally please account for ice age length variations in CO2/warming back when man was not producing it. AND the possible error (30-50ppm?)in connecting ice core CO2 measurments with the Keeling measurements.

    WHICH ALL leads back to Crichtons other point – nobody knows enough to say for sure.
    SO WHY make policy on this basis?
    Especially when a decrease in CO2 translates to a direct decrease in the 99% of energy production from fossil fuels.- BASIC chemistry- burn a hydrocarbon & get energy plus CO2 plus water vapor. Decrease the CO2 and decrease the energy!!- which leads to, in my opinion, guaranteed suicide for the world’s poor.

    Response: [There’s no need to SHOUT!] Crichton’s point is indeed obvious, but, in my opinion, incorrect. We do not know “nothing”. We actually know quite a lot (but not everything). Using what we know is better than pretending that we know nothing. I argued above why 0.8 is extremely unlikely, and why not all projections are created equal.

    The consensus issue is being debated on another thread.

    With respect to water vapour, you are repeating a common misconception. Water vapour is indeed the most important greenhouse gas (and no climatologist has ever disagreed). However, the amount of time that any individual water molecule is in the atmosphere (the lower part at least) is around 10 days. Thus water vapour can be considered to be in a dynamic equilibirum with the surface conditions, trace gas amounts and aerosols on time scales longer than a month. Therefore water vapour levels in the atmosphere are a feedback and not a forcing, and are always modelled as such. The reason why CO2 (and CH4 and CFCs and N2O and O3) are important is because they absorb in parts of the spectrum where water doesn’t have much impact. There is a small potential for the direct forcing of water vapour by changes in irrigation patterns, but this appears to be small on the global scale.

    Your other points are dealt with here (cosmic rays) and here (ice core CO2) and here (why not all CO2 is equal). – gavin

    Comment by John Dodds — 22 Dec 2004 @ 4:15 PM

  61. Yeah, those damn environmentalists – have so much power now and keep grabbing for more ;^! They’ll be forcing car companies to make EVs any day now (oh, wait, they did, but the government caved).

    Comment by Harold — 22 Dec 2004 @ 4:53 PM

  62. You know: I find it perplexing that this “novel” is found in bestselling science fiction. By rights it should be found in
    HUMOR. Seriously, claiming that global warming is fabricated simply because a continent was cold for a decade really cracks me up. Come on. If people were really so fear stricken by global warming; would Bush have won the election?
    I’d like to finish by stating the following:
    1)Thanks to Michael Chrichton’s babbling, heresay-based idiocy, I may never be able to watch Jurrassic Park again.
    2)I think that eco-terrorists has a subliminal connection to Greenpeace. Believe me, ecologists are the last people that should be regarded as a terrorist threat.
    3) The September 2004 edition of National Geographic has a large section on Climate Change. It is far more credible than this ridiculous excuse for a book.
    4) As a note to anyone interested, there is a forth factor in Global Warming. It’s called human ignorance: once that is defeated we’ll be well on our way.
    P.S. There is well written book called “Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change. Read it and be educated, not decieved.

    Comment by Graeme — 22 Dec 2004 @ 10:33 PM

  63. As an environmentalist I find it disheartening when other environmentalists adopt the “fair and balanced” methods of certain news organisations in order to force their opionions on everyone else. I believe that global warming may be a problem. I also believe we have very little climate data on which to base our computer models. As a computer programmer I understand the concept of GiGo (garbage in garbage out) when it comes to scientific models.
    I do not believe an “argument” should ensue over the possibility of global warming. Rather, an open and honest discourse and acknowledgement of the fact that we are operating with very little information and we need to learn more.
    All the shouting in this blog about who is right and who is wrong is not related to science in any way that I understand.
    Too bad Crichton does not use some of his talents and energy to help anyone other than himself.

    Preemptive strike: No, climate “data” from geological study does not enlighten or, if so, very little, since we must interpret it based on the meager and scant quantitiative data from the twentieth century and 4% of the 21st. We humans just have not been around all that long and we have been paying attention even less.
    Of course, I am just one of the ignorant lay persons to whom so many references are made in this blog.

    Comment by Tony Rabun — 23 Dec 2004 @ 12:36 PM

  64. I’m curious that the discussion is so exclusively about temperature. It seems to me, in my lay understanding, that climate change is likely to be expressed as increased average global temperature plus increased mechanical energy in oceanic and atmospheric currents. Is the mechanical energy component being addressed elsewhere? Won’t increasing temperatures and wind pressures increase average humidity, thus forcing greater greenhouse energy accumulation? Wouldn’t increased weather activity suppress surface temperatures, making temperature a less useful measure of total change?

    For a real science fiction novel (I don’t really consider Crichton to be a genuine writer in the genre, more a mainstream/horror hack using SF motivs) concerning GCC would be Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Forty Signs of Rain”. Though I can”t judge his use of scientific information in creating what speculative features he uses in his story, I can say his feeling of verisimilitude concerning the work of real scientists doing real science is infinitely more compelling than anything I’ve ever read from Crichton.

    Comment by jeff cowdrey — 24 Dec 2004 @ 12:36 AM

  65. Crichton has done a great service to the science of Climatology by putting the topic of global warming on the front burner. This is fantastic! Of course his book is only a work of fiction, but playing the role of “devil’s advocate” is exactly what is needed to bring the argument out into the open. Too many political advocates of Kyoto and the IPCC models seem to want to suppress open debate, as if no intelligent person could possibly dispute the models.

    But Crichton is intelligent, and a successful enough writer to put his objection into the public realm. His ideas will be widely discussed and debated. Nothing can stop that.

    Instead of demonizing Crichton you should be praising and thanking him for the opportunity he has given you.

    Comment by Marvin — 24 Dec 2004 @ 11:10 PM

  66. Someone here said it’s absurd to worry about extreme environmentalists being terrorist threats. Really? These are an arrogant group of people who think they should have the right to tell other people how to live. They find nothing wrong with the death of millions of people in the 3rd world, due to various environmental regulations (see DDT). They think that their theories — which are certainly anything *but* conclusive — give them a justification for interfering with the lives, freedoms, and property of others. And, of course, anyone who disagrees with them is an idiot, anti-earth, or just a greedy capitalist pig (“industry”).

    It’s unremarkable to think of these people as terrorists. Look at what “animal rights” protestors do to the research labs of scientists who use animals: tresspassing, destruction of property, and violence. Animal rights is not the same thing as environmentalism, but there is overlap.

    Comment by David Heinrich — 25 Dec 2004 @ 12:58 AM

  67. Re response to posting 56.

    William, you say “In the current case, there is an excellent reason to think that CO2 is initiating the forcing – we can watch it accumulating and we know we’re doing it – and the short timescales rule out astonomical forcing” but you appear to be confusing a correlation with a definite connection.

    Unless you can precisely explain and quantify the interaction between the correlated elements (and have it peer-reviewed and replicable) , you have nothing but an interesting coincidence and a strong hint that one or more external elements is driving those elements.

    Gavin, in your response you resort to the dubious wisdom(?) of models. (Are you perhaps one of those scientists who validate ideas against models rather than against actual observations?)

    Climate models are notorious for under-estimating radiation in the polar regions and for poor calculations of heat transfer from the tropics to the poles. Models are also exceptionally poor at dealing with one of the most common weather elements, clouds. (I note that a press release in the last few weeks said how difficult this has been and was proposing some new method.)

    It seems to me that you (and many others) have decided that carbon dioxide is to blame before you have properly investigated ALL of the possible factors. To me that is irresponsible science!


    Response: I am actually one of those scientists that spend almost all their time (when not answering needlessly aggressive posts like this) comparing models with data and seeing if my ideas fit both. I personally have looked at many different forcings, solar, volcanic, orbital, CO2, CH4, ozone, and aerosols and have investigated many different forms of intrinsic variability, as have many of my colleagues. The conclusion that I (and others) have come to is that CO2 is the biggest forcing over the last 100 years (followed by CH4 and aerosols) – this is not an assumption, it is a result. (see Hansen et al (2002) or vast literature cited by the IPCC report for the details). The conclusion that the CO2 increase is undoubtedly anthropogenic was discussed in another thread. With respect to my previous response, you asked an ill-posed question, I gave what I thought was a reasonable answer to what you actually wanted to know. If that wasn’t satisfactory, ask a better question. – gavin

    Comment by john — 25 Dec 2004 @ 4:49 AM

  68. You seem to be deleting comments with which you disagree. You only keep the comments that agree with you, or that you feel make easy straw men to knock down. This is not the mark of true science.

    I am disappointed by your blog. You seem to re-iterate the same claims over and over, emphasizing the strength of your models and minimizing the weaknesses. Real scientists would emphasize the weaknesses and explain how they are going about making them stronger.

    [Editor’s Note: Comments that get caught by our (admittedly imperfect) moderation filters will sit in the queue for a while before someone can get around to deciding to post or not. Anticipating that your previous comment (posted Dec 24 11:10pm) would recieve attention prior to your next comment (Dec 25 11:12 am), given the particular day in question, is possibly asking a little much of us. ]

    Comment by Marvin — 25 Dec 2004 @ 11:12 AM

  69. In comment #66, Marvin writes, “You seem to be deleting comments with which you disagree. You only keep the comments that agree with you, or that you feel make easy straw men to knock down.”

    I have had comments deleted here. (About a third of my comments have not been posted.)

    But it’s simply wrong to say that RealClimate only keeps the comments that agree with their positions. Or that they only keep comments that are “easy straw men to knock down.”

    I have posted here and intend to post again (when I have more time). I disagree with Gavin Schmidt: Dr. Schmidt seems to think that the temperature projections in the IPCC Third Assessment Report, or TAR (i.e., a temperature rise of 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius from 1990 to 2100) are better than Michael Crichton’s projection of 0.8 degrees Celsius from 2000 to 2100. But the IPCC TAR projections are clearly worse, if one places the same range of temperatures around Michael Crichton’s estimates that exist in the IPCC TAR. That is, the IPCC TAR has a mean value of 3.6 degrees Celsius increase, +/- 2.2 degrees Celsius.

    If Michael Crichton’s value of 0.8 degrees Celsius is taken with a range of +/- 2.2 degrees Celsius, it becomes a prediction of anything from a cooling of 1.4 degrees Celsius, to a warming of up to 3.0 degrees Celsius (with a mean value of warming of 0.8 degrees Celsius). Even assuming a warming of as much as 2.0 degrees Celsius from 2000 to 2100, Michael Crichton would still have a better prediction than the IPCC TAR (i.e. 0.8 degrees is closer to 2.0 degrees than 3.6 degrees is to 2.0 degrees).

    As I noted, I will post again (when I have more time) on why Michael Crichton’s prediction is *better* than the predictions in the IPCC TAR.

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 25 Dec 2004 @ 1:58 PM

  70. Regarding comment 31: The IPCC projections are completely unrealistic, in part because:

    1) They include completely unrealistic projections for future atmospheric methane concentrations, and

    2) They include unrealistic projections for future CO2 emissions, and for future CO2 atmospheric concentrations.

    The mistake you are making is assuming that the modelers are not already aware of the extreme nature of some of the projections. The goal is not to produce THE solution that will predict the future state of the climate system. That is clearly impossible. Although we like to think of model output as being deterministic (the solution my model gives is THE solution), the reality is far different. Because of our inability to capture the initial state of the atmosphere, imperfect data assimilation, parameterizations of some model schemes, etc., our deterministic model output is really a single member of a family of possible solutions defined by some probability distribution. This distribution says nothing about the real solution. If the model is a good one, then it is likely that reality will fall somewhere within the boundaries of the distribution. You also hope that by defining the distribution that some statements can be made about the most likely solution. The goal of the IPCC projections is to attempt to define the distribution of the GCM solutions. In order to do that a number of extreme scenarios are required. Without them, you cannot adequately define the distribution. So we have one that assumes that we are stopping our emissions right now (the best case scenario?) and we have one that amounts to the worst case scenario. Not surprisingly, the most likely solution appears somewhere between the extremes. Of perhaps more concern is the fact that the range of solutions is shifting toward increased warming with each IPCC report.

    Comment by David Ball — 27 Dec 2004 @ 3:40 PM

  71. You seem very reluctant to post critical messages …
    Its now two weeks ago.

    Hi Gavin,

    Using a different method to measure speed _only_ suggests a different speed, it cannot prove accelleration..

    If a police man radars you a higher speed than you have on your dashboard what does this prove?

    “Sir, my radar measurement suggests that you have been
    accelerating” ?

    Sent: Monday, December 13, 2004 12:36 AM
    Subject: Re: [RealClimate] Please approve: ‘Michael
    Crichton’s State of Confusion’

    I know. That’s why I said ‘not necessarily’. It hardly
    proves the opposite

    (Due to a slight problem, I’ve actually pulled this post
    for the time
    being, and so your comment won’t get posted either. It
    should be back in
    couple of days though – sorry for the confusion).


    > A new comment on the post #74 “Michael Crichton’s State
    of Confusion” is
    > waiting for your approval
    > Author : Hans Erren ()
    > E-mail : erren21@…
    > URL :
    > Whois : …
    > Comment:
    > Sea-level rise
    > Although satellite data (TOPEX/POSEIDON (sic) and JASON) shows a much
    > steeper trend over recent years (2.8 mm/yr) than the long term mean
    > estimates from tide gauges (1.7 to 2.4 mm/yr), each
    method compared to
    > itself does not indicate an accelleration.

    Comment by Hans Erren — 27 Dec 2004 @ 7:21 PM

  72. This comment should probably be in a different place, but since several others raised related issues and I’m here….

    Does responding to authors and books like Crichton and Lomborg make sense?

    Yes and no.

    Yes. As the current topic of general discussion, they provide a framework for discussing the broader issues. Any opportunity for engaging people in discussion is valuable.

    No. The point by point refutation of the errors and biases merely results in those people who agree with the author’s premise bringing up other biased points of view from other sources.

    The real problem is a lack of understanding about science and its process. A superficial understanding of “science” and the use of science in contexts like political science and social science, leads far too many people to the conclusion that if you present charts and graphs based on the past, the future can be predicted. Yet, the nature of charts and graphs is such that prediction seems to be magic.

    The real “cherry picking” that occurs is due to a bias toward a specific political or social view of the world. The core argument is based on applying the principle that “anyone can see that the theory is wrong”.

    When the winter is cold with lots of snow, clearly global warming is wrong.

    When you consider the complexity of man and animals, the idea that we evolved from amino acids is absurd.

    When you consider the change in ratio between the number of workers and the number of retirees, clearly Social Security is soon to fail.

    When discussing the end of the oil age, the universal response seems to be “we will never run out of oil” and this comes from the oil industry and they MUST know the truth.

    Yet, no one says, “gravity is not a weak force, because if it were, we would fly off into space”.

    No one says, “quantum theories are bogus because even Einstein couldn’t believe that God places dice with the universe, and if merely observing the scene out the window changes the view which is just random events, then why does it look the same day after day?”

    No one says “Einstein was and is wrong because you can’t see light bend around a lead cannon ball, and when have you seen matter converted into energy according to E=MC2? Look, I burn a cord of wood and most of the mass is converted into energy but I don’t blow up the world.”

    After all, “theory is not fact”.

    Yet, within the selective “scientific” refutation of “bogus theories”, we see lots of contradictions in the way this so called “science” is applied.

    Ok, maybe there will be a shortage of oil in the future, but that is at least 20 years and probably 50 years in the future and technology will fix the problem. Yet, for Social Security, we have an immediate crisis that requires immediate action because of a $10 trillion short fall OVER THE NEXT 75 YEARS. Hmmmm, we never see that 75 year timeline emphasized by those who want to dramatically change the system immediately.

    If technology will solve the oil problem and result in no crisis for oil, why won’t demographics or technology solve the Social Security problem over a longer time period?

    There is a divide between those who think that we should “question authority” and those who don’t. I “question authority” no matter what the authority: the government, a book, the internet. I don’t do this out of disrespect, but to ensure that I understand enough to correctly interpret the theories, the observations, the conclusions.

    The reason we have a field of study called “political science” is that it attempts to provide a methodology to examine history and develop political theories and from that suggest political policies. The science occurs when different voting systems are considered: the electoral college vs majority rule vs approval voting vs rank voting. It is not science to talk of Red States and Blue States or “values” being the factor that determined the election.

    I find that even some of my most informed friends, people who explain to me what really happened with various space and aircraft disasters based on their own critical review of the available information on the subject, have problems discussing topics like global climate change, the end of oil as a fuel, because they haven’t even asked some obvious questions, much less done any research. How can someone go beyond the causes of either shuttle crash and question the ability of NASA or any equivalent organization to function effectively, yet simply accept that since The Limits to Growth predicted a crash due to resources by 2000 and that didn’t happen, global warming is bogus? The first problem is NOT QUESTIONING The Limit to Growth MYTH.

    When told that the book forecast the collapse of the world by 2000, I reflected back on my buying the book to read about when the world would exhaust all resources and discovering that the book never provided a date or even a century, and that was in the early 70s. I recently bought the recent reprint and finding no dates, found a copy of the first edition in a library and still no date. Yet I see comments everywhere about how the book was wrong in failing to predict something that it never predicted, a fact that would be clear if the writer took an hour to find a copy of the book in a library and glanced through it.

    We have a problem in our education system. We seem to have teachers who have no idea about science, critical thinking, doing good research, finding the best, meaning original source, of weighing multiple views of the data and competing arguments and theories.

    Some suggest that Intelligent Design is a recent theory, yet I am old enough to know that Erich von Daniken made the same argument 30 years ago, but his intelligence was space aliens. Isn’t ironic that the Fox Network’s most scientically accurate programs were produced by Chris Carter – at least he cleverly wove fact into enjoyable fiction.

    I don’t know, but somehow I think us aging hippies screwed up somewhere over the past three decades, failing to keep alive and pass on the ability to question everything?

    Comment by michael pettengill — 28 Dec 2004 @ 3:08 PM

  73. In addition to #56, the ice core data mentioned in reveal that a decrease in temperature (some 8 K) in the previous interglacial-glacial transition is followed by a CO2 decrease of ~50 ppmv, many thousands of years later. The decrease in CO2 levels had no measurable influence on temperature. This was disputed, by Severinghaus, pointing to Cuffey and Vimeux, which corrected the deuterium data used as temperature proxy. But the correction doesn’t change the timing of the temperature/CO2 changes, only the amplitude. That can be seen in later work from Jouzel and Vimeux at see the last page, where the deuterium and corrected temperature are presented. Temperature decreased in the period 120-110 ky BP, CO2 levels decreased 111-104 ky BP, taken from the Vostok ice core data, see .

    Consequently, CO2 has little influence on temperature in the 50 ppmv range, far less than current models implement (0.3-1 K).

    That a CO2 doubling causes 4 W/m2 extra heat retention maybe right theoretically, but several other sources find a much lower sensitivity of our climate to forcings, see:

    And climate models understimate natural climate responses, which seems to be largely negative (underestimated in most models). The higher sea surface temperatures in the tropics (~0.85 K/decade in recent decades) have lead to an increase in LW (infrared) radiation, and a loss to space of some 3 W/m2 all over the tropics (50% of the surface), which more than halves the – theoretical – global influence (~2.4 W/m2) of all extra GHGs together since the start of the industrial revolution. See the papers of Wielicki and of Chen e.a.

    Maybe some downward “projections” of the climate models should be included in the range…

    Response: Nobody is claiming that CO2 is the only thing affecting climate. Especially at the regional scale, ocean and atmospheric circulation changes are clearly also important. For small changes in CO2, the tendency will be small and potentially difficult to see among the other effects – it does not mean there is no effect. The climate sensitivity (the global mean surface temperature change in response to a doubling of CO2) is estimated from models to be around 3 deg C (+/- 1 deg). This is also supported by the paleo-data. At the last glacial maximum (20,000 yrs ago), forcings by ice sheets, vegetation, greenhouse gases and dust loading are estimated to be around -7W/m2, and that sustained a climate 5 to 6 degrees cooler than present. This is consistent with the model estimates, and provides a severe test for those who would argue that the sensitivity is much less (say <1 deg C). If sensitivity is that low, then the forcing at the LGM needs to have been more like -20 to -25 W/m2 – and where would that come from?

    Tropical variability does appear to be greater in the real world than in the models, and that is the subject of significant current research into the satellite record and the models, however, there is no indication that this necessarily indicates a smaller sensitivity. And, as you well know, the reason why there are no ‘downward’ projections is that the forcings continue to increase. – gavin

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 1 Jan 2005 @ 5:35 PM

  74. Re the 1940-1970 cooling: I’d be rather interested in a model of the interaction between atomic explosion and cliamte. During that period there were almost 500 nuclear tests (in the atmosphere). A severe inpute of particulate in the stratosphere definitively modified the climate patterns..

    [Response: this isn’t my strong point, but AFAIK no-one within the climatological community considers them significant. I suspect that their input into the stratosphere was quite small, though I have no numbers to back this up – William]

    Comment by Fabrizio — 2 Jan 2005 @ 2:20 AM

  75. From post 67, Gavin says:

    > Response: I am actually one of those scientists that spend almost all > their time (when not answering needlessly aggressive posts like this) > comparing models with data and seeing if my ideas fit both. I …

    Gavin: Your gripe that John’s post was “needlessly aggressive” appears a bit sanctimonious given your “needlessly aggressive” comments only a few posts earlier (post 51):

    > Response: Let me try again to make my position clear, since you
    > obviously failed to grasp the point earlier. I (and other
    > climatologists) are not in the business of fortune-telling. I do not
    > know what CH4 or CO2 levels will be like in 100 years time. This may
    > come as a shock to you, but it really shouldn’t….

    Response: Ah, but there it was needed…. ;) – gavin

    Comment by SkinnyPuppy — 2 Jan 2005 @ 5:42 AM

  76. It might be interesting to some readers of this site to know that Crichton’s comparison of global climate change theory to eugenics in Appendix I of his novel was adapted without attribution from an essay by Richard Lindzen, “Science and Politics: Global Warming and Eugenics,” which appeared in R.W. Hahn, Ed., Risks, Costs, and Lives Saved, (American Enterprise Institute, 1996). Lindzen kindly makes a PDF copy available on his web site,

    Crichton lists several other Lindzen publications in his bibliography, but omits this one, which mileads the reader into thinking that the ideas in this appendix are Crichton’s own. Where I teach, we disapprove of this sort of thing, even in works of fiction.

    Comment by Jonathan Gilligan — 2 Jan 2005 @ 8:31 PM

  77. I just read the book.
    It was really awful, on so many levels, but in particular it showed so little understanding of the nature of prediction. Post #69 posits that MC actually understands that prediction involves confidence band, but that idea is no where present in the book. As already noted above, neither was the idea that many variables may influence a single outcome. In fact models and scientists are completely absent.

    The social science is also awful. Not that this board cares, but the hypothesis that society needs demons in the forest and the other that ordinary people are generally poor at estimating risk say nothing about whether or not there is actually danger.

    The funniest part–except for the plot, of course– is where the good guy characters say that in the future they will use only data, not hypotheses.

    Comment by ew — 2 Jan 2005 @ 10:14 PM

  78. Response to 66:

    These are an arrogant group of people who think they should have the right to tell other people how to live.

    Baloney. Arrogant pollution apologists like you think they have the right to impose their unwanted emissions on others.

    They find nothing wrong with the death of millions of people in the 3rd world, due to various environmental regulations (see DDT).

    This is a “Big Lie.” Banning DDT in the U.S. didn’t cause millions of deaths in the Third World. Some countries still produce DDT. Why you think U.S. environmental law holds in foreign countries is unclear.

    They think that their theories — which are certainly anything *but* conclusive — give them a justification for interfering with the lives, freedoms, and property of others.

    If you can keep your pollution on your property, you’ll get no argument from me. I’d love nothing more than to see anti-enviros suck up all the toxic pollution they can get. When you start polluting the commons, you should expect limits on your “freedom.”

    And, of course, anyone who disagrees with them is an idiot, anti-earth, or just a greedy capitalist pig (“industry”).

    Why anybody would defend the “freedom” to pollute is beyond me.

    [This comment edited to avoid off-topic wars – William, 2005/01/05]

    Comment by Chris Radlinski — 3 Jan 2005 @ 12:57 AM

  79. A point Crichton raises that, in my opinion, merits serious discussion is the cost/benefits analysis of environmnental regulation, combined with the principle of uncertainty relating to unintended consequences. In an interview of Crichton published in a U.K. newspaper a few days ago, he stated that he might endorse the Kyoto Treaty, or something similar, 10 years from now IF the science, at that point, more strongly supports the global warming theory than he believes it does now. The Kyoto Treaty, if ratified, will effect a major change in the way we do business, particularly in the U.S. The compliance costs and related economic costs, e.g, lost opportunities, will be staggering. I think all Crichton is saying is that we need to be very, very sure we are right about global warming before we expose our economy to the potential disruption the Kyoto treaty would entail. I agree with him 100% that you cannot divorce science from politics at this level. There’s no free lunch.

    Response: Had Crichton simply used this economic argument, I would not have complained about his use of science. Whether Kyoto is or isn’t cost effective is irrelevent to the scientific understanding of climate change. As stated in the blog description, no digressions into the economics or politics will be entertained here. – gavin

    Comment by Paul McBride — 3 Jan 2005 @ 5:13 PM

  80. State of Fear
    state of fear Originally uploaded by coolmel.In the thirty-five-odd since the environmental movement came into existence, science has undergone a major revolution. This revolution has brought new understanding of nonlinear dynamics, complex systems, ch…

    Trackback by — 4 Jan 2005 @ 3:40 AM

  81. In response to #73, Gavin responded that it is not only CO2 that is necessary to change climate. That is right. But one can find similar results of the models by adjusting a few parameters opposite of each other. E.g. there is an offset between GHG forcing and sulphate aerosol forcing. Higher estimates of GHG influences need to be compensated with higher influences of aerosols to fit especially the 1945-1975 period trend. The same for solar influences. If solar is increased by feedbacks (like cloud cover), that will give the same fit of past temperature data at the cost of combined GHG+aerosol.

    The Hadley Centre has done some model experiments with 10x solar and 5x volcanic to test their influence. See:
    The best fit was with 2x solar according to Hoyt & Schatten, at the cost of 20% of GHG influence. But that was within the constraints of the model (no change in aerosol influence, lack of solar stratospheric influences, no influence of solar on cloud cover…).

    As already said, there are a lot of indications that GHG influences are overestimated in current models (see discussion #10 and #11 of ), not at least as the influence of sulphate aerosols are not measurable where the largest cooling according to the models should be seen. See:

    At the other side, if the influence of solar cycle(s) on cloud cover is real (no matter what mechanism is involved), then the initial variation in insolation (as incorporated in current models) is increased by a factor 4-5. The change in cloud cover between the Maunder Minimum (Little Ice Age) and today would make a difference of ~7 W/m2, pretty close to the 7 W/m2 which is lacking at the depth of the previous glacial…

    I have a proposal. Make a few runs of the HADcm3 climate model around a 5 times increased solar (according to Hoyt & Schatten) and a 5 times reduced GHG&aerosol influence set for the period 1860-2000. Although not perfect (the influence of solar on the stratosphere, cloud cover, jet stream position,… are poorly described in the model), it will make clear that other combinations than mainly GHGs describe the far and near past as good (or not). Of course, that costs a lot of time and money if done on the mainframes. But offers an inexpensive possibility to run the model sets in the background on several home computers worldwide at once (actually, a HADsm3 model set is running on my PC). The answer may take several months, but as the CO2 doubling is not yet for tomorrow…

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 4 Jan 2005 @ 12:26 PM

  82. Dear Gavin:
    John Brockman has done us all the good service of posing, as an _ Edge _ question, what is it that we believe that we cannot prove?
    To avoid Mike Crichton declaring a Scotch Verdict, let me therefore raise a matter that you are competent to answer in that spirit.

    GCM’s on a global or pixel scale, operate of necessity using mainly time averaged values of dynamic variables-in the case, for example of a 1-D model, diurnal variations are approximated by average values of insolation; likewise cloud cover is smoothed to a representative number and homogeneous average precipitation replaces the squally reality of showers and rain bands.

    So we are left with little sense of how much some ‘average’ macrovariables like albedo, vary day to day and hour by hour as clouds come and go and land use and natural cover vary

    Can you edify us on, basically, what the limits of dayside albedo are, both in the visible and IR?

    [Response: you seem to be suggesting that GCMs use diurnally averaged insolation. But they don’t. Hadcm3 (in its standard configuration) does the (expensive) shortwave calculations every 3 hours and interpolates between. I think the longwave is done every half hour. Clouds vary on the half-hour timestep. These numbers would be different for different GCMs. Perhaps we need a primer post on what-are-GCMs? – William]

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 5 Jan 2005 @ 7:35 AM

  83. Thank you all for the (so far) interesting discussion. I have a question regarding an item mentioned by Crichton’s book that hasn’t been discussed so far.

    Crichton describes a report issued by the IPCC in the 90’s where bureacrats edited the original draft written by scientists to imply that global warming is occurring. If I remember correctly the scientists claimed in the original draft that they couldn’t be sure to what degree global warming was occurring. Crichton claims that this was later changed to something like “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”. Did IPCC bureacrats actually do this? Internet links to the various report drafts as well as the final report would be appreciated.

    [Response: Its a fairly standard skeptic claim, thought I can’t bring an example to hand for the moment. You won’t find the draft reports, of course, but the final report is at The claim is false, of course. The skeptics have a hard time arguing with the science, so they devolve to arguing about the process. The kernel-of-truth involved is that the summary-for-policymakers bit is negotiated. Kevin Trenberth, who was involved, has a nice article about the process at Its for the TAR not the SAR, but you’ll get some idea. You say “IPCC bureaucrats”: this is probably an error – William]

    Comment by Jason Kakazu — 5 Jan 2005 @ 6:19 PM

  84. Regarding comment 83:

    Here is an interesting set of letters regarding the changes, and defending the IPCC and Ben Santer:

    The charges were made by Fredrick Sietz, who is not a climate scientist and took no part in the IPCC, and published in the Wall Street Journal. According to the letters the changes were all within the IPCC guidelines. There was also a report on the controversy in Physics Today ( “Attacks on IPCC Report Heat Controversy Over Global Warming”, Toni Feder, Physics Today, August 1996, pp 55-57).

    [Response: thank you. Thats a very useful link – William]

    Comment by Jim Norton — 5 Jan 2005 @ 10:27 PM

  85. After perusing the links it appears that there were indeed changes made to the report, that those final changes were considered to be part of the scientific review process, and that IPCC guidelines were followed. However there are a few things about this episode that concern me. Here is a quote from one of the letters found at the link:

    “In the weeks before the Madrid meeting, many additional review comments on the October draft were received. For instance, the United States government in submitting their points for review, commented on ‘several inconsistencies’ and stated ‘it is essential that the chapters not be finalized prior to the completion of the discussions at the IPCC Plenary in Madrid, and that the chapter authors be prevailed upon to modify their text in an appropriate manner following discussion in Madrid.’

    A substantial part of the Madrid meeting was devoted to scientific presentation and discussion regarding the extent to which anthropogenic climate change has been detected in climate observations. Further review comments from experts and government delegates were received and the Lead Authors were formally asked to consider modifications for improvement. The Plenary meeting finally “accepted” Chapter 8 (the chapter Mr. Seitz attacks) and the other ten chapters of the report, subject to the Lead Authors revising them in the light of the Madrid discussions. The Plenary meeting was, in fact, the final part of the very comprehensive and thorough IPCC process of peer review.”

    The U.S. government is asking that “chapter authors be prevailed upon to modify their text in an appropriate manner following discussion in Madrid.”? In the second paragraph it says “Further review comments from experts and government delegates were received and the Lead Authors were formally asked to consider modifications for improvement.”. Why are the U.S. government or government delegates asking for modifications to what is a scientific report?

    Although I haven’t been able to find earlier drafts of the report on the internet I was able to locate the following page from SEPP (apparently an environmental skeptics organization). This page purports to show what was removed, changed and added to chapter 8 of the report. Some of the modifications certainly appear to change the character of the scientific assessment. Can anyone confirm whether this is an accurate representation of the changes made?

    [Response: SEPP is indeed highly skeptical, though slightly questionably an “organisation” – it is essentially the project of Fred Singer. Whether what is on that page is reliable is unknown – it has no indication of its source. The changes indicated do not appear to alter the sense significantly, especially when read in conjunction with the full text, which is of course much larger. In accordance with the charter of RealClimate, we’d rather be discussing the *science* rather than textual criticism – William]

    Comment by Jason Kakazu — 6 Jan 2005 @ 12:30 PM

  86. Tech Central Station: The Novel
    On Michael Crichton’s new novel, State of Fear, in which environmentalists use weather control to fake environmental disasters (hurricanes, tsunamis, a massive iceberg released from the Antarctic ice shelf) in order to convince the public that gl…

    Trackback by Crooked Timber — 6 Jan 2005 @ 1:29 PM

  87. My comment on Crichton’s book about global warmings,

    “Michael Crichton’s Deep Lobbying”

    is on Harvey Wasserman’s web site but kind of hard to find.

    then click on “departments” and under “reviews”, there it is.

    Gene Coyle

    Comment by Eugene Coyle — 7 Jan 2005 @ 11:48 AM

  88. Regarding his stance on CO2 levels and warming, you’re arguing the same thing he is. In the author’s notes, he says that (in fact, you quote him later.) His claim is that we don’t understand climate or weather well enough to attribute the change to a single source, so getting worked up over the Greenhouse Effect is a scam from activists, not scientists.

    Regarding uses of temperature data, your argument falls in line with his. You forget that this is a novel, not a text; the legal teams makes your argument successfully. Likewise, certain characters make off-hand remarks (such as the “There’s your global warming” comment made by Sanjong, an agent, not a scientist.) It’s obvious that Kenner is the voice of Crichton, and it’s not Kenner that makes the comment. It’s a novel. Characters are allowed to be wrong.

    As far as the Hansen study is concerned, why don’t you post the data on the total change compared to the predicted total change? Likewise, post the graph of the Hansen study error every year. Those two datasets offer much better evidence than the graph you presented. (NOTE: I don’t know what that data looks like. However, I feel that if you’re going to make the argument, you should use the relevent information, and my data/graphs are more relevent.)

    As far as the quotes on 315 and 563: The quote on 315 is essentially correct. In the 1970s, climate scientists believed an ice age is coming, just as they believe now that an ice age is coming. The Earth operates cyclically and it’s only a matter of time until the next Ice Age cycles comes around. This is the point conveyed on 563 (admittedly, the point of 315 was to illustrate the political and social appeal of global warming.) 315 is somewhat of an error, but 563 absolves it.

    Regarding the UHIE, I believe you’re, again, barking up the wrong tree. The point he made regarding UHIE was that the corrections are a matter of ethics and an easy way to massage data. Admittedly, I haven’t read the Parker article (and cannot because it’s not publicly available), but the bibliography contains sources supporting it. At best, this is a debated topic and Crichton only pointed out the possibility of dishonesty.

    For the satellites, where’s the data on the long-term trend? I don’t have it, but if you’re going to make that argument, you need to have that data, too.

    Response: Try White et al (2004) and references in there. I don’t know of a online dataset – gavin

    In the author’s message, Crichton was referring to the cause of temperature rise being urban growth more than greenhouse CO2. He didn’t offer any support for this claim, so I doubt anyone would put much faith in it, anyways.

    Regarding eugenics, you forgot the overwhelming similarity that they were both widespread, media-friendly, commonly-believed “facts” that proved to be false (whether or not Global Warming is false is obviously debatable, but he’s operating with that disclaimer when he makes the comparison, and thus it is necessary to operate under it when disputing his claims.) His point is that, if Global Warming is false, (as he is assuming it is–which you must honor when considering his comparison), it is a modern-day eugenics. Eugenics lead to widespread ethnic cleansing (we call it the Holocaust), and he just wrote a book about eco-minded terrorists; both topics can be taken to a dangerous extreme, and he is just cautioning those of blind faith that the proof of foundation-sponsored science has been entirely wrong in the past, and has led to horrible atrocities. It’s a warning, not an accusation.

    Comment by Shane Vaiskauskas — 8 Jan 2005 @ 4:43 AM

  89. re: comment 73 response (by Ferdinand), “The climate sensitivity (the global mean surface temperature change in response to a doubling of CO2) is estimated from models to be around 3 deg C (+/- 1 deg). This is also supported by the paleo-data. At the last glacial maximum (20,000 yrs ago), forcings by ice sheets, vegetation, greenhouse gases and dust loading are estimated to be around -7W/m2, and that sustained a climate 5 to 6 degrees cooler than present.”

    1) One could argue your statement is not “conclusively supported by the paleo-data” — one need only argue that C02 levels are a lagging result (rather than leading indicator) of temp change, and your 20,000 year ago glacial maximum as GHG evidence becomes tenuous at best. In fact some studies purport such a lag in CO2 levels, some by well over a century.

    Response: The LGM can be considered roughly stable over a two thousand year period. Thus it must have been in radiative quasi-equilibrium. Ice sheet extent and GHG levels were stable for almost all of this period, thus small lags of a century or two are irrelevent. That’s why I highlighted this particular example.

    2) Who is (are) the astro-physicist(s) of your advisory team? What are the teams AGW concensus comments about solar output factors, which according to some studies (including Max Planck Institute) were at an 8000 year high in 2001?

    Response: Solar forcing over the direct observational period (since 1979) has been measured to be small. Going back further, proxy reconstructions must be made but these are quite uncertain. The study you reference (Solanki et al, 2001) was indeed quite interesting, but unfortunately does not provide solid evidence of what their sunspot record actually implies for long term climate. However, they go out of their way to note that “we stress that solar variability is unlikely to be the prime cause of the strong warming during the last three decades”.

    3) How are the Paleoclimatic proxy records of the Sargasso Sea factored into your advisory teams AGW position? For instance, Keigwin’s NOV’96 Science paper which showed 4-5 occurences higher sustained sea-surface temperatures oscillations over 3
    milleniums of core sample averages, vs. our last 100+ years? His data also had obvious evidence of the Medieval Warming Period and Little Ice Age — something that Mann-Bradley-Hughes missed in their 1998-9 work, and again with Mann in 2001?

    Response: One record does not a global Medieval warm period make. ‘Global’ is the key word there. It turns out that many of the so-called ‘MWP’s seen in seperate records actually occur at different times, and so would not show up in the global mean. I recommend reading the Bradley et al (2003) Science Perspective dealing with this matter. – gavin

    See also our discussion of “Hockey Stick myth #2”, and the section “Was there a “Little Ice Age” and a “Medieval Warm Period” in chapter 2 of the 2001 IPCC report which specifically discussed the Keigwin (1996) record you mention and its likely reflection, at least in part, of changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation in past centuries. Changes in the NAO appear to play a prominent role in the spatial pattern of climate change in past centuries (see e.g. the review paper: Schmidt, G.A., D.T. Shindell, R.L. Miller, M.E. Mann, and D. Rind 2004. General circulation modelling of Holocene climate variability. Quaternary Sci. Rev., 23, 2167-2181, doi:10.1016. ). Regional influences due to changes in the NAO and the El Nino/Southern Oscillation in past centuries complicate the relationship between regional and truly hemispheric or global temperature estimates. For precisely this reason, the numerous proxy and model-based estimates of the variations in the average temperature of the Northern Hemisphere (not just just the Mann et al reconstruction, as implied by your comment) show far more modest temperature changes than those typically interpreted from specific proxy records from any one region. -mike

    Comment by John McCall — 9 Jan 2005 @ 4:26 PM

  90. The tone of the article and especially of the comments printed above gives us a perfect example of what Crichton is writing above, of chutzpa and arrogance of those presenting the global warming results to the general public and their coldwar like/zealous approach to the truth (it is war an anybody who mentions the facts that might be interpreted to help the enemy should be silenced).
    Many of those commenting admit openly to not reading even the 5 pages authors message in the end of this book but still feel free to blast him as a infidel, heretic and serving big industry inetersts. It reminds me so much the atmosphera of intelectual “freedom” in the stalist Soviet Union.
    Main point i like in the Crichton book is that climate sience is very complicated and not well understood. Even author of the above post in trying to explain the reverse of the global warming trend in years 40-70 explains it by some other not well understood trends. Can we say that such trends will not appear in future? Can we really be sure what will be the response of the whole global environment to current changes? What about his point that in 70 ties the “consensus” was that we see the begining of cooling and the new ice age.

    [Response: that too is wrong. A post on this is in draft; in the meantime you can try – William]

    I do believe that even if we feel that it is better to err on the side of too much fear as is common between concerned scientist we do have to admit this error if we want to have credibility.
    I think that his comments about eugenics are remarkable and should force us all to stand aside from our rightiousness and try to see the issue as people may see it in 100 years. Too much agreement (like those 100% of 765 papers) sounds very suspicious and Orwelian.

    Comment by Pawel Skudlarski — 9 Jan 2005 @ 11:50 PM

  91. In addition to comment #89 by John McCall,

    There is – again – a lag between CO2/CH4 changes and temperatures at the end of the last ice age. While in the upswing difficult to see (~1,000 years on the 5,000 years increase in temperature), at the end of the first warming step, there is a sudden increase in temperature and in CH4 (methane) concentrations (melting methane hydrates, permafrost, ice free land?). That is followed by a decrease in temperature. When CH4 levels fall, some 2,000 years later, temperature starts to rise…

    [Response: What is your point here? What you are seeing is a reflection of northern hemisphere variability (Bolling-Allerod, Pre-boreal period, Younger Dryas etc.) which impacts methane sources in northern wetlands. This methane is relatively well mixed (which is why it can be used to cross date the Greenland and Antarctic ice core records). What is difficult about accepting that yes, climate affects CO2 and CH4, and that yes, CH4 and CO2 in turn affect climate? -gavin]

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 11 Jan 2005 @ 4:06 PM

  92. In the article, you say

    Had the characters visited the nearby station of Santa Barbara Aeropuerto, the poster
    on the wall would have shown a positive trend

    I know it’s a bit sad but I thought I’d have a look but I can’t find the Santa Barbara
    you refer to in GISTEMP. I can find 2 Santa Barbara stations but they are both in the NH
    so neither of them can be the one you mean. They are slightly interesting, though

    There’s Santa Barbara/FAA Airport here

    which doesn’t show any warming trend – then there’s Santa Barbara here

    which does – but seems a bit flat since around 1980 (apart from around 1997/98)

    As the stations appear to be located at the same longitude/latitude – do we have a case of UHI? We could
    start a whole new study on Santa Barbara.

    [Response: Arrghhh! My bad! It is Santa Cruz Aeropuerto. I always get these two mixed up (though usually in a Californian context!). – gavin]

    Comment by John Finn — 12 Jan 2005 @ 1:49 PM

  93. I am in general sympathy with your point-of-view, and I’d like to thank you for the judicious and reasonable tack you take here.

    But I found Crichton’s book to be rather more interesting than you did, perhaps because I know so much less about the technicalia of global warming and climate modelling than you seem to.

    Your first point beginning “The first set of comments relate to the attribution of the recent warming trend to increasing CO2. . . .” seems to me to be something that Crichton would agree with. At the end of this paragraph you acknowledge that the state of historical climate science is still working on “best guesses.” Crichton’s point is that we oughtn’t get too terribly worked up or run off and do too much of anything on the basis of best guesses. Guesses based on assumptions that may very well reflect the biases of the people making them.

    Crichton may well be wrong, but it seems to me to boil down to a political question, not a scientific one. You can say climate modelling is better than educated guessing, or “land use change globally is a cooling effect” but is there proof of either these points? If not then you are perpetuating precisely the thing Crichton quite rightly complains about: when scientists get into political fights, their surmises and guesses quickly transform themselves in facts–facts coming from the mouths of experts.

    Sort of reminds me of the CAST numbers–the epidemiological estimates of the numbers of foodborne illness in the US. The “solid numbers”: doctor reports of illnesses were ridiculously low because the diseases went underrecognized and unreported. The initial estimates (“the Cast numbers”)from experts turned out to be far too high. Why?

    It wasn’t that the models the scientists had built were crap. it was because the models depended on numeric assumptions that could have very big effects on the final estimates; and the scientists tended to make assumptions that reassured them of the importance of their field of study.

    When active surveying was done, and good information for estimates was gathered, it turned out that “best guesses” for the occurance of foodborne illness fell precipitously. But not before the bigger estimates had not already been used over and over agin in the press and not before a backlash set in against the food safety cassandras.

    So what stage are the global warming folks at? CAST number stage or fairly solid, testable model stage?

    I haven’t seen anything that helps me decide. I see a lot of “I don’t like Michael Crichton” stuff, but frankly I don’t care about that. I care about global warming, and I am not particular willing to accept it as an article of faith.

    Of course, there’s lots of dumbass stuff in the Crichton book, but I still find myself skeptical of Crichton’s chosen enemies.

    Any help for the skeptical layperson? Where to start?


    Comment by oran kelley — 12 Jan 2005 @ 7:11 PM

  94. RealClimate: Michael Crichton’s State of Confusion
    Meine Freundin hat mich auf eine interessante Diskussion aufmerksam gemacht. Im Weblog „RealClimate“, betrieben von einigen der international renommiertesten Klimawissenschaftler (darunter der Potsdamer Stefan Rahmstorf), bespricht der Klimawissens…

    Trackback by jmblog — 13 Feb 2005 @ 12:45 PM

  95. Skeptics in Denial?
    I received the following email from a Fletcher Christian. In some of the email exchange associated with getting his approval to post this comment he signed off “Gotta go put Bligh in the long boat.” Anway, he clearly believes that…

    Trackback by Jennifer Marohasy — 17 Jul 2005 @ 11:30 PM

  96. RealClimate » Michael Crichton’s State of Confusion
    The inevitable conclusion of the novel is that global warming is a non-problem but not so fast… as this commentary shows….

    Trackback by Viable — 8 Jan 2006 @ 3:00 AM

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