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  1. I often read your blog but never comment, but just this once let me say it: you are AWESOME. Reading the questions on Monbiot’s blog last week, the first thing that came to my mind was “I wonder what the realclimate dudes would say about this?”
    Keep it up, we need you around.

    Comment by Juliette — 24 Aug 2009 @ 10:48 AM

  2. Excellent work there RC. I did mention that the climate scientists should take a look at this over at the Guardian UK newspaper webiste where the article was published. I thought it was all nonsense but some if it has some relevance it would seem.

    The facts remain that the deniers will always find an angle to print something but only in the popular press.

    Comment by pete best — 24 Aug 2009 @ 11:05 AM

  3. If these fellows (Plimer et al) actually worked as hard at actually looking at the reality of the data as they do in misrepresenting it, we’d have a remarkable paradigm shift in attitudes…or, it seems much more likely, they’re deliberately misleading the layman, which is very troubling. Question: why would you pour gasoline on a fire in your own living room? Answer (maybe): to collect the insurance. But, where is the payoff here for the Plimers of the world?

    Comment by Steve Missal — 24 Aug 2009 @ 11:10 AM

  4. Thanks for this detailed debunking. It’s very irritating see an experienced climatologist have to expend scarce resources to answer such drivel. The denialists can make stuff up off the cuff, and because of the reach of the circulation of their ideas, people like Gavin take time to respond.

    Comment by John Atkeison — 24 Aug 2009 @ 11:10 AM

  5. I had seen the questions previously, and I second what Juliette (#1) said. Thanks, again!


    Comment by Steve Fish — 24 Aug 2009 @ 11:21 AM

  6. Good work. Plimer’s attempts to mislead again begs the question about why so many geologists seem to be involved in collective denial of the findings of climate research – it’s as if they feel that their profession has been snubbed and they all have a chip on their shoulder about it. And I say this as somebody with a degree in geology. The most puzzling aspect is that they get the geology wrong (as the questions above show) as well as the atmospheric physics, oceanography, etc.

    [Response: This has come up before, and it’s very hard to make such generalisations. There are plenty of paleo people and geologists who understand this stuff just fine. Plimer is wrong because he’s wrong, he’s not wrong because he’s a geologist. (I realise this wasn’t the argument you were making but I’m emphasizing this point to avoid a stream of angry geologist responses!). – gavin]

    Comment by Bob Ward — 24 Aug 2009 @ 11:29 AM

  7. Superb analysis and fine presentation. A+

    Comment by Richard Pauli — 24 Aug 2009 @ 11:39 AM

  8. Terrific post! You guys rule.

    There are TWO main reasons Plimer submitted his nonsensical “questions.” One is, as you suggest, a combination of distraction and to make himself look so much smarter than Monbiot.

    The other, which I believe is the main reason, is: to avoid answering Monbiot’s questions. Perhaps my favorite is Monbiot’s question #2 about Plimer’s book:

    2. Figure 3 (page 25) is a graph purporting to show that most of the warming in the 20th Century took place before 1945, and was followed by a period of sharp cooling. You cite no source for it, but it closely resembles the global temperature graph in the first edition of Martin Durkin’s film The Great Global Warming Swindle. Durkin later changed the graph after it was shown to have been distorted by extending the timeline.

    In your book it remains unchanged.

    Tim Lambert has reproduced the graph here.

    a. What is the source for the graph you used?

    b. Where was it first published?

    c. Whose figures does it use?

    d. How do you explain the alteration of both the curves and the timeline?

    My guess: Plimer will never answer Monbiot’s questions, because the answers reveal him to be a fraud.

    Comment by tamino — 24 Aug 2009 @ 11:56 AM

  9. This whole thing would be funny, if it weren’t so serious, but I must admit… I care far less about things that are as laughably silly as this homework assignment, than about Lindzen’s recent paper on ERBE and positive versus negative feedback effects. I’ve been waiting oh-so-impatiently for an expert’s take on it, with nothing immediately forthcoming. I am assuming that this is because it involves real, involved science, and he is not an amateur or untalented scientist, so the review and critique process is more complex.

    My thought is that many people are at work looking at his paper, particularly the owners of the various “flawed” models, trying to find if there are any flaws in his logic, and no one wants to speak up until hard, cold logic can be properly and thoroughly applied to his observations.

    With that said, I must admit that while a small part of me wants to see him proved wrong so that the argument can be taken out of the anti-AGW arsenal, the bigger part of me wants him to be right. No matter how many “I told you so” comments I might have to listen to, I’d much rather discover that the earth has been keeping a secret super negative feedback mechanism in it’s hip pocket, and pulled it out to save us from ourselves when things were starting to look dire (sort of like Indiana Jones unexpectedly and abruptly shooting the Arab with the big sword in the first movie).

    But I also feel like the whole “unexpected negative feedback” thing would be just too good to be true.

    So… how long do you think we’ll have to wait for a good, solid, scientific appraisal of his report?

    [Response: Good point. As you recognise, Lindzen’s papers (unlike some of his more public comments) are not obviously screwy and therefore demand a bit more attention and work to examine. The one thing that seems odd here is the use of AMIP model runs, as opposed to CMIP simulations. (The difference is whether the ocean conditions are taken from observations (AMIP) or calculated independently (CMIP)). Both sets of runs are freely available from the same source and so access is not the reason why one was chosen over the other). The projections into the future and all statements about climate sensitivity are made with the CMIP models, not the AMIP ones (obviously since we have no observations from the future). Additionally, AMIP runs are known to have very counter-intuitive behaviour when it comes to surface energy fluxes (for instance, an oceanic warm anomaly caused by atmospheric anomalies in the real world is associated with an anomalous downward flux of heat – however in an AMIP run, the flux anomaly is upwards (completely opposite)). AMIP runs are useful, but it may be that Lindzen’s analysis is one of those things that is particularly sensitive to that. Maybe not, but someone has to look and see and that takes time. – gavin]

    Comment by Bob — 24 Aug 2009 @ 12:40 PM

  10. RC is ever so much more polite, courteous, and tolerant than my college science professors.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 24 Aug 2009 @ 12:58 PM

  11. Why is it that the “deniers” always want someone to prove the existence of climate change when their only answer is that it is naturally occurring cycle.
    They always point to the little ice age as some holy grail for climate deniers but ignore all the evidence as to a major eruption impacting the atmosphere. They also like to point to the “natural” wobble of the earth but always leave out that large shifts of mass (ice to water and back) relate to the “wobble”.
    Would someone just stamp “idiot” on Ian Plimer forehead so we can move forward with more important things?

    Comment by Harry Applin — 24 Aug 2009 @ 1:00 PM

  12. So I can only wonder … this guy Plimer teaches undergrad courses? What are his tests like?!?!?

    Comment by Lin — 24 Aug 2009 @ 1:01 PM

  13. Even a person of very low climate science abilities, such as myself, can answer some of the assumptions in at least some of those questions. Here might be my response: “Oh, really, there were warm periods caused by other factors, such as orbit or volcanism or clouds? That’s really bad news. It means those factors could start kicking in again and increase the anthropogenic global warming caused by our greenhouse gas emissions even further, maybe even to total cataclysm. That means, of course, we need to a least double our cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to offset these other factors over which we have no control, which, who knows (I suppose the scientists know), might start kicking in at any time. So let’s hop to it. Reduce, reduce, reduce, drastically reduce.”

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 24 Aug 2009 @ 1:14 PM

  14. These questions read like a final exam written by a particularly cruel college professor who does not want anyone in class to pass the exam.

    Comment by Rattus Norvegicus — 24 Aug 2009 @ 2:01 PM

  15. I sure won’t complain that scientists have to spend their time on such things — I think I’ll learn a lot from this tour de force that I would never have come across otherwise. Really nice work.

    Comment by CM — 24 Aug 2009 @ 2:08 PM

  16. Truly outstanding. You are both an excellent writer and a person of great patience, to have waded through all that.

    I’d like to use this comment to point to an interesting but essentially off-topic image of US warming.

    Most US gardeners are familiar with the USDA hardiness zone map. The current (1990) USDA hardiness zone map uses minimum temperatures from 1974 to 1986. The scheduled 2005 update of the map was delayed, and rumor has it that the the delay was due to the USDA’s unwillingness to show how much the US had warmed since the last map. The USDA now plans to release an updated map, but this time, using the last 30 years of data. As the map reflects temperature minimums, that use of 30 years rather than shorter period used for the past two versions will hide the warming. The US Arbor Day foundation has recalculated the USDA hardiness zone map using the 1990 methods and the most recent available data. That is, the Arbor Day Foundation map is the modern analog of the 1990 USDA map. The resulting graphic of the change in the hardiness zones is startling. It’s particularly relevant because this map is a tool that almost all gardeners use. You’ll see it on the back of, well, basically any pack of seeds you buy.

    Anyway, I thought this might be a nice way to connect with the average American on the issue of climate change. It was also interesting to see how much the minimum recorded wintertime temperatures had changed. I think I understand that they ought to be more sensitive than the average. Even acknowledging that short term changes can be misleading indicators of trend, the fact is that the minima did change that much. Whether or not the new map will be a reliable guide for the next 15 years is unknown. But that there were very large changes in wintertime minima is a fact, nicely illustrated on the link above.

    Comment by Christopher Hogan — 24 Aug 2009 @ 2:27 PM

  17. Gavin, thanks for once again being the voice of reason in the skeptic wilderness. As another poster noted schlock jobs such as this Plimer nonsense that show up on blogs are mostly light and no heat, and it’s a shame for someone like you to have to spend any time at all on this type of thing. Of greater concern is journaled work such as Lindzen’s and the yet to be published but oh so loudly heralded work of the U of Rochester physics department. According to their pre-print press release, this paper is about to be published in Physics Letters A. It “debunks” the theory of ocean warming, and that there is long term accumulating heat storage in the pipeline of the ocean. They claim that ocean heat flux has reversed several times in recent history, and that the direction of the heat flux of the ocean is unrelated to atmospheric CO2 levels. This is apparently a hard core scientific work by physicists and needs a response from the climate science community. I know you and your cohorts are not anxious to do this type of thing, but perhaps a response in RC is warranted. Whack-a-mole anyone?

    Comment by David Erickson — 24 Aug 2009 @ 2:30 PM

  18. Heh, “definition of ‘flitch'”. Anybody have any clue what Plimer meant that word to mean in context? I’m thinking “slice”.

    Comment by GFW — 24 Aug 2009 @ 3:01 PM

  19. Chris Hogan (16), phenologic evidence, although often wrongly dismissed as merely anecdotal, provides some of the most compelling and long term evidence of the current warming and subsequent change in climate. European grape harvest records extend back long before actual temperature records, as do Japanese records of the blooming of cherrie blossoms. Environment Canada is also currently revising it’s hardiness zone maps by inviting citizen input, asking what plant species people are able to grow where they live and noting the expansion of ranges.

    One example: this summer a biologist I know stayed with a farmer who grows corn on St. George’s Bay on the southwest coast of Nerwfoundland along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. My friend was impressed with the very fact that the farmer could grow a commercially viable corn crop, much less the impressive extent of his plantings. The farmer related his experiments in growing species that had been impossible as little as 10 years ago, including several species of hardwoods and fruit trees, including maples, oaks and hardy kiwis. Anyone who has ever visited the southwest coast of Newfoundland will grasp the significance of this. The farmer was acutely aware that the climate has warmed considerably.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 24 Aug 2009 @ 3:02 PM


    and the editable transcluded homework part, the main purpose, is

    I did it a week or 2 ago after I’d emailed Monbiot.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 24 Aug 2009 @ 3:29 PM

  21. Re #9, Bob

    I wasn’t quite sure why Lindzen’s model-observation comparison differed so much from the comparison by Wong et al 2006 so I’m glad gavin had some insight into the model aspect, which I’m not very good at going through myself. I’ve corresponded very briefly with some of the guys at Langley about this paper (as well as some of his other internet postings on feedback which didn’t use the Edition3 data discussed here ). He uses Edition3 in the new paper but it doesn’t appear to have applied the rev1 correction, which is to reduce the absolute magnitude of OLR and increase the absolute magnitude of SWR relative to Edition3 (but doesn’t influence the net). Hopefully other people will have further insight but I can’t imagine this paper is particularly robust given the large number of papers and paleoclimatic constraints on sensitivity.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 24 Aug 2009 @ 3:32 PM

  22. What Bob Ward (#6) said, only substitute meteorologists for geologists.

    Comment by CapitalClimate — 24 Aug 2009 @ 3:42 PM

  23. Out of amusement, I typed in time flitches, surrounded by quotes, in a search engine. Not surprisingly, there were only six entries, five of which were related to Plimer.

    Comment by Jeff — 24 Aug 2009 @ 3:46 PM

  24. Did you notice that Plimer thinks the “Dark Ages” have something to do with climate? Someone should tell him the Dark Ages weren’t literally dark. It was a reference to the state of education and communication after the collapse of the western Roman Empire.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 24 Aug 2009 @ 3:46 PM


    It’s transcluded into another page:

    It includes the history of the page

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 24 Aug 2009 @ 3:51 PM

  26. I can’t comment. It gives a server error, then says duplicate received, then when I reload the comments, it’s not there.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 24 Aug 2009 @ 3:54 PM

  27. Gavin — Well done!

    Comment by David B. Benson — 24 Aug 2009 @ 4:27 PM

  28. Getting back to Monbiot’s questions for Plimer, here is some discussion of Plimer’s claim that the 1934 was the “warmest year” on record (Monbiot’s question 4), as well as Plimer’s other claims about the recent temperature record. The claim about 1934 intrigued me as the National Post’s Lorne Gunter has made the same claim three separate times (and the Post still refuses to correct it and a legion of other errors).

    As Tim Lambert noted back in April, Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Tony Jones effectively demolished Plimer’s distortions in a live interview. So what does ABC do? They give Plimer a propaganda platform (in the online “Unleashed” series) and refuse to allow rebuttal or correction.

    The questions for Plimer are all very well, and his refusal to answer them is, of course, very telling. But it’s also time to ask hard questions of the media outlets that disseminate this garbage. The continued refusal of Australian ABC, FoxNews and the National Post to uphold even a minimum of ethical journalistic standards is shameful.

    To be sure, much or even most of the mainstrean media, gives little credence to the contrarians. But, with very few exceptions, more responsible media outlets, like the New York Times or NBC, still do very little to expose the various pernicious disinformation efforts at all.

    Comment by Deep Climate — 24 Aug 2009 @ 4:53 PM

  29. If you haven’t seen it, one of the most recent, and extensive pieces from Plimer is here and could be read in conjunction with the Monbiot questions to understand the thinking behind them. A chillingly typical sentence is “A simple question does not get asked: what part of warming and cooling since 1850 is natural?” Impossible to understand how anyone could make such a statement seriously, let alone someone who has become a major figure in the debate. Much of the article has been dissected by Tamino and Enting, and there are god responses in the thread that follows the article. But something I haven’t seen commented on, which jumped out at me is “Climate chestnuts about polar ice are commonly raised. What is not raised is that ice is dynamic, it advances and retreats, while the Arctic is warming the Antarctic is cooling and vice versa and if ice did not retreat, then the planet would be covered in ice. ” Again, it is hard to imagine anyone purporting to be a serious commentator writing such a thing. I have red it several times, feeling my mind descending into a vortex of madness each time. I can only conclude that Plimer believes that there is only so much ice that can be present at one time on the planet, and if you lose some in the Arctic, then, like breathing out and breathing in, you gain some in Antarctica, and vice versa. As an example of the level of understanding of climate science among denialists it is hard to beat this one.

    Comment by David Horton — 24 Aug 2009 @ 5:09 PM

  30. Re. #6.

    That’s easy. Coal and petroleum geologists often identify with their industry and their industry’s denialist bents. Whether it’s ideology or financial.

    And I say that as a petroleum geologist.

    Try cruising through the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists monthly newsletter (the Reservoir) of 2009 for Dr. Hutton’s denialist climate-change articles and its hodgepodge of the normal, debunked claims.

    Comment by Miguelito — 24 Aug 2009 @ 5:13 PM

  31. With regard to question #1, it is important to remember that agricultural practices are a function of technology as well as of climate. For example, in the 1830s all the milk drunk in the city of New York was locally produced (called “town milk” it was a definite health hazard as the cows were not very healthy). Twenty years later, none of it was. Climate change? No, the railroad. Previously it had been impossible to move milk by land more than a few miles before it spoiled.

    It cost far more in terms of cash and risk to ship wine from France to England in the middle ages. Thus it would make economic sense to grow grapes in otherwise marginal areas. It does not mean it was any easier to make wine in England then than now, and it might well have been much harder.

    William Hyde

    Comment by William Hyde — 24 Aug 2009 @ 5:19 PM

  32. If we do manage to get Governments to act and leave fossil fuels in
    the ground, RealClimate will deserve much of the credit. And if we
    don’t, then nobody can say that YOU, at least, didn’t do their best.

    Comment by Geoff Russell — 24 Aug 2009 @ 5:27 PM

  33. #29 Re: Plimer on ABC “Unleashed”)

    Right. That’s the ABC piece I discuss in two recent posts (as well as a previous ABC interview) – (also see #28 above for my discussion of one of these).

    Also see Tamino at:

    Comment by Deep Climate — 24 Aug 2009 @ 5:52 PM

  34. #29 While “god responses” (“what are you idiots doing with that planet I gave you?”) is a nice thought, it should have read “good responses”. And sorry to have forgotten the excellent response from Deep Climate #33.

    Comment by David Horton — 24 Aug 2009 @ 6:37 PM

  35. Bob Ward’s “Earth” must be an interesting exoplanet to study…

    Plimer’s book is a distraction to the main issues, a convenient distraction I may add for both sides: the Realclimatists will easily dump on this while the opposition thinks they are getting MSM mileage. One wonders if this whole business is indeed a pre Copenhagen set up in order to feature a caricatural figure opposing the true scientists… because so far, I read a lot about Plimer in Realclimate and other pro AGW blogs!

    The main issue is the artificial dichotomy between a so-called “chaotic” weather versus a general “climate”. It is the tell tale of ignorance of meteorological realities. Weather is hardly “chaotic” and obeys to the rules that govern the atmospheric circulation. Not knowing those rules doesn’t mean they do not exist.

    Comment by Antonio San — 24 Aug 2009 @ 6:54 PM

  36. Re: David Erickson #17

    The media release ( )for the U of Rochester paper upcoming in Physics Letters A says:

    “The team believes that the oceans may change how much they absorb and radiate depending on factors such as shifts in ocean currents that might change how the deep water and surface waters exchange heat. In addition to the correlation with strange global effects that some scientists suspect were caused by climate shifts, the team says their data shows the oceans are not continuously warming—a conclusion not consistent with the idea that the oceans may be harboring ‘warming in the pipeline.’ ”

    Perhaps someone could provide some illumination.

    I had always thought “in the pipeline” in this context referred to an increae in the heat content of the system that will inevitably occur in the future as a result of a forcing (eg added CO2) which has already occurred, rather than heat that has already been added and will subsequently somehow come out of hiding.

    Helpful comments anyone?

    PS: RC team, thank you for all your good work.

    Comment by Garry S-J — 24 Aug 2009 @ 7:32 PM

  37. Pardon me for not fawning all over the response provided by the gurus at realclimate like these others posting, but as a “climate retard”, please enlighten me on a question Dr. Plimer posed about CO2, that was derided by the respondents, but I believe IS relevant. Is not the sin qua non of AGW the huge spike in CO2 the last few decades? Ok, so if it is, what do you have to ACCURATELY compare CO2 levels from, say 5000 years ago to the current NOAA Mona Loa dry air mole fractionation? In other words, do you have a “rosetta stone” that translates CO2 findings from thousands of years ago to now? For example, do you account for entropy of C12, C13, C14 (I know about the probable stability of C12 and 13 already)? Do you account for the fact that CO2 in ice beds was NOT in dry environment (exposed to H20 and formation of carbonic acid or methane or other carbon substances) for thousands of years? As of yet, I have found no answer to this question! Funny, I would think this answer would be readily available as the theory of AGW rests on it (in my opinion)


    Just a lowly, unintelligent medical doctor and part time exxon oil CEO, (but only in your groupthink world) doing my own climate research.

    [Response: The ice core records have been verified by comparisons of cores in many different accumulation environments and they all match. They match historical data for multiple gases CH4, CFCs, CO2 etc, and show the same basic behaviour in both Greenland and Antarctica. The results fit the expected behaviour given the isotopes, the emissions, the ocean measurements, the decline in O2, Etc… If you think this is groupthink, then you have no idea what the science shows. -gavin]

    Comment by Scott Hastings — 24 Aug 2009 @ 8:21 PM

  38. Okay, enough with these idiot climate denialists already (but do keep up the tedious work of refuting them, please & thanks). Here are excerpts of a chastisement of us climate activists to stop prissy-footing around:

    The fallacy of climate activism
    by Adam D. Sacks

    In the 20 years since we climate activists began our work in earnest, the state of the climate has become dramatically worse, and the change is accelerating…

    I think that there are two serious errors in our perspectives on greenhouse gases:… The first error is our failure to understand that greenhouse gases are not a cause but a symptom,… The root cause, the source of the symptoms, is 300 years of our relentlessly exploitative, extractive, and exponentially growing technoculture, against the background of ten millennia of hierarchical and colonial civilizations…

    The second error is our stubborn unwillingness to understand that the battle against greenhouse-gas emissions, as we have currently framed it, is over. It is absolutely over and we have lost. There are three primary components of escalating greenhouse-gas concentrations that are out of our control: Thirty-Year Lag…Positive Feedback Loops…[and] Non-Linearity….

    Bitter climate truths are fundamentally bitter cultural truths….We can’t bargain with the forces of nature, trading slightly less harmful trinkets for a fantasied reprieve. Geophysical processes care not one whit for our politics, our economics, our evening meals, our theologies, our love for our children, our plaintive cries of innocence and error.

    If we climate activists don’t tell the truth as well as we know it—which we have been loathe to do because we ourselves are frightened to speak the words—the public will not respond, notwithstanding all our protestations of urgency.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 24 Aug 2009 @ 8:34 PM

  39. Procedurally, George Monbiot should include each of RC’s answers as a footnote with the respective question. Ditto, for similar annotated answers from other sources. Links to whole articles can be provided in an appendix.
    I presume its fair game for “George Monbiot,” actual answers to these questions, as long as George Monbiot takes full responsibility.
    Of course, Ian Plimer would get the same courtesy, with the same acceptance of responsibility.

    Comment by Guillaume — 24 Aug 2009 @ 9:20 PM

  40. Thanks for posting a patient, educational response, RC.

    Regarding #16, the USDA plant hardiness zone map of 1990 for the period (U.S.) of 1974-86 reflects an era of unusually harsh winters, and the short period chosen is quite sensitive to that. In fact, the preceding 1965 version of the zone map was warmer in many areas. It was based on the 30 year period from 1899 to 1938, expanded as “readjustments were made for 34 states on the basis of January mean minimum temperatures for 1931 through 1952.” The 1990 map notes “We have been losing from our landscapes plants that apparently survived the 1940’s to the 1960’s. Many of the hardiness zone classifications of plants are no longer considered valid.” Yes, the winters of the 1970s and 80s were often colder than earlier in the century for the U.S.

    The winters since 1990 have generally been a lot milder, and a revision is certainly in order. However, I think a 30 year averaging interval is appropriate. The purpose of the map is not to illustrate short term climate change, as much as to indicate what plants can be expected to consistently survive the winter in various areas. As such, it is better to be conservative. Consider the possibility that an interval of somewhat colder winters could return, threatening the survival of tender landscaping plants. There is nothing in a picture of overall global warming that precludes one or even a series of regionally harsh winters.

    Comment by John Pollack — 24 Aug 2009 @ 10:18 PM

  41. #3 Steve Missal,
    I think the payoff for Plimer is ego. If you find a scientist spouting quackery that will usually be the reason.

    #6 Bob Ward,
    I’ve noticed this happening in archeologists as well. Both archeologsts and geologists have to deal with climate changes in the historical and geological record. But they usually do not deal with their causes but rather take climate changes as a given thing. Deniers in these fields say why should we believe that current climate trends are anything different from the trends that we have seen in the past. They treat past natural climate changes as some sort of black box. And they treat current changes the same way. They are not used to looking at the detailed atmospheric and other data that is the basis for current attributions since such data is not available for the periods that they are interested in.

    This is of course my subjective impression and applies to only a minority of those in threse fields.

    Comment by Lloyd Flack — 24 Aug 2009 @ 11:04 PM

  42. Rattus Norvegicus 24 August 2009 at 2:01 PM

    “These questions read like a final exam written by a particularly cruel college professor who does not want anyone in class to pass the exam.”

    Presumably we’re to picture these requests as delivered down a prominent beak, from behind a pair of half-moon spectacles, in an arid and frosty voice. John Houseman’s stock character or the like.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 24 Aug 2009 @ 11:07 PM

  43. Garry S-J #35: Oh yes, your understanding of “in the pipeline” is the correct one.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 24 Aug 2009 @ 11:27 PM

  44. My understanding was that Plimer offered to have a public debate with George and that thus far George has declined to agree to this? Is this incorrect?

    Can anyone clarify when and where such a debate might happen, I would be most interested in the outcome?

    Comment by David Harrington — 24 Aug 2009 @ 11:41 PM

  45. #30

    Try cruising through the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists monthly newsletter (the Reservoir) of 2009 for Dr. Hutton’s denialist climate-change articles and its hodgepodge of the normal, debunked claims.

    Oh great the CSPG is back again (sigh). I guess I’ll have to check this out, since it is in my backyard.

    This is the same organization that published Chris de Freitas back in 2002 (when his brother Tim was editor of the Bulletin of Canadian Petroleum Geology). (De Freitas of course is one of the the trio that managed to get an abysmal purporting ENSO influence on climate trends published in Journal of Geophysical Research last month).


    Comment by Deep Climate — 24 Aug 2009 @ 11:44 PM

  46. re #35 Garry S-J (and #17 David), here’s my take on this.

    1. The two phrases right at the end of the snippet you pasted Garry, comprise a delightful non-sequiter! The fact that the oceans may not be “continuously warming” doesn’t mean that they are not the main reason for “warming in the pipeline”.

    2. By “continuously”, I assume they mean “monotonously”. It is a no-brainer that the earth responds to enhanced forcing (e.g. from enhanced greenhouse gas concentrations) by evolving towards a new dynamic equilibrium temperature (as you indicate). This evolution occurs on multiple timescales (atmosphere responds quickly, oceans very slowly), so the limiting factor in the time evolution is the ocean response.

    3. Sometimes the oceans will absorb excess heat under the influence of enhanced forcing more quickly than at other times. During solar minima the ocean heat uptake will be reduced somewhat compared to during solar max. Volcanic aerosols will temporarily suppress heat uptake. During El Nino periods where warm surface waters are spread across vast regions of the Pacific, heat uptake by the oceans will be presumably reduced; alternatively during La Nina’s ocean heat uptake will be more efficient. It’s possible that the direction of heat flow might be reversed, especially following large volcanic eruptions.

    4. So the first statement of the press release snippet is a no-brainer too. Shifts in ocean currents will obviously influence the way that deep and surface waters exchange heat (and also heat exchange with the atmosphere). However that is certainly not inconsistent with the idea that the oceans “may be harboring ‘warming in the pipeline.’”. In fact there’s no “may be” about it! There has to be “warming in the pipeline” as a result of the slow response times of the oceans following a perturbation of radiative forcing.

    5. The use of the word “harboring” leads to a non-physical interpretation as you suggest. That’s press releases for you!

    6. I’ve just looked at the press release. I’d be surprised if the direction of heat flow into/out of the oceans has changed direction to a major extent during the last 30-40 years. But it surely has a little bit on an otherwise strongly increasing trend. That’s indicated in the published measures of the evolution of ocean heat content. There’s nothing revolutionary about that!:

    e.g. Levitus et al. (2009) “Global ocean heat content 1955–2008 in light of recently revealed instrumentation problems” Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L07608

    one can look at their measurements of the time evolution of ocean heat uptake here, for example:

    see also:

    Domingues, C.D., (2008) “Improved estimates of upper-ocean warming and multi-decadal sea-level rise” Nature 453, 1090-1093

    a pertinent discussion of which can be found here:

    Comment by Chris — 25 Aug 2009 @ 4:09 AM

  47. A chillingly typical sentence is “A simple question does not get asked: what part of warming and cooling since 1850 is natural?”

    Almost all glaciers worldwide have been retreating for roughly the last 200 years.

    How much of that is natural?

    Comment by Hey Skipper — 25 Aug 2009 @ 4:46 AM

  48. In July, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd dipped his toe into the waters of blogging with an article on climate change. One Malcolm quoted copious errors from a book he didn’t identify though he mentioned Plimer’s name, to which I responded on my blog with the title “Monty Python Climate Change Phrasebook?“.

    I haven’t read the Plimer book myself (I skimmed through a library copy and decided it wasn’t worth the price to buy one); feel free to check my comments there (corrections welcome) to see if he was accurately quoting from Plimer. And have a good laugh before you go back to crying about the idiocy of supposedly intelligent humanity.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 25 Aug 2009 @ 4:57 AM

  49. Excellent post!

    I’m puzzled as to why Pilmer asked #10 and #11… did he actually think ‘climate’ is not being studied?

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 25 Aug 2009 @ 5:36 AM

  50. @William Hyde #31:

    Following on from your comment; it is also fair to say that after 410 and before 1066 there wasn’t really much of a market for wine in Britain. We were largely ale-drinkers. The influx of a new wine-drinking aristocracy increased demand substantially.

    This an issue I raised when S Fred Singer visited Skeptics in the Pub in London last year; pointing out that the production of wine in Britain tracked very well indeed with economic and political factors, to the extent that using it as a temperature proxy (as he and Avery do) is absurd. The “acquisition” of Aquitaine in the mid-12th century and the Black death in the 14th explain the decline of the English wine industry into the LIA without any need to invoke the LIA itself.

    He wouldn’t answer the point – said it wasn’t his area of expertise…

    Comment by Robin Levett — 25 Aug 2009 @ 7:11 AM

  51. Lynn (#36), with respect, did you read the whole of Mr Sacks’s rant? Global warming is a hopelessly lost cause so we have to leave behind 10,000 years of civilization and look to the hunter-gatherers? The best strawman-making efforts of the denialist camp pale in comparison.

    Comment by CM — 25 Aug 2009 @ 7:35 AM

  52. Would like to point out that the Romans were in the UK for between 400 and 500 years (it wasn’t a short ‘Iraq’ type occupation). Now I don’t know what the situation was regarding breeding grape varieties back then, but a few hundred years is quite some time to develop growing techniques in a different climate, if not new breeds. Plus of course I’m not sure there are any records as to the quality of grapes and wine produced in Britain. Until recently British wine has been rubbish (even with warmer climates, it still isn’t brilliant), yet people still bought some of it.

    So given that a Roman is based in Britain, a long way from home, the quality might not have been so important.

    What is often ignored is not whether grapes are grown at all, but what the grapes taste like.

    Here is an interesting page about cool and warm climates for wine production:

    So basically what i’m suggesting is that Plimers analysis is very, very rough and ready, it ignores culture, human adaption and acceptance of different standards in a product.

    More useful would be research into species that weren’t farmed during that period and migrated naturally.

    Comment by Paul — 25 Aug 2009 @ 8:01 AM

  53. You say, in regards to question 8, “The throwing around of irrelevant geologic terms and undefined jargon is simply done in order to appear more knowledgeable than your interlocutor”. Really this applies to the whole thing. These questions clearly aren’t aimed at generating constructive debate; all these “justify all assumptions” and “show all calculations” only expose the whole thing as a craven attempt to appear clever.

    I haven’t seen anything about this from the usual deniers. Given that Plimer’s subtext is “if you can’t answer these, you aren’t competent to have an opinion”, and that none of the usual deniers could make sense of these ridiculous questions either, I guess they don’t want to touch it with a bargepole. I’m amused at their dilemma.

    Comment by RW — 25 Aug 2009 @ 8:55 AM

  54. re #41

    Relevant to your point about the quality of Medieval British wine, Paul, I think it’s true that much of the impetus for wine growing in those periods was to serve religious ceremony and for medicinal purposes (it had been worked out already in the Medieval period that treating wounds with wine was quite effective). Presumably good quality quaffable wine was imported for the well to do, and local plonk was entirely sufficient for religious and therapeutic purposes!

    Comment by Chris — 25 Aug 2009 @ 8:57 AM

  55. The best strawman-making efforts of the denialist camp pale in comparison.

    Well,no. Unless you think hysteria is worse than deception. It isn’t at all clear that he’s even wrong. (To the extent that he implies knowledge of the effects of AGW, he’s wrong, but it isn’t clear that AGW won’t lead to war, famine, etc. The Department of Defense, that old silly environmental group, has issued warnings about war, famine, and other kinds of civil unrest.) Deception — particularly paid deception — is a whole other realm of Bad Behavior.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 25 Aug 2009 @ 9:12 AM

  56. CM #40, I was also thinking about that, and I’m thinking what he might mean is that we have to change our approach to the world, get away from this idea that the only way we can make it or get ahead is to exploit — whether that be exploit people or nature. I don’t think he means we should get back to hunter and gatherer lifestyles (which would be impossible, since they require so much land per person); but maybe we can learn something from their world view, maybe incorporate some of their tenets.

    Now, as an anthropologist, I can say that there is a much wider variety of world views among band-level hunting and gathering societies than among civilizations, so maybe the ole stereotype of the ideal or noble hunter and gatherers would do — respect the land and nature. Some H&G societies thank the animals they kill for giving them sustenance, and perform religious ceremonies right after the kill or before; and some horticulturalists chant as they plant and tend their crops. The susbsistence/economic/religious/kinship/etc were all one, unlike today’s separate spheres for each “component” of our lives. Maybe we need an awe and reverence for this earth and for life in general, maybe we could chant or pray interiorly as we engage in our “economic” workaday activities — to the God of our religions, or if an atheist, then to the great “Not Me” (since most of what we are comes not from ourselves but from others and from nature and the environment, etc.).

    Roy Rappaport (I’ve quoted him before re the environment and economy – see #26 ) also presented a conference paper in 1976, titled (I think), “The Religious Dimension of the Environmental Movement,” in which he called for just such a religiouslike reverence and awe for the environment, since the complexities are so great and we cannot really completely understand everything scientifically about the world’s ecosystem.

    And in a way, over the past centuries and millennia we’ve come to believe we are the conquerers of nature, but that sort of rings hollow under the circumstances we are facing with global warming and all the other harms we’ve caused to the environment, to our home (oikos, eco), our life, Life.

    And I am guilty of what Adam Sacks accuses. I’ve been trying to convince people to do the right thing environmentally bec for the most part it is also the economic sensible thing to do, when I really should have engaged in the much more difficult task of trying to change their world view. Because, anyway people have not responded to economic incentives. There is a deep perversity there, a willfulness of “I” that will admit no error, that fears all others as enemies to exploit and dominate lest one be exploited and dominated. That’s what needs to be addressed. That’s the true cause of global warming (and many many other problems).

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 25 Aug 2009 @ 9:46 AM

  57. I was just thinking… what would Yoda say about Ian Pilmer?

    hmm… the irony is strong with this one?

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 25 Aug 2009 @ 9:49 AM

  58. His questions made me think of,

    “Bring me….a shrubery!”

    Knights that say knee scene, from the Monty Python film “The Holy Grail”.

    Comment by Jay Moynihan — 25 Aug 2009 @ 9:55 AM

  59. Re: “warming in the pipeline” (#42, #35, #17) The Uof Rochester press release ( seems to imply that the finding of this paper is that the net heat stored in the ocean is not increasing. That was what raised alarm bells for me. The statement “the team says their data shows the oceans are not continuously warming—a conclusion not consistent with the idea that the oceans may be harboring ‘warming in the pipeline'” is vague…the oceans may not be continuously warming, but what about the net heat content? If there is no “warming in the pipeline” then are they saying that the net heat of the ocean is constant? Are they saying if warming due to greenhouse gases was mitigated, that the ocean would not continue to warm the atmosphere?

    Comment by David Erickson — 25 Aug 2009 @ 10:09 AM

  60. Plimer is just using the rhetorical tactic of dodging the question by presenting another list of questions, which he himself is unable to answer. The goal is little more than the perpetuation of doubt – but, there’s no longer so much doubt in the public mind about the reality of fossil-fueled global warming, or about the ability of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels entirely.

    Climate change is no longer much of a scientific question, other than for the finer points and the long-term projections. The issue is not whether global warming is happening, but rather whether political and economic approaches can rapidly replace fossil fuels with renewables.

    Plimer would have to explain polar warming, tropospheric warming, increased drought, changing precipitation patterns, the water vapor feedback response, rapidly melting alpine and tropical glaciers, rising sea levels, diminishing sea ice, warmer spring and winter temperatures, shifting animal and plant populations – the list is pretty irrefutable, and the physical models match the observations – so what science is missing?

    The next stage will involve listening to another train of Plimers telling the world that there is no plausible replacement for fossil fuels, period, regardless of the effects of global warming – but that debate, unlike the climate ‘debate’, barely makes the pages of any newspapers today, and when it does, usually it’s just a one-sided coal/oil industry perspective.

    Renewables are much more of a direct threat to entrenched energy interests than is the discussion over climate change, because the next stage after that is the removal of coal-fired power plants and the elimination of oil imports. This would result in large-scale disruption of the global economic order, which today is largely based on control of fossil fuel reserves.

    However, the Plimers of the world are reluctant to take up the argument on energy – because you really can calculate the energy available from the sun, compare it to energy available from fossil fuels, and conclusively demonstrate that solar power and other renewables are capable of meeting human energy needs in the absence of fossil fuels. Unlike with climate, you can do experiments over and over and don’t have to rely on ice core records for observational data – and anyone who says you can’t get energy from solar is easily refuted by taking them to a large solar power plant.

    If our government were to decide that renewables were a good idea, then we’d institute federal feed-in tariffs, which essentially ensure higher prices for renewable-based electricity generators by taxing fossil fuels and subsidizing renewables – a standard and successful approach outside of the United States. What you have now, instead, is a government that is pulling itself apart – some sections are grudgingly supporting renewables, and others (like the State Department) are going all-out for new fossil fuel deals.

    Unfortunately, U.S. trade and domestic policy remains dedicated to the expansion of global fossil fuel use, not to its rapid reduction – witness the bipartisan governmental support for Canadian tar sand imports to the U.S. – despite claims of concern over global warming, the permit for a tar sand oil pipeline to the U.S. was just quietly granted.

    This seems like a disorganized and deranged approach to the problem, at best.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 25 Aug 2009 @ 10:38 AM

  61. Jay, it’s the Knights who say “Nii!”.


    Kids today…

    Comment by Mark — 25 Aug 2009 @ 11:42 AM

  62. re #54

    David, the data used by the Uni. Rochester pair (abstract below) is the data on ocean heat content. So they use the Domingues et al (2008) ocean heat content data and the Levitus et al (2009) heat content data that I refered to in my post #42 (they also analyse heat content measures from the short ARGO series and a short term CERES data set).

    Since the long term data sets (Domingues and Levitus) show substantial long term ocean heat uptake, the Rochester authors can’t argue against substantial ocean heat uptake during the last 30 odd years.

    A slightly different point is being made. I’ve had just a quick read of the paper. The authors are returning to the idea (a bit like the Swanson/Tsonis paper discussed here)…..

    …that the oceans are displaying regime shifts, with a period (1960-1975) when the oceans were (supposedly) losing heat, a period (1975-2000) when the oceans were acquiring heat, and a period (since 2001) when the oceans have been (supposedly) losing heat. They analyze these data in relation to an apparent top of the atmosphere radiative forcing which is apparently negative/poitive/negative during these “regimes”, but recognise that this is an unlikely interpretation and more likely the observations relate to ocean current changes (the PDO) along the lines of Swanson/Tsonis.

    A cursory reading of their paper highlights at least two problems (one a lu-lu!) with their analysis:

    1. since both Levitus and Domingues determine substantial ocean heat uptake in the period 2000-2005, it’s difficult to justify a negative heat uptake since 2001 that is required by their supposed climate regime shift at around the year 2001. Their analysis of this relies on the very short term ARGO record for which there is still uncertainty about reliability. In essence they are resorting to the dreary “it hasn’t warmed for a few years and so global warming has stopped”.

    2. The second problem is a howler. It relates to “warming in the pipeline”. The authors arrive at this as follows:

    a. they notice that the ARGO data has a strong seasonal component (the measured heat content goes up and down sinusoidally with the seasons) see my link to the skepticalscience site in post #34 to observe this.

    b. They point out that this means that the oceans have a fast response time to changes in radiative forcing.

    c. Ergo! If the oceans respond quickly there can’t possibly be any mechanism for any delayed ocean response to radiative forcing. No “heat in the pipeline”!! (wild applause!)

    I’ve read that bit of their paper three times and I’m pretty sure that’s their “argument”, astonishing as it may seem.

    here’s the abstract of the paper:

    D.H. Douglass, R. S. Knox (2009) “Ocean heat content and Earth’s radiation imbalance” Physics Letters A 373 3296-3300

    Abstract: “Earth’s radiation imbalance is determined from ocean heat content data and compared with results of direct measurements. Distinct time intervals of alternating positive and negative values are found: 1960–mid-1970s (−0.15), mid-1970s–2000 (+0.15), 2001–present (−0.2 W/m2), and are consistent with prior reports. These climate shifts limit climate predictability.”

    Comment by Chris — 25 Aug 2009 @ 11:47 AM

  63. #35 David Erickson (#17, #42)

    I just took a look at the article. My first thought was are they considering the whole picture?

    They said the net flow of heat changed three times, well,as Chris (post #42) pointed out, that is well known. We had increases in the early part of the 20th century, then around mid century we put up an aerosol shield that could cause cooling, and then in the mid-seventies, we stopped that (due to little problems such as global threat to crop production) and the climate began warming again. That’s three times. It is clear that the temps have shifted:

    but is their analysis comprehensive enough to cover all the bases for attribution for the shift (cause/effect)?

    My second thought regarded:

    “it analyzes more completely the data sets the researchers believe are of the highest quality, and not those that are less robust.”

    Was this a cherry pick for cause, or are they using the most relevant data? Or is it a combination of changes in the heat content and cherry picking? In reality there is the possibility that the most robust (depending on their definition) data might not be the best data; as this would need to be understood in context of the GCM’s. Do they mean robust in the sense of number of data points (which might lack modeling accuracy, such as using the data sets that were later to be found to have instrumentation error), or do they mean robust in the sense of data integrity based on source, or, or, or…

    Based on the nature of the article as written I have doubts about the paper itself.

    The funniest line is:

    “a conclusion not consistent with the idea that the oceans may be harboring “warming in the pipeline.”

    The oceans are not harboring warming in the pipeline as far as I can tell, oceans just react (with various delay factors). They may simply have a fundamental misunderstanding of what is causing the warming. It’s not the oceans that drive climate, it’s the sun, combined with radiative forcing potential within our atmosphere combined with earths surface (absorption and reflective qualities). This of course includes natural cycle forcings such as Milankovitch cycles and human induced alterations of land surface and atmospheric concentrations of GHG’s and aerosols.

    It may just be a mistake of the person that wrote the news item (one would hope). The oceans absorb heat slowly because oceans are deep and big. Little (big) thing called thermal inertia.

    On the other hand, the oceans are the reason why there is ‘warming in the pipeline’ because of that thermal inertia. When you consider the atmospheric lifetime of Co2, combined with thermal inertial, that is better understood.

    Last but not least:

    Douglass further notes that the team found no correlation between the shifts and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration.

    Well, that’s funny. There are none so blind as those that choose not to see. It’s easy not to find something. You know what the say, ‘myopia is bliss’, or something like that.

    From this single line one can might easily deduce that they probably ignored a tremendous amount of established science and related causes in relation to the scope of the view.

    – GHG’s/Aerosols combined effects
    – Surface and Atmospheric Radiative Forcing
    – GCM’s
    – Charney and related work

    But what the heck do I know. I have not read the paper and I rarely believe things I read in the press unless I have a knowledge or understanding base of the subject. So for now I will call it an estimated guess and we will see how it plays out :)

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 25 Aug 2009 @ 11:57 AM

  64. Regarding #37, your point is well taken, but it’s not correct so say that the Arbor Day (current data) map looks like the USDA 1965 map. They appear systematically different to me, as described below.

    First, I finally found a copy of the USDA 1965 map here:

    Comparing that with the Arbor Day Foundation map cited above (set to current data), I believe the maps are systematically different.

    In particular, the entire center of the country appears much warmer, while the coasts do not.

    Draw a line from Texas through the middle of the Dakotas. Every zone appears shifted northward … about half-a-Dakota to a Dakota or so, more as you go northward.

    For example, in the USDA 1965 map, the ND/SD stat line is on the Zone 4/Zone 3 boundary. In the 2006 map, ND is entirely in Zone 4. Go down to Texas. In the 1965 map, the northernmost square part of TX is entirely in Zone 6. In the 2006 Arbor Day map, it is entirely in Zone 7. And so on, right up that line.

    Whereas on the East Coast, it’s more of a mixed bag. Where I sit in Virginia, the two maps are essentially identical. But where the 1965 map splits PA into Zones 6 and 5, mid-state, the 2006 Arbor Day may places PA squarely in Zone6, with bit of 7 on the southern border.

    So, while your points are well taken — that the 1990 map was colder than the 1965 map (which I didn’t know), and that conservatism in the defense of nursery stock is no vice, I disagree with the 2006 maps is merely a return to where the 1965 map stood. To the contrary, looking at them side-by-side, at least in so far as I care to do so, the zones on the Arbor Day foundation map are shifted significantly northward on average. Not perhaps as dramatically as they are relative to the 1990 may, but, fairly dramatically in the center of the country, and to a lesser extent on the coasts.

    In short, I think the 2006 climate zone map prepared by the Arbor Day foundation appears warmer then either the 1990 or 1965 USDA maps. If you can find a better image of the 1965 map that differs substantially from the one I found, I’ll change my mind. Otherwise, that’s how the maps look to me.

    Comment by Christopher Hogan — 25 Aug 2009 @ 12:06 PM

  65. RE #51, and speaking of the devil that causes global warming….I just got this reference in my email — .

    It’s about how more equal societies among the developed nations far outperform on many levels the more steeply hierarchical nations, like the U.S. They don’t mention global warming or efforts at mitigating global warming or facing the scientific truths about it, but that would fit very well here.

    It’s sort of why so many in Americans are not only against health care reform (and have socially constructed it as some evil death machine), but also why they don’t want to face up to global warming and mitigate it. Why denialists and contrarians run rampant. (People tend more to fight over peanuts than really important things.)

    I also thought of another thing that would apply both to the U.S. and Australia. These are both wild west frontier societies. There is a history, ethos, and continuing myth of struggling against nature to make a go of it, including the fight against the indigenous peoples or anyone else blocking our way to happiness and fulfillment; and a history of throwing off authoritarian rule, the father, the other. This is a history (and all countries have their own bloody histories) that we need to overcome by reconciling with nature and humanity, even if we’re deathly afraid to do so, because we’ll end up being the suckers and losers. But we (including Plimer) need to be brave and reconcile.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 25 Aug 2009 @ 12:25 PM

  66. re: 54

    I don’t know what the Rochester team was looking at since current ocean temps are the highest on record. If the oceans were losing heat there’d be a previous high record, right?

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 25 Aug 2009 @ 1:17 PM

  67. This is a very impressive post!

    I was not up on Prof. Plimer’s arguments against warming but addressing the talking points of critics directly is always helpful and the responses Plimer is now obligated to post will be interesting.

    I do have a big beef with a zero relevancy ranking for the MWP however. As with many skeptic concerns the issue there is the influence of general rather than specific natural variability. Adequate modelling of natural variability is essential to tease out the AGW “signal”. The MWP debate is hardly over given how difficult it still seems to be to determine the regional and temperature variations of that period. Also, if MWP temps were higher or close to present temps it weakens the already very shaky “climate catastrophe coming” line taken by some, present company excluded.

    [Response: You are mistaken. The issue is why any period was warmer not whether. If solar was much higher than today then, we’d expect warmer temperatures and it wouldn’t make any difference to our expectations for the future. As for consequences, the issue is not the temperatures today, but the likely temperatures in the future which are unquestionably warmer than any medieval values. – gavin]

    Comment by Joe Hunkins — 25 Aug 2009 @ 1:21 PM

  68. In the Plimer homework discussion, there’s an “it’s” that should be “its”
    and in last question and answer, the word should be “principal.”
    I say this because suvh small errors weaken perceived reliability of the writing.

    Comment by Kay Schmidt — 25 Aug 2009 @ 1:21 PM

  69. Good responses.
    Now, when will you be responding to Prof Pielke’s challenges?


    Comment by Adam Gallon — 25 Aug 2009 @ 1:26 PM

  70. Does anyone know about “mast years” as a possible temperature proxy?

    Here in Devon, SW UK, it’s clearly going to be a (good) mast year.

    That’s to say there will be loads of hazel nuts and acorns. This in my experience happens about once in some five years. As far as I know (I don’t know much) mast years relate to temperature (perhaps in spring?). Other fruit bearing trees seem to be doing better than usual – blackthorn (sloe)and(English)maple. This is just my observation: I have no records to back myself up. Happens I run a woodland as a retirement hobby, I’m there a lot, and I see what I see.

    Historically, these mast years were very important as in a good mast year pigs would be herded in woodlands for acorns and what we still call “beech mast” and the mast they ate fattened them well (perhaps for Christmas?).

    Are there records of good mast years? Monasteries kept pigs so may have records of good mast years or super fat pigs?

    Pigs as proxies?

    Comment by Theo Hopkins — 25 Aug 2009 @ 2:11 PM

  71. Re 6: Interesting that Plimer is an anti-creationist who debated Duane “Galloping” Gish:

    Ian Plimer, head of the Geology department at the University of Newcastle, Australia, debated Gish in 1988. Plimer considered the debate to be political rather than scientific, and thus refused to argue genteelly about scientific minutiae. Instead, Plimer debated Gish in a street-fighting style which a Sydney Morning Herald reporter described as going in “boots and all, aiming for the opponents kneecaps”. “Professor Plimer mocked, ridiculed and challenged every tenet that the movement holds dear, and made a string of blunt personal accusations about some of its more prominent members.”

    Comment by Michael — 25 Aug 2009 @ 2:27 PM

  72. I don’t know if this really belongs here, but someone above mentioned the 1934 US temperature record. I recently was thinking “Why so hot in the US but nowhere else at that time?” And then I thought “Dust Bowl!” As is well documented, agricultural practices on the great plains at the time worked for above-average rainfall, but when the drought occurred, those practices left dry plowed fields open to wind erosion. Vast clouds of dirt blew across the nation, starting in 1933. Would not the effect of those “black clouds” be much like carbon black aerosols, only stronger? In other words, could the high temperatures of the 30s, and the record in 1934 be significantly attributable to an anthropogenic feedback, kicked off by a naturally occurring drought and more modest natural temperature variation?

    Comment by GFW — 25 Aug 2009 @ 2:30 PM

  73. RE #53:

    Actually, it’s more like

    “What is your name?”
    “What is your quest?”
    “What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow, when taking into consideration the increased (or decreased) density of the air as a result of theoretical but as yet unproven anthropomorphic contributions to the CO2 concentrations, as well as related atmospheric components, such as humidity, temperature and altered prevailing winds resulting from such concentrations, and any impacts that living in such conditions may have had on the overall genetic selection, health and therefore flight acumen of any likely subject swallow? And please show all work. And no cheating.”

    Comment by Bob — 25 Aug 2009 @ 2:57 PM

  74. Theo, you’ll find a lot in Google Scholar searching on “mast year” — no simple answer!

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Aug 2009 @ 3:41 PM

  75. I have a question for George Monbiot: Given that Rajendra Pachauri has said that he is supportive of a goal of 350 ppm, below the current concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

    How much carbon do we need to leave in the ground now?

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 25 Aug 2009 @ 3:48 PM

  76. Re: #6 Bob Ward

    Be careful painting such a broad brush.
    I’m sure many geologists read and appreciate R.C., myself included!

    Great point by point debunking guys!
    Keep it up!

    Comment by Bryan Oakley — 25 Aug 2009 @ 3:57 PM

  77. “Mast” in contemporary North America is important for wildlife such as deer and bear, hence also for hunters and wildlife managers.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 25 Aug 2009 @ 4:07 PM

  78. People like Ian Plimer, and the CRAP they have been putting out there in the Public Eye, are why I mention as much and as often as possible when commenting, blogging, chatting with lunk-heads on the train, etc..
    I see he seems to ‘get on TV – a LOT’. Hmmmmm. I wonder whose hosting those programs? Exxon Mobile? Haliburton? The ‘Clean Coal’ Consortia?
    Like the lady said, you are AWESOME.

    Comment by James Staples — 25 Aug 2009 @ 4:07 PM

  79. Hank @ #74

    Thanks for suggestion to check out mast years on Google Scholar.

    Here in Devon in the UK woodlands (as opposed to forests) are mostly are owned by farmers over generations and what “mast years” are all about is through folk law (or generational experience). So I was intrigued to find so much research on the subject.

    Enough there with first two hits (“mast year” and “temperature”)(but I may be using confirmation bias) to make me wonder if, indeed, old records of masting could be a temperature proxy.

    Comment by Theo Hopkins — 25 Aug 2009 @ 4:13 PM

  80. Lynn Vincentnathan@67,
    The book your link reviews, Richardson and Pickett’s The Spirit Level: Why more Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better does indeed deal with AGW, arguing that greater inequality increases the pressure for conspicuous consumption; and that above a certain level, increasing GDP per capita does not improve quality of life. While there’s no data directly on the relationship between GHG emissions and inequality, it does show that low emissions are compatible with desirable outcomes such as low infant mortality and high HDI (Human Development Index) – despite the latter including per capita GDP along with life expectancy and education levels. More equal societies also recycle more. Much material from the book is available at

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 25 Aug 2009 @ 4:32 PM

  81. About the last 200 years, it’s accepted that the Earth’s temperature rose after the early 19th century due to natural causes. At the time emissions were too slight to make a difference. It is only in the mid to late 20th century that greenhouse gas concentrations became high enough to effect the climate.

    Comment by dave p — 25 Aug 2009 @ 4:48 PM

  82. dave p (81) — NOt accepted by me. Both emissions and land use change rose from around 1750 CE onwards. From the data obtainable from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at ORNL it seems that yearly emissions of CO2 have risen approximatly exponentially from around 1800 CE onwards. From the Arrhenius approximation, that implies an approximately linearly increasing forcing from CO2 alone.

    Methane is another matter and of course the matter of aerosols is difficult to ascertain before the modern instrumental period. But to provide some regional data, Swiss glaciers have been measured for a long time; in 1850 CE the glaciers stopped growing and by around 1880 CE had begun to retreat; by the 1950s the retreat was 4 m/y.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 25 Aug 2009 @ 5:34 PM

  83. Hi,

    I saw this pass by today and wanted to share it. Perhaps you RC folks will sign up as Defense Attorneys:

    Quote of the day:

    “It would be evolution versus creationism. It would be the science of climate change on trial.”

    William Kovacs, senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, about a requested trial on climate change.
    – Los Angeles Times

    (I picked this up thanks to Headwaters News; original story here:,0,901567.story

    -PJH, an amateur who’s paying attention

    Comment by Pete H — 25 Aug 2009 @ 6:04 PM

  84. dave p @81 – are you sure about that? Any evidence or modelling results to support your assertion?

    Comment by William — 25 Aug 2009 @ 6:53 PM

  85. Thanks for this post. Excellent stuff.

    A question. You say:

    “There is a lot of interesting science related to deep time, but any discussion of such changes must be prefaced with the acknowledgment that our knowledge of greenhouse gases, temperatures or any other potential forcing or response is very limited compared to what we know about climate today or even in the last ice age. Given that we don’t know precisely what CO2 levels were (let alone CH4, N2O, ozone, aerosols, ice sheet configurations, vegetation distribution etc.), the attributions of climate change at this distance is speculative at best.”

    Hansen’s 2008 paper “Target Atmospheric CO2 Where Should Humanity Aim?” seems to be using deep time (the early Cenozoic) to make calculations about what will happen in the future. Would this caveat apply to this? Eg. to what degree should the conclusions in this paper be regarded as highly speculative? (this is a genuine question, not insinuation). Thanks!

    [Response: The higher uncertainties when dealing with deep time do need to be propagated into the final answers and that does mean that it is hard to come to precise numbers. Hansen et al are making a conservative best guess. – gavin]

    Comment by Josie Wexler — 25 Aug 2009 @ 6:59 PM

  86. I’m a graduate of the University of Adelaide where Plimer works. All past exam papers are lodged with the University’s Bar-Smith Library. If any readers are in Adelaide, please entertain us by nipping down to the Bar-Smith, photocopying the last exam he inflicted on his students (the librarians, or any random science student will show you where to find them) and posting some of the questions here for us to compare.

    Comment by Craig Allen — 25 Aug 2009 @ 7:39 PM

  87. dave, was that meant to be tongue in cheek humor?


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Aug 2009 @ 7:50 PM

  88. Re #s 9 and 21 referring to Lindzen’s latest, James Annan has some comments here.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 25 Aug 2009 @ 8:07 PM

  89. Re: #64 (#16, #40)
    I agree that the 2006 Arbor Day Foundation plant hardiness zone map is warmer than the 1965 USDA map. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. Unfortunately, I don’t know of a website with a large 1965 map; I’m using my old paper copy. I also agree that it is a nice illustration of climate change for U.S. residents, considering that I spent hours poring over the old map in my youth, and how it helped arouse my interest in climate.

    My concerns are that an averaging period shorter than 30 years may be too short for the intended purpose of the map, even if 30 years does have the effect of downplaying recent mild winters. I am firmly convinced of regional U.S., as well as global, warming. However, I don’t want to get trapped into saying that our winter temperatures will rise without any reversal. When challenged with the “if this is global warming, how come it’s still so cold in the winter?” type of question, I respond that “10 below (F) is the new 15 below.” That works for my area – Nebraska.

    Comment by John Pollack — 25 Aug 2009 @ 8:36 PM

  90. I think these bogus homework assignments are a clever distraction cooked up by a bunch of cynics that are heavily invested in hip wader futures and soon-to-be beachfront property in Kansas.

    Or maybe that’s just me being cynical?

    Comment by Peter Backes — 25 Aug 2009 @ 9:36 PM

  91. None of you see it do you? The bias? The immediate raising of the hairs on the backs of your necks at the hint of any opinion that disagrees with your ideaology.
    The fact that this topic starts with ” bizarre ” or “ridiculous”…means you already concluded your opinion before you even give in to listening a little… and that you may be wrong. God I am pissed off at all of this point-counterpoint stuff…yelling at each other on blogs…discounting the possibility that both sides might be just a little-bit correct.
    If this was a court of law with a good judge, you would need to stick to the facts. Present your argument. Wait for the judgement. But the AGW supporters and the deniers are so high and fricking mighty, they just lob shells at each other. You might as well be the Sunnis agains the shiites in Iraq. Idiots all of you. Fighting amoung yourselves instead of understanding the problem: manmade or not. A problem or not.

    Get back to science. Evidence. Fact versus counter-fact. Peer review. Verification.

    This blog is SUPPOSED to be REAL CLIMATE. It is anything but. It is the Rush Limbaugh of AGW supporters. Shame on all of you who ignore what we scientists and engineers were taught: report the data and kill the bias.

    I am sooooo sick of this crap.

    Your dad. A scientist and engineer with manners.

    Mike Strong

    Comment by Mike Strong — 25 Aug 2009 @ 10:16 PM

  92. the decrease in 14C content of the atmosphere, the decrease in 13C content in the atmosphere,

    Decreases? Is that relative to 12C, or absolute? If the latter, what are the causes?

    [Response: Relative to 12C. You keep track of the isotopic ratios use ‘delta’ units, which are the essentially the relative difference of the air with respect to a fixed standard i.e. d13C = 1000*(Ratio_in_air/Ratio_in_standard – 1) in permil (D14C is similar but not identical). Both these ratios have gone down over the last century – d13C because fossil fuels are biogenic (and biology discriminates against 13C), and D14C because 14C is radioactive (half life ~5700 yrs) and is almost zero in any fossil fuel because it is so old. Thus in both cases the addition of fossil-fuel derived carbon dilutes the isotope ratios in the air. – gavin]

    Comment by naught101 — 25 Aug 2009 @ 10:47 PM

  93. David B. Benson (#82).

    You mention emissions re Arrhenius – but don’t you mean concentration?

    William (#84):

    dave p’s comment seems to be broadly consistent with the conclusions of the IPCC’s 4th assessment report, which argues anthropogenic effects only came to dominate temperature trends in the latter half of the 20th century. That’s based on a lot of modelling work, obviously.

    eg, from Ch 9 of the Climate Change 2007 The Physical Science Basis:

    “No climate model using natural forcings alone has reproduced the
    observed global warming trend in the second half of the 20th
    century. Therefore, modelling studies suggest that late 20th
    century warming is much more likely to be anthropogenic than
    natural in origin, a finding which is confirmed by studies relying
    on formal detection and attribution methods (Section
    Modelling studies are also in moderately good agreement with
    observations during the first half of the 20th century when both
    anthropogenic and natural forcings are considered, although
    assessments of which forcings are important differ, with some
    studies finding that solar forcing is more important (Meehl et al.,
    2004) while other studies find that volcanic forcing (Broccoli et
    al., 2003) or internal variability (Delworth and Knutson, 2000)
    could be more important.”

    etc etc

    Comment by Garry S-J — 26 Aug 2009 @ 12:03 AM

  94. “Hansen et al are making a conservative best guess” Most honest sumation of climate modelling I have yet seen on this site.

    [Response: What climate modelling do you think Hansen et al (2009) result is based on? Unlike you, I have actually read the paper. – gavin]

    Comment by ilajd — 26 Aug 2009 @ 3:05 AM

  95. #63 John P. Reisman

    Sorry, I messed up the names on that last post

    That was too #35 Garry S-J and #54 David Erickson

    En addendum, I would add that ocean oscillations drive weather as it relates to regional climate and has an influence on climate in general (as a subsystem influencing a parent system), but I would not consider it a driver of ‘global climate’ per se, but rather a climate responder with inertial mechanisms that cause variation on the trend of positive, neutral, or negative radiative forcing path in relation to their respective spheres of influence.

    PS Maybe Yoda would have said of Pilmer ‘the irony is thick with this one’ instead of strong?

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 26 Aug 2009 @ 3:07 AM

  96. Mike Strong 25 August 2009 at 10:16 PM

    “Get back to science. Evidence. Fact versus counter-fact. Peer review. Verification.”

    Add: “Avoid equivocation” and you’ve succinctly summarized RC’s method. All the desirable features you mention are components you’ll find in the “official” RC articles.

    Describing Pilmer’s controversial opinions as “bizarre” seems to me entirely in keeping with avoiding equivocation. When Pilmer flings himself off the precipice representing the edge of his expertise, he assumes bizarre positions while plunging downwards into the abyss of self-humiliation. Gavin procedes to show exacly how bizarre he appears using facts and evidence provided via peer reviewed work subject to verification. You ask, RC delivers. Where’s the problem?

    (Comment threads here are another matter entirely. These are presumably provided as a means of answering honest or at least sincerely presented questions. They seem populated mostly by a rabble of such as myself and are of questionable value, or at least fairly dilute in useful content)

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 26 Aug 2009 @ 3:30 AM

  97. Re #85 These deep time papers talking about the time after the PETM heat spike when India collided with Asia and began the weathering of CO2 which after 20 million years or so started the first glaciations of Antartica 34 million years ago and which to have become permanent around 15 million years ago and eventually led to glaciation of Greenland and Arctic sea Ice formation. The recent web site was founded on the basis of these papers by James Hansen and his co authors. It also potenitally sheds light on both short term and long term climate feedbacks and sensitivity and the image of earth sensitivity of 6C for a pre industrial doubling of CO2 in our world up from the original charney limit of 3C.

    The amount of CO2 beign emitted by humans on our timescales is so quick that no natural process will assist us in mitigating CO2 apart from the one that are happening today (Ocean and vegetation) both of which might be starting to absorb less leaving more in the atmosphere. Antartica according to the conservative estimates began to develop its ice sheets at around 425-475 ppmv of CO2 and the Arctic even lower which potenitally explains its reaction to 390 ppmv C02 today.

    Comment by pete best — 26 Aug 2009 @ 3:42 AM

  98. Re: Dave P (#81) and follow-ups #82, #84, #93:

    Tett et al. (2007: The impact of natural and anthropogenic forcings on climate and hydrology since 1550. Climate Dynamics 28, 3-34) reports some model-based results relevant to when natural and anthropogenic forcings might have influenced the warming since the “Little Ice Age”.

    Caveats: this is just one model and one estimate of past forcings.

    Some relevant quotes from our abstract:

    “These simulations suggest that since 1550, in the absence of anthropogenic forcings, climate would have warmed by about 0.1 K.”

    “Comparing the simulation driven by anthropogenic and natural forcings with the natural-only simulation suggests that anthropogenic forcings have had a significant impact on, particularly tropical, climate since the early nineteenth century.”

    “Changes in tree-cover appear to be responsible for some of the local and hydrological changes as well as an increase in northern hemisphere spring snow cover.”

    See our full paper here:

    Comment by Tim Osborn — 26 Aug 2009 @ 3:46 AM

  99. #67 Joe Hunkins

    I took a look at your blog and read your July 23, 2009 post “Hot Air and the Co2 Problem”

    So you are saying that the top climate researchers at RealClimate are

    “waxing very philosophically about climate catastrophes and defending even the most flagrant propaganda points in the film “An Inconvenient Truth” and in the papers by James Hansen, NASA’s top climate spokesperson and an often cited proponent of pending climate catastrophes.


    “Comments at RealClimate are even worse – personal abuse and reckless pseudo-science are tolerated when they support the case for catastrophic warming while reasoned questions are often moderated or attacked irrationally if they challenge the prevailing groupthink.”

    You also speak in the item how Bjorn Lomborg has been attacked as an “enemy of reason”

    I’m curious then if you can refute using ‘reason’ the assertions in my page on Lomborg, “The Copenhagen Distraction”

    You seem to be caught up in the scientists are making money on climate so they are biased in the results they are showing. You are presenting an inappropriate argument.

    Generally speaking, institution and government scientists make the same amount of money no matter what they study. Grant funding, unlike bailout money, goes to equipment and research work, not salaries and golden parachutes. That argument simply does not stand.

    Contrary to your points as noted:

    – MWP was not higher than today

    – MWP presents indications of ‘potentially’ strong feedbacks (if you have a better notion of the mechanism please let me know, I’m willing to examine) to less forcing than today, thus indicating larger amplification potential than occurred during MWP, which would then translate deeper into the ‘climate catastrophe’ you seem to be arguing against.

    If, as you state:

    “the science behind global warming hysteria is much weaker than advertised”

    Please provide substance to the statement. I would like to know ‘just the facts’ you have collected.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 26 Aug 2009 @ 4:04 AM

  100. Mike Strong #91,

    perhaps you might want to consider that the text of the post was not written in the order it appears… that “bizarre” and “ridiculous” are conclusions drawn from, and after, looking at the questions.

    Why don’t you give it a try, as a scientist, engineer and gentleman? There’s only thirteen of them. Please let us know, for every question,

    1) whether you understand the question;
    2) if you do, whether you find it well-posed;
    3) if you do, your answer. And don’t forget to justify your assumptions and show your calculations and sources where asked to.

    I’m sure George Monbiot would greatly appreciate your valuable contribution.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 26 Aug 2009 @ 4:08 AM

  101. re #81/#93

    Of course it depends by what you mean by “affect the climate”, dave. If you mean make a significant to global scale surface temperature rise, the anthropogenic enhancement of atmospheric greenhouse gases likely made a very substantial contribution to warming in the period 1800 to mid 20th century.

    The anthropogenic increase in atmospheric CO2 resulted in a rise from around 280 ppm in the late 18th century to around 297 ppm in 1900 to nearly 310 ppm around 1940 [*]

    The total expected anthropogenic global temperature contribution over this full period within a climate sensitivity of 3 oC is easily calculated. It’s 0.44 oC at equilibrium.

    So human emissions could account for most of the temperature increase during the period 1800 to mid-20th century. Of course the anthropogenic contribution was “mixed in” with natural solar and volcanic contributions so one doesn’t expect to observe a simple temporal relationship, any more than we expect to see a simple relationship nowadays.

    [*]D. M. Etheridge et al (1996) “Natural and anthropogenic changes in atmospheric CO2 over the last 1000 years from air in Antarctic ice and firn J. Geophys Res. 101, 4115 -4128.

    Comment by chris — 26 Aug 2009 @ 4:22 AM

  102. Mike Strong@91,
    Tell me, do you feel the same way about those who trenchantly defend evolutionary theory against creationism, or get angry when the links between smoking and lung cancer or HIV and AIDS are denied for commercial or political motives? Because these are exact parallels: that AGW is real, and an urgent problem, is agreed by the vast majority of relevant scientific experts. Those claiming the state of the scientific debate is otherwise, do so either for motives of gain – the fossil fuel lobby – or because their political ideology (usually devotion to the “free market”, sometimes a kind of cornucopian Marxism) makes it impossible for them to admit that the problem is real and anthropogenic.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 26 Aug 2009 @ 4:34 AM

  103. Jeffrey, Lynn: Sacks declares climate activism a fallacy, tells us to never mind the greenhouse gas concentrations, and then wants us all to be part of developing his vision for a technophobic hunter-gatherer future. Why spend time rescuing glimmers of sanity from this text? Mind you, I am all for a constructive discussion of calamitous impacts, feedbacks and tipping points, explaining why uncertainty is not our friend, and arguing for moving towards a steady-state society with appropriate technologies. The future of which rather depends on us doing something now to keep GHGs down.

    Jeffrey, whatever the relative merits of hysteria and deception, hysteria is unhelpful, doubly so when it plays into the hands of deceivers. Lynn, thanks for the reading tips.

    Comment by CM — 26 Aug 2009 @ 4:38 AM

  104. “None of you see it do you? The bias? The immediate raising of the hairs on the backs of your necks at the hint of any opinion that disagrees with your ideaology.”

    Or the hackles being raised by a troll who calls it an ideology.

    With the wrong spelling.

    It’s called “trolling” on the internet.

    Comment by Mark — 26 Aug 2009 @ 5:12 AM

  105. I reckon Professor Plimer will publish the answers to all of these questions in a peer-reviewed paper with a comprehensive list of references.

    Comment by Jimmy Haigh — 26 Aug 2009 @ 5:37 AM

  106. #102 Nick Gotts

    “Because these are exact parallels” Exact? When was the link between smoking and cancer established by computer modelling? Read the following and tell me that it doesn’t raise even a small doubt in your mind about GCMs.

    From New Scientist 22 August 2009 p20

    “Clearly, composites are a work in progress. The trouble, says aviation engineer Philip Irving at Cranfield University in the UK, is that computer simulations often differ from reality. ‘Computer models are good at calculating composite displacement and stress levels, but they are not yet good at accurately predicting when they will fail,’ he says.

    But thanks to the Comet’s legacy of exhaustive fail-safe testing, he says, stringent real-world tests are mandatory, ensuring plane designers’ simulations are correct.”

    Comment by simon abingdon — 26 Aug 2009 @ 5:49 AM

  107. PS re climate activists and communication: “Positive thinking for a cooler world”, New Scientist’s editorial take on the APA report that Lynn already posted a link to earlier.

    Comment by CM — 26 Aug 2009 @ 5:59 AM

  108. @91: “…yelling at each other on blogs…discounting the possibility that both sides might be just a little-bit correct.”

    To quote Richard Dawkins: “In an argument with two opposing sides, it is a logical fallacy to assume that the truth lies somewhere in the middle of both arguments. Quite often, one side is simply wrong.”

    Comment by Steve Brown — 26 Aug 2009 @ 6:29 AM

  109. Mike Strong (91),

    There’s a fair bit of namecalling in your reponse for a self-professed well mannered individual.

    You seem to discount the possibility -nevermind the evidence- that one side is more wrong than the other.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 26 Aug 2009 @ 6:39 AM

  110. Hey skipper most of the worlds glaciers have not been retreating for 200 years. Almost all are now smaller than 200 years ago, but a majority of glaciers in the Alps and North Cascades advanced from 1950-1975. The widespread rapid retreat is since 1975.
    Global review
    Glacier by glacier review

    Comment by mauri pelto — 26 Aug 2009 @ 6:44 AM

  111. Re: #91 (Mike Strong)

    I’ll tell you what I’m sick of: people who cry “listen to both sides” because they can’t or won’t recognize outright liars. Or do you think Ian Plimer is just expressing an honest difference of opinion?

    You’re trying so hard to keep an open mind that your brain fell out. As for your claim that you have manners, that’s hard to believe when you accuse RealClimate of being the “Rush Limbaugh of AGW supporters.” Shame on you, you hypocrite.

    Comment by tamino — 26 Aug 2009 @ 7:44 AM

  112. re #106

    simon, your post is based on a bit of a non-sequiter! Nick didn’t say anything about computer models, and our concerns about the consequences of massive enhancement of greenhouse gas concentrations has got very little to do with computer models. So a reference to a composite modelling article is of close to zero relevance.

    The “exact parallels” refer (if I understand Nick Gott’s point) to a contrived, concerted and well-funded effort by vested interests, at manufacturing uncertainty in the face of rather strong scientific evidence.

    Incidentally Richard Doll’s evidence for a link between smoking and cancer was based on modelling (epidemiological modelling to assess attribution of causal factors) and as such bears a rather strong relationship to the studies of attribution based on current climate modelling. No doubt Professor Doll would have used a computer if he had access to one in the 1950’s!

    In fact the links between global warming and greenhouse gases are rather stronger than the epidemiological links between smoking and lung cancer exisiting then, at least in the early days of assessing causality and probably even through much of the 1970’s, since there wasn’t a good theoretical and empirical basis directing scientists to a causal link. So, for example, the initial expectations were that the causal factors for lung cancer were car fumes or tarmac, and the well-funded liars were able to muddy the waters for so long, because the causality was by no means self-evident.

    We’re in a much stronger position with respect to attribution, since we understand the greenhouse effect rather well, and know that raised levels will cause global warming. We certainly don’t need “computer models” for that.

    So your inference that the link between greenhouse gas enhancement and global warming was “established by computer modelling” is not only simply not true, it’s very silly also!

    Comment by chris — 26 Aug 2009 @ 8:04 AM

  113. Steve Brown, (108) I’ve said that for AGES.

    Simon asks:
    “When was the link between smoking and cancer established by computer modelling?”

    By statistical modelling. There were people smoking for all their lives and not dying of cancer. This was touted as PROOF that smoking doesn’t cause cancer.

    And from your NS quote (which, by the way, isn’t about climate), your models DO say that the material will break.

    Rather like the climate models: if you put in more and more CO2 eventually you will raise the temperature by 5 degrees Celsius.

    It may not get it *exactly* right. But then that’s why the models and the AGW theory say that the sensitivity of temperature to CO2 is 2.5-4.5C per doubling.

    Comment by Mark — 26 Aug 2009 @ 8:25 AM

  114. #91 Mike Strong

    Others have already expressed this more succinctly and in even better, so I almost did not want to reply, but the absurdity of fallacy you present is so strong it begs for correction.

    You have creatively strung together a tremendous number on non sequitur statements and insults about the argument as well as some very strong hypocritical statements in that you contradict yourself in your argument.

    You simply can’t reasonably argue, and sound sane, that you are sick of point counter point and get back to science in this argument when all contexts, are not considered.

    Your comparison of RealClimate to Rush Limbaugh is about as absurd a statement as I have ever witnessed.

    What you don’t seem to recognize is that RealClimate always recognizes when a point may be a little-bit correct… or did you neglect to read the article above (review the grading system Gavin used)?

    You also include yourself in the scientist/engineer category. What is your background, experience, specialty, where have you worked?

    Also, you link goes to a website called

    Does that mean you are starting a new blog where you will present your counter points to other peoples points, and vice versa?

    Might Yoda say: ‘The irony is thick with this one’ too.

    You see, it’s not about bias, it is about science, but science is about learning through the scientific method and that often entails argument, albeit a higher form that one experiences in the world of the political, or the media (the peer review and response process).

    You state:

    Get back to science. Evidence. Fact versus counter-fact. Peer review. Verification.

    But the relevant scientists doing the work have never left, so where does that leave your apparently confused argument? Right smack in the middle of irrelevance and logical fallacy heaven.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 26 Aug 2009 @ 9:12 AM

  115. #112 chris “a non-sequit[u]r!”?

    Nick Gott (#102) said “that AGW is real, and an urgent problem, is agreed by the vast majority of relevant scientific experts”.

    Why? Because the prognoses of computer modelling are believed by the consensus despite the (unavoidable) absence of any real-world verification.

    Boeing would be totally irresponsible if they relied solely on their computer models without the confirmation provided by real-world destructive testing.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 26 Aug 2009 @ 9:50 AM

  116. Mark:

    But then that’s why the models and the AGW theory say that the sensitivity of temperature to CO2 is 2.5-4.5C per doubling.

    Leaving out ice sheets melting feedbacks and carbon cycle feedbacks.

    Comment by llewelly — 26 Aug 2009 @ 9:55 AM

  117. #91 Mike, your point was well proven by #111.

    Comment by J. Bob — 26 Aug 2009 @ 10:13 AM

  118. Great smack down. Thanks. Plimer totally deserves it.


    Minor grammatical typo in the Relevance section of point 8

    “The argument appears to that climate…”

    presumably should read

    “The argument appears to be that climate…”

    Comment by Bagga — 26 Aug 2009 @ 11:12 AM

  119. #115

    oh well simon. You want to misrepresent Nick’s post and my post and talk about something that neither Nick and I are referring to. Fair enough. But why the pretence of referring to our posts?

    If you want to raise you separate point (which seems to be a notion that the consensus relating to the concerns over massive anthropogenic enhancement of atmospheric greenhouse gas levels is based on “the prognosis of computer models”)..then fine, but I certainly don’t believe that, I doubt Nick Gotts does either (he can tell us!), and neither of us said or implied such a thing.

    Your notion is an odd one to my mind! If it really is your purpose to wrestle the subject away from Nick’s (and my) point to yours, perhaps you can give us some insight on how you arrived at it…

    Comment by chris — 26 Aug 2009 @ 11:22 AM

  120. Boeing would be totally irresponsible if they relied solely on their computer models without the confirmation provided by real-world destructive testing.

    Is this going to become the latest denialist meme? We must verify GCMs by destroying the world we live on?

    Comment by dhogaza — 26 Aug 2009 @ 11:27 AM

  121. Re: Trolls

    The trolls have shown up on this thread in great numbers. Like many, I have fallen into the trap of “feeding the trolls.”

    Let’s get back to the real topic: Ian Plimer and his book. I repeat from my first comment, that his real purpose with his questions is to avoid answering George Monbiot’s questions. So let’s change our focus to pressuring Plimer to answer what are very straightforward, relevant, and important questions. Like “Where did you get the graph in figure 3 of your book”?

    That’s an extremely simple question. So, Plimer, have you got the guts to answer?

    Comment by tamino — 26 Aug 2009 @ 11:30 AM

  122. a brief clarification for chris (112): there is a world of difference between epidemiological modelling and physics-based active modelling, so I don’t think your asserted similarities and strong relationships are correct (though you go on in your post to kinda imply such). You’re correct that modelling is not used to prove global warming. But, by itself, that is an insignificant irrelevant statement. The significance of climate change is the degree (amount and timing) of climate change resulting from various levels of input — this derives virtually entirely from GCM models. You not only need the models to assess AGW, they are absolutely critical.

    Comment by Rod B — 26 Aug 2009 @ 11:34 AM

  123. RE: Lindzen’s “On the determination of climate feedbacks from ERBE data”

    I have spent too much time in the past few days going over and over Lindzen’s paper. My understanding has some gaps which get better with every reading, but I’m finding some bothersome aspects to it. I’d rather not post my observations here… I’m a layman with an undergraduate training in science, math and modeling, but not a scientist. I don’t think it appropriate to even imply a critique by a person like myself in a forum of this nature (i.e. comments on a blog), especially before the people who’s job it is to do so have done so.

    But I would like some questions answered.

    Is there a real climatologist that would be willing to take a look at a short (1,500 words) analysis, and comment on it?

    Comment by Bob — 26 Aug 2009 @ 12:12 PM

  124. Graph of the Day: Annual Inflow to Perth Dams, 1911-2009

    I’d be very interested to hear ideas on this “stepwise” decline in SW Australia rainfall.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 26 Aug 2009 @ 12:37 PM

  125. Re 69 (and also to 175 of the last post on technical issues)
    Klotzbach, Pielke etc. claims about Nocturnal Boundary Layer:

    First open question about these claims is, how measurements at 1.5 m above ground should lead to a warm bias in temperature trends, when warming is stronger at 10m above ground than near the surface? (as found in Lin et al, which they cite as basis). If the warming is smaller at the ground this would mean a cooling bias, I think.

    Comment by Urs Neu — 26 Aug 2009 @ 1:15 PM

  126. “The significance of climate change is the degree (amount and timing) of climate change resulting from various levels of input — this derives virtually entirely from GCM models.” – Rod B.

    No, it does not – and you have been here long enough to know it. Climate sensitivity to a doubling of GHGs is constrained by evidence from past climates.

    “Because the prognoses of computer modelling are believed by the consensus despite the (unavoidable) absence of any real-world verification.” – simon abingdon

    Simply false – see above. Moreover, the models’ ability to predict response to volcanic eruptions confirms that they are accurate enough to be useful.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 26 Aug 2009 @ 1:18 PM

  127. Re 9,Some thoughts on Lindzen’s paper

    Lindzen attempts to show that there is a relationship between LW radiative flux anomaly and SST anomaly 20N-20S
    over a 15 year period. Sensitivity (K/(W/m2)) is estimated as the ratio of these properties.

    He also discusses the failure of some AMIP based models to replicate the ERBE observations, which I do not specifically comment on here.

    4 principal criticisms

    1. The analysis is constrained to tropical oceans.
    2. The heat budget for the 20N-20S area is not closed either in i)area or ii)total heat budget (particularly latent heat)

    3. Simply eyeballing the SST and OLR anomaly graphs together does not give a confident impression of a statistically significant relationship between LW flux and temperature anomolies

    4.Analysis is constrained to delta T of >0.2K, which for instance excludes The Pinatubo event which is clearly captured in OLR, ASR with little SST response.

    My main concern is with (2).
    The 20n-20s area of analysis:
    1 Is arbitrarily constrained

    2 Has boundaries across which there are significant oceanic and atmospheric meridional heat flux.
    These flux vary seasonally 2-8PW (equivalent 4-16Wm-2 globally or about 16-64Wm-2 over 20N20S oceans) at both 20N and 20S.
    A 10% interannual variation would be equivalent to about 6-7 Wm-2 over the 20N20S area

    3 Has an unbounded heat budget, particularly in latent heat, which whilst having a relatively uniform mean in the tropics:
    has considerable year to year variability:
    which is typically 5-15 Wm-2, much larger than the OLR variation
    and larger than the 7Wm-2 peak-to-peak OLR anomaly in Lindzen’s paper

    Consequently whilst the temperature variations may be correlated to a greater or lesser extent with radiative flux anomalies (<7Wm-2),they could be wholly or partially caused/explained by interannual variations in

    1 Meridional heat export across 20N and 20S (ocean or atmosphere)(?~6-7 Wm-2)
    2 Latent heat (5-15 Wm-2)

    which, if true, unfortunately renders any subsequent analysis of sensitivity (however well-founded in theory) redundant as the heat budget is not closed.

    Comment by cumfy — 26 Aug 2009 @ 3:15 PM

  128. Re 54: And wine was drunk for health reasons. Then the question come down to: “Will the grapes make a wine that is strong enough to kill the germs in the drinking water?”

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 26 Aug 2009 @ 4:07 PM

  129. Nick #126
    Which GCM predicted what in response to what volcanic eruption? I have been unable to find that information using the search feature on this web site. I thought the measurement of temp after volcanic eruptions was used to tune the the hindcasts of the models.

    Comment by Edward — 26 Aug 2009 @ 4:39 PM

  130. Edward, put “volcanic” in the search box on this page:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Aug 2009 @ 6:02 PM

  131. Simon Abingdon and Rod B,
    It is incorrect to suggest that everything comes down to the computer models. You can sit down with pen and paper and get a rough estimation of the degree of warming to be expected from a doubling of CO2. Indeed, this is pretty much what Arrhenius did–eventually coming close to the currently favored climate sensitivity of 3 degrees per doubling. Tamino’s two-box model is also pretty straightforward:

    You can get 90% of the way there without a single CPU cycle, and the remaining 10% ain’t gonna rescue you.

    Simon Abingdon says: “Boeing would be totally irresponsible if they relied solely on their computer models without the confirmation provided by real-world destructive testing.”

    Simon, sure you don’t want to think that through again before calling for destructive testing of the planet?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 26 Aug 2009 @ 8:51 PM

  132. Jim Galasyne – Graph of the day – step change in Southwest Western Australian rainfall.

    I suspect that it may be related in part to the Indian Ocean Dipole.

    The most recent step change corresponds to the step change in south-eastern Australian rainfall – see here.

    I’ve seen a plot of estimates of the IOD index going back over a century, but can’t find it just now. The plots I found just now via google don’t go back past that first WA step change.

    Comment by Craig Allen — 26 Aug 2009 @ 8:54 PM

  133. Steven Brown #108 : “To quote Richard Dawkins: ‘In an argument with two opposing sides, it is a logical fallacy to assume that the truth lies somewhere in the middle of both arguments. Quite often, one side is simply wrong.'”

    The problem is that the pseudo-skeptics are a lot better at muddying the water than scientists are at clarifying it. For example, the pseudo-skeptics can point at bogus petitions like the Oregon petition. But where can you see a comparative tally of the opinions of scientists with for example their names and position against their publishing record. The ‘scientific consensus’ is not something that can be quantified and demonstrated to the public. Unfortunately scientists in general are too focussed on their labwork, field work and modelling too be bothered demonstrating a united front.

    I present to you the IPCC website as evidence of this. All that effort, all that expertise, and rather than present it in a manner that is going to have a chance of convincing the average Joe, they just plonk down hulking great reports expecting that it will be accepted as unassailable truth. It has been laughably easy for the denialists to demonize the IPCC because they haven’t even made even a minimalist effort to present their case in a convincing manner. I suspect it has a lot to do with the tendency of many academics to regard the unwashed scientifically illiterate unwashed masses with disdain. RealClimate and other such blogs are great, but they are fringe efforts while the bulk of the scientific community hide in their ivory towers and prattle to each other at their conferences; making important breakthroughs that will be ignored as elections come and go and politicians make momentous decisions that plot a middle course half way between poorly communicated reality and cleverly presented lunacy.

    Comment by Craig Allen — 26 Aug 2009 @ 9:27 PM

  134. “. . .where can you see a comparative tally of the opinions of scientists with for example their names and position against their publishing record.”

    Craig, did you miss this survey?

    This is less readily digestible, but closer to what you ask for:

    (I think Ray was the first person I saw link to this.)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 26 Aug 2009 @ 10:33 PM

  135. Craig (#132): Bingo! You provided a great summary of the communication gap that’s helping to create a very dangerous situation.

    There are two related issues that I honestly believe not nearly enough people in the reality-enhanced community appreciate:

    1. The deniers are not interested in winning debates, merely sowing enough doubt to delay action. That’s why they argue online so willingly and, some would say, as relentlessly as the Borg on Star Trek: They’re simply putting on a show for the mainstream voters who happen upon the online “debates”. The current situation is like a fight between a pro wrestler and Frasier Crane (from the US TV sitcom). One wants to put on a show and the other comes prepared with facts and expects to have a civil discussion.

    2. We’re at a hideous disadvantage. The other guys get to talk in bumper stickers and tell people things they want to hear (“don’t worry about CO2, it’s all a bunch of foo foo”), while we have to explain at least some of the underlying science to a mainstream that has very few scientists. (Even worse is the “dentist problem” that Michael Tobis has identified, the people with some training in science or a related field who insist on being “independent thinkers” and denying the evidence.)

    For a perfect example, consider Gavin’s and Joshua Wolfe’s book, Climate Change: Picturing the Science. I just finished reading this the other day, and it’s a darn near brilliant example of how scientists should communicate with lay people. (I’ve been a technical writer for about 20 years, and I was impressed to the point that I’ll pay the book the ultimate compliment: I wish I’d written it.) But how many mainstreamers will actually read it? I plan to buy several copies and give them to relatives for Xmas presents, but I’m guessing most will get stuck on a shelf, unread, for “lack of time”. Meanwhile, the other guys get to poke at Al Gore (I love the guy, but talk about an easy target for ridicule!), repeat their tired old nonsense for the 9,000th time, and swarm one web site after another.

    Comment by Lou Grinzo — 26 Aug 2009 @ 10:47 PM

  136. Kevin,

    I note that that was an anonymous survey. I’d like to see scientists start being up front about their opinions.

    I’d like to see a regularly updated website listing all climate related peer reviewed publications and all the scientists who are the authors.

    The papers would ideally have links to at least their abstracts. They would be tagged according to the subcategories of climate science that they address and the list would be filterable by these categories. And they would all have their citation ratings clearly presented.

    A page listing the scientists would similarly be able to be filtered by the subcategories in which they had published papers. And the scientists would be given a credibility rating that is calculated from the quantity and quality (as measured by citations) of their papers.

    All scientists listed would be asked to vote on a set of key questions that are posed in a manner that is understandable by lay people. Plus there would be a place for them to make a statement of their position on the matter.

    If scientists are too timid, busy or lazy to give us their opinion, then we can conclude that those individuals choose to be irrelevant and ignore them.

    Let’s see it laid down on the table for everyone to see. We’ll finally be able to see/prove where the consensus really lies.

    Comment by Craig Allen — 27 Aug 2009 @ 1:25 AM

  137. Ray #131:

    Indeed, this is pretty much what Arrhenius did–eventually coming close to the currently favored climate sensitivity of 3 degrees per doubling.

    Actually Arrhenius arrived at 5.8 degrees C per doubling, including the water vapour effect assuming (contrary to current physics-based models where it is an emergent property) constant relative humidity. See pages 14 and 17 for the explanation (he finds 3.4 degrees C for a 1.5x increase).

    A fair comparison would be with the currently estimated 2.0 degrees C for CO2 + H2O only, as he was unequipped to do anything about aerosols, clouds, methane and the rest. So, almost 3x high.

    But hey, this was back in 1896!

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 27 Aug 2009 @ 1:51 AM

  138. By Fourier analysis of the graviton spectrum, show that the increase in boson emissions in the plasma injector conduit causes a temporal positron anomaly in the dilithium crystal of a magnitude that follows the third Cochran theorem.

    If you don’t know the answer, that proves that I know all about warp drives.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 27 Aug 2009 @ 2:47 AM

  139. Craig Allen #133 and Lou Grinzo #135

    Excellent posts.

    Some years ago I came across a book that described a novel technique to help you improve your running. “you should lean from the ankles to let gravity pull you forward.” Yes, you read right! “let gravity pull you forward”. I posted that this isn’t possible in a running forum and received some quite aggressive replies, including 1 from a guy that teaches this method. People can see that if you lean forward gravity will make you fall forward and your centre of gravity will indeed have moved forward. An author with ‘qualifications’ in sports science was telling them they can use this to help them run and a coach agreeing with him. What chance did my meagre protestations that a force cannot act perpendicular to its direction really have? The theory seems to make sense and explain what they observe and most importantly gave them hope of an easier solution to running faster. I couldn’t find a way to explain the impossibility of it in the same way.

    Comment by John — 27 Aug 2009 @ 3:27 AM

  140. “Leaving out ice sheets melting feedbacks and carbon cycle feedbacks.”

    That’s part of the huge variation.

    I.e. if you assume that there will be no ice sheet albedo change, you will be nearer 2.5C per doubling. This is highly unlikely. If you have easy melting of ice and a large change in albedo (say, for example, the ground underneath is the darkest of the soils), you get nearer the 4.5C per doubling.

    Comment by Mark — 27 Aug 2009 @ 3:58 AM

  141. Simon Says:

    “Why? Because the prognoses of computer modelling are believed by the consensus despite the (unavoidable) absence of any real-world verification.”

    No, because the physics says it will. CO2 impedes IR. If you disagree, please create a non-computer-model model of what the physics says will happen and present it here for review.

    The models say it will cause about 3C per doubling of CO2.

    Observational evidence agrees with that prognosis.

    Comment by Mark — 27 Aug 2009 @ 4:00 AM

  142. #131 Ray

    “Simon, sure you don’t want to think that through again before calling for destructive testing of the planet?”

    Ray, I don’t think it’s the AGW dissenters who are calling for destructive testing: dismantling the world’s economies and starving millions of people should do the job.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 27 Aug 2009 @ 6:22 AM

  143. #137 Martin Vermeer

    “Arrhenius … was unequipped to do anything about aerosols, clouds, methane and the rest. So, almost 3x high”.

    And I wonder by what factor will he be shown to be wrong once we’ve understood the behaviour of clouds (which as we know cover more than 60% of the planet).

    Comment by simon abingdon — 27 Aug 2009 @ 6:24 AM

  144. We can continue to present the science to those that have not closed their eyes in denial – continue pointing to “start here” on RC, and Weart’s History of climate science. Or the other useful sites demonstrating overwhelming scientific consensus.
    There are the trolls that quickly identify themselves by their wilful stupidity and have no genuine wish to learn. It’s sometimes fun to ridicule them but better to have a standard cut and paste pointer sending them back to where the science can be found.
    The Plimer’s of this world need to be cut off at the root and thanks to RC and the others here who are exposing such fraudulent and un-compassionate behaviour.
    We can also make ourselves heard through organisations such as – they have a climate change petition on the go now.

    Comment by Hugh Laue — 27 Aug 2009 @ 6:34 AM

  145. @Aaron lewis #128:

    Re 54: And wine was drunk for health reasons. Then the question come down to: “Will the grapes make a wine that is strong enough to kill the germs in the drinking water?”

    The answer is almost certainly “Not relevant”. It’s the boiling that kills the germs, not the alcohol (although various organic acids found in wine have antiseptic and disinfectant properties).

    Comment by Robin Levett — 27 Aug 2009 @ 6:46 AM

  146. @simon abingdon #143:

    “Arrhenius … was unequipped to do anything about aerosols, clouds, methane and the rest. So, almost 3x high”.

    And I wonder by what factor will he be shown to be wrong once we’ve understood the behaviour of clouds (which as we know cover more than 60% of the planet).

    You are aware that our understanding has moved on since 1896, aren’t you?

    What are in your view the bounds of any cloud effects? Bearing in mind that clouds are both a positive and a negative feedback, depending upon whether it is day or night, or the cloud is high or low, or…?

    Comment by Robin Levett — 27 Aug 2009 @ 6:51 AM

  147. Kevin I find the Doran survey to be totally inadaquate for getting any sort of feel for where scientists stand on this matter percentage wise. The use of the word significant meaning it can be measured? Can you name any skeptic that I have heard of that wouldn’t have answered yes to this question? I find a much more interesting but still less technical poll then I would like to be the one conducted by S. Robert Lichter and published in 2008 by STATS and conducted by Harris Interactive. They did actually place some numerical values in some of the questions.

    Comment by stevenc — 27 Aug 2009 @ 6:55 AM

  148. Craig, it sounds wonderful. Are you nominating yourself to do it?

    If so, the second link should be a good start, as the table lists all scientists who have signed activist declarations (mostly concerned about, but a few skeptical of, AGW.)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 27 Aug 2009 @ 7:09 AM

  149. re #142

    What strange notions you have simon. Who said anything about “dismantling the worlds economies”? The imperative based on understanding of the climate system and likely adverse consequences of considerably raised earth surface temperatures is a rational, incremental and progressive move to sustainable energy development. Why would anyone consider “dismantling the worlds economies”? An odd notion!

    Likewise the consequences of unconstrained greenhouse emissions (sea level innundation of coastal areas – the Nile delta, and Bangladesh regions are already suffering and there are large swathes of vulnerable areas), large scale resettlement of populations away from coastal regions, loss of mountain glacier-controlled irrigation (N. India, China, S. America), encroachment of rainfall-depleted regions prgressively towards the higher latitudes, are all expected to have massive effects on the abilities of people to feed themselves. Why would you want to contribute further to these problems? Is that really the aim of your trolling efforts?

    re #143

    The abundant analyses of climate sensitivites are largely empirical/phenomenological, simon and thus incorporate the effects of clouds. So we don’t expect clouds are going to “save us” from the effects of massive enhancement of greenhouse gas levels. Clearly clouds haven’t significantly opposed the rather significant warming of the last century and especially the last 30-odd years. In any case uncertainty obviously applies in both directions – recent evidence indicates that cloud effects may enhance greenhouse-induced warming (positive feedback):

    Comment by Chris — 27 Aug 2009 @ 7:30 AM

  150. #142 simon abingdon

    I think it is quite bizarre when people that seem to have a level of cogent capacity that would allow for comprehensive reasoning to not understand that the monetary and a tremendous number of earth economies will be decimated by global warming.

    The only explanation I can think of for individuals such as yourself is ignorance or myopia or some combination of the two. I suppose you could claim naivete, but I doubt you would.

    You just can’t seem to connect all the dots. That does not mean you are wise in saying ‘we don’t know everything’, or ‘models can be wrong’, it simply shows you are unable to connect the dots required to understand what is happening.

    By the way, is, or is not, simon abingdon your real name? I don’t think you ever answered that question, or did I miss something?

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 27 Aug 2009 @ 8:02 AM

  151. #69 Adam Gallon
    re: Pielke

    This is illuminating as I had not read those pages before or his boundary layer argument. So he is taking the line of reasoning of Lomborg and the ‘The Copenhagen Distraction’.

    To analogize what this argument boils down to: Nuclear reactors are too complex to understand all probable cases that might cause a catastrophic failure. Due to this complexity we should wait until the nuclear reactor melts down, and then assess how much it will cost to fix.

    I hope Pielke has no intention of coming out of retirement to run a nuclear plant.

    I have updated the OSS Pielke page appropriately Scroll down to bottom beginning at July 14, 2009.

    As always, relevant comments and criticisms are welcome via the site contact link.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 27 Aug 2009 @ 8:14 AM

  152. “And I wonder by what factor will he be shown to be wrong once we’ve understood the behaviour of clouds (which as we know cover more than 60% of the planet).”

    But 50% of them are high clouds and 50% low clouds.

    Which have opposite effects on climate change.

    Comment by Mark — 27 Aug 2009 @ 8:24 AM

  153. Craig Allen (133, 136):

    I sometimes share your sentiments regarding the reticence of scientists, ivory tower mentality etc, and to be sure there is more of that than I would like to see, or is optimal. But your comments, esp. end of 133, are over the top. Scientists’ primary responsibility is to do good science; that requires a certain cultural environment, and a focus on getting the story right, which involves lots of messing with the nitty gritty details. It is not their main job to educate the public. Sites like RC and others are bonuses, and I’d like to see many more, but they are not birthrights of society. Another group of society, otherwise known as the media/journalists, is responsible for bridging the gap between primary science and the general public. Scientists should facilitate this, but are not primarily responsible for it. Nor are they responsible for spilling their opinions about various scientific topics to the public, or signing every petition or opinion statement shoved before them.

    As to your characterization of the IPCC, this also is quite way over the top, specifically:
    (1) Those syntheses are attempts to make the science known to a wide range of people, but clearly aimed toward those with some knowledge and interest, notwithstanding the many figures, FAQ boxes, Summaries for Policymakers, and references to more basic information sources, by which the average person can learn one hell of a lot if they make an effort to do so, and
    (2) the deniers castigate the IPCC not because of the material or the way it is presented, but for various non-scientific reasons, e.g. feelings of inferiority in the face of an enormous body of highly advanced (and synthesized) knowledge, feeling excluded from some important process, disdain of the UN (or anything non-American for that matter), etc.

    Comment by Jim Bouldin — 27 Aug 2009 @ 9:17 AM

  154. Re #152, The only time since Galileo that science threatened humanity has been since the Manhatten Project when politicians and culture decided to keep the peace required merging rocket and nuclear technology and now we still have thousands of nuclear missles and bombs stored around the nuclear nations of the world.

    I have read that some scientists were quite vocal in their concern of nuclear proliferation but little were they listened to. The same happens to day only this time we are dealing with a science and not a technology as the nuclear age was. The scientists are still not being listened to even though we have web sites such as this one with frank and candid exchange of AGW science and its implications.

    All we can truely hope for is that the USA passes its climate bill (however watered down it might seem) and go to Copanhagen in December this year and use it to get China and India on board along with everyone else. However each country will probably have differing targets and flexibilty will be the key.

    Comment by pete best — 27 Aug 2009 @ 9:39 AM

  155. a comment: I agree that the AGW antagonists have a simpler and more readily grasped argument. That’s usually true for status quo vs new stuff. Ideally it’s unfair and, in a scientific realm, unfortunate. But it is what it is, and for protagonists means more work.

    a rebuttal (of the 2nd class): Lou G., You seem to be putting skeptics and doubters in a worse light (from AGWers perspective) from those who adamantly and totally refute AGW. That’s nonsensical, even from your position.

    an observation: I appreciate many of yourall’s position, but the certainty of economic results in either (any!) scenario simply does not exists — no matter how appealing the thought of zero economic downside with mitigation and absolute economic disaster with doing nothing feels to some. Even with seemingly cogent arguments one way or the other, the results can not be stuck in the back archive and forgotten as a fait accompli with any feeling of self-satisfaction.

    another: as soon as John R gets everybody’s name right, I suppose all will be right with the world… ;-)

    Comment by Rod B — 27 Aug 2009 @ 10:31 AM

  156. #154 Rod B

    Re: “zero economic downside with mitigation and absolute economic disaster with doing nothing”

    I have looked at the economic scenarios and know at least a little about economics. The studies indicate that doing nothing is a really, really bad idea and doing something will, at least if done early, be economically beneficial. Waiting to do that or those ‘somethings’ will only increase the costs and become exponentially more costly until unaffordability is reached.

    Why this message of benefit does not communicate to those that continually repeat the notion that doing something only destroys the economy is truly absurd as well as bizarre.

    If only people would read, comprehend and then expound; as opposed to regurgitate idiocy, opinion and diatribes without basis in even the relevant economic analysis:

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 27 Aug 2009 @ 11:04 AM

  157. Jim Bouldin #152: I think we have reached the stage where scientists can no longer longer claim a right to the luxury of of doing science without doing all they can to communicate their knowledge to the public.

    You are an ecologist. Like me you probably can’t help but notice ecosystems collapsing wherever you go. My background is in wetland ecology and management. A decade ago south east Australia was rich in wetlands. It was a delightful field in which to study and work. Now you see little more than degraded ditches wherever you go. The place where I did my honours was a magical place, a vast wetland rich in flora and wildlife. Now its a wasteland salt scald. Dozens of young ecologists learnt their trade in that place, publishing many dozens of papers. We spent so much time studying a place that no longer exists – and then let drought and mismanagement destroy it and all the other places like it.

    We are all staring into the abyss. It’s time to get real. Scientists collectively need to start applying themselves a lot more effectively in presenting what they know to the public in a convincing manner.

    Comment by Craig Allen — 27 Aug 2009 @ 11:23 AM

  158. #151 Mark

    “But 50% of them are high clouds and 50% low clouds.

    Which have opposite effects on climate change.”

    One might hope that some rather more detailed and in-depth analysis might soon be forthcoming.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 27 Aug 2009 @ 11:40 AM

  159. “I agree that the AGW antagonists have a simpler and more readily grasped argument. That’s usually true for status quo vs new stuff.”

    Which is which?

    “but the certainty of economic results in either (any!) scenario simply does not exists”

    Why then your certainty that mitigation will cost lots?

    Comment by Mark — 27 Aug 2009 @ 11:42 AM

  160. Thank you, Gavin, for your response and posting my question. I’ll back off on my opinion about RC not posting questions from skeptics.

    We all know words are cheap. Although you expressed that ice core CO2 data matches concentrations from other proxies generally through time, (which I don’t disagree with), you did not directly answer the fundamental burning question: Do we have the ability to DIRECTLY translate ICE CORE CO2 concentration data into a meaninful relationship with the current Mauna Loa ATMOSPHERIC data. Certainly someone has thought of this! And please provide references! (I can’t find any) The only thing I can find is a paper by Zbigniew Jaworowski’s very harsh condemnation of IPCC’s attempt to match the two. I’m NOT saying I believe this guy (he does appear to be on the fringe after reviewing his background), but what other scientific literature exists to show that these two CO2 measurements can be adequately compared? What evidence exists in peer-review to explain that Jaworowski is wrong?

    [Response: See rebuttals of Jaworowski’s claims here. – gavin]

    Comment by Scott Hastings — 27 Aug 2009 @ 11:47 AM

  161. > Who said anything about “dismantling the worlds economies”?

    The alarmist simon abingdon

    > The imperative based on understanding of the climate system and likely adverse consequences of considerably raised earth surface temperatures is a rational, incremental and progressive move to sustainable energy development.


    Comment by t_p_hamilton — 27 Aug 2009 @ 12:55 PM

  162. #158 Mark

    A truly excellent point!

    Let’s ask simon abingdon the same question.

    Why do you infer through your posts that mitigation will result in “dismantling the world’s economies and starving millions of people…” thus inferring mitigation will be responsible for the destruction of the economy.

    Do you have studies and models (well, I doubt you would use models) to show how this will happen?

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 27 Aug 2009 @ 1:15 PM

  163. Only slightly OT but certainly germane:

    Antarctic Glacier Thinning at Alarming Rate

    August 14, 2009

    “The Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica, which is around twice the size of Scotland, is losing ice four times as fast as it was a decade years ago.”

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 27 Aug 2009 @ 1:25 PM

  164. Simon #143, the wrongness of Arrhenius’ result was due to the poorly known IR spectra of greenhouse gases at the time (and perhaps the difficulty of doing numerics). He didn’t even try to model clouds.

    And I wonder by what factor will he be shown to be wrong once we’ve understood the behaviour of clouds

    Are you always of such quick wit? The same factor of course. Clouds are not part of the comparison I made.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 27 Aug 2009 @ 1:40 PM

  165. Re:155
    Actually doing some things,as you indicate, can be beneficial to economies as the antis seem to fail to understand.
    Here are some of the benefits given by the Union of Concerned Scientists:
    “….. Blueprint policies lower U.S. heat-trapping emissions to meet a cap set at 26 percent below 2005 levels in 2020, and 56 percent below 2005 levels in 2030.

    The nation achieves these deep cuts in carbon emissions while saving consumers and businesses $465 billion annually by 2030. The Blueprint also builds $1.7 trillion in net cumulative savings between 2010 and 2030. Blueprint policies stimulate significant consumer, business, and government investment in new technologies and measures by 2030. The resulting savings on energy bills from reductions in electricity and fuel use more than offset the costs of these additional investments. The result is net annual savings for households, vehicle owners, businesses, and industries of $255 billion by 2030”

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 27 Aug 2009 @ 2:05 PM

  166. Simon:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Aug 2009 @ 2:28 PM

  167. RE 145: Five percent ethanol may not be enough to “kill all the germs”, but mixing questionable drinking water with wine at 2-1 or even 5-2 ratios does seem to kill enough of the germs to improve the odds of not getting sick. The volume of anecdotal reports from history and even reports from medical officers in Italy and France during WW II is huge. Then there is:, , and others suggesting that wine does kill germs and inhibit fungus. It is worth noting heat sterilization processes are not a part of traditional wine making.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 27 Aug 2009 @ 2:54 PM

  168. #160 John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation)

    John Try googling war+poor+global+warming simon

    Comment by simon abingdon — 27 Aug 2009 @ 3:14 PM

  169. #166 simon abingdon

    You’re a funny guy. You want me to look at all the miscellaneous stuff on the internet, silly conspiracy theory’s and random opinions generated by media bias, zealots or fanatics? That is supposed to be educational regarding reality?

    Try reading something relevant

    You continue to prove how you choose to ignore relevant work in favor of irrelevant random… stuff.

    You know, Switzerland is fast working fast to move policy and get energy independent by getting off Co2. Maybe you can show me how their country is starving to death, withering away, and destroying their living standards to prove your point.

    C’mon simon, show some fortitude and tell us your real name? I look forward to your answer showing the demise of Switzerland.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 27 Aug 2009 @ 4:11 PM

  170. John P. Reisman (155), some studies seem better than others, but despite their professionalism, no economic study is result certain; never has been; never will be. If the powerful brilliant feds can’t get a budget deficit within 20% a couple of months before book closing, how can anyone say what the macro global situation will be 5 years from now — let alone a couple of decades or four. And forget about predicting the stock market more than 5 minutes out. This applies to McKinsey, too, even as good as they are. I happen to think mitigation could result in serious large-scale economic disruptions. And there are numerous studies to back me up. But I, like you and everyone else, still might be wrong.

    I agree one might have to make a judgement and go with the best info available, however uncertain. But that necessity does not improve the prognostication.

    Comment by Rod B — 27 Aug 2009 @ 4:39 PM

  171. Re: #166

    Using your method of presenting evidence, one can effectively conclude that 9/11 was a government-orchestrated plot.

    +9/11 +government +cover +up

    The Moon landing was faked

    +moon +landing +faked +government

    and the Earth is flat

    +Earth +flat

    and of course, global warming is a hoax

    +global +warming +hoax

    Lots of junk out there. We need to be a bit discerning.

    Comment by MarkB — 27 Aug 2009 @ 5:13 PM

  172. Garry S-J (93) — Yes, about 1/2 of the emissions stay in the atmosphere to raise the CO2 concentration.

    simon abingdon (143) — Clouds are sufficiently well understood by now; overall impact appears to be a small positive feedback. Th emphasis is on “small”, so the estimate of the Charney equilibrium climate sensitivity remains close to 3 K.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 27 Aug 2009 @ 6:09 PM

  173. Beautifully done, Gavin.

    If I knew your address, I’d send you a pudding for Christmas.

    Many thanks for the effort you put into RC.

    Comment by Dan L. — 27 Aug 2009 @ 7:06 PM

  174. Hey all, I’ve been working on a little educational game for climate science, called “Global Warming Fix.” It’s a Spore Galactic Adventure, and I’ve uploaded a (low-res) trailer at YouTube.

    I have three familiar characters, named Gavin, Ray, and Mike. The script is here: Global Warming Fix script. I’m targeting about a sixth-grade audience.

    I wanted to run it by you guys before I publish the game. I’m not making any controversial statements, but it would be good to get some professional eyes on it. The game is basically ready to publish, so once we’re satisfied, we can have it out in the Spore Universe in no time.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 27 Aug 2009 @ 7:27 PM

  175. #170 David B Benson

    “Clouds are sufficiently well understood by now”(!)

    Can you refer me to the relevant studies which take into account global-wide parameters such as altitude, latitude and longitude, vertical and horizontal extent, underlying surface temperature, height of the tropopause, seasonal variations, whether oceanic or over land, and the many others which are needed to make such a claim with any confidence?

    Comment by simon abingdon — 28 Aug 2009 @ 12:17 AM

  176. Hello Gavin et al.,

    Any time I hear that arguments about the C-isotope ratios and Ocean acidification I cannot help but wondering if they are really correct . .

    After all the near-surface sea water acidification only shows, that the near-surface sea water is in near-equilibrium with atmosphere for the CO2-concentration, so the CO2-rise in the near surface water only reflects the fact, that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen.
    The change in the isotopes only reflects that fact, that we are burning fossil fuel.
    While I of course see the reasoning:
    We burn fuel => contentration of CO2 increases, the question was and is if it can be proven, that this is the only and dominating cause for the increase of the atmospheric CO2-levels!
    And for that questions these two facts do not provide suffcients explanation.
    – We burn fuel.
    – The atmospheric CO2-concentration is increasing.
    Nothing more is shown, so don’t use a complicated language in order trying making up evidence which is not there.
    Humans release CO2 in the atmosphere (not only by burning fossil fuel), so it is logical to assume that the atmospheric CO2 rises as a consequence, specifically if no other mechanism to release such amount of CO2 is known.

    Best regards,

    [Response: Sorry, but no. The changes in isotope ratios rule out the land biosphere or ocean as sources for the CO2, and the decrease in O2 points very clearly to a concomittant burning of C (to produce CO2). This is the ‘use of complicated words’, this is additional, complementary and convincing evidence that the rise in CO2 is anthropogenic. – gavin]

    Comment by Laws of Nature — 28 Aug 2009 @ 1:00 AM

  177. Who said anything about “dismantling the worlds economies”?

    It should be implicitly obvious that the world’s economies depend on the particulates, mercury, CO2, and other pollutants emitted by coal stacks. Can’t have people living longer, you know.

    Comment by llewelly — 28 Aug 2009 @ 1:58 AM

  178. Simon sayz

    > Can you refer me to the relevant studies

    Playing from the Plimer script now, are we? Isn’t it time for you to learn to do your own homework? You won’t learn anything if we do it for you; you certainly didn’t last time :-(

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 28 Aug 2009 @ 1:59 AM

  179. re 175, for climatological purposes? Yes.

    No matter how many fishies swim against the tide, the tide does NOT turn because of it.

    Comment by Mark — 28 Aug 2009 @ 4:20 AM

  180. Further to 167, grog is rum in water. Long voyages at sea, captains put grog in the water to keep it safe to drink, not to keep the crew drunk.

    And wine was required for Christian communion. Doesn’t matter if it takes like gnats bum, you have to take a sip or burn in hell.

    And what was Europe’s primary religion in the Middle Ages?

    Comment by Mark — 28 Aug 2009 @ 4:23 AM

  181. “One might hope that some rather more detailed and in-depth analysis might soon be forthcoming.”

    Of what, simon?

    Low clouds retain heat from below more than they reflect light from above. Basic science says so. High clouds reflect more light from above than heat they retain from below. Basic science says so.

    Do you have anything to show different?

    Do you have anything to show that the cooling effect overcomes?

    Comment by Mark — 28 Aug 2009 @ 4:27 AM

  182. #168 Bod B

    “I agree one might have to make a judgement and go with the best info available, however uncertain.”

    Actually when administrating, one always needs to make a judgment.

    As far as accuracy, on this scale you don’t need to have it tremendously accurate, you just need to know the inter-dynamics of multiple economic systems, monetary, industrial and earth.

    When discussing action with regard to economy there will always be a disruption, or ‘a change’. The primary rule is nothing is free. So to build something you need to get stuff to build it so some area loses minerals, or some forest loses trees. However there are way s to do build more sustainably and even renew-ably to a degree.

    In weighing the economic consequences of climate mitigation, it is clear, when examining the short and long term, that early meaningful action nets more robust economic advantage than later action.

    These things are quite obvious to those that understand the global economics of resource availability and system inter-dynamics in relation to human infrastructure adaptive capacity in relation to monetary economic potentials within the physical constraints.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 28 Aug 2009 @ 5:11 AM

  183. Simon Abingdon’s claim: “Boeing would be totally irresponsible if they relied solely on their computer models without the confirmation provided by real-world destructive testing.” has been well responded to in terms of it’s crazy to destroy the planet, but I also can’t say I recall hearing of Boeing testing planes until they disintegrate in the sky.

    The notion that “real” science has exact results you can reproduce in the lab is another denialist meme; even precisely known formulae like Newton’s Laws (under conditions where relativity doesn’t apply) are inexact when subject to real-world constraints like imprecise measurement, and too many data points to apply the formula exactly. I put an example of how real science doesn’t give exact answers on my blog.

    I appeal to those who are not coming at this from a science background to find out a bit about how real science operates before believing denialist propaganda. The likes of Plimer are presenting a distorted view of how science operates that may seem plausible to the nonscientific public but they are doing the general cause of science a great disservice by politicising aspects of science that are not a matter of opinion.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 28 Aug 2009 @ 5:21 AM

  184. simon abingdon (from now on I will call you simon monckton).

    Are you intending to answer my inquiry (#167): Can you show me how Switzerland is starving to death, withering away, and destroying their living standards – to prove your point.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 28 Aug 2009 @ 5:31 AM

  185. Watch out John, if that is monkton, he’ll complain and consider any failure to convince proof of a conspiracy to silence him.

    Comment by Mark — 28 Aug 2009 @ 6:13 AM

  186. Related News:

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 28 Aug 2009 @ 7:11 AM

  187. #176 Laws of Nature

    Pretty pictures for you:

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 28 Aug 2009 @ 7:14 AM

  188. Re: Inline #176

    Dear Gavin,

    thank you for your answer to a statement, which might seem very clear and often answered to you! Still let me point out that your statement does not seem complete to me:

    Let’s assume that Aliens continoulsy teleport lots of CO2 from 500 years back into the atmosphere.What would happen to the isotope-ratio?
    It would be falling, because we still burn fuel!
    (DISCLAIMER: This is just a funny example, I do not believe in this kind of alien activity nor I am aware of any scientific facts points towards this theory)

    So, your answer does not seem to explain the question raised by me in post 176, where I stated that the isotope-ratio-changes only tell us that we burn fuel, nothing more or less (It doees give us the chance to follow the trace of that CO2 into various sinks).

    It is complicated wording for a simple fact (same for the oxygene concentration), it really only tells us: Hey we are burning the fuel!
    (Just in case we did not know that already)
    And yes, we burn it to CO2, which was not there before.
    On top of that the isotope ratios and the oxygene concentration tells nothing, most importantly they fail to PROVE anything about the reason of CO2-increase in the atmosphere!

    The facts that if we burn fosil fuel the isotope ratio changes
    and the cocentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing do NOT
    lead to:
    Because we see changes in isotopes and oxygene amount most atmospheric CO2-increase must be due fossil fuel.
    That the assumption of an anthropogenic cause for the increase is a reasonable one is quite independent of the present question.
    (Complicated “wording” for a simple fact)

    You might disagree with that for a good reason (which I would be very curious to hear about), but you did not name that reason in your last answer!

    Still, thank you for your time and have a nice weekend!
    Please believe me, that I am seriously interested in that question and not just trying to pull someone’s leg here!


    Comment by Laws of Nature — 28 Aug 2009 @ 7:23 AM

  189. #185 Mark

    Thanks for the advice,

    Actually, I don’t want to silence him, I want him to get louder. It’s one of those the bigger they are, the harder they fall kinda things.

    Monckton’s great claim to fame is being a policy adviser to Thatcher. If that is true though, it doesn’t look so good on his resume as he might think…

    Thatcher believed global warming was human caused and that we not only can but need to do something about it, but as I recall, she wanted immediate action.

    So Monckton, even as a policy adviser, was not able to get his message of ‘don’t worry about it’ to the very person he was supposed to be advising. Not very impressive in the end.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 28 Aug 2009 @ 8:17 AM

  190. simon:

    Ray, I don’t think it’s the AGW dissenters who are calling for destructive testing: dismantling the world’s economies and starving millions of people should do the job.

    That’s what’s going to happen if we DON’T deal with global warming. To fix it, we don’t have to do that–we just have to stop burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests. There are other sources of energy. Don’t be so alarmist.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 28 Aug 2009 @ 8:22 AM

  191. RodB: “The significance of climate change is the degree (amount and timing) of climate change resulting from various levels of input — this derives virtually entirely from GCM models. You not only need the models to assess AGW, they are absolutely critical.”

    Some people have noted that this is nonsense, but let’s be clear why it is nonsense: models are but one of three lines of evidence that point towards fossil fuel-sourced atmospheric CO2 increases having a major impact on global climate.

    The second line of evidence involves paleoclimate studies, which have done a good job of reconstructing past climates on the scale of hundreds to millions of years ago, and which have also demonstrated a close link between CO2 in ice cores and global temperatures. However, the current rate of CO2 increase is around 30X as great as anything seen in any ice core record, and today’s levels have not been seen in over three million years – so there are no geologically recent examples to look at. This should not be reassuring, by the way.

    The third line of evidence involves modern data collection and analysis, essentially the instrumental record over the past 100 years or so. This record has steadily improved as more instruments are put in space and in the oceans, but let’s be honest: political efforts have been made by the fossil fuel lobby to halt data collection, most notably seen in the refusal to launch Triana, the deep space observatory that would have allowed for direct measurements of Earth’s radiation balance. This is the ostrich theory – if you don’t see it, it isn’t happening. (The US Biological Survey suffered a similar fate, although the issue there is not so much global warming as species extinction)

    Even if we didn’t have computers, the basic argument about CO2 warming the atmosphere could indeed be verified – all models allow us to do is make fairly reliable projections about future outcomes in advance.

    The bottom line is that we are conducting a massive uncontrolled experiment with our atmosphere, and all basic physical arguments as well as paleoclimate studies agree that this will result in a very noticeable increase in planetary temperature – you can already see this happening in the observational data, and no, there is no increase in solar radiation that can explain it. If you consider that the amplitude of glacial cycles is largely due to changes in atmospheric IR-absorbing gases, and that we are changing the atmospheric composition by a much larger degree than seen during those cycles – well, it should be pretty obvious that major changes are afoot.

    Models simply allow one to estimate the scale of those changes with some accuracy – but as the Artic sea ice loss shows, there are probably a few surprises in store.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 28 Aug 2009 @ 8:30 AM

  192. Pete Best: “All we can truly hope for is that the USA passes its climate bill (however watered down it might seem) and go to Copanhagen in December this year and use it to get China and India on board along with everyone else”

    China at least is already far ahead of the U.S. in policy matters:

    August 21, 2009
    China Will Have Solar Feed-in Tariff in Place in 2009 – Suntech
    Wuxi, China

    The Chinese government is readying a feed-in tariff (FIT) for utility-scale solar plants that will dwarf the country’s previous solar subsidies, and drive a wave of investment into the sector, according to Suntech.

    This is a topic that few in the U.S. government seem willing to touch. In sharp contrast, what we see instead is large-scale support for Canadian tar sand imports and for increased oil imports from Africa. It’s true that China is also interested in securing such supplies, but at least they have a good domestic renewable energy program, one that greatly surpasses anything seen in the United States.

    Even India is starting to realize that they have a huge problem on their hands – there is little doubt that the delayed and weakened monsoon this year is linked to rising global temperatures. Global warming-linked drought is a phenomenon seen around the world, but so is global warming linked flooding – and India has to realize that with sea level rise, massive relocations are inevitable:

    An exercise last December at the National Defense University, an educational institute that is overseen by the military, explored the potential impact of a destructive flood in Bangladesh that sent hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into neighboring India, touching off religious conflict, the spread of contagious diseases and vast damage to infrastructure. – NYT

    In contrast to China, the U.S. has shown very little focused support for renewable energy development. For example, the DOE has just selected 19 separate projects aimed at the nonsensical notion of clean coal carbon capture. These projects are spread out at schools and private companies, with about $40 million in funds set aside. Now, let’s ask a few questions about this:

    Is the DOE supporting a similar number of solar or wind or biofuel projects? No.
    Is the DOE banning reporters from its policy meetings? Yes.
    Are DOE-financed clean coal carbon capture and sequestration a valid solution to global warming? No.
    Has clean carbon capture funding been subjected to scientific peer review or any similar process? No.

    However, the real problem with the DOE is this fact:

    “According to a report released just yesterday by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, at least 67 percent of DOE’s budget goes to nuclear weapons and weapons-related programs. This is 14 times what DOE spends on all energy-related research and development, which was the main focus of today’s questions from the Committee.

    That’s the biggest problem, since it means few funds are available for any energy R&D. The second-biggest problem is that the DOE preferentially supports coal and oil projects with that limited 1/14th budget, meaning that wind and solar and biofuels get almost nothing, and this can still be seen clearly in DOE budgetary decisions. DOE relationships with their private contractors also point towards large conflicts-of-interest when it comes to deciding what kinds of projects to fund, as well. Thus, if a U.S. Department ever needed a complete overhaul, then the DOE is that department.

    So, I think it is the U.S. that needs to get onboard – and the entire carbon capture program needs to be reviewed by an independent agency like the National Academy of Sciences, because the fact of the matter is that it is a massive scientific fraud that is only supported as do-nothing window dressing for the coal mining-electric utility industry.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 28 Aug 2009 @ 8:34 AM

  193. Well, John, if you find lots of new people turning up to post annoying crap about you or against your posts all the time, this could be the reason. Monkton doesn’t like to be outed and he has plenty of fans who worship at his Bishopric (genuine word!) to wear you down and become untraceable except by inference.

    Comment by Mark — 28 Aug 2009 @ 8:36 AM

  194. @Mark #181:

    Low clouds retain heat from below more than they reflect light from above. Basic science says so.

    High clouds reflect more light from above than heat they retain from below. Basic science says so.

    You forgot one:

    Both low and high clouds retain heat from below more than they reflect light from above during the night. Basic science says so.

    Comment by Robin Levett — 28 Aug 2009 @ 8:45 AM

  195. @Aaron Lewis #167:

    I agree that wine has antibacterial properties; the issue was whether the alcohol (at such low concentrations)was responsible. It seems that it is the organic acids ( and that are more active components than alcohol at wine concentrations; which seems to be consistent with the fact that it seemed to be wine (as opposed to diluted ethanol) that demonstrated antibacterial properties in the BMJ study,according to the abstract. Boiling the water is indeed a red herring – I was thinking of beer (which requires boiling as part of the process), which was also healthier to drink in mediaeval times – and you are right that it wouldn’t be done in traditional winemaking.

    Comment by Robin Levett — 28 Aug 2009 @ 9:33 AM

  196. #184 John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation)

    Switzerland is a rich country. Many of the world’s countries are desperately poor. When energy costs more the poor get poorer. When food is swapped for fuel people die. And so on … Why pretend you don’t know this?

    Comment by simon abingdon — 28 Aug 2009 @ 9:55 AM

  197. On clouds, let’s go to the past for help.

    If clouds dampened warming then the Earth would have never warmed enough to have melted the glaciers. The forcing due to GHGs is around an order of magnitude more than the forcing due to orbital and attitudinal changes. So, proponents of cloud mitigation have to account for the fact that clouds didn’t work in the past but would work when there’s 10 times the energy involved.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 28 Aug 2009 @ 10:09 AM

  198. #192 Mark

    Geez Mark, you made me use the dictionary ;)

    As to new people showing up here, I could be wrong of course, but I thought they were already here. I expect there will be more though.

    As to annoying crap, let them stand by their stench, I will stand by my words, or stand corrected. They will continue to hide and lob baseless opinions. All I, or we, can do is to try to communicate reason and science. Socrates had the same problem but we shall suffer a different fate.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 28 Aug 2009 @ 10:18 AM

  199. Wasn’t ~1% near-beer a common drink in mid to late-mid England and Europe specifically to avoid drinking tainted water? [Is this OnT?]

    Comment by Rod B — 28 Aug 2009 @ 10:24 AM

  200. John P. Reisman, Your statements and logic in #182 I agree with. My concern is, once and if a decision is made to go ahead with some major global project, that the uncertainties and potential serious downsides are kept well in mind and monitored extremely closely, and that unrecoverable investment be prudently minimized (which still might be massive). This doesn’t seem to be the modus operandi that is often described by most AGWers, which is usually in the vein of “they’re going to love it; they’ll all be better off; their life will be just wonderful; case closed; don’t worry about it; fuggedabouit” which is just misplaced wishful rah-rah than thoughtful analysis. Projects of this magnitude deserve much more.

    An academic partial quibble. Investing sooner rather than later is sometimes better, sometimes not. It all depends on the individual situation, supply, demand, discount rate, purpose, etc. It looks like climate mitigation investment might be better economically sooner as you indicate. Its very slow growth would normally indicate spread out (later) investment, but AGW mitigation is such that you might find one has to go back and pick up unplanned-for mitigation efforts to catch up, which flips the timing — like it should have been sooner and now costs even more. But it’s still a matter of degree. Plus, something would be better off with sooner early investment only if it’s required at all.

    You say,

    These things are quite obvious to those that understand the global economics of resource availability and system inter-dynamics in relation to human infrastructure adaptive capacity in relation to monetary economic potentials within the physical constraints.

    I agree, as long as one doesn’t forget that “knowledge” is (and will always be) considerably less than complete and certain no matter how erudite it sounds.

    Comment by Rod B — 28 Aug 2009 @ 11:09 AM

  201. #178 Martin Vermeer

    “Simon sayz “Can you refer me to the relevant studies””.

    The answer I invited was “No” because (to my no doubt hopelessly inadequate knowledge) there has been none having the comprehensive global reach that I suggested was necessary to make such a claim (David B. Benson #172) as “Clouds are sufficiently well understood by now”.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 28 Aug 2009 @ 11:13 AM

  202. Gavin:

    It took me some time to search up the comment list to find the one by Scott Hastings, currently labeled #160, that was added long after its posted time. I would be sorry to have missed your in-line references to that comment. What is the reason for this annoying practice of adding comments in the sequence, and renumbering the sequence, after we may have already read well past the insertion point.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 28 Aug 2009 @ 11:39 AM

  203. Ike (190), maybe yes, maybe no. Since the paleoclimate studies predominately show temperature increases leading temperature, this hardly supports the scale of AGW. You can’t say that we can tell how much the increase will be without models because we studied paleoclimate.

    I think that so far the 100 years of the instrumental record is far to sketchy to be conclusive. Though I would agree it at least points in a direction that tends to support the models. In any case it is still the models, not the physics nor the measurements per se, that are determining the scale of AGW; the instrumental record is used to validate the models (and the physics).

    If one can predict the NH global surface temperature 10 years out within .01 degree (±) with their paper, pencil, HP calculator and physics book, why are we spending all of this money on supercomputers and software?

    Maybe we’re passing in the night. You close with, “Models simply [sic] allow one to estimate the scale of those changes with some accuracy…” …which is pretty much my main point. ???

    Comment by Rod B — 28 Aug 2009 @ 11:45 AM

  204. #192 Rod B

    I agree. There are many complexities to balance here though and time is a serious factor. Spending on less rather than more effective solutions may also seriously impede capacity for meaningful progress as economic degradation ramps up due to scarcity issues.

    We won’t get through this without breaking some eggs and there will likely be more than a few choices that will be very hard to make on multiple grounds.

    Yes, knowledge will always be incomplete in this and many more circumstances, but this is what separates the men form the boys and the responsible from the frivolous.

    I’m not pretending any of the solutions in the pie will not have downsides and some will have more upside as weighed against capacity. Efficiency will be helpful but I fear it is the more difficult challenge in a world that loves to through money at solutions so that politicians can give the impression they have done something.

    I know I am still grossly oversimplifying the problem but this is a subject that is probably better answered in a dedicated discussion.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 28 Aug 2009 @ 11:47 AM

  205. Re: #198, #199

    I’m reminded of a discussion I was in about funding a school in my hometown; everyone went on and on about government waste and inefficiency, high taxes and their burden on the middle class, etc. When my turn came I offered a quote from Mark Twain: “Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail.”

    It’s amazing how quickly my fellow citizens changed their minds.

    Comment by tamino — 28 Aug 2009 @ 11:57 AM

  206. What a wonderful discussion and how decidedly different from the skeptic sites. I would like to add a quantitative dimension to the discussion on mitigation. The Sonoma County Community Climate Action Plan, referenced in the website, is a deeply researched study and set of conclusions on the most cost effective measures for CO2 reduction at a local scale across all sectors. The data we have produced in this plan conclusively shows that a publicly financed deployment of demand-side peak reduction, massively distributed generation, Smart Grid technology and electric vehicles can be financed using long term municipal bonds. The transformed energy supply portfolio can achieve a significant (25% below 1990 levels by 2015) reduction, cost effectively, and a head start toward carbon neutrality by mid-century. These findings are in line with the findings of the State of California that CO2 mitigation can be revenue positive for the state. I know this is off topic, but I note the well-worn skeptic objection that the energy supply transformation is “hugely expensive”… it simply isn’t.

    Comment by David Erickson — 28 Aug 2009 @ 12:09 PM

  207. it’s weird Plimer should invoke crack-seal processes , since some rock fracturing deformation releases radiogenic 3 He enough to provide a handy mass spec proxy for methane.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 28 Aug 2009 @ 12:17 PM

  208. simon abingdon (175) — Clouds are well enough understood for AOGCMs to track paleoclimates, over and over again. But not well enough to predict precipitation patterns with much accuracy, AFAIK. So of course more research is highly desirable.

    One recent study, of the northeast Pacific Ocean, shows that low clouds there provide a very small positive feedback to global warming.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Aug 2009 @ 4:14 PM

  209. Simon, it is the rich countries that the are the prime emitters of CO2 and need to get off CO2 not the poor countries. And if the rich dont, then climate change will hit the poorer much harder than the rich. Why do you pretend you dont know this?

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 28 Aug 2009 @ 10:45 PM

  210. typo: my statement above should read, “…paleoclimate studies predominately show temperature increases leading CO2….”

    Comment by Rod B — 28 Aug 2009 @ 11:23 PM

  211. David Erickson (204): I appreciate their well intentions, but a County providing “…deployment of demand-side peak reduction, massively distributed generation, Smart Grid technology and electric vehicles…” for the County, and doing it ‘on the cheap’ no less sounds like a fantastic pipe dream rather than anything near a viable plan.

    Comment by Rod B — 28 Aug 2009 @ 11:37 PM

  212. Re:191 Ike Solem. I totally agree! Do you think it’s because the US gov realises it’s too big a problem to handle on it’s own. It’s the world’s largest emitter of carbon based pollution and so the job of cleaning up it’s act is pretty well massive! I travelled through China in 1992 and was appalled by the thick layer of smog above virtally every city we visited. What’s quite bizarre as well is the lack of direct sunlight it’s this diffused light like from a flourescent light. So I am really pleased china is taking the initiative that america should be taking. Maybe china can lead america towards a cleaner world if it’s not already too late. In relation to the ocean fisheries..they are already like ‘dead fish swimming’. There are too many decades of increasing acidification locked into the system for it to have any hope of recovery lest not for the next few thousand years. Japan and the island countries will have a huge job of adapting their diet. Aquaculture will have to be the only way to go. So no more tuna, large pelagic fish or coral trout etc…better get used to a far lesser range of seafood to choose from. Us here in the SE corner of queensland australia have had record breaking heat last week..the previous record was 32.8C for August we smashed it two days running at 35.6C. As I type it’s still 31C and the mean for this month is 23C. In June we had a record beaking rainfall dumping 1.5M of rain in a few days. So in so far as australia is concerned the climate is definatley getting more extreme and unpredicable.
    In a nutshell we cannot afford to have a compromised copenhagan agreement..and waste another few years on top of the 10+ the years Geoge W wasted. The US must bite the bullet and send an unequivacal message to the world to drastically cut emissions now. It’s already too late in my opinion but we all have to fight for our lives..there is no truer analogy.

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 29 Aug 2009 @ 1:22 AM

  213. #195 simon monckton

    I just noticed your note. It is interesting to note that this (like your #168) is the sort of illogical sound bite answer that is the problem in communication of relevant information. Your answer sounds logical (to those that don’t know the relevant contexts) only as long as it does not have the correct context, and of course you have not provided that context maybe/likely because you don’t know the needed contexts. You toss out a short blurb that sounds like it has meat but is really just a red herring (intentional or not). To answer it with context, I need to write a whole bunch of stuff based on the surrounding contexts. The main problem being that it’s easy to say ‘no one has proven Co2 is a greenhouse gas, or everybody knows plants need Co2 to grow, therefore Co2 can not be a pollutant. Non sequiturs, red herrings, straw-man arguments, lack of context/relevancy of facts and statements, appeals to emotion such as living the good life and political bias are the tools of naiveté, ignorance and myopia, they are not the tools of science and reason.

    Switzerland is a rich country. Many of the world’s countries are desperately poor. When energy costs more the poor get poorer. When food is swapped for fuel people die. And so on … Why pretend you don’t know this?

    The main logical fallacy with your post is that most of the poorer countries don’t consume massive amounts of energy like rich countries (and therefore do not bear the burden of culpability relatively speaking).

    Of course Switzerland is a rich country. I can see that with my own eyes, I live in Basel when I am not in California. But Switzerland, unlike other countries, read the McKinsey report and took it seriously instead of debating things like global warming stopped in 1998, and sea level stopped rising since 2006.

    Instead, they realized the physics were sound and the observable evidence is in our face, and voted to begin policy shift. The report does not say that ‘only Switzerland’ can afford to do this though (read it first, then comment). It was written for countries with industrial capacities and can have various degrees of cost/benefit based on speed of implementation.

    The longer we wait, the more expensive it gets. Period. Period!

    Of poor countries that still have a lot of poor people but are producing a lot of Co2 most have poor due to a lack of middle class. Furthermore, those poorer countries producing Co2 that still have a lot of poor are largely producing products for rich(er) countries. Therefore the chain of responsibility to the future cost is tied to demand/consumption, utilitarian, or not.

    What many need to learn is that balance in earth systems requires balance in capacity/cost weighted to source/demand.

    I am not saying there will not be challenges and changes. I don’t believe we can get out of this without some degree of change (some more challenging, some less) but the sooner we act the less impact on standards. This is of course logical.

    Those arguing we do nothing are the ones that should be taxed the highest as they are causing delayed action that will increase cost. I don’t want to have to pay for other peoples ignorance, they should have to pay for that themselves.

    Example: It is contradictory to hear corporations say ‘no regulation’ and ‘free-market’ like a mantra, and wear the facade of feigned responsibility in their pretense and communication; and then after abusing the system egregiously through various means of manipulation in marketing and legislative controls leading to economic system failures, to then scream we need corporate social-ism to save our companies in the form of bailout monies that are paid for by the very people they have been whining for years about making sure people don’t get a free ride while screaming social-ism every two sound bites. The hypocrisy is so thick you can cut it with a knife.

    I do not advocate giving monies out without attachment to responsibility and recompense without reasonable cause. But if everyone (corporations or people) want/demand a free ride in the developed countries while destroying the resource capacity, then inevitably the system will crash.

    Is this what you are advocating by continuing the impression that we just don’t know enough to make a decision, or are you truly that naive?

    Because that is the reasonably presumed world we are moving towards if we don’t move pretty darn fast in meaningful ways.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 29 Aug 2009 @ 5:15 AM

  214. simon,

    Kiehl and Trenberth (1997) used a cloud scheme divided into high, middle, and low clouds, all with different properties.

    High clouds occur at 10-11 km altitude and cover 20% of the sky.

    Middle clouds are at 5-6 km and cover 6%.

    Low clouds are at 1-2 km and cover 49%.

    With random overlap, total cloud coverage over the Earth’s surface is 61.7%. This is a higher figure than was assumed during, for instance, the ’60s, because modern definitions of the area covered by a cloud are wider and mean cloud albedos are considered lower.

    Respective liquid water paths for the three types are 0.009, 0.020, and 0.036 kg/m^2. K&T didn’t give albedos, but using 0.22, 0.50 and 0.72, respectively, with a surface albedo of 0.15, I get A = 0.310 for the Earth, very close to the correct figure (0.306 according to NASA).

    Manabe and Wetherall (1967) used a similar scheme:

    High clouds, 10 km, 22.8% coverage, albedo 0.20.

    Middle clouds, 4.1 km, 9% coverage, albedo 0.48.

    Low clouds, 1.7-2.7 km, 31.3% coverage, albedo 0.69. Random overlap gives 51.7% of the sky covered overall.

    Clouds, of course, are also greenhouse agents. The UK Meteorological Office’s Hadley Climate Centre GCM, “UKMO HadCM3,” uses mass absorption coefficients of 130 m^2/kg for water clouds and 65 m^2/kg for ice clouds, which are typical figures compared to those in the literature.

    For the physics of how radiation interacts with clouds, Houghton (2002) devotes chapter 6 to the subject. The equation of radiative transfer is easily modified to deal with clouds.

    The web site NASA maintains for the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project is here:

    These guys have been compiling observational statistics on clouds for some time now.

    The latest article on net feedback from low clouds (it’s positive), is Clement et al. 2009.


    Clement, A.C., Burgman R., and J.R. Norris 2009. “Observational and Model Evidence for Positive Low-Level Cloud Feedback.” Science 325, 460-464.

    Houghton, John T. 2002 (1977). The Physics of Atmospheres (3rd Ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Kiehl, J. and K.E. Trenberth 1997. “Earth’s Annual Global Mean Energy Budget.” Bull. Amer. Meteorol. Soc. 78, 197-208.

    Manabe, S. and Wetherald, R. T. 1967. “Thermal Equilibrium of the Atmosphere with a Given Distribution of Relative Humidity.” Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences 24, 241-259.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 29 Aug 2009 @ 6:55 AM

  215. #199 Rod B

    En Addendum to #202

    There will be may flitches we will have to deal with ;)

    “solutions in the pie” could have also been “flitches in the pie”

    Sorry, I realized that I missed an opportunity in my response to use the word and could not resist the opportunity as I doubt I will ever use it again.

    It’s a silly world, but it’s our home.

    #203 tamino

    What a wonderful quote :) thanks for the reminder.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 29 Aug 2009 @ 7:05 AM

  216. Gavin – do you think this paper is important enough for a thread?

    Meehl, G.A., J.M. Arblaster, K. Matthes, F. Sassi, and H. van Loon (2009), Amplifying the Pacific climate system response to a small 11 year solar cycle forcing, Science, 325, 1114-1118.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 29 Aug 2009 @ 7:25 AM

  217. This is a great read.
    I thought I’d share my own Ian Plimer experience, as it is pleasantly relevant:
    I saw him and Prof. Barry Brook speak in a debate on climate change – anthropogenic, or not?
    Afterwards, there was question time, and I asked him, essentially, what evidence would make him think that climate change was happening and man-made? (Obviously none, as his position is dogmatic.)

    He didn’t answer and instead launched into an ad hominem attack on me, spitting forth rhetoric. Yeah…nice.

    Comment by Joel Dignam — 29 Aug 2009 @ 7:35 AM

  218. An overwhelming need to put people down usually finds a way out, whether from a podium or a publisher or a barstool or a sidewalk. Some people just gotta vent or they’d puff up and explode, I guess, and the details are secondary to the need.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Aug 2009 @ 9:11 AM

  219. Joel — attacks like that are one’s badge of courage. One is known not only by the friends who admire but also from the enemies who heap scorn.

    From what I’ve read of Plimmer I would consider it an honor to be verbally chastized by him and his like.

    Comment by John (Burgy) Burgeson — 29 Aug 2009 @ 9:27 AM

  220. Totally off-topic, sorry, but I couldn´t resist.

    A “Institution of Mechanical Engineers” claims to have developed an artificial tree that absorbs 10 ton of carbon a day at the price of US$20,000.

    Here´s the article at BBC:

    Here´s the intitution´s report:

    Could someone say if this is for real?

    Comment by Alexandre — 29 Aug 2009 @ 9:58 AM

  221. > an honor to be verbally chastized by him and his like.

    You can buy satisfaction of this sort of taste at many discreet establishments without doing it in public and wasting everyone else’s time and bandwidth.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Aug 2009 @ 11:20 AM

  222. Point being, media love people like that guy because he antagonizes people and promotes controversy. Look at the mess he made of the evolution issue when he was using that as his excuse to vent bile.

    You won’t find the media giving attention to E.O. Wilson’s outreach to people on evolution and climate — reaching out and teaching isn’t going to sell advertising space and clickthroughs.

    There’s just no business model for teaching. Funny thing about that — read Tom Paine on the subject. Excerpt and pointer previously posted here:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Aug 2009 @ 12:06 PM

  223. Barton, a couple of clarifying questions: Is “water path” the mass (kg) of water in a column one m^2 and the length of the various cloud types — each one km in your example? Where does the 0.15 surface albedo come from, as most sources say around 0.07; what is its effect on your analysis (which is interesting BTW)?

    Comment by Rod B — 29 Aug 2009 @ 12:51 PM

  224. #213 Barton Paul Levenson – I did make reply thanking you for your interesting response but it seems to have been lost in the post.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 29 Aug 2009 @ 1:43 PM

  225. Alexandre (#218),

    Direct capture of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in under development and the report you link is a pretty good summary. Capture from the atmosphere is more difficult than capture at a cement kiln or power plant. The way things are shaping up with the cost of renewable energy, leaving carbon in the ground is going to be the lowest cost mitigation after conservation but there may be a role for these machines to cut the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide once we have stopped fossil fuel use.

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 29 Aug 2009 @ 1:55 PM

  226. #214 John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) – your phrase “en addendum” looks as if it means “additionally” but in a language with which I’m not familiar. What is it?

    Comment by simon abingdon — 29 Aug 2009 @ 1:57 PM

  227. Alexandre (218) — The IME is the British equivalent of the US’s ASME. The problem with artificial trees is the energy costs of cleaning the captured CO2 out of the sorbant. AFAIK this still remains quite expensive.

    Making and burying biochar is a partial solution best suited for the parts of the world with high plant growth rates and low labor costs. So is increased use of biodiesel made from non-food vegetable oils.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 29 Aug 2009 @ 5:05 PM

  228. It is important not to underestimate the concerted effort to kill the messenger on climate change. The IPCC is vilified because thousands of repetitions of a lie begins to make people believe it. The most effective communicators are the ones most attacked (e.g., Gore, Hansen). We see this currently in the easy lie “death panels”. This kind of effort is not wasted on minor issues but concentrated on those who are regarded as “dangerous” to special interests and their fellow travelers.

    It has been said elsewhere but bears repeating that delay is success. It is easier to destroy than to build.

    On the IPCC, it’s interesting that the basic idea that the world did its best to put together an international series of authoritative studies is not well understood by people in general. They are too easily persuaded it was some kind of limited insider effort.

    There are so many techniques, such as attacking the language and pointing out typos (see 224), subtly modifying what someone says and then ridiculing it (most likely the originator will not be able to do the careful work to point this out until the damage is done, but it is helpful as the lie is thereby revealed), turning words on their heads (pollution enabling labeled “clear skies initiative”, “true believer”), making the issue about the commenter instead of their ideas, etc.

    The insistence on a need for debate (with selected “experts”) ignores the fact that science is one long arduous continuous debate.

    I join in thanking Tamino 204 re Mark Twain!

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 29 Aug 2009 @ 11:28 PM

  229. #224 simon monckton

    You mean you still have not figured out how to use the ‘internets’?

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 30 Aug 2009 @ 1:55 AM

  230. Any update from Pilmer or Monbiot on this article?

    Comment by Guy — 30 Aug 2009 @ 8:00 AM

  231. The artificial tree things is a crock. First you have to obtain (mine/refine/chemically and mechanically prepare) the capture agent. Then you have to move it to the artificial trees. Then you have to take it down from the trees. Then you have to move it to where you are going to bury it.

    Contrast this with a normal tree.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 30 Aug 2009 @ 9:55 AM

  232. > artificial trees

    There must be something like stem cells in plants that could be used to grow more of the parts we want, on substrates we can manipulate, in large sizes — more easily than redesigning Creation from scratch to be build industrially.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Aug 2009 @ 11:11 AM

  233. I ran across this article “It’s Time for Some Due Diligence on Global Warming Claims” by Denise Moran:

    It denies man made climate change for various reasons. Since I’m new to this area I would appreciate help with a response to Moran’s claims which I or someone could post on the site in which his article appears.


    Comment by Mark S. — 30 Aug 2009 @ 12:18 PM

  234. Thanks for the responses to my OT comment. Since it is off topic, I´ll understand (and be thankful) if someone directed me to some other topic or blog where the subject can be developed without polluting the existing thread.

    I understand real trees have a whole set of benefits besides carbon sequestration. I would not use artificial trees as an excuse to relax conservation or to replace trees entirely.

    But they say 10 ton a day!! That would likely be more than enough to offset other emmisions in the chain (like transport to and from the capture site). And remember pre-industrial levels of CO2 included a large world forest cover AND a lot of carbon buried in the form of fossil fuel. We won´t capture that all back just with natural trees. And the long tail of residual CO2 after we limited emmissions -let´s be optimistic- is a problem already addressed here in RC.

    I´d really like to see some more detailed analysis of this kind of alternative. Something deep enough either to conclusively dimiss it as a crock or to point true possibilities.

    Comment by Alexandre — 30 Aug 2009 @ 2:32 PM

  235. RE: Rod B. # 202:

    Maybe we ARE passing in the night, but it seems to me that your statement “Since the paleoclimate studies predominately show temperature increases leading CO2….” implies more value to its precise wording than is justified. The paleo sequence has been dissected rather extensively here, e.g., . If your invoking of the concept is consonant with the science discussed there, then my apologies for expanding a molehill. If it is not, then perhaps you would elaborate on your view of this often mis-characterized proposition.

    Comment by ghost — 30 Aug 2009 @ 2:46 PM

  236. Mark, two suggestions, speaking as just another reader here.

    First, look up the website, and the people who own it and write for it.
    Search the author’s name at Wikipedia and at Sourcewatch.

    There’s little use getting sucked into an argument at a forum owned by people who won’t listen, who are in the business of doing PR for an industry — particularly when you are new to the information you’re trying to find to argue with. You’ll end up looking uninformed — because you are.

    This isn’t something you can help with just by picking up sound bites and transporting them from one blog to another.

    Lots of people do that. It’s just noise, it looks like activity.

    Advice: start with the “start here” links at the top of the page.

    Make your goal to learn where the science can be found and learn it for yourself. Get good at that.

    Then help other people find it for themselves.

    You’ll often see people shocked to have found some PR talking point like those, asking for others to come refute them at one PR blog or another. It’s a distraction and waste of time.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Aug 2009 @ 3:18 PM

  237. For over 300 years our knowledge has been increasing about atmospheric chemistry (from Edme Mariotte onwards), and although uncertainties persist (about water vapour, clouds, albedo, and – above all – solar variation) the basis for believing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions tend to raise near surface global climatic warming are fundamentally indisputable. Those who have ‘global warming religion’ will tend to overstate their case (especially by deriding natural variation), and there must be question marks about the effort being put into large and excessively complex global climate modelling 100 years out. On the other hand, perhaps the most severe criticisms should be addressed at US oil and coal interests ‘in denial’ in the run-up to Copenhagen UNFCCC summit(reminiscent of the old Global Climate Coalition) and the ‘greedy’ renewable energy ‘Pretendees’ – those who want to put up wind turbines where mean wind speeds are low (but electricity consumers’ subsidies still high), who want simply to burn palm oil thousands of miles from where tropical forests have been destroyed, and those who want to divert rapeseed oil from human and animal use to simply burn the stuff in tiny electricity generating plants (not even hot pressing it for a 44% oil yield, but cold pressing it for a 28% oil yield). It is claimed the UK planning system is holding things back, yet peer-reviewed research demonstrates that the UK system is as helpful to renewables as that in Germany (though at higher cost than the Feed-in Tariff System), and quicker/more reliable than those in Spain and Denmark. Of course, as many of you will expect, neither the UK government, nor the UK planning system, nor the UK Advertising Standards Authority are particularly hot – but that is another story requiring very detailed treatment.

    Comment by Michael Jefferson — 30 Aug 2009 @ 3:18 PM

  238. Alexandre (231) — Unfortunately Eli doesn’t understand how so-called artificial trees are expected to function. One passes air over the sorbant which captures the CO2. Once full up, flaps to the air are closed and flaps to the CO2-only pipe are opened. Now comes the expensive part, removing the CO2 from the sorbant so that it flows into the CO2 pipe. Once cleansed, start over for another cycle. Nobody is proposing just sequestering the sorbant filled with CO2.

    If the proper sorbant/catalist pair is found then the costs are not too bad. It has been proposed to use stranded wind/solar to energize the artifical tree cycle. Then I suppose it is only capital and maintenance costs to be considered.

    Most research these days is directed towards sorbants suitable for removing CO2 from flue gas. That is actually an easier problem but still a long way from commercialization.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 30 Aug 2009 @ 5:10 PM

  239. Mark S. (#230), the author of the article you link to takes issue with the claim “that the recent warming is due mainly to global warming gases produced by mankind”. He claims to have trawled the literature but not found any “good” work supporting this claim, though he doesn’t explain what makes him qualified to evaluate the science (a BS in mechanical engineering?! I mean, come on).

    Since he defines “good” work as “analyses that use validated models and reasonable assumptions that have a sound basis”, and invites anyone who’s seen such work to share it with his readers, I suggest you refer him and his readers to the IPPC Fourth Assessment Report, working group 1, chapter 9: Understanding and attributing climate change.

    Tell him if he doesn’t like what the science says, to be specific: what in his view is missing from the validation of the computer models referred to there, and what unreasonable assumptions are made. Perhaps from there on, you can make some progress.

    Oh, and don’t let him get away with silliness like “the [global temperature] trend has been downward in the last several years”, which shows he doesn’t grasp the difference between trend and noise. You may want to point out that the past decade has been the warmest on record and the 30-year trend remains solidly upward..

    Finally, since he leans heavily on the “NIPCC report”, have a look at Bart Verheggen’s post on that tome, with links.

    Comment by CM — 30 Aug 2009 @ 5:17 PM

  240. #1. Size of medieval warming: 0.4-0.7C. Size of warming this (not even considering beyond this) century worrying the scientific community: 10x that.

    #2 AFAIK requires the CO2 satellite that just failed. Deniers are lobbying for more scietific research. Good.

    #3 is currently unknown. That means the truth may be better or worse than average. There is an esoteric (I just learned this year) economic calculation that says insurance for regressive events is more expensive than is the ecoonmic gain in experience the mirror identical economic growth event. Losing $100T is more expensive than is gaining $100T or $110T. Deniers are arguing here uncertainty means to be even more prudent. Admnittedly tough economics but they are completely discounting uncertainty predicates things may turn out worse than average.

    #4? WTF?….I’ve lost interest in continuing reading their writings…

    Comment by Phillip Huggan — 30 Aug 2009 @ 5:29 PM

  241. Mark S., ~#230. In a good skeptic’s toolkit is– Any scientific claims should always be backed by citations to scientific publications. Because Moran didn’t provide evidence that can be checked, you should discount all that he said. This fact, by itself, does not mean that what Moran said is necessarily incorrect; it does mean that what he said carries no weight whatsoever.

    If you wish to find what the science actually says about all of his claims, the information WITH scientific citations is available on this RC website.

    If you wish to post a question on the Moran blog that will not be answered, and thereby confirm the skeptic diagnosis, ask for the names of 31 signers (less than one thousandth of the total) of the Oregon petition( that are scientists with a climate science publishing record. If any names are provided, you can easily check their publication records on Google Scholar.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 30 Aug 2009 @ 9:39 PM

  242. I don’t see how the use of jargon by Plimer is used as you claim to muddy things. I’m sure it makes perfect sense to a geologist. Have you ever seen a mining prospectus? Now that is FULL of jargon.

    [Response: They generally aren’t written for a journalist in the mainstream UK press. In that context, the use of irrelevant jargon is merely to try and confuse. – gavin]

    Comment by Geoff Condick — 30 Aug 2009 @ 10:06 PM

  243. ghost (232) my contention was that global climate models are essential to estimate or project the degree of global warming, and that the paleoclimate studies can’t be used in place of GCMs to justify/show it. This discussion wasn’t over the paleoclimate studies per se.

    Comment by Rod B — 30 Aug 2009 @ 10:59 PM

  244. Mark S. (#230), then again, you should probably take Hank’s sound advice (#233), not mine…

    Comment by CM — 31 Aug 2009 @ 1:51 AM

  245. Rod,

    Yes, “liquid water path” is specific mass, mass per unit area. The 0.15 figure for Earth’s surface albedo is one typically used in GCMs. I’m not sure where the 0.07 figure came from.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 31 Aug 2009 @ 5:42 AM

  246. Mark S, you could start where the articles does–with the claim that it has been cooling since 1998. My (deliberately simplistic, but I believe accurate) counter to that follows.

    I downloaded the UAH satellite low-trop data (the “denialist’s dataset) giving global monthly mean temperature anomalies. I loaded it into a Excel spreadsheet and computed the monthly means for ’89-’98 and also for ’99-’08. The results:

    90s: 0.04367 C
    ’00s: 0.20025 C

    This analysis makes no explicit claims about trend. But if by “cooling” what’shisface means that you can expect a month to be .15 C warmer, then IMO he’s living where Lewis Carroll loved to explore. :-) (And note that this accepts the cherry-picked 1998 baseline.)

    As with my sea-ice spreadsheet, I’d be glad to e-mail you or anyone else the spreadsheet for verification or further development.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 31 Aug 2009 @ 8:42 AM

  247. Re #33

    The Revolutionary Geologist?

    Promoters of Plimer emphasise his credentials as a geologist. I know very little of his subject but it seems to me that his colleagues will now have a lot of readjustment to do. Will this turn out to have been a paradigm shift?

    Tamino’s article linked by Deepclimate at #33 is an excellent discussion of some of this geology and is followed by some perceptive remarks which can just about be detected in the very noisy thread which follows it. Look out for the remarks by Divalent and TrueSceptic. Without checking the arithmetic it appears that Plimer is implying that 30% of the eruptions from super-volcanoes like Toba (30 M years ago) must have consisted of CO2. This ‘discovery’ must surely have dramatic implications for the composition of the Earth?

    [With apologies for not submitting this comment to Tamino’s thread but that particular thread appears to have more or less ended]

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 31 Aug 2009 @ 9:34 AM

  248. Barton (240), that seems odd. The standard Trenberth and Kiehl budget graphic shows 6.7-7.0% surface albedo. Are you/they using different surface types, maybe? Or am I reading it wrongly (though it seems pretty clear…)??

    Comment by Rod B — 31 Aug 2009 @ 9:45 AM

  249. re Barton Levenson 245:

    ” The 0.15 figure for Earth’s surface albedo is one typically used in GCMs. I’m not sure where the 0.07 figure came from.”

    .07 is a reasonable figure for lake or ocean water albedo , including phytoplankton , whitecap and microbubble backscatter.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 1 Sep 2009 @ 1:01 AM

  250. “Both low and high clouds retain heat from below more than they reflect light from above during the night. Basic science says so.”


    I sit corrected.

    Simon, do you know that there is going to be a generally cooling effect from clouds?

    If not, how do you know that clouds are going to make the problem disappear?

    Comment by Mark — 1 Sep 2009 @ 4:37 AM

  251. Russell Seitz (249), et al: do you know how one reconciles the surface albedo shown on the T&K diagrams (~7%) with that used in the models (15%)?

    Comment by Rod B — 1 Sep 2009 @ 9:40 AM

  252. hmmmm

    > The global average surface albedo is calculated to be 0.150.

    Robock, A., 1980: The Seasonal Cycle of Snow Cover, Sea Ice and Surface Albedo. Mon. Wea. Rev., 108, 267–285.

    Lots of newer papers out there, but every one I checked was paywalled and the number wasn’t in the abstract. Detail matters; some specify ‘land surface’ and some specify other materials. I’d guess someone took the best of those, figured in sun angle and day length on each surface and worked out the number.

    Or maybe someone just put a light meter far enough away and measured all the pixels representing Earth?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Sep 2009 @ 10:10 AM

  253. re 251:

    By reading the T&K diagram completely,, and noting that advanced 3-D GCM’s use different albedo values for pixels representing different surfaces- a modeling trend whose continuing improvement is to be encouraged.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 1 Sep 2009 @ 11:08 AM

  254. Re 251 – not sure, and I’d have to review K&T again to corroborate that, but maybe it’s the difference between an area-averaged albedo and the Bond albedo, which is the fraction of sunlight that is reflected/scattered to space (or in this case, would be if the atmosphere were removed). Because of the concentration of snow and ice at high latitudes and in winter, the area-averaged albedo will be higher than the Bond albedo, which including atmospheric effects is the more commonly stated albedo of the Earth (~ 30 %).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 1 Sep 2009 @ 1:30 PM

  255. #250 Mark “Simon, do you know that there is going to be a generally cooling effect from clouds?” No of course I don´t. Passing clouds during the day make you feel colder, but cloudy nights are much warmer than cloudless ones. The study of clouds would need to take into account day and night, the percentage of global cover and whether it varies cyclically, whether the hemispheres differ because of the disparity of the area of their oceans, whether indeed oceanic effects dominate or are outweighed by orographic cloud genesis and so on for page after page of important considerations. Your 50% high clouds 50% low clouds, one feedback +ve one -ve nothing more to say is just pathetic. BTW saying “I sit corrected” is not the right way to make an apology by trying to get a cheap laugh from the rest of the class.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 1 Sep 2009 @ 1:56 PM

  256. Just a heads-up, Plimer’s latest response to George Monbiot looks a lot like he’s trying to squirm out of a tight corner to me:

    Dear Mr Monbiot,

    There are seven versions of Heaven and Earth and only my Australian publisher and I know the differences in diagrams, references and text between the seven. It has taken some time to look at your questions and determine which version was used for compilation of the questions. Can you please confirm that you have actually read Heaven and Earth and that your questions derive from that reading?

    Can you please give me an indication when I will get the answers to my questions of science and why you will not debate me on the Michael Medved radio show?

    Comment by Steve Chamberlain — 3 Sep 2009 @ 5:09 AM

  257. 247 Geoff Wexler,

    Thanks. My calculation was based on very simple assumptions, the point being that even if volcanoes emitted CO2 in quantities (by mass) comparable to the estimated solid ejection, it would take something of Toba size to compare with accumulated anthropogenic emissions.

    But we know that the CO2 ejected by recent, “normal” volcanoes must be orders of magnitude lower than that or we would see the blips in the CO2 measurements, which are nevertheless sensitive enough to show both a seasonal cycle and the negative affect of the cooling caused by, say, Pinatubo.

    Plimer’s claim is not just wrong (it is so wrong that even Martin Durkin was obliged to remove it from TGGWS), it is wrong by orders of magnitude.

    BTW Toba is reckoned to be the biggest eruption in the last 25M years, but happened only about 70k years ago. It is thought to have caused a planet-wide die-off and severely threatened the existence of the human species (numbers might have been reduced to only a few tens of thousands). That is the sort of volcano required to “cough” human-level CO2, and even then only if it produces vastly more CO2 for its size than any recent volcano.

    A professor of geology can not possibly be so ignorant, and why would he make a claim too obviously false even for Durkin?

    Comment by TrueSceptic — 3 Sep 2009 @ 7:06 AM

  258. “250 Mark “Simon, do you know that there is going to be a generally cooling effect from clouds?” No of course I don´t.”

    Then why do you think that there is going to be nothing to worry about because clouds are not being modelled as well as you’d like?

    “The study of clouds would need to take into account day and night, ”

    Uh, the amount of day and night is pretty predictable and it’s 50-50 on a decadal average…

    “Your 50% high clouds 50% low clouds, one feedback +ve one -ve nothing more to say is just pathetic.”

    So pathetic you haven’t even thought of it yourself. Or have an answer.

    You want a pacifier to calm you down?

    Comment by Mark — 3 Sep 2009 @ 7:34 AM

  259. Steve Chamberlain 3 September 2009 at 5:09 AM

    “…why you will not debate me on the Michael Medved radio show?“

    Plimer’s choice of venues for “debate” is quite astonishing. Michael Medved? A right wing radio talk circus is Plimer’s choice for a reasoned debate?

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 3 Sep 2009 @ 11:23 AM

  260. @simon abingdon:

    BTW saying “I sit corrected” is not the right way to make an apology by trying to get a cheap laugh from the rest of the class.

    I didn’t think he needed to make an apology – and since mine was the post to which he replied…

    Comment by Robin Levett — 3 Sep 2009 @ 1:05 PM

  261. Somewhat off-topic, but here’s a heads-up on the Heartland Institute’s upcoming Fourth International ‘Conference’ on Climate Change. They’ve announced the theme of their ‘conference’:

    The conference’s theme will be “Science versus Alarmism.” The theme reflects (a) the growing divide between what science has to say about the causes, scale, and consequences of climate change, on the one hand, and what politicians and the media say on the other hand; and (b) that the debate is not between “skeptics” and the “consensus of scientists” but between science and alarmism.

    A response to this nonsense from the RealClimatati will be great.


    Comment by frankbi — 3 Sep 2009 @ 2:13 PM

  262. (Also, the inactivists seem to be bent on making this “growing divide between (skeptical) science and alarmism” into a meme: see Climate Depot.)


    Comment by frankbi — 3 Sep 2009 @ 2:18 PM

  263. Re: #257 TrueSceptic

    Thanks for the reply.

    Sometimes it is worth following through all of the consequences of accepting a false premise. Some of the audience have already ignored a lot of the science, so rejecting a bit more is not a big deal for them. Thus an argument supported by data may perhaps be helped by ‘accepting’ the falsehood and taking it through to the bitter end.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 3 Sep 2009 @ 2:30 PM

  264. TrueSceptic (257) — Mt. Toba supereruption makes not even a blip in the Vostok CO2 concentration records. By the way, I know of no extinction evnets from that event, although it was a near thing for humans and even nearer for Bengal tigers.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 3 Sep 2009 @ 3:55 PM

  265. 264 David,

    Thanks. As Geoff said, I took the idea to the extreme and it still doesn’t work.

    I’m interested in the Toba “biological fall-out”. Do you have info that can’t be found via, say, Wikipedia (where I got my basic figures)?

    Comment by TrueSceptic — 3 Sep 2009 @ 5:34 PM

  266. Plimer appears to be showing off his skill at capturing attention, always drawing attention back to himself, dodging and weaving, and moving the goalposts — as though he were performing purely for his own chosen audience.

    Trolling — it’s not just for newsgroups and weblogs.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Sep 2009 @ 7:05 PM

  267. TrueSceptic (265) — The ash fall in South Asia was extreme, thus Bengal tigers went through a genetic narrowing episode. The article in Scientific American on supereruptions (a few years ago) highlights Mt. Toba, pointing towards a 3–6 years interval of very cold weather. Despite that, there are no extinctions known to me. But India is paleontologically understudied, so there might have been some unique life forms there which were exterpated by the supereruption.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 3 Sep 2009 @ 7:51 PM

  268. Dear Gavin,

    somehow my initial reply to you #176-comment was not published.
    So, let me try again:
    Thank you very much for your inline comment on this topic. I do understand that you must feel that this is often discussed and well understood.
    But, please also read carefully what I wrote, because I think to have asked a new question and I am not aware of an answer providing me with the information where I might go wrong . .
    I do not doubt that manmade additional CO2 is a very reasonable suspect as reason for the raise of the atmospheric CO2-concentration, but I am not convinced, that the C-isotope composition, the near surface sea water(NSSW) pH-value or your newly brought O-concentration provide any prove beside that they show what we already know: We burn fossil fuel.
    (As said before the NSSW-pH change shows, that in this part of the oceans CO2 is close to eqilibrium to the atmosphere and with isotopes you can follow the human CO2 impact in the reservoirs)

    My question was and is, if the C-isotope-ratio (and the oxygene concentration for that matter) reflects the amtospheric CO2-concentration change or just the amount of burned fuel.

    In a “not very likely to happen-Gedankenexperiment”, you can ask yourself, what will happen, if under the current fuel burn situation aliens would start to take significant amount CO2 out of the atmosphere (without preferring any isotope) . .

    a) if the isotope ratio reflect the change of concentration, it would revere itself as soon as the aliens go to work
    b) if the isotope-ratio (and the oxygene) only reflects the relative amount of burned CO2, it would continue with a similar tendency s without any alien.

    I tend to say b) is what would happen indicating what I said before:
    Oxygene levels and C-isotope-ratios only reflect the simple fact:
    We burn fossil fuel! They do not reflect the change of atmospheric CO2-concentration and cannot be used as a proof of that!

    All the best,

    P.S.: Of course you can come up with a more realistic model, where the amount of CO2 in the amtmosphere decreases, while we still burn fuel like sequestering CO2 into the deep sea or so, but this is not relevant for my problem.

    [Response: I have no real idea what you are asking here (sorry). If aliens or anyone takes out CO2 by magic (or air capture), this won’t effect the isotope ratios even if it reduces CO2 back to pre-industrial levels. Of course all of the metrics we have for the carbon cycle are consistent with the source of the carbon coming from industrial activity (since that is where it has indeed come from) – they are however inconsistent with any other source of the carbon or indeed any alien-derived messing about with the carbon cycle (unless they are removing all the anthropogenic carbon and replacing it with carbon of exactly the same composition- at which point one might well ask what the point is in discussing it). – gavin]

    Comment by Laws of Nature — 4 Sep 2009 @ 7:31 AM

  269. BTW thanks for this Gavin. People like you and James Hansen do the thankless work that used to be a bit less thankless when Sagan et al. were doing it.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 4 Sep 2009 @ 9:38 PM

  270. I’ve received a (wholly inadequate) response from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about my complaint concerning Plimer’s “Unleashed” online piece.

    The Tony Jones interview was just one of several ABC pieces that had previously demolished Plimer’s various assertions. Yet ABC claims that the publication of Plimer’s “Unleashed” piece was in accord with the ABC’s Code of Practice requirement to “take reasonable steps to ensure factual accuracy”. I beg to differ.

    Comment by Deep Climate — 5 Sep 2009 @ 3:38 PM

  271. Gosh, it would not look good if Plimer’s volcanic burp would raise the CO2 by another 1 in 10,000

    Comment by Sekerob — 5 Sep 2009 @ 4:21 PM

  272. Laws of Nature,
    Your post was rether difficult to parse. However, you need to consider the evidence and what the evidence implies. First, what is measured at Mauna Loa is the CO2 concentration–the whole enchilada, not just the portion with C-13 or C-14. We know it is increasing. Now as to the isotopic data–we know the C-13 and C-14 contents are decreasing. This implies a that the CO2 is from a fossil source–and the largest source of fossil carbon is burning of fossil fuels. That’s it.

    As to ocean pH, that has to fall as atmospheric CO2 rises–just chemical physics.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 5 Sep 2009 @ 9:20 PM

  273. Plimer’s field is not climate. What he teaches is mining geology (what a very astute commenter on a science blog described as part of “economic geology”). You can’t really conclude anything about how he is as an academic instructor from his shameful and ignorant behavior writing and talking about climate.

    It shouldn’t be surprising, even, that he knows less than many of us commenting on science blogs about climate. He’s made no effort to educate himself, because he knows it would undercut his certainty when he talks to the public.

    It’s a good idea to somehow deduct the things people “know” that just aren’t true from their net knowledge. If you know, for instance, that not all vertebrates use X and Y chromosomes, but you also think the Earth is 10,000 years old and species were created specially, you know less than I do if all I know is that species came mostly from natural selection and random mutation. It takes 10 minutes and 3 or 4 examples to get me up to speed on what you know. Getting you up to speed on what I know might take years or be impossible.

    Also: “It’s very difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 6 Sep 2009 @ 1:57 AM

  274. #268 Laws of Nature

    I’m not sure it is possible for you to be more obfuscative, though I am confident you will at least attempt to prove me wrong.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 6 Sep 2009 @ 4:32 PM

  275. Sekerob,

    I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to post that link over on Deltoid, as it’s pure gold.

    Comment by Eamon — 7 Sep 2009 @ 1:36 AM

  276. Wili,

    This might be of interest to you. S4 deals with ice, but you need to wait until next week to find out.

    Comment by abi — 9 Sep 2009 @ 6:10 AM

  277. The CHANGE in C isotope ratios reflects fossil fuel burning just as the CHANGE in oxygen concentrations does.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 9 Sep 2009 @ 6:44 AM

  278. #Re 277
    Dear Eli Rabett,
    I agree to that, my question was, if you can see anything else form that numbers?
    Otherwise it is like I called it “complicated wording”
    for “we burn fuel”.
    While the assumption “burning fuel leads to rising atmospheric CO2 concentration” is reasonable, my question was and is if and how the isotope analysis provide any prove or futher information for that.

    All the best regards,
    P.S.: Dear Moderator, this question seems to interest not only me, please allow an open discussion on it, it is a very important and interesting topic!

    Comment by Laws of Nature — 11 Sep 2009 @ 12:28 AM

  279. #Re 278

    The IPCC 4th Assessment Report answers your question very clearly on page 139 of the Working Group I report. It’s available online from

    See also the explaination from the 3rd Assessment report in 2001 (also available online). Prentice, I.C., et al., 2001: The carbon cycle and atmospheric carbon dioxide.
    In: Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis. Contribution of Working
    Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel
    on Climate Change [Houghton, J.T., et al. (eds.)]. Cambridge University
    Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 184–238.

    Comment by Silk — 13 Sep 2009 @ 4:51 PM

  280. You really shot yourself in the foot with question number one, because your attempted justification actually points more or less towards the inevitable hole within your argument:

    “The existence of prior warm periods that may have been caused by different effects (such as solar changes, orbital variation, continental configuration etc.) does not imply that the human-caused increase in CO2 is not causing warming now. ”

    Could just as easily read:

    The proven existence of prior warm periods that may have been caused by different effects (such as solar changes, orbital variation, continental configuration etc.) does imply that the human-caused increase in CO2 is not causing warming now (Or Ever). -(ie, that any potentially observed warming is natural in source).

    If you have a proven pattern, and proven causes and effects, then ignoring them as the most likely culprits is quite wrong indeed. Such does not have to be scientific in nature either, but rather common sense based and logical. Sometimes individuals become far too caught up in minute field-oriented details, which subsequently prevents the observance of the vast and simple reality (Or likelihood thereof).

    Please, by all means, carry on with your debate and analysis. I simply felt the need to point out the aforementioned.

    [Response: By your logic, since lightning is proven to set forest fires there is no point in considering the possibility of arson. Despite there being cc-tv coverage of the suspect leaving the area carrying an empty kerosene can and a big box of matches. By all means, continue in your ignorance of basic logic. – gavin]

    Comment by TheAnalyst — 14 Sep 2009 @ 4:28 AM

  281. #268, 278 “Laws of Nature”,

    Your question is neither interesting nor important. Ray Ladbury (#272) has explained your mistake to you. You are right that an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration does not follow from carbon isotope ratios. Noone says it does. The CO2 increase is measured directly directly (you can read how it’s done at Mauna Loa). The isotope ratio is not an index of the concentration, it is a fingerprint of the source.

    Here’s a parable of two shepherds. You have 10,000 sheep, 1% of which are black. Your neighbor also has 10,000 sheep, 2% of which are black. One dark and cloudy night later, the b/w ratio of your neighbor’s sheep has dropped to 1.67%. That doesn’t say anything about how many sheep your neighbor’s got. So you count’em. Your neighbor now suddenly has 15,000 sheep. Moreover, you are down to 5,000 (the b/w ratio is unchanged; in the dark they all look grey, so the thief got a random sample). Do the math.

    (How would you know the b/w ratio of your neighbor’s sheep before you’ve counted them? Maybe by measuring the sheep albedo on your neighbor’s pastures…)

    Comment by CM — 14 Sep 2009 @ 6:42 AM

  282. TheAnalyst (#280)- The fundamental error in your logic makes one wonder what kind of analyst you are. With your understanding of logic (as well as the science), you should be careful about accusing a practicing scientist of having a “hole in your argument.” If you had posted the same point humbly and respectfully, your statement would have been accepted as naive, but sincere, and would not have made you look quite so foolish.

    Comment by Ron Taylor — 14 Sep 2009 @ 9:58 AM

  283. “By your logic, since lightning is proven to set forest fires there is no point in considering the possibility of arson.”

    Or murder.

    After all, people are dropping down dead left and right all the time.

    Hence murder is impossible.

    Comment by Mark — 14 Sep 2009 @ 10:10 AM

  284. As the dictum goes: “One thousand scholars can not answer the question of one ignorant student who does not wish to learn”.

    Comment by Andy — 16 Sep 2009 @ 9:02 PM

  285. Obfuscation is ssupreme.

    As in the dictum, spread by tobacco industry lobbyists (some of whom transmuted to the climate debate) “DOUBT IS OUR PRODUCT”.

    Comment by Andy — 16 Sep 2009 @ 9:11 PM

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