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Wall Street Journal Again

Filed under: — david @ 3 February 2006

The Wall Street Journal has published another fair and balanced critique of climate change science and negotiations, in a Business World commentary by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr, here. A summary of the arguments is as follows:

1. It will never be possible to prove that global warming is real. In the same way, we point out, it will never be possible to prove that anybody died from lung cancer because of smoking. Did you actually witness that first DNA mutation?

2. The reasonable lay person cannot be expected to read a scientific paper, so the rational response is to ignore the issue.

3. A paper about frogs did not argue convincingly that people cause global warming.

4. People sometimes distort the truth (truly a shocking charge coming from the WSJ).

5. Global change negotiations are stalled in politics, so the science must be wrong.

Final thought: When climate does change, we’ll be able to fix it anyway.


138 Responses to “Wall Street Journal Again”

  1. 1
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    It’s good the WSJ requires a subscription, so not many will be reading the article, only rich people who are already in permanent denial of GW.

    Can you get a copy of the article for us poor people, so we can have a good laugh too?

  2. 2
    Anon says:

    A Global Warming Worksheet By HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR.
    February 1, 2006; Page A15

    As used by the media, “global warming” refers to the theory not only that the earth is warming, but doing so because of human industrial activity.

    How can a reasonably diligent citizen assess this claim? Measuring average global temperature is not an easy matter. It’s a big planet, with lots of ways and places to take its temperature. Scientists, naturally, have to rely on record keepers in decades past, using different instruments, to produce what has become the conventionally accepted estimate of a one-degree rise over the past century.

    But even if a change is measured, how do we know it’s manmade? Giant, mile-thick sheaths of ice have come and gone from North America in recent millennia. In our unstable and evolving planet, temperature is often either rising or falling. Who knows whether a trend is the product of human activity or natural?

    The answer is nobody. All we have is hypothesis. Let’s be honest: A diligent and engaged citizen judges these matters based on the perceived credibility of public figures who affiliate themselves with one view or another. Less engaged citizens, whose views are reflected in polls showing a growing public concern about global warming, are simply registering the prevalence of media mentions of global warming.

    In both cases, it may be rational to assume there wouldn’t be so much noise about global warming unless responsible individuals had validated the scientific claims. This is a rational assumption, but not necessarily a reliable one. Politicians adopt views that are popular in order to be popular. Scientists subscribe to theories that later are proved to be wrong. There are “belief” processes at work even in the community of climate researchers.

    So how else might an intelligent layperson judge the matter?

    Well, he could begin by evaluating the claim that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased from 0.028% to 0.036% without necessarily taking the measurements himself. This finding is so straightforward, it’s reasonable to assume it would have been widely debunked if unreliable.

    Next, the claim that this should lead to higher temperatures because of the heat-absorbing qualities of the CO2 molecule. A reasonable person might be tempted to take this finding on faith too, for a different reason: because even ardent believers in global warming accept that this fact alone wouldn’t justify belief in manmade global warming.

    That’s because all things are not equal: The climate is a vast, complex and poorly understood system. Scientists must resort to elaborate computer models to address a multiplicity of variables and feedbacks before they can plausibly suggest (choice of verb is deliberate here) that the net effect of increased carbon dioxide is the observed increase in temperature.

    By now, a diligent layperson is equipped to doubt any confident assertion that manmade warming is taking place. Models are not the climate, and may not accurately reflect the workings of the climate, especially when claiming to detect changes that are small and hard to differentiate from natural changes.

    Note this doesn’t make our conscientious citizen a global warming “denier.” It makes him a person who recognizes that the case isn’t proved and probably can’t be proved with current knowledge.

    He’s also entitled to turn his attention now to the nonscientific factors affecting public professions of certainty about manmade global warming.

    Nobody doubts, for instance, that when Bill Clinton asserts global warming is the greatest threat to mankind, he’s consulting not the science but a purported “consensus” of scientists. A layman asks himself: What can “consensus” mean if it asserts a judgment nobody is equipped to confidently make?

    Likewise, a study that made news worldwide last month purported to show the death of frogs from warming. It did not show the death of frogs from manmade warming — the study contributed zero evidence one way or another on a human role in climate change. You would have thought otherwise from the media reports. Ditto Al Gore, who offers a traveling slide show (now a movie) in which he catalogs possible dire consequences of global warming in non sequitur fashion to persuade audiences that climate change is caused by human activity and would yield to human action.

    Myanna Lahsen, an anthropologist who spent several years observing and interviewing staff at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, shows in a new paper that even climate modelers themselves, who appreciate better than anyone the limits of their work, nonetheless slip into unwarranted certainty in public. She quotes one: “It is easy to get caught up in it; you start to believe that what happens in your model must be what happens in the real world. And often that is not true.”

    All this explains why, inevitably and unfortunately, today’s debate over global warming revolves almost exclusively around the status and motives of spokesmen for opposing viewpoints, rather than the science and its limits. Yet this is a story of progress.

    Tony Blair, whose government has been a steady sounder of climate warnings, now says he recognizes the improbability of nations sacrificing their economic growth based on uncertain climate science.

    He and many others also recognize that the problems associated with climate change (whether manmade or natural) are the same old problems of poverty, disease, and natural hazards like floods, storms and droughts. Money spent directly on these problems is a much surer bet than money spent trying to control a climate change process that we don’t understand.

    A final thought that probably won’t please the environmentalists: Whatever the truth of climate change turns out to be, today’s vast investment in climate research will likely lead someday to technologies that really will allow us to alter local and global weather.

  3. 3
    Deech56 says:

    Good gravy. So “today’s vast investment in climate research will likely lead someday to technologies that really will allow us to alter local and global weather”? I didn’t know that you all had the power, and I didn’t know that that was in the scope of your work. This editorial could be used in journalism school (Mr. Jenkins did go to one) as a textbook example of cherry picking, misinterpretation, and if we look hard enough we might even be able to find a straw man.

    And Lynn, I am afraid that the WSJ editorial pages are read faithfully by those who hold the power these days. How does one counter these writers? Can some key (nonscientist) opinion leaders be converted? Challenges indeed, and I am glad that RC is doing is part.

  4. 4
    Pat Neuman says:

    U.S. Congressional investigators pointed to a lack of a clear chain of command and “central focal point” in dealing with the public on Hurricane Katrina. http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/02/01/katrina.washington.ap/index.html

    Likewise, in the U.S. we can point to a lack of a clear chain of command and “central focal point” in dealing with the public on global warming.

    What agency in the U.S. has “central focal point” authority in dealing with the public on global warming? NOAA? EPA? NASA? None.

    If the U.S. had an agency with some authority as the “central focal point” on global warming we most likely would not see an article like the one above.

    According to Dr. Jim Hansen, the first line in NASA’s mission statement is to “understand and protect our home planet”. I think NASA needs to be the “central focal point” in the U.S. on global warming. The functions of NOAA and EPA in dealing with people on global warming should be supportive, mainly in education and enforcement of NASA decisions.

  5. 5
    Claire Kenyon says:

    Nice, very accurate summary!

  6. 6
    Coby says:

    All that talk about what a “diligent layperson” would do and think…yet why do I get the feeling that is not their target audience?

  7. 7
    Chris O'Neill says:

    One opinion-influencing factor that will change (as far as we know) is the increasing global temperature. I’m wondering what temperature rises it will take to have particular pschological influence. The whole degrees are the obvious ones but even then their influence is limited by the view “why worry about one degree, it varies by much more than that so how could it cause a problem?” In any case, it won’t get to 1 degree C warming until about 2015 so this factor won’t change much for a long time.

  8. 8
    Tom Fiddaman says:

    Look on the bright side: at least one septic now admits that he doesn’t have a clue about the science.

  9. 9
    Deech56 says:

    Re #7. That is true, but all one needs is one unseasonably cold month in one place and suddenly it’s “Yeah, now where’s your global warming.”

    Back to the subject, does the WSJ offer rebuttals? Wouldn’t a guest column by Dr. Hansen or one of the writers of this blog be nice. But I realize that the WSJ opinion page is not exactly balanced, unlike the opinion pages of the so-called liberal papers.

  10. 10
    Ken says:

    If you read RealClimate, Mr. Jenkins, the bottom-line question that you and others of your ilk need to address is this: Is there any shred of evidence that a doubling of natural atmospheric CO2 levels will not cause dangerous (albeit unpredictable) climate change? – or that uncertainties in climate science are biased toward exaggerating the effects of climate change? And unless and until such evidence exists, is there any rational basis for assuming that the effects of CO2 doubling will be benign – or that it will be easier to “adapt” than to avoid such doubling? (I’m sure the editors of RealClimate would be happy to post your response.)

  11. 11
    joel Hammer says:

    Speaking of the WSJ, did you see the article describing the vicious fight between climatologists over the contribution of global warming to the recent severe hurricane season?

    If the climatologists act like this, how can the lay person have any confidence in the science of climate?

    [Response: The reason why science works as a methodology is that it transcends individual personalities - which climate science (as well as all other human endeavours) has in abundance. -gavin]

  12. 12
    Mark Shapiro says:

    How many times have I heard a skeptic say something like “. . . climate is a vast, complex, and poorly understood system . . .” and then just slightly later conclude that, somehow, he understands it well enough to know global warming isn’t happening?

    But there is another assumption, often not stated, that slowing down emission growth means sacrificing economic growth. That is simply not necessary, as the Rocky Mountain Institute and others have shown repeatedly: energy efficiency and renewable sources can make us healthier, wealthier, and safer, if we enact policies to put them to use.

  13. 13
    jimmy walter says:

    Wow! Wall Street journal claims science is bunk! That “Who knows whether a trend is the product of human activity or natural?” They do not even attempt to summarize or evaluate. They just declare, “The answer is nobody.”
    They then show their ignorance of scientific structure, “All we have is hypothesis.” Sorry, WSJ, we have facts and logic. That takes it to “a theory”, which is all we have on any subject. All science is a model of reality, a contraction, less than perfect. not exact.

    But the WSJ hits the real problem on the head, “Let’s be honest: A diligent and engaged citizen judges these matters based on the perceived credibility of public figures who affiliate themselves with one view or another. Less engaged citizens, whose views are reflected in polls showing a growing public concern about global warming, are simply registering the prevalence of media mentions of global warming.”

    Here they are undeniably correct, either way you look at it. But let us not praise them for the truth since they use it to supress the truth. Whether mankind is totally responsible or capable of changing the outcome, we should try to understand and correct it now, before it is too late – and too late is soon.

    Off topic, but the WSJ and capitalism are radical religions that are destroying the world. Read Dr Albert Ellis, founder of Cognitive Psychology branch, http://www.walden3.org/Capitalism%20Religion.htm

  14. 14
    Don Flood says:

    ID (“Intelligent Design”) is true, though! As I recall, the WSJ has published several articles on that! And, some WSJers even say that the “resurrection” of Jesus is a historical fact!! Okay, I am getting “off topic” here again…not that I think that such a person ever lived. (That was a “disclaimer,” by the way.)

  15. 15

    Jenkins says one thing that strikes me as very apt. “A diligent and engaged citizen judges these matters based on the perceived credibility of public figures who affiliate themselves with one view or another.” Certainly the arcane details of the forcings, feedbacks, and carbon isotopes can quickly lose an ordinary citizen, but the credibility of the various actors in the debate over global warming is easily apparent. Fred Singer, Pat Michaels, and Steve Milloy, on the one hand, and Hansen, Thompson and Keeling on the other; NASA, NOAA, and the IPPC, versus SEPP, Envirotruth, and CO2 science; Tech Central Station and the Wall Street Journal, in contrast to Realclimate, Science and Nature. By this analysis alone, a diligent layperson can see that arguments against climate science are largely a think-tank media campaign by ideologically driven spokesman, while the theory of global warming is the work of the credible scientists with a proven history of integrity. In a debate between think tank media campaigns, political appointees, and qualified scientists, diligent citizens would do well to listen to the scientists.

  16. 16
    grundt says:

    #2 Of course “. . . climate is a vast, complex, and poorly understood system . . .” . That´s why the Precautionary Principle is so important. People many times forgets the chemistry of Earth has been tremendously altered by man in these about 50-100 last years. Not only CO2 has a strong influence. With a minimum knowledge about everyday life we can realize that millions of synthetic compunds (including many gaseous ones)are inducing alterations in the behaviour of the planet systems. And only ignorance can lead people to think that 1 degree C or 0,0XX of some compounds are negligible quantities.
    Natural causes are there warming the planet of course. We are only helping to worsen the trend.

  17. 17
    Pat Neuman says:

    In #15,

    Michael Seward wrote … Fred Singer, Pat Michaels, and Steve Milloy, on the one hand, and Hansen, Thompson and Keeling on the other; NASA, NOAA, and the IPPC, versus SEPP, Envirotruth, and CO2 science;” …

    To me personally, it would make a lot more sense to break some of the agencies into pieces, then put the pieces into categories like SCIENCE vs WHATEVER.

    I’d group NCDC, CMDL (both in NOAA) with GISS and IPPC into the SCIENCE category, and put NOAA’s NWS (including NHC, CPC, CDC) in with SEPP, Envirotruth, the Association of State Climatologists and CO2 science into the WHATEVER category. NOAA headquarters would be grouped with NWS into WHATEVER.

    Follow?

  18. 18
    Steve Latham says:

    It’s curious that he thinks climate science is incapable of describing and attributing large-scale changes in climate to cause, but then has faith that climate science will allow us to alter climate at will. That seems kind of cart-before-the-horse-ish to me.

  19. 19
    Mark Shapiro says:

    Re #16: Citizens such as Mr. Jenkins in the WSJ decide that, despite the warnings from science, they just don’t know for certain what is going to happen with climate and AGW. But then they conclude that this carefully groomed ignorance justifies continuing an uncontrolled, unscientific, irreversible experiment on the one, and only one, life support system on our entire home planet.

    To subject oneself to such an experiment, such as smoking a cigarrette, is irresponsible, but allowable. To subject a few random neighbors to another, such as driving under the influence, is irresponsible, and thankfully illegal. To subject your six billion neighbors to such an experiment, Mr. Jenkins’ conclusion, is stupefyingly immoral.

  20. 20
    David H says:

    Re #18 Smoking Kills

    Mark, I just drove to Birmingham (UK) and back. It was no experiment, I needed to do it just as I need to keep the house a bit above freezing. Those nearest to me will tell you I do not waste a penny these days. I also used to smoke, not as an experiment but a stupid habit and (long ago) when the data was published that showed it would likely kill me, I quit.

    Show me the data! Not just the conclusions and expert speak. No one doubts that smoking kills not because the experts say so but because all the data upon which they base their findings is publicly available and big as they are the tobacco lobby has not managed to disprove the findings. If you really want to save the planet press for full public disclosure. If the data is incontravertable the sceptics will wither – but it cuts both ways.

    [Response: I very much doubt that the tobacco data is indeed publiclly available online. Or that if it were, you'd have any chance of interpreting it. OTOH the temperature data is: http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/ for some - William]

  21. 21
    serial catowner says:

    If you look at where the WSJ spends their advertising dollar, their target demographic is a 17-year old boy who can’t get a date on Saturday night, watching the Sci-Fi channel.

    Truely pathetic.

  22. 22
    Richard Simons says:

    I became exasperated by a newspaper’s business section (not the WSJ) having numerous articles ridiculing the concept of global warming so I wrote to them saying something like:

    “For 20 years a growing number of climatologists have been saying ‘based on our understanding of how climate works, we expect temperatures to increase’. And so far their predictions seem to have been justified. Meanwhile, other climatologists have been saying ‘you’re wrong!’ but have been unable to come up with a clear refutation and have refused to make predictions of their own.

    Suppose there were two groups of economists and one group said ‘based on our understanding of the economy, these are our predictions for the stock market’ and for 20 years they had been generally correct. A second group, however, had been saying ‘you’re wrong’ but refused to say why or to make predictions of their own.

    Which group of economists would you be more inclined to listen to?”

    The letter did not get published but there was a drop in the number of articles denying the possibility of global warming.

  23. 23
    Caio de Gaia says:

    Forget for a moment the bias in the article. The author makes a good point, people do not understand the science and as such they tend to agree according to their like or dislike for the proponents of the different views. In things like smoking and the ozone layer the cause and effect relation, although debated for some time, was obvious, and the public accepted the science. Global warming is differente, it’s very hard to convince people that 0.5C is a concern when temperatures around the year vary by more than 30C. And for those that try to use a warm winter in the USA as an indication of climate change, there was snow last week in Lisbon, something that had not happened for 52 years. People tend to have a understanding of nature linked to unusual events, not the most frequent.

    Despite its obvious motivations, the WSJ article does indeed show how most people perceive the subject. And by the way, don’t expect that governments will allocate resources unless the problem becomes really serious. This quote in aetiology blog on science blogs about the possibility of the avian flu pandemic sort of defines the state of affairs:

    “Until then, we have lots of groups clamoring loudly about their problems (and the climate change community must be the loudest and most annoying, I admit), of which Avian Flu is only January’s flavor of the month.”

    Climate change is just one of many problems that the public views as being important or not. Politicians will only really get involved when (1) things get so bad that there is no way to ignore the problem, or (2) when the scientific community agrees on the truly important details. Luckily we will reach point (2) before point (1).

  24. 24
    Eli Rabett says:

    Caio de Gaia makes a strong point, people pay attention to the unusual, which is why events such as large hurricanes have a powerful impact. Right now Katrina is the event driving public discourse. Both sides of the policy debate (RPJr, Don Kennedy) are trying to set their own frame around the issue, as is the case for the science side (Emmanuel vs. Gray). A wonderful tag team match.

  25. 25
    Coby says:

    Sad as I am to think of it happening, I am wondering if massive coral reef death will be the event that really does catch peoples attention and cry out “this is unusual and extreme!!” to them.

    I have heard some rumblings about another extreme hurricane season…something to do with La Nina, if I am not garbling it in my memory…

  26. 26
    shargash says:

    They WSJ a bit behind the times in LaLaLand. The new meme in wingnuttia is that a global warming would be a good thing. Everybody likes a nice warm day at the beach. If we can have those in January in New Jersey, so much the better. In fact, since my house is in Eastern PA, maybe I’ll wind up with beach-front property some day! Awesome!

  27. 27

    Re #13 — I could have done without “Off topic, but the WSJ and capitalism are radical religions that are destroying the world.” Enough contrarians are already saying that global-warming scientists want to promote socialism. We don’t need crackpots telling them they’re right.

  28. 28
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    Re: #8
    “one septic”?

  29. 29
    Nora Ingram says:

    I find it interesting that here in West Virginia we are having the mildest winter since I’ve been here (25 years). In contrast, my German exchange student learned from her parents that Germany is experiencing the worst winter in recent history. Rather than global warming, which isn’t well understood, how about climate destabilization? That’s not well understood, either, but is more easily observed. We might do well to consider the suggestions of Rocky Mountain Institute. They seem to know whereof they speak.

  30. 30
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    The WSJ piece is so funny…and revealing. The new denialst argument, now that nearly all skeptical scientists have become GW believers, is we don’t need scientists; any intelligent layperson can figure out whether or not GW is happening. According to Jenkins GW is not happening, because atmospheric CO2 has only increased from .028% to .036%.

    Well, any intelligent layperson can figure that out: that’s a 29% increase (.036 – .028 = .008 & .008/.028 = .29 or 29%). Now, all reasonably educated laypersons should know (I know it & I didn’t even take geology) that the natural atmospheric GHGs warm the earth by 30 degrees & keep us alive. So a 29% percent increase in the most significant (forcing-wise) of them, is really big…& scary.

    I guess many other factors reduce that whopping 29% impact, or we’d be stewing in steam-cooker earth. But I, unlike, Jenkins, defer to scientists to spend 10 years beyond high school getting a good education in the sciences, then study the problem diligently for many years, then come up with conclusions. I defer to their judgment, not Jenkins’s. Sorry, pal. Perhaps you could teach me a little about journalism. Oh yeah, my father was a journalist. I remember him teaching me: “what, where, when, who, and why.” It’s time journalists got back to the basics, rather than making up some cock-eyed lay-science.

    Jenkins also makes the argument we should be spending money on floods and such. Well, we’d have more money to spend on that if we’d just reduce our GHGs by becoming energy/resource efficient/conservative — which can be done by factor 4 or even 10 without lowering our productivity or living standard – see http://www.natcap.org

  31. 31
    grundt says:

    Re #28 Skeptics may have sepsis when infected with poisonous ideas. Or maybe they are comparable to septic tanks.. they accumulate the garbage or waste the denialists say.. Well, English is not my language.
    Many comments here, as always, are very good.
    Regards

  32. 32
    grundt says:

    RE#29 Climate destabilization could be in this case a kind of sub-category for GW, as it could be to Global Freezing. These events happen to contrarrest variations in climate which follow a trend. For me it is thermodynamics.
    And in both cases one could see extreme events.
    Real climate experts, please tell me if I am wrong. I could be wrong. Thanks.Regards

  33. 33

    #29, That is not what I see. So far Continental air masses have not merged, as they usually do each winter. Instead of a Siberian in origin air mass mergin with a North American one, we have smaller cold air zones from Alaske to Scandinavia, Winter air from the continents were kept apart by Arctic Ocean flows. What we learn from this is warming of one area of the world, likely above the Arctic Ocean with thinner ice and more open water, changes the climate everywhere South, Much like ENSO affects a good deal of the world. But at the base of it all, is a warming originating in total darkness, North of the biggest Continent still bathed with more sunlight. which has become isolated, leaving the heat and vapour from the North Pacific, not in any “cycle” or phase that I read about, to inundate North American West Coast with rain and the rest of North America with warmer air.

  34. 34
    Steve Latham says:

    Lynn (#30) made a point about Jenkins’ insinuation that because CO2 is a small proportion of the atmosphere it can’t have a strong influence on climate. I think the ozone hole warnings were generally well received by laypersons. Atmospheric ozone declined something like 5%. I have no idea what that is in ppm (my googling turned up a range of 0.001 ppm to 0.125 ppm in the atmosphere). Were people able to overlook small concentrations then in accepting the scientists’ warnings?
    I wonder if that could be a topic for a post — the political side could be left out, but maybe the two issues could be compared quantitatively. Let’s see, % change in the atmosphere, absolute concentrations, other gases that have similar effects, natural versus antrhopogenic emission/destruction, time to recovery, quality of sampling, strength/weakness of historical record, contradictory data, model quality and comparisons to actual data, biases of scientists (I don’t remember anybody claiming that scientists were conjuring the ozone hole to ensure funding, but maybe people claimed that?), portrayal of the scientific issues/uncertainties in the media… there may be many more apolitical comparisons that would be interesting. If, from a scientific standpoint, the two things are comparable, we might be able to deduce the source of current ‘resistance’ with respect to scientific findings on AGW.

  35. 35
    Mark Shapiro says:

    Re # 20, who reasonably requested: “Show me the data!”

    The data is all here at realclimate.org. It’s under the various “Categories” on the right hand side near the top of very page on this site. And for a good summary of AGW data and models, I can’t beat the talk by Jim Hansen in December 2005 (www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/keeling_talk_and_slides.pdf) that got him in trouble with the NASA censors. This might or might not be enough to convince you and many others.

    But it certainly won’t convince everyone, no matter how much data piles up in the coming years. In the U.S. about half the population still disbelieves Darwin after 150 years, and speaking of tobacco, several tobacco company CEOs testified, under oath, in 2005, that they did not believe that smoking causes cancer!

    We have our work cut out for us. Anybody here know any marketing?

  36. 36
    Tom Fiddaman says:

    Re 34

    AGW skeptic Fred Singer of SEPP is (or was) also an ozone skeptic. He links a 1992 letter or article by Candace Crandall, which states, Is the theoretical understanding of this phenomenon good enough to make predictions? Obviously not. And was this press announcement really necessary? NASA official Michael Kurylo opined that it was important to warn the American public. Some might think of a less charitable explanation-such as NASA budgets and the necessity of cozying up to Sen. Al Gore.

  37. 37
    Pat Neuman says:

    The Twin Cities population was subjected to another on slot of global warming skepticism over the weekend by meteorologists, especially FOX, NBC, and ABC. They’re using a spell of cooler weather (near the 30 year daily average temperatures for the date) in claiming these cooler reading balance out the January 2006 warmest of record temperatures, for records which began in the 1890s. From what I read and hear, the local state of Minnesota climatologist and NWS offices are saying nothing, which is the same as giving support to the false perceptions people are getting from meteorologist holding on to their climate change skeptics views and dishing them out from time to time to gain popularity by making people feel that everything is okay. It’s not okay.

  38. 38
    Wayne Byerly says:

    Somewhat like Jenkins, I feel we do not know enough yet to be certain there is, or there is not global warming, and for sure do not know enough to say the changes are caused by human activity. I wonder how many of those who are so totally convinced that humans are causing the changes – and that humans can reverse whatever it is that is happening – have taken the time to investigate the actual temperature records as they have been recorded by weather station personnel over the years. I have investigated these actual temperature records from hundreds of US locations and dozens of locations from other nations. There is no doubt about the gradual temperature rise during the decades from about 1970 through th 1990′s. No one can deny that. Neither can anyone deny the facts that the in many/most locations, the temperature peaked in about 1940, went down for the next couple of decades, then began to climb through the 1980′s and most of the 1990′s.
    When you analyze the actual annual average temperatures of locations having more than 100 years of such data, you will learn that the claimed increase of about 1 degree per century can be observed in many of these locations. But when you look at the plot of the data, you will discover, just as I did, that the rate of increase has NOT changed enough to be observable from day 1 of these long term records. In other words, the claimed increased rate due to all the increased burning of fossil fuels during the past few decades cannot be proven. It just didn’t happen!
    Unfortunately, not a great number of locations have reliable long-time temperature records. So far, the longest period of average annual temperatures I have found are from one location in the UK. From that location, 346 years of continuous data are available. The 346 year temperature trend line for this location happens to show about 1 1/2 degrees (F.) increase in the 346 years. There is no observable difference in rate of increase in recent years as compared to that of 300 years ago. In fact, there is a period from about 1690 to 1740 in which that location recorded a temperature increase about 1 1/2 times as great as was recorded in the most recent 40 year period. Does anyone want to claim that the huge consumption of fossil fuels in about 1700 cause the significant increase in temperature then?

    Or take another example. I happened to have data from 212 US weather reporting locations. Unfortunately, most of them have too few years of data to provide anything close to reliable long term trend information. For the 47 locations having 80 or more years of data, the average temperature trend line is very slightly downward/cooler. Is this evidence of global warming? I somehow doubt it.
    Or take another example. From the 212 US locations, 101 had unbroken annual average temperature records for the 15 years 1990 through 2004. Each year from these 101 locations represents 73730 individual temperature recordings. A regression on this data shows a decline in average annual temperature over the 15 years. Can anyone prove global warming from this data?
    Or Iceland. Of the 8 locations I was able to download data from, 6 of the 8 show temperature trend lines sloping downward/cooler. Does that prove global warming.

    Please understand, that every piece of data I’m mentioning above represents temperatures which actually occured, and from records which were actually kept from an official weather reporting location. There isn’t any theory, or any subjective analysis involved. It is data representing weather which actually happened.

    No I’m not claiming there is no global warming. But the huge amount of actual data I’ve analyzed sure doesn’t show any different rate of climate change in recent decades that was actually recorded 80 or 100 or more years ago. It is difficult to conclude that any significant amount of whatever is happening can be attributed to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

    Who am I? Just a near 80 year old man who has a clear memory of attending a meeting in about the 1960′s, and hearing a speaker tell us the earth was heading into another ICE AGE because we were putting too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. My how ideas change in a few decades.

    [Response:The ice age stuff is mostly myth: see http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=94. Ice ages from CO2 (in the 60's) sounds garbled, though - William]

  39. 39
    Tom Fiddaman says:

    Re 38

    You’re only looking at half the picture. You also must consider what known forcings were doing over the same period in order to understand the temperature trends, as in Crowley 2000.

  40. 40
    grundt says:

    A very important work you have done, Mr. Byerly. Thank you for the information. Maybe we will never know every piece of evidence of what exactly happened.
    Among the many recognized factors that could eventually cool at least parts of the planet, and this way mask GW tendences (in case there is GW, I think this is the case), is volcanic activity and cloud influence.
    Climate Science is indeed extremely complex.
    And thanks to all the contributors and commentators
    Regards

  41. 41
    Hank Roberts says:

    I wonder, is any search tool available that would take the list of datasets Wayne Byerly provides, and pull up the names of research that used them, to see what the staticians have done with those records? It’s a cite form I hadn’t ever thought to look for.

  42. 42
    Eli Rabett says:

    Of course the world is heading into a new ice age, in about 10K years. (I once heard someone refer to this as the year 10K problem….). OTOH maybe not. There is an interesting review of How Humans Took Control of Climate
    by William F. Ruddiman in a recent Science http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/311/5760/472

  43. 43
    vaughan says:

    Mr. Bylerly–you think that these climate scientists haven’t looked at temperature data? You think they just make this stuff up, or what? Have you published this?

  44. 44
    Claire Kenyon says:

    Mr. Bylerly, I also remember that when I was a child people were talking about the next ice age. But I have also seen that enormous scientific progress has been made. Scientists understand climate much much better now. I had a discussion around 1991 with a climatologist (Duplessy?) who said that he thought we seemed to be headed towards global warming, and suspected that human activity might be partly responsible for it, but that their computer models were very unreliable because they did not know how to take into account some critical factors such as the influence of cloud cover, and that they didn’t really know how to model types of clouds. My impression at the time was that they were worried but very uncertain.

    Now the models are much better, they incorporate many more parameters, their accuracy has been tested by trying them out starting from some date in the past and checking whether the evolution which they predict matches what has been observed since that date, and climatologists can now speak with confidence.

    A lot of funding has gone into that area, a lot of successful research work has been done, and the ability to predict the general evolution of climate with near certainty is our reward.

  45. 45
    llewelly says:

    Re 25, Coby: ‘I have heard some rumblings about another extreme hurricane season…something to do with La Nina, if I am not garbling it in my memory… ‘

    You can find Klotzbach and Gray’s forecast for the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season here:
    http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/forecasts/2005/dec2005/

    They forecast 17 tropical storms, 9 of those reaching hurricane strength, and 5 of those reaching major hurricane strength. If this is correct, 2006 will be one one of the most active seasons on record. Since 1950 only 3 seasons have had more than 17 tropical storms, only 5 seasons have had more than 9 hurricanes, and only 7 have had more than 5 major hurricanes.(1) Further, 2006 would then be the 4th consecutive year with 15 or more tropical storms; prior to 2003-2005, there was no record of two consecutive seasons with more than 15 tropical storms. An average season by Dr Gray’s definition is 9.6 tropical storms, 5.9 of those reaching hurricane strength, and 2.3 reaching major hurricane strength. For a slightly different background on hurricane climatology, see the NHC’s page on the subject:
    http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pastprofile.shtml

    Dr. Gray’s team (which has apparently just become Klotzbach’s team) has correctly forecast whether or not the following hurricane season would be above average 6 times out of 7. (Based on their most recent 7 December forecasts.) However, the same 7 forecasts have averaged about 4 tropical storms less than actual season activity. I don’t know what his success for his earlier forecasts has been, but they were made with substantially different methods.

    Klotzbach and Gray’s forecast was made with the expectation that La Nina conditions would *not* be present during the 2006 hurricane season. La Nina is correlated with hyperactive hurricane seasons, and with more costly hurricane seasons(2) (after lifestyle changes have been accounted for). However, several hyperactive and costly seasons, such as 2004 and 2005, have occurred without La Nina conditions.

    NOAA did not forecast the current La Nina conditions until about the middle of January (over 1 month after the above forecast).(3) NOAA announced La Nina officially on February 2nd.(4) La Nina conditions are expected to continue for about 3-6 months. It is rare to have Atlantic hurricane activity before June, and the most activity occurs August to October, La Nina conditions may no longer be present during the 2006 hurricane season.

    Dr. Gray denies that humans have significantly contributed to the warming of the earth, and that global warming might have any effect on tropical cyclones. He has also predicted ‘we will start to see a weak cooling trend’.(5) However, despite my references of Gray’s work on tropical cyclones, when it comes to climate change, I find the IPCC TAR much more convincing than Dr. Gray’s stance.

    (1) My own admittedly cursory analysis of the ‘Best Track’ hurricane data, for years from 1950 – 2004, and Wikipedia’s 2005 Atlantic hurricane season article. See http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/ for Best Track data, or http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/E11.html for a neatly formatted table. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_Atlantic_hurricane_season for Wikipedia’s article.

    (2) Correlation between La Nina and costly hurricane seasons:
    http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Landsea/lanina/

    (3) NOAA La Nina forecast.
    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/enso_advisory/

    (4) NOAA La Nina announcement.
    http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2006/s2572.htm

    (5) Dr. Gray denial of AGW.
    http://epw.senate.gov/hearing_statements.cfm?id=246768

    Older Dr. Gray forecasts:
    http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/forecasts/1999/fcst99/
    http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Forecasts/2000/fcst2000/index.html
    http://tropical.atmos.colostate.edu/Forecasts/2001/fcst2001/index.html
    http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Forecasts/2002/fcst2002/
    http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Forecasts/2002/dec2002/
    http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Forecasts/2003/dec2003/
    http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/forecasts/2004/dec2004/

  46. 46

    Yes, the esteemed Dr. William (there is no global warming) Gray. His forecasts are so darn useful. Who needs those five day forecasts, based upon solid science, mathematical models and supercomputer simulations, giving you plenty of time to batten down the hatches and/or evacuate, when we can have a one year prediction based upon pseudo science, telling us … exactly … nothing! Kudos all around Dr. Gray!

  47. 47
    Coby says:

    Thanks very much for such an informative response, llewelly! I was aware Dr Gray did not believe GW was causing worse hurricane seasons, I did not know he had thrown in his lot with the likes of Steve Milloy.

  48. 48
    Coby says:

    #38 Wayne Breyerley

    Can you provide a link to the data used and your analysis of it? Since you are making a rather extraordinary claim that the standard analyses of temperature data are either flawed or fraudulent, one might expect a little bit of substantiation, something more than personal and ambiguous anecdote.

    Thanks in advance.

  49. 49
    Pat Neuman says:

    I could use a bit more explanation on #33, although it seems to be happening as you said. The meteorologists here are backing off on calling for a severe blast of cold air dropping down from the Arctic into the Midwest by mid-Feb, which they claimed was in the works more than a week ago. Now they say it won’t be all that bad after all.

    That’s how it usually goes around here. They don’t see the weather getting as warm as it gets and they think they see it getting a lot colder than it gets. It makes me wonder how their verification program works. I’d think a good verification program would highlight the biases in the forecasts. Maybe some of the mets here can help on that?

  50. 50

    #49, Pat These times fit within the Twilight zone of weather/climate… Met guys don’t explain causations on most instances, just what is happening. Climate guys explain causations but either for way back in history, of far ahead in time. I have been reading a lot of TV met guys calling for winter next week (over the last 6 weeks). The Genesis for thiis anticipation is last October’s forecast for a bitterly cold winter, incidentally this forecast gave a spike for crude oil prices, anyways, a “bitterly cold winter ” should strike everybody frozen soon! But if you really look at the GCM long range Global charts, they have been very accurate (within 7 days), and all they showed was planetary wave after wave moving from the Pacific to the Atlantic doing the same wave action since mid-December. I guess that TV met guy of yours was thinking that winter has to strike hard soon, like ordinary folk say “we are going to pay for it” . But that may not happen, the key here is Behring Strait to Wardle Island cold air Flow, totally shut down… If it revives, ya , there may be a blast, but it is not for the next 7 days and the sun is getting higher every minute.

    All met and climate guys and ladies should try to be oblivious to borders, politics, we should merely reflect on our observations and calculations. Hurricanes and Continental air masses are apolitical. We excel when we excercise our opinions about our speciality. I find articles like this Wall street Journal one, a mere distraction, a comment by press box journalists looking at the parking lot instead of the football game.


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