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Filed under: — eric @ 1 November 2006

There has been an interesting exchange of letters in the Forum section of the American Geophysical Union’s weekly newspaper, EOS. Last year, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) took the remarkable step of giving a fiction writer, Michael Crichton, its journalism award. Representatives of the American Quaternary Association (AMQUA )1 took offense and wrote a letter to EOS about it. Then Fred Singer and Kevin Corbett wrote to AGU to complain about AMQUA’s letter.

Singer claims to be defending the AAPG, though it is by no means clear that the official position of AAPG is representative of its members (see the discussion on AAPG’s website, here (Note: subsequent to this article, these pages were put back into the members-only area)). For his part, Corbett accused the American Geophysical Union of “trenchant advocacy for a preferred political agenda.” We think that AGU’s official response was right on the mark: “AGU does not have any agenda in this arena beyond ensuring that the best available science is used in making public policy.” You can read the complete letters, and AGU’s response, here.

In further response to Singer’s letter, we (and the AMQUA folks) are certainly aware of the evidence for the so-called “1500-year cycle” in climate. But we are unaware of any evidence that this has anything to do with the current warming, as Singer claims. And we find it is curious that Singer’s recent view that the earth is cooling has been replaced with the view that the current warming is “unstoppable.”2

It also worth pointing out something in Corbett’s letter that AGU neglected to mention (no doubt because they were being polite). In trying to make the point that the “anthropogenic hypothesis” (that humans are influencing climate) is controversial, Corbett cites a recent EOS article. In that article,3 Wally Broecker and Thomas Stocker contest the idea that humans began significantly influencing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations thousands of years ago. But nowhere do Broecker and Stocker ever question that humans are the chief cause of rising CO2 since the industrial era began (i.e. around 1850).

Wally Broecker is one of the world’s most respected climate scientists. Citing one of his papers (or anyone’s paper) as if it made a point that it most certainly did not — and with which Broecker would disagree completely — is poor scientific practice, and is very misleading, at best. We suggest that Mr. Corbett be a little more careful with such things if he wishes to be taken seriously.

1The Quaternary refers to the last ~2 millions years of earth history, during which the great ice ages have occurred.
2Singer, S. F. and D. T. Avery (2006), Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years, 260 pp., Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, Md.
3Broecker, W. S., and T. F. Stocker (2006), The Holocene CO2 rise: Anthropogenic or natural?, Eos Trans. AGU 87(3), 27.

67 Responses to “AGU, AAPG and AMQUA”

  1. 51
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 46

    Bryan you said [Pumping CO2 into a coal or organic shale causes it to produce more methane gas.]

    I agree CO2 injection into active and shut-in oil and gas deposits is a plus for domestic production.

    I would appreciate a cite and/or additional information pertaining to CO2 injection into coal or shale deposits will produce methane. The chemistry might be simple but it escapes me. Though, it is important information for those considering carbon capture and sequestration as a CO2 atmospheric concentration option.

    By the way, I calculated the volume of 2004 CO2 emissions from the US electric generation sector. Sequestering that CO2 will require a huge box.

    4.8 billion pounds = 39.5 trillion cubic feet = 268 cubic miles of CO2.

  2. 52
    Eli Rabett says:

    Pump hot anything into shale or coal and you get methane. Pump superheated steam in and you get town gas (CO and H2). A fair amount of methane is found in coal mines (bitumous more than anthracite), it is the principle thing that goes boom when one blows up.

    Here are some URLs

    there should be enough buzzwords in there for a good Google

  3. 53
    Mark A. York says:

    “The skeptics are the new radicals”

    Oh but if only they had something valid to add instead of everyone is wrong but us. They’re wrong for being right to this bunch. Sad to watch really.

  4. 54

    Re: Gavin response to #48,

    As noted in my quote and elsewhere from Hansen’s paper, it states that it uses the effective forcings to “drive” the simulated climate change. This is repeated both in the plots and in the table. It does not state that these forcings were used as a diagnostic. You are pretty far down the author list, are you sure you were intimately enough evolved to know what they were doing? If you are right, then “drive”, and it was just a diagnostic, it was misleading choice wording.

    [Response: ‘Forcings’ in the general sense drive the simulations. But the different forcings have very different physics, so in order to compare them on the same graph you need a way to make them comparable. We chose the Fe diagnostic (the effective forcing) for this sensible reason. But, what goes into the model is the physics, not the line on a graph – that’s the difference, of course, between GCMs and simpler models. -gavin]

  5. 55
    Eli Rabett says:

    Well, re 15 and 43, S. Fred was far from the innocent actor and lot more than the senior reviewer in that Alexis de Tocqueville Institution “report” on second hand smoke. It is also interesting to note that Lindzen does not believe that there is much of a tobacco-cancer link.

    For those who want to learn about how wrong these two guys are, the US Surgeon General has a few words.

  6. 56

    Re #17 and “The ‘confident prediction’ is hardly long term but it is based on long term trends. That the 1998 to 2006 temperature trend line continues to diverge markedly from the 1975 to 1998 trend line of 0.2 degrees C per decade.”

    The 1998 to 2006 temperature is a sample size of nine, which is not sufficient to determine any long-term trend. I had a paper turned down by JGR on this exact subject because I only had 40 years of data. Since then I have been accumulating more preparatory to writing a revised paper. I have time series data going back 120 years at this point. Let me know if you want the data files and I’ll email them to you.

  7. 57
    John Monro says:

    Re # 33

    I think that James Lovelock supplies a reasonable perspective on this matter, trying to avoid climate change by geoengineering and other technical “solutions”. He says that the Earth, his Gaia, has evolved a system akin to homeostasis, and the this Earth/Life system works to provide a biosphere and geosphere conducive to the sustainance and continuance of life despite, for instance in more recent geological times, a continuously warming sun. We are only just beginning to get the merest glimpse through our scientific endeavours as to how Gaia does this. What we do know is that Gaia does do this, because we are Gaia’s witness, it has done so for several billion years, and it does it for free. Lovelock states very simply why should mankind wish to have any part in controlling Gaia? Does humanity really wish to take on the challenge of controlling the climate when it doesn’t even have a clue how to do so, and at an expense that would like dwarf any other endeavour mankind has ever undertaken, and when mankind doesn’t even know if it would work? Lovelock says we would have to be utterly crazy to get ourselves into this position, which is why it is so supremely important to deal with the matter now before the task becomes impossible. It would be akin to a man poisoning his respiratory centre in some way so that it no longer worked automatically, he could never afford to fall asleep, his every minute of his existence would be spent in the conscious effort of breathing and he could accomplish nothing. Is that what mankind wishes for itself?

  8. 58

    Re: Gavin’s response to 45 and 49. There isn’t an albedo component to Fe. Fe is model derived and albedo is at least partially a feedback within the climate.

  9. 59
    Paul Biggs says:


    By Mike Hulme
    Director, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

    [Response:Thanks for pointing this out. It is a good article. Here’s an important quote from it “The language of catastrophe is not the language of science. It will not be visible in next year’s global assessment from the world authority of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).” –eric]

  10. 60
    James says:

    Re #43: To say “…another reason to be cautious about the evidence for passive smoking, which isn’t as good as the evidence linking smoking and cancer” misses an important point, which is that second-hand smoke’s possible role in cancer is only one of its many adverse effects on health.

    I find it quite interesting that a number of AGW “skeptics” (Crichton prominent among them) also raise that second-hand smoke -> cancer argument. It seems to demonstrate an extreme of tunnel vision, as though they want to argue (as I’ve seen some do) along the lines that GW should cause some one particular problem, say a rise in sea level. Then they can argue that sea levels haven’t risen yet (much, anyway), therefore we should ingnore all the other evidence, and be certain GW isn’t happening.

  11. 61
    Paul Biggs says:

    #60 With a relative risk of 1.19 at a significance level of P<0.1, anyone can prove that anything causes anything; and they do.

    As for AGW – there is agreement that 2 x CO2 = +1C. The argument is about computer modelled positive feedbacks.

    From my post #59 – “It seems that it is we, the professional climate scientists, who are now the (catastrophe) sceptics.”

  12. 62
    Eli Rabett says:

    Somewhat off topic but indicative of denialist tactics, so let us see what the executive summary of the US Surgeon General’s report says:

    The reviews in this report reaffirm and strengthen the findings of the 1986 report. With regard to the involuntary exposure of nonsmokers
    to tobacco smoke, the scientific evidence now supports the following major conclusions:

    1. Secondhand smoke causes premature death and disease in children and in adults who do not smoke.

    2. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems,and more severe asthma. Smoking by parents causes respiratory symptoms and slows lung growth in their children.

    3. Exposure of adults to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and causes coronary heart disease and lung cancer.

    4. The scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

    5. Many millions of Americans, both children and adults, are still exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes and workplaces despite substantial progress in tobacco control.

    6. Eliminating smoking in indoor spaces fully protects nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke. Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposures of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke.

  13. 63

    I submitted an essay to the AAPG bulletin in response to their celebration of Mike Crichton[s book.I talked to the Bulletin’s editor, explaining that I thought it unfortunate that Crichton’s advocacy of transparency in the IPCC process was undone by his selective reading of the literature. he said he would entertain its publi=cation, but never got back to me.

    The sad fact is that Singer’s reluctance to acknowledge the systemic low-side errors of the satellite radiometers is compounded by his role in administering the orbiting of such instruments in the ’70s – Crichton in fact cites him as the nominal ‘Director’ of US Weather Satelliteprograms, which I think alludes to his role in the Department of Transportation in the Reagan administration. Crichton seems to have moved on to his next novel, and now dismisses the Climate Wars as ‘a religious dispute’

  14. 64
    Tim Dennell says:

    Hi there,
    I’ve tried emailing this, but all attempts to mail have been returned. This isn’t to go in comments, but an attempt to reach realclimate.

    You may be interested to know that a British front of sceptics has become organised and launched a counter attack to coincide with the Stern report. An opinion piece in the Telegraph Online by Christopher Monckton. (Ex advisor to Mrs Thatcher ~ though he doesn’t say she was quite concerned about global warming and spoke on it a number of times at the UN.) is the spearhead.
    I suspect that he’s had assistance from Richard Lindzen, who he name checks in the article, as well as Sami Solanki.
    He has a real go at the 2001 report, â??hocky stickâ?? et al.
    He also gives a link to a 40 page PDF of his sources and how he arrives at conclusions.

    The real thrust behind his article seems to be a real fear of government regulation and the EU in particular. (The main motivation of all the sceptics actually seems to be that accepting global warming, with C02 emissions as the cause, means accepting government regulation, which they detest.)
    Could you think of his piece as a possible topic for a post?
    Tim Dennell

    [Response: Tim. We’ll take a look thanks. Regarding bounced email, I think perhaps you have been using the wrong email address — there should not be hyphens. –eric]

  15. 65
    Chris Rijk says:

    It’s certainly not all doom and gloom in the UK though:

    RARELY can what passes for the British establishment have been so united. The leaders of the three main parties, the serious newspapers (bar one), the BBC and company chairmen greeted Sir Nicholas Stern’s report on climate change with such a chorus of gratitude that one might have thought the distinguished economist had single-handedly rescued the planet from certain destruction.

    Highly unusually, it is the leader of the opposition who can take some of the credit for this. At the last election, just 18 months ago, environmental issues hardly got a look-in. Indeed, when the Stern review was commissioned by Gordon Brown in July last year, it was not seen primarily in domestic political terms at all. It was intended mainly as a response to the constant carping of George Bush’s administration at the G8 summit in Gleneagles that it would not countenance any measures to combat global warming that might weaken the American economy.

  16. 66
    David Graves says:

    Over at Tim Lambert’s Deltoid is a link to the Monckton piece in the Daily Telegraph. It is so loony as to make one wonder if Mr. Monckton showed it to anyone before submitting it, or if there is an editor for the likes of this at the DT. Chinese Navy sails to North Pole in 1421 ?! Tropical glaciers all melted away in the “Medieval Warm Period”? (News to Lonnie Thompson’s lab….) And it’s only the opening salvo….apparently there’s more to come, like nasty enviros thrown under the bus once again for the DDT-malaria connection. How many times does that canard have to have a wooden stake driven through its heart?

  17. 67
    Jeffrey Davis says:


    “Having a go” at the Mann paper suggests that we’re dealing with self-conscious PR rather than science. There are other non-Mann papers that come to the same conclusions. Even if Mann’s paper were completely indefensible an attack on the issues via an attack on Mann is pointless. Three seconds of reflection would show that. Why would scientists with reputations to protect do that?

    Do they address the M&M change in their Y axis scale?

    [Response:We have of course addressed these points before. In particular, “global warming theory” as it seems to get called these days wouldn’t change if Mann et al. were wrong: as discussed here. In any case, this discussion has drifted rather far from the specifics of the AAPG, AMQUA, AGU topic, so I’m going to cut off discusison here. — eric ]