RealClimate logo

Technical Note: Sorry for the recent unanticipated down-time, we had to perform some necessary updates. Please let us know if you have any problems.

WSJ Editorial Board: Head Still Buried in the Sand

Filed under: — group @ 7 February 2007 - (Português)

While the rest of the world has basically accepted the conclusion of the latest IPCC report, one small village still holds out against the tide – the Wall Street Journal editorial board. This contrasts sharply with the news section of the paper which is actually pretty good. They had a front-page piece on business responses to global warming issues which not only pointed out that business was taking an interest in carbon reduction, but the article more or less took as a given that the problem was real. However, as we have pointed out before, the editorial pages operate in a universe all their own.

This would not be of much concern if the WSJ wasn’t such an influential paper in the US. However, the extent of its isolation on this issue is evident from the amusing reliance on the error-prone Christopher Monckton. They quote him saying that the sea level rise predictions were much smaller than in IPCC TAR (no they weren’t), that the human contribution to recent changes has been ‘cut by a third’ (no it hasn’t), and that the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) was written by politicians (no it wasn’t – the clue is in the name).

Even more wrong is the claim that “the upcoming report is also missing any reference to the infamous ‘hockey stick’ “. Not only are the three original “hockey stick” reconstructions from the IPCC (2001) report shown in the (draft) paleoclimate chapter of the new report, but they are now joined by 9 others. Which is why the SPM comes to the even stronger conclusion that recent large-scale warmth is likely to be anomalous in the context of at least the past 1300 years, and not just the past 1000 years.

Thus on any index of wrongness, this WSJ editorial scores pretty high. What puzzles us is why their readership, who presumably want to know about issues that might affect their bottom line, tolerate this rather feeble denialism. While we enjoy pointing out their obvious absurdities, their readers would probably be better off if the WSJ accepted Jeffery Sachs’ challenge. For if they can’t be trusted to get even the basic checkable facts right on this issue, why should any of their opinions be taken seriously?

291 Responses to “WSJ Editorial Board: Head Still Buried in the Sand”

  1. 151
    raypierre says:

    To further underscore the increasing disconnect between the reporting pages and the editorial pages of the WSJ — and to give praise where praise is due — I would like to point out Sharon Begley’s excellent and informative Science Journal column in today’s WSJ (“Latest Report Shows Climate Pessimists Were Climate Realists.”) A number of other columns by Begley were particularly praiseworthy, for example the one from a while back on the matter of how we attribute the observed climate change to human activity. This is a welcome change from the past, when the reporting pages of the WSJ, like the editorial pages, invariably had a denialist slant — the most notorious case being the front page coverage of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine story headlined “Science has spoken: Global Warming is a Myth” Those days are gone for good, I hope.

    Editorial pages are places where opinions are expressed, certainly, and that’s as it should be. You’ve heard it a million times, but it fits the present discussion perfectly so bears repeating: “Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.”

  2. 152
    Ike Solem says:

    One more note on the WSJ claim that about “the significant cooling the oceans have undergone since 2003″. This issue was discussed at . The paper in question is somewhat limited in coverage, but how it’s been covered is another story: Roger Pielke Sr.’s Climate Science weblog references it a total of ten times, always using the phrase “significant ocean cooling”. There’s little discussion of the paper itself, but there’s an endless stream of web-based attacks on climate models that reference this paper with zero discussion of the science involved (i.e the role of the Argo floats, the lack of coverage of the polar oceans, and the distribution of the cooling and warming regions of the oceans). As far as the models vs. the observations, see

    RE#147 – No, we don’t have to rely on the experts, we can look at the cosmic ray and sunspot number data (from the Climax neutron monitor in Colorado): -sunspots and cosmic ray fluxes. See also RC, Taking Cosmic Rays for a Spin If you are going to reference the 2007 IPCC SPM, then look at the numbers: CO2 + CH4 + N2O are estimated to lead to +2.30 W/m^2 forcing, and solar forcing is estimated at +0.12 W/m^2 ; solar forcing is only 5% of the value of greenhouse gas forcing. There is no plausible ‘amplification mechanism’ nor is there evidence that such a mechanism is secretly operating.

    The Milankovitch cycles are also different from the solar forcing you are trying to use to explain the warming trend. In #127 you say “During glacial-interglacial transitions, solar orbital forcing is the first driver of warming, on a regional scale. Then come feedbacks”. The phrase “solar orbital forcing” should be “changes in the Earth’s precession, axial tilt, and orbital eccentricity which lead to snow and ice accumulation on the Northern landmasses” This is rather disingenuous, since you are also claiming that a different kind of ‘solar forcing’ explains much of the recent temperature rise (that is your claim, right?) – also, CO2 is treated as a forcing on climate scales because of its lifetime in the atmosphere. Furthermore, current rates of CO2 accumulation are around 30X higher than anything seen in the ice core records during glacial/interglacial transitions – clearly a human-induced forcing brought on by buring fossil fuels, exacerbated by deforestation and land use changes.

  3. 153
    tom says:


    can anybody answer-how does one get appointed to the IPCC???

  4. 154
    joel Hammer says:

    I went to this link to look into the explanation for the lag in CO2 following the temperature upswing over the last 400,000 years based on ice cores, which you kindly provided.

    I hope everybody reads this link.

    I find this explanation a bit unconvincing:

    From studying all the available data (not just ice cores), the probable sequence of events at a termination goes something like this. Some (currently unknown) process causes Antarctica and the surrounding ocean to warm. This process also causes CO2 to start rising, about 800 years later. Then CO2 further warms the whole planet, because of its heat-trapping properties. This leads to even further CO2 release. So CO2 during ice ages should be thought of as a “feedback”, much like the feedback that results from putting a microphone too near to a loudspeaker.

    The author of this statement, a professor of Geoscience at Scripps, is saying that unknown processes affected Earth’s climate in the past. However, the consensus view is there are no unknown processes affecting Earth’s climate today.

    Doesn’t this strike anybody as being odd?

    [Response: Yes there are unknown processes at work in past climates. The process giving rise to glacial-interglacial CO2 fluctuation is one of the biggies. For the present climate, that is not so much of an issue, since most of the discussion centers on the climate that goes with various specified CO2 levels. There is some uncertainty in the future atmospheric CO2 level that goes with a given anthropogenic output, owing to uncertainties in how the land carbon cycle will respond and lesser uncertainties about ocean uptake. Most of these uncertainties have more scope to make the situation worse rather than better. Another advantage we have in the present climate is that we can measure what the system is doing right now in considerable detail. Information about the glacial cycles is more sketchy, and about what was going on in the Cretaceous still more sketchy. Nobody should pretend that we have anything like a perfect understanding of the climate system. Insofar as one tries to draw lessons from the glacial-interglacial cycle about CO2 feedbacks, they would be grim ones: the most obvious lesson to draw would be that as temperature increases more CO2 comes out of the ocean, accentuating the warming. I don't know if this is a correct inference, but given the imperfect state of understanding of Pleistocene CO2 cycles, it is perhaps as valid as any other. Note that the imperfect understanding of these cycles has no impact on our attribution of the post-industrial CO2 rise. There are numerous ways to directly infer that that is due to human activities, and the attribution is not in question, despite Congressman Rohrabacher's hostile grilling of Susan Solomon on the subject in the recent Congressional hearings. --raypierre]

  5. 155
    Ike Solem says:

    The WSJ is at least addressing the issue of renewable energy and alternate fuels Is it Time for a New Tax on Energy?, though the argument is a little one-sided in that they believe that subsidies for renewables are not the best idea, and that ‘market forces’ should be the driving force – but they ignore the massive subsidies given to fossil fuel production (and to coal-fired power plants). Without those subsidies, oil prices might well be over $100/barrel and that would mean that the alternatives and energy-efficient technology would probably be the economic winners.

    RE#150, the AEI letter (by Kenneth Green) stated that they are interested in “an author who can write a well-supported but accessible discussion of which elements of climate modeling have demonstrated predictive value that might make them policy relevant and which elements of climate modeling have less levels of predictive utility, and hence, less utility in developing climate policy”.

    While they claim to be interested in a “balanced view”, what they will do, based on their previous behavior (i.e. Kenneth Green’s Clouds of Global Warming Hysteria), is widely promote “those elements with less levels of predictive utility” and ignore all others.

  6. 156
    Charles Muller says:

    #147 Gavin, thanks for comment.

    I don’t try to “demonstrate” something, just to understand how the revised TSI of AR4 still match previous reconstructions, and yours in particular.

    A point I’d like to clarify. In your 2001 paper, you seem to use Lean 1995 estimates for TSI (note 1). But my problem here is precisely that the new flux transport model of Wang and Lean 2005 has drastically reduced previous estimates of TSI from Lean 1995 and Lean 2000 (threefold reduction > the “best estimate” new forcing in AR4). So, I don’t clearly understand if and how your own GCM simulation (2001) is insensitive to this factor 3 revision of TSI.

    [Response: We used the estimates that were current when we did the experiments. The radiative forcing change we assumed from the late MM to a century later was 0.32 W/m2. The Wang/Lean numbers imply something smaller than that (but they don't go before 1713), and there is still some uncertainty in the long term trend. I wouldn't say we know it better than a factor of 2. Given the uncertainty in the volcanic forcing at the same time (see Shindell et al 2003) (possibly a similar level of forcing) and the uncertainty in climate sensitivty and reconstructions, I don't see that any obvious discrepancy has yet emerged. - gavin]

  7. 157
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #79 Re: 74 Initial results point toward the possibility of large amplitude instabilities in the coupled human-climate system owing to the mismatch between short outlook market dynamics and long term climate responses. Implications for predictability of future climate will be discussed

    Sounds like an admission that the human/Climate coupled system is likely to be chaotic. I would add that drastic measures and targets applied would only make unpredictability more likely. – Marco Parigi

    Instability does not imply either chaos or unpredictability. For example, if I balance a truncated cone on its narrow end, it will be in an unstable equilibrium (a slight push will lead it to fall over), but there is nothing chaotic about the system’s response to such a push, and the end result is quite predictable.

  8. 158
    Alan Tidwell says:

    On denialist. It’s not so much just the word, but the need to come up with one word that somehow captures all. It would be hard to Senator Inhofe, the WSJ board and the Fraser Institute all in the same bag. Different motivations, different ways of denial, but I think to call them all denialists just smacks of stereotyping or worse. As for the WSJ Editorial Board being stupid, I think they have made a number of statements that could qualify for being stupid.

    Let’s call it what it is and not try to come with euphemisms.

  9. 159
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #157: But don’t you understand that all of your so-called “facts” are wrong because of your inability to predict with complete precision where the falling cone will ultimately come to rest after it’s done bouncing and rolling around? :)

  10. 160

    I am enraged that the WSJ continually touts these lies that prevent action on global warming to the detriment of every human being alive and yet to be born.


    The only ones to benefit from these years of paid denialism are the mere 20 or so coal company executives and Exxon executives (the other oil companies are excused because they at least don’t pay for lies like these continual WSJ “editorial”s.) Shareholders could just as easily benefit financially from investing in the alternatives that would power our economy. Just to save one outmoded industry, this entire civilization will fail.


    Even their own children and grandchildren will not escape this hell on earth they are creating, in preventing the political will develop to fix this. It is the most unbelievable [edit] shortsightedness.

    [edits to remove inflammatory comments]

  11. 161

    To Alan,
    I agree theres differences between the cynical manipulators (and their varying motivations) and their merely misinformed targets.

    For the WSJ et al: Fossil-stock shills
    For Inohofe: Mercury-brained stooges (from mostly coal states = impaired reasoning abilities)
    For Fraser + these below: Paid Liars

    See details at

    60/Sixty Plus Association
    Accuracy in Academia
    Accuracy in Media
    Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty
    Africa Fighting Malaria
    Air Quality Standards Coalition
    Alexis de Tocqueville Institution
    Alliance for Climate Strategies
    American Coal Foundation
    American Conservative Union Foundation
    American Council for Capital Formation Center for Policy Research
    American Council on Science and Health
    American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
    American Enterprise Institute-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies
    American Friends of the Institute for Economic Affairs
    American Legislative Exchange Council
    American Petroleum Institute
    American Policy Center
    American Recreation Coalition
    American Spectator Foundation
    Americans for Tax Reform
    Arizona State University Office of Cimatology
    Aspen Institute
    Association of Concerned Taxpayers
    Atlantic Legal Foundation
    Atlas Economic Research Foundation
    Blue Ribbon Coalition
    Capital Legal Foundation
    Capital Research Center and Greenwatch
    Cato Institute
    Center for American and International Law
    Center for Environmental Education Research
    Center for Security Policy
    Center for Strategic and International Studies
    Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise
    Center for the New West
    Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change
    Centre for the New Europe
    Chemical Education Foundation
    Citizens for A Sound Economy and CSE Educational Foundation
    Citizens for the Environment and CFE Action Fund
    Clean Water Industry Coalition
    Climate Research Journal
    Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow
    Communications Institute
    Competitive Enterprise Institute
    Congress of Racial Equality
    Consumer Alert
    Cooler Heads Coalition
    Council for Solid Waste Solutions
    DCI Group
    Defenders of Property Rights
    Earthwatch Institute
    ECO or Environmental Conservation Organization
    European Enterprise Institute
    ExxonMobil Corporation
    Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies
    Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment
    Fraser Institute
    Free Enterprise Action Institute
    Free Enterprise Education Institute
    Frontiers of Freedom Institute and Foundation
    George C. Marshall Institute
    George Mason University, Law and Economics Center
    Global Climate Coalition
    Great Plains Legal Foundation
    Greening Earth Society
    Harvard Center for Risk Analysis
    Heartland Institute
    Heritage Foundation
    Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University
    Hudson Institute
    Illinois Policy Institute
    Independent Commission on Environmental Education
    Independent Institute
    Institute for Biospheric Research
    Institute for Energy Research
    Institute for Regulatory Science
    Institute for Senior Studies
    Institute for the Study of Earth and Man
    Institute of Humane Studies, George Mason University
    Interfaith Stewardship Alliance
    International Council for Capital Formation
    International Policy Network – North America
    International Republican Institute
    James Madison Institute
    Landmark Legal Foundation
    Lexington Institute
    Lindenwood University
    Mackinac Center
    Manhattan Institute for Policy Research
    Media Institute
    Media Research Center
    Mercatus Center, George Mason University
    Mountain States Legal Foundation
    National Association of Neighborhoods
    National Black Chamber of Commerce
    National Center for Policy Analysis
    National Center for Public Policy Research
    National Council for Environmental Balance
    National Environmental Policy Institute
    National Legal Center for the Public Interest
    National Mining Association
    National Policy Forum
    National Wetlands Coalition
    National Wilderness Institute
    New England Legal Foundation
    Pacific Legal Foundation
    Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy
    Peabody Energy
    Property and Environment Research Center, formerly Political Economy Research Center
    Public Interest Watch
    Reason Foundation
    Reason Public Policy Institute
    Science and Environmental Policy Project
    Seniors Coalition
    Shook, Hardy and Bacon LLP
    Small Business Survival Committee
    Southeastern Legal Foundation
    Stanford University GCEP
    Statistical Assessment Service (STATS)
    Tech Central Science Foundation or Tech Central Station
    Texas Public Policy Foundation
    The Advancement of Sound Science Center, Inc.
    The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition
    The Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy
    The Justice Foundation (formerly Texas Justice Foundation)
    The Locke Institute
    United for Jobs
    University of Oklahoma Foundation, Inc.
    US Russia Business Council
    Virginia Institute for Public Policy
    Washington Legal Foundation
    Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy
    Western Fuels
    World Climate Report

  12. 162

    re your edit of 160#

    Recomending criminal action where criminal action is due really should not be considered inflamatory. That is too bad. But it is important that we all be polite as we go to our doom as a species. I admire your selfcontrol.

    Kudos to all of you scientists patiently counting the bubbles for us as we gradually come to a boil. I couldn’t do it.

    [Response: The issue here is keeping the communication channel open. Rhetorical flourishes generally cause a response in kind and no added signal. That can be fun, but it isn't constructive. -gavin]

  13. 163
    Mark Y. says:

    I went to, and looked up “denialist” and, lo and behold, there is no such word. It appears that you are sensitive to the fact that “denier” is too closely associated with the Holocaust (an actual historical event, not a scientific thery), and you don’t want to afford people with which you disagree the term “skeptic,” which is a title that many, like myself, are proud. I think you show your true colors by using that strange term.

  14. 164
    Dan Allan says:

    Joel: (51, 150 and 154)

    I think your comments require a few responses. First, the WSJ editorial you cite on p. 150 you seem to find pretty persuasive. Powerful stuff. But…is any of it true? Certainly, based on their factual misrepresentations, intentional or otherwise, with respect to climate science, I find no particular reason to believe anything they say on their editorial page. Moreover, Exxon’s attempts to distort (not stimulate, but actively distort) climate science is pretty well documented. So…when they stop lying, it might be worth quoting them. Until then…who cares what they write?

    Re 51: I’m glad you made money on WSJ’s Phillip Morris editorial. How much did you make shorting the market after WSJ predicted a disastrous economic recession following Clinton’s tax increases?

    Finally, your point in post 154, which Raypierre was patient enough to answer at length, requires a succinct response.

    You wrote:

    “The author of this statement, a professor of Geoscience at Scripps, is saying that unknown processes affected Earth’s climate in the past. However, the consensus view is there are no unknown processes affecting Earth’s climate today.”

    This is just plain silly. Of course, our imperfect data from paleo records make our conclusions about causes of climate change back then more speculative. Your statement is akin to saying, “Since we don’t know why Archaeopterix went extinct circa 150 million years ago, how can say that humans have a hand in current species extinctions?” Please.

  15. 165
    Mark A. York says:

    “despite Congressman Rohrabacher’s hostile grilling of Susan Solomon on the subject in the recent Congressional hearings”

    I also saw him in the statement after this session where he said, “Sure, if you start the graph at 1850 it’s going to be warmer now,” like this is some sort of “gotcha” smoking gun and the experts are too muddle-headed, or self-interested to see it.

  16. 166
    SecularAnimist says:

    Mark Y wrote: “I went to, and looked up ‘denialist’ and, lo and behold, there is no such word. It appears that you are sensitive to the fact that ‘denier’ is too closely associated with the Holocaust (an actual historical event, not a scientific thery)”

    I for one am perfectly comfortable using the term “climate change denier”. From the Random House Unabridged Dictionary via, “denier” means simply “one who denies”.

    The Holocaust is an actual historical event that occurred during a period some 60-70 years ago. Denying that it occurred cannot change the fact that it did occur.

    Anthropogenic global warming is an actual historical event that has been happening for a century or more, and is happening today, and is going to continue happening for centuries to come according to the IPCC. Denying that it is happening can contribute to failing to do anything about it as quickly as we otherwise would, and this can have very real and destructive consequences, including the deaths of many more millions of human beings than died in the Holocaust.

    So, in that way, being a climate change denier may be worse than being a Holocaust denier.

  17. 167
    SecularAnimist says:

    Susan K wrote: “Recomending criminal action where criminal action is due really should not be considered inflamatory.”

    John Nichols of The Nation writes that the US Green Party is arguing that the Bush administration’s deliberate misrepresentation of the science regarding climate change is an impeachable offense:

    Holding Bush to Account for Climate Lies, Neglect
    By John Nichols
    The Nation
    06 February 2007


    “The Bush Administration is doing to the whole world what it did to New Orleans as Katrina began to descend on the city,” says Green Party co-chair Rebecca Rotzler, who has been in the forefront of demanding an official response to the administration’s assault on science. “By altering scientific research on global warming to fit his political agenda and refusing to take necessary steps to protect the public, President Bush has aggravated an impending environmental, public health, and security crisis.”

    What to do? The Green Party, for reasons both of its environmental commitment and the seriousness with which it approaches issues of political accountability, has proposed a proper response. Responding to complaints from more than 120 scientists from seven federal agencies that they have been pressured to remove references to global warming from research reports, press releases, and communications with Congress, the Greens have accused the Bush administration of conspiring to deceive Congress and the America people about fundamental issues facing the nation. And there is a proper sanction for so serious an offense.

    “Congress must recognize the Bush Administration’s tampering with studies on global warming and other scientific research as an impeachable offense,” says Jody Grage, who serves as treasurer of the Green Party. “Ever since Vice President Cheney initiated private meetings with oil company representatives to determine energy policy, the administration has placed the demands for corporate profits over urgent human and environmental needs.”

    Just as there are still those who debate whether climate change is actually taking place, there are still those who debate whether this president has committed acts that merit impeachment and removal from office.

    But the Greens are right on this one.

  18. 168
    mark s says:

    RE #163 and others

    I’m off topic as usual(sorry!).

    I like ‘confusniks’, which i made up a couple of days ago :-)

    I think its better than ‘denialist/deniers’, because the weight of evidence (on the reality of the dangers posed by AGW) cannot now be denied rationally, and we lose any (unecessary) holocaust association.

    It is better than ‘skeptic’, because these people are not adopting the position of rational skeptical thought. If they were, the huge volume of evidence would satisfy them, and they would stop trying to muddy the waters.

    Instead they try to sow confusion, doubt and paralysis, by repeating arguments that they know have been (repeatedly) rebutted, in an effort to suggest that there is still no ‘consensus’ on the real dangers posed by AGW.

    There is excellent evidence for this, on numerous threads here at RC. Just to name a few; Sashka, Charles Muller and even (dare i suggest) RJPjr.

    I appreciate this last para might be regarded as ad hom (i’m sure you’ll edit it, if it’s too strong), but i think their intentions are clear, if you follow their postings/statements on RC and elsewhere (inc before the US committees, in RJPjr’s case).

    Also, everybody will know what a ‘confusnik’ is, and i believe understandable language and labels are extremely powerful. I am not , of course, suggesting that we abandon sensible critical thinking. There is still lots to talk about, on AGW, without pedalling the same old tripe!

    Yours, alarmed, but not an alarmist, Mark S

  19. 169
    Robert van Haaren says:

    WSJ Opinions are found on

    It is free except for e-mail address registration.

    Today’s issue deals with Jim Taranto’s opinion about Ellen’s Goodman opinion about GW deniers.

    I truly hope you go to a subject matter that is more scientific.

    [unnecessary commentary edited out]

    Bob van Haaren

  20. 170
    ramalama says:

    Raypierre said:

    “Yes there are unknown processes at work in past climates. The process giving rise to glacial-interglacial CO2 fluctuation is one of the biggies. For the present climate, that is not so much of an issue, since most of the discussion centers on the climate that goes with various specified CO2 levels.

    >>>I think you mean “all” discussions, since your beloved models can’t account for the effects of water vapor, right? And none can correctly model even the recent past, right?

    “There is some uncertainty in the future atmospheric CO2 level that goes with a given anthropogenic output, owing to uncertainties in how the land carbon cycle will respond and lesser uncertainties about ocean uptake. Most of these uncertainties have more scope to make the situation worse rather than better.”

    >>>>Interesting! statistical uncertainty running only one way!!! LOL!!

    “Another advantage we have in the present climate is that we can measure what the system is doing right now in considerable detail.”

    >>>>But unless you know for sure the climate history over the past thousand years or so, how do you arrive at a baseline to measure change against? Where is the universally agreed-upon baseline?

    “Information about the glacial cycles is more sketchy,

    >>>Hint: it was colder then. then it warmed up. then it got colder again, several times. Please explain, with hard data, why such a cycle isn’t going on today.

    “and about what was going on in the Cretaceous still more sketchy.”

    >>>>Rest assured there was a lot of up/down variation, and long before humans existed.

    “Nobody should pretend that we have anything like a perfect understanding of the climate system.”

    >>>>Yet the IPCC says that it’s 90% certain that humans are causing GW, sufficiently high that the US has to abandon economic growth for years to come!

    “Insofar as one tries to draw lessons from the glacial-interglacial cycle about CO2 feedbacks, they would be grim ones: the most obvious lesson to draw would be that as temperature increases more CO2 comes out of the ocean, accentuating the warming.”

    >>>>Yeah, but the human impact wasn’t there, so how do you tease apart what % of the observed warming today DOESN’T come from natural sources? And, of course, you need to explain why the temperatures later fell, causing a new glacial period. Cro-magnon campfires, maybe?

    “I don’t know if this is a correct inference, but given the imperfect state of understanding of Pleistocene CO2 cycles, it is perhaps as valid as any other.”

    >>>>LOL!!! In other words….what – EV! IOW no scientists have ever studied the Cretaceous or Peistocene climates. Snork.

    “Note that the imperfect understanding of these cycles has no impact on our attribution of the post-industrial CO2 rise. There are numerous ways to directly infer that that is due to human activities, and the attribution is not in question,”

    >>> Dead wrong, for the very reasons you cite. You agree you can’t account for climate cyles in the pre-industrial past, (including the inconvenient Medieval Warming Period and Little Ice Age) but you claim to “infer” with great confidence that humans are causing all the CO2 changes and temperature increases observed today. Balderdash.

    despite Congressman Rohrabacher’s hostile grilling of Susan Solomon on the subject in the recent Congressional hearings.”

    From reading the postings here, I expect that my layman’s skepticism will be blown off, using terms like
    denier, paid liar, delusional, GOP shill, etc. But if anyone wants to explain why the MWP and LIA don’t “count”, and why we don’t need no stinkin’ baseline for climate variation, let’s hear it.

    p.s. equating those who are skeptical about the evidence of human-induced GW as “deniers”, [edit] But for GW, where are the indisputable facts? Where are the falsifable experiments to make the case? Where is the iron-clad case made, beyond a reasonable doubt, that humans have caused all the CO2 increase of recent years, AND that this increase has swamped natural climate variation and led inexorably to temperature increases? They don’t exist — it’s all prediction and inference, the latter assuming an overall confidence level of 90%. So the industrial world is asked to give up all the gains in living standards made the last 100 years because some scientists and “policy makers” (all disinterested of course!) say that despite their ignorance about the climate over great gouts of geologic time, they can INFER human-induced GW. [edit]

  21. 171
    Ike Solem says:

    Keep in mind that current rates of CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere are around 30X greater than anything seen in the ice cores – and that CO2 concentrations also leveled out around 300 ppm in past interglacials.

    What seems to go on in the glacial- to-interglacial transition is the orbital changes in the distribution of sunlight leads to changes in the oceans and in the biosphere. Ignoring CO2 and focusing on CH4 might help clarify this – see the paper Atmospheric methane during the last four glacial-interglacial cycles: Rapid changes and their link with Antarctic temperature (2004) M. Delmotte et. al JGR v109 (pdf)

    So, this paper shows that CH4 accumulation in the atmosphere lags temperature by 100-2100 years, and they narrow this down to 1100 +/- 200 years. Recall that this is for the climate system in the absence of any human use of fossil fuels, when CO2 varied between 180-300 ppm – it is now 380 ppm. CH4 varied historically from 320-790 ppb, and is now at 1774 ppb as of 2005 (1.8 ppm)

    So the reasonable conclusion is that greenhouse gases provide an amplification of a primary regional warming signal brought on by the orbital changes in precession, eccentricity and axial tilt. For example, see Rate of solar insolation change and the glacial/interglacial transition, Ji et al GRL 2006 (abstract only) This signal is amplified, but it’s unclear what processes are responsible: warming oceans releasing CO2, tropical regions releasing methane, warming northern soils releasing methane and/or CO2.

    However, these processes have always stopped around 300 ppm atmospheric CO2 and 0.8 ppm CH4, which might reflect the size of the ‘accessible carbon pool’ – but what humans have done, in our great cleverness, is used the drill to access buried carbon reserves that date back 100 million years to the age of the dinosaurs and beyond. We are increasing the atmospheric CO2 at rates far greater then anything observed in the ice core record. Thus, we’ve become a new ‘amplification process’ above and beyond anything that operated in the glacial/interglacial transitions.

    RE#156 The claim that the warming trend is due to some poorly understood change in TSI (total solar irradiance) is simply unsupported, but is one of the last straws that the contrarian camp is clutching at.

    RE#162, explaining all this to people in a calm and friendly manner is far more effective then flying into a rage over the endless denials and deceptions practiced by those who have a vested interest in continuing to burn fossil fuels…your time is better spent convincing them that renewable energy is a viable alternative to fossil fuels, and convincing politicians to place caps on CO2 emissions (i.e. a carrot and a stick).

  22. 172
    SecularAnimist says:

    ramalama wrote: “Yet the IPCC says that it’s 90% certain that humans are causing GW, sufficiently high that the US has to abandon economic growth for years to come!”

    There is no reason whatsoever that large reductions in carbon emissions, sufficient to stop the buildup of excess atmospheric CO2, would cause “the US to abandon economic growth for years to come”.

    Such reductions would simply have the effect of transferring economic growth from the fossil fuel industry to other sectors of the economy.

    And that is exactly why the fossil fuel industry, e.g. Exxon-Mobil, pays people to lie to the public — to lie to you — about the reality of anthropogenic global warming, and about the effect of addressing it on economic growth: they don’t want to see their tens of billions of dollars in annual profits going to other industries instead of to them.

  23. 173
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #170: Ramalama, I really can’t say that you’re a “denier, paid liar, delusional, (or) GOP shill” since I have no means of establishing whether you’re paid or what your party registration is. The rest seems pretty much dead-on, though. Every single one of your “responses” demonstrates ignorance of the basics of climate science, and it’s clear enough that you have decided it’s better to remain ignorant. If you any spare time after you graduate from high school, there are plenty of web resources available (starting with this site) to get up to speed on the science.

  24. 174
    David B. Benson says:

    Re #170: ramalama — Orbital forcing refers to the changes in solar insolation in the far north caused by changes in the details of earth’s orbit. These changes clearly corrolate quite well with the global temperature changes for the past several hundred thousand years. The theory is that these orbital changes are causing the climate to change, hence the phrase ‘orbital forcing’.

    Using orbital forcing theory as a guide, the prediction is very gradual cooling for the next 50,000 years at which time it might well be cold enough for another ice age to commence. However, instead humans have significantly altered the climate so that it is becoming (surprisingly) warmer.

    You can find much more that you may wish to learn by finding “A Few Things Ill Considered” in a side-bar and following the link to Coby’s most useful site. Thank you.

  25. 175
    dan allan says:

    Ramalama (170), please forgive me if this sounds ad-hom, but I really think your post should win the prestigious “most ignorant post of the year” award. Your arguments may seem persuasive to yourself, but to everyone else, they are so ignorant and absurd they are not worth responding to. By the way, mocking people who are infinitely more educated and thoughtful than yourself is nothing to be proud of.



  26. 176
    Charles Muller says:

    #168 mark s.

    As far I as remember, I never qualify here other contributors of “alarmist”, “confused”, etc. and if I did or gave the impression of doing it, I’m sorry of that for those concerned. I’m clearly skeptic about the confidence AR4 (and AR3) lead authors put in some of their conclusions. But I’m not here with an “agenda” or, more precisely, my only agenda here is to ask questions on the points I misunderstand, and, if need be, correct some other comments I consider as unfounded. I do that on the basis of what I read in p-r literature, not of some prior assumptions about what our governments should or should not do.

    So, your machiavellian interpretation and lexical inventivity have no real interest for me. And I doubt they have any interest for climate science popularization, of course. But de facto, there are more and more “political” controversies on RC, and the “climate science from climate scientist” baseline sometimes looks like happy memories…

    PS : feel free to qualify me of denier, denialist, confusnik, contrarian, skeptic, pseudo-skeptic or whatever you want. I just fear your loss a precious time for these quibbles.

  27. 177
    Charles Muller says:

    #156 “The claim that the warming trend is due to some poorly understood change in TSI (total solar irradiance) is simply unsupported, but is one of the last straws that the contrarian camp is clutching at.”

    Ike, for the third or fourth time, IPCC AR3 and AR4 (not “the contrarians”) do recognize a low level of understanding of solar forcing (as well as aerosol, land use, etc.). The IPCC AR4 second draft do recognize that parameters uncertainties and structural uncertainties of models are not yet accounted for, in spite of recent model intercomparison programs. And the 18 GCMs climate sensitivities do vary from 2 to 4,5 K, the mean value or best estimate of CS being regularly lowered from AR2 > AR3 and AR3 > AR4. All that and many other features of AR4 prove that there’s plenty of room for progress in climate sciences.

    In my opinion, IPCC has finished its work as an institution, and the 2nd Feb 2007 SPM cannot be more clear: man is the main culprit of recent warming, non-mitigated emissions will likely lead to a dangerous climate change, policymakers are urged to take their decisions. So, let’s consider the case is closed for policy discussions, and center the debate on climate topics with science-founded arguments.

  28. 178
    Rod B. says:

    I’ve only got through the first few dozen comments on this thread, but am compelled to reiterate my observations while I still have the freedom (I think) to speak my piece. With the din of cheering and high-fives all around we can now, I guess, stop any further efforts on the science of climatology as it’s a fait accompli. Now the task at hand is to cheer as loud as possible (maybe do a wave???) and drown out, Kramer-style, any remnants of the squeally skeptics. Despite some of those being (once) recognized scholars and scientists, all that is needed is to transfer the debate out of the science arena into the political arena, making those skeptic scientists completely moot. We’re now in the arena where the loudest and largest talking points win, facts and science have nothing to do with it (facts only need be declared by a rousing democratic process) and any contrary opinion need not be discussed and debated, only stomped on. Then, even more high-fives.

    One glimmer of hope: I suspect, based on their history, the keepers of RC, even while they are sensing victory, will try to keep stuff in a scientific realm — for the scientific fun if nothing else. We’ll see.

    Sorry if I’m way behind later posts… just couldn’t wait.

  29. 179
    James says:

    Re #163: “…and you don’t want to afford people with which you disagree the term “skeptic,” which is a title that many, like myself, are proud.”

    I consider myself a skeptic too. Indeed, I could argue that nobody makes it very far in science without a good helping of inbuilt skepticism. But the individuals whom we call denialist… now surely you’ve noticed that they’re very selective in where they apply their skepticism. If some particular line of evidence or theory supports to AGW, why, they trot out their skepticism and exercise it full-force. Let someone propose some contrary theory, no matter how off-the-wall (galactic cosmic rays, anyone?), and all their skepticism is nowhere to be found. Disbelief is immediately suspended as they welcome their new talking point with cries of joy.

    No, I’m sorry, but “skeptic” just doesn’t work for these folks.

    [Response: We discussed what real scepticism was a while back: - gavin]

  30. 180
    llewelly says:

    ramalama said:

    >>>I think you mean “all” discussions, since your beloved models can’t account for the effects of water vapor, right? And none can correctly model even the recent past, right?

    Water vapor is well handled by all modern models. There continues to be modest difficulties with suspended liquid water (clouds), but these are sufficiently well handled to model the recent past. The blog head in a cloud has had much informative discussion on this, as have past RC articles.
    See table SPM-4 on page 18 of the AR4 SPM for comparison of observed continental- and global-scale changes in surface temperature with results simulated by climate models using natural and anthropogenic forcings.

  31. 181
    Don Giegler says:

    Gavin Schmidt in Physics Today January 2007 indicates modelers are interested in the uncertainties in external forcings on climate models. He mentions solar activity as one such forcing. Is there a handle on the influences and uncertainties for earth-directed Coronal Mass Expulsions (CMEs) on said models?

  32. 182
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 180: Don, I’m not sure what you are asking. CMEs look impressive, but the energy flux is short-lived and tiny compared to solar irradiance. Moreover, we only experience a few every 11 years. So you can’t be talking about the direct energy of these bursts. In terms of causing increased cloud cover, the solar particles aren’t all that energetic, so the geomagnetic field provides pretty good protection. There was the paper by some Finns I think that was claiming that increasing solar wind was decreasing the flux of the very energetic galactic cosmic rays. Interesting idea, but there is certainly no evidence of this in data on cosmic ray fluxes from GOES or other satellites during the past 30-40 years. I’d say these are probably third order effects at most.

  33. 183
    Ike Solem says:

    I think that gets to the heart of the debate, in that their are many issues in climate science that are poorly understood, but contrarians (who are fixated on the goal of blaming global warming on anything other than the use of fossil fuels, it seems) only focus on those issues which support their cause.

    Let’s see what the 2001 IPCC has to say on the issue of equilibrium climate sensitivity:

    1.5 – 4.5C in the 1996 IPCC report, relative to a baseline from ? And they also report 1.9 – 5.2, on the same page (the one above) – not very clear, is it?

    2.0 – 5.1C in the 2001 IPCC report, relative to the 1961-1990 baseline period (mean 3.5C)

    2.0 – 4.5C in the 2007 IPCC report, relative to the 1980-1999 baseline period (mean 3.0C) which we have to convert back to the 1961-1990 baseline period to be able to compare the two, correct? After searching for a while on the web, I can’t seem to find that number…

    This represents a rather glaring problem with the 2007 IPCC report – why did they change their baseline to 1980-1999? I keep asking this question, and I have yet to get a satisfactory answer… what do you think?

    Obviously, the IPCC has a lot of work left to do, as do climate scientists – for example, figureing out exactly how to model the ice sheet dynamics, getting better temperature profile and mass transport data from the world’s oceans, and getting a handle on carbon cycle – climate feedbacks for input to the models – in fact, the IPCC has so far done a pretty shoddy job, in my opinion, and should probably consider putting out their next report in three years instead of six.

    Perhaps they should revamp their emission scenarios as well, and describe them in terms of total global population estimates and per capita CO2 estimates – and start including carbon-cycle feedback effects as well. I have a feeling that too many politicians and lobbyists and not enough scientists were involved in this latest IPCC report.

    As far as policy choices go, I have a few suggestions: shut down all the coal fired power generation capacity that has been added since 1990, sign the Kyoto Protocol, ban all foreign oil imports, and put many billions of dollars into subsidies for wind and solar and biofuels while instituting a hefty carbon tax on all fossil fuels. That would be the rational response to the current situation – as well as making sure that climate satellites and ocean data collection systems are funded and put in place.

    [Response: I think you are a little confused. The climate sensitivity to doubled CO2 in 1990, 1995, 2001 was estimated to be in a range of 1.5 to 4.5 deg C. The models produced a range of 2 to 5 deg C (as reported in 2001). AR4 now has 2 to 4.5, with (for the first time) a best guess of 3 deg C. There is no baseline for these diagnostics. - gavin]

  34. 184
    joel Hammer says:

    Just had to add this comment because some people are blaming Exxon for global warming in this thread. This is really going too far and shows a complete lack of knowledge of history.

    I guess such people are too young to remember the 1960′s. Then, everybody knew that oil was going to run out soon. Big oil companies, like Esso, although huge and powerful, thought that in 20 or 30 years there wouldn’t be enough oil left to pump and sell, at least not in the USA, which at that time got most of its oil from domestic sources.

    I am not making this up. The futurists of that time were saying these things, and they were believed. Just like our current futurists.

    So, Esso decided to change its entire business effort. It took out big color adds in newspapers and magazine announcing this change. It would become an ENERGY company, not an oil company, and changed its name to Exxon. It, and many other companies, thought the future was in nuclear energy and coal. So, a big push was made to go nuclear. This was fought by the environmentalists, tooth and nail. Finally, industry and utilities gave in. Everytime a utility announced it was scrapping plans for a nuclear powerplant and replacing it with a coal fired plant, all the environmentalists cheered (including me.)

    One argument given by the big energy companies, in the early 1970′s, was that oil was getting too expensive and atomic energy plants made economic sense. Does anyone know which recent Presidential candidate put out this slogan on all his literature from that era:
    Keep importing plenty of cheap foreign oil!

    Ralph Nader.

    Boy, I sure wish I had kept his propaganda literature from the 1960′s. But, in the short run (About 4 years, until the Arab oil embargo!) he was right. Oil was only about $3 per barrel.

    A major reason why we don’t have lots of clean, nuclear powerplants in this country right now, like France has, is that man.

    So, don’t blame Exxon for pumping oil. After all, they tried the best they could to switch to nuclear. The choice to stick with fossil fuel was forced on them by the Green Movement of the 1960′s and 1970′s.

    So, our current CO2 production is the product of the last Green solution to our energy problems 30 and 40 years ago. This can not be emphasized enough. If our world melts from CO2, the “Greens” will certainly have done their share to cause this disaster.

    Think of the hubris of the Greens. Having forced the USA to avoid nuclear power, the Greens now condemn this country for burning so much fossil fuel.

    Now, all those predicting the future and prescribing solutions: get some humility, please. There is a phrase some people like to throw around: “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”

    [Response: It's not the pumping of oil per se that people are blaming Exxon for, but their efforts to spread disinformation about the consequences of burning fossil fuels. After all, BP Amoco is also still pumping oil, but you don't see people jumping all over them nearly as much. I don't buy your simplistic history of the history of nuclear power in the US, and would not vouch for your having the Nader story on oil right, but if you are equating Nader with the scientists who, over the past 100 years, have been studying and predicting global warming, that says a lot about the extent of your understanding of the problem. By the way, the "peak oil" business is largely irrelevant to global warming in the long term. The problem isn't too little fossil fuel, but too much. If we were really going to run out, that would be great, so far as global warming goes, because it would mean that fossil fuels would get expensive enough that market forces would provide sufficient incentives for conservation on there own. However, there's so much coal, that's not going to happen all by itself. --raypierre]

  35. 185
    Ike Solem says:

    Thanks, Gavin,
    Perhaps I misunderstand the climate sensitivity measure? Is it a specific CO2 content of the atmosphere, a specific total radiative forcing measure (sum of CO2, CH4, N2O, aerosols, etc.) or a doubling of CO2 from whatever the current CO2 content is?

    There doesn’t seem to be any mention of whether it’s a linear function, either – i.e. if we quadruple the CO2 content, is there any reason to expect that temperature response would be twice the equilibrium CO2 sensitivity?

    I suppose I’m having trouble relating these numbers to the real world. If current Arctic anomalies continue to increase (past two years around 4C over the 1961-1990 baseline, at least in the summer) and the IPCC report states that sea levels were 4-6 meters higher when the Arctic was 3-5C warmer then it is ‘today’, isn’t the ‘equilibrium response’ going to be a 4-6m sea level rise? I’m basing that on the following statement in the IPCC:

    Global average sea level in the last interglacial period (about 125,000 years ago) was likely 4 to 6 m higher than during the 20th century, mainly due to the retreat of polar ice. Ice core data indicate that average polar temperatures at that time were 3 to 5°C higher than present, because of differences in the Earth’s orbit. The Greenland ice sheet and other Arctic ice fields likely contributed no more than 4 m of the observed sea level rise. There may also have been a contribution from Antarctica.

    [Response: Because the forcing from CO2 is logrithimic (in the range of concentrations we are talking about), it doesn't matter what the baseline CO2 level is, the forcing will be the same if you double it. So going from 280 to 560 ppm gives the same forcing as 560 to 1120 ppm, or 300 to 600 ppm etc. This isn't true for the other GHGs though. So another way of putting it is that the climate sensitivity is the temperature reached at equilibrium for a ~4 W/m2 forcing. It is indeed likely that we will get to a 4 W/m2 forcing (compared to pre-industrial) (but not just yet), and that will likely lead to Arctic temperature increases in the 3 to 5 deg C range. From the Eemian analogy, that does imply an eventual melting of large chunks of Greenland - the key uncertainty is how long that would take - centuries? millenia? It's very difficult to tell. -gavin]

  36. 186
    joel Hammer says:

    Here are the basic facts: At both poles and nearly all points in between, the temperature of the Earth’s surface is heating up, and at a frightening and potentially catastrophic rate. In fact, we know global temperatures increased an average of 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit during the twenty-first century.

    Science tells us that this heating is the result of human activity. And hiding behind the science or trying to cover it up is not going to solve the problem. We need real solutions and real leadership from this Administration. The time to act is now.”

    Statement of John F. Kerry
    Hearing: Climate Change Research and Scientific Integrity
    Wednesday, February 7, 2007

    I believe John Kerry voted against Kyoto in the sense of the senate vote (96-0) back during the Clinton administration. I guess he was against it before he was for it.

  37. 187
    Pat Neuman says:

    I would like to see some comments on my interpretation of what John Kerry said on Feb 7 about the latest IPCC 2007 consensus (Webcast link below, about 2:15 minutes into the program, first 10 minutes blank).

    With the already observed 0.8 Deg C global temperature rise since the beginning of the industrial revolution, there will be an additional rise up to a global increase of 1.5 Deg C based on current CO2 conditions alone, no matter what we do.

    The IPCC also agreed that the a precautionary level be a 2.0 C increase, not a 3.0 Deg C increase as previously thought – in order to insure the safety of the planet.

    Humankind has to keep emissions below 450 ppm in order to not go over the 2.0 Deg C increase.

    Where is the plan to reduce carbon to hold us to the 450 ppm level? That level used to be 550 ppm but based on the what we see happening,the break up of the ice and so forth, it’s been lowered to 450 ppm.

    Webcast: About 2 and 15 minutes into the video is John Kerry questioning William Brennan, Acting Director US Climate Science Program and NOAA Deputy Director.

    U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation
    Climate Change Research and Scientific Integrity
    Wednesday, February 7, 2007
    10:00 AM
    SR – 253
    View Archive Webcast
    Launch Application

  38. 188
    James Annan says:

    Gavin in #183:

    (for the first time) a best guess of 3 deg C

    I thought that the SAR gave a best guess of 2.5C, admittedly back then it was not very strongly grounded in evidence. I’ve not actually read the original but it is widely reported on the internets, so it must be true :-)

    [Response: I happen to have the volumes in front of me, and you are correct. SAR says 2.5 deg C, and references that to the 1990 report, which also gives a 'best guess' of 2.5 deg C (Chapter 5). However, they state clearly that this is just an expert opinion and that there was "no compelling evidence to suggest what part of this range [1.5 -4.5] the correct value is most likely to lie”. My bad. Thanks – gavin]

  39. 189
    Rod B. says:

    re raypierre’s response to 128: seems pretty convoluted to me. “Stupid” is not an appropriate term you say; but “Denialist” is, and much more descriptive than “Skeptics” because they are……, well, stupid (ignorant).

  40. 190
    Jim Redden says:

    Tangential to discussions, but perhaps of a WSJ editorial related note is the article in the Washington Post titled:

    Exxon Mobil Warming Up To Global Climate Issue

    Kenneth P. Cohen, VP of public affairs, had lots of interesting things to say…
    Cohen said that the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, long the leading corporate symbol of skepticism about global warming, has never denied the existence of climate change…The company has also been accused of financing policy groups as surrogates for sowing doubts about the causes of global warming. The Competitive Enterprise Institute received about $2 million over seven years. Cohen said that Exxon’s foundation, which he heads, decided in 2005 to cut funding, though that came to light only last fall.

    Not entirely sure how to summarize the article, but the thrust seems to be if there are going to be rules, Exxon wants market based forces to be put to work. Furthermore, I intuit internal disagreement inside the oil behemoth.

    Robert H. Socolow (Princeton, Carbon mitigation) is also quoted. To be sure, it is worthy of a read.

  41. 191

    Haa yes , we get in these crackpot traps, arguing against hope that there is a chance of a debate with those bent in “making money” while those same are so happy to rumble down the highway with a monster SUV or another, gleefully blowing their money away in smoke. WSJ editorial board have to get back to basics —-spending money = bad, saving to invest = good.

    I for one look at the elements and let them speak, louder than thunder in the middle of an Arctic winter. I would suggest colleagues to look at the Southern tip of Greenland, bombarded with warm winds +4 to +12 C in the middle of winter. Ever wonder if all that ice sitting there has a chance?

    I must say, AGW is not immediately scary enough, not even remotely effective in striking fear to stir all of us in a frenzy of terror, it is also intermixed with natural variations, the #2 scapegoat of the skeptics. However, when a contrarian uses the alleged fear mongering card, it is extremely effective, a reverse psychology move, it is by far their most devastating PR warfare weapon. Long term causations are not scary, this fact is being wickedly exploited, the real fear is ignorance which medias should fight without hesitation until our world becomes a dictatorship.

    Hope is in the weather itself, infinitely more effective than a spokesperson or another, surfing ahead of the next heat wave and being right about it before it hits, proves that we can see beyond the esoteric scientific words so unconvincing and really scary to kingdom boredom for the lay…. Its not enough to be right just about the climate, in the long term, it will be then too late to do anything. Besides contrarian weather and climate specialists are notoriously wrong most of the time, their time is just about up, unless the media forgets to look at their batting averages.

  42. 192
    William Astley says:

    In reply to “There was the paper by some Finns I think that was claiming that increasing solar wind was decreasing the flux of the very energetic galactic cosmic rays. Interesting idea, but there is certainly no evidence of this in data on cosmic ray fluxes from GOES or other satellites during the past 30-40 years. I’d say these are probably third order effects at most.”

    Actually the satellite data shows a 99.5% significant correlation of planetary cloud cover to GCR levels 1984 to 1993. As Palle states in the attached paper, the satellite cloud data supports the mechanism which Tinsley and Yu referred to as “electroscavenging”. It appears (if you accept Tinsley and Yu’s hypothesis) that the solar wind changes the magnitude of the global electric current. See Tinsley and Yu’s paper for details as how it is hypothesized changes to the geomagnetic field, solar wind, and GCR could affect cloud cover and cloud macroscopic properties.

    Palle’s First Paper: (See figure 2. Note low level clouds are reduced by minus 0.065% per year, starting in about 1993. Solar wind starts to increase in 1993 which if you accept T&Y’s hypothesis would explain the reduction in cloud cover.)

    Tinsley and Yu, �Atmospheric Ionization and Clouds as Links between Solar Activity and Climate�

    Also attached is a more recent Palle paper that summarizes the Earthshine project data. Palle notes the Earthshine data also supports the assertion that planetary cloud cover was reduced 1993 to 2001. Palle converts the reduction in cloud cover to an equivalent 7.5 -/+ 2.5 W/m2 forcing.

    [Response:There may be some merit in Tinsley and Yu's hypothesis, but even if the conclusion of Palle is correct - that the Earth's cloud cover has decreased, it does not explain the long-term warming in terms of GCR, as there are no systematic long-term trend in the GCR. Palle concludes: "The correlation between annual mean low cloud and the ionization level at 2 km altitude exceeds the 99% significance level over mid-latitude oceans and globally over the period 1983–1994. However, globally, it drops to non-significant values if the full available cloud dataset (1983–2001) is taken into account, although some data adjustment such as detrending can restore the correlation significance to 99.5% or greater. Nonetheless, the correlation is significant over several large areas of the earth. ". I find this conclusion a bit odd, he's carrying out the analysis for annual mean values, i.e. only 16 data points and the correlations are not really that high for such short series (fig 2 in Palle's paper). Furthermore, although Palle acknowledges the presence of autocorrelation between adjacent locations (spatially smooth varyations), he doesn't seem to take this effect into account for the temporal correlation. Thus, I believe that his claims are exaggerated. -rasmus]

  43. 193
    PHE says:

    Are the views of policitians relevant to the Global Warming debate? Well, there are many readers here who are happy to believe Al Gore – a man who never quite got to be president (I wish he had, as the world would be in less of a mess than it is now). This link gives the views on the subject of the President of the Czech Republic. I guarentee you will find this entertaining whichever side of the fence you sit. For me, it is a refreshing example of sanity – for others it is heresy. But feel free to rave and ridicule as you wish.

  44. 194
    Fred Losfeld says:

    Unfortunately, the Wall Street Journal is not the last and only small village. I’m sad to report the French newspaper Le Monde has gone far from its good reputation of being objective and reliable. At this link, you will find an article from a French scientist, Serge Galam, using terrible ways trying to convince the human-related climate heat-up is fake. He uses references to communism, nazism and Inquisition to warn against the whole climate community. I was astonished, I feel disgusted. If any of you read French, please have a look.

  45. 195
    Andrew Simmons says:

    The L.A. Times carried an opinion piece by Jonah Goldberg the other day.

    Jonah Goldberg advances the novel (to me) proposition:

    “The Earth got about 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer in the 20th century while it increased its GDP by 1,800% [...] Given the option of getting another 1,800% richer in exchange for another 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer, I’d take the heat in a heartbeat.”

    Of course the fallacious thinking in this is pretty obvious, but it’s a new one on me — I imagine as the science becomes harder and harder to deny, this sort of “argument” will turn up more often, as a sort of council of despair. (The Times also headlined a news story on the SPM “U.N. says there’s no stopping global warming” – which is a funny way of interpreting SPM items such as Figure SPM-5 “Averages and assessed ranges for surface warming”.) Another spin-off meme is “If the UK stopped producing CO2 tomorrow, it doesn’t help, because China builds equivalent new coal-fired power stations in (x) weeks”.)

  46. 196

    In the WSJ, yesterday, James taranto delivered some insight into one editorial board member’s mind by attacking another journalist , Ellen Goodman, for using the ‘denialist meme. In his words she ” bases her entire argument on an appeal to authority, namely the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We lack the time, the inclination and possibly the intellect to delve deeply into the science. No doubt the same is true of Goodman.

    Our skepticism rests largely on intuition. The global-warmists speak with a certainty that is more reminiscent of religious zeal than scientific inquiry. Their demands to cast out all doubt seem antithetical to science, which is founded on doubt. The theory of global warming fits too conveniently with their pre-existing political ideologies. (Granted, we too are vulnerable to that last criticism.)

    Above all, we can’t stand to be bullied. And what is it but an act of bullying to deny that there is any room for honest disagreement, to insist that those of us who are unpersuaded are the equivalent of Holocaust deniers, that we are not merely mistaken but evil?”

    [Response: Thanks for that interesting link. Without passing judgement on what people have said previously about the analogy, may I suggest that we leave the Holocaust out of this in the remainder of our discussion of this? I'm only suggesting that because the unavoidable feelings aroused tend to make it hard to focus on the central issues. Even if people want to discuss whether various flavors of climate change deniers are evil or merely misguided (or whether there's a difference) or just raising issues their curiosity demands answers on, that can be done without trying to decide the imponderable of what kind of evil is comparable to the Holocaust. One of the reasons I'm upset by the brand of denialism represented on the WSJ editorial page is precisely that it creates an environment where it is hard for people to raise legitimate scientific questions about uncertainties that need to be resolved. It makes it hard to talk about uncertainty at all, or to acknowledge areas we aren't sure of, without being quote-mined and abused by the opposition. Nonetheless the IPCC has always tried to be upfront about uncertainties. --raypierre]

  47. 197
    pete best says:

    Re #184, Response by Raypierre, unfortunately your assessment that Peak Oil and Gas will not effect climate change much may well be correct scientfically and on it own it is a true statement. However when Gas anf Oil become expensive depending on when peak is and we do not have a suitable replacement to supplement the Peak then that will be bad news for doing something about climate change.

    At this moment in time we have Kyoto which is not that good but a start. Come 2012 when Kyoto has run its course we will need a new far reaching treaty and a new IPCC report for that matter may help with this assessment but unless sufficient energy productive fuels have come online by then it could jeapordise everything as over 70 countries world wide have adequate Coal reserves and that requires no new technology unless a treaty is in place and the technology to make coal safe from contributing to AGW.

    I myself am doubtful about the politics of AGW, Peak Oil and Gas could lead to wars and serious world concerns politically. AGW could be the least of our worries come 2015 – 2020.

  48. 198
    Ray Ladbury says:

    The problem we have in coming up with a label for the “skeptic”/”denialist” camp is that it is hardly a monolithic movement. There are some who are genuinely skeptical (Christy at UAH comes to mind, though I wonder if his religious outlook biases his scientific judgement.). Others like Lindzen are sceintific contrarians, who have found that they can distinguish themselves by their dissent from consensus more than they can by their research. Every scientific field has them. These two groups are very small. Then you have the nonscientists. The easiest to classify are the dittoheads who deny what’s happening just because their leaders say so. More difficult to understand are those with some science or engineering background who still deny the science without really understanding it. Some of these are motivated by self interest–e.g. petroleum geologists. Others–well, let’s just say that in my career as a physicist, I’ve seen that it’s possible to get a degree in engineering–or sometimes even science–without an understanding or even an interest in science. The denialist camp has also attracted its share of loonies–those who are just sure there is no anthropogenic climate change, despite having zero science background. If it weren’t for climate change, they’d be denying evolution or relativity. The fact that large business interests are involved takes this to a new level. Businessmen and politicians do not seem to be strong believers in objective reality. I guess we’ll see how well you can spin the laws of physics. Finally there are the greedheads–those who really don’t care about the science. They figure that it’s fine if the swamp rises as long as they own all the high ground. “Skeptics”, here’s a hint: Unless you have an advanced understanding of chaotic dynamics and most likely an advanced degree in climate studies or a related field–you probably don’t really understand the science well enough to call yourself a skeptic.

    [Response: I think you are probably right that there are too many distinct types of people pushing back against the concept of global warming for any one epithet to fit. I'm becoming persuaded of the idea that one should avoid the use of a catch-all epithet entirely except when it is absolutely necessary from a rhetorical standpoint. In response to all the "alarmist" name-calling, it is a natural feeling, I think, to want to have some name to shout back, but to give in to that, I suppose, cedes the moral high ground. --raypierre]

  49. 199
    Dan Hughes says:

    re: #184. You can easily verify that Exxon, Shell, and Gulf have all been involved in the nuclear power industry; Gulf General Atomics, Exxon Nuclear Fuels, inc. Phillips also managed a national lab in Idaho in the 60s and 70s. There might be others, but I know these without actually looking. Additionally, Combustion Engineering and Babcock Wilcox, both in the fossil-fueled power plant industry, got into nuclear.

    I think we can state that it is a true fact that the ‘environmental movement’ had as one goal to shut down nuclear-electric power production. Today you can aslo easily verify that some (many?) in that movement are having second thoughts and re-re-thinking their earlier stands. This is very unfortunate as the facts regarding nuclear power production have not changed.

  50. 200
    Hank Roberts says:

    Unfortunately what you call ‘greedhead’ is a description of what’s required behavior of any US corporation owned by stockholders — they are required to focus on short term profits, by the law. Very odd US legal contribution to the world; first a revolution as much against the British East India Company (a then global megacorp) as against the British Crown per se; then, a century or so later, based on an unfounded footnote in a Supreme Court decision, the US system manages to elevate corporations to being “legal people” under our laws. Legal people, but this status sits poorly with their also being required to focus on bottom line profit.

    That’s why corporate directors are asking, very bluntly, for carbon limits and carbon taxes and trades. They understand they need the outside controls made explicit — they need to be directed, in policy areas where they can’t “direct” themseves.

    Corporations under our law are deaf, dumb, and blind to future change. They sure play a mean pinball, short term, but only short term profitability is allowed to them as a criterion for decisionmaking. That needs to be changed and they’re asking for the change. While they can improve their own business (as Amory Lovins keeps pointing out), they can’t go beyond that to acknowledge and take back responsibility for externalized costs (like dirty coal plants or low-efficiency engines, both of which are very profitable year by year) until the US laws makes that happen — or else at the end of the fiscal year the directors face lawsuits based on low stock prices.

Switch to our mobile site