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Adventures on the East Side

Filed under: — gavin @ 15 March 2007 - (Türkçe)

So that was …. interesting.

First off, I’d like to thank the commenters for all of the suggestions and ideas to the previous post. They were certainly useful. In particularly, the connection with the difficulties faced by evolutionists in debates vs. creationists proved to be very a propos. Our side played it it pretty straight – the basic IPCC line (Richard Somerville), commentary on the how ‘scientized’ political debates abuse science (me, though without using the word ‘scientized’!) and the projections and potential solutions (Brenda Ekwurzel). Crichton went with the crowd-pleasing condemnation of private jet-flying liberals – very popular, even among the private jet-flying Eastsiders present) and the apparent hypocrisy of people who think that global warming is a problem using any energy at all. Lindzen used his standard presentation – CO2 will be trivial effect, no one knows anything about aerosols, sensitivity from the 20th Century is tiny, and by the way global warming stopped in 1998. Stott is a bit of a force of nature and essentially accused anyone who thinks global warming is a problem of explicitly rooting for misery and poverty in the third world. He also brought up the whole cosmic ray issue as the next big thing in climate science.
Update: The transcript is now available – though be aware that it has not yet been verified for accuracy. Audio + Podcast.

The podcast should be available next Wednesday (I’ll link it here once it’s available), and so you can judge for yourselves, but I’m afraid the actual audience (who by temperament I’d say were split roughly half/half on the question) were apparently more convinced by the entertaining narratives from Crichton and Stott (not so sure about Lindzen) than they were by our drier fare. Entertainment-wise it’s hard to blame them. Crichton is extremely polished and Stott has a touch of the revivalist preacher about him. Comparatively, we were pretty dull.

I had started off with a thought that Lindzen and Stott, in particular, would avoid the more specious pseudo-scientific claims they’ve used in other fora since there were people who would seriously challenge them at this debate. In the event, they stuck very closely to their standard script. Lindzen used the ‘GW stopped in 1998’ argument which even Crichton acknowledged later was lame. He also used the ‘aerosols are completely uncertain’ but ‘sensitivity to CO2 from the 20th Century is precisely defined’ in adjoining paragraphs without any apparent cognitive dissonance. Stott didn’t use the medieval English vineyards meme (as he did in TGGWS) – but maybe he read the RC article ahead of time.

The Q&A was curious since most questions were very much of the ‘I read the Wall Street Journal editorial page’ style, and I thought we did okay, except possibly when I suggested to the audience that the cosmic ray argument was being used to fool them, which didn’t go over well – no-one likes being told they’re being had (especially when they are). My bad.

The organisers asked us afterwards whether we’d have done much different in hindsight. Looking back, the answer is mostly no. We are scientists, and we talk about science and we’re not going start getting into questions of personal morality and wider political agendas – and obviously that put us at a sharp disadvantage (shades of David Mamet?).

One minor detail that might be interesting is that the organisers put on luxury SUVs for the participants to get to the restaurant – 5 blocks away. None of our side used them (preferring to walk), but all of the other side did.

So are such debates worthwhile? On balance, I’d probably answer no (regardless of the outcome). The time constraints preclude serious examination of any points of controversy and the number of spurious talking points can seriously overwhelm the ability of others to rebut them. Taking a ‘meta’ approach (as I attempted) is certainly not a guaranteed solution. However, this live audience were a rather select bunch, and so maybe this will go over differently on the radio. There it might not matter that Crichton is so tall…

490 Responses to “Adventures on the East Side”

  1. 401
    Hank Roberts says:

    >371, 390
    See 386.

    Until you understand what Arrhenius discovered, none of this will make sense to you all. Your repeated postings, repeating the same mistakes, show that you haven’t understood the physical world.

    Until you understand the basic physics, you can’t believe how the world is known to work.
    It took until the 1950s to figure out the details, but if you get the very basic concept, you’ll at least be able to start with the same fact and be talking about the same world that the scientists describe.

    Until then, your trying to mock the scientists is just trolling, perhaps for praise from your friends who don’t understand the science either and just for the fun of wasting people’s time here.

    I pray you, consider that you may be uninformed.
    Read at least the AIP History, first link under Science in the sidebar.

  2. 402
    Mark A. York says:

    “Are there peer-reviewed papers out there that posit the possibility that CO2 increases are a lagging effect re: temperature change?”

    Read the archives here for this nonissue.

    “Some climate effect” is low. No matter how hard they try all posit the same debunked reasons over and over and…

  3. 403
    Mark A. York says:

    “At least not enough to resign the 3rd world to worsening poverty and the US to a very controlled life.”

    And what are they doing for this poverty now? Who lives in the low lying areas like Bangladesh? Who controls you now? And how will a greener power company control you more?

    “For every correlative graph you provide I can match you with a published data graph showing CO2 in not a cogent variable (and my graphs will not show a downward “hocky stick”). For every conclusion of proxy data supporting GW I can show you a published paper showing the opposite conclusion.”

    I’m sure Dr. Mann will find this curious so I’d suggest you pony up so we can see this new trend. No you can’t.

  4. 404
    Hank Roberts says:

    Jerry, how much have you read from the Science links on the sidebar? Can you ask a more focused question, or are you asking us to help you pick from that list where to start reading? None of us does recreational typing and you’re asking such a general question it’s hard to tell where to start.

  5. 405
    Dick Veldkamp says:

    Re: #1-#403 How to post (various athors)

    A suggestion to further improve the readibility of the threads here. How about starting a contribution (as some people already do) like this one? I.e. Re #number subject (author of post referred to) ?

  6. 406
    Rod B. says:

    re 399, Barton et al: You guys do not help your cause any when you keep spouting that “study” which Googled the internet and found “zero papers out of 900” that refuted AGW. That argument is stupid and false prima facie and you guys just sound silly shouting it from the rooftops. The only way “no papers” can be found is to define all such look-like-it papers as written by “evidently stupid” guys and therefore not count.

  7. 407
    Hank Roberts says:

    The number isn’t reliable in the short term, Dick, because posts are held for review and don’t always appear right away. When a post that was being held for review does show, it shows up in time-stamp order.
    Post 1- “alpha” 10am
    Post 2- “beta” 11am
    Post 3- “gamma” 2pm
    (with two posts pending that get approved at 2:01 am but were written earlier)

    Changes to

    Post 1- “alpha” 10am
    Post 2- “foo” 10:30am
    Post 3- “beta” 11am
    Post 4- “bar” 1pm
    Post 5-“gamma” 2pm
    (after the posts entered at 10:30am and 1pm are approved at, say, 2:01pm)

    You can copy the timestamp (or ‘View Source” and copy it as HTML so it’s a link when pasted in)

    To refer to your post I can
    — ViewSource,
    — type the actual hour:minute number of your posting I want to refer to into search,
    — copy from the
    left angle bracket a
    to the
    slash a right angle bracket
    — And paste
    — and you see this, which ought to be a working link to what you typed.
    11:55 am

    Note there are some websites (not this one) where hosts routinely delete postings from threads afterwards, even making users disappear entirely — where that happens, the index numbers decrease instead of increasing (even more confusing, I think).

  8. 408
    Rod B. says:

    re 401: Hank, are you or are you not asserting that CO2 does not absorb any solar radiation??

    You keep sending us back in history like we missed sandbox-1 of radiation absorption. Are you referring us to Arrhenius’ work which the overwhelming consensus (heh heh) of scientists refuted? Or maybe Angstrom’s contemporary work that showed more CO2 would absorb no additional radiation? Maybe you shouldn’t be so pedantic and just send us back to the 50s or so when the physics started to become clear.

    [Response:For what it’s worth CO2 is a weak absorber in the shortwave – it’s about 0.1 W/m2 for a doubling of CO2, much smaller than the impact in the long wave (Collins et al 2006). -gavin]

  9. 409
    Steven Soleri says:

    Absolutely Rod and here is the exact reference that Barton is citing (re Wikipedia):

    A 2004 essay by Naomi Oreskes in the journal Science reported a survey of abstracts of peer-reviewed papers related to global climate change in the ISI database.[13] Oreskes stated that of the 928 abstracts analyzed, “none contradicted” the view of the major scientific organizations that “the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling.” Benny Peiser claimed to have found flaws in her work, writing

    [Response: Give us a break. If you’ve got something new to bring to the table, by all means do so. If you’re simply going to recycle long since debunked contrarian talking points (the Peiser stuff is an embarassment, see e.g. here or here), then take it somewhere else. –mike ]

  10. 410
    Jerry Magnan says:

    Mark, Hank,

    Thanks for the sidebar tips – I missed it. I’m new to the blog and just jumped into the thread. I’ll read up on the sidebar.

  11. 411
    Dick Veldkamp says:

    Re #407 Post (Hank)

    Thanks for the info, Hank.

  12. 412
    Jerry Magnan says:

    Just read the ice core temperature/CO2 lagging thread. All I can glean from it is that one position holds that there is a lag time for CO2 to affect temperature of some 800 years. CO2 goes up, the full impact on temperature increase isn’t felt for 800 years. CO2 goes down, the temperature decrease does finally hit its stride for 800 years. This implies there’s a momentum to CO2 forcing.

    But I’ve got a conceptual problem with that postulate, though I’m not saying it’s not true. What can Kyoto, with a reduction in CO2-based impact of about 0.15 deg. C by 2100, have on stopping this climatological freight train? If humanity absolutely disappeared today, the lag theory implies that temperature will climb inexorably due to that lag, wouldn’t it? Sort of like when the days begin shortening on June 20, but the weather doesn’t start cooling off until mid-August?

    [Response: The lag is almost all on the “T affects CO2” side due to the role of the ocean carbon cycle and the timescales of advection etc. in the ocean. The “CO2 affects T” side also has a lag, but it is on the order of a few decades at most (and related to upper ocean heat capacity). – gavin]

  13. 413
    Jerry Magnan says:


    Thanks. I missed that part in the thread I perused. I’ll keep digging.

  14. 414
    Jake says:

    Hank, thank you for the tip but this is a theory or an idea that posses more questions than answers. Example: Cloud cover was intentionally omitted yet a warmer Earth would create more cloud cover reducing the temperature, (balancing it really). Second, higher CO2 would produce greater growth in plant life which in turn would use the CO2, (also omitted in the models). Also there are too many, (by this I mean many, many!) statements like this one at 22:

    “The chief problem had to do with the simple physics of radiation. New studies seemed to prove that adding or subtracting CO2 could make little difference in how much radiation penetrated the atmosphere. Most scientists, including Chamberlin, concluded that Arrhenius had failed to get his physics right. They did not examine the technical objection as closely as they should have (it contained an error that was not detected for half a century), for it agreed with ideas that everyone found reasonable. Scientists were confident they could dismiss changes like the global warming foreseen by Arrhenius, because the climate was known to be self-regulating.”

    I have no idea if the link I provided is the one you meant but it is a good read of before, during and after Arrhenius.

    Ray, Barton, thank you for the respect and your reply and I do agree totally. As weather can be erratic it can change a once correct prediction making it wrong. Climate on the other hand may also be just as erratic or even more so but we just don’t have the data to know. I think we can agree that we have temperature records, (not ww) that go back 100 years that are in fact accurate and this is helpful for the weather. Why is it that some feel these same records are accurate for the climate then? I realize we have theories of the heat wave in the middle ages and before the last huge ice age plus core samples etc but these are not fact leaving us with little information on the average to make a real call on warming or not.

    Mark, like I stated earlier, the Earth has been around 4 billion years and if the climate is all about the larger view or as someone else put it, ‘the long term’ or ‘the average’ where’s the real data from 1 million years ago up to today? Need I say a billion or 2? If the whole idea that the climate is about the long term and we have no info for the long term means again we have no theory unless we base it on the short term.

    Carbon foot print? I’ve only seen a couple forms to determine a CFP and they are based on 10 questions. They also assume CO2 does impact the environment in a non-reversible way, (meaning the Earth has no way of self regulating it, as if we know that to be true). In other words, a carbon foot print is not worth mentioning… if you were joking I apologize for bring up that nonsense, lol.

  15. 415
    Ray Ladbury says:

    First, remember that clouds are rather complicated entities–they can both warm and cool. Moreover, increased water vapor alone is not a sufficient condition for more clouds. This is, by the way, one of the shortcomings of the GCR mechanism in my opinion (The other is that it’s very hard to understand how a flux of 5 particles per square cm per second would have such a dominant forcing role).
    The other issue you raise–the length of the climate record and how well we know it–represents a misunderstanding on your part. Just because we did not have thermometers around 600000 years ago does not mean we cannot determine the temperature and other characteristics of climate in those epochs. Many, indeed most, physical, chemical and biological processes are thermally activated, and when reconstructions based on these process agree (as they do) it is strong evidence that we understand the climate record. The fact that the chain of evidence is inductive rather than deductive or empirical does not weaken the evidence. I would also contend that the recent past (millions of years to hundreds of thousands of years, etc.) is more relative than the distant past. Climate is chaotic: it will respond to the same perturbation in different ways depending on its initial state. It is much more relevant to look at responses in the recent past than responses when the climate occupied a very different region of phase space–that is unless we want to know if the future climate will be conducive to the re-emergence of giant lizards.
    The past 10000 years are particularly interesting in their relative stability–a rare thing if you look at the climate record. They are also interesting in that they are the period when ALL the infrastructure of human civilization evolved–especially our crops. It is certainly relevant to ask how the changes we are making will affect that stability and therefore our civilization.
    I have no doubt that Earth and life on Earth will do just fine in the new climatic epoch. I also have no doubt that our continued civilization or even our existence are matters of complete indifference to the planet. They are of great concern to us, however, and that is why we need to understand the effects we are having on the climate that sustains us.

  16. 416
    Mark A. York says:

    No one needs to include climatic conditions when the Earth was just forming. If you do though one thing is clear: it wouldn’t support human life. If one happens to be a thermophile well, that’s another matter, but we aren’t.

  17. 417
    James says:

    Re #414: [Second, higher CO2 would produce greater growth in plant life which in turn would use the CO2, (also omitted in the models).]

    I think you’re forgetting about the ocean, and ocean life. Ocean productivity decreases with increasing temperature, due to layering that rectricts nutrient availability. That’s why polar seas are much more productive than tropical ones. Since oceans cover 3/4 of the Earth, decreased growth there is likely to outweigh any possible increases on land.

    […but these are not fact leaving us with little information on the average to make a real call on warming or not.]

    External factors such as changes in the sun’s output may indeed have caused the Medieval Warm Period or Little Ice Age. While it would be interesting to know more about the causes of these and other past variations, they’re pretty much irrelevant to AGW. That is a prediction of what will happen to “normal” climate (which includes all natural past variation) in response to the extra CO2 that humans have added.

  18. 418
    Tavita says:

    Re #414: [Second, higher CO2 would produce greater growth in plant life which in turn would use the CO2, (also omitted in the models).]

    But apparently greater growth rate in plant life is an assumption that is open to question.

    “Most studies have looked at the effects of carbon dioxide on plants in pots or on very simple ecosystems and concluded that plants are going to grow faster in the future,” said Field, co-author of the Science study. “We got exactly the same results when we applied carbon dioxide alone, but when we factored in realistic treatments — warming, changes in nitrogen deposition, changes in precipitation — growth was actually suppressed.”


  19. 419
    P. Lewis says:

    Re #385

    Hi Jake

    I was about to say you obviously didn’t follow the link about hybrid and electric cars, but I find I must have cut and paste the wrong URL, and so you couldn’t anyway. Suffice it to say, whilst many electric vehicles on the market are hybrids (and they are only a partial answer), you will find that all-electric vehicles are present in the market and have been for some considerable time if you follow this link, which is the one I meant to give earlier. From this, it would seem your question

    Why aren’t the big auto manufacturers building and promoting electric cars?

    is slightly misplaced and its inference wrong. And, as I said, it can take anything from 5 to 10 years to get from concept to production, so they’re not doing too badly given the evident political inertia concerning AGW these last 10 years or so.

    With regard to climate/weather, I’ll take your word for it, but it was/is difficult to discern what you were trying to get at from that post. I’ll endeavour to try harder to read what you’re trying to say.

    And as to being confused on CO2 … your “questions” showed some confusion.

    So … a simplified treatment (all quantities approximate, since I can’t be bothered to check them – but they’re all “ball-park” correct IIRC) goes something like this (all corrections gratefully received).

    About 70% of visible light from the sun passes through the atmosphere to reach the ground. The rest is scattered by the atmosphere or reflected back into space by clouds, aerosols, etc. The remaining visible light strikes the ground and is reflected back or absorbed by the ground. Absorption warms the ground. The warmed ground re-emits this radiation at a longer wavelength, i.e. in the IR wavelength range.

    If this IR radiation were to escape back directly into space, e.g. if there were magically no CO2, then this departing energy would cause the Earth to have a global average temperature some 7 or 8°C lower than it is with CO2 (in practice the temperature drop would be more than this – probably to somewhere close to >0°C – because the atmosphere would hold less water vapour, which is a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2).

    However, thankfully for us (up to a point), the re-emitted IR radiation is absorbed by CO2 molecules (by the bonds bending and vibrating in resonance with the IR radiation frequency).

    The CO2 molecules then reradiate the IR radiation in a random direction (on the order of 1 to 10 microseconds I think(?)); ~50% of the time this reradiated IR radiation is sent back towards the ground.

    So radiation that would have been lost to space is returned to the ground, again warming the ground. If an IR-excited CO2 happens to hit another gas molecule before it has time to reradiate the IR, then it can transfer some of this energy to this other gas molecule (termed translational motion) directly, resulting in a kinetic heating of the atmosphere parts that haven’t interacted with or don’t interact directly with IR radiation; i.e. it raise the general temperature of the atmosphere a fraction.

    In addition to the visible light there is also a direct IR component from the sun itself, and molecules that are “IR active” will absorb, re-emit, and indulge in translational collisions as a result of this direct IR component. Increasing the CO2 won’t result in cooling because of the interception of this direct component! If the CO2 somehow magically interacted with the IR radiation and then held on to it and didn’t bump into other molecules then there wouldn’t be a problem (given the relative low abundance of CO2 in the atmosphere), but it doesn’t work like that.

    (There are also UV interactions with oxygen species that work along similar lines to CO2 absorption and emission.)

  20. 420
    P. Lewis says:

    Re # 390 (Rod B.)

    Lord knows how you can infer that from what I wrote. Anyway, the answer is no, that is not what I was inferring.

  21. 421
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B., Looking back at the exchange between P. Lewis and Jake and your subsequent comment, I have to say that the most charitable interpretation I can come up with is that you, yourself, do not understand how the greenhouse effect works. What is different in the incoming and outgoing radiation is of course the spectrum of the radiation itself. The Solar spectrum peaks in the green. This radiation is absorbed by Earth’s surface, which heats up, and radiates a spectrum closer to a black body spectrum, which peaks in the IR. That is why CO2 works like a blanket to hold in the IR. Now, if you already know all this, I am left with the question of why you chose to misinterpret P. Lewis’s response. That is why I chose to be charitable and assume you were merely ignorant.

  22. 422

    [[re 399, Barton et al: You guys do not help your cause any when you keep spouting that “study” which Googled the internet and found “zero papers out of 900” that refuted AGW. That argument is stupid and false prima facie and you guys just sound silly shouting it from the rooftops. The only way “no papers” can be found is to define all such look-like-it papers as written by “evidently stupid” guys and therefore not count. ]]

    They didn’t Google it. They looked through the peer-reviewed journals for a number of years. I’ll see if I can’t find the reference.

  23. 423
    Jim Roland says:

    I’ve come into this discussion really, really late, but what strikes me from looking at the write-up page is that the facial prejudice theory of voting preferences seems to have been borne out. See 2005 New Scientist article.

    No insult intended of course Gavin, you touched on this yourself in talking about the opposition’s entertainment skills and Crichton’s height. As the article notes, if Zebrowitz is correct, those who lose votes tend to be the more intelligent, assertive and educated!

  24. 424
    Rod B. says:

    re 420,421: Jake said (amongst a whole lot of stuff) that CO2 absorbs solar radiation, then you (P. Lewis) said he didn’t understand physics, so I inferred you thought CO2 does not do such, which is wrong. But I’ll admit Jake’s original post on this subject was large and easily confused. Anyhoo, your post #419, while not precisely accurate (which you said), is a pretty good ballpark description.

    I will take Ray’s details to task, only ’cause he calls me ignorant. First, solar radiation covers a spectrum, the peak being just where the energy flux is strongest. (And I think it’s more yellow-green than just green.) The solar spectrum does include a number of CO2 absorption bands, and, while small, the absorption of incoming solar radiation is real. Secondly, the sun emits at near black body emissivity. So does the earth — neither being perfect black bodies. The earth’s radiation peaks in the IR range because of its surface temperature per Stefan, Boltzman, Wien and those cats, as opposed to the Sun’s surface temperature.

  25. 425
    Rod B. says:

    re Barton,422: I’m familiar with the reference, the ISI database (and I think mentioned in earlier posts.) My point was that the study was precisely and narrowly defined though includes subjective judgments by the author, which I think is misleading. But, I’m really trying to be helpful (why, I have no idea…): I think your position loses credibility overall when you vociferously push a point that, while interesting, is likely specious and not significant. What the hell difference would it make to your argument if Ms. Oreskes found 31 (say) peer-reviewed, published-in-certain-journals that met here subjective definitions? Your absolute need for ZERO just looks, well, silly. It’s similar to the trumpeting of the “consensus” which many proponents (not all…, but including Gore) have backed themselves into a corner by implying 100% (because skeptics “don’t count”)– it’s just a stupid loss of their credibility, for what???!!!???

  26. 426
    Dan says:

    re: 42.
    Oh c’mom! How many times does “consensus” have to be defined for you? Only until there is a definition you like?

  27. 427
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 425 Rod B. said
    [But, I’m really trying to be helpful (why, I have no idea…):]

    Does any one else catch his drift? We should. And, let him drift.

  28. 428

    [[re Barton,422: I’m familiar with the reference… Your absolute need for ZERO just looks, well, silly. It’s similar to the trumpeting of the “consensus” which many proponents (not all…, but including Gore) have backed themselves into a corner by implying 100% (because skeptics “don’t count”)– it’s just a stupid loss of their credibility, for what???!!!??? ]]

    The paper reviewed 928 journal articles. It found several hundred in favor, several hundred making no mention, and ZERO against. That’s what she found. My preference has nothing to do with it. Deal with it.

  29. 429
    Rod B. says:

    re 426 and my own 425: I should clarify that the use by others of the paper study is misleading. Oreskes’ parameters made this possible, but she was very clear on that so was not (much) misleading herself.

    I don’t know why Dan thinks I don’t know the definition of “consensus”. I’m just saying that many proponents, Gore e.g., try hard to get listeners to believe it means (damn-near) ALL. And I think that stupidly hurts their cause because when the “insignificant” deception comes to light all of their arguments get tainted. It’s similar to Gore’s subtle “fine print” caveat, if 1/2 of Greenland and Antarctica melted…. followed by long histronic images and graphics of the sea rising 20 meters, flooding most of Florida, Manhatten, et al, and hoping that’s what the folks will believe is definitely going to happen pretty soon. It of course works for awhile. But as the deception comes to light people are starting to reject the entire movie. Gore likewise stupidly hurt his cause, IMHO.

    Just a helpful suggestion.

  30. 430
    Hank Roberts says:

    Chuckle. We need a new skeptic bingo “Gore Card” for that hitlist.
    You got most of them.

  31. 431
    Tavita says:

    re:429 “Just a helpful suggestion.”

    Yes, I see what you mean, if Gore and all those other advocates would just drop those hard to understand deceptive words like “if” probably 99.9% of the public would think that global warming is a serious problem and not just 83%!!! Gore and those other advocates are blinding people to the reality of the science!

    Thanks for the tip, I’ll pass it on to Al.

  32. 432
    Curt Covey says:


    I’m not sure it was a good idea for you to debate whether or not “global warming is a crisis” — for one thing, how do you define “crisis”? — but the end result was enlightening. Lindzen as usual has the most serious critique of conventional wisdom. He is basically saying that (1) the theory has holes and (2) the case for anthropogenic climate change is not proven. In my opinion, both statements are correct, because geophysical science (1) tries to comprehend everything about a planet and (2) cannot make much use of controlled experiments. Therefore, geophysical theories will always have errors and geophysical propositions will never be assessed as conclusively as, say, Newton’s Law of Gravity.

    Anyhow, hope to see you in NYC when I visit GISS on the 13th of next month.

  33. 433
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Actually, Rod B., I said that I would assume out of charity that your comment was made out of ignorance and that you were not trying to be deliberately obtuse. If you feel that being deliberately obtuse is a lesser charge, feel free to plead guilty to that.
    A relevant plot of solar irradiance can be found here:
    Note that the peak in the spectrum is well in the green, and while the absorption features of the greenhouse gases are clear, they aren’t representing much energy. On the other hand, Wien’s displacement law states that the wavelength at which the peak of the black-body radiation occurs varies inversely with temperature. Moreover, the intensity vs. frequency distribution becomes much more sharply peaked for high temperature. This means proportionally much more of the energy Earth radiates away is long wavelength than the energy it receives. In short, as I said, the reason there is a greenhouse effect is because of the difference in the spectra of incoming and outgoing radiation.

  34. 434
    Jake says:

    P. Lewis, I have to say I enjoyed the car link thank you, it was cool but that’s just me. However, if I was serious about getting an electric car that page would have crushed my dreams, lol. In each instance there were unbearable limitations of money or mileage or speed or access. You are right thought the future does look good but I don’t think 2010 is realistic only because of range; the home base deal has to be replaced by electric stations as we do now with gas stations, (not to rechange but replace the battery with a charged one).

    Ray, I don’t know if you or others out there get the Discovery Channel with the program The Daily Planet but this week they are doing GW everything. Today they showed the many ways to stop GW, (in theory). One idea was to have a ship that only sailed just to produce water vapor and stated if it increased water vapor by 3% that would counter all CO2 effects and bring us back to a balance. Problem: It would have to always sail to keep the effect active but if it sailed too much it could cool things off in a bad way. Result: Not a good plan, lol. Now I don’t know but that theory seems less realistic than the GW one to me. I think the only good info in this paragraph is the TV program suggestion.

    Mark, as for the time frame of study, information from a billion or 2 years ago is not necessary, I think I was exaggerating, (to say the least). However, the creation of the Earth was more than twice that and your right we weren’t here anyway.

    Ray, I agree that looking closer into the past is fair but not too close or we don’t know what the real average is, (in turn we wont know if we are going above or below it). We do have real data for 100 years, (even though much of it is questionable since it is not world wide data). However, the data we have from 10,000 and years ago and earlier is weaker evidence since it gives us the temperature but does not explain what the cause was. To say the temp was 60 degrees 10,000 years ago and not know if that is due to a series of solar flares, fires, volcanoes or the natural way of the planet tells us it was only 60 degrees. That does not tell us it was the same temp the next year or five years later. The science can not tell us the Earth’s temp every year from that date so we don’t know if that temp is normal or due to some type of occurrence that is out of the norm. Right now I believe the Earth’s proper temp is 49.3 but data from 10,000 years ago up to today, (and including everything in between) might give us the correct temp of the Earth being 59.3 which would mean we are way off base with our GW theory. Again, core samples are not world wide records only local hints to conditions that we don’t know the cause of. It’s the same thing with crops of the past, was it global warming that killed them or humans at war trying to starve out the enemy? We have to know the cause of everything in every instance to know if what we are seeing is seen in the right light. On the other hand using data from only 1 or 2 hundred years is like looking at the cover of a book and coming up with a theory on it, never a good move.

    The CO2 idea, hmmm. I’ll try to be clearer. First both explanations were very good and I did learn from them, thank you. Now for the but part, but…

    More CO2 means more radiation is absorbed on the way in, this means there’s less to come to Earth and less IR to leave Earth and less to keep things the way they are, so it gets cooler. Cooler because there is less radiation being sent from Earth to the ghg that control the gh effect.

  35. 435
    Don Thieme says:

    “Highlights” of the debate were broadcast on NPR here Wednesday afternoon. I listened to the full podcast later that night. It seems to me that you had hostile hosts as well as opponents for the debate. The edited “highlights” feature your awkward comparison of the AGW deniers to creationists but omit your more calm, considered opening statement. I have blogged about my impressions here:

  36. 436

    [[Lindzen as usual has the most serious critique of conventional wisdom. He is basically saying that (1) the theory has holes and (2) the case for anthropogenic climate change is not proven. In my opinion, both statements are correct, because geophysical science (1) tries to comprehend everything about a planet and (2) cannot make much use of controlled experiments. Therefore, geophysical theories will always have errors and geophysical propositions will never be assessed as conclusively as, say, Newton’s Law of Gravity.]]

    Science doesn’t deal in “proof” in the first place. Experiment and observation can only disprove theories, not prove them. But when you have something like anthropogenic global warming, where the evidence has been piling up for decades and fits physical science known since the 19th century, there comes a point where it is perverse to withhold at least provisional assent. On that point, Lindzen hasn’t got a clue.

  37. 437
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 434: Jake, They probably hadn’t posted 433, when you wrote your post. I recap here. The peak intensity in the intensity vs wavelength distribution occurs at a wavelength inversely proportional to the temperature. Thus, for the sun, the light intensity peaks in the green, while for Earth (<1/10 the temperature of the sun) the thermal emission peaks in the IR. Moreover, the intensity vs. frequency distribution is much more sharply peaked for high temperature. That is why the net effect of ghg is warming. This is well known physics, and Earth would be uninhabitable if it didn’t work. And, no wedo not need to understand every nuance of past climatic variation–just the important aspects. And we do. How do we know this? Because we can measure or estimate the contributions of different factors and look at the response of models over the range of uncertainties. In climate, we are not looking at variation on one-year or even five-year scales; we are looking a long-term average behavior, and we actually understand that–past and present–very well.
    There simply is no place left to hide from the fact that we are changing Earth’s climate.

  38. 438

    I am a layman. I was a knee-jerk “denialist.” I was a denialist who had conflated (1) the scientific hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming with (2) the statist (and therefore unacceptable) political “solutions” advocated by Environmentalists and by a few scientists (who were speaking politically, not scientifically). I realize now that what I had denied was the conflation. That was a mistake. I needed to “unpack” the package deal that Environmentalists had offered for sale and then deal with the components.

    I have tentatively become a stage 2 advocate of anthropogenic global warming: For the last 150 or so years, there has been a trend toward global warming and that trend has generally accelerated in the last several decades.

    I am looking — with no scientific background — at the next stage in the anthropogenic global warming staircase: The acceleration is caused mostly by human activities. The arguments (that is, proofs) offered by some of the climate scientists on RC are leading me in that direction, but the process will take time.

    However, when I read (from Mr. Levenson’s March 29 post 436) a statement like this …

    “Science doesn’t deal in ‘proof’ in the first place. Experiment and observation can only disprove theories, not prove them.”

    … then I recoil momentarily from any further support for AGWH. I wonder, for a moment, what have I gotten myself into?

    Proof means logically connecting, in a series of inferences, facts of reality (“evidence”) to a conclusion. If scientific ideas cannot be proven, then they are “floating” — that is, not connected to reality. In that case, why should I “assent” to them?

    The article writers here at RC generally take the approach of proving their statements. They refer to evidence (measurement data) and they draw conclusions from that data. That is proof. Whether the proof holds up in all cases has to be determined individually, but RC generally accepts the idea of proof in science. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be spending so much time here reading.

  39. 439
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re #434 [More CO2 means more radiation is absorbed on the way in, this means there’s less to come to Earth and less IR to leave Earth and less to keep things the way they are, so it gets cooler. ]

    No. CO2 absorbs no visible light and relatively little solar shortwave IR (700-2500 nm) so it has relatively little impact on incoming solar radiation reaching the earth. However, CO2 absorbs significant levels of terrestrial longwave IR (> 2500 nm), so it absorbs IR emitted by the earth (and re-emits some of that back toward the earth),. That is why it is called a greenhouse gas.

  40. 440
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 437

    Chuck, you exemplify the resources of RC. In marketing, the public needs to hear the message about 13 times before it becomes wired into their cortex.

    Questions pertaining to CO2 and its ability to absorb IR while giving a (pass) to UV may have to be answered forever.


  41. 441
    Hank Roberts says:

    Jake, you’ve been misinformed. Where are you getting your opinions? Why do you believe your sources? You’ve gotten the most basic science wrong.

    Look up Arrhenius — his discovery — that’s what you need to understand before anything else here will make sense to you.

    Have you read the American Institute of Physics (AIP) History of Global Warming page? That’s one of many sources.

    There’s nobody arguing with Arrhenius, not even the people who argue with Darwin as far as I know. If you find something you rely on — tell us what it is. We want you to know the very basic science here, that everyone agrees with, so the rest makes sense.

  42. 442
    Dick Veldkamp says:

    Re #438 Proof (Burgess Laughlin)

    There is always a lot of confusion about the word “proof”. Barton is right that in science (except math) you can never prove anything – there’s always the possibility that some inconvient fact turns up tomorrow that disproves your theory. Personally I like the word “evidence” better.

    There is a continuum from mere conjectures to things like the theory of gravity or big bang theory. Purely theoretically there is the possibility that these theories will be disproven. But the amount of evidence is so overwhelming that I don’t think they ever will be, and I wouldn’t object to the word “proven” here.

  43. 443
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 438: Burgess, the epistemology of science is complicated. However, it is true that scientists tend to shy away from the word “proof”, usually in favor of terms like “evidence”, “probability”, etc. The thing is that we never know everything about a phenomenon, and it is always possible that the next observation or experiment may not conform to a theory, thus “disproving” it. But what does that mean? A theory that has proven correct repeatedly shouldn’t just be discarded, should it? The answer in many cases is “no”, and the new theory may often contain the old one as a special case (e.g. the relationship between relativity or quantum mechanics and classical mechanics). This is called the Correspondence principle. Please beware, scientists often used words used in common parlance, but mean something very different by them. Again, I’ll recommend the editorial by Helen Quinn:

  44. 444
    Bruce King says:

    Well done Gavin, Brenda and Richard! These debates are a good thing. And, even though the audience voted you down, the debate audio and transcript will likely present your side of the argument in a more favourable light. You made some very good points. There were some ‘admissions’ from the other side that will stand for future reference – e.g. the 1970s global cooling scare was basically media hype.

    Gavin, if you will forgive me for pointing out a weakness when I did think you did well, I think you did underestimate the audience and this came across as being patronising.

    Did I just miss your side’s referral to the Oreske study? Indispensable, I would have thought, as the most economical way for establishing the weight of scientific consensus and tying in with the crucial point that the peer reviewed scientific literature is the established scientific testing ground.

    One of your side’s biggest cheers of the night was stating (RS?) that, in contrast to the opposition points, support for your position could just be looked up in the scientific literature. *This* is what you can hammer in a debate, briefly presenting your scientific case but also backing it up with a reference to one or more relevant scientific papers – yes, actually give the lead author, journal and year; and tell them you will provide the exact reference in this blog.

    So, in summary, I think you all did great and could do even better next time by better referencing the scientific literature so you are debating more on your terms than on the sociological issues that are the currency of your opponents.

    Please be willing to do this again. It really does help with educating the public.


  45. 445
    Jake says:

    Hank, if you followed the link I provided you would see it was from an AIP page, (as you suggested) even though the link didn’t work since the page is no longer available. I searched the rest of their links on him but most come up no longer available or they just has the theory not the history, (before and after). So, when all else fails I used the Internet Archive to find the page I was referring to here.

    On that page you’ll find the quote at link 22 I placed here earlier.

    P. lewis, an update on the car situation from the tv program I suggested. The greatest trouble with electric cars is the catch 22 I almost but didn’t think of. I said they would have to be station based not home based, (to be refueled since this means you could go anywhere and not worry about getting home to recharge). They agreed but their addition was auto makers will not mass produce these cars since there are no stations to refuel them AND no one will build the stations until there are enough cars to use them. My solution, have existing gas stations also sell batteries that they will exchange, (yours for a fully charged one). All other alts bio and hybrids are dead ends, as I am off the topic a bit I will not go into why but these can be studied to learn why if desired.

    As for info over too short of a time period. Yes, temps are going up and we are producing CO2. However, if the temp can be seen to go up and down peaking every 500 years and this happens over the course of 1000s and 1000s of years we will know that this is normal. It just so happens that the temps are going up now and we are producing CO2, if we didn’t produce CO2 temps would still go up since that is normal. However we do not know that temps go up and down over 1000s plus years so we don’t know the norm. Actually, we do have an idea but no one is willing to publish it since they will be called a user of junk science and that may harm their rep as a scientist and even endanger their livelihood.

    Models: Why do I keep saying we need real info? Models and comp sims are not accurate enough to prove anything because they are only as good as the data that is put into them. Any missing factors could change the entire out come of these methods. Look at Arrhenius, his models omitted clouds, cooling and warming, moisture, atmospheric movements and ocean currents, updrafts, vegetation, 100,000 tons of meteorites every day… the more data left out = the less accurate it is.

    Chuck, thank you for your explanation. I can see why the GW theory is around with said. Don’t the Oceans and plant life have any effect at all on CO2? We know they do but do we know the rate of their contribution? As you can see I’m still in the whole self regulated planet idea since I can not follow how 172ppm of CO2 increase, (from 188 to 360) can counter all other effects of the entire planet. I don’t want to say a drop in the bucket but I just did, hee hee.

  46. 446
    Rod B. says:

    re “…the 1970s global cooling scare was basically media hype.”

    I know I’m a sometimes pain in the butt stickler for details, even if not terribly significant. But the 70s cooling scare was not basically media hype. The folks involved with the science back then were uncertain in the least over AGW via CO2, and were pretty much aware of the general global cooling going on since 1940. The AGW/CO2 theory was being explored by a few daring souls, but in fact global cooling was pretty much the consensus of the scientists.

  47. 447
    Hank Roberts says:

    Sorry, Jake, I don’t know what you’re talking about by now.

    The current link to the AIP History page is in the right hand column, and all seems to work.

    I asked where you got “More CO2 means more radiation is absorbed on the way in” — you didn’t put it in quotes when you wrote it above.

    Are you saying you got it from the old 2005 version of the AIP History from the Internet Archive?

    That phrase is true — CO2 absorbs and emits longwave infrared no matter what direction — but that can be misunderstood.

    What’s coming from the Sun is energy that peaks in the visible range — shorter wavelength, higher energy photons to a great extent. Those go right through the atmosphere on the way in; a little infrared gets scattered by greenhouse gases, but it’s a small part of the total coming from the sun. Most sunlight goes right through to us.

    Did someone quote that phrase somewhere to claim CO2 can’t trap heat on Earth (can’t be a greenhouse gas) — did someone claim that CO2 would block incoming heat and outgoing heat equally so makes no difference? If so that doesn’t follow, wrong answer.

    Or did you read that in 2005, and think that’s what he meant at the time? If so, again, wrong conclusion.
    Could be that’s why the text changed, if that phrase came from some page in the old version from 2005.

    Check the current version. See what it says there — it should be improved a bit from the 2005 version, and should make clearer what’s going on.

    Most of the incoming energy from sun to Earth is in our visible range and not blocked by greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Once it gets here, it can become heat energy — it’s absorbed, drives chemical reactions like photosynthesis for example, warms things up in many ways.

    The energy that Earth then radiates — outgoing energy — is mostly in the infrared, and that’s the band that gets trapped by greenhouse gases.

  48. 448
    James says:

    Re #145: [All other alts bio and hybrids are dead ends…]

    Perhaps off-topic, but I don’t think you’ve thought through that. What’s the main reason we don’t have practical, affordable electric cars now? Answer: lack of good enough batteries. So how do you get people to build better batteries? Create a market for them, no?

    The basic hybrid technology was worked out back in the ’70s, but never went anywhere because the only affordable batteries were heavy lead-acid ones. It wasn’t until laptop computers came along, and created a market for lightweight batteries (even though they were expensive at first) that people began investing in new battery technology. Then of course experience and economies of scale brought the price down to where you could build affordable mild hybrids. And as price/performance drops, plug-in hybrids will eventually become common, and then possibly full electrics. (Though there are reasons why an advanced PIH is a better solution.)

    So hybrids aren’t a dead end, but a stepping stone.

  49. 449
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I think the new link is

    Your assertion that we do not understand past climate is not correct. We have many reconstructions using many different proxies. While it is true that a single proxy can give misleading results, when you have many that all give consistent results, this establishes high confidence that you understand the phenomenon. Inductive reasoning is no less valid than deductive reasoning.

    Likewise, your contention that the whole theory is a house of cards where a single result would cause it to tumble is incorrect. We understand the different climate drivers quite well. We know how much solar radiation is incident, what portion gets through and what portion gets reflected, etc. We understand the contributions of various greenhouse gases (CO2 accounts for somewhere around 10% of the greenhouse effect). We understand that the CO2 is rising and why. We understand pretty well what the oceans are doing and the contribution of the biosphere to the carbon cycle. We’ve been investigating climate science for over 100 years. At this point it is mature.
    So not only does the current theory of our climate lead to a remarkably self-consistent picture of both past and present climate. There simply is no well developed alternative.
    At this point, it is clear that your objections to this theory are rooted in social and economic concerns rather than science. Given that neither you nor anyone else has been able to come up with substantive objections to the science, would it not be more profitable to focus your energies on coming up with solutions that are more consonant with your political and economic views? After all, since we are dealing with a system that has positive, nonlinear feedbacks, the sooner we start to act, the less draconian will our actions have to be.

  50. 450

    [[As for info over too short of a time period. Yes, temps are going up and we are producing CO2. However, if the temp can be seen to go up and down peaking every 500 years and this happens over the course of 1000s and 1000s of years we will know that this is normal. It just so happens that the temps are going up now and we are producing CO2, if we didn’t produce CO2 temps would still go up since that is normal.]]

    The world is warmer now than in the last 1,300 years. And CO2 is higher than it has been in 650,000 years. More CO2 in the air yields a hotter ground, all else being equal. We know that from radiation physics.