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Swindled: Carl Wunsch responds

Filed under: — group @ 12 March 2007 - (Türkçe) (English)

The following letter from Carl Wunsch is intended to clarify his views on global warming in general, and the The Great Global Warming Swindle which misrepresented them.

Partial Response to the London Channel 4 Film “The Global Warming Swindle”

Carl Wunsch 11 March 2007

I believe that climate change is real, a major threat, and almost surely has a major human-induced component. But I have tried to stay out of the `climate wars’ because all nuance tends to be lost, and the distinction between what we know firmly, as scientists, and what we suspect is happening, is so difficult to maintain in the presence of rhetorical excess. In the long run, our credibility as scientists rests on being very careful of, and protective of, our authority and expertise.

The science of climate change remains incomplete. Some elements are so firmly based on well-understood principles, or for which the observational record is so clear, that most scientists would agree that they are almost surely true (adding CO2 to the atmosphere is dangerous; sea level will continue to rise,…). Other elements remain more uncertain, but we as scientists in our roles as informed citizens believe society should be deeply concerned about their possibility: failure of US midwestern precipitation in 100 years in a mega-drought; melting of a large part of the Greenland ice sheet, among many other examples.

I am on record in a number of places complaining about the over-dramatization and unwarranted extrapolation of scientific facts. Thus the notion that the Gulf Stream would or could “shut off” or that with global warming Britain would go into a “new ice age” are either scientifically impossible or so unlikely as to threaten our credibility as a scientific discipline if we proclaim their reality [i.e. see this previous RC post]. They also are huge distractions from more immediate and realistic threats. I’ve paid more attention to the extreme claims in the literature warning of coming catastrophe, both because I regard the scientists there as more serious, and because I am very sympathetic to the goals of my colleagues who sometimes seem, however, to be confusing their specific scientific knowledge with their worries about the future.

When approached by WAGTV, on behalf of Channel 4, known to me as one of the main UK independent broadcasters, I was led to believe that I would be given an opportunity to explain why I, like some others, find the statements at both extremes of the global change debate distasteful. I am, after all a teacher, and this seemed like a good opportunity to explain why, for example, I thought more attention should be paid to sea level rise, which is ongoing and unstoppable and carries a real threat of acceleration, than to the unsupportable claims that the ocean circulation was undergoing shutdown (Nature, December 2005).

I wanted to explain why observing the ocean was so difficult, and why it is so tricky to predict with any degree of confidence such important climate elements as its heat and carbon storage and transports in 10 or 100 years. I am distrustful of prediction scenarios for details of the ocean circulation that rely on extremely complicated coupled models that run out for decades to thousands of years. The science is not sufficiently mature to say which of the many complex elements of such forecasts are skillful. Nonetheless, and contrary to the impression given in the film, I firmly believe there is a great deal to be learned from models. With effort, all of this is explicable in terms the public can understand.

In the part of the “Swindle” film where I am describing the fact that the ocean tends to expel carbon dioxide where it is warm, and to absorb it where it is cold, my intent was to explain that warming the ocean could be dangerous—because it is such a gigantic reservoir of carbon. By its placement in the film, it appears that I am saying that since carbon dioxide exists in the ocean in such large quantities, human influence must not be very important — diametrically opposite to the point I was making — which is that global warming is both real and threatening in many different ways, some unexpected.

Many of us feel an obligation to talk to the media—it’s part of our role as scientists, citizens, and educators. The subjects are complicated, and it is easy to be misquoted or quoted out context. My experience in the past is that these things do happen, but usually inadvertently — most reporters really do want to get it right.

Channel 4 now says they were making a film in a series of “polemics”. There is nothing in the communication we had (much of it on the telephone or with the film crew on the day they were in Boston) that suggested they were making a film that was one-sided, anti-educational, and misleading. I took them at face value—clearly a great error. I knew I had no control over the actual content, but it never occurred to me that I was dealing with people who already had a reputation for distortion and exaggeration.

The letter I sent them as soon as I heard about the actual program is below. [available here]

As a society, we need to take out insurance against catastrophe in the same way we take out homeowner’s protection against fire. I buy fire insurance, but I also take the precaution of having the wiring in the house checked, keeping the heating system up to date, etc., all the while hoping that I won’t need the insurance. Will any of these precautions work? Unexpected things still happen (lightning strike? plumber’s torch igniting the woodwork?). How large a fire insurance premium is it worth paying? How much is it worth paying for rewiring the house? $10,000 but perhaps not $100,000? There are no simple answers even at this mundane level.

How much is it worth to society to restrain CO2 emissions — will that guarantee protection against global warming? Is it sensible to subsidize insurance for people who wish to build in regions strongly susceptible to coastal flooding? These and others are truly complicated questions where often the science is not mature enough give definitive answers, much as we would like to be able to provide them. Scientifically, we can recognize the reality of the threat, and much of what society needs to insure against. Statements of concern do not need to imply that we have all the answers. Channel 4 had an opportunity to elucidate some of this. The outcome is sad.


162 Responses to “Swindled: Carl Wunsch responds”

  1. 1
    pat neuman says:

    I agree that ‘sea level rise is ongoing and unstoppable and carries a real threat of acceleration’ – thus my response is that it is NOT sensible to subsidize insurance for people who wish to build in regions susceptible to coastal flooding. I believe that any subsidizing for people living near current ocean levels should go to moving them out of there.

  2. 2

    Unless producers and broadcasters of this kind see some consequences for their actions, such manipulation and distortion seem likely to continue. There are a number of climate law suits in preparation. Could parties such as these be implicated on ground of negligence or worse — for example as accessories to acts that endanger lives?

  3. 3
    Moira Kemp says:

    The programme is being aired again on More 4 this evening.

  4. 4
    pete best says:

    Personally I just think it gives carte blanche for the media to print whatever it wants and project things is truely meaningless and agenda driven ways. The whole climate change animal is a political minefield. Lets just hope we cut our Carbon output drastically over the coming decades.

  5. 5
    Brian Verre says:

    “Could parties such as these be implicated on ground of negligence or worse — for example as accessories to acts that endanger lives?”

    Do you ever wonder why there are so many people openly critical of your world view? Please promote your position rather than advocating the criminal prosecution of the dissenters.

  6. 6
    tamino says:

    It’s time for you guys at RealClimate to initiate a documentary. Such works as the “swindle” are denialist propaganda, but slickly done and very persuasive to the neophyte. Al Gore’s film, while excellent, is incomplete and treats the science in too simplified a fashion — leaving it open to obfuscation by clever propaganda. And let’s face it, Al is not a scientist (let alone a climate scientist) so his word carries far less weight — scientifically — than yours.

    You are not filmmakers, so you’d need the participation of an expert in that field. Maybe Michael Moore (whatever else you think of him, he’s a good filmmaker) would be willing, and his name would add a tremendous publicity boost. You also need a scientist with some real charisma to do most of the talking — someone on the level of Carl Sagan. There’s got to be someone who can handle it.

    And don’t give me some story about how your busy research schedules mean you don’t have time. We don’t have time to *wait* for such a work. This blog is outstanding, but only reaches the blogosphere. Written works and teaching schedules at Univ. reach an even more limited audience. Peer-reviewed research only reaches the public through far too many journalistic filters. If you can bring about the *right* documentary, it just might be the most important scientific accomplishment of your lives.

    We need to reach the mass of voters, especially in the U.S., and we need to do it NOW. Give it to me straight, doctor. I can take it.

  7. 7
    Hank Roberts says:

    Even simpler: provide the footnotes to Mr. Gore’s slideshow. Without a current version of that online _with_links_to_sources_ it’s just another opinion piece, even though the climate scientists say they agree with what he’s saying.

    I don’t know if his slideshow is being changed as the facts come in. I hope so; else it’s just a snapshot and a dated one by now. I assume it’s being updated.

    But I can’t find the footnotes. That, perhaps, scientists can as individuals press his staff to provide, and then evaluate and complete, so they can be put in public view.

  8. 8
    DonGri says:

    Prof. Wunsch’s concern is fully understandable as he is one of those who since long has taken a comprehensive view on climate matters including particularly the seven seas. But the matter is difficult to discuss balanced as long as The UN Convention on Climate Change does not defines the term climate. An accumulation of weather data is a statistical means and remains statistics regardless how they are named, and how useful they might be in one or the other case. Why do we not listen to such statesman as the British Prime Minister S. Disraeli (1804-1881): There are lies, dammed lies, and then there are statistics. Statistics are an important tool, but CLIMATE defined, as statistics is nonsense! : http://www.oceanclimate.de/English/Sea_Law_1994.pdf Climate cannot be ‘fixed’ as weather over a longer period of time! In science such meaningless term prevents a reasonable debate.

  9. 9
    Ike Solem says:

    David Attenborough has a good two-part series on global warming and climate change called “Are We Changing Planet Earth” that aired on BBC; available at:

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4t7z_part-1-are-we-changing-planet-earth (Part 1)
    and
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4tzq_part-2-are-we-changing-planet-earth (Part 2)

    Starts off with a discussion of the polar regions and the glacial effects, rising sea levels, etc. Certainly worth seeing.

  10. 10
    Andrew Dodds says:

    Re: 5.

    Here we have a problem.

    Freedom of speach means we shouldn’t prosecuete people for voicing their *opinions*, no matter how stupid/disagreeable/mad/whatever. A fine principle, which should be upheld to a stronger degree worldwide than it is now.

    But claiming *opinion* or, as in this case *fiction* to be fact.. is this really free speach? If I make a kid’s TV program claiming that it is perfectly safe to pour petrol on your parent’s carpet and set light to it, is that OK under free speach, and should I be immune from prosecution for doing it? How about a claim that vaccinations are harmful (again, fiction or opinion presented as fact) – leading to a disease resurgance and children dying – is that OK?

    Presenting fiction or opinion as fact is NOT the same as free speach. It falls under fraud, and it should be possible to prosecuete for fraud by anyone who is harmed by that fraud. There is going to be a grey area (and around the edges of AGW there no doubt are significant grey areas) – but thats what courts are for.

  11. 11
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 6

    Tamino, I strongly support your suggestion that RC and legitimate AGW researchers and science spokespersons take on the challenge of doing an authoritative documentary for global distribution.

    But, [Michael Moore (whatever else you think of him, he's a good filmmaker)] is not appropriate for this task. We need to reach right of center-types everywhere and he is their SATAN. Clint Eastwood is my first choice.

  12. 12
    Carlos Rymer says:

    I believe a film by scientists is highly necessary. Although there are documentaries out there, we need something on the scale of “An Inconvenient Truth,” and not put out by politicians, but by scientists. Guys, I’m a youth really worried that we are seriously running out of time. I do think your time in doing this would be really valuable to young people who see global warming as a war or global crisis on the scale of a global depression. We need to see this as a war in order to begin mass production of wind turbines and other alternatives (without much regard to invalid arguments about costs). I bet the youth climate movement would be highly supportive of this. Just make sure you work with people who will make the film at a level good enough to receive lots of publicity. Thanks in advance! :)

  13. 13
    Paul Biggs says:

    Transcript of TGGWS:

    Professor Wunsch:
    25:43 The ocean is the major reservoir into which carbon dioxide goes when it comes out of the atmosphere or to from which it is re-emitted to the the atmosphere. If you heat the surface of the ocean, it tends to emit carbon dioxide. Similarly, if you cool the ocean surface, the ocean can dissolve more carbon dioxide.

    Professor Wunsch:
    26:44 – The ocean has a memory of past events ugh running out as far as 10,000 years. So for example, if somebody says oh I’m seeing changes in the North Atlantic, this must mean that the climate system is changing, it may only mean that something happened in a remote part of the ocean decades or hundreds of years ago who’s effects are now beginning to show up in the North Atlantic.

    Professor Wunsch:
    49:22 – The models are so complicated, you can often adjust them is such a way that they do something very exciting.

    Professor Wunsch:
    50:46 – Even within the scientific community you see, it’s a problem.
    If I run a complicated model and I do something to it like ugh melt a lot of ice into the ocean and nothing happens, ugh it’s not likely to get printed. But if I run the same model, and I adjust it in such a way that something dramatic happens to the ocean circulation like the heat transport turns off, ugh it will be published. People will say this is very exciting. It will even get picked by the media. So there is a bias, there’s is a very powerful bias within the media, and within the science community itself, toward results which are ugh dramatizable. If Earth freezes over, that’s a much more interesting story than saying well you know it ugh fluctuates around, sometimes the mass flux goes up by 10%, sometimes it goes down by 20%, but eventually it comes back. Well you know, which would you do a story on? That’s what it’s about.

  14. 14
    mankoff says:

    Re #7: The version of the slideshow provided to the Gore trainees of The Climate Project has footnotes and is kept up-to-date by the staff and in a large part the trainees as volunteers.

  15. 15
    pat neuman says:

    Climate scientists participated in an excellent documentary in 2000 titled Warning from the Wild. The Weather Channel also did a good documentary with climate scientists in 2000 titled Hot Planet.

    Documentaries are watched mainly by people who already have interest and are reading about climate via the Internet. As I’ve said here since realclimate began, the National Weather Service should give training to their meteorologists on climate change who can help educate other meteorologists who enter people’s living room on a daily basis according to the professional climatologist at The Weather Channel.

  16. 16
    John Gribbin says:

    Re 10

    We had exactly that problem with the scare over MMR vaccine in the UK. People are dying now as a result.

    John Gribbin

  17. 17
    tamino says:

    Most documentaries are watched mainly by people who already have interest and are investigating through a number of pathways. But some documentaries — and An Inconvenient Truth is a prime example — go way beyond that. They garner major publicity worldwide, reach a vast audience which would not otherwise know, and have a real impact. So I still maintain that such an effort is not only valuable, it’s necessary.

    As for Michael Moore as producer, I just pulled a name out of the air because he’s one of the few well-known documentary filmmakers. If we can get Eastwood to do it, that’d be terrific.

  18. 18

    Look again at comment 13 by Paul Biggs. These are Professor Wunsch’s own words and his only words. No one disagrees with them in any context.

    The problem is that Professor Wensch is unhappy with being quoted in a manner that gives weight to his proper and appropriate concern about the uncertainty of global climate “science” and the high potential for bias.

    The science is, indeed, uncertain and as many of the other comments above demonstrate, bias is not only alive and well, but seeking a new movie outlet.

  19. 19
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Re 12:
    >…we need something on the scale of “An Inconvenient Truth,” and not put out by politicians, but by scientists. Guys, I’m a youth really worried that we are seriously running out of time. I do think your time in doing this would be really valuable to young people who see global warming as a war or global crisis on the scale of a global depression.

    If that is your starting point, how will your film be any more balanced than Swindle or Inconvenient Truth? They both seem to be propaganda to me.

    Also, a documentary that intends to influence policy should include economics as well as climate science. The part of Swindle that was most convincing was the potential effect on the developing world of limiting cheap energy.

  20. 20
    Hank Roberts says:

    > These are Professor Wunsch’s own words
    > and his only words.

    No, those are not his only words.

    Those are the cherrypicked quotes the biased producers put onscreen.

    Dr. Wunsch tells you that. Read his letter.

  21. 21
    Richard Ordway says:

    link above is broken…”The letter I sent them as soon as I heard about the actual program is below. [available here]“

  22. 22
    tamino says:

    Re: #18 (David Schnare)

    Look again at THE POST. These are Professor Wunsch’s own words, and they are not edited in order to take them out of context.

  23. 23

    I’m reluctant to stick my head above the parapet here, because I read and respect this blog and don’t want to use it merely to promote the Beagle Project (building a replica of HMS Beagle for the Darwin 2009 celebrations and to make a circumnavigation following the 1831-36 voyage crewed by young scientists). If you want to do a documentary, producers will want the dreaded ‘angle’, and the combinatioon of climate change plus the Beagle could be it. I’m sure you’ll know that the Beagle’s Capt Robert FitzRoy was an enthusiastic meteorologist and founder of the UK Met Office, tried long-range weather forecasting in The Times, was ridiculed in the same paper for the inaccuracy of his forecasts and sacked. We’re keen that FitzRoy’s achievements don’t get lost in Darwinmania, and I think one of the big hooks for TV and scientific interest in our restaging of the voyage will be the climate science. We have FitzRoy’s meticulous records, his journals, the ship’s logs (which recorded wind speed, direction and pressure hourly), Darwin’s writings, letters, diaries. Could these be used to built up a picture of the climate at the time as the basis for a compare and contract programme? Both of the climate then and now and the state of the science at its birth then and our super computer forecasting now? The route of the voyage will also take in plenty of places where warming is being felt.

    Beagle Project site: http://www.thebeagleproject.com
    Blog: http://www.thebeagleproject.com/beagleblog.html

    I like it so much, I’m off to write up the proposal.

  24. 24
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #168 (on previous thread, since I can’t get in) & hopp’s “most of our so called knowledge is about trusting others/authorities/sources. Who/what do you trust? And why?”

    I also have to rely on the experts, so I try to reason it this way (those who’ve read my 50+ similar RC writings, please excuse me):

    1. If the scientists are wrong, and there is no AGW, but we act as if they are right and mitigate it, the result will be that mitigation up to 3/4 reduction in GHGs will save us money and strengthen our economy, and solve other environmental, as well as non-environmental, problems (local pollution, acid rain, wars for oil, etc). See http://www.natcap.org for inspiration on this. It’s the classical win-win-win-win-win situation.

    2. If the scientists are right, and AGW is happening, but we think they’re wrong and we fail to mitigate it, the harms and loses will be tremendous, esp if you add in this positive feeback stuff and the warming spirals way out of our ability to mitigate GW. The classical lose-lose-lose-lose-BigLose situation.

    Now, I learned many decades ago in school about the natural greenhouse effect, and how it keeps our world just right for life to exist (without it we’d be total goners).

    So when in the late 1980s I learned about AGW, it immediately made sense to me. I did not need the scientists’ 95% certainty it was happening (the 1st studies to reach .05 level of significance or 95% certainty came out in 1995) to start mitigating. I’d say 20% certainty would have been enough for me (and 3% certainty on this positive feedback warming spiral, which only learned about some 4 years ago). In fact, I was even willing to sacrifice and spend to mitigate back in 1990. Saving the world is as good a cause as any charity. But over the years I’ve managed to save $$ while reducing 1/4, then 1/3, then 1/2 of my GHGs. That includes many many measures with GHG components, such as water conservation, as water requires energy to pump & heat it.

    Finally we moved to Texas where I got on Green Mountain Energy’s 100% wind-generated electricity (&, of course, we bought our home close to work), so even though I spend maybe $5 or $10 more a month for electricity in our all-electric home, the $hundreds in savings from my other measures, and our great reduction in KWHs over the years makes this more than feasible. And all this while actually increasing our living standard!

    So, tell me again, why mitigation is not a good idea, even when certainty has not reached the ulta-cautious, caveat-ladened scientific levels (and those very high bars have now been reached)? I understand and accept that scientists have to avoid false positives (making claims that are untrue) to protect their reputations — they cannot afford to be the boy who cries wolf; but you’d think people living in the world would want to avoid false negatives (failing to address a serious problem, when it is indeed happening).

  25. 25
    Bruce Hall says:

    From Dr. John Ray:
    http://antigreen.blogspot.com/2007/03/prof.html

    After viewing these comments by the professor only hours after watching the program, I was shocked. I decided to go back and analyze the scenes in which the good professor appeared, and see if I could possibly imagine a “context” in which the actual words uttered by Professor Wunsch would have had a significantly different meaning. I could not. Maybe you can. I have printed the Professor’s words as they appeared in the film, and the time at which they appeared. The film is currently available on Google Video but I don’t know how long it will be there.

    In this portion of the discussion, Professor Wunsch begins by explaining how the ocean’s surface temperature plays a role in the exchange of carbon dioxide. He later comments on the vastness of the oceans, and their extremely slow reaction to any changes in climate as a result of such vastness.

    Professor Wunsch:
    25:43 The ocean is the major reservoir into which carbon dioxide goes when it comes out of the atmosphere or to from which it is re-emitted to the the atmosphere. If you heat the surface of the ocean, it tends to emit carbon dioxide. Similarly, if you cool the ocean surface, the ocean can dissolve more carbon dioxide.

    Professor Wunsch:
    26:44 – The ocean has a memory of past events ugh running out as far as 10,000 years. So for example, if somebody says oh I’m seeing changes in the North Atlantic, this must mean that the climate system is changing, it may only mean that something happened in a remote part of the ocean decades or hundreds of years ago who’s effects are now beginning to show up in the North Atlantic.

    In this portion of the film, the professor is speaking about the complexity of climate models and how their results can be greatly influenced by the input data they are given.

    Professor Wunsch:
    49:22 – The models are so complicated, you can often adjust them is such a way that they do something very exciting.

    Professor Wunsch:
    50:46 – Even within the scientific community you see, it’s a problem.
    If I run a complicated model and I do something to it like ugh melt a lot of ice into the ocean and nothing happens, ugh it’s not likely to get printed. But if I run the same model, and I adjust it in such a way that something dramatic happens to the ocean circulation like the heat transport turns off, ugh it will be published. People will say this is very exciting. It will even get picked by the media. So there is a bias, there’s is a very powerful bias within the media, and within the science community itself, toward results which are ugh dramatizable. If Earth freezes over, that’s a much more interesting story than saying well you know it ugh fluctuates around, sometimes the mass flux goes up by 10%, sometimes it goes down by 20%, but eventually it comes back. Well you know, which would you do a story on? That’s what it’s about.

    I’ve watched this video several times now and I can’t believe the comments made in the film, and those in the above mentioned articles came from the same man. In my opinion, the Professor’s words speak for themselves. I don’t see how they could mean anything other than what they mean.

  26. 26
    pete best says:

    Governments are starting to take notice, here in the UK AGW is being argued over both the two main political parties as to who is the greener and i know that individual US states and the democrats especially if they win power might also take a look at the US situation and do something there. We have ethenol getting research, solar and wind expanding and alternative energies being talked about and funded and the EU promising 20% cuts by now and 2020 is fossil fuel use.

    Its not all doom and gloom, a lot of countries have already decided that the threat is present and needs tackling as a matter of urgency.

    There will probably be some downsides such as population increase making us use more fossil fuels and wars in the middle east due to transition times for changing energy sources but on the whole its a start.

  27. 27
    Tom Boucher says:

    Re #8: “Statistics are an important tool, but CLIMATE defined, as statistics is nonsense!”

    Statistics summarize the climate data we gather, statistical methods allow us to interpret this data. Without statistics there can be no data – surely you are not advocating science without data?

    “In science such meaningless term prevents a reasonable debate.”

    Do you mean a meaningless term like “global warming”?

  28. 28
    dhogaza says:

    I’ve watched this video several times now and I can’t believe the comments made in the film, and those in the above mentioned articles came from the same man. In my opinion, the Professor’s words speak for themselves. I don’t see how they could mean anything other than what they mean.

    In other words, the denialist spin machine is now saying the good professor’s lying when he says his views were misrepresented.

    This reminds me of creationist quote-mining of the likes of Stephen J Gould, where they snip a sentence here, a sentence there from his writings to “prove” that this prominent evolutionary biologist and paleontologist “didn’t really believe in evolution”.

  29. 29
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Yes, sea rise will do great harm to property and reduction agri lands, but presumably people will at least have time to get out of the way. I think a greater harm will be the melting of glaciers on which vast populations depend for agricultural irrigation, hydro-power, and drinking water. Can the populations of South Asia, China, or Peru go elsewhere to find a good water supply?

    See: http://www.climateark.org/shared/reader/welcome.aspx?linkid=70806
    &
    http://www.climateark.org/shared/reader/welcome.aspx?linkid=70792

  30. 30
    pete best says:

    Ah yes it seems that back in the good old US of A some people are hell bent on killing the planet.

    http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/03/12/muckraker/?source=newsletter

    Good old James Hansen, trying to avert a climate disaster, however it would seem that the USA might have no other option but to build 169 new coal fire power plants over the next decade could spell disaster.

  31. 31
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #8 & 27, “Statistics summarize the climate data we gather,” I think stats summarize the WEATHER data…so climate is statistics on weather. At least that’s the way I understand it.

    It’s like Emile Durkheim’s study of suicide (usually a very personal and private act, and due to many unique reasons); but Durkheim studied it at the statistical level and found that suicide rates were fairly constant. Obviously it’s not the same people committing suicide each year, or they don’t in Oct tell the people, “Okay we’ve met our quota for this year, no more suicides.” He also found it higher for certain types of countries or populations (men v. women, the rich v. the poor). And there are up and down trends. This calls for a different level of analysis — the macro sociocultural level…..I.e., there are other “forcings” aside from personal decision-making and psychological factors.

    Likewise climate (weather at the macro-stats level) has regularities and causes that individual weather events do not have – at least not in the same way. So, just because it’s getting cooler in the obscure location of Rovpasifgps, Rincisnob (or Mr. Codmenosdinks there does not commit suicide, but his wife does), that does not invalidate the average global warming or general findings re suicide, or the “forcings” that are causing the trends.

  32. 32
    pat neuman says:

    Re:15

    I want to clarify with a couple of real case examples in my past experience with NOAA’s NWS.

    The first example is an excerpt from a letter to me by Attorney Tracy Biggs, U.S. Office of Special Counsel, January 16, 2001:


    Specifically, you allege that the NWS is not handling the issue of global warming in a way that best serves the interest of the public. You believe that NWS does not communicate the urgency of the problem and the potential dangers of global warming to the public. In particular, you contend that given NOAA’s February press release on the possible acceleration of global warming, it is important and appropriate for you to incorporate its effects into your work at NWS.



    Sincerely,
    Tracy L. Biggs
    Attorney

    The second example includes two e-mail messages from February of 2000 at the National Weather Service North Central River Forecast Center (NCRFC) office in Chanhassen, MN.

    The original E-mail was from me, when I was a Senior Hydrologist at NWS NCRFC, to my supervisor Mr. Dean Braatz, the Hydrologist in Charge of the NWS NCRFC office in Chanhassen, MN.

    1. Original message:

    Subject: Effects of global warming on spring flood outlook procedures

    Author: Pat Neuman at W-CR-MSR
    Date: 2/28/2000 09:29

    Scientists are convinced that global warming is occurring. There is a recent report by NOAA that global warming could be accelerating. The report was referenced by the presenter at the weather briefing this morning.

    Global warming has large implications regarding spring flood outlook procedures and the use of ESP. Can we get together and discuss this sometime?

    Perhaps there are others from NCRFC or the WFO that could take part in the discussion.

    Pat

    -

    2. Reply:

    Subject: Re: Effects of global warming on spring flood outlook procedures
    Author: Dean Braatz at W-CR-MSR
    Date: 2/28/00 11:03 AM

    Pat…. Again, let me say we have to walk lightly on this issue.

    Its beyond the scope of our operational mission in this office.

    Dean


    http://npat1.newsvine.com/_news/2007/03/11/609004-spring-floods-on-the-upper-mississippi-river-how-will-daily-flows-in-2007-compare

    Again, NWS should give training to their 5,000 meteorologists in 120 NWS offices on climate change so they can help educate the public and other meteorologists who enter living rooms every evening in the U.S.

  33. 33
    tamino says:

    Re: #25 (Bruce Hall)

    In this portion of the film, the professor is speaking about the complexity of climate models and how their results can be greatly influenced by the input data they are given.

    Professor Wunsch:
    49:22 – The models are so complicated, you can often adjust them is such a way that they do something very exciting.

    Is he talking about climate models? Or is he talking about models of ocean circulation, and the filmmaker edited things to make it seem he’s talking about climate models?

    I don’t know. Neither do you.

  34. 34
    DonGri says:

    Re # 27 (Comment by Tom Boucher) to #8. Weather statistics remain weather statistics, whether you call them â?? hulaâ??, or â??blahâ??, or â??climateâ??. Higher temperatures can be called â??warmingâ??, when all temperatures are rising, even â??global warmingâ??, which is at most a part of â??climate changeâ?? (when latter is defined as: average weather over a longer period of time). WMO and UNEP (and IPCC) did not know on how to â??writeâ?? for the UN Convention on Climate Change a definition: CLIMATE; they would not be able to do it today. Please try. The old fashion definition contradicts to include â??CHANGEâ??. But if you want to define â??climate changeâ?? you have to define â??climateâ?? first.

  35. 35
    Beth says:

    I have recently finished studying MSc Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies. My focus is upon education and helping younger people prepare for an uncertain future. Upon seeing the Swindle-show, I dived into the scientific papers both for and against GW. I am not a climatologist, astro-physicist, etc; and although I can follow the science to a degree, in many ways it escapes me. Lindzen has counteracted each GW point in his testimonies. I would like to see the same from the GW forum. I don’t really care about saving face, saving careers, saving the American economy (shock & awe: many people outside the US don’t) and I don’t care what political leanings the scientists have. I want a solid foundation to base my own work in sustainability on…so please…anybody who has “the science”…anybody who can meet Lindzen’s claims that the IPCC models had huge flaws, that CO2 lags behind temperature, that CO2 is not as much of a climate forcer as we believe…will you please give us the low down. I am getting sick of rhetoric, assumptions and name calling. By the way, the poor Africans that were shown who had a minute solar panel tagged on to the roof, and consequently (surprise, surprise) didn’t have enough energy to power both the fridge and a lightbulb does not reflect on renewable energy sources as being inferior to the corporate alternatives. I might suggest a larger panel…duh. Renewables (particularly medium sized community based systems) also have the benefit of keeping the big-guys out of poor people’s pockets. They have caused huge problems with their clean water systems with the payment meters in Africa. People can afford clean water for a day and then have to walk miles for mudhole water. In some cases, the moste advanced piece of machinery in the village is the payment meter! Again…give us something real to look at…argue it back and forth if you must…and let us help the young prepare. Afterall, they are the ones that will inherit the earth, the future is theirs, not the ageing oil barons, the ageing professors or the ageing politicians. They are not the ones that will have to live with the decisions being made now.

  36. 36

    Dealing with the media, especially for academics, can be very tricky and requires lots of experience and practice to do well. With that reality in mind let me suggest that those readers who find themselves needing to do so might find the following article I just published of some help.

    http://www.historians.org/Perspectives/issues/2007/0702/0702vie1.cfm

  37. 37
    Kevin Jaeger says:

    Prof. Wunsch says:The ocean is the major reservoir into which carbon dioxide goes when it comes out of the atmosphere or to from which it is re-emitted to the the atmosphere. If you heat the surface of the ocean, it tends to emit carbon dioxide. Similarly, if you cool the ocean surface, the ocean can dissolve more carbon dioxide.

    This is frankly a minor, technical point that is pretty much impossible to interpret out of context. Perhaps he said other brilliant things that ended up on the cutting room floor, but I don’t buy his complaints here. His other comments about the models speak for themselves, regardless of the context in which they were used.

    It looks to me like he’s trying to save himself from the abuse you good folks would have in store for him for fraternizing with the enemy.

    [Response: But for that sentence, context is everything. It was played in the middle of a discussion of why the current CO2 rise isn't human-caused, and in appearing to support previous statements in that discussion, it misleadingly appears that Wunsch too thinks that the current rise is not human-caused. Which in anyones book is a a misleading impression. In any case, Wunsch responded to this program way before we started talking about it. - gavin]

  38. 38
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #35, Beth, http://www.SunFrost.com DC refrigerators and freezers can work in Africa quite well on one pv panel, and in fact are shipped to Africa (last I heard) to areas where the electrical grid doesn’t reach, to keep vaccines cold or frozen. They are expensive, but that’s partly bec it’s a very small company, and they do pay for themselves in energy savings and less veggie spoilage (in about 10 or so years); apply economies of scale and the price could go down a lot.

    Step 1: reduce electric consumption with all efficiency/conservation measures possible.

    Step 2: consider going off-grid with alternative energy.

    Since I get http://www.GreenMountain.com 100% wind energy through the grid, I don’t have much incentive right now to go off grid, and the up-front costs are pretty high (I don’t think I’ll be living long enough for the payback). But I do understand that going off-grid is getting closer to being cost-effective, and small wind-turbines are getting quieter for suburban and urban applications. Still, it would be great if grid suppliers would add more wind and solar to their mix. Maybe offer it at a higher cost and the difference could be thought of as a “gift to the earth & an endowment to our progeny.”

  39. 39
    Bruce Hall says:

    #33

    Perhaps you might be interested in the comments by Dr. Lubos Motl of Harvard (physicist).

    http://motls.blogspot.com/2007/03/great-global-warming-swindle.html

  40. 40
    LogicallySpeaking says:

    “I want a solid foundation to base my own work in sustainability on…so please…anybody who has “the science”…anybody who can meet Lindzen’s claims that the IPCC models had huge flaws, that CO2 lags behind temperature, that CO2 is not as much of a climate forcer as we believe…will you please give us the low down. I am getting sick of rhetoric, assumptions and name calling.”

    As far as I know, Lindzen doesn’t really have any solid evidence to support his claim that climate models are flawed, or that CO2 is a weaker climate forcer than believed.

    As for the fact that CO2 has lagged behind temperature in the past.. well, that doesn’t mean that increased CO2 doesn’t cause changes in temperature. In an isolated farm, an increase in the number of chickens is always preceeded by an increase in the number of eggs. Of course, if you add more chickens to the “system”, you now have an increase in chickens leading to an increase in the number of eggs.

    Instead of asking everyone else to refute points for you, use a little bit of common sense to start off with.

  41. 41
    pat neuman says:

    CO2 atmospheric accumulation can lag behind temperature. As the atmosphere warms so do the oceans and permafrost regions which results in out gassing of CO2. Atmospheric warming and increasing CO2 concentrations pulses alternate and increase together.

  42. 42
    Ed G. says:

    re #35, Beth
    I don’t know which of Lindzen’s arguments you have been reading, but have you read:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/02/richard-lindzens-hol-testimony/

  43. 43
    clif says:

    Does this blog require registration?

  44. 44
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Lubos
    Chuckle. Ah, Lubos.

    He did explain clearly to me why climate sensitivity is, as he calculates it, one degree (here’s how: twin each CO2 molecule, two for one, with nothing else changing; assuming all else is held constant, he’s right; not in the real world, but in theory, correct).

    I’m hoping he can do that trick in reverse, cut CO2 by half, without changing anything else, perhaps by pulling in some extra loops of string. Hey, it could happen.

    But since you point to his website — Try putting this string into Google — see where you find it?
    “Canadian climatology PhD” “Dr Timothy Ball”
    Lubos, and Foxnews.

    Now — in the spirit of scientific inquiry — try this string into Google:
    “climatology PhD” “Dr Timothy Ball”

    See the difference? It always pays to check your sources, to find who’s fooling you.

  45. 45
    Blair Dowden says:

    Re #6, 11, 17: You have induced a nightmare – suppose Michael Moore is already preparing a “documentary” on global warming? To minimize the damage from such an event, it is vital that every scientist understand that they must not participate in any way in such a project, because Moore will manipulate your statements the same way Channel 4 did to Dr. Wunsch. You will be used to push Moore’s view that America is the source of all evil in the world, as well as the usual crazy alarmist scenarios (runaway greenhouse, etc). Is that the message you want to reach people with? The denialists will have a field day with it.

    Be warned.

  46. 46
    Beth says:

    #40 Thanks for your comments. I get the chicken-egg thing. It is not that I am failing to think logically, it is when people start talking about he compression of ice relative to air bubbles relative to the porosity of said ice and the amount of time it takes for that ice to seal when looking at the time scale of CO2 found in ice samples, I am pretty well lost. Maybe you aren’t. I don’t think that it is unreasonable to ask the experts in their fields to give us the information needed to refute the misinformation in the documentary. There are people on the MSc course at present who are delighted that “we are not at fault”. I would like to put forward some verifiable information on what is likely to become a hot topic. I appreciate that we are all responsible for our own research, but beleive me, I am doing mine. However, part of that research is asking experts in climatology, etc to fill in the blanks. Afterall, I do not want to be guilty of passing misinformation on to others. I may not be particularly logical in your estimation, but I trust that you will find me ethical.

  47. 47
    tamino says:

    Re: #45

    I don’t share your opinion of Michael Moore, but neither am I especially keen to have him produce such a documentary. What I do want is someone who is a first-rate filmmaker and can generate lots of publicity, so it doesn’t become “just another documentary” that people watch on PBS.

    Clint Eastwood sounds like a fine choice, and doesn’t carry any of the “baggage” associated with Michael Moore. He has certainly shown himself to be one of the world’s best filmmakers. So: Gavin, Raypierre, and the rest of the gang … it’s time for you guys to track down Eastwood and see whether he’d be willing to undertake such a project.

  48. 48
    Alvia Gaskill says:

    You might take note that the FX Channel in the U.S. is at this very moment showing The Day After Tomorrow.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Day_After_Tomorrow

    For those not familiar with the film, it’s about a NOAA scientist who can’t get the vice president to take global warming seriously. As a result, everyone has to move to Mexico. Pablo espanol senor Cheney?

  49. 49
    John Lang says:

    I think there should have been more criticism of Al Gore’s movie if the concern is so high in getting the science right.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=299

    Even to the point of promoting it to be shown in all classrooms when it is full of so many errors in the basic science.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=392

  50. 50
    Blair Dowden says:

    Re #48: The vice president would be quite right to ignore someone who claimed global warming would lead to an instant ice age. And if you want to convince people that climate change is about hysteria that violates every possible scientific principle (not to mention bad acting), recommend watching “The Day After Tomorrow.”


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