RealClimate logo


Convenient Untruths

Filed under: — group @ 15 October 2007 - (Svenska) (Español)

Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann

Update 10/18/07: We are very disappointed that the Washington Post has declined to run an op-ed placing the alleged 9 ‘errors’ in a proper scientific context, despite having run an extremely misleading news article last week entitled “UK Judge Rules Gore’s Climate Film Has 9 Errors”.

Last week, a UK High Court judge rejected a call to restrict the showing of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (AIT) in British schools. The judge, Justice Burton found that “Al Gore’s presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate” (which accords with our original assessment). There has been a lot of comment and controversy over this decision because of the judges commentary on 9 alleged “errors” (note the quotation marks!) in the movie’s description of the science. The judge referred to these as ‘errors’ in quotations precisely to emphasize that, while these were points that could be contested, it was not clear that they were actually errors (see Deltoid for more on that).

There are a number of points to be brought out here. First of all, “An Inconvenient Truth” was a movie and people expecting the same depth from a movie as from a scientific paper are setting an impossible standard. Secondly, the judge’s characterisation of the 9 points is substantially flawed. He appears to have put words in Gore’s mouth that would indeed have been wrong had they been said (but they weren’t). Finally, the judge was really ruling on how “Guidance Notes” for teachers should be provided to allow for more in depth discussion of these points in the classroom. This is something we wholehearted support – AIT is probably best used as a jumping off point for informed discussion, but it is not the final word. Indeed, the fourth IPCC report has come out in the meantime, and that has much more up-to-date and comprehensive discussions on all these points.

A number of discussions of the 9 points have already been posted (particularly at New Scientist and Michael Tobis’s wiki), and it is clear that the purported ‘errors’ are nothing of the sort. The (unofficial) transcript of the movie should be referred to if you have any doubts about this. It is however unsurprising that the usual climate change contrarians and critics would want to exploit this confusion for perhaps non-scientific reasons.

In the spirit of pushing forward the discussion, we have a brief set of guidance notes of our own for each of the 9 issues raised. These are not complete, and if additional pointers are noted in the comments, we’ll add them in here as we go along.

  • Ice-sheet driven sea level rise Gore correctly asserted that melting of Greenland or the West Antarctic ice sheet would raise sea levels 20ft (6 meters). In the movie, no timescale for that was specified, but lest you think that the 20 ft number is simply plucked out of thin air, you should note that this is about how much higher sea level was around 125,000 years ago during the last inter-glacial period. Then, global temperatures were only a degree or two warmer than today – and given that this is close to the minimum temperature rise we can expect in the future, that 20 ft is particularly relevant. The rate at which this is likely to happen is however highly uncertain as we have discussed previously.
  • Pacific island nations needing to evacuate Much of Tuvalu is only a few feet above sea level, and any sea level rise is going to impact them strongly. The impacts are felt in seemingly disconnected ways – increasing brine in groundwater, increasing damage and coastal erosion from tides and storm surges, but they are no less real for that. The government of Tuvalu has asked New Zealand to be ready to evacuate islanders if needed, and while currently only 75 people per year can potentially be resettled, this could change if the situation worsened.
    In the movie there is only one line that referred to this: “That’s why the citizens of these pacific nations have all had to evacuate to New Zealand”, which is out of context in the passage it’s in, but could be said to only be a little ahead of it’s time.
  • Climate impacts on the ocean conveyor The movie references the Younger Dryas event that occurred 11,000 years ago when, it is thought, a large discharge of fresh water into the North Atlantic disrupted the currents, causing significant regional cooling. That exact scenario can’t happen again, but similar processes are likely to occur. The primary unresolved scientific issue regards how quickly the circulation is likely to change as we move forward. The model simulations in the latest IPCC report show a slowdown in the circulation – by about 30% by 2100 – but there is much we don’t understand about modeling that circulation and future inputs of freshwater from the ice sheets, so few are willing to completely rule out the possibility of a more substantial change in the future. Further discussion on what this really means and doesn’t mean is available here and here.
  • CO2 and Temperature connections in the ice core record Gore stated that the greenhouse gas levels and temperature changes over ice age signals had a complex relationship but that they ‘fit’. Again, both of these statements are true. The complexity though is actually quite fascinating and warrants being further discussed by those interested in how the carbon cycle will react in the future. We’ve discussed the lead/lag issue previously. A full understanding of why CO2 changes in precisely the pattern that it does during ice ages is elusive, but among the most plausible explanations is that increased received solar radiation in the southern hemisphere due to changes in Earth’s orbital geometry warms the southern ocean, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, which then leads to further warming through an enhanced greenhouse effect. Gore’s terse explanation of course does not mention such complexities, but the crux of his point–that the observed long-term relationship between CO2 and temperature in Antarctica supports our understanding of the warming impact of increased CO2 concentrations–is correct. Moreover, our knowledge of why CO2 is changing now (fossil fuel burning) is solid. We also know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and that the carbon cycle feedback is positive (increasing temperatures lead to increasing CO2 and CH4), implying that future changes in CO2 will be larger than we might anticipate.
  • Kilimanjaro Gore is on even more solid ground with Kilimanjaro. In the movie, the retreat of Kilimanjaro is not claimed to be purely due to global warming , but it is a legitimate example of the sort of thing one expects in a warmer world, and is consistent with what almost all other tropical mountain glaciers are doing. There is indeed some ongoing discussion in the literature as to whether or not the retreat of ice on Kilimanjaro is related to the direct effects (warming atmospheric temperatures) or indirect effects (altered patterns of humidity, cloud cover, and precipitation influencing Kilimanjaro’s ice mass) of climate change, and that argument isn’t yet over. But these arguments would be of more relevance if (a) we were not witnessing the imminent demise of an ice field that we know has existed for at least the past 12,000 years and (b) most of the other glaciers weren’t disappearing as well.
  • Drying up of Lake Chad It is undisputed that Lake Chad has indeed shrunk rapidly in recent decades. While irrigation and upstream water use are probably contributing factors, the dominant cause is the reduction of rainfall across the entire Sahel from the 1950s to the 1980s and with rainfall today still substantially below the high point 50 years ago. There is substantial evidence that at least a portion of this drying out is human-caused. A few recent papers (Held et al, PNAS; Chung and Ramanathan and Biasutti and Giannini) have addressed causes ranging from Indian Ocean changes in sea surface temperature to the increase in atmospheric aerosols in the Northern hemisphere. Gore uses this example to illustrate that there are droughts in some regions even while other areas are flooding. Unfortunately this is exactly what the models suggest will happen.
  • Hurricane Katrina and global warming Katrina is used in the film as a legitimate illustration of the destructive power of hurricanes, our inability to cope with natural disaster, and the kind of thing that could well get worse in a warmer world. Nowhere does Gore state that Katrina was caused by global warming. We discussed this attribution issue back in 2005, and what we said then still holds. Individual hurricanes cannot be attributed to global warming, but the statistics of hurricanes, in particular the maximum intensities attained by storms, may indeed be.
  • Impact of sea ice retreat on Polar bears As we presaged in August, summer Arctic sea ice shattered all records this year for the minimum extent. This was partially related to wind patterns favorable to ice export in the spring, but the long term trends are almost certainly related to the ongoing and dramatic warming in the Arctic. Polar bears do indeed depend on the sea ice to hunt for seals in the spring and summer, and so a disappearance of this ice is likely to impact them severely. The specific anecdote referred to in the movie came from observations of anomalous drownings of bears in 2004 and so was accurate. However, studying the regional populations of polar bears is not easy and assessing their prospects is tough. In the best observed populations such as in western Hudson Bay (Stirling and Parkinson, 2006), female polar bear weight is going down as the sea ice retreats over the last 25 years, and the FWS is considering an endangered species listing. However, it should be stated that in most of the discussions about polar bears, they are used as a representative species. Arctic ecosystems are changing on many different levels, but it is unsurprising that charismatic mega-fauna get more press than bivalves. In the end, it may be the smaller and less photogenic elements that have the biggest impact.
  • Impact of ocean warming on coral reefs Corals are under stress from a multitude of factors; overfishing, deliberate destruction, water pollution, sea level rise, ocean acidification and, finally, warming oceans. The comment in the movie that rising temperatures and other factors cause coral bleaching is undoubtedly true. Bleaching episodes happen when the coral is under stress, and many examples have been linked to anomalously warm ocean temperatures (Australia in 1998 and 2002, all over the Indian Ocean in recent years). Corals are a sobering example of how climate change exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in eco-systems, potentially playing the role of the straw that breaks the camel’s back in many instances.

Overall, our verdict is that the 9 points are not “errors” at all (with possibly one unwise choice of tense on the island evacuation point). But behind each of these issues lies some fascinating, and in some cases worrying, scientific findings and we can only applaud the prospect that more classroom discussions of these subjects may occur because of this court case.

492 Responses to “Convenient Untruths”

  1. 201
    Michael says:

    J.S. McIntyre, go ahead, ask Ray if he thinks climate science is settled. Look thru every one of his posts from the beginning and tell me if there is a trend of support for anything other than strict AGW.

  2. 202
    Timothy Chase says:

    Michael (#195) wrote:

    Ray, do you realise how anti-science it is – in ANY situation – to say “stay away, the science is settled”?

    Michael, maybe I have overlooked some passage, but I didn’t see anything to that effect. And obviously there is never a point at which anything is settled in the absolute sense in empirical science. Nevertheless, science is capable of a degree of justification which most people rarely run into in their day-to-day lives.

    Do you believe that the moon orbits the Earth which orbits the sun? Do you believe that electrons exist? Do you believe that light is both a wave and a particle? How do you feel about Maxwell’s Equations? Do you think that most of those points of light in the night sky are mostly stars similar to our sun? Do you accept the chemical formula for water? Do you have any problems with Schroedinger’s equation? Do you accept the view that many subatomic particles are subject to exponential decay? How does electric charge strike you? Do you think it exists? What about quarks? Would you agree that Newton’s gravitational law works well in weak gravitational fields at small velocites?

    Alright. How about the following…

    Does carbon dioxide both absorb and emit longwave radiation – due to molecules achieving excited vibrational and rovibrational states? Can we image the reemissions using satellites and know what it is that we are imaging? Do we know how to determine the isotopes of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and reach well-justified conclusions to the effect that the carbon came from fossil fuels? Are we able to measure the expansion of the Hadley cells of atmospheric circulation? How many data points are required before you can acknowledge the existence of a trend?

    What makes the latter set of questions different from the first set?

    If scientific conclusions never warrant being called knowledge, what could be? But now would you consider it in keeping with the scientific spirit if someone were to refuse to accept any given scientific conclusion no matter how overwhelming the accumulated body of evidence for it is? If they refused to accept it as a form of knowledge and encouraged others to take the same view simply because it was something they would rather not believe or have others believe? Because they considered politically unpaletable? Because they thought that the recognition of it not in keeping with their financial interests?

    Don’t worry – I’m not really expecting a response.

  3. 203
    robert says:

    Michael,

    I’d be shocked if you can find a bonafide scientist anywhere, much less a climate scientist, who believes “climate science is settled.”

    What does seem to be settled in the minds of most climate researchers, however (as indicated in the IPCC AR4), are the following: (1) Earth’s climate is warming, globally; (2) the probablility that the lion’s share of the warming is anthropogenic is high; (3) the potential for consequential, negative impact to the human ecosystem this century is substantial; (4) the potential for catastrophic impact to the human ecosystem this century is significant and growing.

    Of course there are many unanswered questions about the climate, hence the ongoing research; but the answers to these questions are unlikely to change the above conclusions.

  4. 204
    Rod B says:

    Taber (173) your words are, “…being a contrarian is….. primarily a distraction and does little to advance the state of the argument.” I infer from all your words you really mean contrarians do not advance the state of the consensus.

  5. 205
    Aaron Lewis says:

    Off topic
    We keep seeing bad climate data being circulated and cited by the deniers. I keep wondering, why they keep using the bad data. Is it a conspiracy by the “Carbon Industries?”

    Then, last night I got an environmental remediation design report from one of the big engineering firms. The topic is non-political and the report had been reviewed by two different branches of the Department of Defense, and the US EPA. In the report are 10,000-pages of bad data. It is not political, it is just full of errors.

    I do not think that Americans (even engineers) are very good a telling at telling good data from bad data. Taking the simplest explanation, the citing of bad climate data thing is not a conspiracy, it is ignorance. If we are going to do something about global warming, we have to improve our science education.

  6. 206
    Rod B says:

    BTW, Taber (173), I should also add that I, a skeptic, agree with your point that if AGW is a problem that ought to be addressed, addressing other ills of the world at the same time should not get in the way. It’s just a little more work.

  7. 207
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 201

    “J.S. McIntyre, go ahead, ask Ray if he thinks climate science is settled. Look thru every one of his posts from the beginning and tell me if there is a trend of support for anything other than strict AGW”

    ==================

    I’d be happy to.

    Ray?

    While we’re waiting, I should point out that instead of replying to my query with specifics, you have engaged in an overarching swipe at the manner in which Ray conducts himself. This is ad hominem, not an effort to substantiate your claim.

    Now, while I don’t wish to be contentious, the simple fact is that one thing I have learned over my years watching forums on the internet, if someone has “proof” of someone’s behavior or attitude and they want to make a point about it, they have no trouble at all providing specifics. This you have failed to do.

    I follow this site – and developments in the science and politics – closely. In my experience Ray seems to know what he is talking about, and seems to choose his words carefully. I do not believe he has said what you claimed. The onus is on you. Prove me wrong. Specifics, please.

  8. 208
    Dick Veldkamp says:

    Re #201 (Michael) Is AGW science settled?

    For the umpteenth time, the following is beyond dispute (in everyday words, without the “95% confidence” stuff – and I think Ray would agree):
    1. GW is happening.
    2. It is caused by human action (hence it’s AGW)
    3. It is bad.
    4. We better do something about it asap.

    Why is this beyond dispute? Because there is tons of solid interlocking evidence. And with “tons” I mean a few thousand or so peer reviewed articles.

    Sure, the scientists will be sorting out details for some time to come. But we know enough to be sure that action must be taken now. If you knew it was “very probable” that the brakes of your car wouldn’t work, what would you do? Wait for more evidence?

  9. 209
    David B. Benson says:

    Rod B (206) — If you follow Biopact, you will discover that addressing AGW and many another problem go hand in glove:

    http://biopact.com/

  10. 210
    Michael says:

    Gavin, being a climate science outsider, I don’t know what happens inside the circle of your peers. I can only comment on what has been packaged for the general public, such as realclimate. It would be very refreshing to see (on this website) this ‘welcoming of challenges and investigations” you refer to.

  11. 211
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Michael, there is a huge difference between saying “the science is settled” and saying “the science is mature”. The former means there is nothing left to learn–and I would not say that about any field. The latter means that future investigations are unlikely to significantly change the basic theory or the conclusions that it implies. Climate science is a mature science. The greenhouse effect is one of the tenets of that mature science, and anthropogenic climate change is an implication of the greenhouse effect.
    Why are you not saying Maxwell’s equations are wrong? Climate science has as venerable a history as electromagnetism. Or evolution–again about the same age. What I am saying is don’t come to me with the same damned arguments I’ve heard again and again until you have at least made the effort to actually understand the basics of the theory. Is that too damned anti-scientific for you?
    On the other hand, if you have sincere questions, people here, including myself will be happy to help you. This site is about learning science–and I include myself in that as a rank amateur when it comes to climate science. I am, however, a rank amateur who has made an effort along with others on this site to understand the subject. It is not trivial. Several of us have spent months just dealing with the concept of thermal radiation–skeptics and supporters of the theory alike.

  12. 212
    Majorajam says:

    Michael,

    “The science is settled” is a usefully succinct but overly general allusion to the fact that the most important questions, the basics, have been settled (that is, to the extent any explanation of natural phenomena is settled). As straightforwardly as possible, that putting more carbon in the atmosphere heats the planet to such an extent as to have significant consequences for humanity. By corollary, that it is in the best interest of humans to put much less carbon in the atmosphere all else equal, (because putting less carbon in the atmosphere also means other things, i.e. all else is not equal, debatable issues such as the extent and timing of negative consequences and of mitigation costs are relevant, but only to the question of extent, timing and policy- not to ‘global warming is a sham’ ninnyism).

    The scope of the expression is not difficult to understand, hence its use. That AGW denialists have seized on what ambiguity is there to buttress a flimsy persecution narrative is par for the course. Their sole interest is in scoring rhetorical points in the minds of an unwitting populace and arming their ideological army with yet more snark, (and certainly has nothing to do with scientific discovery). The real question then Michael is whether you’ve fallen for this tactic or are using it.

  13. 213
    Michael says:

    Timothy, the difference between the first and second set of questions is the friction and hostility you will encounter when challenging the latter. If some hot-shot scientist thinks he has discovered a new climate forcing, encourage his research to run its course.

    If we are to just ‘accept a body of knowledge’, there will never again be breakthrus in any of the sciences.

  14. 214
    Ossi says:

    Hello,

    I was pointed to a site which contains some critique of “An Inconvenient Truth”:

    http://wattsupwiththat.wordpress.com/2007/10/04/detailed-comments-on-an-inconvenient-truth/

    I wonder if make a post respond to the objections presented there or generally objections made against the film (other than the 9 you already dealt with here).

  15. 215
    Taber Allison says:

    To Rod B:

    Yes, I think that is another way to say what I have wrote. I view argument as a means to reach a consensus, i.e., in an argument opposite viewpoints are aired, reconcilable differences are reconciled, and when differences can’t be reconciled, there is agreement to disagree.

    I don’t use argument in the perjorative sense of two people yelling at each other (literally or otherwise) with no intent of reaching a resolution.

    Contrarians just need to be different and will constantly think of ways to undermine a point of view. The purpose is not consensus.

  16. 216
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Michael said: “If some hot-shot scientist thinks he has discovered a new climate forcing, encourage his research to run its course.”

    OK, Michael, we’re waiting. Where’s that hot-shot scientist with a new idea. There hasn’t been a new one proposed by a scientist who actually understood climate in well over a decade. I know, Michael, as I was covering the beat a year ago, and you had the same “alternative” theories. What would you propose as the latest hot-shot idea that hasn’t been shot down more times than Snoopy in his duels with the Red Baron?

    [Response: Actually, hot-shot scientists with new ideas about climate forcing are listened to all the time. That’s what brought you the more prominent role of aerosol forcing in the Second Assessment Report. A great deal of work has gone into seriously evaluating the magnitude of the solar variability component, and the result has actually been a reduction in the estimate of how important this component is. On the other side, Hansen’s ideas about the importance of black carbon are being very seriously evaluated. There’s no shortage of people rocking the boat. The fact that greenhouse gases (particularly CO2) remain the 800 pound gorilla in the climate change pen attests to the robustness of the basic theory as set forth by Arrhenius. –raypierre]

  17. 217
    Gary says:

    I am disapointed that many of my posts asking questions about climate change (and anything questioning Dr. James Hansen) are not posted on this web site. But let’s face it. Who ever owns the media decides on what gets said.

  18. 218
    Timothy Chase says:

    Michael (#213) wrote:

    Timothy, the difference between the first and second set of questions is the friction and hostility you will encounter when challenging the latter.

    Actually I suspect that if you: accuse an astronomer of being narrow-minded because he insists that stars are objects similar to the sun, argue that a biologist believes in evolution because of his presumably leftist politics or lack of religious belief, insist on teaching students about the “four elements” as an alternative to the mainstream view in chem labs, … you are going to make more than a few people wonder whether you’ve lost it, and if they see that you may succeed in getting your “theories” treated as if they were the equivilent of well-established mainstream theories -upset.

    In terms of how bizarre the theories get, this is roughly where we are at with most climate skeptics. And actually we get some instances of people who are roughly that far out there. There are still people who argue that the earth is only six thousand years old – and argue that they have some alternative to the big bang theory, general relativity, and special relativity all rolled up into one – which no one will listen to in mainstream science – for one “presumed reason” or another. But typically such individuals don’t have a great deal of political pull or money backing them up.

    Michael (#213) wrote:

    If some hot-shot scientist thinks he has discovered a new climate forcing, encourage his research to run its course.

    Will this scientist have the scientific background? Or be simply someone in a fairly unrelated discipline who is well out of their depth? Have a familiarity with what has already been discovered? Sufficient knowledge of the literature and research which has already been done? Submit papers to peer review – in credible journals that specialize in the relevant discipline?

    Will the theory that is being proposed be consistent with what is already known in other relevant disciplines – such as radiation transfer theory or thermodynamics? Not involve the suspension of quantum physics or the denial of the existence of empirical evidence? Will it offer a causal explanation which is consistent with what we already know? Will it offer specific testable predictions? Will it have greater explanatory power than the existing mainstream theory that it is intended to replace?

    If your hot-shot scientist is able to meet these requirements, I doubt that there will be all that much hostility. Maybe in certain segments of the scientific community – but there are generally more than a few relevant journals, any one of which would like to publish something cutting-edge, or better yet, revolutionary. It is how they earn a reputation for excellence, attract subscribers and even better authors.

    But if it doesn’t meet any of these requirements, if the “hot-shot” scientist has little or no familiarity with what he is arguing against and consists largely of naysaying what is well-established by a large body of evidence. If in addtion his view of promoting his theory involves a short-cut in which no attempt is made to go through a legitimate process of peer review, but instead simply involves running to the papers, this won’t be looked upon all that well.

    If it appears that he is simply trying to create the appearance of legitimate doubt by means of so much handwaving and denies well-established principles without any justification for doing so that he is willing to explain, and if it appears that he is doing so merely to further certain political objectives and is well-financed, I suspect that his activities won’t be well recieved at all – at least by the scientific community itself as a whole.

    Should things be otherwise? If so, why?

    Michael (#213) wrote:

    If we just ‘accept a body of knowledge’, there will never again be breakthrus in any of the sciences.

    No one is talking about simply accepting any conclusions or theories. However, if the mainstream conclusions are well-tested, having a large body of evidence which supports them, and if they fit-together quite well with what we have learned in other disciplines, then it is likely that rather than being entirely replaced they will simply be added to – or shown to be approximations for some more accurate theory.

    Such was the case with galilean mechanics and special relativity, classical mechanics and quantum mechanics, and Newton’s gravitational theory and general relativity. Generally speaking, knowledge is cummulative.

    And when a new theory finally does suplant an older, well-established theory, it explains something which the earlier theory did not. But there also exists a correspondence principle by which the newer theory is related to the older one.

    The correspondence principle that since the older theory may be viewed as an approximation for the newer, the newer theory corresponds to the older theory where the older theory was successful. As such we will know that the newer theory is consistent with all of the evidence which had accumulated for that earlier theory – over the period of decades or centuries that this older theory stood the test of time.

    Generally speaking, what supports our core premises, the fundamentals which are widely accepted within a given discipline, is a wide array of evidence which comes from having those fundamentals tested in many different contexts by a great many individuals, quite easily thousands of man-hours within a single day – depending upon how many individuals are working within that and related disciplines.

    It is extremely unlikely that the fundamentals themselves will be overthrown – particularly in the modern age, although they may be transformed, re-expressed within a different language. Or we may realize that they were good approximations that work well within many contexts, but have to be replaced by something more exact in other contexts.

    *

    Incidentally, I noticed that you didn’t address the first point I raised: what it was that one Ray or the other had said that you were responding to. I couldn’t find anything which either Ray had said to which you could have reasonably responded, and I quote:

    Ray, do you realise how anti-science it is – in ANY situation – to say “stay away, the science is settled”?

    Did I miss it?

  19. 219
    Rich says:

    Please direct me to the “tons of solid interlocking evidence” that supports Dick’s (#208) 2nd postulate!

    I agree with his #1 and there IS “tons of solid interlocking evidence” for that…but it’s the premise of Gore & the IPCC that #2 is assumed. It does not have solid empirical evidence to support it. Further, the IPCC predictions based on their own models have proven to be inaccurate, to say the least. Being the premise, then, the whole idea of humans saving us from ourselves collapses. This is where my students have been lead down the proverbial path – it’s very tempting to view urban emissions and conclude that humans MUST be causing the CO2 increase…but that’s not science. Neither are inaccurate models.

    [Response: You ought to spend at least a little time trying to understand the scientific arguments before you spout off like this. Where your ignorance shows most acutely is in your assumption that there’s only a circumstantial link between “urban” emissions and CO2 rise. This is the best proved part of the whole business, in fact. Leaving aside some rather convincing CO2 budgets showing there’s no question we’re emitting enough CO2 to do the trick, there’s also the carbon isotope ratio of atmospheric CO2, and the fact that oxygen is decreasing by the right amount to correspond to a source by fossil fuel burning. If you haven’t even bothered to understand the simplest arguments, why should anybody pay attention to your opinion about the validity of the radiation physics or other modelling aspects, which you are even less well equipped to understand? –raypierre]

  20. 220
    Hank Roberts says:

    > This is where my students have been lead down the proverbial path

    What do you teach?

  21. 221
    Rafael Gomez-Sjoberg says:

    Re. #219

    Rich, you utter ignorance on this subject is pretty evident. So, please go study a little bit before spouting non-sense like this. Your ignorance is especially troubling given the fact that you seem to be a teacher. A teacher has to know how to learn if he is to teach effectively and lead by example.

    You say: “… it’s very tempting to view urban emissions and conclude that humans MUST be causing the CO2 increase …but that’s not science.”

    You should study the article titled “How do we know that recent CO2 increases are due to human activities?” here in RealClimate (http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=87).

    Here is the pretty solid evidence indicating that the CO2 increase is caused by us:

    1) We can account pretty accurately for how much oil and coal have been burned by humanity (especially because the bulk of the burning has happened from the start of the 20th until now). From that it’s trivial to calculate how much CO2 has been produced and how much oxygen has been consumed by the burning. The result from that calculation is that we have, in fact, injected into the atmosphere enough CO2 to increase the concentration in the atmosphere by a lot more than it has increased. Fortunately for us, several natural processes remove CO2 from the atmosphere and reduce the impact of our emissions. The main processes are dissolution of CO2 into the oceans, absorption of CO2 by plants and other photosynthetizing organisms (with subsequent sequestration in living biomass or organic matter in the soils). We have verified experimentally that the oceans are absorbing CO2 in large quantities because we have measured the decrease in pH (increase in acidity) of the oceans (dissolved CO2 reacts with water and produces carbonic acid).

    We have also measured a decrease in atmospheric oxygen that is consistent with what we estimate has been consumed by our burning of fossil fuels.

    If we have produced enough CO2 to increase the atmospheric concentration by more than the observed amount there are two options: (a) The observed increase in CO2 is indeed caused by our activities, or (b) the observed increase is caused by some mysterious natural/unnatural mechanism that nobody can yet explain, AND all that huge amount of CO2 we have produced has just disappeared in an equally mysterious and magical way so that very little of it is in the atmosphere now.
    I’ll let you pick which explanation is more “scientific”.

    2) The burning of fossil fuels produces CO2 with a particular ratio of carbon isotopes C13 and C12. A change in this ratio, consistent with the amount of fossil fuels we have burned, has been measured in the atmosphere.

  22. 222
    Timothy Chase says:

    Rich (#219) wrote:

    Please direct me to the “tons of solid interlocking evidence” that supports Dick’s (#208) 2nd postulate!

    You were refering to the second enumerated statement by Dick Veldkamp (#208):

    For the umpteenth time, the following is beyond dispute (in everyday words, without the “95% confidence” stuff – and I think Ray would agree):
    1. GW is happening.
    2. It is caused by human action (hence it’s AGW)

    Here is one of my favorite pieces…

    NASA AIRS Mid-Tropospheric (8km) Carbon Dioxide
    July 2003
    http://www-airs.jpl.nasa.gov/Products/CarbonDioxide/

    If you will notice, even at 8 km altitude, the carbon dioxide has not become evenly mixed. Per capita, Americans produce approximately twice as much carbon dioxide as Europeans, where Europeans produce about five times that of the world average. You can see it – particularly over the west coast – albeit drifted a little due to atmospheric circulation. Same with the east coast. Both are where the US population density is especially high. (Coasts – go figure!)

    What you are seeing is increased infrared emissions due to carbon dioxide – in those parts of the spectra where it is effective for that altitude (i.e., atmospheric pressure and temperature). By selecting specific wavelengths we are able to peel away layers of the atmosphere, looking at the emissions at lower or higher altitudes, seeing how they diffuse through the atmosphere.

    A picture is presumably worth a thousand words, and these pictures are detailed. With the AIRS satellite we have over two thousand channels to choose from – although many are for different gases and atmospheric constituents.

    We even have motion pictures:

    AIRS Multimedia Animations
    http://www-airs.jpl.nasa.gov/Multimedia/Animations/

    This isn’t simply evidence for the emission of carbon dioxide but evidence for the thermal radiation which it emits, much of it back to the surface. And we are able to measure the increased infrared radiation (both upwelling and downwelling) at the surface – or at different altitudes using balloons and planes – in addition to the satellites responsible for images like the above. In the case of water vapor in the tropics, we are actually able to measure the amount of thermal radiation emitted back to the surface and statistically show that it increases more rapidly with sea surface temperature than thermal emissions from the surface.

    We have a database with over a million spectral lines identified: HITRAN. We are able to measure the isotopes of the carbon in the atmosphere – which indicate that the carbon came from fossil fuel. We are able to measure the decrease in atmospheric oxygen which comes from the burning of fossil fuel.

    With statistical analysis we are able to calculate roughly how much carbon dioxide gets produced – including emissions due to the process by which cement dries. We are able to calculate how much thermal radiation gets emitted by carbon dioxide at various altitudes given the rough concentration levels which it and other gases exist in within the atmospheric column and the results of extensive, detailed lab experiments originally performed at the request of the Air Force in the 1980s.

    We are able to calculate how much carbon dioxide will raise the temperature prior to amplification due to water vapor feedback. Same calculations. As far as the amplification due to the effects of water vapor, the most reliable evidence we have for this comes from the paleoclimate record – over 400,000 years worth.

    This is pretty much off the top of my head. Does it help?

  23. 223
    cce says:

    Tamino,

    Thanks for the input. Unfortunately, the only way to improve the narration signifcantly is to switch the narrator. Each slide was recorded multiple times over several weeks. I tried with and without a script. The script sounded even worse — very monotonous.

    I will try again.

  24. 224
    James says:

    Re #220: English, apparently :-)

  25. 225
    J.C.H. says:

    Does anybody know if any of the authors of the section on sea level in the IPCC4 have since published additional work on sea-level rise?

    I looked and did not see this posted – worth a read:

    http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2007/10/an_inconvenient_truth_team_gor_1.html

  26. 226
    PHE says:

    Re: Dick V (208)
    1. GW is happening. – Well, climate change is happening, but not the first time in human history, and, so far, not at a greater rate already experienced.
    2. It is caused by human action (hence it’s AGW. This is one possibility, but not proven (however many peer-reviewed articles there may be, the IPCC shows significant uncertainty remains)
    3. It is bad. We survived: entering and leaving the medieval warm period; entering and leaving the Little Ice Age; the 0.5 deg rise of 1910 to 1945. So far, observed changes have been no more.
    4. We better do something about it asap. There are many other causes of the so-called ‘bad things’, and there are more certain problems in the world that we should tackle first.

    Scientific naivity will not save the world.

  27. 227
    Dick Veldkamp says:

    Re #226 (PHE)

    1. We agree that GW is happening. How fast? The rate is roughly +0.1 degK/decade over the period 1950-2000 [see here: http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/Report/AR4WG1_Print_SPM.pdf (fig. SPM3)]. As far as I know this rate is unprecedented.
    2. It is proved beyond any reasonable doubt that GW is human caused (see for example #221, #222).
    3. It is not the question whether we will survive – the matter is that we are creating huge problems for many people (droughts, flooding, melting of glaciers etc). In other words: it is bad. That we have made it so far means nothing for the future, because we are entering a new, different situation.
    4. Should we do something about it asap? Your argument that there are more certain problems and that we should therefore do nothing about AGW is a non sequitur. We should (and can) address both.

  28. 228
    Timothy Chase says:

    PHE (#226) wrote:

    Re: Dick V (208)
    1. GW is happening. – Well, climate change is happening, but not the first time in human history, and, so far, not at a greater rate already experienced.

    Looking at the hockey stick, the rate would seem to be much higher than in any of the past nine centuries.

    A New Take on an Old Millennium
    9 Feb 2006
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/02/a-new-take-on-an-old-millennium

    PHE (#226) wrote:

    2. It is caused by human action (hence it’s AGW. This is one possibility, but not proven (however many peer-reviewed articles there may be, the IPCC shows significant uncertainty remains)

    Nothing is ever proven in science – however, evidence is cummulative – and we have accumulated a great deal of evidence. Being the conservative types they are, they say that it is very likely that trend cannot be explained by natural causes alone. Additionally, forcing due to carbon dioxide is one of the best understood aspects of climatology.

    PHE (#226) wrote:

    3. It is bad. We survived: entering and leaving the medieval warm period; entering and leaving the Little Ice Age; the 0.5 deg rise of 1910 to 1945. So far, observed changes have been no more.

    The passage both into and from the medieval warm period would appear to have been much more gradual. And in fact, it would appear that temperatures have risen in the 20th century as much as they had from the depths of the Little Ice Age to the beginning of the 20th century – or roughly three times as quickly. As for the medieval warm period, it would appear that the current global average temperature is half a degree centigrade above the peak of the medieval warm period – and climbing.

    And with regard to your choice of the period from 1910 to 1945, lets compare it with the most period of the same timespan ending with 2006 (since 2007 isn’t over yet). First, the global average temperature, both land and sea combined:

    Combined (Annual)
    0.0132 per yr from 1910-1945 R^2 = 0.7975
    0.0173 per yr from 1971-2006 R^2 = 0.8194

    The rate at which the global average temperature has been rising for the more recent 36 year period would seem to be significantly higher – at over 130% of the earlier period, meaning a 30% increase.

    Now lets do land:

    Land (Annual)
    0.0119 per yr from 1910-1945, R^2 =0.4596
    0.0287 per yr from 1971-2006, R^2 = 0.7505

    The more recent period is rising at a rate of over 240% the rate for tthe period you chose – with the latter period having a rate of change being 140% higher than for the period you chose.

    *

    Note: the figures for warming between 1910-1945 and 1971-2006 where calculated from the data available here…

    NCDC: Global Surface Temperature Anomalies
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/anomalies/anomalies.html

    *

    PHE (#226) wrote:

    4. We better do something about it asap. There are many other causes of the so-called ‘bad things’, and there are more certain problems in the world that we should tackle first.

    Well, let’s see. We have:

    1. The apparent nonlinear response of ice melt in the Arctic, Greenland and the West Antarctic Peninsula, this would seem to be rather questionable.
    2. Only 20% of the world experiencing drought at any given time during the 1950s, 30% of the world at present, and a projected 50% later in this century.
    3. Increased flooding which the IPCC would attribute to global warming just this year.
    4. Agricultural harvests projected to be cut in half for many countries.
    5. Carbon cycle positive feedback kicking in from the Southern Ocean, and it would appear similar feedback kicking in from vegitation during the warmer, drier years.
    6. A former senior economist of the world bank projecting an economic crisis of the same order as the Great Depression under business as usual – which is likely a conservative estimate.
    7. Retired generals arguing that climate change will become an issue of national security and is something that we must plan for.
    8. The glaciers of the Tibetean Plateau being projected to disappear by the end of this century – when they are what feed the six major rivers of Asia.
    9. Half of the world population living within sixty miles of the coastline.
    10. Your claim that climate change should be one of our lesser priorities, your lack of expertise and your track record – as evidenced above.

    I believe I will have to disagree.

  29. 229
    Rich says:

    Rafael (#221) uses the simplistic logic that works well in H.S. debates, but does not necessarily stand up to scientific scrutiny, i.e., if/then statements are hypotheses, not scientific fact. His conclusion that the reader accept his conclusion or a “mysterious” alternative doesn’t wash as truth. CO2 solubility decreases with rising ocean temps…that’s not very mysterious and it’s also a logical alternative! My point in joining this forum was to learn, not to be indoctrinated. I found Timothy’s (#222) comments very enlightening and I wasn’t aware of the links he directed me to.

    One problem keeps gnawing at me (besides the oceans representing the biggest natural CO2 interchange) is why water vapor is always left out. It’s by far the most important & effective GHG and I’ve seen models that would explain the atmosphere’s CO2 increase as a result of increased H2O. Again, using Rafael’s (and my students’ logic) it would be a small step to believe that WHATEVER process began heating the Earth 10,000yrs ago (that’s 9,900yrs before serious anthropogenic CO2) continues to increase the evaporative process, which continues to increase oceanic release of CO2. Please…I don’t need any of the personal attacks – I realise that significant amounts of anthropogenic CO2 from hydrocarbon use have been released. I’m also aware of the temperature increase over the past 100yrs. I have seen models that support myriad reasons why these two occur. I’m not arguing against anthropogenic causes…I just don’t see enough empirical evidence to support one model over another.

    I’m a geologist trying to learn, James (#224), not a meteorologist. I’ll argue paleoclimatic data with you all day. If you take the time to look at the past 2mill yrs, you find that what appears to be “normal” (graphically) would be for the Earth to warm up a little more before plunging into another cold period.

  30. 230
    Bob Ward says:

    I am disappointed that RC has not been more constructively critical of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. Whilst the film may be “broadly accurate”, in the sense that it acknowledges climate change is being driven by greenhouse gas emissions, it clearly has exaggerated the immediacy and magnitude of impacts. Here are two examples. When the film discusses the melting of the ice sheets on Greenland and West Antarctica, it shows an aerial photograph of Manhattan showing it being gradually inundated. Whilst Gore does not mention timescales, the sequence clearly gives an impression of sudden flooding, rather than encroachment over centuries and millenia. Indeed Gore even says “They can measure this precisely, just as the scientists could predict precisely how much water would breach the levy in New Orleans”. You can try to argue that the statements are not explicitly inaccurate, but they are clearly, and probably deliberately, misleading. The second example is the sequence on infectious diseases. The accompanying slides refer to SARS, antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis and avian influenza. If there is a link between climate change and the spread of these diseases, it is not very direct and there are other factors that are far more important. It gives a misleading impression of what is driving the spread of these diseases.

    There are other examples. The images showing Katrina are clearly designed to make the audience believe there is a connection to climate change, even though this cannot be proved. It is a tactic that has been used to great effect in the United States, such that the majority of the public now appear to believe that the two are connected.

    The scientific evidence on climate change is clear enough without the need for exaggeration. ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ misleads about several aspects of the science, and RC should be willing to acknowledge these rather than defending them as ‘technically not wrong’.

    And before anybody tries to cast doubt on my motives, I am definitely not in the ‘denial camp’ (see http://www.climateofdenial.net).

  31. 231
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 220
    Hank asks of Rich: “What do you teach?”

    James suggests: “English, apparently”

    Might I suggest: Disinformation Science snd Revisionist History?

    It has always amazed me how some people can remain so apallingly ignorant of even the basics and yet be so damned certain. As Mark Twain says, “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”

  32. 232
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rich, I think that what has taken people aback here is that you admit that you don’t know much about climate science, and yet you profess near certainty that humans aren’t doing it. Such an attitude is not conducive to learning. There are some things we know with absolute certainty:
    1)Humans are responsible for the vast majority of the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere (known via isotopic signature)
    2)CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
    3)CO2 is the 2nd most important ghg in the atmosphere after water vapor (which contrary to your assertions IS considered in climate models)

    We also know that things don’t “just happen”. A scientist doesn’t just assume that the same causes are behind the warming of the interglacial and the current epoch–particularly when we can show convincingly that they are not.

  33. 233
    Rich says:

    It continues to amaze me that some scientists(?) (#231) would rather disparage others than clearly cite their evidence. Another quote from Mark Twain (after discussing the vagaries of glacial epochs): “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”

  34. 234
    David Donovan says:

    Re 230.

    Rich look through the index on the top of the page…

    In particular,
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/04/water-vapour-feedback-or-forcing/

    and
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/06/how-much-of-the-recent-cosub2sub-increase-is-due-to-human-activities/

    These two articles should clear up some questions you seem to have.

    Dave

  35. 235
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 230:

    “Whilst Gore does not mention timescales, the sequence clearly gives an impression of sudden flooding, rather than encroachment over centuries and millenia.”

    Really? That’s odd. I never got that impression from his lecture, nor did the people I was with. Perhaps my problem was I understand there can’t be “sudden” flooding; the idea doesn’t fit with the science.

    “You can try to argue that the statements are not explicitly inaccurate, but they are clearly, and probably deliberately, misleading.”

    Okay. What, specifically, what do you think motivated the effort to be “misleading”? Now if you are going to say it was “political” I expect you to provide specific evidence of this claim. (see #44) Otherwise, why should I take your opinion/bias as anything more than uninformed.

    “The accompanying slides refer to SARS, antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis and avian influenza. If there is a link between climate change and the spread of these diseases, it is not very direct and there are other factors that are far more important. It gives a misleading impression of what is driving the spread of these diseases.”

    Here I do believe you might have a point, BUT … wasn’t malaria and a variety of other diseases also mentioned, diseases that DO thrive in warm climes?

    “The images showing Katrina are clearly designed to make the audience believe there is a connection to climate change, even though this cannot be proved.”

    Real quick: do you believe that if ocean water is warmer, the severity of hurricanes is likely to increase, fueled by this heat?

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=181

    I believe that was general the point Mr. Gore was making, that we could face a future where extreme weather evnts become more common.

    “The scientific evidence on climate change is clear enough without the need for exaggeration.”

    As others have pointed out and I will echo, regardless of accusations of exaggeration, the real point is that AIT did something that the science by itself could not do, which is grab the public’s interest. The genie is out of the bottle, so to speak, and that can’t help but be a good thing. Because without the public waking up to the potential of a problem, consider how difficult it would be to get anything accomplished.

    Finally, given the the constant, misleading noise from the denial/skeptic camp, the idea that somehow Gore’s presentation lacks credibility because things were not 100% accurate and presented in such a way as there would be absolutely no confusion is really a little absurd. The movie has done what its creators set out to do. Instead of nit-picking because this detail or that doesn’t meet someone’s high standards of what should be allowed we should really be concentrating on the film’s overarching message: we need to get to work on this problem, not debate the fine points of a slide presentation.

    Gore got it right for the most part, IMHO, and more importantly he got people’s attention. And that, at the end of the day, those are the two most important factors.

  36. 236
    Rod B says:

    David (209), I kinda agree. But you don’t need AGW fixes to address the other problems.

  37. 237
    J.C.H. says:

    Comment by Bob Ward — 19 October 2007 @ 8:14 AM

    This is the AIT response from yesterday’s Washington Post:

    Ice-sheet driven sea level rise.

    Scientists agree that the melting of Greenland or the West Antarctic ice sheet would raise sea levels around six meters. The movie does not give a timescale for when that melting might occur. There are uncertainties in the scientific community about the timescale, but this uncertainty does not negate the need to seriously consider these scenarios when considering solutions to the climate crisis. IPCC estimates a sea level rise of 59 centimeters by 2100. However, they exclude any water contributed by the melting of Greenland or Antarctica because they don’t know when either could happen. …

    Gore included no timeframe, the IPCC4 left out Greenland and Antarctica, and you say Gore is being “clearly, and probably deliberately, misleading”? Those are pretty serious words.

    If you want to see examples of being clearly, and probably deliberately, misleading, read a paragraph from this critique of Gore and AIT:

    … Gore told the world in his Academy Award-winning movie to expect 20-foot sea-level rises over this century. He ignores the findings of his Nobel co-winners, who conclude that sea levels will rise between only a half-foot and two feet over this century, with their best expectation being about one foot. That’s similar to what the world experienced over the past 150 years. …

    The author of the above could have avoided being clearly, and probably deliberately, misleading by mentioning that in the section of AIT where Gore discusses sea level rise, Gore gave no timeframe; instead, out of thin air he creates the end of the century as being the timeframe. The author of the above could have avoided being clearly, and probably deliberately, misleading by mentioning that the IPCC report he is accusing Gore of ignoring did not exist when AIT went into the can. The author of the above could have avoided being clearly, and probably deliberatively, misleading by mentioning that the IPCC4 did not include sea level rise caused by melting on Greenland and Antarctica. The author of the above could have avoided being clearly, and probably deliberatively, misleading if he had added when he said the IPCC does “painstaking work that establishes exactly what the world should expect from climate change”, that the IPCC is also influenced by governments and is purposefully conservative, which might mean the IPCC sometimes perhaps falls a little short on exactness.

    MIslead means to lie to take something in the wrong direction. Is Gore’s intended direction wrong? Clear means free of ambiguity or obstruction. How can it be clear he is misleading when he gives no timeframe? You cannot establish a timeframe unless you put words in his mouth. Guessing a clearly misleading intent in Gore’s heart is a bit reckless.

  38. 238
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rich, Yup! Scientist. PhD in physics specializing in radiation physics. And speaking of facts, you have yet to state one. Plenty of baseless assertions, lots of misconceptions and an astounding amount of certainty. Now given that a couple of hours perusal of this site would have been sufficient to correct all of your misconceptions, one wonders why you found it acceptable to broadcast your ignorance rather than remedy it. If that is not an attitude worthy of disparagement, what is?

  39. 239
    Bob Ward says:

    Regarding #235

    OK, imagine that you have little prior knowledge about climate change (the target audience for An Inconvenient Truth) and you are shown a map of Manhattan with the water apparently encroaching street by street, with the narration mentioning the levees in New Orleans. What timescale would you be thinking of? Are you suggesting that the film-maker had no idea that it could be misinterpreted? I am happy to concede that it is accidental, but not that it is a reasonable representation.

    Let me be clear that I think Gore’s film is an admirable call to arms, and if it motivates people to take action then all the better. But it is a political film, and the film-maker has exercised some license when dealing with the evidence.

  40. 240
    Stephen says:

    Well, I thought I would chime in here. This may be a little off topic, but it is not mentioned very much. In my opinion, it is a good thing that Al Gore has increased the visibility of climate change, but does he really deserve all the respect or even the Nobel Peace Prize? I have my reservations about the man, but I just read an article today that succinctly summarized some valid points on Al:

    http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=56&ItemID=14074

    The particular relevance of the article is in the last half. If Al cares so much for the environment, why didn’t he do anything in office or as a senator? Why does he accept lobbying dollars from Big Oil or Big Tobacco?

  41. 241
    Ray Ladbury says:

    # 240. Ah, Stephen, nothing like a little revisionist history in the morning, is there. Might you be the same Stephen who authored the hatchet job–I mean editorial piece–you recommend so highly?
    Say what you want about Al Gore–he has been consistent on environmental policy. Land use, superfund cleanups, logging. In the absence of public funding of political campaigns, politicians take funds from whatever donors they can find.
    You know, it’s funny, I’m agnostic on Al Gore. I like some of his environmental policies, but I feel that the entire Clinton Administration was a great disappointment–they didn’t have the courage of their convictions. And then there was the piss poor campaign he ran in 2000. But it’s amazing to see right-wing nutjobs squirm whenever they hear Al’s name. They really sound scared.

  42. 242
    Hank Roberts says:

    This
    > why didn’t he do anything in office or as a senator?

    is assumption is false.

    The reason we have Navy submarine data on arctic sea ice is that while he was a Senator, Al Gore pushed — successfully — to remove the secret classification on the Navy’s data for a very large area of the Arctic.

    You can look this up. The area is referred to in the literature of the time based on that declassified data as the “Gore Box” — you can find it on the maps as well.

    http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=102863

    So — did Zmag say what you attribute to them? If so they’re wrong.

    Check your sources. Look up what’s claimed. Do not believe people from any spoke of the political wheel who are spinning and lying about facts.

    Check what you think is true.

    You _can_ look this stuff up.

  43. 243
    Rich says:

    Well, Ray (#238) I don’t know what you think I’ve stated as “certainty,” but I would like to make it clear that uncertainty is what drives scientific investigation and as I previously stated, I’m trying to LEARN. The last thing I have is certainty on GW. Thirty years ago I had climatologists telling me that we could experience a “glacial blitzkrieg” in less than a decade (from the same CO2 data). This hypothesis was printed in texts, magazines, and I even heard a National Park Ranger give a fireside talk about it! Now you’re the one telling me the “truth?” I don’t want to hear your opinion of me or GW, I want to see the data.

    Thank you David (#234) for your direction. I’ll peruse those sites.

  44. 244
    dhogaza says:

    One problem keeps gnawing at me (besides the oceans representing the biggest natural CO2 interchange) is why water vapor is always left out.

    And what gnaws at many of us is that someone like yourself can state a falsehood with such certainty.

    Water vapor is NOT left out.

    Your saying so just underline the fact that the only accurate statement you’ve made thus far is that you’re mostly ignorant of climate science.

    Perhaps you should spend less time posting and more time reading so that in the future, your posts showcase your knowledge rather than absolute ignorance of the subject.

  45. 245
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    239

    OK, imagine that you have little prior knowledge about climate change (the target audience for An Inconvenient Truth) and you are shown a map of Manhattan with the water apparently encroaching street by street, with the narration mentioning the levees in New Orleans. What timescale would you be thinking of?

    ==========================

    No prior knowledge of climate change required. All you really need is a practical understanding of how Ice behaves. Watching a refrigerator freezer defrost can be instructive in this regard.

    I am only being half-facetious here. You are making an “in a vacuum” argument, the idea that without knowledge of how climate change behaves, someone will take what they see (re the “instant” flooding of New York by melt from Ice Shelves in Greenland and West Antarctica) at face value (or dismiss it entirely, if they took what they saw as a literal demonstration). The thing is, this is a medium where time-lapse photography sped up video demonstrations are commonplace, and the viewing audience is likely much more sophisticated than you give them credit for. I think if you polled people as they left the theater you would find few saw it as you represent they would, and those that did, thinking “that’s not possible” might be curious enough to look into it.

    “…with the narration mentioning the levees in New Orleans.”

    But the narration was distinct in separating the two events.

    Look, I’m really sorry, but you are, as I alluded earlier, nitpicking, essentially making an argument that has little basis in fact, and one, quite frankly, that gives little credit to the intelligence and attention spans of the audience who watched the film.

    “But it is a political film,…”

    Red Herring. If you want to make a case for this being “political”, please respond to 44. Otherwise, you are making a hand wave of no substantive power.

  46. 246
    scottra says:

    Check out the Fox News OPINION by Steven Milloy for some more spin on the topic. Amazing.

  47. 247
    Timothy Chase says:

    Rich (#229) wrote:

    One problem keeps gnawing at me (besides the oceans representing the biggest natural CO2 interchange) is why water vapor is always left out.

    dhogaza (#241) responded:

    And what gnaws at many of us is that someone like yourself can state a falsehood with such certainty.

    Water vapor is NOT left out.

    If I could add a little…

    Water vapor plays a role, both in terms of water vapor feedback and moist air convection. But it does not initiate change: it amplifies change initiated by something else, whether that something else happens to be increased solar radiation due to our planet’s orbital cycles that result in periodic ice ages, an eruption of a supervolcano in Eastern Siberia that lasts for a million years, or our burning of fossil fuel.

    Given a constant temperature, the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere will tend towards a very stable equilibrium. Evaporation will be balanced by precipitation, with any given parcel of water remaining in the atmosphere for perhaps a couple weeks.

    To raise the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere on a more long-term basis, one has to raise the temperature of the climate system. Carbon dioxide does that – much of the carbon dioxide which we inject into the atmosphere will remain there for centuries. A doubling of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will directly raise the global average temperature by approximately 1.2 degrees Celsius due to its absorption and re-emission of thermal radiation.

    The radiation which is absorbed by the surface raises the surface temperature – including the oceans – which raises the rate of evaporation. The latent heat of moist air convection raises the temperature of the atmosphere. This raises the partial pressure at which the atmosphere becomes saturated by water vapor.

    Water vapor is a greenhouse gas that is more powerful than carbon dioxide, but it can only do what carbon dioxide bids. Think Master-Blaster from “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”: water vapor is Blaster, not Master. Its effect is one of amplifying the change brought about by carbon dioxide, adding an additional 1.8 degrees Celsius to the initial 1.2 degree change caused by the doubling of carbon dioxide, not initiating the change itself.

    With regard to the “natural CO2 interchange,” once again, we are talking about “equilibrium,” where the amount entering the ocean equals the amount which is leaving it – prior to our actions. However, we are digging up and drilling for carbon which has been locked away for millions of years – then injecting it into our atmosphere.

    If you were to permanently, drastically increase the rate at which carbon leaves mineral sequestration, even this would not mean that the climate will be unable to achieve equilibrium – only that it will be a new equilibrium with a different balance of carbon between the atmosphere, biosphere, ocean and soil. The equilibrium which the carbon cycle has achieved becomes disturbed – and it will take a while before a different, new equilibrium is achieved.

    In the square meter column of air directly above your head there is approximately two kilograms of anthropogenic carbon dioxide. And while that carbon dioxide is transparent to visible light, it is opaque to the infrared through which the planet otherwise radiates away excess heat. Being opaque to thermal radiation, carbon dioxide scatters it, sending much of the radiation back to the surface, heating the surface.

    Radiation balance can be achieved only once the earth heats up enough that the rate at energy leaves the system balances the rate at which it enters. Is it any wonder that our emissions are having a profound effect upon the energy balance of our planet’s climate system?

  48. 248
    joe says:

    In the context of showing AIT to school children in a classroom setting, which is what the judge was considering, can it not be argued that the so-called nine “errors” were presented in the movie in a manner that was at least a bit misleading (some would argue for the purpose of evoking fear) to the minds of 10 year olds.

  49. 249
    Michael says:

    Timothy, you are getting dangerously close to attempting to predict when and where a scientific breakthru will occur.

    McIntyre, you are right, this is turning into a smear Ray thread, not my intention. My apologies, Ray. I have had conversations in the past with Ray about how settled climate science is. I added the ‘stay away’ comment, because of the zero tolerance for anyone objecting to AGW (such as Sonja).

  50. 250
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 243

    Well, Ray (#238) I don’t know what you think I’ve stated as “certainty,” but I would like to make it clear that uncertainty is what drives scientific investigation and as I previously stated, I’m trying to LEARN. The last thing I have is certainty on GW. Thirty years ago I had climatologists telling me that we could experience a “glacial blitzkrieg” in less than a decade (from the same CO2 data). This hypothesis was printed in texts, magazines, and I even heard a National Park Ranger give a fireside talk about it! Now you’re the one telling me the “truth?” I don’t want to hear your opinion of me or GW, I want to see the data.
    =================

    Rich, you’re making an apples and oranges comparison re what happened 30 years ago and now. See:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=94

    “I want to see the data.”

    Have you looked at the IPCC report?

    http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/wg1-report.html

    Wikipedia’s breakdown/outline here:

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

    Failing that, have you seen this one? It’s of a different nature but interesting in its own right. (The links to the report summary and the report are at the top of the article.)

    http://www.sigmaxi.org/about/news/UNSEGReport.shtml

    If it’s data you want, there it is.

    Dive in.