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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. 401
    John Mashey says:

    Can somebody point me at economic studies of global warming mitigation that do a good job of integrating the effects of Peak Oil in the next decade?

  2. 402
    mg says:

    #387 “So why is one of the more successful capitalist entities around requesting governments damage their own GDP by mitigating global warming now?”

    Firstl, any risk manager who thinks through the Hansen 5 metre SLR scenario and examines their asset portfolio and risk exposure on a coastal infrastructure node-by-node basis (eg refinery, power plant, port) and maps that into their global economic risk models realises that Stern was way off the mark.

    Secondly, risk managers appreciate that massive (40-70%) reductions of ghg emissions over the coming business cycles not only equate with massive reductions in unnecessary expenditure (and hence goes direct to bottom line) but also creates lower risk investment opportunities. When the markets transition, global supply chains that have not emission-crunched may be market-bypassed, which may trigger second-stage emission reductions as non-ghg-reducing global supply chains dissolve. The markets are transitioning into a global competition based on business-speed&scale-of-emissions-reduction. Risk managers would not be doing their job if their didn’t asset/exposure shift to the low-ghg-markets.

  3. 403
    Josephine says:

    I think it’s a shame! the future of our children depends on what we are doing now to stop this climate “disaster”, so why shouldn’t they be informed?
    This is a very interesting site, may I put the link on my blog? http://start-acting-now.blogspot.com, feel free to visit and tell me if you agree.
    If you decide to link mine to yours it would be a great help and honour.

    From Switzerland,
    see you
    josephine

  4. 404
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    Since this seems to have degenerated towards politics, we might consider the fact that Ralph Nader made his reputation by destroying the US auto industry’s first (and to date only, IMHO) attempt to build a fuel-efficient automobile. How soon some people forget…

    The Corvair was neither the first nor the only of Detroit’s attempts at small, fuel-efficient cars.

    http://content.answers.com/main/content/wp/en/thumb/7/78/250px-Nash_Metropolitan.jpg

  5. 405

    I decided to compute how the surface temperature of Venus would change if replaced by one of equivalent mass but the composition of dry air. The Venus International Reference Atmosphere (Seiff et al. 1986) gives a surface temperature for Venus of 735.3 K and pressure 9,210,000 Pa. Carbon dioxide fraction is 0.965 and water vapor fraction averages 0.00003. NASA gives the present albedo of Venus as 0.750. I get an effective temperature, based on a solar constant at Venus’s orbit of 2,611.2 watts per square meter, of Te = 231.6 K.

    I used Hart’s (1978) convection-corrected gray method, with greenhouse coefficients estimated from Houghton (2002), to compute the present atmosphere of Venus, obtaining Ts = 669.6 K, which is too low by 65.7 K. I then ran through the calculations for “Venus A” with carbon fraction = 0.000332 (that of Earth in 1976) and water vapor fraction = 0.0. I got Ts = 341.1 K, too low by 394.2 K.

    I then ran through “Venus B” with the same atmosphere as Venus A but with Earth’s albedo of 0.306 (again from NASA). This gives Te = 299.0 K and Ts = 436.4 K, too low by 298.9 K.

    So under any conceivable circumstances, replacing Venus’s present atmosphere with one the same mass but the composition of Earth’s dry air would result in a large decrease in surface temperature.

    Hart, Michael H. 1978. “The Evolution of the Atmosphere of the Earth.” Icarus 33:23-39.

    Houghton, John T. 2002 (1977). The Physics of Atmospheres. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    NASA 1998. http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/ and subsidiary pages.

    Seiff A., Schofield J. T., Kliore A. J., Taylor F. W., Limaye S. S., Revercomb H. E., Sromovsky L. A., Kerzhanovich V. V., Moroz V. I., Marov, M. Ya. 1986. 3-32 in Advances in Space Research Vol. 5, The Venus International Reference Atmosphere, Ed. Kliore A. J., Moroz V. I., Keating G. M. NY: Pergamon Press.

  6. 406
    Joe Duck says:

    Thanks to several people here for links and comments in response to mine. I’ve got some follow up to do on the economics of GW mitigation.

    Ray wrote:
    it needs to be remembered that many of these economists have been in the denialist camp until recently

    Hmm – that does not ring true to me but I’m not well informed about it – a very interesting topic.

    Majorajam – I’m interested in your thoughtful mitigation economics views, but it seems to me that personal attacks on Lomborg have replaced informed discussion of the excellent points he raises about prioritization of global resources and alarmism dressed up as science.

    This latter point is why I’ve been spending more time here at the RC blog after I read the spirited point by point defense of what (to me) was clearly alarmism in the film AIT. I’m coming to realize that when well-informed people, like most here, have a strong political view they tend to view the importance of causality differently than I do. Although it’s reasonable to suggest there may be some causal connection, if you isolated the GW contribution to Lake Chad or Katrina it would likely be extremely small compared to non-GW contributing factors.

    For me the issue of optimal resource allocation is the most important factor here, so I worry that exaggeration of the GW causality connections (Katrina and Lake Chad) and exaggeration of the likelihood of big sea level rises leads people to demand sub-optimal resource allocations. That is nothing new but it’s not a good thing.

  7. 407
    Mary C says:

    Joe – Just what is it that you fear when you talk about “sub-optimal resource allocations.” You have yet to provide even one example of what that would be. Seems to me that the real alarmist scenarios come not from those who say that GW is real and almost certainly caused largely by human activity but from all the folks who scream that the sky will fall if we do anything about it. “The economy will crash, the economy will crash. Help! Help! Make sure you don’t do anything more than tinker around the edges or the economy will crash.” Where is any sort of proof of this claim that even begins to come up to the level of scientific evidence that climate scientists are able to provide. Note that I believe that economic proof and predictions are in a whole different realm from scientific proof and predictions, but still. Please provide some specific examples of the kind of things that you think will be so damaging.

  8. 408
    Hank Roberts says:

    Svend, if you’re worried about US politicians now, remember they’re drawn from the US educational system. This may be cautionary:
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2007/10/24/notes102407.DTL

  9. 409
    Majorajam says:

    Joe Duck,

    You say, “have a strong political view they tend to view the importance of causality differently than I do”. This is tantamount to accusing me and I guess others of bias inspired irrationality. You go on to write, “if you isolated the GW contribution to Lake Chad or Katrina it would likely be extremely small compared to non-GW contributing factors. ” This is despite the fact that people who have studied this, which is to say, create the knowledge on the subject, do not have such definitive views on likelihood. Frankly, if we isolated the contribution of your political views to your conclusions here, it seems likely to be large compared to information related factors.

    As regards Lomborg, there is a pretty distinct difference between a personal attack and pointing out where he has badly misused studies and data to support a contrarian point, (while I concede that accusing him of doing so on purpose is indeed a personal attack, if not an unsubstantiated one). I should draw your attention to the chapter in “Cool It” where the man argues that environmentalist concern about global warming’s effect on polar bears exemplifies the type of alarmism that he purports to abhor. To substantiate this point he cites a study whose conclusion reads, “It is difficult to envisage the survival of polar bears as a species given a zero summer sea-ice scenario”, (highly likely according to the source of his forecasts, the IPCC), quoting instead the following sentence where the study authors speculate that the polar bears could survive is if they managed to evolve backward. Is it your opinion that calling Lomborg on this shockingly duplicitous citation is a personal attack? All apologies, but that simply doesn’t follow, (not to mention, if Gore ever made such an effort to hoodwink, Matt Drudge and the multitudes of Gore Derangement Syndrome sufferers out there would be all over him like a cheap suit, and rightly so).

    I must say, I am frankly exasperated that Lomborg, whose analytical points are thin in the rare instances when they’re not overwhelmingly fatuous, and whose main allure is that he smiles a lot and possesses an even keeled disposition, has received so much attention. It really harms the debate. The irony is bitter- Gore maintains fidelity to the science and can be accused at most of some bad choices of language, while Lomborg leaves a trail of mis- and disinformation roughly the size of Delaware in his wake, and yet Lomborg is the reasonable counterpoint to Gore’s alarmism. Where’s Twain when you need him.

    Btw, here is the Weitzman paper I alluded to.

  10. 410
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Joe Duck,
    Look, I am a firm believer in markets. I believe that markets work for the same reason that science works–and for that matter, democracy and trial by jury (well sort of, for the latter two). That is, all of these systems emphasize a measure of the central tendency of the distribution (of prices, of scientific opinion, political opinion and legal opinion, respectively) rather than the extremes.
    However, for markets to function effectively, they must reflect the cost of the commodity. However, we have some pretty serious distortions in markets these days. Otherwise how would mangos be cheaper than apples in the US. One of the most important distortions has to do with the cost of fossil fuels, and one of the costs not reflected is the environmental cost, including the costs of climate change. Now, I know market regulation is a fraught proposition, but sometimes it is essential to the efficient functioning of the markets. So it is pointless to talk about “inefficient allocation of resources”. Resources are already being allocated inefficiently. Why else would we be interested in the sandbox of the Middle East?
    Lomborg’s argument, aside from being technically incorrect and distorted, is also a false dichotomy. It is not “either climate mitigation or development,” it is both. It is not “either clean drinking water or climate mitigation,” it is both. And so on. The goal has to be sustainability (both ecological and economic), and “Business as Usual” isn’t going to get us there.
    What I would propose is by all means start with the measures that make sense–we should be doing those already anyway. Increase efficiency and conservation, plant trees (as per podwalker) and so on. However, additional measures are necessary to overcome economic inertia–perhaps a carbon market or a carbon tax, coupled with increased R&D to develop technologies with a lower carbon footprint. As George Washington pointed out, people act in accord with their interests as they perceive them–and that usually means immediate interests. If we don not reward efficiency, we will not achieve it.

  11. 411
    Joe Duck says:

    Mark York:
    I think that’s true Joe Duck from S. Oregon. Unfortunately all you have is fallacious rhetoric

    Except for the only time you quote me and then say you agree?

    OK, here’s some real rhetoric: RC’s comment sections are a pretty good study in how groupthink tends to prevail even among intelligent, well-informed people. Perhaps this comes from the many unjustified attacks on AGW and the scientific community by several politicians and the evangelism-before-science attitude of the current administration, but it still makes me very uncomfortable. Attacking specific people rather than their ideas is fairly common here, and it’s a bit scary. It looks like many folks post once, then leave rather than endure abuse.

    Am I mistaken to think that few people who participate here diverge much from the idea that AGW poses the greatest threat to humanity in history and that no cost is too great in terms of trying to mitigate the effects of AGW? It’s dangerous to focus on an issue to the exclusion of all other human concerns, which is my main beef with the tone of many comments here and with what I saw as an unjustifiably alarmist tone in the film.

    Mary C RE: resource allocations. Kyoto is probably the best example of what I’m talking about in terms of sub-optimal actions. In general I think we should be very concerned that the cost of mitigation scenarios like Kyoto appear to be greater than the benefit to society. I certainly need to study this more, but it seems most economists suggest this is the case and most recommend moderate mitigation efforts.

    I think mitigation is on topic for this comment thread because some people are concerned that the film is representative of how we now focus on the possibility of catastrophic problems and focus on warming events that are only vaguely connected to AGW.
    Some would suggest it’s better to assign probabilities to problem scenarios and fund mitigation accordingly. I think IPCC did more with this early on.

    When I read the defense of the film that started this huge thread I’m still not clear if the view is that catastrophes are *highly unlikely* but a good point of discussion or saying that catastrophes *are likely enough* that no cost is too great in terms of mitigation, or simply just saying the film is a reasonable take on the topic. I’m not comfortable with any of those conclusions.

  12. 412
    Jim Eager says:

    Re 406 Joe Duck: “and exaggeration of the likelihood of big sea level rises”

    Joe, you keep holding onto this meme, despite it being pointed out repeatedly 1) that the current IPPC projection of 18-59 cm explicitly does NOT include any increase in the rate of melt of the Greeenland or West Antarctic ice sheets, 2) that the observed rate of destabilization and melting in both is increasing, and 3) that the speed and extent of Arctic sea ice melt this year was unprecedented, begging the question: when there is less sea ice to melt where will the excess heat end up, and how far will it’s impact be felt?

    Clearly the IPCC projection of sea level rise is becoming increasingly unrealistic based on what is being observed in the real world. This is not to say that we will definitely see a “20 ft rise by 2100” (a figure and date only those seeking to assail AIT use), but to continue to assert that we will see only an 1-2 ft rise by then is becoming increasingly untenable, yet you continue to base much of your argument on it. You might want to rethink that.

  13. 413
    Dave Rado says:

    Joe Duck, #406:

    that personal attacks on Lomborg have replaced informed discussion of the excellent points he raises

    Not so – we have provided many links to articles by distinguished scientists and economists showing in detail that the “excellent points he raises” are mostly either dishonest or cherry-picked or misleading or unscientific – and you have not addressed or commented on any of these articles. You have also accused the DCSD of being politically motivated, but have been unwilling to substantiate this very serious allegation.

    Your posts are full of general statements and accusations but you don’t ever cite any specific evidence to back up anything you say or to answer any of the points that others raise. This gets very tiresome in the end.

    if you isolated the GW contribution to Lake Chad or Katrina it would likely be extremely small compared to non-GW contributing factors.

    Which peer reviewed paper(s) are you referring to in the case of Lake Chad? In the case of Katrina your statement is meaningless, because the issue is not whether hurricanes would occur in the absence of warming, but whether they are likely to become more intense as a result of warming. As has been pointed out over and over again, AIT did not specifically ascribe Katrina to global warming but used Katrina as an example of the sort of intense hurricane that is likely to be experienced more frequently as a result of warming. Where is your peer reviewed evidence that increased SST does not increase average hurricane intensity? Cite peer reviewed papers please.

  14. 414
    Dave Rado says:

    Re. 411, Joe Duck

    When I read the defense of the film that started this huge thread I’m still not clear if the view is that catastrophes are *highly unlikely* but a good point of discussion or saying that catastrophes *are likely enough* that no cost is too great in terms of mitigation, or simply just saying the film is a reasonable take on the topic. I’m not comfortable with any of those conclusions.

    As has been pointed out to you before, catastrophe is not a scientifically meaningful word. If you read the IPCC WGII report, however, you will realise that the consensus is that under business as usual, the effects of global warming on human society and on ecosystems are highly likely to be very serious.

  15. 415
    James says:

    Re 411: [Am I mistaken to think that few people who participate here diverge much from the idea that AGW poses the greatest threat to humanity in history and that no cost is too great in terms of trying to mitigate the effects of AGW?]

    Yes, you are mistaken. Perhaps not about the “greatest threat” part, but most certainly about the cost. As I, among many others, keep trying to point out, the actual cost of mitigation could be quite low. If you put reasonable values on things like quality of life, it could even be negative: we could mitigate GW and have a more pleasant world to live in.

  16. 416
    Majorajam says:

    Joe Duck,

    It’s pretty rich to call arguments that I have made a product of groupthink while you neglect to elaborate on the implied accusation that they are flawed, even as you parrot erroneous talking points that fester amongst the pandemic of libertarianism we are suffering. Cost/benefit analysis, in whatever form it will take, is indeed the operative concern here (as opposed to fanciful Lomborg-esque stories), and arguing for it is by no means a counterpoint to what anyone, to my knowledge, has advocated here. Arguing against something that no one is arguing is an exercise in straw man, fyi, and it’s invalid.

    If, as you seem to want to create the impression of, you actually take the economics of the issue seriously, feel free to read/respond to my prior two posts to you. I am perfectly willing to engage in debate on the subject. If you’d rather persist in making vague and baseless accusations regarding the positions and thought processes of people here, don’t mind me if I explain you away as a troll and move on.

  17. 417
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Joe Duck–I would perhaps be more sympathetic to Lomborg’s arguments about opportunity cost of mitigating climate change if he’d shown any commitment to issues like development or habitat restoration, etc. prior to now. I would also be more sympathetic if so many of his arguments were not so consistently wrong–and always erring in the same direction. And while the Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation did overturn the the stinging indictment of the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty, the MSTI decision hardly constitutes a ringing endorsement. Hell, it even questions whether his work constitutes science.
    One thing I really object to is Lomborg’s assertion that anyone who is claiming that climate change is a concern is rejecting cost-benefit analysis. That is simply a lie. What I advocate is a full and accurate treatment of the costs, and that includes environmental costs.

  18. 418
    Majorajam says:

    Joe Duck,

    I should also point out that, this

    Kyoto is probably the best example of what I’m talking about in terms of sub-optimal actions. In general I think we should be very concerned that the cost of mitigation scenarios like Kyoto appear to be greater than the benefit to society. I certainly need to study this more, but it seems most economists suggest this is the case and most recommend moderate mitigation efforts.

    boggles the mind. You are, first of all, are neither qualified nor it appears interested in attesting to what, “most economists suggest”. Second of all, there is zero evidence to support your assertion of consensus on Kyoto, and in fact the truth is closer to the other way around (although ‘for or against’ Kyoto is a vast simplification in and of itself due to the huge agency issues that are being approached). Finally, your penchant for believing that you have some insight into optimal resource allocations or the extent to which global warming dried lake Chad short of any knowledge of either subject, let alone studying the issue or looking at data, is a very large, very luminescent, very bright shining red flag. If you have any sincerity to speak of, you should examine the foundations upon which you make your assertions.

    It would also behoove you to stop asserting that AIT somehow implied that global warming mitigation was the only every and all of what societies should worry about or spend time on. Please point me to the part in the film where this can be remotely inferred. Rather, the film can be seen as explicitly endorsing the Kyoto process, if not that particular treaty, which is well supported by any thorough, thoughtful economic analysis- especially those that explicitly account for the vast number of goods and bads that society is interested in, and not simply charity. Speaking of, I gave you a link, I suggest you click it, read it, think about it, and then return to posting.

  19. 419
    Majorajam says:

    Joe Duck,

    I got so excited with being called a name again I overlooked where you made claims beyond accusatory hand waving. Leaving no rock overturned, this

    Kyoto is probably the best example of what I’m talking about in terms of sub-optimal actions. In general I think we should be very concerned that the cost of mitigation scenarios like Kyoto appear to be greater than the benefit to society. I certainly need to study this more, but it seems most economists suggest this is the case and most recommend moderate mitigation efforts.

    boggles the mind. There is, first of all, zero evidence to support your assertion of majority opinion regarding Kyoto or otherwise, and in fact the truth on the former is closer to the other way around (although ‘for or against’ Kyoto is a vast simplification in and of itself due to the huge agency issues that are being approached).

    Second of all, your penchant for believing that you have some insight into optimal resource allocations or the extent to which global warming dried lake Chad short of any knowledge of either subject, let alone studying the issue or looking at data, is a very large, very luminescent and very bright, shining red flag. If you have any sincerity, you should examine the foundations upon which you make your assertions. Finally, it would behoove you to stop asserting that AIT somehow implied that global warming mitigation was the only every and all of what societies should worry about or spend time on. Please point me to the part in the film where this can be remotely inferred. If you can’t you should acknowledge you’ve constructed yet another straw-man. Indeed, the film can be seen as explicitly endorsing the Kyoto process, if not that particular treaty, which is well supported by thorough, thoughtful economic analysis- especially those that explicitly account for the vast number of goods and bads that society is interested in, and not simply charity. Speaking of, I gave you a link, I suggest you click it.

  20. 420
    Dave Rado says:

    Also, re,. Joe Duck, #406 and #411, many people have addressed your specific point about resource allocation, in some detail, and you have simply ignored many of the points they made and/or the questions they asked you.

    For example, see Majorajam’s post #182:

    As any social scientist worth a spit should know, fighting poverty or malaria is no more the opportunity cost of mitigating GHG emissions than ski vacations, a trip to the movies or a bunker busting nuclear missile.

    Or Barton Paul Levenson’s post, #372:

    [[ or funding very expensive mitigation efforts while current catastrophic conditions of health and poverty in 3rd world are too widely ignored. ]]

    Who is advocating ignoring third-world poverty? If you’re implying that fixing AGW means we can’t alleviate third-world poverty, I think that’s grossly wrong, not only because the two are not mutually exclusive, but because fixing AGW will improve, not hurt, third-world conditions. A billion Asians depend on glacial melt for their fresh water. If we just let AGW happen, many of those people are going to die.

    Or the second paragraph of Ray Ladbury’s post #378:

    It is also a mistake to assume that if we do nothing we will not incur heavy costs. Sea level rise gets most of the attention because its occurrence (though not its magnitude) is a certainty. However, while we are unsure of how probable other adverse outcomes may be, these could have much higher costs. A measure of the credibility of these risks is the fact that many government agencies (DOD, DOC, HHS, DHS…) are already planning for them.

    Or Mary C’s post, #383:

    I question just how much of a negative impact mitigation efforts will have on the GDP in the U.S. [followed by a detailed explanation of her basis for questioning it, which you haven’t responded to.]

    Or Mary C again in #407:

    Joe – Just what is it that you fear when you talk about “sub-optimal resource allocations.” You have yet to provide even one example of what that would be.

    Or Ray Ladbury again in #410:

    Lomborg’s argument, aside from being technically incorrect and distorted, is also a false dichotomy. It is not “either climate mitigation or development,” it is both. It is not “either clean drinking water or climate mitigation,” it is both. And so on. The goal has to be sustainability (both ecological and economic), and “Business as Usual” isn’t going to get us there.

    You did respond to one of Ray’s posts on the subject, #367, although you posted your reply in the wrong thread (not the only time you’ve done that – it makes the discussion very difficult to follow); and although all you wrote in response to him was:

    Ray wrote:
    To meet the challenges of the next 100 years, we will have to develop sustainability–both ecological AND economic. We cannot sacrifice the economy or development to combat climate change, because these are coupled problems. If we sacrifice economic health to combat climate change, we will both lose public support and fail to be able to pay for new technology to help us mitigate adverse climate effects. If we sacrifice development, then the poor will burn whatever energy resources they can obtain, making our efforts in vain….

    A very thoughtful passage IMHO.

    And yet you subsequently repeated the same point that Ray had already rebutted, several more times, without saying why you (apparently) disagree with Ray (and with others who have made the same point to you that Ray made).

    Are you just trolling, Joe?

  21. 421
    Hank Roberts says:

    > It looks like many folks post once, then leave
    > rather than endure abuse.

    Joe, when people are discussing science, it is _not_abuse_ to ask them to provide a basis to support their beliefs: citations to published sources in the literature, their own or others.

    You’re posting your beliefs. We’re asking you where you get what you believe to be true and why you believe the sources you trust.

    So far you aren’t answering. Please say where you get what you think is true. We can talk with you once we have some common sources to read and discuss.

  22. 422
    Joe Duck says:

    RE: Joe Duck harping on the 20 foot sea level rises mentioned in AIT vs the IPCC projections of 1-2 feet.
    Jim wrote:
    … to continue to assert that we will see only an 1-2 ft rise by then is becoming increasingly untenable, yet you continue to base much of your argument on it. You might want to rethink that.

    Jim, those IPCC projections were released recently. We must use *some sort of metric* to determine how to proceed. I recommend we use IPCC. Here at RC blog Gavin suggested earlier [again Gavin, pls correct if I misunderstood what you said about this] that he felt it was appropriate to add another approx 25cm to those to get a more realistic estimate that included the melting, an estimate that he felt was closer to a meter over next 100 years. Is this the extra sea level rise you are talking about?

    Dave RE: Lake Chad. I know of only one study of Lake Chad which is Coe & Foley at UW Madison, 2001. I’m trying to find a copy of that paper and I’m hardly an expert on Lake Chad, let alone the Sahel drought, but my understanding was that Coe Foley concluded after extensive research that the seasonal rather than GW inspired drought conditions and human use factors were key at Lake Chad.

    There are a lot of challenges implying that Lake Chad’s demise is caused by global warming’s relationship to the Sahel – have you seen any studies that suggest GW has played more than a trivial role in the water volume there, which is some 1/20th of what it was in the 50’s? How would you characterize the effect of AGW on Lake Chad?

    I think the second climate model paper (about Sahel and AGW) cited above in the Lake Chad comments on AIT suggests that some scenarios predicts more moisture there thanks to global warming.

    Dave – Yes, agree there is reason to believe average hurricane intensity will increase as a result of AGW. However I’d suggest it is not responsible to say Katrina tells us much, if anything, about this hypothesis because the causal connections between Katrina and AGW are at best highly speculative, and even if you accept there is a relationship would not the *magnitude of the increase in the strength of Katrina due to AGW* need to be very small to fit into the models predicting intensity increases?

    The burden of proof for somebody saying “there is no AGW” should be on the skeptic because AGW is well established. However, the burden of proof with respect to an AGW connection to Katrina intensity and Lake Chad drying should be on those who suggest the connection.

  23. 423
    Jon says:

    I have a question and hope you folks can help he out regarding the 30 years of cooling in the 1900s. From what I’ve read, this cooling was throughout the Northern Hemisphere (TAR). The TAR also states that the Southern Hemisphere was warming during this time. (Haven’t seen this section in the FAR, has this changed?) I have also read that the argument for the cooling in the NH was due to aerosols, which masked the GHG forcing.
    But now I hear the NH is warming faster than the south, apparently due to more land mass which is more susceptible to forcing, while the large volume of ocean in the south is less likely to warm. I’ve also read that aerosols only appear to be responsible for localized cooling. Also, the error margin in the fourth assessment for negative forcing from clouds/aerosols is very high.

    So how is it that we can explain this mid century cooling with any certainty?

    Looking forward for some clarity.

    PS. Does anyone have information regarding the ratio of GHGs/Aerosols now, compared to the 1940’s-1970’s? With so many coal plants coming online, and the industrialization of China and India my gut tells me there should be more cooling. (My gut however, is not a climate scientist)

  24. 424
    Joe Duck says:

    Majorajam – here is what I wrote above. I’m sorry it offended you but it does reflect my view based on a few days here at the wild and wooly RC blog.

    “when well-informed people, like most here, have a strong political view they tend to view the importance of causality differently than I do. Although it’s reasonable to suggest there may be some causal connection, if you isolated the GW contribution to Lake Chad or Katrina it would likely be extremely small compared to non-GW contributing factors.”

    My point is that I think the film presented things in a way that would inspire action, rather than working to present the likelihood of events as accurately as possible. Also that the film implied a degree of causal connection between AGW and events like Katrina and Lake Chad that is not reasonably assumed from the science on the subject.

    But more to the point – why do you think there is a well established connection between AGW and Lake Chad water levels? I think AIT implied that but others here say AIT did no such thing.

  25. 425
    Dave Rado says:

    Re. my comment #420, I’ve just realised that one of the examples I gave in my post was unfair, in that Joe did reply to one of Mary’s questions, where she asked in #407) : “Joe – Just what is it that you fear when you talk about “sub-optimal resource allocations” – and Joe replied “Kyoto” in #411. But this ignores:

    1) the point Ray and others have made that third world development is not an opportunity cost of emissions reductions, that both are inter-related, and that neither will succeed unless both succeed;

    2) the fact that Lomborg’s analysis of Kyoto assumes misleadingly that it will run in its present form for the next hundred years, whereas it will only run in its present form until 2012 at the latest, and was only ever intended to be a building block to base an improved subsequent treaty on (as already pointed out by J.S. McIntyre in #369);

    3) the fact that Lomborg’s claims about the costs of Kyoto have not been backed up by any peer reviewed paper;

    4) the fact that the economies of the Kyoto signatories have not done discernibly less well than the non-signatories in comparison to their relative performance pre-Kyoto;

    5) and the fact that Lomborg completely ignores in his analysis the generally accepted finding in environmental economics that tight environmental regulations are frequently a business opportunity rather than a cost, and that they often lead to innovation and new products (e.g. see Porter and Van der Linde (1995)) – a point Mary has already made in #383).

    And see also Majorajam’s comment #418), particularly with reference to reading the link.

    In another thread you recently wrote:

    Yikes – I simply don’t have enough time read each article [that I had linked to in order to demonstrate points I was making]

    This site is for people who are here to learn. If you are simply here to debate for debating’s sake, and not to learn, you’re trolling. If people link to articles written by distinguished scientists and economists that make points that you are disputing, and if you are unwilling to read those articles, then you are simply trolling.

  26. 426
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 420

    “Are you just trolling, Joe?”

    Dave, ever read the Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster? It’s intended for “young” readers, but happens to be one of those books imbued with a universality that speaks to people of all ages.

    The “conversation” people have been having with Joe these reminds me of the climax of the book when the hero, a young lad named Milo, aided by his companions Tock and Humbug, are about the rescue the Princesses Rhyme & Reason, trapped in a floating castle suspended above the Mountains of Ignorance. (Sorry about the set-up, but it kind of helps.)

    The last obstacle to their goal is an old man who identifies himself as the Census Taker, and before they can ascend the stairs to the castle they need to first answer “just a few questions”. But as the heros soon realize as they spend what seems like an unending period of time answering his questions that he is really the Senses Taker, whose one talent is to waste people’s time.

    That Joe Duck. A senses taker, as in he’s getting you to play his game, waste your time. He’s not interested in a real conversation, per se, only in jabbing a stick to get you to react.

    Joe’s tactic parallels what I see from Creationists: ignore corrections and clarifications (and the facts), cherry-pick items to create straw man arguments and red herrings while repeating the same nonsense over and over, no matter how many times he’s been shown to be in error. What he is doing, imho, is conscious, deliberate and – mildly – malicious, in the sense it is also apparent by the manner in which he conducts himself he knows precisely what he is doing.

    He may be a troll, or he may be not. But the end result is the same. Just my opinion, as I said, but having watched this tactic at play over the years, a reasonably informed one.

  27. 427
    Hank Roberts says:

    > ratio of GHGs to aerosols
    This comes up repeatedly, you can look it up.

    Briefly: half the fossil fuel burned so far was burned before about 1970. That was mostly before the Clean Air Act, much of it by the US, and produced the sulfates that caused acid rain. That aerosol cooling happened against the forcing from the first half of the CO2 emitted.

    Then Clean Air Act and a stretch with much lower sulfate emission, while CO2 from fossil fuel burning continued to be added. Second half of the fossil fuel burned so far, burned since about 1970.

    Now we’re starting into the ‘third half’ — sulfates from China are being emitted locally (they don’t have the laws about high smokestacks, that got the USA’s coal smoke up from the local area and caused it to fall out far downwind).

    China’s sulfates are emitted against a background forcing from the CO2 from the coal already burned, as compared to the pre-1970 US.

    Sulfates from China are also being emitted closer to the Equator — the photochemistry differs.

    “A commonality across future man-made emissions projections
    is a regional shift with decreases at NH midlatitudes and
    increases at the more photochemically active subtropical and
    tropical latitudes. In the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
    Change A1B future, the man-made emissions changes dominated
    the impacts of physical climate changes on sulfate and O3
    composition….” http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/103/12/4377

  28. 428
    Dave Rado says:

    RE. J.S. McIntyre, #426, I guess you’re right. I had been about to post something in response to his questions about Chad and Katrina, but his questions already have been answered multiple times elsewhere, and as you say, he’s just wasting our time, probably on purpose.

  29. 429
    Joe Duck says:

    I think we’d all agree that there’s too much Duck in this thread, so I’ll try to restrict myself to fewer posts and the specific topic of this fascinating thread, which are the (in)famous “9 points” of AIT.

    The moderation (needed of course) means a delay that seems to vary and I’m bouncing around quite a bit from post to post. As Dave notes I posted at least one answer in another thread. It’s hard to keep up, especially because at the same time some say Kyoto is a straw man others imply it’s essential policy.

    … neglect to elaborate on the implied accusation that they are flawed, even as you parrot erroneous talking points that fester amongst the pandemic of libertarianism we are suffering ….

    WoW Majorajam, did I really do all that? I want a peer review!?

  30. 430
    Joe Duck says:

    I wrote the “too much duck” before I read J.S.’s and other concerns that I’m wasting people’s time here so I’ll leave now. I have become much better informed as a result of the experience, and thank everybody for that benefit.

    No, I was not trolling. (Sheesh!) and in parting I would simply encourage people to read the judge’s nine points with an open mind.

    If people want to bash me that’s fine but please post a copy at my blog so I may at least respond over there.

  31. 431
    Rod B says:

    re 416 (M.) “…parrot erroneous talking points that fester amongst the pandemic of libertarianism we are suffering.”

    What on earth??!!? What is that? Is it good or bad? Pandemic of libertarianism: is that like everybody going their own way at once? Who is suffering?

  32. 432
    Majorajam says:

    You missed it Joe- you just had one.

  33. 433
  34. 434
    Mike Donald says:

    Back to the An Inconvenient Truth. I recommend Al Gore’s book as well which presumably came out before the film. From memory (I work away from home) it has that famous picture of a river in Greenland disappearing down a moulin. Google-Images moulin greenland to see what I mean.

    Book’s down to nine quid now. Bargain!

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Inconvenient-Truth-Planetary-Emergency-Warming/dp/0747589062

  35. 435
    Mike Donald says:

    And Bellamy’s at it again. Now there’s someone who should be up before the beak.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article2709551.ece

    Apparently he’s “brave” for taking the Murdochite shilling.

  36. 436
    Svend Jensen says:

    Lomborg,the Dane bashes Gore,Nobel Prize winner..

    It might give another perspective to consider Mr Lomborg the individual and his ideas in the light of Danish politics and economic activity over the past 35 years. After all, the guy is Danish..

    When I lived in Denmark (population 5 million) over 30 years ago it was a decidedly left wing-social welfare orientated state – environmentally friendly technologies, pushing organic farming, generous subsidies to all groups and associations, welcoming all political-economic-refugees, bitterly opposed to the Vietnam war, trips to Albanian ‘workers paradise’ and students running round with Mao’s Little Red Book etcetcera:,
    Maybe some of you readers visited Copenhagen with the (in)famous ‘Christiana’ free state etc:, Tolerance and free-thinking and living was overflowing…

    Naturally the pendulum swings – there were national budget blowouts, growing intolerance to foreign refugees and workers and of course, a right wing coalition government with the early Danish military contribution to the US Afghanistan and Iraq military operations !!! Introduction of severe immigration laws often obliging mixed Danish couples to live over in Sweden..
    However, renewable alternative energy saving technology was well established and exports boomed.

    Lomborg was nurtured in this fluctuating social-economic environment.
    Furthermore, Denmark was fortunate enough to discover reasonable reserves of oil-gas in their sector of the North Sea, not as much as those ‘blue-eyed Arabs’, our Norweigan cousins, but enough to save the failing economy.
    A.P. Moeller, now Denmark’s largest company, with activities including shipping-containers and oil-gas exploration and refining is a multinational player.
    I am sure all of you have seen those light blue AP Möller containers in US ports and on your highways. Another export from little Denmark, like the Lego, bacon and Bang & Olufsen stereo equipment.

    However, this year when an European Union (EU) survey wanted to establish the Carbon Dioxide Budgets and CO2 saving measures of large companies in the EU, AP Moeller which is Denmark’s largest contributor with their shipping, airline & oil-gas operations refused to cooperate. Yeah, Moeller told them to get stuffed..or ‘we will leave Denmark and be based elsewhere’….heard that one before !!

    Lomborg, was and is still thriving in this ‘business friendly’ environment, even receiving substantial funding from the faltering right wing coalition to start an Environmental study group etc., with the Copenhagen Consensus… – some Danes are reaLLY hopping mad !!!

    Of course, the Brit magazine, the Economist and the Financial Times are completely besotted with Lomborg… what do you expect !!!
    Once again, naturally the pendulum is now swinging back to the Danish centre again – more funding is becoming available for sustainable energy, more money for medical and education services which became dysfunctional and falling apart etc., the Iraq military contingent is being withdrawn – it was a misadventure and extremely unpopular,…

    In Denmark itself, Signorissimo Lomborg is a very controversial figure. bUT I have to respect him, he is a smart and wily individuaL…
    In Scandinavia, individual freedom of expression is sacred and all these successful economies are run by coalition governments with numerous political parties sharing the same bed !! No big deal…

    Some Danish comments on Lomborg – even if slightly over the top..

    Danish – ‚’Lomborg er farligere end Adolf Hitler og Josef Stalin tilsammen’
    Lomborg is more dangerous than Hitler and Stalin together !!
    Danish – ‘ er han stadig fuldstændigt forvirret og tosset på alle videnskabs områder…’
    He is completely confused and crazy in all areas of science….
    Danish – ‘Lomborg forvirrer klima-debatten’
    …he confuses the climate debate.

    But one political commentator makes a VERY VALID observation:

    ‘If one compares Lomborg’s way of thinking to the developments between east and west Europe during the days of the Iron Curtain before the collapse of the Wall, one would have to say that the western countries (Germany, Holland, Austria etc) were wasting infinite amounts of money on investing in energy and resource saving technology – Money , that the east was saving…
    But who was most economically competitive when the Wall fell ??
    And the expensive ‘clean up’ operations (still ongoing or not even started…) in the east and who had or did not have to pay for these !!’

    Be optimistic and realistic – as little Norway (population 3.5 million) dishing out controversial Nobel prizes but it is also the worlds 5 largest oil export country: They will take appox. 25 billion kroner (5 billion dollars) from their enormous Oil fund and use this for large scale investments in environmental protection and efforts to slow down global warming… (100 Nor. Kroner = 18 US dollars)

    Al Gore with Inconvenient Truths has made an immeasurably positive contribution to furthering the ‘Global Climate Change’ debate..
    Sure, Lomborg has made one-hell-of-a-name for himself..he has come and is now on his way out…

  37. 437
    Dave Rado says:

    Re. Svend Jensen, #436, a very helpful analysis, thanks. It’s amazing though that such a small country should produce not only Lomborg, but also Svensmark and Friis-Christensen – per capita it seems to have become the world’s leading country at producing disingenuous AGW denialist scientists. I’ve wondered for some time why this was so.

    Al Gore with Inconvenient Truths has made an immeasurably positive contribution to furthering the ‘Global Climate Change’ debate..
    Sure, Lomborg has made one-hell-of-a-name for himself..he has come and is now on his way out…

    What gets me is that someone can get upset about a small number of statements in AIT that, while they probably were misleadingly presented in some cases, they were not actually inaccurate; and were in any case only meant to be illustrations of points the film was making that were unarguably accurate; and yet the same person seems to be quite happy to condone someone like Lomborg, whose main arguments are almost all inaccurate, who thinks nothing of fabricating and cherry picking data and of misquoting people; and who generally prefers to cite press articles rather than peer reviewed scientific papers. On the one hand one has a film that is mostly accurate (surprisingly so, considering the complexity of the subject and the fact that it was made by a layman); and which is obviously sincere, for all its faults; and on the other hand you have someone who is clearly insincere and whose claims are almost all demonstrably scientifically inaccurate. I find it quite shocking that anyone who is informed and intelligent could argue against the former and for the latter.

  38. 438
    John Mashey says:

    re: #435 Mike

    I’ve tried 3 times over as many days to point out that the credibility of Bellamy, in citing endocrinologist/plagiarist Schulte’s unpublishable (even in Energy&Environment) piece, is not high… but somehow that message doesn’t get through – maybe I’m on some badlist, although guthrie reports a similar problem over at Stoat. They have been printing some real rants.

    Maybe someone else can try, especially UK residents.

    As far as I know, this is the only mainstream-media mention of Schulte, admidst the blogosphere froth.

  39. 439
    Fred Staples says:

    Many thanks for the very interesting responses, Ray and Barton (405) and (379).

    For the calculated Venus surface temperature to be so low, radiative effects must dominate in the models. With dry air atmosphere replacing CO2, the pressure at the surface would still be massive (90 times the earth’s), the thermal conductivity would be much the same, and since the specific heats are similar the lapse rates per kilometre would also be similar at about 10 degrees K per kilometre.

    The thickness of an air atmosphere on Venus would be an order of magnitude greater than on the earth, some 50 kilometres, so why would the overall lapse temperature not be about 500 degrees, and the surface temperature more than 700 degrees K?

    In conventional greenhouses the absorption/emission from the glass makes little difference to the internal temperatures, which result from a combination of solar heating, insulation and inhibited convection.

    Is it possible that the conventional atmospheric models also over-estimate atmospheric radiative effects, exaggerating the impact of the greenhouse gasses? It is easy to see that, back on earth, the atmosphere will provide us with a 33degree K surface temperature increase over Te. It is not so easy to see why all this should be down to greenhouse gasses.

  40. 440
    Fred Staples says:

    Your reference to the 1998 post on Hansen’s projections is interesting, Gavin. Your final paragraph (very fair) is not sufficient to put you into the sceptical scientist ranks, but it is close.

    We always have to bear in mind that measurements errors (quite independent of natural variations) are large in comparison with the effects we are monitoring. However, Mr Hansen expected significant warming before 1990, “raising the mean global temperature well above the maximum of the late 1930’s”.

    In the late thirties winter sea ice appeared regularly in the English Channel, northern ports were impassable. It was very cold, but not as cold as in the previous century, when the Thames was regularly used both as a highway and a market, with bonfires.

    We were clearly emerging from the little Ice Age, as Mr Hansen charts. Bearing in mind that we have experienced an increase of only 0.6 degrees centigrade across the twentieth century it is astonishing that mean global temperatures actually fell from the thirties to the seventies, and not at all surprising that they increased thereafter.

    I follow the Hadley centre data. Using their long run chart, HadCRUT3, it is obvious that, without the increase from 1985 to the artificial peak in 1998, no-one would have worried about global warming. Could that step, about 0.5 degrees C in 10 years, really have been the result of accumulated CO2 from pre-industrial times?

    Actually, there are many similar steps in the record (1920 to 1940, for example). What is surprising is that the temperature did not fall back, as all the others did. Instead, temperatures remained roughly constant along Hansen’s scenario C line, as I said.

    I notice many references to rising seal levels in these posts. Today’s Guardian reminds us that Captain Ross, of ice shelf fame, failed to get past Greenland while looking for the NorthWest passage in October, 1833. He suspected that future generation would be interested in the sea level, so he marked it on the most stable rock he knew in a region of low tides. You can see his mark featured prominently on John Daly’s web site.

    [Response: I’m not sure about the rising seal level – something to do with the reduced hunting perhaps? – but it is rather unlikely that a sea level mark made on an Arctic journey would be found in Tasmania. I can’t find the Guardian article though, do you have a link? In general, you’ll find it useful to provide them if you want to discuss specifics. – gavin]

  41. 441
    Fred Staples says:

    I have just noticed other responses to my Venus question.

    It was not meant to be tricky, and I do know what the text books say. For example “We can account for the observed thermal structure of Venus’s atmosphere by a combination of thermal balance at the surface, with space, and in the stratosphere, and convective equilibrium in the troposhere. The high surface temperature results from the very deep and thermally opaque atmosphere, containing large quantities of efficient greenhouse absorber, in particular CO2 and H2SO4”.

    The same text then calculates a layer by layer radiative temperature gradient, “which gives the correct surface temperature if the next lowest layer is just 2K cooller than the surface”. And the wrong answer if it isn’t (my comment).

    Elsewhere the same text calculates pressure/temperature lapse rates from conventional gas laws and specific heats, and arrives at a surface temperature of 730 degrees K, just as James Hansen did.

    What I am really asking is why we are so certain that the radiative effects dominate the more intuitive (and observable)pressure/temperature effects. If they do, removing the CO2 will lower the temperature drastically. If they don’t, it won’t.

    In my day, the fifties, some text books still asserted that greenhouses were heated by back radiation from their glass, 50 years after RWWoods had demonstrated the contrary. Could we try the experiment on Venus?

  42. 442
    Nick Barnes says:

    #440: the last frost fair was in 1814, and lasted only 4 days. The heyday of frost fairs on the Thames was in the 17th and 18th centuries.

  43. 443

    [[It is easy to see that, back on earth, the atmosphere will provide us with a 33degree K surface temperature increase over Te. It is not so easy to see why all this should be down to greenhouse gasses.]]

    Fred, the lapse rate comes about because the greenhouse gases heat the surface. With no greenhouse gases the lapse rate would be different. It’s the temperature differential that determines the lapse rate, not vice versa. Earth’s atmosphere will NOT provide us with a 33 K temperature increment without greenhouse gases.

  44. 444
    Hank Roberts says:

    Conspiracy theories continue about Mr. Gore’s movie: http://images.ucomics.com/comics/db/2007/db071026.gif

  45. 445
    Dave Rado says:

    Re. #440, and #442, and the Thames frost fairs see page 7 of Jones and Mann 2004 (PDF), which states:

    We have thus far emphasized the work of historical
    climatologists who have combined detailed information and
    rigorous statistical techniques in order to develop long,
    continuous, and well-replicated series. Despite these extensive
    research efforts, anecdotal evidence concerning the last
    millennium based on factually dubious beliefs is still rife.
    We note three specific examples that are often misrepresented
    in terms of their relevance to past climate:

    1. River Thames freeze-overs (and sometimes frost
    fairs) only occurred 22 times between 1408 and 1814
    [Lamb, 1977] when the old London Bridge constricted flow
    through its multiple piers and restricted the tide with a weir.
    After the bridge was replaced in the 1830s, the tide came
    farther upstream, and freezes no longer occurred, despite a
    number of exceptionally cold winters. The winter of 1962/
    1963, for example, was the third coldest in the central
    England temperature (CET) record (the longest instrumental
    record anywhere in the world extending back to 1659
    [Manley, 1974; Parker et al., 1992]), yet the river only froze
    upstream of the present tidal limit at Teddington. The CET
    record clearly indicates that Thames (London) ‘‘frost fairs’’
    provide a biased account of British climate changes (let
    alone larger-scale changes.

  46. 446
    Robin Levett says:

    Fred Staples said:

    In the late thirties winter sea ice appeared regularly in the English Channel, northern ports were impassable.

    We are talking about the 1930s here, aren’t we? In which case, where do you get your information?

  47. 447
    Fred Staples says:

    Gosh Barton (443) I hope that comment does not form part of Ray’s famous scientific consensus. Can I suggest that you recall the second law of thermodynamics, read RWWoods comments on his greenhouse experiment and begin again with “It is the sun that heats the surface……..”

    The Guardian reference to Captain Ross, Gavin, (people got about in those days) is at the foot of page 42 of the October 26 edition. You can see a description of his “Isle of the Dead mark, with a photograph, at john-daly.com/deadisle/index.htm.

    For anecdotal reference to sea and river ice in the UK (with photographs) can I suggest Frozen in Time by Ian McCaskill and Paul Hudson . For example “the winter of 1683-84 may have been the coldest ever, with as much as 11 inches of solid ice” “Coaches plied from Westminster to the Temple” They agree that the New London bridge ended the frost fairs in 1814, but there was ice on the Thames in 1816 (the year of no Summer) and in 1894 “the whole of the Thames was blocked by ice floes six or seven feet thick. In 1947 along the Belgian Coast “an ice shelf ten inches thick formed 300 yards out to sea”. At Dungeness, Eastbourne etc “the sea was frozen up to 100 feet from the shore”. The Thames froze at Windsor.

    In 1962/63 “the Thames was soon frozen right across” and at Torquay (the English Riviera) “sea water froze for the first time in living memory”.

    The last really severe Winter was in 1979 (the third coldest January of the century). Thereafter things improved, more or less following the HadCRUT3 global trends, which I mentioned in 440.

    [Response: The Isle of the Dead mark is in Tasmania, not anywhere near the Arctic so your initial point was completely misleading. During the winter of 1963 the Thames only froze above the lock at Teddington, which frankly is not the same thing as a frost fair at all, despite the winter being one of the coldest in the CET record. And you have provided no evidence that during the 1930s ‘northern ports were inaccessible’. It probably comes as no surprise that I can find no mention of Ross in the Guardian on 26/Oct/2007 – ‘p42’ not being a useful URL (my only access is through the web). But regardless of all that, what is your point? – gavin]

  48. 448

    [[Gosh Barton (443) I hope that comment does not form part of Ray’s famous scientific consensus. Can I suggest that you recall the second law of thermodynamics, read RWWoods comments on his greenhouse experiment and begin again with “It is the sun that heats the surface……..” ]]

    I knew the second law of thermodynamics when you were in diapers, Fred. I’ll say it again — the Earth’s atmosphere, without greenhouse gases, will not give you a 33 K temperature increment from the Earth’s effective or emission temperature, and such an atmosphere would not have the same lapse rate as the one we have now. Lapse rates don’t just come down out of the sky. They are determined by physical principles. For the adiabatic lapse rate, it’s determined by how a convecting parcel of air fares in rising due to its lower density which is in turn due to its higher temperature. For the saturated lapse rate, physical states of water vapor come into play (or, if you’re analyzing Titan and not Earth, physical states of methane). If you want a review I’d suggest checking out John Houghton’s The Physics of Atmospheres (3rd ed. 2002).

  49. 449
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Fred Staples, The world is full of folks who try to get by on bluff and bluster–never stating their point clearly enough that it can be clearly refuted. They think this makes them look more intelligent. They are wrong. I have found that really bright people generally communicate their points clearly and courteously. If I understand your point correctly, you seem to be under the erroneous impression that forcing by the atmosphere would somehow violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics. This is not true. The greenhouse effect occurs because the only way for energy to leave Earth is radiatively. Greenhouse gases keep radiation at certain wavelengths from leaving Earth (at least from below a certain altitude). You have been dancing around the same point for months now, when the same time spent studying atmospheric physics would have resolved your confusion.

  50. 450
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 449

    And here I thought the 2nd Law was only getting abused and misused by Creationists.

    So many parallels, so little time…