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Global Warming Delusions at the Wall Street Journal

Filed under: — david @ 18 October 2007

Daniel Botkin, emeritus professor of ecology at UC Santa Barbara, argues in the Wall Street Journal (Oct 17, page A19) that global warming will not have much impact on life on Earth. We’ll summarize some of his points and then take our turn:

Botkin: The warm climates in the past 2.5 million years did not lead to extinctions.

Response: For the past 2.5 million years the climate has oscillated between interglacials which were (at most) a little warmer than today and glacials which were considerably colder than today. There is no precedent in the past 2.5 million years for so much warming so fast. The ecosystem has had 2.5 million years to adapt to glacial-interglacial swings, but we are asking it to adapt to a completely new climate in just a few centuries. The past is not a very good analog for the future in this case. And anyway, the human species can suffer quite a bit before we start talking extinction.

Botkin: Tropical diseases are affected by other things besides temperature

Response: I’m personally more worried about dust bowls than malaria in the temperate latitudes. Droughts don’t lead to too many extinctions either, but they can destroy civilizations. It is true that tropical diseases are affected by many things besides temperature, but temperature is important, and the coming warming is certainly not going to make the fight against malaria any easier.

Botkin: Kilimanjaro again.

Response: Been there, done that. The article Botkin cites is from American Scientist, an unreviewed pop science magazine, and it is mainly a rehash of old arguments that have been discussed and disposed of elsewhere. And anyway, the issue is a red-herring. Even if it turned out that for some bizarre reason the Kilimanjaro glacier, which is thousands of years old, picked just this moment to melt purely by coincidence, it would not in any way affect the validity of our prediction of future warming. Glaciers are melting around the world, confirming the general warming trends that we measure. There are also many other confirmations of the physics behind the predictions. It’s a case of attacking the science by attacking an icon, rather than taking on the underlying scientific arguments directly.

Botkin: The medieval optimum was a good time

Response: Maybe it was, if you’re interested in Europe and don’t mind the droughts in the American Southwest. But the business-as-usual forecast for 2100 is an entirely different beast than the medieval climate. The Earth is already probably warmer than it was in medieval times. Beware the bait and switch!

Botkin argues for clear-thinking rationality in the discussion about anthropogenic climate change, against twisting the truth, as it were. We couldn’t agree more. Doctor, heal thyself.

For years the Wall Street Journal has been lying to you about the existence of global warming. It doesn’t exist, it’s a conspiracy, the satellites show it’s just urban heat islands, it’s not CO2, it’s all the sun, it’s water vapor, and on and on. Now that those arguments are losing traction, they have moved on from denying global warming’s existence to soothing you with reassurances that it ain’t gonna be such a bad thing.

Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me–you can’t get fooled again.

-George W. Bush


453 Responses to “Global Warming Delusions at the Wall Street Journal”

  1. 151
    Ron Taylor says:

    Re 131 – matt

    Why wait for more info on Iraq, but act now on climate change?

    First, the two threats would develop in very different ways. If we had verified a short-term threat from Iraq at any point in time, the threat could have been neutralized in a very short time period. The threat of AGW, however, requires several decades, perhaps even centuries to neutralize. There is also the additional threat of known but unquantified nonlinear feedbacks – the “tipping point” problem. Finally, while a successful nuclear attack in the U.S. would be devastating, our nation and civilization would survive. AGW, however, has signifcant potential to create major world disorder, a very dangerous thing with nuclear arsenals still in place. The two threats are in no way comparable.

    In terms of information at hand, we had no credible evidence of an immediate threat from Iraq at the time of the invasion. The AGW problem, on the other hand, is strongly supported by the science, at least according to the IPCC and the academies of science of all major nations.

    These are simply my views as a laymen.

  2. 152
    Hank Roberts says:

    In other news, the Arctic sea ice began increasing (a month later than usual), but the recovery is lagging.

    Look at the anomaly, the measure this year against the 1979-2000 mean amount, each day.
    http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.anom.jpg

  3. 153
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Lynn, Well, since the current Bishop of Rome (pope) seems to be one of the great minds of the 14th century, it is not surprising that he has reservations about empiricism. But then, I would not look to the church to tell me about scientific matters. And the pope has at least recognized Intelligent Design for the heresy it is–I have confidence in his ability to comment on doctrinal matters. But asking an 80 year old layman to comprehend the science of climate change and why it might be a bad thing is probably a bit much to ask.

  4. 154
    catman306 says:

    This might be a good time for us non-scientists to take a look a Greenland.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenland

  5. 155
    Ron Taylor says:

    I forgot a point I intended to make in #150

    The destructive potential of the threat of a nuclear attack on the U.S. fostered by iraq under Saddam Hussein remained more or less constant. But the global destructive potential of AGW increases every year. That provides a special sense of urgency.

  6. 156
    Ray Ladbury says:

    So Marburger and Botkin say climate change won’t adversely affect people. Hmm!

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071020/ap_on_re_as/sinking_cities;_ylt=Akfp4teUAWyY0zLeFpLEux1vaA8F

    “Of the 33 cities predicted to have at least 8 million people by 2015, at least 21 are highly vulnerable, says the Worldwatch Institute.”

  7. 157
    Timothy Chase says:

    Jim Dukelow (#145) wrote in response to 133:

    Timothy’s “Why?” mirrors my own regarding the M&K assertions that AGW could contribute at most a fraction to recent ice loss on Kilimanjaro and a small fraction to overall ice loss. I noted the logarithmic dependence of temperature on GHG concentration and the unknown dependence of precipitation on GHG concentration and growth in GHGs since the early 19th century to express my lack of persuasion about M&K’s “fraction” and “small fraction”

    I am glad that we agree upon something, but then I noticed this much at the time that I read your comment – but simply chose not to comment on it. Your prose is what first caught my attention.

    Temperature Dependence

    Jim Dukelow (#145) wrote:

    Exactly how are “independent of temperature” and “fairly insenstive to temperature” the same. Although the partial pressure of water at temperatures below freezing depends exponentially on temperature, the absolute values are small and the incremental increase is also small. Further, the heat required to sublimate ice to vapor is several times greater than the heat required to melt ice to water.

    Small does not mean nonexistent. Small but increasing exponentially with temperature would mean that temperature will play a greater role with increased temperature – exponentially so, in fact. Without heat energy, there will be no sublimation. But heat energy comes from the environment as the result of either the Planck temperature of the radiation (whether it is visible solar radiation, or the thermal radiation emitted by either a surface or the atmosphere) or the Maxwell temperature of the surrounding matter.

    However, as I stated in what you were responding to, I do not think that temperature itself has played that large a role given the fact that seasonality in the tropics is a matter of humid vs. dry rather than warm vs. cold. Temperatures rise in the tropics much more slowly than at higher latitudes in response to the greenhouse effect since heat is transported towards the poles – principally by means of convection and circulation of both the atmosphere and ocean.

    Directionality

    Jim Dukelow (#145) wrote:

    Timothy skips over the second part of the M&K directionality argument where they note “whereas when the Sun is to the south or north (soltices) the summit is typically cloud-free. For the same reason, the edges of the ice are retreating more slowly on the west, southwest, and northwest sides.”

    But have they eliminated atmospheric flow as the source of the directionality? This was an issue that I raised.

    Sublimation and Melting

    Jim Dukelow (#145) quotes from the essay:

    These finger-like features arise when initial irregularities in a flat surface result in collection of dust in pockets, which accelerates melting in those places by enhancing absorption of solar radiation. The cups between the penitentes are protected from ventilation even as the wind brushing the peaks of the developing spires enhances sublimation, which cools the surface. If infrared radiation and sensible heat transfer were the dominant factors, these sculpted features would not long survive. Solar radiation and sublimation are sculptors; infrared radiation and sensible heat transfer are diffuse, coming equally from all directions, and so they are smoothers. The prevalence of sculpted features on Kilimanjaro’s peak provides strong evidence against the role of smoothers, which are energetically closely related to air temperature.

    It would appear that I was wrong – as were the authors of the essay. Penitentes can grow as the result of melting. It is their seeding which must be the result of sublimation.

    I quote from from the abstract of a study:

    We report the first laboratory generation of centimeter-scale snow and ice penitentes. Systematically varying conditions allows identification of the essential parameters controlling the formation of ablation structures. We demonstrate that penitente initiation and coarsening requires cold temperatures, so that ablation leads to sublimation rather than melting. Once penitentes have formed, further growth of height can occur by melting. The penitentes intially appear as small structures (3 mm high) and grow by coarsening to 1-5 cm high. Our results are an important step towards understanding and controlling ablation morphologies.

    Controlled Irradiative Formation of Penitentes
    Vance Bergeron, Charles Berger, and M. D. Betterton
    Phys. Rev. Lett. 96, 098502 (2006)
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/physics/0601184

    In this context it is also worth pointing out that when they mention the existence of impurities which lead to the greater absorption of sunlight during the day (no doubt a factor in the more polluted era of higher atmospheric black carbon), they fail to take into account the fact that there will exist a thin film of water at temperatures as low as -40 degrees. (C or F, whichever you prefer.) Given the fact that they are citing a temperature of only -7 C as sufficient evidence for the absence of a role for melting, I believe they should spend more time studying ice.

    Formation and Growth

    Likewise, it would appear that direct sunlight is not what is involved in the formation of penitentes:

    When radiation illuminates a surface, small surface depressions receive more reflected light than high points, leading to greater ablation in troughs and surface instability.

    (ibid., main text.)

    What leads to their initial formation is would appear to be reflected sunlight due to surface imperfections. As such, this shows that they are esquisitely sensitive to their environment as the result of instability – in a way that is comparable to a hurricane in its initial formation and sensitivity to the rotation of the earth. Once they are initially formed, the effects of anything which give the penitentes directionality can be amplified by other forces. As such, directionality could be the result of the sun while the majority of the energy responsible for the process of sublimation itself could be the result of longwave radiation.

    In fact, with the “opposite process” whereby water vapor is “frozen” into ice (the formation of frost), it is the crystaline structure of the ice itself which acts as a scaffold for the elaboration of that structure. Likewise, while wind may not penetrate very far into a deep penitente, in its early formation, surely it must be able to as the penitente is not very deep. In addition, once a penitente forms, there is no reason to think that the diffuse thermal radiation entering it will not be “directional” insofar as the penitente itself has a shape which will determine how even diffuse radiation is able to enter it or leave it.

    The directionality of the penitente would appear to be more dependent upon its seeding than the external forces which continue to operate on it during its growth. Likewise, there is no reason to think that the seeding of its directionality is anything more than a tipping of the balance – where the majority of the forces at play are nondirectional.

    But it would appear that my “tipping of the scales” argument which I made earlier by analogy with hurricane formation was either something that you missed or else that you were unimpressed with – even though I pointed to phenomena which exhibit just such a tipping of the scales.

    The Periodicity of Self Assembly

    The authors point to the fact that ice is subject to the periodic aquisition of energy due to the rising and setting of the sun. This makes sense in terms of a process of self-assembly which, like self-organization, generally involves extreme sensitivity to the environment and tends to be driven in large part by periodic behavior. This may be the thawing and freezing of the soil – resulting in rock circles in the arctic, the waves in sand at a beach, or I would presume the self-organizing structures in ice that result from condensation and sublimation.

    However, when they analyze infrared radiation and the fact that in net it results in the loss of thermal energy, they fail to take into account the fact that ice will drop in temperature principally during the night. The periodic behavior may be the rising and setting of the sun – or the absorption of thermal radiation during the day and the release of such energy either through sublimation or thermal radiation at night. As such, on the whole it may be acquiring thermal energy from infrared radiation during the day even though it is losing thermal energy at night.

    As such the thermal energy for sublimation may come from longwave radiation. Likewise, when pointing to the structure of the ice as a product of sublimation, they fail to take into account that it may also be the product of the condensation of frost – at night. Sublimation during the day may give way to a lesser degree of condensation at night – which would result in the same sort of structure. But as they have not subjected the process of sublimation itself to systematic study (unlike the study which I have cited), they do not know and what claims they make regarding this amount to little more than story-telling.

    The Trend in Ablation

    As evidence for the absence of a role for greenhouse gases, the authors point out that the ablation was occuring at a faster rate earlier on than it is now. This makes sense in terms of pollution by aerosols, whether they are black carbon resulting in the greater absorption of sunlight or in the increased amount of contaminants which seed sublimation, and it also makes sense in terms of melting – insofar as the temperature at which ice melts, particularly in terms of surface melting, may be lowered tens of degrees by contaminants below the “freezing point” of water.

    However, this also makes sense in terms of the fact that temperature of the tropics will not increase as quickly in the tropics as elsewhere given convection – and the fact that temperature drops in a roughly linear fashion with altitude. The further up you go the closer you will get to a stable equilibrium. Likewise, given the random walk of thermal radiation from the surface, the intensity of thermal radiation from lower altitudes will drop the further you go up. But given these alternate causal explanations for such a trend, it cannot be automatically attributed to solar radiation.

    The Role of Greenhouse Gases

    Finally, the reason why I believe greenhouse gases have played a substantial role and in all likelihood greater role than solar variability in the ablation of Kilimanjaro is because according to NASA’s estimates their forcing relative to 1880 has been higher than that of solar variability in all but 1881. Furthermore, the NASA estimates refer to the global energy budget – whereas the greenhouse effect is known to be stronger in the tropics.

    Regardless, global warming obviously plays a far greater role in the global mass balance of glaciers – and Kilimanjaro would do nothing to change this even if its ablation could somehow be attributed primarily to solar variability rather than an enhanced greenhouse effect.

  8. 158
    Hank Roberts says:

    Dean, “so which is it” is not a helpful question, it assumes only two possibilities exist. The world is bigger than that.

    I wonder how you find the 2002 articles without finding the more recent articles. What kind of search are you doing, or what kind of source are you relying on as true?

    You should be able to follow even newspaper articles, and certainly published science papers, forward in time by seeing who has cited them more recently. Try that with the AGU paper, it’s been cited about a dozen times, and you can look those up.

  9. 159
    tamino says:

    The comparison of the case for global warming to the case for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is ludicrous.

    The theoretical framework for global warming due to atmospheric gases was establish in the late 19th century. The phenomenon has been studied intensely, and discussed in the scientific literature, for decades. As a result, the world climate science community has reached an extraordinarily strong concensus.

    The evidence for WMDs in Iraq was “whipped up” by the current U.S. administration in a matter of *months*. The evidence was *never* subjected to scrutiny outside the U.S. executive branch.

    BAD analogy.

  10. 160
    PeterK says:

    I do not agree with you strategy. This site should be about science, real science and it turns into a AGW movement site. I cannot agree with this. It is one thing to strengthen your voice and to answer your critics, but I do not like what is going over here or please state clearly that there is a political message. Democracy is all about the freemdom of speech and I see handpicked statements, I feel concerned. It is so difficult (you are professionals) to open a discussion with Lindzen or other crictics on this site? Please understand, I like your achievments and great research, but if you continue like this, you will see public support turning to freefall.

    Focus on the science, do not become politicians, bankers or marketing people. They can do it much better (look at Gore).

  11. 161
    PeterK says:

    Anyway, your answers are not correct. Recent research shows that species can adopt very quickly to climate and environmental changes.

    If there is any medieval optimum (I agree,there was one) it is not proven in any way that is a relationship to climate fluctuations in South or Middle America (any proof?)

  12. 162
    matt says:

    #143 Ray Ladbury: Re 131: Matt, your OT question about the response to Sodamn Insane and his putative WMD is way off topic, but to try to keep the issue to risk assessment generally, I would note that
    1)the WMD in question were thought to be chemical and possibly biological, not nuclear
    2)the risks of Iraq’s WMD were contained. Even if Iraq had had smallpox, we could have traced the strain back to them and retalliated massively for an attack–even one perpetrated by a terrorist. Moreover, as everyone who has used them has found out, chemical weapons aren’t particularly effective or easy to use.
    3)Thus, the probability of an attack was negligible, and the impact would also likely have been small.

    Because the risk=probability x consequence was small, there was no justification from a strategic point of view. The decision was 100% political.

    Sorry, but you are second guessing the experts, and that isn’t allowed in this game. Becuase you aren’t an expert at WMD and the risks, your opinion doesn’t matter. And in fact, you aren’t even allowed to ask for clarification. Infuriating, isn’t it?

    Recall we had just come off of an event in which 20 people willing to die caused nearly $1T in economic damage. Just prior to the war, even Blix said he wouldn’t be surprised if coalition forces found chemical or biological weapons, meaning that even Blix, a huge critic, believed the odds they were there was >=51%.

    So again, consensus put the probability of WMD being there at very nearly 90%. Consensus put the cost of letting them out at trillions of dollars.

    How can you say probability * consequence was small? You can say that in retrospect, but that’s simply monday morning quarterbacking. But again, I highlight this as an example of:

    1) How easy it is for “experts” to convince us they known more than they do
    2) that anytime someone tell you a probability of a complex event is X, and X is between 5% and 95%, then they are simply making it up. If they understood the complex event, it woudlnt’ necessarily be complex, and their answer would be much closer to an absolute.
    3) It’s very easy for experts to take somethign that might happen with a probability of 30 or 40%, and convince the world it will happen with a probability of 90%.

    The Iraq war tought us a lot about letting experts with an agenda guide policy, and also about the level of accountability we shoudl be seeking from experts.

    I wonder if the war experts would have stated 90% certainty if they had to bet their 401K on it. At a minimum, you can bet there would be a massive list of caveats. Honestly, I’d like to have seen those caveats.

    I suspect the situation is similar here. Folks on this board are overwhelmingly certain somethign will happen with 90%. But if it came time to bet on it, the list of caveats would a mile long, and they’d want even odds.

  13. 163
    Hank Roberts says:

    Silly me, I asked Dean
    >how you find the 2002 articles without finding more recent …

    So I checked with Google for the URL you quote, and that particular abstract’s URL turns out to be mentioned only at:

    junkscience; co2science; and CEI.

    There’s your problem. You’re getting your info by reading PR sites, sources of outdated and highly spun and slanted takes, paid for by the fossil fuel lobby. They won’t help you learn anything about how to think for yourself or how to look up the science.

    Look them up at Sourcewatch. You know how.

  14. 164
    PeterK says:

    Does it invalidate the article. No, it does not. But that is what Anglo American Science seems to be about. Google for the author, look where and when it was published, look if it was peer reviewed, do not care about the content. Give it a nice funeral.

    Great science!!

  15. 165
    PeterK says:

    I am sorry, if I were you, I would not dare to have an discussion with Botkin, it is up to you.

  16. 166
    John Mashey says:

    AGW vs WMD in Iraq

    matt: do you understand the difference between science and military intelligence?

    The latter usually worries about intent and capability. Various intelligence services (not just US) certainly thought that it was Saddam’s 100% intent to possess WMD, the argument was about capability, and in retrospect, Saddam’s games with inspection forces even fooled knowledgable people (like Ken Pollack) into thinking he was hiding capability, when he was really hiding weakness from neighboring countries and his own people. There is certainly evidence that they were still working on missile delivery systems. But Saddam’s capabilities were an issue for intelligence (which was bad, and not demanding better was worse), NOT for physics and chemistry.

    During WW II, there was a fairly strong belief in US leadership that Hitler wanted an A-bomb (yes), and also that they were a lot further along with it than they were.

    The universe doesn’t purposefully try to fool us, and AGW is based on science, not intelligence.

  17. 167
    PeterK says:

    You are aware,

    that some species can adopt within 3 generations. Every rat can do that.

    Best wishes!!

  18. 168
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 106 Art mentioned John Stossel and his “junk science” reporting:

    The website Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR, http://www.fair.org) has an archive of its posts debunking the alleged “junk science” junk put forth by John Stossel:

    http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=13

    There are several websites devoted to defending Stossel against FAIR’s critiques, but, IMHO the arguments made in his defense are just as flimsy as Stossel’s own arguments, if not worse.

  19. 169
    Timothy Chase says:

    PeterK (#161) wrote:

    I do not agree with you strategy.

    Who is talking strategy?

    This site should be about science, real science and it turns into a AGW movement site. I cannot agree with this. It is one thing to strengthen your voice and to answer your critics, but I do not like what is going over here or please state clearly that there is a political message.

    What are you responding to? Do you have some comment and a number in mind? A first name? A middle initial?

    Democracy is all about the freemdom of speech and I see handpicked statements, I feel concerned. It is so difficult (you are professionals)…

    The contributors are the professionals. The people who comment are just whoever happen to show up – myself included. “Handpicked statements”? Do you mean your post?

    … to open a discussion with Lindzen or other crictics on this site?

    Lindzen? He is certainly welcome to come here. I take it you don’t think he is biased or anything…

    Please understand, I like your achievments and great research, …

    Glad to hear it.

    …but if you continue like this, you will see public support turning to freefall.

    Well, now that is something new. Usually the people who get all worried about how RealClimate will appear to the public and warn us about it are the skeptics arguing against the science. Typically they have a really difficult time giving specifics, though.

    This is downright refreshing! Well, maybe not the lack of specifics…

    Focus on the science, …

    From what I have seen that is pretty much what we do around here — except when someone comes in that has a few loose screws…

    … do not become politicians, bankers or marketing people.

    Wasn’t planning on it.

    They can do it much better

    Oh ye of little faith…

    (look at Gore).

    Whatever.

  20. 170
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Matt,
    Um, actually, I was expressing an opinion because you brought up the off topic. However, the opinions I expressed were well within the mainstream of real experts (not the political appointees, etc. the administration listened to). Yes, most experts thought Sodamn Insane had WMD. Hell, even Sodamn Insane and his generals thought he did. Read the transcripts of the interrogations. They were surprised when there were no chemical shells being delivered to the front lines! The question is what WMD. NO ONE except maybe Dick Cheney (whose acquaintance with reality is doubtful) thought he had nukes. Most thought he had chemical weapons because he had had them in the past. A few thought he might have had crude biological weapons (anthrax and smallpox [Iraq was among the last places where smallpox was eradicated.]), but few thought it had been weaponized (not a trivial exercise). Even if the biological agents had been weaponized, they would be traceable to Baghdad and we would have reduced the capital to fused green sand within 30 minutes of an attack. That, Matt, is what the experts counseled. The administration was convinced of the threat because they came into 2000 convinced of the threat. 9/11/2001 just provided the falsified Causus Belli.
    But then to go from your revisionist version of this event to claim that “anytime someone tell you a probability of a complex event is X, and X is between 5% and 95%, then they are simply making it up” is beyond the pale! Do you honestly think folks like Warren Buffet would offer Supercat insurance policies if they couldn’t predict risk? Matt, you are projecting your own ignorance and assuming the rest of the world shares it. Look, Matt, I help build satellites. Satellites face risks. I assess risks for a living. I have to make projections about how electronics will behave in a hostile environment on the basis of way too little information, and there are ways of doing this without just “making it up”. Your attitude is not just wrong. It is dangerous, because it means you are too damned ignorant to know when you are being fed a line. Rather than rectify that ignorance you have chosen to just adopt a cynical attitude that all experts lie. Grow up. Educate yourself!

  21. 171
    Ron Taylor says:

    Re 163

    Matt is simply playing mind games and I wonder why anyone would waste time responding to this nonsense. Ray, your time is too important for this.

  22. 172
    James says:

    Re #163, #143, #131, and other comments regarding “the response to Sodamn Insane and his putative WMD”:

    Could we please refrain from using such politically divisive and inappropriate analogies? It’s really only going to waste bandwidth. We’re not going to find any consensus on it or related matters, so the discussion will inevitably degenerate to unrelated political issues.

    Not to mention that it’s a bad analogy anyway. It’s rather like supposing that GW was recognized as a real threat, but blamed on cosmic rays, so the world responded with a massive program to build orbiting radiation shields :-)

  23. 173
    Charles Muller says:

    #157 Timothy wrote:
    Finally, the reason why I believe greenhouse gases have played a substantial role and in all likelihood greater role than solar variability in the ablation of Kilimanjaro is because according to NASA’s estimates their forcing relative to 1880 has been higher than that of solar variability in all but 1881.

    I’m interested by this quote, what is the reference concerning solar/CO2 forcing reconstruction for 1850-1950 in Nasa models?

    By advance, thank.

  24. 174
    J.C.H. says:

    Actually the experts, people like Dr. Hans Blix, and many members of his inspection team, thought the case for there being WMDs in Iraq was very weak, and they wanted more time to complete the inspection process.

    A group of people in the administration, congress, and the media, many of them also ardent AGW deniers, thought Hans Blix was a bumbling fool. They thought the Iraqis were moving large caches of WMDs out the backdoor as Blix and his guys were coming in the front door, and other such preposterous theories.

    Experts who thought mobile biological weapons labs were technologically implausible were also ignored.

    I don’t know what Matt thought of Blix.

  25. 175
    Mark A. York says:

    I’ve been a biologist for a long time and would like to know which species “adopt?” Sounds like kin theory to me. Hyenas appear in textbooks on the subject.

  26. 176
    Venkat says:

    Dean, maybe you were looking for this:
    http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/

    Look for the section titled “Record SH sea ice maximum and NH sea ice minimum”. Dated “October 1, 2007″. Recent enough for you, Hank?

  27. 177
    dean says:

    Re: 164

    Hank, you’re telling me a post from USA Today, corroborated through several other large newspapers (NYTimes, LA Times, etc… I just linked USA Today) are also pawns of junkscience? If so, then this website is ALSO in collusion with Junkscience because the second link was from RealClimate.

    The third link, from agu.org, a site that seems to have more pro-AGW papers published than anti-agw papers. the site did not seem to have a preconceived bias that i could find (and if you google “global warming” on that site, then you’ll see a predominance of pro-agw papers listed).

    As for what i googled, i did google on a growing ice pack, but that’s because i had heard it was growing and wanted to see just who was saying it (if only junkscience was saying it, i’d have not posted it). I found, instead of junkscience and iceagenow sites, accredited institutions publishing papers stating it. That we have scientists that disagree with what is actually going on means that we really don’t know… and because we really don’t know, comments like “we have to do something because the poles are melting” are specuous at best.

    As for Junkscience, are you really surprised they’d pick up on this study? Of course you aren’t! So don’t insult me by saying otherwise. Just because it’s picked up on their site doesn’t mean that the science in the paper isn’t accurate!

    Does anyone else remember the study on scientific studies? the one that said 50% of all studies were wrong? So which ones are wrong? ah… i forgot… only the anti-AGW papers are wrong (and ALL of them are wrong).

    yea… RRRRIIIIIIIGGGGGGGHHHHHTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!

  28. 178
    Jim Eaton says:

    #162 PeterK wrote: “Anyway, your answers are not correct. Recent research shows that species can adopt very quickly to climate and environmental changes.”

    Yeah, right. So just what studies show which species can rapidly adapt (I assume you didn’t really mean “adopt”) to climate and environmental changes? Do you have some peer reviewed research to share with us? And please don’t tell us you heard it on the Rush Limbaugh show, so it must be true!

  29. 179
    Rod B says:

    Jumping into the fray that matt (103, 163) started, though got a teensy off his main track: His contention was that we need to be cautious when reacting to doomsayers, and cited a few from the past. Jim (110) and Stephen (120), et al responded by saying his examples were really good things. AIDS is one that probably was (and has the potential to be a very bad situation). But, there is little correlated evidence that reducing the ozone hole has improved skin cancer or increasing it has worsened the rate; Jim’s reference of the Chilean city whose melanoma rates “soared” from 1.22 to 1.91 per hundred thousand per year in line with ozone hole changes is hardly strong evidence (the US white male rate is about 14.5) that the cost of reducing the ozone hole has come anywhere close to paying off with less skin cancer; though the jury is still out on this one. Fortunately nobody did much in response to Ehrlich, the epitome of doomsday extremism; though why some would defend him to refute matt is not clear. Then, defending our response to R. Carson’s cry of alarm, which probably caused the greatest human tragedy in this century (and with this scenario, probably “ever”), I find really odd, except for those with a fine pair of rose-colored glasses.

    Dick (121) makes a valid point, though. Past false doomsday alarms have no bearing or effect on whether today’s perceived problem (AGW) is credible or not.

    The tap dancing around matt’s Iraq war comparison has been fun. If we would have nuked Baghdad out of existence 30 minutes after they spread smallpox throughout NYC, Wash. D.C., San Fran and Fargo ND, Ray would be the only American congratulating the President for a job well-thought out and done; Ron (151) would simply say “no big deal”. I think this comparison has some relevance to the main thrust which is reaction to perceived threats, even though John (168) says not because science is correct to perfection and military intelligence is fuzzy; though Ron does make a fine but valid distinction between the two cases, so they are not perfectly comparable.

    Finally, to quickly state the facts for the record: Sadam had WMD, unequivocally (though did something privately with them between 1999 and 2003); we never claimed Sadam had nuclear weapons; like we never claimed the Sadam had anything to do with 9/11.

  30. 180
    John Reimann says:

    I have one question: Botkin claims that temperatures on top of Kilmanjaro never drop below freezing and this proves that global warming cannot be the cause of the glacier’s disappearance there. What do people think of this?

  31. 181
    Joseph O\\\'Sullivan says:

    I agree with David that the the problem of dustbowls is one of the most worrisome aspects of AGW. The NY time magazine has a very good article about the problems with climate change in the already water starved US west.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/21/magazine/21water-t.html?ex=1350619200&en=ebd1e9edaa26cdf1&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

    I have commented before on RC about AGW making work for lawyers, but lawyers who work on water rights issues AGW is a godsend. If you are a major water user in the US west its time to lawyer up.

    PeterK (#169), you write that rats can adapt very quickly, are you saying we should not worry about AGW because there will be more sewer rats? That does not seem to be a very good argument for inaction.

  32. 182
    NL says:

    Hi,
    would you be able to post something soon on this new development Oceans are ‘soaking up less CO2′, if possible with links to the data underlying those findings? Thanks in advance if you’re able to do so.
    -NL

  33. 183
    cce says:

    This is off topic, but can anyone direct me to an explanation of the differences between the NASA temperature anomaly analysis and the Hadley center’s? I know the primary difference is at the poles, but I don’t understand the details.

    Thanks!

  34. 184
    matt says:

    #172 Ray Ladbury: Do you honestly think folks like Warren Buffet would offer Supercat insurance policies if they couldn’t predict risk?

    Uh, yes. From the 1996 letter to shareholders: “So what are the true odds of our having to make a payout during the policy’s term? We don’t know — nor do we think computer models will help us, since we believe the precision they project is a chimera. In fact, such models can lull decision-makers into a false sense of security and thereby increase their chances of making a really huge mistake.”

    In other words, they are pretty sure that they are right, but will place a lot of bets to help mitigate the risk. But no way no how would they place a single big bet on something that looked even quite a bit stronger than “pretty sure”.

    AGW is a single big bet.

    BTW, I fully believe in figure where engineers or bean counters have indicated a 70% chance of an event happening AND that even is based on substantial sampling. What I reject is when someone renders and expert opinion between the range of about 5 and 95% based on their analysis of a not-well-understood system. Mortage rates and future temperatures fall into that bucket. I think Buffet is with me in that line of thinking.

    I’ll drop all the WMD references. To me, that serves only as a point to demonstrate agenda-driven experts of marginally understood systems run amok.

    And yes, I’m sorry, but there is enough “at any cost” writings out there from the AGW leaders that makes me think they are agenda-driven. I don’t think they are liars or bad people. But I think it’s very, very easy for a human with a motive to fail to see the full picture. I consider myself in the same boat, and study as hard as I can to try and gain the full picture.

  35. 185
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Mea Culpa, folks. And Matt, I specifically apologize to you for the harsh tone I took. I merely find the argument: “some experts lie, so all experts lie” a bit tiresome. Still, I should not allow myself to be goaded. The essential point is that probabilistic risk analysis works. There are challenges, but there are accepted standards for meeting these challenges.
    I would also like to caution people against unfounded distrust of experts. This attitude is dangerous–as any doctor will attest after counseling a heart patient to exercise more and having the patient say, “Ah, those guys don’t know what they’re talking about,” while lighting up another cigarette and popping another extra-crispy trans-fat chip into his mouth.

  36. 186
    Dodo says:

    Re David’s answer to 147. Many thanks for admitting a mistake on your part. Now, you are using the term “forecast” in connection with global climate in 2100. I don’t know if that is appropriate. Usually the talk is only about model-based scenarios or storylines, and AFAIK, the terms prediction and prognosis are frowned upon by most modellers.

    But now we have a forecast, like a weather forecast that met offices sell to the public. How much worth do you think this 2100 climate forecast is? If you had to sell it, how much would you ask, and how much do you think you would get for it?

  37. 187
    matt says:

    #168 John Mashey: matt: do you understand the difference between science and military intelligence?

    John, let’s distinguish between well understood science, and not well understood science. Well understood science is science that hasn’t change appreciably in 10 years. I think that is what you were referring to.

    Not well understood science is science that has changed appreciably over the last 10 years. The climate models of 10 years ago look silly today, because they ignored aerosols and and as result the estimates for warming were way too high (50% higher than today).

    In 10 years will our understanding of climate render today’s models silly?

    You don’t know, and I don’t either, and neither do Gavin and company.

    In 10 years, if those models look very much like today’s models, then I think we can say the science has had 10 years to steep without appreciable changes to the understanding, and thus it’s starting to “get there” in terms of understanding.

    today, the IPCC says “circulation systems” (and a host of other things) are poorly understood. Thus, who can say if their are important to a complete model? They might not be, but they might.

    I agree, that in the case of well understood science it is dramatically different than military intelligence. Poorly understood science (eg. science whos understanding has changed appreciably in the last 10 years) often relies on consensus to connect small facts, just like military intelligence.

  38. 188
    Timothy Chase says:

    Jim Eaton (#175) wrote:

    Yeah, right. So just what studies show which species can rapidly adapt (I assume you didn’t really mean “adopt”) to climate and environmental changes? Do you have some peer reviewed research to share with us? And please don’t tell us you heard it on the Rush Limbaugh show, so it must be true!

    Actually in some cases it has been happening.

    A polymorphism in the genetic pool of a given population where one or two differences (perhaps nothing more than a variable length tandem repeat – or I would presume variable copy number polymorphism where the number of copies of a gene differs from individual to individual) results in a change in behavior. Some members of a given species will be migratory, other non-migratory depending upon the genetic variation, with the genetic difference between the migratory and non-migratory birds being limited to a few key loci within the genome.

    Alternatively, some birds are gradually changing the scheduling of their migratory behavior. Here is a recent story:

    Long-haul birds ‘returning early’
    By Catherine Owen
    Last Updated: Sunday, 2 July 2006
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5130538.stm

    But a really big part of the problem is that a given population will have only so much genetic variation. The genetic variation acts as a buffer of adaptability, but its not unlimited. It gets spent. When the population adapts, there is typically less genetic variation afterwards – until the rate of mutation (or in some happier cases, sexual recombination) is able to replentish it.

    For example, much of the genetic variation you see in dogs would appear to be the result of hypermutative triple repeats in the coding sequences of regulatory proteins. This is what gave us the genetic variation necessary which made possible so many different breeds of dogs within the span of perhaps ten thousand years.

    Molecular origins of rapid and continuous morphological evolution
    John W. Fondon, III, and Harold R. Garner
    PNAS | December 28, 2004 | vol. 101 | no. 52 | 18058-18063
    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/101/52/18058

    But even hypermutable sequences take a while to generate new variation. In some cases they will mutate at perhaps a hundred thousand times the background rate or only a hundred times. But it still takes time, and their indirect selection has taken place within the context of a much slower rate of climate change. The climate change we are talking about is about a hundred times that of the background rate.

    Genetic variation and the mutation which generates it will have limits. Besides, if the rate of mutation were too high, there would be more deleterious mutations. In fact this is a price we pay for the plasticity made possible by triple coding repeats: tripple repeat diseases – such that once the variable length loci has too many repeats it results in disease (called TREDs for short).

    The Chinese have been trying to adapt rice to higher temperatures, different soils and the like as well as increase its nutritional value. They have a little helper, too, which has done a fair amount for them in the past. A large family of still active transposable elements called MITEs. They have given the rice genome a degree of plasticity in the past which made its domestication and adaption to variations in climate possible – although obviously we weren’t aware of it at the time.

    But even MITEs can do only so much – and the Chinese have been irradiating rice in order to encourage more genetic variation from which to artificially select “better” strains.

    Perhaps we should start irradiating birds…

    (“Pay no attention to the lumpy tumors underneath the skin!”)

  39. 189
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 103 Matt: “What is the most grave prediction you can think of that actually had a measurable impact that came true over a 20+ year window?”

    Back in 1969, Woods Hole oceanographer John Ryther warned about overfishing in an article published in the journal Science (Science 3 October 1969 166: 72-76; http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/166/3901/72.pdf). We are now seeing the decline of major fisheries around the world, as documented by Daniel Pauly and others, for example:
    http://www.fisheries.ubc.ca/members/dpauly/publications_journalArticles.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overfishing;
    http://www.alaskaoceans.net/facts/overfishing.htm#global).

    There are plenty more examples, if you bother to look for them.

  40. 190
    inel says:

    Re: #159

    The evidence for WMDs in Iraq was “whipped up” by the current U.S. administration in a matter of *months*.

    Thanks, tamino, for a great example of the use of quotation marks (to indicate an allegation) and asterisks (for emphasis) in one sentence!

    There have been suggestions (in another thread on this site here) that most Americans are unable to interpret a British High Court judge’s use of quotation marks around alleged errors. Excusing misinterpretation and condoning misuse of language to serve a purpose illustrates the need for accuracy (affects for effects, adopt for adapt, and so on … ) in print media.

    Global Warming Delusions go so far beyond the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed pages. However, I still think we need to address the concerns of the growing number of members of the public who believe (even if they cannot cite scientific sources themselves) that we are already beyond the point of no return with climate change.

    Finally, I second Ray Ladbury’s remark #187 that “unfounded distrust of experts” is dangerous. Ignorance of, and contempt for, the weight of scientific evidence and promotion of anti-intellectual attitudes can never achieve the results the world needs. We have to base decisions on world-class knowledge and expertise, to understand and address our climate challenge effectively.

  41. 191
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    #153 (RE #146) Ray, it was the news program, ROME REPORTS, and “some [unspecified] Catholic scholars” who think the Pope doesn’t really believe what he says, when he makes strong statements about global warming and our moral duty to mitigate it.

    So either the Pope means what he says (that AGW is happening & we need to mitigate it), or he’s a liar who says one thing but believes another (which is what RomeReports claims “some” Catholic scholars think).

    The upshot is that ROME REPORTS is guilty of extremely bad and (may I use the word) evil journalism, which goes out to many millions of Catholics around the world who now think that when the Pope talks about mitigating environmental problems, he doesn’t really mean it, but is probably just appeasing those evil nature-worshipping environmentalists that keep harping unnecessarily about global warming. Which would make the Pope pretty similar to certain political leaders.

    But I don’t accept that for a moment. I take the Pope’s statements at face value — he says (and I assume he means) we must mitigate global warming. As John Paul II told us back in 1990 (in “Peace with All Creation”).

    So it’s our duty also to let ROME REPORTS know what a disservice they are doing with their evil reports to humankind, to Gods’ creation, to the Pope, and to the Catholic Church.

  42. 192
    Eli Rabett says:

    #80, John, we know exactly what will happen with the WSJ since we have the example of what Murdoch did with the Times of London. In many ways he accomplishes this by hiring policy and not overt interference

  43. 193
    Timothy Chase says:

    Charles Muller (#175) wrote:

    #157 Timothy wrote:
    Finally, the reason why I believe greenhouse gases have played a substantial role and in all likelihood greater role than solar variability in the ablation of Kilimanjaro is because according to NASA’s estimates their forcing relative to 1880 has been higher than that of solar variability in all but 1881.”

    I’m interested by this quote, what is the reference concerning solar/CO2 forcing reconstruction for 1850-1950 in Nasa models?

    Well, 1850 is a little before my time, but for 1880 on up, please see the chart on page 26 of the following…

    Climate simulations for 1880-2003 with GISS modelE
    Hansen, et al. (Climate Dynamics, 2007)
    http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/2007/Hansen_etal_3.html
    http://arxiv.org/ftp/physics/papers/0610/0610109.pdf

    I am pretty sure that I have the numbers for the estimated forcings for each component for each year, but it might take me a bit to look it up.

  44. 194

    When I think of the pope, I think of Galileo and Giordano Bruno.

  45. 195
    Jim Cripwell says:

    Ref 185. I am on holiday, and not on my own computer. If you find an answer, and I suggest you add NCDC/NOAA to you list, I have a whole long list of people, including myself, who want to know what that answer is.

  46. 196
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Matt said: “The climate models of 10 years ago look silly today, because they ignored aerosols and and as result the estimates for warming were way too high (50% higher than today).”

    Matt, where on Earth are you getting your information? The advances to climate models in the past decade have been incremental. And climate models most certainly did have some treatment of aerosols–Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, and the climate models gave an adequate treatment of the effects of aerosols from the eruption.
    Climate models look pretty much like they did in the 80s or even in the ’70s–same forcers, just slightly different magnitudes. Progress has been steady, and the conclusions have been pretty much the same since Hansen’s studies of the mid ’80s.
    Again, you assume because you are ignorant, everyone else must be as well. While this may absolve you in your mind of the responsibility to educate yourself, it does not remedy your ignorance.

  47. 197
    Eachran says:

    The first time on RC that CBNs (not WMDs, the only WMDs are words) have been used as a proxy for ice sheet collapse.

    Tend to agree with Ray Ladbury on risk and Aaron Lewis on agricultural risks.

    Since a number of posters, as always, quote out-of-date numbers, is there not a way to keep information up to date. I know this happens in science amongst scientists but for the average person in the street it can be daunting.

    I bet everyone knows what it is like in a lift (elevator) in a modern US office building : Bloomberg and the like from the first to the 25 floor. Weather forecasts, Dow Jones, the Cubs have lost again, and so on.

    My point is simple. Raising the profile on risks requires something measurable which all can understand.

    The risks from global warming are immediate and continuing and much more important than share prices and baseball scores.

    My proposal is simple and if I had the capability I would do it myself but I am deficient in this department.

    Why can we not have an ice sheet collapse index up-dated each month : we could call it GIMBI – Global (or Gavin if you like) Ice Mass Balance Index. It would be a number, yes one number, compiled from the best model of ice sheet experts and it would be displayed every day just as Footsie is. And up-dated as modelling becomes better. The usual legal disclaimers would naturally accompany the index.

    At least it would have a chilling effect (sorry about that) on one’s office arrival routine. But more importantly it would concentrate our minds, because in a sense it gives us a deadline (sorry about that too) and people tend to work better with deadlines.

    There must be all sorts of ways to make the index accessible to the population but one obvious way would be to do a count back from say a 6m sea level rise : my bet would be an inverse non-linear count back but whatever ; or the best estimate for sea level for 2100 up-dated each month. It would be interesting to see the effect of the index on people’s behaviour when another chunk of Ant or Gr flops into the sea.

    There is a lot of money riding on sea level rise : not least because the Fed Gov picks up the tab for Florida (am I correct here you USians?) and I understand the UK picks up some flood insurance.

    The idea has a certain elegance to it particularly in the UK and US because the first victims of sea level rise would be the City and Wall St.

    Perhaps the index could accompany Mr Annan’s temperature futures market.

    Perhaps the WSJ could sponsor it?

    Yes, I am serious apart from the last comment. Oh, I dont know, perhaps they might.

  48. 198
    Hank Roberts says:

    > where on Earth are you getting

    Let me guess. Association of British Drivers?

  49. 199
    Rod B says:

    #176 says, “….Actually the experts, people like Dr. Hans Blix, and many members of his inspection team, thought the case for there being WMDs in Iraq was very weak, and they wanted more time to complete the inspection process.”

    The truth, which has long been lost, is that Blix promised the Security Council something to the effect, “he would search Iraq kilometer by kilometer and find the WMDs. All he needed was time.” He was confident that WMDs were there, given what he knew of the past, what Sadam’s report said, and what his team had found already. It was only long after the fact, when WMDs were a sore spot, that people, including Blix himself, revised his remarks a bit.

  50. 200
    dean says:

    RE: 198

    is that accurate? I thought our understanding of the impact of cloud cover has significantly changed during this time period.

    If that understanding has change and it hasn’t changed the model’s results, what does that say about 1) the model and 2) about the effect of cloud cover?


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