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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. 201
    Ike Solem says:

    PeterK writes: “This site should be about science, real science and it turns into a AGW movement site. I cannot agree with this . . . 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?”

    Well, why don’t you drop a line to Richard Lindzen, WIlliam Gray, et. al and ask them to start contributing to the comments section here? I suspect that the reason they don’t is that their arguments would be quickly demolished. Instead, they talk to a handful of reporters who repeat their statements, or publish their opinons in discussion-free forums like the WSJ editorial page.

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

    If you are going to cite recent research, you should tell people what that research is. Otherwise, you’re just using the standard public relations strategy of “appealing to scientific expertise.” For example, something like this: By 2050 Warming to Doom Million Species, Study Says, John Roach for National Geographic News July 12, 2004.

    The researchers worked independently in six biodiversity-rich regions around the world, from Australia to South Africa, plugging field data on species distribution and regional climate into computer models that simulated the ways species’ ranges are expected to move in response to temperature and climate changes.

    According to the researchers’ collective results, the predicted range of climate change by 2050 will place 15 to 35 percent of the 1,103 species studied at risk of extinction. The numbers are expected to hold up when extrapolated globally, potentially dooming more than a million species.

    “These are first-pass estimates, but they put the problem in the right ballpark … I expect more detailed studies to refine these numbers and to add data for additional regions, but not to change the general import of these findings,” said Hannah.

  2. 202
    Dave Rado says:

    Re.#182, John Reimann:

    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?

    It’s a ridiculous simplification. The causes of the glacier’s disappearance there have been discussed at great length in the Convenient Untruths thread. (Search for references throughout the thread to Kilimanjaro, especially the posts by Timothy Chase).

  3. 203
    Joe Duck says:

    David – struggling to digest your critique. Am I correct you are in basically in agreement or comfortable with each of Botkin’s points, but you think they are all irrelevant and designed to deflect attention from relevant data? His motivation for this is what?
    I’m very interested in the relationship of emotion to science. Can any of the scientists participating here name more than a few global warming skeptics whose science you respect? So far, the writing I see here suggests that any departure from the views *here* is scientific heresy. That said, I’m still reading. This is a great *blogging* project. I’m still out on whether it’s a *science* project.

  4. 204
    John Mashey says:

    re: #189 Matt, #198 Ray

    Ray already covered most of this, but Matt:

    a) Where do you get the idea that there is something special about a 10-year interval that offers a distinct separation between settled since and otherwise?

    b) Have you studied the history of science and paradigm changes?
    If not, you might want to read, for example:
    Thomas Kuhn, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”
    Naomi Oreskes, “The Rejection of Continental Drift”

    A lot of science (and engineering) act as approximations to reality that keep getting improved, sometimes by big jumps, but often by incremental improvements. Newton’s Laws of Motion were “settled science” (even by your 10-year defintion) for a long time. Einstein’s are better. Did he make Newton silly? I don’t think so, Newton’s laws are fine approximations, even if they’re not good enough for GPS. The disconnect between Relativity & Quantum Mechanics has had star physicists hunting a workable Unified theory for decades. If someone ever finds one, will it make Relativity & Quantum Mechanics look silly? I.e. will GPS stop working? Will transistors not work any more?

    c) Do you speak (or have you spoken) at length with climate scientists, especially modelers, about certainty/uncertainty levels of various parts of their results?

    (I have, as I used to talk with NCAR, GFDL, etc people in the process of helping them evaluate supercomputers I’d helped design.)

    “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.”

    So, you don’t know, but I’m sure Gavin and company know, and actually, I know enough to pretty sure as well. There are plenty of improvements that will get made, and there will be all sorts of fine-tuning, and aerosols and clouds will be better handled, and there will be better modeling of these nonlinear effects like the Arctic ice-melt and Greenland glacier behavior … but physics & chemistry known for 50 years isn’t going to change. Computers will get bigger memories and higher compute rates, and if smaller grid boxes help, they’ll get smaller, but I don’t think the basics behind AGW even need any serious computing power.

    If you distrust all simulation, you should avoid recently-designed cars, airplanes, bridges, and buildings. People built all of these before there were computers, and the models just let us fine-tune their building.

  5. 205
    Ron Taylor says:

    Re 186 – “AGW is a single big bet.” Matt, I would turn that on its head. Since the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists says AGW is a serious problem, then to reject that consensus and do nothing is to make a single big bet that they are all wrong, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

    By the way, I thought you were simply trying to muddy the waters, but now realize you were trying to make a valid point. My apologies. However, I do not believe you have made your point, except perhaps as an abstract truth, which, in my judgment, does not apply.

  6. 206
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 202: Dean, think about it a moment. It says that the models are mature and that future advances in our understanding, while they may significantly increase our understanding of that particular contributor, will be unlikely to significantly change the conclusions that have stood the test of time for over 2 decades now.
    Second, about clouds–there are competing effects. Clouds during daylight tend to lower temperatures, while during the night they tend to increase temperatures.

    Re 205: Joe–first, I’m not sure of the antecedent of your “this”. If you mean RC, it is not a science project, but a science-education project–a place where people can come and learn about the science, knowing the contributors are actual climate scientists, and not some professor emeritus of petroleum geology from the University Northern Saskatoon, who assures us that he’s an expert, too, although he’s never published in the field.

  7. 207

    [[They interview Viscount Monckton, who claims Mars and Jupiter are warming, just as Earth is, and it’s “that large, bright, hot object bang in the center of our solar system” that’s causing the warming, not SUVs in outerspace.]]

    The Viscount is wrong (again). Mars is warming, but Jupiter is not. They discovered hot spots on Jupiter. That is NOT the same as global warming on Jupiter. And if “that large, bright, hot object” is causing Mars to warm, how come Uranus is cooling? I’d like to know how increased sunlight caused that. And how it did it without the total solar irradiance rising — we’ve been observing TSI directly from satellites and it hasn’t moved significantly for decades.

  8. 208

    Dean posts:

    [[So which is it? Is the ice sheet growing or is it shrinking?]]

    I believe it’s growing in the middle, where precipitation is rising, and shrinking at the edges, where the water is warming. And the overall trend in mass is down according to the GRACE satellite.

  9. 209
    Dave Rado says:

    Re.#205, Joe Duck, can you name a single “global warming skeptic” who meets all of the following criteria:

    1) They are a climate scientist.

    2) They still regularly publish in genuinely peer reviewed journals (that is, that are reviewed by other climate scientists).

    3) They do not issue press releases regarding their peer reviewed papers that state that their papers “prove” things that the papers don’t even discuss.

    4) They understand that science is about making one’s theory fit the evidence, not the other way round, and therefore do not resort to using cherry-picked data in order to further their policy objectives (see also here).

    5) They do not resort to making statements in public debates and in press articles that sound good to uninformed members of the public but which they which they must know to be untrue.

  10. 210
    Richard Ordway says:

    Re 190
    >

    At least one mosquito has already changed its genes due to global warming.

    This is according to several major peer-reviewed, juried, open scientific journals such as NATURE and SCIENCE…the Wyeomyia smithii mosquito: First citations in newpapers follow so you can understand it …then the major peer-reviewed, juried, open scientific journal citations follow.

    This sucks. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun).

    “The insect, which lives in the carnivorous purple pitcher plant, is genetically adapting to a warming world”
    http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/04/29/in_mosquito_a_small_tale_of_climate_change/

    http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Mosquito_Genes_Explain_Response_To_Climate_Change_999.html

    “CLIMATE CHANGE:
    Evolutionary Response to Rapid Climate Change
    William E. Bradshaw and Christina M. Holzapfel
    Recent, rapid climate change is driving evolution, as organisms adapt to altered seasonal events rather than to the direct effects of increasing temperature.”

    “Along with Canadian red squirrels and European blackcap birds, the mosquito — a non biting variety found from Florida to Canada — is one of only five known species that scientists say have already evolved because of global warming.”

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/312/5779/1477

    http://www.nature.com/hdy/journal/v83/n5/abs/6886040a.html

    http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0012-9658(200005)81%3A5%3C1262%3AATTTCO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-E

    http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03509.x?journalCode=mec

  11. 211

    In comment #133, Timothy says:[["......... Moreover, the intensity of forcing due to greenhouse gases would in all likelihood exceeded that of solar radiation in the tropics well before the climate system as a whole given the greater intensity of infrared radiation in the tropics. It is afterall where the super greenhouse effect is observed."]]

    In another comment no. 157, he says:”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.”

    I know the second comment to be true.The polar regions are heating faster as a result of convection, decreased albedo and direct temperature rise, but what is the source of the last sentence in the first comment? I and I believe many others, think of AGW as a temperature increase due to a result of the increase in greenhouse gases. In other words most of the results of the enhanced greenhouse effect is being detected at the poles, rather than at the equator. There appears to be a contradiction here.

  12. 212
    John Reimann says:

    So this leads me to another question about Botkin: Every prominent global warming “skeptic” (really, denier) that I know of either has direct ties to the fossil fuel industry or to right wing, “free” market think tanks and politicians, or often to both. In other words, they have direct economic and/or political self interest in denying the seriousness of anthropogenic global warming. From what I am able to find, this is not the case with Botkin. Does anybody know anything more about him?

  13. 213
    Rod B says:

    Dave (211), your criteria are meaningless. Most would have no bearing on a scientist’s credentials. But they do allow what I have often contended: the folks who challenge others to bring forth a credible AGW skeptic have sets of criteria that in essence says if the guy disagrees with all of our cheering section, he is, by [our] definition, not credible. Your challenge is impossible to meet.

  14. 214

    [[Lynn, Well, since the current Bishop of Rome (pope) seems to be one of the great minds of the 14th century,]]

    The present Pope has explicitly said the church should take a strong stand against global warming. What more do you want? BTW, the 14th century produced some of the greatest minds in science, ever. Try googling Nicolas Oresme, William of Ockham, or Theodoric of Freiberg. The 14th century was also the time of Dante Alighieri and Geoffrey Chaucer.

  15. 215
    dean says:

    RE: 208

    Or, conversely, it means that the models are biased towards warming so that nothing will change the result.

    We know that clouds have a major impact on how the atmosphere holds and/or reflects solar radiation. We know that 20 years ago, we didn’t model them worth a dang. Now, we have a much better understanding and yet, nothing changes. To me, on first blush, that shows that there just may be a problem with the model (just not sensitive to known major drivers).

    For example, if I had a computer code that calculated the performance of a car and i found that changing the weight of the vehicle had no impact on the overall performance, I’d suspect that the code was wrong.

    I know weight impact performance. I strongly suspect that clouds affect climate (and that factoring in the clouds would change the results shown by the models). I would have to find a scientific reason that explains why the models don’t show this intuition before i accepted the models.

  16. 216

    [[ 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. ]]

    I take it you’ve been reading Crichton again. Rachel Carson was right to point out the environmental hazards of DDT, the US was right to ban it, and the fact that it was never banned in the third world means the “human tragedy” attributed to the ban never happened. A little fact-checking goes a long way.

  17. 217

    [[The climate models of 10 years ago look silly today, because they ignored aerosols ]]

    No they didn’t.

  18. 218
    J.C.H. says:

    Rod B Says:
    21 October 2007 at 11:57 AM

    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.

    “How much, if any, is left of the Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and related proscribed items and programs? So far, UNMOVIC has not found any such weapons …” – Dr. Hans Blix, February 14, 2003 (the invasion began on March 20, 2003)

  19. 219
    PeterK says:

    Hello Ike, I could drop them a line, I have no idea, if they would respond. I like realclimate and I share the views presented on this board and and I promote their views in my country. Articles and contributions like this have a damaging effect. It is not our role and the role of this blog to educate people and to talk about so called “denialists”. The role of this blog should be to promote scientic truth, not propaganda. It is the job of our elected politicians to draw their conclusions. And sorry, this blog has changed its direction. Do you think, this was a strong article, no it was not. It is weak (not peer reviewed or was it?)

    If Politicians fail, we are doomed, but it is their job.

  20. 220
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Thanks, Barton (#209) – I’m including that in my letter to ROME REPORTS.

  21. 221
    PeterK says:

    Please, be also careful about methods of research applied. Peer review cannot constitute an ISO 9000 for scientitic research. It is not that easy. It is a fast moving world, I know. But do you you really think an article published by a peer reviewed magazine is of the same scientific meaning than e.g. a thesis?
    IMHO no, it is not and it will never be. It just means, it it not crap. But please never dump a piece of work just because it has not been peer reviewed. Poor Newton and Einstein, everything would have been lost.

  22. 222
    PeterK says:

    For the rats, there was something published by the University of Dublin. I cannot find the link, but I will try, I only have a German abstract.

  23. 223
    Joe Duck says:

    some professor emeritus of petroleum geology from the University Northern Saskatoon

    Ray this was clever – you almost had me laughing out loud. Yes, I meant RC which I’m “warming up to” if the goal is partly to be provocative and shake people up. I kind of like provocation, even though I’ll be challenging some of the hyperbole that seems to run rampant around here in favor of warming catastrophism and massive mitigation efforts, neither of which are rationally derived from an objective interpretation of the data.

    Dave Rado that’s an interesting set of criteria for scientific respectability, but I’m totally serious here. Unless I am mistaken several writing here (I’m not clear who speaks for RC and who just speaks) feel that people should line up as “with us or against us”, and if you are the latter you are either uninformed, a corporate shill, or a crappy scientist.

  24. 224

    BTW, the 14th century produced some of the greatest minds in science, ever. Try googling Nicolas Oresme, William of Ockham, or Theodoric of Freiberg. The 14th century was also the time of Dante Alighieri and Geoffrey Chaucer.

    They make the physicists of the 20th century look like rank amateurs.

  25. 225
    Rod B says:

    JCH, I don’t disagree with your post. Matter of fact, if my somewhat fuzzy memory serves, it was words like that (may even was that) that immediately preceded my paraphrased quote. At the time you mention the inspectors had not found any WMD, as you relate (though they had found some illegal missle systems), including the ones (or the makings of) that previous inspectors had inventoried and were confident were there in ’98 but left off Sadam’s 2002 inventory list.

    However, whether and when they were actually there misses the point of discussion which boils down to decision and action making based on whatever facts are known (kinda the tie-in to this thread). No decision maker in their right mind in 2002-3 would have said, “99% of the intelligence, including people high in Sadam’s own regime and some close family relatives, says they have the makings of WMD, have some WMDs, are actively pursuing nuclear weaponary and have the capability to produce such, and are incented to support terrorist use of them against the U.S. But then Charlie over here disagrees. I think I’ll go with Charlie for everyone’s benefit.” And that goes for the thousands of politicos who now criticize that not being the conclusion.

  26. 226
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 221 PeterK:

    “…do you you really think an article published by a peer reviewed magazine is of the same scientific meaning than e.g. a thesis?”

    A peer-reviewed journal article has rather more credibility, in my mind. A thesis committee typically has a major professor and an external examiner who are intimately familiar with the subject of the thesis; the other members are usually from unrelated fields. On the other hand, a peer-reviewed journal article has typically been scrutinized by at least three reviewers with expertise in the subject of the manuscript.

    “But please never dump a piece of work just because it has not been peer reviewed.”

    No, you just have to conduct your own personal peer review before putting much stake in the results and their interpretation; for a 200-page thesis, that can be a lot of work.

  27. 227
    Dave Rado says:

    RodB, #211, you don’t explain why you think it “meaningless” that one should look for a “climate sceptic” who is a credible climate scientist before respecting his or her climate science work; nor why that it is by definition, in your opinion, “setting an impossible standard” to set this criteria (unless you accept that there is simply no evidence to back up their position).

  28. 228
    Hank Roberts says:

    > climate models
    > aerosols

    Good grief, people, you _can_ look this stuff up.

    Haywood, Jim; Schulz, Michael

    Causes of the reduction in uncertainty in the anthropogenic radiative forcing of climate between IPCC (2001) and IPCC (2007)

    Geophys. Res. Lett., Vol. 34, No. 20, L20701

    10.1029/2007GL030749

    “We conclude that significant progress in reducing the uncertainty of the anthropogenic radiative forcing has been made since IPCC (2001). The single most important contributor to this conclusion appears to be the reduction in the uncertainty associated with the aerosol direct effect, followed by the provision of a best estimate for the aerosol cloud albedo indirect effect.”

    Received 21 May 2007; accepted 19 September 2007; published 18 October 2007

  29. 229
    Timothy Chase says:

    PeterK (#222) wrote:

    For the rats, there was something published by the University of Dublin. I cannot find the link, but I will try, I only have a German abstract.

    Rats and crows have fairly plastic minds. Quite adaptable.

    Plants unfortunately do not appear to have minds, but they do have genomes. For a given species of plant there will exist a certain degree of genetic variation. The more the genetic variation, the greater the potential for exploring alternatives. However, within the context of a changing environment, such exploration comes at the cost of a reduction in genetic variation, and it takes a while for the engine of mutation to replentish this variation.

    Currently we are talking about climate change which is about a hundred times that of the background rate. And it isn’t simply species which will have to adapt, but networks of species and entire ecological systems. However, some species are more likely to do better than others.

    Species which have been adapted to our needs as the result of artificial selection over the past ten thousand years have necessarily had their genetic variation reduced simply as the result of the process of artificial selection. We have adapted them with fine-tuning to meet our needs as kept plants rather than to meet the requirements for living in an uncontrolled and variable environment.

    Alternatively, undomesticated plants will tend to have more genetic variation as it is this variation which makes their populations more robust to a changing, natural environment. Those which are most successful under a wide variety of environments are typically refered to as “weeds.” I believe they should do quite well, for a while at least.

    *

    Anyway, Richard Ordway has pointed out the five known instances of species of animals beginning to genetically adapt to climate change in 210. Likewise, I pointed out that we are seeing some adaptive changes in migratory birds back in 188, so I guess this means that you don’t have to show that adaptation will take place – only that it will be sufficient to prevent widespread extinctions.

    I hope this helps…

  30. 230
    Dave Rado says:

    Re. 221 and 224, why would a credible scientist not want his or her paper to be peer reviewed other than because he or she did not think it would pass peer review?

  31. 231
    Edward Greisch says:

    Being an innumerate journalist interviewing a scientist is like being a blind person watching a movie. They both miss most of it. One number is worth many words. One equation is worth many numbers. If you don’t understand the math, you are just not going to understand the science either. A little math can replace a whole book full of words. Math is the language of science. If you want to communicate with the natives, you have to understand the local language. Journalists don’t, in general.

    What the WSJ really proves is that, as usual, the innumerate journalists did not understand what the scientists said, not that they really wanted to. Innumerate humanitologists, like preachers, rabbis, priests, imams, iatolas, historians, journalists and politicians, are dangerous. They may lead us into our own extinction. They led us into Iraq. George W. Bush’s degree is in history.

    In a technological society, all college students, including humanities and fine arts students, should be required to take the Engineering and Science Core Cirriculum + 1 computer course + 1 laboratory course in probability and statistics. The E&S Core Cirriculum is 1.5 years of calculus, 2 years of physics and 1 year of chemistry. In addition, I would explicitly say to all non-E&S students: “Nature isn’t just the final authority on truth, Nature is the Only authority. There are zero human authorities. Scientists do not vote on what is the truth. There is only one vote and Nature owns it. We find out what Nature’s vote is by doing Scientific [public and replicable] experiments. Scientific [public and replicable] experiments are the only source of truth. [To be public, it has to be visible to other people in the room. What goes on inside one person's head isn't public unless it can be seen on an X-ray or with another instrument.]”

    All high school diplomas should require 4 years of physics, 4 years of chemistry, 4 years of biology and 8 years of math at the high school level. Why? So that people would know enough to be responsible citizens of a technological society. Instead, we have people who are paranoid/irrationally afraid of all things nuclear. We have people who try to prevent the teaching of evolution. Etc.

  32. 232
    Timothy Chase says:

    Re Lawrence Brown on the Greenhouse effect…

    In 133 I had stated that the greenhouse effect will be stronger in the tropics than elsewhere and that this was where the super greenhouse effect is observed. In 157 I pointed out that the temperatures will rise in the polar regions more quickly than elsewhere due to convection and circulation in the ocean (but forgot to include the albedo effect – which is actually more important, I believe).

    Lawrence Brown (#211) responded:

    I know the second comment to be true.The polar regions are heating faster as a result of convection, decreased albedo and direct temperature rise, but what is the source of the last sentence in the first comment? I and I believe many others, think of AGW as a temperature increase due to a result of the increase in greenhouse gases. In other words most of the results of the enhanced greenhouse effect is being detected at the poles, rather than at the equator. There appears to be a contradiction here.

    The article is:

    Direct radiometric observations of the water vapor greenhouse effect over the equatorial Pacific Ocean
    F.P.J. Valero, W.D. Collins, P. Pilewskie, A. Bucholtz, and P.J. Flatau
    Science, 274(5307), 1773-1776, 21 March 1997

    In terms of radiation transfer theory, the authors define the greenhouse effect essentially as the thermal radiation flux of the surface (due to its temperature) minus the outgoing radiation flux at the top of the atmosphere. So this is in purely radiative terms, not the consequences with the heat transport, albedo effect and whatnot.

    Here is the abstract:

    Airborne radiometric measurements were used to determine tropospheric profiles of the clear sky greenhouse effect. At sea surface temperatures (SSTs) larger than 300 Kelvin, the clear sky water vapor greenhouse effect was found to increase with SST at a rate of 13 to 15 watts per square meter per Kelvin. Satellite measurements of infrared radiances and SSTs indicate that almost 52 percent of the tropical oceans between 20 N and 20 S are affected during all seasons. Current general circulation models suggest that the increase in the clear sky water vapor greenhouse effect with SST may have climatic effects on a planetary scale.

    … and here is what they are talking about in terms of the super greenhouse effect:

    Satellite studies (8–10) have found that for clear skies and SSTs above 298 K, the spatial variation of Ga with SST, dGa/d(SST), exceeds the rate of increase of sea surface emission, ds(SST)4/d(SST) = 4σ(SST)3. For a tropical SST of 300 K, 4σ(SST)3 ~ 6.1 W m-2 K-1. This effect, termed the “super greenhouse effect” (11), occurs in both hemispheres during all seasons. It is also observed for interannual variations of Ga with SST during the El Nino in the tropical Pacific (12). Observations in the tropical Atlantic ocean (11) show that the clear sky downwelling infrared flux incident on the surface (Fa-) also increases faster than the surface emission with increasing SST. The net result is further warming of the surface, which in turn induces additional heating of the atmosphere column above.

    Downwelling thermal radiation (backradiation) flux increases more rapidly than surface flux with increasing temperature. Of course, once you start talking about convection and poleward atmospheric and oceanic circulation and whatnot, you are talking about how energy gets out and not so much about what is keeping a great deal of it in – the latter of which is basically a matter of the opacity of the atmosphere to thermal radiation.

    [Response: Don't get too carried away by this polar stuff. Antarctica *isn't* warming particularly quickly, except for the Peninsula. And what is "The polar regions are heating faster as a result of ... direct temperature rise" supposed to mean? -William]

  33. 233
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #225 I’m amused to see there are still people who think the invasion of Iraq had something to do with Saddam Hussein’s possible possession of WMDs. If the invaders had really thought he had useable nuclear, chemical or biological weapons (as opposed to the few rusting pieces of rubbish they expected to find to justify their action), they would have proceeded quite differently, and much more cautiously.

  34. 234
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Peter K said: “But do you you really think an article published by a peer reviewed magazine is of the same scientific meaning than e.g. a thesis?”

    Peer review definitely ranks higher on my credibility scale than a thesis (speaking as someone who has written both). Face it, if something worthwhile is published in a thesis, it will also be published eventually in a peer-reviewed journal.

    A published thesis merely says that one’s committee has deemed the research to be “original” and mainly correct. Peer review means one’s peers have deemed the research worthy of consideration by the commnity as a whole. Ultimately, however, it is the scientific consensus on the research that establishes its value–and one measure of this is how often the research is cited subsequent to publication.

  35. 235
    Lawrence McLean says:

    Re #113, John P. Reisman. More water vapour in the atmosphere does not necessarily translate to more precipitation.

    Higher relative humidity does translate to higher precipitation. The current situation with global warming is that the atmosphere is heating faster relative to the oceans, so although the atmosphere is holding more water vapour, it is staying as vapour, the relative humidity is actually going down.

    This conjecture of mine could be varified if worldwide levels of cloud are in decline.

  36. 236

    Re#233. Thank you for the response,Timothy.In regard to the Response, by William, I should have said- directly as a result of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the high latitude and (north) polar region.

  37. 237
    Chris says:

    Hi all

    re my comment on #61.

    I do understand the difference between weather and climate – I was not the one that first used the 99% weather forecast metaphor – I just tried to expand it.

    I am, and do not pretend to be an expert on Global Warming, Climate Change, AGW whatever it is called.

    However I have worked with computers/IT systems for over 20 years and find the comment from #65 Ray Ladbury quite inane – so the programmers of these models have “very little wriggle room” – programmers of any computer model have as much “wriggle room” as they want.

    I would class myself as a sceptic (in lots of areas) and find it strange that it seems a form of abuse in the AGW field.

    “Skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found.” [Miguel de Unamuno, "Essays and Soliloquies," 1924]

    btw #67 – loved the train analogy. However as I live in England maybe not the best example to use – as the trains are always either late, cancelled or derailling. ;-)

  38. 238
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Chris, your comment makes it exceedingly clear do not understand how global climate models work. They do not “fit” data with the model. Rather, they use data to constrain parameters in the model, and then apply the model to see how close they get to the data. Until you have rectified your ignorance, you do not merit the term “skeptic” because you have not “investigated” how the models are implemented. You are a classic example of a denialist–someone who on the basis of acquaintance with a tangentially related thinks they know enough to call into question the opinions of the vast majority of experts. Got news for you Chris, there’s a lot more to GCMs than just coding.

  39. 239
    Hank Roberts says:

    Chris, have you looked at the list of climate models lately?
    http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/wg1-report.html
    Do you think all the programmers working on all the models happen to “wiggle” in exactly the same direction?

    What accusation are you making exactly?

  40. 240
    Jim Dukelow says:

    In #237 Chris Says:

    “However I have worked with computers/IT systems for over 20 years and find the comment from #65 Ray Ladbury quite inane – so the programmers of these models have “very little wriggle room” – programmers of any computer model have as much “wriggle room” as they want.

    I would class myself as a sceptic (in lots of areas) and find it strange that it seems a form of abuse in the AGW field.

    “Skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found.” [Miguel de Unamuno, “Essays and Soliloquies,” 1924]”

    What I suspect Ray Ladbury meant is that, since the programmers are trying to capture all of the interactions in the climate system using first principles of chemistry and physics and our best knowledge of the atmosphere, ocean, and biological systems, any changes they might make to the code are constrained by those first principles and the current state of our knowledge about the components of the climate system.

    “Sceptic” has become a term of abuse because many of the people calling themselves sceptics are, in fact, nothing of the sort. Some have been willing participants in a disinformation campaign and others are credulous victims of that campaign, who have not taken the trouble to search out the best information.

    Interestingly, recent issues of Sceptic magazine have included a two-part series on climate change, essentially laying out the IPCC consensus. Thus, the editors of Sceptic, habitually sceptical about a lot of things, have come the conclusion that the IPCC consensus is correct and the so-called “sceptic” campaign is wrong.

    Best regards.

  41. 241
    Jim Dukelow says:

    In #157, Timothy Chase wrote:

    “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.”

    We agree on this.

    Part of the problem with Professor Botkin’s WSJ op-ed is that his subtle mis-representation of Mote and Kaser’s American Scientist article could lead the incurious WSJ reader to conclude that the melting of mountain glaciers, arctic sea ice, and polar ice caps is not a problem and not a symptom of serious AGW.

    In his concluding paragraphs, Botkin lays out his concern that responding to AGW will hinder societal response to “other” threats to living species, specifically habitat destruction. He doesn’t say and perhaps doesn’t realize that AGW and habitat destruction are two results of the same overriding cause, human population growth and economic growth and the resulting pollution and use of resources that are shared by humans and other species.

    Best regards.

  42. 242

    [[But please never dump a piece of work just because it has not been peer reviewed. Poor Newton and Einstein, everything would have been lost.]]

    Einstein published in Annalen der Physik, which is, I believe, peer-reviewed.

  43. 243

    [[BTW, the 14th century produced some of the greatest minds in science, ever. Try googling Nicolas Oresme, William of Ockham, or Theodoric of Freiberg. The 14th century was also the time of Dante Alighieri and Geoffrey Chaucer.]]

    Says my correspondent:

    [[They make the physicists of the 20th century look like rank amateurs.]]

    Think about it for a minute. 20th century physics had integral and differential calculus to work with, not to mention differential equations, vector and tensor calculus, and calculus of variations. They could communicate instantly among any nation with a telephone network, even half-way around the world. They had regular national and international mail delivery. They had superb libraries and abundant, cheap textbooks. They had an established network of peer-reviewed science journals and universities with science departments. They had precision instruments of a thousand different types, including thermometers, telescopes, and microscopes. And after 1950 or so they had high-speed digital electronic computers.

    In the 14th century they had none of that, but the people I mentioned managed to make valuable contributions to science anyway. I don’t know if I could have accomplished what they did given what they had to work with. Could you?

  44. 244
    Timothy Chase says:

    Re William on Antarctica (inline to 232)

    William wrote:

    Response: Don’t get too carried away by this polar stuff. Antarctica *isn’t* warming particularly quickly, except for the Peninsula.

    That’s true – but he would seem to be right about the principle, and according to the models we would still see polar amplification even without the albedo effect. Although we don’t know entirely why, convective atmospheric and oceanic circulation and the increased moisture of maritime air would seem to be good candidates – the only candidates that I am aware of – in the absence of a well-placed Antarctica.

    But there are several differences between Antarctic and the Arctic stemming largely from the presence of Antarctica itself.

    First, you have the Antarctic Circumpolar Current which greatly isolates the continent. That current is the strongest oceanic current in the world.

    Second, given the fact that the interior of the continent is so isolated and reaches up in places at fairly high altitudes (given the Transantarctic Mountains) and the stratosphere is lower in that region than anywhere else in the world, the surface is much closer to the stratosphere. In fact, if I remember correctly, the surface and the stratosphere are sometimes in contact. And the tropospheric circulation is descending at the center of the Antarctic Polar Cell.

    Third, we have the strongly depletion of the ozone layer well into the interior of the continent, although it has diminished a fair amount this year – and Gavin gave a projection of it closing up perhaps within the next fifteen years. The temperature differential due to depletion increases winds, carrying moisture into the stratosphere, further depleting the ozone layer as moisture is carried up near the outer boundary of the Antarctic Polar Cell.

    However, in the case of the West Antarctic Peninsula, it is outside of the West Antarctic Front. At least in the antarctic summer, this means that it is more likely to be affected by the moist maritime air. Some of the circulation of air by the westerlies will be along the surface rather than from the upper troposphere. Consequently it is seeing more warming than anywhere else in the world.

    William wrote:

    And what is “The polar regions are heating faster as a result of … direct temperature rise” supposed to mean?

    Sorry, I should have caught that bit.

    PS

    It would be neat to see the trends in temperature across the Antarctic split out according summer and winter. I would assume that this would show a great deal more of the dynamics affecting the continent.

  45. 245
    Hank Roberts says:

    Say Barton, when you quote someone before replying, would you mind adding the name the person used to make it easier to know who it is you’re quoting?

  46. 246
    Timothy Chase says:

    Barton Paul Levenson (#243) wrote:

    …. Says my correspondent:

    [[They make the physicists of the 20th century look like rank amateurs.]]

    Think about it for a minute. 20th century physics had integral and differential calculus to work with, not to mention differential equations, vector and tensor calculus, and calculus of variations….

    Barton, I wouldn’t forget the existence of a much larger world population, one which exceeds the collective population of all previous generations in the history of civilization. With positive feedback, that has made possible twentieth century technology, but it has also meant a far more extensive division of cognitive labor as well as far more human-hours of the process of empirical science. In all honesty, I believe it is quite difficult for the individual mind to grasp the relative magnitude of what 20th century science achieved.

  47. 247
    A.C. says:

    old news, but there’s an interesting little AP article by John Hanna floating around the interwebs about the rejection of a $3.6 billion coal power plant project in Kansas. is that the first time a state has rejected a coal plant on the basis of CO2? at any rate, thanks RC, for pressing the issue every day.

  48. 248
    Timothy Chase says:

    Jim Dukelow (#243) wrote:

    Part of the problem with Professor Botkin’s WSJ op-ed is that his subtle mis-representation of Mote and Kaser’s American Scientist article could lead the incurious WSJ reader to conclude that the melting of mountain glaciers, arctic sea ice, and polar ice caps is not a problem and not a symptom of serious AGW.

    Agreed – and in truth, from what little I have seen so far, much of the research into Kilimanjaro performed by Mote, Kaser and colleagues evident in other papers has been of value, at least on the empirical side. Unfortunately I think there has been considerable overinterpretation on their part of the significance of the penintentes.

    And like you, I believe they have greatly underestimated the duration of anthropogenic global warming, so much that I personally find it difficult to understand how they could do so well-meaningly. But that is quite possibly more a reaction on my part to AGW-skepticism than to either the authors or the paper itself.

    With regard to Botkins, I actually haven’t paid any attention to him as of yet but of course have realized how Kilimanjaro and its significance has been misrepresented in the press.

    Take care.

  49. 249
    Timothy Chase says:

    Jim Dukelow () wrote:

    “Sceptic” has become a term of abuse because many of the people calling themselves sceptics are, in fact, nothing of the sort. Some have been willing participants in a disinformation campaign and others are credulous victims of that campaign, who have not taken the trouble to search out the best information.

    Unfortunately, once you have dealt with the “sceptical” arguments of those engaged in misrepresentation and have shown their work to be systematic, it is only proper to turn to the question of motivation – as part of the process of identification. However, those who are involved in misrepresentation will often at least implicitly claim that putting quote marks around the term “sceptic” is itself a form of ad hominem attack.

    And yet with the cummulative evidence and our general understanding of the physics, it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe that at least within the scientific community there are those who are genuinely sceptical of global warming, at least in terms of its fundamentals. But this should not be permitted to stand in the way of genuine criticism of the details of any given theory or detailed causal explanation as this is an essential part of the scientific process. Such complementary schismogenesis is destructive of much of the essence of scientific thought.

  50. 250
    John Mashey says:

    re: #240 Jim

    The problem with the term “skeptic” is that it has multiple common interpretations, including:
    - someone who takes little on faith, weighs data carefully, and changes their mind.
    - someone who just doesn’t believe something (but could change their mind).

    Some people repeatedly reject masses of data on one side of an argument, and latch onto the flimsiest ideas of the other side, but still want to be called skeptics. Kristen Byrnes (“ponderthemaunder”) got numerous people proclaiming that a 15-year-old student had totally disproved AGW. Sure, that seems likely, happens all the time :-) The terms “denier” or “denialist” seem more appropriate.

    As a result, many people prefer to reserve the term “skeptic” for people who actually weigh data and can be convinced, even if they aren’t at the moment.

    =======
    Minor correction:
    “Interestingly, recent issues of Sceptic magazine have included a two-part series on climate change, essentially laying out the IPCC consensus. Thus, the editors of Sceptic, habitually sceptical about a lot of things, have come the conclusion that the IPCC consensus is correct and the so-called “sceptic” campaign is wrong.”

    I don’t think that was in Skeptic, although its Editor, Michael Shermer, also writes a column for Scientific American, and he wrote about why he changed his mind in 2006:
    “Because of the complexity of the problem, environmental skepticism was once tenable. No longer. It is time to flip from skepticism to activism.”

    There was a 2-part series by Dr. Stuart Jordan (NASA GSFC) in May/June, July/August issues of the Skeptical Inquirer.

    This was a clear, straightforward article, the reaction to which astonished Ken Frazier in its vituperative intensity, with “cancel my subscription” and repetition of typical anti-AGW ideas from a bunch of readers. A few of us did send supportive letters, but this is a clear reminder:

    Someone can think of themselves as a skeptic (in the classic sense of evaluating data carefully), and may even be such on many topics, and on others may still have hard-held beliefs impregnable to any amount of evidence.

    There were some “interesting” multiway email conversations. At one point, I provided a 3000-word writeup on the denialist industry, with lists of notable anti-AGW campaigners, organizations, funders, and websites … which was dismissed in a few sentences by a reader who said they simply didn’t believe it and accused me of “getting into paranoid-conspiracy-theory territory”.

    Anyway, both Skeptic and The Skeptical Inquirer are both *really* clear in support of the scientific consensus, but I think they are now more aware of the intensity of belief otherwise.


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