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BBC contrarian top 10

Filed under: — gavin @ 13 November 2007

There is an interesting, if predictable, piece up on the BBC website devoted to investigating whether there is any ‘consensus’ among the various contrarians on why climate change isn’t happening (or if it is, it isn’t caused by human activity or if it is why it won’t be important, or if it is important, why nothing can be done etc.). Bottom line? The only thing they appear to agree about is that nothing should be done, but they have a multitude of conflicting reasons why. Hmm…

The journalist, Richard Black, put together a top 10 list of sceptic arguments he gathered from emailing the 61 signers of a Canadian letter. While these aren’t any different in substance to the ones routinely debunked here (and here and here), this list comes with the imprimatur of Fred Singer – the godfather to the sceptic movement, and recent convert from the view that it’s been cooling since 1940 to the idea that global warming is now unstoppable. Thus these are the arguments (supposedly) that are the best that the contrarians have to put forward.

Alongside each of these talking points, is a counter-point from the mainstream (full disclosure, I helped Richard edit some of those). In truth though, I was a little disappointed at how lame their ‘top 10’ arguments were. In order, they are: false, a cherry pick, a red herring, false, false, false, a red herring, a red herring, false and a strawman. They even used the ‘grapes grew in medieval England’ meme that you’d think they’d have abandoned already given that more grapes are grown in England now than ever before (see here). Another commonplace untruth is the claim that water vapour is ‘98% of the greenhouse effect’ – it’s just not.

So why do the contrarians still use arguments that are blatantly false? I think the most obvious reason is that they are simply not interested (as a whole) in providing a coherent counter story. If science has one overriding principle, it is that you should adjust your thinking in the light of new information and discoveries – the contrarians continued use of old, tired and discredited arguments demonstrates their divorce from the scientific process more clearly than any densely argued rebuttal.

397 Responses to “BBC contrarian top 10”

  1. 351
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Jim Galasyn @ 343: “Thanks to Barton in 342 for his cogent and concise refutation of the solar forcing argument.”

    Never the less, dean persists in tilting at this particular windmill in not one, but two different threads at the same time.

  2. 352
    Hank Roberts says:

    Re “Fifth” — I think a word’s wrong or lost there.

  3. 353

    Hank Roberts (#352) wrote:

    Re “Fifth” — I think a word’s wrong or lost there.


    Thank you, Hank.

    In 350 I should have written:

    Fifth, if it were due to solar variability, we would expect the trend in summer temperatures to be greater than the trend in winter temperatures. With the enhanced greenhouse effect we expect the opposite. The trend in winter temperatures has been greater over the twentieth century.

    I do that sort of thing too often… Oh well. I will keep working on it. Rereading before I hit the “Postt”.

  4. 354

    Barton Paul Levenson (#342) wrote:

    2. Increased sunlight would heat the stratosphere first. But we’re seeing stratospheric cooling. Partly this is due to ozone depletion, but the increase in greenhouse gases accounts for the rest of the effect.

    It is worth pointing out that the physical principles behind ozone depletion resulting in the cooling of the stratosphere is still a matter of absorption and emission — like the warming of the surface by the absorption of thermal radiation by the greenhouse gasses in the troposphere and emission of thermal backradiation to the surface. Where ozone has its greatest effect, it warms the atmosphere due to the absorption of ultraviolet radiation — before that radiation gets the chance to reach the surface and is converted into longwave radiation.

    If he admits to ozone having a greenhouse effect in the stratosphere, then he has to admit that carbon dioxide will have a greenhouse effect in the troposphere. Likewise, without amplification by greenhouse gasses (primarily water vapor, but carbon dioxide as well), solar variability would not be able to account for much of the swings in temperature that we find in the paleoclimate record that resulted from variations in the earth’s orbit.

    Anyway, if people want to see the effects of the different greenhouse gases in terms of the cooling or warming of the atmosphere at various altitudes, I would suggest:

    Radiation & Climate: Major Projects
    Line-by-line calculation of atmospheric fluxes and cooling rates 2

    They will notice that the direct effect of carbon dioxide is principally one of cooling the atmosphere, not warming it. This is because the radiation which is emitted by carbon dioxide has on the balance the effect of cooling the atmosphere (due to emitting backradiation to the surface and thermal radiation to space) but warming the surface — with the troposphere being warmed principally by thermals and evapotranspiration.

    For a basic energy balance diagram, people might check out:

    The Energy Balance and Natural Climate Variations

  5. 355

    dean (#348) wrote in response to Barton pointing out that solar variability has been flat for more than fifty years:

    Re 342
    1. so what. If we weren’t at thermal equilibrium due to solar forcing in 1950, then we had not reached the temperature the sun was trying to bake us to. After the rise in the 1910-1945, the sun didn’t shut off. so the temperature should have stabilized at a new temperature (with the appropriate lag due to inertia of the system). but it didn’t. It cooled. Why? because the aerosols didn’t allow the energy from the sun to be absorbed. But man realized that aerosols were pollutants so we removed them. now we have an earth that’s returning to equilibrium. But it’s not the temperature in the 50s, its higher because we never reached equilibrium from the early 20th century solar forcing…

    Given the fact that land temperatures increased by nearly one degree celsius (0.8 C) from 1960 to 2000, for solar brightening to be responsible for the rise in temperature after the “flat period” from 1952 to 1975 during which aerosols were a major factor, it would have to be greater than the solar dimming within the same 1960-2000 period. However, solar dimming outweighed solar brightening over this period.

    Please see:

    Recent solar brightening cannot supersede the greenhouse effect as main cause of global warming, since land temperatures increased by 0.8 C from 1960 to 2000, even though solar brightening did not fully outweigh solar dimming within this period.

    Impact of global dimming and brightening on global warming
    Martin Wild, Atsumu Ohmura, and Knut Makowski
    GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 34, L04702, doi:10.1029/2006GL028031, 2007

    Incidentally, they include the reduction in diurnal temperature difference (or greater warming trend for night rather than day) in their analysis and provide the following explanation as to why it exists:

    Note that daytime temperatures are less sensitive to radiative changes than nighttime temperatures, since the radiative energy at the surface can be distributed more effectively by the turbulent fluxes of sensible and latent heat within the predominately convective daytime boundary layer, than during the predominantly stable nighttime conditions [Ohmura, 1984; Dai et al., 1999].


    Obviously the same sort of argument works for winter vs. summer trends in temperature. It is also worth noting that one of Ohmura’s current projects involves the measurement of increasing backradiation due to an enhanced greenhouse effect.


    However, it is also worth pointing out that at this point we apparently do not have enough data to robustly conclude that solar brightening has occured.

    Please see:

    4. Conclusions

    [17] To summarize we show that there is a robust “global dimming” signal (by which we mean reduced globally averaged SWD) in climate models over the 20th Century. Overall, global mean model and satellite observational trends are smaller than previously reported for single sites or partial-global averages. This signal is attributable to the increased anthropogenic aerosol load rather than cloud feedbacks. However, over shorter decadal timescales, climate and SWD variability is dominated by cloud cover changes mainly associated with ENSO-related variability. Hence we conclude that recently reported evidence for “brightening” does not necessarily signify a general reversal of the 20th Century dimming trend due to reduced air pollution since the attribution of these changes in the presence of significant intrinsic variability is extremely difficult. Hatched regions denote at 95% confidence level.

    20th century changes in surface solar irradiance in simulations and
    A. Romanou, B. Liepert, G. A. Schmidt, W. B. Rossow, R. A. Ruedy, and Y. Zhang
    GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 34, L05713, doi:10.1029/2006GL028356, 2007


    In his point-for-point response, with respect to the cooling trend in the stratosphere, dean (#348) wrote:

    2. let me think about this one…


    dean (#348) wrote:

    3. But what doesn’t match here is that the poles (plural) aren’t warming. Only the north pole is. And the fabled “northwest passage” has been open before only to close back. there is nothing new in what we’re seeing. It’s all happened before (in recent recorded history) and most likely will happen again. The north pole warming and the south pole not warming goes against the climatic models, doesn’t it?

    It would seem to me that there is plenty of warming — along the West Antarctic Peninsula. In fact it is experiencing the highest trend in temperature found anywhere in the world.

    Likewise, it would appear that the Antarctic troposphere is warming somewhat rapidly in the winter.

    Please see:

    Significant Warming of the Antarctic Winter Troposphere
    J. Turner, T. A. Lachlan-Cope, S. Colwell, G. J. Marshall, W. M. Connolley
    SCIENCE, 31 MARCH 2006, VOL 311, 1914-17

    … which is available at:

    Science – Significant Warming of the Antarctic Winter Troposphere
    Posted on: March 31, 2006 6:28 AM, by William M. Connolley

    … and we know that Antarctica is experiencing mass balance loss — losing more ice over time than it gains, and that melting has occured recently within 310 miles of the south pole.

    Please see my earlier comment 106 to the post Climate Insensitivity. I include additional links to sources there.

    Likewise, I would suggest checking out my comment 135 in the same thread as it explains why some of Antarctica is cooling. But to put it briefly, in part it is largely isolated from the rest of the globe by the Antarctic circumpolar current, the stratosphere is lower and at times in contact with the surface, particularly given the transantarctic mountain range, and the temperature differential between the stratosphere and the troposphere due to increased cooling of the stratosphere as the result of ozone depletion results in stronger winds. However, I also point out that nearly all of the South Ocean is experiencing warming.


    dean (#348) wrote:

    not only that, none of the models predicted the massive melt-off this year. So something other than what’s in the models caused it (or if it’s in the models, then it’s not accurately modeled).

    Gavin has dealt with that before. Actually the models do produce similar runs to what we are seeing in the Arctic Ocean. You just don’t see it when you average the runs. However, no one claims that the models are perfect. Still need to work on aerosols, clouds, the carbon cycle, etc.. But we are making progress in all of these areas.


    dean (#348) wrote:

    4. But aren’t there questions as to the accuracy of that data? specifically, the weather station locations in urban areas (and don’t try to tell me that cities aren’t heat islands… ok, you can try, but i will not believe that because it just doesn’t make sense … I’ve leaned up against enough buildings after the sun’s set only to feel the bricks still radiating heat).

    With respect to the Urban Heat Island effect distorting surface temperature readings there is the little problem that satellite measurements of the lower troposphere show essentially the same trend.

    Please see:

    Satellite temperature measurements

    Apparently climatologists know how to correct for the biases due to the Urban Heat Island effect — beyond what is taken care of by a Cool Park Island effect.

    Please see:


    All analyses of the impact of urban heat islands (UHIs) on in situ temperature observations suffer from inhomogeneities or biases in the data. These inhomogeneities make urban heat island analyses difficult and can lead to erroneous conclusions. To remove the biases caused by differences in elevation, latitude, time of observation, instrumentation, and nonstandard siting, a variety of adjustments were applied to the data. The resultant data were the most thoroughly homogenized and the homogeneity adjustments were the most rigorously evaluated and thoroughly documented of any large-scale UHI analysis to date. Using satellite night-lights derived urban/ rural metadata, urban and rural temperatures from 289 stations in 40 clusters were compared using data from 1989 to 1991. Contrary to generally accepted wisdom, no statistically significant impact of urbanization could be found in annual temperatures. It is postulated that this is due to micro- and local-scale impacts dominating over the mesoscale urban heat island. Industrial sections of towns may well be significantly warmer than rural sites, but urban meteorological observations are more likely to be made within park cool islands than industrial regions.

    Assessment of Urban Versus Rural In Situ Surface Temperatures in the Contiguous United States: No Difference Found
    Thomas C. Peterson
    Journal of Climate, VOL. 16, NO. 18, 15 September 2003

    That paper is a modern classic.


    Now before closing, I should focus for a moment on that point which I think is most important: we understand the physics behind the greenhouse effect. We aren’t simply going off of some funny correlation between the trend in temperature and carbon dioxide. Moreover, we can actually observe greenhouse gases emitting thermal radiation.

    But let’s make this fun. I won’t write about it. I will give you the images and motion videos. Here are a few links showing what we can get from spectral analysis of unwelling infrared radiation when you have satellites that can take readings on over two thousand different channels…

    Products – AIRS Carbon Dioxide
    NASA AIRS Mid-Tropospheric (8km) Carbon Dioxide

    Multimedia Animations

    Visualization of the global distribution of greenhouse gases using satellite measurements, by Michael Buchwitz. The Encyclopedia of Earth. Posted July 31, 2007

    For more links, check out comment 555 to the RealClimate » Part II: What Ångström didn’t know post.


    Oh — I had also mentioned the fact that we have a database which includes over a million different spectral lines: the HiTran database (or “HIgh-resolution TRANsmission molecular absorption” database). The following interview with the gentleman in charge will tell you more about it…

    An interview with:
    Dr. Laurence Rothman


  6. 356
    John Finn says:

    Ok, sorry – it’s my fault. “Tongue-in-cheek” comments are clearly best delivered verbally rather than in type.

    Regarding Gavin’s response to my post (#340)

    No, Gavin, I wasn’t really suggesting that -129 deg C is the true effective temperature – neither do G&T. In your reply, you say

    That is a global mean calculation of course, but the difference using a realistic distribution of surface temperature is very similar (that is actually what GCMs calculate).

    This refers to the factor ‘4’ ratio calculation. But the G&T calculation is also a global mean calculation – of sorts. It just happens to be a calculation of a static (non-rotating) globe. The difference between the 2 calculations being the way in which solar energy is distributed – though the average is still the same. The G&T calculation is just an extreme example.

    The point is that the real (or any non-uniform) “non-greenhouse” global mean temperature will always be less than the radiation effective temperature of 255k. This, as the G&T paper states, is “a consequence of Holder’s inequality”.

    I know you know this since you claim that GCMs use a realistic distribution and get a “similar” result (to the 255K) . But how similar? And what is the real (greenhouse-included) mean temperature. You can’t get away from the fact that even if all major (known) climate factors remained constant (on average) – mean global temperatures could still vary.

    [Response: 255 K is the true effective emitting temperature, but in the real world there isn’t one emitting layer and so calculating its average temperature doesn’t make sense. You can only compare observables – the actual temperature distribution horizontally and vertically or the LW fluxes. G&T’s calculations are just irrelevant. – gavin]

  7. 357
    John Finn says:


    Re: #345

    Yep. We know it happened, so, since the trees didn’t record it, that proves the tree rings are wrong.

    Actually there are very good reasons for thinking that tree rings do not capture climate fluctuations.As a thought experiment take a tree from the Malaysian rain forest (average annual temp ~26 deg C) and “replant” it in the western sahara (average annual temp also ~26 deg C). Does it grow the same in both locations. Tree rings, at best, simply capture temperature contribution to growth and even then only over a limited interval, e.g. it can get too warm for the tree to thrive.

    BPL Re:#342

    2. Increased sunlight would heat the stratosphere first. But we’re seeing stratospheric cooling. Partly this is due to ozone depletion, but the increase in greenhouse gases accounts for the rest of the effect

    How do we know the strat is cooling? It wouldn’t be from satellite data would it?

  8. 358

    John Finn (#356) wrote:


    Re: #345

    Yep. We know it happened, so, since the trees didn’t record it, that proves the tree rings are wrong.

    Actually there are very good reasons for thinking that tree rings do not capture climate fluctuations. As a thought experiment take a tree from the Malaysian rain forest (average annual temp ~26 deg C) and “replant” it in the western sahara (average annual temp also ~26 deg C). Does it grow the same in both locations. Tree rings, at best, simply capture temperature contribution to growth and even then only over a limited interval, e.g. it can get too warm for the tree to thrive.

    You are right of course. Temperature by tree ring proxy is done by measuring the width of the rings. The wider the rings the higher the temperature. However, this assumes that you have sufficient moisture. If the years are drier in under higher temperature, the rings can’t grow as wide. So tree rings have limited use. At that point you have to rely upon other proxies.

    John Finn (#356) wrote:

    BPL Re:#342

    2. Increased sunlight would heat the stratosphere first. But we’re seeing stratospheric cooling. Partly this is due to ozone depletion, but the increase in greenhouse gases accounts for the rest of the effect

    How do we know the strat is cooling? It wouldn’t be from satellite data would it?

    Both by satellite measurements and by balloon. Balloon measurements are somewhat less reliable, but it helps to have both as a double-check. Over the United States we have roughly 70 radiosonde stations which send up balloons twice daily that reach 30 km, bursting at 10 mb. They take a variety of measurements along the way.

    Please see:

    RADIOSONDES — An Upper Air Probe

  9. 359
    Jerry says:

    To those people who seem to think that we KNOW what the solar flux was doing prior to careful satellite measurements, I would suggest that you take a look at Foukal, et al., 2004: A stellar view of solar variations and climate. Science, 306, 68-69. It is especially telling that the very folks who first came up with solar irradiance reconstructions now admit that previously calculated increases were too large by a factor of five.

  10. 360
    Larry says:

    Paint the Earth White??

    If reflecting light is so important in the Artic, maybe try it else where along with reducing emissions?

    Dust farmland with some sort of white organic matter when not growing, make highways white, buildings reflective etc.?

  11. 361
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Re Larry’s suggestion in 360, you might call this approach “albedo management,” and indeed there are places undertaking such projects. Switzerland, for example, has been placing large blankets of mylar over its glaciers to reduce the melt rate.

  12. 362
    Phil McCracken says:

    I live just 20 miles from the ocean at an elevation of 200 feet. I estimate I have 40 years to live. Should I worry?

  13. 363
    David B. Benson says:

    Phil McCracken (362) — Not due to sea stand rise. Other things to worry about tho’.

    Food and water supply, sufficient energy…

  14. 364
    Jim Eager says:

    Re dean @ 348: “And the fabled “northwest passage” has been open before only to close back. there is nothing new in what we’re seeing.”

    Yes, the northwest passage certainly has been open before, many times in fact, but do you even have a clue where the northwest passage lies?
    Note how it turns south at Resolute to head down Peel Sound and then hugs the coast all the way west.

    But we didn’t just see the northwest passage become ice free this summer.
    Have you bothered to look at the images and animations of this year’s melt to see the extent of the melt and where it lies in relation to the northwest passage?

    Nothing new, indeed.

    Get a clue, dean. And while your at it, tell us how the Sun managed to do that while at solar cycle minima.

  15. 365
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #364: Jim, the map you linked shows the historical NWP that is known to open occasionally. It is not the one that’s discussed as a potential major shipping route, though. That one involves going straight through rather than taking the sharp left at Resolute, and opened this summer for the first time in the historical record. The northern route is preferred because it remains entirely within international waters, although it is within Canada’s economic zone. I suspect that because the southern route is so tight it may also be problematic for heavy ship traffic. Hopefully Wayne Davidson will read this and correct anything I didn’t get right.

  16. 366
    Hank Roberts says:

    Dean, what are you relying on as a source for your information?
    Are you reading what you’re posting somewhere, that you consider a reliable source, and bringing them here and stating them as facts?
    I assume you are not doing all the work all by yourself in the library to get what you believe to be true. Who do you trust, whose work are you quoting from? Why do you consider your source to be reliable?

  17. 367
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Steve Bloom @ 365: “Jim, the map you linked shows the historical NWP that is known to open occasionally. It is not the one that’s discussed as a potential major shipping route, though. That one involves going straight through rather than taking the sharp left at Resolute, and opened this summer for the first time in the historical record.”

    Indeed, Steve:

    But since, as you write, this is the first time in the historical record that the direct route through the McClure Straight has opened then it cannot be the one that dean referred to, since he states that it has been open before and that it being open is nothing new.

    As to the McClure route lying in international waters, that is something Canada strenuously disagrees with.

  18. 368
    Hank Roberts says:

    Also useful found via NSIDC:

    “the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory has created an animation of the 2007 sea ice thickness and extent (c) based on a combination of models and observed data. The animation shows the region of thick (greater than 3 meters [10 feet]) ice. In past decades, this thick ice spread across much of the central Arctic Basin. Recently, it has retreated to a narrow band along the northern Greenland and Canadian coasts …”

    This animation currently goes through October 31st, when sea ice began to recover. It’s quite stunning to see how _thin_ the ice is.

  19. 369
  20. 370
    anonymous says:

    global warming is a world wide issue and we all need to help out to keep our world from someday (maybe a hundred years, but SOMEday) falling apart.
    we need to take global warming seriously.
    and, David B. Benson, wikipedia is so not reliable. you could have changed it to your likes for all we know, whether you agree or disagree.

  21. 371
    Hank Roberts says:

    Anonymous 3:56pm, “for all we know” isn’t correct; you can check.

  22. 372
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #367: You’re entirely correct as far as I know, Jim. Some of dean’s confusion may have been legitimate since a lot of the discussion in the media failed to distingush between the two, but if he had checked any of the original sources he could have avoided that. Hank’s continuing point about the advisability of checking sources before just saying stuff remains relevant. Dean should be advised that using denialist sites for sources (as I suspect he did in this instance) will lead quickly to this sort of confusion.

  23. 373
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Anonymous, #370. Actually, I have found Wikipedia quite good wrt scientific subjects. This is also the conclusion of a study last year that found Wikipedia as accurate as Brittanica on matters of science. Do you have data suggesting otherwise?

  24. 374
    David B. Benson says:

    Ray Ladbury (373) — Yes, Wikipedia can be a good place to start, but it is often the case that other sources should also be checked. (Same applies to any first source.)

    In any case, the links are to forms of incorrect ‘reasoning’ or argumentation, not science. Look good enough for me, not being rhetorician.

  25. 375
    larry W says:

    Reply to some comments on my posting #308: Comments with the reference to follow- Glaciers have been shortening at nearly a constant rate for the last 180 years. ( Oerlemanns, J. (2005) Science 308,675-677. Sea level has been increasing at about 7 inches per century for the last 150 years with intermediate trends of 9,0,12,0,and 12 inches per century, respectively. (et al.(2006) J.Geophysical Res. 111. & (2004) Marine Geodesy 27, No. 1-2,79-94.
    Global Mean Temperature from 1910 to 1945 shows nearly the same slope as the last 25 years. The period 1940 to 1980 covers the war period and the periods of fossil fuel use with high sulfur content. (Frequently Asked Questions for IPCC Summary) FAQ 3.1 Figure 1.
    Contribution of sulfur removal to earth warming: According to model calculations by Brasseur and Roeckner (205) complete improvement in air quality could lead to a decadal global average surface temperature increase by 0.8 K on most continents and 4 K in the Artic. Further studies by Andreae et al. (2005) and Stainforth et al. (2005) indicate that gobal average climate warming may even surpass the hightest values in the projected IPCC global warming range of 1.4-5.8 degree C (Cubasch et al., 2001)
    Summary: Both glacier melting and sea level rise history both point to heating before significant carbon emissions. Recent rises in temperature are most likely due to both carbon dioxide increases and sulfur removal with the latter having better life experience support. Finally, the Hadley Centre Global Mean Surface temperature has been flat for the last five years. For the reasons above and many others, like a poor closing to the carbon balance and the under water volcanic activity, I am still in the camp that things are much more complex than just calling carbon dioxide a pollutant and going for its throat.

  26. 376
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 375. So, Larry, where’s all the energy coming from that is raising temperatures so much and melting all this ice? It is not greater solar irradiance. And increased solar irradiation would not explain why nightime lows are increasing faster than daytime highs. Do you have a model, or do you just wave your hands a lot and hope nobody notices that you are creating energy out of nothing?

  27. 377
    Hank Roberts says:

    > things are much more complex than just calling carbon dioxide

    See Gavin’s inline response to Nick, re this same strawman setup:

    Nobody thinks it’s simple.

  28. 378
    larry W says:

    Re #376 I guess I can turn the question around and ask where did the heat come from for the period 1910 to 1945 when it had nearly the same slope as the last 25 years? The glacier receeding rate and ocean level rise data I assume is correct. The period 1945 to 1980 is relatively flat and marks the period of the war and the burning of fossil fuels without much sulfur removal. David I. Stern studied global sulfur emissions from 1850 to 2000 with a peaking between 1975 and 1990 and then a sharp drop. Sulfur is not the only component to cooling but it is probably the greatest.
    When looking at the Radiative forcing of climate for the period 1750 and 2005 shown in FAQ 2.1, Figure 2 I see a lot of uncertainty in the total aerosol component. The cloud albedo effect has a maximum negative of -1.8 which is about the same as the CO2 maximum. I have a gut feeling the removal of sulfur is causing a lot of the rise of temperature blamed on CO2. Sulfur clears has a more data to back up its cooling effect. Yes CO2 is contributing but not as much as the public thinks.
    I still feel a warmer earth with enhanced growth rates of plants with higher CO2 is not a bad thing. I just returned from South Africa where they have miles and miles of pine forest that once was grass land. Pine trees have a very positive growth rate response to increased CO2 (40%).Driving up energy cost for the poor is worse and can have an adverse effect on our country’s economic health. Based on the Nanotechnology publications I get we should have competitive solar power within 20 years. Chinese companies are jumping into the solar power game and will probably beat us to the punch. Couple that with the big push for nuclear power in China and we will have our hands tied trying to be competitive.
    Where is the heat coming from? Not sure but the ocean is a large body of water surrounded by and covering volcanoes still to be discovered. Have you seen the picture of a saiboat plowing through volcanic ash floating on the surface? Very scary as he had thought he had run aground with nothing on the charts. The earth molten center is very active and is due for a magnetic field switch and this movement can be shifing the heat loss distribution around the globe. Very complex.

  29. 379

    larry W writes:

    [[The earth molten center is very active and is due for a magnetic field switch and this movement can be shifing the heat loss distribution around the globe.]]

    The average geothermal flux at Earth’s surface is about 0.087 watts per square meter. By way of contrast, the flux absorbed from the sun by the Earth system is 237 watts per square meter. Divide A by B to get the ratio of importance as far as Earth’s climate goes.

  30. 380
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Larry W, your post is an excellent example of why scientists shouldn’t listen to laymen when it comes to scientific matter. It is a mish-mash of technological optimism, obfuscation and trial balloons with no consideration as to their relative magnitudes. First, whether it is solar power or nuclear power, it will take decades before either can supply even a significant fraction of global energy needs. And solar still has to resolve the energy storage/backup issue before it is viable. It never ceases to amaze me how people can assume that technology will save us even as they cut back on basic research on which that technology would have to be based.
    So it’s the oceans, huh? Well, then why are the oceans getting warmer, too? This one doesn’t fly. Most of the Ocean is actually quite cold.
    And your idea about the energy coming from Earth’s core is laughable. First, we’d be able to measure such a large increase. Second, the magnitudes are not even close.

    More generally, you seem to want to explain the unknown in terms of the unknown. That’s not science, but rather rationalization for complacency.

  31. 381
    Mary C says:

    Re 378. Can somebody please clarify for the layman the difference in reliability between a “gut feeling” and the gazillions of measurements, reams of research, and scientific theories used by climate scientists? This seems to be part of the problem for the general public. As far as I can tell, a lot of people seem to think that denialists’ “gut feelings” are in opposition to the climate scientists’ “gut feelings”. Obviously, the latter have forgotten all about other warming possibilities than CO2 such as solar irradiance, cosmic rays, and heat from within the earth, so let’s go with the more understandable–and more comfortable–set of “gut feelings”. Quite seriously, I think that many people, including sometimes scientists from other disciplines, have absolutely no idea what the conclusions of the climatologists are based upon, hence, their difficulty in accepting the case for AGW and the ease with which they can be swayed by denialist arguments. Not sure how the scientific community can get around this problem since reeling off numbers and explaining theories will most likely only cause many people’s eyes to glaze over while the denialist explanations frequently seem like, well, common sense.

  32. 382
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Mary C. When in doubt, I try to go back to basics–start with conservation of energy. It takes energy to increase the temperature of a body as big as Earth. It takes energy to melt all that ice. Where is that energy coming from? Well, if you’re a scientist, you start looking at the sources of energy that go into the climate. Very quickly, you see that it cannot be the Sun, since total solar irradiance has been flat or decreasing when we’ve had the most warming recently. The next most important contributor of energy to the climate is the greenhouse effect. Water vapor has such a short residence time in the atmosphere and fluctuates so much that it’s not a good candidate to explain a long-term, steady rise in temperature. However, the 2nd most important ghg is CO2–and that’s a very good candidate. It is also a candidate where we understand the physics very well. You can continue thus and find that CO2 really is the key, and that the other mechanisms really don’t come close.
    The bottom line, though, is the energy has to come from somewhere. Even if you say “it’s all natural”, you have to have an energy source, or you don’t have a scientific theory. Right now, there’s only one theory–anthropogenic CO2.

  33. 383
    larry W says:

    Thanks guys but you still did not answer the most important question I posed and that is what caused the increase in the temperature for the period 1910 to 1945 that has very close to the increase rate as the last 25 years. Also, no one wants to answer the sulfur removal effect. I agree CO2 is a green house gas and has an influence, but something else is at work and we should not stop looking. Clearly global mean air temperature has been flat for four years and global sea temperatures may be dropping slightly. I want real data and not model predictions. Thanks

  34. 384
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Larry W,
    No one answered them because they are not directly relevant. We did not have a globe bristling with instrumentation in 1910 as we do now, so we do not know all the contributors. Increased solar activity played a role–and CO2 was increasing rapidly then as well (remember the contribution is logarithmic in CO2 content). As to sulfur, whatever the source, it stays in the atmosphere for a few months to a few years. CO2 stays for hundreds of years. Oh, and the models are based on real data. Learn something about them.

  35. 385

    larry w writes:

    [[Thanks guys but you still did not answer the most important question I posed and that is what caused the increase in the temperature for the period 1910 to 1945 that has very close to the increase rate as the last 25 years.]]

    The most likely primary cause for the early 20th century warming is the increase in solar luminosity which took place at that time.

    [[ Also, no one wants to answer the sulfur removal effect. I agree CO2 is a green house gas and has an influence, but something else is at work and we should not stop looking. Clearly global mean air temperature has been flat for four years]]

    You don’t determine a trend from four points. Not when you have over 120 available.

    [[ and global sea temperatures may be dropping slightly.]]

    Says who? What’s your source for this statement?

    [[ I want real data and not model predictions. Thanks]]

    Then go to the NOAA and NASA GISS sites and download the data files.

  36. 386
    SecularAnimist says:

    larry W wrote: “Based on the Nanotechnology publications I get we should have competitive solar power within 20 years. Chinese companies are jumping into the solar power game and will probably beat us to the punch.”

    That much of what Larry W wrote is true.

    According to WorldWatch Institute, global production of photovoltaic cells “has risen sixfold since 2000 and grew 41 percent in 2006 alone” and “grid-connected solar capacity … increased nearly 50 percent in 2006.” WorldWatch notes that in 2006, “China passed the United States … to become the world’s third largest producer of the cells — trailing only Germany and Japan … China’s leading PV manufacturer, Suntech Power, climbed from the world’s eighth largest producer in 2005 to fourth in 2006 … China, with its growing need for energy, large work force, and strong industrial base, could drive dramatic reductions in PV prices in the next few years, helping to make solar competitive with conventional power even without subsidies.”

    Regarding new PV technologies, WorldWatch notes that “supply shortages have led manufacturers to find ways to use polysilicon more efficiently, and have accelerated the introduction of new technologies that do not rely on purified silicon and are inherently less expensive to manufacture. So-called thin film cells can be made from amorphous silicon and other low-cost materials, and companies developing these technologies have recently become the darlings of Silicon Valley venture capitalists. Although in the past, thin film cells have not been efficient enough to compete with conventional cells, today over a dozen companies — including Miasole, Nanosolar, and Ovonics — are competing to scale up production of low-cost solar modules that can be churned out like rolls of plastic.”

    With regard to wind power, WorldWatch Institute reports that “global wind power capacity increased almost 26 percent in 2006” and that “the 15,200 megawatts of new wind turbines installed worldwide last year will generate enough clean electricity annually to offset the carbon dioxide emissions of 23 average-sized U.S. coal-fired power plants”.

    The rapid and accelerating worldwide growth of solar and wind generated electricity is definitely one bright spot in the overall CO2 emissions picture. The imminent availability of mass-produced ultra-cheap thin-film photovoltaics has the potential to further accelerate the growth of solar electricity and indeed to revolutionize the production, distribution and use of electricity, much as the personal computer revolutionized “data processing” and the cell phone revolutionized telecommunications.

    In the industrialized world, demand-side changes — elimination of waste, energy conservation and improvements in efficiency — are still the best, fastest and cheapest ways to reduce energy-related carbon emissions. In the developing world, the best, fastest and cheapest way to provide low-carbon electricity to meet growing demand is a rapid expansion of solar and wind generating capacity.

  37. 387
    larry W says:

    Thank you #386. You did a fantastic job demonstrating my point that solar power is here and growing very rapidly, expecially in China. With regard to the comment on storage of electricity batteries are getting better as are inverters to convert to AC. Most systems now connect to the grid with flow in both directions.

    Response to #384. You are correct that if we wanted to remove all CO2 added by man it might take 100 years, but the time to reduce 50% is much shorter. Again a log function. So now past temperature data is not directly revelant, but should we not have to put some faith in data that has many corrections applied. So I can assume that solar activity is the major influence in the temperature change and CO2 had an influence that greatly decreaed after 1945.

    Response to #385: The global temperature came from Hadley Centre and I used just the last 4 years but it has in fact been only lightly up since 1997.
    The sea temperature data can from NASA/NOAA website 09.21.06 Titled: Short-term Ocean Cooling Suggests Global Warming ‘Speed Bump’ They did a very comprehensive massing of all avialble data from 1993 to 2005. Over 1993 to 2003 the temperature increase 0.016 F/yr yet from 2003 to 2005 it dropped 0.027 F/yr. An e-mail to Swally for an update came back with the comment that they found some data collection error and the trend from 2003 is now flat to slightly down with the corrections waiting for publication.

    I still need answers to the glacier references and sea level rise rates I quoted.

  38. 388
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Uh, Larry, do you have even the foggiest notion what you are talking about? The half life of CO2 in the environment is closer to 800 years if I recall correctly. And it decays exponentially, so it takes a long time to return back to its previous value.

    And no I didn’t say past climate is irrelevant, just that there are more uncertainties to energetics than we have now. You can assume whatever you want since you aren’t a scientist and so not bound to follow evidence. Feel free to be wrong.

  39. 389

    larry w continues on the same path as before:

    [[The sea temperature data can from NASA/NOAA website 09.21.06 Titled: Short-term Ocean Cooling Suggests Global Warming ‘Speed Bump’ They did a very comprehensive massing of all avialble data from 1993 to 2005. Over 1993 to 2003 the temperature increase 0.016 F/yr yet from 2003 to 2005 it dropped 0.027 F/yr. ]]

    Larry, we have direct temperature data going back to 1850. You can’t tell the overall trend from three-four years, ten years, or eleven years. It is IRRELEVANT that temperature declined from 2003 to 2005. That is simply not a large enough sample size.

    You have to use all the data. Not just a bit of it that seems to support your idea.

  40. 390
    larry W says:

    Response to # 388. Your are right I am not a scientist just an engineer. I read an article that said if we stopped all input by man today it would take 100 years to remove 99% but a lot fewer years to remove 50%. This sounded reasonable if we include only the interaction between plant life and the ocean surface. If you include the total ocean volume and subsurface land CO2 it is much more complex. The gives an estimated carbon balance with fuel and land use inputing 7.1GT per year. They estimate 3.2 GT goes to CO2 build up and 2.0 GT to the ocean. They state that the scientist do not know what heppens to the leftover 1.9GT. However, the comment was made that several scenarios could cause the land to uptake more carbon dioxide than is released each year. In a subsequent publication on the BOREAS project,they now believe that a lot of the missing carbon is being taken up by areas above 40 degrees N latitude which cuts the middle of the US. The BOREAS project saw the average uptake of 30 grams/sq meter but also some Aspen going over 200 grams. What is your 800 year calculation based on and where do you get your data on the carbon balance?

    [Response: 800 years is more like the right number, and even then, there’s about 20% of the anthropogenic CO2 still stuck in the atmosphere (and the ocean, of course is acidified). Take a look at some of the articles by Dave Archer on RealClimate, on the subject of CO2 lifetime. Then read some of his scientific papers. That will get you a start. He also has an accessible book on this subject for the lay reader coming out from Princeton U. Press. –raypierre]

  41. 391
    veritas36 says:


    Can you resolve for me this discrepancy?
    Singer has listed himself as ‘1962-1964, (First) Director, National Weather Satellite Center’
    But this NOAA web page refers to David Simonds Johnson as “the founding director of the National Weather Satellite Center”

  42. 392
    CobblyWorlds says:

    #390 Larry,

    Just browsing, if I have the wrong end of the stick ignore me.

    a) On the CO2 levels and Gavin’s comment.

    As a start I’d recommend Archers’ “Fate of fossil fuel CO2 in geologic time”
    “A mean atmospheric lifetime of order 10^4 years is in
    start contrast with the “popular” perception of several
    hundred year lifetime for atmospheric CO2. In fairness, if
    the fate of anthropogenic carbon must be boiled down into a
    single number for popular discussion, then 300 years is a
    sensible number to choose, because it captures the behavior
    of the majority of the carbon. A single exponential decay of
    300 years is arguably a better approximation than a single
    exponential decay of 30,000 years, if one is forced to
    choose. However, the 300 year simplification misses the
    immense longevity of the tail on the CO2 lifetime, and
    hence its interaction with major ice sheets, ocean methane
    clathrate deposits, and future glacial/interglacial cycles.”

    Then after that try reading “Long term fate of anthropogenic carbon” Montenegro et al, also from Archer’s publications page.
    “The average
    perturbation lifetime of 1800 years is much longer than the
    300–450 years proposed by some other studies [Archer et
    al., 1997; Archer, 2005]. Given the large differences in
    model type and experiment set up between the present and
    previous experiments, these comparisons should be made
    with care. While there still is a great deal of uncertainty at
    these longer timescales, our results indicate that the long
    term consequences of anthropogenic climate change may be
    much greater than previously thought.”

    The details are unclear (as so often), but the broad message remains: In terms of the timescales of human history our “Terraforming” experiment is very likely irreversible.
    Welcome to the Anthropocene. ;)

    b) On the recent abatement of the warming, this might help: Hadley Centre DePreSys study: “Our system predicts that internal variability will partially offset the anthropogenic global warming signal for the next few years.”
    And from a photocopy of a summary of the paper:
    “In the DePreSys forecast, internal variability offsets the effects of anthropogenic forcing in the first few years, leading to no net warming before 2008 (Fig. 4). In contrast, the NoAssim forecast warms during this period. Regional assessment to February 2007 (fig. S8) indicates that this initial cooling in DePreSys relative to NoAssim results from the development of cooler anomalies in the tropical Pacific and the persistence of neutral conditions in the Southern Ocean. In both cases, the DePreSys forecast is closer to the verifying changes observed since the forecast start date. Both NoAssim and DePreSys, however, predict further warming during the coming decade, with the year 2014 predicted to be 0.30° ± 0.21°C [5 to 95% confidence interval (CI)] warmer than the observed value for 2004. Furthermore, at least half of the years after 2009 are predicted to be warmer than 1998, the warmest year currently on record.”
    i.e. “natural” factors in the Pacific and Southern Ocean are indicated as being responsible for the abatement.
    Reference to the HADCRU Global Near Surface dataset seems to support this.
    Notice the reduced Southern Hemisphere trend, whilst the Northern Hemisphere shows nothing unusual.

  43. 393
    David B. Benson says:

    CobblyWorlds (392) — Likely enough irreversile, unless we figure out a way to convince people to put the fossil carbon back in the ground. The technical means are available. So far, the will to do so on a massive scale is not. :-(

  44. 394
    Mark says:

    Re: Ike [If CO2 has always risen after temperature has, why should it be different now, no matter how much more CO2 is in the atmosphere?]

    Well, take a measurement. Do the measurements in the past show temperature rises before or after CO2 rises IN THIS CASE?


    In this case.

    It doesn’t matter if three thousand years ago, CO2 rose after temperatures did because, basically, it is no longer three thousand years ago. So now that we know (by measurement, not model) that CO2 is preceeding temperature change (where’s the 800 year old rise in CO2 otherwise?) what has changed. Well, dino’s didn’t have oil wells, cars, refrigeration etc, so maybe that is the reason. Why would it have an effect? Because those processes require burning fossil fuels which release CO2.

    The odd thing about that sceptic argument is that it is taking what they complain about AGW scientists are doing: assuming that because this model is right in the past, it must be right in the future and not waiting to see if measurements agree. However, for the sceptics, it’s that in the past CO2 lagged behind temperature and so this is what must be happening now, without having a butchers at the measurements. Worse is that the sceptics could go back and see the measurement record rather than having to wait to see them, since they argue the CO2 increase was in the past and the temperature increase is in the present, whereas AGW is saying CO2 is now (measured) and temperature increase is in the future (cannot measure it now).

    Daft, innit.

  45. 395
    Mark says:

    Re: Ralph 305: How about asking “what will happen if we reduce CO2 by 100ppm” and then try to get there. If AGW is true, then this stops us getting to a bad situation (unless we’ve passed a tipping point, which is what the models are trying to find out). If AGW is incorrect then we’ve got a cleaner planet.

    Industry believes that this is bad and the sceptics think this means we are all being asked to live in caves. However, I don’t see any models from them about how changes in industry that would lead on from increasing/reducing CO2 production will affect industry, just assertions that it WILL be bad. The Stern report got closest but that wasn’t Industry. Now if they were to make such a model, will the sceptics disbelieve them when it comes up with “living in huts” or will they only disbelieve it when it comes up with “meh, fewer iPods sold”?

    The answer to that question will show you what the sceptics motivations are.

    Pity industry won’t do it, though.

  46. 396
    Mark says:

    Re: John Finn (357). How many people in the middle ages in europe transplanted trees from malasia into england? And if they did, how come the only tree ring we could find was this malasian transplant?

    Or were you being funny?

  47. 397
    Mark says:

    Dang it. Sorry. Where is the 800 year old temperature rise that’s causing the CO2 to jump up.

    Cart Horse.