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Did we call it or what

Filed under: — david @ 8 November 2007

Steve Milloy has let fly with the results of his twisted survey of climate scientists, pretty much as we expected. It’s not worth analyzing in any great depth, I’m sure we all have better ways to spend our time, but one tidbit jumped out at me.

The first question of the survey was

Which best describes the reason(s) for climate change?.

The survey offered a choice between human activity or natural variation, or some combination of the two. How to answer this? Before a few decades ago, natural variability was the right answer, but since about 1970, human activity has taken over.

I emailed Milloy with my concern about the indeterminate time scope of the question, and he replied

Hi David,

Present tense verbs imply ongoing climate change.

but now from the press release,

Another notable result is that an astounding 20% of those surveyed said that human activity is the principal driver of climate change.

“So was there no climate change before mankind?” Milloy asked.

The rest is more of the same. Garbage in, trash talk out. OK, back to work, enough time wasted on this.

283 Responses to “Did we call it or what”

  1. 51

    Re Numbers 32 and 39. There was a survey done in 2004 and it was established then, three years ago, that a consensus exists- it hasn’t gone away. How often does a consensus have to be proven before it’s accepted? I cited a study by Naomi Oreskes in the ‘unsinkable’ post and it’s repeated below:

    Naomi Oreskes did a study which many of you are aware of and she found the following:
    [A 2004 article by geologist and historian of science Naomi Oreskes summarized a study of the scientific literature on climate change.[29] The essay concluded that THERE IS A SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS (emphasis mine) on the reality of anthropogenic climate change. The author analyzed 928 abstracts of papers from refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, listed with the keywords “global climate change”. Oreskes divided the abstracts into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. 75% of the abstracts were placed in the first three categories, thus either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, thus taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change; none of the abstracts disagreed with the consensus position, which the author found to be “remarkable”. According to the report, “authors evaluating impacts, developing methods, or studying paleoclimatic change might believe that current climate change is natural. However, none of these papers argued that point.”]

    These efforts by Milloy and others are a desperate attempt to blow smoke and mirrors to obfuscate and dispel the reality that a consensus has existed for years!

  2. 52
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Keith, I really like our current biosphere. Not quite as good as a few thousand years ago, but still rich and varied. I’m not excited at the prospect of megafauna and extraordinary birds being replaced by arthropods or whatever. Especially if it is a consequence of our activities and those are focused on consumption for its own sake. Reading through a recent blurb on msn about a surfer attacked by a shark and saved by dolphins, methinks a world with both sharks and dolphins is a pretty cool place. Should any major change implying drastically less diversity and abundance be welcome by us? If there is any chance we can slow or prevent that change, should we not try?
    Even a massive impact or an all-out nuclear war will not entirely extinguish life, but, still, it would suck.

  3. 53
    Nick Barnes says:

    Jim Cripwell @ 41: Regarding the expected re-freeze of arctic sea ice, I had an email discussion with Bill Chapman at Cryosphere Today in mid-October (when the arctic sea ice anomaly was at a record level, nearly 3 million square kilometres), and reported the essence of it here (see the comment thread on the “Sweatin’ the Mediterranean Heat” article).

    There is still today an arctic sea ice area anomaly – a departure from the 1979-2000 average – of 1.6 million square kilometres. This is declining rapidly.

    2007 was a record-breaking year for arctic sea ice. 2005 was also record-breaking, and although 2006 was low it was not as low as 2005. In the same way, 2008 might not be as low as 2007 (the record low in 2007 was partly due to an unusual weather system). This sort of variation is weather, not climate. But the long-term pattern seen in, for instance, “The Tale of the Tape” at CT, is climate not weather.

    What’s your expectation for the 2008 minimum arctic sea ice area? Above or below the 1979-2000 average? By how much? Are you a betting man?

    [I’ve edited this comment down considerably, in an attempt to post successfully]

  4. 54
    FP says:

    It is not people like you that the skeptics are trying to fool…

    You need catch phrases and rhimes to get through to this crowd. Keep it short or you will lose their attention..

  5. 55
    dhogaza says:

    Jim Cripwell claims:

    Now, early in November, there is almost as much ice this year, as there was on the same date last year.

    Well, no, there’s not. If you think hard, I bet you can figure out why yourself.

  6. 56
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim Cripwell wrote: “At present, there are two rival ideas, and not enough data to demonstrate which side is right.”

    That is just plain false. There is overwhelming data to demonstrate that human activities, principally the burning of fossil fuels, are releasing large quantities of CO2 and other “greenhouse gases”, which is increasing the concentration of these gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, which is causing the Earth to retain more of the Sun’s heat, which is causing the Earth to warm, which is causing changes to the Earth’s climate and biosphere which present a grave danger to the well-being of human beings and all other life on Earth, particularly if we continue burning fossil fuels much longer.

    On the other hand, there is no data to support the “rival” view that the above is not happening.

  7. 57
    Jim Cripwell says:

    Ref 44. Ray writes “I would contend that you have a misconception of what is meant by scientific consensus. It has nothing to do with “opinion” and little to do with particular values for parameters in models. It has to do with evidence and the support that evidence provides for particular models or conclusion.”
    I am afraid, Ray, that you have lost me. Let us take specific, say IPCC AR4 to WG1. This peer reviewed paper has been published; some of us agree with it’s conclusions, some of us don’t. We can carry out a scienific discussion in appropiate fora, and try to decide who is right. The current situation is a stand-off and there is no scientific supreme court to rule. That job is, was, and always will be, done by the hard, measured, independently replicated, experimental data; which is not yet conclusive.
    What good does it do if 1000, 10,000, or 100,000 scientists say there is a consensus that AR4 is scientifically accurate? So far as I can see, it does not change the science one iota.

  8. 58

    [[Even though most would agree warming is occuring, I think few are of the opinion that we are in a crisis.]]

    You think wrong.

  9. 59
  10. 60
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jim, exactly what is the “rival idea” to anthropogenic causation. I’d really like to know, because I haven’t heard one. The IPCC reflects consensus. It does not manufacture it. Another reflection: how many climate experts are publishing “rival ideas” in peer-reviewed scientific journals? Among climate scientists, even the “skeptics” believe that anthropogenic ghg are contributing to climate change.
    That is as good a definition of consensus as any: when your opponents stop publishing alternatives. We’re there.

  11. 61
    Richard Ordway says:


    “With the release of the revised statement by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, no scientific bodies of national or international standing are known to reject the basic findings of human influence on recent climate.”

  12. 62
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #33 (& #58) & “5. We need to do something, anything, right now. (Lose lots of folks on this one.)
    Even though most would agree warming is occuring, I think few are of the opinion that we are in a crisis.”

    Again there is a time issue here. Right now there are bad things happening that could be linked to GW, but we have not at all seen the worst yet, so we are not experiencing really great crises right now.

    However if we do not act now (& perferrably starting last decade :) ) to drastically reduce our GHGs, we could very well be ensuring a serious crisis or cataclysmic events (which would happen in the future, some in the far far future…like the possibility of massive hydrogen sulfide outgassing killing off most of life on earth…what’s remaining of life on earth after all the other GW effects have pretty much done us in). So, technically the big crisis is not upon us yet, but there is terrific urgency to act right now (as if some monster or hurricane were bearing down on us), so as to better ensure the catastrophe won’t happen or will be a fairly mild catastrophe.

    I think this is the most difficult idea to get across to people. Those in the know I’d guess are pretty much quaking in their boots (now) at the extreme sluggishness of people’s response to this problem.

  13. 63
    Hank Roberts says:

    >Arctic sea ice

    Look up: multi-year

    Example of the sort of information needed to assess year to year sea ice amount as it does change, not “the answer” just a suggestion for further reading:
    The sudden increase of the MY ice area maximum at the beginning of winter 1996-1997, by almost 10 6km², compensates the decrease observed during the periods 1991-1996 and 1997-2001. It so happens that, globally, the MY ice area at the beginning of winter 1991 is almost identical to that of the beginning of winter 2001. A likely explanation for this sudden increase might be the occurrence of a cyclonic wind circulation in late spring-beginning of summer 1996 (figure 3) which inhibits and reverses the anti-cyclonic ice circulation, strongly reducing the MY sea ice export, in summer, through Fram Strait and resulting in sea ice accumulation in the Arctic basin (Proshutinsky and Johnson, 1997). Although less pronounced, a similar MY ice area increase occurred for winter 1992-1993. According to Proshutinsky and Johnson, 1997, a typical sea ice cyclonic circulation occurred during summer 1992 (see their figures 17a to 17d).
    ——–end excerpt, see original for figures———

  14. 64

    Re #11, you call that “voting”? come on…

    I have to think of Einstein, who, when he was told that one hundred German physicists had signed a petition denouncing relativity theory as “degenerate, Jewish physics”, remarked dryly that one physicist with a valid argument would have been worth listening to…

  15. 65
    Bob Clipperton (UK) says:

    Re: post # 17 by NielT who says:-

    I have a friend who is well educated and very aware who does not deny the changes are happening, just why.
    He said to me last week “I would be more inclined to believe that we are doing this if the Governments didn’t try and use it for tax raising agendas, rather than to fix the probem”. ……
    What I find more distressing is the complete inability of the scientific community (and the press) to tell the situation the way that people will understand.

    I’ve no idea where NielT hails from but this is, in my opinion, a widespread view held in the UK. Successive governments have piled on our taxes and even just prior to publication of the Stern report, the Govt. minister exacerbated the view by saying ‘taxation must play a part in solving the GW problem’.

    Some of our erstwhile serious newspapers are also adding to the confusion by publishing conflicting articles, (equally weighted to both sides), but not then allowing pertinent criticism in letters. They are obviously taking the line that ‘controversy sells’. For example, most recently the Sunday Telegraph published an article by Messrs C. Booker & R. North – raising all the recent anti-AGW myths. When I say that the 2 gentlemen are well known anti-EU campaigners and are probably trying to imply that GW is an EU plot to subjugate & tax the masses, and lo & behold they are publishing a book on GW, through the Telegraph you will see the sense of frustration many of us pro-AGW believers have. (You may laugh or even smile but this is truly the stuff some of the media is throwing at us regularly). Not a whiff of true science in miles!
    I won’t bore you with others but I do think the layman is deliberately being misinformed on the science of GW. The sceptics are deliberately confusing the science of GW with scare politics in the lay-persons mind.

    Oh how I wish I could persuade a TV production company to do a ‘factual’ series on the science of GW – unlike TGGWS. I’d even do it for expenses only!

  16. 66
    Richard Ordway says:

    re. #34 sidd Says: “as was said at the ruin of constantinople: ‘the hour is late, the need is pressing.’ we have little time and the children have less.”

    Errr, a little more positive note is from what the British ambassador reportedly said to his wife in 1940 after a comment the German ambassador made to him about England’s seemingly hopeless situtation during early World War 2: “You are helpless, you have no army, your prime minister is talking about fighting with liquid courage and we can crush you at any time.”

    The British ambassador later said to his wife, “He’s right. We are not ready. We are playing for time…and time is running out!”

    But, the Brits did not give up even when in a nearly hopeless situation against near overwhelming odds…and won anyway.

  17. 67
    Aaron Lewis says:

    RE 62
    The word crisis is over used, and has lost its impact. Catastrophe is too long and does not have good old fashioned Anglo-Saxon impact. We need some better words.

    Perhaps we could say that, “Significant numbers of extant humans are irrationally exuberant regarding the current state of atmospheric composition; while astute individuals have recognized future non-linear behaviors in environmental parameters that exceed even the most aggressive discounting conventions.”

    Or, as the old Frenchman said, “ We are in the soup.”

    One problem is scientific reticence. A while back, science stepped forward to help solve societie’s problems. Now, science seems to be less involved. Scientists want to do “science” rather than to get involved in the messy process of helping society, “Figure out what to do.” Worse, our “leaders” seem to have less and less background in science.
    Without science and technology, nothing in our modern society functions. Some of that technology is very fragile.

  18. 68
    Julia R says:

    Yes, it is a bogus survey, but interestingly, if you look at the actual survey results, they don’t support his summary statements well at all.

    NeilT in #17 said

    What I find more distressing is the complete inability of the scientific community (and the press) to tell the situation the way that people will understand.

    The problem is that most of the public actually doesn’t understand that this is a complicated system in the way that climate scientists and anyone reading this blog does. Many of the responses given were a reflection of the complexity of feedbacks, ambiguity of tense and what time frame we’re talking about, and subjective questions about “ideal climate.” These are distinctions and ambiguities easily identified by the scientists who appropriately provide qualified answers. But this is lost on the average person on the street. Frankly I’m surprised he didn’t pick out the 17% saying manmade CO2 was the principal driver.

    So this is the communication problem – how to communicate accurately but not have the appropriately qualified answers be spun and misrepresented. I suppose that’s a fundamental problem when one faction is trying to interpret the data with honesty and reason and another faction is cynically manipulating the data. They don’t have to worry about accuracy.

    One of the points made when the last IPCC summary was released was the fact that “95%” means it is an almost certainty. To most people, without that kind of explanation, they would take that to mean, “oh, there’s some doubt.” But only when you explain that 100% certainty is only given to events that have actually occurred, do they get it.

  19. 69
    George Darroch says:

    Apologies if it’s already been posted, but this really does deserve a mention in a thread about skeptics

    Hoax bacteria study tricks climate skeptics:

    OSLO (Reuters) – A hoax scientific study pointing to ocean bacteria as the overwhelming cause of global warming fooled some skeptics on Thursday who doubt growing evidence that human activities are to blame.

    Laden with scientific jargon and published online in the previously unknown “Journal of Geoclimatic Studies” based in Japan, the report suggested the findings could be “the death of manmade global warming theory.”

    Skeptics jumped on the report. A British scientist e-mailed the report to 2,000 colleagues before spotting it was a spoof. Another from the U.S. called it a “blockbuster.”

    Blogger skeptic Neil Craig wrote: “This could not be more damaging to manmade global warming theory … I somehow doubt if this is going to be on the BBC news.”

    It was not clear who was behind the report, which said bacteria in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans emitted at least 300 times more carbon dioxide than industrial activity — a finding that, if true, would overturn the widely held view of scientists that burning fossil fuels are the main cause of warming.

    But scientists knocked the report down.

    “The whole story is a hoax,” Deliang Chen, professor of Meteorology at Gothenburg University in Sweden, told Reuters. He said two “authors” listed as from his University were unknown.

    The comment of the ‘Journal’ was also priceless in setting up this hoax

    “We have also taken the unprecedented step of making the paper freely available on our website: something we have been reluctant to do in the past because of our severe budgetary constraints. We hope that even if the paper is dismissed and ignored by those who subscribe to the “consensus” position on climate change, the truth will eventually seep out. We accept that this is not the best route for scientific discourse to take, but none better appears to be available. We publish in trepidation, but in the knowledge that it is the right thing to do.”

  20. 70
    Charles Muller says:

    #44 I guess each model gave to IPCC its own “best estimate” from its own PDF (and models are equiprobable). I don’t know from which precise quantitative analysis IPPC authors deduced the best estimate of 3K for 2xCO2 (if you’ve the information, I’m interested ; if not, I would suppose it’s an “elicitation of expert views”, that is… a micro-survey on the most interesting papers in the rich litterature on CS). Anyway, papers like Knight et al. 2007 (quoted above) or Roe & Baker 2007 (commented on RC) suggest that narrowing the range of CS to a central “best estimate” is not really a meaningful exercise (but see James Annan blog for another point of view). As CS best estimate has evolved from AR2 to AR3, and AR3 to AR4, I wait for AR5, AR6, AR7…

    #51 I don’t think the definition of consensus by Oreskes 2004 was itself clear. As an example, look at : Signature of recent climate change in frequencies of natural atmospheric circulation regimes, S. CORTI, F. MOLTENI et T. N. PALMER, Nature 398, 799 – 802 (29 April 1999); doi:10.1038/19745
    For Naomi Oreskes, it should be counted as a “consensus” article. In my opinion, no (a paper whose main conclusion is that 1978-98 warming trend in NH can be interpreted as a change in natural variability is not really a support for the supposed consensus statement of IPCC 2001, and not for IPPC 2007 of course). But these questions of “consensus” are not so interesting. Models presently conclude that recent warming has probably a dominant anthropogenic origin. OK, wonderful, now let’s refine the numerous domains where models robustness and convergence are so weak.

    [Response: Your reading of Corti et al is incorrect. Their study indicated that forced responses could exhibit themselves as changes in the natural modes of variability – i.e. global warming could show up as a switch towards more +ve NAO or ENSO for instance. It is not stating that everything seen so far is natural variability. Your mistake shows up exactly how tricky it is for outsiders to judge a paper from it’s abstract. Oreskes did very well in that regard. – gavin]

  21. 71
    ICE says:

    # 70 and reply by gavin

    a new paper by Yiou, Vautard et al. in GRL revisits the assumption of corti et al. in 99, and shows that “These observational results suggest that the main drivers of recent European warming are not changes in regional atmospheric flow and weather regimes frequencies, contrasting with observed changes before 1994. ”
    (just said this because i’m reading it right now..)

  22. 72
    Guy says:

    #51 – of course you are quite correct regarding the meta-analysis study, and I was aware of it. I guess you hit the nail on the head – that was 2004, and still around half the populous don’t believe it. Hence the thinking that perhaps something else to fill newspapers might help. On reflection, the 2004 study is clearly more authoratitive than a poll of opinions of climate scientists (being based entirely on peer-reviewed science), so perhaps there just needs to be a revision of that study on more recent papers to ram the point home. It might well get more press now – this stuff wasn’t so well reported way back then in the dark ages of, er, 2004…

  23. 73
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 61. Richard Ordway–good point. Positions taken by professional societies represent a good measure of consensus. With the shift to waffledom by the AAPG, there are now no denialist professional societies.

    Charles Muller, Your read on Oreskes and on Corti et al. suggests you are seeing what you want to see. Remember, it is GLOBAL warming.

  24. 74
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Fwiw, in the 2000 SCOPE survey of 200 scientists, climate change easily emerged as the top-scoring concern:

  25. 75
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Jim Galasyn: “Fwiw, in the 2000 SCOPE survey of 200 scientists, climate change easily emerged as the top-scoring concern”

    Not to mention that 26 of the other issues listed are directly or indirectly related, caused in part by, or exacerbated by climate change.

  26. 76
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    I was just thinking, what really matters is not so much the concensus, but the reality of what’s happening and what can happen.

    The scientists are sort of like glasses for us near-sighted laypersons. But even with these glasses we don’t see perfectly. It’s the underlying reality that’s important. And since we know this has happened in the past and up to 95% of life on earth died one time & it happed without scientists present or consensus (but we can now see that through our rearview mirror – the paleoclimatologists), the very prudent thing is not to play with matches after spilling a lot of gas all over the floor.

  27. 77
    Timothy Chase says:

    In the “Find the error” thread which was appropriately closed at the appropriate time — and in the appropriate way, there nevertheless was another topic which might deserve a little more discussion — regarding the Rush Limbaugh buying into the benthic bacteria being responsible rising levels of carbon dioxide…

    Jim Galasyn quoted Roy Spencer as responding:

    Several of us (scientists and non-scientists alike) were able, within a matter of seconds to minutes, to identify the paper as a fake. We then spread the word, warning others of the hoax. Therefore, we showed that we do not, as the hoaxer claims, “believe almost anything if it lends support to their position”. We did exactly the opposite. … I would say that not only did the hoaxer’s attempt fail, he would do well to be a little more discerning about scientific claims from politicians and actors.

    Then Jim Galasyn (Find the Error, #12) wrote:

    Perhaps, but has Rush publicly disavowed the hoax?

    Also, it should be fun to see how many times this “study” is cited by denialists in future.

    Spencer could smell the hoax. It would have been hard for anyone with a passing familiarity with the ocean chemistry, benthic bacteria or CO2 levels and emissions not to.

    But how many others? And why did they think it necessary to “spread the word” — unless they were just as convinced as the hoaxster that there would be those, some prominent, who would buy into it?

    More importantly, there is fiction which is just as far removed from reality, “alternate” explanations in terms of cosmic rays, denials of the ability of greenhouse gases to absorb and emit radiation, greenhouse gases rising up so quickly that they emit their radiation into space before it has a chance to warm the earth’s surface, claims that volcanoes are emitting more carbon dioxide than we are, faked-up charts and the like — which people such as Spencer don’t find it necessary to expose. Instead they will simply let those on “their side” believe whatever they want to believe so long as everybody agrees that there isn’t anything which needs to be done about greenhouse gas emissions.

    Why is this?

    The real problem for the “skeptics” in running with this story (and the reason why Spencer found it necessary to cry “Hoax!”) is that it hadn’t originated someone who would actually stand by the story, but like the Sokal incident in which a deconstructionist journal published a hoax-gibberish paper on theoretical physics, a hoaxster who would come forward and expose the gullibility of those who bought into it. The tip-off in this case was the non-existent journal.

    Incidentally, Roy Spencer would probably be familiar with the Sokal hoax – simply given his association with the intelligent design movement. There was a memorable, humorous piece making the rounds a while back that “claimed” Ann Coulter’s attack on evolutionary biology in “Godless” was a Sokal-type hoax. It originally appeared in Skeptical Inquirer, Volume 31, Issue 2 (March/April 2007), but can be found on the web.

    Here is a link:

    The Coulter Hoax
    How Ann Coulter Exposed the Intelligent Design Movement
    By Peter Olofsson

    I should note, however, that I have no reason to believe that Spencer actually subscribes to Skeptical Inquirer. None whatsoever.

  28. 78
    Timothy Chase says:

    In the inline to #70, Gavin wrote regarding Corti (1999):

    Their study indicated that forced responses could exhibit themselves as changes in the natural modes of variability – i.e. global warming could show up as a switch towards more +ve NAO or ENSO for instance. It is not stating that everything seen so far is natural variability.

    Judging from the abstract, it looks like an interesting paper:

    A crucial question in the global-warming debate concerns the extent to which recent climate change is caused by anthropogenic forcing or is a manifestation of natural climate variability. It is commonly thought that the climate response to anthropogenic forcing should be distinct from the patterns of natural climate variability. But, on the basis of studies of nonlinear chaotic models with preferred states or ‘regimes’, it has been argued, that the spatial patterns of the response to anthropogenic forcing may in fact project principally onto modes of natural climate variability. Here we use atmospheric circulation data from the Northern Hemisphere to show that recent climate change can be interpreted in terms of changes in the frequency of occurrence of natural atmospheric circulation regimes. We conclude that recent Northern Hemisphere warming may be more directly related to the thermal structure of these circulation regimes than to any anthropogenic forcing pattern itself. Conversely, the fact that observed climate change projects onto natural patterns cannot be used as evidence of no anthropogenic effect on climate. These results may help explain possible differences between trends in surface temperature and satellite-based temperature in the free atmosphere.

    Signature of recent climate change in frequencies of natural atmospheric circulation regimes
    S. Corti, F. Molteni, and T. N. Palmer
    Nature 398, 799-802 (29 April 1999)

    This article was written prior to our discovery that the sensors were wearing out in satellites, leading to a substantially “smaller” warming trend as measured by satellites. As such, a little dated. But the central idea is quite important. Just because the drying out of Turkey (for example) is due to the North Atlantic Oscillation – natural variation – being more or less locked into its positive phase doesn’t mean that it isn’t due to higher levels of CO2 – anthropogenic forcing. See Sweatin the Mediteranean Heat. Something to keep in mind for the purpose of understanding of course, but also for the purpose of debate since intentionally or not, skeptics will make this mistake from time to time when arguing against anthropogenic global warming.

  29. 79
    Timothy Chase says:

    On why the hoax of CO2-belching benthic bacteria was perpetrated (hat-tip to George Darroch’s 69)…

    Its purpose was to expose the credulity and scientific illiteracy of many of the people who call themselves climate sceptics. While dismissive of the work of the great majority of climate scientists, they will believe almost anything if it lends support to their position. Their approach to climate science is the opposite of scepticism.

    INTERVIEW: author of spoof paper speaks – November 09, 2007

  30. 80
    Charles Muller says:

    #70 Gavin Comment

    Corti et al. 1999 first show that geographical distribution of observed climate change correlates well with patterns of natural variability, and then operate a cluster analysis for two periods 1949-71 and 1971-94. But their paper is unconclusive on the precise point of anthopogenic forcing influece (“we do not have a satisfactory understanding of these regime instabilities, and how anomalous radiative forcing projects on the sensitivity patterns”), so the reader may difficultly conclude that we’ve here the “proof” of an anthropogenic influence on AO,NAO, ENSO, PDO and other natural “Lorenz-attractors” of climate. The conservative conclusion is that patterns of second half XXth century warming and patterns of intrinsic variablity are coherent, and that intrinsic variability may be a sufficient explanation for observed warming (until a probabilistic analysis shows that these patterns significantly diverge from their natural range, but this would suppose we’re able to constrain this range, a quite optimistic horizon for Lorenz attractors).

    But I agree, Corti 1999 is not really pertinent for or against the consensus.

    In Oreskes 2004, the choose of the expression “climate change” in abstract is arbitrary. Just an example of a paper published in the 1933-2003 period and in a peer-reviewed publication :
    Lindzen (1997) Can increasing atmospheric CO2 affect global climate? Proc. Natl..Acad. Sci. USA, 94, 8335-8342.
    As Lindzen concludes to a CS of 0,3-0,5°C for doubling CO2, it’s hard to say this paper supports the consensus for a recent and significant warming due to human CO2.

    (The same is true for many other Linden papers published between 1993 and 2003, of course. And for many other papers as well, either they do not include the expression “climate change” in abstract or they do not adress directly the “consensus”, but their conclusions suggest other mechanisms that anthropogenic CO2 – direct and indrect effect of solar forcing for example).

    So, I persist and sign : the “Big Sister” Oreskes conclusion (100% of scientific papers agree with IPCC) is a rhetorical / methodological artifact rather than an objective assessment on climate sciences.

    [Response: Oreskes was very clear she was sampling the literature and not stating that no papers existed which questioned the consensus. However, if questioning the consensus was very wide spread, then the sample would have likely contained some examples. It did not, giving rise quite naturally to the conclusion that any questioning of the consensus is a minority occupation at best – therefore it is, in fact, a consensus. Your paraphrase of Oreskes’ conclusion is not to be found in her work – you should instead read her paper. – gavin]

  31. 81
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Re the Best Science Blog vote, Bad Astronomy and Climate Audit tied for first place:

    Who would have predicted that result?

  32. 82
    Timothy Chase says:

    I looked up Roy Spencer’s statement on the CO2-belching benthic bacteria hoax at his website – found it – and found the following…

    How Could So Many Climate Modelers Be So Wrong?

    This is a question that fascinates me, not just from a science perspective, but a sociological perspective as well. I thought it might be good to address this question first: …

    2. The most important example of this lack of understanding is, in my view, how precipitation systems control the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect, over 90% fo which is due to water vapor and clouds. The Earth’s total greenhouse effect is not some passive quantity that can be easily modified by mankind adding a little carbon dioxide — it is instead constantly being limited by precipitation systems, which remove water vapor and adjust cloud amounts to keep the total greenhouse effect consistent with the amount of available sunlight. Our understanding of this limiting process is still immature, and therefore not contained in the models.

    Global Warming and Nature’s Thermostat:
    Precipitation Systems
    by Roy W. Spencer, Ph.D.

    Of course rain isn’t taking the excess CO2 out of the atmosphere.

    And why would the precipitation system try “… to keep the total greenhouse effect consistent with the amount of available sunlight”? More than a hint of the teleological fallacy here.

    It would seem to have a basis in his own peculiar religious beliefs: we don’t know, we don’t understand, but we can apparently believe that it does so for our benefit without such understanding. Incidentally, it may worthwhile for some to contrast his views against those of many other evangelicals. For example, see: Evangelical Leaders Join Global Warming Initiative, NYT Feb 8, 2006.

    In terms of water vapor feedback, what is the difference between forcing due to increased levels of solar radiation and increased levels of carbon dioxide raising the level of longwave radiation reaching the surface? Nothing is suggested — and at least at the superficial level of his analysis, there is no reason to think that there will be any difference. But of course at some level he no doubt can see as much.

  33. 83
    Richard Ordway says:

    Lynn wrote: “The scientists are sort of like glasses for us near-sighted laypersons.”

    Here is my analogy from a perspective of someone living it, breathing it and sleeping it for over 11 years and being surrounded by publishing peer-review scientists and being challenged on published science almost on a daily basis by the public and exterior visiting non-peer-reviewed “scientists”:

    My analogy is that mainstream scientists (not the fringe groups who can often say whatever they want without consequences)…is that mainstream scientists are the scouts for humanity.

    Image that humanity is an army lead by generals. They need eyes to keep out of ambushes ahead which they can’t see and can’t commit their massive slow moving forces to easily.

    These scouts (mainstream scientists) have on the whole saved the army’s bacon quite a few times by reporting dangerous situations… ie. the ozone hole (a real biggie), acid rain, pollution, SARS and now global warming.

    The scouts use probability so that the generals can get a sense of the danger…ie. the Y2K risk without preparations was perhaps 25% (but a lot was done to stop it), bird flu risk as published is probably only 15% risk a year at most. A dangerous asteroid hitting us any year is pretty low too, but eventually inevitable. The ozone hole risk was however listed at 95% probability. Global warming is listed at a 95% probability.

    Now, a general is pretty stupid if he ignores these percentage warnings in the world-wide juried, peer-reviewed scientific literarature body-of-evidence built up and staying solid over many years…perhaps even suicidal and certainly incompetent.

    He is even stupider, if he (or she) now gags his scouts, and ties them up because of what they report.

  34. 84

    re 77.

    Given that Limbaugh refused to believe that the bogus J.Geoclim.Stud. text was _not_ a real science journal article, despite Spencer telling him it was a wheeze, , one wonders what he might not fall for now that Sokal’s methodology has been partially automated :

  35. 85
    Jim Cripwell says:

    Ref 60. Ray writes “Jim, exactly what is the “rival idea” to anthropogenic causation.” The rival idea to AGW is that the sun controls the climate. As I have noted many times, there is not one jot of EXPERIMENTAL data which connects the recent alleged rise in global temperature with the recent rise in CO2 concentration. If there were any, it would have been front and center in AR4 to WG1. By “recent”, I mean since WWII. All AGW is, is a hypothesis unsupported by any experimental data. Likewise the idea that the sun controls climate suffers from the same problem. There is lots of correlation, but no experimental data. I have convinced myself that the physical properties of CO2 are such that it cannot possibly be the cause of AGW. Hence there must be another cause, and the most likely candidate is the sun. If you are looking for someone who uses the sun to forecast weather and climate, try Piers Corbyn. However, dont expect anything peer reviewed. Piers makes money from his forecasts, and does not reveal how he does it. When he started some 20 years ago, he won a significant amount of money betting on his forecasts. He was so successful that now he has now been barred from laying any bets, because his forecasts are too accurate. It is Piers contention that not only does the sun control climate, it controls weather as well.

    [Response: Any commercial success Corbyn has is testament only to the maxim that a fool is soon parted from his money. ‘Secret’ techniques and self-validated ‘predictions’ are the realm of hucksters, not scientists. But ignoring all that, no solar index shows a positive trend since the 1960s – how can it possibly account for the trend in recent decades? You may have convinced yourself the GHGs aren’t responsible – but you have yet to convince any others. – gavin]

  36. 86
    John Mashey says:

    #51, #70, #72, etc. Hoaxes, consensus, Oreskes

    1) For people who want to understand more about the nature of scientific consensus in general, I recommend Naomi Oreskes longer essay:

    It gives a lot more than could be crammed into that 1-pager in Science.

    2) Guy considers updating the oreskes study, and we just went through that with the silly Monckton / Schulte / Ferguson / Morano vs Oreskes+consensus “hoax”, which did however manage to widely spread a bogus climate study by an NHS endocrinologist (who turned out be totally incompetent at climate science and plagiarism). I.e., it was more successful that this recent spoof, although the bottom line was the same: there was still overpowering consensus.

    If for some reason you care about that, but weren’t following it while it was happening, I wrote up a timeline+analysis that pulled everything together, as it is confusing to track from the various blogs. The folks at Zero Carbon in Cambridge posted it for me:

  37. 87
    Figen Mekik says:

    Thanks Timothy Chase, I appreciate your citing my post. :)

  38. 88
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Lynn, while objective reality is the ultimate biter of tuckuses, scientific consensus matters as our best estimate of what objective reality looks like. Consensus is the difference between science in the 1700s–when the Isaac Newton’s influence and advocacy of of the corpuscular theory of light caused England to slip decades behind Europe in optics–and science in the 1900s–when physics embraced quantum mechanics, despite the opposition of influential physicists like Einstein and Schroedinger.

  39. 89
    Ric Merritt says:

    OK, this is in the wrong thread, but it’s your fault. Very soon after putting up your Nov 9 post, “Find the error”, about pieces in the Ely (Nev) Times, you closed it to comments, but no one seems to have pointed out that the first of your linked “rather egregious contrarian” pieces is written tongue in cheek. Read again a little more carefully. Seems to me that a small update to the post is called for, today not being April 1. Of course, in your defense, many other similar rants alas seem to be in earnest. And, not having or wanting much knowledge of the context at the Ely Times, I can’t say whether the editor and publisher were in on the joke or nodding in agreement.

  40. 90
    rk says:

    Re: Timothy Chase and Russell Seitz and the hoax. Sorry to burst your bubble, but Rush corrected the hoax immediately after the commercial. Laughed at getting hoaxed, told people to ignore the segment. Then Spencer put an apology on Rush’s webpage for issuing a poorly worded note to Rush, that mis-led him. Actually, the first comment on the hoax was on Planet Gore on the 7th. This is why the Nature story on the Pseudonymous hoaxter had to resort to finding a no-name blogger that had been fooled (so sad). Actually, the question is why a eviro-hoaxer would want to spend so much time, effort and creativity to tweak skeptics. Those of you who haven’t looked at it are missing something. It was a thing of beauty, insofar as formats, framing etc. Agent provocateur, anyone?

  41. 91
    Timothy Chase says:

    Charles Muller (#80) wrote:

    The conservative conclusion is that patterns of second half XXth century warming and patterns of intrinsic variablity are coherent, and that intrinsic variability may be a sufficient explanation for observed warming (until a probabilistic analysis shows that these patterns significantly diverge from their natural range, but this would suppose we’re able to constrain this range, a quite optimistic horizon for Lorenz attractors).

    You write, “… until a probabilistic analysis shows that these patterns significantly diverge from their natural range, but this would suppose we’re able to constrain this range, a quite optimistic horizon for Lorenz attractors.”

    In terms of the spatial pattern, yes. The trend in global average temperature is a different matter — which I presume their analysis leaves unaffected. In contrast, the related temporal pattern of red noise affects the trend analysis of global average temperature, but not by much. And judging from the abstract at least, the authors seemed to be strongly leaning towards the view that they summarized as, “… the spatial patterns of the response to anthropogenic forcing may in fact project principally onto modes of natural climate variability.”

    In any case, it looks like an interesting paper. I will have to get a copy.

  42. 92
    Timothy Chase says:

    Russell Seitz (#84) wrote:

    Given that Limbaugh refused to believe that the bogus J.Geoclim.Stud. text was _not_ a real science journal article, despite Spencer telling him it was a wheeze, , one wonders what he might not fall for now that Sokal’s methodology has been partially automated :…

    I see what you mean:

    However, Singer of the Frankfurt School , denying the Ibsonian angst of An Inconvenient Truth, affirms capitalist subdialectic stratosphere theory as a medium of semiosis and implies that even if…

    The Opeditorial Climate Optimum
    November 08, 2007

    Hey, wait a second…

    The world appears to be warming first at the surface, but according to the dialectical forcing/feedback analysis, forcing is defined at the top of the atmosphere where change begins with the cooling of the stratosphere. This is the same sort of camera obscura which Marx mentioned in relation to our tools and our ideas — where it appears that changes to our ideas come first but in reality things are inverted.

    Its all beginning to fall into place now. But does this mean that global warming theory is… Marxist…?

  43. 93
    mg says:

    those who are addicted to consensus don’t like things that shake consensus.

    as far as Einstein is concerned, those who administered Nobel prizes went out of their way not to award a Nobel prize for the work on relativity at the start of the 20th century. instead, they fumbled around until they found a good escape clause, written around the photoelectic effect.

    those who have recently administered Nobel prizes have not properly explained why the IPCC has been prized for not properly addressing the issue of nonlinear response of ice sheets.

    the work of the ipcc has left the world in confusion about the real risks of sea level rise. that is not worthy of a Nobel prize nor should the public accept it as such.

    like the student who isn’t give marks for homework unitl the homework is done (which reminds me of Stefan’s comments on the application of error theory in his recent post on the work of the IPCC sea level team), the ipcc should bring back its Nobel prize and have it placed back in the prizes cupboard until it has cleared up the risk confusion.

  44. 94
    Charles Muller says:

    #86 John, I’m interested by the Oreskes essay but there’s a problem with your URL.

  45. 95

    Jim Cripwell writes:

    [[As I have noted many times, there is not one jot of EXPERIMENTAL data which connects the recent alleged rise in global temperature with the recent rise in CO2 concentration.]]

    The experimental work was done by John Tyndall in 1859-1863. Do you understand how a greenhouse gas works? If the greenhouse effect didn’t exist, the Earth would be frozen over. It’s very real.

  46. 96
    Jim Cripwell says:

    Ref my 80, Gavin writes “But ignoring all that, no solar index shows a positive trend since the 1960s – how can it possibly account for the trend in recent decades? You may have convinced yourself the GHGs aren’t responsible – but you have yet to convince any others.” Since we have no idea what the physics is (if any), as to how the sun affects climate, how do we know what positive trend to look for? And I am never going to convince anyone that GHGs are not responsible for global warming. Only the hard, experimental data can do this.

    [Response: This is great. Despite the fact that the trends are well explained by our current understanding of increasing GHGs and their effects, you prefer to put faith in an unmeasured, undetected, unphysical ‘something’ that might (or might not) have something to do with the sun. Meanwhile every measure that is being made on the sun – irradiance, magnetic activity, radio flux activity, cosmic ray shielding show no long term trends in recent decades. This is hardly a scientific attitude and you wouldn’t apply this kind of logic to any other scientific issue – gavin]

  47. 97
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Charles Muller,
    First, if you will recall, Oreskes’s conclusions did not go unchallenged at the time. Benny Peiser attempted to publish a rebuttal in Science, but was hoisted on his own petard when he leaked the study to the press prior to publication, and Science told him “Thanks, but no thanks.” It is doubtful that Peiser would have been published anyway, as a review of his “dozens” of publications questioning the consensus, turns up maybe half a dozen that really do. Moreover, all of these predate 2000–most by a considerable amount. Moreover, I would note that Lindzen has never actually defended his absurdly low value for CO2 forcing–typically, he threw it out there and sat there quietly humming as it was ripped to tiny little shreds.
    So, Charles, if you don’t buy the consensus, go find some papers–published by climate scientists in peer-reviewed scientific journals–that question it. Go ahead. We’ll wait.
    Scientific consensus, in any case, does not require 100% agreement. You might enjoy perusing this bit about the N ray controversy:
    One of the oddities of scientific evidence is that it is much easier to say comparatively whether a given piece of evidence supports one theory over its competitors than it is to say a theory is true. One definition of consensus is when you run out of credible competing theorys to which you can compare. We’re there.

  48. 98
    Bob Clipperton (UK) says:

    Re my earlier post #65 in which I indirectly criticised the Daily telegraph in the UK, I have to report that after many attempts the editor has published today one of my letters:-

    It has galvanised me now to keep on trying to counter the contrarian’s falsities.

  49. 99
    Charles Muller says:

    #80 Comment

    Gavin, I read Oreskes paper when it was published but I read it again as you engage me.

    First, an assertion like “But our grandchildren will surely blame us if they find that we understood the reality of anthropogenic climate change and failed to do anything about it” has surely its place in an Al Gore meeting, but not really in a scientific review. At best, it reveals the personal opinion of the author. At worse, her prejudice.

    Second, Oreskes explains that 75% of papers explicitly or implicitly accept the consensus view. But what does exactly mean an “implicit acceptation”? Let’s take this Hasselmann Science paper (with “climate change” in the abstract). His point : there’s still uncertainty in the emergence of anthropogenic warming in the noise of climate variability, because models poorly constrain aerosols, clouds, tropical ocean/atmosphere coupling, etc. So, this paper does not accept nor reject the consensus position (“most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”), it simply underscores the remaining uncertainties in such an exercise of detection-attribution. What should we conclude? As a skeptic, I’ll conclude that Hasselmann recognize the poor constrain of climate models and therefore the poor likelihood of any statement about past or future climate change – to say “likely” rather than “more likely than not” or “as likely as not” is a choice whose objective or quantitative basis is weak. (Of course, I’m pretty sure Klaus Hasselmann himself does not reject the consensus, but that’s not the problem).

    Climate Change: Enhanced: Are We Seeing Global Warming?
    K. Hasselmann
    Measurements over the last century show that the global mean temperature has increased by about 0.5 degrees C. But how much, if any, of that increase can be attributed to human activity is uncertain and highly controversial. In his Perspective, Hasselmann discusses recent efforts to untangle anthropogenic climate change from natural climate variability. Improvements in computer modeling have reduced the scatter in climate change simulations from 50 to 20%, but significant differences remain. To resolve the contentious issues of anthropogenic warming, more work will be needed on the role of aerosols, clouds, and ocean-atmosphere coupling in climate change.
    Science 9 May 1997: Vol. 276. no. 5314, pp. 914 – 915 DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5314.914

    Third, how are we sure Oreskes focus on the expression “climate change” in abstract does not constitute an initial bias? This global expression is mainly used by AOGCM modellers working in the IPCC process, so it would be surprising to find in their peer-reviewed many papers contradicting the consensus defined from these papers. If we take “solar forcing” or “natural variability” as key-words for 1993-2003 peer-reviewed publications, we will certainly find a wider range of scientific positions, including some which suggest solar forcing ou natural variability are the main drivers of recent climate change (so, implicit or explicit rejection of consensus).

  50. 100
    James says:

    Re #89: [ And, not having or wanting much knowledge of the context at the Ely Times…]

    One important piece of context is that there’s a proposal to build a large coal-fired power plant in the area. Search on “White Pine Power Project” if interested.