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What if you held a conference, and no (real) scientists came?

Filed under: — group @ 30 January 2008

Over the past days, many of us have received invitations to a conference called “The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change” in New York. At first sight this may look like a scientific conference – especially to those who are not familiar with the activities of the Heartland Institute, a front group for the fossil fuel industry that is sponsoring the conference. You may remember them. They were the promoters of the Avery and Singer “Unstoppable” tour and purveyors of disinformation about numerous topics such as the demise of Kilimanjaro’s ice cap.

A number of things reveal that this is no ordinary scientific meeting:

  • Normal scientific conferences have the goal of discussing ideas and data in order to advance scientific understanding. Not this one. The organisers are suprisingly open about this in their invitation letter to prospective speakers, which states:

    “The purpose of the conference is to generate international media attention to the fact that many scientists believe forecasts of rapid warming and catastrophic events are not supported by sound science, and that expensive campaigns to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not necessary or cost-effective.”

    So this conference is not aimed at understanding, it is a PR event aimed at generating media reports. (The “official” conference goals presented to the general public on their website sound rather different, though – evidently these are already part of the PR campaign.)

  • At the regular scientific conferences we attend in our field, like the AGU conferences or many smaller ones, we do not get any honorarium for speaking – if we are lucky, we get some travel expenses paid or the conference fee waived, but often not even this. We attend such conferences not for personal financial gains but because we like to discuss science with other scientists. The Heartland Institute must have realized that this is not what drives the kind of people they are trying to attract as speakers: they are offering $1,000 to those willing to give a talk. This reminds us of the American Enterprise Institute last year offering a honorarium of $10,000 for articles by scientists disputing anthropogenic climate change. So this appear to be the current market prices for calling global warming into question: $1000 for a lecture and $10,000 for a written paper.
  • At regular scientific conferences, an independent scientific committee selects the talks. Here, the financial sponsors get to select their favorite speakers. The Heartland website is seeking sponsors and in return for the cash promises “input into the program regarding speakers and panel topics”. Easier than predicting future climate is therefore to predict who some of those speakers will be. We will be surprised if they do not include the many of the usual suspects e.g. Fred Singer, Pat Michaels, Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer, and other such luminaries. (For those interested in scientists’ links to industry sponsors, use the search function on sites like sourcewatch.org or exxonsecrets.org.)
  • Heartland promises a free weekend at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan, including travel costs, to all elected officials wanting to attend.

This is very nice hotel indeed. Our recommendation to those elected officials tempted by the offer: enjoy a great weekend in Manhattan at Heartland’s expense and don’t waste your time on tobacco-science lectures – you are highly unlikely to hear any real science there.


452 Responses to “What if you held a conference, and no (real) scientists came?”

  1. 51
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Baffin Island Ice Caps Shrink by Half in 50 Years

    BOULDER, Colorado, January 28, 2008 (ENS) – Icy Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic is not half as icy as it was just 50 years ago. Ice caps on the island’s northern plateau are 50 percent smaller in area than they were in 1950 due to warming temperatures and are expected to vanish by the middle of the century, according to new research from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

    Radiocarbon dating of dead plant material emerging from beneath the receding ice show the Baffin Island ice caps are now smaller in area than at any time in at least the last 1,600 years, said geological sciences Professor Gifford Miller of CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research.

    “Even with no additional warming, our study indicates these ice caps will be gone in 50 years or less,” he said.

    Located just west of Greenland, the 196,000 square mile Baffin Island is the fifth largest island in the world. Most of it lies above the Arctic Circle.

    The study also showed two distinct bursts of Baffin Island ice cap growth beginning about 1280 A.D. and 1450 A.D., each coinciding with ice core records of increases in stratospheric aerosols tied to major tropical volcanic eruptions, Miller said.

    The unexpected findings “provide tantalizing evidence that the eruptions were the trigger for the Little Ice Age,” a period of Northern Hemisphere cooling that lasted from roughly 1250 to 1850, he said. …

  2. 52
    SecularAnimist says:

    Paul wrote: “… from my perspective as a layman it seems to me that ‘forecasts of rapid warming and catastrophic events’ are based on climate models that have not been thoroughly verified and that necessarily make assumptions about many important aspects of the climate that are poorly understood …”

    Rapid warming is not a “forecast”. Rapid warming is already being empirically observed. Catastrophic events are not a “forecast”. Catastrophic events, including unprecedented heat waves and droughts, are already occurring all over the world.

    It is true that these empirically observed facts have shown the models to be flawed, since the observed effects are more extreme and are occurring more rapidly than forecast by the models.

    The inherent uncertainty of the models and their forecasts is additional reason to move quickly and aggressively to mitigate anthropogenic global warming, not a reason to delay — especially since the necessary measures (phasing out fossil fuels in favor of maximally efficient use of clean, renewable, sustainable energy sources; reforestation; and organic agriculture) have numerous other benefits that more than offset any costs.

  3. 53
    Robodruid says:

    If you ever expect the voting public to act on your scientifc interpertations, then you need to be willing to debate these issues in a forum that the voting public can attend.

    [Response: I give talks in public, generally for free, all the time. The number of the ‘voting public’ at this event will be minimal. – gavin]

  4. 54
    Louis-Philippe Caron says:

    $1,000 for a talk? $10,000 for a paper? As a Ph.D. student, I am a bit offended at how cheap they value my soul (and reputation).

  5. 55
    Michael says:

    Look at it from thier point of view. If you were convinced the whole world was jumping onto the alarmist bandwagon, while environmentalists swim in rising oceans of cash, what methods would you use to combat the hysteria? Hold a non-scientific climate science conferance? Produce a movie? Organize concerts across the globe to increase awareness?

    [Response: No. I’d write serious papers, have serious conversations, go to serious conferences. That’s how scientific arguments go. If I were a politician or an advocate then I’d try some of those other things, but I wouldn’t pretend they were science. However, their tactics are self-defeating. If they truly think that the solutions proposed are not optimal, they need to suggest better solutions. Denying there is a problem at all makes it impossible for them to be taken seriously when solutions are discussed. – gavin]

  6. 56
    Walt Bennett says:

    Off Topic

    Gavin,

    I have a question based on the snow event going on in China. It occurs to me that AGW theory predicts more precipitation; do the models account for some of that falling as snow, causing the albedo to flip? In other words, increased snow cover would be a negative feedback.

    I’m just wondering how that’s handled.

    Thanks.

    [Response: The models make snow if it’s cold enough, and snow cover persists if it doesn’t melt. However, though I haven’t looked in detail, the warming signal almost certainly overwhelms any potential increased deposition of snow signal (this is not something I’ve seen though) since snow cover goes down pretty robustly. – gavin]

  7. 57
    Deech56 says:

    So who got the invitation? Can it be forwarded? I nominate Eli. That would be fun to watch. I think Raypierre should go so he can have a pleasant chat with Marc Morano. Maybe some starving grad students should take up the challenge. $1,000 will buy a lot of Ramen noodles.

  8. 58
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Louis-Philippe Caron said:”$1,000 for a talk? $10,000 for a paper? As a Ph.D. student, I am a bit offended at how cheap they value my soul (and reputation).”

    It’s an election year. Souls are cheap.

  9. 59
    John Mashey says:

    [not joking]
    http://www.heartland.org/NewYork08/newyork08.cfm
    http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=22684 lists the speakers so far.
    People will recognize the names.

    The main page says:
    “Discounts for registration are available for journalists and students to encourage their attendance. Free admission and travel and hotel scholarships are available to elected officials, scientists, economists, and policy experts who are recommended by sponsors and track chairmen.”

    Suppose one knows an elected official who actually understands climate change issues and is supportive of actions to do anything about it. Suppose one contacted them, and suggested that:

    (a) Here is a chance to experience firsthand attempted politicization of science in action.

    (b) Please attend, and take a copy of http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php with you, and see how many they manage to use.

    (c) If you actually hear anything that makes sense, write it down and let’s discuss it when you get back.

    (d) And besides, it’s a free trip to NYC, on Heartland.

    Anyway, I think there are politicians who have been convinced by science, but at least some do not understand the nature of the opposition as much as they might, and actually attending such an event might actually be useful to them. This is *not* to attempt debates, which are totally impossible in such a venue.

    The one worrisome piece is the “recommended by sponsors and track chairman.”

    I’d try this on a few of the local legislators … but I’m in California, and I suspect such people will have a hard time getting recommended…

  10. 60
    Steve Mauget says:

    Those who received an invitation to this conference, and feel qualified to speak on the the topic of anthropogenic warming, might have accepted the invitation AND formally requested to speak on the topic of a submitted abstract. Given the Heartland Institute’s agenda the latter would probably be denied, but let them go on the record with that denial. This approach might provide some kind of paper trail – a big trail if enough people tried it – showing that this meeting is not an open invitation for dialogue.

  11. 61
    Paul says:

    “Rapid warming is not a “forecast”. Rapid warming is already being empirically observed.”
    I guess the question it is a question as to what one considers rapid warming and for what period. Using the instrument record and cherry picking starting dates, it is possible to show no warming, some warming, or relatively fast warming.

  12. 62

    I’ll tell you, that money looks awfully good to a temp clerical worker like me. Maybe I could put together some inane piece of crap in formal manuscript format and register. If I could do it under an assumed name, that is…

  13. 63
    Rod B says:

    As one who also suggested the AGW proponents must debate within public forums (and according to public forum rules, not formal debating or true scientific discourse rules), I need to weigh in. I think Sean has very valid arguments, but in the broadset sense. Any of the public forums mentioned above will have these guys at a disadvantage, but some can be handled, others pose a more difficult problem. I think this conference has far too many cards stacked them.

    At first I thought Oh! Goody. I can go someplace and get support for my (scientific) skeptism. Unfortunately I then went to Heartland Institute’s website. Neve could get much past the pop-ups and advertising of everything, it seems, other than scientific stuff. (Maybe because they imply their site is still under partial construction…..)

  14. 64
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Paul said, “Using the instrument record and cherry picking starting dates, it is possible to show no warming, some warming, or relatively fast warming.”

    Again, where are you getting this. Any reasonable statistical analysis over time periods not dominated by “noise” shows we are still warming. Any fool can lie with statistics. What takes skill is using them to illustrate the truth. Or, as Andrew Lamb might have said of the denialists: [They] use statistics like a drunk uses a lamp pole–for support rather than illumination.

  15. 65
    Walter Pearce says:

    Re: #58. Looks like they’re testing a new propaganda buzzword: “Modern Warming.” Makes it sound “all-natural,” doesn’t it?

  16. 66
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Michael,
    Here’s what I don’t understand. OK, let’s say you’re with the Heartland Institute. You believe in free markets, and presumably you understand them at some level. You are apalled at the prospect of liberal-commie-pinko-fag-junkie-liberal-environmentalists destroying the free market in response to climate change. So, do you trot right out and say that the free market can handle the challenge and propose free market solutions and harness the creativity of corporate America? NO! Instead, you attack the science–which you don’t understand and which if pretty much a lead-pipe cinch. Not only does this appear to be attacking where your strengths arent, it appears to be driven by a deep insecurity as to whether free markets are up to the challenge. It’s as if you don’t really believe in the power of free markets and are just hoping no real challenges will come along and expose you. Pretty pathetic.

  17. 67
    Hank Roberts says:

    Paul, do you have a library where you can read the journal _Science_? Look for the copy arriving this weekend, as reported here:
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/01/31/MNC9UOA3M.DTL

    Test your preconcieved notions by reading the last words of that newspaper report about the Science article —

    “In the Science report global warming and water, Barnett and his colleagues said that two-thirds of the measured climate change in the past 50 years has been “human-induced” – a conclusion Milly argued is understated.
    ——-
    Does your reaction on reading that reveal any bias about what you want to believe? Does it lead you to be curious what’s in the actual published _Science_ article? I hope you want to read the real thing.

    Don’t trust second-hand reports, read for yourself.

  18. 68
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Re #43

    Good room service?

    Hank… I’m stunned. You, you… how can you even think a thing like that? :-)

  19. 69

    Ray Ladbury (#63) wrote:

    Again, where are you getting this. Any reasonable statistical analysis over time periods not dominated by “noise” shows we are still warming. Any fool can lie with statistics. What takes skill is using them to illustrate the truth.

    Tamino did graphs that show quite eloquently there is no legitimate reason for claiming that the warming has stopped earlier today:

    Please see (second and third graphs):

    You Bet!
    January 31, 2008
    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2008/01/31/you-bet

    What you will see is the same trend with the same variability we have been having since 1979 — with perhaps a slight rise in the trend in the past decade or so.

  20. 70
    Paul says:

    Paul said, “Using the instrument record and cherry picking starting dates, it is possible to show no warming, some warming, or relatively fast warming.”

    “Again, where are you getting this. Any reasonable statistical analysis over time periods not dominated by “noise” shows we are still warming. Any fool can lie with statistics. ”

    I haven’t questioned that the average global temperatures are increasing. I just question whether it is accurate to characterize the warming as “rapid”.
    The rate of warming since 1860 is not especially rapid. The rate of warming since the 1930’s is not especially rapid. The rate of warming over the last ten years is not especially rapid. If you choose to look at warming rates since the late seventies, this is more concerning. Even so, as I understand the data, the warming rate of the last three decades is not substantially greater than the rate of increase from 1915 to 1945.
    The point of my original post was that the alarming scenarios are the results of global climate model projections. Some one responded by saying that “Rapid warming is not a “forecast”. Rapid warming is already being empirically observed” I am not so sure. It depends on what one considers “rapid” and what period one is observing.

  21. 71
    Paul says:

    “And while global climate models do indeed have uncertainties, the role of CO2 in causing warming is not uncertain at all. All the available science–from paleoclimate studies to laboratory IR spectroscopy measurements supports it.”
    I agree that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and increased CO2 emissions have likely caused some global warming. The extent that CO2 will cause future global warming is not well understood. The IPCC projections/scenarios show a range of uncertainty from relative modest warming (i.e. 1.1 degree by 2100) to extreme warming (6.4 degrees by 2100) under the scenario that assumes rapid economic growth. Furthermore, the range of uncertainty reflected in these scenarios suggests to me that we do not have a good answer to how much of the current observed warming has been caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

  22. 72
    Michael says:

    Ray,
    Conferances meant to sway popular opinion are a function of a free market. (I assume you are using the term meaning ‘without government interferance’)

    Holding a conferance with a one sided debate so that media can quote these ‘experts’ is no more deplorable than producing a one sided movie for pop-culture to reference. [edit]

    [Response: The free market has nothing to do with scientific-sounding deceptions. The interesting thing is that true free marketeers are very strongly of the belief that distortions in markets caused by unpriced externalities cause inefficient allocations of goods. Since the cost of climate change is just such an externality, you’d think they would be clamouring for a carbon tax, and indeed many free market economists do (including Lomborg, Tol, and Nordhaus for instance). Heartland is much more interested in protecting special interests than in applying real free market economics to the problem. – gavin]

  23. 73
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #55,

    Hoping not to get lost in the shuffle. Can anybody lend some info on my question?

    Much obliged.

  24. 74
    Michael says:

    “The free market has nothing to do with scientific-sounding deceptions.”

    On the contrary, a free market has everything to do with scientific truths, as well as scientific sounding deceptions. The market doesn’t care if its a lie or a truth. The hope in the free market is that people will be informed enough to distinguish between the two.

    Many that believe in a free market are the same that are against socialitic ideas like carbon caps and credits.

    [Response: You appear to be confusing free speech with free markets. They are not synonymous and they do not have much to do with each other. One is a political freedom, the other an economic one. You right to lie and dissemble is not connected in the slightest to the regulation of markets to prevent monopolies or the role of environmental regulations in pricing externalities. That you confuse the two is unfortunate. – gavin]

  25. 75
    Hank Roberts says:

    Walt, yes, they do. Check how long the snow stays on what area of ground, and compare it to the average annual snow cover over the long term for that latitude, and see if it makes a difference in the total. Weather is a blip. Longterm seasonal change is a feedback.

  26. 76
    Hank Roberts says:

    > the usual …
    They got Monckton, McKittrick, and Michaels — total of twelve listed as accepting their offer, so far.

    Not all “M”s. But there’s a trend of some kind already.

  27. 77
    SecularAnimist says:

    James M. Taylor of the Heartland Institute posted: “Unlike Real Climate, we do not attempt to stifle scientific inquiry. Instead, we encourage it.”

    Unlike Real Climate, your organization has received $791,500 from ExxonMobil since 1998. None of that money funded any “scientific inquiry”. It funded deliberately and thoroughly dishonest propaganda campaigns with the explicit purpose of deceiving the American people about the scientific reality of anthropogenic climate change, so that the public would not demand mitigation measures that would reduce Exxon-Mobil’s profits. Heartland Institute is not a scientific organization. It is a propaganda mill funded by the fossil fuel industry.

  28. 78
    Figen Mekik says:

    No amount of debating, lying, confusing the truth, bickering and all that is going to change the fact of anthropogenic global warming. No matter how much any oil company invests money and energy into “meetings.”

  29. 79
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #75

    Hank,

    Thanks for trying but you really did not answer me. And if you aren’t familiar with the technical aspects of models, you aren’t the one to answer the question, which I originally aimed at Gavin.

    The “weather” is what got me thinking about “climate”. I believe that my question was crafted carefully enough to elicit a technically sound answer.

  30. 80
    SecularAnimist says:

    Figen Mekik: “No amount of debating, lying, confusing the truth, bickering and all that is going to change the fact of anthropogenic global warming. No matter how much any oil company invests money and energy into ‘meetings.'”

    No, but it can keep the public ignorant and confused about the fact of anthropogenic global warming for years, and has, until very recently, been extremely successful in doing so, thereby delaying public demand for phasing out fossil fuels, and thereby prolonging the period of accelerating consumption of fossil fuels and the associated trillion-dollar profits of the fossil fuel corporations.

    Exxon-Mobil’s multi-million dollar investments in “debating, lying, confusing the truth, bickering and all that” — such as the nearly $800,000 they have paid to the Heartland Institute in the last ten years — have paid off many, many times over. To the grave detriment of all humanity, and indeed all life on Earth.

  31. 81

    This is a pet peeve of mine. Please see post I wrote on similar topic a few days ago at:

    http://lamarguerite.wordpress.com/2008/01/29/when-reading-mail-about-global-warming-consider-the-source/

    There should be a law against misleading communications such as this conference invitation and the mail I copied in my post.

    [Response: No there shouldn’t. The answer to bad information is better information. Prior restraint is more trouble than it is worth. But people should not hesitate to call out such rubbish when they see it. – gavin]

  32. 82
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re: 71 Paul, read what you just wrote: “The extent that CO2 will cause future global warming is not well understood. The IPCC projections/scenarios show a range of uncertainty from relative modest warming (i.e. 1.1 degree by 2100) to extreme warming (6.4 degrees by 2100) under the scenario that assumes rapid economic growth.”

    The uncertainty is in the growth scenario assumed, not the physics of the greenhouse gasses. More growth=more greenhouse gasses=more warming–and yes it is an equation.

    And if you do not think warming is rapid now, then when do you think warming has occurred more rapidly–and note what happened to species diversity during such paleoclimate epochs.

    Where on Earth are you getting your information?

  33. 83
    Peter Thompson says:

    Secular #77,

    You grassy knoll folks are hilarious, “Unlike Real Climate, your organization has received $791,500 from ExxonMobil since 1998″. You say that like it is a lot of money. Cripes, it wouldn’t fund the GISS for a week, or pay Al Gore’s energy bills over the 10 years in question. You do realize how foolish you sound caterwauling over 79k/yr, don’t you?

    [Response: Actually it would fund the GISS modelling effort for just under two months. – gavin]

  34. 84
    spilgard says:

    Re #47,

    An exciting area of scientific inquiry here is the question of whether Mr. Taylor was able, without botox, to keep a straight face while typing that howler.

  35. 85
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 72, Ah, yes, it was only a matter of time before somebody tried to equate what the Heartland Institute is doing to Al Gore’s (the political right’s bete noir) short-lived movie career. But Michael, last I saw, Al Gore was not a scientist and did not putport to be. Hell, he doesn’t even play one on TV. Last I saw, he was a private citizen.

    Yeah, but climate change been berry, berry good to Al. Got him an Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize, and there’s a bet on the books that pays 100:1 if he gets the Presidency, too at some point. BTW, the bookies have lowered the odds on that one from 12:1 to 8:1. But you know what, none of it would have happened if any politician from the right had been willing to stand up on stage and say we have to address climate change. Mr. Gore was very fortunate that his political enemies didn’t have the foresight to take away the moral and scientific high ground.
    Now the question in my mind is whether they will have the hindthought to see that opposing the laws of physics isn’t such a good idea and maybe inject some ideas for dealing with climate change that wouldn’t offend their free-market sensibilities quite so much.

    Peter Thompson, 79 K/yr sounds pretty damn good to a post doc doing climate science. Yes, it’s not a lot of money–enough to pay for a hack to spread disinformation full time. What always amazed me is how cheaply some folks will sell their honesty.

  36. 86
    PaulD says:

    Ray said “The uncertainty is in the growth scenario assumed, not the physics of the greenhouse gasses. More growth=more greenhouse gasses=more warming–and yes it is an equation.”

    This statement is simply false. The range of uncertainty is for the same economic scenario (i.e. rapid economic growth) and reflects uncertainty in the climate models. My source is the IPCC report itself. The report provides different ranges for alternative forcing scenarios. There is no simple equation for the effect of doubling CO2 concentrations because the expected climate response is based largely on the effects of positive feedbacks, which are currently not well understood. The impact of CO2 without feedbacks can be determined by formula, but the results are not particularly alarming.

  37. 87

    Re 47; Mr. Taylor’s scathing diatribe is evidence that the decibel level is rising, especially by those whose purpose is to try to prevent the public from accepting the fact that the consensus of climate scientists have come to believe that AGW is occurring. They apparently feel that once the general public becomes aware of this, their cause will take a fatal blow. Ergo the loud protests from that corner.The “sound science” phrase is tell tale evidence that this effort is directed toward the aforementioned objective. It’s part and parcel of the party line.

    True scientists might just as well speak at a debate on whether the Earth is either billions of years old or 6000 years old. Why dignify such assertions by indirectly acknowledging them with their attendence.

  38. 88
    S. Molnar says:

    Timothy Chase (#69) says “Tamino did graphs that show quite eloquently there is no legitimate reason for claiming that the warming has stopped earlier today”. I can assure you that where I live the warming did indeed stop earlier today. I expect it to start up again tomorrow morning, though.

  39. 89
    Lou Grinzo says:

    Peter #83: So, you’re saying that the payments would only be a problem if they were significantly higher, meaning a little bit of bought PR spin (read: fabrication with the intent to mislead the public) is OK? Or would any amount of money spent that way be acceptable?

  40. 90

    James Taylor suggests that this conference will be loaded with high caliber scientists, may be, who dares challenge MIT’s enfant terrible Professor Lindzen and MSU Gurus such as Christy? But do they have a better temperature projection batting record rivaling Hansen which have predicted this warming since the 80’s… Especially now that most proud contrarians acknowledge Global Warming, it took a while, but they are on board the Global Warming Arctic Ocean cruise ship soon to be without Icebreaker escort, will they admit the error of their ways in projecting a cooling? Perhaps admitting errata will improve their batting stance, and actually predict some accurate climate? As some of their major league peers have already done…

    Its hard to expect a prediction home run from contrarians when they never got to first base in the first place.

  41. 91
    Eli Rabett says:

    Just a note on what Hank wrote in #31. When asked whether he thought that there was extraterrestrial intelligent beings, Fermi replied “where are they” which goes well with Gandhi’s response when asked what he thought of Western civilization, “It would be a good thing”.

    Some days are like that.

  42. 92
    lucia says:

    At Ray Ladbury:
    Where on Earth are you getting your information?
    I love baseless speculation! I’d guess Paul visited Roger Pielke Jr. Blog, clicked the link to William Briggs new blog, and watched the four videos by Bob Carter.

    Carter’s discussion is purely statistical from the point of view of a geologist. The gist of the argument is that, from a geological perspective, the current state isn’t that much of an outlier. The things Carter says appears technically true, particularly if you account for uncertainty in the geological record. The difficulty is that Carter uses “not unusual” in the same sense that a person with an IQ of 140 isn’t an not unusual. If you look around a bit, you’ll find plenty of these people. You’ll even find some with IQ’s of 150!

    Also, the issue of cause and effect is entirely missing in the Carter’s talk.

  43. 93
    Hank Roberts says:

    Thank you Gavin, for your prompt reply dismissing the ‘oughta be a law’ notion above.

    “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

  44. 94
    Hugh says:

    Why don’t you – and every other legitimate climate scientist you know – call their bluff: perhaps the media would be interested in how many of you are turned down (and what evidence you had intended to present)!

  45. 95

    Peter Thompson (#83) wrote:

    You grassy knoll folks are hilarious, “Unlike Real Climate, your organization has received $791,500 from ExxonMobil since 1998″. You say that like it is a lot of money.

    Exxon’s endeavors are well-documented:

    According to the report, ExxonMobil has funneled nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43 advocacy organizations that seek to confuse the public on global warming science.

    Scientists’ Report Documents ExxonMobil’s Tobacco-like Disinformation Campaign on Global Warming Science
    Oil Company Spent Nearly $16 Million to Fund Skeptic Groups, Create Confusion January 3, 2007
    http://www.ucsusa.org/news/press_release/ExxonMobil-GlobalWarming-tobacco.html

    … and the Heartland Institute’s history of endeavors is also well-documented:

    Although Heartland calls itself “a genuinely independent source of research and commentary,” its has been a frequent ally of the tobacco industry can be documented by searching the industry’s internal document archives.

    Roy E. Marden, a member of Heartland’s board of directors, was until May 2003 the manager of industry affairs for the Philip Morris (PM) tobacco company, where his responsibilities included lobbying and “managing company responses to key public policy issues,” which he accomplishes by “directing corporate involvement with industry, business, trade, and public policy organizations and determining philanthropic support thereto.” In a May 1991 document prepared for PM, Marden listed Heartland’s “rapid response network” as a “potential spokesperson” among the “portfolio of organizations” that the company had cultivated to support its interests. [6] ….

    Heartland Institute
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Heartland_Institute

  46. 96
    Dean Malencik says:

    This will be covered fully in several of Fox News programs. Bet on it.

  47. 97
    Alan says:

    Re #42 – “It does not seem to me that a scientist who would emphasize these points would fall within the same category as cigarette lobby scientists.”

    I think people are missing the point about the cigarettes, Fred Singer (mentioned in the article) was a “cigarette lobby scientists” and has been a prominent shill for the fossil fuel industry.

    Quoting from his wikipedia entry – “Singer is also skeptical about the connection between CFCs and ozone depletion, between UV-B radiation and melanoma and between second hand smoke and lung cancer and proposed that the Martian moon Phobos is a space station built by Martians.”

  48. 98

    Re #71: Paul writes

    The IPCC projections/scenarios show a range of uncertainty from relative modest warming (i.e. 1.1 degree by 2100) to extreme warming (6.4 degrees by 2100) under the scenario that assumes rapid economic growth.

    Are you sure? I read the original IPCC report and cannot find this. In the WG1 Executive Summary it says

    “The multi-model mean SAT warming and associated uncertainty ranges for 2090 to 2099 relative to 1980 to 1999 are B1: +1.8°C (1.1°C to 2.9°C), B2: +2.4°C (1.4°C to 3.8°C), A1B: +2.8°C (1.7°C to 4.4°C), A1T: 2.4°C (1.4°C to 3.8°C), A2: +3.4°C (2.0°C to 5.4°C) and A1FI: +4.0°C (2.4°C to 6.4°C).”

    So the extremes are indeed 1.1 and 6.4 degrees, but for different scenarios.

    In Figure 10.24 I again see the range of (roughly) 1.1 – 6.4 degrees, but again for different scenarios.

    (And note that these are increases relative to 1980-1999, not relative to pre-industrial, i.e., already realized warming comes on top of this.)

    Again, where did you get your numbers?

    Anyway, for the sake of argument, why would you want to believe in 1.1°C rather than 6.4°C? Isn’t it prudent decision making to prepare for the most likely outcome (i.e., 4.0°C for the A1FI emissions scenario), and at least take into account the worst-case possibility?

    Consider also this: the mean global increase in temperature is just a number, although a popular and useful one. As you correctly note, the CO2 forcing effect is precisely computable from theory and hypothesis free; it’s the feedbacks that bring in the uncertainty. So, when in spite of recklessly pumping out CO2, we still don’t see more than 1.1 degs average warming, that means that some powerful negative feedbacks are almost canceling out the initial forcing. It could be water vapour (although this feedback is currently thought to be well understood) or cloud cover. It could be that the distribution of water vapour changes, e.g., making the tropics more arid and a better radiator (and those peasants living there just out of luck). Or the large-scale distribution of clouds changes due to a changing global circulation pattern.

    What I am getting at, is that 1.1 deg warming for this scenario is not “a small climate change”: rather, it is a huge, and hugely intrusive, climate change that just happens to be almost thermally neutral ;-)

  49. 99
    John Gribbin says:

    Re 91, what Fermi actually said when asked the alien question was “why aren’t they here?”

  50. 100

    #47 James M. Taylor

    Either you have not looked at the aggregate science or I am left to suspect that you are naive and/or ignorant of the relevant data? Your own words are strongly indicative.

    You state regarding real climate: “you have nothing to say substantively”.

    Obviously you have not read the material on this web site. Maybe, you have apparently written these words based on your view of a single article and not the aggregate work on the site, the preponderance of evidence deeply discussed and considered?

    “Of course, that will never happen because open and honest debate is what you fear most.”

    If you had read the large numbers of articles on this web site as well as the evidence presented by our own governments scientists much of which is referenced here, you would realize that all they do here is open and honest debate, albeit in a scientific manner of consideration and analysis.

    You don’t seem to understand that credentials are less important that evidence, whether it be in fact or proxy. For example, you may be able to get an expert in infectious diseases to comment on Global warming… but how is that relevant? You can get a writer to comment on global warming… but how is that relevant?

    You say that you “do not attempt to stifle scientific inquiry” I would like to see substantial evidence of that. Your words indicate to me, when considered in the context of the argument, and the apparent context indicated on your web site, that your goal may very well be to stifle relevant scientific inquiry and/or confuse the issues regarding evidence and understanding with your “most credentialed scientists in the world”. I would love it if I am wrong, so please do prove me wrong. Are these “credentialed scientists” really presenting relevant work?

    You state that you encourage scientific inquiry. But I am concerned that you may not understand what the word relevance means? You say “We are equal opportunity investigators of science.” Please feel free to read my thoughts on that matter above in post #19.

    Please prove me wrong. I would love to be wrong. I look forward to the media output from your conference proving me wrong. If it weighs the relevance of the evidence in context, with relevant arguments and relevant studies that are holistic, “open and honest’ in their scope… well, I very much look forward to that. Keep in mind though that when I say honest, I also mean honorable. I’d really love to see your media output from the conference meet that criteria.

    You state: “It is odd that Real Climate is invited to discuss the science in a professional, scholarly environment”. If you really want to discuss this in a “professional, scholarly environment”, then instead of having your own little conference, you should have had them all submit their papers at the AGU in December… or are you unaware of the AGU?

    You state: “After all, isn’t honest and open scientific discussion a good thing?” Of course it is. For me, I like evidence, so I will anxiously await reading the output from your conference to see if it is honest and open. I am just suspicious, so, please prove me wrong.

    On your affiliated web site http://www.globalwarmingheartland.org/ you have a section called Debate challenge Issued by: Dennis Avery (an agricultural analyst); Chris Horner (an attorney); Steven Milloy (JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com); Lord Christopher Monkton (A consultant and Journalist). Not exactly “credentialed scientists”. Look, people pick their bias based on their interests, abilities and even limitations. Honor, of late, is rarely a part of the equation unfortunately. Open mindedness without undue bias is also hard to find sometimes. Depends on where you are or what environment.

    People may like to confuse issues for their particular reasons. But science is not about confusion, it’s about seeking the truth through open minded questions, examination, verification, reason and relevance. It is unfortunate that some wish to obfuscate the relevant science with obtuse arguments that have less relevance in the context of aggregate reality. Even the skeptics will eventually realize what is going on, it’s just that the longer we wait the more costly it will be. In the mean time it is up to those that understand to hold the line of integrity.

    With best regards,
    – John

    Gavin, thanks for your note as well. I wrote mine before I scrolled down to see yours. I strongly support your response to this person. Their site has an article saying Crichton is Right? Is Michael Crichton one “of the world’s leading climate scientists “?

    Ray #48

    Thank you for your response on that issue. The facts show that we have departed from natural variability and significantly altered the forcing in the atmosphere. We all know that we have already warmed, it’s not a prediction, it’s simple fact. All these current effects are not some mysterious future, they are not a forecast, this is happening now.

    #61 Paul

    If you examine the paleo record you would notice that actually we were supposed to be going into an ice age. I’m not an expert, but the facts and proxies together show that we have altered the natural cycle and the forcing level. It’s pretty obvious. Just put it in perspective with past cycles and forcing. Questioning whether it is rapid is in my opinion, not the argument. but if you consider that we probably should be cooling without anthropogenic influence, then this warming is more than rapid; it is a complete reversal of the natural trend. That is worse than rapid.

    SInce this is a nonlinear event, and the IPCC are conservative by the nature of the method, you can more than reasonably expect that their estimates are exactly what they are supposed to be, conservative. Your questions regarding whether it is caused by GHG’s… well, you need to study this more. You think it’s not alarming, but that question is too easily subject to bias of perspective. It sort of depends on what you consider alarming or rapid change. This warming is clearly rapid in its potentials and its relationship to paleo records.

    What do you mean by alarming? If you mean significant changes to economic capacity related to resource availability and allocation, increased climate energy and momentum of weather systems influenced by climate change, latitudinal climate shift altering regional weather patterns, economic strains based on the climate region shifts, more frequent intense droughts, floods, hurricanes, tornados, snow storms, human migration, national identities being strained to the point of increased tensions that could lead to cross national tensions and regional conflicts based on resource scarcity possibly leading to the temptation to use nuclear weapons as tensions increase… or did you mean something else by alarming.

    I’m not being ‘alarmist’ I didn’t do that analysis. It came from other sources. Please read:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/12/the-forecast-in-the-streets/

    http://www.uscentrist.org/news/2008/the-age-of-consequences/

    The links at the bottom of the article on the centrist site include the security reports from the Center for Naval Analysis; The German Advisory Council on Global Change and the Center for Strategic International Studies.


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