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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. 101
    Yves says:

    Re 82 (Ray) and 86 (Paul)
    IPCC WG1 SPM, Table SPM 3, p.13:
    Scenario – Best estimate (Likely range)
    Constant rate 2000 – 0.6 (0.3-0.9)
    B1 – 1.8 (1.1-2.9)
    A1T – 2.4 (1.4-3.8)
    B2 – 2.4 (1.4-3.8)
    A1B – 2.8 (1.7-4.4)
    A2 – 3.4 (2.0-5.4)
    A1FI – 4.0 (2.4-6.4)
    Thus, the 1.1-6.4 range is the extreme of “likely range” of all scenarios ; if the “rapid economic growth” is the A1FI, the range is 2.4-6.4.

    Best

    Yves

  2. 102
    Elery Fudge says:

    Being interested in both sides of the debate, I would like to see more of the science presented and discussed.

  3. 103
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Paul D,
    The evidence suggests that if anything, the models underpredict positive feedbacks. And even for model predictions, distributions of temperature ranges are skewed right, especially as we go into the future–and the 3 degrees represents the a median number. The fact that you take comfort in uncertainty just indicates that you don’t understand the science or the statistics.

  4. 104
    ChrisC says:

    /begin rant

    I’m getting a little sick of the antics of the likes of the Heatland Institute.

    If these people have an issue with the currently accepted scientific view of recent climatic change, they can bloody well play by the rules if they wish to be taken seriously. This doesn’t include organising your own conferences. This means, perhaps, toddling off to a real conference, submitting an abstract and discussing their views with the rest of the relevant scientific community. Maybe they could present a paper/abstract and have their current thoery discussed. Maybe they could cite their evidence for their current thinking. Perhaps building up a decent publication record would help.

    But no. They don’t play by the rules that the rest of us have to (and nothing is quite so scary as defending your research work in front of an audience of your peers… except maybe killer bees). They organise fun, sponsored events like this, which will accomplish nothing, and in my eyes, further reduce what little integrity that the likes of Lindzen and Cristy have left.

    It’s high time we let this lot pontificate in their own time, on their own, and got back to work on reducing the amount of Greenhouse gases being emmitted into the atmosphere.

    \end rant

  5. 105
    Paul says:

    I would like to make a correction to a prior post. I suggested that the entire range of uncertainty reflected in the rapid growth scenario from the IPCC is based on model uncertainty. In fact, while the projections in the rapid growth scenario reflect similar economic and population growth assumption, they do appear to include a range of forcings based on different assumptions regarding future technology and energy use patterns. So some the uncertainty reflected in the scenarios does to a degree reflect differences in forcing assumptions.
    However, my basic point that there is a considerable range of uncertainty in the GCM is correct. I think this uncertainty is reflected in the following post by raypierre on this blog. He writes:
    “The current crop of models studied by the IPCC range from an equilibrium sensitivity of about 1.5°C at the low end to about 5°C at the high end. Differences in cloud feedbacks remain the principal source of uncertainty. There is no guarantee that the high end represents the worst case, or that the low end represents the most optimistic case. While there is at present no compelling reason to doubt the models’ handling of water vapor feedback, it is not out of the question that some unanticipated behavior of the hydrological cycle could make the warming somewhat milder — or on the other hand, much, much worse. Thus, the question naturally arises as to whether one can use information from past climates to check which models have the most correct climate sensitivity.” http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/12/natural-variability-and-climate-sensitivity/langswitch_lang/wp

    Ray says:
    “The fact that you take comfort in uncertainty just indicates that you don’t understand the science or the statistics.”

    I don’t necessarily take comfort in the uncertainty, but I think it is important to acknowledge that it exists. If we knew for certain that a doubling of CO2 concentrations would lead to the high end of the estimates, it would be reasonable to pursue much more drastic policies. Given the level of uncertainty, however, I think it is reasonable to pursue more prudent, less drastic policy. Moreover, it is important to recognize the science is not settled as many frequently claim.

  6. 106
    Alex ander Rio says:

    What an interesting discussion!
    Diddnt know much about exxon and heartlands fundings, and ill look into them more now.
    I love the workl that you guys do here, keep showing us the science, and keep being honest!

    Im involved with an organisaton called GLACIER. (Global Legal Action on climate and International Environmental Responsability.

    We are relatively new,and are composed of environmental economists and lawyers. We may have technicalities we need to go over, before our court cases (June 5th). Do you mind if we have any questions we can ask you, the contributrd to Realclimate?

    Let me know! Also any of you located in Montreal Canada,or nearby?
    Alex

  7. 107

    Paul writes:

    [[If we knew for certain that a doubling of CO2 concentrations would lead to the high end of the estimates, it would be reasonable to pursue much more drastic policies. Given the level of uncertainty, however, I think it is reasonable to pursue more prudent, less drastic policy.]]

    But with real uncertainty in the results to worry about, “less drastic” would not be “more prudent.” You don’t plan for everything coming out okay, you plan for the worst and hope for everything to come out okay.

    [[ Moreover, it is important to recognize the science is not settled as many frequently claim.]]

    The details are not settled. That global warming is A) real, B) anthropogenic, and C) a serious problem is indeed settled.

  8. 108
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Paul says, “Moreover, it is important to recognize the science is not settled as many frequently claim.”

    That depends on what you mean by “the science”. If you mean the forcing due to greenhouse gasses–that is settled. Add CO2 to the atmosphere and it will be warmer than it would be otherwise. That there are positive feedbacks is also settled. Now, where there is less certainty is the magnitude of the positive feedbacks. However, I would suggest that if you present a physical system to a knowledgeable physicist and say that it has positive feedbacks of unknown magnitude, the reaction of said physicist is much more likely to be “Holy S***!!” than it is to be “Well, just flip the switch and it probably won’t blow up.” Moreover, the fact remains that the skew of the distributions favors higher forcing more than lower forcing. See:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/10/the-certainty-of-uncertainty/langswitch_lang/wp

    More disturbing, there is evidence that not all positive feedbacks are reflected in the models–e.g. outgassing of CO2 and CH4 from thawing permafrost, etc. So the science is sufficiently settled to say with a high degree of confidence (>90%) that if we keep adding CO2 to the atmosphere, the positive feedbacks will eventually kick in and tear the system from any control we currently exercise. Anyone who takes comfort in the fact that we don’t know whether this tipping point comes in 1 year or in 50 years is a fool

  9. 109
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Paul @ 105: “If we knew for certain that a doubling of CO2 concentrations would lead to the high end of the estimates, it would be reasonable to pursue much more drastic policies. Given the level of uncertainty, however, I think it is reasonable to pursue more prudent, less drastic policy.”

    The logic of your last statement escapes me, and does not strike me as at all a prudent course to take risk management. It certainly does not seem to be the course chosen by the insurance industry. Given the level of uncertainty, and the fact that we do not know for certain that a doubling of CO2 concentrations will NOT lead to the high end of the estimates, it is reasonable and more prudent to proceed taking the high end estimates into account.

  10. 110
    Beth in VA says:

    This is a great post. While those of us in science understand what normal conference procedures are, much of the public, and students, don’t. If a bunch of people (usually white guys–sorry) talk at a podium with power points and have graphs and a good vocabulary, at an event called a conference, then it looks and smells somewhat like the legitimate thing.

    It’s very important to point out the differences in content, process, and agendas here. Thanks!

  11. 111
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Re 91, what Fermi actually said … was “why aren’t they here?”
    > Comment by John Gribbin

    Good to see _your_ name here!

  12. 112
    Paul says:

    Jim Eager writes: “Given the level of uncertainty, and the fact that we do not know for certain that a doubling of CO2 concentrations will NOT lead to the high end of the estimates, it is reasonable and more prudent to proceed taking the high end estimates into account.”

    I didn’t say that we should not consider the high end estimates. My position that we should also take the low-end estimates into account and this should give us pause before we aggresively pursue very expensive abatement policies. If we knew that the high-end estimates were certain, this would certainly justify more aggressive policy. The uncertainty creates very difficult policy decisions that should be acknowledged.

    Mr Levinson writes: “The details are not settled. That global warming is A) real, B) anthropogenic, and C) a serious problem is indeed settled.”

    As indicated in quotation above from this blog the low-end models considered by the IPCC estimate a climate sensitivity for doubling CO2 to be 1.5 degrees. As I understand the data, we are about half-way to a doubling of pre-industrial CO2 levels and have experienced a .7 degree increase in temperatures. So with the low-end sensitivity estimate we can expect about another .8 degree increase for the full doubling. It is not clear to me that this would be a big problem. Accordingly, if the low-end estimate is credible, I am not sure that it has been established that global warming is a major problem. It is potentially a major problem, but I don’t think this has been fully established.
    Is the low-end estimate credible? Well, it was a model that was deemed worthy of consideration by the IPCC according to the real climate post I cite above and as was candidly noted by the post’s author, “There is no guarantee that the high end represents the worst case, or that the low end represents the most optimistic case.”

    Ray writes: “That there are positive feedbacks is also settled.” I am not sure that this has been settled, but I’ll admit I not expert on this. But I do know that there must also be “negative feedback” because we are still here. A system with only “positive” feedback is unstable and will result in runaway ever increasing temperatures. Since this has never happened, there must be “negative” breaks that have operated in the past.
    Ultimately, I think the better question is whether the net feedbacks in the climate system are postive or negative and how large the net feedbacks are. The range of climate sensitivities in the climate models indicate that this is not a settled question. The IPCC acknowledges that it is not known whether the feedbacks from cloud are positive or negative. So I would think this is still an open empirical question.
    Ulimately, I think it is openly acknowledged that there are great uncertainties in the global climate models. There are a wide range of estimates of the amount aerosols that have and are being emitted into the atmosphere and the magnitude of their effects. There is a wide-open question regarding whether clouds are a net positive or negative feedback.

  13. 113

    #105 Paul

    I agree with Paul on this small point. I’m not comfortable with the uncertainty either.

    Mostly because all the models seem to be wrong and all the indicators I see show that global warming is going much faster that the models, and accelerating.

    #107 Barton re. Paul

    Thanks for pointing that out. To put it another way: if Paul were lying on a table with a giant ax with a blade three feet wide above him and he could not move from under the blade, and the rope that held the blade was being eroded (at an uncertain rate? (even though he (and a large group of scientists) could see it eroding), and there were a panel of scientific advisers (from around the world giving him a consensus view) advising him on the reality of the situation by observations of fact and proxy analysis…

    If he were to use his arguments regarding uncertainty, I wonder which action he would tend towards, I wonder if he would think it more prudent to use less drastic policy and keep him under the ax, or more prudent policy that might get him out from under the ax, even though it might cost him something, but at least not his life?

    #108 Ray

    Well put. Since the uncertainty is in the projections of speed of acceleration of a not linear event that seems to clearly have positive feedbacks winning against negative feedbacks… how can any reasonable person say I think it is reasonable to pursue more prudent, less drastic policy.” when faced with known forcing levels already above the natural cycle of variability?

    #109 Jim

    Thank you for that perspective as well. His argument really does not fit the criteria of ratiocinative. Critical thinking skills seem to be missing here. If he really were under the ax (as we all are in global warming), from a risk management perspective, preparing for the least of the potentials is a bit naive.

    Paul, as has already been asked, where are you getting your data? Even if you are only looking at IPCC data which indicates even at the lower end changes that will have significant impact on the human economic system? And, how can you continue your line of thought in the face of ‘clear and present danger’ to our entire economic system through accelerating strains on the entire system, and models that, as you have pointed out, are uncertain (albeit all indicating to be wrong on the lower end of the scale) meaning we are warming faster than the models by all reasonable and relevant facts and presumption, based on the non-linearity and number of positive feedbacks and tipping points that will cause further acceleration beyond what we are already experiencing, one of which we probably already crossed in 2007 (there is no reasonable explanation to indicate that the rapid ice loss in the Arctic was not a random blip, it went to far outside of the natural variability)?

    Paul, I am really interested in more relevant arguments from you. Please do address these matters with relevance.

    With best regards,
    John

  14. 114
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #56 inline response

    Gavin,

    Your answer seems to say “if the models say there will be more snow, then there will be.”

    We are referring here to seasonal snow, not permanent snow. My question is, are we modeling potential increases to seasonal snow, and is this being matched against observation? Since this is a year-to-year phenomenon, can this level of detail be extracted from model results?

    My specific question pertains to whether or not this has the potential to be a negative feedback, and whether or not the models are consistent with observation in this regard.

    [Response: There are uncountable numbers of links with the climate system that potentially provide feedbacks of both signs. You can outline any number of them in a logical sense (as you have done), but without any quantitative estimate of its importance when weighed by other potential links, it is impossible to assess how important or unimportant it is. The models provide one set of consistent estimates. In those models, snow cover decreases with increasing temperature – implying that the positive feedback related to snow->rain or increased snow melt dominate over a potential intensity->snow cover link. The models could certainly be queried to assess whether there is any sign that snow cover persistence increases due to intensity of snow fall events (you’d need the 6 hourly data and you’d want it from late 20th, mid 21st and end 21st Century runs and from a few different models). I have no idea whether that would demonstrate the link you are interested in – but if you think it worth investigating, go ahead. If you wanted to assess it in the real world – that is trickier. You could look at snow cover statistics and see whether you can separate the temperature and snowfall intensity effects – but the data available might not be up to it. Bottom line, the net effect is positive, not negative – but looking into the details could be worthwhile. – gavin

  15. 115
    Florifulgurator says:

    [Actually, I don't think it will make any mainstream news. They have moved on from this kind of rubbish. Expect lots of blog activity demanding 'debate' though... - gavin]

    I’m not that sure yet.
    E.g.:
    Looks like Bob Carter (“GW stopped 1998″) still (as of recently) gets enough media attention, even after his famous deceptive/incompetent (you choose) piece last April in “Britain’s No.1 quality newspaper” where he sold a mid troposphere temperature graph as proof that there’s no GW:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/04/08/nrclimate08.xml&page=2

    Here’s another of his pieces, from September 2007:
    http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,22367056-27197,00.html
    ———————–

    On Blog activity:
    Denialists not only show off on their own denialism blogs or are trolling news blogs. (For a crass recent example see http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/24/earth-scientists-express-rising-concern-over-warming/#comments )
    E.g. I’m a member of an Internets forum where people gather for a completely different cause (freedom from religion). Still, typical AGW denialist discussion showed up there regularly till last November. Perhaps I’ve finally ridiculed them off or perhaps they suddenly stopped watching Fox News – but it tells me denialism is still alive and kicking even in real (non-troll) Internet folks.

    Oh,
    and there’s that “Clinton wants to slow down our Economy, to save the Planet” BS uttered at ABC (http://www.sadlyno.com/archives/8637.html ). Depressingly stupid goddamn journalism hasn’t stopped yet.

  16. 116
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #114 inline response

    Gavin,

    Thanks for taking the time to walk me through this. One more question: if the year to year observed change in seasonal snow cover is not matched against interim model results, would there not be a potential of “getting it wrong” with regard to the negative feedback potential of this effect?

    I understand your answer that there are a host of positive and negative feedbacks in the models. My question is, are we matching the interim results with year to year observations, to confirm that these feedbacks are being expressed correctly within the models?

    Is it anybody’s job to look at the output data in this way, to look backward and compare to observation with regard to specific effects such as snow cover?

    Thanks again for taking the time.

    [Response: Lot's of people do this kind of thing, though I don't of anybody looking specifically what you've suggested. But sure, if you find a relationship in the real world that suggests this is a real phenomenon, then looking for similar relationships in the model is a perfectly valid test. - gavin]

  17. 117
    tamino says:

    Re: #112 (Paul)

    A system with only “positive” feedback is unstable and will result in runaway ever increasing temperatures.

    False. If the net feedback factor is less than 1, the total effect will be finite. It’s evident you don’t understand the quantitative behavior of feedback.

    Perhaps you should consider the possibility that most of your pronouncements, like this one about feedbacks, are rooted in misunderstanding.

  18. 118
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Paul @112: “I didn’t say that we should not consider the high end estimates. My position that we should also take the low-end estimates into account and this should give us pause before we aggresively pursue very expensive abatement policies. … As indicated in quotation above from this blog the low-end models considered by the IPCC estimate a climate sensitivity for doubling CO2 to be 1.5 degrees.”

    Given the recent observed acceleration in melting of both Arctic sea ice and glacial ice on both Greenland and the West Antarctic peninsula, and given that the IPCC specifically states that their scenarios assume NO increase in the rate of melting, continuing to insist that the low-end projection is tenable is simply not supportable.

  19. 119
    Hank Roberts says:

    Paul, same question — where are you getting what you believe?

    You post ideas here as though they were facts, but you provide no source or cite.

    If this were a debate or rhetorical exercise, readers would know to expect puffery.

    In a science forum posting false statements isn’t a legitimate tactial exercise. It shows either you fell for someone who fooled you (“once, shame on him ….”), or that you haven’t developed the basic skeptical routine of checking what you think you remember is true (“Fool me—you can’t get fooled again”).

    You’ve got to check what you believe. Look these things up. Science _changes_ and memory fails.
    And nonscientists use words like “positive feedback” to mean anything from applause to operative reinforcement to thermal runaway. Look up the ideas as used in climate work.

    Dano reminds us there is no “wisdom” button on the search bar. But you can approximate that if you stick to Scholar, or check the references and footnotes from a source like Wikipedia’s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_feedback

    – void the PR and second hand opinion sites (the ones that don’t have sources or cites).

    A good reference librarian will help you learn to check cites, discover subsequent mentions of a source and updates.

  20. 120
    John Mashey says:

    Please: the next time someone changes the RC blog software, could they revert to the format as of a week ago?

    I.e.,:

    XYZ says:
    date

    at the beginning of the post, rather than “Comment by XYZ” the end.

    This was superior to the new style, as it lets one quickly know:
    a) Yes, this person always has something useful to say.
    b) Maybe.
    c) This person has never once said anything that was useful, skip now.

    Greasemonkey+killfile doesn’t work on RC, unfortunately, or I would do this automatically, when I can.

    Sometimes, I catch up on an iPhone, and the current style makes it noticably harder.

    Since “Recent Comments” seems broken right now, I note that feature *really* helped iPhone browsing, because it quickly takes you to the end of a discussion, rather than the beginning (and then requiring a lot of scrolling. A really nice feature would be an extra pointer at the top of each article to the most recent post, or change “Recent Comments” to show a list of the most recent threads, showing one the last thread in each post, which quickly alerts the reader to threads worth looking at.

    [Response: We've had some performance issues recently, and so we are on a slightly reduced service until it gets worked out. Maybe by the end of next week. Thanks for you patience. - gavin]

  21. 121
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Paul, A proper risk analysis must take into account both the probability of an event P(E) and its consequences or cost C(E). Since, in the real world, we are always dealing with probabilities rather than certainties, what is usually done is to integrate
    p(E)x C(E)
    over all possible events. Thus, an improbable event can dominate the risk if its costs are sufficiently severe. In this analysis, good models limit rather then exacerbate risk, since they are often the only way we have to know whether a particular event is credible. Without the models, do we know whether we will render the oceans deadzones? No. Do we know that we won’t render agriculture impossible, dooming billions of our progeny to starvation? No. Do we know that we won’t wipe out most of the species on Earth? No. We can’t limit risk, and unlimited risk is more of a problem than high risk. Ask an insurer whether he will insure a high risk proposition, and he will weigh the risks and come back with a cost that is appropriate. Ask him to ensure a proposition where risk cannot be bounded, and he will laugh in your face.
    Failing models to limit our risk, we can look to paleoclimate, but we don’t find much comfort. The PETM was a warm period probably brought on by a rapid increase in CO2, and it corresponds to a mass extinction.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleocene-Eocene_Thermal_Maximum

    In risk mitigation, one is justified to expend resources up to the potential Risk–but if that cannot be bounded…

    You refer to drastic measures, but who has proposed anything drastic? Carbon limits? Carbon trading? Carbon taxes? Mandated increases in fuel and energy efficiency? Increased R&D spending to find new energy sources and mitigation solutions? Planting trees? Hell, these are not draconian. Most would be a positive boon to the economy.

    If you want to see draconian measures, wait until the next Cat5 hurricane hits the US or we have an abnormally high sea-level rise or… It is incumbent upon us to take sensible measures NOW while the cold light of reason prevails rather than wait until severe changes begin to happen and actions are driven by panic.

  22. 122
    David B. Benson says:

    Off the exact topic of this thread, but relevant to all of the issues in Real Climate:

    http://biopact.com/2008/02/welcome-to-anthropocene.html

    I found this to be a good, quick summary of the climate changes.

  23. 123
    Richard Ordway says:

    Heartland Institute wrote: “We are equal opportunity investigators of science.”

    Science means submitting your work to refereed journals around the world and accepting the world feedback if you are printing falsehoods in your papers.

    These words of yours are attempting to confuse the American voting public. Science is science is science…not what you want it to be for your own purposes.

    Having been involved in the scientific community for over eleven years at a major federally funded research lab, I can’t believe what you are saying. It is like a parallel universe compared to what I live in where facts actually matter.

  24. 124

    Considering Mr. James M. Taylors re post #47 and his conference web page

    A few more points:

    First, he implies that RC posted this anonymously? Group in this case means http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?cat=10

    How is this anonymous?

    While I am happy to know that Mr. Taylor advocates “honest and open scientific discussion” and that heartland believes they, “are equal opportunity investigators of science”, I am puzzled by certain statements in their conference page:

    —–
    Global Warming: Crisis or Scam?

    The debate over whether human activity is responsible for some or all of the modern warming, and then what to do if our presence on Earth is indeed affecting the global climate, has enormous consequences for everyone in virtually all parts of the globe. Proposals to drive down human greenhouse gas emissions by raising energy costs or imposing draconian caps could dramatically affect the quality of life of people in developed countries, and, due to globalization, the lives of people in less-developed countries too.

    The global warming debate that the public and policymakers usually see is one-sided, dominated by government scientists and government organizations agenda-driven to find data that suggest a human impact on climate and to call for immediate government action, if only to fund their own continued research, but often to achieve political agendas entirely unrelated to the science of climate change. There is another side, but in recent years it has been denied a platform from which to speak.
    —–

    Odd allegation/considerations at best considering the policies noted during the Bush administration http://www.uscentrist.org/news/2007/hot-air-in-media/ which is well known. There is plenty of congressional testimony on the subject and the guy that wrote all those notes had to be dismissed, even though he was doing such a fine job of helping with the administration policy of repressing the science behind global warming.

    Mr. Taylor obviously has not reviewed the evidence since he is still calling this “the theory of man-made global warming” on his web page. He must still be confusing the models with the evidence.

    Models are great at putting evidence in perspective and certainly indicative. The evidence is overwhelming that this global warming is man-made, not a theory.

    If he believes the text as written, he seems to indicate that he believes that the developed world will not have any economic impact from this human caused global warming event. Arrogant and naive based on any reasonable analysis by security experts. Doing nothing will have accelerated economic impact that would better fit is draconian descriptor.

    Mr. Taylor, I implore you to be “open and honest ” and look at the evidence. You will not see the forrest through the trees (data through the science) if you remain in the fog of external non scientific opinion and agenda. The models will help you understand more about the potentials, especially as we come to understand better the non linear aspects and the positive feedbacks as we blast (rapidly on the geologic time scale) through the tipping points.

    With best regards,
    John

    #121 Ray

    Thanks for that.

  25. 125
    SecularAnimist says:

    Ray Ladbury wrote to Paul: “You refer to drastic measures, but who has proposed anything drastic? Carbon limits? Carbon trading? Carbon taxes? Mandated increases in fuel and energy efficiency? Increased R&D spending to find new energy sources and mitigation solutions? Planting trees? Hell, these are not draconian. Most would be a positive boon to the economy.”

    It is important to consider that what are typically described as “costs” of AGW mitigation measures are actually transfers of wealth from one sector of the economy (such as the fossil fuel corporations) to other sectors of the economy (such as efficiency improvements and clean, renewable energy technologies).

    According to the Associated Press, a new United Nations report projects that “global investments of $15 trillion to $20 trillion over the next 20 to 25 years may be required “to place the world on a markedly different and sustainable energy trajectory.’” (And it’s worth noting that those amounts are less than the world’s military spending which is over $1 trillion per year, half of that by the USA alone.)

    But that $15 to $20 trillion is not just cost — for someone, it’s profit. It’s a huge transfer of wealth from the fossil fuel industry to other sectors of the economy. And preventing — or at least postponing as long as possible — that transfer of wealth is what the Heartland Institute and its ExxonMobil-funded ilk are all about.

  26. 126
    Aaron Lewis says:

    I would like to provide some perspective on the numeric temperature data such comment # 98 and others.

    Over the last 10 years my local climate has warmed. This is barely detectable in the local temperature data with the best statistics, and not something that can be stated with a high degree of confidence from available instrumental temperature data. However, average nectarine harvest date has moved forward by 10 to 14 days depending on the variety, and the tangerine harvest date has moved forward by almost 4 weeks. This year’s fruit tree bloom dates (based on bud swell and bud break) are almost two full weeks ahead of the bloom dates for the same trees in the period 1997-2000. (Not counting some anomalous Jan 2008 pear bloom.) And, this was the first time that I had seen red spider mites active in January. Thus, a statistical review of plant and animal behavior endpoints gives a much better than 95% confidence that our climate is warming (at least in this part of California) regardless of the ambiguity of the instrumental temperature data.

    This means that a miniscule change in average temperature can have a real impact on agricultural and ecological systems. This requires agricultural practices such as spray dates, irrigation dates, and beehive placement dates be adapted. It changes availability dates for fruit, and there by changes needs for storage, processing, and transportation. It changes the dates that the processing plant needs to hire labor. Heck, it means that farmers have to change their vacation plans.

    Climate warming is ongoing in California and is having real impacts on your food supply.

  27. 127
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Richard Ordway @ 123: “”Science means submitting your work to refereed journals around the world and accepting the world feedback if you are printing falsehoods in your papers.”

    First you have to do the science to submit. But the Heartland Institute does not do scientific research. From it’s own website:

    “The Heartland Institute is a national nonprofit research and education organization, tax exempt under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code, and founded in Chicago in 1984. It is not affiliated with any political party, business [sic], or foundation.
    Heartland’s mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. Such solutions include parental choice in education, choice and personal responsibility in health care, market-based approaches to environmental protection, privatization of public services, and deregulation in areas where property rights and markets do a better job than government bureaucracies.”

    This is clearly a sham conference organised for political purpose with nothing what so ever to do with the science of climate change.

  28. 128
    Dan Hughes says:

    re: #125

    “It’s a huge transfer of wealth from the fossil fuel industry to other sectors of the economy.”

    I take wealth to mean money.

    The fossil fuel industry, nor any other industry, generates wealth out of nothingness. Its wealth comes solely from its customers. Wealth is obtained only if someone is buying the products and services offered by any industry.

    And, importantly, a part of that wealth is returned to the stockholders. Part also goes to finding/development of additional products and services that customers need for their health and safety.

  29. 129
    B Buckner says:

    Aaron, have you considered CO2 fertilization?

  30. 130
    Jim Cripwell says:

    REf 126 Aaron writes “Thus, a statistical review of plant and animal behavior endpoints gives a much better than 95% confidence that our climate is warming (at least in this part of California) regardless of the ambiguity of the instrumental temperature data.” I wonder if I might be permitted to pick a nit. I suggest it is more accurate to used the past, rather than the present, tense. Instead of “the climate is warming”, it is more accurate to say “the climate has warmed”. This relates to the last discussion on RC on GISS versus HAD temperature data.

  31. 131
    Erika Engelhaupt says:

    I’m a journalist who covers climate change, and I received this press release advertising the conference. I had to dig it out of my “deleted items” folder.

    It includes a list of confirmed speakers. I saw several of the same people in Bali, where there was a small contingent of skeptics.

    The full text of the press release is also on their website, here:
    http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=22684

    here is an excerpt:

    “The experts who will speak at the event represent a global community of scientists and policy analysts who question the theory of man-made climate change. They contend there is no consensus in the scientific community that human activity is the cause of global warming.

    Scientists, economists, and policy experts whose work has focused on some dimension of climate change, particularly challenging popular misconceptions about the causes, extent, and consequences of the modern warming, will present a side of the debate often ignored by the mainstream media and shunned by government bodies.”

    The confirmed speakers are:
    [I have abbreviated affiliations -Erika]

    David Archibald
    Geologist
    Summa Development Limited.

    Will Alexander
    Professor Emeritus
    University of Pretoria, South Africa

    Chris Horner
    Senior Fellow
    Competitive Enterprise Institute

    Jay Lehr
    Science Director
    The Heartland Institute

    Bryan Leyland
    Engineer
    International Climate Science Coalition
    Auckland, New Zealand.

    Ross McKitrick
    Associate Professor
    Department of Economics
    University of Guelph

    Patrick Michaels
    Research Professor
    Environmental Sciences
    University of Virginia

    Christopher Monckton
    Viscount of Brenchly
    former Policy Advisor to Margaret Thatcher

    Jim O’Brien
    Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor
    Meteorology and Oceanography
    Florida State University

    Tim Patterson
    Professor
    Department of Earth Sciences (paleoclimatology)
    Carleton University

    Paul Reiter
    Professor
    Institute Pasteur

    George Taylor
    Department of Meteorology
    Oregon State University

  32. 132
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jim Cripwell enquires: ” Instead of “the climate is warming”, it is more accurate to say “the climate has warmed”. ”

    No. It wouldn’t

  33. 133
    pete best says:

    Re #131, as RC says, the normal suspects who have nothing to say but the same old same old.

  34. 134
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re: 131. Hmm, where’s Lindzen. Is this too sleazy even for him?

  35. 135

    #131 Erika

    That’s interesting, Thanks for pointing that out. There is another bit of text on that page that stands out:

    “The conference is being organized by The Heartland Institute, a national nonpartisan think tank based in Chicago.”

    If this is a non partisan think tank why are they advertising for “The Conservative Political Action Conference” on their web site… Such a phrase in contest might cause one to wonder if they are really nonpartisan? Others would know better.

  36. 136

    Re Riesman 133

    Last year’s little girl exhaling CO2 at a dandelion was ahead in the iconic silliness sweepstakes until you scored an offside goal with : “To put it another way: if Paul were lying on a table with a giant ax with a blade three feet wide above him and he could not move from under the blade, and the rope that held the blade was being eroded (at an uncertain rate?… I wonder which action he would tend towards,”

    His predicament more realisticly resembles a horizontal Promethus bound, threatened with crushing by the daily drop of another cubic millimeter sand grain into the pile atop him.

    With radiative forcing growing at the rate of three microwatts per square meter, one fears he may perish of boredom before the butter knife of Damocles descends.

  37. 137
    Raven says:

    re: #125

    “It’s a huge transfer of wealth from the fossil fuel industry to other sectors of the economy.”

    Fossil fuels are the foundation for the society we have today because the provide energy at very little cost. Any carbon tax or similar measure is designed to increase the cost of fossil fuels and allow other forms of energy to complete. What this means that everyone will pay more for energy. This will mean a lower standard of living no matter what spin GW advocates want to put on it. It is NOT a simple transfer of money from one sector to another.

    I have a general question for all GW advocates:

    Reducing CO2 emissions is an impossible task. It will not happen as long as the world population is growing. If you are right then that means disaster is ahead for humanity. So my question is: wouldn’t you rather be wrong? If you would rather be wrong they why do you waste so much time vilifying the people that examine holes/gaps in the CO2 hypothesis? If you would rather be wrong shouldn’t you encourage those people even if you believe it is a waste of time?

    [Response: Let's follow the logic here. "Fixing the problem would be hard, therefore I'm much happier agreeing with people who say there's no problem". This is, to put it bluntly, juvenile. Ignorance and deception have never worked constructively to solve any problem, yet you would have us encourage exactly that? No-one wants human-caused climate change to happen - but dealing with reality is a sine qua non of rational behaviour. - gavin ]

  38. 138
    Hank Roberts says:

    Here are a few more links and names to watch for on general principles. Or rather general lack of principles. You’ll see the climate connection if you read the main posting.

    http://thepumphandle.wordpress.com/2008/01/28/stop-toying-with-the-cpsc/

  39. 139

    Re Comment #131 where Ms. Engelhaupt quotes an excerpt from a press release on the conference which states in part:
    “The experts who will speak at the event represent a global community of scientists and policy analysts who question the theory of man-made climate change. They contend there is no consensus in the scientific community that human activity is the cause of global warming.”

    Here’s what republican pollster and advisor Frank Luntz wrote to republican members of Congress a few years ago:” The scientific debate is closing but has not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science.Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming in the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that scientific issues are settled their views about global warming will change accordingly.”…..” The most important principle in any discussion of global warming is your commitment to sound science.”

    Now here’s President Bush:” When we make decisions,we want to make sure we do so on sound science,”

    Remember the quote early in the original post?
    “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,…..”

    This is the playbook- promote the canard that there is no scientific consensus on global warming among scientists, and promote their commitment to sound science, which is their cynical mantra to pay lip service to the scientific aspects of the issue.

  40. 140
    Rod B says:

    SecularAnimist, except, in the true economic sense, “profit” is a cost — a cost of capital and staying in or growing the enterprise.

    I get the distinct impression that while you actually would like to mitigate AGW you would be completely satisfied that, whatever else, we stick it to the oil industry.

  41. 141
    Aaron Lewis says:

    RE 129
    CO2 fertilization without changes in warmth (or light) do not generally affect bloom dates or time to maturity. In my small scale operation, changes in operations such as mulching practice have a much larger effect. Last fall my mulching was intended to keep the ground cool and to delay bloom. Nitrogen fertilization can affect bloom date. Again, last fall I withheld nitrogen to retard bloom date. I was, and still am very concerned about a late frost killing the buds.

    RE 130
    The bud break reflects an integration of the recent weather. This morning’s data points say that the nectarines think that this January was warmer than last January despite the fact that we had more “chill” hours. (We did have fewer “frost hours”) Bud break only indicates climate change when it demonstrates a clear trend over a period of years. In a stable climate, bud break would be on a consistent date plus or minus 3 or 4 days. Instead, every year for the last 8 years, it is has been a day or two earlier every year. My journal says this year’s bloom is earlier than any year except 2005, and about 10 – 14 days ahead of the 1997-2000 baseline and 30 to 40 days ahead of nearby orchards in the 1880 – 1920 time frame, although that comparison is not reliable because they were growing different cultivars. Nevertheless, I have a trend that is now more than 6 standard deviations off of the 1997-2000 baseline. Yes, that suggests that the climate has warmed. However, I have no evidence that the trend has suddenly stopped or changed direction. Therefore, “the climate is warming” is also likely correct.

  42. 142
    Max says:

    [ I will even venture to make a prediction that the number of peer-reviewed papers on climate science we have collectively authored in the last 5 years will be substantially more than all of your speakers put together. - gavin]
    However quantity doesn’t mean quality…

    [Response: Fair enough, as a rough guide to quality or at least influence, citations in ISI are a good metric. Therefore, I will also predict that the RC papers are cited far more extensively, both in total and per paper. - gavin]

  43. 143
    Raven says:

    Gavin,

    Thank you for your response but I think you missed my point.

    I did not say that change would be difficult. I said it would be impossible as long as the world population is growing. That means disaster is ahead no matter what if you are right.

    That said you should also recognize that there is always uncertainty in any science and there is a non-zero probability that you are completely wrong. Given the stakes involved you should be interested in encouraging good science that seeks to prove you wrong.

    I realize that not all skeptical science is good science but you do seem to trash every alternate viewpoint with equal vigour. I even agree that this conference is an exercise in advocacy rather than science. However, the topic made wonder what areas of research would be worth pursuing using good scientific techniques that could demonstrate that the GW hypothesis is wrong. i.e. where are the areas of greatest uncertainty that could contain the fact(s) that force everyone to reconsider the magnitude of the CO2 effect on climate?

    [Response: I am all for encouraging good science. Not much of that on offer at this conference though. If you want to see good science in the face of uncertainty, go to the SORCE solar meeting in Santa Fe next week, or the DOE Aerosol workshop next month, or the Climate Modelling Summit in the UK in May - places where real scientists are debating stuff at the cutting edge. Your statement is however a little confused - "the GW hypothesis" is a rather ill-defined concept. Since it is universally acknowledged that the planet has warmed, 'global warming' is not going to shown to be wrong. Nor will the fact that CO2 is a greenhouse gas whose concentrations are rising because of human activity. Constraining the magnitude of the effects however is a reasonable pursuit and lots of people are doing it - some well (Annan, Allen, Murphy, Forest, Knutti), some not so well (Chelyk, Schwartz) and some very badly (Idso, Monckton). If there will be any (extremely unlikely) major revisions to our knowledge on the subject it will come from the first group, not the last. - gavin]

  44. 144
    Justin says:

    I don’t suppose you’d be surprised by this. Who knows, Heartland may even write some of the papers themselves!

    James M. Taylor, a member of Heartland, in an article published in the Chicago Sun Times, “quoted” a paper on the Himalayan glaciers, written by Fowler and Archer in the Journal of Climate, in which it was claimed that evidence shows that “global warming alarmists are wrong”. However, the quote was made up! probably written off the top of Taylor’s head, for the sake of trying to make a case that was already so dismal only an idiot could fathom it.(Well, obviously so, for the same reasons we can infer that this “scientific” meeting is bogus) probably written off the top of Taylor’s head, for the sake of trying to make a case that was already so dismal only an idiot could fathom it.

    The article, by the way, was in response to Gore’s book, “The Assualt on Reason”. Hey, I haven’t read it, but I’m sure it wasn’t the work of a mountebank.

  45. 145

    #126 Russel

    If you are referring to #124 I thought it gave some good context though. In relation to the geologic time scale this is a very rapid event as far as I can tell. The ax represents the challenges and inevitability if we don’t do anything.

    Not sure where the three microwatts per square meter comes from (in what time frame?). The general models show the forcing around 1.6 W/m2. I saw a siddall chart recently that I think came from NASA that showed forcing up around 2.9 W/m2; anything in that range is largely outside of the natural variability of what we should be at (considering a normal interglacial is usually around 0.1 W/m2), by all accounts. So boring is not a descriptor I would use when one sets this in the context of the geologic time scale.

    I’m sorry you think it is silly though. I meant it in all seriousness. From everything I am looking at, it looks like this is going to be a very challenging period in our human history. I don’t think there is any event in the past that can even come close to what we have done here on a human scale at least.

    Does anyone have the current or latest modeled/accepted or observed estimates on the forcing level?

  46. 146
    Chris Colose says:

    137
    [QUOTE]“Reducing CO2 emissions is an impossible task. It will not happen as long as the world population is growing. If you are right then that means disaster is ahead for humanity. So my question is: wouldn’t you rather be wrong? If you would rather be wrong they why do you waste so much time vilifying the people that examine holes/gaps in the CO2 hypothesis? If you would rather be wrong shouldn’t you encourage those people even if you believe it is a waste of time?”[/QUOTE]

    I think gavin was far too kind in speaking of what logic you’re supposed to get out of this. For one thing, there are countless people working in nuclear, wind, geothermal, solar, hydro, tidal energies, better vehicles, etc who would disagree with the notion that “reducing CO2 emissions is an impossible task.” Infrared radiative transfer is not too concerned with the debates, technologies, economics, etc of what we are doing down here- bottom line, if we keep adding more CO2, there will be warming in the future, and too much of it will not be a good thing.

    I would certainly like to be wrong, and I would think that everyone else who accepts AGW hopes that as well, but science is not always convenient, and there is a lot of historical evidence that the truth, and what we want the truth to be are usually not the same. Scientists are warning people that “if you keep doing x, then y will happen.” If people are skeptical that is fine, and I’m not sure anyone thinks scientific skepticism is a bad thing; it is just that thanks to a growing delusionosphere, ‘skepticism’ in the climate science community has become synonymous with blatant manipulation of evidence, and just all around sloppy work.

  47. 147
    Hank Roberts says:

    Justin, mighty strong claim about the Chicago newspaper article.
    Can you cite that story by headline, date, page, byline, anything that would help to find a copy in a local library, or point to a copy of the article somewhere online? Flat out faking quotes isn’t exactly rare, but it’s not just laughed off yet, even in an election year. I tried the newspaper and did not find it by keyword; they only have a 30 day cycle for keeping articles online. It’s the same name as the Heartland person visiting this thread.

    [Response: This might be relevant - possible source here. - gavin]

  48. 148

    #131, Thanks Erika, Did any of these presenters make a climate projection, forecast or prediction? I recognize a few names, as far as I know, none have had any success or worse never bothered trying. They are at best like unspecialized film critics, will remain so, until they actually make a successful temperature projection. Based on their acknowledged beliefs, they can never make a good one anyways.

  49. 149
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Raven @ 137: “Fossil fuels are the foundation for the society we have today because the provide energy at very little cost.”

    Unfortunately, we now know that low cost is an illusion and that the real cost is actually very much higher.

    Raven: “Any carbon tax or similar measure is designed to increase the cost of fossil fuels and allow other forms of energy to complete. What this means that everyone will pay more for energy. This will mean a lower standard of living no matter what spin GW advocates want to put on it.”

    Yes, it will, at least in the short term, but seeking to preserve our current profligate, wasteful lifestyle in the face of diminishing resources and a growing population is not only unsustainable, it is the antithesis of adaptation to a changing climate.

  50. 150
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Raven, On what do you base your claim that reducing CO2 emissions is impossible? Do you contend that there are no other viable energy sources and that we cannot develop any? If so, I think you are wrong. The enemy of human progress is not the lack of ingenuity, but rather complacency.

    And of course, we would rather be wrong about anthropogenic CO2 being the culprit. However, as scientists we have to go with the evidence–and all of the evidence points to CO2. No one has developed even a germ of a credible alternative–and believe me it’s not for lack of trying. Please check out Spencer Weart’s History of Global Warming–the link’s on the front page.


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