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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. 401
    matt says:

    392 Ron Taylor: As far as Gore is concerned, no leader I know of has done more to reduce his carbon footprint.

    Really? Dubya (when not in the whitehouse) lives in a comparatively modest 4000 square foot house that relies on pipes buried 300 feet in the ground to heat and cool his house. He has a 25,000 gallon cistern that collects rainwater for landscape irrigation. He didn’t just add this stuff after a newpaper article wondered about waste. He’s had it for a long time.

    Al Gore collectively has 16,000 feet of living space in 3 homes in 3 states (largest is 10,000 square feet). We’ve all read about his $30,000 annual utility bills…

    I’d say Dubya is quite a bit greener than Al. And bush tends to achieve this by actually REDUCING, rather than just paying a premium for the privilege to keep using at rediculous levels.

    Tamino and others, pointing out a fact about someone is NOT attacking that person. You could call it rude perhaps…but it’s not attacking. Especially if that person has built quite a fortune on a particular platform.

    Everyone here likes to point out when someone has received funding from Exxon or similar. Do you consider that an attack, or stating a fact relevant to the discussion?

  2. 402
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Apropos the character assassination of Al Gore: First, whether he lives in 4000 sq. ft. or 16000 sq. ft. is irrelevant. The inaction of a few does not excuse your personal complacency. Second, the reason Al Gore has a soap box to stand on at all is because no politician on the right had the courage to stand with him in alerting people to the risks we face from climate change–not John McCain, not James Baker nor any of the other responsible, intelligent conservatives who have long been convinced that climate change is a serious issue. While making a few muted statements, they abandoned the moral high ground to Al Gore–who took it and ran with it. It is to them that Al Gore owes his Oscar and his Nobel Peace Prize, and it is because of conservative resistance to science that his still could have a chance to one day become president! Moral: Never try to defend the indefensible, and denial of climate change is indefensible.

  3. 403
    Ron Taylor says:

    Re 401 – Matt

    I said nothing about Dubya. The only thing I have read indicates he has gone totally green in Crawford, which raises the question about why he is doing nothing from a policy perspective. Owes special interests, maybe? I really don’t know. But whatever he is doing personally means next to nothing, since he is the leader of the free world and has been a negative force on global policy action on this issue for years. How can you dare hold him up as a positive example on global warming?

    About Gore, I do not know where you get your “facts.” But what I have read before and just confirmed on Snopes is that he buys all his energy from renewable sources. I do the same, using the New Jersey Clean Energy Program. How about you?

  4. 404
    Hank Roberts says:

    Anyone ever get pictures from that conference or a list of attendees?

  5. 405
    JCH says:

    Obviously there is far more to being green than your residence.

    Bush has opposed raising mileage standards. He could move into a thimble and not even make a micro scratch into offsetting that black hole. And that is just one.

  6. 406
    Ric Merritt says:

    Ron Durda (#390), for a guy in your 70′s you sure adopt a most astoundingly puerile mode of reasoning. The personal emissions of Al Gore or any other single person are completely insignificant. Neither the science nor the politics of climate mention them. Unless of course you’re looking for an excuse to ignore the science and try to make a nice red herring out of them for political purposes. CO2 is well mixed in the atmosphere. The thing that matters is total emissions, and the resulting concentrations. If anything at all matters about Al Gore, it would be his effect on total emissions. Anyway, that’s what any sincere, level-headed person must conceded, whether or not they like his personality or politics.
    And by the way, whatever you think of the light from CFL’s, their financial advantage is inarguable. (A “blind” test wherein subjects didn’t realize what was producing their ambi*nt [spam filter objects to that word!] light would be most interesting–I don’t notice anything special in my living room, and I’m middle-aged and read constantly.)

  7. 407
    Carl Wolk says:

    I attended this conference, so I can add some perspective that RC seems not to be presenting. It was never intended to be purely a scientific conference. Elements of it were, but other parts were very focussed on policy. Heck, th President of the Czech Republic spoke there. Enthusiasts like myself were invited. Doesn’ sound like it was ever intended to be a strictly scientific conference.
    Also, the assertion that the Heartland Institute is a front for the petroleum industry is completely unfounded. Less than 5% of its funding comes from oil companies.

  8. 408
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Carl Wolk @ 407: “It was never intended to be purely a scientific conference.”

    That much is clearly stated in the RC article that this thread stems from, when it quotes from Heartland’s letter of invitation:

    “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.”

    Carl Wolk: “he assertion that the Heartland Institute is a front for the petroleum industry is completely unfounded”

    The Heartland institute is a front for libertarian resistance to government regulation of any kind. Their questioning and denying of climate change is based on this ideology, not on science.

  9. 409
    Hank Roberts says:

    No, Jim, because Heartland changed course 180 degrees on the law regulating deleted deleted (words deleted to evade the allowable-thoughts-filter feature of the blog software), you know what sort of online payment system I mean. OR click the link.

    For years, Heartland opposed attempts to make “that” illegal
    http://www.heartland.org/ArticleProcessor.cfm?theId=artId20341

    The draft provided for the government to review everyone’s deleted records every month, putatively only to identify any deleted transactions with internet deleted services. That idea dropped out. (But they get your phone records now, same difference.)

    Heartland did a 180 degree turn and started applauding that law, they quit calling it an intartube gumbling law and started calling it a deleted-laundering law. Utter hypocrisy, using big government to shut down political speech while serving big US deleted interests that are protected.

    Why? Because two of the Canadians whose business it affected had been donating profits to the Canadian DeSmogBlog that assesses — the fossil fuel industry’s PR. Heartland cackled and crowed.

    Heartland serves the fossil fuel industry. Don’t doubt it. They abandoned what seemed a principled opposition to a law and embraced it once they realized it could be used to shut up and lock up one of the Canadians funding a Canadian blog critical of — one of Heartland’s major funders, the fossil fuel industry.

    Whose creature are they? Look at their record.

  10. 410
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    A few questions for you Carl:
    What are you an “enthusiast” about?
    Where does the other 95% of H.I.’s funding come from?
    How should the scientists of RC react to a conference whose objectives include the generation of media attention for a minority point of view whose scientific underpinnings are, at best, shaky?

    I’m thinking of it in these terms: How would I consider a conference gathering a bunch of people with varying degrees of expertise in medical science (ranging low or non existent for some) arguing against the risks of smoking and presenting small areas of doubt in the research here and there as proof that those risks are not significant. Furthermore, that conference would be organized not by any medical or scientific organization but by what amounts to a business advocacy group. I know exactly how much attention I would devote to it and how much value the conclusions reached there would carry for me (zero and zero). Perhaps that’s because I’m a health “enthusiast.”

  11. 411
    JCH says:

    “Also, the assertion that the Heartland Institute is a front for the petroleum industry is completely unfounded. Less than 5% of its funding comes from oil companies. …” – Carl Wolk

    What percentage comes from the airline industry, or the trucking industry, or the coal industry, or the utility companies?

    And how do young managers and executives in the above types of companies figure out where to give their money? Do you think just maybe the bright little brown nosers check out where the company is giving its money, and follow suit?

    Add it all up. i doubt it’s less than 5%.

  12. 412
    Carl Wolk says:

    According to http://www.heartland.org/NewYork08/newyork08.cfm, the organization only receives 16% from corporations.
    Philippe Chantreau said:
    “How should the scientists of RC react to a conference whose objectives include the generation of media attention for a minority point of view whose scientific underpinnings are, at best, shaky?” They should react and attack the science and not try to destroy debate by writing false information to try to shut down debate.
    Secondly, while I reject the idea that Heartland is a tool of the petreoleum industry, if it is, it doesn’t render the scientists’ findings false. Even if every single skeptic scientist was funded by oil money, it doesn’t make their arguments false. The AGW side of things gets tons of money from liberal and environmentalist organizations, yet it doesn’t render their arguments false. Debate the science, don’t supress debate.

    [Response: You are confusing the noise generated by Heartland with debate. Debate goes on every day in every scientific venue I've ever visited. You cannot debate someone who will not listen to anything you have to say and entertains no doubt about their position. Heartland are not a neutral party here - and attempts to whitewash agenda-driven contrarianism with the mantle of free speech worls fine in the courtroom, but it cuts no ice in a real scientific conference. - gavin]

  13. 413
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Carl, you claim the mantle of skeptic. Well, a skeptic makes judgements on the basis of evidence, so what specific evidence would you have to see to believe humans are changing the climate? If you cannot cite a specific void that could conceivably be filled by future observation or theory, then how can you claim to be a skeptic?

  14. 414
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #412: To add to Gavin’s response, it’s also the case that not one scrap of new science was presented at the conference, and that what little prior science was presented was mostly of the pseudo variety.

  15. 415
    Rod B says:

    Is it possible for anything to be a “front for libertarian resistance”???

  16. 416
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    393. “…attacks against Al Gore are still a mainstay of those who wish to resist action.”

    Al Gore is a red flag, in my humble opinion. The moment someone brings up the sunject of Gore is the moment when they admit they have no interest in real discussion re Climate change, AGW, the merits of climate skepticism as it is currently being practiced and so forth.

    It is an admission that, in the end, they understand they have nothing to offer, and instead are reduced to the equivilant of yelling “boogieman”!

  17. 417
  18. 418
    John Mashey says:

    Funding, since the discussion is on, although it probably belongs at DeSmogBlog.

    SUMMARY:
    - direct funding from fossil energy companies,
    - direct funding from family foundations, at least some of which have fortunes built on fossil energy ownership,
    - indirect funding through all sorts of other entities, of which some clearly comes from fossil energy companies, some clearly doesn’t, and much is muddy.

    DETAILS:

    1) Companies
    1a) Direct, as in ExxonMobil’s funding of various entities over the years.

    1b) Indirect, where one or more companies fund an entity, and then it funds something further along, as in:
    companies ->
    Western Fuels Association ->
    Greening Earth Society ->
    Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (Idso), although I think they also got some directly from ExxonMobil.

    In any case, Greening Earth sent some money -> Heartland. Would that count as coming from a fossil company?

    Of course, the same approaches were used for cigarettes, i.e., like TIRC.

    2) Family foundations (which is almost certainly the far larger fraction of funding of most of these things compared to direct fossil company funding, although as we’ll see, it isn’t easy to tell.)

    Here’s sourcewatch page for Heartland. See Foundation Funders section, of which at least several (Koch, Scaife) have oil as one of their fortune’s bases.

    3) Complicated combinations
    For those really interested in more, I found Sascha Meinrath’s blog, which offers Full donor lists from 2003, and a 2004 tax return.

    The 20003 document was called “Recent xxx Donors”, and is 3 pages long, with hundreds of donors I don’t recognize offhand. I did notice:

    Foundations:
    BP Amoco Foundation, ExxonMobil Foundation, General Motors Foundation,

    Corporate:
    American Petroleum Institute, Asphalt Institute, Chevron, Citgo Petroleum, Exxon Mobil Corp, Ford Motor, General Motors, Greening Earth Society [which you'll recall was Western Fuels], Occidental Chemical, Philips Petroleum, Philip Morris, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco, Union Carbide.

    I have no idea of the provenance of this material, but it looks real. It is of course, very hard to known how the money flows and who’s behind all these things, as some are obvious, but a lot aren’t.

    The 2004 IRS form is of interest. On Page 15, we find that the Board of Directors included Walter Buchholtz of ExxonMobil and Thomas Walton of General Motors.

  19. 419
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 412:

    “The AGW side of things gets tons of money from liberal and environmentalist organizations,”

    Name ‘em – and give specifics of their funding and who and what is being funded, seeing as you seem so sure of yourself…seems to me most of the science that has uncovered the problems associated with AGW is funded by government and/or educational organizations.

    Perhaps you could share which liberal organization is funding Jim Hanson and NASA, for example?

    “Even if every single skeptic scientist was funded by oil money, it doesn’t make their arguments false.”

    That’s right. But what does make their arguments false can be found here on this site, described in detail. Further, it is an obvious red flag when NEARLY ALL so-called skeptics are found to be funded in one way or another by industries with a vested interest in doing all they can to acting against addressing with AGW. That’s the real problem – there is hardly anyone outside of this funding circle with expertise in climatology that argues against the reality of AGW.

    It’s the elephant in the room, so to speak, and try as you might to deflect attention from it, you can’t.

  20. 420
    Jim Eager says:

    Re 415, Rod, the the word “front” came directly from Carl’s post. Perhaps “bastion” or “platform” would be a better term?

    Either way, the fact remains that Heartland’s motivation is ideologically, politically, and economically based, not scientifically based.

  21. 421

    re 412

    The only interesting scientific presentation I witnessed at the Heartland affair was Spencer’s, though his co-author’s were absent, and the Q&A was minimal because of the audience size- they saved it for the closing event.

    Too bad RC did not appear to enlarge the audience’s curiosity as to the disconnect between atmospheric physics and Monckton & Miskolczi’s mathematical minimalism – there were 5 program tracks and it would have needed as many actual skeptics to conduct a running reality check on what was uncritically adduced and accepted

  22. 422
    Hank Roberts says:

    > totally green in Crawford

    There’s a distinction between a survivalist bunker mentality, hunkered down utterly independent of surrounding society, and going green.

    The techniques overlap somewhat — collecting rainwater, geothermal heat pump, solar panels, insulation.

    The techniques differ somewhat — connecting to the utility grid both ways, not wasting fuel, cooperating with neighbors.

  23. 423
    Hank Roberts says:

    Dr. Seitz, did you hear anything questionable said, and how did you question what you heard? I’m assuming you at least count as one genuine skeptic conducting a running reality check on what was uncritically adduced and accepted. Did you have any impact?

  24. 424

    As the saying goes, “if a person will lie about one thing, they’ll lie about anything.” The urban legend about AEI and the supposed $10,000 bribe” has been thoroughly debunked on the AEI website, was formally retracted by one of the two papers that ran the article (only the Guardian, known for it’s ridiculous environmental reporting refused to retract) and has no credibility among those who know the institution, or the people involved at all. The fact that “RealClimate” which is supposedly devoted to truth-telling would perpetuate this slander should warn readers that the rest of what they say is untrustworthy as well.

    [Response: Might I recommend in future simply pointing to your response (it's here) so that people can decide for themselves rather than flinging around unfounded accusations of slander and dishonesty. That slightly undermines your claims to be honest brokers in the climate policy debate. Indeed, you might find your reputation among climate scientists could be enhanced if you treated us with a little more courtesy. - gavin]

  25. 425
    Magnus H. says:

    Has anyone had a chance to go through the “report” from the “NIPCC” (Singer & Co.)? Anyone trying to debunk their claims?

  26. 426
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #424 [Kenneth P. Green] I’ve taken a look at the AEI site – yes, looks like a pretty straightforward bribe offer to me, even as they present it. The $10,000 is offered for a 7-10,000 word (or longer) paper, with no requirements whatever for it to be a “a research project involving the review of a large amount of dense scientific material, and the synthesis of that material into an original, footnoted and rigorous article” as Christopher DeMuth claims on the AEI website, and no information whatever on how, if at all, the paper will be reviewed. The AEI’s aim, I think, is fairly clear: pretend there is still a scientific controversy over AGW, and on whether we need to do anything about it. For this purpose, clearly they would need some real scientists as well as denialists – hence the attempt to recruit Steve Schroeder. Congratulations to The Guardian for refusing to retract.

  27. 427
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Kenneth P. Green, Just out of curiosity, would the 10 grand be paid in unmarked, nonsequential bills?

  28. 428

    The Weather Channel founder Mr Coleman was the only person of perhaps some credit making noise at this conference, having succeeded with multiple blogs, however he rather use lawyers than expand on an intellectual discourse as to why AGW is a “fraud”…
    Typical of some TV meteorologists spouting out words without taking the time
    to elaborate, surprising anti weather Channel which has become a pillar of virtue with this subject… However complaining that those who take enormous time to reason with people are engaged in some elaborate plot to get rich, is beyond ignorance, especially of those who have spent so many hours, without greed as an incentive… It is as low as it gets, dirty politics has consumed the contrarians, having failed to find one reasonable theory disproving AGW.

  29. 429
    Larry Coleman says:

    The recent Heartland conference is having its intended effects here in Little Rock, where the county’s governing body – the Quorum Court – is considering a proposal to call on the governor to postpone approval of any new coal-fired plants in the state until we get the recommendations from a governor’s commission on climate change, currently meeting. A conservative member of the Quorum Court – a physics teacher at a local private high school – is opposing the resolution and attended the conference. I assume his costs were covered by Heartland, which promised to do so for “elected officials.” He has swamped the other members of the QC with literature from the conference, which has had the effect of giving cover to any who were already leaning toward denial of GW. When I testified before the legislative sub-committee recently, at least one member was primed with questions that clearly came from Heartland via the physics teacher. Questions and comments included: How explain the recent cooling? (My response: The climate record is a noisy one. One can draw no conclusions from a few years of data.) It could be the Sun… we know there is a correlation between sunspots and global temperature. (Not recently, and not one that will begin to explain the temperature rise of the past century.) Shouldn’t scientists keep an open mind on this issue…isn’t that they way science is supposed to be done? (Not about everything. It would be anti-science to keep an open mind over whether the Earth revolves around the Sun, or vice versa. AGW is not that well established but the basics are solid.)

    We think the proposal will pass but Heartland is making it more difficult by magnifying existing doubt. I am trying to find out more about what talks were given at the conference and what attendees brought home. This blog topic has been helpful, but any more info on specifics regarding the conference would be good.

  30. 430
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Lawrnce, I sympathize. This is the standard tactic from the anti-science types. Try to cast doubt on the science; play up uncertainties; use the very self-correcting character of science against it; and so on. All we can do is try to educate people about the meaning and importance of scientific consensus. At this point, there really is no alternative theory to anthropogenic causation of climate change. Those few papers that are published that question anthropogenic causation are based on misunderstandings of the science or on completely speculative–and mostly discredited–mechanism, and we just wait for the thud and then the silence (in the scientific community) that greets their publication. Not one professional society of scientists or engineers currently challenges anthropogenic causation–not even the the American Association of Petroleum Geologists!
    So du courage, and hopefully this cartoon will sustain you in your time of need:

    http://xkcd.com/54/

  31. 431
    Martin Lewitt says:

    Re: Ray #430, I am surprised you are not aware of the solar alternative to the AGW hypothesis. If the “self correcting” character of the science shows that the models have errors and correlated biases larger than the less than 0.8W/m^2 energy imbalance they are attempting to attribute, why shouldn’t it be used “against it”.

    FYI, the NASA chief in retracting his climate statements has characterized AGW “almost as a religious issue”.

    http://blogs.chron.com/sciguy/archives/2008/03/nasa_chief_glob.html

  32. 432

    Martin Lewitt writes:

    [[ I am surprised you are not aware of the solar alternative to the AGW hypothesis.]]

    He is aware of it, as is nearly everybody else on this blog and in the climatology community. Scientists don’t generally take it seriously as an alternative because the evidence for it is so weak and the contrary evidence is so strong.

    1. There has been no clear trend in sunlight for 50 years. We know because we’ve been measuring it from satellites like Nimbus-7 and -8 and the Solar Maximum Mission. Here’s a table of Total Solar Irradiance for the last 400 years with a chart:

    http://members.aol.com/bpl1960/LeanTSI.html

    If solar output has been flat for 50 years, it can’t have caused the sharp upturn in global warming of the last 30.

    2. Increased sunlight would heat the stratosphere first, since that is where ozone absorbs solar ultraviolet light. But the stratosphere has been cooling, something predicted by the climate modelers on the basis of increased greenhouse gases. Some of the cooling is due to ozone depletion, but not enough to account for all of it quantitatively.

    3. Increased sunlight would heat the equator most, since that is the region that is “full on” to the sun on average throughout the year; the poles would lag behind. Google “Lambert’s cosine law” for the mathematical details. Instead we’re seeing “polar amplification,” which, again, was predicted by the climate modelers on the basis of increased greenhouse gases.

    4. Increased sunlight would affect daytime temperatures more than nighttime (duh). Instead, nighttime temperatures have increased more. This is predictable from increased greenhouse gases, which would suppress heat loss at night, but not with increased sunlight.

    5. Those who say it isn’t sunlight at issue, but the sunspot cycle, or solar magnetic fields, or solar modulation of galactic cosmic rays, have missed the fact that those measurements pretty much track TSI. There’s no trend in cosmic rays, either, for the past 50 years. And sunlight does, in fact, affect climate on long time scales, and that correlation is to TSI, not to anything else.

  33. 433
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Martin, You are succumbing to what I call the “Chinese Menu” approach to climate modeling, where you choose one from column A, once from column B, etc. until you make up the effect. That’s not the way climate modeling works, precisely because different forcers have different uncertainties associated with them. Climate models try to minimize the number of adjustable parameters they have by determining the strengths of the forcers independently of the data they are trying to fit. The data then provide validation or falsification of the model. Forcing due to CO2 and greenhouse gasses are amont those with the least uncertainty. Thus, there is virtually no chance that discovery of another forcer would change their contribution. Rather, the more uncertain forcers would likely give–e.g. aerosols, clouds, etc.
    Your reference to a “solar alternative” is telling, as this putative mechanism is not at all well established at present. All you have are some ideas people are batting around, and they can’t even agree on how it depends on solar activity.
    For what it’s worth, Michael Griffin is an engineer with zero expertise in climate. He did not dispute that humans were causing climate change, but merelhy said he thought we could adapt. And it is typical of anti-science types to accuse scientists of religiosity when after all the scientists have all the science on their side.

  34. 434
    Martin Lewitt says:

    Re: Barton Paul Levinson #432

    1) You are quite correct that solar forcing can’t explain the sharp upturn in temperature in the last 30 years. Solar forcing may well explain the warming, just not the shape of the curve, because the aerosols responsible for the midcentury cooling delayed the response to the plateau in solar activity reached circa 1940. If you are familiar Solanki’s work you know that this plateau in solar activity is one of the highest in the last 8000 years and less than 8% of comparable periods would last past the year 2050. The climate commitment works of Wigley and Meehl show that temperature and sea level responses take decades and centuries respectively.

    2) Greenhouse gasses have been increaing, so the cooling should be expected, solar activity has been flat on scales larger than the solar cycle, so the stratopheric warming would already have occurred prior to 1940. No mystery there. There is a lot of recent work showing that the solar coupling to the stratosphere, even over just the 11 year cycle is greater than previously thought.”The magnitude of the observed decadal ozone changes (20%) is much larger than any previously reported solar cycle effect in the atmosphere up to this altitude.” http://www.atmos-chem-phys.org/6/1835/2006/acp-6-1835-2006.pdf

    3) Camp and Tung have shown that there is polar amplification in the solar signature as well. Full text of several of their papers is available at:

    http://www.amath.washington.edu/people/faculty/tung/publications.html

    4) Hopefully noone is saying that CO2 will have zero effect, it and H2O will increase the nightime temperatures. The null hypothesis for short term attribution over periods of a few decades should probably be about one third each for GHGs, solar and internal variation. Note that since solar is more coupled to the daytime, when temperatures and thus partial pressures of water vapor are higher, the H2O positive feedback should also be higher.

    5) If you have read Foukal, you would know that even over the last two cycles of good data, that bright area/sunspot models only explain about 80% of the variation. We don’t know how valid such models are in other solar activity modes from this small sample.

    Re: Ray Ladbury, Yes, the solar mechanism is not well established, yet, but there are strong trends in the literature, especially vis’a'vis a stratosphere coupling and in regard to model failures to reproduce the solar signatures found in the observations on many scales. But positive feedbacks to GHG forcings are also not well established, outside the models except by assuming they are the same as solar and aerosol climate sensitivities. Models are just not ready to attribute a fraction of a watt/m^2 in energy imbalance.

  35. 435
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Martin, since the feedbacks tend to be mostly thermally activated, why would they not be the same as for solar or any other forcer? Again, you are assuming everything is equally uncertain–and it ain’t. The strengths of the forcers are determined from a variety of data, and the strength of CO2 forcing is well determined from a variety of different datasets and analyses. True, we still have a lot to understand about clouds and aerosols. Greenhouse gasses and insolation are pretty well nailed. So given that it is warming (and it is), this says that greenhouse gasses will continue to present a problem.

  36. 436
    Martin Lewitt says:

    Ray, Since the heat from the different forcings is coupled to the climate differently in geographical and vertical distribution and timing, the feedbacks will be activated differently. Heat added to areas of low absolute humidity will probably have less coupling to the climate system, since it will be radiated into space at night, whereas heat added several meters into the ocean will likely be more strongly coupled to the climate system. Radiative forcing that causes chemical changes such as increased ozone may have altered the climate system in ways more significant than can be accounted for by its thermal effects alone.

    CO2 radiative forcing and trends may be well understood, but there is not good model independent validation of feedbacks and climate sensitivity to this distribution of forcing. And the model based implementations of well mixed GHGs couple them to the whole mixing layer of the ocean as if they were just like the visible spectrum and penetrated 10s of meters instead of microns. Models have been tuned to reproduce the recent warming despite being unable to reproduce the solar cycle signature on the climate, so we can have little faith in model derived GHG sensitivity.

    Solar variation is poorly understood, understanding of its coupling to the stratosphere is still rapidly changing, and there are significant subtleties to how solar coupling to the tropical oceans impacts convection and the whole climate system including spawning planetary waves that impact stratospheric heat transport.

    In a nonlinear system, the null hypothesis should be different climate sensitivites to forcings coupled to the climate in different ways, not the same sensitivity.

    [Response: There's a fair amount of nonsense in this statement which I'm sure others will discuss, but the misunderstanding regarding the way the atmosphere is coupled to the ocean is particularly severe. On the subject of response to the solar cycle, it turns out that the impression that models are bad at this largely comes from people never having looked carefully at the right models. K.K. Tung presented some very important analyses of the AR4 models that include the solar cycle forcing, and many of them do indeed reproduce the observed cycle and its geographic pattern quite well. Right now it's just an AGU poster, but no doubt it will be a paper before long.It's another question whether a model needs to pass the solar cycle test in order to do well at longer time scales, but the message is clear that there's no case for missing physics regarding the way the solar cycle -- and by inference longer term solar activity changes -- affect climate. --raypierre]

  37. 437
    Martin Lewitt says:

    raypierre, I think the Tung and Camp paper has now been publshed:

    Tung, K. K., and C. D. Camp (2008), Solar cycle warming at the Earth’s surface in NCEP and ERA-40 data: A linear discriminant analysis, J. Geophys. Res., 113, D05114, doi:10.1029/2007JD009164

    Although the title appears to have been changed in peer review, this appears to be the full text, perhaps not the peer reviewed version however:

    http://www.amath.washington.edu/research/articles/Tung/journals/solar-jgr.pdf

    Regarding coupling to the oceans, the climate sensitivities to the different forcings is probably highly dependendant on the individual strengths of that coupling. It is clear that energy deposited meters below the surface can’t have as immediate an impact on land surface temperatures as energy deposited in the surface skin layer, foam or spray, even though the ultimate, cumulative impact may be far greater.

    [Response: This is a different paper from the result I was referring to. The new work reported at AGU analyzed the expression of the solar cycle in the AR4 archive. Models do indeed vary greatly in their sensitivity to solar forcing, and it will be interesting to track that down. --raypierre]

  38. 438
    Eric says:

    I was at the ICCC as a videographer. First of all, not many scientists there denied that global warming is happening. The questions were whether or not it was being caused soley by CO2, if not then what else could be causing it and, whether or not it is CO2, is it being caused by humans? Also, whether or not it is being caused by humans, is it a bad thing?
    An oceanographer was able to show that ocean temperature precedes CO2 levels (due to greater water solubility of CO2 in cooler rather than warm oceans). If the cause is the oceans and not CO2, than why are we focused on cutting CO2 emissions? Maybe we should be focused on trying to keep the oceans temperature the same.
    Why is no one arguing that? Because it’s rediculous. We can’t control the temperature of the oceans no matter how much we try, yet that would have a far larger affect on the warming climate than cutting humans’ measely CO2 emmisions.
    I use warming oceans as ONE example. There are too many other variables that affect the atmosphere.
    The best any scientist can say is, “Sure, the climate is warming but I don’t know exactly why.”
    There is one more GLARING thing that I would like to point out: The climate has had MASSIVE climate change in the past, long before human existence, far more dynamic than what we are experiencing now.
    Based soley on that point, how can anyone be truly alarmed that the climate changes. It CHANGES. That’s what it does.
    The best we can be is a little uneasy that there are aspects of our existence that we can not control and that we do not understand at the moment. Where am I wrong?

    [Response: We've heard all of this many times before. OK people, let's help Mr. Eric in his quest for knowledge. Please tell him where he's wrong. --raypierre]

  39. 439
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Eric, This is horse puckey. Think about it. You say, “The climate has had MASSIVE climate change in the past, long before human existence, far more dynamic than what we are experiencing now.”
    That, sir, is precisely the point. Human civilization, indeed human society, has never experienced anything like the changes we are starting to unleash. ALL of the infrastructure of our civilization was developed during the past 10000 years of exceptional climatic stability. And now, as the human population soars to 9-12 billion, we are changing the environment to the point where much of our agricultural, transport, health, water and social infrastructure may simply cease to function. What is more, the climate has many positive feedbacks, and if these kick in in earnest, we will have no control whatsoever.
    Finally, your assertion that we don’t understand the mechanism of climate change is just flat wrong. The theory of climate is pretty mature. Yes, there are aspects we don’t understand, but they are not significant enough to invalidate what we understand well–greenhouse forcing. Increase greenhouse gasses and you’ll warm the climate. Warm the climate and you’ll decrease predictability. Now, I ask you, in a world of 12 billion people, how can less predictability be a good thing?

  40. 440

    I tried to reply, Ray, and my comment got flagged as spam and deleted. Again. And since I have no way on God’s green Earth of finding out what in the message hit the miserably stupid AI the wrong way, aside from taking out each successive word until the mutilated post gets through, I don’t think I’m going to bother any more.

  41. 441
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Eric @ 438: “An oceanographer was able to show that ocean temperature precedes CO2 levels (due to greater water solubility of CO2 in cooler rather than warm oceans).”

    Eric, this is indeed true, and no one here will tell you otherwise. The problem is what the oceanographer likely did not tell you, namely that as CO2 was emitted from the warming ocean when the last ice age ended, that added CO2 induced yet more warming since CO2 is a greenhouse gas. I’ll wager that he did not even tell you that as the atmosphere warmed, more water vapour also evaporated from the warming ocean, which lead to even more warming since water vapour is also a greenhouse gas. This is known as a feedback because it is a result of and amplifies the initial warming, caused at the end of an ice age by changes in solar isolation as a result of changes in Earth’s orbit and angle of axis. We know the added greenhouse gas amplified the warming because we know that the change in insolation is not sufficient by itself to end an ice age, it simply is not powerful enough.

    The other thing I am certain that the oceanographer did not tell you is that adding CO2 to the atmosphere independent of insolation changes, as humans are doing today, will produce warming, just as it did when the CO2 came from a warming ocean.

    Take home message: Beware of those who explain only part of the story. It takes the whole story to understand what is going on.

  42. 442
    Eric says:

    Actually he did mention water vapor. He (and actually most others there) mentioned that water vapor is the number 1 green house gas. In your guys eyes- true or false? Most of them mentioned feedback as well.
    Also, almost nobody there (aside from Dr. Vince Grey and maybe a couple others) denied that adding CO2 to the atmosphere is causing warming. I can’t remember the exact numbers, so maybe you guys can help me out.
    1.How much CO2 are humans putting into the atmosphere?
    2.How much CO2 is naturally occuring?
    3.How much is human caused CO2 warming the atmosphere?
    4.Has there been an increase or decrease in natural causes of CO2 and how much on either side?
    If I could get that data or find it somewhere, from a source that YOU guys trust (they showed the data but something tells me you guys would find something wrong with it) I’d appreciate it.
    And one last question for this post:
    In your eyes (whoever would like to respond) is the warming that we have seen in the past century greater than any other warming we have seen since the last ice age?

  43. 443
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Eric,
    If you really want to understand this, go the the Start Here link on the front page and commence your education. Spencer Weart’s history is a good place to start. If you want a somewhat condensed view the Wikipedia article below is a reasonable start. Keep in mind that CO2 has several characteristics that increase its effectiveness as a greenhouse gas–especially it’s long residence time in the atmosphere and the fact that it is well mixed even into the stratosphere. These factors significantly increase its contribution and make it easier to look on water vapor’s more variable contribution as a feedback.
    1)Humans are responsible for virtually all the increase in ghg since about 1750–some by burning fossil fuels, some by burning forests/land use, cement production… About half of what we put into the atmosphere stays there. Half goes into the oceans–but this is changing as the oceans’ ability to absorb more is beginning to decrease).
    2)Current atmospheric concentration is abotu 385 ppmv, whereas pre-industrial levels were pretty stable at about 280 ppmv. The difference is all from humans~38-40% increase.
    3)Directly, about 1.5 Watts, but this warming causes increased evaporation, outgassing of ghgs and other positive feedbacks. Effectively, you get about 3 degrees C warming per doubling of CO2.
    4)Natural sources is a little bit vague. However, if what you are asking is how much of the increase in CO2 is due to human activity, the answer is virtually all of it. We know this because of the way the isotopic composition of carbon in the atmosphere is changing–the new carbon has to be from a fossil source.

    As to your last question, the warming has been both rapid and sustained–it is remarkable by any standard over the last 10000 years.

  44. 444
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Eric, forgot to link to the Wikipedia article:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas

    It’s pretty good.

  45. 445
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Eric @ 442 “Actually he did mention water vapor. He (and actually most others there) mentioned that water vapor is the number 1 green house gas. In your guys eyes- true or false?”

    Eric, this is true, because there is far more water vapour in the atmosphere than there is CO2. However, once again, that’s only part of the story.

    First, since the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere is limited by temperature, if more water vapour is added without also increasing temperature it will just condense and then precipitate out.
    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relative_humidity
    This means water vapour as a greenhouse gas can only act as a feedback, not a forcing.

    CO2, on the other hand, is not limited by temperature and does not condense and precipitate out at normal Earth temperatures, and so it can accumulate in the atmosphere almost indefinitely if the rate of emissions exceeds the rate at which it is absorbed by the the biosphere and ocean. This is exactly what we have been measuring since 1958, and have measured in ice cores for years prior to 1958. This means CO2 can act both as a feedback if it is added due to a naturally warming ocean, OR as a forcing if added directly, as we are currently doing by burning large and increasing amounts of fossil fuels.

    Second, as Ray pointed out, the amount of water vapour decreases with altitude as temperature falls, while CO2 remains well mixed into the stratosphere. Thus, water vapour is the dominant greenhouse gas only in the lower to mid troposphere, while CO2 dominates above the mid-troposphere.

    Eric: “1.How much CO2 are humans putting into the atmosphere?”

    In addition to Ray’s link to the wiki page,which you may be suspicious of, here is a link to the US Dept of Energy’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC): http://cdiac.ornl.gov/
    Last time I looked up the figure, human activity–not including respiration but including all industrial and land-use activity–generates around 29 Gt (29 billion tonnes) per year of CO2. Since 1750, the start of the industrial revolution, we have increased atmospheric CO2 by over 38%, or by more than one third, half of that since 1950. We know, roughly, how much fossil fuels are burned every year, so we can easily calculate how much CO2 we emit every year. We know that fossil-fuel-generated CO2 is accumulating by measuring the ratio of carbon 14 in atmospheric CO2. That ratio is falling because fossil fuels are so old that they contain very little carbon 14.
    Not only that, but other greenhouse gasses are also increasing, including methane, nitrous oxides, and CFCs, which did not exists until we created them.

    Eric: “2.How much CO2 is naturally occuring?”

    I think you need to do some reading about the carbon cycle. You might start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_cycle
    Bottom line, natural carbon sinks (biosphere, ocean) absorb virtually all naturally released CO2, plus about half of what humans generate from burning fossil fuels, which is why it is accumulating.

    Eric: “3.How much is human caused CO2 warming the atmosphere?”

    See Ray’s answer.

    Eric: “4.Has there been an increase or decrease in natural causes of CO2 and how much on either side?”

    No, it’s pretty stable on the non-human side of the ledger since temperatures stabilised after the last ice age, but that will change as it gets warmer and the oceans are able to absorb less CO2, and other natural CO2 sinks become net emitters. We are already starting to see some of these feedbacks. Otherwise the only significant natural addition to the normal short to medium term carbon cycle is volcanic activity, but it adds less that 1% as much as human activity does each year, even in a year with a big eruption.

    Eric: “In your eyes (whoever would like to respond) is the warming that we have seen in the past century greater than any other warming we have seen since the last ice age?”

    I agree with Ray. There have been periods when it was nearly as warm in some regions, but both the current global change and the rate of change is unlike what the paleo record shows since the end of the last ice age, and we know for certain that CO2 is now higher than anytime BEFORE the last ice age.

  46. 446
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jim, Thanks for expanding on my rather cursory answers. One minor quibble: We know the carbon is from a fossil source via the C-13 content, not the C-14 content. C-14 would be an excellent indicator were it not for the spike that occurred circa middle of the last century (Hmm, wonder what that could have been… Hint: One might say the C-14 mushroomed).
    OTOH, the atmospheric nuclear tests provided an excellent laboratory for tracing the progress of carbon in the oceans. Moral for the optimistic scientist who doesn’t like lemonade: It life hands you nuclear fallout, use it as a tracer.

  47. 447
    Jim Eager says:

    Thanks for the correction, Ray, I should know better. (G)

  48. 448
    Franko says:

      
    Looking at; Mean Sea Level as seen by altimeters;
    http://www.aviso.oceanobs.com/en/news/ocean-indicators/mean-sea-level/index.html
      
    For over 2 years, and 5 tries, the plot has bounced off the 8 cm ceiling. Financial charts interpret double top and head and shoulder as possible 2/3 pullback indicators.

    “Seasonal variations have been removed”
    How would the unadjusted chart look ?

    What kind of lowpass filtering is the red line ?

    What is the time lag between temperature and sea level ?

  49. 449
    Hank Roberts says:

    Franko, have you read anything about how trends are determined and how many years you need to know if there’s a trend or a change?
    http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2007/05/the_significance_of_5_year_tre.php

    Or do you believe it’s possible to do market timing?

    The answers to your questions are in the references:
    http://www.aviso.oceanobs.com/en/news/ocean-indicators/mean-sea-level/altimetric-processing-and-corrections/index.html

  50. 450
    Franko says:

      
    Thank you for the links, it helped me sort out some ideas.

    Land temperature averages have poor reputations.
    Sea level from satellites may be the best single short term global climate indicator. However the data is not long enough to well sample longer trends such as El Nino, La Nina, Pacific Decadal Oscillation, glacier melting, and the move of ice from North Pole to South Pole.

    “you need to know if there’s a trend or a change?”
    The change in trend is indicated by a sequence of new inputs significantly different from the model prediction.

    “Or do you believe it’s possible to do market timing?”
    I do. (Trend is your friend.) Look for a chart with least residual error; Take daily, weekly, monthly charts; then bet if all indicate same direction.

    Last year, 2007, the snow stayed longest on the nearby mountain in 30 years, according to my neighbor. Frost free days one month later than usual (March 22) per local plant nursery. And in July we will be paying a carbon tax, (Vancouver, Canada), because of the Global Warming consensus.


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