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A day when Hell was frozen

Filed under: — rasmus @ 7 February 2008

“Hell train station” I was honoured to be invited to the annual regional conference for Norwegian journalists, taking place annually in a small town called ‘Hell’ (Try Earth Google ‘Hell, Norway’). During this conference, I was asked to participate in a panel debate about the theme: ‘Climate – how should we [the media] deal with world’s most pressing issue?’ (my translation from Norwegian; by the way ‘Gods expedition’ means ‘Cargo shipment’ in ‘old’ Norwegian dialect).

This is the first time that I have been invited to such a gathering, and probably the first time that a Norwegian journalists’ conference invited a group of people to discuss the climate issue. My impression was that the journalists more or less now were convinced by the message of the IPCC assessment reports. This can also be seen in daily press news reports where contrarians figure less now than ~5 years ago. But the public seemed to think that the scientists cannot agree on the reality or cause of climate change.

I find that the revelation of a perception of the climate problem within the climate research community that doesn’t match that of the general public problematic. What I learned is that this also seems to be true for the journalists: it was stated that their perception of climate change and its causes were different to the general public too.

The panel in which I participated consisted of a social/political scientist who had investigated how media deals with the issue of climate change and the public perception thereof, a science journalist, an AGW-skeptic, and myself. Despite the name of the place, the debate was fairly civil and well-behaved (although the AGW-skeptic compared climate scientists to mosquitoes, and brought up some ad hominem attacks on Dr. Pachauri).

The science journalist in the panel advocated the practice of reporting on issues that are based on publications from peer reviewed scientific literature. I whole-heartedly concur. I would also advice journalists to do some extensive search on the publication record of the individuals, and consider their affiliations – are they from a reputable place? Also, it’s recommended that they consider which journal in which the article is published – an article on climate published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons is less likely to receive a review of competent experts (peers) than if it were published in a mainstream geophysics journal. Finally, my advice is to try to trace the argument back to its source – does it come from some of those think tanks? But I didn’t get the chance to say this, as the debate was conducted by a moderator whose agenda was more focused on other questions.

Short of telling the journalists to start to read physics in order to understand the issues at hand, I recommended the reading of Spencer Weart’s ‘The Discovery of Global Warming’. The book is an easy read and gives a good background about the climate sciences. It also reveals that a number of arguments still forwarded by AGW-skeptics are quite old and have been answered over time. The book gives the impression of a déjà vu regarding the counter arguments, the worries, politics, and the perceived urgency of the problem. I would also strongly recommend the book for the AGW-skeptics.

One reservation I had regarding the discussion is being cut off when I get into the science and the details. I had the feeling of taking part in a football match where the referee and all the spectators were blind and then tried to convince them that I scored a goal. The problem is that people without scientific training often find it hard to judge who’s right and who’s wrong. It seems that communication skills are more important for convincing the general public that scientific skills. Scientists are usually not renowned for their ability to explain complicated and technical matters, but rather tend to shy off.

I’d suggest that journalists should try to attend the annual conferences such as the European (EMS) and American (AMS) meteorological societies. For learning what’s happening within the research, mingling with scientists/meteorologists, and because these conferences have lot to offer media (e.g. media sessions). Just as journalists go to the Olympics, would it not be natural for journalists to attend these conferences? – but I missed the opportunity to make this suggestion.

Hell seems to be fairly dead on a Sunday afternoon. I almost caught a cold from the freezing wait for the train – although the temperature was barely -3C. This January ranked as the third warmest in Oslo, and I have started to acclimatise myself to all these mild winters (the mountain regions, however, have received an unusually large amount of snow). Our minister of finance was due to attend the meeting to talk about getting grief, but she didn’t make it to Hell due to a snow storm and chaos at the air port (heavy amount of wet snow due to mild winter conditions).


366 Responses to “A day when Hell was frozen”

  1. 151

    Eric writes:

    [[ If both cycles are weak and there is no cooling, it will convince many skeptics that the AGW component is overwhelming the natural fluctuations.]]

    No it won’t. They’ll find some other reason why AGW isn’t true, or doesn’t matter.

  2. 152
    David B. Benson says:

    Eli Rabett (116) — The good ones don’t.

  3. 153
    Greg Goodknight says:

    Regarding my last post, I should have mentioned the P-T was 251 million years ago, and pointed out the blue trace on Svensmark’s Figure 8 is an inverted plot of gcr flux, so it appears as a maxima in that figure.
    http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1468-4004.2007.48118.x

  4. 154
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Eli @ 115: “Ernst-Georg Beck, Dipl. Biol., Biologist, Merian-Schule Freiburg, Germany – another Dipl. teaches in secondary school.”

    Not to mention also fabricates bogus graphs:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/06/curve-manipulation-lesson-2/

  5. 155
    PageOneLit says:

    I just read the first full length fiction novel about the greehouse effect on humanity titled Download: An Alternative Story of Noah and his Ark by Howard J. Peters (ISBN-10: 1419631616)

    Bible stories are always more than what they seem. Even today they resonate in our collective consciousness because their ancient messages are still so timely. Debut author Howard Peters’ bold, brash, and fiercely funny trilogy takes its premise from the story of Noah’s Ark. Written in three books, “Castle in the Sky,” “Your Body is Where you Live,” and “The Third Rising,” this is an ingeniously written novel that’s part Thomas Pynchon, part Ray Bradbury and altogether original. Somewhere in space and time, the world is in chaos. There’s no green grass and the air is polluted. There’s nothing left but memories of better times and fears about nuclear disaster. Hybrids populate this world, along with humans and gorilla people, and greed and cruelty is rampant.

    Suddenly, a strange video hologram arrives, full of knowledge about another civilization, and Noah begins to wonder who sent it and why? Was there a similar solar system that might sustain life? Noah begins to plan for a brave new world, transporting people on the spaceship ARK toward a very familiar sounding planet. But will the future be better than the present? Peters’ eloquent message is clear: What we do in our world now is a legacy for our children tomorrow. What kind of world do we want to leave them? Do we want to redevelop our wasteful ways and continue to be inhumane or do we want to make permanent change for the betterment of our world and ourselves?

    Peters’ writing zips and flows on the page, creating a panoramic cast of original characters and extraordinary situations. There are the lovers Svi and Lika, the gorilla people pondering their place in the cosmos, and of course, there is Noah, endlessly musing about God and fate and the future. Fiendishly clever and whiz-bang enjoyable, this is a page-turning trilogy that is both provocative and profound. VISIT http://www.howardjpeters.com

    Download: An Alternative Story of Noah and his Ark by Howard J. Peters

    Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (April 16, 2007)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 1419631616
    ISBN-13: 978-1419631610

  6. 156
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #140: Alan K., I would suggest to you that just asking the signers whether they’re qualified isn’t sufficient since the presence of Courtney on those lists indicates a complete failure of quality control. Of course Courtney would happily tell you that he’s very qualified. Instead, you could ask the signers for a list of their publications *relevant* to the subject matter of the letter and then check those in Google Scholar.

    Another easy check is whether someone is an elderly crackpot, even if they did reasonable relevant work whole still active. Google “Nils-Axel Morner”+”dowsing” for a good example of that. Bill Gray is a much toned-down variation on that theme; see the “Gray and Cloudy Day” post in the archives here.

    Yes, aside from Courtney there are a fair number of others on the list who are just as unqualified (along with a very small number of people with some qualifications). I pointed him out because he’s the only one (to my knowledge) to have lied about his degree (although Tim Ball tells about an 80% lie regarding his degree).

    You seem to be implying that lists of that sort shouldn’t be pre-judged, but bear in mind that most of the names are quite familiar from similar past efforts. Those of us who know that history just roll our eyes every time a new one comes along and are understandably hesitant to put a lot of effort into redundant debunking.

    BTW, someone may have already mentioned it above, but IIRC DeSmogBlog did a complete investigation of one of these lists when it came out. It should be easy enough to find on their site (link on the right bar).

    So now you’ve made me spend more time on this than it was worth. I can only hope you’re feel suitably guilty. :)

  7. 157
    Hank Roberts says:

    > New Scientist

    Yep, I once ragged on them for getting some science wrong, and got back a prompt reply that they are an entertainment niche magazine, not a science magazine. I consider them a good reminder to always find their sources (which they often don’t cite, at least in their teasers online).

    Nevertheless, that’s one mistake I thought worth nitpicking in all the issues I’ve read, which is not bad. I’m sure I missed a few.

  8. 158

    Hi Rasmus,

    Wish I could have gone to Hell with you. Sounds like a good gathering and some progress.

    I think you are on the right track with a guide for journalists.

    1. Peer reviewed

    2. Publication record and affiliations (funding sources)

    3. Communication skills I would call that quality of communication. Communication of science needs to be translated in order to achieve higher levels of understanding.

    I would add one more to the list.

    4. Relevance and context.

    That should include background of the individual and context and relevance to the larger scope of the data and understanding. To many times they are weighing less relevant arguments equally with relevant arguments.

    If arguments are more or less relevant of in context it greatly affects the perception of the press, and therefore what they write.

    A prudent journalist would want to know the relevance and context of arguments in order to give them proper weight in relation to the arguments perspective.

    Until the media is able to rank relevance of a given argument the disinformation campaigns will keep winning battles in the media (my opinion).

    It’s about time Hell froze over, maybe the skeptics will pay more attention now :)

    They are going to have a real hard time understanding why global warming causes more snowfall. Best way to explain that is warmer oceans means more evaporation and what goes up must come down. If it’s cold when it comes down, it’s going to be more snow.

  9. 159
    Nick Gotts says:

    RE #149 [Rod B.] “beyond rational analysis people prefer homo stasis and just hate to change. Cigarettes are not a good example because joining the quitters was considered and improvement in their lives; mitigating AGW is likely the opposite — the rose-colored economic analyses by some not withstanding.”

    We appear to be nearer agreement at some points than I thought. I’d certainly agree with your first point above about change, but as it happens, most people are already experiencing rapid change which is far beyond their own control – it’s called modernity, or capitalism. I admit cigarettes do not provide a perfect example, although the fall in tobacco-smoking rates does show that apparently well-entrenched behaviour patterns can change quite fast. A better, though probably more parochial example is the spread among dog-owners in Britain of the habit of clearing up the deposits their animal companions leave behind. This was unknown in my childhood; now, while not universal, it is certainly the rule rather than the exception in my current (middle-class) neighbourhood and many others. This is a classic social dilemma (at least for the dog-owners): cleaning up after your dog is not pleasant, but it’s better than stepping in something someone else’s dog has left behind. I’m not sure what the social dynamics were that brought about the change – although the fact that non-dog-owners also have an interest in persuading dog-owners to clean up was probably important. AGW poses a complex, asymmetric and multi-layered social dilemma; but we do know more about how such dilemmas can be surmounted than ever before. I agree with you that reducing GHG emissions rapidly (which I believe to be necessary), is likely to reduce economic growth below its possible maximum in the short-to-medium term: if you add a constraint to a problem, you may rule out what would otherwise be the best solution. However, there are many reasons, environmental, social and psychological, why maximising economic growth is not a reasonable or compassionate goal. Above all, there is now very good reason to believe that failure to reduce emissions quickly risks disaster – something which I think can only be denied in the teeth of evidence and logic.

  10. 160
    Greg Goodknight says:

    Barton writes:
    [[Eric writes:

    [[ If both cycles are weak and there is no cooling, it will convince many skeptics that the AGW component is overwhelming the natural fluctuations.]]

    No it won’t. They’ll find some other reason why AGW isn’t true, or doesn’t matter.]]

    If one or both cycles are weak and there is cooling, will AGW proponents factor GCR into the climate models? A dual edged sword; there will be as much scientific need as ever but politicians might be less willing to fund research at current levels into a natural process they can’t control.

  11. 161
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Greg Goodknight, Where on earth do you get your information. There is no evidence of increase in GCR. Satellites mearure them–and have done so since the late 70s. Before that, we have neutron records going back to the 50s. No consistent signal.

  12. 162
    guthrie says:

    Solar cycle 24 started back in January, which is often taken to mean it won’t be such a weak cycle after all.

  13. 163
    Rod B says:

    bi (145), et al: The “signatories” didn’t “write off” the IPCC — as they are being written off. They just disagreed (in part) with them; (and some were part of them;) never accused them of having unmarried parents or mothers that eat grass, e.g. [Man, I'm hesitant to jump in here and fan the flames; just can't hep it...]

  14. 164
    Holly Stick says:

    OK, driving a car to a gas station and putting gas in the tank is human behaviour; it is not human nature, it is not a result of a specific gas-guzzling gene, and it is not permanently imprinted on our brains by the age of 25. It is behaviour which is suited to an environment in which people travel by driving cars which use gas. If the environment changes to one in which cars are not feasible, then people will instead learn to walk, cycle, ride camels, etc. Human beings survive by adapting to specific circumstances, which is how we developed the canoe, the tepee, the wheel, the viking longboat, the yurt, the tractor, etc. We adapt to change or we die.

    I think we need a blog which can explode all the myths about why humans cannot learn to live without oil.

  15. 165
    Holly Stick says:

    #109 Rod B., you veered away from my example of WW2 rationing in Britain to the Americans ignoring WW2 as long as possible. Most Americans could ignore wars across the oceans; Britons were in the middle of the war and adapted their behaviour accordingly.

    It is a valid point that people may not admit the need for change as long as global warming is not affecting them, but eventually people are going to notice that it is affecting them even in the US, where drought conditions, fires, and the shutdown of nuclear plants due to lack of water are pretty likely to be results of global warming.

  16. 166
  17. 167
    Jim Cripwell says:

    In 163 Guthrie writes “Solar cycle 24 started back in January, which is often taken to mean it won’t be such a weak cycle after all” Not quite true. The first sunspot with the right polarity and the right latitude appeared in January. Since then there has been another sunspot from cycle 23. It is forecast that if cycle 24 can dominate by this June, it will have started. But if it cannot dominate by then, the start may be delayed until 2009.

  18. 168
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    To to inform to anyone that may be interested, saw a doco on tv today about australian scientists doing research on antartica..specifially some islands off antartica whoseglaciers have retreated by more than 1/3 in the past 50 years. The research was to prove ACC. They said two things cause glacial retreat..1 warmer temps…2 less snowfall. So they absailed down this huge crevasse and took samples of the ice at regular depths..and they found that each season more than 5m of freash snow falls which was more than they predicted. Only other cause of the rapid retreat..is higher mean temps! Sorry I could’t be more detailed about the exact area coz I was washing my 2y/o son and missed the first 10mins.

  19. 169
    Bob Clipperton (UK) says:

    Question please,
    There was a one paragraph item in the World News section of the Daily Telegraph (UK) last saturday saying that a station in Norway measured the current CO2 level in the atmosphere at 394 ppm.
    I am unable to link you to the actual piece and I’ve searched many reliable sources without success. Can anyone confirm this ?

  20. 170

    An interesting Scientific American article:

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan

    Adapted to pre-existing human nature, i.e., no suffering required :-)

  21. 171
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B., Alan K. and others,
    re: credibility of scientists vs. skeptics

    One of the points that is stressed repeatedly in discussions of skeptics is the fact that skeptics are generally not actively publishing members of the climate science community. This is a very important point. Unless climate science is your day job, it is unlikely that you will have intimate familiarity either with the most recent research or with the more subtle points of the basic science. And an active publicatation record is important because it gives an idea of how fertile your ideas are. One of the biggest problems skeptics have is that they simply have no integrated framework that really explains the rapid changes we are seeing in terms of well understood science. At worst, they simply deny it is happening because they can’t explain it. At best, they posit some mechanism based on murky physics and even murkier statistical analyses. Neither approach yields much fruit when it comes to understanding climate. This is one reason why denialists sound like a broken record–repeating the same talking points over and over again. They simply have nothing new to add our understanding, and that reflects in their paucity of publications.

    As to the allegations that the climate community is an internecine cabal susceptible to groupthink–that’s absurd. First, climate science is by its nature interdisciplinary. Researchers come into it with quite different experiences and expertise. Second, it has been reviewed six ways to Sunday–by the National Academy of Sciences, by professional science organizations (e.g. AAAS, AGU, APS,…). There is not a single professional science group that has reviewed the science and found it wanting. In contrast, the denialists form a motley mix of ideologues (both right and left), misfits and attention mongers, fighting an incoherent, rear-guard action and having no consistent points to make. They would be completely irrelevant were it not for their funding from energy companies and the fact that they are telling people what they want to hear.

  22. 172
    Phil. Felton says:

    Re #170
    Probably refers to this:
    http://npweb.npolar.no/english/articles/co2record

  23. 173
    Hank Roberts says:

    Bob Clipperton — I pasted the key phrase from your posted question into the Google search box. Here ya go. It’s the Svalbard item:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=CO2+level+in+the+atmosphere+at+394+ppm

    You can read about the difference between other stations numbers and Mauna Loa at the latter site; the higher elevation mid-Pacific measurement may be of a somewhat better mixed atmosphere. Lower elevations see more variation from sources and sinks that average out over a few years’ time and mixing, as I recall.

  24. 174

    Re #170

    It is highly likely that a station in Norway has recorded 394 ppm of CO2 because that is one of the places on the Earth where the highest levels are likely to be found. Mauna Loa on top of a Hawaiian mountain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean was chosen for the first CO2 monitoring site, after result from Norway were found to be too erratic.

  25. 175
  26. 176
    Nick Gotts says:

    RE #172 [Ray Ladbury] “In contrast, the denialists form a motley mix of ideologues (both right and left)”
    - but overwhelmingly right! Ray, I know you want to convince the right that they have nothing to fear from accepting the science, but they (or at least their market-worshipping wing) most certainly do.

  27. 177
    Natural GW Steve says:

    Re #175

    Why is Norway one of the places where the highest levels of CO2 are likely to be found?

    Thanks,

    Steve

  28. 178
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Nick,
    I do think that markets can play a role in the solution. They are not THE solution, but part of it. The flaw in most market approaches has been their failure to include environmental costs in the price of goods. That is why I can buy bananas from Costa Rica for a third the price I’d pay for locally grown apples, for instance and other absurdities. In my opinion, I think it makes sense to come up with solutions that are palatable for the greatest majority of people–and that includes the right.

    I would also point out that markets have a much better track record than does social engineering. I don’t view this as an opportunity to remake humanity. This is a problem to be solved, and in the end, human beings will still be as lousy as they’ve always been.

  29. 179
    David B. Benson says:

    Natural GW Steve (178) — Try all the coal-fired power generators in Germany, etc., all the automobiles in Europe, …

    Hasn’t been well-mixed yet.

  30. 180
    Natural GW Steve says:

    David Benson,

    Has this been verified or is this a guess? What about all the coal-fired power generators in the US and far more cars in North America?

    Regards,

    Steve

  31. 181
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Alastair McDonald @ 175: “t is highly likely that a station in Norway has recorded 394 ppm of CO2 because that is one of the places on the Earth where the highest levels are likely to be found.”

    Alastair, if you read carefully you will learn that the monitoring site is at Ny-Ålesund, on Spitsbergen, Svalbard, not in Norway proper:
    http://www.kingsbay.no/bins/site/templates/splash.asp

    However, Phil. Felton’s link also specifically states that the readings are from November and December, 2007, when it would be expected that annual CO2 concentration in the northern hemisphere would be at its highest, so 390-394 ppm is obviously well above the annual mean level.

  32. 182
    Russell says:

    RE: EE bashing ;-)

    First of all, you guys would still be writing letters and sending them over the snail mail, if it wasn’t for EEs.
    Where would this climate modeling, and analysis be, without the use of digital systems?
    Skepticism is a healthy part of how we do our job. All parts of a system are viewed for possible failure. We don’t like ranges of uncertainty “sprinkled though out the system”.
    I like to hear both sides of the debate, because I am an “equal opportunity” skeptic.
    I know enough about science and atmospheric characteristics, to realize, there is a long way to go, before I am convinced that either side, has all the details fully understood. And in the world of EEs, the “devil is in the detail”.
    If you want to convice me, do it with data. Show me a statistical correlation that proves your point. So far, the case is not compelling, of imminent or irreversible catastrophe.
    If you use “proof by consensus”, name calling, or “we can’t wait to act”, I assume that means your argument is too weak to stand on it own merits. If you don’t convince me, and those like me, where does that leave you, with the guy that can’t understand Algebra, and drives a truck for a living?

  33. 183
    David B. Benson says:

    Natural GW Steve (181) — I was guessing. The air flows from North America are generally to the east. But since the monitoring site is at Ny-Ålesund, on Spitsbergen, Svalbard I’ll not further hazard guesses as to air flows that far north.

    Russell (183) — Have you read the page at the Start Here link at the top of the main page? Have you read The Discovery of Global Warming, linked on the side-bar, first in the Science Links section? Once you have done that, if you have any doubts at all that ocean acidification due to burning of fossil carbon is not a most serious matter, irrespective of surficial climate change, then come back and several people, more knowledgable than I, can point you to the threads here on Real Climate which address your remaining uncertainties.

    However, there are not ‘two sides’, anymore than there are regarding the shape of the earth.

  34. 184
    Bob Clipperton (UK) says:

    To all of you who answered my question – Thanks.

  35. 185
    Kevin says:

    russell 183:
    Any particular areas you’re not convinced about? C02 as a greenhouse gas? Magnitude of direct warming we should expect from a given amount of C02? Type and magnitude of feedbacks? What are the specific areas of the science you find unconvincing?

    Also, your inclusion of the term “imminent or irreversible catastrophe” gives you a lot of wiggle room there…IPCC reports talk about consequences in as specific a way as possible with current information. Any specific IPCC projections you have a problem with? Failing that, can you operationalize what you consider to be “catastrophic?” How about “imminent?”

    And finally, if “proof by consensus,” “name calling,” and “we can’t wait to act” convince you that a weak argument lurks thereby, how do you feel about denialist s’ arguments given their “lack of a plausible mechanism,” “misrepresentation of established science,” “namecalling,” “lists of names from people with irrelevant credentials and/or no relevant publications,” “endless repetition of refuted claims,” “etc.?”

  36. 186
    CobblyWorlds says:

    #181 Natural GW Steve,

    Try taking a while looking closely at the SIO network data: http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/co2/sio-keel.htm
    Note not only the levels, but the size of variation within each year.

  37. 187
    Yves says:

    Re 187 (CobblyWorlds), 170 (Bob), 181 (Natural GW Steve),

    A more complete set of GHG measuring stations is available at:
    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/iadv
    (for Interactive Atmospheric Data Visualization), which is a regularly updated data treasure from more than 100 stations including terrestrial, marine, aircraft measurements, tall towers,… Ny Alesund is one of them located at Spitsbergen; their latest CO2 data, Nov. 2007, lie around max 390 ppm (the 394 value might be a bit of an outlier; in Dec 2006 two measurements were recorded at 392.5 ppm and marked as “influenced by local sources and sinks”), with seasonal variations of 15-20 ppm. Their running mean value at end 2007 is nearer to 385 ppm, compared with South Pole (382) and Mauna Loa (384), as expected from the mixing time in the atmosphere, around 1 year AFAIK.

    Best

    Yves

  38. 188
    Russell says:

    Re: 184 & 186

    Been, there, read that, still un-convinced.

    The key word is “correlation”, between greenhouse emissions and rising temps. I look at the record, I see a steady increase in CO2, and a periodic temperature record that doesn’t imply causation. If the increase in CO2 is causing the current warming, what caused it in the 30s? And how does that translate into cooling in the 60s and 70s? It looks more to me, like a periodic system of warming and cooling, that is related to La Nina and El Nino, with the occasional volcano, thrown in. Which makes me think it is more about heat re-distribution, than it is about “tipping points”.

    I have read the physics, and it is good, but there is still a large area, that is soft, and not what I would call a “slam dunk”. That is the chaotic system of gases, condensate, and precipitation, heated and cooled from both above and below, and absorbing and radiating energy, in narrow frequency bands.
    This is a complex problem. At some point we will have a global model with resolution down to the level of individual air masses sized to 1/10 second of arc, passing over a particular surface area of the earth, and interacting with that area, and interacting with the adjoining air masses. With vertical resolution points at 100 foot intervals, from the surface to the stratosphere.
    That is where it needs to be, to know. No faith will be required, it will be at the level of high certainty.

    So either the history has to show AGW (correlation), or the physics, has to be compelling (no soft spots). Neither one, meets my level of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”, yet. And without that threshold being meet, it is reckless to declare a knowledge of the future, which demands foregoing present energy usage for future benefits.

    And finally, what if you are right about all the AGW stuff, but the effects are mild, and don’t really cause catastrophe. It may cause a decrease in the temperature gradient, that causes less severe storms. Are we supposed to sacrifice now, to avoid that fate?

  39. 189
    Jacqueline says:

    #103 Mike – did I say I had any impartial sources? No, I didn’t. I just said that many people do not consider the BBC to be impartial.

  40. 190
    David B. Benson says:

    Russell (189) — It appears you failed to comprehend. You do
    understand that with global warming (so-called greenhouse) gases such as CO2, the earth would be too cold (about minus 20 C, on average)? You do understand that more CO2 makes it even warmer (eventually)? You do understand the bad effects of additional CO2 in the oceans? All of these are certain beyond reasonable doubt.

    The effects on the oceans are not mild; these are catastrophic to certain marine organisms. The effects of potential sea stand rises will be serious, even catastrophic.

    And who said sacrifice is required? When there is a problem a good engineer works to find another solution. Usually these are more efficient, etc. As far as alternate energy goes, there is bioenergy

    http://biopact.com/

    as well as solar and wind. All three aspects can use a good EE, who might indeed find satisfying, gainful employment doing this exciting work.

  41. 191
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Russell, perhaps, as you say, you have read the physics. Certainly you have not understood it. You seem to have forgotten where you are. There are plenty of people who have made the effort to understand the physics on this site, and they see right through your vague assertion that “it’s soft”. They realize how absurd it is to posit that a model with 0.1 arcsecond resolution is necessary for a global climate model. Thanks, but I don’t really think 3 meter resolution at Earth’s surface is needed.

    So, you need to decide. Are you content being an ignorant contrarian, or do you actually want to understand the science? If you want to understand the science, you can ask questions about things you haven’t understood and get mostly educated answers here. If you are complacent about your state of knowledge…there’s always Climateaudit.

    Oh, btw, some of us did point out that physics, too, has its share of ignorant, if brilliant, contrarians.

  42. 192
    Abbe Mac says:

    Re #182 where Jim Eager Says:

    “Alastair, if you read carefully you will learn that the monitoring site is at Ny-Ålesund, on Spitsbergen, Svalbard, not in Norway proper:
    http://www.kingsbay.no/bins/site/templates/splash.asp

    That information only became available after I had posted my reply.

    However, I have remebered where I read about the Scandanavian CO2 readings being eratic. It is here on Spencer Weart’s site: http://www.aip.org/history/climate/Kfunds.htm

    He writes:

    The conference’s goal was a practical one: to discuss how the atmosphere carried around gases that crops needed to grow, such as nitrogen and CO2. The participants agreed that there ought to be a network of stations to provide regular data on such gases. They thought priority should go to CO2, not least because it might alter the climate.(2) Heeding the call, educational institutions allocated some money and set up a network of 15 measuring stations throughout Scandinavia. Their measurements of CO2 fluctuated widely from place to place, and even from day to day, as different air masses passed through. That might be of interest to meteorologists and agriculture scientists, but it was useless for global warming studies. “It seems almost hopeless,” one expert confessed, “to arrive at reliable estimates of the atmospheric carbon-dioxide reservoir and its secular changes by such measurements…”(3)

    So it is not unreasonable to think that readings taken in Svalbald are not reliable.

  43. 193
    dhogaza says:

    Been, there, read that, still un-convinced.

    Russell complains that EEs have an unwarranted bad reputation, then goes on to add to it.

    The key word is “correlation”, between greenhouse emissions and rising temps. I look at the record, I see a steady increase in CO2, and a periodic temperature record that doesn’t imply causation.

    What you see is a temperature record that confirms what everyone with the barest minimum understanding of climate knows to be true – that CO2 forcing isn’t the only thing that drives climate.

    On another blog we have a so-called physicist making claims that are equivalent to stating that if a large volcanic eruption leads to temporary cooling or a slowdown in warm, climate science would be proven wrong.

    You’re making essentially the same error in your argument.

    So much for the EE’s vaunted ability to understand science better than scientists.

  44. 194
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Abbe Mac @ 193: “That information only became available after I had posted my reply.”

    Fair enough.

    “However, I have remebered where I read about the Scandanavian CO2 readings being eratic. It is here on Spencer Weart’s site…”

    Yes, I’m aware of that passage in Spencer Weart’s book, I’m currently rereading it right now.

    “…So it is not unreasonable to think that readings taken in Svalbald are not reliable.”

    I suggest you take a look at a globe and note the position of Svalbard in relation to Scandinavia.

  45. 195
    Rod B says:

    Holly (165,6), I agree, install a Fascist regime, then close all gas stations overnight (under military assurance..) and people will either change or die. This is not a myth. But I thought the focus of the discussion was getting masses to willingly change their attitudes.

    #166 is partly valid in that people seeing AGW problems nose to nose and breathing (hot) air down their shirt will willingly change. The problem is that a few big forest fires, an extra bad hurricane or two and a couple of dry spells might do it for the strongest protagonists, but not for any logical folk. Unfortunately, assuming the AGW premise for discussion’s sake, turning their minds could be like Rumsfeld’s dilemma of proving the need for the war on terror: “By the time you find the smoking gun, you’re dead.” It’s conceivable that by the time AGW is nose to nose with the aginers, it’s too late. Can’t win for losing, unless you slog and rail away.

  46. 196
    John Mashey says:

    Over-generalizing about what EEs believe from a few anecdotal examples … is not overly convincing, and tends to lower believability in my eyes, it’s like noticing that it’s unsuually cold somewhere and saying therefore AGW is not happening. I might place some modest credibility in social-science studies that studied this issue carefully. [Does anyone know of any such?]

    If it were the case that proper studies showed that being an EE had a statistically significant correlation with being denialist, and even better, a stronger correlation than did other groups matched on education, income, etc … then the argument might be interesting.

    If such an effect were demonstrated, or if people were attacking the simulation results, then maybe there would be a connection. I discussed this in the latter part of
    Previous RC Discussion.

    The first part was directed to someone whose problem domain requires essentially perfect simulations to get useful answers, and hence doubted those of climate science. In EE, logic designers need perfect answers, but really good approximations are useful for circuit designers and power folks.

    Of course, there’s no excuse for doubting the basic physics…

    (Not an EE, but have worked with many.)

  47. 197
    Rod B says:

    Ray (172), Sorry, but to be a valid critic or skeptic of some science one does NOT have to have equal scientific credentials, only a reasonable scientific understanding. Under your suggestion would a PhD with 4 years experience and 3 published papers not be allowed to criticize a guy/gal with two PhDs, 2-1/2 years experience and 4 papers? It is true that 1) the critic can not actively disprove the science without the requisite credentials, and 2) the critic/skeptic’s credibility is certainly less than the expert pro’s. But because my credentials are less than say, well most everybody here!, does not mean per se I am obligated to bend over and accept it, so long as I have some science/math knowledge and am logical. In net, I am not required to clearly disprove the assertions in order to question them credibly. On the other hand I agree (and said in posts long ago) that it’s not productive for a skeptic to incessantly raise the same question over and over (and getting the same scientific answer) without at least increasing his scientific justification.

    The climate community, nay any community is susceptible to group think. In science circles it is called the herd of independent minds. But, and this is the interesting part, it is not an “internecine cabal”, is seldom either nefarious, conspiratorial, or even conscious. But it happens, like the sister “law of expected results”. Now it is certainly not a given, certainly is not always the case by a long shot, and by itself does not disprove whatever the group is thinking. But the susceptibility and an underlying tendency is always there. (Though every group denies it vigorously!)

  48. 198
    Greg Goodknight says:

    re: groupthink

    It was not that long ago that the scientific community knew that light traveled through the aether. It took years for the Michaelson-Morley failure to detect the aether motion in 1887 and other failed experiments before the groupthink began to turn against the aether concept, leading towards Michaelson’s Nobel in 1907. Despite this adherents to some sort of aether still exist.

    Nothing nefarious about it.

    re:#162 Ray Ladbury
    Not to add more to the arguments, both journal articles I gave links to show clear connections between some cosmic rays and low cloud cover. I have to assume that The Royal Society and Astronomy & Geophysics would have bounced the papers had fraudulent data been used. Yearly albedo variance is on the order of the sum total of CO2 forcing posited by the IPCC over the last century; a back of the envelope wild ass guess leaves me to think that just a 1% change in albedo due to GCR (modulated by the very energetic 20th century sun) per year might be enough to equal the CO2 effect claimed by IPCC partisans. This is well below what one could see by eyeballing satellite data.

    Finally, I am reminded of a Creationist, a Dr. Gish, who, in the ’70′s was trying to put a scientific spin on his religious beliefs. Rather than take on the meat of Evolution and modern biology, he focused on details. Evolution can’t be true, or you’d see a three toed horse in the fossil record as a transitional form. The beauty of this is there is always work to be done, always some detail uninvestigated. I’d like someone here to take on the meat of the GCR evidence, including the findings of Shaviv and Veizer (2003), the result of two separate investigations, one terrestrial, the other astrophysical, that came to similar results.

    Occam’s razor cuts to the simplest argument; if global temperature, over a period of nearly 600 million years, correlates well to our position in our galaxy (as related to the spiral arms), and correlates well over that time to gcr (proxied by carbon-14), gcr can be reasonably seen as the driver of dramatic swings between hothouse and snowball earths. Now convince a skeptic that gcr can’t be the cause of a significant fraction of the half degree Kelvin rise in temperature over the past century, since the last time the Sun decided to take a vacation from its spots, during a period where the Sun got very energetic, at least as far as sunspots, flares and magnetic effects are concerned.

    That said, I am concerned about the effects of CO2 in the atmosphere, and there could be disastrous effects going forward; however, computer models that continue to diverge from observable reality are not the way to prove a case for immediate drastic action.

  49. 199
    SteveL says:

    This is my first post, though I’ve been regularly reading realclimate.org since challenged by someone a year ago who said “evolution is a hoax, just like global warming is a hoax”. My MS(EE) preceded an industry debate about whether it was physically possible to build a silicon transistor with length under 0.5um. I’ve contributed some papers to refereed proceedings and journals, and have been a referee as well. It’s not climate science, but I have appreciation of the process.

    Si fabrication processes have since smashed that barrier. Now I help design mainly digital chips with processes down to 45nm. Chip design is indeed very detailed work. We extensively use models and have to correlate them either to silicon or to trusted models. We use statistical models for timing, testability, power and yield. We have to manage considerable uncertainty “sprinkled though out the system”. Very few EEs need or want to dig into the details of all the statistical aspects of analysis. We trust the work of others.

    My perception is that EEs generally are analytical, meticulous, aggressive yet reasonable. They seldom discuss climate issues or areas outside their expertise. It’s rare for EEs to find time to understand more than a few of the many dozens of specialties within EE, much less seriously dig into climate modeling. So please be careful about applying labels.

    OK, I’ve been known to razz civil engineers for building archaic traffic control systems. If only they would apply some of the techniques used to analyze packet networks plus utilize wireless networks among vehicles and traffic control devices. Vehicles could be coordinated to improve traffic flow and substantially reduce both fuel use and the need to widen roads. However, like hybrid vehicles, this is an unlikely direction while our society views vehicles as toys to satisfy our thrill seeking and aggression.

    To maximize profits, chip designers (EEs) aim for working silicon on the first pass. Models are intentionally pessimistic to improve the odds. Yet seldom do we achieve first pass success, so we revise and try again. Yields may be very low, so we try yet again.

    Climate scientists do not have the luxury of trying again. There is only one experiment to run, everyone is involved whether they like it or not, and it will be decades before the all the data is in. Critics do not accept pessimism or uncertainty in models.

    The RealClimate.org contributors and many of the regular participants have provided a wonderful service for people who are serious about learning about and questioning GW. They have described the various scenarios and uncertainties of climate models. Still, the general trends — and risks — are clear. Scientists and engineers are skeptical by nature, but are persuaded by the scientific method. They first learn about the prior art. Then ask logical, specific questions. Trust, but verify. Establish the science first so that effective policies can be rationally considered.

    General challenges and opposing assertions without a clear basis are evidence of an opposing belief. The criticisms from some of the “engineers” here are embarrassing. They are among the GW skeptics who deny the scientific method. If they, EEs or not, were the venture capitalists of EE proposals and demanded proofs and perfect models as they do of climatologists, we’d still be using vacuum tubes.

  50. 200

    Re #198 Rod B

    Sorry, but to be a valid critic or skeptic of some science one does NOT have to have equal scientific credentials, only a reasonable scientific understanding.

    It’s not the critic that needs to be validated, it’s the criticism. That is done in the established way, by submitting your results for peer review. If they are valid, they will get noticed. (Remember Spencer et al.’s August 2007 article? Wasn’t suppressed, now was it?)

    Looking at credentials and publishing record is just an easy spam filter in what is, thanks to skeptics and fossil-fuel money, a very noisy field. Yet, why do you think so many skeptics lie about their credentials? And if you cannot even trust such easily checked statements, why would you trust their ‘science’?


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