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Are geologists different?

Filed under: — rasmus @ 19 August 2008

rockThe International Geological Congress (IGC) is sometimes referred to as the geologists’ equivalent of the Olympic Games and is an extremely large gathering of geologists from all over the world, taking place at 4-year intervals. This time, the IGC took place in Lillestrøm, a small place just outside Oslo, Norway (August 6-14). The congress was opened by the Norwegian King (before he continued to the real games in Beijing), and was attended by some 6,000 scientists from 113 countries. Even the Danish Minister of Energy & Climate participated in a panel discussion on climate change. In other words, this was a serious meeting.

opera.jpg I didn’t attend the meeting myself, but the scientific programme for the session on climate, shows that the ‘climate contrarians’ were quite well represented. The organizers probably wanted to give room to “other views”. Together with web cast of the panel discussion on climate change (by the way, you may need Windows to view this because of the video format…), the proportion of attendees with a skeptical attitude to the notion of anthropogenic global warming appeared to be notably higher than in other conferences, such as the European Geosciences Union or European Meteorological Society, or indeed the scientific literature. So be it.

Svensmark was there, even though he’s not a geologist, and said that he didn’t understand what he was doing on the panel. He didn’t say much during the panel debate, apart from that clouds are not well described by GCMs (which is true and discussed in the latest IPCC report), and that the 90% confidence in the human influence on recent trends is derived only from models (not true). There is an irony in that, whereas detailed microphysics in clouds are not well understood (hence the uncertainties in the GCMs), Svensmark’s own hypothesis hinges entirely on the cloud response to cosmic rays (which is even less well understood).

Robert Carter said a great deal more than Svensmark on the panel. He made a point of the last couple of years being cold. But he did not appear to understand Jansen’s explanation of the difference between trends and natural variability (see here). What really struck me was not who was saying what, but the intellectual level of discussion: the debate often got stuck at misunderstood trivialities which for a long time have been regarded as solved or explained in the climate research community. When you keep starting at square one, you’ll never make much progress.

Other statements did not have a scientific basis (e.g. Morner popped out from the crowd and said that the sea levels are not rising – not true – and then saluted the panel). Thus the debate seemed to be a step backwards towards confusion rather than a progress towards resolution.

What is going on? Is there a higher proportion of geologists that have a completely different view on climate change, or was this a biased representation of the community? The thought of stifling a scientific debate by insisting on outrageous or ignorant claims also has struck me.

Update: Marc Roberts sent along this mildly relevant cartoon:


314 Responses to “Are geologists different?”

  1. 201
    David B. Benson says:

    Patrick 027 (195) — Younger Dryas was global, check the Antarctic ice cores. The onset is temporally associated with a comet striking in eastern Canada and I take this as the cause; massive amounts of ice entering the North Atlantic.

    [Response: You might be a little out of date. There is no Younger Dryas event in the Antarctic ice cores. Instead there is what is now called the Antarctic Cold Reversal - but it happened a 1000 years earlier. And as for the comet trigger.... - let's just say that the jury is still out. - gavin]

  2. 202
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Geologist, I have said above that I don’t think geologists are exceptionally prone to denial. We’ve heard the same about electrical engineers, petroleum engineers, computer scientists and so on. However, we’ve recently been reminded of the denialists among the physics community and elsewhere.
    What I imagine is true for geologists is that since many of them are in petroleum, mining, etc., they often hear the word “No” from those of a more environmental bent. Certainly they don’t like the word no, particularly when they themselves are confident that they could extract the resources without undue environmental harm. For some, this may turn them against anything that strikes them as “green”. It may make them more conservative, and for some reason political conservatism seems to be a good predictor (the best) of denialism.
    Likewise for EE’s, many of them are in defense, another business that benefits more from conservative regimes than liberal ones. So, again, rejecting climate science becomes part of cheering for the team.

    What nearly all of them have in common, however, is ignorance of the basic science and a willingness to charge in despite that ignorance. That above all seems to be the best predictor of denialism,

  3. 203
    David B. Benson says:

    Yes, I was more than a little out-of-date; for example “Deglaciation of the eastern flank of the North Patagonian Icefield and associated continental-scale lake diversions”

    http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=16896601

    While there is not a general acceptance of the ‘Clovis comet’ hypothesis, the recent “Exploding Asteroid Theory Strengthened By New Evidence Located In Ohio, Indiana”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080702160950.htm

    helps strengthen the case mentioned by highly conservative archaeologist C. Vance Haynes: “Recent evidence for extraterrestrial impact, although not yet compelling, needs further testing because a remarkable major perturbation occurred at 10,900 B.P. that needs to be explained.”, cited in

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

  4. 204
    Geologist says:

    So can we agree that there are some geologists who are prone to denial, especially in deep time fields which are less relevant to AGW but that there are also some geologists who do a very important job providing the historical background of climate change? I don’t deny that there are geologists who are sceptical but I still think that the negative attitude towards geologists that some of you have shown is unfair, why don’t you just complain about the sceptical ones and acknowledge the rest of us for our part in understanding earth’s climate? Quaternary geology is also geology.

  5. 205
    Mark says:

    Geologist, #200 what makes you think that the work done in finding out the past climate is ignored? It’s a honking great part of the IPCC reports!

    But I measured the temperature of molten wax as it cooled and at the time I thought the most likely explanation for the level temperature while the wax was still transparent was due to my measurement error.

    I was very young.

    So just because you can report doesn’t *necessarily* mean that you can explain what’s going on.

    The skew is mostly because reporters now consider getting two people who disagree is how you get a balanced report. That and the denialist group *looking* for someone who can call themselves “respected scientist” who doesn’t think carbon is the reason. And then trot them out as “proof” AGW is just a commie pinko lefty tree-hugger eco-nazi plot to get everyone to live in caves and eat bark and beetles.

    Which gets annoying.

  6. 206
    Geologist says:

    Mark #205, I know that we aren’t ignored by the IPCC, it is only the attitude in this discussion that annoys me.

  7. 207
    popoff geologist says:

    Maybe it’s the first time that a important branch of science (Geology) says I’m not sure about what you say. I think many geologists would like to play with the \parameters\ that modellers include to make the model fit with data. I don’t say the modells are bad, but they always include a lot of uncertainty. And those terms of absorbing CO2 or precipitate carbonates or absorbing CO2 by plants and burying them in deltas might change the results a lot. I think many of those things that geologists want to include in the models should be included, but in the way geologists ask for, not in other ways.

  8. 208
    Hank Roberts says:

    Chuckle. Try reading sites like Deltoid or CA if you want a perspective on the prevalence of attitude in public discourse these days. This? it’s mild in today’s terms. There’s a lot of it around and the Internet has made that far more obvious than it used to be. Here you’re only seeing a mild and filtered taste of what people try to push. It’s a new world, and less nice than we imagined when we got our ideas about other people via print media where anonymity and snark-from-hiding weren’t the norm.

    About all one can say to the ‘tude-throwers is “well bless your heart.” And ignore them and duck. Remember to read the troll faq before getting caught up in such stuff, it’s pointless.

    Instead ….

    Here’s an interesting one in the area where biology and geology and climatology all are involved:
    http://hol.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/18/6/867?ct

    (As a casual reader I only see the abstract, and just happened on this, don’t know how much else is out there. Gavin remarked earlier after a China visit that the people working on drilled cores usually focus on their own material and detail and more cross-comparisons are needed; this seems to be one such).

    “… Here we present high-resolution diatom assemblage data from two small Altiplano lakes, Lago Lagunillas and Lago Umayo, indicating changes in effective moisture in the southern tropical Andes at decadal, centennial and millennial timescales throughout the mid to late Holocene. A strong millennial-scale component, similar in pacing to periods of increased icerafted debris flux in the North Atlantic, is observed in both lake records, which suggests that regional precipitation and North Atlantic climate variability are coupled at these scales. …”

  9. 209
    Rod B says:

    Ray, I’m curious and a little befuddled. What is it about EEs that would lean them toward skepticism of AGW??

  10. 210
    Ray Ladbury says:

    popoff geologist says: “I think many geologists would like to play with the \parameters\ that modellers include to make the model fit with data.”

    OK, well, there’s your first misconception. The parameters are not “fit” to the data, but are determined/constrained independently by such things as response to volcanoes, paleoclimate, etc. There is a difference between dynamical modeling and statistical, best-fit modeling. And in your assumption that the biosphere will save us, you seem to be ignoring the fact that if anything, the pace of CO2 increase is getting faster and that many factors suggest a decrease in sequestration in oceans and the biosphere in a warming world. I strongly recommend perusing the very high quality of popular science writing on this site–it is the absolute best resource for learning about climate on the Web.

  11. 211
    Rod B says:

    Mark says, “….as “proof” AGW is just a commie pinko lefty tree-hugger eco-nazi plot to get everyone to live in caves and eat bark and beetles.” You mean it’s not??!!?? Well, whaddaya know. Live and learn. Sanks.

  12. 212
    Rod B says:

    Hank, I second the idea that RC is by far less strident and vitriolic than most of the other topical blogs. But you imply (at least I logically infer) that all of those other nastier blogs are sceptics, which is not true. There are tons of shrill AGW proponent sites to go along with the sceptic sites.

  13. 213
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B., There are two reasons I can think of why EEs might be susceptible to denialist clap-trap. First, many of them work in defense, and so, may inhabit a more conservative millieu than people outside the industry. It is unfortunate for both conservatives and science that it has become a litmus test of bona fides to oppose the science.
    Second, engineers in general are not trained in the scientific method. There is little emphasis in the curriculum as to how to interpret data–only whether the data support or contra-indicate a design approach. I work with a lot of engineers. For most, their knowledge of modeling doesn’t go much beyond a least-squares fit to data. At the same time, the methods engineers do use are powerful where they work, and may give an illusion of understanding outside of where they are applicable.
    Now lest you or others accuse me of stereotyping (which of course, I am), I readily acknowledge that physicists, chemists, biologists and even accountants are susceptible to the same temptations and errors.
    It is not so much the training of any one discipline, but the human tendency to be blind to our limitations. However, when you couple that tendency with training (not education) that tells you you can solve any problem, the problem is exacerbated.

  14. 214
    Mark says:

    Geologist, a few points and for brevity, I’ll just wang them out.

    1) Point me to where climatologists go to geology news sites and conferences and tell you all you’re wrong.
    2) You are given appreciation within your sphere and approbation when you move out but try to take your authority with you.
    3) Look at Bob’s dismissal of any science not his own as a reason for climate change

    Given that, this is *extremely* mild punishment.

  15. 215
    Hank Roberts says:

    > (at least I logically infer)
    You should get out more (grin). I do try to lambaste nonsense in an evenhanded way, as I find it. You must realize I don’t go out looking for nonsense. Life’s too short. I just ask for sources when I can’t find them for claims I wonder about.

    One of the threads I often refer to is Judith Curry’s series of exchanges over at CA where she points out the problems with advocacy sites providing spin instead of reliable information, from any side. Check after a day or two, one such comment I submitted (with cites) is now pending here: http://blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/2008/08/more_for_the_annals_of_climate_1.html

  16. 216
    Hank Roberts says:

    http://www.gsajournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1130%2F1052-5173(2004)014%3C4:CAAPDO%3E2.0.CO%3B2
    Volume 14, Issue 3 (March 2004)
    GSA Today
    CO2 as a primary driver of Phanerozoic climate
    Dana L. Royer, Robert A. Berner, Isabel P. Montañez, Neil J. Tabor, and David J. Beerling

    Abstract:
    Recent studies have purported to show a closer correspondence between reconstructed Phanerozoic records of cosmic ray flux and temperature than between CO2 and temperature. The role of the greenhouse gas CO2 in controlling global temperatures has therefore been questioned. Here we review the geologic records of CO2 and glaciations and find that CO2 was low (1000 ppm) during other, warmer periods. The CO2 record is likely robust because independent proxy records are highly correlated with CO2 predictions from geochemical models. The Phanerozoic sea surface temperature record as inferred from shallow marine carbonate δ18O values has been used to quantitatively test the importance of potential climate forcings, but it fails several first-order tests relative to more well-established paleoclimatic indicators: both the early Paleozoic and Mesozoic are calculated to have been too cold for too long. We explore the possible influence of seawater pH on the δ18O record and find that a pH-corrected record matches the glacial record much better. Periodic fluctuations in the cosmic ray flux may be of some climatic significance, but are likely of second-order importance on a multimillion-year timescale.

  17. 217
    Hank Roberts says:

    Another example (and I’ll stop with this one, y’all know how to find more from the footnotes and citing papers). Clearly the Geological Society of America online publications have much evidence of serious interest in and work on climate issues. Maybe there are different societies of geologists with different clusters of members?

    http://www.gsajournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1130%2FG22108.1
    Volume 34, Issue 6 (June 2006)
    Geology

    Siberian glaciation as a constraint on Permian–Carboniferous CO2 levels

    William T. Hyde, Ethan L. Grossman, Thomas J. Crowley, David Pollard, and Christopher R. Scotese

    ABSTRACT
    Reconstructions of Phanerozoic CO2 levels have generally relied on geochemical modeling or proxy data. Because the uncertainty inherent in such reconstructions is large enough to be climatically significant, inverse climate modeling may help to constrain paleo-CO2 estimates. In particular, we test the plausibility of this technique by focusing on the climate from 360 to 260 Ma, a time in which the Siberian landmass was in middle to high latitudes, yet had little or no permanent land ice. Our climate model simulations predict a lower limit for CO2—the value beneath which Siberia acquires “excess” ice. Simulations provide little new information for the period in which Siberia was at a relatively low paleoaltitude (360–340 Ma), but model results imply that paleo-CO2 levels had to be greater than 2–4× modern values to be consistent with an apparently ice-free Siberia in the late Permian. These results for the later period in general agree with soil CO2 proxies and the timing of Gondwanan deglaciation, thus providing support for a significant CO2 increase before the end-Permian boundary event. Our technique may be applicable to other time intervals of unipolar glaciation.

  18. 218
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 216,217 – great posts, Hank!

    I want to return to this issue:

    175 (me) – “Also keep in mind some shorter IR wavelengths, from ~ 4 microns to red light, are dominated by solar energy and have little to do with the greenhouse effect. I think there’s been some confusion (Fred Singer, Richard Lindzen perhaps?) stemming from looking at the effects of H2O and CO2 in the solar IR wavelengths.”

    177 (Boris) – “Regarding the longer wavelengths in the IR, I am sure that neither Fred nor Richard have confused the short IR from the sun with the black body radiation of the surface.”

    The reason for my comment:

    About two years ago, in an unfortunately overheated ‘discussion’ with someone who seemed to lack reading comprehension skills or memory, I was making a point about facts vs opinions, for example, that the ‘H2O vapor or H2O and clouds is 90 or 95 % of the greenhouse effect’ is factually incorrect (or at least very confusing – maybe if one specifies that one is discussing downward atmospheric radiation reaching the surface, in conditions with sufficient low-level humidity, … but that’s not greenhouse forcing, … but anyway…). Wherein came a website of Fred Singer’s:

    (Figuratively speaking, about every other word in this was wrong, by the way):

    http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/greenhouse_data.html

    “Water vapor, the most significant greenhouse gas, comes from natural sources and is responsible for roughly 95% of the greenhouse effect (4). Among climatologists, this is common knowledge, but among special interests, certain governmental groups, and news reporters this fact is under-emphasized or just ignored altogether.”

    Source 4 – like the B vitamins, there are several sources given, 4a through 4i

    I think there were only 4a through 4e at the time I first looked into this, however, though I’m not sure.

    —–

    4a.

    “S.M. Freidenreich and V. Ramaswamy, “Solar Radiation Absorption by Carbon Dioxide, Overlap with Water, and a Parameterization for General Circulation Models,” Journal of Geophysical Research 98 (1993):7255-7264″

    Notice that’s about SOLAR radiation – not that atmospheric absorption of solar radiation doesn’t have effects, of course.

    —–

    4b.

    “Global Deception: The Exaggeration of the Global Warming Threat
    by Dr. Patrick J. Michaels, June 1998″

    -”Over 95 percent of the earth’s natural greenhouse effect is from water vapor, and about 3 percent of it is from carbon dioxide. ” – but I never was able to find a source for that claim within 4b.

    —–

    4c. (Here’s where it gets really interesting):

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/alternate/page/environment/appd_d.html

    “Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Appendix D, Greenhouse Gas Spectral Overlaps and Their Significance”
    “Energy Information Administration; Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government”

    (PS the above is the title listed by Singer – the whole title at the site is:
    “Alternatives to Traditional Transportation Fuels 1994
    Volume 2
    Greenhouse Gas Emissions
    Appendix D
    Greenhouse Gas Spectral Overlaps and Their Significance”)

    Table D1 listed N2O as absorbing between 16.5 and 46 microns, while not listing H2O as an absorber within that range. A typo, perhaps?

    Table D2 lists, as a percentage of total ‘trapped’ or absorbed longwave (terrestrial) radiation, the changes in trapping/absorption… –
    (I’m not going to get technical about what actually happens to the radiation here, I’ve spent enough time on that, see reference given in my comment 175 for more) (PS I’m not sure offhand whether these numbers are relative to the LW forcing, or the absorption of radiation from the surface by the atmosphere (which is greater than the tropopause or top-of-atmosphere LW forcing because of emission by the atmosphere) – I could check to see whether the numbers agree or not with other sources
    (such as “Earth’s Annual Global Mean Energy Budget” J.T. Kiehl, Kevin E. Trenberth, http://www.atmo.arizona.edu/students/courselinks/spring04/atmo451b/pdf/RadiationBudget.pdf )
    to figure it out, but I’m not going to bother with that right now.)

    …that would result from removal of various greenhouse agents from the atmosphere. The numbers are similar to those given at:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=142

    So far so good.

    From the paragraph immediately before Table D2 (This is what it says now, I don’t remember it being different in any important way when I first saw it two years ago):

    “Partly because the infrared absorption bands of the various components of the atmosphere overlap, the contributions from individual absorbers do not add linearly. Clouds trap only 14 percent of the radiation with all other major species present, but would trap 50 percent if all other absorbers were removed [105] (Table D2 and Figure D1). Carbon dioxide adds 12 percent to radiation trapping, which is less than the contribution from either water vapor or clouds. By itself, however, carbon dioxide is capable of trapping three times as much radiation as it actually does in the Earth’s atmosphere.”

    This is relevant to the contents of table D2.

    IMMEDIATELY following that, in the SAME paragraph: “Freidenreich and colleagues [106] have reported the overlap of carbon dioxide and water absorption bands in the infrared region. Given the present composition of the atmosphere, the contribution to the total heating rate in the troposphere is around 5 percent from carbon dioxide and around 95 percent from water vapor. In the stratosphere, the contribution is about 80 percent from carbon dioxide and about 20 percent from water vapor. It is important to remember, however, that it is currently believed that the impact of water vapor produced from surface sources such as fuel combustion on the atmospheric water vapor concentrations is minimal.”

    So I went to 106 (clicked on it, actually, to get to “Notes”), and found this reference:

    “106. S.M. Freidenreich and V. Ramaswamy, “Solar Radiation Absorption by Carbon Dioxide, Overlap with Water, and a Parameterization for General Circulation Models,” Journal of Geophysical Research 98 (1993):7255-7264.”

    Look familiar? It’s Singer’s source 4a. From the title, it’s about Solar radiation (I haven’t actually obtained the article itself but from the numbers given in the quoted paragraph above, I have to assume those numbers are for solar radiation absorption in the air. Of course, absorption of solar radiation within the troposphere, while it would have an affect on circulation and energy fluxes, tends not to have the same affect on tropopause radiative forcing, because some portion of that radiation would be absorbed at the surface were the atmospheric absorption taken away (I think the tropopause and top-of-atmosphere radiative forcing are affected by tropospheric and total atmospheric absorption, respectively, by how they reduce the effective albedo at either level, for example by being above snow, clouds, etc., not that other surfaces have zero albedo…). And of course, it is a small fraction of total absorbed solar radiation that is absorbed above the tropopause, and it is some fraction of that which is in the IR band, which I suspect is what the numbers in the above paragraph were for, or else why isn’t ozone mentioned? etc. Hence from the above numbers, I would think CO2 does not have a major influence on SW (solar) radiation budgets (From another source, stratospheric SW absorption dominated by ozone, I think, and tropospheric SW absorption dominated by water vapor, also maybe clouds, I think.).

    It has been said (I forget by whom) that it is better not to attribute to malice what could be attributed to ignorance (Hence, I said solar IR could be a source of confusion), though one may suspect that Singer and company are trying to be ignorant here (by not reading the whole paragraph and wondering why it seems to contradict itself – PS this paragraph of this government document was very poorly written. A conspiracy theorist might wonder if that was intentional. But perhaps I shouldn’t go down that road.)

    Anyway, the other sources:

    —–

    4d.

    “d. Personal Communication– Dr. Richard S. Lindzen
    Alfred P. Slone Professor of Meteorology, MIT”

    No link given. Wonder what was said.

    —–

    4e.

    http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=010405M

    “The Geologic Record and Climate Change”
    “by Dr. Tim Patterson, January 2005
    Professor of Geology– Carleton University
    Ottawa, Canada”

    By the way, a great example of a geologist who shouldn’t quit his day job. (“I am a Quaternary geologist by profession.” – I mean specifically he should stick to the Quaternary – or was the first ~2/3 of the Mesozoic really so frigid?! (see his graph) – (and of course, the apparent discrepancy around 450 Ma may be on route to being resolved with research suggesting a drawdown of CO2 in the late (?) Ordivician via chemical weathering of the Appalachians))

    As far as water vapor goes:

    -”The number one greenhouse gas is actually water vapor. It’s something like 98 percent, by volume, of all greenhouse gases.”
    (Key words: “by volume”)

    His conclusion:
    “In conclusion, the geologic record clearly shows us that there really is little correlation between CO2 levels and temperature.”
    I had written almost 6 pages about how his arguments were wrong, which I concluded with: “Patterson has only a vague correlation with the reality of climate.”

    —–
    THESE OTHER SOURCES I DON’T RECALL FROM TWO YEARS AGO (but maybe I just skipped over them back then?:
    —–

    4f. (I assume this is actually suposed to be satire, and so wonder why it is listed as a source at all)

    http://www.ecoenquirer.com/EPA-water-vapor.htm

    “EPA Seeks To Have Water Vapor Classified As A Pollutant”
    “by the ecoEnquirer, 2006″

    —–

    4g.

    ” Air and Water Issues
    by Freedom 21.org, 2005
    Citation: Bjorn Lomborg, p. 259. Also: Patrick Michaels and Robert Balling, Jr. The Satanic Gases, Clearing the Air About Global Warming (Washington, DC: CATO Institute, 2000), p. 25 ”

    The first link didn’t work; the second takes me to http://www.freedom21.org/ , which seems to be one of those places where ideology trumps data and reason (at least with climate science).

    Apparently somebody somewhere cited the writing of Bjorn Lomborg, and Patrick Michaels and Robert Balling Jr. Of the three, my impression has been that Bjorn Lomborg’s arguments are more sophisticated and tend to concern the economics of mitigation vs the economics of adaptation, but …

    —–

    4h.

    http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/journals/ci/31/special/may01_viewpoint.html
    “Does CO2 Really Drive Global Warming?”
    “by Dr. Robert Essenhigh, May 2001″

    This does have the statement: “This overall position can be summarized by saying that water accounts, on average, for >95% of the radiative absorption. And, because of the variation in the absorption due to water variation, anything future increases in CO2 might do, water will already have done.” Now, I really looked for this kind of thing when I studied the sources 2 years ago, so I’m pretty sure this was not listed a source at that time (or else the link was not working? – but no… hmm…). Anyway, the author’s logic is thoroughly confused.

    Even if this is where Singer got his number for water vapor, it doesn’t explain why he ignored the correct information from another sources he cites.

    —–

    4i.

    http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/Reference_Docs/sci_and_techn-glacial_expansion_03-04.pdf

    “Solar Cycles, Not CO2, Determine Climate”
    “by Zbigniew Jaworowski, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., 21st Century Science and Technology, Winter 2003-2004, pp. 52-65″

    Wow! I found the erroneous statement about H2O vapor highlighted in that website. Also found what looks like the same graph of temperature changes over the Phanerozoic used by Tim Patterson (And the source given for it is “N.J. Shaviv, and J. Veizer, 2003. “Celestial Driver of Phanerozoic Climate?” GSA Today (July), pp. 4-10″ And the names sound familiar – I think one of the IPCC reports addressed this issue (was it the AR4 or the third one?)) But where did the water vapor info come from? Too many sources listed at the end to go through – I don’t have the time.

    —————–

    Sorry for the long post – I had no idea it would get that long when I started it.

  19. 219
    popoff geologist says:

    Anybody who doubts is no honest?

    http://www.fel.duke.edu/~scafetta/pdf/opinion0308.pdf

  20. 220

    patrick quotes Fred Singer:

    “Water vapor, the most significant greenhouse gas, comes from natural sources and is responsible for roughly 95% of the greenhouse effect (4). Among climatologists, this is common knowledge…”

    Singer is lying with that last sentence. I have never seen a climatology textbook that said water vapor accounts for 95% of the greenhouse effect. I have never seen a peer-reviewed paper that said that.

    He’s not just wrong here — he’s saying something about his colleagues which he knows not to be true.

  21. 221
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Popoff geologist asks: “Anybody who doubts is no honest?” and vectors to the puff opinion piece that mysteriously made its way to the pages of Physics today.

    All dishonest? Not at all. Some are ignorant, writing well outside their field of expertise. Scafetta and west have been dealt with here:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/11/a-phenomenological-sequel/langswitch_lang/in

    and

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/10/how-not-to-attribute-climate-change/langswitch_lang/in

    The PT piece merely recycles the same mistakes. Rare counter examples like Einstein notwithstanding, there is a reason why scientists study a subject for 20 years or more before making any meaningful contribution to it.

  22. 222
    Biff Baffin says:

    Geologists worried about the tone of this discussion, should maybe ask themselves why they’re so reflexively defensive. It’s pretty mild.

    Those worried about the lack of respect shown to skeptics might want to step back and ponder the situation from another angle. A review of public “debate” will show that legitimate skepticism of AGW has died down over the past decade or so. The serious, productive scientists have either moved on or are focusing on smaller points. If you examine the remaining critiques, you’ll soon see that what’s left over is a closed cycle of debunked talking points and dishonest debating techniques. You have to ask yourself why people would indulge in this behavior and whether they deserve any more respect than say vandals who deface public property.

    #202 Ray Ladbury
    You’re probably right of course, but I think there’s a little more to it. The very culture of geology contains an exploitive element — from energy and all manor of mining to collectors and artisans — economic exploration has been a factor embedded into the school curriculum. And it’s pretty hard core, although it may be changing a bit for upcoming generations.

    I can remember that my geology classmates (undergraduate, early 80′s) were mostly interested in the science. There was however, a distinct knot of characters who were convinced that they were going to strike it rich. This despite admonitions to the contrary by profs. And they were very aggressive about it, probably egged on by the political climate of the time which was beginning to sneer at anything even remotely smacking of environmentalism (among other things).

    I also remember my advisor marveling that I wasn’t aware of the deep pockets available to geology students. He then laughed and dropped a stipend on me for field camp from an energy sector group. I have to say it gave me pause and caused me more than a little soul searching. Very seductive.

  23. 223
    Hank Roberts says:

    Popoff geologist: you point to an “Opinion” — is not “honest” disagreement allowed in your view?

  24. 224
    Hank Roberts says:

    > beginning to sneer at anything even remotely smacking of environmentalism (among other things).

    Yep. I heard people in both academia and business saying they were sad to see people coming out of grad school and law school who had made themselves nothing but tools to be used. Sneer/peer pressure — ‘the nail that sticks up gets hammered down’ — is potentially really destructive in school environments when careers are being chosen.

  25. 225
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Patrick 027 (#218): this is a great piece of detective work!

    The abstract of Freidenreich and Ramaswamy (1993) is on line, and you are 110% right:

    Line-by-line (LBL) solar radiative transfer solutions are obtained for CO2-only, H2O-only, and CO2 + H2O atmospheres, and the contributions by the major CO2 and H2O absorption bands to the heating rates in the stratosphere and troposphere are analyzed. …

    This is absolutely crystal clear. It is, as you concluded, about the absorption of incoming solar radiation. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the greenhouse effect. I have to admit that Siegfried F is creative in his mendacity…

  26. 226
    Hank Roberts says:

    Couple more recent sources (you can download the PDF or click for Google’s html version where available)
    ttp://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=%22Hocke%22+%22FORCING+*+*+EARTH+S%22

    From the first one:

    ——-excerpt follows——-
    … the electromagnetic radiation from the Sun is the main driver of the climate,
    the circulation, and the wave flux of the Earth’s atmosphere.
    In the first part of our study, we investigate how the annual variation of the to-
    tal solar irradiance (TSI at the position of the Earth) influences the global mean
    temperature of the lower troposphere. The annual variation of TSI is caused by
    the changing Sun-Earth distance during the year, and its amplitude amounts 45.7
    W/m2. The annual variation of TSI is much larger than the other variations of TSI,
    e.g., the 11-year solar cycle corresponds to an amplitude of around 1 W/m2.

    We estimate the impact of the annual variation of TSI on the time series of global mean
    temperature (from NCEP/NCAR reanalysis). Additionally we derive the influence
    of the inter-hemispherical asymmetry of the Earth on the time series of the global
    mean temperature. Since the Northern Hemisphere (NH) has more land surfaces
    and mountains than the Southern Hemisphere (SH), the characteristics of wind cir-
    culation, water vapor convection, atmospheric waves, concentration of greenhouse
    gases, oceanic currents, surface albedo, etc. are different and lead to a different ther-
    mal equilibrium for the NH than for the SH. Particularly the warmest sea surface
    temperatures are observed in the NH which can be explained by complex ocean-
    atmosphere interactions depending on surface wind, cloud cover, coastal geometry
    of the continents, the depth of the oceanic thermocline, and other factors (Philander
    et al. , 1996).

    The time series of the global and hemispheric mean temperature, humidity, and
    geopotential height of the lower troposphere reveal a linear, positive trend which
    is mainly caused by the strong increase of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse …

    Preprint submitted to Elsevier Science
    4 June 2007

  27. 227
    John Mashey says:

    But, back to the original topic…

    In general, whether the group is geologists, EEs, physicists, or whatever, I’d observe:

    1) It’s difficult to make useful assertions about the group as a whole, especially about their opinions, and especially without doing a high-quality survey whose size and methodology yield statistical significance.

    Otherwise, one is talking about anecdotal evidence, even if the evidence consists of public sessions at conferences.

    2) But even if you did a good survey, you’d better report it correctly for it to have any meaning. For example, suppose you did a randomized survey of people in group X, under circumstances that required answers (i.e., not one one of these silly Internet polls), i.e., imagine you were the Census Bureau.

    Imagine the poll asked: on a scale from 0 to 10, rate the likelihood of AGW being a correct theory, i.e., 0 = it’s a hoax, 5 = I’m really not sure, 10 = I’m virtually certain. I.e., one needs some linear scale.

    3) Now, you could report that group X averaged 7, and some other group Y averaged 8 … but what does that tell you?

    A: not much, which is why I’ve often given a talk called “Summarizing Performance is No Mean Feat”, i.e., *distribution* is at least as important as any mean.

    In this case, one might find that the results of group X, with mean 7:

    a) Follow a normal distribution, with sd = 1, say OR

    b) Follow a left-skewed distribution, i.e., most people are above 7, but there’s a long spread down to 0. OR

    c) There’s a strong bimodal distribution, with a big peak around 8 and a small peak around 0.

    d) There’s a trimodal distribution, with a strong peak around 9-10 [people who've studied], another peak around 5 [people who just don't know], and a small peak at 0 [people who know AGW is a hoax]

    One gets far more insight from seeing the distribution, especially when one finds multi-modals, which lead one to want to search for the distinguishing characteristics of the subgroups.

    I conjecture (based on the original article, and on watching the APS/FPS proceedings, but only a conjecture, that d) might well occur. In the APS case:

    The leaders of APS and other key people certainly fit 9-10.
    The FPS editors were 5.
    Certain FPS members, like Gerald Marsh and Larry Gould, fit 0.

    4) So, I don’t think the existence of some 0′s in a group means the whole group subscribes to that position, but that brings me back to the geologists. Some pepple have commented about different subgroups. I certainly know geosciences people who understand AGW quite well.

    So, in the absence of a scientific survey, are there reasoned opinions about the distribution for geologists?

  28. 228
    Mark says:

    “So, in the absence of a scientific survey, are there reasoned opinions about the distribution for geologists?”

    No.

    Why would there be? We don’t run a survey. And it would still be anecdotal if you wish to perceive it as so.

    However, if some geologists are understanding of climatology today and keep quiet while people like Bob say “CO2 lags temperature rises” then they are not part of the solution, are they.

    Stand up and be counted, if you will.

  29. 229
    John Mashey says:

    re: #228 mark

    Look, this is a good science blog, so people often address:
    1) What do we think we know?
    2) Wny do we think we know that?
    3) How sure are we? What’s the balance of evidence?

    (or put another way, as in that link: ideas, hypotheses, strong theories, or in Stephen Schneider’s terms: speculation, competing explanations, well-established science.)
    ===

    ? Who’s “we”?

    When you say “no”, that’s ambiguous. Can you clarify:
    a) You don’t have a reasoned opinion.
    b) You don’t know of any reasoned opinions.
    c) You know there are no reasoned opinions. [and how do you know?]
    d) You know there cannot be reasoned opinions.

    Reasoned opinions could easily come from people with long involvement in a scientific discipline, and who know many people there. Those certainly aren’t scientific surveys, but I’d give them more weight than to random, unidentifiable posters on a blog. (i.e., IUOUI = Ignore Unsupported Opinions of Unidentifiable Individuals).

    Again, having watched the APS/FPS thing, at least some people seem to have a handle on the distribution of their members’ thoughts, and are thinking about how to support good discussions without getting anti-science.

    You may be under the illusion that I’m a geologist (I’m not, see Part 2 of How to Learn About Science.)

    I just have a long-running interest, as described in that link, to see how people learn science, and the various reasons why otherwise-educated people reject strong scientific consensus in domains outside their own.

    If I just did anecdotes, I’d observe that Naomi Oreskes was originally a geologist by academic background, as was Ron Oxburgh [brought in as Shell Chairman to clean up], and both of them have well-known views on AGW :-)

  30. 230
    Mark says:

    I mean to to the question in

    “So, in the absence of a scientific survey, are there reasoned opinions about the distribution for geologists?”

    In the absence of a scientific survey, there are no reasoned opinions about the distribution for geologists.

    We have reasoned opinions about the general public appearance with respect to climate and man’s effect thereon.

    But the distribution of opinion? No.

    It was a “no” right after a quoted question so I figured people would be able to join the dots. Question quoted: no. “no” must be the answer for the question.

    I realise now this may have been a bit of a shot in the dark with some.

    Sigh.

  31. 231
    Antonio San says:

    One point made many times in the discussion is that proselytism seems to hit a snag when reaching a geologist. Perhaps, those with a perspective on geosciences and in particular Earth history may be less prompt to take claims of “unprecedented” events at face value. After all, they have seen the effect of climate on rocks and demonstrated important sea level variations. The dreadful and despicable oil industry seismic technological advances have exposed the resulting corteges of sediments and their architecture through sequence stratigraphy…

    Geologists too have experienced the wonderful impact of models in their daily lives, including the opposite approaches that consist in elaborating a model and fitting it to the rest of the data or reconstructing the geometrical relationships from the data, all the data and then inferring the principles that created the observed filed. Not unlike the climate field, we also enjoy controversies, including egos vested interests in one model versus another. In exploration though, the sanction comes quickly and at a cost: and the result is either a dry hole or a discovery. And one can lose his job you know… unlike in climate science it seems, even when Supplemental Information do not live up to their expectations.

    So not only geologists are wary of models but they are also curious people and cartesian ones to boot. Thus it is highly logical some of them will inform themselves about meteorology and climatology, about the quality of the data and the processing of that data before even uttering an opinion on the debate.

    The fact that documented rebuttals have exposed inconsistencies in proxy records and their statistical treatment, the fact that meteorological observations based on the evolution of pressure fields do not support the temperature averages obsession, the fact that 5,000 BP old corals in a tectonically stable south pacific atoll are located at a minimum 1.5m above present sea level, make in the minds of many, the claims of “unprecedented” events quite weak.

    But perhaps what troubles me the most is the inelegance displayed through utter arrogance of this side of the climate science community. The tone of this forum being yet another example of it. It feels like Bernard-Henry Levy condescending on Solzhenitsyn! And I would highjack the quote by the academician Marcel Pagnol to finish: ” Messieurs, La geologie vous em…..!”

  32. 232
    popoff says:

    Very well expressed by Antonio San. Maybe some geologists have known how difficult is to fit the data with the model, even with more single models with just the continuity equation, for example in hidrogeology, where after doing a lot of trials finally always reality and nature acts as it wants, and you must re-begin, try with other parameters, with other suppositions, change the geometry, etc. etc.

    Models are marvellous to make comprobations, to know if your geometrical, physically based model, has a mathematical possibility of fitting, which are the extremes of vadility, etc. but they are only tools.

  33. 233
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Antonio San, You claim that it is natural that some geologists will take the trouble to make themselves familiar with climate science, and indeed that is true. So why is it that the talking points of the denialists such as Blob Carter are based on utter ignorance of the science? Does he really think that the old meme of “CO2 lags temperature” is anything other than a softly lobbed pitch that is destined to be knocked out of the ball park if it even makes it to the plate? Your own comments about models betray an ignorance of how climate modeling is done. Your attitude of throwing up your hands and saying climate is simply too complicated is antiscientific as well as demonstrably incorrect, given the massive gains in understanding we’ve had over 150 years of studying climate.

  34. 234
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 231,232 –

    Claims of ‘unprecedented’ – no serious climatologist or geologist or… would say that we haven’t had sea level much higher at some point in the past, higher temperatures, much higher CO2, etc, etc, – though the rate of sustained change now is rather higher than ‘typical’ (the recent relatively large CO2 rise is significantly more rapid than in the last deglaciation) , but I’m not sure it’s unprecedented – asteroid impacts, etc, – but in any given aspect it is unprecedented (unfamiliar) relative to a given time scale.

    Models – I’m not sure which models you’re refering to. If you’re talking about fitting a model to data, in the sense of fitting a model of the structure of the Earth to seismic data, that makes sense. That’s rather different than a climate or atmospheric model – a better comparison would be models that simulate patterns of mantle and outer core convection over time (as opposed to a model of the particular configuration of currents as it is now based on seismic and other data).

  35. 235
    Antonio San says:

    Re 234

    Patrick 027,

    As a geologist I have experienced the rarity of meeting geophysicists who were even interested in what the detailed geology was -that means what nature has done-, beyond the basic “is it a reef play or a sand play”. Believe me when one was lucky enough to meet such rare individual one was treasuring the work relationship as there was no language barrier: we were indeed studying the same object with complementary tools.

    Of course the modeling differs depending on the application… Still, beyond the tools, it is the brains and the reasoning that makes science intelligent or tart, not the amount of computer time.

    When Herve Le Treut in his inaugural lecture at the Academie des Sciences in Paris suggests that enormous progress in climatology have been made in the past decade and then refers to the tuning up of his computer models, -I thought he would mention observations i.e. real data- it leaves me with a sense of disconnection, not unsimilar one felt when some electronicians were endlessly refining the audio cassette tape with complex equalization gadgets while forgetting that 4.75cm/s tape speed dynamics will never replace a direct streamlined recording at 76 cm/s! But I digress…

    Finally, I’d argue that ethics play a role in all this, as scientists like anyone else are faillible; but that’s about row models now…

  36. 236
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 235 – “Still, beyond the tools, it is the brains and the reasoning that makes science intelligent or tart, not the amount of computer time.”

    Somewhat true – 1. GIGO with the computer models, but we need computer models to do the really intensive number crunching. 2. But simpler models, some computer, some mental – or mathematical in a way a human mind can fully comprehend – help us understand what is actually going on even in the more complex models that are better approximations of reality. (Some contrarians, which includes SOME geologists, don’t understand these simpler models – they don’t understand the theory itself, the underlying physics of it all).

    “then refers to the tuning up of his computer models,” –

    I have no experience myself with computer modeling, so anyone else feel free to jump in here, but a few impressions I’ve had:

    If the models were just tuned to produce better approximations of reality, that may make them more likely to be useful at projecting unknown realities (ie unknown aspects of the past and future) – but there is the possibility that relationships that have been found empirically through such correlation, even if robust within some range of conditions, may fall apart outside that range of conditions.

    But I think that’s an oversimplifaction of what it means to tune such a model – actually some might say that it is incorrect to describe what is done as tuning.

    Models work with the basic physics of the climate system. Limited computing power requires a grid scale (in space and time), and sub-grid scale processes cannot be resolved. These processes and their effects need to be parameterized. But that’s not just a wild guessing game. Different parameterizations can be tried out to see how sensitive or robust the model results are to them.

    Well that’s all I have time for right now.

  37. 237
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Antonio San, Methinks you are talking out of an alternative orifice. So far you’ve given no indication that you understand the science of Earth’s climate, even the basics of modeling or even how to communicate your point concisely. There are many uncertainties in climate models–the role of CO2 is not among them.

  38. 238
    Antonio San says:

    Thanks Patrick 027.

    re 237, is there any moderation here? thanks.

  39. 239
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 225 – thanks for the link!

    On a somewhat related note to my earlier comment 218: (As a preface to the following – as I mentioned above an exampe of a Quaternary geologist who shouldn’t quit his day job, here is one example of a – ‘Geophysical Fluid Dynamicist’?? (well, that’s what he wrote a book about) – who was a bit clumsy in describing the greenhouse effect and global warming. BUT I would not level the same ‘should not quit his day job’ remark at him – because global warming is outside the main focus of the book, and it is only a brief description (and I suspect many have stumbled when trying to briefly describe), and I percieve no willful ignorance, etc. – at the same time, though, one of his sources, if it is who I think it is (Lindzen) would be an example of a – ‘tropical meteorologist’?? (what is Lindzen’s specialty? I know he has done good work in a scientific field) – who should not quit his day job. Anyway, it is interesting because this is a overall good quality college textbook. Copyrighted 1994 – maybe corrections have been made since then?)

    “Introduction to Geophysical Fluid Dynamics” by Benoit Cushman-Roisin. Copyright 1994.

    A fine book for fluid mechanical aspects of the atmosphere and ocean, which is essentially the whole book.

    But:
    Under Part V: Special Topics – Chapter 18: Climate Dynamics -

    okay for initial introduction to the greenhouse effect (though it could be made better, I think), but then, …

    p.278 “[CO2] absorbs longwave radiation around 13 um”…

    What about 15 um?

    (PS the book uses the correct symbol ‘mu’, I’m using ‘u’ just to make typing easier.)

    p.279 “Raising the amount of water in the atmosphere should not cause an increase in greenhouse effect, because sufficient water levels already exist to block totally the radiation in the bands obstructed by water.”

    - oversimplication of spectral dependence of radiative properties, and ignores closing of the 8-12 um window at very high specific humidity.

    p.280 “Let us keep in mind, however, that there will always remain wavelength bands that are affected by neither water vapor nor carbon dioxide.”

    - approximately true up to a point.

    p.280 discussion of “worst case scenario” where atmospheric transmission of LW radiation from the surface goes to zero: “Thus, a worst-case scenario is a 7[deg] C rise in globally averaged temperature. This ought to be an overestimate, because (1) carbon dioxide, regardless of it’s concentration, still leaves open some radiation windows, and (2) it is not certain that enough fossil-fuel reserves exist to provide, once all are burned, enough CO2 to block all radiation in the CO2-absorbing band.”

    - oversimplication of spectral dependence, and – I only looked briefly at the math the author used (formulas developed pp. 268 – 271), but it appears that, while the author does not use the isothermal-atmosphere oversimplication, noting the atmosphere radiates to the surface more than to space (top of page 270), The author used the assumption that the ratio of atmospheric radiation to space to the atmospheric radiation to the surface would not change – a fundamental flaw (the reality of which is ironically implied by the answer to question 18-1 on page 281). The author also keeps the convective heat flux from the surface to the atmosphere constant, which he addresses in the next paragraph:

    “However (such ‘howevers’ [italics removed, single quotes added] are frequent in discussion of a possible global warming!), if the temperature increases, other elements of the heat budget will be affected, and it is not at all clear (from simple arguments) whether the tendency is toward greater or lesser warming. One component of the heat budget that is most likely to be modified is the hydrological cycle.” … “Therefore, the amount of latent heat transferred from the earth’s surface to atmosphere would increase, short-circuiting the greenhouse effect to a large degree.” … Following that, the author has two sample calculations for the surface temperature increase – resulting from zero atmospheric transmission of surface LW radiation to space, with increases of the convective heat flux from the surface – of 10% and 20% – of 5 deg C and 3 deg C, respectively.

    pp. 280 – 281:

    “But speculation, however reasonable, must be put to the test.” … “Starting in the 1960s, Syukuro Manabe (see the biography at the end of this cahpter) and several others developed such numerical models, of various degrees of complexity, to quantify the climate response to increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (among other models: Manabe et al., 1965; Hansen et al., 1988; Manabe et al., 1991).” … [on the model results for surface temperature response of doubling CO2 from "present" concentrations] …”Answers agree that the globally averaged temperature”…”would increase but disagree on the size of this increase, with values ranging between 1.5 [deg] C and 5 [deg] C (National Research Council, 1983; Lindzen, 1990). Differences between model results are attributed to our yet imprecise knowledge of which physical processes among the many possible candidates must be included in the calculations, as well as to our present inability, because of computer limitations, to simulate with the necessary accuracy short-term processes (e.g., cloud formations and oceanic eddies).”

    I’m not sure about the first part of the last sentence, but otherwise the above sounds about right.

    “Also, as Manabe et al. (1991) argue, climate inertia due primarily to a delayed oceanic response requires nonequilibrium studies,”…

    That’s fine.

    “Although the various models agree on a global temperature increase, they are in sharp disagreement over regional variations, except in polar regions where they systematically project temperature increases greater than the global average, especially in wintertime (Lindzen, 1990). Ironically, actual records of temperature over the Atlantic Arctic since 1900 do not support this conclusion (Rogers, 1989, quoted in Lindzen, 1990),”

    That last part about the Atlantic Arctic puzzles me. Maybe when this was written, Arctic warming was not quite so obvious (?). I’m not sure if this is exactly the region referred to, but there is an area of the North Atlantic (SE of Greenland, I think) that is expected (from model output at least) to have less warming – unlike much of the rest of the northern high latitudes. Maybe this was not a model output back in 1994 (?).

    “In summary, much work remains before numerical models provide consistent and reliable answers to the queestion of a possible global warming,” …

    More true for the specifics than for more general aspects…

    … “but in the meantime, their results should serve as warnings for what could happen. A good and succinct overview of the debate over global warming can be found in Lindzen (1990).”

    What is this Lindzen (1990)? – on page 307 (References):

    “Lindzen, R. S., 1990: Some coolness concerning global warming. [italics left out of following] Bull. Am. Met. Soc. [end italics], 71, 288-299.” ["71" was in bold]

    Well, it wasn’t a speech to CATO, so maybe there were some reasonable (for the year 1990) statements in that. I haven’t looked for it yet. But we all know Lindzen has stated some whoppers in other venues. I am assuming it’s the same Richard Lindzen – if I’m wrong, sorry.

  40. 240

    Antonio San,

    “Unprecedented” is usually used with a phrase like “in the past thousands years” or “in the past 650,000 years.” It doesn’t mean unprecedented in all geological time. Nor does that fact that some index may have been exceeded in some earlier era affect the point that the current rapid rise in temperature is likely to play merry hell with our agriculture and our economy. When the Earth was molten, it was much hotter than today. Nonetheless, “the Earth is now hotter than it has been for 1,300 years” is a point of great interest.

  41. 241
    Bryan S says:

    Apparently, too many readers of Real Climate fail to understand that geologists and climate scientists are close cousins. We both study the lithosphere, biosphere, atmosphere, and cryosphere. Only the order and emphasis placed on these various components defines the dividing line between our disciplines. So if geologists are strange, climate scientists are as well. When climate scientists brandish around geological terms, discussing the geological setting of the Paleocene and Cretaceous, we are obliged to enter the discussion.

    The subplot for what is really going on here is a strategy by some to shut down discussion on the study of man-made climate change in order to affect a political agenda. Any dissenting scientist (even climate scientists) who questions the hypothesis that climate change on all scales from local and regional to global is driven mainly by man’s addition of CO2 into the atmosphere is labeled a “kook” by many regulars here at Real Climate. The premise used by the activists and politicians is that humans have the power to stabilize the climate to some kind of “optimal”. Fortunately, a significant minority of climate scientists and geologists alike privately understand that this idea is bunk, yet it seems to be heresy in some circles of thought to point this out.

    Most climate scientists and geologists agree that the climate system has large natural variability across many spatial and temporal scales. Additionally, it is agreed that man’s recent contribution to modern climate change is real and significant, but complex, and involves the interaction of land use practices, aerosols, and greenhouse gas emissions. The place where many of us part ways is in the twofold hypothesis that 1) the complex interaction of humans with the earth system’s inherent natural variability can be predicted accurately decades to thousands of years into the future, and 2) the climate system can be effectively engineered by the political regulation of CO2 emissions to produce some kind of anthropogenic climate optimal. Many geologists and other scientists are crying in the wilderness that this engineering hypothesis is doomed to be ineffective, and if implemented, may unintentionally result in the spreading of more human misery than it will cure.

  42. 242
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Bryan S., That is an absolute load of fetid dingo’s kidneys. Nobody is trying to shut anybody up. The denialists have simply run out of anything relevant (i.e. publishable in peer reviewed journals) to say. And on those few occasions where something was published, it leads nowhere. The role of CO2 is well established. The sensitivity is nailed down six ways to Sunday. Do you want to overturn the consensus of climate scientists that humans are behind the current warming epoch? Great. All you have to do is explain the data–and I mean ALL the data–with a CO2 sensitivity significantly below say 0.5 degrees per doubling. Good luck.

  43. 243
    Hank Roberts says:

    > 1) the complex interaction …can be predicted
    > accurately decades to thousands of years into the
    > future, and 2) the climate system can be effectively
    > engineered … to produce some kind of anthropogenic
    > climate optimal

    You the guy who ordered these truckloads of straw?
    Got enough for stuffing plenty more o’ them strawmen.

    Seriously bogus claiming your two statements are “hypotheses” — you can’t cite them to anyone who made such claims, I’m sure.

  44. 244
    Figen Mekik says:

    “fetid dingo’s kidneys”
    that’s quite creative and descriptive! :)

  45. 245
    David B. Benson says:

    Bryan S (241) wrote “the climate system can be effectively engineered by the political regulation of CO2 emissions to produce some kind of anthropogenic climate optimal.” Well, I certainly hope so! All that is required is to offset, by permanent sequestration, ungoing additions of excess CO2 and also put back the approximately 500 GtC of excess carbon.

    However, no ‘political regulation’ is necessary; all that is required is about 1–2% of the world’s annual wealth. I suppose extracting that as, say, VAT, is a political matter.

    Hank Roberts (243) — Maybe Bryan was referring to me? :-)

  46. 246
    Hank Roberts says:

    David, you haven’t published a hypothesis that includes all those specified criteria, have you? It’s the loading of all those specifics into the claim that makes it a straw man.

    Wishful thinking doesn’t count. You need a mechanism, not a what-if.

    Broecker, for contrast, has a hypothesis, and it looks as though he has a possible mechanism — a real one, not a strawman; he is not presuming regulation of emissions; and not claiming optimal results. He’s actually stating something that can be discussed because it has some reality, unlike the above strawmen.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/may/24/carbonemissions.climatechange1

    Usual caveats about scientists who get older, change locations, and adopt new enthusiasms — the hypothesis needs to be stated as a business plan, I think.

    Perhaps it will.

  47. 247
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Figen Mekik,
    “fetid dingo’s kidneys”
    Descriptive, yes. Creative no, at least not when I say it. It is originally due to the late, great Douglas Adams–a man who really knew where his towel was.

  48. 248
    David B. Benson says:

    Hank Roberts (246) — Its not a hypothesis in that there are no elements of the plan which require further experimentation to demonstrate possiblity; there only remains the matter of cost and perhaps more seriously, determining how long the biochar would remain out of the active carbon cycle. For some data on this last point, see

    http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/node/578

    but some assurances would be provided by using some of Wallace Broecker’s captured CO2 to flood the sequestered biochar to the limit of chemical affinity.

    Since 1% of WGP is about $670 billion and my plan needs about that amount, clearly great enthusiasm for it would have to occur before it could begin on anything like the scale needed. My cost estimate is around $140 per tonne of carbon sequestered in developed countries and much less in developing countries. If Wallace Broecker’s machine can do it for less, fine with me.

    Neither is a ‘strawman’; both have about the same uncertainties, namely the security and permanence of sequestration. My plan at least has the advantage of just storing carbon, not potentially dangerous quantities of CO2.

    [Hmm. Captcha opines "examples and".]

  49. 249
  50. 250
    Figen Mekik says:

    Ray, I had no idea. And I am supposed to be a Douglas Adams fan. That is very, very funny. It makes me sad sometimes that my students don’t automatically know that the answer to life, universe and everything is 42. And that the question is what is 6 times 7.

    [Response: Actually the question in the original series was what is 6 times 9... - gavin]


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