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CNN is spun right round, baby, right round

Filed under: — gavin @ 14 January 2009

With the axing of the CNN Science News team, most science stories at CNN are now being given to general assignment reporters who don’t necessarily have the background to know when they are being taken for a ride. On the Lou Dobbs show (an evening news program on cable for those of you not in the US), the last few weeks have brought a series of embarrassing non-stories on ‘global cooling’ based it seems on a few cold snaps this winter, the fact that we are at a solar minimum and a regurgitation of 1970s vintage interpretations of Milankovitch theory (via Pravda of all places!). Combine that with a few hysterical (in both senses) non-scientists as talking heads and you end up with a repeat of the nonsensical ‘Cooling world’ media stories that were misleading in the 1970s and are just as misleading now.

Exhibit A. Last night’s (13 Jan 2009) transcript (annotations in italics).

Note that this is a rush transcript and the typos aren’t attributable to the participants.

DOBBS: Welcome back. Global warming is a complex, controversial issue and on this broadcast we have been critical of both sides in this debate. We’ve challenged the orthodoxy surrounding global warming theories and questioned more evidence on the side of the Ice Age and prospect in the minds of some. In point of fact, research, some of it, shows that we could be heading toward cooler temperatures, and it’s a story you will only see here on LOU DOBBS TONIGHT. Ines Ferre has our report.


INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Will the day after tomorrow bring a deep freeze like that shown in the movie? Research more than 50 years ago by astrophysicist Milanchovich (ph) shows that ice ages run in predictable cycles and the earth could go into one. How soon? In science terms it could be thousands of years. But what happens in the next decade is still up in the air. Part of the science community believes that global warming is a man-maid threat. But Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute predicts the next 20 to 30 years will actually bring cooling temperatures.

Dennis Avery is part of the ‘science community’? Who knew? And, while amusing, the threat of ‘man-maids’ causing global warming is just a typo. Nice thought though. Oh, and if you want to know what the actual role of Milankovitch in forcing climate is, look at the IPCC FAQ Q6.1. Its role in current climate change? Zero.

DENNIS AVERY, HUDSON INSTITUTE: The earth’s temperatures have dropped an average of .6 Celsius in the last two years. The Pacific Ocean is telling us, as it has told us 10 times in the past 400 years, you’re going to get cooler.

For those unfamiliar with Dennis Avery, he is a rather recent convert to the bandwagon idea of global cooling, having very recently been an advocate of “unstoppable” global warming. As for his great cherry pick (0.6º C in two years – we’re doomed!), this appears to simply be made up. Even putting aside the nonsense of concluding anything from a two year trend, if you take monthly values and start at the peak value at the height of the last El Niño event of January 2007 and do no actual trend analysis, I can find no data set that gives a drop of 0.6ºC. Even UAH MSU-LT gives only 0.4ºC. The issue being not that it hasn’t been cooler this year than last, but why make up numbers? This is purely rhetorical of course, they make up numbers because they don’t care about whether what they say is true or not.

FERRE: Avery points to a lack of sunspots as a predictor for lower temperatures, saying the affects of greenhouse gas warming have a small impact on climate change. Believers in global warming, like NASA researcher, Dr. Gavin Schmidt disagree.

I was interviewed on tape in the afternoon, without seeing any of the other interviews. Oh, and what does a ‘believer in global warming’ even mean?

DR. GAVIN SCHMIDT, NASA: The long term trend is clearly toward warming, and those trends are completely dwarf any changes due to the solar cycle.

FERRE: In a speech last week, President-elect Obama called for the creation of a green energy economy. Still, others warn that no matter what you think about climate change, new policies would essentially have no effect.

FRED SINGER, SCIENCE & ENV. POLICY PROJECT: There’s very little we can do about it. Any effort to restrict the use of carbon dioxide will hurt us economically and have zero effect on the Chicago mate.

Surely another typo, but maybe the Chicago mate is something to do with the man-maids? See here for more background on Singer.

FERRE: As Singer says, a lot of pain, for no gain.

Huh? Try looking at the actual numbers from a recent McKinsey report. How is saving money through efficiency a ‘pain’?


FERRE: And three independent research groups concluded that the average global temperature in 2008 was the ninth or tenth warmest since 1850, but also since the coldest since the turn of the 21st century.

DOBBS: It’s fascinating and nothing — nothing — stirs up the left, the right, and extremes in this debate, the orthodoxy that exists on both sides of the debate than to even say global warming. It’s amazing.

This is an appeal to the ‘middle muddle’ and an attempt to seem like a reasonable arbitrator between two opposing sides. But as many people have previously noted, there is no possible compromise between sense and nonsense. 2+2 will always equal 4, no matter how much the Hudson Institute says otherwise.

FERRE: When I spoke to experts and scientists today from one side and the other, you could feel the kind of anger about —

That was probably me. Though it’s not anger, it’s simple frustration that reporters are being taken in and treating seriously the nonsense that comes out of these think-tanks.

DOBBS: Cannot we just all get along? Ines, thank you very much.

Joining me now three leading experts in Manchester, New Hampshire, we’re joined by Joseph D’Aleo of the International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project. Good to have with you us.


DOBBS: He’s also the cofounder of The Weather Channel. In Washington, D.C., as you see there, Jay Lehr, he’s the science director of the Heartland Institute. And in Boston, Alex Gross, he’s the cofounder of Good to have you with us.

Well that’s balanced!

Let’s put a few numbers out here, the empirical discussion and see what we can make of it. First is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has very good records on temperatures, average temperatures in the United States, dating back to 1880. And here’s what these numbers look like. You’ve all seen those. But help us all — the audience and most of all me to get through this, they show the warmest years on record, 1998, 2006, and 1934. 2008 was cooler, in fact the coolest since 1997. It’s intriguing to see that graph there. The graph we’re looking at showing some question that the warming trend may be just a snapshot in time. The global temperatures by NOAA are seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. The ten warmest years have all occurred since 1995.

So let me start, if I may, Joseph, your reaction to those numbers. Do you quibble with what they represent?

D’ALEO: Yes, I do. In fact, if you look at the satellite data, which is the most reliable data, the best coverage of the globe, 2008 was the 14th coldest in 30 years. That doesn’t jive with the tenth warmest in 159 years in the Hadley data set or 113 or 114 years in the NOAA data set. Those global data sets are contaminated by the fact that two-thirds of the globe’s stations dropped out in 1990. Most of them rural and they performed no urban adjustment. And, Lou, you know, and the people in your studio know that if they live in the suburbs of New York City, it’s a lot colder in rural areas than in the city. Now we have more urban effect in those numbers reflecting — that show up in that enhanced or exaggerated warming in the global data set.

D’Aleo is misdirecting through his teeth here. He knows that the satellite analyses have more variability over ENSO cycles than the surface records, he also knows that urban heat island effects are corrected for in the surface records, and he also knows that this doesn’t effect ocean temperatures, and that the station dropping out doesn’t affect the trends at all (you can do the same analysis with only stations that remained and it makes no difference). Pure disinformation.

DOBBS: Your thoughts on these numbers. Because they are intriguing. They are a brief snapshot admittedly, in comparison to total extended time. I guess we could go back 4.6 billion years. Let’s keep it in the range of something like 500,000 years. What’s your reaction to those numbers and your interpretation?



DOBBS: Go ahead, Jay.

LEHR: Lou, I’m in the camp with Joe and Fred Singer and Dennis Avery, and I think more importantly, it is to look at the sun’s output, and in recent years, we’ve seen very, very low sunspot activity, and we are definitely, in my mind, not only in a cooling period, we’re going to be staying in it for a couple decades, and I see it as a major advantage, although I think we will be able to adapt to it. I’m hopeful that this change in the sun’s output will put some common sense into the legislature, not to pass any dramatic cap in trade or carbon tax legislation that will set us in a far deeper economic hole. I believe Mr. Obama and his economic team are well placed to dig us out of this recession in the next 18 months to 2 years, but I think if we pass any dramatic legislation to reduce greenhouse gases, the recession will last quite a few more years and we’ll come out of it with a lower standard of living on very tenuous scientific grounds.

DOBBS: Alex, the carbon footprint, generation of greenhouse gases, specifically co2, the concern focusing primarily on the carbon footprint, and of course generated by fossil fuels primarily, what is your thinking as you look at that survey of 130 — almost 130 years and the impact on the environment?

ALEX WISSNER-GROSS, CO2STATS.COM: Well, Lou, I think regardless of whatever the long-term trend in the climate data is, there a long- term technological trend which is that as time goes on our technology tends toward smaller and smaller physical footprint. That means in part that in the long term we like technology to have a smaller environmental footprint, burning fewer greenhouse gases and becoming as small and environmentally neutral and noninvasive as possible. So I think regardless of the climate trend, I think we’ll see less and less environmentally impactful technologies.

Wissner-Gross is on because of the media attention given to misleading reports about the carbon emissions related to Google searches. Shame he doesn’t get to talk about any of that.

DOBBS: To be straight forward about this, that’s where I come down. I don’t know it matters to me whether there is global warming or we’re moving toward an ice age it seems really that we should be reasonable stewards of the planet and the debate over whether it’s global warming or whether it’s moving toward perhaps another ice age or business as usual is almost moot here in my mind. I know that will infuriate the advocates of global warming as well as the folks that believe we are headed toward another ice age. What’s your thought?

Curious train of logic there…

D’ALEO: I agree with you, Lou. We need conservation. An all of the above solution for energy, regardless of whether we’re right and it cools over the next few decades or continues to warm, a far less dangerous scenario. And that means nuclear. It means coal, oil, natural gas. Geothermal, all of the above.

DOBBS: Jay, you made the comment about the impact of solar sunspot activity. Sunspot activity the 11-year cycle that we’re all familiar with. There are much larger cycles, 12,000 to 13,000 years as well. We also heard a report disregard, if you will, for the strength and significance of solar activity on the earth’s environment. How do you respond to that?

Is he talking about me? Please see some of my publications on the subject from 2006, 2004 and 2001. My point above was that relative to current greenhouse gas increases, solar is small – not that it is unimportant or uninteresting. This of course is part of the false dilemma ‘single cause’ argument that the pseudo-skeptics like to use – that change must be caused by either solar or greenhouse gases and that any evidence for one is evidence against the other. This is logically incoherent.

FEHR: It just seems silly to not recognize that the earth’s climate is driven by the sun.

Ah yes.

Your Chad Myers pointed out it’s really arrogant to think that man controls the climate.

This is a misquoted reference to a previous segment a few weeks ago where Myers was discussing the impact of climate on individual weather patterns. But man’s activities do affect the climate and are increasingly controlling its trends.

90 percent of the climate is water vapor which we have no impact over and if we were to try to reduce greenhouse gases with China and India controlling way more than we do and they have boldly said they are not going to cripple their economy by following suit, our impact would have no — no change in temperature at all in Europe they started carbon — capping trade in 2005. They’ve had no reduction in groan house gases, but a 5 percent to 10 percent increase in the standard of living. We don’t want to go that route.

What? Accounting for the garbled nature of this response, he was probably trying to say that 90% of the greenhouse effect is caused by water vapour. This is both wrong and, even were it true, irrelevant.

DOBBS: Alex, you get the last word here. Are you as dismissive of the carbon footprint as measured by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

GROSS: No, not really. But I think in the long term, efficiency is where the gains come from. I think efficiency should come first, carbon footprint second.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Alex, Jay, and Joe. Folks, appreciate you being with us.

FEHR: Thank you.

In summary, this is not the old ‘balance as bias‘ or ‘false balance‘ story. On the contrary, there was no balance at all! Almost the entire broadcast was given over to policy advocates whose use of erroneous-but-scientific-sounding sound bites is just a cover for their unchangable opinions that nothing should ever be done about anything. This may make for good TV (I wouldn’t know), but it certainly isn’t journalism.

There are pressures on journalists that conspire against fully researching a story – deadlines, the tyranny of the news peg etc. – but that means they have to be all the more careful in these kinds of cases. Given that Lou Dobbs has been better on this story in the past, seeing him and his team being spun like this is a real disappointment. They could really do much better.

Update: Marc Roberts sends in this appropriate cartoon:

596 Responses to “CNN is spun right round, baby, right round”

  1. 151

    Lou Dobbs has to be aware that Singer, Avery, and the like are think-tank promoters who use the media to mislead the public. He is not ignorant. He knows that these clowns are not scientists pursuing an understanding of the natural world. They have a long history of being categorically and consistently wrong on the facts.

    Dobbs certainly knows the distinction between a right-wing think tank, and a credible scientific institution. Lou Dobbs is reading a script that intends to mislead the public, for what purpose I can only wonder. But I just can’t believe that he is unaware that these people are charlatans, and not actual climate scientists. Their reputation for making up nonsense in pursuit of a political agenda is well established at this point. They have no credibility. Surely Dobbs is aware of that by now.

  2. 152
    Ron Taylor says:

    storeman, producing alarming scientific results is not “alarmism,” it is honesty when that is what the data show. And please do not respond with cherry-picked data from the past few years.

    We are on a slow moving train headed up-temperature. Various things may cause us to walk up or down that train, increasing or decreasing the temperature for a time. But the relentless up-temperature movement of the train will impose itself, no matter what we may prefer to believe. Please try to understand the science, rather than seeking to justify an ideological position.

  3. 153
    Joe Hunkins says:

    JCH: How could you not know that? Most estimates, including IPCC, suggest about two feet SLR over the next century, a foot or so more than we saw in the last century but easily manageable. A fairly new study linked below helps to dispel some of the “20 meter rise” nonsense we’ve seen suggested in AIT and here at RealClimate in the comment stream.

    [Response: Perhaps you could point me to any statement about 20 meter rises by 2100 made by anyone here or in AIT. Exaggeration much? – gavin]

  4. 154
    David Horton says:

    The idea of having a discussion about the reversal of global warming based on a cold snap in the mid west of the US is yet another reminder that denialists not only can’t distinguish between climate and weather, but are seemingly unaware that the northern and southern hemispheres have complementary seasons, and while it may be freezing in Chicago, parts of Australia have, for the last month, been experiencing a succession of temperatures over 40c, in the case of Perth, in record numbers. Perhaps Mr Dobbs could come downunder and have a program consisting only of climate change experts to discuss how high global warming can push temperatures.

    And re 148 I think it is arguable that all climates around the world are now being affected by global warming. How could they not be?

  5. 155
    James says:

    Re #150: SecularAnimist says “Hansen is an expert on climate science. He is not an expert on energy technology issues. I believe that his support for nuclear power…”

    You know, if people would just stop believing things, and start thinking instead, we’d all be better off :-) For myself, if I had to rely on the opinions of others, I’d prefer the opinion of someone, like Dr. Hansen, with no particular stake other than results, to that of someone who has a career investment in a particular position. But I’d still prefer to see the facts each uses, and the reasoning process they apply to those facts, and think about them for myself.

  6. 156
    EL says:


    Allow me to have an attempt to reword this in a different way. There is two causes of concern when it comes to the current models that are used to project climate change. The first cause of concern has to do with lack of data. Measurements that deal with these models have only been done in recent times. Yellowstone Park, one of the worlds largest seismic active locations, has only been measured for annual CO2 output for a decade ago or so. There is many seismic active locations that have not been measured. We aren’t sure if we have located them all.

    In a nutshell, these models cannot answer the industrial age question for the reason stated above. Without proper measurements of all CO2 outputs on this planet and all other factors as well, it’s a bit much to say that mankind is the main reason for changes or how drastic the changes are going to be.
    It’s like taking the atomic model and just guessing at half the inputs and declaring the results as science.

    The 2nd concern is that some of the evidence has problems. It may not be popular but the ice core data has issues with it that have not been properly researched. There is bacteria in large populations in these locations.

    “The microbiota may facilitate redox reactions and chemical weathering at the glacier bed (30), and their existence has potentially important implications for the global carbon cycle on glacial-interglacial timescales”

    Here is the main thing that I’m trying to get across. Scientist need to be following the scientific process as close as the grammar police is following Galvin. (they got tired of pulling me over) Very important decisions will have to be made off of the results. A solution to mankind’s problems must be found and must be right. If for example, bacteria is found to be interfering with the results of the ice core data, it would set the entire topic back a long way. Even if this bug was not doing much harm and could be statistically factored into the data, the change would have consequences because of creditability.

    Now there is other consequences with this subject. People are rushing to implement new technologies that may have major consequences of their own. Take wind power as a fine example. Everyone one is saying that we need to switch over to that, but what are the consequences going to be? You’re taking additional energy out of the wind and using it to power something. You do this on a large enough scale, it’s going to have some kind of effect. Nuclear technology has a host of well known problems. Solar panels are suspect to atmospheric conditions, though there has been recent advances that look promising. IE: the retina research. I’m not even going to go into atmosphere engineering. Honestly the best long term solution may involve space, a method to directly harvest the sun without all the problems of atmospheric conditions. But even then you would be suspect to solar activity and military, not to mention all the other threats in space… and the getting the power back to earth would be interesting in it’s own right. But if implemented, you would have a power source that is going to last longer then the earth and without direct implications on the environment.

    In any regard, it’s likely that our depleting resources will kill us long before c02 will have the chance. I personally don’t think we’ll make it to that 10 billion number. It’s a modern day outlook of the 1300’s but with nuclear giants.

    Gavlin – A forum would probably be a nice addition to the blog and would probably bring in more traffic. It would allow various discussions to take place.

  7. 157
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Dammit, now that song is in my head. I hated that song.

  8. 158
    Hank Roberts says:

    Joeduck, I think you’re the very last blogguy who is _still_ repeating that Associated Press writer’s mistaken “20 feet by 2100” story — and attributing it to climate scientists. Have you no sh … never mind.

  9. 159
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Lulo, I am intimately familiar with Scafetta and West and their attempts to turn noise into a climate signal. Their arguments have been dissected into tiny pieces on this site. I am also intimately familiar with the story of how it was published as an opinion piece (precisely so it could circumvent scrutiny by any real climate scientists–or physicists for that matter).
    For a physicist, you don’t really seem to understand the physics of climate very well. You also do not seem to be very familiar with the views of the physics community on climate change. What makes me most suspicious is that you seem to adopt the memes of the denialists without subjecting them to any sorts of statistical tests. And then there is your willingness to latch onto any cause other than CO2 even if there is no credible mechanism. If you are a physicist, what is your specialty?

  10. 160
    Ray Ladbury says:

    EL, You are so confused. First, we know that CO2 is largely anthropogenic not just because it is increasing, but because the isotopic signature shows it came from a fossil (ie. once living) source. Second, if the ice core data were as seriously flawed as you say, then 1)it would give garbage and not strong correlations and 2)it would not correlate across hemispheres, thousands of miles, etc.
    I commend to you the words of Mr. Twain: “It’s not what we don’t know that hurts us. It’s what we think we know that just ain’t so.” You need to unlearn what you think you know and go immediately to the “Start Here” button in the upper right side of the page.

  11. 161
    Jim Bouldin says:


    Scientists are very well aware of the kinds of elementary concerns you are raising, and many others. In fact, they spend a large chunk of their time considering various faults, drawbacks, limitations etc., of their methods and data. The science is very much more mature than you appear to think it is, which is not to say that it is without fault or error.

    I would encourage you to read some of the information on models, modeling methods, and model evaluation/validation at this site and at the IPCC WG1 site. You will find that it is very unlikely that you have found some fault that has not already been thoroughly gone over by many others, from many angles. There are many minds working on these issues, most of them quite good.

    The kind of question you are asking (how do we know we wouldn’t have had the same warming without the industrial age) is exactly the kind of thing that GCMs seek to answer. I think you will find sections 9.3 and 9.4 and FAQ 9.2 Fig. 1 very helpful at:

  12. 162
    Thomas says:

    Dobbs has a history, which is hardly rare in journalism. Determine a cause which can advance his career, and push it relentlessly. He has been doing that with his populist anti-globalization programs for years. Perhaps climate change skepticism is his way of evening things out (anti-globalization is considered to support the left in the US). But, at least if he has responded to criticism by inviting some real scientists on sounds hopeful. Switching the subject was not a good start however. Perhaps some careful shaming of journalist for poor methodology, which gives equal weight to cranks and experts is a way to make progress. I am awe of Gavin’s (and the other RC contributors) tireless efforts.

    US media used to have a fairness standard. And major media were cautious to not risk their license renewals by testing the limits. One of the more insideous things about how the right wing in the US has been working, is its ability to push eye-glazingly boring sounding legislation, which has the unstated goal of skewing the political landscape. The fairness doctrine was but one victim of this effort. Susan Jacoby, in her book “The rise of American Anti-intellectualism” states an opinion that forty years ago, in addition to having the fairness doctrine, mainstream journalists made good faith efforts to tell things fairly. That standard has been lost, in favor of ratings boosting story telling, and he-said she-said journalism.

    [Response: Walter Lippman wrote on similar themes nearly a century ago in “Liberty and the News”. His writings on this are as relevant today as they were back then. -mike]

  13. 163
    Hank Roberts says:

    You can find papers on bacteria from ice cores; you can find papers correlating the various ice cores.

    Try looking into your theory.

    Do bacteria vary in exactly the same way at the same time, worldwide? Do bacteria selectively produce excesses of one isotope of oxygen over another when they are in ice cores, but not otherwise?

    Where would they get it, as we believe they don’t do transmutation.

    What other reason might there be for the ice cores to show the same patterns of isotope ratios that match the rainfall patterns we know about?

  14. 164
  15. 165
    JB says:

    CNN in general, and especially Dobbs needs to learn to stick to politics. The science they broadcast is an efficient waste of the public’s time.

  16. 166
    Peter Doran says:

    Wow, I had already said to anyone who would listen that CNN had the worst science reporting on the planet. This can’t be good

  17. 167
    Ian Lee says:

    Why do so many posters use such derogatory language when referring to those who are less than convinced of the science underlying the hypothesis (it is nowhere near a theory yet)of AGW? In all of the above posts there is no mention of the urban heat island effect, nor of the effect of rural station drop out nor of the effect the GISS data manipulation has on surface temperature. Why is that?

    [Response: Because each of these ‘issues’ are non-issues, simply brought up to make people like you think there is something wrong. The UHI effect is real enough, but it is corrected for – and in any case cannot effect ocean temperatures, retreating glaciers or phenological changes (all of which confirm significant warming). The station drop out ‘effect’ is just fake, and if you don’t like GISS, then use another analysis – it doesn’t matter. – gavin]

    Only posting (or perhaps only publishing) views that support the concept of AGW isn’t really very scientific. And certainly condoning (by publishing) so many ad hominem attacks on those who do not ardently support the new religion reflects very poorly on the ethics of this site. A pity that all points of view cannot be discussed in a civilised manner. Why is there a disconnect between increasing CO2 levels and falling (or failing to rise if you prefer) global temperature? What hard evidence (not from GCMs) is there that human production of CO2 ihas caused increase in the global temperature? The evidence from the \deniers\ does seem a lot more based in observable facts than does that from the alarmists.

    [Response: Noting that Tyndall observed the greenhouse effect of CO2 in the 19th Century does not make one an alarmist. Nor does acknowleding that predictions made in the 1960s (for GHG driven warming in the troposphere, cooling in the stratosphere), or subsequently have mostly all come to pass. – gavin]

  18. 168
    Kevin B says:

    “the isotopic signature shows it came from a fossil (ie. once living) source”

    OK, I buy that there is an isotopic signature of man made CO2, but I was unaware of a peer reviewed study indicating what % of CO2 currently in the atmosphere is man made vs. natural. Please provide a link. Is there a website were this number is actually tracked? If not why does this keep getting mentioned here?

    [Response: 27% (105/385). – gavin]

    “The original claim implies that the current temperatures are out of line with all models. This is incorrect.”

    It’s just great that whatever happens to temperature, you can spin it this way. Where can I see the actual temperature predictions each year for each model, so I can see for myself which one predicted the recent cooling trend? If you had ten thousand models and one of them got this year right then the models in total are good?

    [Response: I never said this proved the models were good. Short term trends are just not a very good test of anything. – gavin]

    Lastly, please point out to me where there has been shown a statistically significant correlation between C02 level and temperature over the entire GISS record. How about over the entire Satelite record? It seems to me that if CO2 really is the most important factor in surface temperature this would be easy to show. If you can’t show this, I think you guys should spend some time looking for other drivers of climate like the sun.

    [Response: It will be more convincing for you to do this yourself. Go to and pull up the relevant timeseries. – gavin]

    Please don’t point me to the IPCC report for this.

    [Response: ??? Regardless, you should probably read the IPCC report. Especially the FAQ (linked from the ‘Start here’ page. – gavin]

  19. 169
    Harmen says:

    I think the lack of “quality” in US mainstream stream media is the major problem here…

    In the UK and continental Europe we have quality newspapers like the Guardian, Le Monde, De volkskrant..etc…

    These sources tend to be less inclined to spam spin because they have a reputation to uphold…

    Public Television is also still quite popular in Europe..These networks are not as dependent on the Oil & Gas lobby as the commercial channels…

    I think this is the reason that the BBC beats CNN every day when it comes to communication of climate science..

    It also one of the reasons that climate scientist have been slightly more succesful in getting their message through to the general population in Western Europe than in the US and Canada…

    Here i am trying to communicate a simular message in another setting…

  20. 170
    Brian Dodge says:

    #29 ulo Says:
    ” For years, we have been told that solar cycles and sunspots are irrelevant…”
    My college dropout understanding of climate science isn’t all that great, but isn’t the modulation of solar input to earth by cyclic variations in the earth’s orbital parameters the basis of Milankovitch cycles & periodic ice ages? Hasn’t the absence of sunspots and cold climate conditions during the Maunder Minimum been known for a while?

    “I am increasingly convinced that solar activity is more important than vocal, mainstream ecoscientists have led themselves to believe.”
    Way back in 1997, other scientists were convinced by their analysis of the data otherwise – “From examining the data records I conclude: Changes in solar irradiance explain perhaps one-quarter of the increase in temperature during the last century. The changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration resulting from human consumption of fossil fuels cause most of both the temperature increase and the changes in the seasonal cycle.”
    Dependence of global temperatures on atmospheric CO2 and solar irradiance
    David J. Thomson, Proceedings of the National Academies of Science

    “Cooling has been occurring for over seven years…” true(weather), but not for 30 years (climate)

    “… climate models are complex and we get a lot wrong.” There is a difference between wrong, e.g. “CO2 absorption is already saturated so more CO2 won’t make any difference”, and inaccurate, e.g. “We show that the actual cloud feedback is smaller than what previous methods suggest and that a significant part of the cloud response and the large spread between previous model estimates of cloud feedback is due to the semi-direct forcing.” Arguing that quantification errors, simplifying assumptions, or that different models predicting different amounts of warming means that the GCM’s are “wrong” is disingenuous denialism.

    “Even on the internet, inconvenient data are hidden. Go to the NSIDC, where lots of beautiful graphs are available for both the Arctic and Antarctic. When you get to the site, look for the Arctic data. Now look for the Antarctic data. Which was easier?”>data>easy-to-use Data Products>Sea Ice Index>Product Website
    3 clicks and I got a page with northern and southern hemisphere trends shown side by side; maybe I just got lucky, but I didn’t poke around ’til I found this route – just went directly there, selecting what seemed to be obvious links.

    “The solar wind is declining, the earth’s atmosphere is shrinking and there are fewer sunspots and it is getting colder. In the 1990’s how many models predicted this?” Like I said earlier, I’m no climatologist, but I don’t think sunspots & solar wind fall under the definition of “Global”, as in “global climate models”. Is Anybody doing Atmospheric Oceanic Extraterrestrial Coupled Circulation Models?

    “How do you treat people who openly question you?” By giving factual answers, often with references. Sometimes sarcasm is hard to resist, given the overwhelming consensus for AGW amongst a whole bunch of people smarter and better educated than I am.

  21. 171
    Harmen says:


    Oil & Coal lobby.

  22. 172
    Mark says:

    JAmes, 155, if we stopped giving useless and pithy statements to others, we would have more time to think and learn.

    Actually, Dr Hansen has a lot in the Nuclear stake. You should be asking a Zulu Witchdoctor about nuclear power if you want to get a REAL independent opinion.

    Next time your car doesn’t start, ask your hairdresser.

    If your computer acts up, talk to the dog.

    If your plumbing needs work, ask your vicar.

  23. 173
    Douglas Wise says:

    Re #132. Secular Animist, as is his wont, continues to campaign against the expansion of nuclear power. I am unsure as to his expertise and suspect that it might be equivalent to my own (not a lot).

    I would ask him to have a quick look at David Mackay’s book, “Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air” (freely downloadable from the internet). The author concludes, as does Secular Animist himself, that the United States could become self sufficient in sustainable energy (provided it doubled its energy efficiency) without recourse to the nuclear option. However, the same is not true for Europe as a whole (and the UK in particular). Over here, therefore, we have the choice of increasing our nuclear power production or importing sustainable energy (CSP-produced electricity, probably from North Africa). The first option appears to be much cheaper and to offer a greater degree of energy security. I do not believe that Mackay would agree that nuclear power plants cannot be built in time to prevent dangerous global warming. I think, however, that he might agree that plants of existing designs are not sustainable and that IGRs or LFTRs are much more so.

    As a total layman, I am minded to take more notice of Hansen and Mackay than Lovins and Secular Animist but would be very interested in other opinions and, indeed, in Secular Animist’s own responses to Mackay’s treatment of the subject.

    CCS is another issue which appears to produce visceral adverse responses. Clearly, energy from coal is not sustainable in the long term and one could therefore argue that investment in CO2 capture could distract investment away from renewables. However, one could also argue that, should the capture technolgy be cheap and imminently available, coal could buy time for the development of longer term solutions. In this regard, I have recently read that CO2 can be captured by adsorption on to activated charcoal at a fraction of the cost of alternative methods and without the need for prior cleanup of flue gases. This appears to give credence to Eprida’s approach of advocating the use of a combination of biochar, ammonia and flue gases simultaneously to procuce a valuable nitrogen fertiliser, a method of sequestering carbon and soil improvement. Does anyone who is more informed have any comments to make?

  24. 174
    Geoff Beacon says:


    You may have noticed some of my postings over the past months. Many asking questions in relation to methane and climate modelling. Occasionally you have responded in a rather non-committal way.

    I have just found your piece “Methane: A Scientific Journey from Obscurity to Climate Super-Stardom” (, which clearly states the position I now understand after many, many hours of googling, emails, phone calls and attendances at meetings and seminars.

    Had I read your piece earlier, I could have been been better informed when asking questions of government ministers, members of parliament, government department officials, members of the UK Climate Change Committee, climate scientists, journalists (especially at the BBC) etc. Through hard work and significant personal expense I do get to talk to or email these people.

    I have been drawn into following some of the details of climate science because of policy issues concerned with mitigation. Carbon footprints are an example, I am part of the group that started because we felt that there was widespread ignorance on this topic. In addition, explores ways we might live in a climate friendly way. But what’s the point of this effort if climate change isn’t that bad?

    Why didn’t you simply put in one of your replies “Look at the piece I wrote here…”? OK. Gripe over.

    But the real questions is “Is your piece a good summary of the current situation?”. In raising the possibility that methane emissions could swamp the OH sinks, it seems at odds with what eminent climate scientists have told me recently “just another feedback” and “most methane is gone after 10 years” (…so it’s not that important).

  25. 175
    Mark says:

    Lee 167, I didn’t read anything from you about how the professional attacks against scientists (“they are making it up to get government grants” etc) by the anti-AGW crowd put you off.


  26. 176
    Anne van der Bom says:

    167, Ian Lee:

    Only posting (or perhaps only publishing) views that support the concept of AGW…

    That is accusing RC of censorship. Did you by any chance take the time to read through the posts in this thread and others, and notice how many there are that are critical of AGW?

    those who do not ardently support the new religion

    Accusing serious scientists of merely being sort of priests of a new religion is very derogatory.

    Normally your post would go unnoticed by me, if it weren’t for your opening sentence:

    Why do so many posters use such derogatory language

    Look up “hypocrisy”, it applies to you.

  27. 177

    Ian Lee wrote: “. . .condoning (by publishing) so many ad hominem attacks on those who do not ardently support the new religion reflects very poorly on the ethics of this site. A pity that all points of view cannot be discussed in a civilised manner.”

    I concur that a civilized debate is desirable, Ian, and try–not always successfully–to conduct my posting accordingly. I would suggest, however, that dismissing a scientific point of view as “religion”, which you yourself do in this post, is rather lacking in courtesy too.

    I can testify that courtesy can get awfully difficult when those whom you debate are so prone to use words like “scam,” “fraud,” “garbage,” “fool,” and “money machine,” all of which I have encountered from the opposition within the last couple of days. Particularly so when climate change–over some timescale, and it doesn’t reassure me any that we don’t yet know just what timescale–is a survival issue.

    It also doesn’t help when your opponent exhibits a “zero learning curve.” Yesterday, for instance, I found myself in the position of trying to explain to one poor fellow (politely!) how to read a Roy Spencer cherry-picked graph. As far as I can tell, he never did get it, which of course did nothing to decrease his dogmatism. I didn’t insult him, and eschewed the easy ‘gotcha’, trusting that the exchange would speak for itself–but you can bet I felt seriously exasperated.

    “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain”–but I’m really hoping not in this case. Despite our horrors and follies, I rather like humanity.

    So, I hope you will extend this push for civilized debate to both sides, and don’t overlook the fact that characterizing the life work of thousands of researchers as “fraud”–ie., deliberate and culpable deception–is not the most polite thing to do! Nor is dismissing the peer-reviewed evidence as “religion.”

    Worse, if you are wrong–and if “skeptics” are going to demand that we consider that we are wrong, then skeptics should return the favor–then dismissing that evidence is dangerous.

  28. 178

    Kevin B wrote: “Don’t point me to the IPCC.”

    Kevin, I suspect you may have been misled as to what the IPCC reports are. (I have heard many untrue things repeated about the reports and the IPCC itself on the web.) The best way to be sure in your own mind whether or not you have an accurate idea of the reports would be to read them. The Summary Report is the easiest going, but you should also look at the individual chapters, and particularly the bibliographies, where you can see where the report ideas come from. Here’s a direct link to Chapter 9:

    Note that there are ten pages of biliobraphy–you asked for links to papers, and the IPCC reports are the best “one-stop shopping” sources to find the citations. The problem is that usually people just want *one* link, or *one* paper to prove or disprove the science. Too bad it doesn’t usually work that way. If you are like me, you won’t wade through all that research. But if you are like me, you will reach a more accurate idea of what, and who, is involved in the AGW science.

  29. 179
    Hank Roberts says:

    Lee, if you don’t know what Mark is talking about, try reading these:
    You can make up your own mind.

  30. 180
    Arakrys says:

    I’ve added this information to the wikipedia page on Avery. Feel free to edit.

  31. 181
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Kevin B. Look at the links provided by B. P. Levenson in post #113.

    Like it or not, the greenhouse nature of CO2 is an established fact. It’s a big factor in Earth being a habitable planet rather than a snowball. The only way around this is 1)to come up with a model of climate that explains things as well as the current model without a contribution of CO2; or 2)to show why CO2 should stop being a greenhouse gas magically at 280 ppmv.

  32. 182
    Chuck Booth says:

    Here is an example of what I would consider pretty good reporting on global warming. The Hartford Courant has done a good job of reporting the scientific basis for our understanding of global warming, and used to maintain a web page devoted to current articles on global warming science. That page is no longer maintained, but the article below and related articles provide links to reliable web sites on climate science.

    Despite The Cold, The Heat’s Still On
    The Hartford Courant
    January 17, 2009

    So what ever happened to global warming? 

The question might pop up as we try to insulate ourselves from this week’s chill.

    The short answer is, it’s January at 42 degrees latitude. Arctic temperatures — in the teens with a wind chill down to zero to 5 below — will be around at least through tonight, the National Weather Service says.

    The longer answer: Weather is not the same as climate. The short-term fluctuations of temperature and precipitation we’re used to in New England are just part of a long-term picture of averages and means.

Weather: An early frost kills off the last of your tomatoes.

    Climate: Since 1990, the Connecticut shoreline has shifted from Plant Hardiness Zone 6 to the warmer Zone 7.

    Climate is driven by many fluctuations, ranging from decades-long shifts in ocean currents to changes in the Earth’s orbit over hundreds of thousands of years (hence, the ice ages). But within the typical climate shifts of our own era, all of our fossil-fuel burning seems to be having an impact.


And while it’s cold right now, 2008 ranked worldwide as the eighth warmest year on record, tied with 2001, according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That’s based on land and ocean surface temperatures going back to 1880.


Half the globe has warmed at least one-half of one degree Fahrenheit in the past 30 years, and a quarter of the planet has warmed at least a full degree, the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville reported last month.


That doesn’t seem like much. But signs of spring come earlier; snow cover is shrinking.

Sea levels are inching up from the expansion of warmer water and melting glaciers and ice caps.

    Still feeling cold? At least you’re not in Minnesota, where the temperature this week dropped to 37 below zero.

    Related links
    NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center
    NCDC Annual 2008 analysis,0,1121117.story

  33. 183

    EL writes:

    There is two causes of concern when it comes to the current models that are used to project climate change. The first cause of concern has to do with lack of data. Measurements that deal with these models have only been done in recent times. Yellowstone Park, one of the worlds largest seismic active locations, has only been measured for annual CO2 output for a decade ago or so. There is many seismic active locations that have not been measured. We aren’t sure if we have located them all.

    In a nutshell, these models cannot answer the industrial age question for the reason stated above. Without proper measurements of all CO2 outputs on this planet and all other factors as well, it’s a bit much to say that mankind is the main reason for changes or how drastic the changes are going to be.

    EL, carbon dioxide is what’s called a “well-mixed gas.” The readings aren’t going to be off by more than a few ppmv anywhere in the world unless you’re standing on the brink of an active volcano or in a Pepsi factory. And the models don’t depend on statistical or climate data, aside from conditions in each grid square at the start. They’re physical models.

  34. 184
    Rod B says:

    Thomas (162) raises some good points at one level, but is either self-contradictory or defines terms to his own benefit. Speaks strongly in favor of the old Fairness Doctrine just after criticizing broadcasters for doing just that, ala Dobbs — unless “fairness” is defined as providing news that he (or some arbiter) deems fair, one-sided or not. The fairness doctrine does NOT mean that commentators viewed as cranks or doofuses by some are not allowed on the air. It simply required broadcasters to provide equal time to both sides; and that was deemed to be predominately political topics, not just any subject that had some contention. In fact having contention was not required.

  35. 185
    Katz says:

    Non- scientist here. Most of this is well over my head, but I saw something that I really didn’t understand. Hansen said about a warm 2009 and 2010 because of an El Nino. I thought we were in a La Nina. When did it change over?

  36. 186
    Hank Roberts says:

    Katz, you are probably remembering something posted as an excerpt earlier in this thread. Try your browser’s Find command on this page, search for Hansen, to see the earlier post, it has a link to the actual Hansen page (which is commendable).

    You should look at the actual Hansen paper it will become clearer. The excerpt posted, I think — or something you read somewhere, for sure — has led you to misunderstand what Hansen wrote.

    This happens a lot on climate blogs. Always look at the actual original source.

    Don’t trust some guy on a blog to tell you what the scientist wrote.

  37. 187
    Jin-Ho Yoon says:

    To find some sort of common ground, it would take long-long time. Look at the case on danger of cigarette on human health, it takes not only years, but decades. Climate change is much more subtle, because it is relatively non-visible and has its own fluctuation. Thus, it is important for scientists and concerned citizen to get involved and be more active in communicating with people.

    For the coverage of this kind from CNN or any other news media, we could send commentary or complaints. Think about 10 years ago if this happened, what could we do? and now?

  38. 188
    Geoff Wexler says:

    In an essay published in January 27th. 2005, Bob May, President of the Royal Society, warned that a well funded campaign would soon be launched in the UK to discredit the whole idea that humans could affect global warming. That this forecast was correct, was soon confirmed by the campaigns in the Daily Mail, the Telegraphs ,
    Channel 4 TV, the web and the discussion groups

    Conjecture: such campaigns are targeted to countries whose governments announce that they might intend to do something about reducing CO2 emissions.

    Conclusion: That the propaganda in the US will be stepped up. If that is right RC will have lots more work to do.

  39. 189
    dhogaza says:

    When did it change over?

    He’s predicting that at some point over the next couple of years, it *will* change over.

  40. 190
    John Mashey says:

    BPL @184
    You might want to be a little more precise, although I understand what you meant.

    CO2 certainly is a well-mixed gas, and isn’t off by much in most of the world, but there are actually higher concentrations in large metropolitan areas, like Los Angeles, and it actually matters.
    SeeStanford Professor Mark Jacobson’s testimony to Congress last year.

    “that a medium-sized city’s downtown area can have an average of
    420-440 ppmv and a peak of over 500 ppmv carbon dioxide.”

    In an already-polluted area, the effect is to icnrease the low-level ozone.

    Hence, in some places, some of the time, CO2 actually *is* a local pollutant as well as being a well-mixed GHG.

  41. 191

    Re 184:

    We haven’t, yet–but Nino/Nina are part of an “oscillation” (the shorthand is ENSO, for “El Nino Southern Oscillation”), and we are currently more or less neutral, so an El Nino would be expected within the time frame referenced.

  42. 192
    David B. Benson says:

    Katz (184) — La Nina left by mid-summer, if I remember rightly. Neutral right now.

  43. 193
    James says:

    Re #172: “…if we stopped giving useless and pithy statements to others, we would have more time to think and learn.”

    Possibly, but since I’ve tried data & reason in the past (as have others, some much better than my attempts) without notable success… If at first I don’t suceed, I try something else :-)

    “Actually, Dr Hansen has a lot in the Nuclear stake.”

    What, exactly, other than the obvious desire to reduce CO2 output? I’d be interested to know specifics.

    “You should be asking a Zulu Witchdoctor about nuclear power if you want to get a REAL independent opinion.”

    Sure, if you can find me a Zulu witch doctor who also has say a BS in physics, and has done some study of the matter. Or maybe I’d ask someone who has done nuclear engineering, or electrical power systems. But why should I accept the opinion of someone who starts from the premise “nuclear is bad” (or good), and works hard at proving his premise?

    As for the idea that we can solve all our energy & CO2 problems by covering large amounts of desert with concentrating solar thermal plants, you might reflect on this recent research, on the uptake of CO2 by desert soils:

  44. 194
    JB says:

    RE 174 “But what’s the point of this effort if climate change isn’t that bad?”

    1.) We do not have an unlimited quantity of fossil fuels. Regardless of its “adverse” environmental affect, other means of acquiring energy must be sought in order to meet the growing global energy demand.
    2.) A dependence on fossil fuels requires a continued reliance on foreign oil, which is predominately harbored by hostile, middle eastern nations. Iran has been suffering immensely economically as Chinese, American and European nations see declining demand due in part by increased environmental awareness. The less power tyrants have the better–President Ahmadinejad’s popularity within his own nation has been declining faster than the price of crude oil.
    3.) Prices of fossil fuels, namely crude oil and petroleum are subject to market speculation, with prices spiking and troughing at the whims of unknown speculators, helping to drive inflationary or deflationary concerns.

    Any way one looks at it, regardless of whether or not one is convinced of AGW plausibility, a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy will be extremely beneficial, and perhaps very soon, a global imperative.

    I hope to see the day that the U.S. will be able satisfy its energy needs primarily though an aggregation of renewable forms of energy. Nuclear, bio, wind and solar should all play a fundamental role in making this a viable and feasible reality.

  45. 195
    Kevin B says:

    Sorry Gavin, but you did not actually answer any of my actual questions. I asked for a link to a website or a peer reviewed study where the % of man made CO2 in the current atmosphere is shown. 27% is not an answer to that question. I also asked for somewhere that I can see the model predictions in advance for myself. Your reply was “I never said this proved the models were good”. This is not what I asked. I am not questioning the models, I would just like some place to verify what you are saying as fact. Same goes for the 27% comment. Lastly, all these links are just to home pages of massive websites. #113 included. You can’t provide me a link to where a statistically significant correleation has been shown between GISS temperature and CO2 levels over the entire record? To me that would be some serious evidence for what is claimed here. Hard to imagine that would be hard to find, unless it has never been shown to exist. If is has not been shown to exist, than all this CO2 talk looks like a bunch of handwaving to me. I am not questioning CO2 is a green house gas, just that if it is a primary driver of temperature there should be a significant correlation between the two.

    [Response: Your idea of what is being done is fundamentally flawed. The attribution of current climate change is not based on a simplistic correlation. Having said that, CO2 changes are correlated with temperature – but on it’s own that is not proof. If you want the background on attribution read Chapter 9 of AR4. – gavin]

    Has there ever been a non-obvious prediction made on CC that was backed up by experimental verification? This is how science works right? If sea levels have been rising for 5000 years saying they will continue to do so, is obvious. It proves nothing. Had you guys came out several years ago, and publicly stated “our best climate model shows a short term cooling trend at the start of this century, that will reverse around 2009/2010 and get back to the .2C/deacade warming trend”, you would have my attention, and I would start to believe the models may be able to predict 20/50/100 years out. What I see here is that any thing that happens was predicted by a model, or the average of the models, or is within the error bars of the model. So I am stuck having to take all of this on “Faith”, and that is not science to me. Please convince me with science.

    [Response: Stratospheric cooling. – gavin]

  46. 196
    Maya says:

    Katz, if I understand it correctly, we’re still in a La Nina cycle, but it’s an oscillation. The La Nina cycle is projected to last through approximately April of this year, so an El Nino will follow.

  47. 197
    Geoff Wexler says:

    A wild conjecture?
    That the CO2 emitters are stepping up their campaign because of new policies being discussed in the US. I think that the same sort of thing was anticipated in the UK by the Royal Society in about the beginning of 2005.

  48. 198
    Hank Roberts says:

    Katz, I happen to know about NOAA, so I used this search:

    to remind me how to find this regularly updated page that I knew was there somewhere:

    If you’ve read Hansen’s original by now, you understand he wasn’t saying we are in an El Nino, but that one is expected by sometime in 2009 or 2010 — as several people pointed out, it’s an oscillation, and Hansen wrote about the probability of continuing in the current condition or seeing a change to the other condition. You got that, I trust, so you know what he was saying.

    Current status from the link above fits with what Hansen wrote.

    I’m not spelling out the current answer here — because it’d be wrong later on when someone came and read it. Instead they should look it up to find out, at the time they want to know, what’s happening.

  49. 199
    Geoff Wexler says:

    [Something went wrong with previous post; sorry this is the proper version]

    In an essay published in January 27th.2005 the President of the Royal Society warned that a well funded campaign would soon be launched in the UK to discredit the whole idea that humans could affect global warming. This was soon confirmed by campaigns in the Mail, Telegraphs, Channel 4 TV’s Swindle programme, the web and discussion groups.

    Perhaps these campaigns are directed to countries whose governments threaten to do something about reducing CO2 emissions? If that is right you may be seeing the start of more propaganda in the US.RC may have lots more work coming its way

  50. 200
    Joe Hunkins says:

    Hank: [arrghhhh!] 20 foot SLR claims have *nothing* to do with using straw man arguments as you suggest above. 20 foot Sea Level Rise continues to be a mainstay of the AGW alarmist line as you well know. Ever bother to read an AIT transcript?

    It is very clear that *most* of the people reading here at RC are “very worried” about SLR in this century. Like criticisms of Kyoto is it absurd to suggest that is a straw man argument when millions and millions of people continue to believe 20 foot SLR is something to worry about and a Kyoto approach is the solution. I’m glad you agree it is foolish to worry about catastrophic SLR, but unfortunately that makes you an exception.