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What George Will should have written

Filed under: — gavin @ 28 February 2009

We’ve avoided piling on to the George Will kerfuffle, partly because this was not a new story for us (we’d commented on very similar distortions in previous columns in 2004 and 2007), but mostly because everyone else seems to be doing a great job in pointing out the problems in his recent columns.

We are actually quite gratified that a much wider group of people than normal have been involved in calling out this latest nonsense, taking the discussion well outside the sometimes-rarefied atmosphere of the scientific blogosphere (summary of links). Maybe RealClimate has succeeded in its original aim of increasing the wider awareness of the scientific context? However, like many, we are profoundly disappointed in the reaction of the Washington Post editors and George Will himself (though the ombudsman’s column today is a step in the right direction). It would have been pleasant to see an example of the conservative punditocracy actually learning something from the real world instead of resorting to ever-more unconvincing pseudo-legalistic justifications and attacks on the messenger to avoid taking their head out of the sand. Nonetheless, in a moment of naive optimism, we have allowed ourselves to indulge in a fantasy for how a more serious columnist might have dealt with the issue:

The scientific method in journalism
Feb 29th, 2009, Washington post

This column recently reported and commented on some developments pertinent to the debate about whether global warming is occurring and what can and should be done.

It is no secret that I am a critic of sensationalism in the coverage of environmental issues and that I have a philosophical preference for reality-based policies over those based on the ideologically-based fantasies of those I critique.

In my last column, I reported on a statistic concerning sea ice extent – that global sea ice extent is unchanged since 1979 – that was trivially shown to be untrue, and for that I apologize. Rather than throw the fact checkers in my office or at the Washington Post under the bus, I take full responsibility for the mistake. However, as with good scientific practice, this provides an example of how journalism too can learn from its mistakes.

The source of the original quote was a Daily Tech blog post published in early January. While that post itself was heavily criticized as being misleading, it did use data from a reliable scientific source which was technically accurate at the time. My error was in assuming that scientific ‘facts’ don’t change over a month or two and thus it was not necessary to revisit the source of the original data before writing my column. What was true in January would still be true in February, right? Wrong.

What I didn’t consider was that in complex and noisy data there are always going to be outliers, and in heavily politicised subjects there will always be people who will want to exploit a chance occurrence for a sound-bite. I should of course have known better since I decry this practice on a regular basis in discussions of economic issues. Through a combination of wishful thinking and time constraints, my failure to recognize a piece of classic cherry-picking lay at the heart of this problem.

However, sometimes old dogs do learn new tricks. The surprising fact (to me at least) that the difference in global sea ice between two single dates 30 years apart can change so radically in such a short space of time, implies that it is not a particularly good measure of long term climate change. It is a bit like looking at a single stock to gauge the health of the economy. Unfortunately (for me at least), it also validates the scientific consensus about the original article. It was indeed a misleading statistic, and I was indeed misled. Next time I will try and be more careful.

There continues to be a pressing need for an informed conservative discussion of the issues of climate change. Voices such as Senator John McCain, and businessman Jim Manzi (writing in the Nation last year National Review in 2007) can perhaps show the way. The distraction of the last week over exact parsings and interpretations of technical data are just a sideshow while real decisions are already being made every day in Washington. In order for conservatives to have a voice at those tables, we need to be seen as serious contributors. Every time we are mislead by amateur bloggers, we lose another chance to influence policy. This may have been useful as a delaying tactic in the past, but now that there is clear leadership in the White House, this serves only to marginalize conservatives even further. Unlikely as it may seem for me to quote President Obama approvingly, it may be time for us to put aside childish things.

If only…..


497 Responses to “What George Will should have written”

  1. 351
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Gavin,
    Do you ever want to say “Don’t make me come back there…?”

  2. 352

    In #343, Thomas Lee Elifritz Says:
    9 March 2009 at 8:27 PM
    We are not trolls

    Of course you aren’t Burgy, you are just an elderly emeritus Christian with a lot of free time on your hands, who also happens to be almost entirely disconnected from any current reality or current science and its methods.

    Keep up the good work! We need more people like you to point out the glaring failures of the edifice of science.

    ———-

    I do not understand (or appreciate) this kind of response. It is unbecoming of you.

    Burgy

  3. 353
    tom says:

    I’m disappointed that rational, non-partisan climate scientists haven’t weighed in on Stephen Chu’s preposterous groaner that farming in California could disappear by the end of the Century.

    [Response: As far as I know, farming is pretty dependent on water. Thus I'd be happy to discuss likely changes in the hydrological cycle or snow pack amounts under whatever BAU scenario Chu was referring to, but perhaps you'd like to first describe why you are so certain that it is preposterous? Maybe there's some unknown principle that says that only polar bears will be affected by climate change? - gavin]

  4. 354
    truth says:

    John P Reisman [334]:
    If there were any intention to ‘get people to understand’ on this AGW issue, do you not think the consensus side would welcome questioning and alternative views—especially from other scientists in the many fields related to climate change?
    Would you not think respectful debate would be encouraged in television and radio programs, instead of the prevailing practice, where a non-consensus scientist is set up as the sacrificial lamb, before a stacked audience of sneering true believers [ AGW], with a moderator who asks questions designed to lead the lamb to the slaughter—for the entertainment of the jeering crowd.
    The over-arching theme of all such programs , as it is on this blog, is that the time is past for debate or questioning [ even though it never was the time ]—that you venture into debate and the exercise of your democratic right on so seminal an issue at your own risk—be prepared for the mincer.
    Who can remember a time when the AGW orthodoxy could be even in the mildest way questioned, without the questioner inviting sneers and smear, labelling as a ‘shill’, a ‘troll’, an Exxon plant—a creationist peddler of intelligent design—a fascist—I’ve been called the lot, along with ‘stupid’ etc—simply for correcting completely erroneous claims re the undemocratic, anti-science nature of those who are shutting down debate on this issue—in my country, Australia and around the world.
    It might be worth running the gauntlet if the consensus side were willing to answer questions, like how they can be so absolutely certain of the correctness of their modelling —such that they arbitrarily dismiss and excoriate any dissenter or questioner—-when so much of the necessary input [ cloud science, ocean uptake and processing of CO2, viability of the forest and soil sinks etc] is still unknown or little known—admitted by the IPCC and many other institutions—even on your own site?

    [edit]

    [Response: Enough. You appear to have a chip on your shoulder the size of boulder, but frankly I don't care. Your characterisation of the mainstream position is so far from the 'truth' as to be a caricature. As you say, IPCC is full of discussions of uncertainty, as is this blog and yet you still claim that we are "absolutely certain" of the correctness of our modelling. Where has that ever been claimed? Certainly not here, and not in any of the papers specifically on this subject that I or any of my colleagues have written (try here for instance). The reason that you generate such a negative reaction is because you are fighting against a strawman of your own imagining. That's all well and good, but any claim that such a monologue is adding to a useful discussion of uncertainties is laughable. Please try to have an intelligent conversation here or don't bother. Rants are not welcome. - gavin]

  5. 355
    Marcus says:

    I have to agree that Burgeson has been receiving unfair treatment here. Yes, we know that it is highly unlikely that his friend has a defensible critique of AGW, but shouldn’t we wait until that critique is actually posted before throwing insults around? A reasoned statement on the unlikeliness of a random geologist working in his spare time overthrowing the work of thousands of scientists is one thing, but snide, sarcastic, anti-religious comments are not appropriate, and do not reflect well on our community.

    There are certainly trolls out there (eg, in my opinion, Steven Goddard), but I don’t think Burgeson has yet demonstrated troll-like nature. Don’t be too hasty to drive people off!

  6. 356
    SteveF says:

    Though he may not remember me, I know Burgy from an online fora a number of year ago and found him to be honest and respectful in his dealings. He is most definitely not a troll. Also, I suspect I know who his geophysicist friend is – would I be correct in thinking he has the initials GRM, Burgy!? This particular individual is an agressive (and very effective) opponent of creationism and is well known in such circles and has recently turned his attention to global warming.

    His critiques have particularly focused upon the land surface temperature record (and also evidence of solar forcing) and are essentially along the lines of the Watts up With That blog (though done independently). It’s my opinion that he has pointed out some problems in data quality but misses the larger picture wood for the trees. But I stopped reading his analyses a while ago and so may have missed something.

    That’s my guess at what is going on, but even if it is incorrect, I can offer assurances that Burgy is not a troll.

  7. 357

    On #355. Thanks, Marcus. At this time, my friend sees this site as one very unfriendly to anyone such as he, and has refused my request to participate. “Life is too short” argument.

    He has shared some of his stuff with me and invited me to post it. If I do so, I will do it carefully, and in the civil form of questions. His work does not convince me to be an AGW skeptic, although the comments of Bostrom, Elifritz and dhogaza do not reflect (to me) civility. I am pretty thick skinned, however, and not likely to go away.

  8. 358

    I do not understand (or appreciate) this kind of response.

    Welcome to reality Burgy!

    It is unbecoming of you.

    As unbecoming as say, willingly participating in a sixth global mass extinction event, because I didn’t speak up? Post a link or post your ‘associates’ results directly into the comment form and we’ll be happy to take a look at it. I recently posted a discovery and a link to my discovery right here at RealClimate, in real time, inviting the entire world to criticize it, explain it or falsify it. You’d be surprised how easy communication is.

  9. 359

    Marcus wrote in 355:

    I have to agree that Burgeson has been receiving unfair treatment here…

    Thank you, Marcus.

    From what I have seen, here at Real Climate religious, non-religious and strident are generally quite able to get along — so long as we don’t require anyone to kiss, I believe. Then again, that sort of thing just generally doesn’t come up. I personally would find it rather disappointing if we suddenly had to work to keep it that way.

    *

    Captcha fortune cookie:
    unite came

  10. 360

    Thanks, SteveF. I appreciate the note.

  11. 361
    Mark says:

    “Yes, we know that it is highly unlikely that his friend has a defensible critique of AGW, but shouldn’t we wait until that critique is actually posted before throwing insults around?”

    So post it already.

    I can tell you all I have the answer to cheap perpetual energy.

    Waiting until I post about it before saying “rubbish” is merely delaying the inevitable.

    If you aren’t ready to post your information, keep schtum.

    This is what we computer scientists call “vapourware”. Commonly used by, for example, Microsoft to kill a competitor. When they say they have a product, tell the world you have a BETTER competing product. Keep going on about it. Market waits for MS’s product and competitor dies through lack of funds or VC capital.

    Then announce that there isn’t a market for it, so you aren’t going to produce.

    And we don’t know this is going to happen here, how?

  12. 362
    JBL says:

    John Burgeson,

    I think (with respect to Doug Bostrom and dhogaza) that the lack of civility they demonstrated is not very surprising and quite understandable. There are a very large number of people (frequently asserting credentials in “science,” which often seems to mean engineering, computer science, or, as with your friend, extractive geology) who wander around the internet claiming to demonstrate the impossibility of an anthropogenic effect on the climate. These people tend to share the following traits: a lack of understanding of climatology (theory and practice), statistics and/or the scientific method in general, and a lack of humility about their own lack of understanding. The appropriate response to these people is first, to demonstrate an error in their understanding to see if they reform, and second, to dismiss them.

    Since your friend exists on this thread only in the third person, and the basis for his argument is so far completely absent (except in your belief that there’s something to it — else why would you mention it in the first place?), some commenters have moved directly to dismissing him. While you personally may not believe this is justified, I think the general principle that “people who believe they they have overturned a significant body of scientific knowledge in their spare time are probably wrong” is sound, and deserves to be applied here until such time as it is demonstrated to be wrong.

    Climatology (and climate blog comment sections, in particular) seems to be a magnet for would-be Einsteins, and they often come along with a lot of disparaging words for those who actually increase our understanding of the climate. Indeed, the very assertion that one has discovered a deep flaw that hundreds or thousands of scientists have been missing for decades can be rather insulting. So (not to speak for dhogaza or Doug Bostrom, but rather to guess at their thinking) those who spend a lot of time on climate-related blogs tend to hear things similar to what you’ve written quite a lot, almost invariably originating from people who are some combination of crazy, deluded, or misled, and frequently from people who are quite aggressive in their wrongness. So, while I don’t see any evidence that you fit into these negative categories, your comments about your friend’s work sound very similar to the comments of many people who do. I think this explains a great deal of the coolness with which you’ve been received.

    captcha says $17, generously over-valuing my 2 cents.

  13. 363
    Ray Ladbury says:

    To the ironically named “truth”: Uh, dude, I don’t know how to break this to you, but scientific debates take place at scientific conferences and between the covers of scientific journals. Occasionally, you might even get a good one breaking out around the coffee urn. They do not occur on editorial pages or in self-published screeds. Your “scientists” are free to publish in journals if they have anything that advances understanding. If they insist on “debating” elsewhere, they are not scientists, but pudknockers.
    This website is a wonderful resource if you want to learn about the science of climate. If you want to debate, great! Go get a PhD in climate science and publish.

  14. 364
    dhogaza says:

    While you personally may not believe this is justified, I think the general principle that “people who believe they they have overturned a significant body of scientific knowledge in their spare time are probably wrong” is sound, and deserves to be applied here until such time as it is demonstrated to be wrong.

    The burden of proof is on the person claiming to have overthrown an established body of science in their spare time, and until that burden of proof has been met, there’s nothing disrespectful in assuming that they’re wrong.

    My guess is that we’ll be treated to a bunch of Old Hat Stuff, for instance problems with the surface temperature record … oh wait, that’s what he’s reported to be hanging his hat on, isn’t it?

  15. 365
    JCH says:

    John Burgeson, your friend might find the posts of Bryan S to be of particular interest. Just do a search on this blog for Bryan S and you’ll have all of his posts. I believe he’s a petroleum geologist. I don’t buy into where he’s going, but studying his issues has been very interesting and educational to me as a lay person. Once in awhile somebody will swat at him and he’ll bite back, but I think he has presented his case unfettered, and the scientists here have responded to many of his points and questions.

  16. 366
    tom says:

    re: 353.

    Could please point to the science which supports the conclusion that there will be no more agriculture in California?

    Could you please point to the science which supports that 90 % of the Sierra snowpack would disappear.
    Be sure to emphasize the part where the science estimates the likelihood of said event and that there will be NO innovation in irrigation methods to compensate for hypothetical snow melt disappearance.
    [edit]

    [Response: I know, why don't you try and read the reports - some pointers here and here - and then justify your claim that it is 'preposterous' that anything bad could happen. - gavin]

  17. 367

    SteveF wrote in 356:

    Though he may not remember me, I know Burgy from an online fora a number of year ago and found him to be honest and respectful in his dealings. He is most definitely not a troll. Also, I suspect I know who his geophysicist friend is – would I be correct in thinking he has the initials GRM, Burgy!? This particular individual is an agressive (and very effective) opponent of creationism and is well known in such circles and has recently turned his attention to global warming…

    Thank you, Steve.

    The fact is when John Burgeson showed up speaking of how his absent friend, I myself was a bit skeptical. Reminded me of some the acts by creationists I saw over on DebunkCreation. But I am familiar with ASA, and I know that you have been here for a while, and I realize that this isn’t that sort of thing.

    SteveF wrote in 356:

    His critiques have particularly focused upon the land surface temperature record (and also evidence of solar forcing) and are essentially along the lines of the Watts up With That blog (though done independently). It’s my opinion that he has pointed out some problems in data quality but misses the larger picture wood for the trees. But I stopped reading his analyses a while ago and so may have missed something.

    Forest for the trees sounds about right.

    As I understand things, you could throw away the whole of the twentieth century surface temperature record and that would barely begin to affect the case for anthropogenic global warming. We have sea temperatures reaching down to at least 100 meters, borehole temperature records, increasing drought, the expansion of the tropics, the declining summer sea ice in the Arctic, the melting of the glaciers, the expansion of ocean, the shifting of the seasons, and the cooling of the stratosphere, the rise of the tropopause, the increasing prevalence and severity of forest fires, the satellite measurements at the surface, the troposphere and beyond, the ability to image carbon dioxide based on its opacity to thermal radiation in different parts of the spectra (in essence imaging the greenhouse effect), our understanding of the spectral properties of greenhouse gases as it is grounded in quantum mechanics, and then various paleoclimate records.

    It all adds up to a fairly consistent picture. A whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

  18. 368
    RichardC says:

    290 Barton, you’re allowed to post whatever you like. Why are you asking me? Since you haven’t, I’ll just have to guess — you’ve got a case of GIGO. Solar insolation accounts for about 10-35% of the changes from 1900-1950 and diddly squat (or a bit of a drop) since then. Did you remove the other factors (volcanic, CO2, etc)? Did you do analysis for the various different time periods? Probably not. Unless you feed in the right questions, all “math” does is feed back the answer you predetermined.

  19. 369
    tom says:

    re: 366.

    Nothing in those reports supports Chu’s statement, which was my point.

    Why aren’t you guys correcting him?

    And I see you are resorting to the oldest trick in the debate book. Creating strawman arguments which can easily be defeated.
    “justify your claim that it is ‘preposterous’ that anything bad could happen”

    I never said or implied any such thing. I said that it was preposterous to claim that farming in California could disappear by the end of the century.

    Please

    [Response: This paper looks more likely to be the source of Chu's statements - it took me 15 minutes to find. I quote "Under A1fi, heatwaves in Los Angeles are six to eight times more frequent, with heat-related excess mortality increasing five to seven times; alpine/subalpine forests are reduced by 75–90%; and snowpack declines 73–90%, with cascading impacts on runoff and streamflow that, combined with projected modest declines in winter precipitation, could fundamentally disrupt California's water rights system". Now if you have an issue with that analysis, then please discuss it, but Chu was not pulling things out of thin air. Maybe it's obvious to you that it is 'preposterous' that this level of change will not be hugely disruptive to agriculture in California, but it is not to me (or Chu one presumes). Or is the magic of adaptation guaranteed to save it? - gavin]

  20. 370
  21. 371
    Hank Roberts says:

    > California farming

    Factors other than climate change apply; see also:
    http://calag.ucop.edu/0004JA/pdf/lastcen.pdf
    Is this California agriculture’s last century?
    CALIFORNIA AGRICULTURE, JULY-AUGUST 2000

  22. 372

    #353 tom

    You might want to take a look at this:

    “Last year, during the second year of the drought, more than 100,000 acres of the 4.7 million in the valley were left unplanted, and experts predict that number could soar to nearly 850,000 acres this year.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/22/us/22mendota.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

    No, we don’t have attribution yet to climate, but these types of events are reasonably expected based on current understanding.

    Anthropogenic Global Warming will change many things. One does not need to be a scientist to understand the implications. While attribution is not solid yet, we can expect regional climate shift, droughts, floods, really big snow storms, seasonal shift, and I believe there has already been an observed 4 degree shift of the jet-stream over the past 3 decades.

    In my opinion, it would be unreasonable to assume that theses shifts and changes will not affect regional ability to grow food. In California, as in other regions, water will be an issue.

  23. 373
    tom says:

    SO now we’ve already moved the goalpost form total elimination to hugely disruptive.

    [Response: That is a distinction without a difference. Neither you nor I know anything specific about the sensitivity of Californian agriculture to water supply and I'm not going to make definitive statements on something I don't know much about. You might try doing the same. In the meantime, we have a source for Chu's 90% number and it's certainly plausible that the impacts would be drastic to catastrophic. -gavin]

  24. 374

    torn #366: I’m curious to know what you have in mind re: “innovation in irrigation methods to compensate for hypothetical snow melt disappearance.” How would improving irrigation methods compensate for there being not much water to irrigate with?

  25. 375
    David B. Benson says:

    Hank Roberts, RichardC, Barton — The link provided in comment #370 is based on an attribution study which has been called (rather seriously IMHO) into question. The problem is the choice of which TSI reconstruction to use. The paper used one that is highly at variance with the remaining studies, all of which look rather similar to my rather naive eye of TSI reconstructions.

  26. 376
    Mark says:

    RC #368. You’re OK here:

    “Solar insolation accounts for about 10-35% of the changes from 1900-1950 and diddly squat (or a bit of a drop) since then.”

    But then YOU jump off on a tangent.

    a) BPL may have been talking about post 1950. In which case, there is no missing elements. Just missing information about what BPL is talking about.

    b) Even if it were, do you have any notion that volcanic changes aren’t included? ‘cos IIRC there was a HUGE discussion about the visibility of the Pinatubo eruption and how it turned out in the records and how models when given the fact that the eruption occurred then modeled correctly (within errors) the changes in weather and climate that were recorded.

    If you’re winning on a point, STOP THERE. Don’t go and throw it away with being dumb in trying to play that winning into an extrapolation on your part.

  27. 377
    Dan says:

    Gavin, in response to 369, wrote: “This paper looks more likely to be the source of Chu’s statements – it took me 15 minutes to find.”

    I think you have touched on a very key point here about denialists and most skeptics: The apparent fact that they will not spend the time to look up scientific data, information or papers that are readily accessible through such places as Google Scholar among many others. It is intellectual laziness (not wanting and willing to try to learn something) or plain dishonesty (regurgitating anti-science disinformation or outright lies that someone else told them), take your pick. There is certainly an excuse for not being knowledgeable about a subject but there really is no excuse for the failure to try to learn on one’s own. George Will and Fred Barnes are not knowledgeable at all about AGW; they just regurgitate lies that they have been told, having made no effort to learn about the science. Their intellectual laziness is astounding. The fact that they both have sounding boards (op-eds, TV shows, etc.) to cowardly spread lies is nothing less than criminal. Since when is lying acceptable behavior? Former Senator Patrick Moynahan of NY long ago once said, “Everyone is entitled to their opinions but not their own facts.” It’s a perfect comment with regards to AGW. Unfortunately, denialists apparently do not understand the definition of the words “science” and “fact”. And of course they do not understand how science is conducted through the scientific method including peer review. In fact some denialists/skeptics have amazingly even scoffed at peer review as a means to denigrate science as a whole.

  28. 378
    truth says:

    John Reisman:
    Re educating us all—do you agree that there are dissenting views on all aspects of this issue—on the accuracy of actual measurement of global temperatures in the past through wars, Cultural and other revolutions, and all kinds of mayhem—-the part played by the huge population increase that’s occurred in the time in question, and the related increase in farm animal populations—the land use changes—-all the huge tracts of concrete where once there were grasses and forests—–the burning of tropical forest sinks and peatlands—the integrity of the ice cores—-the global nature of the MWP and the LIA —-the conclusions from the tree ring proxies—-the fact that records are only comprehensive and reliable over the last thirty years etc .
    If the answer is for us all to get to know the reasons the AGW consensus side wants drastic action now—action that will have a disastrous effect on some economies and living standards—-then why are we treated to all the name-calling etc, for merely asking about the above issues.
    Do you believe Mike Hulme, founding director of the Tyndall Centre, when he says we now are in a world of ‘post-normal science’—that scientists must ‘trade (normal) truth for influence’—that ‘if scientists want to remain listened to, to bear influence on policy, they must recognise the social limits of their truth seeking’ ?
    When we see such views, alongside the almost complete submission to the consensus view [ in word and increasingly in deed] by governments, and we see Opposition conservative parties [ in my country , anyway] taunted by the media and dared by journalists to question [ in the certain knowledge that a media demolition will ensue should they do so-------how can we believe this consensus is based on a firm science foundation, and not on social science and a political agenda?
    You recommend [ on your website], fast reactors and thorium reactors as insurance against failure of expectations for renewables, but surely it’s likely that many countries, if free to, would opt instead for the old reactors with their huge waste and potential accident problems—– and these would in many cases be built in politically and seismically unstable areas.
    It can’t be right in such circumstances, on such an important issue, that questioning is silenced and demonised.

  29. 379

    Richard C posts:

    290 Barton, you’re allowed to post whatever you like. Why are you asking me? Since you haven’t, I’ll just have to guess — you’ve got a case of GIGO. Solar insolation accounts for about 10-35% of the changes from 1900-1950 and diddly squat (or a bit of a drop) since then. Did you remove the other factors (volcanic, CO2, etc)? Did you do analysis for the various different time periods? Probably not. Unless you feed in the right questions, all “math” does is feed back the answer you predetermined.

    RichardC, just for you, I just regressed NASA GISS global land-surface temperature anomalies on ln CO2, DVI, and TSI for 1900-1950 (N = 51). Ln CO2 was significant and TSI was not. So your oft-repeated claim that insolation changes represent 10-35% of the variance of temperature changes in this period does not stand up to statistical analysis.

  30. 380

    The inaptly named “truth” writes:

    If the answer is for us all to get to know the reasons the AGW consensus side wants drastic action now—action that will have a disastrous effect on some economies and living standards

    Who says they will have a disastrous effect? You?

    Not acting will have a disastrous effect.

  31. 381
    Chris O\'Neill says:

    I call myself truth:

    why are we treated to all the name-calling etc, for merely asking about the above issues.

    By the way, George Will wasn’t merely asking about issues. He was lying about them.

  32. 382

    truth, you paint a picture I can’t recognize. I don’t see scientists muzzling all opposition to “AGW orthodoxy,” or a heroic, inoffensive minority who just want an open debate.

    I see a determined PR effort on the part of ideologues and interest groups to undercut or minimize any certainty on the issue–no matter how well-supported by evidence–with the apparent aim of postponing any action on the AGW issue for as long as possible. They then complain about the politicization of the debate for which they themselves are largely responsible.

    And it alarms me and others, because there appears to be ample reason (ie., voluminous study of mechanisms, attribution, and repercussions in multiple areas) to expect severe negative consequences to attend our continuing failure to take meaningful action. That’s my “truth.”

  33. 383
    Mark says:

    From the increasingly ironically named “truth”:

    “do you agree that there are dissenting views on all aspects of this issue”

    Nope.

    CO2=Greenhouse Gas.

    Though there are dissenting views on this, they have the same validity as David Ike’s theories on our Lizard Overlords in the UK Parliament.

    “If the answer is for us all to get to know the reasons the AGW consensus side wants drastic action now—action that will have a disastrous effect on some economies and living standards”

    Compare to an earlier statement:
    “do you agree that there are dissenting views on all aspects of this issue …”

    Do you not agree that there are dissenting views on whether actions that need to be taken will have a disasterous effect on some economies and living standards?

    Or is dissent only valid when it’s on AGW theory, not Anti-AGW theory?

  34. 384
    Ray Ladbury says:

    To the ironically named “truth”:

    Among scientists who actually understand the science:
    1) There is zero controversy over whether we are warming
    2) There is zero controversy that we have increased CO2 by nearly 40%
    3) There is zero controversy that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that greenhouse gasses warm the planet
    4) There is zero controversy that there are “tipping points” beyond which it will be difficult if not impossible to recover from the climatic changes we are making.
    5) There is zero controversy that CO2 sensitivity is at least 2 degrees per doubling and that it is more likely above 3 degrees than below.

    All of these are facts, which only a few contrarians dispute. The fact that there are “scientists” (e.g. Bob Carter, G&T, etc.) operating well outside their expertise who also dispute these facts is as irrelevant as whether George Will disputes them. Everyone is free to publish their science in scientific journals. The fact that “dissident scientists” have failed to do so speaks volumes to anyone who really understands the scientific process.
    As to your poor conservative politicians, it is not abuse to point out their ignorance–it is in fact the truth.

  35. 385
    tom says:

    again, NOTHING in that paper supports Chu’s statement that agriculture in California will be eliminated.

    It only supports the new goalpost. That is -that there could be adverse consequences.
    And given the always problematic water supply problems ( irrespective of warming) in the West, this is akin to study showing that massive ingestion of donuts could cause obesity .

    Again, if a denier or skeptic made such a preposterous claim, he/she would be SKEWERED on here.

    YOU guys don’t get seem to get it. It’s BECAUSE of [edit] UNSCIENTIFIC statements like Chu’s that there are so many skeptics.

  36. 386
    Ron Taylor says:

    truth, what you are asking for is unanimity of opinion. Science simply does not work like that. It can only conclude what is most probable to be true based on the evidence, taking full account of the uncertainties in that evidence. In the case of climate change, one then has to weigh the risk of ignoring the conclusions against the risk that they may be incorrect. That is the policy issue. In this case, given the multiple lines of evidence and their consequences,ignoring the conclusions would be irresponsible

  37. 387

    I appreciate the responses here to my somewhat naive questions.

    I find the science presented on RealClimate to be of excellent quality. I find the lack of civility among some to be offputting. Even though I agree with them on the science.

  38. 388

    I find the lack of civility among some to be offputting.

    We are very patiently and civilly waiting for you to post the scientific results of your unnamed ‘acquaintance’.

    There is nothing wrong with being wrong, Burgy, falsifying hypotheses is an integral part of science.

  39. 389
    SecularAnimist says:

    It’s funny that the people who seem most offended at the suggestion that they are reciting ExxonMobil-funded denialist propaganda are usually the ones who are, in fact, posting word-for-word, verbatim, boilerplate, cut-and-pasted talking points lifted directly from ExxonMobil-funded denialist propaganda. Perhaps they take offense at the implication that they themselves are being paid to do this, when in fact they are altruistically volunteering to disseminate propaganda that others have been paid to create.

  40. 390
    Mark says:

    “I find the lack of civility among some to be offputting.”

    I find the apparent thin-skinned reader offensive.

    But, hey, I don’t get to choose you, you don’t get to choose me. Feel free to be put off. I’ll remain offended.

  41. 391
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Tom, If you have no snowpack and no reliable precipitation during the growing season, farmers are going to have kind of a difficult time. This is not to say that no one will be able to farm at all, but agriculture on a scale that we currently see it in CA will not be viable. In that sense, it will be eliminated in that it will not contribute significantly to the CA economy.
    Of course if we get 6 degrees of warming, the oceans will outgas H2S and that will really put a damper on the crop yields.
    Chu’s statements may have been slightly hyperbolic. They are not, however, beyond the pale scientifically. They do not conflict with know science.
    If we are to talk policy, it makes sense to discuss the matter in terms of risk–probability of the threat being realized times the cost if it is. That number is sufficiently high to justify drastically increased spending to mitigate the threat.

  42. 392
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Burgie, Some commenters here flunked sandbox. Don’t let them get to you. The purpose of the site is teaching the science. Don’t ever let anyone deprive you of the opportunity to educate yourself.

  43. 393
    Dan says:

    Post 385 says “YOU guys don’t get seem to get it.”

    That is absolutely RICH! The SCIENCE is all there through peer-reviewed journals, the IPCC reports, etc. It has been thoroughly DEBATED at SCIENTIFIC conferences such as the AGU. The FACT that SKEPTICS don’t bother to READ the science or COMPREHEND how science is conducted is actually what “YOU guys don’t GET”.

    (My capital letters are sarcasm to reflect the point that writing in capital letters does not to further one’s supposed point; however, the content is not sarcasm at all.)

  44. 394
    dhogaza says:

    I find the lack of civility among some to be offputting.

    Keep in mind that you’ve entered a world where visible denialists [edit] have threatened to sue researchers, or their institutions, or to make formal complaints to institutional heads, government agencies etc when they don’t hew to their personal definitions of how grants should be administered, work reported, etc. Or hauled in front of a congressional committee and accused of scientific fraud to their face by the chair of that committee. There’s a cottage industry built around the premise that mainstream climate science is based on outright fraud, and that leading climate scientists are personally guilty of falsification of data and results, etc. There have been attempts to ruin careers.

    These people are scum, in my opinion, and an occasional lack of civility to those who appear to share their opinions is to be expected.

  45. 395

    I understand your POV here. Looking back, I can find no post of mine which implied I would share those opinions.

    I don’t. As a matter of fact I have written several articles and book reviews promoting the IPCC findings. Most of these are on my web site.

    It is just that civility, to me, is very important. And having been a sysop on other lists since the mid 90s, I know that it is also counterproductive.

    I have no patience myself with Rush, the Heartland Institute, etc. And I will agree that being civil to or about either is not easy to do! Maybe impossible.

    Burgy

  46. 396
    tom says:

    393.
    No, the science is most assuredly and definitivley NOT there. Chu’s absurd projections are not supported by science. That’s the whole point.

    391 is a great example. Who ever said there was going to be NO snowpack and NO precipitation. Patent nonsense.

    Why couldn’t Chu have made a reasonable statemnt such as: ” Under some very unlikley scenarios, the amount of precipiation from the Sirrra snowpack could be decreased by 90%, which would have a significant effect on California’s agricultural industry”

    [Response: And suddenly you would stop being a sceptic? Give me a break. - gavin]

  47. 397
    Hank Roberts says:

    Tom, remember — agriculture in California is an industry. The industry as a whole depends on many factors including cost and availability of water.

    Look again at the link I gave you– it’s saying the industry is severely threatened.

    You can grow lettuce.

    Can you grow it competitively in industrial quantities timed to market?

    These are two different issues. Don’t conflate them.

  48. 398

    #378 truth

    I’m not sure I understand your first question about agreeing on dissenting views, everyone knows there are dissenting views and always will be on pretty much any subject under the sun.

    Having a dissenting view about anything does not change reality, or history. Views are merely perceptions. science is more about measuring and modeling, quantifying and qualifying. You mention a lot of important factors and these factors are all a part of the picture.

    Rather than tread ground that has been gone over on each point, I will try to give you some context. First, the data is not perfect and never will be. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be perfect to give us a good idea. The trends are clear, we know that additional GHG’s trap more infrared radiation, so more heat is trapped in our atmosphere. We also know how much Co2 mankind has put in the air and also how much methane and nitrous oxide as well as fluorines (High GWP’s).

    http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/index.html
    http://www.epa.gov/highgwp/sources.html

    We know through modeling how much forcing to expect from all this.

    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/myths/models-can-be-wrong.

    We know the oceans will warm and add more H20 to the system and that is a GHG also (positive feedback), we know tundra will likely release more methane (likely positive feedback), we recognize the possibility of methane hydrate clathrate release (potential positive feedback).

    We also know that the climate models are well matched to the forcing levels we are seeing. The data does not have to be perfect to show us the trends and the general confirmations of the models. You can’t nail down the data exactly, but you don’t need to. You simply need to know the trend is reasonably attributed and modeled and that everything matches up well.

    Lastly you need to see if there is any other possible cause for the forcing levels. Since the human cause matches the models and the measurements within a very satisfactory range, and there are no other ways to attribute this to natural cycle or other cause, then we can reasonably conclude that this global warming event is human caused.

    How do we know there are no alternative attributions? Well, we have measured the atmospheric composition, we know what’s there. There is no magic, invisible ‘x’ gas in the atmosphere. This is all quantifiable stuff.

    Therefore, we should rapidly address the expected ramifications, because we also know that there is a lot of inertia in this warming event and that CO2 is a long lived GHG.

    As to the integrity of ice cores and other questions people are debating. Try a thought experiment. Throw them all out and add up the forcings and attributions. You still have global warming and it’s still human caused.

    If you have an alternative explanation for this warming, that would be very valuable information. Please share it with us.

    In summary,

    1. We know the models match the general trends observed.
    2. We know the forcing of the natural cycle.
    3. The multiple paleo measurements all add up and paint a good picture of past climate.
    4. We have departed from the natural cycle to the tune of 3.8 W/m2 – 2/W/m2 – solar minimum = 1.6 W/m2
    5. There is no quantifiable or qualifiable alternative explanation that makes sense. We know the atmospheric composition, we know it’s content.

    So the answer to your questions about anthropogenic cause is in your question. You just need to filter the fluff and you will end up with substance.

    There is a big difference between saying the consensus view is wrong and proving the attribution is something else.

    Remember, all you need to do is reasonably, scientifically prove the attribution is something else. Simple, right?

    Having dissenting views is meaningless in the context of your apparent arguments. If you believe pink elephants fly better that purple elephants, but your best friend believes purple elephants fly better, no amount of dissension will help you resolve the conundrum between you and your friend, from a scientific point of view. Such arguments would may be more relevant if the argument was religious or philosophical, but AGW is not about religion or philosophy, it’s about science.

    In other words, it’s not about beliefs. There are no pink or purple elephants, and elephants don’t fly.

  49. 399
    tom says:

    393.

    Well, I see you at least agree that Chu’s statement is not supported by science.

    What would would make less of skeptic is realy very simple.
    A consistent flow of accurate information that clearly supports the theory of significant man-made AGW. Hasn’t happened.
    I don’t have any emotional attachement to the issue, one way or another. Put another way, I haven’t staked my professional reputation in support of any theory or course of political action.

    Therefore, I am much more likely to evaluate the information objectively.

    [Response: Really? I can only assume that last line is missing its sarcasm tags. Your comments here are the most predictible of almost anyone - and not for their objectivity. You seem to be expecting people to speak individually as if they were an NRC report. If you want very carefully crafted language that is bullet proof, then you only need look at the IPCC or NRC or CCSP reports directly. I haven't seen you praising them. Instead you take relatively casual language from a newspaper interview and assume that this is what drives policy. It doesn't. - gavin]

  50. 400
    SecularAnimist says:

    tom wrote: “A consistent flow of accurate information that clearly supports the theory of significant man-made AGW. Hasn’t happened.”

    That is simply and plainly false, no matter how many times you repeat it. We’ve had “a consistent flow of accurate information that clearly supports the theory of significant man-made AGW” for decades, and all of that information is readily available to anyone, including you. Meanwhile there has been NO “accurate information” that falsifies that theory.

    You can go on posting that falsehood as long as you like. Eventually, people’s annoyance will turn to boredom, they will stop responding to you, and you will go elsewhere to annoy other people with the same falsehood.

    By the way, “man-made AGW” is redundant.


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