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A potentially useful book – Lies, Damn lies & Science

Filed under: — rasmus @ 29 March 2009

Lies, Damned Lies, and ScienceAccording to a recent article in Eos (Doran and Zimmermann, ‘Examining the Scientific consensus on Climate Change‘, Volume 90, Number 3, 2009; p. 22-23 – only available for AGU members - update: a public link to the article is here), about 58% of the general public in the US thinks that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing the mean global temperature, as opposed to 97% of specialists surveyed. The disproportion between these numbers is a concern, and one possible explanation may be that the science literacy among the general public is low. Perhaps Sherry Seethaler’s new book ‘Lies, Damn Lies, and Science’ can be a useful contribution in raising the science literacy?

The book is about science in general and about how science often is miscommunicated in the media. It addresses a range of issues, such as how statistics often is misused, how scientific progress is made in general, that the ‘scientific method’ is not always as straightforward as one might like to think, the influence of stake-holders, the importance of knowing the context of the research, relationships between science and policy, and ploys designed to bypass logic. Many of the points made in the book are probably well known for the RC readership – albeit used in different situations to the case studies discussed in the book. There is also some discussion about AGW, amongst other subjects.

One little paradox is that the book claims (p. xx) that it will empower people of all ages and educational backgrounds to think critically about science-related issues and make well-balanced decisions about them. To me, that sounds like a big promise, and after having read the book, I started to wonder whether that statement is just the sort of claims it tries to make people become more skeptical about? Or maybe Seethaler really did succeed after all – because I saw how the arguments in her book could be applied to this promise?

The book touches on AGW, and does in general do a good job in my opinion. However, I cannot avoid bringing up some small details to pick at: The description of the greenhouse effect is not quite correct, as the reader gets the impression that it involves reflecting infrared radiation back to space (p. 84). That is not the case, as the energy from the sun lies mainly in the visible spectrum, and the infra red light from the Earth is a product from the absorption of the sunlight and a re-emittance due to Planck’s law.

Another point that I think is that the book discusses the controversy around AGW, but this can be a bit misleading. If you look in the climatological field, you may not see much controversy, but if you search the web, you may see something that looks like one. But I think that this controversy to a large extent is constructed out of thin air, an impression I feel is supported by Doran and Zimmermann’s, Eos article.

I get the impression that ‘Lies, Damn Lies, and Science’ has much in common with the older book ‘Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics’, and that they try to convey similar take-home messages.

‘Lies, Damn Lies, and Science‘ gives a nice collection of anecdotes and general tips. The book has a nice index and overview, so it’s easy to find your way through the book. I think the book is very useful for a lot of people – especially students, scientists, journalists, politicians, bureaucrats, and the voters.


335 Responses to “A potentially useful book – Lies, Damn lies & Science”

  1. 101
    walter crain says:

    ray,
    while i think you are “very likely” right, i would love to hear some of jim bob’s criticisms. from my well-educated scientifically literate layman’s perspective jim bob’s credentials as a “physical scientist” mean something. presumably it means he can’t be bowled over by fancy charts and abbreviations (oh, the abbreviations you guys use – i understand why you do it, but man it’s hard to follow) and hyper-complex equations. i would find very interesting jim bob’s reaction to “your science” and your reaction to “his”. (i understand that there’s no such thing as “your” and “his” science, but hopefully you know what mean.)

    who knows, maybe he could enlighten us, or maybe you could make him another “jim” for our list!

  2. 102
    Bocco says:

    #56 BPL, I just spent 30 minutes looking on the Elsevier site to see if I could find an electronic-only journal, and I couldn’t. What I could find was 2318 products listed as a journal, and as far as I could tell they all had paper versions. Where should I be looking for these electronic-only versions? They must exist I’m sure. And for sure, $30 is a steep price to pay to get behind the paywall, and if you order ten from the same journal, it was probably worth taking a subscription for a year. It costs me about $30 and 2 hours to get to a library with more journals than I can shake a stick at. The only time in my life that this hasn’t been so is when I’ve lived on a campus. I really don’t see this as being less information than 10,20 or 30 years ago. Am I just lucky?

  3. 103
    dhogaza says:

    jim bob’s credentials as a “physical scientist” mean something. presumably it means he can’t be bowled over by fancy charts and abbreviations

    If he beliefs that skeptic pseudo-science triumphs over the real thing, then he’s been bowled over by *something*, though I can’t say for sure if it’s been fancy charts or abbreviations :)

    If we were talking in a bar, I’d lay $10 on his being libertarian, though …

  4. 104
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Jim Bob @94: That you find the skeptics’ arguments, as opposed to their near total lack of actual scientific research, more convincing suggests that you do not have as reasonable an understanding of earth science as you think you do.

  5. 105
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walter Crain if you can find any “science” in Jim-Bob’s post just above yours (#100), I’d be happy to comment on it. I couldn’t find any. And as to his analysis of English temperature data, let’s just say that smarter people have done it better:

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2008/04/28/central-england-temperature/

  6. 106
    Mark says:

    “A close relative sent me a copy of William Happer’s recent testimony before Boxer’s committee (Feb 25, 2009). Without going into all the details I’d like to focus on this statement he made: “The IPCC has made no serious attempt to model the natural variations of the earth’s temperature in the past.””

    You know what’s REALLY dumb about that?

    It’s a complete and utter lie. As shown in the response.

    Now how can someone say that?

    THAT is deceit.

  7. 107
    John Mashey says:

    Jim Bob: with what kinds of simulations do you have experience?
    It is all too easy for people to think their experience with some type generalizes to others.

    We’ve been over this before here at RC last Fall, which among other things, describes likely errors attached to different disciplines.

  8. 108
    Bill DeMott says:

    Comment by Bocco — 31 March 2009 @
    Bocco–try this to access a good deal of primary literature. Go to Google Scholar, type some key word or words and PDF. I did this for climate change, ocean currents and PDF and got over 200,000 hits. Many are available for download as PDF files. I may be seeing some because my computer is the network of a scientific institute. However, you should be able to get enough good reading material for 10 years of full time reading, although if you want access to specific, just off-the-press articles, you may be frustrated. Good luck!

  9. 109
    David Garen says:

    Pertaining to several comments scattered above relating to the role of religion and ideology in people’s beliefs about AGW, I am convinced that the US has an epistemological crisis on its hands. [edit -apologies]

    I wrote an article in Eos some time ago in which I commented on this relationship between science and religion, which I think is relevant to this discussion — you can get the article here.

    [edit]

    I guess all I am trying to say with this post is that we, in the US at least, have way more than a scientific illiteracy problem going on (not to belittle that problem). As I suggest in my Eos article, we have a very deep-seated issue with the basis of knowledge. I think to a large degree, this is a false dichotomy, that is, the science vs. religion thing, but nevertheless it is rearing its ugly head here in the public’s understanding (or lack thereof) of AGW.

    I think that science has a long, slow slog ahead of itself in (re-)establishing its credibility, especially since the rise of the Religious Right in the US. I hate to mix religion in here, but I think we need to face this one square on in order to understand why such a large fraction of the US general public still doesn’t accept anthropogenic causes of global warming. On a positive note, though, some conservative religious groups are beginning to “get it” regarding protecting the environment (people who previously dismissed such concerns as worshipping Nature rather than God), so they are beginning to accept the fact that we need to do something to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    Keep up the good work at RealClimate. I have cited you many times to my climate skeptic colleagues, and I don’t think anybody can dismiss you as not being authoritative.

    [Response: David, thanks for your contribution. However, before it gets out of hand, let me make clear that the discussion of religion and science is strictly OT on this forum (sorry for the edits). There are plenty of other places on the web to discuss this issue ad nauseum, but here it neither constructive nor useful. There are many religious people who pay attention to the science on this issue, and of course some who don’t. The same is true for secularists. While discussions of the reasons why any of these sets intersect is worthy of study, it tends to lead to an unnecessary distraction to discussions of climate science. To other commenters, responses to this will be deemed OT as well. Sorry, but that conversation needs to happen somewhere else. – gavin]

  10. 110
    sidd says:

    1) Central England temperature record is a local record. However, it agrees with the consensus picture in that the warming signature of anthropogenic fossil fuel derived carbon loading of the atmosphere clearly emerged above the noise of natural variability only after anthropogenic aerosol cooling subsided in the 1970s. One sees the same in the global record ensembles, only more clearly.

    I should point out that the original link posted to the Hadley center is broken. the correct link is
    http://hadobs.metoffice.com/hadcet/

    2)Open access journals: for physics, arxiv.org
    medicine, pubmed.org

    pnas.org has some articles available. The authors often have a copy on their web sites, and are always willing, in my experience, to send copies in email.
    Search engines fed with appropriate fractions of the title will often produce open access presentations or related articles by the same author.

    Older articles on the journal web sites are also often available. Begging on this and other blogs for a particularly obscure article may produce results.

  11. 111
    CM says:

    #83, 91, 95 (Lindzen – OLR – satellite-model mismatch – negative feedback…)

    Glad to see this came up here — I have been trying to make sense of a Lindzen interview that just appeared in my local language here after the Heartland Institute conf… uh… photo-op.

    A minor, but I think telling, point: In the Watt’s Up post, the graph is taken from Wielicki et al. 2002 and Clement and Soden 2005 are cited to show how many other people have noticed this discrepancy between satellite data and models. But Clement and Soden were careful to show a revised version of the same graph after Wong et al. 2004 corrected for altitude drift. The rising LW anomaly and discrepancy with the models were still there but noticeably smaller. Even if Lindzen had overlooked the Wong et al. 2006 paper mentioned before (thanks, Chris and Curious #91, #95), having read and cited the earlier paper he surely should have taken this into account?

    [Response: One would have thought so. – gavin]

  12. 112
    Mal Adapted says:

    Like many AGW \skeptics\, Jim Bob evinces the Dunning-Kruger effect.

  13. 113
    Phil Scadden says:

    Jim Bob, assuming you want to examine the evidence, have a look at http://tamino.wordpress.com/2008/04/28/central-england-temperature/
    where the record is analysed in some detail by a time-series statistician. Though a temperature record by itself isnt much use without the number-crunching of the physics to weigh the attributions of what is going on at the time.

  14. 114
    David B. Benson says:

    viriato — There has been no change in the sun’s behavior to speak of in the last 50+ years; the solar cycles have just kept cranking along, up and down. But the surface has noticably warmed in the past 50+ years, keeping up with the increases in trace global warming (so-called greenhouse) gases.

  15. 115
    Jim Bouldin says:

    In addition to Bill’s comment above, if you don’t have access to subscription-only journals and want a specific article:

    1) Find the authors’ affiliations (given with the abstract). If any of them is an employee of the US government, the article will be available for free at their agency website (actually I’m not quite sure if this is true all the time, but it usually is).

    2) If the article is older than a prescribed time (usually 6 to 12 months), it can be made freely available on one or more authors’ websites.

    3) If not available via the above, email the corresponding author and request an electronic reprint. If no response, contact secondary authors, but you will have to search for their email addresses.

  16. 116
    KSW says:

    Gavin, your pithy comments have made you my favorite contributor to RC. Thanks so much; I was surprised to see you take the time to so thoroughly rebut the rehashed comments made in #32 above.

    Some time ago you dismissed a paper found at rocketscientistsjournal.com with a single line ‘that seems pretty confused'; well RSJ is back with a new criticism of the IPCC, I wonder if you could apply the same red pen technique to this new entry that you provided to #32.

    Cheers.

    [Response: I can’t really better my first judgment: That seems pretty confused. – gavin]

  17. 117
    walter crain says:

    i first looked at the post from “j.bob” and wondered if that was a different poster than “jim bob” the physical scientist. upon second review i saw the scientific criticism.

    roughly: “the english temp. record doesn’t show global warming.”

    the first thing i noticed is that’s a new one on me. and it’s not even on that sceptical science list of 53 standard skeptic arguements – better contact that guy to add it to his list. ray saw it too. that was a great link to tamino. i learned a lot there. BUT, i can easily see how a “skeptic” – especially one who in his heart doesn’t trust fancy-pants scientists, would say tamino “tricked” that hockey-stick-looking graph out of the data. (i understand that the famous hockey stick graph covers a longer period of time.) i understand what tamino did to get that line graph out of that mess of dots. i don’t understand what jim bob did.

    jim bob,
    i don’t understand “Generating an error column, and plotting the error, allows a person to adjust b & m. Summing up the error also helps convergence of b & m.”

    can you better explain how you came up with, “b=8.85 and a slope of 0.002 ( 0.2 deg./century)”? if i were to just draw a straight line across what i thought looked like the middle of that graph i would say it sloped up a bit to the right – and with more slope than .002.

    mal adapted,
    that “dunning-kruger” effect is hilarious.

  18. 118
    walter crain says:

    oh, sorry, and first of all, EVEN IF the english temp record didn’t show warming, england is not the globe, so it wouldn’t “disprove” global warming theory, imho.

  19. 119
    Lawrence Brown says:

    We can add Rep. John Shimkus’s(R.IL) comments to the list of lies and damned lies and as far from science as you can get. How do these retards get so high in government?! Never mind, don’t answer. This is a country that elected Richard Nixon TWICE! and put Bush Jr. BACK in Office!
    Shimkus claims among other things that only the almighty is responsible for the fate of the Earth. I got news for him. It wasn’t God who dropped those atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. To make matters worse, he’s formed an alliance with the Viscount of Benchley!
    http://www.growingedge.com/rep-john-shimkus-r-il-claims-capping-carbon-dioxide-emissions-will-take-away-plant-food

    There was a woman from Cape Cod
    Who thought that all things came from God.
    But twas not the almighty who lifted her nightie
    It was Roger the lodger by God.

  20. 120
    Chris Colose says:

    My post on Lindzen is up now. It’s already generated a lot of skeptical anger….apparently the later, updated data was made up in an effort to make observations fit better.

    I just don’t get it…

  21. 121
    Andrew says:

    #100 J Bob

    Like any good sceptic I thought I better check your figures so I returned to the data and spreadsheet, and did a few linear regressions.

    The calculated slope of the average yearly values from 1659 to 2008 was in fact 0.26 C per century. However, of course, we are more interested in more recent times, in which case the slope for 1850 to 2008 is 0.90 C per century, 1950 to 2008 is 1.97 C per century, and more recently 1980 to 2008 is 4.37 C per century or 0.43 C per decade. As expected the slope for 1659 to 1900 is quite low at 0.13 C per century.

    The relevance to global climate of this result obtained for data from a single small geographical region is open to debate of course, but clearly the data do fit quite nicely with a recent strong warming trend.

  22. 122
    walter crain says:

    wow! no kidding andrew? great job. that was perfect. it looked to me, a layman (architect whose pretty good at seeing patterns…) i thought the “overall” slope of that crazy (cool) pattern of dots sloped more than .02 per century. .26 looks MUCH more like it. i confess, just looking at those dots, i can’t resolve it into that line graph tamino made… but i understand his process, conceptually, so i guess it’s in there.

    jim bob,
    do you think andrew did something wrong?

  23. 123
    walter crain says:

    lawrence,
    i had seen the mockton one, but omg, that shimkus sermon IN CONGRESS! and HE’s making decisions about our future… jefferson and madison are rolling over in their graves. reminds me of general “my god’s bigger” boykin.

  24. 124
    Steve Missal says:

    I can say for a certainty that my teaching peers are, for the absolute most part, ignorant of even simplest current science. I doubt that any except a handful could accurately give the basic scientific method, or talk about the difference between climate and weather. My students (college age) fare no better. In the local media, bad science, good science and no science follow one another in stories mostly concocted to sell, not inform.
    In my workroom area, you will hear, more likely, an anecdote about an exorcism recently witnessed than you will anything about the IPCC, or the Mars rovers, or a host of other current topics. To have a book like this available is a godsend. If nothing else, we can now turn some heads towards a consolidated source for information. Keep up the great work at RealClimate. We try to promote you whenever and wherever we can in the Southwest (Phoenix metro area).

  25. 125
    Hank Roberts says:

    Let’s see if that can be made more usable yet still mangled enough:

    http://www.tompainesghost.com/2009/03/taking-earths-temperature_31.html

    “… Researchers at the University of Arizona at Tucson recently published a paper brilliantly exhibiting an alternate method for measuring global temperature trends in the journal Nature Geoscience.

    By using a freshwater lake on an island in the Galápagos as a natural laboratory these researchers where able to use the paleogeologic record to measure sea surface temperature trends….”

    That’s an example of “blogging peer-reviewed science” — worth encouraging. More links there.

    Just put the gh ost back together and the link will work.

  26. 126
    David Horton says:

    We all need to keep chipping away at improving public understanding and perceptions. Here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-horton/gwc_b_181555.html is an attempt to out-Luntz Luntz

  27. 127

    Chris Colose wrote in 120:

    My post on Lindzen is up now. It’s already generated a lot of skeptical anger…apparently the later, updated data was made up in an effort to make observations fit better.

    I just don’t get it…

    Don’t you remember that poster that Fox Mulder had next to his desk?

    So much for being “skeptics.”

  28. 128

    A little PS…

    You won’t see this until tomorrow, but my wife and I just celebrated the 16th anniversary of our marriage — and 17th anniversary of our first date. Nothing big — but we still had fun. She is asleep right now. I will soon be joining her.

  29. 129
    Oliver says:

    Mark #5
    A statement often made by denialists. I wonder where they get all the straw from and how the poor horses and cows manage without their winter feed.

    The poor horses and cows (particularly the horses) would be a sorry bunch of critters if straw were what they were fed for the winter. Being virtually devoid of nutrient, straw is used as bedding, not feed. Not all of us can subsist on chaff.

  30. 130
    Alan of Oz says:

    Re #88 – “My sister is very devout christian and God Would Not Let That Happen. By arguing about it being real, I’m attacking her religion. She Will Not Listen.”

    Far be it from me to tell you how to handle your sister but have you asked her why god let WW2 happen? I’m not a believer but if I were I would say god is giving us a gardening lesson, so she better pay attention. (note only the first few minutes of the video is about saving apes)

  31. 131
    pete best says:

    Re #93. I cannot but admire someone who decided to put their not inconsiderable talents in math to use that may be of more use to humanity than theorising about quantum physics, black holes and the reason why since Plancks time physics has been discussing the meaning if quantum physics. Fractals and perhaps more importantly dynamic systems and the edge of chaos (the border between order and chaos where fitness is maximised) might indeed have a bearing on so many things including perhaps implications for AGW and the earth system as we push it from equilibrium and its starts to change its nominal behaviour and more dynamic behaviour sets in.

    The key terms in this discipline is the sensitivity to initial conditions and the non linearity of the system in question with its positive (amplifying) and negative (dampening) feedbacks which can cause chaos to set in. This is why with all of the wrangling that goes on in these forums I cannot help but feel that these climate models capture the essence of the science of what is going on here and in mathematical terms they are right and demonstrate that the main dynamics of the earth system are captured.

    Ok so we do not know evrything about the earth system but maybe that is not as important as capturing the main essence of it all which I feel they have done.

    As for the man who decided to put his talents to modelling climate but never stopped thinking about them issues that plagued his youth and PhD seems somewhat noble to me scientifically and again makes scientists what they are, deep thinkers.

  32. 132
    Mark says:

    This may help both with the agnostic and the theist when talking about religion and science.

    The problem is NOT that religion stops thinking. It’s that propounding it can cause discomfort. But that discomfort can just as well come from personal responsibility (“It’s not *my* fault *again*?”) secular ideology (“Econazis again!!!!!” or “Government power should NEVER be used!”) wealth (“I’m doing well, so if things change, for me things can only get worse”) or any number of other reasons.

    Religion is merely one. And, like all the others, is overcome by the majority who feel the discomfort. But like everything else, the one shouting gets noticed.

  33. 133
    Mark says:

    Oliver #129 “The poor horses and cows (particularly the horses) would be a sorry bunch of critters if straw were what they were fed for the winter. Being virtually devoid of nutrient, straw is used as bedding, not feed. Not all of us can subsist on chaff.”

    But you will notice that there is no actual STRAW in a strawman. There’s not even a man produced (of straw or any other material).

    Since this is all “virtual straw” and not “real straw” the properties of this virtual version does not have to accede to the limitations of the real kind.

    And work on your reaction times. They’re atrocious.

  34. 134
    Mark says:

    Alan #130. Why? All it would do is upset her. The message #132 illustrates why that doesn’t help. Doing so would make her uncomfortable. Therefore she’ll not listen. Change is uncomfortable. Being wrong is uncomfortable. And when something is not prone to proof or disproof (there was a message here about how Free Market Libertarians would ascribe ANY good to the Free Market and ANY bad to government intervention, since there’s always a mix of both in ANY commercial activity) then any uncomfortable queries will be ignored or, worse, seen as a personal attack.

    And for every action there is an opposite and at least equal reaction (we’re talking about non-conservationist human interactions, not physical ones) that act on different bodies.

    So then instead of learning, they entrench.

    So my sister goes “well, you’re too smart and could convince me of what you want, but there are others who are smart and can show me convincing arguments otherwise. So I’ll believe neither of you” and still say AGW isn’t happening. Which is where the dishonest with self comes in.

    Similarly if there ARE any genuine people who really DO think “neither side are behaving well, so I’ll do nothing to punish them” (as opposed to denialists who want to ***appear*** non-partisan (“I complained about BOTH sides, didn’t I???”)) they likewise are dishonest by not considering how this is punishment to the side that is arguing to do nothing different.

  35. 135
    steve says:

    I must admit I find it rather tedious constantly reading posts about how those skeptical of the dangers of co2 must have some reason other then the science itself. There are perfectly good scientists on the other side of this argument providing perfectly good objections. You may disagree with them. You may think them delusional. It doesn’t matter what you think of them it is their arguments you need to address. From my experience, and I do see a considerable number of people on a yearly basis, the people you are losing the argument to are not the factory workers. You are losing the school teachers, the engineers, the biologists. And from my life long experience placing tags on the people that do not see things your way does nothing but move those people further from your views.

    [Response: “Perfectly good scientists” with “perfectly good objections”? Really? – gavin]

  36. 136
    Turbobloke says:

    No 36 says “In an op-ed piece in the December 11 issue of NRC/Handelsblad, Wilco Hazeleger, a senior scientist in the global climate research group at KNMI, writes:
    “In the past century the sea level has risen twenty centimeters. There is no evidence for accelerated sea-level rise.”
    The KNMI web says”De zeespiegel stijgt de laatste jaren sneller: satellietmetingen laten een zeespiegelstijging van ruim 3 millimeter per jaar zien voor de periode 1993-2005.” Rough translation: “The sea level has risen faster in the last years: satellite measurements reveal a rise of about 3mm/year for the period 1993-2005.”

    Earlier they say that the average for the whole of the 20th Century was 1.8 mm/year.

    Hazeleger has published the following papers recently…
    Haarsma, R.J., F.M. Selten, B.J.J.M. van den Hurk, W. Hazeleger and X. Wang, Drier Mediterranean Soils due to Greenhouse Warming bring easterly Winds over Summertime Central Europe Geophys. Res. Lett., 2009, 36, L04705, doi:10.1029/2008GL036617.
    and
    Oldenborgh, G.J. van, S.S. Drijfhout, A. van Ulden, R. Haarsma, A. Sterl, C. Severijns, W. Hazeleger and H. Dijkstra, Western Europe is warming much faster than expected
    Climate of the Past, 2009, 5, 1, 1-12.

    This paper is also worth looking at Katsman, C.A., W. Hazeleger, S.S. Drijfhout, G.J. van Oldenborgh and G.J.H. Burgers, Climate scenarios of sea level rise for the northeast Atlantic Ocean: a study including the effects of ocean dynamics and gravity changes induced by ice melt
    Climatic Change, 2008 http://www.knmi.nl/publications/fulltexts/climatescenario.pdf

    There’s more interesting stuff on the KNMI web site, a lot being in English: http://www.knmi.nl

    Even though he appears to believe in AGW, what’s the betting that he appears in a certain Senator’s list next year?

  37. 137
    Deech56 says:

    RE Timothy Chase 1 avril 2009 at 1:08 AM:

    Happy Anniversary Tim and Mrs. Tim.

  38. 138
    Deech56 says:

    RE Mark (#88) 31 mars 2009 at 8:34 AM

    My sister is very devout christian and God Would Not Let That Happen. By arguing about it being real, I’m attacking her religion. She Will Not Listen.

    Mark, I have the perspective of being a Christian and a scientist/bureaucrat (but not a Christian Scientist), so maybe I can shed some light. (I’m even teaching a class about AGW in my church this summer.) From a Christian standpoint, we are supposed to be stewards of God’s creation – the world does not belong to us and we while resources can be used, we are supposed to take care of this world. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) wrote in 2006:

    It is the consensus of the scientific community that human activity is rapidly changing the natural environment in measurable ways through the destructive effects of climate change (commonly called global warming).

    Global climate change is predominantly caused by our burning of fossil fuels, like coal, oil, and natural gas, which emit greenhouse gases, and accelerating faster then predicted just a few years ago.

    Global climate change is directly causing or contributing to harmful changes…

    Previous General Assemblies (1981, 1998, 1999, and 2003) passed overtures, resolutions, and policies addressing our unjust energy practices, calling us to develop frugal lifestyles reducing our energy consumption; and urging the United States to sign the Kyoto Treaty and to lead in reducing carbon emissions to combat global warming.

    For your sister: in theological terms, we have been given free will and have the capacity to do good or harm. We can even do harm subconsciously. As Christians, we have to grapple with the existence of evil and selfishness and the fact that bad things (like WWII, genocide) are allowed to happen. From a believer’s standpoint, we are the agents of God’s will. We can choose, out of our own free will, to do something about CO2.

    Mods, I know that this may be pushing the envelope of what is allowed, but I wanted to provide something for Mark.

    [Response: Ok. But that’s it. No more religion please. – gavin]

  39. 139
    Mark says:

    My point is that it is the discomfort that is the problem, not the reason for it.

    Being hugely wealthy, the recording industry are TERRIFIED of a change in the system of music delivery. Why? Because it’s a change. And, being at the top of the CURRENT method of music delivery, the only option is to AT BEST remain where they are. There are very many more ways they could end up losing out.

    That they may still make a living wage (in fact, even if they fall far, they would still have a lot of money for their work) is not something they want to contemplate. It would be a change and they don’t want to consider it.

    So they have done the best they can to remove the competition of a new method of music delivery, even if it hurts their revenue. Because if their actions make a smaller pie, they are still getting the biggest slice.

    And for many, this is the same problem with AGW. It’s a change. It’s a recognition of past bad actions (without knowing they were bad). It’s pronounced by people who they already believe have it wrong before they even speak.

    And that discomfort is the problem. Not why they feel it.

  40. 140

    Jim Bob writes:

    I am one of the 42% of Americans who does not believe that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing the mean global temperature. I have a degree in physical science

    WHICH physical science? From which institution? What year?

    and I have worked in the computer field for 30 years, so I have a reasonable understanding of both earth science and computer modeling.

    As someone with a computer science degree and many years of programming experience myself, I can tell you that knowing computers does not make you a scientist.

    I do not work for the government or academia, nor do I work in a fossil fuel related industry. I have looked at the evidence on both sides of the “debate” and I find the “skeptics” arguments more convincing than the “experts” who tout AGW and insist that the science is settled. It appears to me that CO2 impact on climate is real, but marginal, and much more important drivers are the sun, multi-decadal ocean current cycles, and volcanism.

    Well, you’re wrong. A simple regression of temperature anomaly on those factors for 1880-2007 reveals that ln CO2 accounts for 76% of the variance, volcanoes account for 2%, and the sun has no effect at all. How do you quantify “ocean current cycles?” What’s your source? Where are you getting your data?

    The first two factors, the quiet sun and the cool phase of the PDO, are strong proven signals for a cooler climate for the next 30 years.

    No real scientist would say a physical effect is “proven,” especially not when discussing an effect “for the next 30 years.” You might do that with orbital mechanics, but I can’t think of much else. And how about citing a source for your assertions–like a real scientist would do?

    CO2, on the other hand, appears to be a very minor player. Those who are demonizing this trace gas are going to look very foolish in 15 or 20 years, in my opinion.

    See above under “regression.”

  41. 141

    Bocco,

    Icarus, the premier planetology journal in the world, is now only available in an electronic version. If you see stacks in libraries, they date from before it went all electronic. Want other examples?

  42. 142

    Bill, I tried typing in keywords and PDF into Google Scholar, and got a lot of Science Direct sites which cite a PDF which you have to pay for to actually see. Look more carefully.

  43. 143

    Timothy,

    Happy Anniversary!

  44. 144
    walter crain says:

    jim bob,
    please see my posts: 117,118 and especially 122.
    can you answer my questions? please. i really sincerely want to know. your qualifications as a physical scientist make you more interesting to me than my layman buddies who are “skeptics”.

  45. 145

    The idea that “multi-decadal ocean current cycles” can possibly be “important drivers” of climate seems to me to be utterly unphysical, what with conservation of energy–at least, if by “climate” we mean anything long-term & global. How can the distribution of energy within the system possibly have a major impact on the energy content of the system, absent the equivalent of a Maxwell demon? (Which, in a way, I suppose GHGs are.)

    And if possible in principle, is it possible in any practical way–given that “ocean current cycles” of whatever timescale are presumably emergent phenomena, not magically independent actors that can somehow “decide” anything?

    Am I way off base about this, or is the idea just magical thinking, as it seems to me to be?

  46. 146

    Deech56 wrote in 137:

    RE Timothy Chase 1 avril 2009 at 1:08 AM:

    Happy Anniversary Tim and Mrs. Tim.

    It was pretty good. Normally things go south pretty quickly whenever we “should” be able to celebrate. Christmas, New Years, birthdays, whatever. Like when someone dies on your birthday. Or you planned on going out for a special dinner only to suddenly discover that your bank account is overdrawn. But always something truly dreadful. I figure that its the universe’s way of getting even with me for not believing in luck.

    But it appears to have let us off the hook this time. Do you suppose it might be saving up?

  47. 147
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    re: 145

    Regardless of the existence of ocean current cycles, the physics demonstrates a certain amount of energy, day in and day out, hitting the Earth’s surface due to an increase in GHGs. If the ocean currents are warming our climate, fine. That just means that we have to identify the mechanism which vamooses the extra energy due to the increase in GHGs. That mechanism has to have a curious property: it operates when there’s an increase in energy due to GHGs, but doesn’t operate when the Earth warms due to a change Milankovich forcings.

    If it’s there, it’s going to be a very odd mechanism. Welcome, of course, but very odd.

    reCaptcha: leader asylum

  48. 148

    Re: Deech56 and Barton Paul Levenson

    Thank you both!

    Incidentally, I had gotten a message from the cash machine, saying that it was unable to let me withdraw $20 in the morning, before my wife got up — and then I avoided looking at the bank balance until this morning, not wanting to spoil the day and afraid of what I might find. But the bank account is quite healthy, relatively speaking.

  49. 149
    Mark says:

    A great example of how some people will rush at ANYTHING to deny AGW. Here’s a quote about how “CO2 is a greenhouse gas” is completely wrong:

    “The atmosphere is not a greenhouse. A greenhouse works by having a physical barrier such as glass, to prevent convection, whilst the atmosphere helps convection.”

    Pathetic, isn’t it.

    The poster is militantly against AGW being real.

  50. 150
    Jim Eager says:

    Re steve @135: “There are perfectly good scientists on the other side of this argument providing perfectly good objections.”

    But that’s just it, their objections are not perfectly good, they are incomplete, seriously flawed, flat out wrong, and in some cases deliberately fabricated to mislead the uneducated and gullible, and when it comes to the nitty gritty details of climate science ‘uneducated and gullible’ can unfortunately include not only factory workers, teachers and engineers, but even a few scientists who should know better, or should at least know that they should not jump to conclusions about something that is outside their field of expertise.


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