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With all due respect…

Filed under: — group @ 24 March 2009 - (Italian)

There was a great comedy piece a few years back (whose origin escapes us) that gave examples of how the English would use their language when speaking to a non-native speaker to imply the precise opposite of what was actually being understood. This allowed the English to feel superior without actually damaging international relations. One example was the phrase “with all due respect” which is generally understood to imply that the speaker has a great deal of respect for their counterpart, while the speaker is actually implying that they have no respect in the slightest for their interlocutor. The respect due being precisely zero.

This thought occurred to us when a few of us opened our email this week to see a draft ad being sent around by the Cato Institute (i.e. Pat Michaels) looking for signatories prior to being published in “major US newspapers” sometime soon:

There are a number of amusing details here. While we are curious about the credentials of “Dr. N. Here”, we certainly understand why they are looking for a little more variety on the list. More surprising (and somewhat ironically) the mailing list for signature requests includes a number of scientists who don’t agree with these sentiments at all. It’s as if Michaels and Cato actually believe that these various lists of “dissenting” scientists are accurate reflections of support for their agenda. They appear to be have been conned by their own disinformation.

As an exercise for our readers, perhaps people would like to speculate on who is going to end up on the published list? (If indeed it gets published). Ginger Spice would be likely on past form, but they might improve the screening this time around…

But most amusing are the footnotes that they use to bolster their case. There are four: the brand new Swanson and Tsonis (GRL, 2009), Brohan et al (JGR, 2006) (which is there to provide a link to the HadCRU temperature data), Pielke et al (BAMS, 2005), and the oft-derided Douglass et al (IJoC, 2008).

Of these papers, not one has the evidence to support the statements attributed to them in the main text. To wit:

Surface temperature changes over the past century have been episodic and modest and there has been no net global warming for over a decade now.1,2

Well, the first part of the statement is exactly what you expect with a modest long-term trend in the presence of internal variability and is not controversial in the least. The “global warming stopped” meme is particularly lame since it relies on both a feigned ignorance of the statistics of short periods and being careful about which data set you use. It also requires cherry-picking the start year, had the period been “exactly a decade” or 12 years then all the trends are positive.

The use of the recent Swanson and Tsonis paper is simply opportunism. Those authors specifically state that their results are not in any way contradictory with the idea of a long term global warming trend. Instead they are attempting to characterise the internal variability that everyone knows exists.

After controlling for population growth and property values, there has been no increase in damages from severe weather-related events.3

This references a short comment in BAMS that didn’t present any original research. The latest figures show that weather-related damages have increased markedly, though whether there is a climate change component is hard to tease out given the large increases in vulnerable infrastructure and relatively poor data. The actual statement that a clear global warming-related trend in damages hasn’t been clearly demonstrated doesn’t imply that you can state definitively that there is no effect. There might be one (or not), but formal attribution is hard. However, whatever the attribution ends up being, pointing out that there are other problems in the world doesn’t imply that anthropogenic climate change is not worth worrying about. One might as well state that since knee injuries on ski-slopes have increased over time one shouldn’t support flu shots.

The computer models forecasting rapid temperature change abjectly fail to explain recent climate behavior.4

‘Abjectly’? Very strange choice of word…. and an even stranger choice of reference. This is of course the same Douglass et al paper that used completely incoherent statistics and deliberately failed to note the structural uncertainty in the observations. Unsurprisingly, Michaels does not reference the rather comprehensive demolition of the Douglass methodology published by Santer et al (2008) (and on which one of us was a co-author). More fundamentally however, the current temperatures are still within the spread of the models even if you cherry pick your start date. No-one expects the real world (a single realization) to follow the mean forced trend at all times. How is that a failure, abject or otherwise?

More interestingly is what is not cited. President Obama’s statement “The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear”, can’t possibly refer to every issue in science or every potential fact. Instead he is likely referring to the basic and pretty much uncontested facts that i) CO2 and other greenhouse gases have increased due to human activity. CO2 emissions in particular continue to increase at a rapid rate; ii) the effect of these gases is to warm the climate and it is very likely that most of the warming over the last 50 years was in fact driven by these increases; and iii) the sensitivity of the climate is very likely large enough that serious consequences can be expected if carbon emissions continue on this path. We would be astonished if Michaels disputed this since he is on record as agreeing that the IPCC climate sensitivity range is likely to be correct and has never questioned the human contribution to CO2 and other GHG increases. He and his colleagues have even done analyses that show that after correcting for ENSO effects, there is no sign of a slowdown in global warming at all.

Instead this is a classic red-herring: Ignore the facts you don’t dispute, pick some others that are ambiguous and imply that, because they are subject to some debate, we therefore know nothing. Michaels (and Cato) presumably thinks this kind of nonsense is politically useful and he may be correct. But should he claim it is scientifically defensible, we would have to answer:

“With all due respect, Dr. Michaels, that is not true.”


303 Responses to “With all due respect…”

  1. 101
    Wayne says:

    Jonas at #96.

    The recent flattening could be nothing more than random noise. Take a look at the example Tamino cites at http://tamino.wordpress.com/2008/04/07/how-not-to-analyze-data-part-4-lies-damned-lies-and-anthony-watts/. He takes a known increasing function, adds some random noise, then finds a section where there’s a decreasing trend. Since he started with a known curve and just hid it in noise, it’s a pretty convincing demonstration of how you can fool yourself by looking at a short period (or worse at a cherry picked period).

    One has to be careful about taking meaning from short periods. That’s one of the reasons climatologists look at 30 year time frames.

  2. 102
    James Killen says:

    Re 99.

    “Helped hasten the colapse of the Roman Empire, did he?! Beware the modern day Catos”

    No. You just quoted “[he] helped hasten the collapse of the Roman Republic.” In other words he helped bring the Roman Empire into being.

  3. 103
    Chris Colose says:

    gavin,

    perhaps it’s worthwhile to do a post on what the PDO is not. This ridiculous meme continues to surface in every thread and it’s kind of irritating.

  4. 104
    Dale Power says:

    A lot of very good and intelligent people here seem to have fallen into a bit of a trap in regards to the main issue at hand in regards to Global Climate Change…

    You see, being good and well trained scientists you tend to think that this issue is about the science, or at least the facts at hand, when it is instead a war of “hearts and minds”.

    Facts are useful right now, but only in regards to getting data points (Talking points, blurbs etc.) to the public. Yes, the science must go on, but we will lose this war if all the people in the know, the scientists doing the actual research, keep muttering to one another instead of challenging the paid Oil and Coal company employees that get most of the real press.

    This will require doing some things that good people, especially good scientists, have been trained to avoid however. People will have to be loud, controversial and in short phrases without reservation say “This is the truth, these are the facts…. This man over here saying differently? He’s lying to you for this specific industry!”

    You can’t win a debate with someone that is playing by schoolyard rules (even if you are too as most of us have learned over time) and unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately as their side has fewer scruples and more money to spend) we can’t just have large men go to their houses and help them learn the prudence of silence.

    It’s sad, yes. We would all like to stand above pettiness and propaganda and show how real science works, true…

    But that road cannot be followed in our current world, because no one will hear and understand the message! Facts only win the day if people hear them enough and right now what the average person is hearing amounts to “These rich Climatologists want to keep hoaxing us into a money grabbing carbon tax.”

    We can undo this, if we all pull together, but a real plan of action has to be put in place and fast. Otherwise we may as well go off and just start having fun until things get too bad to ignore any more.

  5. 105
    Will Denayer says:

    Interesting thread again.
    As someone else said already, Al Gore did not advocate cutting back on economic growth (but only of CO2). To say that we have to cut back on growth is like Satanism, esp. in the US (I think). However, I am for it. Personally, I do not believe that we – whoever that is – are going to be able to tackle GW without slowing down on growth. It’s time that people start to understand that there is value in this position. Subsequently, they can start seeing that this might be good for many things. We produce a lot of stuff we do not need. Please, don’t start now about living in the stone age. I am not for it either. Don’t tell me that we need capitalism for our employment as appr one and half billion people do not have anything close to what we call a job. This is not due to ‘not enough’ development, but to a completely wrong way of development. Don’t tell me that medicine would suffer, for ex. – I just read an article on it, it is not true. Also, economic growth does not equal or correlates with welfare, human happiness and quality of life. Indeed – and I am absolutely not saying this to bash at American people (I’m married to an American btw), the USA, which is still the richest country on earth in terms of GDP, does bad or even very bad on practically all parameters of human happiness/quality of life: illiteracy, drugs, divorce, health care, illness, equality, life span, pollution, community life, teenage pregnancy and others, while it is no secret that you use/misuse the most resources on the face of the planet. For ex., a country like Greece, of which the GDP per capita is only half of that of the US has a higher quality of life than the US. Therefore, we need to rethink what we are doing. Economic growth is our holy cow, but it is a false cow. We need to reform this system in order to tackle GW, to stop people dying from hunger and from nonsense diseases with cost 50 cents to cure, etc. Cutting CO2 is just not good enough. There is no technocratic solution to this. We need political reform. This happened before. During the 19th century, children worked for 15 hours a day in a factory. People said it was necessary for the system to survive. Now, no children work in factories anymore, not in the US or in Europe anyway. We can do this worldwide. The economy has to serve the needs of people and not vice versa.

  6. 106
    Jonas says:

    Wayne at #101

    Thanks Wayne,

    I’ve read some of the posts at WUWT and I think that your comments are very relevent. Cherry picking of
    data can achieve any result desired by the author, and almost always not in line with reality. I think
    that data of 30 years can even be misleading, especially when you consider that the PDO can run in 30
    year cycles. In my opinion the petition article above is based on the PDO shift into the cool phase
    which seemed to start after the year 2000. This has given rise to the quote “No global warming for the
    past decade”.

    As far as warming in the pipline goes I think we need to be careful here….
    Yes, you can say that the excess heat has been moved into deeper waters and cooler waters from below
    have upwelled causing the current cool anomoly. However, the earth is in a constant dynamic state. Heat stored in the pipeline will be released at varying rates over a long time scale. Remember that the oceans can store >1000x of heat compared to the atmosphere. This heat could remain in the pipeline for
    centuries. You could even summise that recent global warming is older pipeline heat.

    What worries me is the flattening of the usual downward trend of the PDO. In 2030 when the PDO switches
    back to the +ve phase we can expect very rapid temperature rise based on the current slight cool trend
    when compared to past sharp negative trends associated with previous PDO cycles.

  7. 107
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Lots of truth in what you say Will.
    And reCAPTCHA gives me $5 Devine :-)

  8. 108

    To Theo and all those others exasperated at their own lack of statistics literacy, there is an invaluable learning/teaching resource:

    http://www.woodfortrees.org/

    As an example what you can do:

    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/uah/mean:12/plot/uah/trend/plot/uah/from:2003/trend/plot/uah/from:1997.5/trend/plot/uah/from:1992/to:1999/trend

    No thick math textbooks required… just play around to find the effects of cherry picking starting and ending points, length of time series, smoothing… whatever. And demonstrate the points that need to be made to your “skeptic” friends.

  9. 109
    Jim Eaton says:

    Re: 99 Paul Says:

    “Andrew Weaver has made comments on the Vancouver Sun web site that implies environmentalists oppose wind and hydro electric schemes in Canada… I do not agree with the authors views about ‘environmentalists.’”

    There are three major problems that environmentalists see with the land rush for wind, solar, and hydro projects.

    1. Important habitats for animals and plants need to be identified first, not after the fact.

    2. Transmission lines are needed, and this has the same issues as #1.

    3. Many current solar technologies require vast amounts of water. And we’re talking about building them in our deserts.

    Some environmental activists want no new developments at all. They argue that photovoltaics on homes and buildings, as well as reduction in our use of energy, should be done instead. But if we are to get off fossil fuels, we need photovoltaics and large renewable projects as well. How about converting the coal plants in the American Southwest to renewables — on already disturbed lands.

    The best we can do is steer projects on to disturbed lands and to run transmission lines on existing corridors or freeways (I’ve always thought the term “scenic highway” is an oxymoron).

    The best suggestion I read recently (on Climate Progress) is that since Las Vegas clearly is an unsustainable city, we should tear it down and do many of our our renewable projects there. Not a bad idea!

  10. 110

    Chris Colose wrote in 103:

    gavin,

    perhaps it’s worthwhile to do a post on what the PDO is not. This ridiculous meme continues to surface in every thread and it’s kind of irritating.

    In the meantime it might help people to know that there are posts elsewhere that deal with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. One post people might want to look at is over at Tamino’s:

    PDO: the Pacific Decadal Oscillation
    May 27, 2008
    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2008/05/27/pdo-the-pacific-decadal-oscillation/

    However, I would also strongly recommend a post at Skeptical Science which deals specifically with the question of whether the Pacific Decadal Oscillation might explain 20th Century warming:

    The second lesson of PDOs is that while we talk about warm phases and cool phases these are more names than physical descriptions. As seen in Figure 2, a cool phase PDO is associated with cool sea surface temperatures along the Pacific coast of North America, but the center of the North Pacific ocean is still quite warm. Consequently it would appear that there is nothing fundamental about a PDO that would cause significant changes to global temperatures.

    It’s the Pacific Decadal Oscillation
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Pacific-Decadal-Oscillation.htm

    For yet another approach dealing with the question of the correlation between PDO and global temperature:

    On the Relationship between the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the Global Average Mean Temperature
    3 Aug 2008
    http://atmoz.org/…/pdo…

    There is also the claim that PDO forces ENSO, but the following seems to suggest that ENSO leads PDO rather than the reverse if one looks at the left-bottom diagram on slide 10 of…

    ENSO-forced variability of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation
    Matt Newman, NOAA-CIRES CDC
    http://www.cpc.noaa.gov/products/outreach/proceedings/cdw28_proceedings/mnewman_2003.ppt

    And then here is a passage which I like to bring up regarding climate modes (oscillations) in general and their relationship to global warming:

    A crucial question in the global-warming debate concerns the extent to which recent climate change is caused by anthropogenic forcing or is a manifestation of natural climate variability. It is commonly thought that the climate response to anthropogenic forcing should be distinct from the patterns of natural climate variability. But, on the basis of studies of nonlinear chaotic models with preferred states or ‘regimes’, it has been argued, that the spatial patterns of the response to anthropogenic forcing may in fact project principally onto modes of natural climate variability. Here we use atmospheric circulation data from the Northern Hemisphere to show that recent climate change can be interpreted in terms of changes in the frequency of occurrence of natural atmospheric circulation regimes. We conclude that recent Northern Hemisphere warming may be more directly related to the thermal structure of these circulation regimes than to any anthropogenic forcing pattern itself. Conversely, the fact that observed climate change projects onto natural patterns cannot be used as evidence of no anthropogenic effect on climate. These results may help explain possible differences between trends in surface temperature and satellite-based temperature in the free atmosphere.

    Signature of recent climate change in frequencies of natural atmospheric circulation regimes
    S. Corti, F. Molteni, and T. N. Palmer
    Nature 398, 799-802 (29 April 1999)
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v398/n6730/abs/398799a0.html

    One can easily argue that to a first approximation, forcing is forcing, whether it is solar or anthropogenic, and climate modes can be expected to respond to forcings in roughly the same manner regardless of the nature of those forcings.

  11. 111
    Mark says:

    re: 99: “Typically the RSPB and other organisations are interested in conservation ”

    However, the RSPB are now saying that we can put a lot more wind power up in the UK.

    The death rate from the new turbines are no longer an issue.

  12. 112
    François Marchand says:

    Re 45. With all due respect, could you please enlighten us non-Americans about your Mr. George Will? I don’t feel like googling him, there must be thousands of them.

  13. 113

    Paul, I see this on CBC pretty frequently; perhaps it’s the denialist flavor of the month for Canada.

    Lists of topics for which “AGW alarmism” is allegedly impeding action now includes apparently mercury pollution, plastic waste in the Pacific, control of malaria, and welfare of the Third World in general, in addition to action on any form of alternate energy. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few.

    No idea is too crazy for these folks; much of it looks to me at least like pure Orwellian inversion: “War is peace!”

    I’m resigned to typing a lot more iterations of “That’s not true, here’s why, and you can find out more at ________.”

    That said, I do see an interesting pattern on the threads. CBC has an agree/disagree vote widget. The early posts get the most views, and hence enough votes to give some statistical significance. The denialists generally lose the agree/disagree battle for such posts by a factor of about 2 to 1.

  14. 114
    François Marchand says:

    Something wrong with Captcha, I am afraid.
    44 UNDERSKIRT?

  15. 115
    Derek says:

    This sort of nonsense calls for a climate change version of Project Steve: http://ncseweb.org/taking-action/project-steve

  16. 116
    alemaco says:

    No. 105

    To say that we have to cut back on growth is like Satanism, esp. in the US (I think). However, I am for it. Personally, I do not believe that we – whoever that is – are going to be able to tackle GW without slowing down on growth. It’s time that people start to understand that there is value in this position. Subsequently, they can start seeing that this might be good for many things. We produce a lot of stuff we do not need.

    Someone has already been advocating this position. Just google for “steady state economy”.

  17. 117
    walter says:

    francois,
    george will is an intelligent but misguided conservative columnist who recently published an article (and has published many others also appearing in nearly all major US papers’ editorial sections) poo-pooing the reality of AGW.

  18. 118
    Theo Hopkins says:

    bit off topic but…

    @ Lawrwnce Brown

    [Cato]Helped hasten the colapse of the Roman Empire, did he?! Beware the modern day Catos!

    All empires fall. (I’m a Brit – 60 years ago when I was a kid 1/4 of the map of the world was red (= our empire)). The US empire will be gone by 2109. I’ll take a $1000 bet on that.

    Point is,long term, to solve this AGW crisis will be something in the gift of others than the USA.

  19. 119
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Will Denayer,
    I do not think that “growth” per se is the problem. One can have economic growth without greatly intensifying consumption by increasing the value of goods produced via that consumption. Technology is the key both to maintaining growth and to ensuring that it takes less resources to do so.

  20. 120
    Anne van der Bom says:

    Dale Power,

    I couldn’t disagree with you more. There are 1000′s of sites where this battle of the hearts and minds rages.

    realclimate.org is a very, very welcome exception where you can go to read about and discuss the facts behind the heated debate.

    What you say plays exactly in the hands of the denialists. They want a war of words, decoupled from the facts. They want to reduce it to a topic in the age old left vs right battle. A battle they hope to drag on endlessly.

  21. 121
    Anne van der Bom says:

    Jim Eaton 26 March 2009 at 2:04 AM,

    You say:
    “3. Many current solar technologies require vast amounts of water.”

    What are those technologies and how much water do they use?

    You say:
    “How about converting the coal plants in the American Southwest to renewables — on already disturbed lands.”

    Did you do the math? Suppose a 1 GW coal plant occupies 1 hectare. That is 100 kW / m². Solar power delivers how much on average? 50 W/m²? 100 W/m²? That is three orders of magnitude less. So tearing down a 1 GW coal plant would give you enough space for a 1 MW solar plant.

  22. 122
    Mark says:

    Anne, #121, a hectare is pretty small for GW coal station.

    And how about this: covered parking spaces with solar panels.

    And maybe rather than tear the idea up, consider reformulating it: consider replacing closed coal fired power stations with solar panels (and wind turbines: they can co-exist).

  23. 123
    MarkusR says:

    Sounds exactly as misleading as their “stimulus” ad. They cherry picked an Obama quote from way back when, in which the topic was whether or not the government should do something about the crisis, and used it make appear as if Obama was speaking of the particular stimulus bill in Congress at the time.

    Cato lied then, and they’ll be sure to lie now as well.

  24. 124
    Jim Bouldin says:

    Dale (104): I can empathize with your frustrations, but…

    There are more and more scientists speaking up; this site is prima facie evidence #1 for that. And there have been others as well, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Jim Hansen, Paul Ehrlich etc. More would sure be welcome but expecting that is misguided IMO. Scientists have enough on their plates with their day jobs. Don’t expect them to be media outlets and/or activists as well. What’s been lacking are high caliber science writers who can “translate” complex science into a form understandable to Joe and Jane Public. But this too is improving with the a number of high quality blogs springing up, most of which are linked to here. Be thankful that sites like this one and the others exist at all.

  25. 125
    wmanny says:

    74 GFW

    http://sites.google.com/site/cosmologyquest/_/rsrc/1235495096944/files/UAH_LT5.bmp

    Here’s a relatively recent graph. What’s your take on this one?

    [Response: Why not use the current version? - gavin]

  26. 126
    Ike Solem says:

    The current energy debate is in many ways similar to the debate between IBM, Dell and Apple over the future of the computer – mainframes or laptops? As we can see, the laptop won for the vast majority of applications. Laptops are modular (meaning you can buy as few or as many as you need, rather than one mega-machine), convenient, and have low energy consumption.

    For solar and many biofuel and water applications, small and modular is vastly preferable to the IBM approach. Rooftop solar, solar-coated electric vehicles, and solar-powered water purification and biofuel distillation systems are all very plausible. It’s not hard to imagine a future in which most homes have integrated solar roofs – in the future, that might be a part of the building code, just as hot water heaters are included in building codes today.

    Financing such a program is where the difficulty arises – it presupposes a high rate of home ownership and available credit for those who want to convert their homes and businesses into solar power stations. Landlords are unlikely to invest in such systems, as they do not have to pay the power bills, and without credit – well, who would buy a new car if no credit was available for cars?

    For wind, the large-scale industrial approach is definitely superior – bigger is better when it comes to wind, at least for turbines and wind farms. There is also the issue of grid-integrated energy storage and distribution (critical for wind and solar) – any facilities for doing that will likely by fairly large, along the lines of modern power utilities.

  27. 127
    Hank Roberts says:

    Wmanny, when you link to outdated information posted as a static picture on the Electric Cosmology Thunderbolts guy’s site, you don’t add to your own credibility. Take Gavin’s pointer, ‘add series’ and pick the same data but adding the processing step (linear trend) and you’ll see both charted together.

    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/uah/from:1979/to:2009/plot/uah/from:1979/to:2009/trend

    Or chop off the last year like the Electric Thunderbolt guy did, and see how much difference it makes in the trend. Just change “2009″ to “2008″ there.

    See how little difference one year makes?

    (I can’t speak for the Woodfortrees site — does it update the data from the sources live to include the inevitable corrections and updates?

    Do check that before relying on the results — same principle as with the Electric Thunderbolt guy, it’s always best to make sure you’re looking at original, not copy.)

  28. 128
    Ike Solem says:

    Timothy Chase: “One can easily argue that to a first approximation, forcing is forcing, whether it is solar or anthropogenic, and climate modes can be expected to respond to forcings in roughly the same manner regardless of the nature of those forcings.”

    Well, not really. Increases in solar forcing show up in the stratosphere as warming due to increased absorption by ozone, for example, while CO2 forcing results in a cooling stratosphere. Volcanic forcing dumps aerosols into the stratosphere, resulting in stratospheric warming but also in surface cooling due to reflection of sunlight back to space; thus Pinatubo had net cooling effect of roughly -4 Watts/m^2 (Robock et al. estimate -100 W/m^2 for a full scale nuclear war, as well).

    El Nino/La Nina and the other proposed multi-decade cycles are probably responses to forcings. That’s also true for mid-latitude and polar seasonal cycles, the main forcing there being the change in solar radiation due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis relative to the sun. The driving forces behind El Nino are more mysterious.

    For example, what kind of oscillation bounces down twice without going up? It would be strange indeed to see a pendulum behave that way – if it paused at one end, wiggled around, and then shot back the other way, as ENSO often does? You would have to conclude that there were external forces that were driving (as well as damping) the pendulum’s swing. This complexity is reflected in model difficulty in simulating El Nino cycles in the tropical Pacific.

    The issues with the (hypothetical) “pacific decadal oscillation” are that there is no mechanism, and very poor evidence for a long-term oscillation – there is good evidence for marine regime shifts in the North Atlantic, but the claims about oscillations are misplaced.

    I think that what happened is that Fourier-based time series analysis tools were discovered by a lot of people in paleoclimatology around the same time, and in the rush to apply the new method, which involves picking out harmonic patterns from noisy data, people got a bit over-excited. It’s also difficult to assign a degree of statistical uncertainty to such a time-series analysis – one can find “proof” that random noise is made up of interacting harmonics, if one is not careful. On the other hand, it works great for things like planetary orbits, analysis of electronic circuits – but for fluid dynamics, the underlying assumptions themselves are off-base.

    The same goes for the Indian Ocean Dipole, which is thought to be responsible for bring rain to Australia. El Nino is known to bring drought to Australia, but La Nina is supposed to bring rain – unlike the past two years. A new proposal is that it is the Indian Ocean which brings rain to Australia during La Nina years, and that changes in the Indian Ocean Dipole (which doesn’t oscillate between poles, either – more like a Lorentz butterfly).

    If you google (news) “indian ocean dipole” you’ll turn up many recent articles that claim that this is what is responsible for Australia’s drought and wildfires, much as the case with drought and wildfires in California and “La Nina”. The basic PR theme is obvious: natural cycles, not human actions, are responsible for the observed temperature & precipitation changes.

    The most comprehensive coverage was from Reuters, who said this:

    “The Indian Ocean Dipole is the key factor for driving major southeast Australian droughts over the past 120 years.” The researchers said more study was needed to pinpoint the cause of IODs, with half linked to La Nina events in the Pacific and the other half dependent purely on the Indian Ocean.

    “There are some indications that positive Indian Ocean Dipole are becoming more frequent and negative events less frequent. However, this needs to further investigation.” (Editing by David Fogarty)

    No mention of global warming at all – but what might be causing the Indian Ocean Dipole to change? Perhaps the heating caused by the regional atmospheric brown cloud of south Asia is playing a role, and perhaps the global effect of adding fossil CO2 to the atmosphere is playing a role – and perhaps the IOD explanation is just PR tossed out by Australia’s coal lobby and disseminated by the media in order to confuse the public – but those are not fit topics of discussion, especially explanation #3.

    It is a complicated issue – try this, for example:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2008/12/05/0710860105.full.pdf

    The conclusion is that we don’t know what is going on with El Nino and global warming. There may be a transient response, as different parts of the ocean warm at different rates. There is an extremely complicated ocean-atmosphere interaction and thus improvements in models and in data observations are needed – that would be the scientific perspective on the issue – we don’t know how El Nino wil respond to global warming, but we know the globe is warming.

    The PDO is certainly weaker than ENSO, and claims that the world will cool due to the PDO (i.e. Don Easterbrook) are bogus. Don Easterbrook has no background in ocean modeling, ocean data collection, or anything similar – he’s just latched onto something he doesn’t understand, and since the argument make a nice denialist talking point, he gets a plane ticket to the Heritage conference and a lot of unquestioning press coverage, even from science journalists who should know better – for example:

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/11/no-doubt-about-energy-gap/

    If reporters repeat what scientists say without checking the facts for themselves, are they really doing their jobs? The job is not stenography, it is journalism – meaning that background research is required.

  29. 129
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ah, from Woodfortrees Notes page: “It is updated from the master sources at 3am GMT/BST each night.”

    Good.

  30. 130

    I see that demolition experts had to blow up an ice jam in the Missouri to alleviate flooding in parts of Bismarck.

    Sounds like another bullet point for a highly scientific Cato white paper:

    “In 2009, demolition teams had to blow up an ice jam in the Missouri River in order to save Bismarck, ND. What do you have to say about that, global warming alarmists?”

  31. 131
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Climate change debunkers take stage in US Congress

    …Addressing the hearing on the “balanced Biblical view” for environment and development issues, Pastor Calvin Beisner — national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance, a coalition of clergy, theologians and religious leaders — questioned proposed efforts to combat climate change.

    “I am convinced that policies meant to reduce alleged carbon dioxide-induced global warming will be destructive,” he said.

    “The Biblical world view sees Earth and its ecosystems as the effect of a wise God’s creation and … therefore robust, resilient, and self regulating, like the product of any good engineer.” …

  32. 132

    A friend of mine has sent me several “facts” which I would like comments on, if possible. I THINK I know what rebuttals to each of them would be, but I am still unsure of myself on this issue.

    1. For at least the last five years, global temperatures have been falling, according to tracking performed by Roy Spencer, the climatologist formerly of NASA.

    2. Two more studies – one by the Leibniz Institute of Marine Science and the Max Planck Institute of Meteorology in Germany and another by the University of Wisconsin – predict a slowing, or even a reversal of warming, for at least the next 10 to 20 years.

    3. The Arctic sea ice has grown more on a percentage basis this winter than it has since 1979.

    4. “The most recent global warming that began in 1977 is over, and the Earth has entered a new phase of global cooling,” says Don Easterbrook, professor of geology at Western Washington University in Bellingham, confidently. He maintains a switch in Pacific Ocean currents “assures about three decades of global cooling. New solar data showing unusual absence of sun spots and changes in the sun’s magnetic field suggest … the present episode of global cooling may be more severe than the cooling of 1945 to 1977.”

    5. Climatologist Joe D’Aleo of the International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project, says new data “show that in five of the last seven decades since World War II, including this one, global temperatures have cooled while carbon dioxide has continued to rise.” “The data suggest cooling not warming in Earth’s future,” he says.

    Thanks.

    Burgy

  33. 133
    dhogaza says:

    Climatologist Joe D’Aleo

    Being the kind of person I am, I’d respond with a question of my own:

    “Why has your source lied about Joe D’Aleo being a climatologist, and why should I pay attention to anything said by people who lie about credentials in an effort to make their argument appear to be authoritative?”

  34. 134
    Anne van der Bom says:

    Mark,26 mars 2009 at 9:12 AM

    You’re right, a coal plant with all ancillary buildings, coal storage, etc occupies more space than 1 hectare, but my message remains the same. The reason I reacted is that people should realize that renewables take up a lot of space, much more than conventional power plants.

    The true challenge is in finding new space (offshore wind) or making good use of land already occupied (rooftop pv). Simply taking down a powerplant and replacing the same area with a solar plant leaves you with the problem “Now how do I replace the other 950 MW”. Simply ignoring that problem isn’t very compelling to me and sidesteps the true challenges.

  35. 135
    Mark says:

    1) Wrong.
    2) How can that be squared with someone saying it’s going down in the last 5 years? It it’s been going down in at least the last 5 years, then reversing that means the temperature is going up again.
    3) And when one person has the only copy of something, a single copy created is a 100% increase!!!
    4) Don Esterbrook says that? Well, 100 other equally estimable scientists say otherwise. Why are you taking only Don’s word for it?
    5) Irrelevant. The reasons for these events are known and do not mean that there’s no CO2 based global temperature increase.

  36. 136
    Hank Roberts says:

    John, you write

    > I THINK I know what rebuttals
    > to each of them would be

    Suggestion:

    Post the best refutation you’ve found — just the link, no need to retype anything.

    If there’s a better source than you found someone can comment; if you found the best, you’ll get validated.

  37. 137
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim Eaton wrote: “How about converting the coal plants in the American Southwest to renewables — on already disturbed lands.”

    Anne van der Bom replied: “Did you do the math? Suppose a 1 GW coal plant occupies 1 hectare. That is 100 kW / m². Solar power delivers how much on average? 50 W/m²? 100 W/m²? That is three orders of magnitude less. So tearing down a 1 GW coal plant would give you enough space for a 1 MW solar plant.”

    Regarding this discussion of land use requirements for solar electricity generation, here is a “data point”.

    Solyndra is a company that manufactures photovoltaic panels consisting of cylindrical modules, which they say “capture sunlight across a 360-degree photovoltaic surface capable of converting direct, diffuse and reflected sunlight into electricity. Solyndra’s panels perform optimally when mounted horizontally and packed closely together, thereby covering significantly more of the typically available roof area and producing more electricity per rooftop on an annual basis than a conventional panel installation. The result is significantly more solar electricity per rooftop per year.”

    Solyndra’s target market is “large, low-slope commerc-ial rooftops. The Solyndra system is designed to optimize PV performance on commerc-ial rooftops by converting more of the sunlight that strikes the total rooftop area into electricity.” Their PV panels have been shipping since July 2008.

    Solyndra says that “in the U.S. alone, approximately 30 billion square feet of commerc-ial rooftop surface is available for PV systems and could be utilized to create in excess of 150 gigawatts of electricity. Globally, this number could be two to three times higher. Tapping even a small fraction of this potential would make a significant impact on the world’s energy needs.”

    That’s the equivalent of 150 of the 1GW coal plants that Anne van der Bom mentioned — using existing rooftop space, with no need to disturb any land.

    By the way, Solyndra has just announced that it is “the first company to receive an offer for a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) lo-an guarantee under Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005″, which it will use to open a second manufacturing facility with a capacity of 500 MW per year — the equivalent of building a new 1 GW coal-fired power plant every two years.

    According to Solyndra, construction of the factory “will employ approximately 3,000 people, the operation of the facility will create over 1,000 jobs, and hundreds of additional jobs will be created for the installation of Solyndra PV systems in the U.S.”

    This is a good example of what can be done with solar technology, both to replace existing (and proposed) coal-fired power plants, and to create the basis for a sustainable “green” economy.

    (Note: hyphens inserted in some words are to avoid provoking the spam filter.)

  38. 138
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oh, as a postscript, John — if you’ll ask your friend for _his_ sources for these frequently asserted claims, that will help. Most likely he’s just copypasting out of one of the dozens of echo sites hosted by people who don’t understand the stuff but simply post it and soak up people’s time. If you can track the source back to wherever they originate, it simplifies responding.

    Think “decoys” when you see this stuff without citation.

    They’re there to fool you and waste your time replying to the copies.

  39. 139
    Jaydee says:

    Chris Dunford, I’m not sure if you were serious or not, but ice dams do occur in winter… on the other hand they have started to break up in winter.

    From BBC News

    “A huge ice dam on Argentina’s Perito Moreno glacier is about to break apart for the first time during the southern hemisphere winter.”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7494686.stm

    But enough with the anecdotal stuff already.

  40. 140
    Deep Climate says:

    With “all due respect”, I’m fed up with this hooey.

    The Michaels graph shows recent “observed trends” ranging from -0.05 (5 years) to barely 0 (12 years).

    Let’s get real. The IPCC projection of 0.2 deg/decade is for the
    period 2011-2030 relative to a baseline of 1980-1999 (AR4 WG1, Chapter 10 Executive Summary). In other words, the 20-year moving average of surface temperature is projected to rise at a rate of 0.2 deg/decade over the 31 year period.

    We are now 9 years along. By my calculation, the 20 year average has risen by just under 0.17 deg/decade in all three surface tempertaure data sets (NOAA, NASA and HadCrut). More sophisticated smoothing shows even higher trends, but at least this trend calculation shows the necessity of using the proper baseline and trend calculation method, instead of just cherrypicking a start date or end date.

    According to Michaels, the 95% confidence interval for the 9-year trend projection is -0.03 to 0.43 deg/decade. So, comparatively speaking, 0.17 is pretty close to the 0.2 mid-point. Obviously, the climate models do not “abjectly fail”. Quite the opposite … um, with all due respect.

    BTW, the Michaels testimony is here (the other link didn’t work):

    http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2009/02/13/committee-on-energy-and-environment-testimony/

  41. 141
    Mark says:

    With all due respect, Deep Climate, you’re making up hooey.

  42. 142
    Jim Eaton says:

    Re: Anne van der Bom Says:

    “What are those technologies and how much water do they use?”

    Just a quick glance at the California Energy Commission’s staff report for the proposed Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a solar concentrating thermal power plant, shows annual water use at 76.4 acre feet of water (nearly 25,000,000 gallons or about 95,000 cubic meters). Most of the water would be used nightly to wash the mirrors.

    http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/ivanpah/documents/index.html

    At full buildout, the three plants are expected to generate 400 MW. The project would cover 3,678 acres (just under 1,500 hectares) of land.

    Captcha: “Goldwater didn’t”

  43. 143
    Mark says:

    And how much water does a power station from conventional techniques use. E.g. lost steam turbine water (can’t have the pipes furring up!), washing the windows, drinking water for the staff, etc.

    And the water used for washing the surfaces sounds either over-profligate or necessitated by some rather strange operational procedure. The water should be easily recyclable.

    Power costs.

    Reducing power is the best, quickest and simplest short term solution.

  44. 144
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Now, this is what I call a “balanced Biblical view” of climate science:

    Archbishop of Canterbury: God ‘will not give happy ending’

    God will not intervene to prevent humanity from wreaking disastrous damage to the environment, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned. …And God would not guarantee a “happy ending”, he warned. …

    Speaking on Wednesday he said just as God gave humans free will to do “immeasurable damage” to themselves as individuals it seemed “clear” they had the same “terrible freedom” as a human race. …

    Without a change of heart, Dr Williams warned, the world faced a number of “doomsday scenarios” including the “ultimate tragedy” of humanity gradually “choked, drowned, or starved by its own stupidity.” …

    Testify!

    reCaptcha: Grp Emanuel

  45. 145
    David B. Benson says:

    Temperatures since 1850, done as 5 year averages, except the last point is just the average of 2005, 2006 & 2007, from HadCRUTv3 global surface temperatures product:

    http://tamino.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/5yrave.jpg

    Eyeball a straightline trend through the data; this is the centennial scale secular trend; it is due (primarily) to global warming trace gases in the atmosphere. Clearly there are various wobbles above and below this trend line; some is due to the solar cycle, some to ocean oscillations and other internal climate variations on the decadal scale; some is thought to be due to aerosols.

    Note the last two data points: the last is above the second to last, but this is fairly meaningless in the face of all the decadal scale variations going on.

    With regard to global surface temperatures for 2008, there was la Nina and also we are experiencing a protracted solar minimum. Despite that, it was the tenth warmest year out of 159 (GISTEMP).

    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A2.lrg.gif

    Given that it was a solar near-minimum year, the expectation, without global warming, would be that it ought to be in the lowest half of the record, less than about 65th warmest, not near the top.

    Lastly, looking again at the graphs, one ought to be able to understand why 30+ years is used to establish statistically significant trends in global surface temperatures.

  46. 146
    Tim McDeottrm says:

    Burgy:

    From the third paragraph of the Max Plank Institute for Metereology’s press release on this study, which was published in Nature May ’08

    “Just to make things clear: we are not stating that anthropogenic climate change won’t be as bad as previously thought”, explains Prof. Mojib Latif from IFM-GEOMAR. “What we are saying is that on top of the warming trend there is a long-periodic oscillation that will probably lead to a to a lower temperature increase than we would expect from the current trend during the next years”, adds Latif. “That is like driving from the coast to a mountainous area and crossing some hills and valleys before you reach the top”, explains Dr. Johann Jungclaus from the MPI-M. “In some years trends of the two phenomena, the anthropogenic climate change and the natural decadal variation will add leading to a much stronger temperature rise.”

    The old superposition principal. This is a good example of the deniers twisting things to try to score points.

    For those who have been following along, this is the Keenlyside paper that got reviewed here last year.

  47. 147

    Now I will make my own comments on that article, xxxx. No — I don’t think RealClimate has had any replies yet. My replies in CAPS.

    ————————————————————
    HEAT OF THE MOMENT
    Shocker: ‘Global warming’ simply no longer happening
    Temperatures dropping, fewer hurricanes, arctic ice growing, polar bear population up

    ————————————————————–
    Posted: March 22, 2009 9:56 pm Eastern © 2009 WorldNetDaily

    WASHINGTON – This may come as bad news for Al Gore.
    The modest global warming trend has stopped – maybe even reversed itself. And it’s not just the record low temperatures experienced in much of the world this winter.

    THREE CLAIMS HERE. NO CITATIONS. TYPICAL OF WHAT I SEE ELSEWHERE.

    For at least the last five years, global temperatures have been falling, according to tracking performed by Roy Spencer, the climatologist formerly of NASA.

    NO CITATION

    “Global warming” was going to bring more and more horrific hurricanes, climate change scientists and the politicians who subscribed to their theories said. But since 2005, only one major hurricane has struck North America.

    MORE STORMS WAS ONE “POSSIBLE” EFFECT OF GW. NOT ALL AGW ADVOCATES SUPPORTED IT, THEN OR NOW.

    No need to get overheated. Read “Global Warming or Global Governance? What the media refuse to tell you about so-called climate change” for just $4.95 today!

    WHAT “THE MEDIA REFUSE TO TELL YOU” IS A RED HERRING PHRASE. IT IS USED MOSTLY BY RUSH LIMBAUGH DITTOHEADS. IT IS MEANINGLESS.

    A new study by Florida State University researcher Ryan Maue shows worldwide cyclone activity – typhoons, as well as hurricanes – has reached at least a 30-year low.

    SEE COMMENT ABOVE. AGAIN, NO CITATION.

    Two more studies – one by the Leibniz Institute of Marine Science and the Max Planck Institute of Meteorology in Germany and another by the University of Wisconsin – predict a slowing, or even a reversal of warming, for at least the next 10 to 20 years.

    I QUIT LOOKING FOR CITATIONS AFTER COMING UP DRY ON THE FIRST THREE. LIFE IS TOO SHORT.

    The Arctic sea ice has grown more on a percentage basis this winter than it has since 1979.

    BUT WHAT IS THE TREND OVER THE YEARS. IS “WINTER” THE BEST TIME TO MEASURE THIS? I SUSPECT NOT.

    The number of polar bears has risen 25 percent in the past decade. There are 15,000 of them in the Arctic now, where 10 years ago there were 12,000.

    I KNOW GORE MADE A POLAR BEAR ARGUMENT. HE MAY WELL HAVE BEEN WRONG — AT BEST HE WAS AHEAD OF WHAT THE SCIENCE WAS SAYING. AFAIK, THE IPCC HAS NOT ADDRESSED THAT ISSUE.

    “The most recent global warming that began in 1977 is over, and the Earth has entered a new phase of global cooling,” says Don
    Easterbrook, professor of geology at Western Washington University in Bellingham, confidently. He maintains a switch in Pacific Ocean currents “assures about three decades of global cooling. New solar data showing unusual absence of sun spots and changes in the sun’s magnetic field suggest … the present episode of global cooling may be more severe than the cooling of 1945 to 1977.”

    PROFESSORS MAY SAY ANYTHING. CERTAINLY, A NUMBER HAVE ARGUED AGAINST AGW. IS THIS A PEER-REVIEWED PAPER? DOES IT HAVE ANY CREDIBILITY?

    Climatologist Joe D’Aleo of the International Climate and
    Environmental Change Assessment Project, says new data “show that in five of the last seven decades since World War II, including this one, global temperatures have cooled while carbon dioxide has continued to rise.” “The data suggest cooling not warming in Earth’s future,” he says.

    NO CITATION AGAIN. WHY SHOULD I TAKE IT SERIOUSLY?

    ——————————————————–

    Once again, I ask you and others to take your arguments to
    RealClimate.org. Or find another venue where the guys who do this stuff for a living hang out. Do your homework first; at least look for a citation.

  48. 148
    Anne van der Bom says:

    Jim, 26 mars 2009 at 3:18 PM

    95,000 m³ sounds like a lot until you calculate the water use of the 100,000 or so households that this solar plant is going to provide for. That will be well over 10 million m³

  49. 149
    dhogaza says:

    Hank Roberts

    Oh, as a postscript, John — if you’ll ask your friend for _his_ sources for these frequently asserted claims, that will help. Most likely he’s just copypasting out of one of the dozens of echo sites hosted by people who don’t understand the stuff but simply post it and soak up people’s time. If you can track the source back to wherever they originate, it simplifies responding.

    A little googling shows that #3 and #4 appeared verbatim at World Net Daily (I found it quoted, complete with “copyright world net daily”, elsewhere).

  50. 150
    dhogaza says:

    Oh, I didn’t look hard enough – #1 and #2 also came from the same World Nut Daily article, all four listed in that precise order.

    So now we know that Burgy’s friend either reads World Nut Daily, or the blog of someone who’s a devotee of this authoritative source.

    Burgy … for many of us, “published in World Nut Daily” is a near-ironclad rebuttal in itself.


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