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Groundhog day

Filed under: — gavin @ 7 June 2009

Alert readers will have noticed the fewer-than-normal postings over the last couple of weeks. This is related mostly to pressures associated with real work (remember that we do have day jobs). In my case, it is because of the preparations for the next IPCC assessment and the need for our group to have a functioning and reasonably realistic climate model with which to start the new round of simulations. These all need to be up and running very quickly if we are going to make the early 2010 deadlines.

But, to be frank, there has been another reason. When we started this blog, there was a lot of ground to cover – how climate models worked, the difference between short term noise and long term signal, how the carbon cycle worked, connections between climate change and air quality, aerosol effects, the relevance of paleo-climate, the nature of rapid climate change etc. These things were/are fun to talk about and it was/is easy for us to share our enthusiasm for the science and, more importantly, the scientific process.

However, recently there has been more of a sense that the issues being discussed (in the media or online) have a bit of a groundhog day quality to them. The same nonsense, the same logical fallacies, the same confusions – all seem to be endlessly repeated. The same strawmen are being constructed and demolished as if they were part of a make-work scheme for the building industry attached to the stimulus proposal. Indeed, the enthusiastic recycling of talking points long thought to have been dead and buried has been given a huge boost by the publication of a new book by Ian Plimer who seems to have been collecting them for years. Given the number of simply madeup ‘facts’ in that tome, one soon realises that the concept of an objective reality against which one should measure claims and judge arguments is not something that is universally shared. This is troubling – and although there is certainly a role for some to point out the incoherence of such arguments (which in that case Tim Lambert and Ian Enting are doing very well), it isn’t something that requires much in the way of physical understanding or scientific background. (As an aside this is a good video description of the now-classic Dunning and Kruger papers on how the people who are most wrong are the least able to perceive it).

The Onion had a great piece last week that encapsulates the trajectory of these discussions very well. This will of course be familiar to anyone who has followed a comment thread too far into the weeds, and is one of the main reasons why people with actual, constructive things to add to a discourse get discouraged from wading into wikipedia, blogs or the media. One has to hope that there is the possibility of progress before one engages.

However there is still cause to engage – not out of the hope that the people who make idiotic statements can be educated – but because bystanders deserve to know where better information can be found. Still, it can sometimes be hard to find the enthusiasm. A case in point is a 100+ comment thread criticising my recent book in which it was clear that not a single critic had read a word of it (you can find the thread easily enough if you need to – it’s too stupid to link to). Not only had no-one read it, none of the commenters even seemed to think they needed to – most found it easier to imagine what was contained within and criticise that instead. It is vaguely amusing in a somewhat uncomfortable way.

Communicating with people who won’t open the book, read the blog post or watch the program because they already ‘know’ what must be in it, is tough and probably not worth one’s time. But communication in general is worthwhile and finding ways to get even a few people to turn the page and allow themselves to be engaged by what is actually a fantastic human and scientific story, is something worth a lot of our time.

Along those lines, Randy Olson (a scientist-turned-filmmaker-and-author) has a new book coming out called “Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style” which could potentially be a useful addition to that discussion. There is a nice post over at Chris Mooney’s blog here, though read Bob Grumbine’s comments as well. (For those of you unfamiliar the Bob’s name, he was one of the stalwarts of the Usenet sci.environment discussions back in the ‘old’ days, along with Michael Tobis, Eli Rabett and our own William Connolley. He too has his own blog now).

All of this is really just an introduction to these questions: What is it that you feel needs more explaining? What interesting bits of the science would you like to know more about? Is there really anything new under the contrarian sun that needs addressing? Let us know in the comments and we’ll take a look. Thanks.

1,071 Responses to “Groundhog day”

  1. 101
    Ray Ladbury says:

    One of the perpetual memes in the denialosphere is, “The models don’t work.” This gets repeated by both idiots and even by scientists who ought to know better. Unfortunately, since science is a process concerned with perpetual improvement, scientists tend to feed this meme by concentrating on how the models can be improved. It would be nice to have a post on what the models specifically get right, where they need to do better and what the consequences are for global and regional and short-term and long-term prognostication.

    It would provide a nice snapshot of where we stand as well as one-stop shopping to refute the models-don’t-work argument.

  2. 102
    DavidCOG says:

    I’d like to see one article, regularly updated, that lays out the effects so far, and the effects of ‘business as usual’ carbon pollution in the next 10, 20, 50, 100 years.

    RC has real authority, please use that to provide a layman’s guide to the catastrophe we are facing.

  3. 103
    bobberger says:

    Under “About” on this website it says:

    “RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science.”

    Whether that still holds true is probably a matter of interpretation. What I’d really like to see here, is exactly that “quick response to developing stories”. For example, “On Overfitting” was usefull, interesting and informative to follow because it more or less immediately responded to Ryan O’s and Jeff ID’s posts on their own and related blogs. Unfortunately it was closed down very early in the discussion, although I can see why it was necessary at this stage. What I believe could become an equally interesting subject is Anthony Watts’ work on the surface stations. You can of course deal with it once an analysis is published but if the purpose of this blog really is to respond to developing stories, then this may be the right time to comment on whether or how the surface temperature record takes Watts’ findings into acount and especially what parts of the current science really rests on the shoulders of that record. It already is somewhat past “developing” in the media.
    I realise this, too, is part of the groundhog day – but that’s just life, isn’t it? Deja vu over and over again with slight variations until, one day, it suddenly leaps out of the loop (if only to jump right into the next one ;) )

  4. 104
    rlasker says:

    I am becoming more and more convinced that we will ultimately do nothing to prevent climate change. Even as we speak congress is stripping Obama’s energy plan of any real power to induce change and I would not be surprised if he comes out and praises the legislation if it passes without teeth.

    The fact is that people do not WANT to believe that they are harming the environment and will cling to any argument that is presented absolving them of having to change their consumption lifestyle. There are many people who I believe to be very smart individuals with degrees in engineering and such that are completely convinced that climate change is a hoax.

    Al Gore may have ultimately hurt his cause by firing up the political aspect of the debate and specifically aligning the issue as left and right.

    For every there are dozens of type sites. The denialists have a very powerful ally on their hands and that is human greed.

  5. 105
    Nick O. says:

    Just some general comments.

    I think RC is a great site and this is much to the credit of both those who run it and many of those who contribute to it. However, it seems to me that we can never reach an ‘end’ point with RC and similar blogs, unless those who engage in the blog, whatever their initial standpoint, are prepared to accept that their views may be changed by so doing. In other words, users of this and similar sites should do so whilst accepting the possibility that they may have to change their minds on an issue at some point. The snag then is that many of the more persistent (vexatious?) critics of RC and similar sites do not want to use the site on that basis, rather they think they know the answers, and that RC is therefore ‘wrong’; the process at the blog level is then made inevitably attritional, requiring frequent going over of old ground. Part of the difficulty is that the older material must be repeated in order to maintain the engagement of new visitors to the site, so they can see that what look like to them to be interesting questions are being dealt with fairly by those running the blog. For the bloggers who have seen the material covered before and know it well, the repitition may be a cause of irritation, but we have to be patient; likewise, for Gavin and others, to have to keep repeating it must be very wearing, but again, I think, there is probably not much choice if engagement of new readers/RC users is still to be encouraged.

    Keep up the good work, guys!

  6. 106

    53 Pete Best: Read “The Vanishing Face of Gaia” by James Lovelock. James Lovelock has ideas that are unpopular among some scientists, but he is famous and among the smartest. There is no reason to suppose that the climate is linear just because the climate models are linear. It is the climate models that lack the non-linearities that nobody knows how to model. We definitely DO NOT have all the time you think we have. Dr. Lovelock has identified a 9 degree lurch in the temperature that happens at 450 ppm equivalent. We are now at 430 ppm equivalent. It isn’t the temperature that kills. It is starvation caused by the fact that a fraction of a degree change can move the rain, causing agriculture to collapse suddenly. Agriculture has already collapsed in Australia. See:

    We have already passed 3 tipping points, natural positive feedback is already happening.

  7. 107
    Patrick 027 says:

    I’d like to see posts on Rossby waves and gravity waves and how climate change affects wave-mean interaction patterns and associated internal variability.

  8. 108
    CM says:

    MikeG (#70) reminded me of another topic it would be cool to see you discuss from your inside perspective, namely the workings of the IPCC, the strengths and weaknesses of the process, and especially what influence governments exercise on the final shape of the reports (and with what net bias…).

    Attacks on the credibility of the IPCC constitute one set of popular anti-AGW talking points I can’t remember that you have addressed.

    I know, you are natural scientists and participants in the process, not sociologists of science; and a lot of what goes around (conspiracy theories, vicious personal attacks) is hardly worth dignifying with a rebuttal. But still…

  9. 109
    MarkusR says:

    It’s the same thing that made ID debates stale. Same old, same old.
    But I just started to consider you average school teacher. They have groundhog days every semester, teaching the student the exact same stuff they did the previous year. This stuff is routine and those of you who have a good grasp on the subjects (I hardly do) have my encouragement to keep up the good work.

    Maybe you can keep it fresh the same way textbook writers do: keep improving the method by which to teach the knowledge.

  10. 110
    Mark Stewart says:

    Gavin –

    I know the feeling, and it is frustrating and perplexing. I have thought a lot about it, and I have decided that we (scientists) are partly responsible. People do not choose their professions, interests and beliefs by accident. They choose them based on the way they assimilate and use information. We became scientists because we believe in rationality, that objective data examined critically can lead us to correct conclusions. We extend that to our life view and mistakenly believe that everyone thinks that way. As a college prof who teaches oceanography and climate change to large masses of non-science majors, I assure you that many (most?) non-scientists do not form opinions based on objective data. Our rational, linear, here is the science, here are the data approach does not work with many people. Many people choose their opinions based on their fundemental, underlying beliefs. Try teaching physics to beginning college students. They already ‘know’ how the world works (Superman can swoop up and catch Lois Lane falling at terminal velocity and not turn her into pulp), and showing them that it doesn’t work that way only influences their response to test questions, not their underlying beliefs. Climate change science suffers from the same handicap. Climate change deniers give people and politicians the answers they want, and despite Real Climate’s excellent effors, most well-educated citizens of the World are not well educated in science and math, so they do not have the intellectual resources to select the kernals of objective truth from the deliberately deceptive chaff.

    We need to link up with people who do know how to communicate and persuade, the political consultants, moviemakers, behavioral psychologists. Although it is difficult for us to accept, as scientists we are really only effective at communicating with other scientists. We need to feed the gory details to those who can package the science in a more socially persuasive way. We need to get past the scientific embarassment of admitting that some of us are worried about the collapse of our technological and democratic societies if we don’t get started on ameliorating the very significant climate change we are already in for. Our resources are now so difficult and expensive to extract and use (we used the easy to get stuff long ago), that if we were to lose our technological abilities even briefly, we would rebuild them only with great difficulty, if ever.

    Real Climate is my favorite blog. It is like Scientific American for climate change. It is “Real”, not opinion or distortion. You guys are doing a great job and a great service. The early posts that explained the basic physics and science of climate change are excellent. Future posts should follow the same explanatory path as new information becomes available, like the new temperature increase probabilities from the MIT model, the reasons for the high latitude anomalies, potential feedbacks, both positive and negative, the differences between decadal variations like the PDO and AMO and long-term change. Don’t waste too much time chasing deniers. It is too much like that game at the arcade where you try to whack gophers popping out of holes.

  11. 111
    pete best says:

    Re #107, Again RC has stated several times here that OVERALL we are at around 390 ppmv total forcing due to the nature of the forcings and the cooling agents. Maybe RC could fill us in here. I am sure that Lovelock is not correct. The paleoclimatic data does not show a large scale ocean temperature swing in Hansens work.

    I understand that people wish to talk about the danger of positive feedbacks and sudden huge non linear responses but the paleoclimatic records going back 150 million years before the formation of antarctica does not demonstrate this or does not appear to.

    i could be wrong however but RC has spoken of such things here and their stance is the valid one.

  12. 112
    John Mashey says:


    1) The movie is a fine analogy, but the crux of the film was Bill Murray’s eventual *changing* response to his endless predicament. That film was *not* “WAITING FOR GrOunDhOg day To end”.

    2) If one is faced with endless repetition of anti-science memes, one can:

    – Whack each one as they come (individualized whack-a-mole or groundhog)
    – Build up a good database of answers over time, and simply refer back to it.

    I think the latter is far better, especially for onlookers, as it not only answers the question, but makes *clear* that this is such standard dis/misinformation that it’s been debunked long before.

    The RC Wiki does this somewhat, as does Coby Beck’s, but I make most frequent use of John Cook’s Skeptical Science, because his organization works especially well for me:

    a) It starts with a single dense page listing most of the common arguments. All by itself, this dense enumeration gives a powerful message to onlookers, and invites futher perusal after the immediate issue is studied.

    b) It has short, persistent identifiers [code words at right]. The numbers aren’t necessarily persistent, and I wish they were, but I understand why John doesn’t do that (we’ve discussed it).

    Having some form of short, persistent identifier is *really* important, in particular for people who want to counter silly letters-to-editors, or posts at character-count-constrained forums/blogs. We all know it is easier to create confusion than clarity with limited word count. I think there is at least a 10X ratio of words required, maybe more, plus fact that LtEs don’t have graphs. It really helps to be able to say:

    “These are all long-debunked errors. See (website), items 1 [sun], 2 [change].”

    For example, Shadow thread idea, or perhaps subthreads, or something, to keep main threads denser with serious discussion.

    Good discussions can be well worth pointing people at later … but some get so bogged down that I’d never send people there. It would just be too painful.


    RCers should not waste time doing what others can now easily do as well. Providing good context for the latest science is especially valuable, and is something that is hard for the rest of us to do. For example, in my default expertise-scale, professionals (say 7-10 range):

    a) Read the published literature in Science or Nature.
    [I can do that too: I get Science, and occasionally buy Nature.]

    b) Read the published literature in Geophysical Research Letters, Quaternary Research, etc. Attend AGU meetings, etc.
    [Well, I could do that, and I even joined AGU for a while, but in practice, one has to be really dedicated, and this is nontrivial. The specialized professional literature in any discipline just isn’t structured for interested laypeople, no matter how technically skilled.]

    c) Know what’s *really* going on, what people are trying that didn’t work, or wasn’t quite significant, or whether some paper is really indicating an inflection point in a trend, or just noise. Published papers inherently have to lag. Credibly being able to say “Don’t get too carried away with this result” is useful all by itself.

    [I get some because I bicycle down to Stanford and talk to people, but not everyone is geographically-placed to do that easily.] From my own experience in computing, I *know* that the top active professionals in any field simply know a lot that isn’t in the accessible literature. When I was helping sell supercomputers (to climate modelers & others), I spent a lot of time in discussions of the form “We know this science, we don’t know that. We have this data, we don’t have that. With our current compute power, certain time/space resolutions are practical. Better resolution will help with these problems, but won’t help with those, where the limiters are data or science… but when can we get a TB of main memory cheap?” :-) ]

    I’d certainly love an up-to-date post on that overall topic, as those were stimulating discussions.

    SO: I’d hope RCers would reflect on the questions:

    what sorts of value-add and context are difficult for anyone but active professionals to provide? of that, which makes sense to provide?

  13. 113
    pete best says:

    Re #100, 2 ppmv per annum so its a fair few decades off is doom, around 2100 and beyond. Remember the charney limit, 550 ppm CO2 for a 3C temp rise which coube be 6C for the new earth sensitivity that James Hansen speaks of. Maybe in the next IPCC report of 2012 (watered down of course).

  14. 114
    pete best says:

    Re #91, Oh right, I must be reading to much George Monbiot and Caroline Lucas over at the Guardian then for its spelt out many times especially the recent row Goegr had with the other green girl whose name eludes me but she ran for London major the last time around when George and MarK Lynas were in favour of it.

    Everyone in FOTE and GP went mental.

  15. 115
    Zane Selvans says:

    The Groundhog Day feeling can be incredibly depressing. I guess I’ve finally come to believe that the task at hand is not to effectively communicate the nature of the scientific process, the results of that process, or anything too tightly bound to objective reality. The task we have been given, whether we like it or not, is to frame those facts in a way that elicits the personal and policy responses we want. Lots of scientists find this somehow distasteful, but our opponents have no such qualms. If you haven’t already, I recommend talking to Matt Nisbet of Framing Science:

  16. 116
    Bob Cousins says:

    “Given the number of simply made-up ‘facts’ in that tome, one soon realises that the concept of an objective reality against which one should measure claims and judge arguments is not something that is universally shared”

    Well, it’s been like that for thousands of years. I guess there is a tiny minority who think rationally and assume that every else does. It’s a bit of a shock to meet someone who believes for example that man and dinosaurs lived at the same time. Unfortunately, the vast majority are like that, and simply presenting the facts and hoping they will “get it” doesn’t work.

    The lesson of Dunning and Kruger is that only substantial improvement in competence allows people to assess their competence correctly. Since the vast majority of kids leave school with a tiny knowledge of science, this leaves us pretty much doomed, if we are relying on these people to get behind the science and change their lifestyles.

    The only real likelihood of change is when AGW starts hitting people in their pocket books. By then it will be far too late.

  17. 117
    Adam says:

    More WGII oriented stuff, please. Even the tentative stuff, what’s tentative, why it’s tentative, etc…. I’m sure there must be guest writers itching to discuss this stuff?

    A little more specific than…
    Captcha: threaded any

  18. 118
    MS says:

    Please keep up the very good work at RC. I really enjoy to come here for the scientific arguments.
    Also comming to this site is a very good comfort after having read too many stupid denialist arguments. Here you really get to see that a lot of good people are working hard to inform the world about this very serious issue.

    I find it important that the next generations have a proper scientifically based education on climate topics. If you could start a thread for collecting good online material ( eg. highschool level) I think that would be very helpful.

  19. 119
    wmanny says:

    Ray (101),

    One of the perpetual memes in the denialosphere is, “The models don’t work.” That may well be, but I would suggest focusing a summary more in the Freeman Dyson direction, that is to say that skeptics claim, “The models don’t PREDICT.” Dyson discusses Manabe’s old claim that they help us understand more than they help us predict in a good follow-up to NYT’s Dyson article at:

    I assume you believe that claim to be out of date, if it was accurate to begin with!


  20. 120
    David B. Benson says:

    Gavin — I have three suggestions.

    (1) Clouds. I’ve never studied any meteorolgy and other than thundery showers, can’t tell one cloud type from another. I recently read (in Spring 2009 issue of Engineering & Science) “… MLS and AIRS observations show an increase of cirrus clouds and water vapor over warm oceans, indicating that cloud and water-vapor feedbacks amplify global warming.” (Prof. Paul Dimotakis) Not knowing what cirrus clouds were, I went to
    which includes “It has not yet been determined whether the net effect of cirrus clouds is to warm or cool the earth.” But contrails are cirrus clouds and the few days following 2001 Sep 11 demonstrated cooling with contrail absence I believe. Now what I recall your replying, several times, was to the effect that low clouds –> cooling, high clouds –> heating but having all this wrapped up in one thread would help me and at least one other requester here.

    (2) Basic physical oceanography. Now I’ve read Carl Wunsch’s excellant on-line lecture notes so I think I understand the Gulf Stream. But attempting to understand how the Circumpolar Vortex lifts bottom water in the Southern Ocean appears to be beyond me to work out for myself.

    (3) What Ray Ladbury worte in comment #101. I know there are already several threads which consider some of the issues, but this remains a favorite talking point by contrarians.

    Michael McGee (33) — In my somewhat informed opinion, in the long term nothing above 300 ppm CO2e is fully safe. My reasoning is based on some observationsof glaciers and ice sheets. Glaciers stopped advancing in the Alps in 1850 CE at around 288 ppm CO2. The last remnants of the Laurentide Ice Sheet on the continent melted in the 1930s and 1940s with CO2 at about 310 ppm. The glaciers in the Alps were in retreat in the 1950s with CO2 around 315 ppm. I am under the impression that GIS began melting around then.

    [reCPATCHA agrees, entoning “nonnegligent sizzles”.]

  21. 121
    Patrick 027 says:

    … and more information on atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns in general …

  22. 122
    RichardC says:

    36 Lynn, runaway is not a reasonable outcome. The cure is too easy – artillery shells can loft sulphur high enough to do the trick. The problem is rainfall. There are three temperature zones which shuttle moisture and heat between them – hot, warm, and frozen. What happens when there is no longer a frozen bit at the top of the planet? Rains move north, FAR north. Distance divided by 2 instead of 3. (Obviously, results vary — too widely to be a good thing)

    The Arctic ocean basin is going to get flooded and everywhere mankind lives will get shortchanged. Adding all that fresh water to the Arctic Ocean will lead to a lake-type freeze-up. The top meters of ocean are so fresh that they’ll freeze over a warmer salty ocean below. This helps insulate the water, ensuring that it is good and warm for spring’s next melt.

    We’ve lost the Arctic and the Methane Wars, but we’ll spew enough sulphur into the air to prevent runaway warming. How much we need to spew depends on decisions we take over the next five years or so.

  23. 123
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walter Manny,
    Of course models do not by themselves make predictions. Rather, the way models change in response to changes in forcing, etc. illuminates the dynamics, which in turn allows us to predict future behavior. This is true whether the subject of the model is Earth’s climate or a MOSFET.
    Each model run represents one possible realization of the path the climate can take. In that sense, it is a bit like the ensembles of stat mech. No one system in the ensembles represents reality. Together, though, they come arbitrarily close.

  24. 124
    barry says:

    I too would like to see more reports from the cutting edge and agree that the debunking work should come a distant second or third now that a big list of that effort is compiled here (as well as a few other sites, like Coby’s).

    I’m thinking of the ‘new inspiring myth’ that Brian Eno was looking for when he convened the climate conference at the Sydney Opera House a few days ago. Perhaps it could become a story of enquiry and (technological) development more than doom and gloom.

    recaptcha might be trying to offer some hope, or maybe not: ‘washington sturdily’

  25. 125
    Eliot Walter says:

    I found Real Climate while searching for data on rainfall during the last warming period in the Ohio valley (USA)- this I could not find, but I found you. Keep up the good work.
    None of the words at Real Climate are needlessThis is the time to step up pressure, though it may be too late as the tundra thaws, thawing ‘frozen’ methane, the gigatonnes of locked carbon released, loss of that shiny white snow cover, etc.

  26. 126
    steve says:

    Well I for one have appreciated the perspective from the scientists here at RealClimate. I also appreciate the times when I have been shown to be wrong since the only thing I hate worse then being wrong is being ignorant. I don’t know if it really matters much if you continue the debate over what may happen now or not. The primary arguments against co2 driven climate as I understand them are solar and ocean cycle driven climate. With a cooling PDO and a probable weak solar cycle coming up I would expect that many of the arguments will be settled by the climate itself. Those of us not sure who is correct are patiently waiting for it to give us the answer. Thanks for the conversations. I have found the vast majority of you quite likable ladies and gentlemen.

  27. 127
    lowiqguy says:

    I think you need to stop preaching to the choir. just read the comments on this thread. Not eveybody is ready to drink the purple cool-aid. You do yourselves no favours with this constant “denailist” nonsence. No doubt such people/sites exist, but that is their problem, the folks I follow are saying simply this, “we don`t know what the climate is doing, but guys, your math does not say what you say it does”

  28. 128
    Mike G says:

    JBL (79)- Thanks, but I wasn’t asking the questions for my benefit. I’m a working marine biologist, so I’m personally well versed in the NSF granting process. It was actually the string of comments that you linked to that made me think the issue deserved more prominent treatment given the prominence of the argument. Clearly, many people on both sides of this argument, including many on this site, don’t understand what’s involved in securing and completing a grant.

    Mark (74)- Once again, I find myself asking what exactly are you trying to argue? I rarely post here, largely because of a few mental masturbators such as yourself who seem intent on showing why everyone else is wrong rather than having a two-way discussion. Last time I posted you spent multiple posts telling me that I was wrong about my own area of expertise until I ultimately gave up in frustration. Now you make a lengthy post that doesn’t give me the impression you even read what I said before you started trying to dispute it.

    I know that the “they’re in it for the funding” meme is convincing to many people who don’t understand the funding process because I talk to them. I’ve personally been accused of trying to drum up alarmism for ocean acidification for my own job security many a time. However, I have yet to find one accuser who can explain the granting process to me (and how that relates to my take-home pay)- because most people aren’t familiar with it. When some denialist, especially one with some credentials, tells them the process is all a big political circle jerk, it is a convincing argument to a lot of people because it’s a completely foreign process to them. They don’t understand what’s ridiculous about that claim.

    Your long explanation of how going along with the consensus DOES NOT secure funding is unnecessary since A) I already understand why this is silly because I understand how scientific funding works and B) I already made the same points in my own post.

  29. 129
    dhogaza says:

    The primary arguments against co2 driven climate as I understand them are solar and ocean cycle driven climate.

    No. CO2 forcing is a physical (as in “physics” as in “why the brakes on your car work” or “why you need a parachute if you jump out of an airplane [that’s not parked on the ground]”.

    Climate science (obviously) incorporates “solar” (as you put it, hopefully meaning “those solar things that have been measured over the last five decades” as opposed to “sky fairy effects that we can’t measure”).

    I would expect that many of the arguments will be settled by the climate itself.

    No, these arguments are rejected at the first order because they don’t explain why the solid physics of CO2 absorption of LW IR magically has ceased recently.

    And many other things, but go chew on this statement and come back when you understand it.

  30. 130
    dhogaza says:

    Those of us not sure who is correct are patiently waiting for it to give us the answer.

    Why would you expect scientists to be wrong when 99% of the opposition comes from untrained, statistically and scientifically illiterate, self-proclaimed right-wing asshole?

    Why are you unsure?

    (beating my head against the floor)

    Meanwhile, I’ve got a 5,999 year 364 day old fossil to sell you. It’s priceless, because clearly it’s the oldest fossil (buried personally by God for your pleasure), and screw all those scientists who say (can’t believe this!) that the earth is more than 6000 years old.

    Of course, there are xtians on the fence, waiting, as you suggest for

    Those of us not sure who is correct are patiently waiting for it to give us the answer.

    “It”, as firmly as the debunking of the YEC view. being provided by basic climate science.

    Meanwhile, go buy some science texts…

  31. 131
    Anne Davenport says:

    Perhaps I’ve missed it, but I’ve been trying to piece together a chronology of the development of climate change. A ‘history’ like that makes a lot of things clearer to an audience.

    At one time climate change was just a hypothesis attached to some interesting factoids about increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But over time, more data was collected, models were built based on different hypotheses about what was causing it and what would happen because of it. Eventually, over decades now, the models based on human-caused atmospheric changes have best predicted what is happening today. And models based on other causes haven’t.

    A timeline of when these models were tested and what data was collected (with references to publications) would be like a trail of breadcrumbs though all the competing ideas about what is going on and why to the conclusions we have about climate change today.

    [Response: Check out Spencer Weart’s “The Discovery of Global Warming” available here and in bookstores. – gavin]

  32. 132
    sidd says:

    “how the Circumpolar Vortex lifts bottom water in the Southern Ocean ”

    I think this is a Coriolis effect ? (minus) omega cross v is upward for Antarctic Circumpolar current ?

    but perhaps i have my cross products wrong…

  33. 133
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #122, I don’t think we’re going to spew sulfur into the atmosphere and create MORE acid rain to kill lakes, soil, tree, monuments, and lungs. That’s not even a possible solution, since the sulfur only lasts a few days or weeks in the atmosphere, while methane lasts about 10 years (before it decomposes into CO2 & whatever), and a portion of CO2 can last up to 100,000 years, acc to David Archer ( see: )

    In answer to #40 the contrarians are so right about CO2 lagging the warming. But just bec warming can lead to higher CO2 (from melting permafrost & ocean hydrates, dessicating plants & soil, more wildfires, etc), does not in any way disprove that CO2 causes warming. So both positions are correct: CO2 (and other GHGs) cause warming, AND warming causing higher CO2, which causes higher warming, which causes higher CO2, which causes higher warming, and where we end up nobody knows.

    That’s one thing I think might be wrong with the model (not sure), they only have CO2 as an input, but not also as a response to the warming….

    So we have to heartily thank the contrarians for pointing out just how very very dangerous global warming (caused by us this time) is, and we need to mitigate it all the more, slash our emissions way way down…..

    Thanks, contrarians, wherever you are! And let’s hop to it with alt energy and total conservation/efficiency of enegery/resources.

  34. 134
    Will Greene says:

    Could you please address the “Inhofe” 650 scientists who are dissenting the scientific consensus at the UN? How are so many well educated scientists fighting climate action? Thank you for everything you do Gavin.

  35. 135
    PeteB says:

    Thanks for a great blog,

    One thing I found slightly interesting was

    which seemed to suggest that ‘peak fossil fuels’ may limit global warming (not that I’m comfortable with the potential prospect of 600 ppm !)

    Any comments ?

  36. 136
    Neal J. King says:

    Something I have been trying to pin down, so far unsuccessfully: Where can I find the explicit calculation that a doubling in atmospheric CO2 concentration leads to a 3.7 W/m^2 increase in radiative forcing?

    [Response: It comes from estimates using line-by-line radiative transfer models as discussed in Myhre et al (1998; 2001) and Collins et al (2006). There is some sensitivity to uncertainties in the global cloud and water vapour distribution (+/- 10%). – gavin]

  37. 137

    steve #126:

    Those of us not sure who is correct are patiently waiting for it to give us the answer.

    Steve, you must have had a very protected upbringing :-) Do you really, seriously believe that the selectively credulous who have no difficulty explaining the past decades of man-made global warming, and the body of theory describing it, away, would have any difficulty doing the same with future decades?

  38. 138
    Mark says:

    “That’s one thing I think might be wrong with the model (not sure), they only have CO2 as an input, but not also as a response to the warming….”

    That’s because the output of CO2 naturally effervescing is (from past records) about 800 years.

    That’s the lag seen between warming causing more CO2 and the CO2 being noticeable.

  39. 139
    Mark says:

    “Mark (74)- Once again, I find myself asking what exactly are you trying to argue? … seem intent on showing why everyone else is wrong rather than having a two-way discussion.”

    Well I am intent on showing why people are wrong when they are wrong.

    What else should I do? Tell them they are wrong and not say why or how?

    You may be educated in many things, but you haven’t shown much evidence of being an expert, really.

    And if you can’t understand the argument, why should I waste time with you? You’d rather call me names than think.

    And the argument is that “it being a black box” makes “there’s a huge conspiracy” is wrong. The reasons for which I have given a few examples of which you “expertly” don’t understand.

  40. 140
    Sekerob says:

    Mark, you may not be that educated, but it does not stop you from starting or resuming that. As first informational for you on GHG’s and CO2 particular a link to, oh heck, a wiki article on Svante August Arrhenius…

    CO2 has risen to 389.47 ppmv in April from 280 when Arrhenius lived. We’re reaching the period of the year where it will even go down a bit, because of the growth season on the NH. The less there grows, the lesser that periodic temporary slowdown effect… and with warming oceans, and they are, it wont get better. Then when permafrost goes and it’s going alright, you’ll hold on to whatever you ‘believe’ for that will be under duress… oh and Arctic sea ice extend hit 2007 record low track, and it’s thin! Yes it is.

  41. 141

    bobberger writes:

    What I believe could become an equally interesting subject is Anthony Watts’ work on the surface stations. You can of course deal with it once an analysis is published but if the purpose of this blog really is to respond to developing stories, then this may be the right time to comment on whether or how the surface temperature record takes Watts’ findings into acount and especially what parts of the current science really rests on the shoulders of that record.

    While we’re at it, why not take a serious and in-depth look at the archaeological theories of Erich von Dakiken, or the astronomy of Immanuel Velikovsky? The first is relevant because of the connection to quickly building large projects; the second because Velikovskians reject the greenhouse effect in the case of Venus, which they maintain is simply cooling down after passing through the sun a few thousand years ago. Either is just as relevant as Anthony Watts’s work. Their “findings” are certainly just as valid.

  42. 142
    steve says:

    dhogaza: Insulting me is not a very convincing argument. You have brought up an interesting point though. I thought the argument was primarily over the climate sensitivity of co2 and you have now corrected me and told me it is over the GHG theory. So what exactly is the argument over dhogaza? Is it over the GHG theory or is it over the hypotheses of climate sensitivity and the wide range of the results from the innumerable hypotheses?

    Martin: I’m sure regardless of what the climate does there will be some that ignore the evidence and hold on to their beliefs. That does not mean that they will find many that will listen to them.

  43. 143

    I want to disagree with everyone who thinks we don’t need to answer repeated contrarian arguments because they’ve already been answered. There are people coming into this debate who haven’t been aware of it before all the time, and they have NOT seen the rebuttals. For the sake of those people, we need to answer it whenever some denialist has temporary media attention. Referring people to web sites summarizing arguments is a good idea, but it’s also a good idea to answer people asking questions in this thread. Some genuinely don’t understand the problem and want to know the answer, but even the trolls might convince lurkers if we let them go unanswered.

    For my own part, I find that I understand issues better the more I have to reply to them, and that doing so repeatedly allows me to refine and revise my replies, and get rid of mistakes I made in earlier versions.

  44. 144
    Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Hello Gavin,

    I do not know if you will “snip” this comment, (it is after all your blog) but I do hope you will read it. I understand your frustration with non-sense comments that come from people (“denialists”) with little or no technical background. Those who have no idea of the underlying physical concepts usually make comments which contribute little or nothing to a constructive dialog. I hope you agree that similar non-sense comments are also made by people with little or no technical experience, but who completely believe what the IPCC predicts. Were climate science not so politically relevant, none of these folks would even be involved.

    That being said, there are a lot of technically trained people who work outside of climatology that I believe do have enough knowledge of the underlying physical concepts to rationally evaluate the quality of published climate research. It appears to me that your moderation policy tends to sometimes silence those who have legitimate doubts.

    [Response: No. What we dissalow is the incessant cut-and-paste drive-buys of trolls, and those whose doubts are anything but ‘legitimate’ and whose analyses are anything but ‘rational’. -mike]

    I was encouraged by Dr. Eric Steig’s blog exchange with several people who had analyzed the methods used his Nature paper on temperature trends in Antarctica. By the time Dr. Steig ended the exchange, the tone of the discussion was much more reasonable and constructive than at the beginning, and it appeared that even Dr. Steig agreed that there were some legitimate concerns raised, although he did not agree these concerns brought into question the results shown in the Nature paper.

    [Response: Please don’t misrepresent Eric. You need to read what he wrote more carefully. He did not indicate that there were any “legitimate concerns raised”. Rather, he explained in some detail how the analyzes described on a certain fringe website were rather seriously flawed, e.g. violating the assumption of independence of the statistical cross-validation by adjusting the model to fit the validation data–a major no no, at least to anyone who understands cross-validation. Eric did note that an objective analysis of quality issues with the satellite data would be worthwhile–but that is hardly what was provided in the attempts to attack Steig et al. We closed off the discussion after the post had achieved its end, i.e. when the attackers conceded that indeed they were unable to in any conceivable way ‘falsify’ the Steig et al ’08 results -mike]

    I hope that in the future you would encourage similar exchanges.

    I have several times before considered making comments on your blog, but have not taken the time to do so, since I have seen the text of several comments “snipped” from you blog that appear to me neither offensive nor nonsensical. Can you offer any guidelines on what types of comments are allowed and what are not?

    [Response: Think of it like a dinner party. Discussion is good, disagreement is ok, but throwing food and insulting the hosts or other guests is not appreciated. – gavin]

  45. 145
    Steve Fitzpatrick says:


    Thanks for the clarification. I never throw food and try my best to avoid making insults (even when insulted), so I will try offering some comments in the future.

  46. 146
    Mark says:

    in 140: “Mark, you may not be that educated, but it does not stop you from starting or resuming that.”

    What does that mean?

  47. 147
    dhogaza says:

    What I believe could become an equally interesting subject is Anthony Watts’ work on the surface stations. You can of course deal with it once an analysis is published

    Until he publishes an analysis there is no “there” there, so why discuss? Do you need a scientist to tell you that a photograph doesn’t

    1. quantify whatever effect a nearby a/c unit might have.

    2. much less “prove” that the algorithms used by GISS to generate a quality product from flawed data doesn’t work.

    If he attempts an analysis I imagine someone will take a look. Tamino, for instance, has shown that Watts is a statistical illiterate in the past.

  48. 148
    dhogaza says:

    Thanks for the clarification. I never throw food

    More advice, if you don’t mind … if you’re invited to a potluck, don’t bring leftovers that have been moldering in your refrigerator for the last eight years and expect people to congratulate you for bringing such tasty fare.

    Stuff like “climate changes all the time” or “CO2 is only a tiny fraction of the atmosphere” or any of the other myriad debunked and recycled “arguments” that flood blogs.

  49. 149

    Gavin — keep up the (very) good work. This site is appreciated. Keep answering the skeptics (but be polite, for you win more with politeness than with sarcasm).

    I see Freeman Dyson, for example, has criticized the climate models recently. I hope the rebuttals are respectful.

    I’m hanging on with my geophysicist friend, but it’s tough.


  50. 150
    Sekerob says:


    As a early adolescent I ate up the Erich von Däniken stuff… until there were the sections where he was proposing phenomena even a kid would roll eyes. Heaps of loose sand or dust, it’s vague, and not the strongest wind moving a grain springs to mind, somewhere Pacific coast South America.