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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. 151
    Chris Dudley says:


    As a reseacher, you present your work perhaps at a conference or two and then in a paper. After that, it belongs to the world and you treat it that way in your further work, referencing it in the same manner you would any other work, not your own. Endless repetition makes no sense.

    A teacher who has a new set of freshman each year must repeat the same information over an over an over again. But, there is great reward because there are new students and new modes of learning all the time.

    In my experience, the best aspects of RC are the responses to questions in the comments on articles. It is clear that some questions have provoked fairly serious thought at times and thus must be a pleasure to encounter.

    I would thus suggest that RC is more like a classroom than a laboratory and you need to recycle your articles over and over, with updates, reaping a new crop of comments each time. If you find yourself referring to an old article a few times, repost it. Eventually, you are going to get all of this honed into a textbook which can become like a scientific paper, out there for reference, but for now, enjoy the process of (re)delivering each lecture to new ears. I’m pretty sure you’ll be getting the gratification of meeting a new climate scientist who was inspired by your blog in the not too distant future, so you have that to look forward to as well.

  2. 152
    counters says:

    Personally, I think the discourse presented in the articles here at RC is spot on target. A few people have suggested delving more in depth with the status of climate modeling (with respect to its successes and current issues), and this is a very good idea. As a student looking towards a career in modeling, I find these topics the most interesting. However, I think a caveat is warranted: if you do choose to pursue the topic of modeling more in depth, it would be much appreciated if you wrote for a technical audience. As other commenters have pointed out, a lot of the accusations levied against climate models by the denial-o-sphere are based on pure fiction and hearsay; those that maintain these arguments are not even interested in the most basic of facts, and I see no constructive reason for engaging them.

    I find it especially amusing to read the laments of “if only we could see the source and run them ourselves!” – particularly because on the first page of a Google search of ‘climate model source code’ you get direct links to the source of the NCAR CCSM3, GISS ModelE, and GFDL CM2.x!

    Keep up the good work!

  3. 153
    pete best says:

    Re #135, PeteB, its such a big question you ask here but so lets start with some numbers. The BP statistical review of oil reserves states that 1.2 trillion barrels of oil presently are known of and at a usage rate of 300 billion barrels per decade that 40 years worth of oil left at present usage rates but until the recession anual growth was around 2% per annum. It might not sound much that a doubling of growth every 35 years which is extremely unlikely due to peak oil. So what is Peak oil? when supply and demand can never again be in equilibrium, well no not really, when the flow of oil is not enough to meet demand?, well yes that more like it and hence our oil infrastructure is creaking and the investment required to keep up with demand is more than likely the main problem.

    Gas and coal can become liquid fuels but these fuels are also stated to peak come 2020 and 2025 but the jury is out on this one. Oils that are not conventional might be useful as they can be either mined and refined or turned into gas. Canadas tar sands are part of that 1.2 trillion barrels of BPs reserves so we need to find more or turn gas and coal into oil in order to continue our soaring demand.

    we could engage in a major efficiency program. The USA uses 20 million barrels per day out of a global demand of 85. The USA uses energy inefficienctly and expects $1 a gallon ooil but those days are limited now and its time for them to engage in AGW talks to half their oil and fossil fuel demand somehow. Their average MPG is only 22 and Europes only 32 so as I am sriving a car that does 40 MPG and diesels can do 50-60 its all possible.

    Whatever the consequences of peak oil AGW is still a issue but peaking fossil fuels is probably the first and foremost problem. Either way coping with AGW means coping with fossil fuel addiction.

  4. 154
    Mike G says:

    Mark wrote- “Well I am intent on showing why people are wrong when they are wrong.”

    That very well may be, but you also seem to argue for the sake of argument, even with people who don’t disagree with you.

    You’re still arguing a point that I never made. Go back and read my posts for comprehension rather than contention you will see that I never claimed that the fact that people aren’t familiar with the granting process is itself an argument for conspiracy. Rather, that lack of familiarity provides an opening for denialists to make an argument for conspiracy- one that is convincing to many people judging by my own personal experience dealing with the public.

    So where am I wrong here? Does the general public understand the funding process and therefore my experience is simply an anomaly? Are denialists not exploiting that lack of familiarity to sow misinformation? Are people not buying into the “they’re in it for funding” argument- again indicating that my personal experience is anomalous?

    This will be my last post on the subject since our tangent is not contributing to the topic of the thread.

  5. 155
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Monitoring Policy.

    Some examples.
    Realclimate is sometimes criticised by deniers for having a monitoring policy. Dissidents are allowed but only within limits. I think we have a lot to be grateful for the use of this policy; not only does it protect the readers from mass invasions by anti-scientific propagandists * but also the little responses in green from the experts can be particularly useful and add a lot to the lead articles. That monitoring (and replying) must take up quite a bit of time.

    This is where some of the alternatives to Realclimate do not do quite so well. John Cook’s site (Skeptical Science) seems an excellent and rapid source to me. It provides simplified arguments and links to the published works. The author must have worked quite hard to produce it. But a rather lax monitoring policy detracts from the quality of the threads which follow the lead articles. It becomes a gamble.

    Tamino and Stoat use a similar approach to Realclimate.
    * The thread following Gavin’s article (not for RC) about his book provided an example of this but I have seen even worse.

  6. 156
    Mark says:

    “That very well may be, but you also seem to argue for the sake of argument, even with people who don’t disagree with you.”

    Please provide evidence.

  7. 157

    Gavin, Mike, RC team,

    I really do believe this site is making a big difference, each tiny step at a time. Eventually we reach a tipping point. It’s still whack-a-mole, but I am noticing a bit of a sea change.

    Just for fun, some of my new pages last few months:

    These are quite popular

    As always, if anyone noticed any relevant problems, let me know ;)

  8. 158
    CM says:

    Gavin (inline #136), it’s Myhre, not Myrhe. Forgive the nitpick but the poor guy gets misspelled here on a regular basis.

    [Response: Oops. thanks – and I’ve cleaned up all previous errors too… – gavin]

  9. 159
    bobberger says:

    > “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?”

    No thanks. But I hope you can appreciate the difference. Whatever YOU may think about Anthony Watts: the surface stations are factual, you can see them, you can even go out there and touch them. And putting out a story in the press saying that all we think of as global warming is in fact nothing but a bunch of stations measuring exhaust temperatures from parked cars and airconditioners (plus some very convincing pictures) is an easy thing to do. Arguing against it and putting it into perspective in terms that normal people can understand and follow is not.

  10. 160
    Dirk Hartog says:

    Dear Gavin (& other RC contributors),

    Firstly, thank you very much for the huge amount of effort you have put in to RC. I am sure that you don’t enjoy the constant battering from the denialists, but rest assured that there are hundreds of scientists and other rational people who are cheering you on from the side-lines.

    I see the most important role of RC as giving the information that rational people who aren’t climate scientists need to counter the denialist spin machine. These people can then influence their friends and colleagues, providing a multiplier effect.

    In this context, I think it is very important to provide simple, rapid, authoritative, debunking of the major denialist ideas. E.g., a non-scientist might be impressed by; after all, how can you argue with a photograph of a badly-sited temperature station? We need a simple one-stop rebuttal of this rubbish that is ranked highly by google.

    An example of where this hasn’t been done well, IMHO, is with the “35 error’s in Al Gore’s film” that the denialists keep on harping about. If you do some googling about this, you can’t (easily) find any rebuttal of the list. Al Gore’s websites don’t mention any rebuttal, or even acknowledge any errors, as far as I could find in a moderately careful search. And there is no way to contact Al Gore or anyone responsible for Al Gore’s websites to request a rebuttal. This is very poor, IMHO, and would lead a curious person who reads the denialist websites to believe that perhaps the denialists are right.

    As for the Plimer book, it is vital that this is debunked by credible climate scientists (and geologists and other experts). Given that Plimer is a full professor at an internationally respected university (U. Adelaide), if the book isn’t shown up to be the rubbish that it is, it will do long-term damage.

    The book is having a large effect in Australia, with virtually every conservative newspaper columnist strongly supporting it. The book is credited with influencing the voting intention of a balance-of-power politician in the Australian senate, and so could have large consequences for political action on climate change in Australia in the near to medium term.

  11. 161
    Hank Roberts says:

    Gavin, –> Micheal should be Michael in the main post.
    “Nobody ever finds the last typo.”

    [Response: thanks. – gavin]

  12. 162
    SecularAnimist says:

    Thanks to the RealClimate folks for their excellent and valuable work.

    As long as there are tens of billions of dollars profit per year at stake in continuing “business-as-usual” consumption of fossil fuels, business-as-usual deforestation, business-as-usual industrial animal agriculture and so on, there will be plenty of people who deny the scientific reality of anthropogenic global warming, or deny that it is dangerous, or make false claims that dealing with it will be too costly and damaging to “the economy”.

    Some of the deniers are paid liars. Some of the deniers are delusional cranks. Some of the deniers are Ditto-Heads who slavishly believe and repeat whatever they are told by the phony, so-called “conservative” media (which has nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with corporate propaganda). All of them, ultimately, are doing the work of those who profit from causing global warming and don’t give a damn what damage it causes because they cannot imagine that their immense wealth and power won’t protect them from it.

    The struggle to cut through the deniers’ wall of noise and communicate the truth — which is not merely “inconvenient” but terrifyingly urgent — will never end. Even if every coal-fired power plant is replaced with wind turbines and concentrating solar thermal power stations, and every gasoline-fueled car is replaced with a solar-powered electric car, there will still be those who think of the profits they could make if only coal-mining and oil-drilling could be revived. Perhaps someday the main denialist theme will be “the global warming problem has been solved, so now we can return to burning fossil fuels”.

    Please keep up the good work, RealClimate folks. You are needed and you will be needed for decades to come.

  13. 163
    Hank Roberts says:

    P.S. for Dick Hartog, on searching methods; use the word you’re looking for:

    Your string “35 error’s in Al Gore’s film” didn’t work:
    (found pages of denial copypaste stuff)

    Searching using this found the rebuttal promptly:
    “35 errors” “Gore’s film” rebuttal

    which begins:

    “The Gore response

    With a column titled “Fact Checker,” it is difficult not to lose the forest for the trees. First and foremost, An Inconvenient Truth presented thousands and thousands of facts. We stand by our initial statement. We were gratified that a UK High Court judge, a layperson with a full docket, found the film worthy enough to be shown in British schools. A generation of schoolchildren will become more educated about global warming and what can be done to solve the climate crisis.

    A number of other broader points need to be addressed from the Fact Checker’s last two postings:…”

    and then goes into the details. You’ll find other responses too.

  14. 164
  15. 165
    Rod B says:

    Ray, surely you’re not equating global climate models with MOSFET Spice models…

  16. 166
    Mark says:

    re 165, why not?

    Please show me an electron.

    PROVE they exist.

    Show it to me.

    Heck, we even know that the electron model isn’t “right” since it would have to spin faster than light to have the spin energy it has by measurement.

    Yet, somehow, despite not knowing EVERYTHING about electrons, we can model how a MOSFET junction works…

    Seems an apposite analogue to me…

  17. 167
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod, did you see the word equals or any derivative thereof (equality, etc) in my post? My point was that you don’t go to models for \answers.\ You go to models to get insight so that you can make predictions.

  18. 168
    Aaron Lewis says:

    My suggestion is that you post the facts and arguments -wholesale and get a “Sales Team” in to sell those facts and arguments on a retail level. Find a university with business school that teaches “sales” and work out a deal whereby those students in sales spend a few hours a week selling climate change. Or, have the sales training program at IBM; use the answering of deniers as sales training or even part of their weeding out process. (i.e., convince a hundred deniers of the facts of climate change) If one cannot sell the truth, how can one sell the subjective value of a particular Brand ?

  19. 169
    Israel Ramirez says:

    I read this site often for its semi-technical discussions of the latest science. This is, without question, the best site on climate change. Keep it up.

  20. 170
  21. 171
    MarkB says:


    Here are some key reasons why Watts’ effort to undermine the temperature record isn’t going anywhere. He and some of his supporters are making some very erroneous assumptions (some deliberate in my view) based on an apparent lack of knowledge of how temperature analysis is conducted.

    A recent AMS study addressed Watts’ project directly regarding photographs of weather stations:

    “Such evidence raises legitimate questions about
    the representativeness of temperature measurements from a number of U.S. HCN sites.
    However, from a climate change perspective, the primary concern is not so much the
    absolute measurement bias of a particular site, but rather the changes in that bias over
    time, which the TOB and pairwise adjustments effectively address (Vose et al. 2003;
    Menne and Williams 2008)”

    So while photographing weather stations might provide useful information, it’s not so useful from a climate change persepctive for reasons discussed above. Given Watts’ various comments and behavior, I’m convinced that the project was set up mainly to try to convince the public we can’t trust the temperature record, and that it isn’t warming anywhere near as much as the record indicates. When the project first started, Watts already jumped to this erroneous conclusion:

    “I believe we will be able to demonstrate that some of the global warming increase is not from CO2 but from localized changes in the temperature-measurement environment.”

    which he still unfortunately peddles today. If you frequent his blog, you’ll also notice that he throws in various stories of cold or snowy weather somewhere, which adds to this political message (as do selected photos of weather stations).

  22. 172
    John Mashey says:

    This thread illustrates why I keep wishing for “shadow threads” or *something* to keep threads from getting cluttered.

    1) This started as a well-focused request for feedback, and many have supplied such. Hopefully, some will be useful.

    2) But, as often happens, the thread gets increasingly filled with redos of the same debates that are *not* this topic, like for example, nuclear power.

    There exist numerous important topics, but does every thread need to discuss a lot of them at once? Again, some cross-topic connections are worthwhile, but in a non-subthreaded blog, the dilution effect can be very strong.

    3) Here’s an exercise: spend 15 minutes zipping through the posts (I looked at 1:170) and put them into buckets (obviously a subjective assessment on which people can differ):

    a) Clearly on-topic
    b) Maybe, marginal, partial
    c) Diversion, or really off-topic

    From 1 to 100, and then 101 to 170, *I* guess:
    1-100 ………. 101-170
    a) 77 (77%) .. 33 (47%)
    b) 10 (10%) .. 12 (17%)
    c) 23 (23%) .. 25 (36%)

  23. 173

    Comment on the MIT study by Ronald Prinn co-director of the Joint Program and director of MIT’s Center for Global Change Science, released in May has been pretty muted, I feel. What is the view on their conclusion:

    “The new projections, published this month in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate, indicate a median probability of surface warming of 5.2 degrees Celsius by 2100, with a 90% probability range of 3.5 to 7.4 degrees. This can be compared to a median projected increase in the 2003 study of just 2.4 degrees. ”

    5.2 C vs the 2.4 C that is currently wrinkling our brow. Thats beyond funny. But the blogisphere seems to have left it alone?

  24. 174
    Dirk Hartog says:

    Re: 163, Hank

    Thank you for those links to Gore’s rebuttal. However, they refer to the original 9 points made by the UK judge, not the 35 from Monckton.

    Also, I didn’t search for the entire string in quotes, but to “35 errors in al gore’s film” (without quotes). There isn’t any rebuttal to the “35 errors” that I can find. Monckton’s document, crazy though it is, is very specific about the errors, and I think it deserves a very specific response. The Gore rebuttal that you linked to is rather weak IMHO. And I think it would make his case much stronger if he put this stuff up on his website so that anyone searching with google would come up with (1) a straightforward admission of whatever errors there might be in the film, and (2) a rebuttal of denialist arguments. The fact that this information is not there might lead any wavering person to be suspicious.

    As an example, Monckton’s point #27 is

    Mosquitoes climbing to higher altitudes –
    Gore says that, because of “global warming”, mosquitoes are climbing to higher altitudes. They are not.

    This is a very specific claim. It would be nice to have a very direct response.

    The reason I bring this up is that these “35 errors” come up again and again in denialist talking points. Any criticism of, e.g., Plimer’s book, will be met with a claim that “you may have found a few errors, but what about the 35 errors in Gore’s completely discredited film?”.

  25. 175
    Jim Bouldin says:

    but rest assured that there are hundreds of scientists and other rational people who are cheering you on from the side-lines.

    The climate change battle, like any battle, is not supposed to be a spectator sport. Those scientists “on the sidelines” who have the ability to contribute would do well to put a helmet on, get on the field, and do something.

    It is an unfortunate reality that many scientists shy away from controversy in favor of the ivory tower. RC has a very open policy of allowing other scientists to contribute (hell they even allowed me to), but there frankly aren’t that many taking advantage of it. I wonder how that might be changed.

    As for future topics, my personal preference would be to see more on:

    1) The carbon cycle
    2) Regional climate change
    3) WG II type topics (effects)

    I also much agree with John Mashey regarding some better way to keep the comments more focused on the topic raised in the article, and I see far too many irrelevant or unnecessary comments that eat up the moderator’s time and/or don’t educate.

  26. 176
    Doug Mackie says:

    Every so often over the last 2.5 years or so I have tried to post here (as I did yesterday)

    Now, I’m not saying the posts are always top quality.
    But I do my bit. Some of my research is CC oriented (ocean pH time series) and I write debunking articles in local media so call it hubris but I think I have something to contribute. But darn it, I think with maybe one or two exceptions my posts have never made it.

    After the first few attempts I mostly gave up trying.
    But every now and then I feel I rally have something to contribute.

    The posts preview OK and all but never show up.
    Is there something I should know? Do I have bad breath? Is my fly undone?

  27. 177
    bobberger says:

    MarkB 171
    Yes, I had seen the “No man is an (Urban Heat) Island” and I find it not very convincing in the current situation. I’d hazard a guess that none of the “Mistraken Assumptions” apply to Watts and a statement like “However, from a climate change perspective, the primary concern is not so much the absolute measurement bias of a particular site, but rather the changes in that bias over time, which the TOB and pairwise adjustments effectively address” does not mean that some further correction to the data might not be neccessary. Just think about a temperature sensor next to an airconditioning vent. The airconditioning will not simply jump in at a certain point in time and operate at a given and constant heat output (which could be easily detected and corrected for) but will, of course, be more active with rising temperatures and thus amplify any temperature change.
    Another difference between now and 2007 (when “No man is an (Urban Heat) Island” was posted) is, that Watts has now checked and cataloged 3/4 or so of the relevant stations, so there is a real basis for further inquiry rather than just a bunch of funny pictures and a rumor. If you’d care to check you’d also see, that they found many shading issues due to stuff that grew around stations (supposedly making them gradually cooler over time) so whatever updates to metadata come in may even lead to increased values.
    So – as I said – I think its well worth a look by RC, not least of all because it’ll be (and already is) worth a look for the media.

  28. 178
    Dirk Hartog says:

    Re 176, Doug Mackie,

    The posts preview OK and all but never show up.

    I agree with Doug. Moderation is important, but so is feedback if your post doesn’t make it. E.g., some time ago I posted something that was relevant and scientifically useful on the subject of sub-snow temperature measurements. The post actually appeared briefly (not just “waiting for moderation”), but was then deleted, presumably because the “handle” I chose was “Back off man, I’m a scientist” – which was an attempt at humor.

    If I may be so bold, I suggest that the moderators have a series of buttons they can click to give feedback when deleting a post. E.g.,

    – Off topic
    – Repeats long-rebutted argument, adding nothing new
    – Contains obviously false information
    – Ad hominem attack
    – Posting under a different name from same IP
    – Stupid choice of name

  29. 179
    Hank Roberts says:

    Dirk, re the story about Monckton claims of 35 errors, he claims that he’s responsible for thinking there were that many, supposedly

    Monckton’s name wasn’t on the lawsuit that addressed the claims.

    The judge did a thorough job of replying to each of the claims:

    Who’s claiming Monckton has a list never rebutted? I’d bet on some place like ‘newsbusters’ and recommend not taking the tasty bait if you don’t see a claim with a citation from a source worth trusting.

  30. 180
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ah, see the “costs and funding” section here:

  31. 181

    Re #176

    I too have lost one or two posts in the past, and I think it is because I did not wait long enough after clicking “Post”. If you don’t wait until your post shows as “Waiting to be approved” then I think it can be lost.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  32. 182

    There is a large dose of “Groundhog Day” in a report just published by the Heartland Instituted, “Climate Change Reconsidered” at

    The report accepts that there is a greenhouse effect and does not dispute that greenhouse gases such as CO2 are rising in the atmosphere due to human activity. Therefore, the report does not dispute that anthropogenic climate change is happening, merely that it is much smaller than the IPCC suggests.

    Climate sensitivity, therefore, becomes a central issue to consider.

    Chapter 2 advances an argument that the climate sensitivity is much lower than accepted by the IPCC (i.e. around 3C for a doubling of CO2 to 550ppm).

    However, the report places extensive reliance on the “iris effect” advanced by Richard Lindzen nearly a decade ago in chapter 2 and section 1.3. This is surprising as Lindzen has not published evidence to support his original hypothesis and even he appears to have abandoned it in his publications and public statements since 2002.

    The report cited no publications on this topic after 2002 and, consequently, it seems difficult to justify the suggestion on page 17 of the report that “the debate over the reality and/or magnitude of the adaptive infrared iris effect continues”.

    As a consequence, the criticisms of the climate sensitivity adopted by the IPCC in chapter 2 of the report appear to not be supported by the evidence and analysis presented in the report. At least this central element of the report appears to be flawed.

    There are many other issues raised in the report and RealClimate’s analysis of it would be a valuable contribution to the public debate.

  33. 183
    Jim Norvell says:

    Gore, Hansen and MIT all predict dire consequences in the future if we (Humanity) don’t cut our use of carbon fuels by some thing like 80% in the next 30 to 40 years. Most of you who contribute to this blog are intelligent but I have yet to see any viable solutions proposed to replace the energy supply.

    Jim N

  34. 184
    Ron Crouch says:

    As far as Groundhog Day, well you can always lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink. That’s not to say that one should stop trying though (ad tedium, but that’s life).

    I would like to see some discussion surrounding projected “glacial rebound” and it’s implications as it pertains to the loss of ice mass from Greenland and West Antarctica. Thanks.

  35. 185
    MikeN says:

    I think a look at model predictions would be good.

    Not so much their predictions about future climate, as this is based on variables that are unknown. Instead, what are their predictions for carious input parameters, and how much do those estimates change based on new data. It would be good to get a look at how these models evolve.

    I’d also like an update on your ocean heat article from 2006. You said then that ocean heat remains a good validator for models. What did you mean by that? That the numbers validated model predictions? Or that ocean heat levels is a valid test of the models?

  36. 186

    180 Chris.
    Climate Sensitivity is seeming to be but part of the driver for increasing surface temperature, though.

    Prinn et al at MIT’s Center for Global Change Science has just re-done their 2003 IPCC work and found that the combination of ‘traditional’ sensitivity plus other now-better understood forcings are most likely to give us 5.2 degrees Celsius warning by 2100. And that is with much less than a doubling of CO2.

    This is a pretty acute divergence wake-up from Groundhog Day. Is there any debate about that? No?

  37. 187
    Mark Porter says:

    Thanks for building such a useful and exhaustive resource.

  38. 188
    truth says:

    Every single one of us has a stake in this issue , and all of our lives are going to be impacted by it—-yet politicians are diving into emissions trading schemes or equivalent, with many questions about the science , the consensus and the projections unanswered, and questioners are treated with disdain by AGW proponents.
    —questions on matters like—-
    The actual measurement of global surface temperatures.
    Even James Hansen has said that global temperature measurements are unreliable—has he not? And hasn’t he said that there’s no agreement on methods , and then graphically described the problems with methods ?
    Why should we not wonder about accuracy, when so many of the surface temperature measurement stations are located in unsuitable situations like airport tarmacs, next to tarred roads and large buildings, and airconditioning exhausts etc—-with orientation, maintenance and monitoring problems added to that?
    Why should we not wonder about the integrity of global measurements when many countries have suffered wars , cultural revolutions, genocides etc, during the period, with accurate temperature measurement and the precise recording of it , surely of low priority?
    Why should we not think that all the other impacts over the time in question, like huge population increases, land use changes, unprecedented deforestation, massive building programs where once it was rural, and black carbon from the burning of forests and industry—-might have more impact on global temperatures anyway, than CO2 ?
    The phrase ‘since records began’ sounds apocalyptic, but the most accurate records only began in the late 1970s—surely not a not a long enough time frame for such dire comparisons.
    And in relation to that, why have scientists, politicians and media , who are demanding the end of coal-fired power—[even with CCS technology, as Hansen and others do], and are pushing for politicians to implement carbon trading schemes to limit CO2—on the other hand been so quiet about the black carbon impact on the Arctic warming that we’re told is such a dire threat?
    Documentaries show soot-covered snow quite clearly. Why is this not priority one?
    Why are the consensus crowd and the politicians who believe them unquestioningly, not discussing and planning to follow , NASA’s Drew Shindell’s advice—-
    “We will have very little leverage over climate in the next couple of decades if we’re just looking at carbon dioxide,” Shindell said. “If we want to try to stop the Arctic summer sea ice from melting completely over the next few decades, we’re much better off looking at aerosols and ozone.”
    ‘—–aerosols likely account for 45 percent or more of the warming that has occurred in the Arctic during the last three decades.’
    Why has this conclusion not shifted the focus to targeting black carbon—instead of the insistence on world disruption and upheaval via emissions trading schemes etc?
    There are questions about evidence of warming other than natural—-Josh Willis and others say the oceans are neither warming nor cooling, even though CO2 is said to be still rising.
    Wilco Hazeleger of KNMI , in the Netherlands says—
    “In the past century the sea level has risen twenty centimeters. There is no evidence for accelerated sea-level rise.’ Others have said similar.
    If global warming is as dire and of the extent we are told it is, would not the seas be warming and the sea level rise accelerating with rising CO2?
    With more being revealed about natural phenomena , like the Indian Ocean Dipole and its relationshp to droughts in Southern Australia, and with other droughts being attributed to land use changes over the time period at issue—with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation linked to warming and cooling trends etc—why do the AGW consensus proponents maintain their steely determination to target CO2 to the extent of changing [perhaps destroying] whole economies? Why is this?
    What is your assessment of the readiness of solar technology [ including solar storage]—since coal-fired power is to be sidelined?
    There is no affordable solar storage method implementable on the scale required, is there?
    If coal is still to be used, but with CCS technology—-what about the extra coal that must be mined to allow for the extra energy use in the CCS—what about the extra energy required for CO2 transportation and sequestration—what about leakage problems with sequestered CO2, and the fact that minimal leakage could add rather than subtract CO2 from the atmosphere, rendering the exercise useless?
    Surely all these factors must not only be questioned , but answered, before AGW science leads politicians to irreversible actions.
    Why not encourage politicians to opt for the mitigation advised by Shindell as a matter of urgency, implement as many conservation ideas in architecture and everyday living as possible , clean up air via transport design etc—-and meanwhile use the prosperity from certain energy supply from coal to fund huge research efforts into the most promising alternatives, including solar power and nuclear fusion?

  39. 189
    Hank Roberts says:

    See what happens to people who don’t pay attention?
    They repaste the old, often-answered questions, missing the obvious:

  40. 190
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #186, thanks for the link to the study. I read about it in in the newspapers, and they claimed global warming will be twice as bad as earlier predicted, but I pointed out in various places that a doubling of the warming would lead to much more than twice the level of harm, as warming and harms are not linearly one-for-one related, but harms increase more rapidly, perhaps exponentially or some greater level than the warming….until (perhaps) we peak out 100,000 yrs from now, or all or nearly all life on Earth ends, and the harms flatline.

    So, it is really imperative that we leave the contrarians in the dust and charge ahead. I think their ploy is simply to stall any action by repeating the same old tired arguments — such as, well, it’s unclear from that MIT study that the warming will be 5.2 or 5.3 degress by 2100, ergo we should do nothing until this terrible uncertainty is cleared up.

  41. 191
    dhogaza says:

    Rather than tackle untruth’s post immediately above (as I’m reading, there may be unapproved posts between), because as usual untruth’s post isn’t worthy of response (other than “get a clue”), I’ll go with this…

    I’d hazard a guess that none of the “Mistraken Assumptions” apply to Watts and a statement like “However, from a climate change perspective, the primary concern is not so much the absolute measurement bias of a particular site, but rather the changes in that bias over time, which the TOB and pairwise adjustments effectively address” does not mean that some further correction to the data might not be neccessary.

    Possibly. But remember tests have been done on the GISS product by people doing stuff like slicing off rural stations and running trends and getting virtually the same result.

    Statistically, it’s been shown that the US ground temp record is oversampled. What that means is that there’s a lot of redundancy, which means proper analysis can tease out the signal from the a/c conditioner next door to 10% of them that might be turned on at the same time every day in summer , or not at all, or might not actually warm the enclosure, etc.

    One of Watts own acolytes, who went by the ‘net name of “JohnV”, did a trend analysis using those stations that Watts said were “blessed by holy water” (well, OK, “met modern siting standards”), and found …

    A trend statistically identical to the GISS product.

    Watts rejected that. At the time JohnV did that, there was 40% coverage of the stations. Now there’s 70%. Watts has issued his report. Any analysis like JohnV’s? No. Just “look, my photos show the earth is really cooling!” crap.

    Or the heat might rise and not affect the temp reading at all, after all, the thermometer is in an enclosure.

    Pray tell, how does a photo tell you “yea or nay”?

    Another difference between now and 2007 (when “No man is an (Urban Heat) Island” was posted) is, that Watts has now checked and cataloged 3/4 or so of the relevant stations, so there is a real basis for further inquiry

    Actually, when EX-Watts (EX emphasized) brown-noser did it when 40% were surveyed, he presented a convincing argument that this was sufficient for analysis.

    To repeat what I wrote above:

    1. Watts rejected his analysis (though it is known that he’s statistically illiterate)

    2. Now that he’s reached 70%, he’s done no analysis whatsoever, yet still has released a long report that concludes “we’ve proven the GISS product is wrong”.

    Why did he not do the kind of proper analysis done by JohnV earlier before declaring his work was done, and GISS is wrong?

    (hint – he’s statistically illiterate)

    rather than just a bunch of funny pictures and a rumor. \

    His “report” is a fine-arts photography vanity book (with shit photos) coupled with a conclusion which isn’t even pretended to be backed up by analysis.

    If you’d care to check you’d also see, that they found many shading issues due to stuff that grew around stations (supposedly making them gradually cooler over time) so whatever updates to metadata come in may even lead to increased values.

    The GISS product uses the vast redundancy in the oversampled record to build a robust product.

    Again and again – photos don’t invalidate that. You need actual data, and then you need to tackle and disprove the effectiveness of the algorithm used to generate the GISS product.

    Dick waving, which is what Watts does, won’t do it.

    So – as I said – I think its well worth a look by RC, not least of all because it’ll be (and already is) worth a look for the media.

    As I said the first time, without any attempt at analysis there is no “there” there. JohnV’s earlier result, rejected by Watts, should give you a clue.

    It’s a great strategy by Watts to get media attention and to add so-called ammunition to those in Congress who want to avoid action at any cost, but there’s nothing there of scientific value.

    Thus asking scientists to respond in any way other than to say “no scientific value” is … unrealistic.

    Do you think that Watts is capable of working through the algebra (I assume it’s no more complex than that) applied to the raw data to generate the robust GISS product?

    Remember that the satellite temp reconstructions also show horrible results correlated with the GISS ones because satellites are always launched into the midst of orbital cities which are randomly adding BBQs and A/C units as we speak.


  42. 192
    John Ransley says:

    I can’t see where anyone has mentioned this in your thread but its so strange it deserves attention. Recently The Australian has published three excellent articles on climate change, plus some very good letters. The articles are in date order: ‘Geology points to dangers ahead’
    by Mike Sandiford (Australian Research Council professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne’s school of earth sciences) May 6 2009:,25197,25434629-7583,00.html; ‘Denialist ark a wobbly craft’
    by Leigh Dayton (science journalist)May 06, 2009:,25197,25433327-7583,00.html; and ‘No science in Plimer’s primer’
    by Michael Ashley (professor of astrophysics at the University of NSW) May 09, 2009:,,25433059-5003900,00.html

    As someone who used to teach tertiary level geology I am gratified that the reputation of the profession is being saved by the likes of Mike Sandiford and Mike Archer (Professor of Geology and Dean Faculty of Science, University of NSW, Sydney) who had a nice little letter published on 7 May.

  43. 193
    Mark says:

    re 174.

    Well, Mark says the mosquitoes ARE flying higher.

    There you go, as well formed a rebuttal as the proclamation you gave.

    Now, what does Monkton do to prove his point?

  44. 194
    CM says:

    Re Gore’s “35 errors” — nice links, Hank! — obsessives may also wish to consult the Lomborg-errors site, which in its own terms counts “2 errors, 12 flaws, 14 in total” in Gore’s film and book taken together. The count is less interesting than the detailed discussion of the pros and cons of the “flaws”, though YMMV.

  45. 195
    MacDoc says:

    Truth – why would you focus solely on temperature when the much larger and robust evidence from biota and climate regime shifts are very obvious.

    Energy gain does not translate directly into measurable temperature gains – especially in the crysophere and the gains may be beyond crude digital measurements……but the flora and fauna react to the smallest changes and move where they can – adapt where they can and have been doing so.

    Biological systems just ignore human squabbles and get on coping with the change we inflict.
    They are the best indicators of what we are SEEING.

    Analogue – birds, animals, fish…×69911

    Climate change is ponderous and the scale is enormous. Nothing we do at this point will change the momentum much or alter the changes already on the go – particularly at the poles –

    What we do now to cut GHG use at least can lead to leveling of the CO2 which as per the MIT model may keep within the 2-3 degrees by 2100 which is still horrendous for many of us but nowhere near the scale of problem 6-8 degrees globally would represent.

    Whether the yearly temperature reflects it or not the physics of energy gain from GHG goes on despite our wishful thinking and carbon is cumulative.

    Proceeding towards a carbon neutral high tech civilization is essential on a variety of fronts – ocean acidification alone is one….the world dealt with SO2 and ozone depleting chemicals ….dealing with GHG is another step and the framework for agreement such as the Montreal Accord provide a model for action and monitoring.

    No one technology will deal with carbon neutral energy, more efficiency, nuclear, increased renewables will make a dent. Coal burning is clearly the high risk and it then becomes a matter of managing the resources to address efficiency and carbon neutral solutions.
    It was predicted that dealing with SO2 was going to be incredibly costly to industry, kill economies….yada yada – yet in the end it cost far less than thought.

    The stakes with GHG are higher – trying to delay moving forward due to “uncertainty” in a temperature graph when the analogue signals are so abundantly clear is foolish in the extreme.

    It’s akin to peering closely at a wavering anemometer and failing to see the tornado over the treeline.

    Besides…there are fortunes to be made in the moving to carbon neutral energy – at least the VCs know that as Green investment has overtaken fossil fuel investment despite the recession.


    Gavin – perhaps a new category might be for bringing together science articles dealing with analogue indicators of climate change.
    Ground hog finger in the wind so to speak.

  46. 196
    CM says:


    why do the AGW consensus proponents maintain their steely determination to target CO2 to the extent of changing [perhaps destroying] whole economies? Why is this?

    Why, because we’re the malicious minions of Ming the Merciless with a secret plot to take over your planet. Duh. Oops, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that. Back to our cover story:

    “AGW consensus proponents” do favour action to address non-CO2 greenhouse gases as well as other man-made forcings, black carbon included. But we are aware that if we let CO2 levels keep rising, this will only buy short-term relief. (Note also that a significant part of black carbon pollution arises from fossil fuel use; measures curbing one should help curb the other.)

  47. 197
    Anonymous Coward says:

    I concur with Lynn Vincentnathan (#36).

    Hansen is apparently saying that one could trigger an H20 runaway with CO2… here and now! We have been told over and over that there’s simply not enough incoming shortwave for this to happen.
    Hansen has quite a stature and his pronouncements can’t be simply ignored. And he’s basically predicting (I quote the PDF Lynn linked to: “dead certain”) the end of the world if unconventional oil is developed!

    What’s going on?

    [Response: My views on discussions of “runaway” effects are clear. Hansen is talking about climate forcings of more than “10-20 W/m2” which are very large numbers (for reference, 2xCO2 (560ppm) is ~4 W/m2, 4xCO2 (1120ppm) is 8 W/m2, 6xCO2 (1680ppm) is 12 W/m2, and 10xCO2 (2800ppm) is 20 W/m2). None of these numbers are “now” and no projection for the next century gets anywhere close to even 4xCO2, let alone the high end. Hansen is taking a rather long view here and discussing total utilisation of all carbon fuel sources, not single site developments. – gavin]

  48. 198
    ilajd says:

    “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.”
    Gavin I look forward to your in-depth review of Plimer’s book. That is of course when you get around to actually reading it.

    [Response: Not quite the same thing. I linked to Deltoid and Ian Enting’s critiques who have indeed been going through the Plimer book with a fine tooth comb and doing an excellent job. Neither Watts, nor Ambler, nor any critic on that thread had looked past the cover – not even to the caption, let alone the actual discussion. A more apt comparison is my crtitique of Crichton’s State of Fear which (unfortunately) I read cover to cover prior to reviewing. – gavin]

  49. 199
    PaulD says:

    I would be interested to read comments and analysis on this article, , as well as comments generally regarding Roger Pielke’s arguments that ocean temperatures are a much better metric for global warming than atmosphere temperatures.

    [Response: Please read our previous postings on the subject. For better or worse, global warming is traditionally defined as the increase in the global mean surface temperature anomaly – and you don’t get a better metric than the thing itself. Ocean heat content trends are a good metric of the net radiative imbalance (which is not the same thing, though important), but while the long term trends are clear, the short term variability depends very much on the analysis method (cf. the differences between Levitus et al and Domingues et al). It would be nice if there was less ambiguity, but right now the short (interannual) fluctuations are neither well characterised nor well understood. Using uncertain short term fluctuations to justify dramatic conclusions is not wise. The smart money is therefore waiting for more data. – gavin]

  50. 200

    188 “Truth”
    Oh please! Please look for the answers to your ‘uncertainties’ in the side bars and Start Here on this page, then search this site’s blog postings for responses to your queries. Its all there, done and dusted. There is no uncertainty to divert us from seeing the peril. There are no ‘unanswered questions’ that we need answered before we appreciate that the enemy is at the gate. He is here, and we are asleep.

    When you are done. Only when you are done. Com’on bak y’hear!