RealClimate logo

Unforced variations 2

Filed under: — gavin @ 1 January 2010

Continuation of the open thread. Please use these threads to bring up things that are creating ‘buzz’ rather than having news items get buried in comment threads on more specific topics. We’ll promote the best responses to the head post.

Knorr (2009): Case in point, Knorr (GRL, 2009) is a study about how much of the human emissions are staying the atmosphere (around 40%) and whether that is detectably changing over time. It does not undermine the fact that CO2 is rising. The confusion in the denialosphere is based on a misunderstanding between ‘airborne fraction of CO2 emissions’ (not changing very much) and ‘CO2 fraction in the air’ (changing very rapidly), led in no small part by a misleading headline (subsequently fixed) on the ScienceDaily news item Update: MT/AH point out the headline came from an AGU press release (Sigh…). SkepticalScience has a good discussion of the details including some other recent work by Le Quéré and colleagues.

Update: Some comments on the John Coleman/KUSI/Joe D’Aleo/E. M. Smith accusations about the temperature records. Their claim is apparently that coastal station absolute temperatures are being used to estimate the current absolute temperatures in mountain regions and that the anomalies there are warm because the coast is warmer than the mountain. This is simply wrong. What is actually done is that temperature anomalies are calculated locally from local baselines, and these anomalies can be interpolated over quite large distances. This is perfectly fine and checkable by looking at the pairwise correlations at the monthly stations between different stations (London-Paris or New York-Cleveland or LA-San Francisco). The second thread in their ‘accusation’ is that the agencies are deleting records, but this just underscores their lack of understanding of where the GHCN data set actually comes from. This is thoroughly discussed in Peterson and Vose (1997) which indicates where the data came from and which data streams give real time updates. The principle one is the CLIMAT updates of monthly mean temperature via the WMO network of reports. These are distributed by the Nat. Met. Services who have decided which stations they choose to produce monthly mean data for (and how it is calculated) and is absolutely nothing to do with NCDC or NASA.

Further Update: NCDC has a good description of their procedures now available, and Zeke Hausfather has a very good explanation of the real issues on the Yale Forum.

1,394 Responses to “Unforced variations 2”

  1. 101
    Bill says:

    The problem we have is a PR /Communication issue:The public at large see information on general temperatures like the recent CET information for Dec 2009 and cant understand what we are talking about.
    “CET 12-2009: 3.1°C. Rank: 257/351
    Warmest December in this series was in 1934.
    Average last 12 months: 10.11 °C.”
    We need to address the public view, somehow, in a much clearer manner.

  2. 102
    David Wojick says:

    Re #86 response by Gavin! Hello Gavin, I have been waiting for you. If you want to compare stupidities on your side and mine I would love to do it. Last week I saw a green blog that proclaimed the end of the human race, specie, or genus due to AGW. I think it was a Munich RE guy, but maybe not. But then, this week I drove a skeptic off my debate because he claimed that Maurice Strong invented AGW, then conned the scientists (like you) into believing it. Hoax or apocalypse? Go figure.

    You know as well as I do that the scientific debate is alive and well. God bless it. One way or another we are moving forward. Science does that. Happy New Year. David

    [Response: On any issue one can always find idiots and uninformed commentary to criticise. Sometimes it’s amusing to do so. But since there is no recession in idiocy this can never be a substitute for constructive dialog or for inquiring into the truth of any matter. Providing correctives to the more widespread of these inanities (as above) is occasionally worthwhile and can serve as a ‘teaching moment’, but to confuse that with serious debate, is to equate is the colour of the wrapping paper for the quality of a present. – gavin]

  3. 103
    Tim Jones says:

    Since most anthropogenic CO2 is dissolved in ocean sinks I have two questions:

    Can CO2 dissolved in sea water help retain more heat in sea water than in sea water without dissolved CO2, or does the chemistry of carbonic acid prevent the carbon-oxygen bond from absorbing infrared energy?

    At what concentration is anthropogenic (or any) CO2 dissolved in sea water degassed back into the atmosphere? When do ocean CO2 sinks become sources? Is there a tipping point for this?

    I would like to better understand the interaction of CO2 and the oceans.

  4. 104
    Hank Roberts says:

    > David Wojick
    Are you the ‘David Wojick’ from ‘Greening Earth Society’?
    If so, I imagine the more people repeat what you say, even to debunk the claims, the happier you will be to see them appearing over and over.

  5. 105
    David Wojick says:

    Re wildlifer #81. You might consider that the reason the scientists here spend (not “waste”)so much time is that the scientific debate is ongoing. The medium is the message.

    [Response: Wrong. And the Woody Allen prize for the least informed use of a Marshall McLuhan quote goes to…. – gavin]

  6. 106
    Radge Havers says:


    “Consider the claim that “A majority of scientists believe AGW, and therefore the minority of dissidents must be wrong.” No one with some knowledge of the history of science should be persuaded by such a claim, and no one should make the claim with a serious intent.”

    And no-one here, that I’ve seen so far, has made that claim as you characterize it. In fact, discussions of consensus here have been pretty nuanced. Funny you should miss out on that…

    Let’s see. First the denialists were trumpeting that there’s no consensus on AGW and so the “debate” was wide open. When it finally sunk in that there was pretty wide agreement that the “A” in AGW was significant, then the denialists fell into the mantra that “consensus isn’t science” (which wasn’t the argument at all anyway).

    Denialists have shown that they’re inclined to indulge in elaborate and detached arguments about simple concepts of evidence, but when it comes to actual evidence the content gets pretty slight.

  7. 107
    Ray Ladbury says:

    David Wojick@86,
    Gee, I will have to admit to being ignorant of any peer-reviewed, well accepted scientific research that poses a significant issue for the current consensus that we are warming the planet. Pray, enlighten me.

    I am plenty familiar with the abortions that pass for insight on WUWT, with the monomaniacal focus on minutia that purport to overturn established science on CA and with the general shouts and claims that 3 cool years constitute more compelling evidence than a 30 year warming trend. However, I haven’t heard, for instance, of a denialist scientist producing an actual climate model that explains anything having to do with Earth’s climate; or with a statistically valid analysis that shows significant deviation from model predictions; or, in fact with a single peer-reviewed article proferred by you that would back up your claims of parity between the scientific and anti-science postions. Care to back up your position with, oh, I don’t know, maybe… evidence?

  8. 108
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I would not have a problem with anyone acknowledging the evidence–all of it–and offering an alterntive interpretation that could at least pass the straight-face test. I have never heard anyone do that. What I hear is either monotonic droning on a single, tiny and usually trival piece of evidence that they claim is problematic. Or I hear accusations that the evidence is flawed, usually backed (if at all) by only the flimsiest idea of how the evidence is gathered and analyzed. Or I hear about application of statistical models to inadequate datasets. Or I hear that the entire scientific community is perpetrating a gigantic fraud. So, where are these skeptics, Matthew. ‘Cause they sure ain’t publishing.

  9. 109
    Steve Fish says:

    Comment by Matthew — 2 January 2010 @ 12:08 PM:

    Do you also apply your skepticism argument to the debate over the theory of evolution, and if not, what is the difference?


  10. 110
    Jim Galasyn says:

    David Wojick says: as of now the skeptics have the momentum…

    I’m not sure that’s the case. Over on the little thread I started, Please remove anti-science blogs from the Best Science Blog category, the two contrarians arguing against the proposal both gave up in tantrums.

  11. 111
    Jiminmpls says:

    #91 Matthew – Costellos’s is not an unbiased assessment. The most obvious clue is that the states outright that a whistle-blower leaked the emails. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to substantiate this claim.

    When someone outright LIES in the second sentence of an article, it is reasonable to assume that the rest of the article is similarly deceptive.

    If you weren’t brainwashed, you would have noticed that.

  12. 112
    dhogaza says:


    Are you the ‘David Wojick’ from ‘Greening Earth Society’?

    He is, his handle here links to his skeptic site, which is also mentioned in the sourcewatch wiki entry Hank links to.

  13. 113
    Leo G says:

    Lynn @ 83
    easy argument – just tell them that Anthony Watts drives an electric car, has solar panels, and does the conservation thing. I find this usually brings an incredualous gasp from some people. May not change their minds, but is good for a laugh when looking at their face!

  14. 114
  15. 115
    Phil. Felton says:

    J. Bob says:
    2 January 2010 at 11:56 AM
    Looks like Cryosphere has changed it’s NH sea ice anomaly period from 1979-2000 to 1979-2008. Any reason?

    The norm for climate is 30 years, up until now the first 20 years has been used (30 not yet possible), now that 30 years of data is available that’s what they’re using. No big deal either way.

  16. 116
    Ike Solem says:

    Better discussion is here:

    Each year, human beings put vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through processes like the combustion of fossil fuels or the clearing land for agriculture. Thankfully, the majority of it doesn’t stay there, as there are a number of significant carbon sinks that pull somewhere around 60 percent of human emissions back out of the air, dissolving it into the oceans and sequestering it in growing forests. One of the worries about our continued carbon emissions is that these sinks could eventually start to fill, increasing the challenge involved in limiting the levels of atmospheric carbon. Two new studies have looked at the issue, and they come to what appear to be very different conclusions.

    Now, what I don’t understand here is why realclimate is ignoring (or is unaware of) the Nature Geosciences paper that addresses this issue but which comes to a somewhat different conclusion. Timmer at ArsTechnica isn’t even an expert in the field, but he seems to have a better grasp of the issues – although you might be reassured to not that he comes to the same conclusion as you do:

    So, are carbon sinks beginning to reach their limits? Given the two papers, I have to admit I lack the expertise to judge.

    What is clear, however, is that two extremely cautious and technical papers have been handled awkwardly from a media perspective. The GRL paper was heralded with a press release that touted it as “Controversial new climate change data,” even though it didn’t directly address climate change, and actually applies new methods to existing data sets. Two articles removed from the press release, and you end up with an article that claims “new research shows that atmospheric levels of CO2 have effectively remained unchanged since the advent of the industrial revolution.” It’s hard to imagine anyone getting it so badly wrong.

  17. 117
    Edward Greisch says:

    107 Ray Ladbury: CA is not in the acronym index. What does CA mean?

  18. 118
    Ike Solem says:

    P.S. I’d ignore everything Revkin has to say – talk about biased slanted journalism, all he does these days is quote the fossil fuel lobby’s collection of “media scientists.”

    As far as Australia’s drought, it’s very odd that La Nina brought no rain to Australia – but the simple explanation, that continental forcing is starting to overpower global ENSO influences, meaning regional air circulation changes – well, that’s been seen over and over again around the world. Persistent wintertime high-pressure patterns over continental landmasses in the subtropical zones – you can see that everywhere.

    New report shows global warming link to Australia’s worst drought

    14 Jan 2003

    SYDNEY: A new scientific report by WWF-Australia and leading meteorologists has shown that human-induced global warming was a key factor in the severity of the 2002 drought. The report compares the 2002 drought with the four other major droughts since 1950 and has found higher temperatures caused a marked increase in evaporation rates from soil, watercourses and vegetation.

    Do Revkin and his feeders have anything to support their position, study-wise? Nope – it’s just fossil fuel lobby PR.

  19. 119
    Jiminmpls says:

    Wojick is a prime example of one that I’d label “conspirator”. He is nothing but a paid propagandist.

  20. 120
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Edward Greisch, Climate Fraudit–I am loath to give them any more hits or publicity than they already get.

  21. 121
    dhogaza says:

    Edward Greisch …

    CA is Climate frAudit.

  22. 122
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Leo G.,
    While driving a green car or embracing green habits is commendable, I don’t consider it a substitute for acknowledging (or in Watts’ case understanding) the evidence and its implications. Acknowledgement of the truth matters because
    1)it is essential to developing effective mitigation strategies
    2)it increases pressure on spineless politicians and clueless, complacent electors
    3)it forces us to believe what is real rather than what we would like

    When the fallout from all of our procrastination and delay in addressing climate change begins to manifest, I rather doubt that the thing people will remember about Watts was what car he drove. At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, Hitler loved dogs and backed pollution legislation, but it is not what he is chiefly remembered for.

  23. 123
    Doug Bostrom says:

    “Are you unaware of the fact that the game is a draw? Bit of a scrum actually and as of now the skeptics have the momentum. Push boys.”

    I do believe your cravat is cinched down a little too tight, old chap, eh what. You actually believe “skeptics have the momentum”?

    You need to get out and around from your blog a little more, methinks.

  24. 124
    Walter Manny says:

    117 CA = Climate Audit, McIntyre’s blog, which is (I believe due to the moderators’ animosity towards its founder and his attempts at analysis) not listed as a resource here despite its notoriety. It is to some degree the “anti-RC”.

  25. 125
    Phil. Felton says:

    Matthew says:
    2 January 2010 at 12:08 PM
    That is a good review of the stolen emails, in chronological order and with context. Snark and “framing” aside.

    I am puzzled that the identity of the thief has not been discovered yet. Is it possible that the identity has been discovered but not disclosed? In England, the press is not permitted to write about legal investigation in progress.

    Apparently Steve Mosher has admitted his rôle, he’d better stay away from the UK in future.
    A matter doesn’t become sub judice in the UK until legal proceedings are instituted.

  26. 126
    sidd says:

    Mr. Nick Barnes wrote on 1st January 2010 at 4:14 PM

    “A certain amount of the CO2 in the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans (etc) every year, because the carbon cycle isn’t in equilibrium. This amount depends on the total CO2 level in the atmosphere, and on some other factors such as temperature, ocean pH, etc. But one of the things it does not depend on is the source of that CO2: whether an individual CO2 molecule is from burned fossil fuels, or from respiration, or oxidation of bio-methane, or has come out of solution in the oceans.”

    I believe that some biological processes do differentiate isotopically, and so do some chemical processes in both uptake and emission of CO2 by the oceans and land.. Then of course there is the square root of mass effect in diffusion. Some of the expected fractionation has been observed. Mr. Levenson has already pointed out that fossil fuel emissions can be tracked by the change in isotopic mass ration of atmospheric CO2


  27. 127
    Josh Cryer says:

    #104 Hank Roberts, thanks for posting that link. I was going to make a similar post, as I believe Le Quéré’s methodology is more accurate. I believe that Korr, by averaging over a period of time when our emissions were not 30 billion tonnes of CO2 annually, he makes the resulting numbers far lower than they would be if you went by what is happening *now*.

  28. 128

    #102, 105 David Wojick

    There is a scientific debate going on but apparently you are not a part of it.

    The ‘scientific’ debate is not about whether or not this global warming is human caused, but rather how to refine and understand the finer components of the climate system in relation to sensitivities, oceanic mechanisms, climate feedbacks, and potentials.

    Many indicators are leaning toward things might be worse than models can predict, at this point in time, but these things need to be better understood in order to be more meaningful. In no way does any of this uncertainty indicate we need to delay policy development of mitigation, adaptation, and actions.

    Unfortunately, with those whose ‘wishful thinking’ is telling ‘them’ we are uncertain about the basic science, or that there is a problem, or that it is human caused, the scientific understanding often falls on deaf ears.

  29. 129
    Doug Bostrom says:

    RE Wojick, gotta love this:

    “ClimateChangeDebate.Org needs your DONATIONS. We are not funded by anyone and you can help keep the debate alive by donating at least $10 to ClimateChangeDebate.Org.”

    Boldface as seen on site. And mind you, no cheap attempts with $2 and a sandwich.


  30. 130
    Jim Eager says:

    Jim Galasyn @110, Ms. Hilary’s repeated protestation that she “did not come here to debate – or even learn about – “climate science”. I have my preferred sources for such information and I do not need your guidance or judgement” is just about the best illustration of stubborn willful ignorance that I have ever come across.

  31. 131
    David B. Benson says:

    Todd Friesen — Yes, response to volcanis sulfates and TSI both appear to have a lag of 3/4 to 1 year. Tamino has a most illuminating two box model, which does quite well indeed:
    For the temperature changes over an average solar sunspot cycle, see recent papers by Tung and co-workers.

    The respnose to CO2 forcing is the response to any other forcing; the two box model explains the long delay portion.

    I’ve never seen anything suggesting that paleoclimate proxies demonstrate a 10 year lag. Where did you find this?

  32. 132
    Nick Barnes says:

    sidd@126: Yes, some biological and chemical processes do differentially affect different isotopes, and yes fossil emissions do have a slightly different isotopic mix, but the former is a very tiny effect – basically irrelevant, I think, with regard to ocean solubility of atmospheric CO2 – and even the latter is second order. So I stand very much by my claim that the absorption of atmospheric CO2 does not distinguish (to any interesting degree) between CO2 of differing sources. I would be amazed if there were a significant effect.

  33. 133
    Mal Adapted says:

    Matthew, you and David Wojick both demonstrate the Dunning-Kruger effect*. You are currently incompetent to understand the scientific evidence for AGW, and you are unable either to recognize your own incompetence or that others may be more competent than yourselves.

    I say “currently incompetent”, because the D-K effect can be ameliorated by educating yourselves, if you’re willing; if not, you can hardly expect be taken seriously by anyone here. Start here for everything from the basic physics, to the data collections, to the full source code for the models. For detailed refutations of specific denier talking-points, see SkepticalScience.

    Look, it may take you awhile, but it’s not that difficult. Of course, if you’re not up to it…;^).

    *It appears that the original article by Kruger and Dunning is now behind a paywall.

  34. 134
    Mal Adapted says:

    Dang — that should be Start here and the original article by Kruger and Dunning. Can we please have a preview option?

  35. 135
    Matthew says:

    109, Steve Fish: Do you also apply your skepticism argument to the debate over the theory of evolution, and if not, what is the difference?

    One of the differences is that the Darwinian theory of evolution is much older. One of its inadequacies, that puzzled Darwin (as he admitted) was the source of the random variation in phenotypes, which we now trace back to the random variation in genes. Until recently, Darwinians were mistaken in not knowing about mitochondrial DNA. Right now there is a lively debate about the relative roles of evolution and development: constraints on genetic expression of the genes imposed by the intra-oval protein milieu (among other things.)

    Darwinians were wrong to promote eugenics, which shows yet again that a group of scientists can draw the wrong policy conclusion from a sound theory.


  36. 136
    Gene Madison says:

    The Greenhouse effect is mostly caused by the glass in a greenhouse… which we don’t have surrounding the earth. So the only thing that will retain heat is clouds… which would reflect the radiating CO2 light… right? What is frustrating is that Increased CO2 in the atmosphere is caused by increased temperatures. The warmer it is, the less water can retain the dissolved CO2. So the effect of warming is increased CO2 in the air…regardless of CO2 that is released by mankind. I don’t see the models accounting for this, either that, or I am not seeing it properly… any suggestions?

  37. 137
    Matthew says:

    I have a question. If it is true that the increase in CO2 is mostly due to anthropogenic emissions, how is it that the fraction of the total that is anthropogenic has remained constant? It’s as if there is some mechanism devoted to removing anthropogenic CO2 that has increased along with anthropogenic CO2 emissions themselves.

    A partial explanation might be that the increases in CO2 emissions by the biggest emitter until recently (the US), occurred simultaneously with the reforestation of the US, and the regrowing forests abosrbed most American CO2. This is a topic of debate in the journal Science, and estimates of CO2 uptake by American forests range from about 60% to about 100% of total. The measured increase of CO2 is not primarily from increased anthropogenic CO2, but from reduced CO2 uptake caused by 20th century deforestation.

    This explanation can’t be more than partial because it does not account for EU and Japan.

  38. 138
    David Horton says:

    135 Matthew “Darwinians were wrong to promote eugenics, which shows yet again that a group of scientists can draw the wrong policy conclusion from a sound theory.” I smell a creationist and a fundamentalist. Another case of the close relationship between AGW denialism and evolution denialism, and meaningless sayings, plucked from denial and creation web sites, spouted out with the utmost confidence.

  39. 139
    Ken W says:

    Matthew (135):
    “Darwinian theory of evolution is much older”

    That all depends on your definition of AGW. “Origin of the Species” was published in 1859. Atmospheric gases trapping heat was first proposed in the 1820’s by Fourier. Tyndall then discovered in 1859 (coincidentally the same year as Darwin’s publication) that CO2 was one such gas. And once Arrhenius, in 1896, computed a climate sensitivity of approximately 5C AGW was clearly established.

  40. 140
  41. 141
    Matthew says:

    108 Ray Ladbury

    Here is an item from the peer-reviewed literature, Science magazine of July 24, 2009.

    Some evidence that the effects of clouds amplify (positively feed back) CO2 effects on global warming.

    from the intro:

    Low-level clouds are of great climatic importance because of their net cooling effect on the global climate (1). If the coverage of this type of cloud were to change as the climate warms, it could lead to either an enhancement or a reduction in the warming (i.e., as either a positive or negative feedback, depending on whether cloud cover decreases or increases). At present, the sign of the low-level cloud feedback in climate change is unknown (2–5).

    There is also a review of the hockey stick published by Wegman et al in Statistical Science.

  42. 142
    Leo G says:

    Ray @ 122
    I agree completely, but I just love to see peoples faces twist when they realize that one of their own drives an electric car!

    As the commercial goes – “priceless”

    Now back to more serious commentary….

    Has anyone studiied the effects of all the microscopic particles of plastic in our oceans as to whether they are a positive or negative forcing factor? If at all?

  43. 143
    David B. Benson says:

    Gene Madison (136) — I fear you have it rather muddled. I suggest starting by reading “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart, first link under science section of the sidebar.

    Matthew (137) — I am certainly under the impression that the fraction of CO2 which is anthropogenic in origin is constantly increasing.

  44. 144
    Deech56 says:

    RE Jim Galasyn

    That was interesting. I can never understand the contrarian notion that climate science is done differently from other sciences. I’ve always thought it important that scientists in other disciplines point out that there are certain methods that are used by all scientific disciplines. Peer review and publication are important aspects of all sciences, as is independent verification, such as the many lines of evidence that the earth is warming and that climate sensitivity is around 3 oC/doubling of CO2. One does not need to be climate speci-alist to know this.

  45. 145
    Steve Fish says:

    Comment by Matthew — 2 January 2010 @ 7:16 PM:

    You are dissembling. The earth is a flat big circle was a simple observation without data, but this was subsequently modified to the earth is a sphere. Further on, with better instrumentation and observation, we found that the earth is actually an oblate spheroid. A theory that is not proven wrong early on is enhanced and added to as technology allows. This is the way that science progresses.

    Darwin’s original hypothesis overturned simple religious ideas. His theory of decent with modification and natural selection was accepted because there was no demonstrable alternative. It was conceptually true from its inception and hasn’t changed, but has been enhanced and extended as technology allowed (especially computers and methods of dissecting genetic mechanisms). The debate within the scientific community, a small amount of which you mention, has not been about the validity of the overall theory but about refinements of the mechanisms.

    Similarly, climate science started early in the 19th century and understanding of the role of greenhouse gasses and other climate forcings described then are still conceptually true. Subsequently research has enhanced and extended the global climate circulation model as technology allowed (especially computers and most recently satellite instrumentation). Current legitimate skepticism and debate is not about the validity of the overall theory, but about refinements of the mechanisms involved.

    Your notion of skepticism regarding the theories of evolution and global climate is stuck in the 1890’s. One can be skeptical about specific scientific studies that are refining understanding of the climate model if you are knowledgeable enough to see a flaw, but a true skeptic of the theory would have to be able to explain how large numbers of previous studies are wrong in order to make a fundamental challenge to the model. Are you able to do this?

    In addition, eugenics was a cultural and political movement. The biological scientific community as a group never supported this notion. Your assertion sounds like the accusation that climate science in the 1970’s claimed that an ice age was immanent.


  46. 146
    Tom Dayton says:

    Gene Madison, you are correct that you are not seeing things right. But there are so many fundamental misconceptions in your comment, that a huge amount of your time will be saved by reading cce’s The Global Warming Debate. (It has both a text version and a narrated-slides version.) But cce’s server is slow, and just now it didn’t respond to me at all, so don’t give up on it; check back with it periodically until it responds.

    After you read cce’s site (or if it never responds), click on some of the links in the “For complete beginners” section of the Start Here” section whose link is at the top of this RealClimate site.

  47. 147
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Leo G., I would think that the effect of the plastic would depend mainly on its albedo–although it probably also limits evaporation and heat exchange between atmosphere and water.

  48. 148
    Matthew says:

    Uh, oh. I just reread the Knorr article and realise that I misunderstood what fraction had remained constant.


    138, David Horton: I smell a creationist and a fundamentalist

    That is a comment about your sense of smell.

    139, 140 Ken W, Tom Dayton. Good points. Both theories have been substantially elaborated and enlarged over about the same time span. Neither theory is complete (we really don’t know what caused human natural selections to produce extreme musical, mathematical, athletic talent as occurs, or even the average amounts — though there is an interesting conjecture about selection forces acting on Jews in Europe, and I repeat that it is a conjecture.) Evolutionary theory does not purport to make detailed quantitative predictions about coming decades (though it predicts that populations of microbes will always acquire immunity to medications formulated by us to combat them, it does not predict the mechanisms that will evolve), and it is the quantitative forecasts made by AGW promoters that I principally question, not approximate claims about mechanisms. As I quoted a while ago, you can find debate in the peer-reviewed literature about whether even the sign of the water feedback mechanism is known, and whether the magnitude of the solar forcing is known.

    The detail of the conjecture about the Jews in Europe: all over Europe the Jews kept extremely detailed and complete birth and death records. Among this group it has been well-documented (again, in really good detail) that the children and grand children of the rich had higher survival rates than the children and grand children of the poor. By law and practice, Jews were required to earn their livings in restricted occupations, and were prohibited from owning property. The conjecture is that the wealth-earning ability was related to combinations of intelligence, talent, and energy, so that the genetic base of those attributes increased across the 2,000 years of the Diaspora. I mention this controversial conjecture to underline my main claim: in general, we do not know what selection mechanisms created the current distributions of talents like intelligence, musical and mathematical abilities in humans. If it was random variation and natural selection, the details are a mystery. So we can’t predict what is going to happen to those talents in the upcoming 100 years.

  49. 149
    Steve Fish says:

    Comment by Gene Madison — 2 January 2010 @ 7:20 PM:

    The ocean is still taking up CO2, but this will reverse if the ocean temperature increases enough.

    “Greenhouse effect” is a misnomer. To understand how it actually works you can use the “Start Here” button at the top of this site, or do an in site search for “greenhouse effect” to find several articles.


  50. 150
    jyyh says:

    Leo G, the additives in the plastic stuff get released somewhat, some of it is beneficial some bad, and plastic generally doesn’t have Fe in it, that would be the limiting substance on large areas, hence the iron fertilization experiment. I think there was some more speculation on that paper.

    What they certainly do is to provide a flotation device for some microscopic algae, so in that respect they add to the carbon sink (possibly red tides and such). Complete effects, like where they end up in the food chain and does marine fish taste more like plastic in the future are yet to be determined to my knowledge.