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Up is Down, Brown is Green (with apologies to Orwell)

Filed under: — eric @ 15 March 2010

In the alternate universe of Fox News, Anthony Watts, and many others, up is down. Now, it appears, brown is green. Following the total confusion over the retraction of a paper on sea level, claims of another “mistake” by the IPCC are making the rounds of the blogosphere. This time, the issue is the impact of rainfall changes on the Amazon rainforest.

A study in 2007 showed that the forest gets greener when it rains less. A new study, by Samanta et al. in Geophysical Research Letters shows that the earlier work was flawed. Aided by an apparently rather careless press release, this is being used as evidence that the Amazon is less sensitive to rainfall changes than the IPCC claimed. But the Samanta et al. paper actually does not address the central questions at all. It only addresses whether a single anomalous rainfall year had an impact that is measureable and interpretable from a satellite sensor. The conclusion is that they could not detect a change. As noted in a commentary from Simon Lewis, University of Leeds, “the critical question is how these forests respond to repeated droughts, not merely single-year droughts.”

Lewis – a broadly published expert on tropical forests – makes a number of additional important points in his commentary below. Bottom line: IPCC gets it right as usual.

—————
Guest Commentary by Simon Lewis, University of Leeds, UK

The new Samanta et al. study uses sensors on satellites to assess the colour of the rainforest canopy in the dry season of the year 2005, compared to the dry seasons of the years 2003 and 2004. More detected green colour in 2005 may suggest that the forest is being more productive (more green leaves photosynthesising), or more brown colours may suggest leaves dying and less productivity, than the previous years. The results show that 2005 was little different to the previous years, despite the strong drought.

This is important new information, as in 2007, a paper using broadly the same satellite-based method showed a strong ‘greening-up’ of the Amazon in 2005, suggesting tolerance to drought (Saleska et al. 2007, Science). The new study shows that those results were not reproducible, but also highlight the extreme caution that should be attached to satellite studies generally in this field, with instruments in space collecting data which is then used to infer subtle changes in the ecology of tropical forests.

In contrast to the 2007 paper, Oliver Phillips, myself, and others, published a paper in Science last year, using ground observations from across the Amazon, showing that while the 2005 drought did not dramatically change the growth of the trees compared to a normal year, as Samanta et al. also show, the deaths of trees did increase considerably. The new study of Samanta et al. does not contradict the Phillips et al. study, which itself shows the Amazon is vulnerable to drought via impacts on tree mortality. The Phillips et al. paper showed that remaining Amazon forest trees changed from absorbing nearly 2 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere annually over recent decades, as tree growth has been exceeding mortality, to being a large, but temporary, source of over 3 billion tonnes, from the elevated tree mortality associated with the 2005 drought event.

The evidence for the possibility of a major die-back of the Amazon rainforest is due to two factors,

1. That climate change induced decreases in rainfall in the dry season occur, and

2. The trees cannot tolerate these reductions in rainfall.

The Samanta paper does not directly address the first point; this is addressed using global circulation models (of which some, but not all, show a strong drying trend for the east of the Amazon over the 21st century). The second point is only addressed in a limited way. The critical question is how these forests respond to repeated droughts, not merely single-year droughts. The forests are of course able to withstand these single droughts (otherwise there would be no rainforest!) — it is their ability to survive an increased frequency of the most severe droughts that is critical to answer. Drought experiments, where a roof is built under the forest canopy to reduce rainfall, show that most forest trees survive a single year’s intense drought, in agreement with the ground observations in the 2005 drought, but can’t persist with repeated years of drought. The Samanta study does not address this point at all.

In conclusion, the new Samanta et al. study lends further weight to the emerging picture of the impact of the 2005 drought: that tree growth was relatively unaffected, but tree mortality increased, contributing temporarily to accelerating the rate of climate change, rather than as usual reducing it, via additions of carbon to the atmosphere from the dead trees. The mortality was far from catastrophic, but the impact on the carbon cycle was globally significant. This is hardly the ‘no impact’ of the 2005-drought on the forest suggested in various news reports.

I should add that there is considerable uncertainty associated with the models suggesting decreases in rainfall, and uncertainty as to how Amazon forests may react (especially when one considers the impacts of deforestation, logging, and fire combined with climate change impacts). But this uncertainty is being chipped away at by scientists, a task in which the Samanta et al. paper assists.

Oddly, the Boston University press release to accompany the paper was titled, “New study debunks myths about Amazon rain forests”. The opening line runs: “A new NASA-funded study has concluded that Amazon rain forests were remarkably unaffected in the face of once-in-a-century drought in 2005, neither dying nor thriving, contrary to a previously published report and claims by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” So, have scientists, myself included, been peddling myths? Have respected journals being publishing them? Have the IPCC? The answer is no, no and no.

The reality is that the IPCC have largely ignored the papers on the model results of decreasing rainfall in the east of the Amazon, and the diverse evidence used to assess the sensitivity of these forests to such rainfall reductions. There are a couple of lines in IPCC Working Group I (“New coupled climate-carbon models (Betts et al., 2004; Huntingford et al., 2004) demonstrate the possibility of large feedbacks between future climate change and vegetation change, discussed further in Section 7.3.5 (i.e., a die back of Amazon vegetation and reductions in Amazon precipitation).”). And in Working Group II there is a now infamous single sentence:

“Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation (Rowell and Moore, 2000).”

The statement is not as carefully worded as it should be, and incorrectly referenced, but basically scientifically correct and defensible with recourse to the peer-reviewed literature available at the time. Rainforest persists above a threshold of rainfall, below which one finds savanna. If this threshold is crossed a landscape dominated by rainforest can ‘flip’ to savanna. Therefore a ‘slight’ reduction can lead to a ‘dramatic’ reaction. Of course, evidence of a shift to a new lower rainfall climate regime is needed, and evidence of large areas of forest close to that rainfall threshold would be required for the IPCC statement to be reasonable; there is ample published evidence for both.

Overall the conclusions in the IPCC 2007 Fourth Assessment Report are strengthened (because the anomalous result of the Saleska et al. 2007 paper appear to be at fault), not weakened, by the new Samanta et al. study as their press release implies.

Update: Saleska responds, pointing out that a) their 2007 paper is not contradicted by Samanta et al. (2010); b) nor is the IPCC report weakened by either paper. Confused? Then read what he has to say: here.


235 Responses to “Up is Down, Brown is Green (with apologies to Orwell)”

  1. 151
    Patrick 027 says:

    Gilles (continued)-

    1.

    a) reducing fossil energy intensity (let’s say GWP intensity to make coal comparable to oil, etc, and include other sources).
    b) reducing annual GWP emission
    c) reducing cummulative GWP

    You actually have set up artificial thresholds where there is a continuum.

    The cummulative GWP trajectory (c) is a function of economic trajectory (b’), and GWP intensity trajectory (a).

    Any downward adjustment of either (b’) or (a) results in a downward adjustment in (c).

    2.

    Jevons paradox

    You are assuming that the demand curve is approximately flat. Maybe it is, but assuming any nonzero slope where demand quantity increases with decreasing price:

    If group A voluntarily reduces demand, the price drops, which increases consumption by others. If there is no net change in consumption, the price never changes. Thus the consumption increase by some should not be as much as the voluntary reduction by others. Maybe it is almost the same, but it isn’t necessarily exactly the same.

    (I believe that logic holds when trade is taken into account, because a voluntary reduction of consumption in one form may increase demand for other uses of the same thing, even by the same people (who are saving money), but again, if the total consumption didn’t change, the price wouldn’t change, and if people were willing to spend the same amount of money on an alternative use, why weren’t they before when the price was the same. Again, maybe they could be approximately the same, but no general reason to expect a complete balance.)

    Of course, when oil use declines to a point where the infrastructure is uneconomical, then oil itself migh t fall in price (at the well, anyway), because few will find it easy to get or use.

    Meanwhile, innovations in some countries (which could get a boost in part from economic limitations (imposed or otherwise) to trade, including temporal limitations to change) , if strong enough relative to Jevon’s paradox, might eventually drive down GWP contributions even in other countries.

    Another factor is mass market advantage – consider how Texas policies (unfortunately) affect the supply of gradeschool books over the rest of U.S. in the same way, not in the opposite way (or at least I’ve heard that; there could be, I imagine, a short term effect in the opposite direction.

    3.

    “So there is absolutely no reason why fossil fuels should peak before we are squeezed by natural constraints, and obviously they never did : I do not know any country or company that has renounced willingly to exploit an accessible resource. If it is the case for every individual, it is true for the global world. So conserving and improving efficiency will NOT result in a decrease of the fossil consumption, but in a INCREASE of global GDP produced by a given amount of finite resource. That is, ironically, environmentalists are the best support for the very thing they claim to fight : increasing the GDP as much as possible with the finite amount of resources we can exploit.”

    Taking an idealized market economy, price signals communicate valuation of different economic processes so as to direct resources in an optimum manner. (Scarcity of supply sends a price signal that directs the resource toward where it is most important and redirects some demand toward alternatives. High demand increases the potential for profit, pulling investment of resources toward increasing the supply, away from other less valued activities.

    Climate change (and ocean acidification) is an example of an externality. Externalities ‘gum up’ the computation of the market.

    An externality can be corrected by a. privatization of the commons b. public management c. imposed price signal (proactive, like a tax, or retroactive, as in civil suits). [For various reasons, for climate changing emissions, I prefer the tax, or at least some other proactive price signal-type policy, direct or indirect; although some short-term increase in management, as in efficiency and otherwise 'green-ness' in building codes, could be a good idea.]

    (NOTE that a price signal can shift the direction of technological advancement, so it is not only a matter of shifting usage to alternatives that already exist.)

    When the total value of everything is accounted (a hard excerise in practice, but I propose that in principle, anything of benifit has value), NOT correcting an externality IS a waste of resources, unless the mechanism used has costs exceeding the benifits. We are as a world willingly refusing to exploit an accessible resource.

    (Of course, the actual pricing of an externality may be nonlinear, for example, depending on the future trajectory, so the solution might have to be found via an iterative calculation to find an optimum, rather than solving simple equations…)

    4.
    “environmentalists are the best support for the very thing they claim to fight : increasing the GDP as much as possible with the finite amount of resources we can exploit.”

    What are environmentalists fighting, here? If we allow GDP to be calculated so as to include all things of value, then I’d say environmentalists (or at least many of them) are fighting for exactly that: Getting more for less, the ultimate deal.

  2. 152
    Patrick 027 says:

    Of course I didn’t intend to mean that absent all such simple externalities, the market would work in an ideal way; but I don’t thing all the caveats would completely void my point.

  3. 153
    john byatt says:

    wandering through the Australian rainforests during drought, i have noticed a loss of leaf gloss rather than color , also the leaves tend to stiffen,
    some trees even beyond the point of no return still appear to the untrained eye to be quite okay, just my observations,

  4. 154

    @141–”tell me one country that developped without fossil fuels.”

    I can’t, of course, any more than I can point you to one without professional sports, one lacking in the technology of plate glass, or one unacquainted with the ouevre of J.S. Bach.

    Are you going to tell me that all these, too, are prerequisites for prosperity? Post hoc ergo propter hoc. . .

    Or will we agree that countries following similar trajectories at the same time are likely to share important cultural characteristics, including the dominant technologies?

  5. 155
    Gilles says:

    “reducing fossil energy intensity (let’s say GWP intensity to make coal comparable to oil, etc, and include other sources).
    b) reducing annual GWP emission
    c) reducing cummulative GWP

    You actually have set up artificial thresholds where there is a continuum.”

    Which “thresholds”? I don’t catch your point. That’s 3 different quantities (like position, velocity and acceleration), with different dimensions and units (J/$, J/yr, J)

    “The cummulative GWP trajectory (c) is a function of economic trajectory (b’), and GWP intensity trajectory (a).
    Any downward adjustment of either (b’) or (a) results in a downward adjustment in (c).”

    downward adjustment of (b’) HOLDING (A) CONSTANT, or (a) HOLDING (B’) CONSTANT results in downward change in (c) But nothing says that one is kept constant while decreasing the other one (except in IPCC scenario of course). Economists reason as if the growth was given a priori – which is simply wrong, and known since Jevons.
    “Jevons paradox
    You are assuming that the demand curve is approximately flat. Maybe it is, but assuming any nonzero slope where demand quantity increases with decreasing price:

    I didn’t assume that, and what you say is the essence of Jevons paradox ; improving economy allows to produce more at lower cost (for instance, non conventional resources become more and more accessible (hence cheaper) with the improvement of techniques).
    “If group A voluntarily reduces demand, the price drops, which increases consumption by others. If there is no net change in consumption, the price never changes. Thus the consumption increase by some should not be as much as the voluntary reduction by others. Maybe it is almost the same, but it isn’t necessarily exactly the same.”

    The volume of production is not constant : it has continuously increased despite an almost constant price – because first of demographic growth and second the continuous rise in various applications, including electricity. You forget that world has only 15% of people with reasonable (for western people) standard of living, and 85 % of eager people knocking at the door. is what you propose locking the door ? it seems contradictory with your last sentence !

    BTW, you should not overestimate of what means “reducing the demand”. I have close relatives who bought a hybrid car and equipped their house with low energy bulbs, but went on vacation in New Caledonia and California, and built a (warmed- by heat pump but warmed) swimming pool in their garden. And they’re among the most “concerned” by CO2 around me.
    “Taking an idealized market economy, price signals communicate valuation of different economic processes so as to direct resources in an optimum manner. (Scarcity of supply sends a price signal that directs the resource toward where it is most important and redirects some demand toward alternatives. High demand increases the potential for profit, pulling investment of resources toward increasing the supply,”

    For fossil fuels, this MUST be wrong at some time since the production cannot grow indefinitely. So there is a point where the increase of prices simply reduces the demand (like the tax you prefer is supposed to do ! why should a tax reduce the demand, and not the natural increase in prices ??? ) , and there is then no more investment, nor alternatives, since the demand has simply been destructed. That just happened last year.
    “If we allow GDP to be calculated so as to include all things of value, then I’d say environmentalists (or at least many of them) are fighting for exactly that: Getting more for less, the ultimate deal.”
    You said it. So, again, can you say when the marginal cost of externality exceeds the marginal benefit of burning 1 more t of C ?

    (are you Patrick C. in my neighborhood ? :) )

    “@141–”tell me one country that developped without fossil fuels.”
    I can’t, of course, any more than I can point you to one without professional sports, one lacking in the technology of plate glass, or one unacquainted with the ouevre of J.S. Bach.”
    Oh, really, Kevin , you convinced me that fossil fuels are by no way necessary to development ! that’s now so clear ! I suggest you to publish your argument in Nature, it is a very important thought. Thanks. Don’t you have another one to solidify it ?

  6. 156
    Edward Greisch says:

    149 flxible: Thanks. I see nothing in the NASA release that indicates a definitive time scale. I can see only the abstract of the Science Direct article. It talks about 3 years. The Scientific American article says: “Oxygen-deprived areas in the world’s oceans usually found in deeper water are moving up to offshore areas and threatening ” and “Since 2002 tongues of hypoxic”. That sounds bad. SciAm also says: “The hypoxic seawater is distinct from the well-known “dead zones” that form at the mouths of the Mississippi”, which sounds less bad.

    150 Hank Roberts: Thanks. So it only takes 200 ppm of H2S to kill a person. How much ocean circulation is slowing down I don’t know, but Europe isn’t colder yet that I know of. Is slowing the ocean circulation the only way to produce enough anoxia to get 200 ppm of H2S? Or just one way?

    So how much of the “dramatically reduced oxygen levels showing up in these waters” is due to the GW we already have is unanswered by what I have seen so far. I will keep my eyes open to new information on this subject and I continue to ask RC for an article on all of these questions. I sent an email to NASA Natural Hazards Updates asking about it.

  7. 157
    Completely Fed Up says:

    ”tell me one country that developped without fossil fuels.”

    Roman Empire.

    British Empire.

    Spanish Empire.

    Dutch Renaissance.

    Aztec, Minoan, Ur, …

  8. 158

    Gilles (125): The fairy tale is to believe that these [renewable] technologies would allow [humanity] to maintain a[n] industrial society without fossil fuels.

    BPL: Why wouldn’t they? You keep saying they can’t, that this is a myth, etc., etc., etc., but you offer no clear argument as to why not. Do you know how much solar energy is absorbed by the climate system every second? About 1.2 x 10^17 watts. Do you know how much energy humanity uses in total? About 1.3 x 10^13 watts. Less than one part in 9000 of the total. Some of that goes to wind, some to biomass. Geothermal, on the other hand, is a separate source which can give us even more power.

    No, we can’t make carbon steel without carbon. Fine, let’s use it for that. We need oil for plastics. Let’s use it for that. We need no fossil fuels for electric power, industrial processes, or transportation. Renewables can do it all. Not right away, not without investing in replacing the present energy infrastructure with the new one, but since the course of action you advocate–letting things go on as they are now–will destroy our civilization, switching to renewables looks like a better bet.

  9. 159

    Jean B (142): No country developed without the use of fossil fuels

    BPL: No great civilizations developed with the use of slavery. Does that mean it can’t be done?

    Don’t confuse “we did it this way” with “this is the only way anybody can do it.”

  10. 160
    Nick Gotts says:

    Gilles,
    You have repeatedly asked others to propose bets, but one reason (not the only one) for reluctance to do so is that your claims are so many, so vague, and so long-term that it is not clear what such a bet should be. Why don’t you propose a specific bet, with specific amounts of money and odds, and a specific procedure for ensuring that the loser pays up? Come on, put your money where your mouth is.

  11. 161
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Oh, really, Kevin , you convinced me that fossil fuels are by no way necessary to development ! that’s now so clear !”

    NOTHING would convince you otherwise. Your assertion is axiomatic and inviolate, [edit]

    Let me ask: are you convinced that plate glass is a requirement for economic development? After all, you tell me of one country that hasn’t progressed into a higher economic realm after the introduction of it?

    Therefore we MUST continue to use it, yes?

  12. 162
    stevenc says:

    “Turning sardines into superheroes. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

    Off the coast of southwest Africa, toxic gas is bubbling up from the ocean floor, killing marine life across areas as large as New Jersey, and even worsening the greenhouse effect. What could stop this menace? Why, the lowly sardine.

    Andrew Bakun is a professor of marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami. He says the toxic gas comes from decaying microscopic plankton—microscopic plants that sardines normally eat.

    Bakun:

    They have very fine filters in their gill rakers, and they can actually filter these microscopic phytoplankton directly out of the water, and actually consume them directly.

    With the local sardine population decimated by overfishing, Dr. Bakun says a rebound might stave off the toxic eruptions. And protecting other sardine populations could stop this from becoming a global problem. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.”

    This is one person’s opinion.

  13. 163
    Completely Fed Up says:

    BPL: “We need oil for plastics.”

    Actually, all we need is a long chain polymer. petrol happens to be able to give us a form that we’ve developed a lot of interesting ways of making into various plastics.

    Methods we didn’t have until after we developed them.

    As would happen if we moved over to biological sources.

  14. 164
    Jean B. says:

    @157 CFU
    That’s pure anachronism, they didn’t know about fossil fuels so of course they couldn’t use them.
    And i’m sorry but they didn’t develop the way fossil fuels allowed development. Do you think in the lifetime of a Roman or an Aztec one could see any technological advancement ? any rise in their standard of living ? Growth was close to zero.

    “are you convinced that plate glass is a requirement for economic development? After all, you tell me of one country that hasn’t progressed into a higher economic realm after the introduction of it? Therefore we MUST continue to use it, yes?”
    You know your argument is totally fallacious, and it’s sad you have to base yourself on that kind of things…
    If you give glass to a country it won’t develop ; if you give them energy, they will.

    If you don’t agree with the simple fact that you need energy to develop, this discussion is pointless.

  15. 165
    Gail says:

    When I first read about the study I wondered if the satellite is reading not just the green of trees, but perhaps as trees lose leaves, light reaches beneath them and encourages vines to grow up into the branches? If so that could account for some disparity between pictures from space and ground measurements.

  16. 166
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “169
    Jean B. says:
    18 March 2010 at 8:42 AM

    @157 CFU
    That’s pure anachronism, they didn’t know about fossil fuels so of course they couldn’t use them.”

    Ergo, they didn’t use fossil fuels despite having a growing and vibrant economy.

  17. 167
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Sorry CFU, if you call that industrialized countries,”

    They were industrialised countries.

    That is all you required.

  18. 168
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Please show me an industrialised country that has not used slave labour.

    We don’t need it now, though.

    Neither do we need fossil fuels.

    We have technology. Get into the 21st Century and out of the 18th!

  19. 169
    Jean B. says:

    @174
    “However, energy != fossil fuels.”
    For this scale of energy consumption, energy = fossil fuels.
    85% of world energy is from fossil fuels, 14% from nuclear/hydro/biomas, 1% from other sources.
    I think you don’t realize the amount of energy need to sustain the industrial civilization….

    @173
    “Ergo, they didn’t use fossil fuels despite having a growing and vibrant economy.”
    Did you read the end of my comment ?

  20. 170
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    I would bet that the production of CO2 per capita is to peak before 2020, which isn’t predicted by any IPCC scenario to my knowledge. Would you agree to bet on that ?

    Since Peak Oil passed in 2005, that’s a loaded bet. If you change the phrase “production of CO2 per capita” to “atmospheric concentration of CO2″ — which acknowledges the existence of feedback CO2 from non-human sources — would you still want to make the bet?

    I think BAU will one day make our own contributions merely a part of the increase in atmospheric CO2, then a secondary part, and eventually irrelevant. The bet should be: will atmospheric CO2 still be increasing in ten years? I’d bet that it will.

  21. 171
    Hank Roberts says:

    Is there any one reading who can talk about the actual satellite instruments, bands, and how they’re interpreted? That seems to me to be the real meat of both the older and newer papers, and perhaps we can cut through the fog of assertions, beliefs, and just post-at-the-top-no-matter-what-the-subject stuff.

    If there’s a scientist who doesn’t want to post directly, remember you can email the people who run the site.

    I found a bit about extending the AQUA work here, for example. There’s plenty more: http://oceancolor.gsfc.nasa.gov/DOCS/modis_hires/

    “The 36 spectral channels of the MODIS instrument were selected to support observation of clouds, land, and oceans. The traditional channels used for ocean color observation are the 9 bands in the 412-869 nm spectral regime, with a spatial resolution of 1000-meters at nadir. These ocean bands were designed with high sensitivity over the dynamic range of reflectances typical over open oceans, including contributions from the surface and the atmosphere. Over highly turbid coastal and inland waters, it is possible for this dynamic range to be exceeded, such that the bands saturate and the true signal is unkown. Other bands on MODIS were specifically designed for land and cloud observations, with both increased spatial resolution and reduced sensitivity over a broader dynamic range. These land/cloud bands overlap the spectral range of the ocean bands and extend into the short-wave infrared (SWIR), from 469 nm to 2130 nm. The ocean processing code developed by the OBPG, the Multi-Sensor Level-1 to Level-2 code (msl12), has been extended to support these additional bands. The primary purpose of this effort is to provide a mechanism for exploring the potential value of the increased spectral information, as well as the higher spatial resolution and saturation limits of the land/cloud bands, for application to coastal and inland waters.”

    Ok, not specifically about the Amazon or trees, I realize. I’m sure similar efforts are going on with a lot of satellites, and probably with reanalysis of previously collected data as the instruments are better characterized.

    Just hoping to hear from someone working in the area on how this is being done, and how much the field and satellite work is coordinated.

    For example — when you go to a field site, do you ever place a known target, or make local measurement of a specific location, and coordinate that with satellite data collection of the same spot at the same time?

    Could that be done and would it be helpful?

  22. 172
    Witgren says:

    “Jean B. says:
    18 March 2010 at 8:42 AM

    @157 CFU
    That’s pure anachronism, they didn’t know about fossil fuels so of course they couldn’t use them.
    And i’m sorry but they didn’t develop the way fossil fuels allowed development. Do you think in the lifetime of a Roman or an Aztec one could see any technological advancement ? any rise in their standard of living ? Growth was close to zero.”

    Now the goalposts are changing. Before it was “development can’t happen without fossil fuels.” Now it’s apparently “well, ok, development can happen, but won’t happen as fast.” Personally, I’d prefer slow development to backward development.

    And actually, the Romans were familiar with coal and oil. Coal was used in some areas, especially Roman Britain, for heating. And the Byzantines used petroleum in their naptha. Steam power was known among the intelligentsia among the ancient Greeks and Romans and could have been turned into a power source, but with plentiful manpower (aka slaves) there was no incentive to do it.

  23. 173
    Jean B. says:

    Source : Gapminder

    Oil consumption per person with income : positive correlation (+1)
    http://www.gapminder.org/world/#$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=6;ti=2007$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj1jiMAkmq1iMg;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=pyj6tScZqmEfr_zKfD2RIcA;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL_n5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=194;dataMax=96846$map_y;scale=log;dataMin=0.0107;dataMax=11$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=

    Energy use per person vs income : positive correlation (+1)
    http://www.gapminder.org/world/#$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=6;ti=2004$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj1jiMAkmq1iMg;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=pyj6tScZqmEd1G8qI4GpZQg;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL_n5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=269;dataMax=119849$map_y;scale=log;dataMin=0.0182;dataMax=28$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=

    Energy use per person with human development index : positive correlation (+1)
    http://www.gapminder.org/world/#$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=6;ti=2004$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=tyadrylIpQ1K_iHP407374Q;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=pyj6tScZqmEd1G8qI4GpZQg;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL_n5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=0.2392;dataMax=0.9711$map_y;scale=log;dataMin=0.0182;dataMax=28$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=

    Energy use per person and total health spending per person : positive correlation (+1)
    http://www.gapminder.org/world/#$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=6;ti=2004$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=tR3MM-UTZ0B44BKxxWeAZaQ;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=pyj6tScZqmEd1G8qI4GpZQg;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL_n5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=10;dataMax=7154$map_y;scale=log;dataMin=0.0182;dataMax=28$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=

    Energy use per person with infant mortality rate : negative correlation (-1)
    http://www.gapminder.org/world/#$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=6;ti=2004$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0NpF2PTov2Cw;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=pyj6tScZqmEd1G8qI4GpZQg;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL_n5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=2;dataMax=420$map_y;scale=log;dataMin=0.0182;dataMax=28$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=

    Energy use per person with under 5 mortality : negative correlation (-1)
    http://www.gapminder.org/world/#$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=6;ti=2004$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj05ZR69usyQIg;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=pyj6tScZqmEd1G8qI4GpZQg;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL_n5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=1.9;dataMax=437$map_y;scale=log;dataMin=0.0182;dataMax=28$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=

    Now please anyone provide me with some links showing a clear (anti)correlation between any of those parameters : income, human development index, health spending, child mortality, under 5 mortality and any climate parameter you want.

    I think Norway, Australia, Israel, Japan, Sweden, Texas are good example of no correlation between any of these parameters and any climate parameter.

  24. 174
    Reasonable Observer says:

    “Advocating for a problem to be taken seriously is not to ‘advocate policies’ – If I think that homelessness should be taken seriously by local governments doesn’t imply that I have a specific (or even any) policy in mind to fix it.”

    This statement gets to the root of the issue doesn’t it.

    Our world has a whole host of problems, most of which could in the end be fixed with unlimited resources. Politics and policy are essentially about finding and allocating resources to fix problems and address needs.

    When you say “taken seriously”, you are essentially arguing for an allocation of resources to your problem. You don’t address the problem that there is a fixed pool of resources and allocating them to your problem means allocating less to other problems.

    Saying is something should be “taken seriously” is a political statement that is arguing for a reordering of policy priorities. While you may be neutral on the specific policy, arguing the priorities is a policy in itself.

    [Response: It's not a 'policy' in the sense that everyone else interprets the word. It is 'advocacy' - but it is very clear and obvious kind. I also push for better science literacy and a wider dissemination of knowledge about climate science (which is why I co-wrote a book on the topic), but neither of these things make me an 'advocate' in the sense implied. The problem is that we can define anything that happens in public as 'political' and any desire for any change in anything at all as 'advocacy' - but when scientists are described as 'political advocates' in the public discussion, none of the subtleties are carried over and the message is communicated that we are partisan political hacks and shouldn't be trusted because we are obviously dishonest in denying that. You might see the problem here. - gavin]

  25. 175
    Nick Gotts says:

    Call the editor of Nature!!! Stop the presses!!! Jean B. has discovered that rich countries generally use more resources per capita than poor ones!!!!!

  26. 176
    Jean B. says:

    @183 John P. Reisman
    Again if you want to compare for example roman civilization with 30% of live birth dying before the age of 5 -that’s not taking into account stillbirths of course- and an average lifespan of 40yrs with current modern civilization, you’re free to do it…
    From the beginning of the western roman empire to its fall (i.e over 400yrs), average estimated lifespan went from 34 to 36rs…what an improvement in health care !

    “since the pre-industrial society did not endanger the climate system.”
    Would you say that the use of fossil fuels is a good or a bad thing overall ?

  27. 177
    Nick Gotts says:

    Have you noticed, Jean B., that most rich countries (which would of course score best on your measures), are in the temperate zone?

  28. 178
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Again if you want to compare for example roman civilization with 30% of live birth dying before the age of 5 ”

    That has nothing to do with the economy, just the medical knowledge.

  29. 179
    Nick Gotts says:

    Would you say that the use of fossil fuels is a good or a bad thing overall ? – Jean B.

    I would say that that is a remarkably stupid question. Good for whom, over what timescale? If it leads to the collapse of civilisation and billions of unpleasant premature deaths, then it will turn out to have been a bad thing. If we manage to prevent that likely outcome, and build a civilisation based on sustainable resource use, then the undoubted boost that the availability of fossil fuels gave to scientific and technological development will mean most of us (including me) would judge it a good thing.

  30. 180
    Stuart says:

    Steam power was known among the intelligentsia among the ancient Greeks and Romans and could have been turned into a power source, but with plentiful manpower (aka slaves) there was no incentive to do it.

    Interesting aside on this subject is a speech given by Robert Allen on how the uptake of fossil fuels (initially coal) and development of mechanisation/industrialisation started due to the high labour costs in the UK around that period: http://paul.kedrosky.com/archives/2009/10/robert_allen_on.html

  31. 181
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “What utter garbage. Of course climate change has social aspects:”

    Nope.

    Climate change doesn’t give a fig for the social aspects: molecules and photons do not have a society.

    What we DO about it has social aspects.

  32. 182
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “There is a difference between explicit lying and not saying the full truth (and sometimes not even knowing that one doesn´t know the full truth)”

    But you’ve assumed that the IPCC haven’t stated what they don’t know.

    http://www.ipcc.ch

    “As I read you, you tend to argue that any claim that may treaten the emotional well-being or self-image of a scientist must be expelled without second thought and irrespective of this claim being likely true or false.”

    You’re the only one who reads it that way.

    “To believe that normativity is the main hindrance for progress in the social sciences is VERY naïve.”

    Got anything to actually *say*? Or just statements to be taken as gospel?

    “I believe that science MUST deal with facts and values.”

    And the IPCC do.

    Watts doesn’t.

    “Scientists will not be more objective just because they try hard to hide their subjectivity”

    Who’s talking about hiding? Only you.

    “The question we need to address is: HOW do we deal with facts and values?”

    How do YOU do it?

    “Methods for this: Not much progress, yet, since there is still far too much value denialism in science.”

    Not in the IPCC reports. Monckton? Yup. G&T? Yup. Heartland? Yup.

  33. 183
    Andy says:

    Both of the satellite “canopy color” studies ask the wrong questions.

    Dr. Phillips is on the right track with a very long road ahead. However the death of adult trees doesn’t necessarily indicate a change in forest structure from closed canopy to savannah is likely. It simply means that some trees; very large, shallow-rooted canopy emergent ones, are likely to be hammered by a climate where soil moisture deficits increase in intensity and/or duration (note that this could happen even in a climate that produces more average annual rainfall). But the Amazon may simply change forest composition to include more drought resistant tree species. That is a significant finding regardless of whether the future Amazon contains more or less forest or savannah. Such a change in forest composition would decrease the diversity of the Amazon’s flora and fauna and could be ecologically devastating.

    But; savannah surrounds much of the Amazon, and is found inside of it where soil conditions are unfavorable for tree growth, and separates it from the other Amazon now almost gone – the Atlantic coast forest. Much of the Amazon flora is a subset of the surrounding savannah which itself is tremendously diverse. This all points to a high sensitivity of the current forest structure to climate changes. Further, the forest-savannah boundary is a moving squirmish line that is found all over the world, and is known to have moved greatly with past climate change, and is largely driven by soil moisture levels with many complicating factors such as fire and grazing levels, and is much better studied in areas outside of the Amazon such as the SE United States.

    One has no need of determing canopy greeness to predict the great forest’s future under whatever climate scenarios are presented. This is good old ecology, often jeered as “natural history”. Knowing an area’s natural history means knowing the right questions to ask before you collect data.

  34. 184
    Walt The Physicist says:

    It was stated earlier in the posts that the scientists don’t want to be on Oprah and prefer seclusion. I beg to differ. Everyone who ever tried to obtain government funding knows that a lot of exposure via publications and presentations and strong claims of “greater impact” are necessary to obtain funding. Seclusion leads to no-tenure, no funding and finally ending up in a small firm or teaching in a school. Thus, all of us, scientists play the game; however, some of us excel by turning it into an “entertainment science”. In such a way receiving notoriety they secure funding, promotions, and invitations to some pretty boring parties where they award each other with the “Excellence Awards”.

  35. 185
    Geoff Wexler says:

    [OT butif others do it then...]

    Not all critique of the IPCC and climate science is rooted in right-wing politics.

    Taken on its own , that quote may be correct. (I have not been following the context of the earlier remarks.) In the UK we have the independent weather forecaster Pers Corbyn, whom I have been told used to be left wing. I have no idea whether this has changed.

    The following is partly unchecked speculation.
    There are some people on the left who have an ideological commitment to industrial growth, and take up a political position to oppose green environmental policies. That should not affect their attitude to science, but it occasionally dominates it. There are also a few such people who are not right wing but are highly suspicious of appeals to authority of any kind including scientific authority. They don’t understand the authority of the evidence.

    Of course it is money which drives the propaganda, and there is much more of that from right wing sources who get publicised by right wing newspapers.

    It appears to end up with leftie critics of global warming science sharing conferences and propagandist programmes like Channel 4′s Swindle with well funded people from the right. The right wing Swindle didn’t forget that part of its constituency. It included a section on Margaret Thatcher whom it accused of promoting AGW as part of the struggle against the miners.

    As far as I remember the recent contrarian BBC blog by Hudson consisted mainly of a promotion of Corbyn’s appearance at a conference when he was due to overthrow the whole subject of AGW.

  36. 186
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Simply, I think it impossible to sustain everything that made our life so different from that of our grand-grand-parents without fossil fuels. ”

    Why?

    What is so special about the energy from fossil fuels that means we cannot live without it?

  37. 187

    212Walt The Physicist says:

    18 March 2010 at 1:20 PM”"”"”It was stated earlier in the posts that the scientists don’t want to be on Oprah and prefer seclusion. I beg to differ.”"”

    WHOAAAAAAAA, you must come from a different parallel universe then from where I come from for 11 years. I come from the trenches, bloodied and battered along with IPCC lead authors and many well-respected publishing journal scientists…how about you?

    Below are both personal observations as well as peer reviewed articles stating that you are wrong.

    For 11 years I was with arguably the best climate scientists in the world at a US national center for climate research and related with them on an almost every day basis. I also related with other respected peer reviewed publishing climate scientists from around the United States federal agenices (NOAA, EPA etc.)

    If you so much as opened your mouth to the press, you were quivering in your shoes for fear of the career implications (and getting harassed) and you often got called in by a (non scientific) supervisor afterwards.

    The press seemed to misquote you 100% of the time and you got the fall. Then you were threatened by a non-scientific supervisor. “Someone” alone with you in their office would say that ‘you might regret something you say someday’. It is a standing joke for anyone trying to get a scientist to speak in my current town.

    The word was you don’t talk to the Sierra Club or any other organization…or there could/would be consequences.

    The senior scientists could do it a little easier than others…but the institutional pressure, peer pressure and pressure from Washington to shut up and not implicate your home institution and make it a target or a target for budget cuts was stifling. I received threating Emails that were a result of actions from Washington. I know from where I speak. I am not alone.

    I personally witnessed publishing scientists putting pressure on other peer-review publishing scientists when they opened their mouths too much not only in peer-rerview but also to the press.

    The way to get funding is to publish sucessfully in peer reviewed journals and build a good reputation. The way to get sh_t, is by using almost any other way to get noticed. You get the hell hammered out of you in real life if you stick your head up.

    Every IPCC lead scientist I saw interviewed where I was (inhouse no less by inhouse people on an inhouse video camera about human-caused global warming with questions being asked by inhouse people) was quivering, sweating, gulping, eyes were flying around the room like a trapped deer…That’s the way it is. Whatever you say is on record and can come back to haunt you and your career and your all important reputation.

    I have talked to many publishing scientists around the country from NASA, NOAA, EPA…and it appears to be systemic.

    So don’t you dare hazard your opinion when the truth is a lot different.

    It is even recorded in the permanent peer review record:
    ______________________________________________________________________

    “They generally are not encouraged by their employers and funding agencies to communicate to non-scientists.”

    Environmental geoscience; communication challenges.
    D. G. E. Liverman (2008)
    Geological Society, London, Special Publications 305, 197-209

    Articles
    Environmental geoscience; communication challenges
    David G. E. Liverman
    Geological Survey of Newfoundland & Labrador, Department of Natural Resources, Government of Newfoundland & Labrador, PO Box 8700, St. John’s, NL A1B 4J6, Canada (e-mail: dliverman@gov.nl.ca )

    http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=9yqfy2TSX4EC&oi=fnd&pg=PA197&dq=Environmental+geoscience%3B+communication+challenges.+&ots=dGHwehsDUD&sig=sMzB-wH5lc3Nidwg3PtAV8ofiQE#v=onepage&q=Environmental%20geoscience%3B%20communication%20challenges.&f=false

    http://sp.lyellcollection.org/cgi/content/abstract/305/1/197
    _________________________________________________________________________

    “Recent attempts at political interference can be roughly grouped into 4 types: … (2) controlling federal scientists” (early 2000s)

    “Information can also be controlled by muzzling scientific experts.

    “A widely publicized example involved James Hansen, PhD, director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administrations’s (NASA’s) Goddard Institute for Space Studies. A vocal spokesperson on the urgency of
    taking action on climate change, Hansen was warned of “dire consequences”
    by a low-level agency public affairs political appointee
    if he continued to make such statements.”

    “Other federal climate scientists have reported similar pressure.”

    “Despite congressional hearings and sustained media attention on the suppression of global warming scientists, in March 2007, US Fish and Wildlife Service scientists were prevented from answering questions at an international conference about the impact of climate change on polar bears.”

    “The ability of federal scientists to participate in scientific
    exchange also has been curtailed.”

    “The inevitable result will be…consequent lessening of US influence and relevance.”

    Rest and Halpern American Journal of Public Health | November 2007, Vol 97, No. 11

    http://ajph.aphapublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/AJPH.2007.118455v1

  38. 188
    Theo Hopkins says:

    @ Gavin Wexler at No.213

    Them Yanks have a lot of Creationists.

    But we don’t have many in the UK – really very, very few.

    Yet the level of scepticism in both countries is about the same.

    Really just my note in passing. Why?

    [Response: Different cultural context. If you look at any of the anti-science movements around the world, the one thing they have in common is that they are being stoked and reinforced by specific political constituencies that have local cultural resonance - anti-GM food in France, creationism in the southern/rural US, anti-HIV/AIDS links in South Africa. They are not a reflection of one population being more science literate than another (I see no evidence for that), but rather that specific political groups find it useful to rally people under an anti-science banner - whether that is a stand-in for American-led globalisation, urban/East Coast elites, the nefarious medical 'establishment' or colonial imperialism (respectively). These movements thus only grow where there is fertile soil. - gavin]

  39. 189
    Walter Manny says:

    To Gavin’s: “Advocating for a problem to be taken seriously is not to ‘advocate policies’”

    With respect, then, what is the below AR4 section about? Non-advocacy?

    Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change
    E. Policies, measures and instruments to mitigate climate change.
    [suggestions listed with the imprimatur: "high agreement, much evidence"]

    Why should the IPCC not advocate for that which it believes? Should it have none of the courage of its convictions? Right or wrong, the IPCC appears to have a distinct point of view of its version of the truth, and I fail to see what is wrong with that or why anyone needs to defend its right to a point of view.

    [Response: Giving an assessment of policy options in WG3 is fine. It is still not advocating for a specific policy. People are of course free to advocate for any policy they want - and many scientists (though not all) have been quite vocal about they prefer - but this again is not the 'IPCC' saying that. - gavin]

  40. 190
    Theo Hopkins says:

    Somewhere on this thread or eslewhere recently, there was a link to:

    “”Nature 463, 296-297 (21 January 2010) | doi:10.1038/463296a; Published online 20 January 2010

    Fixing the communications failure.”"

    This was roughly about why and how people are right/left and why right/left have a set of values, so that lefties (like me) accept AGW and right wing cranks (Lord Monkton?) don’t.

    Gavin…

    Stop posting bloody science stuff. Go and get a good suit.

    Not joking here below.

    Thee was a nice picture of Phil Jones in the Guardian newspaper in the UK. Sort of casual open-necked shirt stuff, and his graying hair slightly disheveled. Looked younger than his true age. “My” sort of bloke, I would be happy to waste an hour with him in the pub.

    Then there is that Ian Pilmer bloke. Suit/Combed hair/Sober tie. Wouldn’t trust him an inch. Probably skip the pub when his round of drinks was due. Pilmer (or is it Plimer) was talking to the United Kingdom Independence Party (Want the UK out of Europe, mostly right wingers, “Little Englanders”). His audience was all over-middle aged men in sober suits and ties who were trying to hide their baldness, rather than accepting it like Jones.

    Gavin. Go get a really good suit and a sober tie. And a bit of premature baldness would give you gravitas.

  41. 191
    CM says:

    “Reasonable Observer” #187 replied to Gavin’s homeless example:

    Saying is something should be “taken seriously” is a political statement that is arguing for a reordering of policy priorities. While you may be neutral on the specific policy, arguing the priorities is a policy in itself.

    But by that standard, we’re all advocating policy, since saying nothing is also a political statement, one of tacit support for the status quo. And if people are sleeping under bridges, that’s a loud kind of silence. If your findings are that business as usual could flip the Amazon into savanna, and you don’t bring this to people’s attention, you’re advocating like crazy.

    From a sociological viewpoint I think defining almost everything as political sometimes has its uses, but that you also need a narrower definition of politics. Otherwise you will lack the words to describe a central feature of modernity: the differentiation of science and politics* into specialized, relatively autonomous subsystems geared to producing knowledge and power respectively.

    (* and religion, and business, and so on)

  42. 192

    218Theo Hopkins says:
    18 March 2010 at 3:45 PM
    @ Gavin Wexler at No.213

    “”"”"Them Yanks have a lot of Creationists.

    But we don’t have many in the UK – really very, very few.

    Yet the level of scepticism in both countries is about the same.

    Really just my note in passing. Why?”"”"
    _______________________________________________________________________
    Have you compared the laws in the US to that in Europe (campaign contribution laws)???????? Do you even know the difference? Do you even care?

    In Europe, big oil, coal and gas industry can’t do 1/4 the political contributions (if that) compared to the US by law if I understand it right…

    The USA, unlike Europe, is open season for the richest of industries to flood the politicians, the voting system and the political system with a virtual tsunami of money…and big industry HATES change and threats to their established products…oil, coal and gas.

    Read the book the Heat is On by Ross Gelbspan who lead a Pulitzer prize winning team for the Boston Globe on how US big industry has worked the political system on climate change.

  43. 193
    Geoff Wexler says:

    #218

    [ I can't claim any credit for the response, in green, to your comment; that impression may have been suggested by the hybridised name at the beginning]

    Re : my #213; there is another effect which may turn out to matter. Whereas the three party leaders are all saying similar things in the UK, this similarity may not reflect opinion a bit lower down. A recent poll of new Conservative candidates for the general election showed a rather high level of AGW skepticism. That would not be surprising if they got their climate education from Conservative newspapers.

  44. 194
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walt the Wannabe@212, Sorry, Walt, but Oprah ain’t gonna help get you a grant. What matters in maintaining funding is delivering on promises to funding agencies. In academia, you have to produce PhDs and keep people working. Now I have had scientists include a clipping from the technical literature or from a popularization in Physics Today or Nature or Science or American Scientist. It’s nice. You can show it to your kids, but it’s not going to change whether you get funding. Dude, no way are you a physicist. Your picture of scientific research is right out of prime-time TV.

  45. 195
    Theo Hopkins says:

    @ Gavin

    To my comment that there are few creationists in UK, but scepticism is at same level.

    “”Response: Different cultural context. If you look at any of the anti-science movements around the world, the one thing they have in common is that they are being stoked and reinforced by specific political constituencies that have local cultural resonance – anti-GM food in France, creationism in the southern/rural US, anti-HIV/AIDS links in South Africa. “”

    Interesting that you quote France as anti-science, thus anti-GM. In the UK,the very successful anti-GM campaign was run by the serious dark greenies (including my partner, a toxicologist, PhD, three years post-doc in good ‘ol US of A)who are now at the front of climate change protest.

    And these UK greenies recently marched, while mixing it with the riot police, under the banner “We come armed only with peer reviewed science”. :-)

    It’s an odd world.

  46. 196
    Dale Power says:

    This may seem a little off topic, but I think it relates well enough to the public perception of Climate Science and the Denial campaign…

    The Denial campaign, the fake “Skeptics” out there claiming that science and fact don’t exist because it scares them, are a bit like everyone’s angry Uncle Joey.

    You know, the guy that turns every family gathering into a political argument, and seems to believe that the louder he shouts, the more he has proved his point?

    That fellow with the glass of beer in his hand, foaming at the mouth, that everyone else just tolerates because they have begun to realize after a time that arguing with him won’t make any difference as his mind has been closed since slightly before the Regan Era?

    So instead of arguing with Deniers, just repeat a few simple phrases over and over again until they get it or go away:

    1. Science shows that Climate Change is happening.

    2. Deniers are deluded and too scared of what has happened to take real action.

    3. Deniers always get the science wrong. They use some of the right words, but can’t back it up scientifically.

    Arguing actual points with such people won’t work anyway, so why waste your time?

    I think number three above is perhaps the best idea to promote.

    It’s true and most people really do understand that some people with loud mouths just don’t know what they are talking about.

  47. 197

    I don’t know who chose the title of this post (“Up is Down, Brown is Green”), but it is even more true than the insightful commentary by my colleague Simon Lewis indicates! The Samanta et al paper says brown, but in fact their own data (when you dig it out of the supplement) shows green, consistent with (and indeed virtually indistinguishable from) our original findings published in Science (Saleska et al., 2007).

    Samanta et al. misrepresents our work on many levels (one of which is to assert, falsely, that we did not filter out atmosphere-corrupted observations when in fact we did), and we intend, of course, to present an appropriate response in the peer reviewed literature, where the technical details of our differences may be evaluated by anyone who wishes. But for the moment we will, for the sake of argument, accept their analysis at face value and ask: even if Samanta et al are 100% correct in their critique of our methods (which we of course dispute), what are the implications? Does the alternative to our method which Samanta et al advocate, or the recent update in the MODIS satellite data (to version 5 from version 4), make any difference for the main conclusion of our paper?

    With due respect to our friends and colleagues at Boston University, the answer is no, it does not.

    First: the relevant Samanta et al data (which looks at the satellite-detected response of the 2005 drought region) is this:

    Table S3 (Samanta et al. 2010, supplement)
    Year Rain defecit (%) Area Green (%) Area Brown (%) Area (%) Valid no chang area (%)
    2000 0.99 5.19 6.13 23.75 35.09
    2001 6.09 5.15 5.68 24.24 35.09
    2002 10.5 5.08 6.05 23.95 35.09
    2003 5.34 8.05 4.12 22.90 35.09
    2004 4.68 7.56 6.72 20.80 35.09
    2005 87.04 10.80 3.89 18.98 33.68 + 1 Standard deviation)
    Saleska et al. (2007): 34% (p<0.000001)
    Samanta et al. (2010): 32% (p<0.004)

    The bottom line is that their observed 2005 result (32% greenness) is indistinguishable from ours (34%). I.e. Samanta et al effectively reproduce the results of Saleska et al.

    To summarize in plain words:
    – Samanta et al data show a drought region green up that is on average indistinguishable from Saleska et al (but they call it NO green up).
    – Samanta et al data almost exactly reproduce Saleska et al's most salient bottom-line result (but they say what we did was not reproducible).

    This summary response of necessity focuses on the first order results, glossing over nuances (which we expect to address in the literature). It also begs some very interesting outstanding questions about tropical forest response to climate variation: what caused the anomalously disproportionate green-up in the drought region?, and why do some regions green up and others brown down? Are the short-term green-up results consistent with the longer-term mortality increases reported in Phillips et al (2009), and refered to in Simon Lewis' commentary? For the moment, however, we will leave discussion of causal mechanisms to the literature, because such discussion does not directly speak to our original Science paper, which was a simple observation, not an argument for a particular mechanism. But one area we can surely agree with Samanta et al is that these are important questions that would benefit from further research.

    Best regards,

    Scott Saleska

  48. 198
    John Eggert says:

    I’m sure this has been pointed out before, but the fact that Jo Nova, Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre (among other skeptics/deniers/whatever) all prominently display active links to realclimate whilst you show no such desire to extend them the same courtesy is . . . questionable. Why are they willing to show people what you think when you seem dead set against showing anyone what they think? Makes one wonder about all this talk of openness from you. That may not be fair and it may be the intent of their links, but the fact remains, they link to you, but you don’t link to them. Got something you don’t want people to know? If not, put a link to them on your site. McIntyre at least, if not some of the others. In this skirmish in the battle of credibility, they have won.

    [Response: Whatever. We only link to credible sources of information and avoid those who misrepresent it or inappropriately personalize or politicize the science. Should any of the sites you mention decide to follow that pattern, we'd link to them. (And really, you think those sites show us courtesy? Really?) - gavin]

  49. 199
    himThere says:

    Hank @ 230

    A masterly description of the power, the majesty, the fallibility, and the cruelty of the ways of science. The outputs and outcomes from science can be truly awe-inspiring, but the journey can inflect great pain and suffering from the scientists, not least of all from their highly competitive ‘colleagues’. The impact that the ways of science has on its practitioners is rarely seen outside science itself.

  50. 200
    Ian says:

    Gavin

    I am aware that WUWT is anathema to many both to those that post on RealClimate and those that manage the site. However, a post on WUWT dealing with the changes in the temperature data from 1955-1965 does raise questions about the integrity of the data that are the bedrock of global warming. You probably consider this type of report plus discussions on the MWP are not fit topics for discussion here. If that is indeed the attitude of RC, and it may well not be, it means that WUWT, a very popular blog, gets a free kick at the expense of AGW. Is there any truth in either of these reports?

    [Response: Is it conceivably possible that data from thousands of weather stations and ocean records which have been carefully corrected to account for jumps in instrumentation, stations moves, biases derived from dozens of independent databases might just give slightly different results than a splice of European and US station averages with a compilation of 63 uncorrected radio-sonde stations? Maybe, just maybe.... - gavin]


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