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Why we bother

Filed under: — group @ 12 March 2010

A letter from a reader (reproduced with permission):

Dear RealClimate team:

I have a background in biology and studied at post-grad level in the area of philosophy of science. For the last few years, I have been working on a book about the logic of argument used in debates between creationists and evolutionists.

About a year ago I decided it was time to properly educate myself about climate science. Being perhaps a little too influenced by Harry M Collins’ “The Golem” (and probably too much modern French philosophy!), I was definitely predisposed to see group-think, political and cultural bias in the work of climatologists.

On the whole, though, I tried hard to follow the principles of genuine skepticism, as I understood them.

Obviously, there are plenty of ill-considered opinions to be found either side of any issue, but only the most ignorant person could fail to see the terrible intellectual gulf between the quality of so-called skeptic sites and those defending the science behind the AGW thesis.

What convinced me, though, is that the arguments made by a few sites like yours are explicit and testable. In particular, it is useful that RealClimate sticks to the science as much as possible. It has been a lot of hard work to get here, but I am now at a point where I understand the fundamentals of climate science well enough to articulate them to others.

For my part, I am grateful to you guys. I hope it gives you some small amount of satisfaction to know that your work can convert readers who really were skeptics in the beginning. I use the word ‘skeptic’ carefully – the one thing most commonly absent from the so-called ‘skeptics’ is authentic skepticism.

By the way, my book is an attempt to categorise the various logical errors people fall into when they search for arguments to support a conclusion to which they have arrived at a priori. It will now have a few chapters on global warming.

All the best,

549 Responses to “Why we bother”

  1. 451

    AQUA AIRS data available:

    http://disc.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/AIRS/

    (Got there via the previously linked page.)

  2. 452
    dhogaza says:

    Kevin, Hank …

    This photo claims to have been taken on March 11th

    (it’s a photo of the second ever tropical cyclone known to have formed in the South Atlantic)

  3. 453
    Norman says:

    440Didactylos says:
    17 March 2010 at 8:43 AM
    Norman:

    “If clouds provide a negative (or positive) forcing or feedback which will magically counter (or explain) climate change – why haven’t we observed this?

    To have the result you hope, the effect would have to be very large. Very large effects are easy to detect.”

    http://www.climate4you.com/ClimateAndClouds.htm

    On this website, if you scroll down to the graph of Tropical Cloud Cover and Global Air Temperature it seems to show a very strong correlation to cloud cover and Global Warming that is happening. His sources for the graph are International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) and the HadCRUT3 for Global Temps. The only thing done on this graph is to show both trends in a time scale. The Cloud cover in the Tropics is down and the Global temps are up. The thing it seems to explain better than carbon dioxide as the major driver is the fact that the temps now (although very high historically) are flatlined, not increasing. This same website has graphs of that as well. Temps went up drastically from 1970 to 2000 but have been level since. They followed the curve of carbon dioxide increase nicely for that 30 year period but have stopped. The tropical cloud cover graph can explain both of these. The cloud cover decreased warming the tropics, also the globe and oceans. Cloud cover stopped decreasing and the temps stopped increasing. Looks like a fit. I think his sources are both valid, I don’t think he is making stuff up or putting out false data. Anyway the chart does show what you asked for. At least it seems to from my limited view. I am not going to claim I am close to the knowledge of Gavin or Eric or any of the climate experts who respond to my posts. My view may be too simplistic. But it I still have not seen any post dispute it. Mr. Hank Roberts sent me an interesting animation of cloud cover and radiation. It certainly looks like areas with lots of clouds are in the negative radiation zone so that still confirms the cloud possibility.

  4. 454
    Norman says:

    431Hank Roberts says:
    17 March 2010 at 12:27 AM
    “PS, Norman, you might want to look at this list and check it out a bit.
    Anything you find that’s climatology you can paste into Google Scholar, probably see at least the abstract, the number of citing papers, and possibly the references. What’s his area of expertise, do you think, from this list?
    http://www.climate4you.com/Text/BIBLIOGRAPHY%20OLE%20HUMLUM.pdf

    From what I can see it is paleoclimate and geology with some current meteorlogy and climate papers. To publish papers on the topics your link gave I would think he had to study some climatology.

    Mr. Roberts I can tell you why I am primarily questioning the alarmist view of Climate Change and looking at other possible answers that may explain the current warming cycle.

    In 1999 I was taking a Cobol computer class during the hype about Y2K and computers crashing at the end of the year. I asked our Instructor (who had programmed cruise missles for the Air Force) if it was real or not. He responded to the entire class (approximate response, I can’t remember the word for word) “No it is a way for programmers to double their salary and increase the workload”

    So I wonder, when I keep reading of all these terrible things that will happen if we do not curb carbon dioxide (one thing is certain is that we will run out of the fossil fuels at some point and come to a crashing halt, so it is great to work on alternative fuel sources long before it is a reality) how much is hype and how much is real?

    Because of first hand evidence that Y2K was an artificially hyped scenerio, I always question such things. I also like to research things on my own. Even a brilliant person with excellent logic can be wrong if their initial assumption is wrong.

    In the 18th century people were claiming they saw rocks falling from the sky (meteors) and would tell the scientific community about it and bring in the rocks. The science body concluded the melted rocks had been struck by lightning and could not have fallen from the sky as there was no way for them to get up into the sky (these were the same brilliant minds that gave us most the physics and math we use today, they knew the gravitional force very well). They were brilliant men with great logical thinking but their initial assumption (origin of the rocks) was not a correct one so despite their rigid logic and intellectual ability they were still wrong.

  5. 455
    Hank Roberts says:

    Norman, again, Google really can help. You rely on one teacher’s opinion, and call it “first hand evidence” (how old was this guy??). Try looking beyond what any one person tells you. Just for example, a good source:
    http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/php/risks/search.php?query=y2k

  6. 456
    Hank Roberts says:

    PS, Norman, you came here saying you want to show changes in clouds changes temperature.

    Think about what you’re doing and why and how you’re going about it.

    Spend time understanding the science, and you’ll follow it as well as any of us who are just readers not scientists.

    Looking for what you want to find isn’t science.
    Correlation isn’t causation.

    Take a few examples: you can find all of these easily, as speculations:
    Warming is predicted to change cloudiness.
    Cosmic rays are predicted to change cloudiness.
    Changes in plankton are predicted to change cloudiness.

    Cloudiness _may_ be changing. Or it may not (and there are a lot of locations and different kinds of clouds). How would we know?
    Plankton _may_ be changing. How would we know.
    Cosmic rays change, variations are measured. How do you look that up?

    How can you test any of those?
    What do you need to can say it _might_ be happening?
    And with what confidence?

    Do try Robert Grumbine’s site.

    I used to know someone who claimed that shadows caused clouds, because wherever he saw a big dark shadow, there would be a cloud over it. He said the shadow was cooling the ground, so the cool air rose up and made a cloud.

    What could I do to test his theory?

  7. 457
    John Peter says:

    Norman 425

    “…. It has the Solar radiation coming in 342 Watts/m^2, 77 are reflected 168 end up being absorbed by Earth but then the Earth radiates 390? How does the surface radiate far more Watts/m^2 than it receives?…”

    Pardon me for butting in because I really know very little climate science. However, I too was troubled by the 342/390 discrepancy, and since no one has given you a direct answer, as far as I can tell, I’ll tell you what satisfied me:

    Somebody’s law, Boltzman’s I believe, has black bodies radiating proportional to temperature to the fourth power. 392 Watts/m^2 is what earth radiates at the surface where the temperature is 288 degrees centigrade.

    The temperature without the GHG blanket would be 288-33 = 255 degrees centigrade. So the surface is warmer by 12.9% (288/255) and, being warmer, will radiate more than goes out to space. The difference, in the end, is absorbed in the earth system – oceans, lands, atmosphere(s) and clouds – the rest of the watts/m^2 in the energy balance diagrams. But none of that matters.

    237 Watts/m^2, as measured by satellite goes out to space, as if radiated from a 255 degrees centigrade body.

    The ratios of the two radiated energies is 64.6% (390/237).

    1.646 = 1.136^4

    13.6% is close enough to 12.9% for government purposes.

    I’m sure some of other posters will correct me, but that’s the way I sees it. ;<)

    Temperature w/o blanket = 255 degrees centigrade
    Actual temperature = 288 = 255 + 33 degrees centigrade
    390/237 = 1.65
    1.294^4 = 1.6271

  8. 458
    John Peter says:

    Norman 425

    Ignore my last 4 lines. Sorry

  9. 459
    flxible says:

    Norman – If you had been in economics courses asking about Y2K you would have gotten a very different answer, namely that the financial sector could not hire enough programmers fast enough to rewrite the codes, there were some very messy scenarios avoided by folks who took on the increased workload with NO increase in pay beyond their hourly rate. Think of that prof’s attitude in light of the contrarians who’re hooting about the conspiracy by climate scientists to get rich by sucking up all the grant money.

    And I second Hanks “Correlation isn’t causation”, many things can be correlated with temperatures, some may be causal, some may be results, some may have no real relation at all.

  10. 460
    Susanne says:

    454 Norman.
    >>In 1999 I was taking a Cobol computer class during the hype about Y2K and computers crashing at the end of the year. I asked our Instructor (who had programmed cruise missles for the Air Force) if it was real or not. He responded to the entire class (approximate response, I can’t remember the word for word) “No it is a way for programmers to double their salary and increase the workload”

    Because of first hand evidence that Y2K was an artificially hyped scenerio, I always question such things. <<

    I hope your instructor didn't program Cruise missiles in COBOL :)

    In 1985 I did acceptance testing for a computer system that was supposed to manage pension investments. I rejected it because it didn't know that people might retire later than 2030. That was my first exposure to the Y2K problem, though I didn't know it till 1987. Then I was a trainee COBOL programmer looking at my first working COBOL programs with their 2-character year fields and the hard-coded workarounds. That was my first indication of the effort and cost that Y2K would involve. Y2K issues were a part of every project I worked on for the following decade, if only because the systems had to be live and working before the magic moment.

    So my first hand experience is that Y2K was a real problem that required real solutions. If it looks like hype now, that's because the effort was made and the solutions were implemented. Some programmers did make a lot of money from it, but only in the last 3 or 4 years of the decade and only because so many decision-makers ignored warnings for 20 years or more, until the crisis was upon them.

    Sounds familiar.

  11. 461
    Susanne says:

    Just to add my thanks to those of the original poster. I found RC when I was trying to figure out the conflicts between Inconvenient Truth and Global Warming Swindle. It’s a wonderful resource and a great example of how the Web can be used to make real expertise available to anyone who’s prepared to do a bit of work. Thanks guys, for your patience, and, as someone said earlier, your courage.

  12. 462
    JiminMpls says:

    #430 I continue to wonder about the rate of CO2 take-up and “sequestration” that comes when calcite shelled creatures grow.

    Doesn’t ocean acidification have a negative impact on shellfish populations?

  13. 463
    David Horton says:

    “Because of first hand evidence that Y2K was an artificially hyped scenerio”. You do know now, don’t you, that in fact there was a massive amount of work, done on computers and computer systems all around the world, to prevent Y2K being a problem? You know that your instructor, cruise missile programmer or not, was either lying to you or totally ignorant of the real world, don’t you?

  14. 464
    James Killen says:

    Norman,

    Interesting use of one myth (y2k wasn’t real) to support another (Climate Change isn’t real). Yes y2k was over-hyped. I read (apocryphal?) stories about folks who stocked up on several years food and ammo and retired to a barb-wire enclosed forest retreat.

    That does not mean it wasn’t a real problem (or that your teacher wasn’t being ironic). But it was a disaster, for the most part (HSBC crash of 1999-09-09 ring any bells?), avoided. And it was avoided because we actually took decisive action to avoid it. Apparently you didn’t get a job out of it despite studying COBOL, I feel for you (no I really do, it’s taken me years to erase anything I knew about COBOL and JCL from my mind).

    In a similar vein I recently heard it argued that Climate Change isn’t real because a decade or two ago this ozone hole thing was being hyped … and where is that now?

    If we get our collective act together and take effective steps to avert the risks posed by continued fossil fuel consumption, you can imagine denialists in the future, on the basis of that success, insisting that AGW was, after all, a hoax. Perhaps science will only “win” the popular argument if we do nothing. Hell of a way to win an argument though.

  15. 465
    CTG says:

    Re 454 Norman
    “Because of first hand evidence that Y2K was an artificially hyped scenerio”

    Um, if you were relying on what someone else told you, that would be second hand evidence. First hand evidence would be if you had personally inspected every single line of computer code in existence, and discovered that there were no Y2K bugs of any importance.

    You also have to separate what the media said from what IT people were saying. Stories of planes falling out the sky and power stations exploding were largely made up by the media. What was of real concern was how things like financial systems managed the date change. A bug in a bank clearing system, for example, could have the potential to wipe out billions of dollars of transactions.

    The fact that there were no serious incidents after Y2K was not because it wasn’t real, but because people actually fixed the problems before they became disasters. A guy at my previous job spent most of 1999 scanning 6 million lines of code looking for date bugs. He found thousands of potential bugs, and fixed them. The vast majority of them would probably have been harmless, but surely it was better to fix them anyway, rather than just wait and see if they really did cause a big problem?

    Imagine if, for some reason, the action required to fix Y2K bugs ahead of time would have made some big corporation go bust, so they decided to lobby politicians and run a “Y2K is a hoax” PR campaign. Let’s say that campaign was successful, and public opinion had stopped IT companies from trying to fix the bugs, and we clicked over the date change with all those bugs still in place. Do you still think nothing would have happened?

  16. 466
    Norman says:

    455Hank Roberts says:
    17 March 2010 at 5:36 PM
    “Norman, again, Google really can help. You rely on one teacher’s opinion, and call it “first hand evidence” (how old was this guy??). Try looking beyond what any one person tells you. Just for example, a good source:”

    I would estimate he was around 50 or so. He was a very intelligent programmer. I had no reason not to believe what he told me and the class. You may agree that even though it could have caused some glitches here and there they were claiming it would do much more. The hype.

  17. 467
    Norman says:

    456Hank Roberts says:
    17 March 2010 at 5:50 PM
    “PS, Norman, you came here saying you want to show changes in clouds changes temperature”

    You are a good man Hank Roberts. I like your manner in adressing my questions. My original intent was not to show how clouds change temperature. My first goal was to see the effect of a “strong” greenhouse gas to convince someone on another website with some actual data (he believes there is no such thing as a greenhouse gas, either no gas abosrbs infrared or they all do). I picked Las Vegas because I knew it was a very dry city low on water vapor. Then I went to google map (your favorite search engine) and went across the Lattitude (to control for variations in solar intensity and hours/day sunlight) to pick a couple wetter cities. The Climate site I had used as my data source also included % available sunshine. I looked at the data and the idea of clouds playing a major role in temperature prompted me to post on this site.

    I have posted before on here and it seems a lot of knowledgeable and helpful people regularly post. I wanted to see ideas on this possibility.

    “Looking for what you want to find isn’t science.
    Correlation isn’t causation.”

    The causation comes in from my own experience with cloudy days. In the summer a cloudy day is much cooler than the bright sunny days. I know there is a causation between clouds and temperature. I also know that clouds will keep the night temperature from falling too low. So there is causation and it make sense, less energy cooler temps.

  18. 468
    John Peter says:

    Norman 425

    “…It has the Solar radiation coming in 342 Watts/m^2, 77 are reflected 168 end up being absorbed by Earth but then the Earth radiates 390? How does the surface radiate far more Watts/m^2 than it receives?…”

    Pardon me for butting in because I really know very little climate science. However, I too was troubled by the 342/390 discrepancy, and since no one has given you a direct answer, as far as I can tell, I’ll tell you what satisfied me:

    Somebody’s law, Boltzman’s I believe, has black bodies radiating proportional to temperature to the fourth power. 392 Watts/m^2 is what earth would radiate at the surface where the temperature is 288 degrees centigrade.

    The “effective” temperature without the GHG blanket would be 288-33 = 255 degrees centigrade. So the surface is warmer by 12.9% (288/255) and, being warmer, will radiate more than goes out to space. The 153(?) difference, in the end, is absorbed in the earth system – oceans, lands, atmosphere(s) and clouds – the rest of the watts/m^2 in the energy balance diagrams. But none of that matters.

    237 Watts/m^2, as measured by satellite goes out to space, as if radiated from an effective 255 degrees centigrade black body.

    The ratios of the two radiated energies is 64.6% (390/237).

    1.646 = 1.136^4

    13.6% is close enough to 12.9% for government purposes.

    I’m sure some of other posters will correct me, but that’s the way I sees it. ;<)

    Note: System seems to have lost my original

  19. 469
    Nathan says:

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=wall&gid=2425009764

    More people (over 3000!) in need of some serious enlightenment (the group is titled “Global Warming is a Hoax”). None of the members arguing it is a hoax seem to be able to pull up a single piece of science to back up their statements, relying instead on red herrings, ad hominems, and lies. Props to Neal J King for having taken on the task of educating some of those people in the group – I hope many of the bright folks at Real Climate would join in and share their knowledge there.

  20. 470
    Norman says:

    456Hank Roberts says:
    17 March 2010 at 5:50 PM
    PS, Norman, you came here saying you want to show changes in clouds changes temperature.
    “Take a few examples: you can find all of these easily, as speculations:
    Cosmic rays are predicted to change cloudiness.”

    “Cloudiness _may_ be changing. Or it may not (and there are a lot of locations and different kinds of clouds). How would we know?
    Cosmic rays change, variations are measured. How do you look that up?”

    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/physics/pdf/0407/0407005v1.pdf

    Here is an article to answer you last question “How do you look that up?”
    Some scientists have attempted to measure the cosmic ray changes by looking for effects of cosmic ray changes.

  21. 471

    Kris @ 444:

    Case in point: the EU ETS system is expected to start to include airlines from 2012 on. Airplanes emit CO2, so this seems logical. But remember, that such system is supposed to provide financial advantage to “clear” alternatives. However, you cannot really make a nuclear-powered airplane (well, technically you can, but it is not the best idea) so you can only push for marginal CO2 reductions (which can be quickly compensated by the increase in number of flights anyway). At the same time, the price increase due to CO2 credits will not be big enough to change economics of air travel [1] (i.e. it will not force me to take the train instead). So, we get all the cost of ETS and (almost) no CO2 reduction.

    I believe that Virgin has already had flights using flight-rated bio jet fuel. When jet fuel is fully costed, bio jet fuel will be less expensive.

    The really exciting things about this time in the evolution of the Energy Economy is that so many people say “This can’t be done”, and then there is someone out there trying to do it because it might just be worth money, and before you know it there are a half dozen people out there competing in the market place because there is a boat load of money on account of “sustainable” being, well, sustainable. In 20 or 30 years companies will be bidding to dig up and recycle all the biomass and natural resources that were thrown in landfills. You’ll sell your trash to the highest bidder who will return a few gallons of bio fuel to your doorstep, the way people used to get milk. Then someone will come up with a backyard gadget that converts home and garden refuse into something you can power your car or home on.

  22. 472
    John Peter says:

    Norman 459

    If clouds, temp change, and radiation energy budget are your thing – don’t think you can beat Ram in Physics Today:

    http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/publications/Ram%20Barkstrom%20Harrison%20PhysicsToday%2021-32%201989.pdf

    Back in 1987 this all made sense…

  23. 473
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Doesn’t ocean acidification have a negative impact on shellfish populations?”

    If a whelk uses 15g of carbon in their shell where before it used to be able to manage 20g, then

    a) there has been a negative effect on shellfish
    b) shellfish still sequester carbon in their shells

  24. 474
    Timothy Mason says:

    If you have not seen gapminder.org do go and have a look. Hans Rosling is a first-rate science communicator, and he and his team have developed tools that make it possible to get complex ideas across to an audience very efficiently. Watch how Rosling deals with AIDS; he manages to keep things simple even while invoking the difficulties.

    I don’t know whether the gapminder software would lend itself to the display of climate data, but I imagine it would do so, and that it would be a very powerful educational aid.

  25. 475
    Jack Kelly says:

    Real Climate is invaluable.

    Sometimes, when things are looking really grim, I think to myself “it could be worse: imagine a world without a RealClimate, Tamino or Deltoid”

    You guys do a fantastic job. It must be exhausting. But it’s essential.

  26. 476
    JiminMpls says:

    #472 That article must be a fake! Everyone knows that in 1989 they called it global warming. It wasn’t until the cooling after 1998 that they started calling it climate change.

  27. 477
    Nick Gotts says:

    The causation comes in from my own experience with cloudy days. In the summer a cloudy day is much cooler than the bright sunny days. – Norman

    Norman, do you really think you are the only one to notice this? And had you also noticed that at night, and in winter, it’s warmer when it’s cloudy? Sheesh.

  28. 478
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “The causation comes in from my own experience with cloudy days. In the summer a cloudy day is much cooler than the bright sunny days”

    But cloudy nights are warmer than clear ones.

    So overall, what’s the DIFFERENCE?

  29. 479
    Matthew L. says:

    #462 JiminMpls
    I think the “ocean acidification” problem is a lot more chemically complex than it sounds. The main problem with it is the word “acidification”. What it should actually be called is “ocean reduced alkalinity”. Seawater is alkaline (PH 8.2) and likely to remain so even in the most extreme scenarios of CO2 emissions.

    Sea water is a hugely complex cocktail of chemicals with buffering effects that reduce the PH lowering effect of dissolved CO2. The best estimate that I have seen is a reduction in PH of around 0.2 to around 8.0 – still pretty alkaline compared to neutral distilled water (PH 7) or clean rainwater (5.4).

    As well as the purely chemical buffering there are also negative feedbacks, or mitigations, such as:

    1. warming seas caused by the greenhouse effect will have less capacity to hold CO2 – so the CO2 content of seawater (and hence PH) will not change linearly with the growth in atmospheric CO2.

    2. increased CO2 improves photosynthesis in marine plankton (CO2 ‘fertilisation’) which will fix more CO2 in organic molecules which will be deposited as sediment on the sea floor. Some of these organisms also have carbonate structures and the increased energy derived from the improved photosynthesis in their case leads to greater calcification overall rather than less.

    3. Sea creatures with calcium carbonate shells and internal structures actually derive the carbonate in the shells from CO2 dissolved in the water. I have read that increasing the CO2 content of the water actually increases the efficiency of this calcification process – but would be interested to see proper research on this (anybody?)

    The shells (or other calcium carbonate sea structures such as coral) will not ‘dissolve’ unless the sea is actually acid, i.e. has a PH lower than 7 – which will never happen. We won’t see coral reefs disappearing for this reason (there are plenty of other reasons of course!).

    There are huge uncertainties around the effect of rising seawater CO2 on coral, shelled organisms and phytoplankton that build carbonate “bones”. I would like to see the results of an experiment that isolated some seawater complete with shelled organisms and increased the CO2 content of the surrounding air (with some mixing mechanism) to see what the effect on the water’s PH was and the subsequent effect on the marine organisms.

    If rising CO2 levels do negatively effect things like coral reefs it is more likely to be because the CO2 greehouse effect causes rising sea surface temps that are a problem for the organisms rather than because the CO2 content and PH have changed slightly.

    There have been a couple of rather stupid (non peer reviewed) experiments carried out for the benefit of the media that have added sulphuric acid to seawater containing some molluscs to make the water acid. Their shells dissolved! Seawater chemistry is a whole lot more complex than that and to state blandly that “ocean acidification threatens coral reefs” is hugely simplistic and far from proved.

    I am struggling to find proper peer reviewed research on this topic so if anybody out there can point me to some sources I would be grateful.

  30. 480

    #476–you are kidding, right?

  31. 481
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Norman,
    OK, I don’t want to jump too hard on you, but your post #454 struck a couple of nerves:
    1)Y2K was a real potential threat. It was averted because a whole bunch of people worked their butts off finding solutions before anything adverse occurred. I’m sorry, but when somebody discounts the efforts of scienctific and engineering professionals by simply dismissing a catastrophe averted as “hype”, that kind of pisses me off! We keep hearing “Oh, Malthus was wrong.” No, he was not wrong. He merely failed to anticipate 1)mass migration to the Americas and 2)that we could figure out a way to convert petroleum into food! To have the heroic efforts of people who anticipated crises and found solutions dismissed so cavalierly so that bubbleheads can go through life imagining that the Universe if friendly really makes me wonder sometimes whether the human race is worth saving.

    2)To contend that because science has been wrong in the past, so we can simply ignore it is complete utter bullshit! It’s the sort of argument I expect from a Young Earth Creationist. Learn some of the science and look at the goddamned evidence! Is that really too damned much to ask?

    Norman, I think you mean well, and you do seem to be sincere about wanting to learn. However, the first thing you need to learn is this: Science works. It works better than any other human institution for yielding reliable knowledge. When it tells us that there is a credible threat we had better listen and take action. And engineering and probabilistic risk assessment are the best tools for determining which actions will be needed and effective. Until you learn that, you will just be confused.

  32. 482
    allan jones says:

    I thought AGW was probably true until I saw the Great Global Warming Scandal and had second thoughts. I decided to dig about on the internet and soon came to the conclusion that AGW was ‘very probably’ happening. What convinced me was that almost every prominent anti AGW ‘scientist’ seemed to be a bit of a crackpot while the people with credentials doing real science came to the opposite conclusion. It’s sad that so many people believe nonsense peddled by nitwits (homeopathy, astrology, conspiracy theories ) but that’s the way things are. An opinion piece in the Daily Mail is about as far as many people go in deciding what view of a subject they should take.

  33. 483
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Matthew L., You will forgive me if I don’t take comfort in your sanguine pronouncements on ocean acidification, but

    1)Outgassing by the oceans merely worsens the warming problem
    2)CO2 is not a limiting factor in plankton growth, so fertilization is likely irrelevant. And the deteriorating state of coral reefs that is evident to anyone who has put on a facemask of late belies your assessment of increased calcification.
    3)Again, carbonate is not a limiting factor for ocean fauna.

    Ocean acidification is a reality. A falling pH has been confirmed by repeated measurements. This is already having adverse effects on corals and many other animals at the base of the ocean food chain. It also tilts the balance away from O2 producing bacteria and toward H2S producing bacteria.

    People who actually study the ocean are concerned. Maybe you should be, too.

  34. 484
    Rod B says:

    Jim Bullis (430), my understanding is that you are correct. The calcite shell creature sequestering CO2 is on more normal time scales. I might be wrong but I assumed “weathering” refers to pick up by geological rocks.

  35. 485
    Matthew L. says:

    #479 replying to myself!
    Digging around this lunchtime found some more information.
    General stuff:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_acidification
    Lots of good links there.

    At the more alarming end:
    http://www.ocean-acidification.net/index.html

    In this paper:
    https://www.up.ethz.ch/people/ngruber/publications/orr_nat_05.pdf
    the general conclusion is that the affects are likely to be very variable depending on location. There does not seem to be much effect in the tropics and mid lattitudes, where the supply of calcium ions (Aragonite and Calcite) is likely to remain saturated – which effectively “buffers” the effect of rising carbonate ions.

    However things might get more severe at high lattitudes, particularly the Southern Ocean, where there may be insufficient Aragonite to buffer the rising carbonate leading to a faster fall in PH and loss of calcium in sea organisms.

    However this sentence from Wikipedia is key to the debate:
    Some studies have found different response to ocean acidification, with coccolithophore calcification and photosynthesis both increasing under elevated atmospheric pCO2,an equal decline in primary production and calcification in response to elevated CO2 or the direction of the response varying between species. Recent work examining a sediment core from the North Atlantic found that while the species composition of coccolithophorids has remained unchanged for the industrial period 1780 to 2004, the calcification of coccoliths has increased by up to 40% during the same time.

    Rather than repeat the citations they are all in the Wikipedia article. The final sentance above refers to one of the few direct observations of nature (as opposed to modelling or lab experiments):
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/320/5874/336

    Overall though the general conclusion is that research results conflict such that we don’t actually know the effects of higher CO2 concentrations in the ocean on caclifiying ocean organisms with any degree of confidence.

  36. 486
    Rod B says:

    Hank (445), since WUWT has a readily available direct reference to Trenberth, et al energy budget diagram, I don’t understand how you can claim they don’t…

  37. 487
    Rod B says:

    It’s not easy to qualify markets, but there is a substantial difference at the highest level between someone making big bucks mitigating CO2 through actual production and delivering of services, and institutions that produce nothing but financial instruments — direct trading of CO2 credits, packaging slice and dice derivative packages, likely some futures, hell even some cap-n-trade default swaps maybe. I’m a firm believer in free private markets (with the properly enforced rules) but there is something to the complaint over some people/institutions making really big dollars from cap and trade while accomplishing maybe little in mitigating CO2.

  38. 488
    Completely Fed Up says:

    And the “knowledge economy” of the US is in greater part due to services that use little energy.

    Yet still the power use is high.

  39. 489
    J. Bob says:

    #$70 Well Norman, you did seem to start a good stimulating discussion.

    One of the tests we would normally give undergrads, who were taking Radiation heat Transfer, involved the effects of cloud cover. The test was to illustrate the lack of clouds, causing frost on the top of a car, while the air temperature was 1 deg. above freezing. It showed the interplay between convection, and radiation with and without clouds. I don’t recall the increase in air temperature required to compensate the lack of cloud cover, to prevent frost, but I believe it was about 5 deg. F. The point for the students was the effect clouds had on surface temperature, especially in open areas.

  40. 490
    Matthew L. says:

    # 483 Ray,
    I am not seeking to reassure, I agree that coral reefs are suffering – for a multitude of reasons such as:
    – overfishing
    – pollution
    – tourism / diver disturbance
    – mechanical damage from boats
    – deliberate mining of coral
    – warm water events (likely to become more common with rising CO2)

    However I have seen no direct attribution of coral loss due to falling seawater PH. Have you?

    As stated in my last post the research linking lower PH to the welfare of coral organisms is highly conflicting. The main factor affecting the ability of a calcifying organism to maintain its calcium carbonate structures is the saturation of Aragonite and Calcite in the seawater.

    If the level of these Ca ions falls below saturation then the Carbonate ions bind with the calcium ions in the skeletons / shells of the organisms causing pitting and erosion. However direct observation and modelling of the seawater environment suggest that saturation of these ions is likely to be unaffected by rising CO2 concentrations in the tropics and mid-lattitudes. So any affect on the reefs you have seen in your dives is likely to be for other reasons. However the effect may be more marked in high lattitudes where the supply of calcium ions in the water is less.

    (That is what my limited reading to date tells me – always willing to learn more!)

  41. 491
    Hank Roberts says:

    Citing includes pointing to the original, and spelling the authors’ names right, Rod.

    Pointing instead to a blog homepage amounts to “you can find a pony there somewhere” (without even a “watch your step”). Tactical misdirection, misleading, bad ‘cite’.

  42. 492
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Norman
    > My first goal was … to convince someone on another website
    > with some actual data …. I picked Las Vegas ….

    Science — of any kind — isn’t something from which you can pick up some tidbit, take it somewhere else, and “convince someone” about it.

    Now that you’ve said what you really wanted, perhaps we can help.

    My suggestion is, don’t bother arguing with people on blogs, don’t try retyping your own understanding. That’s “recreational typing” and people will encourage you to waste your time doing it endlessly.

    Many people think arguing is a sport. Good ones win debate tournaments. Amateurs fill up endless blog posts without citing to anything reliable.

    Find out where the scientific information is available.
    Point to it rather than retyping your notion of it.
    Encourage the person to read and think about the science.
    Do that yourself.

    If you go to wherever that was and tell the person that, whoah, you really didn’t understand it well enough yourself, that might be a good start.
    Then point to real places to learn and start from the basics together.

  43. 493
    Nick Gotts says:

    Matthew L.
    It is not the case that seawater must have a pH below 7 for calcium carbonate to dissolve back out of shells. There is now, and has long been, a “saturation horizon” in the oceans, below which there are insufficient carbonate ions to prevent such dissolution, and organisms with calcium carbonate shells do not live below this horizon. The effect of acidification (and yes, that is the correct term, and would be even if the oceans were currently a saturated solution of potassium hydroxide) is to move this horizon towards the surface. See annex 1 to the 2005 Royal Society Report “Ocean acidification due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide”, available from http://royalsociety.org/Inter-Academy-Panel-statement-on-Ocean-Acidification/.

  44. 494
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Norman
    > … someone on another website … believes there is no such thing as
    > a greenhouse gas, either no gas abosrbs infrared or they all do

    As an alternative approach, perhaps you could invite Rod over there to pursue the question with the guy, if Rod would be willing to help you out on it.
    I’m actually serious, I disagree with some of Rod where Rod seems to disagree with the sources I read, but he could certainly contribute on the difference between a greenhouse gas and other gases in detail, over there.

  45. 495
    Norman says:

    481Ray Ladbury says:
    18 March 2010 at 8:05 AM

    Sorry I got you “pissed off” with my Y2K post. I am only stating what happened. I was very concerned about the potential effects of Y2K so I asked the Instructor about it in class and that is how he answered my question in the class. If he was dishonest I could not say and still can’t. I never worked on the Y2K problem so everyone is correct, I do not have “first-hand knowledge”.

    But Ray Ladbury, that was but one of other examples of how people use emotional manipulation for profit. Fear is one of the strongest of the human emotions and can easily be used to elicit large responses. Here is another example for you. “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. Go back to the Media in 2002 and find any mainstream media outlet that was questioning the certainty of WMD in Iraq and we must invade “I don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud!”. Powell went to the UN with photos of mobile biological warfare labs, they later found the vehicles and they were no such thing.

    I questioned this but the media voice was far louder than mine. Now look what this did. People involved in the war profit were highly rewarded for our invasion. This is HYPE!

    Another big one you can research about scientists, in the 1970’s scientific reports were published that we would run out of oil in the 1990’s. What did this do, it caused massive increases in the price of crude oil which have been high ever since. It is now 2010 and there is still plenty of oil (though it will run out eventually).

    I have seen false meat shortages hyped (rising the price of the product), sugar, coffee. Just recently the threat of H1N1 and all the profit made of of flu shots. Hyping things for profit seems like there is enough evidence at least to believe it is possible.

    I am not against taking action on a problem or sitting on my hands waiting for a disaster. The possibility exists that there is some Hype going on, especially when a carbon tax will create a multi-billion dollar trade market that currently does not exist.

    I am, at this time, looking into the science. I am very happy so many people respond and send me links to look at. My field is chemistry but I like all science and reading and thinking and learning about the forces of climate is a pleasure for me.

  46. 496
    John Peter says:

    Hank Roberts 492

    Have you a better reference than RAM’s 1989 Physics Today?

    http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/publications/Ram%20Barkstrom%20Harrison%20PhysicsToday%2021-32%201989.pdf

    cf my 472

  47. 497
    Norman says:

    478Completely Fed Up says:
    18 March 2010 at 6:50 AM
    “The causation comes in from my own experience with cloudy days. In the summer a cloudy day is much cooler than the bright sunny days”

    But cloudy nights are warmer than clear ones.

    So overall, what’s the DIFFERENCE?”

    http://www.climate4you.com/ClimateAndClouds.htm#LowCloudCoverVersusGlobalSurfaceTemperature

    Maybe the graph is wrong but this one clearly shows the difference.

    Question: What if instead of using carbon dioxide as a primary forcing agent in the computer models you inserted Tropical low cloud cover as the primary driver, would you get the same results?

  48. 498
    Norman says:

    489J. Bob says:
    18 March 2010 at 9:46 AM
    #$70 Well Norman, you did seem to start a good stimulating discussion.

    I am very thankful for linking me to the websites.

  49. 499
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Maybe the graph is wrong but this one clearly shows the difference.”

    That wasn’t what I meant, Norman.

    The important thing is NOT “It feels warmer on a cloudless day”, but how much heat is retained.

    If it’s 2C cooler with clouds during the 12 hour day and 3C warmer with clouds during the 12 hour night, then clouds make it warmer.

  50. 500
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Sorry I got you “pissed off” with my Y2K post. I am only stating what happened.”

    No, you were stating what you THINK happened.

    What really happened was people worked hard to avert disaster and succeeded.

    Then YOU come along bitching about how all that work was wasted.

    What happened is work avoided a catastrophe.

    What DIDN’T happen is that there was no cause for worry.