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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. 501
    Norman says:

    500Completely Fed Up says:
    18 March 2010 at 12:08 PM
    “Sorry I got you “pissed off” with my Y2K post. I am only stating what happened.”

    “No, you were stating what you THINK happened.”

    Sorry Fed Up, when I was saying “what happened” that was not about the Y2K issue, it was was what happened in class (the information the Instructor gave me). The answer the Instructor gave was not what “I THINK happened” it was what happened. I am not “bitching” about all that work was wasted. I was only stating what an Cobol Instructor told me in class to a question I asked. Like I stated I never worked on the problem, I wrote programs in Cobol for class but that was the extent of my experience.

  2. 502
    Norman says:

    499Completely Fed Up says:
    18 March 2010 at 12:07 PM

    “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.”

    That is why I keep posting the link to Global temps and cloud cover. It removes the “feel” from the question and replaces it with raw data. The raw data shows low clouds cool the Earth more than they retain heat…the overall effect is cooling.

    Did you look at the graph?
    http://www.climate4you.com/ClimateAndClouds.htm#TotalCloudCoverVersusGlobalTemperature

  3. 503
    Norman says:

    Article for Ray Ladbury and Barton Paul Levenson.

    I can’t verify if the article is true or not but these are the things I also look at when trying to determine the Truth of something. Climate Change is a huge issue that I do not take lightly. Just don’t want to be hyped into something for Goldman Sachs.

    http://rawstory.com/blog/2009/07/rolling-stone-expose-goldman-sachs-behind-every-market-crash-since-1920s/

  4. 504
    Hank Roberts says:

    John Peter, sorry, that paper is 20 years old, and it’s too old to be indexed by Scholar so I can’t tell if there’s an update. A librarian, or one of the climate scientists, could opine whether there’s a better source.

    That was written at the beginning of a long process of actually making observations, e.g. http://eosweb.larc.nasa.gov/GUIDE/campaign_documents/erbe_project.html — so you’d expect to find updated information since.

    I usually point to this one, recently available in final form online:
    http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/Trenberth/trenberth.papers/TFK_bams09.pdf

    EARTH’S GLOBAL ENERGY BUDGET
    Kevin E. Trenberth, John T. Fasullo, and Jeffrey Kiehl
    An update of the Earth’s global annual mean energy budget is given in the light of new observations and analyses. Changes over time and contributions from the land and ocean domains are also detailed.

    DOI:10.1175/2008BAMS2634.1
    In final form 29 July 2008 ©2009 American Meteorological Society

    That’s an update of their older (KT 1997) paper, and chart, that show up everywhere.

    Their new chart is at Chris Colose’s blog
    http://chriscolose.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/kiehl4.jpg?w=480&h=350
    along with a discussion of the new paper.

    From what they say in the paper, I’d suggest looking at it rather than at the older paper. The older one is still a good start for people not accustomed to reading footnotes and looking up the references. But still, at 20 years old, someone may suggest a better overview; I’d go to the FAQ here first.

    —- excerpt follows —–
    KT97 was written at a time when there was a lot of concern over “anomalous cloud absorption.” This expression came from observations (Stephens and Tsay 1990; Cess et al. 1995; Ramanathan et al. 1995; Pilewskie and Valero 1995) that suggested that clouds may absorb significantly more shortwave radiation (approximately 20–25 W m−2) than was accounted for in model calculations (such as the models employed by KT97). Since then both radiation observations and models have improved (e.g., Oreopoulos et al. 2003), and so too have estimates of key absorbers, such as water vapor (Kim and Ramanathan 2008). Other observations have suggested that the absorption by aerosols in KT97 were underestimated by 2–5 W m−2 (Ramanathan et al. 2001; Kim and Ramanathan 2008) so that this amount is lost from the surface.
    Major recent advances in understanding the energy budget have been provided by satellite data and globally gridded reanalyses (e.g., Trenberth et al. 2001; Trenberth and Stepaniak 2003a,b, 2004). Trenberth et al. (2001) performed comprehensive estimates of the atmospheric energy budget based on two first-generation atmospheric reanalyses and several surface flux estimates, and made crude estimates of uncertainty. The atmospheric energy budget has been documented in some detail for the annual cycle (Trenberth and Stepaniak 2003a, 2004) and for ENSO and interannual variability (Trenberth et al. 2002; Trenberth and Stepaniak 2003a). The radia- tive aspects have been explored in several studies by Zhang et al. (2004, 2006, 2007) based on ISCCP cloud data and other data in an advanced radiative code….
    —- end excerpt —-

  5. 505
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Norman@495, did it occur to you that your COBOL instructor could be an ignoramus?

    And, oh golly, the scientists got the date wrong on when we would run out of oil by perhaps 40 years. Did it occur to you that a big part of that is the fact that we can get oil out of fields we could not in the 70s? Are you saying it would be a bad thing not to be dependent on oil now?

    If you want to be a sceptic wouldn’t it be better to start with your own assumptions?

  6. 506
    RichardC says:

    500 CFU said, “What really happened was people worked hard to avert disaster and succeeded.”

    Simply not true. Different countries had vastly differing responses to Y2K, with some having essentially no preparation at all. Turns out that results were similar REGARDLESS of actions taken to prepare. The vast majority of Y2K effort was totally wasted.

  7. 507
    Norman says:

    505Ray Ladbury says:
    18 March 2010 at 1:00 PM
    Norman@495, “did it occur to you that your COBOL instructor could be an ignoramus?”

    Thanks for capping COBOL, I should have done that. I do not know why should have thought the instructor was an ignormamus. He knew a lot more about COBOL than I did. Since you bring up the point, are you more qualified than me to determine the validity of his statement? Are you a COBOL programmer that fixed specific problems that would have happened had you not taken action? If not we are in the same place neither of us can directly verfiy the Instructor’s claim. What we need is for someone to post pre-2000 COBOL program instructions, show what error would have been the result of no correction and show the correction made to avert the problem. If they send data in C I could run the program on my computer as I have the compiler installed and see it run.

    “Are you saying it would be a bad thing not to be dependent on oil now?”
    Absolutely Not! I think it would be great to be free of oil and have new sources of energy available. What we are doing now is excellent. Wind, solar, hydro…the more varied sources of power to rely upon the better.

    “If you want to be a sceptic wouldn’t it be better to start with your own assumptions?” I do not know if my current state is sceptic. I think it is researching for myself phase. Questioning phase. That is why I really am happy so many have spent time sending me links and answering questions. From my posts does it seem as if I am trying to convince you the Planet is not warming? I keep seeing posts that say there are no alternative explanations for the warming that has happened in the last 30 years other than carbon dioxide increase. So I keep posting the data on cloud cover that also can explain the recent warming. It is not rejection, but alternative explanation that posters have asked for.

  8. 508
    John Peter says:

    In these days of high unemployment, let us all not forget the many thousands of jobs created to work on and solve the Y2K problems.

    Of course, it would have been even better if more of them had survived into the 21st century.

  9. 509
    Norman says:

    506RichardC says:
    18 March 2010 at 1:06 PM
    500 CFU said, “What really happened was people worked hard to avert disaster and succeeded.”

    “Simply not true. Different countries had vastly differing responses to Y2K, with some having essentially no preparation at all. Turns out that results were similar REGARDLESS of actions taken to prepare. The vast majority of Y2K effort was totally wasted”

    Wow! Thank you so much for that information. I had not read that. Can you link me to the source I would like to read it myself. A vindication for my maligned COBOL instructor on RealClimate.

  10. 510
    Hank Roberts says:

    Norman, did you read _anything_ at the RISKS digest link I gave you?

    There’s years of reports there all the way through discovery, response, and discussion after the event, summing it all up.

    I notice a pattern in your approach — you fix on something one person says, decide you want to believe it, and go looking for people to support that single idea. That leads you to find what you’re looking for.

    Know the problem with doing that?

    Try looking instead for summary information compiled from a large group of people.

  11. 511
  12. 512
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Simply not true. Different countries had vastly differing responses to Y2K, with some having essentially no preparation at all. ”

    Citation needed. BS-ometer pegged at maximum.

  13. 513
    Kris says:

    #495 Norman:

    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.

    This is a misreported claim which is actually NOT present in the Club of Rome report. Also, someone has compared these predictions to reality over the last 30 years and it turns out that they were pretty accurate. And, if the reality continues to follow this model, it’s not going to be pretty (read: civilization collapse in 2050 time frame).

  14. 514
    Hank Roberts says:

    PS, Norman, you should work down the list at skepticalscience.
    You know how to find it?

  15. 515
    John Peter says:

    Hank 504

    Many thanks for your thoughtful references. Many were unknown to me and I appreciate your time and effort to help me along in my education.

    Ram is a highly regarded cloud radiation scientist. His 1989 Physics Today review remains pretty accurate, even today. It not only describes the state of the climate science art twenty odd years ago, but also addresses the challenges for the future (measurement) work you reference. Unfortunately, not that much progress has been made in the basic understanding of physical/chemical/biological interactions required.

    It’s true that the specific energy flux values have changed somewhat, especially in the more difficult convection/conduction/latent heat areas. However, as far as I can tell, the new energy assignments are disclaimed about as much as the old ones were.

    Not surprisingly, the radiation fluxes are pretty stable and close to Trenberth’s 1997 as well as his 2008 values. It’s pretty much we’ve warmed somewhat in the past couple of decades, let’s update the energy flux values.

    Progress in cloud chemical physics description for climate models is about where it was when Ram described it in 1989. Marshak’s text pretty much says, if you want to know cloud theory, ask Ram.

    Normally the 1989 date should put one off. However, for a review article, that is not necessarily the case. I’m not so sure there’s been a lot of “progress” in energy exchange, cloud behavior, or even the warming Ram describes. Ram’s list of publications do not indicate any updates.

    Gavin’s 2007 review in the same magazine, which is mostly about modeling concludes “…Many challenging climate questions remain unanswered… The implementation of more sophisticated parametrizations and the ongoing increases in resolution as computer resources increase suggest that models will continue to improve. However, many results, such as the warming effect of increasing greenhouse gases that was first demonstrated in much simpler models decades ago, have proved extremely robust.”

    I’ll leave it to you as to whether or not all the additional measurement over hte past couple of decades has helped our collective scientific understanding appreciably. Not only for believers but also for skeptics.

    All that said, I hope you will (at least) scan Ram’s review. For your convenience it’s at: http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/publications/Ram%20Barkstrom%20Harrison%20PhysicsToday%2021-32%201989.pdf

  16. 516
    John Peter says:

    Norman 509

    That’s pure nonsense. Those companies that continued to have “serious Y2K” problems simply failed and are no longer around to be counted.

    So of course results were the same. If you needed the programs you either fixed the problems or died. If you didn’t need the programs it didn’t and doesn’t matter.

    Give us a break

  17. 517
    Hank Roberts says:

    John Peter, I read the whole thing carefully before opining.

    (Aside: a handy trick to know — I emailed his office asking if they could rescan it. Radiation physicists’ secretaries should know this (grin).

    When scanning a double-sided page, use a black backing sheet. That avoids the problem so clear in that particular online PDF; every page has a fainter image of its reverse side. Light reflected from a white scanner lid comes back through the paper; when you use a black backing sheet, the same color as the ink on the back side, the scanner captures only the light from the front of the page, which is what’s wanted).

  18. 518
    RichardC says:

    509 Norman, the wiki article on y2k has a lot of info. Scroll down to the cost section at the bottom. Italy, China, and Russia were mentioned as being poorly prepared.

    Y2K bugs came in three flavors – either something would display 1900 or a variant instead of 2000 (a harmless bug) – or – they made the program barf in an obvious way, which made them easy to fix – or- they were safe because the software was used within the bounds of a single year at a time.

    Software is full of bugs. It’s disingenious to think that the job of fixing Y2K bugs was done spectacularly even though that is not the norm for software in general.

  19. 519
    RichardC says:

    516 John said, “Those companies that continued to have “serious Y2K” problems simply failed and are no longer around to be counted.”

    Got a citation for that? As I remember it, there were no companies significantly hurt by Y2K. It’s not that there were no bugs, heck there are STILL Y2K bugs in software, but that the effort used to squish them was disproportionate.

  20. 520
    Brian Dodge says:

    “The raw data shows low clouds cool the Earth more than they retain heat…the overall effect is cooling.” You are perhaps confusing correlation with causation. I think that the causal sequence is as follows.
    1. More CO2 causes more energy to be retained.
    2a. More energy on land causes higher surface and air temperatures, but little change in latent heat and moisture content. Air temperatures increase by convective & radiative coupling.
    2b. More energy on the oceans causes small changes in surface and air temperature because the energy is going into water which has a larger heat capacity than land, and will transfer energy by evaporation into latent heat.
    3. Mixing of the warm dry air over land with the slightly warmer humid air over oceans increases the difference between the temperature and the dewpoint. This causes an increase in mid and high level clouds, and a decrease in low level clouds, because a convectively lifting air mass would have to reach a higher altitude before the adiabatic cooling dropped its temperature below the dew point and cloud formation occurs. The data indicates this is happening – http://www.climate4you.com/images/CloudCoverAllLevel%20AndWaterColumnSince1983.gif [1]
    4. The increase in water vapor also causes 2a, 2b, and 3
    5. The decrease in low clouds lets more energy into the system. (Lindzens iris opens instead of closing)

    The size of this effect is of great interest, subject of much current research[2], and difficult to understand and quantify. “Clouds vary on all spatial scales from planetary down to about 30m, but practical considerations limit representation of cloud variability in global climate and weather models to spatial scales larger than about 100-300 km. Since the relationship between cloud properties and radiative fluxes is not linear, the presence of cloud variability at smaller scales (we call scales < 300 km, mesoscale) creates biases in the modeled radiative fluxes if it correctly predicts the cloud property averaged over the smaller scales."

    [1] Also see ftp://eos.atmos.washington.edu/pub/breth/papers/2007/Zhu-etal-LowCldClimSens-JGR-2007.pdf Note the increase in high clouds (Fig2b3) and decrease in low clouds (Fig2e1) downwind of S America in the equatorial trade winds. Also note the heterogeneity and lack of agreement among the models for a doubling of CO2 in Figure 11.

    [2] "current" may mean "as of AR4", "since AR4", or "what Gavin sees in his latest model run".

  21. 521
    Hank Roberts says:

    > citation

    Google Scholar would really, really like to be your friend. You can find this kind of information quite easily if you want to try. For example, this looks likely (your library should be able to borrow a copy; it’s paywalled online of course).

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0160-791X(00)00015-4
    Technology in Society
    Volume 22, Issue 3, August 2000, Pages 361-387
    The Y2K problem and professional responsibility: a retrospective analysis

    “… The smooth transition to the new millennium led some people to claim that Y2K was a hoax in order to line the pockets of executives of computer and management consulting firms. In an effort to explain the Y2K-related disruptions, and how potential disasters were averted, this paper addresses the overall impact of Y2K, including the leap-year rollover problem, the hazards of Y2K, as well as the massive costs spent on preventing potential failures. In addition, seven causal factors of the Y2K problem are analyzed. Finally, three categories of lessons learned from Y2K are discussed: the management of information technology, the social responsibility of computer professionals, and a global threat warrants global cooperation.”

    Note that last point: “a global threat warrants global cooperation.”
    Relevant, ya think? Any reason some people would not like to hear that?

    > Why we bother
    http://funnyjunk.com/funny_pictures/129757/America/

  22. 522
    Hank Roberts says:

    PS, hat tip on the image to:
    http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/encore-post-worldview-of-texas-education-policy-makers/

    And on Y2K, note I’m not telling you the answer, just pointing to how to look this stuff up. The ‘related’ items in the right sidebar at that link suggest more terms to use.

    It’s probably a safe guess that no bankruptcy filing specifies Y2K as the cause, but I didn’t look that up for you. Might be worth looking, though.

  23. 523
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Why we bother

    What natural is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX9uvyF58U0
    What natural was; shifting baselines. Rachel Carson and Dave Keeling.
    28 minutes. If you don’t know about this rate of change, you should.

  24. 524
    Neal J. King says:

    I was never much worried about the Y2k problem, even though it was obvious to me that it was a real problem, because:
    - the people that would be the hurt worst by it grasped the problem,
    - had every incentive to fix it, and
    - were banks (=> they had the money).

    Excellent ingredients for a problem to become an ex-problem.

    By contrast, our favorite problem on this site is the AGW problem, which has the characteristics:
    - the people who grasp the problem are not good at promoting it;
    - the people who have the money feel financially threatened by dealing with it (they’re invested in oil or stocks or both); and
    - everyone else is afraid of the issue, and wants it to go away.

    It’s not so easy to see how Frodo is going to get the Ring to Mt. Doom.

  25. 525
    John Peter says:

    RichardC 519

    Think legal and insurance and try:

    http://www.blakes.com/english/view_disc.asp?ID=172

    OTOH, if there were no companies with “serious Y2K problems”, those few (0) are still around.

  26. 526
    Hank Roberts says:

    Uh, JP, comp.risks. You’re arguing as though you never read the facts.
    Note that last point: “a global threat warrants global cooperation.”
    Relevant, ya think? Any reason some people would not like to hear that?

  27. 527
    Norman says:

    512Completely Fed Up says:
    18 March 2010 at 2:14 PM
    “Simply not true. Different countries had vastly differing responses to Y2K, with some having essentially no preparation at all. ”

    “Citation needed. BS-ometer pegged at maximum.”

    Wikpedia is not considered a good source but in this article thy present both views, they give examples of systems that were not fixed that had minor problems. Anyway it is some citation even if we agree not the best one.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_2000_problem

  28. 528
    Norman says:

    520Brian Dodge says:
    18 March 2010 at 5:58 PM

    Brian, I really want to Thank you for your post about the clouds and what effects the cloud formation. That is the information I am seeking with my questions. The link to the 20 page research paper should give me good material to think on and research. I will put it in my favorites to read through. Appreciate the help!

  29. 529
    Hank Roberts says:

    > why

    http://symposia.cbc.amnh.org/archives/expandingthearc/speakers/transcripts/jackson-text.html

    —- excerpt follows —-

    … shifting baselines means that everybody thinks natural is the way the world was when they were a child; unnatural is everything that happens afterwards. That’s why we older people are more depressing than the younger people in the room, and because you younger people never learned from your parents, you repeat the same mistake over and over and over again. And that becomes our notion of what is natural.

    The first question is, what’s going on in the world today that we can see that is new, different, and really disturbing? The second question is, what will happen if we don’t stop doing what we are doing? I am going to follow that same approach….

    If you are interested, go to this Shifting Baselines website. Just put “shifting baselines” into Google, and you will see about 150 or 200 sites that are linked to this thing. Look at some of the films about it, and think about what that means. Unfortunately, it’s not just also about communication, it’s also about politics. If you think about the future, you have got to think about that. You know, information is not advocacy. Those of us who are scientists, we pride ourselves on trying to obtain the best kind of information possible. But look at these three stories of three people where I work. I was branded as an environmentalist, and therefore a highly biased advocate and unreliable witness, because I measured — measured — as a scientist, the death of corals due to an oil spill, spending $3 million of your taxpayers’ dollars. Paul Dayton is an environmentalist because he measured the disappearance of fish from California kelp forests. And my hero, the greatest environmentalist of the 20th century — besides Rachel Carson — Dave Keeling, who discovered how to measure the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, who measured it and kept measuring it, and therefore discovered that it was increasing, and therefore discovered the mechanism of global climate change — has been labeled as an environmentalist for making the measurements. The current administration has said, “Well, we have decided we are not going to use the scientific reports in what we do.” Science has been branded as advocacy. Facts have become dirty words. That’s the reality of the society in which we think about invertebrate conservation.
    —-end excerpt—-

    Jeremy B.C. Jackson
    William and Mary B. Ritter Professor of Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

  30. 530
    Hank Roberts says:

    > why

    A video with much of the same information as that transcript, quite powerful.
    And it’s from some years ago. This is why we try to see people learn for themselves and not keep being fooled.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX9uvyF58U0
    http://www.shiftingbaselines.org/op_ed/index.html

    “I was … labeled as an advocate because I … measured something.
    The decline in big fish…. The dark side has labeled information as advocacy, and it’s your job as citizens to understand that.”
    – Jeremy Jackson, Scripps

  31. 531
    Norman says:

    513Kris says:
    18 March 2010 at 3:03 PM
    #495 Norman:

    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.

    “This is a misreported claim which is actually NOT present in the Club of Rome report. Also, someone has compared these predictions to reality over the last 30 years and it turns out that they were pretty accurate. And, if the reality continues to follow this model, it’s not going to be pretty (read: civilization collapse in 2050 time frame).”

    Here is a link to numerous claims over time of running out of oil. Since oil is a market supply item what will happen if people believe a shortage is coming? Generally it means the price will increase and the greater the fear the greater the increase (I have read it only takes a few dollars to pump a barrel of crude in Saudi Arabia…the rest is profit to someone). As I stated earlier that is why I question any and all Hype.

    http://www.theamericanscene.com/2008/05/19/peak-oil-hysteria

    Please understand, I am not claiming AGW is a Hype. I am just questioning the alarmist view that it might be hype to sell a product (carbon tax) that will greatly benefit some (Goldman Sachs). I can read the potential for disaster from man’s release of carbon dioxide, I am not certain it is a reality and must do what research I can to determine my best course of action…I will always support alternative energy regardless of AGW.

    Also, this is only conjecture on my part, say AGW is Hype (all the disasters predicted by the theory do not come true). Some may argue “so even if it is hype it is good, good for people and the Earth” My counter is I will never believe that the “Ends justify the Means”. I think this philosophy is loaded with evil and bad intent. If the Ends are worth attaining, the Means of obtaining those ends must also be worth the effort.

    My greatest concern, because I really like science, is that if the AGW does turn out to be Hype and does not occur as predicted by the Climate models, the whole of science will lose credibility. So even if hyping a theory may have good ends, if the means to achieve those ends are wrong, the whole attempt is wrong.

  32. 532

    Matthew L(479),

    The properly terminology is “acidification” is pH is decreasing and “alkalinization” if it is increasing. 50% of coral reefs around the world are already dead. More ominously, so is 30% of the krill. 90% of the biomass of big game fish is gone, which is one reason those fish are so expensive now. And lower pH hurts shell-building badly, it does not help it.

    Start here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_acidification

    And don’t forget Google Scholar as a resource (just type it into Google). Another tactic is to add site:edu to a Google search; that limits your hits to university sites.

  33. 533
    Matthew L. says:

    Good stuff from the Economist here:
    http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=15719298
    sticking to its pro-science guns.

    I know their criticism of the scientists in their leader will raise hackles here,
    http://www.economist.com/opinion/displayStory.cfm?story_id=15720419&source=hptextfeature
    but their general comment that it is time to get back to the fundamentals is the right one.

    On a general point, my big problem when I started to look at all this seriously about a year ago was that I could see the climate had warmed, but how could we tell that this was driven by CO2? It was a list like this one from BPL that formed the basis of my own reading and which convinced me that the science was correct:

    #216 BPL
    1. Greater drought in continental interiors.
    2. Stratospheric cooling coupled with tropospheric warming (as Gavin noted).
    3. More global warming toward the poles, less toward the equator.
    4. More warming in the Arctic than the Antarctic.
    5. More warming at night than during day.
    6. More warming in winter than summer.
    7. More warming in the northern hemisphere than the southern.

    It is the part of the ‘journey’ from scepticsm to conviction where you jump from statistics to science. I think many sceptics get hung up on the statistics (WUWT) and fail to grasp the science properly.

    I had to do quite a lot of my own digging on these subjects. SkepticScience was a good source, but I wonder if a section of “Start Here” could use this list (or one like it) together with links to good articles explaining why these effects are proof of greenhouse gas forcing.

    I think this is the biggest hurdle that most of us trying to understand the science have to jump, and the more you can help people over it the more will end up in the pro-science camp.

    Keep up the good work!

  34. 534
    TAC says:

    Re: 524: “- the people who grasp the problem are not good at promoting it” raises a question: Should they be “promoting” it? What are the consequences of being perceived as “promoters of the problem”?

  35. 535
    JiminMpls says:

    #495 Norman – You’re seriously confused. Oil prices skyrocketed in the 1970′s first because of the 1973 Arabl Oil Embargo and again after the revolution in Iran. Prices plunged again in the 1980′s and remained extremely low until supply was constrained by the war in Iraq. Look it up.

  36. 536
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “My greatest concern, because I really like science, is that if the AGW does turn out to be Hype and does not occur as predicted by the Climate models, the whole of science will lose credibility.”

    That would be my greatest hope.

    If AGW turns out to be false, we still need to do the work, but we don’t have the fate of civilisation over our heads.

    I’d swap that “fate-of-the-world” problem for “faith in science” any day of the week.

  37. 537
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Wikpedia is not considered a good source but in this article thy present both views, they give examples of systems that were not fixed that had minor problems.”

    that’s completely and utterly different from “there’s no problem with Y2K”.

  38. 538
    Matthew L. says:

    #532 BPL,
    Thanks, you are always a good source of useful links. My speed reading yesterday meant I am probably a bit ahead of where you think I am. I cited the Wikipedia page in #485 and one of the articles I refer to was from Google Scholar.

    I am beginning to get the hang of this!

    Re the points in your post, obviously the very depressing damage to the coral reefs and the reductions in big game fish so far are not down to global warming or acidification but more to the direct destructive influence that man has on this planet. However, of course, warming seas, rising sea levels and acidification will not help things going forward!

    I was unaware that there had been a reduction in krill. Clearly this is bad news for the baleen whales. The fact that acidification is projected to be most severe in the southern ocean only makes things worse.

    The collapse of negotiations for a ban on Blue-fin tuna fishing was particularly depressing. I avoid eating all but farmed fish these days. When asked to explain why I usually refer to trawling the open seas as analogous to using helicopters to drag a large net over the Serengeti to catch lions and zebras! We baulk at the large scale exploitation of wild land animals for food, so why do we tolerate it for sea animals?

  39. 539
    John Peter says:

    Hank Roberts 517

    You’re right. Ram should have back-tested using black carbon data.

    Touche

  40. 540
    J. Bob says:

    #529 Hank says “Dave Keeling, who discovered how to measure the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere”

    My heroes are Black & Lavoisier who discovered & measured CO2 in the late 1700′s.

  41. 541

    JB (540),

    Make it “Dave Keeling, who discovered how to measure the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere RELIABLY.”

  42. 542
    John Peter says:

    HR 526

    huh?

    (Don’t you want someone else. FWIW, not me, I lived Y2k. As they now put it, on the ground, for an international corporation. My two posts were an attempt, albeit feeble, to illustrate that the problem was basically a business $$ problem. Organizations
    could chose between in-house or consultant analysis and/or fixes, or simply buy insurance and wait for any lawsuits – which they won or settled for damages as modified by a few last minute pieces of hurried legislation.

    As far as I can tell, the discussions here (including 20th century ACM) have been either pretty esoteric or rather impractical. Brings out the Kurt Weill in me:
    “…Happy endings, nice and tidy, that’s a rule I learned in school. Get your money, every Friday – happy endings are the rule…”

    ((IA, lest anyone put forward some loss of life (lol) straw man, let me add that, even when the failing twentieth century technology computer could not be by-passed, like it or not, lol also ends up a question of $$.))

  43. 543
    Antocalypse says:

    Late to the party, but here are my thanks to RC for providing such solid science on an important issue. I’m really, really glad you bother. :-)

  44. 544
    Hank Roberts says:

    John Peter, my apology, I did misread your earlier comment, thanks for the correction. (I wonder if there’s an insurance industry report anywhere and how much the insurance cost)

  45. 545
    Neal J. King says:

    TAC, #534:

    “What are the consequences of being perceived as ‘promoters of the problem’?”

    What I mean by promoting the problem is helping the public be clear on what is real about the issue, and what is not. Sites like RealClimate and SkepticalScience do yeoman duty; nonetheless, in the outside world, what seems to matter is ClimateGate at the Hadley CRU, the messy history around the hockey-stick, etc. It’s all nonsense, but these things are still resonating among the public.

    The actuality of the problem is logically distinct from the issue of what, if anything, should be humanity’s response. We haven’t quite gotten to critical mass on acceptance of the problem, yet: damping has been effectively applied.

    TAC says:
    19 March 2010 at 6:37 AM

    Re: 524: “- the people who grasp the problem are not good at promoting it” raises a question: Should they be “promoting” it? What are the consequences of being perceived as “promoters of the problem”?

  46. 546
    Neal J. King says:

    Matthew L., #538:

    It is not at all clear that farm-raised fish have less of an boot-print on marine ecology than do caught fish: It depends on what is fed to the farm fish, and how that is obtained.

    Some relevant background:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fish_farming#Criticisms

  47. 547
    wanderers2 says:

    Why do you bother?

    Do you even have to ask? I can only speak for myself (PhD and 30 years in ecology).

    Science attacts people because it gives one the opportunity to learn new things. In my case I chased ground squirrels on mountaintops.

    A key concept in science is that nobody ever takes you at your word. The concept of “peer-review” involves a lot of work, usually unpaid, and if you’re a good reviewer, that entails more than just using a red pen. That’s a good first step, but it is not the only one. You have made that very point very successfully in previous posts.

    I think average people with little scientific training become better educated when they experience, on rare occasions, that sense of wonder. “Wow, now that’s really interesting. I’d like to explore that a little bit more.”

    Laypersons (no offense to any) should be made fully aware that people with scientific training can be often as cantankerous and emotional as anybody else. I’m guilty as charged. Trust me I wouldn’t want to see my private emails hacked.

    You’ve built a wonderful website that has taught me far more about climatology than I ever imagined I’d learn.
    Thank you — Andrew

  48. 548

    @ 506:

    Simply not true. Different countries had vastly differing responses to Y2K, with some having essentially no preparation at all. Turns out that results were similar REGARDLESS of actions taken to prepare. The vast majority of Y2K effort was totally wasted.

    I worked on Y2K fixes that WOULD have caused problems. The problem with saying who worked on, and who didn’t work on, Y2K is that much of the software that was old enough to cause problems, came from developed countries that put a HUGE amount of effort into solving problems that really did exist.

    One very common problem had to do with computer clock calendar chips that only stored the low two digits of the year. In most BIOS and OS setup routines, those chips were read as-is and “1900″ added to the value. A fix I did for my former employer amounted to comparing the two digit value to 70 and adding 1900 for values between 70 and 99, and adding 2000 to values between 0 and 69. Without that fix — just that one fix on one hardware platform — computers that were rebooted at any time after 1/1/2000 would have thought it was 1/1/2900. And that most definitely would have broken things.

    Older computers, which are still in use in many control applications (ain’t broke, don’t fix it), often still have the problem and require a patch to change the date from 3/20/1910 (what it would boot with today) to 3/20/2010.

    What does this have to do with Climate Change? A lot. There are people actively working to create the new Energy Economy. In another 10 or 15 years (I worked on Y2K bugs starting in 1995) people will say “Oh, that global warming thing was such a hoax!” without realizing how much work was done years earlier. Assuming the nay-sayers and know-nothings don’t manage to have their way.

  49. 549
    Lawrence McLean says:

    Re #399,

    Barton Paul Levenson, (also RodB), thank you for your replies and pointers. From the articles that I could read the carbonate-silcate geochemical cycle works in conjunction with biological processes. The combined effect has kept the earth habitable until now.

    The following paper is very good:
    http://earth.geology.yale.edu/~ajs/1996/08.1996.03Sluijs.pdf

    Thanks…


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