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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. 101
    CM says:

    Hear, hear. Unlike the letter writer, I’m not a former ‘skeptic’, but a concerned layperson who’s trusted the scientific consensus since the first IPCC report. This blog has taught me so much more about the science than the popularized versions that had me thinking I was well-informed. RealClimate also an inspiring example of what scientists can do to communicate their work, engage with the public, contend with pseudoscience and unreason, and stand up to political bullying, with arguments, wit, and intellectual integrity.

    Christian Moe

  2. 102
    RichardC says:

    93 Jim said, “If we were to see the average electric bill in the USA triple, that might push our already teetering economy back to third world level.”

    That’s so wrong it’s insane.

  3. 103
    nigel jones says:

    I did a university paper on climate. Hence my interest in AGW. From the start it seemed completely obvious we could be warming the climate. However ten years ago somebody directed me to various sceptic arguments and graphs which seemed to raise valid doubts. I left it there for years as I was busy and became a sceptic although not rabidly so.

    Then I had another close look at both sides. Really close. And realised the sceptics talked nonsense. I dont like being deceived by fake or selective graphs and I got angry. I cant believe how obviously highly qualified scientists can talk such rubbbish knowing its rubbish. This is a very dirty game. Presumeably its the stakes are high for various groups but even that doesnt explain it and nobody has really pinpointed it.

    Anyway the point is I had the time to closely study the issue and the evidence for AGW is in the fine detail. Most people dont have the time. They respond to soundbites and if they are deceived by some sceptic nonsense that tells them what they want to hear they get stuck there. They dont want to spend time digesting furthur complex couner arguments. Your site does a great job explaining the issues and is vitally needed as it is scrutinised by decision makers, but I fear The only thing that will really wake the general public up is a big spike in temperatures or some other major breakthrough evidence. A better explanation in the mass media on greenhouse fingerprints would also help, but in the end something dramatic is needed.

  4. 104
    Leo G says:

    {Response: Very odd what they get excited about. People have been looking at alternative calcite sources for ages to get higher resolution isotope data than you can with standard ocean sediments – corals are the main source, but any calcite-producing organism that has annual growth cycles is useful. People have looked at a positive cornucopia of ‘fruits de mer’ (whelks, cockles, clams etc.). The problem you have is that any individual shell only covers a few years, and can’t be dated exactly. So it gives you a somewhat different look at the issues than ocean or lake sediment records or terrestrial speleothems (stalagmites). But like all proxies there are always issues – the 18O signal they are measuring is dominated by temperature, but is also influenced by the 18O in the water itself – which varies as a function local rainfall, river input or ocean currents, and since many of these shells have not been cultured under control conditions, there is certainly the possibility of ‘vital effects’ (which is paleo-speak for anything that we can’t really explain that is due to the specific biological processes the clams use to make their shell). So, a good exploration of a potential new source of paleo info, but hardly the rewriting of the record Watts thinks. They don’t even publish any modern samples so this can have no impact on discussions of modern/medieval differences for instance. – gavin]}

    Interesting Gavin, this is basically what Paul Dennis has been posting. But then that is what this post is about isn’t it? Filtering out the opinions, and learning from the science. Again thanx.

  5. 105
    John Peter says:

    J 20

    “Arthur” is a typo, I believe…

  6. 106
    MapleLeaf says:

    Thanks Gavin and everyone else at RC for this amazing public service.

  7. 107
    calyptorhynchus says:

    Like almost all the contributors here I am very grateful to RC. Thanks for this site!

    However I would like to question the parallel between creationism and AGW denial. I realise there are parallels, but I don’t think that denialists have such a “God-given” reason to deny AGW as the creationist do evolution. (And note that in the UK and Australia, whilst creationism is a very small movement, AGW denialism is much stronger).

    I think the reason for opposition that anthropogenic CO2 is the main driver behind global warming is that when the idea was first touted people could afford to ignore it. Of course conservatives and free-market types opposed Kyoto in a knee-jerk sort of way. But I think that they thought then this was a just something they could ignore. This is why there was quite a lag between the science of AGW being essentially settled and the emergence of an active denialist movement. I think the denialist thought process went like this:

    1. So they reckon there a problem with CO2 from industry causing rising temperatures.
    2. Hum.
    3. Help, there are no free market solutions!
    4. What can we say?
    5. Let’s deny that temperatures are rising, or if they are, that CO2 is to blame, and we’ll certainly oppose any green environmental fascist regulations.

    BTW I have lived under both conservative (Thatcher, Howard) and social democratic governments and I haven’t noticed that taxes were lower or government regulation less under the conservatives. In fact proportionally the biggest tax bill I ever got was Thatcher’s Poll Tax.

  8. 108
    GSW says:

    [edit – if you have something substantive to say, say it. Not interested in playing games]

  9. 109

    #93 Jim Bullis

    I appreciate your concerns. In order to properly address best policy towards mitigation one needs to consider many more aspects of global economies. To limit consideration only to the US economy would reduce synergistic considerations of relevant inter-dynamic systems of multiple economies.

    When it comes to being clever though, I think limiting ones view to only the perspective on the USA severely impairs the greater context of a global inter-dynamic economy(ies) and security situation. Further, one must consider the infrastructure costs of latitudinal shift, drops in soil moisture content, draining aquifers, soil nutrient changes, rainfall pattern shift and a plethora of other considerations. One must also consider the timer component which is often ignored in political and policy considerations due to the limitations of those subject to the nature of the political cycle, namely the politicians and special interests.

    The policy structure is a moving target to some degree and needs additional economic analysis to identify best starting points and the progressive rates that will give both meaningful change impetus as well as the best mix between energy economy and monetary economy considerations in relation to needed emission reductions at the highest possible rate. But parametrized considerations are certainly achievable once better understood.

    I think it is too myopic to merely write off a policy consideration just because all details are not available, just as I don’t believe it is wise to say we should do nothing (policy-wise) about human caused global warming until we know exactly how all aspects of climate work before we make policy changes.

    From my current point of view, that would be similar to standing on the railway track, seeing a train coming and saying well, there is no reason to get off the track until the train actually hits me. That is the only way to really prove that the train was going to hit me, and what the consequences will be.

    I am working on some structuring now and using some of the work that has preceded as a basis. The goal is to maintain a functioning economy while achieving the fastest emission reduction possible. I don’t believe this is an inappropriate goal.

    There are links in the about section that link directly to Dr. Hansens writings on this matter and I have begun to address concerns on the following page:

    http://www.climatelobby.com/fee-and-dividend/q-a/

    Of course, no relevant consideration should be left unrecognized… so, as I said, your concerns are appreciated.


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  10. 110

    #100 Michael

    The relevant point here is that there is no viable alternative theory. So in that context, the certainty level is extraordinarily high. I would go as far as saying it as certain as the earth is in motion around the sun.

    Recall, it did take mankind (in some circles) some time to accept that the earth revolves around the sun. Also, be aware, there are still people that believe the earth is only 6000 years old.

    For the record, I don’t think it is an extreme position to hold on the subject of anthropogenic causation… unless you have evidence to scientifically invalidate the science as it now stands?

    On the major components of understanding cause an d effect re AGW, I’d say it is not inappropriate to put the science into the 99.99% category on anthropogenic causation of the shift of the climate path. But I’m open minded, feel free to disprove it, and like those that changed their minds on whether the sun is revolving around the earth or vice versa, I too will change my mind. All you need to do is falsify the thesis as currently understood.


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  11. 111
    GSW says:

    Ok, I’ll have another go. I hope no-one is offended by this but, all the initial posts, and it has improved later, have been along the lines of;

    I used to be a sceptic but now my eyes have been opened!

    The usual to and fro is going on on the other blog sites – the content here is somewhat well, unique. Does anyone have an idea what is going on?

    It’s just the first thing that struck me when I started reading.

  12. 112

    102 Richard C.

    “Insane” huh? I guess you find it upsetting to hear about costs that seem to surprise you.

    Do you have criticism of my arithmetic? Or did you think “carbon” really meant carbon? Or do you have knowledge of coal prices and carbon content of such?

    A discussion might get somewhere. Of course I am insane to try to actually discuss ways to solve the problem that are not on everyone else’s list.

  13. 113

    109 John Riesman,

    Your well spoken discussion gives proper balance to the debate. I acknowledge your points and think that in the long run, you are suggesting a realistic policy.

    I think we should not write off considering a policy because all the details are not stated, but actually setting that in law needs to be with awareness of more of the details.

    I have in hand (so to speak) solutions that would cut the energy used for transportation, in phases, to a small fraction of that used now. This involves making both cars and trucks far more efficient aerodynamically, and making rolling resistance of truck tires a tenth of that now experienced. An add-on is a way to use hybrid car equipment to produce electric power from natural gas two to three times more efficiently than can now be done with central natural power plants. This kind of solution offers no-cost or even profitable opportunities. In connection with these kinds of changes, the program to wean us from coal could become a plausible thing to sell to the public. I think the things I suggest could strengthen the US manufacturing economy, and then we would be in a position to crank down the coal system without breaking the system.

    This is how we might possibly get ahead of the problem. If we throw in insulation, other kinds of engines, fuels, etc. we might actually solve the climate change problem from the USA perspective, and we might even show a path that other countries would find sensible.

  14. 114
    D. Glass says:

    The hubris displayed here is simply stunning. For example:
    To these people I say: “Only Qualified Climate scientists w/Ph.D who specialize in some aspect of this science ARE Qualified to Tell the rest of us what the truth is”. #28
    “ I as well have found obtaining a firm grasp of climatology much more difficult than an equivalent level of understanding of other scientific fields. RealClimate has provided a significant portion of my education.” #6 Are you serious? Have you tried studying String Theory lately ?
    Or how about this,
    “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.”
    or
    “Unfortunately, there is no support for doubting AGW. By definition, it is impossible to be a skeptic about it.” #78

    The religious tone of the comments is also remarkable. Many bear witness of how they were once skeptic or agnostic but through study and RC, they now see the light. For example.
    “I came first as a skeptic of AGW and believing of a cultural bias of scientists working on climate.
    You educated me so much, my views have totally changed.
    I’m quite ashamed now to think that before I had an opinion about climate not knowing even the basics, that now by reading your site I’m beginning to start to grasp your science.” #34
    And how about some groveling before your gods.
    “Thank you. Frankly I’m not qualified to comment on this website beyond adding my thanks for its continued existence. I’m not sufficiently expert to add any meaningful insight” #96
    Then there are those who tell of doing battle with the unbelievers, some have even suffered for their faith.
    “I’ve not been threatened with physical violence, but I have had people express concern for my immortal soul (and my brother tends to keep his family away from me, as if I were going to jump all over his kids and drag them into the bottomless pit with me right there and then). #4
    And of course what religion would not be complete without punishment for failure.
    “ people are in denial about the whole 6th extinction. I think there’s huge unconscious resistance to
    acknowledging that the American dream has become a planetary nightmare.” #11
    There is a reason why most religious people are not believers in or greatly concerned with AGW. They already believe in something.

  15. 115
    GSW says:

    #103 nigel jones

    “but I fear The only thing that will really wake the general public up is a big spike in temperatures”

    nigel, I’m curious about what ‘convinces’ about AGW. I think you’re right, people a more convinced by a run of warm weather, rather than the science arguments.

    Also, I think to move things past reasonable doubt, the performance of the models is key. If you can get the MGT to hover around a much tighter subset of models, it will be difficult to argue.

  16. 116

    #113 Jim Bullis

    I am in agreement with your points and intentions.

    My order of precedence in this context includes:

    – Consumption Reduction
    – Efficiency Increase
    – Transition to Renewable/Sustainable

    Methods include:

    – Education/Awareness
    – Meaningful Policy (best possible mitigation)
    – Adaptation Planning

    Quantification of detail may take some time to nail down policy premise though.

    Additionally, I do not negate any state perspective, but wanted to point out that a US centric solution that does not consider all relevant economies could easily lead down a more precarious path, economically speaking.

    I continue to hope that the US will become a larger part of the solution. We innovated our way into a serious global challenge, that of climate change. Now we (the world community) will need to mitigate and adapt as best we can with equal fervor and even more brilliant innovation.

    Let us hope we soon embrace the challenge appropriately.


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  17. 117
    AlC says:

    39 Emanuele Lombardi

    There is plenty of data that fials [sic] to support AGW, the difficulty is finding it in all the pro AGW rhetoric, but there are many good books if you loook for them.
    ————–
    Emanuele: Please give some examples of books you consider worthwhile. So far I have not seen any books that disprove AGW. I glanced at a book by Singer and decided it was trash.

  18. 118
    Corey Watts says:

    Love your work guys

  19. 119
    Jack Maloney says:

    “…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.”

    “Each denier argument is more ludicrous than the next…”

    “AGW seems so obvious to me that I’m amazed more people don’t get it right off.”

    “The first thing that struck me about the sceptics was the similarity of the structure of their arguments to that of the creationists.”

    “In the face of evidence only a fool would not be prepared to change his standpoint and such people are best left to their own delusions.”

    Ignorant, ludicrous, fool, creationist, intellectual gulf, delusions – the denigration chorus goes on and on at this site. Do any of the above comments come from people with scientific credentials comparable to the AGW skeptics listed here?

    Richard Lindzen, Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, member of the National Academy of Sciences

    Garth Paltridge, retired Chief Research Scientist, CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research and retired Director of the Institute of the Antarctic Cooperative Research Centre

    Sallie Baliunas, astronomer, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

    Hendrik Tennekes, retired Director of Research, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute

    Willie Soon, astrophysicist, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

    John Christy, professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center,
    University of Alabama

    Obviously, there are AGW skeptics with significant scientific credentials. Debating those with whom you disagree can be instructive – denigrating them only diminishes you.

    [Response: You make a significant error in personalising the quoted comments – they mostly deal with the quality of the contrarian arguments. While Lindzen for instance has made some interesting points – none of which have stood up to much further examination (for instance), he has also used some patently idiotic arguments in public (signing a statement implying that the limits on weather forecasting preclude any climate predictions, that warming on Mars means that warming on Earth is natural etc.). Soon and Baliunas have never advanced anything resembling a coherent position while Tennekes has not published anything on this topic in any recent journal as far as I can tell. To the extent that any of your list have useful contributions to make, they can publish them (Christy, Paltridge and Lindzen have no problem getting their ideas into the journals), and others in the community will respond. The fact of the matter is it only takes a short time perusing WUWT or Pajamas Media or Drudge or Morano to see nonsense arguments trotted out on a regular basis, and you don’t need to a “highly credentialed” scientist to see it. – gavin]

  20. 120
    S. Keptic says:

    “What convinced me, though, is that the arguments made by a few sites like yours are explicit and testable.”
    “Testable”?!? Really? How do you test long-range climate forecasts?

    [Response: Here (and updates). – gavin]

  21. 121

    #111 GSW

    I think what is going on here on the RC site is exactly what you are seeing. People are examining the arguments and finding that the denialist sites are largely presenting non-scientific opinions, while RC is presenting the science with relevant context.

    Since you are asking, it is rather obvious you have not yet advanced that far in understanding the science. Keep at it and maybe you too will learn what is happening with human caused global warming.


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  22. 122
    EL says:

    Out of curiosity, I visited the tea party forums on the Internet and participated in a few discussions with members of the tea party. Today, I’ve made up my mind that I need to reformulate my world view about humanity. I’ve come to the conclusion that facts are not nearly as important as simplicity. I wrongfully assumed that people just didn’t understand something because it was complicated. In any discussions of sufficient complexity, members of the tea party exhibited a very strong need of closure. In other words, they needed simplicity, and they were very dogmatic about it.

    Even when over-whelming evidence was displayed to refute their assertions, they seemed to make excuses to support their beliefs. I think they have some kind of fear of complexity, and they look for some way out. If they are offered a very simple explanation that will allow them to avoid facing a complex issue, they will grab a hold of it like a drowning man holding onto a float. After they have their simple explanation, they will not let go no matter what.

    In order to reach these people in climate science, I think a lot of things are going to have to be rethought. Facts, accuracy of models, measurements, or other things are not going to work. They need to hear some kind of very very simple explanation. An explanation that they can relate to in some way.

    But I could be completely wrong. (wouldn’t be the first time lol)

  23. 123
    Ken Peterson says:

    What tools are appropriate for the job? First, what is the job? Apparently, an unending harangue against the great unwashed. Never in the history of civilization have the Stupid been given so much press coverage. A marshaling of facts in this intellectual bar fight is an insult to reason.

    Our group of retired engineers and officers were discussing the electrical load of the state of California when we were brought to a halt by the retort of the guy who had just gone for the next round: “You can’t solve a political problem with engineering solutions,” he said.

    What kind of a problem is this? what tools are appropriate? Because we don’t seem to understand the nature of the debate. For the past million years, at this point in the Milankovic cycle, CO2 had plummeted, allowing the night sky to dissipate the day’s heat and, thereby, taking the temperature down with it. This all happened, not at 300 or 400 ppm CO2, but at 260 ppm CO2. We are now at a point in the CO2 cycle never seen by civilized societies and we still have the entire Solar System working against us. I have seen noone mention the Galactic Forces called obliquity, eccentricity, and precession building against us. When the inhibited forces of thermal radiation break from the whispered urge of a diminishing sun, how will that play with the S&P 500? Should I be long or short rice?

    I’m more amused than interested in the mannered, PC responses to an ex-director of Halliburton espousing the philosophy: “Petroleum is vital… to the maintenance of industrialized civilization itself”.

    This conversation is not going anyplace.

  24. 124
    RaymondT says:

    The RealClimate blog has helped me better understand climate. I appreciate the objectivity of the posts such as the recent post on the “Artic methane on the Move”. As I learn more about climatology, I am becoming increasingly aware of the complexity of the science. Climatology is rather unique in its reliance on numerical modelling as a discipline since there are so many factors involved. For example, in the case of the warming of the methane hydrates leading to more methane in the atmosphere in your recent blog “Artic methane on the move” you have to model the actual melting of the hydrates on the EARTH SCALE which necessarily involves numerical simulations of the heat transfer to the trapped methane on a large scale. If the warming of the methane hydrates was the only source of methane in the atmosphere you would not have to model the release of methane. You could just measure the methane concentration in the atmosphere. However, since there are multiple sources of methane from plant decomposition, volcanoes, etc… which are difficult to measure it is necessary to at least estimate numerically the release of the methane from the hydrates. Too often, I hear environmentalists argue in qualitative terms about climate especially when they talk about tipping points. The effect of the increase of CO2 on global warming is determined indirectly by history matching past temperatures. Since I think that an explanation for the global warming has to be numerical in nature, I agree that the best explanation for that 20th century warming is that it is mostly due to the radiative forcing due to an increase in CO2. In other words, climatologists simply have not been able yet to find a better history match of previous temeperatures without including the radiative forcing due to CO2. I think the CO2 explanation in a way is the easiest to give since historically the science of solar and terrestial radiation has been studied for almost 70 years. In the 60s and 70s climatologists were using simpler 1D or even 2D radiative convective models. It is only since the last 20 years that climatologists are able to study the role of internal multi-decadal oscillations in ocean temperatures on global warming using global circulation models. From what I read so far there is not a clear understanding of the relation between global warming and extreme weather such as hurricanes for example. I am not convinced of the sensitivity of the global circulation models nor of the ability of the global circulation models to predict future global temperatures over several decades since they have not been tested in quantitative terms since climatologists have not yet determined the effect of the internal multi-decadal variability of ocean temperatures on global temperatures. I think that climatology will remain a qualitative science there are too many factors involved in the earth sciences. Únfortunately we are trying to use QUALITATIVE estimates of future warming, precipitation, ENSO frequency and intensity, droughts, floods, etc… to justify huge expenditures of public funds to solve a hypothetical problem.

  25. 125
    Eli Rabett says:

    Eli has three points to make, the first is to express thanks to the Real Climate team for persisting in the face of some really nasty opposition. Especially to Mike Mann, Gavin Schmidt and Stefan Rahmstorf, (and Ben Santer), thanks for taking the lead.

    Second, the Lindzens, Singers, Christys and Pielkes of the world have long played a double game, on the one hand demanding respect for themselves within the scientific enterprise while trashing everyone else in the public sphere. They need to be held to account.

    Third, scientists have to understand the broad nature of the attack on science, lead, of course, by the Lindzens, Singers, Pielkes and Christys, and realize that they cannot hide. As the Royal Society of Chemistry said

    “Support from the scientific community is needed to provide context and to explain the process by which conclusions are reached. Encouraging scientists to openly engage with the public can only be achieved if researchers are given the necessary backing in the face of any unfounded arguments against their work. This support must come from the highest levels, sending out a strong message on the importance of scientific methodology and research and promoting open sharing of information between scientists and the wider community.”

  26. 126

    #114 D. Glass

    The hubris displayed in your post is simply stunning. For example, the connotative inference of your post includes some inclinations, insinuations and misnomers:

    – You seem to have a problem with people learning, and commenting on what they are learning?
    – You seem to use political spin techniques to divert attention.
    – What does ‘string theory’ have to do with understanding climate?
    – You bring up the age old climate science is religion argument, which of course is ridiculous.
    – You seem to infer climate scientists are Gods in your argument? Would like a little more straw with that?

    Hmmm, unbelievers, suffered for faith, punishment for failure; we are seeing a pattern here. Lemme guess, you learned these terms somewhere?

    If I follow your logic in your post, you don’t believe people should learn. Or is it that you don’t believe people should learn about climate science? Well, that is interesting. And how did you come to this conclusion/notion?

    Your final sentence may have some relevant substance, obtuse though it is. But you seem to miss the point, you see, climate is not about belief. It’s about math, physics, observations, modeling and the careful method of falsification and scientific skepticism that leads to more robust conclusions as they are achievable.


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  27. 127

    #119 Jack Maloney

    You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand that rockets can go up.

    You don’t need to be a climate scientist to know that global ice mass is dropping and the planet is warming. Or that humans have added massive amounts of greenhouse gases to our atmosphere.

    And finally, just because someone is a scientist, does not necessarily mean they are a good scientist.

    If a doctor approached you today and and said you need your brain replaced, wouldn’t you get a second opinion, or would you just agree, because another doctor agrees with him. Wouldn’t you question to see if there might be a consensus about whether or not your brain should be replaced?

    Now, let’s say you are aware that thousands of scientists that work in the field of brain surgery say you should not have the operation and that you don’t need your brain replaced and in fact that idea is ludicrous. And then told you that only a few doctors are recommending, based on their opinion, you should have your brain replaced.

    But the consensus view from all the other doctors is that it will kill you.

    But, the few scientists you know say it won’t?

    My, so confusing…

    So what say you, are you going to have the operation or not?


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  28. 128
    MalcolmT says:

    Re the OP: You may be interested in another honestly skeptical ‘outsider’ review of AGW, ‘Poles Apart’ (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC0905/S00024.htm and http://polesapart.com/)
    Re #4 and others: It seems to me that the anti-evolutionist and anti-AGW campaigns have more in common with each other than they do with resistance to many similarly significant scientific revolutions – the germ theory of disease, plate tectonics, the smoking-cancer link, etc. I think the difference is due to the fact that both evolution and AGW reflect profoundly on how we understand ourselves in relation to the world: evolution said, “Hey, we’re nothing special really – we’re animals!” and AGW says, “Hey, we can’t keep on treating the world as an infinite resource – we really have to step up and become farmers, managers, gardeners, of the whole biosphere, not hunter-gatherers or slash-and-burn cultivators.”

    And thanks, as always, to Gavin and the rest of the RealClimate team.
    Malcolm

  29. 129
    flxible says:

    D Glas@114 Do you actually know the meaning of the word “hubris”? you’ve certainly given a convincing demonstration of it. ;)

  30. 130
    Ray Ladbury says:

    D. Glass@114
    Ah, yes, the old “people are convinced, so it must be religion” argument. I guess that makes it so much easier to dismiss the arguments than actually looking at the evidence. Why don’t you try that, sometime. You will find that the evidence is overwhelming–and that is why people are convinced. Or you can continue to live in denial. Your choice.

  31. 131
    Ray Ladbury says:

    GSW says: “The usual to and fro is going on on the other blog sites – the content here is somewhat well, unique. Does anyone have an idea what is going on?”

    Yes. People here have actually been studying the science.

  32. 132
    Wannabe Snark says:

    So if this AGW stuff is really supported by science, let’s try a scientific test.

    Please name one specific, falsifiable prediction that the theory of AGW makes and that has been tested.

    Thanks in advance!

    [Response: Stratospheric cooling. – gavin]

  33. 133
    Jack Maloney says:

    “You make a significant error in personalising the quoted comments – they mostly deal with the quality of the contrarian arguments. Lindzen…used some patently idiotic arguments…Soon and Baliunas have never advanced anything resembling a coherent position…”

    Gavin – you say I “make a significant error in personalising” the comments. But I named no names. My post was simply protesting this site’s routine denigration of reputable scientists simply because they do not agree with you and your associates. Seems to me you’re the one “personalising” comments by direct attacks (“patently idiotic”, “never coherent”) on named individuals. If your science is as ‘robust’ as you claim, it should stand up to challenge without resort to such tactics.

    [Response: The science is robust, and it easily stands up. My point was that you assumed that all the comments in the thread were personal remarks directed against Lindzen and the others you named. This is not the case. In any case, there is a significant difference in criticising Lindzen’s public statements on the science and his personal qualities. The first is completely fair game. But an argument *can* be patently idiotic without the user of said argument being an idiot, and a paper that conflates any anomaly that is either wet or dry or warm over any fifty year period at any time in the past with there being a ‘Medieval Warm Period’ warmer than modern is not coherent. You seem to be stating that one can never criticise an argument however specious without it being personal. I beg to differ. – gavin]

  34. 134
    Eric Rowland says:

    For likely the 100th time on this thread, let me also add my sincere thank you. RC has helped me over the last year to distill the issues and finally learn enough about climate science and re-learn enough about the physical sciences to feel grounded in my arguments.

    As a business person working in the RE industry, my motives are always suspect but the science of carbon based energy is non controversial. Those that make it so, have only controversy as their ally.

  35. 135
    Tim Jones says:

    Re:114 D. Glass says: 13 March 2010 at 6:39 PM
    The hubris displayed here is simply stunning.
    And of course what religion would not be complete without punishment for failure.
    “ people are in denial about the whole 6th extinction. I think there’s huge unconscious resistance to
    acknowledging that the American dream has become a planetary nightmare.” #11

    It’s more than religious punishment for failure.

    Look up 6th extinction:

    The Sixth Extinction
    http://www.actionbioscience.org/newfrontiers/eldredge2.html
    Niles Eldredge

    The Sixth Extinction
    http://www.well.com/~davidu/sixthextinction.html
    by Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin

    Etc. Use Google.

    The materialist lifestyles and a whole economy based on wasteful consumption best exemplified as the American dream is literally wasting the planet. Here’s where some of it goes:
    Great Pacific Garbage Patch
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch

    The energy and transportation we use is directly responsible for the waste gasses that physicists have proved absorb heat radiated from the surface of the Earth, thereby warming the atmosphere with all sorts of harmful consequences. Even the food most Americans have become accustomed to eating contributes to the problem. And everyone wants to be like us. It’s called the revolution of rising expectations.

    Thus the materialist junkie religion all too many people exhibit is destroying the biodiversity of the planet. It’s called the 6th extinction. It’s undeniable to any reasoning person.

    If you could actually un-stun yourself instead of stringing diverse rhetorical beads on a chain of evidence proving nothing more than you can’t tell the truth, you’d never have written:
    “There is a reason why most religious people are not believers in or greatly concerned with AGW. They already believe in something.”

    They should acknowledge their nemesis.

  36. 136
    Heinrich Schmid says:

    Your web site is well organized and interesting. Unfortunately I do not have the linguistic ability as an “englishborn” person. But I have tried to write a monograph about an issue which is very intimately linked to climate change/disruption. It is titled “A Painful Reality”. I used the pseudo-name Enrico Fabrizius because I made a few religiously sensitive statements and do not personally want to incurr the wrath of a fatwa. There are also denyers of the reality of human overpopulation particularly those of fundamental religious persuasions. It is my conviction that we “mankind” will most likely not be able to change course soon enough to prevent disastrous climate disruption without solving the population isue. Thank you for following these thoughts. Heinrich Schmid in Austria.

  37. 137
    ccpo says:

    Desirable that this would for reducing CO2, the cost to the USA economy has to be taken seriously. If we were to see the average electric bill in the USA triple, that might push our already teetering economy back to third world level. We need to be a little more clever in solving this problem.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 13 March 2010 @ 2:41 PM

    You seem to be missing a very key point. There is a dividend involved, so the extra cost goes 100% back into the economy. It is economically neutral. Well, that actually is not accurate as those who need to spend the money will. It might actually speed up the velocity of money and act as a stimulus. Maybe.

    Part of the idea is that if you make it expensive, people will use less. That will reduce economy in the FF sector, but lead to conservation (a good thing) and to more demand for “renewables.”

    There are two potential weaknesses I can see. One is that those of lower means are likely to spend the dividend, thus reinforce the use of FFs. The other is that producers will raise prices to get their profits back, making the dividend meaningless to consumers.

    However, cap and trade is insane. It’s putting the foxes back into the hen house with a butcher knife and rotisserie in terms of the abuse of it that will go on among the banking and investment industries and the wealthy.

    I suppose I’m also comfortable with slowing the economy because we need to, anyway. You can’t run the future on the lower energy availability we face. Even if we successfully transition to “renewables,” there will be a few decades where there is an energy deficit.

    History teaches us that efficiencies only get us so far before increased demand from increased population, etc., overwhelms. For example, despite 30%+ increase in efficiency overall, the American economy used more oil in 2007 than it did in 1979-81… by a lot.

    Add in the disruptions from climate and the already-destabilized economy?

    A perfect storm cometh. Rather, it’s already here. A new paradigm is not only desirable, it’s the only way forward.

    Cheers

  38. 138
    ccpo says:

    Also, I think to move things past reasonable doubt, the performance of the models is key. If you can get the MGT to hover around a much tighter subset of models, it will be difficult to argue.

    Comment by GSW — 13 March 2010 @ 6:56 PM

    Typical. One problem with your requirement: you don’t seem to understand the function of the models. The models don’t create the science. The science is done and the results tested. Models primarily provide insight into a what *might* happen from here. Since they are generally tested against past climate, we can trust that they have some validity looking forward.

    You also seem to think models give *an* answer. At least, that is implied in your statement above. But the GCM’s, etc., produce a very wide range of possibilities with a range of probabilities.

    The models are not the science, the observations, the experiments. Besides, the simple fact they are generally *underestimating* the changes makes it quite clear, logically, that if anything, it’s worse than we’d hoped and the science that much better than the denialists will ever admit.

    Ah, but, we already know people make decisions based on ideology and belief before facts and logic.

    Cheers

  39. 139
    James C. Wilson says:

    Bravo RC. I enjoyed reading the comments of other fans as well.

    I need to get out of the rut of tripping on so-called skeptics and then getting hooked on refuting their arguments, when the question of what to do next is really most pressing. IPCC gives us a climate sensitivity of 2C to 4.5 C for a doubling of CO2. The models trade off climate sensitivity against direct and indirect effects of aerosol to arrive at the same “reasonable” modern climate. So, what does a policy maker do? 2C is acceptable in Copenhagen and 4.5 C is a reset for civilization. Do we pretend that it is 3C and proceed? Of course, we can readjust as we learn more, but is 3C sufficiently conservative or overly expensive?
    Is anyone aware of policy studies that have driven the House Cap and Trade bill through the range of sensitivities? Does it work at 2 C and 4.5C per doubling?

    Is there a thread there that is more relevant where I should post this question.

    Chuck Wilson

  40. 140
    Paulie200 says:

    Just want to add my ‘Thank You!’ to the other posts here. I read this site daily. It’s a great (nerdy) kick to get the thinking of some of the foremost researches in the field directly.

    You guys, John Cook, and others give those of us in engaged in public debates a fast, effective, fact based response to the denialist’s nonsense. I’ve referred many of them here, in hopes that they’ll stumble across at least the minor insight that the nature, vast scope, depth, and complexity of the science is formidable and as far from a conspiracy as it can get. A few have even stopped making simplistic “it’s the volcanoes” type arguments, so maybe they have looked a bit deeper.

  41. 141

    #137 ccpo

    Thank you for that comment. Interesting considerations. I will need to contemplate and integrate in the FAQ’s I think. Too tired tonight though to contemplate further.


    The Climate Lobby
    Understand the Issue
    http://www.climatelobby.com/fee-and-dividend/
    Sign the Petition!
    http://www.climatelobby.com

  42. 142
    David Rumberg says:

    This guy also comes from another field and weighs in on Climate Science. Different conclusion though.
    http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/03/the_granularity_of_climate_mod.html

    [Response: He doesn’t have a clue unfortunately. He thinks that CRU is part of the UK Met office, that the Hadley Centre is the same place as CRU, that climate models are the same as surface temperature analyses or at least use them as input, that homogenisation of individual station data is somehow the same as interpolation to fill in missing data, etc. etc. Exactly the kind of article you get when someone comes in who think they know enough and so don’t feel the need to check their ideas, but really they don’t what they are doing. He would benefit enormously for a single conversation with someone who knows what they are talking about. – gavin]

  43. 143
    Chad says:

    OT: At the ‘Data Sources’ page the link to Cryosphere Today incorrectly points to UAH TLT data.

    [Response: Fixed. thanks. – gavin]

  44. 144
    Gilles says:

    ccpo :”You seem to be missing a very key point. There is a dividend involved, so the extra cost goes 100% back into the economy. It is economically neutral….
    Part of the idea is that if you make it expensive, people will use less. That will reduce economy in the FF sector, but lead to conservation (a good thing) and to more demand for “renewables.”

    So ccpo you succeed in being self contradictory in two sentences ! if being expensive makes people use less, there is absolutely no guarantee that it is “economically neutral”. Given the fact that money invested in alternative energy is distracted from elsewhere, the total amount of wealth produced has no reason to stay constant. This a question of productivity : does it increase globally , or does it decrease ? given the very different costs and applicability of fossil fuels vs electricity, it would be very unlikely that they give the same economical productivity. So either renewables are MORE productive – and the replacement should happen automatically, much like FF replaced animals and natural energies – either they are LESS productive, and the world economy can do nothing but decrease.


    I suppose I’m also comfortable with slowing the economy because we need to, anyway. You can’t run the future on the lower energy availability we face. Even if we successfully transition to “renewables,” there will be a few decades where there is an energy deficit.

    So you admit that renewable cannot produce the energy of fossil fuels… That’s not a question of rate, China’s growth has been sustained at a very high rate through the use of fossil fuels. Why not through windmills and solar panels, if they were equivalent at the end ?

  45. 145
    GSW says:

    #121 Riesman
    #138 ccpo
    #131 Ladbury

    Thanks to all, my post took an hour to get thru moderation, so I’ll respond later in the day when I have time. Apologies for not coming back sooner. Thanks again!

  46. 146
    ccpo says:

    “Support from the scientific community is needed to provide context and to explain the process by which conclusions are reached. Encouraging scientists to openly engage with the public can only be achieved if researchers are given the necessary backing in the face of any unfounded arguments against their work. This support must come from the highest levels, sending out a strong message on the importance of scientific methodology and research and promoting open sharing of information between scientists and the wider community.”

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 13 March 2010 @ 9:25 PM

    Absolutely dead on, Eli. I believe two things will possibly start to make a difference. 1. Some of these organiations/individuals must be sued/prosecuted and 2. the President has to do an extensive public statement on this, preferably over the course of a week covering everything and allowing ZERO nutquackery into the mix. That, only valid scientific arguments would be addressed (which would pretty much mean no Lindzen, Christys, etc.)

    Cheers

  47. 147
    Gilles says:

    “Please name one specific, falsifiable prediction that the theory of AGW makes and that has been tested.

    Thanks in advance!

    [Response: Stratospheric cooling. – gavin]”

    The correct question to test the correctness of AGW model is :is there a falsifiable prediction that the theory of AGW makes and that has been tested, that can not be predicted by other explanation? I don’t think that stratospheric cooling enter this category, since it is the result of increased CO2 concentration (which relies on the combustion equation that has been known since much before AGW models) and the radiative efficiency of CO2, that is atomic physics that has also been established for a long time. It doesn’t even prove the anthropogenic origin of CO2, any natural increase would ALSO have made the stratosphere cool.
    I’m not saying that CO2 doesn’t warm the Earth. I’m saying that the science is obviously still largely uncertain, and that the catastrophic speeches rely only on uncertainties and error bars (on climate sensitivity on CO2, fossil fuels reserves, sensitivity of sea level to temperature, and so on…) and not at all on well established values.

    [Response: You protest too much. Stratospheric cooling was predicted as a function of increasing CO2 in the 1960s and not confirmed until the 1980s when the measurements got good enough. Prediction that anthropogenic CO2 would increase atmospheric concentrations go back to Arrhenius (1890s) and Callendar (1930s). Again, confirmed in the 1960s. This notion that ‘not everything is well-established’ implies that nothing is well-established is a logical nonsense. – gavin]

  48. 148
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Could someone tell me how the definition of AGW makes it is impossible to be a skeptic?”

    It’s nothing to do with the definition of AGW, it’s to do with the actions of the self-proclaimed skeptic.

    If you look with a skeptical eye at your own reasonings, then you’re a skeptic. If you accept without murmur any half-assed idea that tells you what you want to hear, then you’re not a skeptic.

    Your question is rather like asking “what is it about the definition of God that makes it impossible to be an atheist?”

  49. 149
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “89
    Gilles says:
    13 March 2010 at 1:24 PM

    87 Hugh :” the problem IS the rate of climate change.”.
    So, the most critical thing is the rate … ok. Then I repeat : the current rate of climate change cannot be proved to be unusual by any objective study.”

    But it doesn’t slow down or become a nonissue if the rate of change is not proven unusual by any objective study.

    PETM.

    Killed most animals on the planet.

    [Response: You maybe confusing this with the Permian-Triassic event. Extinctions at the PETM are restricted mainly to ocean fauna (forams, coccoliths, ostracods etc.) – gavin]

  50. 150
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Gilles: “May be, but it is also very likely (being scientifically conservative) that there will be a catastrophic impact if we STOP burning fossil fuels”

    You keep saying this, but you have nothing to support it, not even a biased and partisan study, let along an objective neutral one.


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