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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. 201

    169 RichardC

    Such progress I am making!!

    As Alexis DeToqueville wrote in 1800 or so, democracy in America would collapse when the people figured out that they could vote themselves money from the public treasury. What you advocate seems very close to the kind of chaos the DeToqueville envisioned.

    More closely paralleling this scheme was the Alaska system carried on by Sarah Palin, where oil companies were taxed and every person in Alaska got a check for $2000. This is populism of the sort that some of us think is very bad for the economy.

    But lets say it was all very orderly and the price of fuel simply reflected the carbon content and the average person came out even. The intended effect might come about, where a lot less coal was used. If the natural gas price remained at $4.50 as it is now, that would seem to be ok. But we know that natural gas price is very sensitive to change in the amount used. We would need to get about three to four times as much heat from natural gas to replace the heat from coal, so that would seriously destabilize the natural gas market. If the price only went to $7 as it often does in the winter, that would reestablish the advantage of coal as the cheapest, even with the proposed carbon tax.

    You may be putting more faith in the talk of abundant natural gas than I do. The first rule of reserve estimating is to set a price target that must exist to make gas recovery profitable. Right now we are doing ok with $4.50 as a target. The present unexpected growth in reserves is based on willingness of the gas people to spend significantly more money to recover the gas. Technology advances help, but what I hear sounds like there is not so much new technology, but instead there is just a lot more use of expensive processes. The discussion goes on, noting with some concern the methods by which natural gas reserves are assessed and the serious environmental questions being raised. In the end, I think we should be careful not to expect too much, and if we increase our usage rate by a factor of 3 or 4, the so called abundant reserves will shrivel to a short supply.

    I argue that we need to get a lot more from the natural gas that we have rather than set out to use it up at triple the rate that we now do for making electricity. There is actually some hope in distributed cogeneration, where electricity is made by burning natural gas on an individual household basis, where the waste heat from the generator engine replaces heat that would have otherwise required separate burning of natural gas. This is a better and higher use of natural gas which is not really possible with coal.

    I was encouraged by the stress put on evaluating project costs without subsidy by Secy. Chu at a recent talk at Stanford. He had quite a few very interesting things to say, most but not all of which I agree with.

    http://www.facebook.com/stevenchu

  2. 202
    JiminMpls says:

    Gilles – If fossil fuels are as limited as you say – and civilization is completely dependent on fossil fuels, doesn’t it make sense to conserve fossil fuels as much as possible?

    From what I can gather from you’re posts, your life philosophy is we’re all screwed, so let’s party. That’s all you’ve contributed to the conversation for the last several weeks.

  3. 203
    Norman says:

    190dhogaza says:
    14 March 2010 at 1:05 PM

    “But it *cools more* than Knoxville or Tulsa during the night.

    July Temp: (High/Low/Average) F
    Las Vegas: 104.1/78.2/91.15 – difference 25.9
    Tulsa: 93.8/73.1/83.45 – difference 20.7
    Knoxville: 86.9/68.5/77.7 – difference 18.4”

    I was aware of this, but thanks for pointing it out. The difference can easily be explained with the known fact that hotter materials emit more radiation and will cool faster.

  4. 204
    Johnhayte says:

    I used to be a “skeptic” because I always thought of the issue in very absolute terms – its either “happening” or “not happening.” I perceived ambiguities and uncertainties around AGW as weaknesses in the overall argument, but as I learned more, I realized it wasn’t a question of certainty, but a question of greatest probability. The “Skeptics” operate almost entirely by nitpicking at various threads of the AGW theory but have never advanced a plausible alternative in a scientifically rigorous manner. Instead we get a bunch of half-baked pet-theories or an insistence that “politically motivated” climate scientists lack the empirical instruments to reliably say anything about the Climate.

  5. 205
    Norman says:

    195Ray Ladbury says:
    14 March 2010 at 1:18 PM
    Norman@182,
    “I’m not sure what you are trying to show.”

    The basic point I saw with this limited evaluation was the effect clouds have on temperatures. The available sunshine data is the difference in cloud cover. Clouds seem to have a very strong cooling effect over the long run or so it would seem. I did look at altitude and it did not seem to be a major factor to cause such difference. The simplest explanation is that clouds cooling factor far outweighs the warming effect of the quantity of greenhouse available in the local environment.

    I very much appreciate the time you are taking to inform me on the larger picture. I am an inbetweener on the AGW issue. I know carbon dioxide absorbs infrared, but climate is a vastly complex system with many variables. I am not believing anyone at this time. I am doing what research is available to me.

    The point of this exercise initially was to prove to a person the effect of greenhouse gases (he believes nitrogen and oxygen absorb infrared and are the same as carbon dioxide). I picked Las Vegas as a desert spot and just went across the US on Google map to see cities that were close to the same lattitude. I just picked these three. I figured Tulsa was a grassland and Knoxville was forest and I knew Knoxville had a wet and humid climate with plenty of water vapor in its air. I was thinking Las Vegas would be the hottest during the day but would have a lower average night time temperature relative to the other two and I would use this difference to point out greenhouse effect in the real world system.

    I was suprised but since the sight I used had sunshine data I looked at these and it looked like available sunlight (lack of clouds) was a huge factor in temperature.

  6. 206
  7. 207
    RichardC says:

    201 Jim, that makes no sense at all. Natural gas would be subject to the SAME carbon tax as coal. Yes, it would affect natural gas a bit less, but ALL fossil fuels would have to pay the carbon feebate. Again, how would a feebate system for fossil fuels drive the US economy into the third world? A system which takes zero dollars out of the economy can’t do such a dastardly thing.

  8. 208
    dhogaza says:

    The simplest explanation is that clouds cooling factor far outweighs the warming effect of the quantity of greenhouse available in the local environment.

    I very much appreciate the time you are taking to inform me on the larger picture. I am an inbetweener on the AGW issue. I know carbon dioxide absorbs infrared, but climate is a vastly complex system with many variables.

    So …

    1. It’s complex

    2. Then waves hands with a small amount of data exploration and concludes that climate science is wrong.

    Norman, do you see the humor in this?

  9. 209
    dhogaza says:

    The difference can easily be explained with the known fact that hotter materials emit more radiation and will cool faster.

    I prefer this discussion

    At night, when the surface is no longer being illuminated by the Sun, it is still radiating its own blackbody radiation, Earth’s surface to cool. Some of that radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere. The atmosphere also emits blackbody radiation, some of which is absorbed by Earth’s surface. The nighttime temperature depends upon the relative rates of absorption and emission by Earth and the atmosphere. If the atmosphere is made more efficient at absorbing radiation, it will trap more of Earth’s radiation, and reradiate more of it downward, making Earth’s surface warmer on average. This is known as the greenhouse effect.

    More water vapor? Check.

    The cooling of Earth at night — The materials that make up Earth’s surface absorb some of the Sun’s radiation during the day. This results in the warming of those materials. Since all materials radiate blackbody radiation, Earth’s surface is always radiating energy (in the infrared region). Of course, it is also absorbing energy from its surroundings, but as the temperature of Earth’s surface increases, it ends up radiating more infrared radiation than it is absorbing.

    When the night comes, the surface is no longer being heated by the Sun, but it is still radiating, and, since it is warmer than the air around it, it continues to radiate, gradually cooling it off.

    If clouds are present over the surface at night, their effect is to reflect some fraction of the radiation that was emitted by the surface back down toward it. Over the course of the night, this has the effect of causing the surface to cool much more slowly. This is why clear sky nights tend to be much colder than cloudy sky nights.

    More cloudy nights? Check.

    The starting temps at night on average in July in Los Vegas vs. Tulsa is about 313K vs. 307K, i.e. LV is about 2% warmer than Tulsa. I suspect the stuff going on in the air column above is more important …

  10. 210
    Jean B. says:

    #194 Steve P
    “Do you have any idea what the average adult has to pay for food vs gasoline or heating fuel or electricity? Food is by far my biggest expense . It would take only a little bit of drought or too much rain in some of the worlds bread baskets to drive my biggest expense through the roof.”

    [edit – PO is OT. I’m not going to say it again]

    And Steve P : big drought that reduce farming a lot globally happen only in carbon intensive scenarios which imply a multiplication by 24 of the world GDP which means you won’t suffer any economic problems.

  11. 211

    Gilles (57): there is no reliable measurements of the 30 years warming rate that shows that it is unusual (or please show me one

    BPL: We have. We’ve listed references and directed you to web sites. You ignore them or find reasons to discount them. So stop pretending you’d change your mind if shown adequate evidence. You won’t look at the evidence.

  12. 212
    JiminMpls says:

    #206 Norman,

    I’m sorry to be rude, but how old are you? If you’re under 12, then I commend you for your efforts, but you can’t do a climate study based the weather in three locations.

    Regardless of your age, I’d suggest you learn the fundamentals before attempting any “research” or analysis of your own.

    Go the the top of the RC page and click “Start Here” Read the items for complete beginners and progress from there. http://www.skepticalscience.com is another good place for information. You don’t have to understand everything but if you take it slowly and *read in order to understand* it will start making sense.

    Also, look up “sight”, “site” and “cite” – they’re not the same things.

  13. 213

    D. Glass (114),

    All I can tell you is that I am an evangelical Christian, and a lot of the people I know are, and most of them ARE very concerned about AGW. Some us remember Psalm 24:1.

  14. 214

    207 RichardC

    Nope, a BTU of natural gas would be burdened with half the tax that would burden coal, not “a bit less.”

    But you are almost right, the cash return could balance things out, and I guess we are assuming that nobody siphons off the cash flow for some project. That would be my first concern. Assuming it works as you say, there would be a requirement for a lot of generation capacity to replace the coal plants. That capital cost would be a real drag on the economy, but to say this would ruin the economy might be an overstatement.

    However, the real issue seems to be whether or not the price of natural gas holds constant. I am thinking that the price of natural gas would be destabilized and coal would be used anyway.

  15. 215

    RaymondT (124): to justify huge expenditures of public funds to solve a hypothetical problem.

    BPL: “Hypothetical???” Which part of “12% of Earth’s land surface was in severe drought in 1970 and by 2002 it was 30%” do you not understand?

  16. 216

    Wannabe Snark (132): Please name one specific, falsifiable prediction that the theory of AGW makes and that has been tested.

    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.

    Is that enough or do you want more?

    http://BartonPaulLevenson.com/ModelsReliable.html

  17. 217

    Norman (158) — you’re also ignoring advection. A single location on Earth is heavily influenced by losses and gains to areas around it.

  18. 218

    Gilles (163),

    Your argument is a complete non sequitur. It amounts to “using more fossil fuels increased wealth. Therefore, using more fossil fuels is the only way to increase wealth.”

  19. 219

    Gilles (171): it isn’t enough to establish the magnitude of the anthropogenic contribution to the global warming, which is the real issue. And I don’t know any confirmed prediction that would establish that it is above 50 %, not speaking of 95 %.

    BPL: Try here:

    http://BartonPaulLevenson.com/Correlation.html

  20. 220
    Jean B. says:

    #194 Steve P.
    Food is oil & fossil fuel dependant tu sustain current population level with current standard of living.

  21. 221
  22. 222

    Gilles (180): the fact that stratosphere is cooling doesn’t prove the magnitude of greenhouse effect of CO2 in the troposphere

    BPL: It’s the SAME BODY OF PHYSICS behind BOTH results. You can’t accept one and not accept the other. It’s like saying, “Yes, gravity and momentum account for the Moon’s orbit around the Earth, but that doesn’t prove they account for Mars’s orbit around the Sun.”

  23. 223

    Gilles (186): how can you commit to limit the warming below 2°C if the climate sensitivity is unknown?

    BPL: Translation: Yes, the gas pedal is stuck and we’re going to go over the cliff edge in another minute, but why press the brake if we can’t know in advance how effective it will be?

  24. 224
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Jim M.
    > vote … money … public … treasury

    Often and variously attributed, but not yet sourced: a good discussion is here
    http://www.lorencollins.net/tytler.html

  25. 225
    Greg says:

    I’d just like to add my voice to the grateful voices here. I know that me-tooing is lame, but just know that your work is appreciated by many.

  26. 226
    Norman says:

    189Hank Roberts says:
    14 March 2010 at 1:03 PM
    “Norman, you might find this helpful; it sounds like you’re discovering what are called “climate zones” — part of this here:
    http://www.meted.ucar.edu/afwa/climo/intro/
    (free, though they ask you to register and have a minimum age limit)”

    Thanks for the link Hank, I checked it out but it does not do much to explain why the humid subtropical zones are cooler on average than the desert. I was hoping they could explain conditions that would cool these areas (like cool air moves in to them in July from the North because of the area they are located in). This would be another reason that could explain the cooler temps beyond the greater cloud cover.

  27. 227
    Steve Missal says:

    I’ve finally reached the conclusion that there are two types of denialists: one) anti-science for theological reasons, and two) anti-anthropogenic (or any change at all) GW as a retreat to the bunker tactic…get as much $ as they can before things go to hell in a breadbasket, and then hunker down in compounds of the ‘rich’. The first can at least be understood as a mistaken reality template. The second…that they continue to do what they do, destroying chances for mitigation, knowing the consequences, is beyond language to describe. I’m stumped why the survival instinct has gone dormant in them…that type of living won’t be survival.

  28. 228
    Rod B says:

    I have no desire to inhibit in any way this pep rally that’s going on here. Probably O.K. and deserved. But staying above the hoopla before it gets out of hand for a minute, I did want to offer my assessment and opinion. While a sceptic (in part) I none-the-less spend 90% on my climate blog time on RC. While it is not unbiased (and being so would be silly) and a long way from perfection, it has by far the highest incidence of scientific information and discussion. Not 100%, but I’m much more apt to pick up science stuff here than on my fellow sceptic blogs/forums (a few of which are really silly…)

  29. 229
    Gilles says:

    Ray :Gilles, OK, so you buy that CO2 is a greenhouse gas in the stratosphere, but not in the troposphere? ”
    perfect strawman argument : I never said that. How could it be possible that CO2 has IR lines in the stratosphere and not in the troposphere? be serious please. I just said that there were a huge gap between knowing that, and knowing which amount is potentially dangerous – and if we can ever reach it.

    “Dude, you are reaching! And climate sensitivity IS known. Many independent lines of evidence place it between 2 and 4.5 degrees per doubling–and all of them favor a value around 3 degrees per doubling.”
    May I estimate than a factor 2 or more is not “very well known”, and that even the figure of 2 degrees/doubling can be questioned?

    Steve :”It would take only a little bit of drought or too much rain in some of the worlds bread baskets to drive my biggest expense through the roof. That is what we are talking about.”
    May be, but depletion of fossil fuels will be the first and most important reason why food will become a much more important expense for many people – both because it will get more and more expensive and because an economic crash will make them poorer. And again, it will happen much before any serious consequence of warming -actually I think it starts happening now.

    Jim202 :Gilles – If fossil fuels are as limited as you say – and civilization is completely dependent on fossil fuels, doesn’t it make sense to conserve fossil fuels as much as possible?
    From what I can gather from you’re posts, your life philosophy is we’re all screwed, so let’s party.”

    The tiny problem-again- is that I never said that we should “party”. Please read my posts before answering. I said that conserving did make sense anyway since the fossil fuels were finite, even if CO2 had no warming effect.And I also said that the GW is much less likely to be a problem than the depletion of fossil fuels, that is about to start just now (with oil).

    You may not agree, but I don’t think I could state this more clearly, it’s perfectly understandable.

    BPL : Gilles (57): there is no reliable measurements of the 30 years warming rate that shows that it is unusual (or please show me one
    BPL: We have. We’ve listed references and directed you to web sites. You ignore them or find reasons to discount them. So stop pretending you’d change your mind if shown adequate evidence. You won’t look at the evidence.

    That’s just false allegations, BPL, you didn’t give me references showing that the current warming rate is unusual – simply because it is not.

    “BPL: “Hypothetical???” Which part of “12% of Earth’s land surface was in severe drought in 1970 and by 2002 it was 30%” do you not understand?”

    References again, please?

  30. 230
    Heraclitus says:

    Andreas #193 “People at this site tend to see climate change as a theory (either true or false).”

    I never understand the problem people have with seeing that you can recognise dangerous anthropogenic climate change as being a probability but still be certain that this probability justifies taking action.

  31. 231
    Jack says:

    I too am a refugee from the evolution/creation wars. I first became involved in the AGW debate (via comments on a newspaper website) in response to an anti-warming letter to the editor. My training was in biochemistry. Without sources such as realclimate.org, skepticalscience.com, Climate Progress, etc. I would have been hopelessly out-gunned and incapable of addressing the vacuous claims of the denialists who leapt into the fray. I join the others in offering my gratitude to you for providing such a valuable repository of mainstream scientific information on the subject.

    As others have noted, the AGW controversy bears many similarities to the evo./crea. debate. It has been my experience that contrarians in general are often more easily swayed by tangential arguments than by detailed scientific explanations. In the case of AGW, issues such as how many of the signers of the Oregon Petition are really climate scientists, how many organizations support global warming vs. how many opposite it, how many scientists are on each side of the controversy, and how rich the players on each side are getting, are just as (if not more) important to them than the hard scientific facts.

    I know some have advocated that RealClimate should adhere to a strictly scientific line of argumentation. However, most of the opponents of AGW are not scientifically oriented. . Many of the anti-warmers seem to be more easily swayed by score-keeping type arguments. If we are going to get the message across to the lay public, I think it is imperative not to neglect the importance of playing the ancillary numbers game with them.

    Indeed, RealClimate is one of the first places I go for a thorough discussion of the science of AGW. Nonetheless, I hope that all pro-warming websites will keep this other aspect of the debate in mind when choosing subjects for discussion.

    Your efforts are greatly appreciated.

  32. 232
    Gilles says:

    BPL :Gilles (180): the fact that stratosphere is cooling doesn’t prove the magnitude of greenhouse effect of CO2 in the troposphere
    It’s the SAME BODY OF PHYSICS behind BOTH results. You can’t accept one and not accept the other. It’s like saying, “Yes, gravity and momentum account for the Moon’s orbit around the Earth, but that doesn’t prove they account for Mars’s orbit around the Sun.”

    I disagree : you can’t say that the sensitivity is “between 2 and 4.5°C /doubling” and pretend mastering the problem like the Newton force. I we couldn’t be more precise than a factor 2 in the motion of Moon, the law of gravitation would be laughable. Climate system is a very complex one, and nobody can claim it’s fully understood. So you aren’t allowed to do an intellectual hold up saying “oh we HAVE to reduce fossil fuels even if we aren’t sure”. If we aren’t sure, we must give good arguments that it’s worthwhile to do it, and that the consequences won’t be worse that what they want to avoid – and I’m not convinced by the argument. Worse, I think that most proposals are useless and won’t reach the goal they claim to.

  33. 233
    Hank Roberts says:

    Norman, I’m guessing you just read the Climatology module but skipped all the others, since for example http://www.meted.ucar.edu/afwa/climo/intro/main.htm addresses the kind of question you asked. Remember, they warn you to go through the modules in sequence and that a basic foundation in meteorology is needed. You may want to back up a bit and get the meteorology information first.

    Look at the left side of the page, go to the top, start with the beginning, take the quizzes to get a feel for how you’ve done understanding each module, and I think by the time you get back to the Climatology module it’ll make more sense.

  34. 234
    Norman says:

    212JiminMpls says:
    14 March 2010 at 4:13 PM
    #206 Norman,

    “I’m sorry to be rude, but how old are you? If you’re under 12, then I commend you for your efforts, but you can’t do a climate study based the weather in three locations.”

    Sorry for scrambling the site, sight and cite wording. I should reread my posts before pressing the Submit button.

    I do not believe it is the weather of three locations. As far as I can tell it is climate, I do not know the number of years behind this information. I was under the assumption that to post as Climate the data should be at least 30 years of data if not more.

    Three locations is not the sum of a study but a starting point. I was looking for something else and saw this pattern. I was trying to figure out the warming effect of water vapor (I made the assumption that carbon dioxide was similar in the three locations so it cancels out on effect).

    “Regardless of your age, I’d suggest you learn the fundamentals before attempting any “research” or analysis of your own.”

    I have educated myself on the fundamentals, I was going to a deeper level. The fundamentals are that greenhouse gases abosorb infrared from heated ground and either heat up warming the air or reradiating the energy of which approximately half will return to the Earth’s surface, be reabsorbed and warm again.

    I checked up on a video on the skeptic link you posted about the proof of Global warming. I also noticed it was not what was included that was important but what he did not include. They studied the Sun’s variations and it could not explain the warming, they did volcanoes and I believe another one. They did not mention clouds.

    I will agree three cities are not enough. I still was hoping maybe one of the intelligent and knowledgeable people who post on the site could explain why the cities do have such a difference in temp and why the one with the most cloud cover is the coolest (even though the amount of solar energy in each location is the same and the night and day hours are identical). Above them, they are receiving identical amounts of solar radiation…same watts/meter^2. But each city ends up with different average temperatures. What is the reason for this? I may be wrong in assuming cloud cover. That is okay, I would like a good alternative explanation. It does not make my mind 12 years old to think about this.

  35. 235
    Gilles says:

    BPL :
    Wannabe Snark (132): Please name one specific, falsifiable prediction that the theory of AGW makes and that has been tested.

    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.

    Is that enough or do you want more?

    Can you give the date at which each prediction has been made, and when it has been verified, please?

  36. 236
    Norman says:

    217Barton Paul Levenson says:
    14 March 2010 at 4:41 PM
    “Norman (158) — you’re also ignoring advection. A single location on Earth is heavily influenced by losses and gains to areas around it.”

    Thank you Mr. Levenson for the introducing me to advection. Because of you post I checked up the average wind speeds of the three cities (Las Vegas, Tulsa and Knoxville).

    Las Vegas: 9.6 MPH
    Tulsa: 9.3 MPH
    Knoxville: 6.o MPH

    Link:
    http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/online/ccd/avgwind.html

    To test your idea I will have to dig deeper to see what direction the wind is moving. Is it moving from a warmer area in Las Vegas causing the warming? Maybe colder air is moving into Knoxville cooling it.

    But still what is wrong with the simple explanation that the Cloud cover is the major cause of the difference in the temperature? The Albedo of some clouds is very high, if the energy of the sun is being reflected back into space the ground below absorbs less, warms less and emits less infrared at night. My point is still Why not the clouds?? Why can’t the Clouds be the largest factor in Global warming and cooling? More clouds, Earth cools. Less Clouds Earth warms. By how much is the question. If my conclusion is the correct one then if might be very significant indeed!

  37. 237
    Norman says:

    Looking for one thing and find another. I was trying to find wind directions for Knoxville in July to answer a question and I found a Monthly average of temperatures from the 1970’s to 2001 (the 30 year Climate criteria). I will post the link. It is 12 pages long but has an average temperature data block about half way through the web page. Can any of you find any sign of warming in Knoxville from this data?

    http://www.weatherexplained.com/Vol-5/2001-Knoxville-Tennessee-TYS.html

  38. 238
    ccpo says:

    While a sceptic (in part) I none-the-less spend 90% on my climate blog time on RC. While it is not unbiased…
    Comment by Rod B — 14 March 2010 @ 5:54 PM

    By “it” I am assuming you mean the people who write own, manage and write the blog. The rest of us are just guests and immaterial of any assessment of RC, per se.

    I dare you to show a single example of interpretation of data or interpretation of results that indicates anything other than a sound scientific finding by the people who run this blog.

    Unless you’ve got an explanation for the measurements of carbon that match the emissions sources, for the melting of Arctic sea ice from above and below, the fact the earth is pretty far from the sun right now, for the solar minimum, for the three decades of ever-increasing temps within a trend of 150 years of of warming, the elevated amount of methane, the melting glaciers… and so on and so on, you are not a sceptic, you’re just a deluded in some form or other.

    Not an insult, an observation.

  39. 239
    Russell Seitz says:

    Fascinating as it is to watch Giles demonstrate the phase transition from the obtuse to the idiotic, his persistence risks alienating viewers otherwise sympathetic to the separation of climate policy and polemics.

  40. 240

    Jean B #167: this has been done to death on other threads. Your other points are also generally rehashes. Read a bit then come back. Use the search box at the top of the page and the Start Here link.

    The substance of what Prof Jones was saying is that the climate is not determined by short-term trends. If you look at the 19th century, you can find 10 year periods with sharp increases, and 10 year periods with sharp decreases, but these things cancel out. Go to the 20th century, and you see that the sharp increases are not accompanied by such sharp decreases, and the long-term trend is up.

    This is why climatologists generally define climate as a 30-year average; it is the shift in the long-term average that is of concern, not whether any 10-year or other short period has a trend.

  41. 241
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Sorry, Gilles, but the uncertainties are what they are. And even at the low end of the confidence interval, we can’t afford to ignore the threats. At the upper end, we could be talking unbounded risk.

    You’ve been here over a month, now Gilles, and for the life of me, I can’t see that you have learned anything. So I have to ask myself: Why are you here?

    Your arguments are not persuasive to anyone who has actually looked at the science. Your view that fossil fuels are essential to life is ludicrous. You don’t seem to be interested in listening to what anyone else has to say. So, why are you here?

  42. 242
    Hank Roberts says:

    Norman,
    — you’re asking how and why clouds intercept heat and how they hold heat closer; that’s albedo from the top and the greenhouse effect from below. You’ll get to papers like this, which give a feel for how complicated the question gets. Urban areas make their own clouds, to some extent.
    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/10/2131/2010/acpd-10-2131-2010.html

    — the “30 years” is for global annual temperatures, it’s a rule of thumb. This will help: http://moregrumbinescience.blogspot.com/2009/01/results-on-deciding-trends.html

    May I suggest you ask him your question? He invites questions like yours. Any of us reading here will find you there as well, and can continue to chip in:
    http://moregrumbinescience.blogspot.com/2010/02/dare-to-ask-question.html

  43. 243
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Norman says, “Thanks for the link Hank, I checked it out but it does not do much to explain why the humid subtropical zones are cooler on average than the desert.”

    Norman, two words: Latent heat. It takes a lot of energy to evaporate water. Also, look at the enthalpies of moist and dry air.

  44. 244
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    So you aren’t allowed to do an intellectual hold up saying “oh we HAVE to reduce fossil fuels even if we aren’t sure”.

    What really isn’t “allowed” is to have a scientific issue held hostage to a political one.

  45. 245
    Russ H says:

    Whenever I quote RC in a discussion about Climate Change I just get the ‘They are in on the hoax’ bit.

  46. 246
    flxible says:

    Norman: “But each city ends up with different average temperatures. What is the reason for this?”

    Have you considered other variables of geographical location rather than cloud cover? Including the exact location of the recording stations with respect to that geography? There are obviously reasons for a desert climate beyond the amount of solar energy recieved and cloud cover. Here on the west coast of Canada I regularly have wildly different weather than a friend in a similar location on the east coast of Canada.
    30 year averages:
    West coast: Jan +4.5c Feb +5.3c Jul +17.6c Aug +17.6c year 9.1c
    East coast: Jan -6c Feb -5.6c Jul +18.6 Aug 18.4 year 6.3c

  47. 247
    netdr says:

    I am a skeptic that believes in looking at evidence from both sides of the argument.

    The argument for AGW that I have never been able to believe is that the earth’s climate can amplify the warming of CO2 by overall positive feedback !

    The open loop [no feedback] warming of CO2 is 1 degree C for a doubling.[Per Dr Hansen]

    As I understand the science the climate alarmists believe that the earth’s climate is an overall positive feedback system. This positive feedback amplifies CO2’s puny warming by a factor of 6 or more.

    Since the earth’s temperature has only varied by 2/10 of 1 % in 100 years. This is very very very stable. How can a positive feedback system be this stable.

    I am an engineer and understand control theory and design systems with positive and negative feedback, I have never run into a long term stable positive feedback system.

    Can someone please name another long term stable positive feedback system ?

    Is the earth’s climate the only one ?

    Do you believe it is?

  48. 248
    Catchblue22 says:

    Having a scientific education myself, I find it disturbing how a seemingly large proportion of the population seems to be abandoning reason and logic. And I am trying to comprehend what is causing this. I know we can argue about corporate influence, about the internet and the spread of misinformation, about rampant consumerism, about how these things have the power to destroy the reasoning abilities of the average citizen. But I think there is more to it. I think there might be something else that could arguably account for the changes we are seeing.

    Over the last forty years, we have largely abandoned classical education in our education system. By classical education, I mean education about the Greeks and how they were the primary influence for many of the ideas that we hold sacrosanct in our society. Forty to fifty years ago, it was common to read Homer in high school or elementary school. And one usually had to have studied some Latin or Greek to obtain a PhD at most prestigious universities. To quote Carl Sagan from page xiv of The Demon Haunted World, at the University of Chicago, “It was unthinkable for an aspiring physicist to not know Plato, Aristotle, Bach, Shakespeare, Gibbon, Malinowski and Freud – among many others.”

    Today most universities are suffused with relativistic theory (and I don’t mean Einstein), where the Greek worldview, the source of many of our ethics and ideas about reason itself, is just another worldview, and a dubious one at that. Through my scientific education, I have been taught in a way to think like a Greek, in that I have been taught to pursue truth through reason, logic, and observation. I believe that the Greek idea of seeking the Truth through logic and reason is increasingly seen as hopelessly idealistic in increasingly wide circles. If social constructivist theory implies that this logical search for Truth is just one of many equally valid world views, then it is easy to change one’s worldview to something more comfortable, something less disturbing. Why not look to the bible instead as a source of Truth? Why not believe in Ghosts? Why not believe that the Moon landing was fake? Or that Fox News is “fair and balanced”?

    Personally, I am starting to read the Classics. I am reading Homer, the Iliad, the Odyssey; I am reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; and I am reading Plato, Aristotle, and Sophocles. I am brushing up on my formal logic, specifically focussing on the common logical fallacies that seem to be becoming increasingly common. After all, the ideas of the Greeks and Romans were the wellspring of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Their ideas were powerful enough to help destroy the power of the Catholic Church. Surely they are powerful enough to destroy the power of Rupert Murdoch!

  49. 249
    MartinJB says:

    Gilles,

    your argument about the relative sensitivity of prosperity to fossil fuel use and temperature is quite silly. I understand your intent, and cost-benefit analysis is an important way to evaluate policy decisions. The problem is that you’ve set up the problem incorrectly.

    First off, your relationship between fossil fuel use and prosperity is specious. In fact, the relationship is between the products of energy use and prosperity. Fossil fuels just happen to be popular and convenient sources of energy. Where other sources of energy or increased efficiency can displace fossil fuels, there is no loss long-term in prosperity for a reduction in fossil fuel use.

    Secondly, you seem to imply that the impacts of increasing temperature scale linearly. I suspect that is not the case. Some impacts will be negligible until thresholds are reached. Sea-level rise, disruptions in weather systems and loss of biodiversity are examples of impacts that will get worse as thresholds are achieved.

    Finally, the impacts of climate change are not necessarily greatest for those who get the most prosperity from the activities that are causing the warming. You basically have to integrate over the entire globe for your sensitivity comparison to make sense. While that might seem reasonable from a disinterested, macro/global perspective. It doesn’t make sense for actual human beings.

  50. 250
    J. Bob says:

    Norman, a couple of good sites to get a lot of perspective about this whole AGW debate are:

    http://www.climate4you.com/
    for a number of good data sets and graphs.

    For long term temp data, greater the 150 years

    http://www.rimfrost.no/

    is a very good site. Hang in there.