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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. 301
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “297
    Gilles says:
    15 March 2010 at 11:54 AM

    CFU ; “There is nothing in common between a 2C rise and a society without fossil fuels.”

    Sure !! I agree on this point !”

    Then why did you say it???

  2. 302
    SecularAnimist says:

    Why waste time with someone like Gilles who is obviously not arguing in good faith, and who for whatever reason chooses to ignore or pretends not to understand anything substantive that anyone says to him, instead just repeating the same well-debunked talking points over and over and over?

    Hasn’t he made it really obvious by now that his only purpose here is to waste people’s time?

  3. 303
    netdr says:

    I thank all of you that have commented on my post about positive feedback.

    Being an engineer I have been troubled by the reliance of our computer models on overall positive feedback to multiply an open loop CO2 warming of 1 degree C for a doubling to 6 degrees C or more.

    I know both positive and negative feedbacks occur but cannot believe the earth is positive feedback overall because of it’s extreme stability.[1/2 of 1 % in 100 years.]

    Someone gave a tree as an example of a positive feedback system which didn’t run away. The tree grows until negative feedback over comes positive feedback. Possibly it can’t suck water any higher ? This is a boundary condition.

    A fire is positive feedback also when growing but it reaches steady state and becomes negative feedback.

    How do I know ? Throw a small amount of water on it and it cools for a while then heats back up. Add kerosene and the reverse happens.

    All natural positive feedback systems increase or decrease until they reach a boundary condition like the campfire. At some point they are limited by fuel etc and become negative feedback.

    The feedback CO2 is supposed to kick start involves water and clouds, we won’t run out of these so the temperature would just keep climbing until some negative feedback stopped it. Perhaps sunlight reflected from clouds which is a negative feedback process. If this is the case the overall feedback is probably negative now.

    Converging series theoretically would have positive feedback which is limited, but this phenomenon is unknown in nature. Please name a natural positive feedback process which uses this method !

    I find it difficult to believe the earth itself uses a process which is unique in the universe.

  4. 304
    Neal J. King says:

    #296, Gilles:

    The difference between acknowledging that we don’t know how to deal with large warming and acknowledging that we don’t know how to deal with just dropping use of oil is that, in dealing with the oil situation, nobody is suggesting a sudden stop in oil utilization: A tax or carbon fee, increasing over time, is NOT going to stop use of oil, but rather will provide incentive for decreasing its use, and for developing technology that can either avoid CO2 production or even take it out of the air. Whereas to simply keep using fossil fuels without any further consideration as to future consequences is equivalent to just trusting in a higher power to take care of us.

    In my view, at this point in history, it’s best if we assume that humanity is the only available management for the planet. Trust in God doesn’t always work out as well as could be hoped: Look up the history of the children’s crusade for a counter-example.

  5. 305
    Nick Gotts says:

    The thing is you or anyone else has no idea when a “global warming” (whatever it means) becomes dangerous. -Gilles

    This is, of course, utterly false: the IPCC report of WGII cites a large number of peer-reviewed papers on precisely that issue. To say we have “no idea” is ludicrous; to say we “don’t know exactly” is of course true. However, suppose you were correct: this would of course be a reason for additional caution.

    At the same time as making this ridiculous claim, you pretend to a certainty that serious mitigation efforts would be disastrous – again, in opposition to the best studies done, such as the Stern review, which concluded that “Central estimates of the annual costs of achieving stabilisation between 500 and 550ppm CO2e are around 1% of global GDP, if we start to take strong action now.” 1% of GGP is not trivial, but nor is it anywhere near causing the kind of socio-economic collapse you insist is inevitable. Even if Stern is far too optimistic, and the annual costs are 3% of GGP, this would be quite feasible without causing such a disaster, if properly planned and combined with a serious effort to shield the poor.

    It has become impossible to believe that you are arguing in good faith. The positions you take are ridiculous, and have been shown to be so repeatedly, yet you simply repeat them without any serious attempt to justify them. What your motivation is, I don’t pretend to know, but you have made it abundantly clear that you are impervious to reason.

  6. 306
    Neal J. King says:

    #298, Jean B.:

    Studies have been done to estimate the impact of various degrees of heating on economic well-being. Generally speaking, the more detailed the study, the more negative has been the impact.

    A major reason for this is that the changes will be taking place rather quickly. If you lose large coastal areas in Bangladesh permanently, you have a severe problem of migration as well as the normal human inconvenience associated with floods.

    But I am actually more concerned about loss to biodiversity. If we take our overall rate of temperature increase (global average) as being 0.1 deg-C per decade, that implies that latitudinal isotherms are moving poleward at the rate of about 6 km per decade, and altitudinal isotherms are moving upwards at about 10 meters per decade. If you’re a tree, that means your habitat is running away from you; and trees can’t walk that fast.

  7. 307
    flxible says:

    Norman@288 – The west coast cities would be Tofino BC [49° 4.800' N] on the outer coast of Vancouver Island or Vancouver BC [49° 12.000' N], more likely to have good records] on the coast of the mainland, both areas influenced by ENSO effects of the Pacific – East coast would be Halifax NS [44° 52.800' N], affected by other things like AMO. Averages can be found from here along with position info, you might find cities closer in latitude – also look at cities in the middle, which is largely dry prairie, as well as some areas of the BC interior, which are desert [in the shadow of the rockies] like Penticton [scroll to bottom right for "1971-2000 Climate Normals" links]

  8. 308
    Radge Havers says:

    To the team at RealClimate: THANK YOU, for the excellent and important work that you do!

    I just wanted to add my thanks.

  9. 309
    Tom S says:

    Still a skeptic, but RC did help me get over the basic hump of the world is really warming and cleared up where the areas of uncertainty are. It is very useful.

    Many comments here still paint with a very broad brush of you either accept the AGW in total, or you are a denier, creationist, tobacco scientist, etc. Not very useful or encouraging that this site is not full of fanboys on the forums.

    Climate Audit and several other sites provide very real counter arguments to many AGW theories. There is a lot of conflicting and unexplained data, as with most science fields in their infancy (i.e. <50 years).

    I'm only convinced that there isn't enough data yet to make definitive policy changes, predictions are dicey, and there is low risk in waiting a few decades to get better information.

    I should not be labeled a pariah for this stance.

  10. 310
    Radge Havers says:

    Mark Ryan @ 165, 184

    Your analysis sounds pretty good to me, IMHO FWIW.

    What annoys me about the “debate”, and some of our culture in general, is that it is not necessarily driven by, nor approachable by, strictly logical arguments — which is not to say that there’s not a strictly reasonable way to bring about needed change.

    For starters, I can’t help noticing that ‘objectivity’ seems to have become a dirty word in popular circles. In journalistic discussions and elsewhere (Postmodernist) it is often outright deprecated and has been for decades. The idea is apparently that since no-one can be perfectly objective, it is therefore somehow perfectly reasonable to abandon it and wallow in opinion, spin, and to thrill in all manner of fantasies and verbal gobble-de-gook as being real and powerful. It’s a conveniently lazy excuse for intellectual laziness, substituting verbal busyness for hard work .

    Logic and merit are devalued currency in such an environment, so it seems to me that changing that mindset is fundamental. Addressing that problem may help motivate restructuring some of the institutional group-think that has, just for starters, led us into war with Iraq, generated the current financial crisis, and given irony challenged group-thinkers everywhere permission to divert attention from the disasters they helped bring on by accusing hard core physical scientists studying climate of,

    you guessed it,

    group-think.

  11. 311
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Yes, thanks, RC!!

    I came to this site in from a totally opposite perspective. I had accepted AGW as a ominous reality back in the late 80s and had taken it very personally –I didn’t like the idea of harming and killing people and other life forms through my excessive first-worlder GHG emissions. I didn’t need 95% confidence to start mitigating.

    However, I found the science in the journals full of caveats and hesitations — unlike the media at that time, which was going for the sensational. (The media did a good job back then, with simple graphic images of how the GH effect works.) Of course, by now the science has gone way beyond that late 80s media in “it’s worse than we had thought.”

    Then by early 90s when the media started its “silent treatment,” with a rare mention of AGW in its “balanced pro-con format,” featuring the 4 or 5 climate scientists who are denialists (you know their notorious names), I figured science had sold its soul to the dev-oils, and only I would be left around to believe that AGW was real and harmful, and no one in the future would understand what was hitting them.

    So by the time I came to RC in 2004, I actually didn’t expect much, except to be caveated to total frustration and weariness.

    But instead I found RC really great, and was pleasantly surprised find there are scientist who hadn’t sold their souls to the devoils, but are still practicing real science and being honest and candid, even some who themselves point out the problem of “scientific reticence.”

    So where are all the people?

    And BTW, I do NOT feel scientists have failed to communicate the science to the public, and RC is proof of that. I remember a school kid posting and asking some Q here a few years ago, and the RC scientists answered it very well in terms a kid could understand.

  12. 312
    T. Gravlee says:

    Thank you – you give me hope that reason may eventually win the day.

  13. 313

    #296 Gilles

    “I can’t see any other scientifically justified statement in all what you said.”

    It’s likely that you “can’t see” because I am addressing your lack of holistic logic, as illustrated in your selective reasoning.

    By the way, what is your full name? It would be nice to know I am addressing someone willing to associate ones-self with ones words.

    As to your statement:

    “I agree that everything is in balance and context (that’s precisely what I try to elaborate)”

    You don’t seem to be considering enough inter-dynamic systems and economies to achieve holistic balance and context.


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

  14. 314
    Jack says:

    Edward Greisch (259) “Jack: Do you mean they think science is a democracy? Could you go over that again please?”

    I don’t think most people know enough about science to understand what its motivating principles might be. From my experience, many of them have the impression it is more of an aristocracy or a plutocracy.

    The point I was trying make is that the lay public is, for the most part, scientifically illiterate. Therefore, even the best-formulated scientific explanations are, to a large extent, going to fall on deaf ears. (See post 287 as an example)

    That is why I think alternative approaches such as “playing the numbers game” and, dare I say, adopting a more rhetorical stance could be of benefit. The debate is no longer a scientific one. The science of AGW is well-established. We are now firmly entrenched in the political arena. Unless the scientific community learns to speak the language of the populace as well as the mass media does it will not succeed in getting its message across.

    It is vital that certain mainstream science websites (like Real Climate and skepticalscience) continue to emphasize the scientific aspects for those who are scientifically inclined. However, I am afraid those efforts could well be in vain if more emphasis is not placed on playing to the mass audience. (More websites like Climate Progress and desmogblog and a more forceful and user-friendly message from the major scientific organizations are important in this regard.)

  15. 315
    Norman says:

    272Kevin McKinney says:
    15 March 2010 at 9:17 AM

    Thank you for the interesting link to Guy Callendar work from the 1930′s.
    I read through it quickly for an overview and can read through again to pick up the details.

  16. 316
    François says:

    Gilles @297. Funny you hardly noticed the warming in France; in Paris, for instance, one can now see olive trees blossom and it is not because of the urban island heat effect : twenty years ago, that would have been unthinkable.
    Regarding a society without fossil fuels, I would just like to remind you that electricity in France is roughly 80% nuclear, 15% hydel. How’s that for starters?

  17. 317
    Sekerob says:

    TomRooney #299,

    Probably these are the persons that also do not understand why geo-stationary orbited satellites do not fall back nor would they ever understand concepts of the space elevator. We’re all on those invisible tethers, played by that omni-present marionette player :D

  18. 318
    Hugh McLean says:

    What has stood out for me so far in the ongoing struggle to undermine evolution science is how devastating the verdict was in the Dover trial (see http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/intelligent-design-trial-kitzmiller-v-dover) – attributable in no small part to the formal rules of evidence and cross-examination that applied during the trial.

    Is there no way to address the libelous smearing of climate science and scientists that seems to be the sole remaining arrow in the denialist quiver? Accusations like those found at http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/surface_temp.pdf (see pg. 4) look pretty explicit to me – are they not testable in law? (Any libel lawyers out there willing to respond?).

    If anyone thinks money would be an issue, I invite RC to post an online poll regarding financial support for a serious legal challenge to these clowns (let mine be the first $1000 pledge).

    And if the formal route were somehow unavailable, I think “Climate Court” (covering specific charges, presided over by real/retired judges, governed by formal rules of procedure, presenting public-domain arguments from both sides and, again, with real judges writing the verdicts) would make one helluva reality-TV show!

  19. 319
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “I’m only convinced that there isn’t enough data yet to make definitive policy changes,…
    I should not be labeled a pariah for this stance.”

    No, you’re labelled a denialist.

    There’s plenty of data to determine what changes are NECESSARY.

    But you deny it.

    Hence the term.

  20. 320
    Completely Fed Up says:

    PS this laughable statement: “Climate Audit and several other sites provide very real counter arguments to many AGW theories.” doesn’t help.

    RC provides very real counter arguments to their “arguments”.

  21. 321
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Converging series theoretically would have positive feedback which is limited, but this phenomenon is unknown in nature. Please name a natural positive feedback process which uses this method !”

    Yes it does:

    The temperature of the stellar core in main sequence stars.

    The climate system.

  22. 322
    Jean B. says:

    #305Nick Gotts (quoting Gilles instead of me), #306Neal J. King :
    “This is, of course, utterly false: the IPCC report of WGII cites a large number of peer-reviewed papers on precisely that issue. To say we have “no idea” is ludicrous; to say we “don’t know exactly” is of course true. However, suppose you were correct: this would of course be a reason for additional caution.”
    Most of the catastrophic claims on WGII are based on NON peer-review paper (WWF,…)

    ““Central estimates of the annual costs of achieving stabilisation between 500 and 550ppm CO2e are around 1% of global GDP, if we start to take strong action now.”
    Wrong, this was before its last modification after the Muir-Wood paper affair which divided by 10 the impact of hurricanes in the US… but the was done very very quietly so you may not be aware of it.
    Now if you add the number in table 5.2 you get 0.5% GDP.
    http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/Chapter_5_Costs_Of_Climate_Change_In_Developed_Countries.pdf
    http://www.thegwpf.org/news/461-stern-review-debunked.html

    “A major reason for this is that the changes will be taking place rather quickly. If you lose large coastal areas in Bangladesh permanently, you have a severe problem of migration as well as the normal human inconvenience associated with floods.”
    As I just told you, we managed to build houses for 5 billion people over 100 years, do you think we wont be able to build houses for, say, 100 million people over 10 years (that’s a very exaggerated number of course) ?

    “f you’re a tree, that means your habitat is running away from you; and trees can’t walk that fast.”
    No, but we can make trees walk faster… many many forest in developped countries are totally artificial (in France it’s the case for example).

  23. 323
    Jean B. says:

    #316 François
    “Regarding a society without fossil fuels, I would just like to remind you that electricity in France is roughly 80% nuclear, 15% hydel. How’s that for starters?”
    That’s good for France, but if everyone wants to switch to nuclear
    1/ we’ll have trouble with uranium supply !
    2/ this doesn’t change the fact that you need large amount of fossil fuels to BUILD the nuclear plant (which is the major part of the cost of nuclear electricty).
    3/ nuclear electricity is good to replace coal or NG for electricity, but for transportation and agriculture you need oil.
    4/ hydroelectricity has reached its limits in France.

  24. 324
    CM says:

    CFU #275, check your math; at 2ºC per doubling of CO2, six doublings of CO2 get you twelve degrees, not a hundred. Makes no difference to your argument, though.

  25. 325
    Fred Magyar says:

    Hugh Laue @ 47,

    My experience is that it is impossible to have a rational debate with denialists. And these guys are not stupid – they are all technically trained. But they are actually not interested in looking at the science and attack the process in their attempts to justify their “doubt”.

    That is a rather astute observation and applies to any and all stripes of denialists.

    http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/about.php

    Denialism is the employment of rhetorical tactics to give the appearance of argument or legitimate debate, when in actuality there is none. These false arguments are used when one has few or no facts to support one’s viewpoint against a scientific consensus or against overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They are effective in distracting from actual useful debate using emotionally appealing, but ultimately empty and illogical assertions.

    Examples of common topics in which denialists employ their tactics include: Creationism/Intelligent Design, Global Warming denialism, Holocaust denial, HIV/AIDS denialism, 9/11 conspiracies, Tobacco Carcinogenecity denialism (the first organized corporate campaign), anti-vaccination/mercury autism denialism and anti-animal testing/animal rights extremist denialism. Denialism spans the ideological spectrum, and is about tactics rather than politics or partisanship.

    See also Naomi Oreskes’ book Merchants of Doubt

  26. 326
    netdr says:

    I asked for a long termstable positive feedback system.
    Completely Fed Up says:
    15 March 2010 at 2:01 PM

    “Converging series theoretically would have positive feedback which is limited, but this phenomenon is unknown in nature. Please name a natural positive feedback process which uses this method !”

    Yes it does:

    The temperature of the stellar core in main sequence stars

    *****************************
    Sorry but I have to disagree.

    A star warms and the matter gets further apart and so hydrogen fuses less and it cools.

    As it cools matter gets closer together more fusion happens and it warms.

    Classic negative feedback behavior.

    I ask again.

    Converging series theoretically would have positive feedback which is limited, but this phenomenon is unknown in nature. Please name a natural positive feedback process which uses this method !

    I cannot believe that the earth’s climate is the only long term stable positive feedback system in the universe

    The terms “stable” and “overall positive feedback” are mutually exclusive in my experience.

  27. 327
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Ooops. Aye. six doublings of TEMPERATURE, you’d get it…

  28. 328
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “but for transportation and agriculture you need oil.”

    Which could be biofuel.

    You could also do very well with electric. Lots of torque.

  29. 329
    Completely Fed Up says:

    And that should be doublings of temperature change.

    Meh.

    Long day.

    Long WEEK, really, come to think of it…

  30. 330
    Neal J. King says:

    #322, Jean B.:

    - Building houses: Building houses is only part of the issue. The larger issue is dealing with another 100 Million people refugees. Ever notice how everybody wants someone ELSE to take them in?

    - Artificial forests in developed: These are of less interest and importance to me than natural rainforests. They may be equally as good wrt CO2 absorption, but not as refuges of biodiversity.

  31. 331

    298, Jean–

    Don’t have time for much right now–but your first riposte is a complete non sequitur.

    And your idea that we don’t have “any idea” when GW becomes dangerous is utterly wrong. Start by following the link I provided.

    And most of the rest is of the form, “show me one place where efficient land transportation does not require horses.” There was a time it would have been hard to do so!

    But things change. And fossil fuel usage will have to change, one way or another.

  32. 332
    Neal J. King says:

    #326, netdr:

    I agree with your analysis of the stellar core: As I recall, higher temperature increases radiation, the increased radiation blows back against the pressure of gravitating gas, slowing the collapse of the gas, stopping the increase in temperature: Negative feedback.

    However, it is really not necessary to give another example of a natural system in order to show that a positive feedback can lead to a stable result: It is only necessary to show that such a system is mathematically self-consistent. The fact that you have never studied such a system may just reflect the fact that most feedback systems designed by humans are linear, because linear systems are much easier to analyze.

    Here’s a “toy” model of a positive-feedback system:
    - Increase in temperature, dT, is proportional to increase in the logarithm of the concentration of CO2, dX:
    dT = a*d(ln(X))

    - Increase in concentration of CO2, dX’, is proportional to increase in temperature, dT:
    dX’ = b*dT

    (The ‘ indicates that this is the increase for the next step, as we’re considering an iterative process.)

    - Therefore,
    dX’ = b*dT = b*a*d(ln(X)) = a*b*dX/X

    - Ok, now let’s start with the value X = Xo, such that:
    a*b/Xo 2*a*b )

    Then let dX_1 = c
    dX_2 = a*b*dX_1/(Xo + dX_1) < (a*b/Xo)*c < c/2
    dX_3 = a*b*dX_2/(Xo + dX_1 + dX_2) < (a*b/Xo)*dX_2 < (c/2)/2 = c/4
    dX_4 < c/8

    So the sum of all the dXs is:
    DX = dX_1 + dX_2 + dX_3 + … < c*(1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + …) = 2*c

    Obviously, this is not intended to be accurate. However, it incorporates the essential point that the increase in temperature is roughly proportional to the increase in the logarithm of the concentration of CO2. Over a restricted range, the assumptions about the behavior of this toy system do not seem unreasonable. It is built on positive feedback – and it does not go unstable.

  33. 333
    VeryTallGuy says:

    netdr (#326 and previous)

    An explanation from a fellow engineer.

    You are correct in that a net positive feedback is not currently present for the earth. This is purely a difference in terminology from climatology to engineering; the earth’s climate system is net in negative feedback, but there are a number of individual positive feedbacks, notably greenhouse water vapour (fast) and albedo due to snow and ice melt (slow). I’d prefer it if these were called amplifying effects rather than feedbacks personally, as they amplify forcing from other mechanisms, but I somehow doubt anyone will let me rewrite the terminology of climate change(!)

    These positive feedbacks are net overridden by the negative feedback of increased radiation to space (Stefan Bolzmann, 4th power of temperature).

    It’s a common misconception you hold that the climate is fundamentally stable. In the relatively recent past we have ice ages, a dramatic response to relatively mild forcing. And fascinatingly, in the distant past, circumstances have prevailed where these positive feedbacks have actually overridden the negative temperature feedback and caused massive climate shifts; try looking up snowball earth and the PETM event.

    All sorts of other interesting knowledge awaits you if you’re prepared to put in a little research effort. I’d recommend the IPCC report to start.

    (Oh, and those who reckon engineers tend to be deniers – remember you’re relying on us to get humanity out of this mess….)

  34. 334
    Neal J. King says:

    #332: typo

    ” – Ok, now let’s start with the value X = Xo, such that:
    a*b/Xo 2*a*b ) ”

    SHOULD BE:

    “- Ok, now let’s start with the value X = Xo, such that:
    a*b/Xo 2*a*b “

  35. 335
    Jean B. says:

    #330 Neal J. King
    Houses : 100 millions other refugees… why ? you just build them houses far from the shore.
    What can’t the world do with a GDP multiplied by 20 ?

    Forest : We agree that vast artificial forests can be created & they’re good to fix CO2 (growing trees).
    For rainforest, most of them are in tropical regions, which are the less affected by GW.
    IPCC claim linking 2005 drought and rainforest came directly from WWF and is wrong cf this GRL 2009 peer-reviewed paper http://www.leif.org/EOS/2009GL042154.pdf i.e rainforest seem very insensitive to droughts.

  36. 336
    Neal J. King says:

    #332: typo again.

    Your system is eating my equations! I’ll try to spell it out:

    ” – Ok, now let’s start with the value X = Xo, such that:
    a*b/Xo 2*a*b ) ”

    SHOULD BE:

    “- Ok, now let’s start with the value X = Xo, such that:
    a*b/Xo is less than 1/2
    In other words, Xo is greater than 2*a*b ”

    (Oh, I get it: It’s interpreting my greater-than and less-than signs as indications of html tags.)

  37. 337
    Jean B. says:

    331 Kevin
    A non sequitur ? I personally don’t understand how you can have :
    “increased human mortality, loss of infrastructure & human displacement on a very large scale, greatly increased food insecurity and environmental degradation all at the same time.”
    and constant world economic growth of 3% per year.
    It’s a big logical fallacy to present the consequences of the worst emission scenarios without also telling the economic counterpart it assumes !

    “But things change. And fossil fuel usage will have to change, one way or another.”
    Well, too bad no developing countries is listening to you.
    I think you didn’t read my third response in 298 : maybe in rich countries we can afford to build solar panels and windfarms for some convenience (which, btw doesn’t mean we’re reducing our consumption from other sources, we’re just using more energy), in poor/developing countries they need cheap, efficient and massive amounts of energy and that’s fossil fuels and fossil fuels only. Nuclear don’t think about it, solar and wind can’t provide the amount they need, you just have fossil fuels… and that’s why WE used them (and why we’re still using them) !

  38. 338
    Norman says:

    250J. Bob says:
    14 March 2010 at 10:14 PM
    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.

    I greatly thank you J. Bob for your links. It does confirm what I had stated, in fact they claim clouds are a huge climate driver. Here is a quote from this web page on clouds.

    “Within the still short period of satellite cloud cover observations, the total global cloud cover reached a maximum of about 69 percent in 1987 and a minimum of about 64 percent in 2000 (see diagram above), a decrease of about 5 percent. This decrease roughly corresponds to a radiative net change of about 0.9 W/m2 within a period of only 13 years, which may be compared with the total net change from 1750 to 2006 of 1.6 W/m2 of all climatic drivers as estimated in the IPCC 2007 report, including release of greenhouse gasses from the burning of fossil fuels. These observations leave little doubt that cloud cover variations may have a profound effect on global climate and meteorology on almost any time scale considered.”

    My intent on posting the data on the 3 cities was to help me learn and study and the people on this Web Site are very helpful and informative. I have learned much in the responses and comments and links. Thanks to all!

    I know if I have other questions or concerns this is an informative place to ask.

    The AGW debate is very important to me. On the one hand it could cause serious damage to planet Earth and cause the loss of many lives…on the other it could be an exaggerated claim for a few wealthy investors to reap billions with carbon taxes and for the One World Government people to get their dream fufilled.

    Carbon dioxide release (if faster than natural sinks can take it up which seems to be the case from the Historical measurments) will cause some warming effect…The Alarmist view is catastrophic and we need to take action immediately. I am not there yet, especailly when I can see the greed on both sides of the issue.

  39. 339
    SecularAnimist says:

    Fred Magyar quoted: “Examples of common topics in which denialists employ their tactics include … anti-animal testing/animal rights extremist denialism.”

    That one doesn’t seem to belong with the other examples.

    What is it that opponents of animal testing and/or advocates of animal rights supposedly “deny” in the way that AGW denialists deny (for example) that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, or in the way that creationists deny the existence of biological evolution?

    Opposition to the use of non-human animals in product testing, biomedical research, etc. is an ethical position. Whatever you may think of that ethical position, it doesn’t entail denial of scientific reality, any more than does opposition to conducting painful experiments on unconsenting human beings.

  40. 340
    CM says:

    Jean B. #322, you must be confusing the cost of impacts of climate change with the cost of mitigating climate change. The number in the Stern Review that you refer to is the projected global cost of extreme weather events. But Nick Gotts was referring to the projected cost of stabilizing CO2, that is, reducing emissions. Your argument would fail even if the Pielke Jr piece you linked to were not baloney. And it goes downhill from there. Environmental refugees: just build houses? Trees: make them walk faster? Are you for real?

  41. 341
    L. Hamilton says:

    As a sociologist analyzing public opinion polls on climate-related topics, I’ve noticed an odd relationship between ideology, education and opinions. Among liberals or Democrats, concern about global warming tends to increase with education. Concern also increases with self-assessed knowledge. Among conservatives or Republicans, on the other hand, concern about global warming tends to *decrease* with education and with self-assessed knowledge.

    This “elite polarization” reflects the efficacy of denialist media that provide scientific-sounding arguments against taking climate change seriously, which disproportionately impress educated but ideologically receptive audiences. The flow of politically-motivated new assertions about West Antarctica, tree rings or the climate on Mars have been difficult for most nonexperts to counter.

    By responding to “breaking news” in the media, blogosphere and science with real science in real time, Realclimate performs an irreplaceable service. I mention this service in a forthcoming Climatic Change article about the opinion-poll findings.

  42. 342
    Gilles says:

    Secular Animist :”Why waste time with someone like Gilles who is obviously not arguing in good faith, and who for whatever reason chooses to ignore or pretends not to understand anything substantive that anyone says to him, instead just repeating the same well-debunked talking points over and over and over?”

    I have found a good way of testing the faith in beliefs : a bet. If you think that I am believing in “well-debunked” , absurd points, the best would be to offer me a bet that you think I would accept, but you’re sure I’m going to loose (or at least to formulate one). So following you, which stupid ideas do I have, that could make me easily loose a bet ?

    NealJ. KIng : “A tax or carbon fee, increasing over time, is NOT going to stop use of oil, but rather will provide incentive for decreasing its use, and for developing technology that can either avoid CO2 production or even take it out of the air. ”

    You give me the opportunity to point out another strange contradiction of the warming scenarios. To produce much more than 1000 Gt of carbon, we need an ample use of non-conventional fossil fuels (tar sands, oil and gas shales , methane hydrates, and so on…). But everybody knows that they are very expensive to produce, and so they can be extracted only if their price rises to sky. Strangely enough, the scenarios don’t consider that this high price would discourage customers to buy them… BUT a tax would be of course very effective to do it ! that’s ridiculous : France has voted a carbon tax around 17 euros/t CO2 (which has been later cancelled by the constitutional council) , which represents a pitiful 10 $/barrel. Obviously the peak of conventional oil has produced a much greater rise in price. So it is inconsistent to think that a tax would be effective to reduce carbon emission : if it is effective, nobody will buy the non conventional resources anyway – and of course the reverse is true.

    “The larger issue is dealing with another 100 Million people refugees. ”
    come on, a much larger number of people has emigrated in the history in all directions. Alone in the small Maldives Islands, the population has tripled from 100 000 to 300 000 people in 40 years – attracted by tourism and a flourishing economy. I don’t know if an floating atoll is really threatened by a sea level rise – but its economy would be much likely severely hurt by a restriction of fossil fuels !

    #316 François
    “Regarding a society without fossil fuels, I would just like to remind you that electricity in France is roughly 80% nuclear, 15% hydel. How’s that for starters?”

    That is : despite the highest proportion of nuclear energy ever reached (and reachable), and a good hydroelectricity coverage, France does still produce 6t CO2/cap/year, and it is hard to see where we could gain very much again if we want to keep our standard of living (we have reduced the production per capita by 30 % since the 70′s however, which is nice. But limited…).

    And a further problem : reducing the production per capita doesn’t prevent poor people to access those fossil fuels we have spared, nor our children or grand-children to continue to burn them until they are exhausted : this will only – in the best case- prolongate the life of fossil fuels, but there is no reason why we should let them in the ground . Economists are just cheating by assuming a constant growth rate – they just forget the Jevons paradox.

  43. 343
    netdr says:

    #332

    Neal J. King says:
    15 March 2010 at 3:46 PM

    #326, netdr:

    I agree with your analysis of the stellar core: As I recall, higher temperature increases radiation, the increased radiation blows back against the pressure of gravitating gas, slowing the collapse of the gas, stopping the increase in temperature: Negative feedback.

    However, it is really not necessary to give another example of a natural system in order to show that a positive feedback can lead to a stable result: It is only necessary to show that such a system is mathematically self-consistent. The fact that you have never studied such a system may just reflect the fact that most feedback systems designed by humans are linear, because linear systems are much easier to analyze.
    *******************

    I design positive and negative electronic devices for a living.

    When the overall feedback of the system turns positive the system is unstable. Note: there can be positive and negative elements but it is the sum that matters.

    I know a positive feedback system could theoretically be created with feedback taps 0f 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 etc, but it would be tricky and difficult to implement. The question is did nature create the earth’s climate system in this way?

    Mother nature seems to follow the KISS principal. [Keep It Simple Stu***] If it works she does it again and again.

    I respectfully disagree that just because something is theoretically possible that it could be done for one and only one system.

    I have asked people with PhD’s in physics and they can’t think of one either so don’t feel too bad.

    I believe the earth’s climate is a stable negative feedback system and some experimental studies have been done which back that position up.

    If it is a negative feedback system warming will be less than 1 o C for a doubling of CO2.

    Cap and trade and crippling taxes are unnecessary.

  44. 344
    Eli Rabett says:

    There is one of those simple replies available to netdr when he pontificates:

    Venus

  45. 345
    Jean B. says:

    #340CM
    “Environmental refugees: just build houses?”
    Exactly, and build dikes, that’s much easier than reducing CO2 emissions and you only pay with respect to the danger as you see it coming instead of assuming massive catastrophe and paying billions by reducing CO2 emissions for unknown sea level rise.
    Can you tell me what’s absurd with that reasoning ?

    “Trees: make them walk faster? Are you for real?”
    Which of course (but maybe you didn’t understand, Neal J King understood it a few messages ago) means create artificial forests if some forests are affected by climate change in some areas. What’s stupid with that idea ?
    The vast majority of forests in Europe are artificial !

  46. 346
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    Gilles’s comparison between temperature change and prosperity is vacuous. A taxi ride over the interstate is going to be longer than one that drives off a cliff. Where is your savings there, eh?

  47. 347

    #343 netdr

    “I believe the earth’s climate is a stable negative feedback system and some experimental studies have been done which back that position up.”

    What experimental studies?


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

  48. 348
    Nathan says:

    How does one reply to idiots like Steven McIntyre, who are trying to “debunk global warming” by feeding the confused with one lie at a time?

    Gentlemen, please help out:

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Steve-McIntyre/271730154259?ref=ts&v=wall

    And another bunch of idiots (who could potentially be enlightened) here:

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

  49. 349
    Norman says:

    307flxible says:
    15 March 2010 at 12:48 PM
    “Norman@288 – The west coast cities would be Tofino BC [49° 4.800' N] on the outer coast of Vancouver Island or Vancouver BC [49° 12.000' N], more likely to have good records] on the coast of the mainland, both areas influenced by ENSO effects of the Pacific – East coast would be Halifax NS [44° 52.800' N], affected by other things like AMO. Averages can be found from here along with position info, you might find cities closer in latitude – also look at cities in the middle, which is largely dry prairie, as well as some areas of the BC interior, which are desert [in the shadow of the rockies] like Penticton [scroll to bottom right for "1971-2000 Climate Normals" links]”

    I looked up some Canadian cities and they did list hours of sunshine along with temperatures. (Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Halifax, Vancouver). From my initial look these seem to show no direct correlation with sunshine.

    Toronto Lattitude: 49.11 High Temp: 26 C Low Temp: 18 Sunshine Hrs: 8.9
    Vancouver Lattitude: 49.11 High Temp: 22 C Low Temp: 13 Sunshine Hrs: 9.5

    Elevation Toronto: 253 feet Elevation Vancouver: 7 feet

    Interesting data, both are by large bodies of water. The one who receives more aveage sun a day is noticeably cooler. Hmmm?

  50. 350
    RaymondT says:

    Gavin, Although I am somewhat skeptical about the ability for climatologists to predict QUANTITATIVELY global temperatures and precipitation at the end of the 21st century, I find the science of climatology fascinating including the RealClimate blog. I was reading Chapter 4 (Going to Extremes) of the book you edited and co-authored entitled “Climate Change Picturing the Science” in which Adam Sobel describes the method used to model the Sahel drought where “we give the models our twentieth century histories of greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions and run the models to simulate both ocean and atmospheric conditions, most of them again reproduce a Sahel drought (although again one that is too weak) as well as the sea pattern that went with it”. Why did the models underestimate the Sahel drought ? How reliable are the current models in predicting precipitation ? Can the models predict more than trends ?

    [Response: The underprediction in the hindcasts of the Sahel drought is the subject of much research (Isaac Held's group for instance). The drivers of the drought appear to the increase in aerosol emissions in the Northern Hemisphere, which affected sea surface temperatures and caused the tropical rain bands in Africa to move south. Thus errors could creep in the specification of the aerosol forcing, the response of the ocean, and/or the sensitivity of tropical rain bands to the SST gradients. Additionally, there is certainly a component of the drought which was simply internal variability - the models only hindcast the forced component - and so in the particular trajectory of the real world the peak effect would likely be a combination, which even a perfect models would not be able to reproduce exactly. As for the reliability of the long term forecasts, it depends greatly on where we are talking about. There is a good figure (10.12) in the IPCC report which shows the model mean change in precipitation, along with a rough estimate of how many models agree with the sign of that change. In many places, there is good agreement (the mid-to high latitudes, the poles, the equator), and in others - particular the subtropical areas predicted to dry out the agreement is poor. In the latitudinal average the models are very similar - but the exact regions that the models expect to dry out vary. This is obviously problematic.

    The next round of model simulations will include some experiments that may help though. The mid-Holocene and Last Millennium experiments should provide more useful information for evaluating individual models' precipitation sensitivity (to orbital/solar/volcanic forcing for instance). - gavin]


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