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Post-holiday round-up

Filed under: — group @ 28 December 2010

What with holiday travel, and various other commitments, we’ve missed a few interesting stories over the last week or so.

First off, AGU has posted highlights from this year’s meeting – mainly the keynote lectures, and there are a few interesting presentations for instance from Tim Palmer on how to move climate modelling forward, Ellen Mosley-Thompson on the ice records, and David Hodell on abrupt climate change during the last deglaciation. (We should really have a ‘videos’ page where we can post these links more permanently – all suggestions for other videos to be placed there can be made in the comments).

More relevant for scientist readers might be Michael Oppenheimer’s talk on the science/policy interface and what scientists can usefully do, in the first Stephen Schneider Lecture. There was a wealth of coverage on AGU in general, and for those with patience, looking through the twitter feeds with #agu10 shows up a lot of interesting commentary from both scientists and journalists. Skeptical Science and Steve Easterbrook also have good round ups. [edited]

Second, there was a great front page piece in the New York Times by Justin Gillis on the Keeling curve – and the role that Dave Keeling’s son, Ralph, is playing in continuing his father’s groundbreaking work. Gillis had a few follow-up blogs that are also worth reading. We spend a lot of time criticising media descriptions on climate change, so it’s quite pleasing to be praising a high profile story instead.

Finally, something new. Miloslav Nic has put together a beta version of an interactive guide to IPCC AR4, with clickable references, cited author (for instance, all the Schneiders) and journal searches. This should be a very useful resource and hopefully something IPCC can adopt for themselves in the next report.

Back to normal posting soon….

75 Responses to “Post-holiday round-up”

  1. 51
    Snapple says:

    Churches often have speakers on the issues of the day. Many churches would be very interested in attending a lecture by a scientist. Ordinary Christians and scientists are both concerned about truth. Most people probably never heard that NASA and the National Academies say there is global warming. They probably never heard that all the major scientific organizations say there is global warming.

    You really should google this James Tonkowich if you want to understand how denialists hope to exploit religion.

    James Tonkowich is a former head of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD). This used to be a good organization in the 1980s. They used information from the best Soviet Studies scholars. They exposed Soviet propaganda about the “happy lives of Soviet believers.” I used to be friends with their former President many years ago.

    I supported them because they told the truth about religious persecution and exposed Soviet propaganda. But times change.

    Now, the IRD have been coopted by the denialists who hope to exploit religion in defense of the fossil fuel industry. James Tonkowich calls scientists leftists and claims that global warming is a heretical “new religion.”

    One one site claims he is a physicist. Another site claims he has a Theology degree. So what is true?

    Considering my former affiliation with IRD and my published articles, it would be pretty hard for the IRD to get away with calling me a “leftist” who has embraced the “religion” of climate change.

    Rather, the IRD has embraced the very dishonest disinformation tactics it once exposed. It’s very sad.

  2. 52

    Another week of incredibly high temperature from Hudson Bay to Greenland, hardly freezing, more than 18°C above normal!

  3. 53
    candice hanson says:

    FORA TV has a lot on climate change, as does many Universities. Just keep looking, like I do. Also, U.S.G.S.

  4. 54
    Pete Helseth says:

    A video of a great primer on climate change by Dr. Susan Solomon is here:

  5. 55
    Eric Swanson says:

    #52 – Kees van der Leun

    Here’s a December recap from AccuWeather. The temperature map shows unusual warmth over Northeastern Canada, even though it was colder to the south. The flow over the North Atlantic just now (the images will change with time) looks much like that of last year, when the flows from the southwest could not penetrate the dome of high pressure over the Nordic Seas. Instead, the flow split, with some portion of the flow turning back to the northwest over the Labrador Sea. That flow kept southern Greenland very warm last winter. Perhaps this pattern will continue this winter as well.

  6. 56
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    From Mark Twain on Global Warming P1, time index 48 seconds..

    “In late 2009 emails stolen from a british climate lab showed global warming scientists engaged in a systematic manipulation of the scientific process, and sometimes outright lying, several top scientists associated with the IPCC are implicated.

    Now that he and other’s have been caught red handed, the IPCC scientist at the center of the warmergate scandle Dr. Phil Jones admits not only might the world may have been much warmer in the past, but there has actually been no global warming for 15 years.

    His admission is startling given that a celebrated 2007 access,emt the IPCC in which Jones played a pivital roll said the evidence that the world was and would continue warming was unequivaquible. Then in January 2010 the IPCC reluctantly admitted errors in their report>”

    These statements are examples of defamation of character and are actionable in court.

    Failure to defend ones self agains such accusations not only emboldens the enemy, but also gives the impression of guilt in the undecided.

    Take action, or continue to lose the war.

    [Response: Just what the hell is it you think these guys have been doing the last six years brother, playing pinochle?–Jim]

  7. 57
    Harmen says:

    A few more suggestions…

    UCTV has this interesting video..

    Keeling Lecture: Climate Change and the Forests of the West
    First Aired: 6/14/2010
    58 minutes
    Dr. Steve Running,

    I see they have a few other potentially interesting videos in the panel on the right that i did not watch (yet).

    And I still like this one…

    Greenhouse Effect Movie – Scott Denning

  8. 58
    Septic Matthew says:

    Wow! Many thanks to Miloslov Nic, and to you for linking to his work.

  9. 59
    Septic Matthew says:

    At year’s end, this is a good time and place for me to thank the moderators for maintaining this web log and permitting me to write here.

    Ray Pierrehumbert’s book is out imminently, and when I get it I shall spend much time reading it and working with the programs. It’s all available at his web site, but I prefer actual books still.

    Many thanks to all discussants, and have a good and prosperous New Year.

  10. 60
    Eric Swanson says:

    #51 Snapple and others,

    Here’s an in depth look at The Cornwall Alliance. They appear to be another “astroturf” group, masquerading as a real organization. Who would have guessed? Of course, given that they point to videos from Lord Monckton as a source of their “science”, their anti-AGW bias should be obvious. These PR guys are slick…

  11. 61
    Mike Roddy says:

    Gavin, I’m disappointed about your quite sharp reactions to commenters’ tangents about religion. Yeah it’s OT, but scientists are starting to realize how important it is to deal with public perceptions, as frustrating and horrifying as this experience can be.

    Refining climate science is extremely important. Communicating the essence of climate science to the general public- and overcoming obfuscation that is based on ignorance and greed- is about 50 times more important.

    We don’t know when the most damaging changes will occur, or how terrifying our future will become. That should not impede the necessity of mixing it up in public. Scientists have often been viciously attacked throughout history. The best preventive action may be for you to stick your chins out and throw some punches.

    My own paradigm of public perception is Hollywood movies, which are far more trivial than religion. That is the world we live in, though- and the people who are trying to tear your work apart dwell on the dark side. I’ve seen you and others stand up to them before. Don’t stop now.

    [Response: What do any of your comments have to do with not wanting yet-another-religion-vs-science-blog-fight here? My point was only that if people want to discuss that (and obviously some do), there are plenty of blogs and fora that are more suitable. My attitude would be the same if people wanted to discuss GM foods, or vaccines, or abortion or states’ rights or health care. There are interesting conversations to be had, but just not here. Don’t read any more into my statements than that. – gavin]

  12. 62
    Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Gavin.

    Keep up your great work, and Happy New Year!

  13. 63
    John Mashey says:

    re: 56
    “Failure to defend ones self agains such accusations not only emboldens the enemy, but also gives the impression of
    guilt in the undecided.”

    Most scientists have neither the money nor the time to take the legal route against all the defamation that is out there. It’s asymmetric warfare.

    I discussed this some in CCC, see especially the discussion of defamation law on p.184.

    Andrew Weaver does have one in progress against the National Post, but I think that may be a lucky combination.

    I think there are solutions, but they aren’t here yet, although I’ve talked to some of the relevant folks. Maybe one of the solutions will start happening in 2011. This is another case where I miss Steve Schneider.

  14. 64
    Snapple says:

    [edit – too far OT (and repetitive). ]

  15. 65
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    Finalists for PolitiFact’s 2010 Lie of the Year

    Where are the denialist lies of the year, month, decade?

    [Response: Here are the 2010 Climate BS of the year awards for instance. -gavin]

    [edit – Note that comments where you simply insult people are not going to fly. Either tone it done, or go elsewhere. This is not up for discussion.]

  16. 66
    feedback says:

    An interesting paper currently hurtling around the denialosphere: “Warming Power of CO2 and H2O: Correlations with Temperature Changes” by Paulo Cesar Soares in International Journal of Geosciences (

    Full text at

    And an interesting take on the publisher from at

    [Response: Indeed. This is possibly the worst paper I’ve ever seen published. It hasn’t even been proof read, so peer-review seems a little unlikely as well. There is one quotable line which pretty much says it all: “The volume of data and information is fantastic and one may unwarily select partial data and show bias results.” Indeed. – gavin]

  17. 67
    wolfheinl says:

    I am new to blogging so forgive me if I do not follow protocol. I just have a few thoughts I want to share.

    I watched with interest Dr. Oppenheimer’s piece. I am a simple soil scientist that travels thoughout PA and I have a background in environmental science. Although I had been taught global warming and its implications at Cornell though various courses in the early ’80s, this knowledge lay buried for many years. Indeed, when Dr. Hansen made front pages in 1988, I presumed that society would act on the knowledge that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that man’s emissions would effect the earth’s energy budget. Seemed simple to me. Fast forward to about 5 years ago when an Uncle (former asst. dean at Katz at Pitt and one that introduced me to C.P. Snow many years ago) stated that a group of scientists concluded that the earth had crossed a line of no return. That statement stuck with me. A few months later, in the middle of January at latitude 41.122, my patunia were blooming outside. The shock of this combined with what I was seeing in my field work, made me realize that I had better bone up on the science to see what was up.

    Like Oppenheimer, I spent the next few years reviewing the published literature and viewing lectures from Yale, MIT, Cornell, etc. Although I recognize Dr. Oppenhiemer’s statement about speaking with scientific authority is valid, I also believe it is every scientist’s duty and responsibility to speak of what they do know whether or not they have published. I believe it is possible to assimilate a large body of peer reviewed knowledge and form a professional (though not expert) opinion.

    Most people I discuss this with have absolutely no scientific background so I stick to the basics: CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that its concentration are increasing. When asked, I will explain in more detail the chemistry and physics of the science. I also carry copies of the National Academy’s reports in my Prius. Indeed, this has changed more minds then my little ten sentence lectures. And, often I am met with religious or political argument, but thats the way it goes. However, maybe I have planted a seed that will grow.

    I believe that if ALL scientists speak up and challenge those in denial, needed work on adaptation and mitigation can begin. All scientists should include the medical, and engineering fields as well. And, because of the urgency of the problem, I would suggest that every scientist spend a part of every day educating the public. It is very easy to stike up conversations with people while going through your daily routines. Please take this time to drop a line or two about the seriousness of the problem. Everyone always talks about the weather as a matter of course, and this is the crack in the door for which you can make a couple of statements. Your news however will likely be met with skepticism but it may plant the seed for which they can form a conclusion based on what they see happening around them in the environment in which they live. Indeed, if enough scientists from all fields speak out, those linked to the fossil fuel industry and the disinformation they spread will be marginilized. Look at how racism is no longer tolerated in society and how racists are largly marginalized in society. It took large numbers of people speaking out over a period of years for this to occur.

    I would also suggest that science quickly move to find technological sinks for CO2 before we all cook. Uunfortunately, though my reviews of the papers, I too have moved over to that group of scientists that think we crossed that line a number of years ago. As a parent, it is a heavy emotional load to carry but I hold out some hope that man will survive this mess we have created. Unfortunately, I don’t hold this hope for civilation. Collapse in the near future is a fore gone conclusion in my book, but it is not from this book I preach to the public.

    Again, I urge all to speak up in every way they can. Unfortunately, although a good first step, I do not think the AGU goes far enough in their ask a scientist web page. The situation is much to grave at this point.

    Thank you for reading.

  18. 68
    wolfheinl says:

    BTW, For Comment 22: Eric, I read Greg Craven’s speech you provided and agree as per my comment in No. 67. Thank you. And, just to scare my relatives, I forwarded it along within an email. At least they will know I’m not alone.

    Perhaps if all scientists, engineers, geologists, medical scientists, agronomists, teachers, etc. keep talking about it, we can get to a critical mass.

  19. 69
    Heather says:

    Thank you for the AGU links, I enjoyed the ice cores talk immensely. I agree that for a low-bandwidth connection it would help to provide a link to a transcript, but this was very cool. Wish my profession had gotten to the point of making our talks available online for free! Maybe next year.

  20. 70
    Halldór Björnsson says:

    An interesting talk I saw at AGU was the one by Snyder on climate sensitivity
    A link summarizing it can be found here:

  21. 71
    Brian Dodge says:

    I was struck by Greg Craven’s comment “… I will abandon ship and run for the lifeboat with my family to create what resilience I can for me and mine.
    How tragic, how sad, how pathetic that I have come to that. But that pathos has power if it is shared in a way that no information, no data, no evidence can ever bring. You know it is the last stand when the hippie liberals start to collaborate with the survivalist nut jobs. And that’s happening right now. I’m a member of those discussion forums.”

    I have contingency plans to fall back on if various adverse impacts of global warming start happening faster than even I expect – how to provide necessity X, or avoid impact Y if Z hits the fan. It would have been interesting to poll AGU attendees to see what percentage have considered these things on a personal level – e.g., have you thought about how you would cope with rationing, or food riots? (I think that something as extreme as food riots is a low but not zero probability; being prepared doesn’t mean counting on likely scenarios, and gathering information by lurking on various bleeding edge forums can help; knowledge is power).

    Recaptcha oracle says – “until worse”
    Clearly Greg Craven has thought about this. The as yet uneducated public might pay more attention if they knew that a significant number of scientists were considering bad case scenarios, and how they might affect them personally. How many climatologists have invested their “lucrative” grant money in beach front property? In the interest of full disclosure, I own a sailboat (not dependent on fossil fuel) that I keep at the Carolina coast. Potential impacts from hurricanes, or fuel costs, played a part in my decision to buy it, instead of a condo, or power boat.

    There are nonlinear social feedbacks when civilization starts to break down. Not all the lifeboats from the Titanic were optimally occupied, but those in less full boats were more likely to survive. If you area aboard a full sixteen person boat, it can probably hold 17, maybe 18, but at some point everyone’s life is put at risk. Do you err on the side of caution, to insure that 16 survive? Can you think rationally if the conditions are so dire?

  22. 72


    We’ll cope with it by dying. My wife and I depend on high-tech medicine to stay alive. When civilization crashes, so do we.

  23. 73
    Maya says:

    Eric, I finally got around to reading Greg Craven’s speech. Wow. That was amazing, and it must have been astonishing to witness in person. Thank you.

  24. 74
    SecularAnimist says:

    Brian Dodge quoted Greg Craven: “You know it is the last stand when the hippie liberals start to collaborate with the survivalist nut jobs.”

    Actually, “hippie liberals” were moving out of the cities and going “back to the land” to found self-sustaining “off-grid” communes 40 years ago.

    The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee, founded by hippie visionary Stephen Gaskin and his followers in 1971, is one such community that is still thriving. They practice and promote “a wide range of social and physical technologies appropriate to low-cost, high satisfaction community living” including “right livelihood cottage industries, solar building design, permaculture, micro-enterprise, mushroom cultivation, composting and gardening, and regenerative hardwood forest management”.

    There is actually quite a lot of overlap between the technologies, living practices, and social innovations that are needed to solve the problem of AGW, and those that will be needed to survive it.

    For example, if you put PV on your roof and establish an organic garden, you are simultaneously reducing your personal GHG footprint and preparing to ride out disruptions of the electric grid and the food supply.

  25. 75
    feedback says:

    @response to #66…

    I’m pondering setting that journal a little test.

    Email me please :-)