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Forbes’ rich list of nonsense

Filed under: — group @ 6 January 2011

Guest commentary from Michael Tobis and Scott Mandia with input from Gavin Schmidt, Michael Mann, and Kevin Trenberth

While it is no longer surprising, it remains disheartening to see a blistering attack on climate science in the business press where thoughtful reviews of climate policy ought to be appearing. Of course, the underlying strategy is to pretend that no evidence that the climate is changing exists, so any effort to address climate change is a waste of resources.

A recent piece by Larry Bell in Forbes, entitled “Hot Sensations Vs. Cold Facts”, is a classic example.

Bell uses the key technique that denialists use in debates, dubbed by Eugenie Scott the “Gish gallop”, named after a master of the style, anti-evolutionist Duane Gish. The Gish gallop raises a barrage of obscure and marginal facts and fabrications that appear at first glance to cast doubt on the entire edifice under attack, but which on closer examination do no such thing. In real-time debates the number of particularities raised is sure to catch the opponent off guard; this is why challenges to such debates are often raised by enemies of science. Little or no knowledge of a holistic view of any given science is needed to construct such scattershot attacks.

The approach also works somewhat in print, if the references are sufficiently obscure and numerous. Ideally, someone will take the time to answer such an attack, but there is a fundamental asymmetry of forces at work. It is, in fact, easier to form an allegation than to track down a reasonable explanation of what it means and how it really fits in to the balance of evidence. Also, the skills required to reflect the science are deeper than the ones required to attack it; hence the defenders are outnumbered and outgunned. Still, sometimes an article is prominent enough that it merits a detailed response.

The slightly out of the ordinary thing about Bell’s piece is that he casts his attack not as an attack on science (his usual method) but on the media:

As 2010 draws to a close, do you remember hearing any good news from the mainstream media about climate? Like maybe a headline proclaiming ‘Record Low 2009 and 2010 Cyclonic Activity Reported: Global Warming Theorists Perplexed’? Or ‘NASA Studies Report Oceans Entering New Cooling Phase: Alarmists Fear Climate Science Budgets in Peril’?” he begins.

But the remainder of the article is true to the form. Bell gallops through all the purported “good news” that the media ignored. The implication is that the media is complicit in overstating the climate change story.

But these aren’t the sorts of observations that most people generally receive from the media. Instead, they present sensational statements and dramatic images that leave lasting impressions of calving glaciers, drowning polar bears and all manner of other man-caused climate calamities.

Many intentionally target impressionable young minds and sensitive big hearts with messages of fear and guilt. Take, for example, a children’s book called The North Pole Was Here, authored by New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin. It warns kids that some day it may be “easier to sail than stand on the North Pole in summer.” Imagine such images through their visualization: How warm it must be to melt that pole way up north. Poor Santa! And Rudolph! Of course it’s mostly their parents’ fault because of the nasty CO2 they produce driving them to school in SUVs.

Lots of grown-ups are sensitive people with big hearts too. Don’t we all deserve more from the seemingly infinite media echo chamber of alarmism than those windy speculations, snow jobs and projections established on theoretical thin ice?

Whether the enemy is the “mercenary” scientific community, the “power hungry” liberal politicians or the “sensationalist” press matters little. What matters is to suggest the public has been manipulated, before starting the manipulation in earnest. The strategic point is to divert attention from what most scientifically informed people consider the key facts: the climate is changing as a result of human intervention. The longer we delay taking policy action, the more damage we will take and the more an effective policy will cost. It is conceivable and increasingly foreseeable that we will delay long enough that useful policy becomes infeasible and both human civilization and the biosphere will be permanently damaged.

The near-silence of the media on these matters is considered by many to be a key part of the problem. Yet, in this context, Bell suggests we are ignoring “the good news”.

Does he have a point? Is there really much of substance that qualifies as good news justifying his conclusion? The value of his piece depends crucially on how newsworthy his good news was, and how these items fit into the big picture.

We counted eleven assertions of fact in his gallop. Let’s look at each of them and place them in context. Bell especially emphasizes his first two points, so we examine them in detail (quotes from the article are bolded).

Record Low 2009 and 2010 Cyclonic Activity Reported

Bell’s first claim is not a confidence builder.

It’s possible that Bell is referencing a specific metric of hurricane activity (Accumulated Cyclone Energy), but that does not give a full story, nor does it show ‘record lows’. According to NOAA the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, which ended Dec 31, was one of the busiest on record. In the Atlantic Basin a total of 19 named storms formed – tied with 1887 and 1995 for third highest on record. Of those, 12 became hurricanes – tied with 1969 for second highest on record. Five of those reached major hurricane status of Category 3 or higher. 2010 was just behind 2004 and 2005 for earliest occurrence of a third category 4 hurricane.

It is true that none of the 12 hurricanes made landfall in the US (though tropical storm Hermine made landfall in US and hurricane Karl made land fall in Mexico but caused major flooding in Texas. But the climate system cares nothing for national borders. This may be just a lucky break . Looking in detail it is attributable to some other features of the prevailing winds last year.

What is certainly untrue is that there was “record low” cyclonic activity in the Atlantic!

What about elsewhere? A tie for the strongest eastern Pacific hurricane on record (Celia). A category 5 hurricane hitting the Philippines (Megi).

Did the press ignore this story? Even on this Bell’s leading point is dubious. But in the context of climate change, sea surface temperatures continue to increase and strong tropical cyclones continue their upward trend. So Bell leads off with a real clunker.

NASA Studies Report Oceans Entering New Cooling Phase

Bell’s second point, also from the lead paragraph:

According to two separate NASA studies, one conducted by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the other by the Langley Research Center, the oceans now appear to be heading into another natural periodic cooling phase within a typical 55- to 70-year dipolar warm/cool pattern.

We traced this claim to an internet article by Justin Berk that says:

Two separate studies through NASA confirm that since 2003, the world’s oceans have been losing heat. …

Josh Willis, an oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, published his first report about the warming oceans. The article Correcting Ocean Cooling published on NASA’s Earth Observatory page this week discussed his and other results. Willis used data from 1993-2003 that showed the warm-up and followed the Global Warming Theory. In 2006, he co-piloted a follow-up study led by John Lyman at Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle that updated the time series for 2003-2005. Surprisingly, the ocean seemed to have cooled. He was surprised, and called it a ‘speed bump’ on the way to global warming.

But the excellent article “Correcting Ocean Cooling” which Berk references (and to which Bell is implicitly referring) for this actually explains how Willis went back and found that his earlier report of cooling was erroneous!

So the new Argo data were too cold, and the older XBT data were too warm, and together, they made it seem like the ocean had cooled,” says Willis. The February evening he discovered the mistake, he says, is “burned into my memory.” He was supposed to fly to Colorado that weekend to give a talk on “ocean cooling” to prominent climate researchers. Instead, he’d be talking about how it was all a mistake.”

Berk is so happy to find the word “cooling” in an article that despite the title “Correcting Ocean Cooling” he doesn’t bother to read or understand the whole point of the article. It’s really a very compelling example of how superficial this kind of journalism is; Berk gets something backwards, Bell picks it up, and Forbes, no less, uses it to lead off an article (albeit an op-ed column).

What’s more, the NASA article itself is from 2008, so even if the press had reported it as news as Larry Bell suggests, it would not have been in 2010. But in fact, the news was that the previous evidence of cooling was erroneous. Bell’s second point is simply wrong as well.

Now that we have some sense of the quality of Bell’s research, we’ll go a little more quickly through most of the other points, saving for last a case where he might have a stronger point.

A special press conference called by IPCC spokesman Kevin Trenberth announced “Experts warn global warming likely to continue spurring more outbreaks of intense activity.” Christopher Landsea, a top U.S. expert on the subject, repeatedly notified the IPCC that no research had been conducted to support that claim–not in the Atlantic basin, or in any other basin.

This famous controversy occurred in 2004 and is not 2010 news. Nor was it ignored by the press. We doubt that Landsea went so far as to claim that “no research had been conducted to support that claim” but if he did he is certainly incorrect. This topic goes back at least to 1987 with a paper in Nature by Kerry Emanuel. Kevin Trenberth offers some salient points about the controversy from his point of view:

  1. I was not an IPCC spokesperson and I was not advertised as such. Landsea claimed otherwise.
  2. I did not call the press conference, it was called by Harvard university (Paul Epstein and Jim McCarthy), I participated.
  3. There was a ton of research including my own on changes in the hydrological cycle that were pertinent but not specifically Tropical Storm based, as well as Kerry’s work.
  4. Landsea did not notify IPCC once, let alone repeatedly. He called a press conference and resigned from IPCC but he was not even part of IPCC. He had been asked by me to write something as a contributing author. It was a horrible distortion of many facts.

A globally viewed December 2005 BBC feature alarmingly reported that two massive glaciers in eastern Greenland, Kangderlugssuaq and Helheim, were melting, with water “racing to the sea.” … Only 18 months later, and despite slightly warmer temperatures, the melting rate of both glaciers Kangderlugssuaq and Helheim not only slowed down and stopped, but actually reversed.

This again is not 2010 news since it happened in 2007. It is a fact that after a massive retreat from 1991 to 2005 Kangderlugssuaq regained a tiny fraction, less than a tenth, of that retreat by 2007. This may be of interest to glacier dynamicists, but its climatological importance is nil. Glaciers worldwide are in massive retreat. Indeed, Kangerdlugssuaq Glacier lost another 5.2 square km in 2009.

[The] ice cap has been accumulating snow growth at a rate of about 2.1 inches per year

The top of the ice caps are growing slightly as expected, since warmer air contains more moisture which will fall in those places as snow. The issue that the public ought to pay attention to is the much larger and accelerating melt at the edge of the ice sheet. This is not especially 2010 news, but in any case it is sleight of hand. The real action is the instability at the edges, which already dominates the accumulation in the interior and looks likely to overwhelm it.

The new sea level, which has been stable, has not changed in the last 35 years.

Just wrong:


Figure showing the last 18 years of sea level rise derived from satellites and validated against tide gauges. (Update: longer records available here).

Next:

… if you want a grant for a research project in climatology, it is written into the document that there ‘must’ be a focus on global warming.

There are many grants supported by the grant agencies. Some are very broad and some very narrow. While it is possible that some grants specify “global warming”, it is relatively unusual. Currently open climate calls in the US through NSF can be seen at here. The claim simply isn’t true.

The Indian Ocean, for example, was higher between 1900 and 1970 than it has been since.

This is at least a current topic. It probably is based in Patterns of Indian Ocean sea-level change in a warming climate, Han et al. Nature Geoscience 2010. They conclude that “sea level has decreased substantially in the south tropical Indian Ocean whereas it has increased elsewhere. This pattern is driven by changing surface winds associated with a combined invigoration of the Indian Ocean Hadley and Walker cells, patterns of atmospheric overturning circulation in the north–south and east–west direction, respectively, which is partly attributable to rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases.”

So yes, there are apparently parts of the Indian Ocean where sea level has declined. This just leaves more water to pile up elsewhere. In fact, it shows how powerful the forces of climate change already are, in order to be able to outweigh the generally rising ocean volume in a limited area. It is hard to see how this rises to a general interest topic or how it qualifies as “good news” though.

The Northwest Passage has certainly opened up before.

This is untrue in recorded history. The traversals prior to 2007 were in very specialized boats and often took years. In 2007 and 2010, genuine shipping lanes opened up for the first time. It was possibly open in the mid-Holocene about 6,000 to 8,000 years ago and was certainly open millions of years ago. But since the opening of the passage itself received far too little attention (in our opinion), it is hard to see what Bell is complaining about.

in February 2009 it was discovered that scientists had previously been underestimating the re-growth of Arctic sea ice by an area larger than the state of California (twice as large as New Zealand)

“Previously” is grossly misleading. This was an instrumental glitch that lasted a few weeks. And February 2009 was not in 2010 either.

… previous estimates of Greenland and West Antarctica ice melt rate losses may have been exaggerated by double.

We’ve saved this for last because here Bell has a fraction of a point; as far as we can tell the only thing he raises that is 1) current and 2) arguably of general interest and 3) arguably good news. The use of the word “exaggerated” however is malicious and unjustified.

There are a number of ways of estimating the large scale mass balance of the ice sheets. Prominent among them uses information from the GRACE satellite, which measures the gravitational field of the earth. By its nature, the resulting measures are very large scale. They are complemented by precise local measures of ice altitude, for example, which are precise but cannot give broad coverage. To estimate ice cap melting the GRACE results also have to be combined with an estimate of the post-glacial rebound from the last ice age (which is still affecting the mass distribution of the Earth’s crust). Observing a planet is tricky business.

A recent publication by Wu et al makes the claim that:

“these [previous] results were not properly corrected for glacial isostatic adjustment, the phenomenon that the Earth’s crust rebounds as a result of the melting of the massive ice caps from the last major Ice Age around 20,000 years ago. These movements of the Earth’s crust have to be incorporated in the calculations, since these vertical movements change the Earth’s mass distribution and therefore also have an influence on the gravitational field.”

There is some contention here. If it proves true, it is an example of science at its best; a sequence of corrections converging on objective truth. The original estimates would have been corrected, pretty much by a factor of two as Bell says.

So this is current, substantially good news, and possibly salient for a general audience. On the other hand it is only good news about bad news; the ice retreat may have been overestimated, but we are still talking about hundreds of billions of tons more ice melting than accumulating every year, and this rate still shows signs of accelerating.

In this case, it is worth noting that all the evidence is that the ice sheets are losing mass and that the loss is accelerating. The Wu et al paper would be simply a recalibration of the net loss. This is good news, but not great news, and is certainly no evidence at all that climate change is negligible.

Please notice how we are trapped in a polemical double bind here.

What the naysayers will do is celebrate every correction that makes matters look less dangerous and criticize every correction that makes matters look more dangerous. In the former case, the older measure will have been “exaggerated”, and “corrected” by some noble and courageous hero. In the latter case, the newer measure is treated as the “exaggeration”. Thus, every single change in the estimate of any quantity is treated as evidence of the grand conspiracy.

What should be celebrated as advances of truth are instead recast either as the bad scary science defeated by the good non-scary science or the other way around. This is especially evident in the clumsy way the Willis tale is told, wherein the casting is confused because one person takes both roles.

So what remains of the criticism Bell raises? Very little indeed! The only unreported good news is that ice cap melting might have been overestimated, though it is still large and probably accelerating. The other ten of his eleven points are essentially nonsensical. I am not being partisan or oppositional here. I examined every point with an open mind and came up with ten points that boil down to complete nonsense and the last one a bit heavy on the spin.

Ultimately, though, the criticism of the press is ludicrous. The naysayers ought to be thrilled at the lack of interest in climate change shown in the press, at least in North America. The longer we delay, the bigger the topic gets, and the more ridiculous the refusal of the press and policy sector to grapple with it becomes.

Yet widely respected publications like Forbes seem eager to promulgate great clouds of rhetorical ink to make the problem seem ever more trivial and distant. If there is good news of general interest, of course it should be reported. But Bell seems to want, instead, to invent it.


334 Responses to “Forbes’ rich list of nonsense”

  1. 301
    Rod B says:

    whoever, I didn’t say I didn’t like Bob’s comment. While I can quibble with some of his specifics in the explanation, for his and some other comments and references I said quite clearly that I thought the warming leading to flow changes leading to Hadley shifts leading to changing regions of dryness was a reasonable physics-based conjecture. But many of you painted yourself into a corner by seemingly strongly implying that that hypothesis is precisely the cause of eastern Australia’s drought last year and deluge this year. [The drought part alone might loosely fall in the hypothesis’ ballpark; except the arid zone at the edge of the Hadley cell falls in the mid-eastern region normally during mid-year to 3Q — without any AGW shifts…]. I contend this is nonsense and I can credibly state that without studying hundreds of papers mentioning the Hadley cell thing. That’s the one part of Bob’s comment I did/do refute.

  2. 302
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    Perhaps dancing joyfully seems an odd response in the circumstances, but I believe that success should be celebrated. These are tall giants we’re standing on.

  3. 303
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    There once was a fellow called Rod
    Who refuted a claim in a blog
    Subject to review
    His claims all fell through
    And he failed to get published that Rod!

  4. 304
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B.: “…seemingly strongly implying…”

    Rod, Here in a single phrase is everything that is wrong with your posting and your logic. Vagueness is not a virtue. It is better to be wrong than vague. Wrong can be corrected. Vague is hopeless.

    Remember what Mark Twain said: “If you see an adjective, kill it.” That goes for adverbs, too.

  5. 305

    Rod has received numerous responses, but I have to say I don’t understand his concern as expressed back in #260:

    The relative humidity factor doesn’t really explain a region suffering extreme drought for a couple of years and then extreme rainfall the next year.

    It seems to me to contain a false assumption, ie., that “drought for a couple of years and then extreme rainfall” is a sequence that demands explanation in terms of climate change.

    Droughts break, eventually, and it’s not particularly unusual when they happen to break with floods. So the sequence of drought and flood appears to me not to be particularly problematic. A potential source of research questions in general, sure, but not really strange, nor really relevant to climate change.

    The only change that’s at issue is that both drought and flood can both be more extreme under climate change. It’s clear that more extreme flooding and more widespread and severe drought are predicted by GCMs; the SPMs lay that expectation out pretty clearly. Are we seeing this in meteorological observations?

    The drought data is pretty clear, from Dai 2010. I’d like to see a comparable review on the flood data, but as I noted in a previous comment, that appears to be a big, big task. But the current instance looks like a piece of anecdotal evidence. (Particularly in a year where we’ve seen some “biblical” flooding elsewhere, too.)

    So, FWIW, I think the incongruity of severe drought followed by severe flood is at bottom an emotional reaction, not a conceptual problem with AGW (or anything else, for that matter.) (Also FWIW, I’m an artsie, so I believe we should probably pay attention to our emotional reactions–but that leads down a whole other path. And we need to distinguish between emotional reactions and actual cognitive issues as clearly as we can.)

    As to why a particular place suffers such events as Queensland has at a particular time, well, that’s a weather question, isn’t it?

  6. 306

    301 (Rod B),

    Please note that I was not necessarily attributing the current rain or droughts to expansion of the Hadley Cells. It is possible, but obviously direct attribution is difficult (although someone may well succeed in doing so in the future). As I’ve already said, one can’t eyeball this stuff and draw conclusions with any confidence (as you repeated, incessantly do, seemingly as long as it helps you to arrive at your own predetermined conclusions).

    What I was specifically addressing is this comment by you from post 223:

    3) on a regional basis a climate change can simultaneously (over a period) cause a large decrease in average rainfall and an extreme increase in the intensity of some rainstorms.

    … Can anyone describe the general physics behind #3?

    I think that, putting all the posts together, this question has been more than answered.

    And from post 260:

    Variations in Hadley cells strikes me as too broad, general and high level to explain the regional anomalies. I can see how this might affect the whole of the Arctic for example, but affecting northeastern Australia is considerably more difficult to picture.

    Well, I gave you (I think) a simple and clear enough explanation so that it should no longer be “difficult to picture.”

    You went on in post 282:

    What in global warming, even if not uniform, would cause the Hadley cell to shift a few degrees — other than the 20-30 degrees it shifts seasonally anyway? And why would such a shift cause eastern Australia drought one year and deluges the next?

    I gave you some information to answer that, at least in part, although I believe the extreme La Nina is supposed to be playing a larger role, at least in the current rains. It’s the strongest since 1973, and one of the four strongest in 110 years, with only 1904 an 1917 possibly beating it. And that makes yet another extreme weather event to add to the list of potential, tangible climate change effects.

    Honestly, not everything in the world is going to be as simple as “swans are white, the bird is a swan, the bird must be white.”

    I contend this is nonsense and I can credibly state that without studying hundreds of papers mentioning the Hadley cell thing.

    Yes, well, this comes as no surprise to anyone here. You present no evidence except for gut feel, you ask polite, inquiring questions and ignore the answers, until the end where you dig in your heels and stamp your feet like a four year old and declare unequivocal victory.

    I’m not sure what more you want (except for Al Gore to announce that yes, CAGW really is a hoax, and he was behind it all, so that he could make a killing by investing in solar energy, ha ha ha, you got him, it’s a fair cop).

  7. 307
    Septic Matthew says:

    305, Kevin McKinney: Droughts break, eventually, and it’s not particularly unusual when they happen to break with floods. So the sequence of drought and flood appears to me not to be particularly problematic. A potential source of research questions in general, sure, but not really strange, nor really relevant to climate change.

    I would say that humans urgently need to improve most of their flood control and irrigation facilities anyway, so that AGW proponents could achieve some progress and gain more friends by backing the projects that will be required whether AGW predictions are true or not. No matter what happens with CO2, California, the Indus Valley, Queensland in Australia, vast areas of Brazil need work in order to preserve human civilization in those areas. If Barton Paul Levenson is correct then the facilities will require larger water storage capacity than otherwise, but they should be built nevertheless, if a goal is to preserve human civilization.

  8. 308
    GW Shaughnessy says:

    “It is true that none of the 12 hurricanes made landfall in the US (though tropical storm Hermine made landfall in US and hurricane Karl made land fall in Mexico but caused major flooding in Texas.”

    Hermine made landfall in Mexico…Bonnie made landfall in south Florida. Cheers.

  9. 309

    SM,

    I agree that would be a wise course of action, but I doubt it will be happen. You’d need a tremendous investment to fight a problem most people think doesn’t exist.

  10. 310

    SM,

    I agree with you that that sort of measure would be wise. But a massive investment to counter a threat most people think doesn’t exist just isn’t going to happen.

  11. 311
    Rod B says:

    Ray, so how does one describe uncertainty then? Or are you suggesting that one has to offer a cocksure dogma even if the substance doesn’t support that certainty? Frankly, that describes religion, not science.
    Kevin McKinney says, “It seems to me [Rod’s concern] to contain a false assumption, ie., that “drought for a couple of years and then extreme rainfall” is a sequence that demands explanation in terms of climate change.”
    That in fact is the single simple assertion that I was complaining about. Everyone else expanded it.
    Actually your comment (305) summarizes the scientific situation pretty well, IMHO.

  12. 312
    Rod B says:

    Bob (Sphaerica), but kinda like I just commented (before reading your 306), attributing the current rain or droughts to AGW and then in turn to the expansion of the Hadley Cells is precisely what I was questioning. Maybe I confused you with the expression, “simultaneously (over a period).” What I meant to imply was that simultaneously didn’t mean the same hour, but within the same period of a year or two.

    I have learned here that it is possible (though far from conclusive) for GW to affect the size of a Hadley cell and that that shift might affect the climate at the edges of the cell.

    Evidently you too believe that one can not see a big pile of crap and just call it crap without reading all of the analyses that others might have written up. I simply disagree and will dig my heels in and declare that I an unequivocally correct. Sorry!

    I’ll pass on your implied meme of the dogma that anyone who questions any little piece of AGW theory means he refutes and denies 100% of it.

  13. 313
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod, try “contemporaneous” or concurrent rather than simultaneously (over a period).

  14. 314
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod, one describes uncertainty with as much precision as possible–both as to magnitude, source, type and consequences. In many ways, specifying your uncertainty is even more important than specifying your result–it’s how we find out if your result is wrong and how you then correct it.

    WRT your previous verbiage, instead of “seemingly strongly implying” how about “seeming to imply”, “suggesting”, “Do you mean…”.

    Nostradamus was not a prophet. Vagueness is never correct.

  15. 315
    Septic Matthew says:

    309, Barton Paul Levenson: But a massive investment to counter a threat most people think doesn’t exist just isn’t going to happen.

    It sounds almost as though you missed my point. Almost everyone already knows that alternations of drought and flood will recur repeatedly: it’s the recorded experience in many, many places. Only the exacerbation by CO2 is disputed.

  16. 316
    Russell Seitz says:

    252 re “regular mounties”

    “RCMP patrol vessels are staffed by regular members who have had… additional specific on-the-job training …”

    Has Snidely Whiplash obtained Northwest Passage railroad track tiedown certification to enliven dear Nell’s polar tourism?

  17. 317
    Rod B says:

    Ray, both of your suggestions are better than the word I went with.

  18. 318
    Rod B says:

    Ray, your second suggested verbiage is better than mine, too. That’s 2 for 2!

  19. 319

    Rod B,

    …attributing the current rain or droughts to AGW and then in turn to the expansion of the Hadley Cells is precisely what I was questioning…

    No, actually, as I outlined with quotes of your own questions in my comment 306, you asked a series of leading questions, each one trying again and again to find a way to ignore whatever answers you were given.

    You are welcome to say “we can’t be sure it’s Hadley Cells” or “we can’t be sure it’s La Nina” or even “we can’t be sure it’s AGW.” Those are all perfectly valid and correct points. But the mechanisms by which they could and in fact are expected to work have been explained to you, and they make perfect sense, including in relation to the idea that one could have drought one year in one region and rain another year (in another region, or the same region). This isn’t magic. It all works.

    Your position that you simply will not accept the mechanics as viable explanations is where you run off the rails into Denialville.

    I’ll pass on your implied meme of the dogma that anyone who questions any little piece of AGW theory means he refutes and denies 100% of it.

    Sorry, but this bit of exaggeration is inaccurate. Anyone who makes a valid logical case for an argument or area of doubt is entitled to that position and is not assumed to be in complete denial.

    Simply refusing to listen or to accept logic, on the other hand, is evidence of dogma.

    The problem here is that you, in particular, on every single issue that has come up for the past year (or longer) arrive at the final conclusion of “I won’t accept your position, and I’m right, so there.”

    Not once, in over a year, have you said “that makes sense, yes, I understand, there is something to consider there.” Every single time, without fail, you end in the exact same position you began (in denial). You never grow, and you never change.

    So, to reverse your own hyperbole so that it applies specifically to you and the behavior you have demonstrated repeatedly and without variation at RC: “Anyone who questions every little piece of AGW theory and equates every aspect of it to dogma is, plain and simple, in denial.”

    As a last note, please realize that when deniers use terms like “dogma,” “faith,” “belief,” and “religion” with respect to those who understand the science is when those people that actually understand the science fall off their chairs laughing. It’s sort of like a group of pagans in the Roman Forum in 50 A.D. laughing uproariously at the silly Christians and their bizarre cross worship. “Can you believe it? They’ve only got one god! I mean, how lame is that? And they call that a religion? Lions are too good for them, I say.”

  20. 320
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod, we at Weasle-words-R-us are happy to help.

  21. 321
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    Bob #219, The answers to RodB’s questions are always worth reading, but it was clear from the beginning that he is not here to learn from them.
    Septic Matthew #315 “Only the exacerbation by CO2 is disputed.” When a well-marshalled argument meets a disorganised bunch of magical thinking, that’s not a dispute, it’s a rout.

  22. 322
    ccpo says:

    “If Barton Paul Levenson is correct then the facilities will require larger water storage capacity than otherwise, but they should be built nevertheless, if a goal is to preserve human civilization.”

    No, smaller. Simplification (Tainter, Diamond, Catton), smaller scales, human-sized. The water content of soil rises with the organic content of soil. By building soils over the widest possible areas – and making them productive, too, if you like, you can avoid increasing large structures to deal with this.

    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a740180291~frm=abslink

    http://www.informaworld.com/ampp/image?path=/713172977/740180291/F0001.png

    http://www.informaworld.com/ampp/image?path=/713172977/740180291/F0002.png

    Soil cover in the form of crops and mulch also have a large impact on keeping water in the soil.

    http://www.fao.org/docrep/009/a0100e/a0100e08.htm

  23. 323
    Rod B says:

    Bob (Sphaerica, I said initially, “…Can anyone describe the general physics how on a regional basis climate change can simultaneously (over a period) cause a large decrease in average rainfall and an extreme increase in the intensity of some rainstorms….” That’s what you also quoted in your comment, so why do you say this is not what I’m asking?

    I see no rationale for automatic full acceptance per se of loose conjecture just because you spruce it up by calling it “viable explanations,” though I understand how mad one can get at another who doesn’t just roll over and totally accept whatever is said. Talking “what-ifs, possibles, maybes, or might bes” while maybe interesting in themselves is not “describing the general physics.”

    While I know it is possible, it is hard to accept the likelihood that a shifting hadley cell that pumps down warm arid air at its edge causes in that region drought one year and deluges the next (and we’re not talking about the occasional desert downpour and gully-washes.) The scientists who wrote the referenced paper concluded that the possibility of GW shifting and expanding hadley cells is interesting, could very well be, and deserves more study.

    As to the meme, why would you expect me to want or expect Al Gore to now refute CAGW (read: in its entirety) other than that’s how you would pigeon-hole skeptics? And to reverse it again, one who accuses someone who is skeptical of certain parts of AGW theory of being one “…who questions every little piece of AGW theory…” as you did (a direct quote) is simply demonizing a heretic in his entirety; that’s what priests do.

    In this very thread I got some info that modified my thinking: the very possibility that GW per se can expand hadley cells and that the possible 2-3 degrees of expansion might noticeably alter some region’s climate.

  24. 324
    Septic Matthew says:

    322, ccpo: No, smaller. Simplification (Tainter, Diamond, Catton), smaller scales, human-sized. The water content of soil rises with the organic content of soil. By building soils over the widest possible areas – and making them productive, too, if you like, you can avoid increasing large structures to deal with this.

    I agree. I meant something like “large scale modular” such that the scale (“total areal coverage”, I am not sure what the exact best expression is) can be increased as needed. My main point is that there is no reason to postpone construction just because AGW might not exacerbate the extreme fluctuations.

  25. 325
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod,
    In addition to the expansion of the Hadley cells, climate change is expected to increase the incidence of severe precipitation events. Period. In a region where it is already dry, severe events may account for the majority of precipitation–ever see an arroyo in the monsoon?

    When you increase the amount of H2O vapor in the atmosphere, you increase the potential for severe events. But these severe events will occur only when the conditions are right–e.g. during La Nina, etc. This is not difficult to understand.

  26. 326
    David B. Benson says:

    Supporting Ray Ladbury’s comment #325 one finds “But just three weeks into the new year, 2011 has already had an entire year’s worth of mega-floods. I’ll recap here six remarkable floods that have already occurred this year.” from
    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1731

  27. 327
    ccpo says:

    I agree. I meant something like “large scale modular” such that the scale (“total areal coverage”, I am not sure what the exact best expression is) can be increased as needed. My main point is that there is no reason to postpone construction just because AGW might not exacerbate the extreme fluctuations.

    One of the primary design considerations for regenerative design is to capture and store energy, including keeping all water in place – allowing for environments of excess and long tail events, of course. Essentially, every home/farm/area should strive to build organic matter in soils to make them abundant, but also to sequester carbon and, in this discussion, water. Given the info I have posted on soils and water, it is obvious that high organic/carbon content soils are significant mitigation elements for flooding events. If you add storage to all homes/buildings, all the more so.

    We can do a lot of climate fixing with very, very simple strategies.

  28. 328
    Barbara Council says:

    Very interesting.

    I am a lay person who enjoys reading about science. I have read several books on global warming and climate science. A few years ago I read an interesting book called Storm World by Chris Mooney on the ferocious scientific debate on the effect of global warming on the intensity of tropical cyclones. I don’t remember any predictions about global warming making more of them. Perhaps my memory is flawed or perhaps such predictions have been made and were not covered in the book I read. Or is the stuff about the number of hurricanes in the 2009 and 2010 seasons refuting a prediction that hasn’t been made?

    My second question is, has anyone tried to get a refutation op ed into Forbes?

  29. 329
    CM says:

    Barbara Council (#328),

    Your memory’s fine. As far as projections about tropical cyclones, here’s the developing IPCC consensus over the past 15 years.

    IPCC SAR (1996):

    In conclusion, it is not possible to say whether the frequency, area of occurrence, time of occurrence, mean intensity or maximum intensity of tropical cyclones will change. (WG1 ch. 6.5.4.2, p.334)

    IPCC TAR (2001):

    There is little consistent evidence that shows changes in the projected frequency of tropical cyclones and areas of formation. However, some measures of intensities show projected increases, and some theoretical and modelling studies suggest that the upper limit of these intensities could increase. (WG1 F.5, p. 73)

    IPCC AR4 (2007):

    Results from embedded high-resolution models and global models, ranging in grid spacing from 100 km to 9 km, project a likely increase of peak wind intensities and notably, where analysed, increased near-storm precipitation in future tropical cyclones. Most recent published modelling studies investigating tropical storm frequency simulate a decrease in the overall number of storms, though there is less confidence in these projections and in the projected decrease of relatively weak storms in most basins, with an increase in the numbers of the most intense tropical cyclones. (WG1 ch. 10 ex. summ., p. 751)

    comment #71 above is a window on the current debate.

    People have pointed out here that it’s not at all clear what measure the Forbes article is referring to.

  30. 330
    Hank Roberts says:

    > no reason to postpone construction

    You appear to have missed, in the comment by ccpo, that what makes sense is to postpone construction permanently, in favor of the alternatives now known to actually work to produce the desired results. You should follow his links and read, the information on what builds and what loses topsoil is increasintly well documented. Most of that was unknown in the era of big construction.

    Construction in this instance isn’t the goal, it’s a way to pass money around while not accomplishing the goal. Methods that work would be better.

  31. 331
    Didactylos says:

    No discussion of hydro would be complete without a mention of pumped storage.

    But I’m in a rush, so consider that a completely pointless drop-in.

    Good sites for pumped storage are likely to conflict with sites for hydro. And there will be very similar environmental problems. Do the benefits justify it? Wind and solar are much, much more versatile if the energy can be stored or buffered.

    Opine.

  32. 332
    Eyal Morag says:

    “The Northwest Passage has certainly opened up before.” of course not in record history
    But today Northwest and Northeast Passages are open to normal yacht the 1st race was last summer. BBørge Ousland / “Петр 1″
    Here I suggest to start a Circ Polar Cup as an annual event.
    Nothing Like this Could be dan before.

    “[The] ice cap has been accumulating snow growth at a rate of about 2.1 inches per year”
    Is contradicted by
    “… previous estimates of Greenland and West Antarctica ice melt rate losses may have been exaggerated by double.”
    Double or not it accept ice losses

    It can be useful to have an option to search all the comments to find if someone said the same argument before. Maybe a long page with all the replies ?

  33. 333
    Septic Matthew says:

    330, Hank Roberts

    I preferred 327 ccpo. Whatever it is that works well, more of that should be constructed now.

  34. 334

    SM @ 333 & CCPO @ 327:

    The problem with people changing their own local “space” is that there aren’t enough of “us” with “space” to remediate.


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