If You See Something, Say Something

Gavin provided a thoughtful commentary about the role of scientists as advocates in his RealClimate piece a few weeks ago.

I have weighed in with my own views on the matter in my op-ed today in this Sunday’s New York Times. And, as with Gavin, my own views have been greatly influenced and shaped by our sadly departed friend and colleague, Stephen Schneider. Those who were familiar with Steve will recognize his spirit and legacy in my commentary. A few excerpts are provided below:

THE overwhelming consensus among climate scientists is that human-caused climate change is happening. Yet a fringe minority of our populace clings to an irrational rejection of well-established science. This virulent strain of anti-science infects the halls of Congress, the pages of leading newspapers and what we see on TV, leading to the appearance of a debate where none should exist.



My colleague Stephen Schneider of Stanford University, who died in 2010, used to say that being a scientist-advocate is not an oxymoron. Just because we are scientists does not mean that we should check our citizenship at the door of a public meeting, he would explain. The New Republic once called him a “scientific pugilist” for advocating a forceful approach to global warming. But fighting for scientific truth and an informed debate is nothing to apologize for.



Our Department of Homeland Security has urged citizens to report anything dangerous they witness: “If you see something, say something.” We scientists are citizens, too, and, in climate change, we see a clear and present danger. The public is beginning to see the danger, too — Midwestern farmers struggling with drought, more damaging wildfires out West, and withering, record, summer heat across the country, while wondering about possible linkages between rapid Arctic warming and strange weather patterns, like the recent outbreak of Arctic air across much of the United States.



The piece ends on this note:

How will history judge us if we watch the threat unfold before our eyes, but fail to communicate the urgency of acting to avert potential disaster? How would I explain to the future children of my 8-year-old daughter that their grandfather saw the threat, but didn’t speak up in time?

Those are the stakes.

I would encourage interested readers to read the commentary in full at the New York Times website.

Constructive contributions are welcome in the comment section below :-)

606 comments on this post.

    SA #30,

    “I am one of the advocates of rapidly scaling up renewable (wind and solar) electricity generation to completely replace fossil fueled electricity generation as quickly as possible — and I believe that the ongoing, rapid and accelerating deployment of wind and solar demonstrates that it is possible to virtually eliminate GHG emissions from electricity generation much faster, and at much lower cost, than most people think. That’s a very important thing to do, since emissions from electric power plants are a big part of the GHG problem.

    However, I have NEVER said that there is “no need for sharp demand reductions”. In fact, I have repeatedly stressed that, as reported by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, much more than half of all the USA’s primary energy consumption is outright wasted, so there are plenty of opportunities to drastically reduce “demand” by reducing waste and inefficiency.”

    You have presented two very good features: rapid transition to renewables using known technology, and improvement of energy efficiency using both off-the-shelf technology and technology that needs to be developed. However, you have not shown whether it fits within our ‘budget’.

    What is our ‘budget’? In #36, I describe our allowable budget for further carbon emissions, based on the numbers of people for whom I have the highest respect (Hansen et al). If we terminate use of fossil fuels TODAY, we have already committed to a peak temperature of at least 1.2 C (and probably more, if carbon cycle feedbacks are included) within the next decade or two, based on numerous high-quality peer-reviewed studies I have referenced previously. Hansen emphasizes that it is imperative that we keep the peak temperature within the prior-Holocene levels of ~1.1-1.2 C, and preferably less. Put these two numbers side-by-side, and you see that we have run out of carbon budget. Your proposals, while certainly far better than what we are doing today and what the EIA projects we will continue to do for the foreseeable future, will take us over budget. WE CAN’T AFFORD YOUR PROPOSAL! How much over? I don’t think your proposals will meet Anderson’s conditions for staying under 2 C, so my guess would be somewhere between 2 C and 3 C, and at those levels, all bets are off. In some of Anderson’s videos, he describes using improved energy efficiency and accelerated introduction of renewables as part of his recommendations, but he still requires a (substantial) economic activity cutback to have even a 50/50 chance of staying under 2 C. Your proposals don’t include this (necessary) cutback in economic activity. So, they’re not only over budget, but well over budget, in my opinion.

  2. Edward Greisch:

    A page search of the first 49 comments + the article find zero occurrences of the word “food” and zero occurrences of the word “famine.”

    Bravo for 24 Donald Brown, but it isn’t about trains. If you want to scare them, why are there zero mentions of either global famine or food so far?

    Most people would like winter to go away. GW seems like a good idea. WE have to explain why no more winter is not a good idea. It isn’t that hard. No more winter means no more food. The connection is not obvious. GCMs don’t tell us that. You have to look at Aiguo Dai’s work, which is not about GCMs.

    So you have to show us GCMs predicting no more food.

  3. Hank Roberts:

    > Michael Wallace
    That’s re replacement of the old style glass electrode pH sensors with the new optical type, I think? The PDF indexed at your site doesn’t open when I download it (“Wallace20thCenturyOcean_pH.pdf‎”). Clearly you don’t like the change.

    This appears relevant: http://www.whoi.edu/cms/files/EUR-OCEANS_SensorIntercomparisonReport_39645.pdf

  4. Alastair McDonald:


    It is clear from the text that I quoted that that Schneider’s “scary” remarks were about global warming and not the nuclear winter. A nuclear winters is a receding threat as a result of nuclear disarmament. OTOH, CO2 levels continue to increase. So, the main threat is no longer a nuclear winter. It is a carbon dioxide sauna.

  5. Thomas:

    I spend a lot of time following the renewables community. The EIA is not
    considered to be a credible source in these circles (to put it mildly).
    They have consistently pooh-pooed the prospects of renewables -particularly PV,
    and the industry keeps blowing past their past predictions, but they don’t
    seem to learn. They are considered to be either fools, or paid water carriers
    of the fossil industry.

    In any case we have seen startling progress in a few critical areas, solar PV,
    electric transport, and the beginning of an energy storage industry. There is a
    good chance that as the potential becomes more widely known that the perception
    of the cost of a program of rapid (or even any) carbon reductions could change
    fairly rapidly.

    I would heartily with Edward Greisch @51, the public largely sees GW as
    my backyard will be a couple of degrees warmer, big deal. The real impacts
    will be from extreme events, and from the difficulties of maintaining a
    globally adaquate supply of food.

  6. nigelmj:

    Ray Ladbury # 46. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough. By “detached” I meant scientists take a very measured approach in the public forum debate, and tend to let the science do the talking. They certainly do this in my country of New Zealand and leave a lot of science communication up newspaper editorials. This is generally proper as they need to appear objective and cool headed.

    I was simply making the point that climate change is such a serious issue, and the proof of climate change is so complex for the public to grasp, that this is a valid reason for scientists to be more “outspoken”. To front the issues themselves more in the daily media (newspapers and television), and state their concerns more frankly.

    My point on Hansen is he is one of the few scientists that has spoken out passionately and loudly, in the daily media the public read. I totally agree with Hansens opinions, but the issue is he stands out as one of few voices, and is thus at risk of appearing to be an eccentric. Its an issue of perception.

    The public dont hear him being backed up by other scientists that much, not in the daily media. Even though other scientists almost all agree we are causing climate change and at a very concerning level. It would therefore be great if other scientists were more visible in the daily media and made their concerns very plain.

    I hope you have read what I have said really carefully.

  7. Steve Fish:

    Re- Comment by DIOGENES — 19 Jan 2014 @ 11:45 AM

    OK, so how much economic cutback is required and, realistically, how do you propose to convince the people of the developed and developing world to do it? Please provide a budget and a funding source.


  8. richard pauli:

    Fish 56 “Please provide a budget and a funding source.” ??

    Are you kidding?

    You need to first decide how long you want our species to survive.
    Just you? or do you want your grand kids around? Maybe twenty, 50 years? Do you aim for past the year 2100 – say 2150? What’s your plan?

    Because until we decide to commit to multigenerational survival, then all this quibbling over budget and finances and sacrifices means little. Whining over cost and sacrifice is not a valid argument against action. First decide what you want – then you can squeeze budgets and profits all you want.

  9. Ray Ladbury:

    The details of climate change may be difficult to grasp. The basics are not–it is simply conservation of energy. There is no question that our release of CO2 is warming the planet. The only question is how much, and the odds on it being a small amount are not good.

  10. Steve Fish:

    Re- Comment by richard pauli — 19 Jan 2014 @ 4:29 PM

    That is exactly my point! DIOGENES keeps doing accounting and complaining without providing any means to get from here to there.


  11. Not my regular handle too much background:

    >Michael Wallace-

    Went and looked at your site. You refer to scientists using glass pH electrodes, while the marine scientists were moving away from them, and this suggests to me that despite your claim to be a doctoral student (in what?), you’ve never run a pH measurement in your life, nor do you understand how they work, what their limitations are, and what’s more, you’ve spent more time arguing about things you don’t understand rather than trying to gain some understanding. And there’s no obvious reference in your blog to how to use a glass pH electrode either.

    pH electrodes do not measure pH. They measure the impedance in the MegaOhm range across a glass junction. That impedance is converted into pH. Two electrodes are needed for the electrochemical cell, there’s also a reference electrode involved. Glass pH electrodes are routinely used in the laboratory where they are recalibrated frequently, often after each sample is tested. Why? Because the surface of the glass electrodes can absorb/adsorb all kind of ions and molecules changing the background impedance of the electrode. In the laboratory, where millions of these reference/pH electrode pairs are used, routine cleaning and calibration procedures apply. Temperature compensation is also a routine part of converting that impedance into pH.

    Glass pH electrodes are thus basically unstable devices for long term measurements. In industrial use, electrodes are pulled from water treatment systems, cleaned, calibrated and reinstalled on a fixed schedule.

    You can’t use the same electrode in all circumstances, and as the X-Prize notes:

    While ocean acidification is well documented in a few temperate ocean waters, little is known in high latitudes, coastal areas and the deep sea, and most current pH sensor technologies are too costly, imprecise, or unstable to allow for sufficient knowledge on the state of ocean acidification.

    I’ll simply say because production of pH measurement devices is in my family (aside from my personal use of pH equipment over decades) that they’re right, and that the reference Hank Roberts gave you is right.

    Please put your vanity away- the X-Prize had nothing do with you. Take it from someone who is related to one of many people who have been looking for something better than the glass pH electrode for decades, and I do mean decades. That also goes for ion selective electrodes of course. A direct Total carbonate measurement is a far more useful number than pH, as far as AGW is concerned, since local acidification due to sulfates etc can complicate the analysis.

    And speaking of complicating the analysis- you, like many lay people mis-interpret the efforts to compensate for known problems with instrument accuracy, precision and stability with fudging the data. It’s not. Your arrival at those such conclusions says more about your world view than your knowledge of science.

  12. Russell:

    Alisdair- Your view is mildly anachronistic- Steve’s intitial experience of ‘Science as a contact sport ‘ arose from his response to the ‘apocalyptic predictions’ made by Sagan in the Winter 1983 issue of Foreign Affairs with an article challenging them <a href="http://www.jstor.org/stable/20042777in the Summer 1986 issue of the same journal

    Science writer Eliot Marshall reviewed the confrontation in’ The Little Chill’, by “T.R.B.” In The New Republic, February 16, 1987.
    The quote applies to the Climate Wars in general.

  13. clipe:

    A page search of the first 49 comments + the article find zero occurrences of the word “food” and zero occurrences of the word “famine.”

    “Bravo for 24 Donald Brown, but it isn’t about trains. If you want to scare them, why are there zero mentions of either global famine or food so far?

    Most people would like winter to go away. GW seems like a good idea. WE have to explain why no more winter is not a good idea. It isn’t that hard. No more winter means no more food. The connection is not obvious. GCMs don’t tell us that. You have to look at Aiguo Dai’s work, which is not about GCMs”

    No more winter? No more food? Hahahaha! Children won’t know what snow is? Mann that’s funny.

    Delete, delete, delete.

    So you have to show us GCMs predicting no more food.

  14. GlenFergus:

    Matthew England from UNSW had a go at this on Australian radio this morning (~1:34:00 onwards). It’s worth having a look how he went. Sure, he’s a touch nervous and talks too fast, but he does two things extremely well; things lots of would be scientist-communicators could learn from.

    He keeps it simple and he keeps saying it.

    He doesn’t get diverted when the interviewer invites him to give a dissertation on the nature of El Niño. He stays on message; his message. He doesn’t clutter it with “scientific” uncertainty. He just says it; then says it again. And after that, again. Then some more. And once more at the end for luck.

    To a scientist this has gotta feel awful. Surely once, clearly stated, is enough for anyone? Nope; ain’t so. Look at how the professionals do it: an advertising agency, a politician, or even a school teacher. Say it ’till you’re bored witless. Then repeat.

    Err, that would be… Keep it simple and keep saying it.

  15. Steve Fish:

    Re- Comment by Not my regular handle too much background — 19 Jan 2014 @ 5:40 PM

    From a lot of experience from my own research your comments on pH meters is dead on.


  16. Jeffrey Davis:

    “Sorry to disagree, but the problems with this type of science advocacy are obvious and manifest. ”

    Anthony McAuliffe would like a word with you.

  17. HarveyMoseley:

    Reply 59. At this point, I don’t think we can be sure there is any path that will lead us to a world that can support ~10B people in the future. I doubt that present money is the correct merit function to weigh against when we are talking about survival of a civilization, and the larger part of humanity.
    The science indicates that we are headed into a climate that is unprecedented in human history. That is the best prediction that science can provide us with at this time
    From a policy point of view,this should be sufficient to elevate this issue to the top of government agendas around the world. The fact that this does not occur shows that the science is not understood by the policy makers. Science can be wrong, but for scientific questions, it is the best we have.

  18. David B. Benson:

    is originally from Scientific American. While the education of future scientists should certainly include a healthy dose of liberal arts IMO, the reasons in this essay are not particularly good ones.

  19. simon abingdon:

    #58 Ray Ladbury

    “CO2 is warming the planet. The only question is how much, and the odds on it being a small amount are not good.”

    To those without any axe to grind it has been apparent that the odds on it being a small amount have been shortening relentlessly since the turn of the century. But “climate sensitivity is a mature field” (your words). You paying much attention to what’s happening in the real world Ray?


    Richard Pauli #57,

    “Fish 56 “Please provide a budget and a funding source.” ??

    Are you kidding?

    You need to first decide how long you want our species to survive.
    Just you? or do you want your grand kids around? Maybe twenty, 50 years? Do you aim for past the year 2100 – say 2150? What’s your plan?

    Because until we decide to commit to multigenerational survival, then all this quibbling over budget and finances and sacrifices means little. Whining over cost and sacrifice is not a valid argument against action. First decide what you want – then you can squeeze budgets and profits all you want.”

    Richard, you have it exactly right. In most endeavors, the first step is problem definition, followed by target definition, and finally followed by proposed solutions. On this blog, the ideologues go right to the solution without bothering about the preceding steps.

    We are not going to leave our grandchildren the world we inherited; we have caused too much damage already, and there is more to come from what we have already put in the pipeline. Probably the best we could do at this point would be the damaged world that Hansen’s ~1 C limit would offer. As I have shown with the ‘accounting’ that Fish deprecates, to meet this target means we have run out of carbon budget, and no more fossil fuels can be expended. Obviously, this would not be workable, and it would be ludicrous for me to offer a “budget and funding source” and plan for how to achieve it. Anderson believes an emissions cut of ~10% would be extremely difficult to ‘sell’, and that would only keep us within 2 C. I am at the point where I see no appetite for ANY decrease in economic activity from the developed and developing nations alike to maintain the semblance of a livable climate for our grandchildren. Maybe the best that can be sold to any substantive number of people is the technology substitution approach offered by e.g. SecularA, which would maintain economic activity. As I have pointed out, my estimate is that it would lead us to a temperature peak somewhere between 2-3 C (given that Anderson has considered renewables and improved energy efficiency as part of his proposal, and still requires substantial demand reduction to stay within 2 C). How horrific life would be at such temperatures, and whether we can stabilize at such temperature levels is open to question, and is one of these questions which would best be left unanswered by proactive avoidance policies.

    My bottom line is that I think we’re stuck with what we can ‘sell’ to the public, rather than what we need to solve the problem.

  21. prokaryotes:

    #55 …and is thus at risk of appearing to be an eccentric

    …when judging from a PR marketing perspective? Look at his recent lectures?

    The world needs more Hansen’s which warn us of the risk and already occurring changes. We have decades of studies and observation, it screams we have to stop burning fossil fuels.

    As a scientist you need to voice your concerns until the message is understood. Because if you don’t you didn’t account for the complexity and noise in our systems, thus your message was only directed from a limited angle. Or was muzzled down in a lot of noise. Thus you have to repeat the message(which involves a lot of learning) until you addressed all entities who are involved, hence the entire system processes. You need to apply systems thinking because we deal with a systemic problem.

  22. Michael Wallace:

    To Hank Roberts #53 and to “not my handle too much background” #61 thanks for visiting my site. Hank that reference you provided is a keeper, thanks. Unfortunately I searched the entire document for the term “glass electrode” and no such term is listed. It therefore explains NOTHING regarding the supposed deficiencies of the so called ‘old style’ pH meters, and as I’ve pointed out, there is no such deficiency that would merit their replacement. Also that link that you looked for is only in context with the extended dialogue I had with Drs. Feely and Sabine. If you wish for me to dredge that up, please post that question at my blog and I will provide it.
    To #61, my Ph.D. in progress is in Nanoscience and Microsystems (with a nanogeoscience focus). Yes I have made many field measurements of pH with the ‘old style’ meters, as as my blog posts point out, that approach is the rule on continental hydrology (non ocean pH measurements. That will likely comprise millions of measurements per year. You might know that if you really work in the field. In any case just because you can parrot a definition of pH doesn’t convince me that you are a subject matter expert in anything. Please now let me know what your expertise is and perhaps we can have a productive dialogue here or at my blog.

  23. Ray Ladbury:

    Simon Abingdon: “You paying much attention to what’s happening in the real world Ray?”

    Why would you like to quit living in your fantasy world and you’d like me to catch you up?

  24. Hank Roberts:

    I searched the entire document for the term “glass electrode” and no such term is listed. It therefore explains NOTHING
    See more at: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2014/01/if-you-see-something-say-something/comment-page-2/#comment-451942

    Read, or at least skim the text, and you’ll find it. They do point out that terminology differs and cite the sources they use.

    Citation to sources on which you base your own statements also would clarify your thinking.

    > the extended dialogue
    The link on your blog to “http://www.abeqas.com/mwApics/Wallace20thCenturyOcean_pH.pdf” returns a broken 247-byte PDF.
    This link; you can find it, as Google does — it’s mentioned three places: your blog, at RC, and at WUWT:

    Please note — you can argue the science with scientists. I’m arguing for citing sources that can be found and reading the material that’s available.

    > Hank that reference you provided is a keeper

    I spent three minutes with Scholar, which convinced me there is ample work published documenting longterm problems in open ocean use of the old tech pH sensors, and much published about the work on replacements using different technology. Look up biofilm, and fouling, and calibration, for those sensors. Your reference librarian can do far more than some guy on a blog finding source material.

    Just for examples:

    Analytica Chimica Acta, Vol. 786, 5 July 2013, Pages 1–7

    TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry, Vol. 40, Nov. 2012, Pages 146–157


    You say no such deficiency exists. You should find the work saying otherwise, and publish a refutation, not deny the problem — seriously, the Holocaust analogy and suggestion of conspiracy will fly at WUWT but not in a science discussion.

    You claim to discuss science; cite sources that support your claims.

    This isn’t about you.
    This is about librarianship and citation, that’s my issue here.

    You’re facing a general problem — how to assemble longterm reliable time series records using data from multiple sites, and different instruments. This is an issue using satellite instrument records, weather station records, tide gauge and elevation records — all through science.

    Nobody likes to see their beloved instrument questioned. It happens.

  25. Hank Roberts:

    Sometimes plain Google is more productive.
    for Michael Wallace:


  26. simon abingdon:

    #59 Ray Ladbury …

    “CO2 is warming the planet. The only question is how much, and the odds on it being a small amount are not good.”

    … and further to my #69:

    Since the turn of the century it has been observed that the global temperature has consistently been flatlining while month by month CO2 emissions have continued to escalate.

    There are two explanations which might account for such observations:

    (1) The warming due to CO2 is compensated by an effect of unknown provenance which month by month provides just the right amount of cooling necessary to neutralize it.

    (2) The theoretical warming due to CO2 is in practice negligible.

    Most intelligent people will at once see which of these two explanations is (overwhelmingly) the more likely.

    Perhaps Ray you can pinpoint the flaw in their logic.

  27. Hank Roberts:

    Ah, here it is: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3342762/
    Environ Sci Technol. 2012 May 1; 46(9): 5018–5024.
    Published online 2012 March 31. doi: 10.1021/es300491s

    Footnotes in the original; excerpt follows

    Measurements of seawater pH are currently obtained both potentiometrically and spectrophotometrically. Spectrophotometric pH measurements are much more precise (±0.0004)6 than potentiometric measurements (±0.003)7,8 and are increasingly preferred for direct ocean monitoring, but potentiometric measurements are advantageous for many types of studies for which less precise measurements are adequate. As such, use of glass electrodes and other potentiometric pH devices9 is likely to continue as a very common practice in laboratory and field investigations.

    Although the accuracy of both potentiometric and spectrophotometric measurements is intimately related to calibration protocols, calibration procedures for the two methodologies are distinct in one critical aspect. Modern spectrophotometric pH measurements, which involve the use of indicator absorbance ratios and characterizations of the intrinsic molecular properties of purified substances, do not require periodic calibration.10−13 In contrast, pH measurements with glass electrodes require frequent conjugate measurements in standard solutions in order to ensure consistent measurement accuracy.14

    … The Guide to Best Practices for Ocean Acidification Research and Data Reporting(15) describes two critically important limitations associated with potentiometric pH measurements ….

    The goal here, as I read it (remember, I’m an interested amateur reader, I’m not a scientist) is to have pH instruments on untethered mobile devices — like the ARGO floats and the Slocum gliders — which can’t be regularly retrieved for recalibration.

  28. Hank Roberts:

    Further comparing the two types of sensor:
    Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2013 Mar 15;27(5):635-42.
    doi: 10.1002/rcm.6487.
    Evaluation of reagentless pH modification for in situ ocean analysis: determination of dissolved inorganic carbon using mass spectrometry.

    > ARGO floats
    Lost the link in the previous post. Here:

    Richard Feely, a NOAA senior scientist …. noted that ship-based work is still essential for calibrating the Argo float data for pH and total CO2 concentrations.


  29. Ray Ladbury:

    The oceans, which constitute 98% of the climate system’s thermal mass are warming faster than ever. Ice continues to melt. The current decade is the warmest in record, and of the 20 warmest years, all but one have been in the past 20. In this universe, that implies we aren’t in thermal equilibrium. How about yours?

  30. JS:

    Re #50 sh: “We have a bus driver, a 15 year old boy and a cattle rancher arguing about climate change with Steve Schneider! Unbelievable.”

    Precisely! Except they are not really arguing, he educates them (and he doesn’t really care who they are, in the spirit of R.Feynman). It’s hard and thankless work. That’s why I have to applaud Steve Schneider for doing it.

    For an atheist, watching A.E. is sometimes painful too. People thinking they have a perfect proof of God, while struggling with basic logic. But on the other hand, there are people with different levels of understanding. Large majority of callers want, on a certain level, to understand more. If they wished to remain ignorant, they probably wouldn’t bother calling at all.

    I think this method brings a honest (albeit often crude) dialogue with the public that a lecture or website doesn’t do. In a way, it builds mutual trust and empathy, not just with the callers, but to many outside observers. And this trust is needed, because propaganda often conditions people the other way, to distrust climate scientists. You can actually see it in the Schneider video, and you can see it in A.E. as well. That’s why I think it’s needed, or at least I think someone should try it.

  31. simon abingdon:

    #79 Ray Ladbury

    “The oceans, which constitute 98% of the climate system’s thermal mass are warming faster than ever.”

    What typical rate of warming of the world’s oceans (degC/century) would we be talking about?

    “Ice continues to melt.”

    What percentage of the world’s ice continues to melt?

    Ray, I would welcome your considered answers. Regards, simon

  32. Ray Ladbury:

    If the oceans are warming at all, or if the net ice melting is positive, we are not in equilibrium. Nonetheless:



  33. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    Simon, I suggest you consult the paleorecord, it will answer your questions. I can’t speak for others here but I personally don’t wish to waste my time serving your personal research needs if you aren’t enthusiastic about learning about it and listening to what it’s telling you. Thanks in advance.

  34. Hank Roberts:

    …it has been observed that the global temperature has consistently been flatlining … There are two explanations …
    - See more at: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2014/01/if-you-see-something-say-something/comment-page-2/#comment-451967

    Three or four, actually: (3) you confuse air temperature with global temperature, or (4) your uncited source has been debunked already.

  35. Hank Roberts:

    Simon certainly knows this and is ignoring it, but for any new readers coming along who don’t — you can look this up:

    Depending on your preconceptions, by picking your start and end times carefully, you can now ‘prove’ that
    Temperature is falling!
    Temperature is static!
    Temperature is rising!
    Temperature is rising really fast!
    What you find can depend on where (or when) you look!

  36. Not my regular handle too much background:


    I doubt there is a possibility of a constructive dialogue with you. Hank has done yeoman’s work of providing literature references to what I learned at the knee (so to speak) and in diverse industrial settings. Your interest in my credentials (Undergrad UCal system, Ph.D. MIT….long ago), seem more focused on the pleasure you might get from outing someone who works for private industry….where there is no freedom of speech. Enjoy your possibly protected status while you have it. My familial connection the pH instrument industry you’ll just have to take for granted, but here’s a hint: I attended family days at a certain well known instrument maker in Southern California as a child….begins with a B…… hm. One of many connections at different points in time.

    Your reference to millions of measurements (in fresh water systems) seems unrelated to the focus of your doctoral work and your sloppy language implies you personally made and/or had QC responsibility for those measurements, and you made no effort to bridge that gap.

    You also failed to get to the precision question. Your typical lab pH meter reads to 2 decimal places. High precision meters will give 3, but very little lab work depends on measuring pH that precisely. (note very little, not none).

    I’m also not interested in parsing your correspondendence with some administrators. You’ve already demonstrated that you play the typical game of lawyering language. You should look to the scientists who publish the papers reporting the changes…go the primary data source…and in fact it is those people you should contact directly.

    However, I guess few are likely to respond, seeing your accusatory website, and your precious formulation of ‘phfamily’. You’ve effectively labeled yourself a crank, and pointless to talk to. Perhaps you are good enough at whatever you’re really doing for your thesis, and will publish a few papers. I hope you’ll experience the pleasure of having some hack with a blog take a negative interest in your work, and experience the frustration of trying to talk sense to someone who dismisses anything you say.

    IF, and I do mean if, you have a serious interest in the subject-take down the website, read the primary ocean pH literature and contact the authors with a clean slate and an open mind.

  37. nigelmj:

    Ray Ladbury @ 59. I totally agree with you. The basics of climate change are clear, carbon dioxide is warming the planet and very significantly.

    However its still complex for the public, for example they hear sceptical claims about a “pause.” This pause has been refuted by Cowtan (2013) but sceptics use this to push their agenda.

    I would like to see more climate scientist’s front up in the daily media (television and newspapers etc), and explain the issues like this and in laymans terms. Explain that the pause is insignificant and heat energy continues to build up in the oceans. I commend the efforts this site makes along with skepticalscience.com, but more needs to be said in the daily media as well.

  38. Colin Reynolds:

    “How will history judge us if we watch the threat unfold before our eyes, but fail to communicate the urgency of acting to avert potential disaster? How would I explain to the future children of my 8-year-old daughter that their grandfather saw the threat, but didn’t speak up in time?

    Those are the stakes.

    Is it time for The Age of Stupid to be rereleased in the cinema yet?

  39. Hank Roberts:

    Cowtan and Way (2013) is now open access

    Links to the paper, a poster, comments and discussion and a FAQ

  40. nigelmj:

    Simon Abingdon @ 76.

    You say “Since the turn of the century it has been observed that the global temperature has consistently been flatlining while month by month CO2 emissions have continued to escalate.

    You say there are two explanations which might account for such observations:

    (1) The warming due to CO2 is compensated by an effect of unknown provenance which month by month provides just the right amount of cooling necessary to neutralize it.

    (2) The theoretical warming due to CO2 is in practice negligible.”

    My response is that temperatures haven’t flatlined, they have slowed. Its unlikely the temperature has even slowed much. Refer to the research by Cowtan (2013).

    The most likely explanation for slower warming is the temporary effect of a natural cycle. We know we have a combination of a low point in the sunspot cycle and a mid point in the pdo cycle, both of which have a temporary cooling effect. These cycles will reverse in the near future. You might also note that ocean heat energy content hasn’t “paused”.

  41. J.R.:

    Many of us climate watchers (non-scientists) believe that scientist have failed us. Just when we needed you most, you let us all down. The scientific reticence, and the unwilling to put career on the line to be forcefully outspoken is unforgivable in the context of what is now happening.

    Consider that we would not be in the position of where we are today if scientist had simply demanded an audience back in the 70’s and 80’s when there were already clear signals of danger even then. And then stuck to their guns throughout all the denial.

    Many environmental scientists are just as “guilty” in my book. Species extinctions are now occurring at an unprecedented rate and scientists are simply not trying hard enough to get the message across. The oceans globally are in a state of severe collapse – and yet, this is barely even known in the public discourse.

    Their not alone of course, but you guys and gals are the researchers of what is happening to our planet – and you are most definitely NOT sounding the alarm stridently enough.

    If it took a “science walkout” on a global scale to “send the message” of the clear and present danger we are now all in – then that is exactly what should have been done (at a minimum). But almost at no time (with few minor and noteworthy exceptions) did this sort of thing occur.

    So now we’re all faced with the “too little, too late” and “how in $#@ do we solve the crisis” situation. Species extinction for example, is forever, and we’re just now being told how many species and which ones are now gone forever.

    Climate science is the biggie, and climate scientists are STILL not sounding the alarm stridently enough. Do you scientist actually think for example, that all the now missing ice can simply be replaced? Do most climate scientist truly realize what this means RIGHT NOW for over one billion people who rely upon glacial melt? Why aren’t you literally screaming from the rooftops to literally force policy makers, including your own departments to finally pay attention? Do something RADICAL FOR ONCE.

    We’re way past the time when we should have had a global rebellion over the ongoing planetary destruction occurring virtually everywhere – and scientist should have been leading the way with facts, evidence, research, analysis and their decades of expertise. They should have been blowing their horns loud and long – and if that didn’t work, they should have chained themselves to the Lincoln Memorial. SOMETHING to finally garner media, public and government attention to the sheer scale and scope of the crisis we are now in.

    There is no point in sounding the alarm after the cows have escaped the barn, but now, finally, scientists are themselves “waking up”. Too bad for all of us – you’re really a day late and a dollar short. This isn’t a game people, its life or death for the whole of the biosphere.

    But we’ve yet to see this. We’ve yet to see scientists “get involved” at the level of activism that is absolutely essential and necessary. You’ve had DECADES to do this – and it simply never happened. You’ve also got the credentials the rest of the world desperately lacks – so USE IT.

    So as much as I appreciate all that you have done, and all the work and research, what I’d much rather see now is a total global outcry to demand actions from the world’s governments and leaders. Nothing less than this “will do”. Nothing less then this will stand a chance of changing the outcome now.

    This has always been a part of “your job” by the way. No expert in his or her field is expected to stay silent or demurely say “but you don’t understand the significance of what this means…” or some such polite nonsense, especially when you consider the true significance of what you’ve uncovered.

    The world DESPERATELY needs scientists from all disciplines and research fields to take a VERY strong position regarding what is occurring to our planet. The very survival of the entire biosphere is at stake – or if you scientists still don’t realize this yet – then shame on you. Many of us have taken years out of our lives to read up on the real state of affairs, spending countless hours connecting all of the dots to the best of our abilities. We think we are in serious trouble and there is absolutely no time at all to waste piddling around anymore. We don’t believe we have a decade or two – or even a year or two, the time to act is already past, but now is still far better then NEVER.

    So where are you? Why are you still engaged in the field when we need you engaged with our governments and leaders? Do you really need more proof or evidence? Why not task some of your best and brightest and most outspoken and organize a resistance movement? Or would you rather just stay in the field taking your measurements and writing your reports? What good is that going to do any of us now?

    I’m not advocating you stop science – not at all, but it’s time to put down the pens and pencils and the spreadsheets and databases and instrumentation and go grab our stupid politicians and corporate destroyers by the throat and GET SOMETHING DONE that will enhance our chances of surviving the destruction we have unleashed.

    Nothing less then this will suffice. Some of you know this. Some of you still haven’t connected all the dots. If we can do it – so can you. You are eminently more qualified to do this then we are.

    So where ARE YOU in this fight for our survival?

  42. Not my regular handle too much background:


    My apologies, I found your abeqas site. Since I’m in private industry, where I have no free speech, I can’t say directly who I am. My current line of work is very public. Suffice it to say that as a child I attended familly day parties at a certain Southern California instrument maker’s, and have a close relative who spent a lifetime in the field at the first mentioned company and a variety of others. I could pull pictures and/or video from my files of every step in making a glass pH electrode. I did my undergraduate work in the UC system, (where I used the library access in those pre-internet days to run literatures searches on pH electrode design and manufacture- all in the family) and my doctoral work at MIT was completed before you graduated from your undergraduate institution. I chose not to go into the family business. The rest of the time has been spent in a variety of roles in the chemical industry, which serves me well in my present position.

    However, that nicety out of the way, Hank Robert’s references are correct, and any patent search will find dozens of patents each on various aspects of aqueous water sensor electrodes. Since this is old art, going back to Arnold O., and things like glass formulas are trade secrets, there are natural limitations to the literature.

    Having acknowledged that I gave a correct off the cuff description of pH electrodes, you then proceeded to ignore the meaning. While no doubt you’ve had access to many pH measurements, you certainly didn’t do them all yourself, and you give no indication of having responsibility for the QA/QC of those measurements. I can’t access any papers of yours to see you report pH, and in general pH isn’t something important enough to report in abstracts. I note that NPDES standards for pH ranges are only 1 significant figure 6.0-9.0. (no not from memory…it’s been a while since I was involved in that kind of permitting). In other words, you need to make a case that pH in hydrology is measured with the kind of accuracy and precision and stability that the marine geochemists are looking for. Glass electrodes have always been less than ideal for that kind of work.

    I don’t however think that we’re going to be able to have any kind of collegial exchange. Arguing with adminstrators vs going to the scientists working in the field isn’t how to go about things. Your choice of a graduate research advisor and your field is in my view hunting for unicorns. You might as well consider publishing in the now defunct journal Pattern Recognition in Physics. If you really want to demonstrate you’re serious about this stuff, you’ll take down your preciously named pHfamily posts, and talk to researchers. They’re not likely to answer you if that see that kind of thing, and will dismiss you as a crank with no interest in anything but confirming your existing conclusions.

    Captcha: Composed IncAfro

  43. Michael Wallace:

    Hank thanks for putting in some time to address my concerns. First I appreciate your diligence in searching the web for items on pH meters, even though some of those papers are paywalled, and a few are not actually about pH meters, such as the Cardenas-Valencia et al., paper. Second, in answer to an earlier comment of yours, I have re-posted the pdf file that you were trying to find at http://www.abeqas.com/Wallace20thCenturyOcean_pH2.pdf. This is only provided for context as I had already posted some of the images in that file.

    Also as you have pointed out in #77, “potentiometric measurements (±0.003)” is a reported accuracy for glass electrode pH meters. Given that ocean pH ranges from 2 to 4 whole pH units I think it’s safe to say that ±0.003 is more than accurate enough for any determination of a trend in ocean acidification or alkalinization. Wouldn’t you agree?

    Moreover, your comments about ‘in situ’ measurements are understandable, but are not relevant to any of my concerns. Ocean scientists would like all of their chemistry measurements to be as in-situ and automatic and as easy and trouble free as possible. What of it? That has nothing to do with the fact that 80 years of ocean pH data consisting of millions of pH measurements which were already collected the hard way have been omitted from the contemporary narrative of ocean acidification. As my blog posts focus on, this data was replaced by a fabrication of historical data, using model hindcasts apparently solely to assert a trend of ocean acidification. Do you really think the minor concern of convenience of in situ pH measurement justifies data fabrication on such an epic scale? I doubt you do.

    I also believe that until I brought this concern up, neither you nor anyone else reading this blog post were aware of this massive amount of data fabrication and promotion. I hope you will keep this particular point in mind and consider it in depth over time. Sorry about the related snarkiness in my blog. It is only a provocative blog after all, just as this forum is.

  44. Michael Wallace:

    just a clarification on last comment: The entire range of recorded ocean pH for all depths ranges approximately from less than 6.5 to more than 9.5. See NOAA WOD database for any desired verification.

  45. Hank Roberts:

    So “the data items which have been added represent values recovered so far by Wallace through various searches on 20th century ocean pH data, esp. prior to 1988” and you’ve published this somewhere showing you’ve redone the trend statistic with the amended data? — ok, that’s how science works.

  46. wheelsoc:

    “… data fabrication … ”
    I really, REALLY don’t think you are in a position to level that kind of accusation.

  47. Marco:

    Eh, since when is someone allowed to make large claims of fraud here, like Michael Wallace does at #92?

  48. Slioch:

    Alfred the Great, King of England 871-899AD, put it rather succinctly some time ago,

    “Each man, according to his intelligence, must speak what he can speak and do what he can do.”

    And I agree with #90 J.R. that scientists have generally failed us in failing sufficiently to speak out, whilst I applaud those, like Mann and Hansen, who have done so.

    We need far more articles by scientists in the popular press explaining time and again what the problems are and what the possible solutions may be. Saying it once is not enough. It needs to be said time and time again.
    Everyone has a vote and it is votes that elect politicians to act. Just imagine the catastrophe if what has happened in Australia with the election of Tony Abbott became a worldwide phenomena.
    Speak out!

  49. Edward Greisch:

    57 Steve Fish: YOU are the one who thinks an “economic cutback” is required. I said no such thing. Who told you that an “economic cutback” was part of the program? Not me.

    On the other hand, see “Galactic-Scale Energy” at Do the Math
    It would seem wise to cut back before the Earth becomes hotter than the surface of the sun.

  50. Steve Fish:

    Re- Comment by Edward Greisch — 21 Jan 2014 @ 6:52 AM

    I have no idea what you are referring to.