The missing piece at the Wegman hearing

Again, red is the original MBH98 multiproxy+PC analysis, green is if the raw data are used directly (with no PC analysis at all). (This comes from Rutherford et al (2005) and uses a different methodology – RegEM – to calibrate paleoclimate proxy data against the modern instrumental record, but that doesn’t make any difference for this point).

Why doesn’t it make any difference? It’s because the PC analysis was used to encapsulate all of the statistically relevant information in the N. American tree ring network and so whatever patterns are in there they will always influence the final reconstruction.

So what would have happened to the MBH results if Wegman and his colleagues had been consulted on PC centering conventions at the time? Absolutely nothing.

Can we all get on with something more interesting now?

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185 comments on this post.
  1. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    Can we all get on with something more interesting now?

    Sure, like when the United States will become one nation under science again?

  2. Dano:

    Can we all get on with something more interesting now?

    Yes, let’s examine the multitudinous alternative hypotheses and testable results by the handful of skeptical climate scientists out there.

    All their results that explain the warming as natural. All their data. Let’s audit it.

    Lets begin.

    Any time now.

    Discuss all the data they collected.





  3. Joel McDade:

    I would appreciate it if you would post larger chart images, or link to larger versions.

    These are unreadable. I cannot evaluate your point, therefore.

    Thank you,

    [Response:Sorry. Should be ok now. -gavin]

  4. pat neuman:

    I’d like to put that on my resume, i.e. that I’m … “part of a tight-knit social network of climate scientists,”
    … along with other things I’ve done: prairie landscaping, paleontology studies, parenting, hydrologic modeler, bird/butterfly watching, EX-river forecaster, environmentalist, troublemaker, …

  5. Mark Shapiro:

    Wegman et al did look at both MBH 98 and MBH 99. But I recall that MBH 99 specifically warned about added uncertainty going back beyond 1400 because of sparse data. That caveat is rarely mentioned.

    A couple other minor observations: Wegman mentioned (offhandedly) something about CO2 sinking because it is heavier, and when asked if he thought GW was important, acknowledged that we had warmed about 2 degrees F since 1850 but offered that most people couldn’t notice the difference between 72 and 74 degrees. North responded well to both points.

  6. George A. Gonzalez:

    From a political point of view it is extremely unfortunate, one might say pathetic, that with the signs of global warming all around us (e.g., persistent heat waves, melting polar ice caps, rapidly retreating glaciers, etc.) the Congress is still stuck debating the merits of the global warming science. Given the emergency we are facing as a species, we need to be on square #15: discussing how high should a carbon tax be, how to save the rainforest, how to save the oceans, how to get those SUVs off the road, what are the merits of geoengineering, how to ensure that people get the income they need in a low carbon economy, etc. The hearing amounted to Nero playing the violin while Rome burned. But the hearing was worse, because at least Nero did not play while humanity was the verge of extinction.

  7. Hank Roberts:

    Here’s what Wegman said about CO2 density, I typed that as I heard it.

    Didn’t North’s “Blockhead” method result — a chart simply averaging all the proxies without any treatment — also confirm the published pattern?

    I didn’t manage to type any of that, but I remember he said they did that to find out which proxies contributed any odd bumps, and noticed that the Medieval period bump disappeared — because some areas of the world were warmer and others were colder during that period. He made the point that climatologists look at overall climate because CO2 is well mixed.

    It was fascinating to hear the chairman reiterate he represents a coal mining state several times. Yo, voters!

  8. Armand MacMurray:

    Do you have any graphs showing the results of following the North et al NAS committee’s recommendations on proxies, such as not using bristlecones?

    [Response: Read Wahl and Ammann (2006)… – gavin]

  9. Ender:

    We all know it but are completely helpless to stop it. The AGW debate is being effectively swiftboated. Rep Barton can trot out endless rounds of these studies and people such as yourself can refute them until the cows come home but the fact remains that to the general public that knows anything about global warming, Hockey Stick = AGW. The main problem is that the contrary data does not have to be true. Lies and innuendo are good enough.

    Refute the Hockey Stick and you refute AGW plain and simple in classic swiftboat style. I still maintian that nothing effective, trancending economic issues, will ever be done until/if something destructive and disasterous that is clearly and irrefutably linked to AGW occurs to the US or some other first world country. Until then nothing, other than the research that builds our knowledge, will be done while money is the primary focus.

    BTW Nero did not poor accelerant on the flames of Rome while he fiddled so actually he is one up on us.

  10. Glen Raphael:

    I had the impression the most interesting part of the MBH “hockey stick” was the part before the charts presented in this post – years 1000-1400. Does a version of these charts exist that shows the impact of fixing the centering and other issues on perception of the Medieval Warming Period?

    [Response: I’ll try and find one… – gavin]

  11. Ernestine Gross:

    This is a quick thank-you note addressed to the RealClimate people for your efforts to dissiminate your knowledge to the wider public.

  12. Lee A. Arnold:

    From Mr Wegman’s printed testimony:

    “Because of this apparent isolation, we decided to attempt to understand the paleoclimate community by exploring the social network of authorships in temperature reconstruction.”

    “Because of these close connections, independent studies may not be as independent as they might appear on the surface. Although we have no direct data on the functioning of peer review within the paleoclimate community, but with 35 years of experience with peer review in both journals as well as evaluation of research proposals, peer review may not have been as independent as would generally be desirable.”

    “The MBH98/99 work has been sufficiently politicized that this community can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility.”

    –Now here, we have genuine exhibits of bad methodology and unsupported conjecture.

    Where did these non sequiturs come from, and who ordered them to be in there? In a report that begins by “circumscribing the substance” to “an independent verification by statisticians of the critiques of the statistical methodology…”?

    Anyway, as it was foretold, here it is: Our lobbied House Representatives are going after an old study that is already superseded, and they are ignoring all the other data. You scientists are being slandered, dissed, and dismissed.

    –Report by Lee A. Arnold, Society for the Long-Term Modeling of the Anti-Science Crooks in Congress, and Their “Social Network”

  13. Max:

    Re #1:

    Do you know what happened last time, when a whole nation was put at sciences hands: Soviet Union.
    It was one of the biggest social engineering projects available and brought great loss to all of the people living in it. The last thing I want is politics and science to merge, it would be disasterous for science and a new religion for politics.
    Natural Science must be an open independent field to evaluate nature and not a thing to influence governments to base their policies on.
    Instead, you should focus to persuade people to follow your belief of an environmental-friendly lifestyle. If you cannot, then perhaps your ideas aren’t so good as you thought.

    For the rest, I have still to see a warming that is unprecedent. Why are there even different numbers for past data. A warming of 2C down to a warming of +0.24 °C per century. Which is true, the first or the latter? Why are there even such vague expressions on past warming?

  14. Juola (Joe) A. Haga:

    I suggest petitioning Congress for a bill. Although tradition encrusts the Brits, their Parliament now allows journalists, to cope with global warming’s heat wave, attendance in shirtsleeves. Our 535 rule-makers, surely more forward-looking, ought to allow jpurnalists in the coming heat waves to appear bare-assed nekkid. Or how will one lighten up the fog-bank on the Potomac? John Quincy Adams regularly introduced a petiion to discuss slavery every session for years. Regularly the House tabled it. But the topic was by thius and other means kept alive. Congress’s refusal to discuss led to the ultimate violence. Belts of arable land will shrink. Either with forethought and discussion the world’s population will also shrink humanely or some very real nastiness and naughtiness will ensue in a generation or two.

  15. americanprogress:

    The Center for American Progress has kicked off a campaign for American energy independence called Kick the Oil Habit. Find out more and take the pledge at and watch Mark Pike and his buddies try to drive across the US using only ethanol – their video blog is available on You Tube. We need your help – you can make a difference – contribute to the collective genius (and bring a friend). Thanks!

  16. teacher ocean:


    You need to educate yourself in science. “I have still to see a warming that is unprecedent”? First, this sentence is grammatically incorrect. Second, what do you base your precedent on? Relying on your personal experience alone to evaluate nature is naive. I have relatives who smoked like a chimney and who lived to be 90 something, then died in a car accident. Does this discount medical findings that smoking causes lung cancer? And, by the way if you have yet to feel global warming, you haven’t been very observant. I am 37 years old and the winters I experienced in my childhood were far colder than those I’ve experienced in the last 10 years. And the death, en masse, of coral reefs from waters that are now TOO warm for them [which you can learn about from just watching TV] is again warming you can experience in your life time from just paying attention.

  17. Dan:

    After reading about the methods for compositing proxy networks ad infinitum, the reader might be left with the impression that the compositing methods justify the result. However, one must be reminded that traditional dendroclimatology methods are not very good at all for reconstructing the magnitude of climate variation at the centennial time scale. In my opinion, what we need are more novel ways to develop (i.e., detrend, such as RCS methods) and interpret (i.e., what climate variables have the most functional relationship with growth?) tree-ring chronologies. Lets move the discussion from the uncertainity in compositing methods to the uncertainty in the underlying proxies.

  18. Ron Taylor:

    Things may not be as grim as some of the above posts would indicate. Besides the oil and coal companies, there are other important financial interests in play on the issue of AGW. Business Week has had a number of articles in recent months on how the insurance industry and the electrical power industry have accepted the reality of global warming and are adjusting plans accordingly. I recall one report from a meeting of electrical power company executives in which they were virtually unanimous in their opintion that some form of carbon tax would be imposed within the next few years. They simply cannot afford to ignore the reality described by the data before them.

  19. Joel Shore:

    Does anybody know if there is a way to watch the hearing now that it is over? I know that they had a “webcast” up while it was going on and I had hoped they would have the full file online to watch once it was finished. However, this does not seem to be the case.

  20. Pavel Chichikov:

    Re: #13: “Do you know what happened last time, when a whole nation was put at sciences hands: Soviet Union.
    It was one of the biggest social engineering projects available and brought great loss to all of the people living in it. The last thing I want is politics and science to merge, it would be disasterous for science and a new religion for politics.”

    Something I actually know of, because I obtained and published a document in 1991, originating from the Soviet Academy of Sciences, summarizing research carried out by that institution. The research was led by KGB Gen. Anatolii Kuntsevich. It described in general terms the profound damage to public health in the USSR caused by the use of chlor-organic compounds such as dioxins and furans. The document was signed by three notables, including the Chairman of the KGB, Kryuchkov. It was adddressed to Gorbachev.

    If anyone here reads Russian and has access to a Slavic languages periodicals library see Nezavisimaya Gazeta for November 11, 1991.

    The situation in the USSR was completely different from the one that obtains in the West, and yet strangely similar. The SU was run not by scientists but by the Central Committee of the CPSU, with a parallel power source in the KGB. The country was environmentally ravaged, since the Party was all-powerful and could do what it liked with the environment in most cases (there were exceptions, notably in the plan to divert the courses of Siberian rivers).

    In the West we have representative government, not the dictatorship of one party, and yet the controlling group here is most certainly not scientists, as you’re finding out when you try to think up practical political strategies for stopping the onrush of climate change.

    Do many scientists think that all that is necessary to change fundamental social and economic behavior is to present rational evidence and conclusions? Something more basic is required. The Montreal Protocol of 1987 suggests what that might be.

  21. pat neuman:

    re 18. Ron wrote … They simply cannot afford to ignore the reality described by the data before them. …

    Then I read:

    “The four-day heat wave, caused by a high-pressure system to the south pumping in hot air from Mexico, resulted in heat advisories being posted in the South, Midwest and Northeast United States.

    Record temperatures were also set in Stockton, California (110 degrees) and Salt Lake City, Utah (103 degrees).

    “A heatwave like this usually comes about once a year,” said a spokesman for the National Weather Service. …

    Does anyone believe that a heatwave like this usually comes about once a year in the US, besides the spokesman for the National Weather Service?

  22. Tom Fiddaman:

    Wegman’s Figure 4 appears to disagree with Wahl & Amman’s 5d, reproduced above, over the period from ~1800 on. Any speculation as to why? Presumably it involves non-exclusion of M&M criticisms deemed invalid, but which and why do they matter?

    [Response: Wegman’s graph is mislabelled. It is PC1 of the N. American network, not the full MBH reconstruction. See here. – gavin]

    [Response: Update: I should have been clearer. The figure is from the earlier posting and shows the PC1 (and PC4 with centered PCA). Actually, I should have linked to figure 4.3 in the full Wegman report which is correctly described. – gavin]

  23. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    “…but still, the public recognition is nice.” Yeah!

    In my college poli sci course the prof told us (re candidates): positive publicity is best; negative publicity, 2nd best; and no publicity, the worst.

    So now that more people have been made aware of RC, let them come here & see for themselves, & come to their own intelligent conclusions about “is GW real.” Please leave contrarian biases and motives at the door for a brief moment.

  24. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    Also, I say: Don’t miss the forest for the tree rings. It’s hot today!

  25. Hank Roberts:

    22 — Wegman’s Figure 4 … is mislabelled. It is PC1 of the N. American network, not the full MBH reconstruction…

    That’s a rather devastating mistake. I wonder if they’ll try to correct it.

  26. Peter:

    “Response to #22: Wegman’s graph is mislabelled. It is PC1 of the N. American network, not the full MBH reconstruction. See here. – gavin”

    would it be possible to ask that the testimony document be corrected ?
    I can see this figure picked up by the “contrarians” and trotted out
    as the definitive shoot-down of MBH98.

  27. Mark Shapiro:

    Re 1, 13, and 20, and the role of science and scientists in government policy.

    Many of us who read this site would like scientists to have more influence on our government’s policies. We should recognize two things: 1) they don’t; 2) the very idea terrifies many people and clearly provokes all kinds of attacks. The Wegman hearings, even if you don’t see them as an attack, is clearly the vehicle of attacks, like the WSJ editorials that some Congressman read, so quickly, into the record.

    So use the first fact to counter the second. Please. How does one scientific paper, actually just one graph from one paper, get to be the subject of a hearing in the United States Congress? Folks are afraid of Mann + MBH99 + IPCC + RC + its audience, that this “clique” is going to influence energy policy. They certainly haven’t yet. They won’t get close to influencing it, because they don’t have power. Congressman Barton does. The President of the United States and the United States Congress (and their social networks) do.

  28. Ferdinand Engelbeen:

    Re #22,


    Wegman explicitely says for Fig 4.3 in his report that the graph showing the difference between decentered/centered methods is about the PC1 of the N.American network.
    He also comments on the relevance of bristlecone pines in the N.American PC1, with and without the methodological differences, on page 81.

  29. Jan Rooth:

    You’ve got to admire the power of the imagery in Figure 7 of Wegman’s testimony. Dr. Mann lurking menacingly like a spider at the heart of the web.

    Do we know who proposed the idea of tacking the social network analysis to this investigation? The testimony is vague, only saying “we decided” to do it. It seems rather an odd thing to just independently decide to do, when your task is otherwise so carefully circumscribed (as noted, they abstained from examining what effect the PC centering changes would have had on the final reconstruction, presumably because they were not tasked to do that).

  30. Terry Miesle:

    But I thought President Bush said we’d base policy on ‘sound science.’
    Or did he mean “sounds like science?”

    Thanks for the site guys, it’s a great resource.

  31. George Landis:

    According to your policy here you do this: “The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science.”

    So why are there so many political and policy oriented statements and discussions going on here? One would think this to be a political blog, as most do.

    [Response: We try to keep politics out of it, but we are not always successful… – gavin]

  32. Mark Shapiro:

    Re 29, from George Landis: ” . . . So why are there so many political and policy oriented statements and discussions going on here?”

    A valid question, and as a faithful reader and sometime commenter I readily admit to writing on the politics and policy of climate. My excuse is that it is difficult not to when a piece of the science is investigated by two congressional committees.

    But note that the eight contributors restrict themselves pretty well (I would say amazingly well) to questions of the science. It is commenters like me who can’t help edging into policy questions.

  33. Doug Percival:

    George Landis pondered: “So why are there so many political and policy oriented statements and discussions going on here? One would think this to be a political blog, as most do.”

    Wealthy and powerful individuals and corporations who stand to become astronomically more wealthy and powerful from the use of fossil fuels — particularly in the “peak oil” era of increasing demand and declining supply — do not want humanity to reduce the use of fossil fuels in response to anthropogenic global warming, so they politicize the subject and attack the science, for example by recruiting United States Senators to proclaim that global warming is a “hoax” and recruiting United States Congressmen to attack the work of climate scientists.

    Ideally, there would be nothing “political” about dealing with anthropogenic global warming, no more than there would be anything “political” about dealing with a large asteroid or comet heading directly for a collision with the Earth. But unfortunately those who seek to forestall any significant reduction in the use of fossil fuels, in the interest of their own enormous financial gain, have thoroughly politicized the issue, and made it difficult to discuss it without some reference to the hostile political environment that they have deliberately created around it.

  34. Armand MacMurray:

    Now that’s a nice science post! :)

  35. cat black:

    Business is become the New Religion. And just as rational science once fell afoul of the Old Religion, so now. These modern hierophants simply will not abide discussion of their superior position as thought-leaders. But business was born in ancient times of rationalism, and science is its parent; I can’t see this “I Am The Word” posturing from Washington and General Motors to continue for very long. It’s just silly and thinking people will see that ere the end. Hopefully well before the entire Greenland ice sheet makes its way to the sea.

  36. Mark A. York:

    More ad hominem for the WSJ and Peggy Noonan. In her world it’s the scientists who are guilty of politics:

    The Heat Is On
    On global warming, the media’s continuing power, Ralph Reed–and revisiting last week’s column.

    Thursday, July 20, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

    During the past week’s heat wave–it hit 100 degrees in New York City Monday–I got thinking, again, of how sad and frustrating it is that the world’s greatest scientists cannot gather, discuss the question of global warming, pore over all the data from every angle, study meteorological patterns and temperature histories, and come to a believable conclusion on these questions: Is global warming real or not? If it is real, is it necessarily dangerous? What exactly are the dangers? Is global warming as dangerous as, say, global cooling would be? Are we better off with an Earth that is getting hotter or, what with the modern realities of heating homes and offices, and the world energy crisis, and the need to conserve, does global heating have, in fact, some potential side benefits, and can those benefits be broadened and deepened? Also, if global warning is real, what must–must–the inhabitants of the Earth do to meet its challenges? And then what should they do to meet them?

    You would think the world’s greatest scientists could do this, in good faith and with complete honesty and a rigorous desire to discover the truth. And yet they can’t. Because science too, like other great institutions, is poisoned by politics. Scientists have ideologies. They are politicized.

    All too many of them could be expected to enter this work not as seekers for truth but agents for a point of view who are eager to use whatever data can be agreed upon to buttress their point of view.

    And so, in the end, every report from every group of scientists is treated as a political document. And no one knows what to believe. So no consensus on what to do can emerge.

    If global warming is real, and if it is new, and if it is caused not by nature and her cycles but man and his rapacity, and if it in fact endangers mankind, scientists will probably one day blame The People for doing nothing.

    But I think The People will have a greater claim to blame the scientists, for refusing to be honest, for operating in cliques and holding to ideologies. For failing to be trustworthy.

  37. mark:

    That’s a bunch of nonsense. The scientific community has come to a consensus, you just don’t want to believe it, so you and people on the right resort to making up garbage about how science has been taken over by politics, liberals, etc. The fault lies mainly with the people spreading disinformation, like republican politicians and the oil industry. However, it’s not the scientists’ fault if dumb people listen to the propaganda instead of investigating the facts. If you believe Rush Limbaugh over real scientists, it’s no one’s fault but your own.

  38. cwmagee:

    Interesting timing. This has nothing to do with the cngressional hearings, but today I found out that a world-class, white, western geoscientist has decided to move to China, because it offers him less political interference, more reliable funding, and better instrumentation than working in the US, Europe, or Australia.

  39. Robin Johnson:

    I always found that “Environmentalists/scientists are just a bunch of Communists” accusation highly amusing. My response is always: “Have you EVER seen pictures of Eastern Europe from when the Soviets [Communists] were in charge?”

    Communism wasn’t based on science, it was based on “economic science” and very typical utopian political thought processes of the kind that has often led to political and social disasters. Without impugning the honor and valuable work of economists, equating the work of economists with “traditional” scientists is clearly a logical fallacy and a misplaced insult.

    State of the art [18th century] theories in natural science, economic science and poltical science known to scientists and thinkers like Tom Jefferson and Ben Franklin were critical to the formulation of the US Constitution and helped guide early American principles of governance.

    Scientists have been conducting their side of the debate using “the unwritten rules of scientific discussion and argument.” While there are skeptics who adhere to those rules of the “debate”, many others are conducting their side of the debate using “the unwritten rules of legal argument”. The purpose of scientific argument is to establish what is likely true. The purpose of legal argument is to establish who gets the money or power. In a legal debate, “truth” can be decided by a “vote”. In science, “truth” is always provisional. In legal debate, precendent is revered and protected where discovery of error is a matter of great shame. In a science debate, everything “known” is open for ridicule and actually showing previous belief to be erroneous is often greeted with laughter – as in “wow – we were STUPID to think THAT”.

    So, for a Congressional Committee to use “legal” arguments to undermine a scientific finding is not really a surprise. And refuting “legal” arguments using the rules of scientific argument is time consuming, tedious and highly frustrating. That’s why maintaining “scientific” discipline in the face of such tactics is very important.

    It also is important to focus the discussion into the REAL political realm. Legitimate political debate focuses on what policies will lead to “success” [as defined by the electorate]. Finding the right policy can be a challenging, highly complicated process even when everyone is playing on the same “team”. Policies that advance the long term goals of the electorate require “good” political, economic and natural scientific theory and information. The natural tendency in the face of uncertainty is to maintain the status quo or make simple tweaks. Forging a consensus for a radical departure in policy based on complicated theory and data is hard, slow work especially when the costs and consequences are seemingly or actually high.

  40. pat neuman:

    re 37.


    I was warned by my supervisors and directors for National Weather Service (NWS) that climate change science was too political, liberal, etc. Maybe attitudes toward research on climate change and hydrologic modeling changed after I left the NWS North Center River Forecast Center in 2005. I don’t know anyone close enough in NWS anymore to talk to in order to find that out. While I worked there, no one would say anything about climate change or global warming. I couldn’t help speaking up about how climate change affects hydrology so they got rid of me. It was not just my supervisor and NWS directors that wanted me out, as I was told later by my supervisor, but also John Mahoney, a NOAA administrator and head of the US Climate Change Science Program.
    My supervisor carried that out in July, 2005. As I see things now, the reason for an absence of will by the public to slow greenhouse gas emissions lies with government officials allowing disinformation on global warming to continue to be accepted by the public. Agencies in the US have failed in seeing to it that accurate information and education on global warming reaches the public. Otherwise it would have been well known by the public that the scientific community reached consensus on global warming many years ago.

  41. Tim D:

    The last line of the Wegman report caught my eye. I quote it below in full:

    “The most conclusive finding is that the 20th century is the most anomalous interval in the entire period of analysis, including significant positive extremes in the proxy records.”

    I’m just joe public but I’d interpret that as meaning:
    More ‘anomolous’ [Deviating from the normal or common order, form, or rule] than the ‘significant positive extremes in the proxy records’ [i.e. the medieval warming period and Little Ice Age period].

    My reading of that is the Wegman report is saying:
    a) There is Climate Change/warming
    b) It is more significant than the other unusually significant periods of climate change that we have seen before, in the past thousand years.

    If anything, I see that line as backing the central notion of the Mann report.

    [Response: Wegman is just paraphrasing Osborn and Briffa (2006) (which we discussed ) – gavin]

  42. George Landis:

    I notice in the press today that a new congressional hearing by another House Committee (Mr. Davis’)is happening next week. It also quoted one of the invitee scientists as saying that today is 8-10 degrees warmer than 1000s of years ago. I cannot see that in even Mann’s extreme scenarios, anyone know what that is about?

    [Response: That happened yesterday, and the 8 to 10 degrees (F) remark was in relation to the ice ages (20,000 years ago) – which is an interesting number of course – but not relevant to the temperature reconstructions of the last millennium. – gavin]

  43. George Landis:

    OK, thanks, I thought perhaps Jim Hansen made that comment, since he used to think extreme climate scenarios are useful in provoking political action.

    [Response: No he didn’t. I suggest you actually read Hansen’s actual remarks, rather than someone else’s partisan pseudo-interpretation: – gavin]

  44. tom root:

    Can someone give me link to some theories as to what was happening in the tropics during the glacial epochs. (Either here at RC or elsewhere) Thanks!

  45. John Donohue:

    re: 42
    I can almost bet you that “8-10 degrees 20,000 years ago” was a result of pulling an alarm point from the Discovery Channel show “Global Warming all you need to Know” which aired Monday. Right in the first segment of that show there was a cynical moment. As an illustration of the ‘terrible melting’ now taking place, the speaker was standing in melt water of a glacier. He said “things are a LOT warmer here than they were 20,000 years ago.” No context was supplied! I screamed at the TV: “Yes, the Earth was in full glaciation then; this is the interglacial!” That was a dishonest moment for that show.

  46. Ron Taylor:

    RE #36

    Mark, I assume your post is a quote of Peggy Noonan, right? In any case, I cannot tell you how sad it makes me. It illustrates perfectly the chasm of world view between the scientific community and today’s political conservatives. It calls to mind John Deanâ??s quote of Barry Goldwater from a conversation they had in 1994. Goldwater asked, “John, where in the h**l is the conservative movement headed in this country?” Dean replied, “Barry, I don’t know, but I’m going to try and find out.” The result was Dean’s recent book, “Conservatives Without Conscience.” (Having been a Goldwater precinct captain in 1964, I sympathize with his question.)

    First, ask yourself why someone would become a scientist. Is it because of a lust for power? For money? Nonsense! For most, it is because of a deep curiosity about some aspect of the world and how it works. They are driven by the need to understand and explain things. Getting to that point requires intellectual discipline to master their field and to avoid having their work distorted by personal bias. But personal discipline alone won’t suffice, so a second level of discipline is imposed by peer review. If you have an idea or have achieved some result, you have to write it up in the most rigorous way you can, then submit it for publication. If it passes the initial screening and is published, then hundreds of highly competent people in your field will go through it carefully, trying to pick it apart, to find where you may have erred. To be effective at all in science requires both intelligence and intellectual honesty in seeking a description of provisional truth.

    By contrast, political conservatives represented by Imhof, Barton, Noonan, Limbaugh, et al, see the world entirely through ideological lenses, with power and money as dominant core values. So when an idea or a scientific result surfaces that is in conflict with their ideological goals, they assume it must have emerged from a conflicting ideology, i.e., “liberalism!” They cannot comprehend the possibility of non-ideological, objective truth (albeit, for the scientist, provisional.) Everything is reduced to politics and “inconvenient truths”, whatever their merits, are countered by political attack. What better illustration than the attempt to blame the whole AGW issue on a “small, in-bred group of paleo-climatologists.” The scientific consensus, of course, extends vastly further than paleo-climatologists, even if the description were accurate.

    Global warming will continue its relentless march, so eventually the chasm of understanding will be bridged, perhaps by the business community, which cannot base its decisions on ideology.

  47. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    Re #31, AGW by definition includes a human element, which brings in the need for human scientific inquiry (both on the cause & effect side). I know the social/behavioral sciences are not as scientifically “hard” as the physical sciences, mainly because people/societies/cultures are a lot more complex & there’s this self-reflexivity about them (sort of like an endless hall of mirrors).

    So, that means that perspectives from poli sci, econ, sociol, anthro, psych should all be considered when studying AGW holistically. And I think you could bring in the humanities, since AGW is also a moral issue.

    Many who contribute to this site (such as myself) are not physical scientists, though we want to learn more about the physical science side of AGW. We can only offer other comments & ideas, and for the most part these are not even rigorously within the human sciences domain either. So, just take them as hypotheses. RC & scientists did not bring politics into AGW — AGW is political/economic/cultural/social/psychological, as well as physical, by its very nature.

    The issue of AGW is important enough that we must thrash it around and hammer out ideas about it, no matter how “unscientific” they may seem. We need to grasp AGW at a level that includes, but goes beyond the physical sciences.

    As for the above critiques on “communism,” I would add that the Marxian conflict or critical perspective in the social sciences asks, “Who benefits?” I personally don’t follow that perspective because it is economic (social) deterministic. But the question is a good one to keep in mind.

    BTW, I personally find fault with both communism & capitalism — both of which are concomitants of industrialization. We need to move on to a better world for all. By refusing to address & solve AGW we are not only risking our material support system, but political & economic freedoms & stability, as well. Think of solutions (such as the idea in the UK of carbon rationing — see ) as innoculations against possible social chaos and material degradation.

  48. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    Good hypothesis, Ron (#45). It’s important to understand mindsets, as well as motivations (for one, because mindsets can even block people’s realization of their ultimate goals). You are right. People do have a tendency to think in binary oppositions (check out Levi-Strauss’s structuralism), which can help us think, but also can obfusticate deeper, more complex thinking & knowledge.

    That’s why I would suggest keeping the mind as open as possible. So I tend to fall back on: supposing the scientists are right & we do address AGW (or fail to address it). Supposing the denialists are right and we do address AGW (or fail to address it). Since my own experience has been economic improvement through efficiency & conservation (with an increased standard of living), I would say, even if the denialists are right, we should act as if they are not & address AGW. And in so doing ameliorate many other problems.

    Unfortunately, it seems economists are dead wrong — there are no soley economically motivated, rational, Spock-like people to heed this message. There’s other stuff going on in our psyches – like these limiting mindsets, and tangled up motivations & (who knows) subconscious horror stories.

  49. James L.Young:

    Year by year we are marching forward onto ‘thin ice’ while the politicians protect their special interests. The endless debating of Global Warming (GW) or not will put us in a position where we have passed the point of no return. When the Arctic Tundra Methane stock releases reach a high rate, it will probably precede Ocean releases of Methane by a few years. When the oceans warming trend continues to the point the vast deposits of Methane Ice stored in the cold waters reverts to gas, we will see a REAL spike in GW and as the saying goes, “Games over over Man”.

  50. Ron Taylor:

    Re 45

    John, I found the comment to be more stupid than dishonest. Whether it is warmer today than 20,000 years ago is really irrelevant. I took it to be a minor glitch that should have been caught in editing. Overall, I thought the program was good.

  51. Mark Shapiro:

    Once again, Lynn V. has a wonderful insight (# 47, # 48). Yes, RC is a science site, but the “A” in “AGW” does indeed stand for anthroprogenic. So while RC focuses appropriately on the the physical science of climate, the sciences of people attitudes, motivations, and behavior are not only important, but necessary if we want to change course.

    I will never tire of Lynn reminding us that rather than imposing cost or hardship, conservation and efficiency actually make you wealthier. But I must admit that my favorite post from Lynn, in replying to Crichton’s book, was that we should move to clean energy out of a “STATE OF LOVE”.

  52. shargash:

    Re: 13 & 39

    The old Soviet Union was an ideological state that filtered and twisted science to support it’s idealogy (q.v. Lysenko). In that regard it was remarkably similar to the present US.

  53. Eric:

    James (#49): have you considered the increase in OH in your scenario?
    Also, can you provide links on the amount of methane, rate of release, and change in rate of release? Thanks.

  54. Chuck Booth:

    Re#44 Here are some references (abstracts are, I think, available for free at the Science web site (

    Tropical Climate at the Last Glacial Maximum Inferred from Glacier Mass-Balance Modeling
    Steven W. Hostetler and Peter U. Clark
    Science 1 December 2000 290: 1747-1750

    Early Local Last Glacial Maximum in the Tropical Andes
    Jacqueline A. Smith, Geoffrey O. Seltzer, Daniel L. Farber, Donald T. Rodbell, and Robert C. Finkel
    Science 29 April 2005 308: 678-681

    Near-Synchronous Interhemispheric Termination of the Last Glacial Maximum in Mid-Latitudes
    Joerg M. Schaefer, George H. Denton, David J. A. Barrell, Susan Ivy-Ochs, Peter W. Kubik, Bjorn G. Andersen, Fred M. Phillips, Thomas V. Lowell, and Christian Schlüchter
    Science 9 June 2006 312: 1510-1513

    Early Warming of Tropical South America at the Last Glacial-Interglacial Transition
    G. O. Seltzer, D. T. Rodbell, P. A. Baker, S. C. Fritz, P. M. Tapia, H. D. Rowe, and R. B. Dunbar
    Science 31 May 2002 296: 1685-1686

    The Role of Ocean-Atmosphere Interactions in Tropical Cooling During the Last Glacial Maximum
    Andrew B. G. Bush and S. George H. Philander
    Science 27 February 1998 279: 1341-1344

    Rapid Changes in the Hydrologic Cycle of the Tropical Atlantic During the Last Glacial
    Larry C. Peterson, Gerald H. Haug, Konrad A. Hughen, and Ursula Röhl
    Science 8 December 2000 290: 1947-1951

  55. Stormy:

    From 2002 until this year, NASAâ??s mission statement, prominently featured in its budget and planning documents, read: â??To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers … as only NASA can.â??

    In early February, the statement was quietly altered, with the phrase â??to understand and protect our home planetâ?? deleted. In this yearâ??s budget and planning documents, the agencyâ??s mission is â??to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.â??

    I have a hard time having any hope. Sorry that this is off topic.

  56. Eric:

    This is somewhat interesting regarding Sen. Inhofe basically refuting all of global warming and saying that Al Gore is “full of crap”.

    This guy needs to stick to politics and let the scientists sort it out. His whole idea of the medieval warm period being warmer than now.. hasn’t that been totally refuted???

  57. Jeffrey Davis:

    No he didn’t. I suggest you actually read Hansen’s actual remarks, rather than someone else’s partisan pseudo-interpretation

    Hansen’s measured remarks are actually encouraging reading. Thanks. I expected his words — given his notorious remarks about sea level change — to have had a Chicken Little tone. Instead, he made the prospect of curtailing disaster seem not only possible but likely.

  58. cp:

    I was thinking that people focus too much on what will happen to the climate, plants and wild life and that this is not the right approach. No politician or CEO that take themselves seriously will pay attention to that. Maybe someone should rather focus on financial impacts of climate change. That might make a difference.

  59. Dadoo:

    So, I have to ask: when we have two seemingly reputable scientists who disagree, how do we know who’s right?

    This guy has been writing for WSJ, once a month or so, trying to discredit Global Warming. Since he’s a Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at MIT, people tend not to believe me, when I tell them he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    [Response: Ah, but he does know what he’s talking about. It’s just that he uses his knowledge to confuse rather than enlighten. You have to parse what he writes very carefully to see how he gives the impression of saying something without actually saying it. If it was just one scientist versus another, then your friends would be right – you wouldn’t be able to work out who was right. However, it’s more like all the other scientists against one, and then, it’s much clearer where ‘truth’ is likely to be. So point to statements by the National Academies of all G8 countries, point to the NAS 2001 report – on which Lindzen was an author, point to the IPCC – possibly the most well reviewed scientific document in history, and point to critiques of Lindzen’s statements here and elsewhere to see if they really stand up to scrutiny. -gavin]

  60. Juola (Joe) A. Haga:

    In respect to cp’s comment in #58, it might help to clarify thinking a little if we withdrew ourselves a bit and looked upon our ilk as a natural process which as been continuing for 200 thousand years. Within that stream, knowing and planning by talking are natural processes needed for that essential natural process, eating. To take one more step in the natural process of walking into the next instant, the natural process of believing or trusting contributes. Some will believe that 535 rule-makers can make plans for the planet. Some will not and will seek out ways of rule-making in which they can believe more. There is no use, I believe, in not being very cautious in thinking, talking and doing.

  61. Martin Lewitt:

    Re: 45, John, there were lots of hyperbolic and fearmongering moments in the Disovery Channel show. Hansen had his share of hyperbole: “99.9% of scientists say that we basically understand what is going on, – the science is overwhelming” Right after that, the show discusses the Hadley model, with animated natural and anthropogenic lines progressing across a time chart, and the anthro rising with the temperature and the natural not as much. IPCC diagnostic studies document lots of errors in the models, one of them, Roesch (2006) shows that model to have a globally averaged, annual positive surface albedo bias, note this is a bias against natural solar forcing.

    Eyeballing the chart (at 800% zoom), it looks like the UKMO-HadCM3 has a surface albedo for the period studied of 0.132. This is better than the all models average of 0.14, but still significantly higher that the satelite observations of 0.124 and 0.121. Apply surface solar fluxes to the errors of 0.008-0.011, we get globally averaged flux errors 1.33-1.8W/m^2. This is larger than the current globally averaged flux into the ocean for even the warmest recent years. (less that 1W/m^2 per Hansen)

    Do you really think 99.9% of scientists, or Hansen for that matter, thinks that in the nonlinear climate system, we can accurately attribute a net flux into the oceans of less than 1 W/m^2 with an error in a key relevant component larger than that? Presumably, in order to attribute, this figure between natural (most likely solar) and anthropogenic, even qualitatively, we would like to accuracy to be at least with 0.1 to 0.15 W/m^2. We are an order of magnitude away from that, even with a better than average model.

    Note, both figures are fluxes at the surface. The Roesch paper was also discussed in this other thread.

    Without premature use of models not yet ready for meaningful attibutions studes, the hockeystick is just as supportive of natural warming due to historically high levels of solar activity, as it is of anthropogenic warming. With solar attribution, the likelyhood based on both the solar conveyor theory, and Solanki’s study of the paleo records, that the solar activity will lessen in the first half of this century.

    Roesch (2006)

  62. George Landis:

    I have always found Dr. Lindzen’s critiques and analysis to be very objective and thought provoking, unlike Dr. Hansen’s or Dr. Pilke’s etc. I hope some of you actually read the Wall Street Journal, Ms. Oreskes had a letter to the editor today railing about Lindzen in a “how dare he question my work” type attitude. After all, she says, my work was peer reviewed in “Science” the leading peer reviewed science journal in the U.S. (and as we all know selects articles for sales value like Newsweek and brought us the famous Korean stem cell fraud scandal, which was also peer reviewed).

    She also identified herself as an “historian”, I think some thought her to be a scientist due to her background, but she has given that up it seems. She violates one of the cardinal rules of the scientific method (objectivity towards the outcome of an hypothesis), by stating that she never said the science was settled in her study, but then goes on at the end of the letter to challenge the business community to take action immediately to stop it. Very odd for a scientist, but understandable for an historian, who needs very little other than their own opinions to determine proof and fact.

    And BTW, I did read that Hansen said that, it is here:

    Look near the top of page 30, I can’t understand why people try to deny he said it, or maybe I can, given the politics of this issue.

    [Response: Just a problem of your reading comprehension then… And your characterisation of the Oreskes study is way off base. She asked the question whether there was evidence in the published literature for the existence of a scientific consensus, and in taking a reasonably large sample and not being able to find a single contrary peer reviewed article, she correctly deduced that there can’t be much of a ‘contrary’ literature. No surprise there. – gavin]

  63. John L. McCormick:

    RE# 51

    I too enjoy, at times, the wisdom of Lynn. And, I too struggle to conserve my energy use and practice other eco-habits out of a spirit of love.

    But, the modern American lifestyle and a warmer climate are not helping me save energy. My home has been invaded by blinking green lights my teenage son and we have purchased along with electric stuff. Maybe 7 percent of our electric bill goes into standby power and some of that power demand (air conditioner) is inelastic, at least by the rules my family has set down.

    Cutting energy consumption, in much of America, is not an end in itself and we all must understand that fact.

    Electric current is not the problem. It is how that current is generated that we have to keep clearly in focus.

    I live in Northern Virginia and my electricity is delivered by a Virginia power company but only through its wires. The actual kilowatts come from any plant in what is called the PJM or the Pennsylvania-Jersey-Maryland Interconnect, the power control area for 51 million people in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

    The electricity essentially is dispatched from PJM regardless of the state in which it was generated. PJM insures that there is enough power to meet expected customer electricity demand at all times plus an additional reserve margin above the peak demand is ready and deliverable in the control area.

    PJM determines the power demand for the next day and invites power stations to bid electricity at a price to serve that demand. The lowest bids get invited into the power grid first then more expensive power is committed until the projected demand is covered by power generators now contractually obligated to feed electricity into the grid.

    How does PJM dispatch electricity over the day?

    Conventional nuclear or fossil fuel power plants are called on first because of their relative low cost to operate and ability to deliver power into the grid at all times and are called base load plants. Others plants operate as “spinning” reserves waiting to be called on by PJM as the load increases during the day. They are backed off as the load decreases at the end of the day. Most natural gas combined cycle plants operate in this manner because they have higher operating costs and can deliver energy quicker when called on by PJM. PJM insures the lowest cost electricity is dispatched first, insures the reliability of the electric grid and monitors the market to prevent market powers/manipulation.

    On July 17, PJM customers set an official record for peak electricity use of 139,746 megawatts (one megawatt of electricity is enough to power 800 to 1,000 homes). Since PJM territory partners have about 165, 000 megawatts of power generating capacity on hand, PJM had no difficulty meeting the demand. So, PJM used 85 percent of its generating capacity in a market territory expanding in population and experiencing longer, hotter summers.

    If every PJM customer used 10 or 20 percent less energy, the same mix of power plants would still be put into service and those are primarily nuclear and coal plants and some hydro. Natural gas plants would be used if needed but their higher fuel costs would push up the floor price of electricity for that day. Wind would have the chance to bid its services as would solar (at least when the sun shines).
    The PJM Interconnection is not unique. Electricity deregulation caused the formation of other independent system operators (ISO) that pool generation and dispatch lowest cost power to their territory customers. New England, New York, California and the Midwest also operate under ISO control.

    Yes to electricity and petroleum conservation. But, there is a lot more behind that golden door than the public is aware and policy makers are willing to sort out.

    Nuclear and coal plants are the machines that drive the American economy — like it or not. As coal and nuclear plants age, — and believe it, a huge number are already past normal retirement age – they will not easily be replaced by cleaner, lower CO2-emitting plants because that fuel is becoming scarce (unless you like the idea of importing liquid natural gas from Algerian ports). New coal plant plans and construction are now the first option of the power industry.

    Wow, we are failing our children; all of whom we profess to LOVE.

  64. John Donohue:

    RE: 50 Ron Taylor,

    I am not anwhere so forgiving. If it was a glitch, then it is utter incompetence. And if the point itself was “irrelevant” as you claim, why have that person tromping through the ice melt to make that comment as the lead ‘fact’ of the show??

    I doubt it was a glitch. It is a piece of misinformation scripted and left in the final cut, and it gives Brokaw plausable deniability; after all it is TRUE that things were a lot colder 20,000 years ago! But the impression left behind is that ‘there is something VERY wrong, things should not be melting like this.’

    Remember, this is a “consumer level” show on Discovery; it moves very fast, and all the “average person” gets from that moment, right at the top of the show, is that ‘the ice is melting all around me and the water is raising the sea and it was a lot colder up here just a little while ago.”

    I have at least 10 other points in that show that made me snarl, I just don’t have time to address them now. I taped the show and will parse later.

    Sorry to be off-topic a little, but all back and forth on AGW, including the Wegman hearing and the upcoming IPCC report are ‘of a piece’, no?

  65. Alan - RE #33:

    If you pull an ostriches head out of the sand, will it attack you?

  66. John Donohue:

    RE: 61 Martin Lewitt
    “the Hadley model, with animated natural and anthropogenic lines progressing across a time chart, and the anthro rising with the temperature and the natural not as much.”

    You’ve pointed to the one item that got my attention as potentially significant. If that thing is actually fair, then it is persuasive for AGW. As part of the ‘loyal opposition’ to the AGW consensus, but not as knowledgeable as you obviously are, I need to pursue the validity of that “divergence” graph. I have a tape of the show; I have not been to the Discovery Channel website to see if the chart and its animation and data/basis are there.

    You’ve provided an excellent critical contention against it with your incisive objection and supporting links…so thank you. I’ll go down that street.

  67. Hank Roberts:

    >43, 62, George Landis
    Read this, from Hansen. I agree you haven’t understood it. He wrote there:

    “Summary opinion re scenarios. Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision-makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue, and energy sources such as â��synfuelsâ��, shale oil and tar sands were receiving strong consideration.”

    Now, read this page I’ve excerpted below (or at least read the snippet I copied here for you) — please. The scenarios were from the energy industry and government — assuming using all the coal, synfuels, shale oil and tar sands. Hansen calls them ‘extreme’ — he didn’t originate the assumptions, he started working out what could happen if that much fossil fuel was burned up in the last few decades. That was when he and other people first started looking at the consequences. The consequences were, yes, extreme.

    Gavin means, I think, that comprehension requires context. You need to know, or find out, what Hansen’s talking about to know what he meant.

    I used Google, looked for information about, in Hansen’s words, a “time, when … energy sources such as ‘synfuels’, shale oil and tar sands were receiving strong consideration” and I found: Results …about 295 for energy projection synfuel tar

    This all may be from years before you were born; we can’t assume you know the context. We can try to help you look it up.

    Here’s just one example from 1982 — back when energy use was predicted to go up, and up, and up, as Hansen describes:

    “One of the major issues in long-term energy analysis is the magnitude of energy supply. The model has two classes of energy supply …. The second class, which includes unconventional oil, unconventional gas, coal, … is considered resource unconstrained. That is, the amount of the resource, relative to potential demand is sufficiently large that for practical purposes, resource size alone does not constrain the rate of production.
    “Shale oil and tar sands.
    “… unconventional sources of oil. There is far less controversy surrounding resource estimates for shale oil and tar sands. These sources are known to be in massive global supply. … in a full accounting of energy demand.”

    I hope this is helpful. You can ask your school librarian or public library reference desk for help locating more of the relevant energy predictions from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s — before 300 baud modems — mostly only available in paper form. There are reference indexes for books and magazines at the library.

    Don’t give up. You can understand this stuff, in context, by looking for it.

  68. Mark A. York:

    “scientific community has come to a consensus, you just don’t want to believe it”

    I should have put the clip in quotes. That was Noonan speaking after my intro. She can’t handle the truth and clearly doesn’t know what the story is.

  69. Mark Shapiro:

    RE # 63 –
    John McCormick gives a good quick overview of how electricity gets to all our computers (and AC, lights, etc). It’s also a great place to show how well efficiency and renewables can help. Start with the 7 percent of his bill going to standby. Cutting that in half in all PJM’s 51 million customers cuts baseload by more than 4,000 megawatts (MW). That’s about 4 large (1,000 MW) power plants. Energy efficiency technology has improved in all the big use categories: lighting, refrigeration, and air conditioning, but implementation lags. Simple insulation alone reduces energy demand in summer and winter, plus it makes us more comfortable.

    Solar is intermittent, but it supplies power when demand is highest, a perfect fit. This reduces the need for those expensive peaking plants, and the gas that they burn.

    The choices are ours to make. They are individual choices, but good policy can steer us to better choices, through efficiency R&D, information, standards, and (dare I say it) tax policy.

    And if you think it’s just me, (and Lynn, and Amory Lovins at RMI, etc) talking efficiency, read this testimony by a Walmart executive in those other House hearings on Thursday:

    Walmart’s goals include:
    To be supplied by 100 percent by renewable energy.
    To create zero waste.


  70. isaac held:

    Re 61: Martin. A common misconception is that a climate model must confidently generate the energy balance of the earth to within 1 W/m2 before we can even begin to use it to discuss the sensitivity of the climate to a perturbation of 1 W/m2 in the forcing. Suppose that we are interested in the response to a perturbation of 0.1 W/m2; do we need a model with this level of accuracy in its energy fluxes before we can trust the model? Or 0.01 W/m2? Where does this end? It might have occured to you that scientists who use models in discussions of climate sensitivity must have thought about and rejected precisely the idea upon which your comment is based. Why do we reject this argument?

    Sometimes an equation is worth a thousand words:

    S(1-a) = A + BT.

    The left hand side is the absorbed solar flux and the right hand side the outgoing infrared flux. S is the incident solar flux averaged over the Earth, a is the planetary albedo, T is the temperature, while A and B are constants obtained by linearizing the infrared flux’s dependence on temperature. Increasing carbon dioxide increases A; water vapor feedback decreases B, etc. The sensitivity of T to a perturbation dS in the solar flux S is dT = (dS)(1-a)/B. If the albedo is actually a + da, then the sensitivity is instead dT =(dS)(1- a – da)/B. This is a small difference in sensitivity if the albedo error is relatively small, even though the sensitivity of T itself to the error da, which is -(da)S/B, might be comparable to the temperature change (dS)(1-a)/B that one is interested in! I hope this makes sense to you. This linear equation may seem naive, but it is not a good idea to worry about nonlinearity until one has a good grasp of this simplest linear energy balance perspective.

    As a secondary comment on your remarks, you quote numbers that evidently refer to surface albedos, but it is the planetary albedo, not the surface albedo, that is most closely related to climate sensitivity (see Ray’s Nov 2005 piece: A busy week for water vapor). A model that has too large a planetary albedo will have a surface that is too cold on average (holding everything else fixed) even if it has too small a surface albedo.

  71. Martin Lewitt:

    Re: 71, Isaac, I wasn’t talking about sensitivity, other than to point out that the positive albedo biases of the AR4 models reduces their sensitivity to solar.

    A model, however, does need to balance the energy budget to less than 1W/m^2 to get the climate commitment right, in a climate such as ours where the net heat flux into the oceans is also less than 1W/m^2. A model that is throwing away over 1W/m^2 of solar via globally averaged annual albedo bias at the surface, and yet still “correctly” balances the energy budget, reproduces the temperatures well, demostrates a realistic level of unrealized climate commitment, must be making compensating errors elsewhere. You are right, that the compensating error may be in the planetary albedo. But the compensating errors may be in other feedback mechanisms or forcings, or given the variance in model sensitivities to CO2, it is likely to be in increased sensitivity to CO2 in at least some of the models.

    In a non-linear system, it would be surprising if the compensating errors, left the model in a state useful for attribution, climate commitment or credible predictions.

  72. Hank Roberts:

    >43, 62, 68
    Oh. You don’t have a problem with reading comprehension, you have bunk sources
    I notice belatedly that ‘s one of Inhofe attack PR pieces, debunked at Scientific American:

    “Incorporating a strategy hatched by the committee’s new communications director, Marc Morano” — formerly with Rush Limbaugh, an early Swift Boat propagandizer, who sent them the press release personally. Proud of himself.:

  73. John L. McCormick:

    RE #70

    Mark, I am heartened by your optimism.

    I want to reiterate the central point in #63. Granted, not all US electric customers are dependant upon a conglomorate of electric power generators to supply power to blinking green lighted electronic stuff. But, Northern Virginians are locked into receiving the cheapest power available to our centrally dispached power control system; the PJM (see #63 for explanation of PJM).

    When I am forced to go deeper in debt (and sooner than I can really afford) to replace my leaking electric water heater it will be the most efficient available. Good news. It will also be powered by the cheapest kilowatt-hour of electricity the PJM can make available to my local power distributor. That means my efficient water heater will very likely be using a majority of electricity produced in coal-burning power plants. Bad news.

    That is the dark side of electricity deregulation.

    The electric utility commission, in states that deregulated electricity, has little to no power to command what plants will be built where. Those non-utility plants are electron factories owned by investors, i.e., stock holders.

    Electric utility deregulation is the deep pot hole Amory Lovins and others have yet to map a detour around. Some electric distributors offer packages of renewable energy to eco-conscious customers. The reality of that green option is that the power came from whatever sent that electron into the wires.

    If I wanted only solar power 24/7, my night time reading would be done under an oil lamp.

    Please excuse the details. Nothing in life is perfect. Why did we expect utility deregulation would open the gates for renewable energy?

    Dereg put a premium on the lowest cost kiowatt-hour of electric power.
    And, that is making electric power conservation a difficult investment for homeowners and apartment managers who would do it for climate change reasons. Their capital investment would not shut down that low cost coal plant.

  74. Ron Taylor:

    Re #64

    John, I agree that Brokaw’s statement about Patagonia being much warmer than 20,000 years ago was misinformation. It does not even come close to describing the seriousness of the situation. Try this Science Daily report from NASA-JPL for a much fuller picture.

  75. Halldor Bjornsson:

    The statistical arguments against MBH98 have never been convincing. What matters is the amount of variance explained (or how many PCs are significant), not how the shape of the first PC will change by centering. This discussed elsewhere on this site, the data are freely available…

    It is therefore unbelievable how much airtime the “controversy” has got.

    In my opinion what is needed is not more discussion of statistics, but more proxy records. And records of differing type. Especially for the first half of the last millenium.
    And also, better understanding is needed of the uncertainities associated with climate reconstructions for each type of proxy (see #17 above).

    Pherhaps, these hearings will lead to congress increasing funding for paleoclimatic research. Or maybe they will just be happy with this theatre-of-the-absurd.

  76. Mark A. York:

    I lived in Alaska for two years with no electricity or running water. I read by Coleman lantern and rejected avgas from helicopter operations in the area. It’s not for the faint of heart.

  77. John Donohue:

    RE: 64 Ron Taylor,

    No, the misinformation is not, as you stated, that the situation is worse than implied. Specifically and impactfully, it was a dishonest comparison. I guess I’d call it disinformation.

    The show was emphatically about “Global Warming” which absolutely has the connotation of AGW, rapid recent warming over the last 150 years.

    Meanwhile, the comparison, fired off casually and rapidly, was between now, at an up-swing fluctuation of an interglacial, with 20,000 years ago, earth in the grip of a strong glaciation. The difference in conditions, obvious to us but not to the “consumer” of pop-science on Discovery, is necessarily extreme. Therefore you have both plausible deniability and the ability to enthuse the speaker with passion, and the clear implication that that passionate statement referred to scary, rapid change from AGW in the very recent last few decades.

    Why didn’t Brokaw have his speaker say instead “Wow, it’s a lot colder here now than it was 8000 years ago when hottest point of this interglacial struck. You should have seen the water running off this glacier back then.”?

    My contention, not proven, is that because to say the honest thing “Wow, it’s warmer here than it was 80 years ago, but that’s just the normal ebb and flow of this glacier during an interglacial” would not support the advocacy of the program.

    Meanwhile the link you sent me to has no science by itself; it is a synopsis of the well known Rignot study. That study is not linked, although there is a link to NASA at the bottom.
    Have you vetted the Rignot study to get satisfaction that a comparison of surface topographical information could actually be joined with space shuttle data in a useful way? I’d be more interested in a new set of shuttle data taken under intensely controlled identical conditions to the 2000 mission and a comparison of the two.

  78. Jeffrey Davis:

    Look near the top of page 30, I can’t understand why people try to deny he said it, or maybe I can, given the politics of this issue.

    Hansen said that the former emphasis on extreme outcomes may have helped bring about attention etc. You cannot make that mean that Hansen is currently encouraging emphasis on extreme scenarios. Particularly when so much of the work you’re quoting from is encouraging a realistic and measured approach to the problem.

    Technically, you have turned a sentence in the subjunctive mood about an action in the past and turned it into a statement in the declarative mood about a present action. If he’d written, “Those tracks may have been made by a lion”, that wouldn’t mean that there was a lion outside now. And it certainly wouldn’t mean that he’s set a lion loose to make the tracks.

  79. caerbannog:

    The statistical arguments against MBH98 have never been convincing. What matters is the amount of variance explained (or how many PCs are significant), not how the shape of the first PC will change by centering. This discussed elsewhere on this site, the data are freely available…


    Download and take a gander at figure 1. The upper plot in figure 1 is one of hockey-sticks that M&M “mined” from red noise. The lower plot is MBH’s hockey-stick. They look remarkably similar, right? But look at the Y-axis scales — there’s nearly an order of magnitude of difference in the Y-axis ranges for the two plots. ‘Nuff said.

  80. Armand MacMurray:

    Re: #76
    “…more proxy records. And records of differing type. Especially for the first half of the last millenium.
    And also, better understanding is needed of the uncertainities associated with climate reconstructions for each type of proxy (see #17 above).”

    Exactly right!

  81. Ron Taylor:

    Re 78

    No, I have not vetted the Rignot study. That would be beyond my level of knowledge. I depend on the experts at RC for that sort of thing. However, I am not aware of any published work that has discredited Rignot’s results.

    I could draw on my small-town roots in the rural Midwest to tell you that I believe you misunderstand the likely reaction of the average viewer to the 20,000 year reference. I can easily picture those people asking, “So what in the bleep does that have to do with us?” They would have no frame of reference to give meaning to such a time span.

    Then I went back and reviewed the Patagonia part at the beginning of the Discovery Channel program. I realized that you had really misrepresented what was said. Here is the section in question.

    Tom Brokaw: In the last seven years, these glaciers (in Patagonia) have lost 10% of their mass.

    Switch to (scientist) Stephan Harrison: 20,000 years ago, this valley was much more covered in ice than it is now. The reason why we think climate change is so significant now, though, is that it is happening at a historically fast rate.

    Assuming Brokaw’s factual statement is accurate, it seems quite meaningful. Harrison somewhat clumsily tosses in the 20,000 year reference, but then neutralizes it by explaining that it is the rapid change of recent years that is of concern. That is also relevant to the subject at hand.

    I will have no further posts on this topic.

  82. Eric Swanson:

    Re: #80

    For what it’s worth, one should note that M&M’s paper is actually doi:10.1029/2004GL021750, not the number given in the link. Another goof from the careful analysts, M&M??

  83. Hank Roberts:

    I think the House Energy Committee chairman on his website gave away the real purpose of this push — taking control of the actual research done by agencies away from the scientists and giving it to political managers.

    Wegman, as quoted by Barton, on what statisticans do:

    “With clinical trials for drugs and devices to be approved for human use by the FDA, review and consultation with statisticians is expected. Indeed, it is standard practice to include statisticians in the application-for-approval process. …”

    New England Journal of Medicine:
    FDA Standards — Good Enough for Government Work?
    Jerry Avorn, M.D.

    “…there is one area of biomedicine in which the government allows — even defends — a minimal standard that would be unacceptable anywhere else in research. It is the set of evidentiary requirements maintained by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the approval of new drugs.”

  84. C. W. Magee:

    re 74:
    1. If you buy a solar/electric hot water system, it will only use off-peak, cheaper electricity, since all the daytime water heating will come from the sun.

    2. The reason that coal is the cheapest power source is that it does not include the cost of global warming. If coal had to pay into a compensaton scheme, then nuclear, hydro, and renewable might be cheaper.

  85. caerbannog:

    For what it’s worth, one should note that M&M’s paper is actually doi:10.1029/2004GL021750, not the number given in the link. Another goof from the careful analysts, M&M??

    I’m not a professional climatologist or statistician (not by a long-shot), but I’ve used SVD/eigenvector techniques fairly extensively in acoustic signal processing work. I find it hard to believe that anyone would put a singular vector with a small associated singular value on the same “numerical footing” as a singular vector with a large associated singular value.

    How did a blooper like that get past the reviewer? (If I tried a stunt like that at a project review meeting, I’d leave the meeting sporting a brand-new posterior orifice!)

  86. Chuck Booth:

    Re: #84″With clinical trials for drugs and devices to be approved for human use by the FDA, review and consultation with statisticians is expected. Indeed, it is standard practice to include statisticians in the application-for-approval process. …”

    The required (or expected) involvement of a statistician in biomedical research (i.e., in preparing grant proposals and papers for submission) is relatively new (past decade or two)and is consequence of the fact that, historically, most biomedical scientists had little or no training in statistics – as a result, the quality of statistical analysis in journal articles and preliminary data for grant proposals was pretty bad. So, funding agencies and journal editorial boards had to beef up the quality of submitted work by requiring better statistical analysis (some biomedical journals include a statistician in peer review).

    It is my impression that rigorous statistical analysis has long been the rule in the physical and natural sciences (at least in some fields of biology, though not all.

  87. Leonard Evens:

    Re #84 and #87:

    It is important to keep in mind that all statistics is not the same. In biomedical applications, it is possible to visualize a drug trial or something similar in terms of simple models involving sampling from an urn with different colored balls. That means it is relatively easy to isolate the statistical aspect of the subject from those aspects which require an understanding of content. So a statistician aiding such a study need not be a biologist to contribute.

    As far as I can tell, statistics in observational climatology arises in the context of time series. That subject is a bit murky, and it is not so clear what type of statistical model one should use. For example, consider the discussions in RC of white noise vs. red noise. It seems to me that a thorough understanding of the subject matter would be much more important.

    It is also important to note that not all statisticians are the same. In a complex situation in climatology I would be most comfortable with someone who had both a deep understanding of the science and also was capable of going back to first principles to be able to analyze just how to model the problem statistically, rather than someone who would just choose from one of a standard set of statistical sets. I don’t mean to downplay the difficulty of statistics, but from my personal experience, at least, I think it is considerably easier for a good climatologist to master statistics than for a good statistician to master climatology. I doubt that a statistician who doesn’t know the basics of climatology can contribute much to that subject.

    Even in biostatistics, disputes can aise between scientists and (some) statisticians. This was highlighted in reports in the NY Times on the effect of supplements on bone fractures in women. In a large double blind study, the effect on the total population was not statistically significant, meaning that any differences could have happened just by chance. That means that subject to various assumptions, which themselves can’t be established by statistics, there was a chance greater than a certain level, often 5 percent, that there was in fact no effect and the differences were due just to random variation in selecting the samples. But it happened that women who adhered strictly to the regimen and also older women did show a significant (in the same sense) effect. The hard nosed statisticians objected, as they almost reflexively will in such a case, that you can’t look at subgroups after the test. There are two objections. First you can’t be sure the subgroups were randomized even if the whole group was. The second is that if you look at enough subgroups, you are very likely to find at least one that shows an effect. (ESP studies typically suffer from this type of problem.) Both these objections are purely statistical and not based on substance. But it seems to me the second objection is not so strong that it should override all other considerations. At the very least, if you find the effect in a relevant subgroup, it should suggest further studies. Also, the study population was not divided into a large number of subgroups. In particular, one of the subgroups, women over 60, would be a natural group to consider on substantive grounds.

    Note by the way that about one in twenty studies found significant by the 5 percent significance level will in fact be wrong. Just how do you wrap your head around something like that? Perhaps I am wrong, but it has always seemed to me that practical use of statistics requires faith in some unprovable assumptions and the advantage a good statistician might have is that, understanding the theory behind it all, he/she may be more aware of that fact.

  88. Karen Street:

    Off topic, but on a topic many have been discussing:

    How do we fight the proposed coal power plants built without carbon capture and storage?

    It makes sense for us to write our newspapers, and contact our legislators, pointing out the advantage of a system like in California, where utilities are required in making plans to assume an ever increasing carbon tax. It makes sense to point out that increased costs of mitigation of greenhouse gases and adapting to (or just plain losing out to) climate change will swamp the small savings in electricity costs.

    Other arguments? Other people to argue with, besides newspapers and legislators?

    Is there any format here or elsewhere to discuss these kinds of questions?

    I will post this question on my blog and perhaps people can respond there.

  89. Roger Smith:

    Re: John in #74, restructuring doesn’t necessarily put a premium on the cheapest generation (it would if markets were truly competitive, but they’re not), but rather incents generators to maximize the difference between the cheapest baseload generators (coal, nuclear) and the most expensive generators (natural gas), as the price is set by the marginal, or most expensive, generator. Their profit is the difference between the two.

    Even within this framework, states like NJ are able to mandate that large amounts of renewables be part of the mix (20% by 2020 in NJ case), with further mandates for increasing amounts of solar. NJ and MD are also part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative which caps carbon dioxide pollution from power plants (10% cut by 2020).

    You can definitely knock fossil fuel plants offline. In CA, they’re doing this through a “loading order” of efficiency first, renewables second, and combined-cycle natural gas third, both to meet daily power needs, and for energy planning purposes. Maine and Rhode Island (both restructured) are also moving in this general direction by putting least-cost efficiency before new power plants, and mandating that the utilities do energy planning instead of just payign for more supply. Reducing demand changes the economics of energy and makes it unlikely you’ll get that new coal plant.

    Green power options are also real in that you’re not paying more just for the electrons, but the premium is for the social and environmental benefit associated with the type of clean power. These voluntary programs help build the market for clean energy.

  90. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    RE #63, there are still lots & lots of things people can do to reduce their GHGs. I know an architect near Chicago who built a passive solar home — shrub-covered birms & small windows & garage on the north, large window/sliding doors on south, letting sun shine on the brown tile floor, absorbing heat. He also did lots of other things, insulation, foam insulated window shutters, deciduous shade trees on the south to cool the place in summer, and a small shed for a highly efficient gas house heater/water heater combo (when it’s not heating the house, it can heating water. The extra 5% he paid for his house, which uses a tiny fraction of the energy of other houses, paid for itself in about 15 years, & is going on to save money.

    I have my TV & VCR on a strip, which I turn off, unless I’m recording something. Same with my computer — the strip goes off when not in use. I just feel blessed I’m on 100% wind power.

    In the south, there are other ideas to reduce cooling costs (I think U of AZ school of architecture is into that).

    The big problem is that most ideas for reducing GHGs are really small (but add up), & perhaps require more work & attention to ferret out & implement. But that shouldn’t stop such a great nation as ours (unless we go barton & throw up our hands in hopelessness).

  91. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    Anyone care to comment on a new study re methane from ocean hydrates perhaps going almost entirely into the atmosphere if they warm (rather than a large part dissolving into other stuff).


    Perhaps “hockey” is a bit too tame nowadays; maybe a “J” or shepherd’s crook shape may prove to be more accurate. But by the time the science is in on it, we probably won’t be able to stop, much less reverse, it.

    Barton should be investingating the runaway tipping point of no return. He might do better getting a few scientists on his side…& alerting the public about this real possibility of “hysteresis” with all his negative publicity.

  92. caerbannog:

    Just a wee bit off-topic… but the LA Times has just published an op-ed written by Naomi Oreskes, author of the Science journal article BEYOND THE IVORY TOWER: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.

    You can read a “fair use” (no hassles with registration) copy of Naomi’s op-ed at:

  93. Richard Simons:

    Lynn’s comment about a passive solar home reminded me that in the 1960s a high school in England (St. Helens? Eccles? – somewhere between Liverpool and Manchester) was built to rely on heat produced by the lights and all the bodies. Initially it had a heating system but after a few years it was taken out as it had never been used. On cold mornings, the lights were turned on to warm the place up. Admittedly that area does not get anything like as cold as many places in the US but materials such as glass have improved a lot since then.

  94. John Donohue:

    RE: 78
    No, you misrepresented my interpretation of the 20,000 year comment. It serves no honest purpose. On the other hand, it serves as plausible deniability for the claimant (that’s what the 20,000 is for, if they are ever challenged, not for the public, who, yes, will not notice the number), but enables dramatic emphasis for the speaker in making the contrast between solid ice and current receding glacier. As I said before, I’d love to see that very spot where Harrison was standing 8000 years ago, a more fair contrast date, and see how alarmed he’d be. My objection stands.

    It’s not too easy finding facts about the glaciers’ history. I did find this link:

    which may indicate glaciers HAVE died recently, not (as Tom intimated) ‘having survived since the last ice age’. I am not sure this study refers to the same glaciers as Harrison has been studying.

    From that link:

    “The chronology of Holocene moraines in front of Glaciares [sic] Upsala and Tyndall has been established by Aniya and Sato (1995a, b). The moraines were deposited around 3.6 ka, 2.3 ka, 1.4 ka, and 250 years before present. (In the Lakes District, Mercer’s (1976) dating of the oldest moraine is different, 4.6-4.2 ka, and the third one is not found.’

    What is meant by “moraine being laid down”? Doesn’t that mean a glacier that did not survive, and it’s melting occurred during the Holocene, leaving a moraine?

    Also, in another paragraph on the work of Caldenius, a picture seems to be created of massive ice caps during the big glaciations, certainly, but also empty moraines during the Holocene.

    Certainly anyone better than I at interpreting this study please explain deeper.

    I don’t see how this study supports Brokaw’s claim of ‘glaciers surviving’. Also, why chose that particular thought, which is then contrasted with his alarm-voice claim that they have recently lost 10% mass? Is the intimation that now they are now, for the first time since the last ice age, in threat of being lost.

    Also, the claim about the speed of retreat of the Patagonian glaciers? I wonder where the science is to support that it is significantly swifter than normal.

    It is so typical for glaciers to wax and wane in cycles, how was it determined that this one particular retreat is extraordinarily fast?

  95. Jim Redden:

    RE #93 reference to Naomi Oreskes’ Global Warming– Signed, Sealed, and Delivered

    Seems pretty on topic to me. However, I’ve been critically mulling over some of Lindzen’s theories, and taking a cue from his pondering, perhaps this season we have exchanged heat waves in lieu of the potent display of kinetic hurricanes.

    Indeed, Oreskes does a fine job of making her point… Thanks for calling out the article.

    Also, in the same section, the LA times has another article in the opinion section about California’s right to regulate CO2 emissions, “Global Warming on Trial: The Supreme Court is right to weigh in on the globe’s hottest issue”. (I think you can get to it without registering in the opinion section).

    After reading some international law, I can see how important it is to some interests that co2 is not classified as a pollutant both domestically and abroad.

  96. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Okay, I’ve neatened up the discussion of planet temperatures on my website and added a link to a paper which discusses what “optical thickness” means, with mathematical definitions and a worked example using Beer’s Law. This paper is much smaller than the planet temperatures one, about two pages, so I’d appreciate if someone knowledgeable could take a look at it and tell me if I screwed up anywhere. The URL is:

    Thanks in advance.


  97. James Annan:

    Since I’ve just written about it at tedious length (here and subsequently), I can’t resist the temptation to point out that Leonard Evens’ characterisation (in post #87) of what NHST tells us is incorrect:

    That means that subject to various assumptions, which themselves can’t be established by statistics, there was a chance greater than a certain level, often 5 percent, that there was in fact no effect and the differences were due just to random variation in selecting the samples.

    At least, I don’t know about the paticular case in question, but it is not generally the case that a non-significant result justifies the belief (at any specific level of probability) that there is no effect. In fact NHST doesn’t directly tell us anything much about whether an effect exists, and if so, what size it is. It’s not what it is designed to do.

  98. Ron Taylor:

    Re 98

    Darn, and I thought I was finished with this.

    Actually, John, I said nothing at all about your interpretation of the 20,000 year reference, which involves assigning ulterior motives to Brokaw and his colleagues. But since you brought it up, I do think your logic is convoluted to the point of meaninglessness. What they said (Post 82) stands on its own and requires no deniability of any kind. That is simply my own opinion and I accept that yours is different. Anyone who wants to know where this rabbit trail has led can simply read my post 82 and your post 98 and decide for themselves.

    Okay, I really am finished with this.

  99. Hank Roberts:

    An amazing (to me as a mere reader) comment’s recently posted in the Scientific American blog — this link:

    Find this one:
    Comment from: cearbannog [Visitor]
    July 22, 2006 @ 20:23

    There’s no direct link to the comment so I’ll quote a chunk of it.

    I _think_ this point was already made here and elsewhere and I just never understood it before. Is it correct as stated here?

    M&M generated a bunch of band-limited (“red”) noise data sets and performed eigenvector (aka principal component) decompositions. They demonstrated that “hockey-stick” shapes can often appear in the leading principal components even if the input is just random noise.

    However, there is a major problem with their claims. And it has to do with the fact that the “hockey-stick” principal components that M&M generated from random noise had associated eigenvalues that were *much* smaller than the eigenvalue associated with the leading principal component of MBH’s “hockey-stick” data. To determine how important a particalular “principal component” is, one must first scale it appropriately with its associated eigenvalue. You can see this problem in M&M’s own work by looking at figure 1 [p. 19 in the PDF file] in

    Figure 1 shows two time-series. The upper time-series is a “hockey-stick” shaped principal component that M&M generated from random noise. The lower time-series is the leading principal component that MBH generated from their “hockey-stick” data. A cursory look at the figure shows that the two “hockey-sticks” are remarkably similar, and that MBH’s hockey-stick could very well have just been fished out of data with no real temperature trends.

    But take a closer look — look at the Y-axis scales of the two time-series! The MBH “hockey-stick” Y-axis scale (lower plot in figure 1) has a range of roughly -0.5 to +0.3. The Y-axis range of M&M’s “random-noise” hockey stick (uppr plot) has a range of about -0.08 to +0.025 or so. There is nearly an order of magnitude of difference in the two plot scales! That is, M&M exaggerated the “significance” of their random-noise “hockey-stick” by nearly a factor of 10! If both plots were properly scaled, it would become painfully clear that M&M’s random-noise “hockey-stick” would be completely insignificant in comparison with MBH’s hockey-stick data plot.

    As I said, I think this was hinted at elsewhere and maybe explained here in the thread and I just didn’t get it til now. Is that right?

  100. Ron Taylor:

    Sorry, I meant people could compare your post 95 (not 98) with my post 82 and decide.

  101. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    #98, James, I like your point about a non-significant result not ruling out any effect.

    As an environmentalist, I would even take it further. I’d like to see the denialsts prove to me at 95% confidence that GW is not happening. But that would only be out of curiosity, since I would still continue to rake in money & savings from energy/resource efficience/conservation & even plow back some or that money into reducing actions that cause GHG emissions, since those GHG emitting actions also usually cause a host of other problems, as well.

  102. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    Re mention of the FDA (#84), I consider the agency a total joke. It has a dual mandate to help the F&D business communities, as well as the customers, and it tends to err on the side of helping business. E.g., the toxins fed to farm-raised salmon, certain drugs, and (my big peeve) inadequate labeling for MSG (much less control over it). MSG comes under 50+ different names, including “natural flavor” (40% MSG) and pervades our food supply; see . But the FDA refuses to recognize this or require adequate labeling of this neuro-excito-toxin that does great harm to some people, and has no benefits. It does not give flavor, but just excites brain cells (& kills them) making one think the food tastes better. Since it is cheaper than real spices, such as cumin, and is additive (making people eat more product), it’s a great deal for the food industry. So if the gov is involved in allowing this additive drug & poison on the market, no wonder they don’t care about harms from AGW.

    Furthermore, if Congress were following the ideal FDA model of protecting the people, then they would require 95% or 99% certainty that GHGs are not causing GW, before allowing us to emit additional GHGs much beyond what nature emits. Or, since GHGs have already been allowed on the market, they should be banning or curbing them!…according to the ideal FDA model, assuming the main mandate were to protect the people.

  103. Craig Butcher:

    I have a dumb question. I don’t understand the thrust of the argument made by ‘hockey stick’ critics.

    Do they claim that choice of statistical methods determines how much if any of a Medieval Warm Period temperature “bump” shows up on a graph of temperatures plotted against time? And that the Mann ‘hockey stick’ minimizes the plotted Medieval bump? Yet the more recent warming is not disputed?

    Or is it that, presumptively, there could have been no greenhouse forcing during the Medieval period? And that no greenhouse forcing before industrialization necessarily means no greenhouse forcing now? I don’t understand how this follows. Even if solar variability accounts for the medieval warming (which would have to be world-wide, in that case, not just regional), I don’t see why solar + greehouse would not both be factors today.

    Or are they arguing that there has been no recent warming?

    Some climate expert please clarify this. Thanks.

  104. caerbannog:

    An amazing (to me as a mere reader) comment’s recently posted in the Scientific American blog — this link:

    Find this one:
    Comment from: cearbannog [Visitor]
    July 22, 2006 @ 20:23

    Yeah, that was my post… I should follow up here and fess up to some sloppy terminology, as I probably should have used the terms “singular value” and “singular vector” instead of “eigenvalue” and “eigenvector”. (But singular values/vectors are similar enough to eigenvalues/vectors that it doesn’t matter too much in an “arm-waving”, non-technical discussion.) Hopefully, the more mathematically inclined folks here won’t cringe too much!

  105. MIKE:

    We are the only pollution makers!!!

    We live on the earth. We must treasure our earth all the time. A good living environment is very important to the people but the pollution problem is influencing our lives and other’s lives as well!!!.

    The air pollution and water pollution are global problems.

    Air pollution can cause health problems including burning eyes and nose, itchy irritated throat and breathing problems. The effects of water pollution are varied. They include poisonous drinking water, poisonous food. Unbalanced river and lake ecosystems that can no longer support full biological diversity deforestation from acid rain.

    I think people should take some measures to minimize it. We can use the new energy as the power to minimize the air pollution. We must stop to throw the rubbish in to the river.

  106. metaskeptic:

    Re: 95
    I think it’s pretty clear that the 20kyr statement was true but misleading. But I don’t follow your logic that 8kyr is an appropriate comparison; indeed, comparing today to the interglacial peak seems equally misleading. The point is not to cherry-pick a single date of comparison to fit a predetermined point (as both you and the offending documentary have apparently done). The point is to look at overall trends and to see where we fit into that picture. M&M’s criticism is that MBH’s technique overstated recent warming in relation to previous, non-anthropogenically-forced variations. The counterargument, which caerbannog and others have made to my satisfaction, is that if MBH did underestimate previous variability, they did so to such a small degree that M&M’s critique boils down to an insignificant technicalilty, and that the previous assessment of the overall trend — that anthropogenic forcing is causing warming outside the range of natural variability _for this point in the interglacial_ — still stands. This is essentially how the NAS panel presented their conclusion as well.

    Re: 104, I’m not a climate expert, but my understanding is that they’re not trying to argue that recent warming isn’t real (it is instrumentally measured, after all). They’re trying to say that MBH’s reconstruction of previous temperatures is flawed because it understates natural variability… and they’re trying to _imply_ that that means that current warming is within a natural range, and therefore AGW is insignificant. M&M, Wegman, et al. are not making any explicit points about anthropogenic forcing (greenhouse gases, etc.), but they are stating facts selectively and leaving big gaps to fill in. Someone who knows more what they’re talking about, please correct me if I’m mistaken.

    What gets my proverbial goat is those big gaps. It seems so transparent — they state just a few outlying facts, then present those to politicians (who are scientific laypeople), who then make some inferences and pass it on to the public (who are generally both scientific and political laypeople). It gets repeated by the talk show minah birds, and by the time the “facts” are drilled into the public’s minds, they’re so distorted that no semblance of science is left in them. Joe Public is left to believe that climatologists aren’t really scientists, but just tools of the left-wing alarmist propaganda machine. It’s like a giant game of telephone, where one person is deliberately altering the message… only the stakes in this case are rather high.

  107. John Donohue:

    Yes, you don’t follow my logic or my ironic method, but I am not going to try again.

    The reason you think it is in “gaps” and outlying is that the Consensus is presenting the ‘pro’ case; they are making the contention. Therefore, the burden is on them to prove the affirmative for a very unnatural hypothosis. The opposition’s job is to address first one part, than another issue, etc. and they do not have to make a continuous case. They are the obnoxious nitpickers. That’s par for the course when you declare a monumental, culture-shaking theory not only true, but irrefutable, settled, beyond doubt with no wiggle room. People will challenge you on a ‘but what about this’ basis.

    “This is essentially how the NAS panel presented their conclusion as well.” But not the Barton/Wegman panel.

  108. John Donohue:

    re: 104 Craig,

    I am a critic and not a climate expert, but I can respond with civility.

    Many object because we feel the statistical method used to generate the hockey stick artificially exaggerates the spike and diminishes both the Medieval Warm period and the Little Ice Age. Just contrast it with the IPCC 1990 graph included with the Wegman report, available as a PDF.

    We do not hold the Medieval Warming Period to be a isolated one-time bump or happenstance. Going back beyond 1000 years, we contend there is a fluctuation around a mean for 8000 years in 400 year loops, all within less than 1 degree C (but that is enough to be very noticeable), and that the Medieval Warming Period was an upside half of a full loop-around. It is true that Mr. Mann and others have stated that even without his data and graphs, other proxy series do not show this fluctuation, or show if to be very slight, especially in contrast to the spike since, say, 1940. Challenge accepted.

    However, there are data series to the contrary, as well, and they do show the fluctuation, including the final upswing since 1850 (but far less abruptly), and non-contradictory with the cycle I am describing. These series indicate temperature today reaching that of 1000 years ago, roughly. Our contention is that this upswing will assume the usual curve and flatten for a few hundred years, then cycle down to below the mean, and so on until the next glaciation. On its own, several hundred years at current or very slightly higher temperature definitely will get the world’s attention! That’s a lot of time for ice to slowly melt, as it certainly did 1000 -1400.

    All of the above is a priori consideration of human-driven greenhouse effect. We contend that, yes, mankind is contributing to warming through CO2 concentration, but not in even the remote neighborhood of the dire warnings of Mr. Gore or Mr. Brokaw, etc. Many also believe human attribution is not proven; that CO2 concentration is caused by warming, not that it drives warming, but that there still is human-contributed warming due to other factors. Few believe in runaway or tipping-point scenarios, or that there is evidence that the ~30 million year old Ice House has been trumped by industrial development over a few decades, and the world is about to return to 22 degrees C, and all the ice will melt over the next hundreds of years.

    There are two aspects that I personally subscribe to that bode strongly for higher than usual temperatures this time through the 400 year expected warm sequence:
    1) The slope up to today since 1850 may have been steeper than other upswings in this 8000 year period. It’s got momentum.
    2) Because of human loading of greenhouse gases, but more importantly because of land use changes and other factors, the 400 year upswing might last longer or be somewhat higher.

    Looks like we might be in for warm times next few hundred years. It might not be all bad. But what evidence is there anywhere that the next glaciation, expected between now and 10,000 years hence, will not commence right on schedule?

    I am describing the above contrarian stance as ‘beliefs’ or ‘contentions’, but that does not mean they are just invented. It is just not the place in this post to do any actual grounding or substantiation. Also, while I used “we” because I have associates who hold the same outlook, I speak for no one but myself.

  109. caerbannog:

    The opposition’s job is to address first one part, than another issue, etc. and they do not have to make a continuous case. They are the obnoxious nitpickers..

    But the proper forum for such obnoxious nitpicking is in peer-reviewed scientific journals, not in popular publications whose readership wouldn’t know a singular value from a Cingular cell-phone.

  110. Grant:

    Re: #109

    However, there are data series to the contrary, as well, and they do show the fluctuation, including the final upswing since 1850 (but far less abruptly), and non-contradictory with the cycle I am describing. These series indicate temperature today reaching that of 1000 years ago, roughly.

    Exactly what series are you referring to? Reference(s), please.

  111. Brian Gordon:

    Why RC sometimes unavoidably strays into political territory:
    “The MBH98/99 work has been sufficiently politicized that this community can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility.”

    Re: John Donahue:
    “I am describing the above contrarian stance as ‘beliefs’ or ‘contentions’, but that does not mean they are just invented. It is just not the place in this post to do any actual grounding or substantiation.”
    ???This is NOT the place for substantiation??? What makes you think this is the place to propound unsupported views – some of which are not only unsupported, but actually proven wrong?

  112. John Donohue:

    ok, i’ll change this:

    It is just not the place in this post to do any actual grounding or substantiation.”

    To this:

    I elect not to defend a position or statement at this time in this place. Craig asked for an explanation/description/clarification of what critics of the hockey stick think; that’s what I provided. Since I elect not to defend at this time, you can just state I am wrong, as you did, since the burden indeed would be on me if I insisted on proving my case instead of just describing my position. Meanwhile Craig hopefully got his answer.

  113. John Donohue:

    “Exactly what series are you referring to? Reference(s), please”

    Once again, I do not elect to argue this case, I am just describing a position. However, I will say that when this thread specifically asked (see above) for more proxy studies on the millenium, and especially the Medeival Warm Period, I DID post links to two fantastic pages which in turn link a panoply of studies, some of which more or less support the hockey stick, some which show a non-flat millenium.

    The post was not put online, but in retrospect that was to be expected as the page was at a site highly critical of the MBH and IPCC position.

  114. David:

    Two questions… one on science and one on the report.

    First is how can one really apply a “traditional” mean centred PC analysis when the proxies have different start and end dates? Unless I am missing something, it seems to be just plain impossible.

    Second one is anyone providing a reponse to the Wegman report highlighting the huge number of errors of fact it contains. For example, take chapter 6, para 10 (last part) – my comments in brackets.

    …it is clear that average global temperature increase are not the real focus (wrong, and what does this mean anyway?). It is the temperature increase at the poles that matter (wrong – most people live away from the poles and will and are feeling the impacts far before the polar icecaps roll into the oceans) and average global or Northern Hemisphere increases do not address the issue (wrong… what about spatial correlation). We note that according to experts at NASA’s JPL, the average ocean height is increasing by approxiately 1mm per year (wrong, the number is 3mm/year based on satellite altimeters), half of which is due to melting of polar ice (wrong, at least based on TAR the total polar contribution over the century was probably a slight reduction in sea level) and the other half due to thermal expansion.

  115. metaskeptic:

    John, please do repost, if you still have those links. Given that your rather harsh criticism of RC in #104 went through, I’m sure the mods would allow a simple reference (right, guys?). Perhaps there was some other reason the auto-moderating system rejected it before. Even an oblique reference to where this information exists might be helpful.

    If the information you’re mentioning constitutes a valid complaint about the state of the science, then it can only benefit the scientific community to see it. If it exposes holes in the scientific consensus, it gives the scientific community a chance to reexamine their arguments, and either strengthen their position or reevaluate their conclusions. M&M (and the Barton/Wegman “panel”, whose report was a brilliant exercise in circular logic, using M&M to support M&M) simply haven’t done that. They’ve picked a few nits off the gorilla, but the gorilla’s still there.

  116. Barton Paul Levenson:

    re #109 and “We contend that, yes, mankind is contributing to warming through CO2 concentration, but not in even the remote neighborhood of the dire warnings of Mr. Gore or Mr. Brokaw, etc. Many also believe human attribution is not proven; that CO2 concentration is caused by warming, not that it drives warming, but that there still is human-contributed warming due to other factors.”

    If the greenhouse gases aren’t driving the warming, what is? Elves? The Sun sure isn’t, because I’ve run that regression myself and it doesn’t hold up.


  117. Mark A. York:

    “For all its protocol, Wikipedia’s bureaucracy doesn’t necessarily favor truth. In March, 2005, William Connolley, a climate modeller at the British Antarctic Survey, in Cambridge, was briefly a victim of an edit war over the entry on global warming, to which he had contributed. After a particularly nasty confrontation with a skeptic, who had repeatedly watered down language pertaining to the greenhouse effect, the case went into arbitration. “User William M. Connolley strongly pushes his POV with systematic removal of any POV which does not match his own,” his accuser charged in a written deposition. “His views on climate science are singular and narrow.” A decision from the arbitration committee was three months in coming, after which Connolley was placed on a humiliating one-revert-a-day parole. The punishment was later revoked, and Connolley is now an admin, with two thousand pages on his watchlist – a feature that enables users to compile a list of entries and to be notified when changes are made to them. He says that Wikipedia’s entry on global warming may be the best page on the subject anywhere on the Web. Nevertheless, Wales admits that in this case the system failed. It can still seem as though the user who spends the most time on the site – or who yells the loudest – wins.”

    From a New Yorker story on Wikipedia. Unfortunately it leaves the impression that W. Connolley has pulled a fast one and the skeptic had a valid view. That’s not right.

  118. Armand MacMurray:

    Lynn, MSG does have a flavor. It was created precisely to stimulate the fifth type of taste receptor (after sweet, sour, salty, and bitter), “umami.” This receptor was only discovered in the last 5 years, but the taste was described (and MSG created) by a Japanese chemistry professor 100 years ago. A nice example of the difficulties caused by a premature “consensus.”

  119. John Donohue:

    re 117 BPL,

    “If the greenhouse gases aren’t driving the warming, what is? Elves? The Sun sure isn’t, because I’ve run that regression myself and it doesn’t hold up.”

    For the context of your reply, please define “the warming” (what time frame and range) and ‘greenhouse gases’ (which ones?)

    Thank you

  120. John Donohue:

    here are two links which respond to a request on this thread for more and various proxy studies, and especially for the Medieval Warm Period.

  121. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    #109 : But what evidence is there anywhere that the next glaciation, expected between now and 10,000 years hence, will not commence right on schedule?

    You might take the time every once and a while to actually look at the best available schedules :

    The glaciation train has definitely broken down.

  122. Anthony Shafer:


    Before we go on a wild goose chase, we should follow the money on these two organizations…

  123. Ender:

    John – “here are two links which respond to a request on this thread for more and various proxy studies, and especially for the Medieval Warm Period.”

    I found a lot of the papers that are referenced from link you posted from CO2Science to be badly misrepresented. Some of the papers actually said nothing like the CO2 science description.

    I listed some of them here:

    I actually now have all the papers mentioned in this ‘project’. I have not had a chance to go through them all however this now might be the time.

  124. Hank Roberts:

    Did you all listen to the House Energy hearings about the Wegman report? North, describing what he called his ‘bonehead’ approach to charting, showed and described how the ‘bump’ in the Medieval temperature period disappeared when he combined all the sources, and said it was because at that time some areas were warmer and some were cooler and they averaged out to disappear.

    The coal industry’s PR people are desperate to convince the public that warming happened worldwide in the Medieval, it’s one of the key foundation claims for their story. But the evidence is otherwise.

    It was one of the stronger points made in the hearings. I eagerly await the transcripts.

    If anyone (with Windows) is able to turn the RealAudio stream of the video into a downloadable file — oh, please, please do. I want to check the official transcript when it comes out and see if it’s accurate.

    Especially about the places that were so embarassing for the denial lobby, like this issue.

  125. John Donohue:

    I am always curious about that ‘follow the money’ refutation attempt. Those calling upon it think
    1) they are somehow exempt from the logical fallacy poisoning the well
    2) they are somehow exempt from having the tables turned on them with the same charges, due to them taking billions of tax money and being beholden to their own brand of special interests.

    How about a different paradigm, that a climate scientist, or an entire peer group of them, is capable of detachment and objectivity despite possible pressure or obligation from the source of his/her livelihood, and a critic of the Consensus is also so capable, even if they have received money from the oil industry? The work of any and all should be judged on its objective merits.

    The links at jscience are stronger. You’ll notice that even though some of the studies reveal a non-flat 1000-1900, many also reveal a shape closer to the Mann/IPCC shape.

    The first study cited, Moberg, A., et al. 2005, would be a good one for analysis. Both the graph and the raw data are provided; anyone who thinks the data was improperly graphed could issue their own graph. The evaluation of the statistical technique, “combining low-resolution proxies with tree-ring data, using a wavelet transform technique to achieve timescale-dependent processing of the data” is above my head personally. The data only goes to 1979, so any drastic upswing in the last 25 years would not be revealed. This study is one, however, which returns a non-flat millennium. This is a Northern Hemisphere study.

  126. John Donohue:

    re 122:

    I was not aware that part of the consensus on Global Warming is that the “The glaciation train has definitely broken down.”

    Is that actually true? That from analysis of climate, oceans and atmosphere, and regarding the human loading of greenhouse gases over the last century, that it is considered settled, irrefutatble science that the glaciation/interglacial cycle is terminated, the current ~ 30 million-year ice house has ended, we are about to return to 22 C, all the ice is about to melt?

    Frankly, it is hard for us critics to determine how far the consensus claim of settled and irrefutable goes.

    I am looking into the paper cited and looking for similar claims elsewhere. It might take me a while to respond

  127. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    Re #119, Armand, that is not the main point re MSG (tho they say if you taste it plain, there is no flavor, but only when added to food). But even if you’re right, it is still harmful to some people, and extremely harmful to a tiny number. That’s the point.

    I think this discussion highlights the topic here. Pointing out some small problem or inaccuracy that has nothing to do with the main point, so as to make it look like the main point has been discredited. You may also tell me that MSG occurs naturally in some foods to various extents, and that’s true. So I can’t eat kidney beans & coconuts — but at least labels have to tell whether ingredients include those particular foods, whereas they don’t have to (or simply don’t) tell about MSG content when disguised under different names.

    So if anyone from the food industry is listening — I just avoid all foods that have “natural flavor” (artificial is fine), “broth,” “spices,” “hydorlyzed xxx,” “autolyzed xxx,” “yeast xxx,” “malted xxx,” etc. Sometimes when I give in, I’m really sorry, and out of comission with a terrible migraine. I think the food industry would do better insisting that the FDA require labeling of MSG content, and amount (I can take a little).

  128. John Sully:

    John, note that there are two different Mann, et al, papers. The MBH98 paper showed a hockey stick with a basically flat handle — the “canonical” hockey stick graph. This recon only went back to 1400, a point in time when the NH was cooling down and headed into the LIA. Of course, this study would show no MWP because there was no MWP to show!

    MBH99 was a northern hemisphere study and did show a MWP and an LIA! In fact MBH99 stated that temps in the MWP approached 20th century means. So far from doing away with the MWP, MBH99 confirmed its existence, but only as a NH event.

  129. Ron Taylor:

    Re 126

    Ah, if only the ideal of universal objectivity you describe was possible! I even accept that you are probably trying to practice it yourself. But, unfortunately, history does not give us much reason for optimism.

    When nobody’s ox is threatened, grants are made for scientific research, which, like all honest research, tries to find the best possible description of provisional truth. But, ever now and then, the scientific consensus moves toward a conclusion that threatens a major financial interest. Then another kind of research money often surfaces. It claims to be scientific, but everyone understands (wink, wink) that it is expected to provide plausible results that counter the emerging consensus. There is nothing scientific about trying to construct a rationale in support of a predetermined result. It poses as scientific, it is clothed in scientific language, but it is not scientific. That is not to say that all contrarians fit this mold, but so much garbage (think of the M&M effort to demonstrate a random data hockey stick) filters into the information stream that trust gets pretty much destroyed.

    I am sure that RC readers could cite many examples of the above. I am old enough to remember Ford’s cover up of their exploding gas tanks; I took Vioxx for years even though the manufacturer knew full well that it was dangerous; then, of course, there is the classic case of the tobacco companies funding studies to show that smoking does no harm, while their own secret internal studies showed that it did.

  130. Chuck Booth:

    Re #126 John Donohue seems to be suggesting that in order to find the truth about anthropogenic global warming (AGW), one should pretty much ignore the scientists actually studying global climate and oceanography, and instead look to skeptics like Steve Milloy. I don’t think anyone can argue that academic and government scientists are infallible and 100% free of bias, but their professional reputation is built on producing original and creative work that is published in the peer-reviewed literature. There is no apparent reason to think that, collectively, climatologists and oceanographers have a vested interest in promoting theories about AGW for any reason other than that the data suggest to them that the phenomenon is real and the consequences could be detrimental to society.

    On the other hand, Steve Milloy has ties to think tanks and industry groups that raise serious questions about his impartiality (some links provided below), not to mention a lack of forthrightness in disclosing relevant information about potential biases. Moreover, his academic background suggests that he lacks the qualifiations to comment with much authority on many of the topics discussed on his website. If I have form a judgment about the dangers of second-hand smoke, I am much more inclined to look to the National Institutes of Health and the National Academies of Science than to Steve Milloy. Likewise, when it comes to AGW and the reliability of the “hockey stick” model for temperature trends, I will defer to the the researchers actively publishing on the topic in top quality, inernational, peer-reviewed journals, and distinguished scientific bodies such as the U.S. National Academies of Science and the Royal Society (UK), rather than Steve Milloy (or John Stossel, Tom Brokaw, and Al Gore, for that matter).

  131. Leonard Evens:

    Re # 98:

    James Annan objects to my statement about statistical significance in the context of a study desiged to see if the use of nutritional supplements is justified in order to prevent bone fractures in older women. I’ve spent some time at his blog looking at his arguments, and I think they have quite a lot of merit. I must admit though that statistics has always given me a headache just because of such issues. In the past, I was smart enough and had enough understanding of probability theory that I could eventually figure it all out, but it never came easy. I’m not sure I have the patience today. So let me just make one additional clarification. When applying probability and statistics, one must adopt some conceptual model for what one is doing. This will involve the mathematical concept of a sample space and also some philosphical assumptions about the relation of reality to any model you come up with. Having done that, you can draw relatively precise conclusions, stating probabilities, and it is clear what they mean in terms of your conceptual model. But often, that meaning isn’t what a naive interpretation might suggest. James Annan’s discussion gives examples of just how that can happen. My point was that in a typical biomedical study, the conceptual model is fairly straightforward, but there are still disagreements about how to interpret the results. The situation in observational climatology is much more complex, and getting agreement on a plausible conceptual model may not be so easy. I wanted to emphasize that treating it as a problem in pure statistics independent of the subtance may beg the question about what an appropriate conceptual model might be. That is why any statistician collaborating in such a study should have a thorough understanding of the science.

  132. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    Is that actually true?

    Yes it is.

    That from analysis of climate, oceans and atmosphere, and regarding the human loading of greenhouse gases over the last century, that it is considered settled, irrefutatble science that the glaciation/interglacial cycle is terminated, the current ~ 30 million-year ice house has ended, we are about to return to 22 C, all the ice is about to melt?

    You got it. We apologize for the inconvenience. I don’t know what you mean by 22 C, but complete melting of all the remaining polar ice caps within roughly 1000 years, is now guaranteed, if we don’t stop pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Methane feedback effects will do it. Even if we burn all that methane, it’s still going to happen.

    Back to the PETM we go. It’s a very simple conclusion, just extrapolate a 3-5 ppm/y carbon dioxide rise for the next few centuries. It’s over John, all you are doing is wasting my valuable time that I could be using to do the condensed matter physics necessary to change the obvious result of continued carbon and hydrocarbon combustion on this planet. That is, if we don’t destroy ourselves with nuclear fission first.

  133. Joseph O'Sullivan:

    #126 (John Donohue) “I am always curious about that ‘follow the money’ refutation attempt”

    I have used this arguement myself. It does sometimes need a little explaination.

    The sources, like junk science, are financially supported by regulated industries and groups philosophically and politically aligned with them. They are giving these groups money to spread a political message, not to do any scientific research. The political message is consistant: there should be no government regulation. They try to cast doubt on the science to cast doubt on the regulations.

    Getting involved in a public discussion to influence political decisions is an admirable thing to do. However intentionally misleading is not. The groups that junk science and others work for have a long history of dishonest behavior in the public debates.

    The point is to show who is behind behind the arguments and remind people that they can not be trusted.

  134. Hank Roberts:

    John Donohue — you’re asking for “settled, irrefutatble science”

    “Irrefutable” isn’t science. Science isn’t irrefutable.

    You seem to be reading advertising/PR sites, that publish puffery for the Western Coal Association, and quoting their talking points here.

    Why do you trust these people for your information?

  135. John Donohue:

    134, Joseph Oâ??Sullivan

    Amazingly, rather than refute my point, you gave a textbook example of ‘poisioning the well’ and then offered it as a good thing! It’s a fallacy.

    Let me give you an example:
    If someone who works for Exxon whose job it is to find holes in the arguments that claim gobal warming is caused by burning their oil actually DOES find a data, logic or methods problem with that argument, it should be discarded because they work for Exxon?

  136. John Donohue:

    In #135 Hank Roberts objects to my question being put in the form of the extreme “irrefutable” but in #133 not only are my terms “Irrefutable” and “settled” and “fact” reflected back in the affirmative, but “guaranteed” is thrown into the bargain.

    Certainly each poster here speaks for himself, but perhaps 135 ought to make a trip to the mound to settle down 133. That is, unless others reading this thread concur with Mr. Elifritz’ level and syntax of certainty.

    I checked a little deeper, and can find no member of the AGW consensus who is quoted (at least as visible to the google spider) as having used the word “irrefutable.” I retract any implication in my question that any scientist has made a claim of certainty using that word.

    What level of certainty is implied (or what term is appropriate) when the AGW community presses for government and international restrictions and actions, as well as calling for voluntary life-style changes? Proven? Probable?

    Additionally, if ‘irrefutable’ is not a term members of the AGW consensus allow for themselves, maybe some cautionary words are needed for the media-types who are running the message to the public. I do not hold you responsible for their rhetoric, but they are characterizing the Consensus conclusions.

    David Suzuki

    Tom Brokaw,
    Quoted as having said Al Gore was using the same science he was, “and that it was irrefutable.”
    Many many links found, just google it, no denials or apologies found. If he was misquoted by hundreds of journalists, he does not seem to have objected.

  137. John Donohue:

    129 John Sully,
    Thank you for that clarification. I’m going to look at both studies/graphs and also ponder a good question I can put back to you on the significance of NH vs Global studies for a few days. Appreciated.

  138. Dan:

    re:136. Except that the person who works for Exxon is either a. usually unqualified scientifically to make such comments, and/or b. cherry-picking irrelevant or trivial points to make them sound like *the* “proof” that every major scientific organization in the world (yes, the world) is wrong, and/or c. hardly ever publishes such comments in peer-reviewed journals.

  139. Jeff Weffer:

    junkscience did nothing but post real data streams (from NOAA etc.) and studies by other climate scientists (with track-back links to the sources so one could actually check the data from the studies.) There are 100 times more climate studies linked in the website than there are at this website.

    Unfortunately, the website’s author, John Daly, passed away and there are only a few people posting the occasional update on the site.

    The Exxon link above is rather ridiculous because it shows Exxon donated only $40,000 to the website whereas maintaining a site like that over many years, including the 24/7 time that John Daly put into it, would have cost substantially more. It was strictly his personal mission to add fact to the debate rather than belief.

  140. Barton Paul Levenson:

    < <"If the greenhouse gases aren't driving the warming, what is? Elves? The Sun sure isn't, because I've run that regression myself and it doesn't hold up." For the context of your reply, please define "the warming" (what time frame and range) and 'greenhouse gases' (which ones?)>>

    I regressed temperature (temperature anomalies + 287 K to find absolute temperatures) on Mauna Loa CO2 fraction, a trend, and the sunspot number. The period covered was 1959-2004 (N = 46). CO2 and the time trend were both highly significant (p > 99.9%), sunspot number wasn’t even significant at the 95% level. If you have another solar time series you’d like me to use, I’d be glad to run it through. CO2 all by itself accounts for 74% of the variance, so even if there is a Solar effect it’s most likely trivial.

  141. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Re: #140

    That should have had the quote from earlier where the denialist guy asked me for the time period and which greenhouse gas(es) I was talking about. Here it is again, with my original phrase and his reply:

    [[[“If the greenhouse gases aren’t driving the warming, what is? Elves? The Sun sure isn’t, because I’ve run that regression myself and it doesn’t hold up.”

    For the context of your reply, please define “the warming” (what time frame and range) and ‘greenhouse gases’ (which ones?)]]]

    Guys, never use double angle brackets to quote stuff — browser HTML interpreters take it as a tag!


  142. PHEaston:

    RE 133. Thomas Lee Elifritz
    Given your very pessimistic view of our future, I’m interested to know which period in history you would prefer to have lived. When were things better?


  143. caerbannog:

    re: 117

    re #109 and “We contend that, yes, mankind is contributing to warming through CO2 concentration, but not in even the remote neighborhood of the dire warnings of Mr. Gore or Mr. Brokaw, etc. Many also believe human attribution is not proven; that CO2 concentration is caused by warming, not that it drives warming, but that there still is human-contributed warming due to other factors.”

    If the greenhouse gases aren’t driving the warming, what is? Elves? The Sun sure isn’t, because I’ve run that regression myself and it doesn’t hold up.

    Obviously, you are talking about the same elves who are responsible for stratospheric cooling. ;)

    But more seriously, the observed stratospheric cooling is the most obvious nail in the coffin for the denialists’ solar-forcing claims. Unless, of course, they can come up with a plausible mechanism that would explain how an increase in solar output would cool the stratosphere.

    Perhaps Mr. Donahue could provide a non-greenhouse-gas explanation as to why the stratosphere his been cooling while the troposphere has been warming. I suspect that such an explanation will involve a *lot* of arm-waving, though…

  144. caerbannog:

    re: 142 (I must have forgotten to close a #$@! tag.)

    My response to the quoted material starts with:

    Obviously, you are talking about the same elves who are responsible for stratospheric cooling…..

  145. Robin Johnson:

    Slightly off-thread – Peter Doran (Antarctic cooling) has an interesting op-ed in the New York Times (free registration required).

  146. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    Even if you assume a continued linear rise of carbon dioxide concentration at the observed level of 2 ppm/y, complete melting of the ice caps is ‘certain’. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I consider that ‘irrefutable’.

    However, in the greater scheme of things, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics and general relativity is certainly ‘refutable’.

    Give it your best shot, we’re counting on you.

  147. Hank Roberts:

    John Donahue:

    If it’s “irrefutable” it isn’t science.
    I don’t mean just climatology or atmospheric chemistry.

    You’re mixing rhetoric and research and they don’t mix well in discourse.

    Science is by definition refutable. Falsifiable is another word for how science works with the world.

    Again, you are taking your material from the public relations sites that offer puffery in the service of paying clients, primarily the Western Fuels Association.

    Why do you trust these people for your information?

  148. Mark Shapiro:

    Re 144: The Peter Doran op-ed on his antarctic temperature studies, and how he feels they have been misrepresented, is exactly on the topic of the difficulty of keeping claims and counterclaims in context.

    Re John Donohue’s several comments – I especially liked “Certainly each poster here speaks for himself, but perhaps 135 ought to make a trip to the mound to settle down 133.”

    Many of us are trying to sort wheat from chaff, signal from noise. If you want reasoned, low-temperature discussions of the issues, comments on blogs are not the place to go. But there are signals even here, as you have seen. Some are about the science, some about the politics and money, some about emotions. Good luck sorting them out.

    Should you look at oil companies’ scientists? Sure, but cross-check all the assertions and conclusions ASAP.

    BTW, commenters often use works like truth, certainty, proof, irrefutable, so just discount them. Look at MBH 99, which provoked the Barton investigation and Wegman report. The subtitle is “Inferences, Uncertainties, and Limitations”. Sounds appropriately cautious and measured to me.


    Here is another little off-thread from ABCnews about paid lies from a company
    “Making Money by Feeding Confusion Over Global Warming”

  150. John Donohue:

    re: 139 Dan,

    a) No rational person is unqualified to question the logic and methods of any scientific paper on the grounds of errors in those papers. The objection does not have to be about the subject matter per se, it can about the logic. A sharp, rational MBA, statistician or mathematician is qualified to spot holes in the structure and method of a study in another field, should they exist. They can also spot holes in the general interpretation/conclusions of a tendered proof. They can also call into question, with authority, the level of certainty attributed by the Consensus with regard to models that predict a completely radical departure from natural cycles. A journalist can offer contrary studies that contradict the consensus that stand unchallenged. Hell, Matt Damon mopping up the corridor of a building at MIT is qualified to challenge, if his brains and logic are good enough.
    b) if the points are trivial or irrelevant, the consensus response would be devastating, correct? If thus refuted, how could they have any traction?
    c) right now, the issue of the particular peer review system upon which the AGW Consensus counts so heavily, is itself the subject of fresh focus by the contrarian community. You can count on more of that, indefinitely.

  151. John Donohue:

    Withdrawing the word ‘irrefutable”, and still searching for the fair and proper level-of-certainty language, let me recast my statement accordingly:

    Does the consensus hold that from analysis of climate, oceans and atmosphere, and regarding the human loading of greenhouse gases over the last century and on the case that it continues or increases, that it is considered proven that the glaciation/interglacial cycle is terminated, the current ~ 30 million-year ice house has ended and all the ice is about to melt over roughly 500-2500 years?

    Note to all, although I will not retort in kind, the trend of smear labels treated as common rhetoric by some in this forum is rather curious. Although this is unsolicited, I’ll offer the point of view from the outside that, in addition to it piling one fallacy on top of another, it makes the person using the smear look scared.

  152. Hank Roberts:

    Thomas, see James Annan’s good writing about these words. News reporting and PR sites share the same problems explaining what science is offering. And even the sciences aren’t clear on this, statistics is a very new discipline with much disagreement yet about what’s best practice and how to describe what’s learned.

    We don’t want to fall for the rhetorical trap of insisting that if we can’t find ‘irrefutable proof’ then science isn’t ‘proving anything’ and can’t be trusted — that’s just PR stuff. It fools people all too well, they come in “certain” about what they know and post it here!

    That’s why I keep asking those who come in with it where they are getting their information and why they trust what they’ve been told elsewhere — ask them to come in questioning, and they’re halfway to understanding how science is done.

  153. Hank Roberts:

    > 146, Michaels (of the Cato Institute)
    Wow. He’s already on record as receiving $75,000 from Exxon alone last year, and now has received $100,000 this year from a coal-burning utility.

    Interesting to see mainstream media documenting these payments.

  154. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    #109, re the dire warnings of Mr. Gore, I’ll have to disagree with you. I was a bit disappointed in the film because it didn’t go far enough, but remained pretty much squarely in conservative, “we need 95% certainty catastrophe is upon us to make claims,” science (at least 90%, or how about 60% certainty).

    So, it didn’t even mention the possibility of hysteresis — limited runaway warming that caused more than 90% of earth’s life to die in the end-Permian extinction. Such warming could happen again, and you are absolutely right about GW having more than one cause — the initial warming (this time caused by humans) could cause massive releases of carbon (e.g. melting permafrost and ocean hydrate methane), which causes further warming, which causes further releases, spiralling out of human control to reverse.

    How likely is this — my guess is it’s getting more & more likely all the time, while science keeps having to recalibrate upward the direness of its messages on GW as the years go by. Compare the IPCC reports of the 90s with 2001, & with the one coming out.

    Now these increases in the dangers & harms from AGW are not because a whole lot has changed re GHG emissions over the 90s and since, but because the science is getting better & better.

    One day we may wake up in 2030 to a scientific study that informs us we reached the point of no return (we triggered irreversible warming – hysteresis) by April 5th, 2016, and we are in for a really bad time, with enormous human/life death toll over the next several thousand years. And though we can reduce the harm a bit through our GHG reductions & storage, we’ve pretty much committed a large chunk of life to harm & destruction.

    Why would any sane, good person want to risk that (and–if you are a believer–a much hotter place for eternity), when we can save $$ through energy/resource efficiency/conservation? Beats me.

  155. Ron Taylor:

    Re 146

    There is nothing off-thread about this! How can Patrick Michaels retain any credibility whatever? He was not given a grant for a particular piece of scientific research. He was paid $100,000 to say what his patrons want him to say. Whether he actually believes what he says is beside the point. His voice has been purchased.

  156. John Donohue:

    re 147 Lynn,

    Does your prediction include the global mean temperature exceeding the normal 22C during and after the ice melt? In other words, will we simply terminate the current Ice House and return to normal earth temperature, or are you predicting worse than that? Other than during the first Eon, do you know of proof that global mean temperature ever exceeded 22-24 degrees C for extended periods?

    Certainly if temperatures shoots past the normal 22 C, … (see section on Phanerozoic Climate, the ceiling of ice-free earth is considered to be 10 degrees warmer than the current 14, so, say 24 degrees C, although I have read other studies that say the normal mean is 22C.)

    …then earth could become completely hostile to life (runaway Venus?).

    On a more likely scenario, temperature would level at 22C, no? Certainly if all the ice melts there will be gigantic upheaval. But if it stops there, we would be back to the world-tropical climate during which the Cambrian Explosion and evolution of dinosaurs took place.

    Additionally, some science indicates that life form diversity varies directly with CO2 concentration, and thus relief from the current near-zero CO2, compared with that of the early Phanerozoic, would not predict extinctions, as you do, but rather species explosion.

  157. Armand MacMurray:

    Lynn, thanks for the clarification. You originally stated that MSG “…has no benefits. It does not give flavor…”, and thus “…if the gov is involved in allowing this additive drug & poison on the market, no wonder they don’t care about harms from AGW.”
    You can see why I didn’t understand that your point was that MSG is “…harmful to some people, and extremely harmful to a tiny number.” I completely agree with this last statement. I’ll just note that the same is true for peanuts and some other substances and, while proper labeling is necessary, the scientific consensus is certainly against considering MSG an “additive drug & poison.”

  158. Brian Gordon:

    Here’s an example of Steven Milloy’s reasoning:
    20 April, 2006
    “The relationship between CO2 and temperature is logarithmic in nature; that is, as CO2 increases in the atmosphere, it absorbs less and less additional energy to produce correspondingly less and less additional warming. At some point, adding more CO2 to the atmosphere doesn’t significantly change atmospheric temperature.”
    Source: “The Greenhouse Myth” by Steven Milloy

    Why would additional CO2 molecules in the atmosphere absorb *less* energy? I can understand that at some point the atmosphere becomes saturated with CO2, though I suspect that’s a long way off, but that’s not what he’s saying here.

    Lynn (147): I agree with everything in your post except this: [After passing the point-of-no-return] “…we are in for a really bad time, with enormous human/life death toll over the next several thousand years.”

    I doubt we’ll have more than a few decades of civilization once people realize we’ve passed the PONR. Social consequences will destroy most of us long before the effects of climate change do.

  159. Hank Roberts:

    Dr. Lubchenco, quoted in that article, has taught academic scientists how to effectively communicate with the public.

    She’d be a wonderful person to invite here I think, and able to talk about the research needed to decide what’s going on with the climatologists.
    Excerpts from the link in 194:

    “Something about the system that’s very fundamental has changed,” said Jane Lubchenco, an Oregon State University marine ecologist who has studied the phenomenon.

    It’s too early to know whether the oxygen-starved ecosystem can be linked to global warming, scientists say, partly because what’s causing the hypoxia is linked to cyclical ocean conditions.

    In May and June, strong winds over the ocean pulled cold, oxygen-poor and nutrient-rich water from deeper areas and brought it closer to shore, a process known as “upwelling.” Normally, upwelling is good news….

    “Then the winds quieted down. We had no upwelling winds, a couple of weeks of very calm seas and all those microscopic plants that had been growing like gangbusters started to die and sink,” Lubchenco said. “And the bacteria that began to decay used up all the rest of the oxygen in the water.”
    The lack of correlation with any El Niño or La Niña events combined with the dramatic swings of recent years could suggest a human link, OSU oceanographer Jack Barth said.

    “What I do know is the climate change models for this part of the world say if you heat up the land more, you get a change in upwelling winds,” Barth said. “They’ll be delayed in the spring and stronger late in the year. That’s exactly what we saw last year. What I’m comfortable saying is it’s consistent with climate change.”
    Precursors to this story were noted a month ago, as here:

    …. This is the time of the year when the ocean off the California coast should be at its most lush, teeming with vast schools of krill to feed whales and salmon as well as plenty of baby rockfish for seabirds, seals and fishermen’s nets.

    But based on new counts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, federal researchers are reporting an odd summer and a scarcity of some sea life from San Diego to Newport, Ore., for the second year in a row. And some scientists wonder if the warming of the world’s oceans and atmosphere is playing a part.

    “The upwelling that we normally expect in the springtime hasn’t kicked in,” said Frank Schwing, a NOAA oceanographer.
    … The average catch rate of 100-day-old shortbelly rockfish was 24 per trawl over the past quarter century. In May and June 2005, the average rate was 0.15 fish per trawl, the lowest on record. This year is comparable to 2005, he said.

    “We’re getting El Nino-like conditions in non-El Nino years,” Ralston said.

    In El Nino years, the California Current is influenced by the powerful short-term fluxes of warm water that are precipitated by a failure of trade winds at the equator. But such an oceanwide effect hasn’t been seen.

  160. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    that it is considered proven

    There you go again. I’m not even going to bother, except to point you to the best available evidence :

    You need to ask yourself what a 3000 ppm carbon dioxide Earth will look like.

  161. Dan:

    AP story from 7/27/06. Nice to see mentioned!


    Utilities giving big bucks to Virginia global warming skeptic

    AP Science Writer

    Jul 27, 2006

    WASHINGTON – Coal-burning utilities are passing the hat for one of the few remaining scientists skeptical of the global warming harm caused by industries that burn fossil fuels.

    Pat Michaels _ Virginia’s state climatologist, a University of Virginia professor and senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute _ told Western business leaders last year that he was running out of money for his analyses of other scientists’ global warming research. So last week, a utility organized a collection campaign to help him out, raising at least $150,000 in donations and pledges.

    The Intermountain Rural Electric Association of Sedalia, Colo., gave Michaels $100,000 and started the fundraising drive, said Stanley Lewandowski, IREA’s general manager. He said one company planned to give $50,000 and a third plans to give Michaels money next year.

    “We cannot allow the discussion to be monopolized by the alarmists,” Lewandowski wrote in a July 17 letter to 50 other utilities. He also called on other electric cooperatives to launch a counterattack on “alarmist” scientists and specifically Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”

    Michaels and Lewandowski are open about the money and see no problem with it. Some top scientists and environmental advocates call it a clear conflict of interest. Others view it as the type of lobbying that goes along with many divisive issues.

    “These people are just spitting into the wind,” said John Holdren, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “The fact is that the drumbeat of science and people’s perspectives are in line that the climate is changing.”

    Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a Washington advocacy group, said: “This is a classic case of industry buying science to back up its anti-environmental agenda.”

    Donald Kennedy, an environmental scientist who is former president of Stanford University and current editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal Science, said skeptics such as Michaels are lobbyists more than researchers.

    “I don’t think it’s unethical any more than most lobbying is unethical,” he said. He said donations to skeptics amounts to “trying to get a political message across.”

    Michaels is best known for his newspaper opinion columns and books, including “Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians and the Media.” However, he also writes research articles published in scientific journals.

    In 1998, Michaels blasted NASA scientist James Hansen, accusing the godfather of global warming science of being way off on his key 1988 prediction of warming over the next 10 years. But Hansen and other scientists said Michaels misrepresented the facts by cherry-picking the worst (and least likely) of three possible outcomes Hansen presented to Congress. The temperature rise that Hansen said was most likely to happen back then was actually slightly lower than what has occurred.

    Michaels has been quoted by major newspapers more than 150 times in the past two years, according to a Lexis-Nexis database search. He and Lewandowski told The Associated Press that their side of global warming isn’t getting out and that the donations resulted from a speech Michaels gave to the Western Business Roundtable last fall. Michaels said the money will help pay his staff.

    Holdren, a Harvard environmental science and technology professor, said skeptics such as Michaels “have had attention all out of proportion to the merits of their arguments.”

    “Last I heard, anybody can ask a scientific question,” said Michaels, who holds a Ph.D. in ecological climatology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “It is a very spirited discussion that requires technical response and expertise.”

    Other scientific fields, such as medicine, are more careful about potential conflicts of interests than the energy, environmental and chemical fields, where it doesn’t raise much of an eyebrow, said Penn State University bioethicist Arthur Caplan.

    Earlier this month, the Journal of the American Medical Association announced a crackdown on researchers who do not disclose drug company ties related to their research. Yet days later, the journal’s editor said she had been misled because the authors of a new study had not revealed industry money they got that posed a conflict.

    Three top climate scientists said they don’t accept money from private groups. The same goes for the Web site, which has long criticized Michaels. “We don’t get any money; we do this in our free time,” said contributor Stefan Rahmstorf, an ocean physics scientist at Potsdam University in Germany.

    Lewandowski, who said he believes global warming is real just not as big a problem as scientists claim, acknowledged this is a special interest issue. He said the bigger concern is his 130,000 customers, who want to keep rates low, so coal-dependent utilities need to prevent any taxes or programs that penalize fossil fuel use. He said his effort is more aimed at stopping carbon dioxide emission taxes and limits from Congress, something he believes won’t happen during the Bush administration.


  162. Karl Sanchez:

    It would seem that Gore’s film and the hearings caused a reaction: The “Vampire Memo.” This and some commentary can be found at,

    The memo can be downloaded for sharing and is quite a read.

  163. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    #155, you’re right. We have to consider the market crashes (remember how a simple computer glitch sent it tumbling in the 80s), wars, atrocities, and social chaos that would result from even relatively minor GW harms — well before major harms kick in. However, even though human societies might be so in shambles as to have our GHG emissions reduced greatly before major harms kick in, I think there’s enough carbon in nature to continue GW hysteresis and its harm to many many species for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

    Feel free to jump in, scientists, on “what if we get into a severe hysteresis (say at the level of the end-Permian extinction era), how long might it last, & how much harm might there be to life species, in general, & to humans in particular.”

    I’m not being hysterical, but we need to consider this, just like the Pentagon considers outlandish political/war possibilities–especially since the powers-that-be are not considering it, since they don’t even admit regular GW is happening. We may be in the Titanic without a captain, or Apollo 13 without Tom Hanks.

  164. James Hamilton:

    An interesting post, it may well be that the statistical theatrics that have surrounded the critique of the ‘stick’ have run their course. The literature is simply too supportive of the general results presented in MBH to carry on with this nonsense. The comments by von Storch reflect that position and for the wider community it is obviously time to move on. However, as a previous poster has pointed out the critique will go on indefinitely. The new target, peer review itself. Should anyone care? I think not, the contrarians have few options remaining, the mainstream public has now left them behind.

  165. Ron Taylor:

    Re 157 John Donohue quote:

    “On a more likely scenario, temperature would level at 22C, no? Certainly if all the ice melts there will be gigantic upheaval. But if it stops there, we would be back to the world-tropical climate during which the Cambrian Explosion and evolution of dinosaurs took place.

    “Additionally, some science indicates that life form diversity varies directly with CO2 concentration, and thus relief from the current near-zero CO2, compared with that of the early Phanerozoic, would not predict extinctions, as you do, but rather species explosion.”

    John are you seriously suggesting that a return to Cambrian conditions might not be so bad? Are you the same guy who is so upset over climate scientists suggesting we change how we use fossil fuels, because it would be so disruptive of our economy and society?

  166. Mark A. York:

    I’m watching the Barton hearing right now. Dr. Mann is on deck but Barton has called for other disciplines to be included: physics, econ, and, stats and so on. It looks like public hanging to me.

  167. John Donohue:

    re: 166 ron taylor….
    my post numbered 157 was in response to lynn in 155, which raised fairly apocalyptic possibility of “hysteresis — limited runaway warming that caused more than 90% of earth’s life to die in the end-Permian extinction.” She felt Mr. Gore should have painted a picture of that. Further down in the post she warned we might later find out “we are in for a really bad time, with enormous human/life death toll over the next several thousand years”. I was asking for clarity, if she thought this result would happen as and when the temperature reaches and levels off at 22 C, or was she thinking worse.

    1) no i am not suggesting a return to the conditions of the Early Phanerozoic, with CO2 at 5000 PPM and spiking to 7000,would be good or desired. [by the way, can anyone point me to an explanation of how there could have been a deep Ice House for millions of years in the Early Phanerozoic, with CO2 at 4000-5000?] I made that comment because the post seemed to not have any sense of the temperature leveling off at the normal mean of 22-24 C.

    2) “Are you the same guy who is so upset over climate scientists suggesting we change how we use fossil fuels, because it would be so disruptive of our economy and society?”
    i made no comment anything like what you are asking about. If I am mistaken, please cite the post number. If anything, and if the consensus on AGW is correct, we are in a far more emergency situation than “disruptive”. I’d say we’d have to have the UN ban burning coal world wide, order gas internal combustion engines totally out in 10 years (how about all electric?) and build nuclear power plants to make the electricity to run the cars and heat homes. The UN would have to force all arable land to be planted with trees (or any other plant that sucks up CO2). But…what to do about the methane? One thing to watch out for…if we stop burning fossil fuels, we could reduce soot pollution to the point that clouds become less reflective (smaller water droplets) of in-bound solar, thus increase radiant load and contributing to heat gain (I saw it on Discovery, it was called ‘global dimming.’)

  168. Chuck Booth:

    Re #157 John Donohue wrote, “some science indicates that life form diversity varies directly with CO2 concentration, and thus relief from the current near-zero CO2, compared with that of the early Phanerozoic, would not predict extinctions, as you do, but rather species explosion.” and referenced the PNAS article by Cornette et al. (2002).

    The Cornette et al. study may not indicate quite what Mr. Donohue thinks it does. First, Cornette et al.’s Fig. 1 shows “spikes” in atmospheric CO2 level and marine diversification occuring over tens (if not hundreds) of millions of years – such slow changes in CO2 likely prevented significant changes in ocean pH due to geochemical buffering and permitted marine organisms to adapt to the rise in CO2. A major concern about current rising atmospheric and ocean CO2 and temperature is the rapid rate of increase, on a a scale of centuries (if not decades), which may preclude many species from adapting to those changes. For a discussion of this, refer to the reports on ocean acidification due to rising CO2 from the Royal Society (June 2005):, and NOAA-NSF-USGS (June 2006):
    Second, in their concluding paragraph, Cornette et al.stated: “Finally, the correspondence between geochemical and biological history documented here and the two instances documented by Rothman (8)strongly suggest that the overall controls on most of the macroevolutionary record are environmental variables controlling CO2 levels.” This suggests (to me, at least) that a relationship between CO2 level and marine diversification is likely a correlation rather than cause-and-effect. For example, earlier in the Discussion Cornette et al. suggested, “Yet another hypothesis is that enhanced CO2 levels may be associated with increased sea-floor spreading rates that could encourage biological diversification by isolating faunas.”
    Third, the Cornette et al. article dealt only with marine diversification. The effect of rising atmospheric CO2 may not be such a great thing for many terrestrial plant communities, unless you think more kudzu, Japanese honeysuckle, and poison ivy are a good thing (

    Finally, I can’t resist commenting on another of Mr. Donohue’s statements: “Certainly if all the ice melts there will be gigantic upheaval. But if it stops there, we would be back to the world-tropical climate during which the Cambrian Explosion and evolution of dinosaurs took place.”
    I suspect a rise in sea level of 80 meters ( would not be such a great thing for most countries with a seacoast. And I would point out that the “Cambrian Explosion” and the rise of dinosaurs occured over many tens of millions of years – somehow, I doubt the opportunity to witness the beginning of another round of spectacular evolutionary diversification (if it were to occur) would compensate for the undesirable effects such global warming would have on society.

  169. Hank Roberts:

    Did anyone type anything into a blog along with this hearing, or manage to convert the stream to a downloadable file?

  170. Lawrence McLean:

    Re #168.
    John, a factor you may not have considered is that the solar flux has slowly increased over the last few hundred million years. In the periods you mention, the Solar flux was significantly lower than it is today.

    Note however, do not jump to the conclusion that solar flux is the cause of the current warming. That is just a straw the skeptics cling to. If anything, I believe the current solar flux is at a slightly lower level compared to 40-50 years ago.

  171. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Re #140 — For a good look at what’s wrong with John Daly’s website, try this link:

  172. Leonard Evens:

    Some of the discussion here, particularly the comments of John Donohue, remind me of the pitfalls I’ve encountered when trying to diagnose my own medical problems. As a smart person with hypochondriac tendencies I’ve learned quite a lot about medicine, and in some cases I may actually know more about some restricted topics than my doctors. What I don’t have is the training and experience that medical school, residency, and years of practice affords. As a result I have no sense of what is relevant and what isn’t, which makes self diagnosis difficult. Similarly, if one hasn’t taken the time to master climatology, a minimum of two to three years, even starting from s strong scientific background, it is going to be be difficult to say sensible things. This applies both to those inclined to believe in global warming and those who really don’t want it to be the case. In addition, amateurs have little to lose when arguing the science, but professionals, who likely have made a few mistakes along the way, are much more aware of their fallibility and are going to be careful about what they say. That is why we rely on professionals for advice rather than trying to work it out for ourselves.

  173. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Re #97 — has anyone looked at my optical thickness page? Please let me know of any mistakes.


  174. Jeff Weffer:

    “… by the way, can anyone point me to an explanation of how there could have been a deep Ice House for millions of years in the Early Phanerozoic, with CO2 at 4000-5000? ”

    Generally, the position of the continents and the land masses makes the greatest contribution to the average temperature of the earth.

    The more land masses are concentrated toward the poles, the colder earth becomes. At various periods in earth history, the majority of the continents were locked up over the south pole. Think Antarctica times 10. As the glaciers build up at and near the poles, they spread out covering more land, reflecting more sunlight into space and the colder it gets, etc.

    At various times in earth’s history, the continental alignments have lead to a complete freezing over of the planet.

    Today, we have Antarctica and Greenland close to the poles which has contributed to the last 3.0 million year period of ice ages. North America and the EurAsian plate also moved slightly north over the past several million years.

  175. Ron Taylor:

    Re 168

    John, you are correct about not having said anything like what I attributed to you. My apologies – I clearly confused your name with the post of someone else. I should have been more careful.

    I do think your description of the potential consequences of the AGW consensus is much too extreme. I urge you to read “The Race Against Climate Change” in the December 12, 2005 edition of Business Week, to see how industry is already moving to adapt. Better yet, take an online subscription to BW, then do a search on “global warming.” You will get way too much to check, so then click on “advanced search” and put in a date range for the past couple of years. I think you will be surprised.

    Yes, there will be some disadvantages for coal and oil, but there is no way we are not going to use those resources. We will just have to pay the cost as a society for reducing the carbon output.

    I was an early participant in the incredible effort to put a man on the moon within ten years. American science and industry are orders of magnitude more capable now than they were at that time. Given the proper incentives for R&D, I am confident that the AGW problem can be successfully addressed over the next 20-30 years. That will not, however, change the impact of the continuing positive feedbacks resulting from GHGs already released into the atmosphere. So there will still be some tough times ahead. How tough and how long could depend significantly on how quickly we get to work on the solutions.

  176. Hank Roberts:

    I’m finally watching the 7/27 House Energy hearings.
    These are worth watching. It is at least possible to scroll forward and skip the half hour breaks for votes.

    One thought — purely on image, and fairly early in the hearing stream — same thought I have when the climatologists write here, in fact.

    Clarity and simplicity: start using paragraphs (in spoken work, taking breaks at significant points to allow slow thinkers time to absorb the point made).

    It’s getting better as I watch the hearing go on, for all the witnesses.

    Ball in other court, Waxman’s telling Christie he has a letter from him refusing to share code, describing “the spaghetti we wrote” — earlier, Christie did a nice and I think practiced statement acknowledging having been corrected on his satellite papers. But Waxman’s being sharp. He just ran out of time, and ends saying the scientists do seem to do more backbiting than the politicians. Waxman’s asking to put a letter from Wentz into the record; one of the Republicans is objecting to putting the letter in. Chairman ‘we’re about truth … will almost certainly put that in the record’.

    Now he’s questioning Dr. Mann again …. back to watching

  177. Hank Roberts:

    Ack! around

    Stearns: “anything else you want to comment on?”

    Wegman: “… carbon dioxide distribution. That was prefaced by a comment by me that I din’t know anything about carbon dioxide but I supposed for example that carbon dioxide settles. That was purely a hypothetical conjecture that I did not mean it to be taken as testimony.

    “Dr. North talked about a barrier of carbon dioxide at high levels in the atmosphere so he gave in his diagram the illustration that carbon dioxide was not mixed. So I you know that certainly is something that should be clarified. I did not mean to testify that carbon dioxide settles at ground level….”

    –> this is just strange. What’s he thinking?<— Later: around 4:05-07 Blackburn (Tenn.): “environmental extremisn” …. “when I was growing up in the 60s there was going to be an ice age” (she said earlier she was taught that in high school) to Mann: “you’ve said that other studies have confirmed your results but it does not appear that their statistical analysis has been thoroughly examined and I want to know if you would be open to an independent review …. of climate change papers before those papers were published. …. so if we’re going to put government money into your papers should they be reviewd by others other than your social network before they are published… .with government money.” Mann: “there are some confusions…. two of the studies were reviewed … centering convention …. four different studies …. the peer review process is actualy working” Blackburn: “do you think they should be submitted for independent review before they get published?” 4:05:53 Mann: “…. that’s how scientific progress works.” Blackburn: Dr. Wegman? Wegman: “Dr. Mann did not answer your question ‘if you submitted to a statistical review panel would you be willing’ …. one of the troubles with this paleontological climate work is they don’t have interaction with statistical … it’s almost nonexistent, they are not interacting with our group although they are using methods that are based … a path to a better way of doing the science, … it behooves the meterological community to be interacting with us.” Blackburn: “I have Michael Crichton’s testimony … in ’05 … he was talking about that government grants should require a replication package … there is no reason to exclude anyone from reviewing the data. … Is that the type of thing ….” Wegman: “… this stuff ought to be subject to exceptionally … talking about the FDA and how the FDA requires some statistical … just to vet the drugs … seems to me in this climate arena this has incredibly important decisions …. ought to be carefully reviewed. The fact is that Dr. Mann continues to appeal to peer review but the fact is that peer review failed….” Blackburn: Dr. Christie, refers to Soon “Ten Myths of Global Warming”…..

  178. Joseph O'Sullivan:

    #136 (John Donahue)
    â��Amazingly, rather than refute my point, you gave a textbook example of ‘poisioning the well’ and then offered it as a good thing! It’s a fallacy.â��

    I think we might disagree on what poisoning the well means.
    I was not using this tactic. I was noting that the industries and the groups that work for them and with them routinely make misleading comments.

    Using a few misleading statements to falsely paint the industries and their allies as unreliable is �poisoning the well�. Noting that nearly everything they have said in the past about climate science is misleading is not �poisoning the well�.

    �If someone who works for Exxon whose job it is to find holes in the arguments that claim gobal warming is caused by burning their oil actually DOES find a data, logic or methods problem with that argument, it should be discarded because they work for Exxon?�

    No, but considering that Exxon and their allies have consistently lied about climate science it is very likely that their work is misleading.

  179. Hank Roberts:

    There are a lot of statisticians’ organizations! Is anyone going to this annual gathering?

    Joint Statistical Meetings

    Aug 6, 2006 thru Aug 9, 2006

    Seattle, WA
    Duration: 4 days

    JSM (the Joint Statistical Meetings) is the largest gathering of statisticians held in North America. It is held jointly with the American Statistical Association, the International Biometric Society (ENAR and WNAR), the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, and the Statistical Society of Canada. Attended by over 5000 people, activities of the meeting include oral presentations, panel sessions, poster presentations, continuing education courses, exhibit hall (with state-of-the-art statistical products and opportunities), career placement service, society and section business meetings, committee meetings, social activities, and networking opportunities…..

    I hope at least one of the 5000 attendees is weblogging it.

  180. James Annan:

    Re #132,

    Of course my comment was a bit of a pointless nitpick in that context, especially since I don’t disagree with you at all on the main thrust of your comments. It’s just there is a bit of a culture clash in the way estimation is performed in climate science (at least in the climate sensitivity part) so I’m particularly looking out for these issues.


  181. Yong:

    Hank Roberts,

    Could you please tell where you watched the congress hearing? Did you record it? If you did, could you please share with us? I watched last congress hearing. I am very interested in this one. Thank you very much.

  182. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

  183. Chuck Booth:

    From the August 4 issue of Science (p. 603):

    Climate Squall Peters Out

    Congressional hearings on what’s wrong with the science of global warming have quietly segued into less threatening channels. Last year, global-warming skeptic Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) launched an investigation of the so-called hockey-stick climate record, which portrays dramatic warming starting in the late 19th century. Scientists feared that Barton was going to politicize the science, but the matter culminated innocuously enough in two hearings late last month. He has asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to examine data-sharing policies, “especially as they related to climate change research.” He also plans to ask the National Research Council to examine questions including whether climate science peer review may be too inbred.

  184. Stephen Berg:

    The following “hot off the presses” short communication seems to support MBH98, but it also seems to suggest that MBH98 may have overestimated temperatures during the LIA:

    Smith, C.L., Baker, A., Fairchild, I.J., Frisia, S., and Borsato, A. (2006) Reconstructing Hemispheric-Scale Climates from Multiple Stalagmite Records. International Journal of Climatology. 26: 1417-1424.

    Interesting reading, though.

  185. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Re #184 and “Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) launched an investigation of the so-called hockey-stick climate record… He also plans to ask the National Research Council to examine questions including whether climate science peer review may be too inbred. ”

    Perhaps they should investigate whether representative Barton may be too inbred.

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.