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A much more eloquent rebuttal of TGGWS

Filed under: — gavin @ 17 March 2007

Promoted from the comments, the download of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Now Show’ (Mar 16) is available here (at least for now). Key bit starts at about 18min in, (the rest of the show is pretty funny too).

307 Responses to “A much more eloquent rebuttal of TGGWS”

  1. 1
    Ben.H says:

    Amusing, yes, but perhaps as well not to get too friendly with the Now Show – if I remember correctly, they’ve been none too kind to Al Gore in the past. Mind you, I can’t recall them being kind to anybody in the past.

  2. 2
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    very funny stuff

  3. 3

    Just read the transcript and I want to congratulate the folks who put their effort into the global warming debate in New York city. Regardless of the outcome of the vote at the end, you did a fantastic job! Clearly on substance, as one reads the transcripts your “sceptic” crowd said almost nothing about global warming, lots of funny comments but nothing substantial at all. Don’t know how it will sound on NPR yet but on paper, word for word, idea for idea, it was a great effort! And very helpful for someone like myself who took part in Gore’s training in Nashville and am to some extent dealing with the same challenges myself during my own presentations. THANK YOU.

  4. 4
    Don Thieme says:

    That gets me off the hook on laundry today!

  5. 5
    Walt Bennett says:

    (Off Topic)


    I read the transcript of the debate you participated in. Those formats are useless for getting to the bottom of anything, but there may be a better way – the blogosphere.

    Here is Lindzen’s closing statement. Perhaps you would like to rebut:

    RICHARD S. LINDZEN Yes. I think it’s a little bit difficult to know how to respond,
    to be told that, uh, one shouldn’t attack scientists while you’re attacking scientists,
    to go and say you have to control methane without explaining that methane has
    stopped growing. You don’t explain why there’s global warming on Mars, Jupiter,
    Triton and Pluto. You don’t look at the ocean data and see, that whereas your boss
    Jim Hansen was saying that the heating of the ocean proved the flux that he needed
    for high sensitivity, that in the last year there’ve been two papers in the same
    journal, that point out that the original Levitus data’s wrong, that the ocean is cool,
    and that the new numbers would call for one-tenth the sensitivity that Hansen
    mentioned. If all this is so certain, why is the data changing, or is it a case when the
    data changes you ignore it, and
    RICHARD S. LINDZEN stick to the point. [APPLAUSE]

  6. 6
    Dave Rado says:

    Re. #1, it’s a satirical show, no-one is exempt from being caricatured by them.

  7. 7
    Andrew Simmons says:

    Marcus Brigstocke is good, however he certainly does tend to the left in UK political terms. His aim can be a little wobbly sometimes, see for example his interesting assertion than “global warming is supported by 80% of the world’s scientists” — but of course it’s a five minute angry rant, not a paper in Nature.
    Well done the Corduroy King ;)

    Incidentally the language is rather more direct than usual – this goes out at 6:30pm on a Friday evening on the main BBC speech radio channel, I’m rather surprised he got “bastard” and “prick” through. Excellent venting of spleen, though, and interesting to hear the background of the producer of this “documentary”.

  8. 8
    Mike Donald says:

    There was also the “Moral Maze”, Radio 4, on Wednesday 14th March 2007 which discussed GW and included George Monbiot of the Guardian. Sadly the beeb don’t produce downloads for it.

    The Moral Maze is broadcast on Radio 4 at 8pm on Wednesdays and repeated on Saturdays at 10.15pm i.e tonight. One of the questioners accused George of sidestepping a certain question three times. Can you help him and me? I’ve forgotten the Q myself.

    I’ll try and tape the prog.


  9. 9
    Edward Greisch says:

    I clicked “here”. The internet churning went on for a while, then I saw nothing but this site the same as before. What happened? I am using MacOS 9.1 and ie5 on a 15 year old machine that works fine.

    Please transcribe the show into text so that we can all see what was said.

  10. 10
    Serinde says:

    I’m glad that someone else heard the Now Show. I rarely listen, but was glad I did. Humour and sarcasm have a way of cutting the legs from under ill-considered opinion in a way that common sense and logic often fail to do. Pens v swords. Perhaps something to remember if you go head-to-head in another debate?

  11. 11
    Mike Donald says:

    And good old Aunty – here’s their link to Radio 4’s Moral Maze programme on Global Warming. With their blurb included…

    Mike has sent you a link to listen to a radio show using the BBC Radio Player. Click on this link to listen:

    To listen you will need to have a programme called RealPlayer installed
    on your computer. Download it for FREE from our audio help page –


  12. 12
    Hank Roberts says:

    If you’re not using a machine that plays streaming audio (or using for example the Lynx text browser, popular for blind people who read using text-to-speech) the radio show is also — for the moment — downloadable as a .MP3 audio file via this link, found at the show’s main page:

  13. 13
    Ben.H says:

    Don’t know whether it’s relevant to TGGWS, but the Great British public have this evening voted for a song which appears to be a celebration of air travel as their chosen entry for the Eurovision song contest.

    You couldn’t make this up.

  14. 14
    Tavita says:

    I love the stand-by power bit, it’s so sad; otherwise intelligent people are absolutely wedded to this stand-by, “instant on” thing. And, the irony is that people will search for five or ten minutes for the misplaced remote so they can turn the television on, rather than simply pushing the buttons on the set. I guess they like the “magical” “action at a distance” quality of it….

    Probably the only way to really solve the problem is to either do away with standby, (one’s magical remote will still work after one turns the set on), or get the manufacturers to develop much more efficient stand-by modes. I have serious doubts that many people will pull the plugs on their stand-by appliances voluntarily, it’s much too “inconvenient”.

  15. 15
    Hugh says:

    Mike, in the question posed (three times) to George Monbiot what we have is a perfect example of Melanie Phillips’ complete misunderstanding of the precautionary principle aspects of ‘Post Normal Science’ (PNS).
    Funtowicz and Ravetz (Futures Sept 1993) pointed out that in order to formulate policies in relation to risk issues “where the facts are uncertain, values are in dispute, stakes are high and decisions urgent” then an “extended peer community” is needed in order to deliberate a policy solution. This is in contrast to the pure-science curiosity-driven approach which promotes reductionism and testing until scientific “truth” is deducted, a replicable test designed and the process peer reviewed.

    What Funtowicz and Ravetz suggested is that “Science cannot always provide well founded theories based on experiments for explanation and prediction, but can frequently achieve at best only mathematical models and computer simulations, which are essentially untestable. On the basis of such uncertain inputs, decisions must be made, under conditions of some urgency. Therefore policy cannot proceed on the basis of factual predictions, but on policy forecasts”

    In asking the question [as aggressively] as she does Phillips is suggesting that, in her understanding, PNS makes fossil-fuel companies completely justified in their approach of hypothesis formulation and testing i.e. their starting point (H0) is that “fossil fuel use is not a problem” but their testing merely involves searching for anything (absolutely anything) which proves that hypothesis whilst discounting any other evidence, because that’s what they want to do.

    In essence pure-science has indicated that there is an interaction between the atmosphere, the sun and increasing CO2 concentrations which causes global temperature to rise. This process cannot, however, be explicitly tested in-situ because of the sheer scale and complexity of the atmospheric system and the irreducible uncertainties introduced by other processes acting within it. What this necessitates is multiple stakeholder (not just by amongst scientists) deliberation about what is known and what is uncertain in order that value commitments can be made over the policies to be enacted which can affect their own welfare as well as that of other stakeholders, including future generations and other species.

    In answering the question Monbiot is absolutely correct in asserting that pure-science is still vital to PNS because it introduces urgent issues into the policy domain. Where Phillips couldn’t be more wrong is in her belief that post normalism (as described by Mike Hulme) simply means that climate science is so uncertain that the science can be thrown out with the bath water in order to allow a purely value based decision process to prevail.

  16. 16
    AndrewM says:

    Durkin fights back (in the UK’s Telegraph of course):

    ‘The global-warmers were bound to attack, but why are they so feeble?’

    The remarkable thing is not that I was attacked. But that the attacks have been so feeble. The ice-core data was the jewel in the global-warming crown, cited again and again as evidence that carbon dioxide ‘drives’ the earth’s climate. In fact, as its advocates have been forced to admit, the ice-core data says the opposite. Temperature change always precedes changes in CO2 by several hundred years. Temperature drives CO2, not the other way round. The global-warmers do not deny this. They cannot.

    During the post-war economic boom, while industrial emissions of CO2 went up, the temperature went down (hence the great global-cooling scare in the 1970s). Why? They say maybe the cooling was caused by SO2 (sulphur dioxide) produced by industry. But they say it mumbling under their breath, because they know it makes no sense. Thanks to China and the rest, SO2 levels are far, far higher now than they were back then. Why isn’t it perishing cold?

    Too many journalists and scientists have built their careers on the global-warming alarm. Certain newspapers have staked their reputation on it. The death of this theory will be painful and ugly. But it will die. Because it is wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Please guys, don’t shoot the messenger.

  17. 17
    Hank Roberts says:

    Jeez, I answered (as an amateur) the ‘why isn’t it cold from Chinese sulfates just yesterday in another thread (because in 1970 only half the total fossil fuel had been burned, aerosols act fast, CO2 warming happens over decades); now with twice that much fossil fuel burned, we’re well into the warming from the past emissions and the aerosols are just reducing that trend — operating on a very different background than they did in 1940-1970.
    Guess whoever asked it was cut’n’pasting, eh? Someone competent, correct my answer please.

  18. 18
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #16

    Thus the need for articulation.

    By the way, that debate Gavin attended was interesting. It had Crichton, Lindzen and Philip Stott on one side, Gavin, Brenda Ekwurzel and Richard Somerville on the other. The motion was “Global Warming Is Not A Crisis”.

    Prior to the debate they polled the audience and found 30-57-13 for-against-don’t know. After the debate it was 46-42-11. The ‘con’ side of the debate, if the numbers are square, took an audience that believed in their case and unconvinced them of it.

    I would live to hear Gavin’s thoughts on this.

    If this means that sound science loses the sound-byte war because it takes too long to explain it, then there is probably going to be a nagging problem communicating this sort of nuance to the public.

  19. 19
    Tavita says:

    Durkin is quoted as saying,

    “During the post-war economic boom, while industrial emissions of CO2 went up, the temperature went down (hence the great global-cooling scare in the 1970s). Why? They say maybe the cooling was caused by SO2 (sulphur dioxide) produced by industry. But they say it mumbling under their breath, because they know it makes no sense. Thanks to China and the rest, SO2 levels are far, far higher now than they were back then. Why isn’t it perishing cold?”

    Because sulfur dioxide emissions are going down and CO2 levels are going up would be my guess.

    For S02 go here,

    For C02 here,


  20. 20
    Nick Riley says:

    The CO2/temperature ice core lag is dealt with elsewhere on RC- but let’s take Durkin’s statement on global SO2 emissions to task. China’s emissions in 2006 were equal to the USA’s 1980 emissions at around 25.5Mt. In 1970 USA emissions were around 31Mt. The USA has now reduced emissions by @ 50% since 1970. Does anyone have more data on global SO2 emissions? With the collapse of the Soviet economy and severe SO2 reductions in W. Europe because of environmental legislation I suspect global SO2 emissions are lower now than during the 1970’s.

  21. 21
    Nick Riley says:

    Here’s another source on global SO2 emissions.

    It confirms a decreasing trend in global emissions but acknowledges that growth in Asia is a concern.

  22. 22
    pete best says:

    Funny how everyone seems to be concenreating on climate change here in th UK when politically we are well on the way doing something about it and most Britons seem convinced that something needs to be done, well enough Britons to start the three main parties vying for votes by offering policies anyway and the EU has a even wider climate science remit.

    The issue is the United States where only states seem to be doing anything, the country as a whole seems hell bent on burning more fossil fuels than ever with the plans to build 159 new coal fired power plants over the next decade and the technology to sequester it is just a prototype at the moment, nice.

  23. 23
    pete best says:

    I have just read a peice in the Daily Telegraph concerning this man, Prof Nigel Weiss, from the department of astrophysics at Cambridge University. He is an astrophysicist there and he is claiming to have been misrepresented in the following peice which seems to be stating that CO2 may not be the sole cause of climate change that is relevant to our current warming, the Sun might be assisting us also.

    However is is saying that he has been misquoted but the more worrying thing is that he is being victimised and threatened apparantly:

    It looks like what he is saying is that the Sun is going through its lower polar magnetic field moment in 50 years.

    I wonder if real climate could resolve the solar issue once and for all if possible by contacting these solar and astro physicists and asking them for their expert opinion on why all of a sudden the Sun is becomming the tour de force of climate change?

    It all seems plausable even if these people have beem misquoted.

  24. 24
    Scott Vinson says:

    Re: #22 (off-topic) Pete, isn’t that 3-4 times you make the same point? Some progress re this concern:

    US legislative bodies are presently deliberating bills to (1) amend Clean Air Act to regulate emission of greenhouse gases from electric utilities; (2) accelerate reduction of US greenhouse gas emissions; (3) green capitol buildings to lead US by example, and so on. Not end results, but activity that merits awareness.

    Recent US Speaker of the House of Representatives environmental posts:

    Active US Senate bill status (select ‘Active Legislation’, then ‘Greenhouse gas emissions’):

  25. 25
    moira says:

    Some scientists in the UK seem to have decided Durkin didn’t do a good enough job and the anti-AGW brigade could do with their help, too. It seems they’ve accused the American Association for the Advancement of Science of the “Hollywoodisation” of climate science.,,2036728,00.html

    (Sorry if this link doesn’t work – you may have to paste it in.)

    Apparently the AAAS are standing by their statement –

    but Sir John Houghton is weighing in –

    The booklet they’ve produced, “Making Sense of the Weather and Climate,” is available here –

    Doesn’t look very contentious, although one might wonder why they only mention Kilimanjaro and ignore all the other glaciers. They seem to imply none of them are retreating due to AGW. And does the term “tipping point” really have “no scientific definition”? I thought scientists objected to its misuse , not to not using it at all. Maybe I’ve got that wrong.
    Sense About Science has final responsibility for the content and gives a phone number for information 020 7478 4380
    Perhaps someone should ring them up about the glaciers and in passing ask them who’s idea it was to use the word “Hollywoodisation”.

    Lord Taverne, who Chairs Sense about Science, is not known for championing climate science, and has some interesting friends.

    Perhaps Carl Wunsch isn’t the only one who should have asked a few more questions.

  26. 26
    TJH says:

    Wow, Durkin has a lot of gall. I hope the UK audience that reads his remarks has also seen the program. It actually hurts the skeptics’ side, not helps.

    Prof. Wunsch’s inclusion is something I spotted as new, which is why I ended up on RC, reading about The Great Global Warming Sandbagging.

    Durkin should be honest: It runs through some of the standard skeptic fare, then quickly descends into the conspiracy theory that AGW is a weapon that is the creation of Maggie Thatcher in her war against the coalworkers union. It then ends with an emotional piece about poverty in Africa.

  27. 27
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oh, man, this is not good to read. Looks like Sourcewatch has an article on them that should be checked as well, but look for the long cautionary post (with footnotes, copied below) here: in the comments:

    “* Underwent a political odyssey which took them from the authoritarian left to the libertarian right without any splits or the whole thing falling apart…..

    “…. there are indubitably large numbers of dodgy think tanks and advocacy groups around. As this particular one has a great lack of information about how it functions I’m naturally skeptical.

    “The fact that it appears to be linked to the LM/RCP/IoI people makes me even more wary, especially when they appear to have been involved in both setting it up and running it.

    “[1],,295888,00.html [commas break link; cut and paste it]

  28. 28
    Hank Roberts says:

    > A leading solar expert has told how he was vilified by environmental campaigners and condemned
    > by scientists after he was wrongly branded a climate-change denier.
    > …
    > Larry Solomon, the columnist who wrote the profile of Prof Weiss, said: ‘I wrote the piece as a
    > laudable profile of Prof Weiss and his work. I am perplexed as to why he has responded in this way.’

    Solomon who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “laudable” — unless he’s congratulating himself on the excellence of his own writing there.

    I would certainly like to see an investigation of the IP addresses of the “environmental campaigners” who attacked Dr. Weiss — I’d bet on sock puppets pretending to be environmentalists, behind such actions. And whether they’re RCP-types or naive #$&@ [edited], either way, they ought to come to light.

    Anecdote, from experience: during the 1960s anti-war protests in the USA, a fair number of us who were more interested in first aid and crowd control than in any rhetoric would go to demonstrations to stand _behind_ the audience and _behind_ the speakers, looking away from them, watching out for the yahoos who would come up and try throwing rocks and bottles over the pacifists to provoke the police. As far as I heard at the time, those yahoos were usually RCP types. Provoking violence by pretending to be on _all_ sides of any debate, to stir up trouble and misunderstanding, is a political tactic.

    Don’t fall for this #*$&[edited]. It works quite well:
    pretend attack, provoke attack, bogus attack, profit for those who benefit from the confusion.

    Yes, there are #%$* [edited] who call themselves ‘environmentalists’ (ask them about ecology — they think it means green stuff out past the suburbs, rather than a science with great uncertainty).

    But I think it’s really, really important to validate who’s who when attacks start happening.
    Perhaps time for digital signatures, in fact, to know people are who they claim to be.

  29. 29
    pete best says:

    Re #24: (off-topic)

    Indeed the USA are considering bills and acts to do something about it, however considering that 50% of US electricity is coal based and as clean coal technologies do not exist yet to fit to these 159 power stations so what does the USA do? Well I would imagine that they are harrdly going to leave themselves at an economic disadvantage are they and hence I doubt that any of these bill and acts come to anything anytime soon.

    What technology presently can replace coal or sequester its exhaust?

  30. 30
    moira says:

    Interesting piece from someone who attended the Weather and Science conference.

    Maybe just another instance of scientists taking too little care when talking to the press.

    However, I do wonder at the complacency of people sitting in the beautiful, but rarified atmosphere of an Oxford college, with food and drink on tap, and for whom the word drought means little more than not being able to water the front garden, criticizing those who see AGW as a threat to society. It may not seem much of a threat amongst the dreaming spires, but I daresay it looks it bit different if you are living in one of those places in the world where daily life is already a desparate struggle for survival. For these people catastrophe really doesn’t sound too strong a word. And you don’t need to be talking about catastrophic climate change either.
    Climate change isn’t some abstract concept , it happens in the real world, interacting with existing circumstances. We can’t deal with the mess we’ve got now, how on earth does anyone think we’re going to cope if it gets worse.
    If saying that makes you guilty of “Hollywoodisation”, then I really am living on a different planet.

  31. 31
    Brian says:

    Just to point out another (and more serious!) rebuttal of TGGWS in this narrated Powerpoint presentation by Christopher Merchant, which nicely points out some of the main errors and logical fallacies.

    He does make an error on the solar-T curve, though it’s an understandable one given that the graph is misattributed and mislabelled (and he’s presumably not aware of the Friis-Christensen stuff). The “solar” curve is actually solar cycle length rather than sunspot number, and is dealt with here. His point about selective presentation of the pre-1980 data still stands though.

  32. 32
    MikeB says:

    Marcus Brigstoke said what should have been said by every scientist this week on radio 4 when asked about the programme. Instead we got Sir John Houghton (having written a very good (bad)review of the whole thing
    totally fluffed it when asked to name one thing wrong with it. It could be argued that he was just overwhelmed by the ‘target-rich environment’ that question opened up, but frankly he just waffled.
    I’ve posted about Hardakers own particular brand of stupidity when interviewed on Friday 17th on another thread (but you should be able to listen to the interview on the BBC’s radio 4 web page – truely a horrible experience), but it shows that some are buying into the idea that the seriousness of AGW is something that should be dabated as some sort of ‘philosphy of science’ question, suitable for high table. Unfortunately, the BBC led with it for the whole morning (Today is the headline leading programme in the UK for news and politics, so if its top of their news, its the top of everyone else’s as well).
    The media does not do nuance, it does not do ‘are we absolutely sure?’ and it does not do scientific uncertainity at all well. Whereas the deniers will say something cannot be happening, academics feel much more comfortable with ‘maybe and ‘possibly’. It’s fine when you write it in an article or paper, because we all understand the rules. But when you do it on the Today programme, when you have three minutes before the sport opposite someone who really does not care about truth, its fatal. A large number of people believed that programme (just look at C4, the BBC, the Times and the Guardian’s message-boards), and waffling or welcoming a non-existant ‘debate’ will simply convince them that Stott, Chrichton and co have as much weight as the vast number of scientists actually working on AGW .
    But its not just Collier and Hardaker who seem to be sipping the KoolAid. Michael Hulme of the Tyndall Centre seems to also being on this particular track. Back in Feb., he wrote a piece about the media reaction to the IPCC report relase saying pretty much the same thing
    , which got a response from the Guardians Science editor that
    ‘Mike accuses us of “appealling to fear to generate a sense of urgency”

    Guilty as charged. Is it not frightening? Is it not urgent?’.

    About a month ago, he featured heavily in a rather weak programme on Radio 4 called ‘The Interregation’, which was supposed to take a hard look at Stern and the IPCC report. It was the same line. The programme failed to deliver, relying on nitpicking and the possibility that things might not be as bad in the future as Stern warns. Without his imput, it would have been a very thin programme indeed. He was at it agin this week, with a widely read article saying much the same thing,,2032821,00.html. He actually managed to give Singers new book a plug of sorts in the second paragraph (he does say its wrong in the eighth, but its a bit late by then), and seems to follow a similar path to Collier and Hardaker.
    Indeed, according to this article in the Observer,,2036762,00.html he’s joined forces with them. Its true that the media does spin stories, but is there any real evidence that climate scientists have actually made the effects of climate change more dramatic? If anything, they may have underplayed the effects. Bill McKibben and New Scientist has both noted that the IPCC is rather conservative, and the 4th report will probably not include the latest and most alarming data.
    This breast-beating does nothing to help convince the public that scientists are speaking with one voice on climate change, and will undoubtably do a great deal of damage. Since its taken the British media a great deal of time to cover it in the first place, why can the scientist involved refrain from giving such mixed signals.
    Frankly, if the Royal Society and others does not get its act together, it will be left to george Monbiot and one or two others to fight against the deniers. He’s a zoology trained journalist, but he’s not a climate scientist and ultimately its not his job to do this alone. There should be a real effort to get out the message to the public, a message that should be simple and unambigous.

  33. 33
    David B. Benson says:

    Off-topic, but a good read:

    E. Dendy Sloan
    Fundamental principles and applications of natural gas hydrates
    Nature 426, 353–363 (2003).

  34. 34
    Wavefunction says:

    Any thoughts on the geo-engineering article in The Economist from their Quarterly Technology Review Section?

  35. 35
    PhilC says:

    I’ve tried very hard to get to some facts about GW but find it increasingly difficult. It all seems to boil down to ‘our scientific group is bigger and has better credentials than yours’ or ‘their information may have been funded by an oil company’.

    All this seems little better than ‘my dad’s bigger than yours’ and frankly, what does it matter if research is funded by an oil company. The evidence it finds can be tested on it’s own merit. Who paid for it shouldn’t make any difference to any facts – unless of course this whole GW area doesn’t actually have any hard facts.

    I watched the program and read the rebutals but still cannot for the life of me understand if CO2 levels lag behind the temperature by 800 years how CO2 causes the temperature to change. You can invoke all kinds of linked feedback mechanisms plus an ‘unknown’ reason why the temperature intially kicked off but surely the simplest possibility is that CO2 does not effect the temperature as much as temperature effects the CO2.

    If 1000’s of scientist are so sure then why cant we just have a straight answer on this – please.

    The reaction to this single program strikes me as a case of the ‘lady doth protest too much’

  36. 36
    David B. Benson says:

    Re #32: PhilC — In the ice core records, temperatures rise and this causes carbon dioxide to rise. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, carbon dioxide rises (due to burning carbon) and this causes temperatures to rise.

    It is a matter of the temperature and the carbon dioxide in the air being out-of-balance. Try reading Wikipedia about greenhose gases.

  37. 37
    Richard Ordway says:

    re 32 and #33. re does CO2 cause temp rise?

    Someone please correct me…but I understand that this is a complete red herring and is NOT what is in the peer reviewed literature…and Lindzen DOES NOT CONTRIBUTE PEER_REVIEWED LITERATURE THAT STANDS UP UNDER SCRUTINY… he is a quack and a charliton.

    The correct order is a three step process (from EPICA ice cores as well as three other ice core records).

    First, the average Earth’s temps first go up a little. Second, there is a huge CO2 increase as the oceans get warmer/permafrost starts melting, methane starts increasing due to more swamps and the ice age winds stop/slow down (no feeding the hungry little plankton)…and thirdly 600-1000 years later there is a huge temperature increase over the next several thousand years….this is driven largely by the positive CO2 feedback…ie. in effect CO2 causes temperature to rise because it is a feedback.

  38. 38
    Jim Cross says:

    Re #23

    [I wonder if real climate could resolve the solar issue once and for all if possible by contacting these solar and astro physicists and asking them for their expert opinion on why all of a sudden the Sun is becomming the tour de force of climate change?]

    Me too but I think most of the RC posters have already concluded the Sun is a minor player in the recent warming.

    We are now with 15-20 years of the end of the 90 year cycle of increased solar output and magnetic activity. Unforunately, our best records of solar output, and hence our understanding of solar output, date only from the middle of cycle. During this same period humans have dumped huge quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere. This creates a muddled picture since both solar activity and CO2 have been increasing at the same time. Both sides would agree that increased CO2 and increased solar activity would increase warming but they differ in the degree of influence they assign to each.

    The fact that the current cycle of increased solar activity is nearing its end may be pretty well confirmed:

  39. 39
    Luke Silburn says:

    Phil C (#32):
    The lag you mention is observed in the ice core data for past warmings (from glacial to inter-glacial temperature regimes).

    What it means is that in the past (when there was no industrial civilisation mining carbon out of the ground and releasing it into the atmosphere) there wasn’t enough flux in the various sources and sinks of the carbon-cycle for CO2 to initiate a warming. Instead you had to wait for changes in the earth’s orbital paramaters to start the world’s climate out of a glacial episode – once the warming started however, the ice core data shows that C02 levels rise shortly thereafter (cause unknown, although there are some hypotheses around), and this rise in CO2 intensifies the warming (‘cuz CO2 is a greenhouse gas dontchaknow). All of which is a jolly good thing, because orbital changes aren’t enough to effect a full deglaciation without a helping hand from the carbon – if the CO2 hadn’t come along then I’d be composing this post from the middle of a glacier. So anyway, absent something significant like an industrial civilisation or a massive bout of vulcanism, you need orbital changes to start the ball rolling and then carbon comes along afterwards and gives it enough of a wallop to get it over the line.

    This time is different, because this time (as you may have noticed) there is an industrial civilisation mining carbon out of the ground and emmitting it to the atmosphere. So you don’t need to wait for a change in orbital inclination to cause an uptick in temps which then (via mechanisms unknown) causes a noticeable rise in C02 to prolong and increase the warming. We’ve cut out the middleman and, by virtue of the known properties of atmospheric CO2, we are going straight to the ‘prolong and increase’ part of the story directly.


  40. 40
    Ray Ladbury says:

    #32, Phil, who ever said that every warming cycle is initiated by increasing greenhouse gases? Greenhouse gas emission can also occur as a positive feedback to a warming trend already in progress. Such a feedback tends to intensify and lengthen the warming trend. Remember, these warming epochs last 5000 years or so, while the CO2 kicks in after the first 800 years or so.
    Now, you may ask how do we know that the current epoch is different? It is because in this case CO2 is leading. We know this because the carbon in fossil fuels actually has a different isotopic abundance than carbon that has been in the carbon cycle (all the Carbon-14 has decayed, for one thing), and we are putting enough fossil carbon into the atmosphere, that we can actually see the isotopic abundances changing. So, we know where the carbon is coming from. We know it is enough to cause warming, and we know that the release of carbon via the positive feedback mechanisms has not yet started to occur in this epoch of warming. When it does, we’ll see methane increase dramatically as well as CO2, and this likely will cause even greater warming. There is no great mystery here.

  41. 41
    James says:

    Re #32: [If 1000’s of scientist are so sure then why cant we just have a straight answer on this – please.]

    Maybe because you don’t bother to look for that straight answer. I know I’ve given my simplified, not-a-climate-scientist version in a recent thread; other people have given better ones. This is over-simplified, but over the past many millions of years prior to the Industrial Revolution, there was essentially a fixed amount of CO2 in the system. Some was in the air, some in the ocean. Those ice cores show what happens in that system: if the world gets warmer for some reason, CO2 comes out of the ocean (a process that takes several centuries), and causes further warming. Eventually all of it gets into the air, and you have an extended, high CO2 warm period. Then something causes the world to cool beyond a critical point, CO2 goes from the air back into the ocean, and you have a cool period.

    Then humans came along and added a lot more CO2 to the system. This changes its behavior. To begin with, it cranks up the thermostat, so you might think you’d have the same cycle, just a few degrees higher. The problem, though, is that the coolings seem to depend on having lots of snow & ice in the polar regions, and if the planet’s too warm, you won’t get that.

    So is that answer straight enough?

  42. 42
    Ike Solem says:

    RE#32: PhilC, let’s rephrase your argument:

    “How can it be that chemical reactions cause a match to burn if the chemical reactions lag behind friction? Look, when you strike a match it’s just friction, right? Friction is what causes the match to burn, not some putative feedback effect involving chemicals in the match head.

    Thus, the most reasonable explanation is that the chemical reactions do not affect the temperature, but rather that the temperature changes affect the chemical reaction – and it’s all due to friction.”

    Sounds reasonable – but is utter nonsense. A little bit of friction provides the activation energy for further chemical reactions.

    Let’s consider the ice age transition:
    You say: “You can invoke all kinds of linked feedbacks effects plus an ‘unknown’ reason why the temperature initially kicked off..”

    Look: there is no ‘chicken and egg’ paradox here. The ‘unknown’ reason is known; this is the change in the Earth’s orbital characteristics. Imagine if the Earth’s axis of rotation was pointed towards the sun, so that the North pole was in perpetual darkness. In fact, the Earth’s axis of rotation does change, and this leads to changes in the distribution of sunlight hitting the Earth. That’s your ‘unknown’ trigger – the Milankovitch cycle effect.

    CO2 release is one amplification mechanism that is activated by the initial Milankovitch cycle effect; the lag is only an initial effect. Another amplification mechanism is the change in albedo as ice sheets begin to melt back: more bare soil and vegetation and less ice and snow mean less sunlight is reflected to space, i.e. a lower albedo. We can calculate albedo effects; we can calculate CO2 and CH4 radiative forcing effects, and we know (from ice core records) that glacial/interglacial transitions are always accompanied by rises in CO2 and CH4 and a reduction in albedo.

    Putative mechanisms for CO2 release are uncertain – but if you defrost your freezer, and it’s full of food, then it will become a source of CO2 and other gases as microbes go to work. Most explanations work along similar lines. Unfortunately, noone was around with a video camera to observe what happened – but we have the record.

    Now, consider that we are in an interglacial currently, and we’ve found new sources of CO2 (fossil fuels) to add to the atmosphere, and that we know CO2 played a large role in the complete glacial/interglacial transition (and we’ve added a lot of methane and N2O as well). In fact, we’re increasing CO2 at rates 30X greater than anything seen in the glacial record. Should we expect a strong response? Yes! How fast will the changes occur? Still uncertain… but we seem to be in an accelerating phase of CO2 emissions. It’s no accident that this past winter was the warmest on record since accurate global recordkeeping began in 1880 – and yet that’s a record that will surely fall in the next few years. Global cooling trends? Not unless we see record levels of volcanic activity – or an asteroid strike – and that would only be a temporary effect.

    We need to plan for more of the same (heat waves, intense hurricane seasons, drought & flooding) while reducing CO2 emissions to head off potentially catastrophic effects, like inducing massive methane releases and ocean anoxia.

  43. 43
    Ike Solem says:

    RE#23, Pete, you can go right to Prof. Nigel Weiss website ( ) and see what he has to say:

    “Following a misleading account of my views in the Toronto Financial Post last month, a number of right-wing lobbyists have asserted that I claimed that an impending drop in solar activity would lead to global cooling that would cancel out the warming caused by greenhouse gases. On the contrary, I have always maintained that any temperature changes caused by variations in solar activity — while interesting in themselves — are not significant compared to the global warming that we are already experiencing, and very small compared to what will happen if we continue to burn fossil fuel at the present rate.”

    Regarding #23, it looks like China is taking some positive action: China Bans New Small Coal-Based Power Generators – shouldn’t the United States do the same?

    As coal-fired emissions decrease, however, so will the sulfate aerosol cooling effect. It’d be interesting to see an estimate of the net effect of eliminating all coal emissions on a global basis – shouldn’t IPCC scenarios include this kind of specific estimate? (sulfate aerosols have a far shorter lifetime than CO2, so the CO2 from past coal combustion is still in the air; the sulfates are not). See the excellent links posted by Tavita in #19.

  44. 44
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re #35 “Who paid for it shouldn’t make any difference to any facts…”

    In a perfect world, it wouldn’t. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. Surely you’ve heard how the tobacco companies suppressed the research of their own scientists when that research revealed that smoking was harmful to one’s health? And big pharmaceutical companies have done the same thing. Research sponsored by big oil companies may well result in good science, but one can’t easily know for sure.

    As for your inability to find some “facts” about global warming, you must not have tried very hard. Why not try the Science Links posted on the RC home page?

  45. 45
    PhilC says:

    Thanks for the replies.

    If I understand this correctly, an initial rise in temperature causes an increase in CO2 which then causes an increase in termperature which would cause another rise in CO2.

    Once this process starts – what stopped it from running completely out of control in the past?

  46. 46
    PhilC says:

    Re# 44 Research sponsored by big oil companies may well result in good science, but one can’t easily know for sure.

    Yes you can, by seeing if the results are true or not.

  47. 47
    Craig Allen says:

    Re# 44 & 46 – Value of research funded by oil companies:

    I would be very impressed if they or anyone else was able to fund the development of a climate model that like the others i) is based on known physics, ii) is able to effectively hindcast historical and paleological climate as successfully as the existing models and iii) predicts no or minimal CO2 induced temperate increase.

    Perhaps this is an effective response to the skeptics. Meet that challenge and then they’ll be credible.

    I’d be particularly excited if they, or anyone else for that matter, could come up with a model that effectively predicts the El Nino/La Nina climate pattern. I depend on direct rainfall capture alone and want to know how big a water tank I need to buy to keep my vegie patch going through future Australian summers.

  48. 48
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Comment by Ike Solem “…it looks like China is taking some positive action: China Bans New Small Coal-Based Power Generators – shouldn’t the United States do the same?”

    According to your link, this is only to reduce SO2 and soot, something the US has been doing for many years.

  49. 49
    Ed Sears says:

    re 45
    There’s only a fixed amount of carbon that is mobile between the different components of the Earth system: atmosphere, oceans (hydrosphere), biosphere and lithosphere (surface rocks). So the process can’t carry on indefinitely. Unless a global civilisation works night and day to pump carbon out of the ground and into the air. The fossil fuels we are burning have been out of the equation for hundreds of millions of years. We need to take our foot off the accelerator.

  50. 50
    Hank Roberts says:

    search: biogeochemical cycling
    White cliffs of Dover
    calcite and aragonite
    “Plankton cooled a greenhouse”

    There’s plenty on this; it’s a FAskedQ — the answers are in the research; that’ll help find postings.
    Look into it just a bit first, it will help you ask questions about the science if you read the frequent answers and those searches in the searchbox at top of page will turn up the answers, asked very often here.