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Start here

Filed under: — group @ 22 May 2007

[Note this is page is updated regularly. Please notify us of any dead links. Last update: 26 Jan 2020.]

We’re often asked to provide a one stop link for resources that people can use to get up to speed on the issue of climate change, and so here is a selection. Unlike our other postings, we’ll amend this as we discover or are pointed to new resources. Different people have different needs and so we will group resources according to the level people start at.

For complete beginners:

NCAR: Weather and climate basics
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions: Climate basics
Wikipedia: Global Warming
NASA: Global Warming
National Academy of Science: America’s Climate Choices (2011)
Encyclopedia of Earth: Climate Change
Global Warming: Man or Myth? (Scott Mandia, SUNY Suffolk)
Open Learn: The Basics of Climate Prediction

There is a booklet on Climate Literacy from multiple agencies (NOAA, NSF, AAAS) available here (pdf).

The UK Govt. had a good site on The Science of Climate Change (archived).

The portal for climate and climate change of the ZAMG (Zentralaanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik, Vienna, Austria). (In German) (added Jan 2011).

Those with some knowledge:

The IPCC AR4 Frequently Asked Questions (here) are an excellent start. Updates to these questions were provided in the 5th Assessment report (pdf).

The UK Royal Society and US National Academies of Science produced a joint Q&A on climate change in 2014, and an update in 2017.

RealClimate: Start with our index.

Informed, but in need of more detail:

Science: You can’t do better than the IPCC reports themselves (AR5 2013, AR4 2007, TAR 2001). Also the Climate Science Special Report for the US National Climate Assessment.

History: Spencer Weart’s “Discovery of Global Warming” (AIP)

Informed, but seeking serious discussion of common contrarian talking points:

All of the below links have indexed debunks of most of the common points of confusion:

Please feel free to suggest other suitable resources, particularly in different languages, and we’ll try to keep this list up to date.

A Slovak translation is available here

Tłumaczenie na polski dostępne jest tutaj
A Bulgarian translation is available here (via Ivan Boreev).

293 Responses to “Start here”

  1. 51
    Nancy Rutman says:

    The EPA has a decent starter page for beginners:

    These two sites document the effects of climate change:

  2. 52
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 44

    “Just like I think Fred Hoyle’s et al version of the “start” of the Universe ought to be mentioned along side the Big Bang theory.”

    I think the only good reason to mention Hoyle’s name, aside from the fact he coined the term “Big Bang”, is that in his efforts to figure out the progression of the creation of elements in stars he stumbled across the proof that shot down the “steady state” theory and largely showed why the Big bang model was the more compelling argument. To Hoyle’s credit, he did not try to hide this discovery, nor did he try to ignore it.

    In fact, Hoyle offers us an excellent example of all that can be right with science, and why there is no such thing as “fair” in terms of the climate skeptics.

    He was honest.

    If you are interested, you can read an entertaining account of the story in Simon Singh’s “Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe.”

    It is one of the more accessible books in terms of learning about the subject. The thing I enjoyed about it most was Singhn’s discussions on how science works and how it changes/evolves with new information, at one point using as an example how, at a certain time in history, something like a geocentric model of the universe had more validity from a scientific standpoint than a heliocentric model.

  3. 53
    pat n says:

    Rob B, I posted my comment after Paul Higgins in #1 which was about

    what society chooses to do about the risks created by climate change.

    one way to wake up society to what’s happening is to go after those in government who need to be held accountable.

    My comment in #5 was written with #1. in mind.

  4. 54
    Nigel Williams says:

    Interesting recent (May 2007) update on CO2 emissions..

    “…The strong global fossil-fuel emissions growth since 2000 was driven not only by long-term increases in population (P) and per-capita global GDP (g) but also by a cessation or reversal of earlier declining trends in the energy intensity of GDP (e) and the carbon intensity of energy ( f ). In particular, steady or slightly increasing recent trends in f occurred in both developed and developing regions. In this sense, no region is decarbonizing its energy supply.

    “…Continuous decreases in both e and f (and therefore in carbon intensity of GDP, h = ef ) are postulated in all IPCC emissions scenarios to 2100 (8), so that the predicted rate of global emissions growth is less than the economic growth rate. Without these postulated decreases, predicted emissions over the coming century would be up to several times greater than those from current emissions scenarios…This has meant that even the more fossil-fuel-intensive IPCC scenarios underestimated actual emissions growth during this period.

    Found at:

  5. 55
    Stephen Berg says:

    Re: #45, “Are there any links to sites with a differnt viewpoint?”

    No, because the other viewpoint is wrong.

  6. 56

    re:30 The 15x came directly from the team which invented it. Not only that but it’s near optimal efficiency over an 100degree arc of sunlight.
    instead of the cell being totally flat as is the case now. it uses many thousands of small perpendicular slivers to collect the light 3 dimensionally dramatically inceasing it’s surface area.

  7. 57
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Re# 44: I disagree. The references provided should be pertinent to the science and all good attempts at making that science accessible to non scientists. The so-called skeptic side usually does not do that (actually almost never does).

    As BPL has often pointed there are a lot of similarities between the sates of understanding of climate and evolution.

    In either, there is no credible scientific “skeptic” side that explains reality better or even nearly as well. In fact, nothing comes close.

    There are areas of lower level of understanding, there are unknowns. The only scientifically ethical skeptic thing to do would be to present them, but not without placing them in context, i.e. how they relate to the general picture and the stuff that is well understood and well known. The few skeptics with scientific background who thread here spend seemingly endless hours picking on these very few points and attempt to demonstrate that they can invalidate almost everything else, and the RC contributors do a good job of addressing that.

    However, in the wide world, what we see is downright fraud (like in the Swindle), underhanded peer-review (Legates and the Soon-Baliunas fiasco), selective picking of facts given much more significance than they have, the list is endless.

    Then there are people like Pat or all the scientists reporting that they don’t dare to speak their minds on the subject for fear of retaliation. Meanwhile, the mind-conditioning machine of the so-called skeptics screams that contrarians scientists are being suppressed by the evil scientific community, who is out on a conspiracy to keep the billions in grants flowing (Hey Gavin, I hope you’re stacking those in your secret Swiss account).

    I wish there were more sites like RC and that they could be as vocal as the contrarians screamers. The last thing we need is RC giving them even more undeserved credibility.

    As for your comment on creationism and Physics, I’m not sure what to make of it. There are plenty of areas that examine that kind of questions (Philosophy) and it is irrelevant to the science itself. Anyone can make an argument for or against whatever version of creation by using Physics. In fact, it is a very good exercise to do one and then a contrary one. If done sincerely, they can come out equally valid. But in both cases, they are irrelevant to the science and will not contribute to improve the purely scientific understanding of reality.

  8. 58
    John Wegner says:

    We need to start moving New York, Maimi, Houston and new Orleans immediately.

    At the very least, no new building permits should be issued.

  9. 59
    pat n says:

    sal, the intro in FAQ from your link in #43 by NOAA says:

    One of the most hotly debated topics on Earth is the issue of climate change,

    NOAA should be telling people that the debate on global warming is over – and has been for some time.

    Besides, my comments were directly mainly on the National Weather Service (NWS) director and deputy director who are retiring next month (links below). NWS staff of about 5500 makes up nearly half of all employees under the NOAA umbrella. Problems on global warming are specific to NWS and headquarters administrators in NOAA. There are some NOAA people not in NWS and not in NOAA headquarters who have been trying to do decent work on global warming but they, like me, have met resistance from NOAA and NWS management. Unlike me, they succeeded in not getting fire for climate change research and discussion but are they happy about what they have not done since 2000?

  10. 60
  11. 61
    Craig Allen says:

    Re 20, 29, 30 & 41 – Sliver Photovoltaic cells:

    It interesting to compare the information you get from the scientists at the Australian National University who invented the technology, with that provided by Origin Energy – the company that is commerialising it.

    A powerpoint from the scientists is here.
    Origin Energy’s Sliver Cells website is here.

    The scientists estimate that it should be possible in ‘mature’ high volume production facility to use 1/10th to 1/30th the amount of silicon as required by conventioal PV. Origin Energy, says that their high purity silicon use in product from their pilot plant is 3 to 4 grams per watt compared to 10-14 g/W for conventional cells.

    Both the scientists are claiming that the efficiency per square meter of Sliver cells is %20 compared to 10% for conventional PV. On aper watt basis, this drops both the fabrication costs and the instillation costs.

    According to the scientists Sliver PV has the potential to cost US60c/watt in comparison to US$3/watt for conventional PV. This would make it very competative with all other electricity generation technologies – including coal. However, the manufacturer, Origin Energy, intends to initially sell the product at ‘competative market rates’, i.e. just a tad cheaper than competitor products.

    The scientists estimate that a rapid drop in PV electricity costs will occur as Sliver Cells and other PV technologies mature. This will intersect the current Daytime retail electricity price of around US12c/kWh in about 2014.

    Origin Energy says that once they get finance agreed for a full scale production facility, it will be at least 18 months before Sliver PV panels begin to hit the market.

    But they will sell them ‘competitively’ at market prices with an intent to slowly drop prices over time to keep just ahead of the market (in which demand is increasing by 30% per year). They currently have 35 employees employed in their prototype production facility and hope to have 50 people working on it by 2012. It’s high tech and production is highly automated, but realistically, unless there is a significant injection of funding, it doesn’t sound like production volumes will be high enough to have a significant impact on energy/CO2 production, in a economy-wide context, until the middle of next decade.

  12. 62
    Rod B says:

    Fine, John (53), just keep them away from the midwest — don’t want to spoil the heighborhood!

  13. 63
    Timothy Chase says:

    Thomas (#41) wrote:

    Well all this is, fine and dandy, preaching to the choir material. But you would be surprised just how effective the contrarian (so-called skeptic) rhetoric is – as applied to real world events (actual debates by scientists, actual debates in person or on the web, with, or between laypeople).

    It helps, especially if it is posted every now and again.

    This website gets a fair amount of traffic. Sure – most won’t go looking that hard, but they don’t have to come to this website to be affected by it. Especially if the people already here learn what they can and pass it on.

    However, whenever responding to a show or article, it is good if the focus isn’t simply on the science. That should be the primary focus – mostly in nutshell form.

    But I would also include news items. Things that are pretty undeniable – like the melting of the arctic icecap over the past forty years – which is undeniable – at least until the contrarians get good with PhotoShop Adobe. But then you should also expose the contrarians for what they are – honestly. (There are resources – but I don’t expect that to be the focus of this website – which should be almost exclusively on the science.) Likewise, it is important to point out the consequences of inaction and the things that can be done.

    Also, many people I know, that are reasonable and intelligent, but not necessarily interested in the details of Global Warming were easily swayed by the Swindle Show (“The Great Global Warming Swindle”). Their comments were along the lines of: “very powerful” or “more controversial than I thought” or even “opened my eyes.”

    It is called the “big lie.”

    If someone skilled in the art says something truly outrageous, people are often very likely to believe it. This has a long history, probably about as old as humanity iteslf. Creationists use it all the time. And yes, it is very effective. So are many informal fallacies – if neither the speaker nor the audience are all that concerned with the truth. Conspiracy theories. Etc. “Us vs. them,” which seems especially effective in many circles. When you aren’t concerned with the truth, you don’t have to qualify – and you can appeal to the worst in people.

    However, perhaps “The Great Global Warming Swindle” could play to our advantage.

    Libel laws can be extremely effective, particularly under British law. Not sure who would make the charges, though. But it would be very high profile. Dover helped undercut the creationists a fair amount, at least in the view of many papers.

    Incidently, I understand that the contrarian scientists who actually participated in the swindle were themselves rather unhappy with how charts and the like were doctored by the producers. Perhaps they could be persuaded to show up in court as well.

  14. 64
    Curt Schroeder says:

    I believe that scientists themselves are inadvertantly partly responsible for the growth of contrarian viewpoints, especially among the public. It seems that much of scientific literature is moving away from one of the basic principles of preserving reliability in scientific writing, and that is that each scientific article contain a discussion on how the scientist looked for, but couldn’t find, evidence that contradicted the scientific conclusions that were reached. To call for more study is certainly part of the answer, however, a more robust discussion of the search for “contrarian” evidence, in each scientific article, would positively contribute to enhancing reliability in scientific publications.

  15. 65
    CraigM says:

    I found these links good. Mostly for beginners.


    ^^debunks the site ‘still waiting for greenhouse’

  16. 66
    Timothy Chase says:

    Curt Schroeder (#64) wrote:

    To call for more study is certainly part of the answer, however, a more robust discussion of the search for “contrarian” evidence, in each scientific article, would positively contribute to enhancing reliability in scientific publications.

    I can agree with much of your setiment – but the above bit seems somewhat problematic. If the scientific article were discussing, say, the role of LINEs and SINEs in the evolution of evolvability and the contrarian views were either “intelligent design” or “young earth creationism (evolution vs. creationism), this would get rather silly – and lend creationism an air of respectability it most certainly does not deserve. Any time anyone mentions intelligent design in the peer reviewed papers, the Discovery Institute says, “See there! We told you there was a controversy!”

    At this point, the contrarian views to anthropogenic climate change are no longer a scientific phenomena, but a political phenomena driven by financial interests and ideology. The focus of science should be the phenomena. This is what should drive it and its focus, particularly in the technical papers.

    However, in more popular venues it still makes sense to keep knocking over the weeble-wobble.

  17. 67

    Re:61 Craig Allen,
    Thanks for getting more info than I was able to do. This will depend on whether respective govs are serious enough about Global warming issues. If they were they would fast track the production of sliver cell tech and put pressure on origin energy to replace it’s existing technology with sliver cell. Or if enough people as I said were aware of the huge potential of this new innovation they would put pressure directly onto Origin. The cost/Kw should on paper at least be considerably less than single plane PVs as you said putting in in the frontline of the CO2 war. Origin should put the planet before profit!!

  18. 68
    Riley D says:

    Re: 67

    Lawrence, this issue is a little more complicated than this. Although sliver cells offer an ideal reduction in silicon (which is even more ideal in the current silicon shortage periods..) they require a more complicated manufacturing process with more high temperature steps leading to more chances of contamination etc.. Coupled with the difficult issue of putting thousands of little slivers into a module makes this the transition from lab to manufacuting plant a little difficult.

    Origin have had their pilot construction plant built for a couple of years, but the modules keep being delayed. (Another factor is it uses silicon grown in a different orientation to all other solar cells, making supply of cheap silicon an issue. As it gets bigger this of course will no longer be a problem.) I believe the current plan is to find an overseas partner with more experience in semiconductors and better supply of silicon (I dont think Australia has any plants producing high quality silicon, may be wrong there).

    And yes the modules are most definitely not 15x more efficient, unless the measure is energy produced compared to silicon used. The theoretical limit for single band-gap silicon isn’t going anywhere just yet…

  19. 69

    [[Flexible–so the bonnet and hood of your car can be made of sliver cells and that will supply more than enough power to it’s electric motor for even the most blaze speed freak to raise a sweat over.]]

    I don’t think that will work, actually. Daytime illumination averages 240 watts per square meter over the entire globe, but even if you were getting the full 1370 w/m2 of the solar constant, and had ten square meters of car surface to work with, and had perfect efficiency, that would only be about 14 kilowatts. I don’t think that’s enough energy to accelerate a car significantly.

    Take a 1000-kg car that you want to accelerate to 60 meters per second in one minute (60 seconds). Kinetic energy at the top speed is (1/2 m v^2) 1,800,000 Joules. To get that much in 60 seconds is 30 kilowatts. And again, this assumes perfect mechanical efficiency.

    A very light solar car might be possible, but as a routine power source for cars I don’t think it will work.

  20. 70

    [[We need to start moving New York, Maimi, Houston and new Orleans immediately.
    At the very least, no new building permits should be issued.

    You may well be right. But my guess would be that even if sea level starts rising rapidly, we won’t do anything about it until there is actually a foot of water in downtown Manhattan. Humans tend to react to crises rather than to anticipate them.

  21. 71
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Re #68:

    More to the point, there are only so many watts per square meter available to be captured. With module efficiencies already in the 12 to 24 percent range (and that’s module efficiencies — cell efficiencies can be higher), dramatically huge increases are limited.

    Re #61:

    While current production volumes are inadequate to meet demand, power reduction from gains in personal and commercial efficiency and waste reduction are more than sufficient to greatly reduce fossil fuel consumption and the resultant CO2 emissions. Those areas can be tackled while waiting on renewable energy sources to be commercialized.

    There’s no reason we need to be lighting up cities so they can be seen from outer space, nor is there any reason we need to use 19th century technologies for general illumination, or 20th century conveniences whose sole purpose is making sure the TV turns on in less than a second, but which suck gigawatts from the grid 24 hours a day. Simple changes in AC adapter design could greatly reduce the power consumed by those little vampires. There are literally tens of gigawatts of demand that can be reduced in the States just by turning off “conveniences”, unplugging cell phone and other AC adapters, switching to compact flourescent lights, mandating out of existence lower efficiency A/C and refrigeration products, and treating light pollution the same way we treat raw sewerage dumped on our beaches.

    Free market capitalism is a great idea, but it leads to products that can be wasteful because the added cost of some minor power savings device makes the product’s initial price higher than a more efficient device. We need people to start thinking longer term, and including the lifetime power wasteage in their purchasing decisions. One watt of continuous base load over a one year period is 8,760 watt-hours, or about $1.30 where I live. Energy consumption labels should be on more products. A $50 do-dad with a $100 power consumption label might suddenly seem less inexpensive than a $100 do-dad with a $20 power consumption label.

  22. 72

    Re: 68 Riley D
    Good food for thought there. It’s amazing how fast progress can be if enough willpower and $$ are pumped into it. Just take the innovations during WW2. Unthinkable feats of engineering and innovation and invention were accomplished in extremely little time.
    b.t.w the worlds purest and best source of silicon is found in Tasmania, an island on the south eastern end of australia.

  23. 73
    Jim Eager says:

    Re: #45, “Are there any links to sites with a differnt viewpoint?”

    To what end? While it definitely is important to “know thine enemy” (and climate change deniers very much ARE the enemy), the links to sites debunking their arguments point-by-point fulfill that function, without giving them credence that they simply do not deserve.

  24. 74
    Hank Roberts says:

    But we digress.
    (‘sliver cell’ search in Google Scholar — they’ve been around quite a while, not news)

    I hope Contribs will — for the “Start Here” post — prune the Comments completely and often, keeping only what gets promoted to the top article. Else, well, we do go on and on and off track.

  25. 75
    James says:

    Re #67: [If they were they would fast track the production of sliver cell tech and put pressure on origin energy to replace it’s existing technology with sliver cell.]

    Then what of the research into other photovoltaic technologies, as for instance organics? (Which IIRC are less efficient per unit area, but have the potential to be manufactured really cheaply?) It’s the old command economy problem again: government fiat locks all the research & development funding onto one track, and what happens? Either you miss out on a better alternative, or the better alternative gets developed anyway, and your R&D dollars have gone for nothing.

  26. 76
    V. Jobson says:

    DeSmogBlog, on your “Other Opinions” list, focuses on the public relations techniques and tactics used by the contrarians. It discusses current news reports and keeps an eye on well-known contrarians and contrarian astro-turf groups such as Friends of Science (FoS) and Natural Resources Stewardship Project (NRSP).

  27. 77
    SecularAnimist says:

    Regarding the discussion of “sliver cell” PV, WorldWatch Institute has a very encouraging update on the prospects for even more rapid growth of photovoltaic electrical generation capacity in the next few years, due to expanded polysilicon manufacturing capacity, China’s emergence as a major PV manufacturer/exporter, and the commercialization of new ultra-low cost thin film PV:

    Solar Power Set to Shine Brightly
    Worldwatch Institute
    May 22, 2007


    The solar industry is poised for a rapid decline in costs that will make it a mainstream power option in the next few years, according to a new assessment by the Worldwatch Institute in Washington DC, and the Prometheus Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

    Global production of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, which turn sunlight directly into electricity, has risen sixfold since 2000 and grew 41 percent in 2006 alone. Although grid-connected solar capacity still provides less than 1 percent of the world’s electricity, it increased nearly 50 percent in 2006, to 5,000 megawatts, propelled by booming markets in Germany and Japan. Spain is likely to join the big leagues in 2007, and the United States soon thereafter.

    This growth, while dramatic, has been constrained by a shortage of manufacturing capacity for purified polysilicon, the same material that goes into semiconductor chips. But the situation will be reversed in the next two years as more than a dozen companies in Europe, China, Japan, and the United States bring on unprecedented levels of production capacity. In 2006, for the first time, more than half the world’s polysilicon was used to produce solar PV cells. Combined with technology advances, the increase in polysilicon supply will bring costs down rapidly — by more than 40 percent in the next three years, according to Prometheus estimates.


    The biggest surprise in 2006 was the dramatic growth in PV production in China. Last year, China passed the United States, which first developed modern solar cell technology at Bell Labs in New Jersey in the 1950s, to become the world�s third largest producer of the cells�trailing only Germany and Japan.

    Chinaâ��s leading PV manufacturer, Suntech Power, climbed from the worldâ��s eighth largest producer in 2005 to fourth in 2006 […] China, with its growing need for energy, large work force, and strong industrial base, could drive dramatic reductions in PV prices in the next few years, helping to make solar competitive with conventional power even without subsidies.


    In the meantime, supply shortages have led manufacturers to find ways to use polysilicon more efficiently, and have accelerated the introduction of new technologies that do not rely on purified silicon and are inherently less expensive to manufacture. So-called thin film cells can be made from amorphous silicon and other low-cost materials, and companies developing these technologies have recently become the darlings of Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

    Although in the past, thin film cells have not been efficient enough to compete with conventional cells, today over a dozen companies — including Miasole, Nanosolar, and Ovonics — are competing to scale up production of low-cost solar modules that can be churned out like rolls of plastic.

  28. 78
    Serinde says:

    Re 66 (Tim Chase)
    The problem with those dratted weeble wobbles is that they don’t fall down. Contrarians always fall back on their ‘science’ even when their arguments are, as you correctly point out, entirely political. That’s why RC is so important: by undercutting their ‘science’ it is possible to get them to finally admit their arguments are ideological. Then it’s a different ball game.

  29. 79
    Theo H says:

    Thanks to the Realclimate team.

    I’m in the UK and looked at the UK Met Office site.

    The statement on the Myths page “While the arguments used might have been regarded as genuine areas of sceptical enquiry 20 years ago, further observed warming and advances in climate science render these out of touch.” from a senior British civil servant, who usually do things quietly and discretly, and usually in understatement is damning!

  30. 80
    Andrew Brock says:

    Almost all recommendations are to web-sites. I saw only one about books. so here is another book that I think does an excellant job. It is ” the Rough Guide to Climate Change” by Robert Henson, published by Rough Guides in September 2006 and distributed by the Penguin Group. I found it in a bookshop in Dublin, but I dont know how widely it might be found in the US

  31. 81
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    Re 70 and books.

    I’ll add Elizabeth Kolbert’s “Field Notes from a Catastrophe” which, although it works more as a survey of the state of Global Warming in 2005-2006 and the reaction to it, remains a solid survey that covers some of the more hot-button talking points.

    For someone wanting to get a general sense of the state of the climate science and what it is telling us, it works very well.

  32. 82
    John Mashey says:

    re: #70 Book
    Regardless of the extent to which the various hypotheses in Ruddiman’s “Plows, Plagues & Petroleum” get confirmed/disconfirmed, it’s one of my favorites for giving to people who are new to this because:
    – it has reasonable discussions of basics.
    – the writing is good, accessible to people with nontechnical backgrounds, and well-illustrates real scientific processes of building hypotheses, responding to critiques, and the general difficulties of extracting signals from complex, noisy time-varying data.
    – it offers a possible hypothesis (the Plague part) capable of explaining at least part of the CO2/temperature jiggles that have often been used as anti-AGW arguments. I prefer “Here’s a plausible mechanism that might help explain this” to “Temperatures jiggle all the time, and we can’t know why, so don’t worry.”
    – it is calmly written.

    I’ve given copies to a bunch of people, including high-schoolers, and it’s generally been well-liked.

  33. 83
    Joseph O'Sullivan says:

    Curt Schroeder #64 and Timothy Chase #66

    In theory including a brief discussion of contrarian claims to disprove them in each article in the scientific literature sounds like a good idea. In practice it would be playing into the contrarians hands.

    I could easily see contrarians cherry picking quotes from the scientific papers to boast how much attention their claims were getting by scientists and saying that all this attention must mean their claims are valid.
    Adding these extra sections to papers would also divert time and resources from furthering climate science which is something contrarians want to do.

    Countering contrarians is something that should be done, but in the public sphere, like popular media and scientific outreach programs like RealClimate.

  34. 84
    Rod B says:

    I should know this as an old EE and electronics buff, but it just never occurred to me (SLAP! SLAP!) How do the PV systems convert their DC output to AC? Some massive switching regulator of sorts (which strikes me as major power consuming)? Or is the AC transmission rectified to DC for distribution and use in the house (which would yield some really interesting benefits but cause major compatibility problems…)? How does that interface/connection work, anyway?? A short simple response will do nicely. Thanks.

    Sorry this is slightly off point, but there’s been a fair amount of interesting PV stuff on this thread.

  35. 85

    All you guys responses to the sliver cell PV can of worms I opened has been very illuminating..pardon the pun! Still once the cost of manufacture is down to comparable levels and reliable sources of polysilicon are found is is set to revolutionise how countries generate power. I was wondering if the reflective nature of huge numbers of solar arrays could benefit the greenhouse effect by directing more sunlight back out into space. With the ice sheets around the north pole shrinking by 14-16%/10 years maybe the mainstream use of solar cells could reflect back enough sunrays to buy us more time to concentrate on cutting emissions. Just a thought..what do you guys think???

  36. 86

    Re: John Wegner 58
    Had to smile about what you mentioned about relocating many cities such as new york. I totally agree with you as that is the logical thing to do…but….you know and i know that wont happen….city councils and governors will just keep building higher and higher walls to keep the water out. My wife’s family live in the philippines and I am trying to get them to australia in the next few years before the rush starts and immig policies are tightened even further. The Phils will be very hard hit once the greenland ice cover starts breaking up big time.

  37. 87
    Lance Drager says:

    Anyone care to comment on this contrarian approach?

  38. 88
    FurryCatHerder says:

    In Re #84:

    The entire process is fairly convoluted, since PV output voltage isn’t constant. Converting DC to AC is fairly simple — think about RLC circuits, radios, music players, etc. The only difference is that for a PV system inverter, the frequency is fixed at 50 or 60 Hz and the power is much greater.

    If you’re curious about some products on the market, this URL will take you to some of the power components used in PV systems (I have no financial connection with that manufacturer).

  39. 89
    Ray Ladbury says:

    #84 Rod B.
    Basically, they use an inverter (basically a rectifying scheme) to get AC and if necessary synch it with the grid. You can find some info here:

  40. 90
    Dan Browne says:

    While I buy into the climate change theory, I must be missing something with how optimistic the worst case scenarios are.
    If you create a spreadsheet with a 3ppm increase per year as a base and increase this at some rate per year between 1-10% (not unrealistic given growth rates over the last 5 years) and also assume that we see a 3C increase in temperature per doubling of concentration per ppm then it looks to me like the increase ought to be between 3C by 2080 some (at a 3ppm per year + 1% increase in this rate per year) or something venus-like by the end of the century at a (3ppm + 10% increase per year).
    Can someone point me out to where my math is wrong?

  41. 91
    Timothy Chase says:

    Lance Drager (#87) wrote:

    Anyone care to comment on this contrarian approach?

    Did you forget anything?

    Or is this a Zen contrarian approach?

    Come to think of it, Zen would be for not doing nothing, which for each individual would effortless because it would be doing without doing, since the individual empties himself so that the doing would be what acts through the the individual, when the individual does not act, and thereby true excellence is achieved.

    Incidently, Zen originated in Japan, and it appears that Japan is offering to let the world act through it:

    “We must create a new framework which moves beyond the Kyoto Protocol, in which the entire world will participate in emissions reduction,” Mr Abe said in a speech in Tokyo.

    He made it clear that his country wanted to take a leading role in efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.


    “Japan, as a country with advanced technologies, can make a significant contribution,” he said.

    Mr Abe said Japan would work with the World Bank and the United Nations, to find extra money to help fund assistance for poorer countries who find it difficult to improve energy efficiency, he said.

    Japan eyes 50% greenhouse gas cut
    Last Updated: Thursday, 24 May 2007, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK

    Excellent, but Japan appears to be ambitious in its schedule.

  42. 92
    Sean O says:

    I have nominated RealClimate for a Thinking Blogger award. I consider your site to be among the best for putting out high quality content on this topic. You can read about the nomination here which also includes a link to the originator of the award.

  43. 93
    SecularAnimist says:

    Rod B wrote in #84:

    I should know this as an old EE and electronics buff, but it just never occurred to me (SLAP! SLAP!) How do the PV systems convert their DC output to AC?

    PV systems use an inverter to convert the DC output from the PV panels to AC.

    The California-based company Real Goods has an online catalog of alternative energy (PV, wind, etc) equipment — take a look at their catalog page for inverters to learn more.

    Rooftop PV systems with utility intertie (for net metering) are a mainstream technology now. I understand that even Home Depot sells and installs them.

  44. 94
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 69 Barton, that was a very useful comment and the sort of thing one comes to expect and respect at RC.

  45. 95

    Re: 84 Um..I’ll try to make the reply as concise as possible. It uses very little power to convert from DC to AC. A semiconductor crystal that ocillates at a very high freq in MHz is divided again and again by logic circuits until it is roughly the same as your country’s mains freq. In Australia it’s 50Hz. So no bulky transformer at all. Then passed through capacitors to smooth the waveform out and Bob’s your Uncle.

  46. 96

    Re:88 Sean O
    I just found the site recently and actually found it was populated by a diminishing demographic of society…intelligent and thinking people. Somebody should write a book including all the great insights and ideas found here. Real Climate is for people who give a shit and want to use what they learn here to help there clean up their act. FANTASTIC SITE INDEED!!!

  47. 97

    Re:88 Sean O
    I just found the site recently and actually found it was populated by a diminishing demographic of society…intelligent and thinking people. Somebody should write a book including all the great insights and ideas found here. Real Climate is for people who give a shit and want to use what they learn here to help there clean up their act. FANTASTIC SITE INDEED!!!

  48. 98
    James says:

    Re #85: [I was wondering if the reflective nature of huge numbers of solar arrays could benefit the greenhouse effect by directing more sunlight back out into space.]

    You might want to think about that one a bit :-) There’s only so much energy in sunlight (about 700 W/m^2 in temperate latitudes, IIRC). If you want to convert that energy to power you can use, you can’t be reflecting it back out. The fact that current cells are a bit reflective simply reflects (my apologies) the fact that they aren’t very efficient: a perfect solar cell would be completely black.

    Seriously, comments like this and the one in #20 about how […the bonnet and hood of your car can be made of sliver cells and that will supply more than enough power to it’s electric motor for even the most blaze speed freak…] make me more than a bit skeptical about renewable energy claims. So you buy a bunch of these hypothetical 100% efficient solar cells, and cover the surface of your car with them – what’s that give you? In full sun, maybe 5 horsepower?

  49. 99
    Ike Solem says:

    Regarding solar research and development, a lot of the basic science has already been done, and what is needed is more engineering and applied material science work. This also applies to novel energy storage systems for intermittent sources like solar and wind – hydrogen conversion, for example.

    Funding is critical for this – you could have one scientist trying to characterize a few hundred materials for optimal solar production, or you could have a hundred scientists doing this – in which case it would proceed much faster.

    Look at the billions that Japanese auto companies poured into internal combustion engine development, and the resulting gains in efficiency. A similar strategy is needed for solar development. In such an effort, the basic research should be carried out at public universities so that basic patents are not restricted, but the engineering optimization is really a job for private industry – and both approaches need funding.

    A very good discussion of how to do this is available: Change the Rules, Change the Future: New energy rules could unleash an economic boom and help quash climate change
    By Timothy E. Wirth, Vinod Khosla and John D. Podesta
    22 May 2007

    A hefty carbon tax for all fossil fuels would lead to rapid changes in energy production, as the above article shows.

  50. 100
    caerbannog says:

    Response to Tony (#7)

    I can provide a quick refutation of one of McIntyre’s main arguments against Mann. McIntyre claimed that he could generate “hockey-stick-shaped” leading PC’s from random noise using Mann’s data-centering convention. McIntyre used that argument to claim that Mann’s “hockey-stick” was not much more than an artifact fished out of random noise.

    It is true that one can generate “hockey-stick-shaped” leading PC’s from band-limited random noise (red noise) if Mann’s data-centering convention is used. However, there is a show-stopping flaw in McIntyre’s argument. McIntyre didn’t bother to look at the singular-value magnitudes associated with the leading PC’s. Had he done so, he would have seen that there was no equivalence between Mann’s “hockey-stick” (with a big singular-value magnitude) and McIntyer’s “noise hockey-sticks” (with *small* singular-value magnitudes).

    When you use the SVD to compute principal components (PC’s), the first thing you should do is look at the singular values before you proceed any further with the analysis. A PC with a small associated singular value is in no way equivalent to a PC with a large singular value (even if the PC’s have the same “shape”).

    McIntyre’s failure to consider the singular value magnitudes in his attack on Mann was an astonishing oversight. (Well, maybe not so astonishing for a global-warming denier).