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A day when Hell was frozen

Filed under: — rasmus @ 7 February 2008

“Hell train station” I was honoured to be invited to the annual regional conference for Norwegian journalists, taking place annually in a small town called ‘Hell’ (Try Earth Google ‘Hell, Norway’). During this conference, I was asked to participate in a panel debate about the theme: ‘Climate – how should we [the media] deal with world’s most pressing issue?’ (my translation from Norwegian; by the way ‘Gods expedition’ means ‘Cargo shipment’ in ‘old’ Norwegian dialect).

This is the first time that I have been invited to such a gathering, and probably the first time that a Norwegian journalists’ conference invited a group of people to discuss the climate issue. My impression was that the journalists more or less now were convinced by the message of the IPCC assessment reports. This can also be seen in daily press news reports where contrarians figure less now than ~5 years ago. But the public seemed to think that the scientists cannot agree on the reality or cause of climate change.

I find that the revelation of a perception of the climate problem within the climate research community that doesn’t match that of the general public problematic. What I learned is that this also seems to be true for the journalists: it was stated that their perception of climate change and its causes were different to the general public too.

The panel in which I participated consisted of a social/political scientist who had investigated how media deals with the issue of climate change and the public perception thereof, a science journalist, an AGW-skeptic, and myself. Despite the name of the place, the debate was fairly civil and well-behaved (although the AGW-skeptic compared climate scientists to mosquitoes, and brought up some ad hominem attacks on Dr. Pachauri).

The science journalist in the panel advocated the practice of reporting on issues that are based on publications from peer reviewed scientific literature. I whole-heartedly concur. I would also advice journalists to do some extensive search on the publication record of the individuals, and consider their affiliations – are they from a reputable place? Also, it’s recommended that they consider which journal in which the article is published – an article on climate published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons is less likely to receive a review of competent experts (peers) than if it were published in a mainstream geophysics journal. Finally, my advice is to try to trace the argument back to its source – does it come from some of those think tanks? But I didn’t get the chance to say this, as the debate was conducted by a moderator whose agenda was more focused on other questions.

Short of telling the journalists to start to read physics in order to understand the issues at hand, I recommended the reading of Spencer Weart’s ‘The Discovery of Global Warming’. The book is an easy read and gives a good background about the climate sciences. It also reveals that a number of arguments still forwarded by AGW-skeptics are quite old and have been answered over time. The book gives the impression of a déjà vu regarding the counter arguments, the worries, politics, and the perceived urgency of the problem. I would also strongly recommend the book for the AGW-skeptics.

One reservation I had regarding the discussion is being cut off when I get into the science and the details. I had the feeling of taking part in a football match where the referee and all the spectators were blind and then tried to convince them that I scored a goal. The problem is that people without scientific training often find it hard to judge who’s right and who’s wrong. It seems that communication skills are more important for convincing the general public that scientific skills. Scientists are usually not renowned for their ability to explain complicated and technical matters, but rather tend to shy off.

I’d suggest that journalists should try to attend the annual conferences such as the European (EMS) and American (AMS) meteorological societies. For learning what’s happening within the research, mingling with scientists/meteorologists, and because these conferences have lot to offer media (e.g. media sessions). Just as journalists go to the Olympics, would it not be natural for journalists to attend these conferences? – but I missed the opportunity to make this suggestion.

Hell seems to be fairly dead on a Sunday afternoon. I almost caught a cold from the freezing wait for the train – although the temperature was barely -3C. This January ranked as the third warmest in Oslo, and I have started to acclimatise myself to all these mild winters (the mountain regions, however, have received an unusually large amount of snow). Our minister of finance was due to attend the meeting to talk about getting grief, but she didn’t make it to Hell due to a snow storm and chaos at the air port (heavy amount of wet snow due to mild winter conditions).

366 Responses to “A day when Hell was frozen”

  1. 51
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #46 [Neil B, citing “The Sun Also Sets”
    By INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY] If it turns out to be true that solar activity is about to decline fairly sharply (and whether or not there is actually any good reason to believe this at present), then let’s be clear, that will be very good news: it could give us more time to halt the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which we know is warming the earth rapidly. However, it won’t help with the other big problem carbon dioxide build-up is causing: acidification of the oceans.

  2. 52
    Tim McDermott says:

    Re 52(Nick Gotts)

    Don’t you love the irony of the denialists touting someone who thinks that the sun will start to show signs of a grand minimum, Real Soon Now, while saying that a couple dozen teams building computer models based on thousands of peer reviewed papers is too shaky to be believed?

  3. 53
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Mark York @ 32: “Yeah I just had this stuffed in my face as the ultimate appeal to authority. It’s like being caught in an echo chamber of falsehoods.”

    Yep, another go at “it’s the sun, stupid,” complete with all the usual false assertions about increased solar activity [sic], CO2 not causing warming as the ice age ended [sic] and therefore does not cause warming now [sic], 80% of the rise in CO2 occurred since 1940 [sic] yet there was 20 years of cooling from 1945 [sic], mysterious–and variable, mind you, long-period solar cycles, and on, and on, and on. All stuff that has been debunked many times over.

  4. 54
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re, IBD, WSJ, Telegraph and other rags not worthy to wrap a fish:

    Don’t they kind of remind you of Cubs fans? I mean every year is THE YEAR, unless they are already eliminated, when next year is THE YEAR. Of course, even if we were to see a downturn in solar irradiance, it would not invalidate the physics of the greenhouse effect. And since a downturn in solar activity lasts for perhaps 80 years at most, while CO2 persists for centuries…
    The math is pretty simple…why are economists so reluctant to do it?

  5. 55
    Abbe Mac says:


    I do think that you are missing the point.

    It is generally agreed that it is impossible for Hell to freeze over. Yet you have shown that the impossible can happen.

    Everyone believes that it is impossible for mankind to destroy the World, and they believe that progress will save us. Your vision of Hell covered in snow leads me to doubt that such general opinions are always correct.

    There is a proof that Hell is exothermic and so will not freeze over given here On the other hand there is a report of experimental evidence which disputes that hypothesis. See

    You wrote:

    “The science journalist in the panel advocated the practice of reporting on issues that are based on publications from peer reviewed scientific literature. I whole-heartedly concur. I would also advice journalists to do some extensive search on the publication record of the individuals, and consider their affiliations – are they from a reputable place?”

    But that is no guarantee of the truth. We were all wrong believing that Hell does not freeze over, and as I have shown there are conflicting views on whether Hell is exothermic from equally authoratative sources.

    Lord Kelvin proved that the Earth was only ten million years old, showing that even the most prestigious authorities can be wrong. When some of the big problems in climate science are still unanswered, such as the tropical lapse rate, polar amplification, and abrupt climate change then insisting that the journalists should only listen to those who have failed to come up with the answers seems rather illogical.

    Cheers, Alastair.

    [Response: Good point about Lord Kelvin. He was a great man in many respects. But scholars of his age did not possess the same information, beit empirical data and physical understanding, as we have today. Science evolves, and I presume it moves in the direction from less informed to more informed. Thus we are getting closer to the truth as we make more discoveries and increase our understanding. We do not know if we know the truth, but the scientific consencus is – the way I see it – the most convincing view. And a reputable scientific establishments have earned its esteem through scientific mertis – often in taking part in shaping the established scientific knowledge. It’s important that the advancement of our understanding follows scientific principles (reproducable results , objective testing of hypotheses, transparancy, peer rviewed publication, etc). -rasmus]

  6. 56
    stevenmosher says:


    “As Thomas Huxley said: “My business is to teach my aspirations to conform themselves to fact, not to try and make facts harmonise with my aspirations”

    I’m sad for you. A mans reach should exceed his grasp.
    But now I understand you.

  7. 57
    John Monro says:

    Hello Rasmus,

    Thank you for your posting, and for confirming that there is indeed a Hell on Earth. (Though according to Wiki, hell in Norwegian means cliff or overhang). You say “The problem is that people without scientific training often find it hard to judge who’s right and who’s wrong.” I am not a public speaker or any climate expert, but I think if were, I would put this back to the audience. You and I know that climate change is proven, so really, you’re job is not to prove the science to the audience, but lead them to prove it for themselves. That’s not science or politics really, but education. Couldn’t you say something like this:

    “To you in the audience, whoever you are and whatever you do, and however good or bad your understanding of science, I think there must be a lot of times when you hear someone like me telling you one thing, and someone else on the other side telling you just the opposite, who do you believe? Who do you trust? We logically cannot both be right. Do you judge the worth of what we tell you by our appearance, our demeanour, the clothes we wear, or where we come from, or the glibness of our language? And if you do, is this truly the best way of deciding? You must find it all so confusing, you hear august bodies like the IPCC saying how bad global warming is going to be, yet lots of other quite well known and intelligent individuals, such as Bjorn Lomborg, and my opponent to my left at this meeting, contradicting all that. I don’t know how I can reach you, because I am sure that I am right. I am a cautious professional scientist and I don’t make claims that I cannot back up with the very best and most thoroughly researched peer reviewed science.. So what should I do, talk louder? Learn Norwegian?

    But you know, to me, the science is over, long since over, I know we are committed to a very different planet whether we like it or not, but if we take urgent action now, to ameliorate the problem, we can avoid the very worse consequences, which could indeed be dire. I can do no more, it is now over to you. It is you that will make the decisions, who will elect your government or who will take on board the need for change. You live on the same planet as me, I am very worried about what we are doing to it, and you should be too. We live in a world that now has access to all the information you need to make up your own mind about what is going on. There has never, in the whole history of humanity, been so much information so readily accessible to so many people. It is called the internet, and almost all of you will have access to the internet from your home, or if not, in your local library. I am completely and utterly confident that if you take the time to examine my claims as against the claims of those that deny climate change, that you will see that the science of climate change is robust, not difficult to understand and very worrying indeed, and you will see the claims of the sceptics for what they are, misinformed, out-dated, answered and just plain wrong.

    At the end of this meeting the organisers will be handing out a list or reliable internet sites, some in Norwegian, where you can read and learn. If you can find the time to come to this meeting, on a cold and dark night (and thank you so much for your attendance), surely you can find the time to sit in front of your computer, and look to learn something. I would say this is not only your opportunity, but also your duty. Global warming has the capacity to change our planet to such a different world that hundreds of millions of people’s lives will literally be put at risk, shorelines be inundated and many of the world’s most wonderful cities, including Oslo, no longer be fit for human habitation. If you cannot make up your mind as to who is right and who is wrong at this meeting, it is your duty to do this in your own time in your own home and in your own community. This is your duty to yourselves, to your family, to your community and most important of all, to your future. And I am convinced that the truth will hit home, because, in your heart of hearts, you know the truth of this already. You live in Norway, a country that will change more than many with global warming. For the older people here, you know, the climate has changed, and not only that, seems to be changing faster, and the younger people will have already heard you tell them this. Am I not right?

    Thank you for your time and attention, good luck in your researches, and please feel free to e-mail me at realclimate if you wish for more information. Thank you again for your attendance, it has been a real privilege to come to your beautiful country and spend some worthwhile time with you.”

  8. 58
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    “The Bali dissenters”. Yeah, and then there is Courtney, whose real credentials still appear so mysterious, that only he seems to know what they are…

  9. 59
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 57 stevenmosher

    I am sad for you, as you seem not to understand science.

  10. 60
    William Astley says:

    In reply to Neil B. The link in your comment is not correct (a few errors.). The following is an explanation as to how it is hypothesized that solar changes affect planetary temperature.

    The majority of the solar affects to planetary temperature in the 20th century are attributed to solar magnetic cycle changes, not changes to the Total Solar Irradiation (TSI). The changes to the solar magnetic field cycle effects the planet’s temperature by modulating the amount of planetary cloud cover. More clouds higher albedo, cooler planet and visa versa, less clouds will result in a warmer planet. There is not agreement in the scientific community as to specifically how much of the 20th century warming is attributable to solar magnetic cycle changes and how much is due to GHG.

    The solar cycle 24 magnetic field cycle appears to have failed to start which would indicate there will be an abrupt drop in the solar magnetic field cycle and an extended period with few sunspots. (A period when there are few or no sunspots is called a Maunder minimum. Named after the Discover of specific 75 year period when there were no sunspots.) A Maunder minimum is believed to be caused by processes that interrupt the mechanism in the sun that creates the solar cycle magnetic fields.

    The proof that there was solar cycle magnetic cycle interruption at the end of solar cycle 23 is the following paper. As noted in the paper, there were no solar X flares at the end of cycle 22. At the end of 23 cycle, there where 34 X-class flares (3 more X-ray flares in 2007.). Normally x flares are created by the large magnetic fields that are created at the highest point in the solar cycle. The solar magnetic field ropes are created at the interface of the solar radiative zone and convection zone. The magnetic ropes created at the solar tachocline float up through the convection zone to the solar surface where they form sunspots. The interruption in the tachocline is believed to be due to barycentre motion of the sun by the large planets. This motion causes an oscillation in the sun which interrupts the formation of the magnetic field ropes. When the tacholine is interrupted there are a few regions that have a magnetic seed in them before the interruption. These regions continue to build a magnetic rope, except the rope no longer releases and builds to the strength required to create x ray solar flares which explains why there were 37 x ray flares at the end of solar cycle 23.

    From the paper:

    “The expectation for the years 2004-2006, if based on the previous-cycle years of approximately 1993-1995, would have been zero further events – not a single X-class flare occurred during these three late years of the previous cycle, although one old-cycle event did occur in 1996 (Kosovichev & Zharkova 1998; Hudson et al. 1998). To our surprise as many as 34 X-class flares occurred over 2004-2006”

    There was a paper published in 1998 that predicted a Maunder minimum based on the paleo record. A paper in 1987 predicted an imminent solar magnetic cycle interruption based on solar barycentre motion. There is evidence of a series of these solar minimums throughout the paleo record.

  11. 61
    Robin Johnson says:

    Unfortunately, the reality of Global Warming is very much like the prospect of Nuclear Annihilation that those of us older than 20 lived with throughout the Cold War. It’s really scary. End of the world kind of stuff. So the average joe while readily acknowledging its real (because everyone says it is) simply pretends its not happening – at least not today. It’s easier that way. Joe has plenty of terrible things to worry about already, wars, disease, globalization, bills, diabetes due to lack of exercise or proper diet. So until the leaders (religious, political, et al) step up and convince enough of the general public to demand that their elected officials do something, the scientists will be viewed as simply doomsayers because currently the mitigation strategies outlined so far seem (regardless of reality) to rely on economic hardship or magic.

    In the regular world rather than the world of science, no one wants to hear about problems – they only want to hear about solutions. But they won’t listen to the radical solution(s) required until they’ve believe the problem is near and severe – hence the struggle for these many years.

    The scientists need to continue to work on the religious and political leaders to help them understand the need for motivating the public into demanding action. More importantly, the engineers and scientists need to outline what can be done and how, to give the political leaders something to sell. Meanwhile, the rest of us conversant in science need to continue gently working on our neighbors, friends and co-workers on how serious this really is and that things need to be done – at the very least we need to ramp up the science and technology research. And so maybe magic will save us.

    Or not. Personally, I think we’ve already effed it up and the suffering is going to be one huge slow motion train wreck. Human civilization will survive but our descendants will regard us with deserved contempt. But at least we’ll get to know the answer to that all important question – just how many people can we jam on the planet before the ecosystem collapses.

  12. 62
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #46: The lack of any direct quotes of Tapping in the IBD editorial seemed suspicious, as did the fact that it was an editorial (i.e. with no journalistic standards) rather than an article. I emailed Tapping earlier today asking him to clarify and haven’t had a reply yet, but subsequently came across this article (from the previous day) that was obviously the raw material for the editorial. This recent paper on which Tapping was lead author makes it clear that he is entirely in the solar science mainstream and does not hold the view that there might be major effects from a repeat of the Maunder Minimum (to the extent the MM doesn’t just turn out to be more observational artifact than real).

    So now of course this sleazy piece of disinfomation is winging its way around the denialosphere. Rush Limbaugh picked it up (h/t Roy Spencer?), which means it’ll be everywhere over the weekend. :(

    Right now I’ll bet poor Tapping is on his way back from the SORCE conference and has no idea about any of this. Won’t he be surprised.

  13. 63
    Alan says:

    Re #57: “I’m sad for you. A mans reach should exceed his grasp.”

    You are confusing socio-economic ‘facts of life’ with the physical laws of nature and are likely failing to understand either.

  14. 64
    dhogaza says:

    “As Thomas Huxley said: “My business is to teach my aspirations to conform themselves to fact, not to try and make facts harmonise with my aspirations”

    I’m sad for you. A mans reach should exceed his grasp.
    But now I understand you.

    The question, Mosher, is which do you misunderstand most? The quote, or climate science?

    Or perhaps you’re trying to tell us that you’re sad for Ray because, unlike you, he doesn’t try to make facts harmonise with his aspirations? Having observed your vile behavior at a variety of blogs, I know that your aspirations include demolishing of climate science in the arena of public opinion, regardless of the facts, after all.

  15. 65

    Contrarian journalism usually relies on scientists having impressive credentials, never read an article disparaging a scientist not having a huge luggage full of peer reviewed papers, credentials outweigh reviews by a magnitude of importance. Pitting one scientist against another is by far common practice which is a waste of time. Fortunately climate science is not so abstract, the reader can be involved by personal memories vs active weather. There is not enough of this engagement bringing out reasoning as a means to convince. Relativity was made famous by Gravitational lensing observed during a solar eclipse, not well before when Einstein wrote his theory. Its the effects which become wildly understood and not esoteric papers. Hansen et Al. prediction of a world wide warming did not get the same attention as the 1919 solar eclipse observations, and it is probably because
    science reporting has seriously lapsed in personality wars, rather than appreciating great achievements.

    I challenge individuals to think as often as I can when talking climate, I have yet met an elderly person denying that their climate has not changed, but everything gets nebulous when trying to explain why it is getting warmer. Demonstrating no other source of heat but by GHG’s is not so tricky. The only other likely source is the sun having heat radiation outside the scope of individual perceptions, somehow there must be more information about the sun preferably given away on a regular basis, along with forecasts for instance. Confusion strives on ignorance and emotional arguments.

  16. 66
    Steve Bloom says:

    Ken Tapping responds:

    Hi Steve,

    The article is rubbish.

    I believe that global climate change is the biggest problem facing us today. As yet we have no idea of exactly how serious it can get or where the tipping point may be.

    The lateness of the start of the solar activity cycle is not yet enough to be something to worry about. However, even if we were to go into another minimum, and the Sun dims for a few decades, as it did during the Maunder Minimum, it could reduce the problem for a while, but things will come back worse when the cycle starts again.

    We are looking at the downside of the freedom of the web. Its freedom extends to bad information being circulated.



  17. 67
    Andrew H says:

    Secular Animist (51) and BPL (49) take issue with Alan K and quite reasonably so. However, I think Alan K has given a pretty clear indication of how “people like me” think and therefore defined the gulf that has to be bridged. In that sense, his is a positive contribution.

    RC is certainly helping to build the bridge but getting a good foundation on the other side depends on understanding the Alan K’s. The climate scientists and the media all play a role in this.

    If Alan spends a bit more time reading this site he might come round to thinking like the people here and get a bit of an appreciation of science in the process. But, there will still be many millions like him.

  18. 68
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Steve Mosher, Your rejection of the realism in Huxley’s admonition speaks volumes.

  19. 69
    Ron Taylor says:

    Steven, your ad hom attack on Ray in #57 seems to be in response to his #55. Your attack makes no sense to me. What is it you do not understand about Ray’s statement? Can you not see that, whatever else may be going on that might temporarily drop global temperatures, the forcing due to CO2 buildup will continue to increase as long as we continue to add CO2 to the atmosphere. Then, when the temporary negative forcing disappears (e.g., aerosol cleanup), or goes back positive (cyclical forcing), we will be in worse trouble than ever. You seem to imply that if anything happens to cause temperatures to drop, then that’s it – global warming is over, and any other understanding is somehow delusional. Ray’s pooint is that the laws of physics will continue to apply.

  20. 70
    Ray Ladbury says:

    William Astley, So, perhaps you would care to tell us the mechanism by which changes in the heliomagnetic field affect climate–because I have yet to hear one that even tangentially intersects reality.

  21. 71
    Thomas says:

    (68) I think that was a very good point, that was how I interperted the comment.
    Along similar lines: trying to rate scientists/journals to separate wheat from chaff is probably not going to work. The people we are trying to convince are used to lots of different ratings scales, such as degree of support for conservative politics equals goodness, that they will believe the journals are simply fronts for liberalism. That brings up a second motivator besides libertarian anti-regulationism, the political cum cultural war in the US. Partisans can instantly detect whether a finding or argument tends to support a right or a left interpretation. The immediate reaction is to support any argument which leads in the proper direction, and disparage any argument that leads in the wrong direction. This sort of thinking is far more common among the populance than logically weighing data/theories etc. Naturally they project the same style of thinking onto scientists. And it is well known that AGW is a left issue.

  22. 72
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Ron Taylor, It appears that Steve is not alone in perpetuating Bishop Berkley’s idealism. See:

    “In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

    The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.””

    And their magical thinking is not confined to politics–it evidently extends to physics as well.

  23. 73
    pete best says:

    Some of the media are pro climate change here in the UK. The Guardian and Independent newspapers have a left wing bent and are pro climate change. The Telegraph and Times newspapers are more right wing and hence allow for contrarian opinion in their columns although they do also reproduce IPCC and other pro climate work.

    I think that politically the left are convinced but the right especially the far right are not. This is what makes it so interesting to the USA as the right are very well organised and have managed to fight a steady fight over the years and as yet we have not managed to get anything resolved there.

    [Response: I don’t think anyone is ‘pro’ climate change…. – gavin]

  24. 74
    William Astley says:

    In reply to Ray Lambert’s comment.

    The solar magnetic cycle affects cloud cover by two mechanisms 1) Changes to the solar heliosphere which in turn changes the number of Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR) that strike the earth’s atmosphere and 2) Electroscavenging where solar wind bursts remove cloud forming ions. The following is a summary. See this paper by Brian Tinsley and Fangqun Yu “Atmospheric Ionization and Clouds as Links Between Solar Activity and Climate” for details.

    The net effect of planetary clouds (all levels) is a reflection into space of 27.7 W/m2 (i.e. Clouds cool the planet by 27.7 W/m2.) [Hartmann, 1993] A mechanism that increases or decreases the total amount of planetary cloud cover will change the planet’s temperature.

    Cloud Modulation by GCR
    Microscope cloud nuclei are created by the electrons that are produced when the GCR strike the upper atmosphere. (GCR create muons. The muons reach lower levels in the atmosphere and create free electrons.) Svensmark has confirmed the processes in a lab test. Two additional tests are planned. One in a deep under ground mine, to test the process in the absence of natural muons and the second with CERN, where CERN will be used to create a known modulated artificial GCR source.

    GCR Modulation by Solar Heliosphere
    Pieces of magnetic flux from the sun are carried out into the solar heliosphere. The solar heliosphere stretches out about 20 light hours (near the orbit of Uranus.) The pieces of magnetic flux deflect GCR so that deflected GCR does not strike the earth. As the solar cycle progresses there is an observed change in the amount of Galactic Cosmic Ray (GCR) particles that strike the earth. Tracking the change in the number of GCR is a change total planetary cloud cover. This is shown by satellite data in Palle’s paper and also in Tinsley and Yu’s paper (figure 2.1.).

    High speed solar winds that are created by coronal holes (for example) remove cloud forming ions by the process of electroscavenging. The high speed solar wind creates a space charge in the earth’s ionosphere. The charge differential in the ionosphere creates a potential difference between the ionosphere and the lower atmosphere which removes cloud forming ions, from the lower atmosphere. (See figure 3.1 and figure 5.3 in Tinsley and Yu’s paper.) The ionosphere space charge is latitude specific (see figure 5.3.) Palle’s satellite analysis shows a significant reduction in clouds at the latitudes, as predicted by Tinsley and Yu.

    The planetary cloud cover closely tracks GCR through two solar cycles. Around 1999 there is a gradual reduction in the earth’s total cloud cover and a reduction in the earth’s albedo based on the earthshine albedo data and satellite data. This reduction in cloud cover occurs when there is an increase in solar wind bursts due to coronal holes moving to the solar equator at the end of the solar cycle.

  25. 75
    Ray Ladbury says:

    William Astley–there is no evidence that cosmic ray fluxes are changing, and your second mechanims is too feeble to have much effect.

    Pete Best and Gavin:

    “[Response: I don’t think anyone is ‘pro’ climate change…. – gavin]”

    Actually, I’ve been thinking about it, and the Russians might be. After all, much of their economy now revolves around fossil fuel exports, they have always coveted a warmwater, year-round port, and they have vast areas of unproductive tundra that they may think (rightly or wrongly) that it can be rendered more productive by higher temperatures (despite the short growing season).

    This brings up a question: What does the international community do if every nation is on board with the necessity of reductions–except those few who think they stand to benefit from a warmer world?

  26. 76
    SecularAnimist says:

    Ray Ladbury quotes Ron Suskind quoting a senior adviser to President Bush thusly: “… when we act, we create our own reality … we’ll act again, creating other new realities … we’re history’s actors …”.

    Ray Ladbury calls this “magical thinking”.

    I would disagree. We are all “history’s actors”. Every act creates “new realities”. That much is true.

    The question is, how shall we choose to act, in order to create what sort of new reality? That question has two distinct parts.

    The first part is the question of what sort of “new reality” do we wish to create? What are the values that we wish to realize when we act to change the present reality to a new reality?

    The second part is the question of what specific actions will effectively bring about the desired new reality — and that’s where being “reality-based”, where making a “judicious study of discernable reality”, where relying on science, becomes important. If we act according to good, accurate information and a correct understanding of what the effects of our actions will be, then we have a better chance of creating the reality we desire than if we act according to ignorance, incorrect information, and faulty beliefs about the effects of our actions.

    With regard to anthropogenic global warming and consequent climate change, we in the “reality-based community” must become “history’s actors”. We must have a clear understanding of the values we wish to realize, of the nature of the “new reality” that we wish to create. And we must act — we must act urgently and above all effectively, and effective action can only be based on solid scientific knowledge, ie. the “judicious study of discernable reality”, in order to understand the present reality we are dealing with and how our actions will change it.

    The problem with the point of view expressed by the “senior advisor” that Suskind quotes lies partly in the sort of realities that the Bush administration has sought to create, and also (even if one agrees with creating those realities) with reliance on incorrect information and poor understanding of the likely effects of their actions.

    The problem with AGW denialists lies partly in the sort of realities they may wish to create (eg. a reality in which accelerating consumption of fossil fuels continues to enrich giant corporations with tens of billions of dollars a year in profit until fossil fuels are depleted, or a reality in which everything is left to the “free market” and government “intervention” to promote efficiency and renewable energy and limit emissions is anathema), but the even greater problem is a refusal to base actions on accurate information about reality and about the probable effects of our actions on that reality.

    The problem is that they don’t like the actions that a “judicious study of discernable reality” suggests are urgently needed to address AGW, so they make up their own reality in which such actions are not needed.

    A bull in a china shop creates new realities too: wreckage and debris where once there was beauty.

  27. 77
    CobblyWorlds says:

    Gavin Schmidt: “I don’t think anyone is ‘pro’ climate change…”

    Ray Ladbury: “Actually, I’ve been thinking about it, and the Russians might be…”

    There’s an interesting discussion from something called ClimateIntel here:
    It discusses a communique from the Russian Federation (linked to 3rd para 2nd line) and rather neatly matches my understanding. I see the Russian Federation Stance as ambivalent, aware of risks, but eager primarily to seek opportunity. Their most pressing concern is the societally extensive aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. It seems to me that they’re busy trying to manage a (potential?) disaster, so possible future problems will take a back seat (unlike in the stability of the EU core member states).

    We all know that Russia weren’t just being nationalistic for the sake of it when they placed that flag on th North Pole. Thinner Arctic winter ice, with an ice free summer will be key for ocean drilling rig operations, as I understand it. Vladimir Putin’s regime and his internal rivals are all Cold-War animals: The pressures of climate change and peak oil/gas conjoined may create international tensions such as the cold war did. I think we may find Putin a model of the future rather than (as he is often judged) a relic of the past. Placed as they are between China and the EU, the Russian Federation are ideally placed to monopolise Eurasia’s gas/oil supply later this century, if they can just find enough reserves.

    Russia is very interesting… however that’s geo-political not climatological. ;)

  28. 78

    This brings up a question: What does the international community do if every nation is on board with the necessity of reductions–except those few who think they stand to benefit from a warmer world?

    Bomb them…

    Seriously, Eli Rabbett had a very sane proposal for that: tax carbon not only at the plant, but at the border. Most countries are somewhat dependent on export, and import duties graded by carbon footprint would stop the regime from ‘leaking’ too much.

    [Response: Actually this is being talked about even at the WTO, based, ironically, on the sea turtle case the US brought against Thailand. There the US successfully argued that environmental concerns justified increased tariffs. This could well be a precedent for carbon emission-based trade rules as well. – gavin]

  29. 79
    Dylan says:

    Ray, you convince the Russians that no matter how much their own climate may benefit, the economic impacts on the rest of the world will leave them significant worse off. In our post-colonialism world, nations don’t become richer at the expense of other nations, they become richer by trading with other rich nations.

  30. 80
    pete best says:

    Re #76, Yer we can all make it to 4C and go and live in Siberia for a few millenia. Another group who are pro climate change are “end worlders”. Plenty in the USA I hear.

  31. 81

    Re #58 John Monro, a small technical correction: I seem to remember that Rasmus is a Norwegian national living in or near Oslo, and probably somewhat fluent in both Norwegian languages :-)

  32. 82
    Greg Goodknight says:

    A new Danish documentary should be of interest to many in this discussion: Klimamysteriat, The Cloud Mystery, centered around Henrik Svensmark but also prominently featuring Eigil Friis-Christensen (also of the Danish National Space Center), Nir Shaviv (Hebrew U. of Jerusalem), Jan Veizer (U of Ottawa), Richard Turco (UCLA) , Eugene Parker (U of Chicago), Paal Brekke (Norwegian Space Center), and others that I may have missed.

    Cosmic ray deniers will enjoy a cameo appearance by Sir John Mason of the UK Meteorological Office, despite the applause given Svensmark by the lecture audience when Mason’s views are characterized as being “one extreme”.

    Filmmaker Lars Oxfeldt Mortensen has been shooting film of Svensmark for years, including footage of the SKY experiment being constructed.

    Youtube’d in 6 parts, part 1 being at
    Search youtube for Svensmark to find it easily.

    The website for the film

    the trailer can be viewed at

    [Response: This appears to be a straight retelling of the “Chilling Stars” book. In my review of the book, I pointed to the ridiculous overstatements of importance that were being made for this work, and I see it continues here. Apparently, “The film records ten years of effort by the small team in Copenhagen that, in the end, solved the mystery of how the Galaxy and the Sun interfere in our everyday weather.” Well, nice to know there are no mysteries any more. Svensmark and colleagues would do well to note that most of the criticism they have received is because of these continuing exaggerations, not because of any “challenge [to] the belief of most climate theorists” about CO2. How can their results say anything about the trends in recent decades when there is no trend in cosmic rays? – gavin]

  33. 83
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Secular Animist,
    While I agree that we are all history’s actors, we are constrained in the actions we can take and the outcomes we can achieve. The denialists and other magical thinkers tend to deny physics, while many on the left tend to brush economic reality lightly aside when proposing solutions for climate change. And while history does not repeat itself, the same themes manifest throughout. Then we have human psychology. If we seek effective action, we need to study the problem, be cognizant of the realities and constraints. We need to understand why things are the way they are before we can change them, and those changes that make the least change while still achieving the desired result will be most likely to succeed. Utopia technically means “nowhere”. There’s a reason for that.

  34. 84
    Steve Reynolds says:

    SecularAnimist> The problem is that they don’t like the actions that a “judicious study of discernable reality” suggests are urgently needed to address AGW, so they make up their own reality in which such actions are not needed.

    While it is clear who you mean by ‘they’ above, your statement can be applied to both sides of the mitigation vs. adaptation debate that I think stevenmosher was addressing.

    Most commenters here seem to see a reality where it is easier to change human nature to give up an energy intensive lifestyle (or aspirations to it if they don’t have it yet). This view may be encouraged by believing it is also the better moral approach.

    The opposite view of reality is that it is easier to use human ingenuity to modify nature (non-fossil energy technology, moving cities inland, geo-engineering, if necessary) than to modify human nature. This view may be encouraged by believing it is also the better moral approach.

  35. 85
    Greg Goodknight says:

    Certainly, any lay piece with Henrik Svensmark at the center will appear much as Chilling Stars would; please note I’ve not read it, preferring the journal articles of the principals involved.

    Gavin exaggerated even the filmmaker’s words, who makes no claim there are no climate mysteries left, only that the mystery of how “how the Galaxy and the Sun interfere in our everyday weather” has been solved. Even RealClimate has agreed there is an effect, the argument is over how much.

    Nir Shaviv has estimated that the current climate is 2/3 natural effects, 1/3 AGW, plus or minus 1/3. There are plenty of mysteries left to work on.

    The global temperature (record cold southern hemisphere and now northern hemisphere winters, a general stalling of measured warming since 1998) does not at all seem to be following the “hockey stick” projections of the past, and the GCR record does seem to be well correlated with historic temperatures, even in this past century.

    Finally, it would seem to this almost layman (who abandoned Physics, after earning a BS, for electrical engineering) that the high energy neutron flux would tend not to correlate well over the short term to GCR modulated by the sun’s magnetic field (I believe this is the dominant effect claimed by Svensmark) since, iirc, uncharged particles tend to not be affected by magnetic fields. C14 AND Be10, as proxies for GCR, do show a good correlation with temperature over the past century, and over the last 700 million years.

    [Response: I did not exaggerate, the quote is directly from the english-language website, and I certainly have not agreed with such a statement. I think the chances that GCR making a difference to ‘everyday weather’ is so remote a possibility as to be almost nonsensical. If you want to discuss 10Be, perhaps you’d care to explain the two 10Be records one from the south pole, and one from Dye3 in Greenland don’t actually correlate for the 20th Century? Or whether the 14C production record over the last century that has had the contamination from fossil fuel use and atomic bomb tests removed? As to whether neutron counts correlate to GCR, they do, but take it up with Svensmark – he’s the one forever showing correlations to the CLIMAX record. – gavin]

  36. 86
    Pat Neuman says:

    re 85.

    Those with “The opposite view of reality” are being driven by guilt in their living an energy excessive lifestyle and in not wanting to change.

  37. 87
    William Astley says:

    In reply to Ray Ladbury’s comment:

    “..there is no evidence that cosmic ray fluxes are changing, and your second mechanism is too feeble to have much effect. ”

    The following is a link to Palle’s earthshine paper that provides data to support a reduction in planetary albedo (due to less planetary cloud cover) 1994 to 2001, which Palle states is equivalent to a forcing of 7.5W/M^2, based on observations. Palle notes (in his satellite paper) that the reduction in planetary cloud cover is at latitudes and over the ocean as predicted by Tinsley. (The atmosphere over the ocean is ion poor whereas there are ions over the continents as the continent crust is slightly radioactive. The solar wind bursts creates a potential difference between ionosphere and planet at specific latitudes.)

    Earthshine paper.

    “Our simulations suggest a surface average forcing at the top of the atmosphere, coming only from changes in the albedo from 1994/1995 to 1999/2001, of 2.7 +/-1.4 W/m2 (Palle et al., 2003), while observations give 7.5 +/-2.4 W/m2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 1995) argues for a comparably sized 2.4 W/m2 increase in forcing, which is attributed to greenhouse gas forcing since 1850.”

    The increase in the electroscavenging is due to the increase in solar magnetic storms, in the 20th century. The solar magnetic storms cause pulsations in the earth’s magnetic field. The following is a link to a 150 year record in the pulsation of the earth’s magnetic field. Note the number of solar magnetic storms has doubled in the 20th century as compared to the 19th century (see figure 12 in the attached link.) Also note the reduction in the number of magnetic storms in 1956 to 1972 which correlates with a period of planetary cooling.

  38. 88
    Ron Taylor says:

    Steve Reynolds (#85), I would argue that we have to do basically everything you have described as both sides of the debate, if we are to avoid the most serious consequences of global warming. First, we have to reduce energy consumption, at least during a transition of several decades, we will have to find a alternative energy source to fossil fuels, we will have to move cities, and a certain amount of geo-engineering will no doubt be needed. Those are not opposite views of reality, but components of a comprehensive approach.

  39. 89
    Hank Roberts says:

    William, why bring it up again? Hasn’t it been rather thoroughly gone over here already? Or do you have something new? Note the thread here does not include the responses made in the peer-reviewed literature, it’s only about the choice of data and problems with that.

  40. 90
    Ray Ladbury says:

    William, we’ve been over this. The earthshine stuff is tentative at best. And the bigger problem is that positing some other mechanism does not change the known physics of greenhouse forcing. If there is such a mechanism, it is most likely to affect other factors, such as aerosols, which are much less pinned down than CO2.

  41. 91
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Greg Goodnight, perhaps you can suggest how to amplify the effects of a tiny change in the normal GCR flux of 5 particles per cm^2 per second into a significant change in cloud cover. Because, it’s sure got me baffled. But then even if you could come up with a mechanism, there’s the small matter that GCR fluxes aren’t changing. I would know, since I look at this regularly in my day job.

  42. 92
    Holly Stick says:

    Steve Reynolds #85, we don’t need to change human nature; we need to change human behaviour. This has been done in the past in response to changes in the environment, or to war conditions (WW2 rationing in Britain and elsewhere, for example) and even in response to advertising. We need a campaign to convince people to do things differently. This is certainly possible.

  43. 93
    Rod B says:

    Thomas (72), you raise some interesting observations. But one area that I disagree with: I’m in the minority, but I do not think AGW is an inherently left wing or right wing issue. I think it has been driven to the left by the small but shrill advocates who keep getting off point and (seemingly) espousing tangential things that would naturally (and correctly IMO) cause the right much grief. ‘It would be good if we junked all tractors and walked behind the one-bottom plow and Old Bessie’ being just the latest of a myriad of examples. I think this is unfortunate for both sides of the argument — even the “right”/skeptic side (me) because it just muddies the waters of some of our’s attempt to learn and understand more of the science.

  44. 94
    Mark A. York says:

    I found the paper I was looking for in my own book. Duh! That’s what writing one of these things can do to an author. Curt Davis of the U. of Missouri on Eastern Antarctic snowfall accumulation.

    Well, I can say one trend I’ve seen around the webiverse and that’s we do badly with electrical engineers. Apparently atmospheric chemistry does not compute in that building. H2O CO2 molecular structure and behavior. Hello? A short?

  45. 95
    William Astley says:

    In reply to Hank Robert’s

    “… why bring it up again? Hasn’t it been rather thoroughly gone over here already?”

    When we last corresponded in June of 2007, I noted the sun appeared to be moving to a Maunder minimum. (I provided links to two separate solar papers that predicted that a move to a Maunder minimum has imminent, one based on an analysis of paleo cosmogenic isotope data and the second based on solar barycentre motion.)

    Daily solar observations continue to support that statement. See my comment 61, for an observation that appears to support an interruption to the solar magnetic cycle.

    The e-folding time of the solar magnetic field is 4 years. What is the e-folding time of the ocean top 50m?

    I have provided links to papers that show evidence of cyclic abrupt climate change. I provided a link to Kaplan’s 2006 paper that provides evidence for synchronized cooling in both hemispheres. Synchronized cooling in both hemispheres requires a mechanism that can affect the entire planet. Svensmark’s estimate for the portion of the 20th century warming that is attributable to solar is slightly less than 0.6C.

    I am concerned about climate change.

  46. 96
  47. 97
    Hank Roberts says:

    Watch out for second-hand stories; fortunately they’re being caught and criticized, as here:

  48. 98
    Andrew H says:

    re 95 and electrical engineers.

    Here in NZ we have a prime example of a denialist electrical engineer in Brian Leyland – he is even appearing at the Heartland conference!?? Brian chairs the Economics committee of the NZ Climate Science Coalition (being neither an economist or climate scientist is no impediment to progress in this group).

    One of his favourite lines is how AGW is all predicated on models and who can trust models.

    Maybe electrical engineers are used to more precision than the rest of us but as a civil engineer I am quite comfortable with models where the inputs aren’t necessarily clearly defined but somehow you can satisfy yourself that the results are correct enough. All landslide remediation works are reliant on such models and many buildings (the rest rely on cultural experience).

    And then, we could talk about economics models. No-one expects them to be correct but plenty of money is laid down on the basis of their predictions.

    Perhaps some electrical engineers can speak up and enlighten us about their world.

  49. 99
    Bob Ward says:

    RE Pete Best’s comment at #74, he is right to point out that the right-wing newspapers in the UK, notably the Telegraph and Mail titles, have given much more prominence to the denial lobby. I use the word denial rather than scepticism because so-called sceptics often refuse to accept any evidence that suggests that human activities are driving climate change, yet embrace uncritically any information that appears inconsistent with the ‘consensus’ view, such as suggestions that changes in the Sun’s activity explain all or that climate researchers are engaged in a global anti-American conspiracy, etc.

    Anyway, I digress. In the UK media, I think all of the science correspondents on the national newspapers have done a pretty good job of reporting advances in research on climate change. But the editorial lines, reflected in leading articles and opinion pieces, quite often reflect the political leanings of the newspaper. Hence the Independent titles have occasionally exaggerated the immediacy and magnitude of climate change impacts (for instance, by linking floods in Boscastle a few years ago to climate change) while the Mail and Telegraph titles have published commentaries by the likes of Melanie Phillips and Christopher Booker that deny that human’s are having an impact, or that climate change is something to worry about (see Booker’s latest hilarious contribution to public debate in today’s paper at the end of the following article:

    In this way, climate change has been divided along traditional political lines, with some on the left advocating extreme measures to tackle climate change, and some on the right arguing that no measures are needed (because there is no problem). I don’t think it helps public understanding of the issues, but I guess it is inevitable when science and politics overlap.

    And I also want to recommend Spencer Weart’s excellent book – public debate about this issue would be greatly advanced if more people were aware of the history of research in this area. It should be a compulsory part of school science curricula.

  50. 100

    Greg Goodknight writes:

    [[The global temperature (record cold southern hemisphere and now northern hemisphere winters, a general stalling of measured warming since 1998) does not at all seem to be following the “hockey stick” projections of the past, and the GCR record does seem to be well correlated with historic temperatures, even in this past century.]]

    The idea that “global warming stopped in 1998!” is just plain dead wrong. The trend is still up: