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With all due respect…

Filed under: — group @ 24 March 2009 - (Italian)

There was a great comedy piece a few years back (whose origin escapes us) that gave examples of how the English would use their language when speaking to a non-native speaker to imply the precise opposite of what was actually being understood. This allowed the English to feel superior without actually damaging international relations. One example was the phrase “with all due respect” which is generally understood to imply that the speaker has a great deal of respect for their counterpart, while the speaker is actually implying that they have no respect in the slightest for their interlocutor. The respect due being precisely zero.

This thought occurred to us when a few of us opened our email this week to see a draft ad being sent around by the Cato Institute (i.e. Pat Michaels) looking for signatories prior to being published in “major US newspapers” sometime soon:

There are a number of amusing details here. While we are curious about the credentials of “Dr. N. Here”, we certainly understand why they are looking for a little more variety on the list. More surprising (and somewhat ironically) the mailing list for signature requests includes a number of scientists who don’t agree with these sentiments at all. It’s as if Michaels and Cato actually believe that these various lists of “dissenting” scientists are accurate reflections of support for their agenda. They appear to be have been conned by their own disinformation.

As an exercise for our readers, perhaps people would like to speculate on who is going to end up on the published list? (If indeed it gets published). Ginger Spice would be likely on past form, but they might improve the screening this time around…

But most amusing are the footnotes that they use to bolster their case. There are four: the brand new Swanson and Tsonis (GRL, 2009), Brohan et al (JGR, 2006) (which is there to provide a link to the HadCRU temperature data), Pielke et al (BAMS, 2005), and the oft-derided Douglass et al (IJoC, 2008).

Of these papers, not one has the evidence to support the statements attributed to them in the main text. To wit:

Surface temperature changes over the past century have been episodic and modest and there has been no net global warming for over a decade now.1,2

Well, the first part of the statement is exactly what you expect with a modest long-term trend in the presence of internal variability and is not controversial in the least. The “global warming stopped” meme is particularly lame since it relies on both a feigned ignorance of the statistics of short periods and being careful about which data set you use. It also requires cherry-picking the start year, had the period been “exactly a decade” or 12 years then all the trends are positive.

The use of the recent Swanson and Tsonis paper is simply opportunism. Those authors specifically state that their results are not in any way contradictory with the idea of a long term global warming trend. Instead they are attempting to characterise the internal variability that everyone knows exists.

After controlling for population growth and property values, there has been no increase in damages from severe weather-related events.3

This references a short comment in BAMS that didn’t present any original research. The latest figures show that weather-related damages have increased markedly, though whether there is a climate change component is hard to tease out given the large increases in vulnerable infrastructure and relatively poor data. The actual statement that a clear global warming-related trend in damages hasn’t been clearly demonstrated doesn’t imply that you can state definitively that there is no effect. There might be one (or not), but formal attribution is hard. However, whatever the attribution ends up being, pointing out that there are other problems in the world doesn’t imply that anthropogenic climate change is not worth worrying about. One might as well state that since knee injuries on ski-slopes have increased over time one shouldn’t support flu shots.

The computer models forecasting rapid temperature change abjectly fail to explain recent climate behavior.4

‘Abjectly’? Very strange choice of word…. and an even stranger choice of reference. This is of course the same Douglass et al paper that used completely incoherent statistics and deliberately failed to note the structural uncertainty in the observations. Unsurprisingly, Michaels does not reference the rather comprehensive demolition of the Douglass methodology published by Santer et al (2008) (and on which one of us was a co-author). More fundamentally however, the current temperatures are still within the spread of the models even if you cherry pick your start date. No-one expects the real world (a single realization) to follow the mean forced trend at all times. How is that a failure, abject or otherwise?

More interestingly is what is not cited. President Obama’s statement “The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear”, can’t possibly refer to every issue in science or every potential fact. Instead he is likely referring to the basic and pretty much uncontested facts that i) CO2 and other greenhouse gases have increased due to human activity. CO2 emissions in particular continue to increase at a rapid rate; ii) the effect of these gases is to warm the climate and it is very likely that most of the warming over the last 50 years was in fact driven by these increases; and iii) the sensitivity of the climate is very likely large enough that serious consequences can be expected if carbon emissions continue on this path. We would be astonished if Michaels disputed this since he is on record as agreeing that the IPCC climate sensitivity range is likely to be correct and has never questioned the human contribution to CO2 and other GHG increases. He and his colleagues have even done analyses that show that after correcting for ENSO effects, there is no sign of a slowdown in global warming at all.

Instead this is a classic red-herring: Ignore the facts you don’t dispute, pick some others that are ambiguous and imply that, because they are subject to some debate, we therefore know nothing. Michaels (and Cato) presumably thinks this kind of nonsense is politically useful and he may be correct. But should he claim it is scientifically defensible, we would have to answer:

“With all due respect, Dr. Michaels, that is not true.”

303 Responses to “With all due respect…”

  1. 51
    Liam says:

    The paper by Pielke is an interesting one. He has represented WGIII on at least one occasion in Congress.

    His work addresses the climatic extremes / global warming links, while appealing to scientists to focus on the firmer knowledge of rising temperature and sea level with the potential for climate extremes, rather than such and such event can be (directly) linked to climate change.

  2. 52


    It is bit more complicated than one-liners can capture.

    ENSO variability does better at explaining the recent temperature than does the”global warming has stopped” theory. But ENSO is not perfect. The temperatures are too warm when ENSO is combined with the pre-1998 (1979-1998) trend. In other words, something else is acting to slow the trend over the past decade or so–perhaps it is something like PDO, or perhaps the models are too sensitive to the forcing increases, or perhaps it is something else. But, as Pat’s testimony shows, recent temperature trends are pushing to lower limits of model expectations.


    [Response: So are you going to sign the ad? As for the recent testimony, you know as well as I that the new graph you made is just as affected by end point effects as the standard ‘global warming has stopped’ nonsense. While purporting to show 15 independent points, they are not independent at all and will move up and down as a whole depending on the last point. Plot it for 2007, or using the GISTEMP data for instance. If a conclusion depends on one point and one specific data set then it’s still a cherry-pick and one would be foolish to draw conclusions. – gavin]

  3. 53
    Mark says:

    Chris, #48 “E.g., we know that noise—the effect of randomness—for a decade is

  4. 54
    Mark says:

    re #47.

    You’re mixing metaphors there too. Your third link doesn’t say what the headline says.

    You need to take the difference between the red line and the black line *on both graphs*. And when you do that, your wonderful correlation on the sun disappears.


  5. 55
    walter says:

    gavin, with all due respect…if you do that silly list, it should be named after a famous climate scientist – i suggested “jim” for james hanson. but it could be “bob” (to include robert etc…and roberta (to include female scientists), or “chris” – which is a common name that really “goes both ways” easily… do you know famous climate scientsts named bob or chris?

    [Response: James works. – gavin]

  6. 56
    walter says:

    wow – james IS good. one more thing, then i’ll be quiet for a while. in my humble opinion, the statement doesn’t have to have any political content or any make any policy recommendations or CO2 emission targets. it just has to say something like “global warming is happening now and is caused by anthropogenic emission of CO2.” thanks.

  7. 57
    Ike Solem says:

    Cato and Heartland are simply think tanks set up to give third party credibility to various viewpoints promoted by whoever set them up. If you want to find out who set them up, a good place to start looking is in the financing of political campaigns. These relationships are detailed here, in convenient graphical format:

    That’s just oil, not coal, but you can see that the largest donors are Koch Industries (private), Valero, Exxon, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips. Donations from employees of Koch Industries are twice as big as any other firms.

    Going one step further, we make the connection to the Cato Institute:

    Koch Industries, (pronounced “coke”), is the largest privately-held company in the United States, with annual sales of $90 billion. (Cargill comes in second for privately-held companies with sales of $75 billion.) Koch’s owners, brothers Charles and David H. Koch, are leading contributors to the Koch Family Foundations, which supports a network of conservative organizations and think tanks, including Citizens for a Sound Economy, the libertarian Cato Institute, Reason Magazine, the Manhattan Institute, the Heartland Institute, and the Democratic Leadership Council…

    Fred’s son, Charles G. Koch, founded the Cato Institute and has championed a strategy of ‘market-based management’ (MBM) in the business. Son David H. Koch ran for president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980. Koch money flows thorugh Triad Management Services, an advisory service to conservative donors ongroups and candidates to support.

    Notice that Cato is a rather politically conservative/libertarian organization that lobbies on a wide variety of issues. They hold their views very strongly – for example, did you know that the current economic crisis is due to over-regulation of Wall Street, of health care, and of energy markets? Hammer the talking points, in the morning, in the evening, hammer all day long…

    However, at least with Cato, their agenda is clearly spelled out – unlike many of the new public relations initiatives being put out by large energy corporations, all of which use the newly coined PR phrase, “Clean Energy”. When politicians talk about the future, it is always “clean energy” – not solar and wind and biofuels, not renewable energy, but instead “clean energy” – as in “clean coal” and “clean diesel” and “clean natural gas”, and we are going to use cap-and-trade to “clean up” our fuel supply – but notice that the other word, “dirty”, has been banned from all press releases – “dirty tar sand oil”, or “dirty, sulfide & selenium contaminated natural gas sources”, or “dirty sulfur- and mercury-laden coal”. Coal is not dirty, it’s clean – stay on message, please.

    At this end of the think tank spectrum is the Breakthrough Institute, which hosts Roger Pielke Jr. as a senior fellow. Their spin is definitely not conservative, but rather progressive-liberal… but it looks like greenwashing: a false facade hiding other intentions. That is, they accept the need to “confront global warming” but they propose solutions which are ineffective and allow business as usual to continue. You can see this approach in Chevron’s new billboard ads, featuring a worried man pledging to “use less energy”. Odd – Chevron is asking its customers to stop purchasing gasoline? Really…

    The Breakthrough Institute was set up with the help of two “bad boys of the environmental movement” (No, I’m not making that up), namely Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger.

    The actual agenda is not to hard to see:

    In the cover story of the June 2008 issue of Democracy Journal, “Scrap Kyoto,” Nordhaus and Shellenberger made the case for abandoning the Kyoto focus on pollution limits.

    The Breakthrough Institute is a project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers, Inc., which is a spinoff of Rockefeller Financial Services. The top investments of that well-diversified firm include Exxon and Chevron as well as banks like Citigroup that are heavily dependent on oil trading and coal-fired power. The backers may have different politics (or may be indifferent), but they share the same overall agenda as Cato. As compared to the “conservative-libertarian” Cato Institute, you might call this the “liberal-progressive” Breakthrough Institute.

    They do both share the same agenda – get rid of Kyoto agreements and halt the implementation of binding regulations that would reduce fossil fuel use and lead to a transition to a renewable-energy based economy.

    But wait, you say – the Breakthrough Institute is very proud of its $150 billion clean energy initiative, and it takes part of the credit for Obama’s “clean energy” pushes. However, having seen the budget so far, one really has to wonder – take the following facts:

    1) Why the $2 billion grant for a solitary coal-fired power plant, FutureGen, but no similar project for wind or solar?

    2) Why the silence on Canadian tar sand development, even while more pipelines are being built to increase tar sand exports to the U.S.? For example, Project Keystone made headlines for shipping “made in India” steel through a town of unemployed steelworkers – the pipeline is to for Canadian tar sand syncrude. The pipeline is a 2,148-mile venture between ConocoPhillips and Alberta’s TransCanada.

    3) Why the silence on NAFTA? There’s a good case for banning the import of Canadian tar sand oil to the U.S., based on the damage the production process does to the global atmosphere – but under NAFTA provisions, environmental laws cannot be used to limit trade – there’s no democratic oversight.

    Notice that due to ConocoPhillip’s relationships with the major U.S. banks, this also means that taxpayer bailout dollars are being used to finance the expansion of tar sand oil production, right at a time when quite a few renewable energy companies have gone out of business – not due to lack of demand, but due to lack of credit. Wasn’t the bailout supposed to restart “normal lending”?

    It also means that some of that taxpayer money is probably paying the salaries of the folks at the Cato and Breakthrough Institutes, as well.

    In larger terms, this looks like an effort to frame the global warming issue as a debate between the Breakthrough Institute and the Cato Institute – with one pole consisting of those who deny climate science and observations any validity (Cato, George Will, etc.) and the other of those who accept the scientific conclusions on global warming, but think we should deal with it via “voluntary market-based solutions” such as cap and trade, widely promoted by other newspapers. What this second group carefully ignores is any science-based discussion of renewable energy’s ability to replace fossil fuels.

    In either case, the result is the same: business-as-usual.

    The fact of the matter is that if we want to increase wind and solar production to the scale of U.S. nuclear production, we will need a government program on the same scale as the program run by the Atomic Energy Commission in the 1950s – and despite all the flavors of hype, the fact today is that U.S. government spending on fossil fuel development outstrips renewable energy development by a factor of about 1000 to 1.

  8. 58
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Anyone read the current BBC “Green Room”?

    “1998 remains the warmest year on record, and since then there has been no discernable upward trend.”


  9. 59

    Mark #53:

    Was there more to this?

    If you’re questioning the 0.1°C noise for a decade, talk to Gavin. <g> I got it from him.

  10. 60
    wmanny says:

    If 30 years is the gold standard, when in the last 40 to 50 years (I graduated from HS in ’75, when our Earth Day observance included a nod to the then-trendy global cooling mini-scare) is the definitive 30-year trend?

    Is it unreasonable to ask how much longer the relative flatness can continue before the models come into question? Surely there is a point when temp. anomalies must rise significantly to re-confirm the AGW theory — what is that point?

    Further, assuming temperatures get back on the upswing, how will you note that without being accused of referring to the weather, as those who look at current short-term trends are accused of doing now?

  11. 61

    Gavin (re:52),

    I understand your concerns. Like I said, we are working on this project now and will have something soon that we’ll submit for peer-review somewhere. There are more results than that single graphic displays–although it is a good summary (after all, the models should capture the full behavior of reality–especially at large-scales). But, like I said, there is more to come…


  12. 62
    Lawrence Brown says:

    Thank You sidd And Philippe-

    Mark in #29 you say: “If you say the chance of something is 90%, and I look at your data and analysis and say, “Well that’s not good enough, considering the actions you wish to take,” is my position not defensible?”
    Comment by mark — 24 March 2009 @ 8:28 PM

    I don’t know if I can give a short answer to this. I once did some hydrologic studies for the Corps of Engineers and,if memory serves, we used the following as a criteria for the reliability of analytical frequency determinations: this was accomplished by establishing error limit curves .05 above the frequency curve and .95 below.There were then nine chances in 10 that the true value lay between the .05 and .95 curves. Howrver, there was a one chance in 20 that the true value for any given frequency would be greater than indicated by the .05 curve and one chance in 20 that it would be smaller than the .95 curve.

  13. 63
    Nick Gotts says:

    Simply that the claim is not true. See for example, already referenced once in this thread.

  14. 64
    t_p_hamilton says:

    “Further, assuming temperatures get back on the upswing, how will you note that without being accused of referring to the weather, as those who look at current short-term trends are accused of doing now?”

    If anybody tries to argue the rate from the short time span when it does increase rapidly, by all means remind them that the rate more properly should depend on 30 years of data.

    [Response: It’s worth pointing out how easy it is to mislead with short term stats. For instance, the warming from Jan 08 to Jan 09 was 1.3 deg C/decade! Over 6 times what GCMs predict! But who would base a statement about climate change on such a short period of time? – gavin]

  15. 65

    Theo, I do think you are, in part, asking the wrong question. (With indirect help from the denialsphere, who are working their tails off to ensure that everyone frames the question in just this way.)

    Accepting the cherry-pick of 1998, what does it say that global temperatures since 1998 have (let’s say) “failed to fall back significantly following the El Nino event?” When we contemplate the fact that every year from 2001 on has been warmer than any year prior to 1998, do we think it is warming or cooling?

    Global temperatures, regardless of short-term trends, are at historic highs. (And let’s not forget that in GISS and SR05, the warmest year so far was not 1998, but 2005.)

    (Captcha suggests a longer time-line, with the oracular pronouncement, “Graeco-Roman Spain.”)

  16. 66
    SecularAnimist says:

    mark wrote: “… a guy with a seriously misleading set of Keynote slides tells us it’s absolutely imperative that we restrict economic activity to avert a coming global catastrophe …”

    You are obviously referring to Al Gore and his presentation that was the basis of An Inconvenient Truth.

    There is nothing whatever “seriously misleading” about Gore’s presentation. Those who claim there is are usually engaged in seriously misrepresenting what Gore said (in some cases they don’t even know what Gore actually said but are slavishly repeating what Rush Limbaugh told them Gore said).

    Nor has Gore called for “restricting economic activity to avert a coming global catastrophe”. He has called for restricting CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

    Do you even realize that you are equating the fossil fuel corporations with “economic activity”?

  17. 67

    Jeff #58:

    Beware of any “no warming since …” quote where the stated period begins with 1998. It’s a red flag second only to any mention of Al Gore. 1998 was a major anomaly due to El Nino effects. Look at the global HadCRU graph here; 1998 sticks out like a sore thumb. If you mentally remove that data point or look at the trend line, you’ll see that the temps continue to climb. The last few years cool a little bit (2008 was a La Nina year), but we should be looking at longer term trends, not what happened in any particular year.

    Thsi is not the first time the Beeb has said this. One of its articles appears to have been a source for some of George Will’s silliness: “This would mean that temperatures have not risen globally since 1998 when El Nino warmed the world.”

  18. 68
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Donald Moore 25 March 2009 at 3:47 AM
    > INDUSTRIOUS HEAT … cloud … sea rise …

    You’re wrong about, well, everything. Do you need help looking it up?

  19. 69
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Theo @27, others have already addressed the falseness of the ‘ten years of flat or cooling’ meme and pointed to the 30 year definition of a climate trend. Here’s another point:

    At times the global warming signal will simply be overpowered by natural variability or by other anthropogenic factors, even for an extended period of time.

    For example note the slip and subsequent roughly 30 year flat period in the temperature trend of the 20th century between the mid 1940s and late 1970s:

    SInce this was the post-war period of intense industrial activity and growth, CO2 increase hardly abated, yet the prior 35 year run of warming faltered, slipped, and then sputtered along with no clear trend for the next 30 years. So what happened?

    What did not happen was CO2 did not stop warming the atmosphere and surface, since the additional CO2 was not only still in the atmosphere, but was still increasing. And the radiative physics of greenhouse gases was definitely not suspended.

    What did happen was some other factor or combination of factors acted as a negative forcing large enough to counter, or mask the added greenhouse warming of rising CO2 over a sustained period. It is widely thought that a dramatic increase in industrial aerosols was that factor, or at least the main one.

    A huge surge in industrial activity began in 1938 as Europe prepared for a looming war, and that surge was sustained not only for the war’s duration, but continued through the post war period as Europe was rebuilt and the US economy expanded. Remember, coal was still the main fuel of industry and rail and sea transport until being displaced by oil in the mid-late 1950s, and remaines so for electrical power generation, which expanded greatly as population and economic activity grew. But there were then no scrubbers on smokestacks to remove fly ash and sulfate aerosols, so rising atmospheric particulates and aerosols blocked and reflected incoming sunlight back to space, thereby cooling the surface and atmosphere, and thus reducing the outgoing IR radiation that greenhouse gases absorb, reducing the warming caused by increasing CO2.

    But CO2 was still increasing in the atmosphere, and still making it warmer than it otherwise would have been. Eventually industrial particulates and aerosols were recognized as being harmful to human health and to the ecosystem, so in the 1970s Clean Air legislation was enacted to reduce them in the US and Europe. Since particulates and aerosols are washed out of the atmosphere relatively quickly, their levels fell rapidly, unmasking the CO2 warming that was there all along, only now there was even more of it. The result was a steep, near steady rise in temperature for the rest of the century.

    Except for two notable dips in 1982 and 1991, which just happen to follow two massive injections of particlates and sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere from the eruptions of El Chichon and Mt. Pinatubo, thus substantiating the industrial aerosol hypothesis.

    So what’s happening today to make that steep, steady temperature rise appear to falter right now? One known factor is we are at the bottom of the nominal 11 year sun spot cycle, and the sun remains quite, meaning there is slightly less solar insolation. Another is we are just coming out of a relatively strong La Nina cycle. Still another is the ABC, or Asian Brown Cloud of particulates and sulfates generated by the rapidly growing Asian economies, particularly China and India, where there are no regulations requiring the use of pollution controls. The combination of these three factors may well be enough to temporarily mask the greenhouse warming.

    So, to answer your question of how long will we have to wait until the warming returns: it’s still there and it never left, it’s just temporarily being overpowered by a confluence of negative forcings. When the sun returns to ‘normal’, when the next El Nino begins, as the ABC thins because of reduced global economic activity, the warming will once again become apparent, because the radiative physics of greenhouse gases has definitely not been suspended.

  20. 70
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Mark in #29 says “If you say the chance of something is 90%, and I look at your data and analysis and say, “Well that’s not good enough, considering the actions you wish to take,” is my position not defensible?”

    Well, except that’s not what we are saying. We are saying that we have at least 90% confidence in the results–that in only 10% of possible Universes–could the conclusion be significantly flawed. 90% confidence is enough to fly an airplane, open a bridge–or, in short, take to the bank. I’ll put it this way, let’s say we have an opaque jar of marbles that we are told are either black or white. I shake the jar, reach in without looking and pull out a white marble. I return it, shake the jar and repeat, 21 more times, and all the marbles are white. Based on this and binomial statistics, I now offer you 10:1 odds: If the next marble I pull out is white, I win; if black, you win. Do you take the bet?

  21. 71
    Theo Hopkins says:

    Ray Ladbury says (in reply to post 27)

    “”Theo Hopkins, The generally accepted definition of climate is 30 years. However, only the statistically naive or the mendacious are contending that warming has stopped.””

    Most of us – in the real world – are “statistically naive” ;-). There’s lots of things I am not naive about, but stats is not one of them.

  22. 72
    Jim Bouldin says:

    Theo and wmanny (27 and 60):

    There are several arguments that could be made, one of the most important of which (“statistics of short periods”) was mentioned in the post. Read that. You could also do the same kind of analyses on GHG-forced model runs.

    Another is that the emphasis on air temps by the Cato petition is not the whole story. You have to look at the total thermal energy absorbed by the earth system. So, for example, the upper 700m of the ocean shows strong increases over the last decade:

    The rise since ’04 has been much less than in the decade preceding it, but nevertheless, the claim by Cato that there has been no warming “over the last decade” is flat wrong if you include the upper ocean data.

    Could not find deeper ocean temps, if anyone can please provide a reference.

  23. 73
    John says:

    Re: No. 25.

    It is imperative that the debunking of Will and the Heartland Institute and all the “sceptic” positions should continue. Indeed, the fault I find with RC is that there is not enough done.

    As one of thousands of non scientists who use RC as their primary source for information and argument, I need this in my daily efforts to push the need for urgent action. I do have relatives who are quite prominent in science but am, myself, scientifically illiterate.

    However, I have been badgering our politicians for some time and will shortly be meeting with a Member of our Parliament when I gleefully expect to rout him based on the information I have accumulated from RC mostly.

    How can we put down the deniers if we do not have easy access to argument, not just information.

  24. 74
    GFW says:

    wmanny @60

    Take a look at

    The red line is a five year centered rolling average, so roughly speaking, we can judge the validity of global warming using the 30 year definition of climate by comparing points on the red line that are 25 years apart. If you do that, you see we’ve been warming all the time since about 1960 (1985 is higher than 1960, 1986 is higher than 1961, 1987 is higher than 1962 … all the way to the present.)

    Heck, from 1980, even just the 5 year average is a very clear signal with only occasional downward wiggles. Looking at that, I sure wouldn’t bet on the 5 year average centered on 2010 being lower than the one centered on 2000, let alone 1985.

    So, there’s no real question of when “temperatures get back on the upswing”. They’re still on the upswing, and you can’t say they aren’t until the red line drops over 25 years (say if the 2020 5yr average was lower than the 1995 5ry average. Good luck with that.

    Finally, everyone will notice that temps really did fall – a little – from WWII to about 1975. This is well known to be caused by reflective aerosol pollution (like the stuff that caused acid rain). We cleaned up our aerosol emissions because the acid rain was killing lakes and forests, while our CO2 emissions grew unchecked. So now the CO2 warming is the dominant long-term effect, with noticible shorter-term effects from ENSO and volcanoes.

  25. 75
    GFW says:

    BTW, I’m not statistician. I just realized my statement “we’ve been warming all the time since about 1960” should really be “we’ve been warming all the time since the average of 1960 and 1985 – e.g. about 1973”.

  26. 76
    Theo Hopkins says:

    Ray Ladbury at #46 replied to me at #27.

    “”Theo Hopkins, The generally accepted definition of climate is 30 years. However, only the statistically naive or the mendacious are contending that warming has stopped.””

    Problem is, is that most of us are “statistically naive”, unfortunately. That’s life.

    Thanks for your link, Ray.

  27. 77

    #58 Geoff:

    “1998 remains the warmest year on record, and since then there has been no discernable upward trend.”

    Not so! I have filmed and catalogued a steady drift of sunsets towards the South (meaning its getting warmer) in the Canadian Arctic especially since 2005! The warmest year in history. Also:
    Polar ice has shrunken and thinned a whole lot more since 1998!

    So for those comfortable (not you Geoff) making snarky pseudo matter of fact statements, please
    like Mr Roberts implores, get informed! Climate science is extremely sound, even when judged from a different newer optical perspective. Will post soon on my website the most compelling results of the spring of 2009, suffices to say, the warming trend continues, despite La-Nina bumps. What is lacking is stopping ignorance from going rampant so long, thank goodness for RC!

  28. 78
    Mark says:

    Manny asks: “If 30 years is the gold standard, when in the last 40 to 50 years (I graduated from HS in ‘75, when our Earth Day observance included a nod to the then-trendy global cooling mini-scare) is the definitive 30-year trend?”

    Uh, the answer is “never”.

    There never was a *scientific* global cooling mini-scare. There was a *media* global cooling mini-scare. Then again, there’s a *media* “pen ile erec tion function al scare”. That is, according to all the spam, all blokes are limp.

    Do you believe that? No? Then why do you keep trotting out global cooling as if it was “the scientists” who were saying that. Read the paper that the media picked up on, rather than the media headline you hark back to.

    Or, if you are going to ignore the fact that this was media and therefore these scientists were wrong, why not transplant that theory to the CATO line? They are wrong. They have made headlines saying there is not warming. And, like that 70’s global cooling scare, they are wrong.

  29. 79
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    With all due respect, you people here are a little too polite.

    When my relatives, newcomers to the U.S. from India, responded to my talk of climate change with, “they [the Americans they know] are saying there’s no global warming,” my immediate thoughtless and exasperated response was, “Americans are a bunch of stupid idiots.”

    Then I felt guilty of sin, and gave it more thought. But the most I could come up with is that perhaps they (the Americans they spoke of) are not stupid, but insidiously evil. So actually, “stupid idiots” was giving them the benefit of the doubt, being kind actually.

    So I just left it at that.

  30. 80
    sidd says:

    Mr. Bouldin,

    For the deep ocean, I recall a paper by Antonov and Boyer, GRL 2005. (I cannot easily do a search right now). The is probably work by Ishii on this also…


  31. 81

    Michael’s Cato ad takes Obama to task for asserting that “

    The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear.”

    But what about his own definitive pronouncement :

    “Chill out. The science is settled. The “skeptics”… have won.”

    — ‘ Meltdown for Global Warming Science’ by Patrick J. Michaels, S. Fred Singer and David H. Douglass

  32. 82
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Thanks for the replies on the BBC Green Room stuff. Last year I ran out of energy trying to complain to the BBC about their climate change coverage – initially to various “environment correspondents”.

    My note in the BBC complaints box read “This box is too small for an in-depth complaint. How can I contact the BBC Tust?”

    I received

    If you would like to get in touch with us regarding your
    concerns please do so using the following link:

    Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

    Has anyone more energy than I have to follow this up? The answers given above are very focused. The BBC should be confronted with them.

    How do you contact the BBC Trust?

  33. 83
    Ike Solem says:

    Note that El Nino didn’t warm the world, it just redistributed energy between the oceans and the atmosphere – and keep in mind that most of the warming goes into the oceans, even though ocean temperatures change very slowly as heat content rises, unlike the atmosphere, which has a much lower heat capacity.

    Consider the equatorial ocean heat content in the Pacific – warm water is flowing northwards up towards Japan, and cold water is flowing south down the North American continent, forming the boundaries of the large North Pacific gyre (where a very large amount of plastic trash tends to accumulate). At the same time, deep old water is steadily creeping into the Pacific, ultimately driven by two things: A) the sinking of cold water in the North Atlantic and around Antarctica, and B) wind driven upwelling, especially at continental margins.

    At the same time, there is a normal east-west variation across the Pacific equator, which plays a large role in the development of an El Nino. For more details:

    Very roughly the theories fall into two categories: that the Pacific ocean-atmosphere system has a natural frequency of oscillation which is perturbed by chaotic processes (weather) to be irregular; or that the system is stable until an event is triggered by some kind of outside forcing. Since we have only very short records relative to the timescale of the events (say we have observed only about 5 of them with decent resolution), it is not possible to make a statistical distinction…

    …During El Niño the equatorial Pacific releases a large amount of heat (and mass) to the subtropics. This occurs as the warm water of the far west sloshes eastward and then poleward along the shores of the Americas. Before the event, the trade winds have “built up” a large thick warm pool in the west. If that build-up has not happened, then there is nothing to release. So now maybe you can understand why one can interpret this two ways. If you focus on the buildup, then that takes several years and produces the natural timescale. But the buildup by itself is not sufficient (in my opinion). The trigger is necessary, too. Which one is the “cause”?

    There is another factor at play as well, which is that observations in the California Current(1950-2005) show a warming in upper ocean temperatures of 1.3°C and a deepening of 18 m in the average thermocline depth. This current returns surface water to the equatorial Pacific region. Thus, global warming is altering the background conditions – but slowly.

    At the same time, global warming simulations show the Kuroshio current, the Pacific’s Gulf Stream, increasing in velocity under a 1% CO2 growth scenario. Taken together, that is a complicated picture, especially in the transient situation (the one we are in), but everyone seems to agree that the spin-up of the North Pacific gyre recirculation under global warming is a robust prediction. This brings warm wet air farther north, and could play a role in Alaska’s recent record snowfalls.

    It’s hard to predict what effect that will have on El Nino/La Nina, but the answer must be related to the total heat & momentum budget for the upper equatorial Pacific ocean. However, at the same time we see that the rising influence of global warming is starting to swamp natural cycles – as in headlines like “Much of Australia still in drought despite La Nina, 2008”. El Nino is supposed to bring drought to the Australia-Indonesia region, not La Nina. Global warming, on the other hand, is expected to bring permanent drought regimes to many subtropical regions.

    So, that’s where the current science is on the El Nino – global warming debate – lots of legitimate uncertainty – but instead of covering the legitimate science, reporters still cater to the fossil fuel lobby, for example:
    “Study of 1918 El Nino challenges warming intensity link”

    El Nino causes global climate chaos such as droughts and floods. The events of 1982/83 and 1997/98 were the strongest of the 20th Century, causing loss of life and economic havoc through lost crops and damage to infrastructure.

    But Ben Giese of Texas A&M University said complex computer modeling showed the 1918 El Nino event was almost as strong and occurred before there was much global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels or widespread deforestation.

    Let’s be clear – nothing here is based on any measurements – instead, the researchers seem to have plugged the output of an atmospheric model into an ocean model and pulled out a strong El Nino in 1918, thereby disproving the notion of stronger El Ninos in a warmer world. No data, just a model… anyone see any problems with this approach?

    Giese said his team ran a complex ocean computer model that, for the first time, used the results of a separate atmospheric model produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    The result was a simulation of ocean temperatures, currents and other measures from 1908 to 1958. For 1918, the simulation produced a strong abnormal surface warming in the central Pacific and weaker warming nearer the South American coast. – By David Fogarty, Climate Change Correspondent, Asia, Reuters

    I do wonder what the simulation produces when run from 1958-2008, over the period when data for comparison actually exists… but never mind, this research (unpublished, unreviewed) is to be presented at “a major international climate change conference in Perth, Australia” – yes, that’s Australia’s coal lobby in action. Their last one was set to coincide with the IPCC FAR – see any patterns here?

    The uncritical and naive reporting is what is most problematic. Modern climate models do produce El Ninos, but the timing is not accurate – there may be some kind of background indicator, but the trigger? Seems somewhat random, like snow building up on a roof and then sliding off. Yet, here we have one of the world’s leading wire agencies reporting this research as gospel truth – that’s just painful.

  34. 84
    Derek Smith says:

    I do understand that 10 years (of cooling or non-warming or sub-IPCC warming) from a particular, possibly atypical, peak global temperature (in 1998) could be very misleading in drawing long-term conclusions about trends. Several bloggers have asked “Then what would be a meaningful period?” and one answer, for some reason, seems to be “30 years”.

    But large changes in sensor technology and rigour of temperature measurement can occur over such a period, particularly since in the 1970s many scientists were eagerly postulating catastrophic cooling and presenting convincing “measurements” in support of this.

    Are we really sure that even today we have the quality of data necessary to support the models upon which long-term predictions of the extent of warming are based? Are there still improvements to be made? Please could the next IPCC Report incorporate all the improvements in modelling hinted at, but not fully explained, on this site?

  35. 85

    MV Octopussy
    Port Royal Jamaica
    25 March

    Dear Doctor Michaels

    My secretary, Fraulein Andress, has been rudely interrupted in her massage duties by an E-mail soliciting me to add my name to a petition addressed to the President of the United States.

    As I still await his predecessor’s signature on an enormous cheque for sparing NASA CO2 monitoring satellites from my carbon-neutral nuclear death ray, I am not amused by the impudent forgery of my signature on your draft, and am therefore indisposed to humor your request.

    Yours offhandedly

    Doctor N

  36. 86
    ccpo says:

    It might be useful for any wishing to understand where the primary denialist propaganda started to watch the following presentation: The American Denial of Global Warming

    The Union of Concerned Scientists still have their statement/Letter on the subject linkable from their site, also.


    reCAPTCHA gets kinky: 13)Let’s Whippany

  37. 87
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Derek Smith asks “Are we really sure that even today we have the quality of data necessary to support the models upon which long-term predictions of the extent of warming are based?”

    Yes. Next question

  38. 88
    Hank Roberts says:

    Derek Smith:
    > “Then what would be a meaningful period?”
    > one answer, for some reason, seems to be “30 years”.

    How much math have you studied? In Statistics 101, you learned/will learn to look at the data, and how much whatever you’re observing varies, to figure out how long you need to observe it to have a good chance of saying whether it has a trend (change over time) as well as variability.

    But consider this:

    To understand enough to ask better questions, read the first link under Science (right hand sidebar) and the links under the words “Start Here” (top of page).

  39. 89
    Theo Hopkins says:

    @ Geoff Beacon #82

    The BBC is getting a lot of stick right now from the “no warming” bunch for being too accepting of AGW.

    Probably worth checking out their discussion groups. I think “Have your say” will locate them.

    Theo H

    Devon, UK

  40. 90
    Anne van der Bom says:

    wmanny 25 March 2009 at 8:56 AM

    Further, assuming temperatures get back on the upswing, how will you note that without being accused of referring to the weather, as those who look at current short-term trends are accused of doing now?

    I don’t understand your worries. I can note that this year is warmer than last year, can’t I? Noting something is different from claiming it is conclusive proof. That is what many are doing now: they say the short term trend is conclusive proof that global warming is not happening. They ignore long term trends, shrinking glaciers, decreasing sea ice, etc.

    When your ‘upswing’ occurs, you will not see any scientist claim it is conclusive proof of global warming. Those temperature measurements will simply become part of the body of evidence, which contains more than just the last 10 years of surface temperatures.

  41. 91
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Derick Smith @84,
    For why 30 years see here:

    As for many scientists were eagerly postulating catastrophic cooling, see here:

  42. 92
    Anne van der Bom says:

    Derek Smith 25 March 2009 at 12:39 PM

    …in the 1970s many scientists were eagerly postulating catastrophic cooling…

    Try finding evidence of that. Especially the ‘many’ part of your belief. Good luck.

  43. 93
    Joe Hunkins says:

    For the record the phrase “with all due respect” is a polite way to disagree and should only rarely be interpreted reasonably as a sign of disrespect or insult.

    On the contrary using it maintains civility during heated debates as it acknowledges the qualifications of the person with whom you are disagreeing.

    [Response: But this is the joy of English. The listener presumably thinks of themselves as worthy of respect, and thus assumes that the ‘due respect’ is substantial. The speaker however has not indicated in any way what they consider the level of ‘due respect’ to be. Thus it could well be zero. So while it might calm a heated debate, I wouldn’t confuse it with a true expression of actual respect. – gavin ]

  44. 94
    DavidCOG says:

    Gavin: “I added one [meta description]. Let me know if there’s more that could be done.”

    Apologies – I didn’t think before I typed that earlier comment. Here’s what I should have typed:

    1. you need a dynamic, unique tag – ideally set to the article title (content of ‘With all due respect…’. That will provide a relevant description for search engine listing

    2. ideally you will have a dynamic, unique value in the meta description – not sure what’s available in the version of WordPress that you’re using.

    3. if it were my install, I’d upgrade to latest version of WordPress and then install (although I think it’s compatible with the version you appear to be running)

    If you want more info, please email. This isn’t a sales pitch ;) – happy to offer advice pro bono – no strings.

    [Response: With all due respect ;-) I have no idea what this plug-in actually does or why we need it. Sorry to be a bit dense, but none of the features mean anything to me. Feel free to educate me by email (contrib -at- – gavin]

  45. 95
    SecularAnimist says:

    gavin wrote: “The speaker however has not indicated in any way what they consider the level of ‘due respect’ to be. Thus it could well be zero.”

    For the record, I have begun some comments posted to this blog with the phrase “With all due respect” … before going on to flame someone that I thought was an idiot or a liar. In my case, I use that phrase in the hope that it will suggest a respectful tone to the moderator of the site so that my comment won’t be deleted for being too nasty.

  46. 96
    Jonas says:

    Having read the article above it does appear that the main point is
    being rather poorly asserted. Of course the observed temperature increase
    is not linear and will vary on it’s upward trend. However, if we notice
    a deviation from the prediction then I suppose this needs some explaining
    as well. Gavin, as you suggest, the longer term trend is still positive.

    However, my thoughts here are that the recent flattening is caused by the
    PDO shifting to it’s cool phase. This cool phase could persist for another
    20 years meaning we would see cooling rather than warming. SST temperatures
    are already showing a cool anomoly trend continuing. This extended cooling
    is expected, and is superimposed on the general warming trend. So, we can
    expect some tough times ahead in maintaining public support of CO2 induced
    warming against short term data which suggest otherwise.

    I expect this letter will be the first of many to come. Proper explanation
    of the cause of decadal variation is needed !

  47. 97
    James Staples says:

    Once again, if they put half as much effort into fighting for the changes that we need to make, as they do fighting against them…..
    I don’t mean to offend my European and/or other ‘not American’ Comrades in Fight to Stop Global Warming; but we used to say that, if we – or anybody, if you believe the Movies of the 1930’s – had some kind of a problem, then “Yankee Ingenuity would surely be able to fix it.”
    I swear, it’s as if us Yankees lost that little old Civil War thing – and the Eloi-to-be, sitting around drinking Mint Julips and making Daisy chains for their hair, have taken over!
    Sorry if that’s a little bitter – but those American Southern Boy Hillbilly Types (sorry Bill & Al, I’m not pointing fingers at you) are both the ones who need to wake up the most seriously, and the ones who are the least likely to do so without a solid kick in the arse!
    Talking to me about their 4 x 4 having “two tanks”…….BAH!!!
    Well written and concise – I just wish that the ‘enemy’ had learnt to read something other than the labels on their ’40 ouncers’ of Cheap-as-piss ‘Ice Beer’!

  48. 98
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jonas, Given that most of the excess heat is going into the oceans, and that we don’t have a great handle on exactly what “most” means, deviations from scenarios (note that they are not called predictions) are not unexpected. We may have considerable warming in the pipeline.

  49. 99
    Paul says:

    This is a bit off topic but i have to raise it because i do not agree with the authors views about ‘environmentalists’.

    Andrew Weaver has made comments on the Vancouver Sun web site that implies environmentalists oppose wind and hydro electric schemes in Canada.

    I don’t know what the situation is in Canada, but from a UK perspective climate change environmentalists are largely very supportive of wind and hydro electric and it is conservationists (and others with vested interests) that oppose turbines, hydro etc.

    Typically the RSPB and other organisations are interested in conservation and this often conflicts with the need to use technology to help tackle environmental (climate change) issues.

  50. 100
    Lawrence Brown says:

    “Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis (95-46 B.C.), known as Cato the Younger, was a Roman political figure whose opposition to Pompey and Caesar helped hasten the collapse of the Roman Republic.” From

    Helped hasten the colapse of the Roman Empire, did he?! Beware the modern day Catos!