A letter from a reader (reproduced with permission):
Dear RealClimate team:
I have a background in biology and studied at post-grad level in the area of philosophy of science. For the last few years, I have been working on a book about the logic of argument used in debates between creationists and evolutionists.
About a year ago I decided it was time to properly educate myself about climate science. Being perhaps a little too influenced by Harry M Collins’ “The Golem” (and probably too much modern French philosophy!), I was definitely predisposed to see group-think, political and cultural bias in the work of climatologists.
On the whole, though, I tried hard to follow the principles of genuine skepticism, as I understood them.
Obviously, there are plenty of ill-considered opinions to be found either side of any issue, but only the most ignorant person could fail to see the terrible intellectual gulf between the quality of so-called skeptic sites and those defending the science behind the AGW thesis.
What convinced me, though, is that the arguments made by a few sites like yours are explicit and testable. In particular, it is useful that RealClimate sticks to the science as much as possible. It has been a lot of hard work to get here, but I am now at a point where I understand the fundamentals of climate science well enough to articulate them to others.
For my part, I am grateful to you guys. I hope it gives you some small amount of satisfaction to know that your work can convert readers who really were skeptics in the beginning. I use the word ‘skeptic’ carefully – the one thing most commonly absent from the so-called ‘skeptics’ is authentic skepticism.
By the way, my book is an attempt to categorise the various logical errors people fall into when they search for arguments to support a conclusion to which they have arrived at a priori. It will now have a few chapters on global warming.
All the best,
549 Responses to "Why we bother"
Kevin McKinney says
Clouds are certainly part of the picture–relevant to both humidity, and to ground level sunshine. Another confounding variable would be elevation:
LV–ca 600 m
Knoxville–ca 300 m
Low humidity should be highly relevant to the overnight cooling in LV that Dhogaza noted. (I’m using rainfall totals as a quick “proxy” to humidity–though it’s pretty common knowledge that LV is in the desert, and that Knoxville gets a fair amount of rain.)
I’m inferring a little bit about earlier posts here, without actually going back to read them–but don’t forget that daytime highs aren’t necessarily primarily driven by the greenhouse effect–the Lunar surface warms up just fine in direct Sun with no atmosphere at all to speak of. What the greenhouse effect modifies most directly is the cooling process, which is why it tends to make the greatest difference to “after dark” temps.
Mark A. York says
Has this latest Schwartz et al paper been discussed? I had a low climate sensitivity advocate throw it in my face over on Dot Earth. The headline is made for primetime, that’s for sure.
Why Hasn’t Earth Warmed as Much as Expected?
Stephen E. Schwartz, Robert J. Charlson, Ralph A. Kahn, John A. Ogren, Henning Rodhe
Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, New York
University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado
Department of Meteorology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
My sincere thanks to everyone who contributes to this site.
To 215 Barton Paul Levenson (14 March 2010 at 4:29 PM) you wrote:
“BPL: “Hypothetical???” Which part of “12% of Earth’s land surface was in severe drought in 1970 and by 2002 it was 30%” do you not understand?”
If the CO2 level in 2002 was the same as in 1970 what % of the earth would be in severe drought in 2002 ? and Why ?
Ken Peterson says
Some comments on the ‘random walk’ and the application of the ‘French philosophy’ to determine the price of rice in China. In some areas, we don’t need ‘tipping points’. One is the price of rice in China.
This winter the heaviest snowfall in 100 years precipitated on the Qinghai Plateau, ‘The Land of the 7 Rivers’, in Tibet and across northern China. One of the results of this was an increase of 8 degrees C. in the land temp. (Taiwanese scientific survey) The earlier melt is obvious as well as the change in river flow over time. But there is more that is not obvious.
The 7 Rivers include the Mekong River which provides Viet Nam with its rice production. This is the surplus production in Southeast Asia and as a consequence, controls the price of rice.
Supply and demand have been in balance for Natural Gas (NG) in the U.S. for the past 100 years with the exception of the past 2 decades. The fluctuating price over an 800 per cent range, is now considered, by my accountant, to be in ‘chaos’ due to the break down of the balancing constraints,supply and demand.
The construction of a half a dozen Chinese dams on the Mekong have eliminated the annual floods. The floods created sufficient water head to force the incursion of salt water from the Mekong Delta’s rice paddies and back to the sea. Failing that, Viet Nam is losing rice production by thousands of hectares a year due to increasing salinity.
While Climate Change is producing seasonal changes in water flow, failure of irrigation systems, changes in seasonal temperature extremes, exceeding botanical ‘envelopes of survivability’, and these may all produce tipping points, this ‘tipping point’ is not in the production of food but in the delicate Math of Capitalism’s Mass Markets.
Soros became one of the worlds richest men by shorting the British pound. I promise you the Markets will not forgo their opportunistic riches to serve the impoverished masses of starving Asians.
Ray:”Sorry, Gilles, but the uncertainties are what they are. And even at the low end of the confidence interval, we can’t afford to ignore the threats. At the upper end, we could be talking unbounded risk.You’ve been here over a month, now Gilles, and for the life of me, I can’t see that you have learned anything. So I have to ask myself: Why are you here?Your arguments are not persuasive to anyone who has actually looked at the science. Your view that fossil fuels are essential to life is ludicrous. You don’t seem to be interested in listening to what anyone else has to say. So, why are you here?”
Ray, why do you (and others) spend your time in emitting judgements about me, and my statements, wondering why I post here, qualifying me with various (more or less nice) judgements, and not simply give scientific arguments showing why I’m wrong ?
I never said that fossil fuels were necessary to life : I said to industrial civilization. If it weren’t true, why would it be so difficult to find an agreement to reduce them? why are developing countries excluded from requirement of absolute decrease of their consumption? why did the billions of chinese and indian people not find out how to develop with solar panels and windmills? why did the very director of IEA issue a statement, warning that the wheels of our system could “fall off” around 2015 because of peak oil? are all these people as “idiotic” as myself ? and why the only times where CO2 production actually decreased were only throughout recessions, why did all oil shocks produce a sharp rise in the prices and this sharp rise triggered massive global recessions, which never happened because a climatic events of course? if all this are not facts for you …
First off, your relationship between fossil fuel use and prosperity is specious. In fact, the relationship is between the products of energy use and prosperity. Fossil fuels just happen to be popular and convenient sources of energy. ”
And you think it is unimportant for prosperity to benefit from “popular and convenient” sources of energy ?
“Where other sources of energy or increased efficiency can displace fossil fuels, there is no loss long-term in prosperity for a reduction in fossil fuel use.”
Of course it is always possible to improve the efficiency of use, so the coefficient can vary. I noticed that it is also true for climatic costs, it is not engraved on the marble that these costs couldn’t be reduced by intelligent action. But the question is : when will be interesting to stop COMPLETELY to use fossil fuels and let them under the ground, instead of using it ? for the moment, the answer is : never, because we can’t power an industrial society without them. Even “replacement” energies, apart from traditional animals and wooden and stone water- and windmills, require carbon for steel, copper, or simply for stabilizing an electrical grid. So “replacing” fossil fuels mean only “use them for a longer time” – and will never make the total amount extracted decrease, despite all what is said by so many parrots everywhere.
Secondly, you seem to imply that the impacts of increasing temperature scale linearly. I suspect that is not the case. Some impacts will be negligible until thresholds are reached. Sea-level rise, disruptions in weather systems and loss of biodiversity are examples of impacts that will get worse as thresholds are achieved.
This possibility is included in my question : above which amount do the marginal costs risk to be larger than the benefits? this includes the possibility of a non linear behavior with threshold effect.
Finally, the impacts of climate change are not necessarily greatest for those who get the most prosperity from the activities that are causing the warming. You basically have to integrate over the entire globe for your sensitivity comparison to make sense. While that might seem reasonable from a disinterested, macro/global perspective. It doesn’t make sense for actual human beings.”
Problem : first effect of limiting fossil fuels will be preventing poor people from becoming rich, maintaining them in the state where they are the most fragile. Remember than in fossil fuels intensive scenarios, the average GDP /capita is predicted to reach the current american one. Can you do that without fossil fuels ?
I would add that if you think that “yes”, then the GW should not be such a problem. We should rather easily manage to mitigate it, with such an economic growth.
American and Saudian people can live in desert , and with energy you can do almost everything, desalt sea water, build huge levees against ocean (see Netherlands), and so on… If replacing fossil fuels is easy, then mitigate their effects shouldn’t be such a big deal, since I don’t see any physical limit to the use of renewable energy.
Edward Greisch says
227 Steve Missal: Yes. And those rich don’t realize how much they depend on poor police who won’t show up for work when they are really needed. “that type of living won’t be survival” is quite an understatement.
Edward Greisch says
231 Jack: Do you mean they think science is a democracy? Could you go over that again please?
But; I think what needs to be taught is that science is not a democracy. Nature has the only vote. Humans don’t get a vote. Nature speaks through experiments.
Yet, we need to use every method available. Winning is mandatory, given the consequences.
This requires further discussion. Jack has a point. The best path forward may be outside our current box in some way.
Philip Machanick says
Russ H #245:
Russ, ask them if they’ve heard of other fake science controversies like tobacco is good for you, asbestos is warm fuzzy stuff and the ozone hole is a hoax. Then ask them what the motivation is for such a hoax. Doing damn hard science for little reward is a really stupid conspiracy. Writing BS on web sites is much less work than actually doing science.
On the other hand there’s every reason for industry interests to propagate the myth of a climate science hoax. Ask them this question: if big oil with their massive resources is paying lobbyists, rather than funding a definitive study to overturn the science, what does that tell you?
You have motive and plausible actions to justify claims of one hoax, but not the one they are thinking of.
Barton Paul Levenson says
For more than fifty years the Hubble constant wasn’t known to be closer to 50 km/s/Mpc or 100, and Ned Wright was holding out for 42. Did that mean the universe wasn’t expanding?
4.5 C/doubling of CO2 would be catastrophic. 2.1 C/doubling would also be catastrophic, just not as fast. Either way human civilization collapses. We don’t have to know the exact amount, any more than we’d have to know exactly which cities and military bases were in the SIOP to know that nuclear war was a bad idea.
Barton Paul Levenson says
Russ H (245),
So tell them if they really want to know who’s telling the truth, they’ll have to study climatology for themselves. Ask if they’re willing to crack a book.
Spencer Weart, “The Discover of Global Warming”
S. George Philander, “Is the Temperature Rising?”
Dennis Hartmann, “Global Physical Climatology”
J.T. Houghton, “The Physics of Atmospheres”
Grant W. Petty, “A First Course in Atmospheric Radiation”
Barton Paul Levenson says
You appear to be confusing “positive feedback” with “diverging series.”
netdr 247 : I think you raise a very good point, and I share your concern. A retroaction with an amplification factor f results eventually in an amplification by 1/(1-f). A sensitivity “between 2 and 4.5°C” would mean that f is somewhere between 0.5 and 0.75. Well that’s not impossible, but that’s bizarre. Because such an uncertainty means that f is not very well constrained by strong principles but could vary following complicated , contingent phenomena, such as retroaction by clouds , vegetation, oceanic circulation, and so on… But then what is bizarre is that the value of f is dangerously close to the runaway threshold f=1, and it is hard to understand why the climate has not reached much higher amplification factors and catastrophic heating in the past. This hurts my sense of “order of magnitude” physics. I would be much more comfortable with f of the order of 0.1 which could safely vary by some factor without any strong consequence. It’s not a proof that the retroaction is not that large. It’s just uncomfortable.
Ray Ladbury says
JBob, The Climate4you site is a bit suspect. For one thing, they don’t identify who they are. For another, they do not have much in the way of citations of studies. I also notice that there is a heavy dose of spin. Looks like crap to me.
The rimfrost site is slick, but I question whether 110 sites give you a representative sample. And they are quite vague on how they select the sites.
Ray Ladbury says
Netdr says, “I am an engineer and understand control theory and design systems with positive and negative feedback, I have never run into a long term stable positive feedback system.”
If you think a system cannot be stable under positive feedback, then you don’t understand control theory. Go back and review infinite series–an infinite series can most definitely be finite as long as the terms converge rapidly enough.
The positive feedback in the climate is essential to understanding why Earth’s climate is the way it is. If it were not for the positive feedbacks, we never would have emerged from the last ice age. Go to the Start Here button. Click. Read. Right now, you have zero understanding of actual climate theory and are arguing against straw men of your own construction, whether you realize it or not.
And today, emphatic statements from Australia’s CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology and the peak University body that the climate is changing as a result of human emissions of CO2:
The ABC article
Andrés Sánchez says
I’m a social science researcher, and a worried citizen about environment and climate issues. I was waiting for a proper moment to thank your dedication and show my satisfaction with your work, and I think this post has given me the chance. Thanks for making good science available to all.
Nick Gotts says
I am an engineer and understand control theory and design systems with positive and negative feedback – netdr
I find the first claim here quite easy to believe: I don’t wish to tar all engineers with the denialist brush, but they do seem to constitute a remarkably large proportion of that community. The second half is obviously false: have you neveer heard of a converging series, netdr? Positive feedback is not necessarily runaway feedback: if either the additional increase due to positive feedback is less than the original increase, or other factors intervene, there will be no runaway. A tree is a good example: as it grows, its leaves and roots can take in more energy and nutrients, allowing it to grow faster in absolute terms – but we don’t find infinitely large trees, now do we? That’s because its relative rate of growth declines. In economics, economies of scale reduce prices, raise demand, and stimulate further growth – but neither demand nor firm size increase without limit. In the case of climate, the main positive feedbacks are well-understood: warmer air will hold more water vapour – this is what converts the approximately 1 degree C rise expected from doubling CO2 to around 3 degrees C; and warmer oceans can hold less CO2, hence the oceans become a CO2 source. Additional feedbacks, both positive and negative, are considered almost certain to be less important, but I’m no expert. However, there are those here who are. Why not try listening to them?
Kevin McKinney says
netdr, feedbacks occur on many timescales. It is quite possible that over timescales of hundreds of thousands or millions of years, the Earth is not a “positive feedback” system, but that it is over timescales of centuries to millenia. (In fact, paleodata indicates that this is the case–see Dr. David Archer’s “The Long Thaw” for a book-length treatment.)
I’ve written a review/summary of it here:
The most important factor is that over geological timescales, CO2 is removed from the atmosphere via the weathering of silicaceous rock. But that’s a slow feedback!
BPL”4.5 C/doubling of CO2 would be catastrophic. 2.1 C/doubling would also be catastrophic, just not as fast. Either way human civilization collapses.”
I regret to say you that I consider this is an unjustified statement. And “stratosphere is cooling” isn’t a valuable justification for me. BTW, I can’t understand the logics behind the belief that exhaustion of fossil fuels will certainly not cause the collapse of civilization, whereas a few degrees more would do it. Given the common wisdom that industrialized countries should mainly be able to cope with a rise of several degrees, why wouldn’t the entire world reach this state of prosperity that would allow it to deal with AGW in the same way, if availability of fossil fuels isn’t an issue ? I don’t see the argument.
Kevin McKinney says
Norman, @ #182–
Careful with using steam data. Guy Callendar (a leading steam technologist in his day, as well as the man who brought CO2 climate theory into the 20th century) found that steam data did not work unadjusted for atmospheric conditions.
See his 1938 paper here:
I’m currently working on a life-times-&-work article about him.
Jim Eager says
Re netdr @247: The argument for AGW that I have never been able to believe is that the earth’s climate can amplify the warming of CO2 by overall positive feedback
Then, as Ray alluded, how did earth manage to emerge from each glacial stade during the current glacial-interglacial period?
Seriously, amplifying feedbacks will respond to any initial forcing of earth’s climate system, regardless of what that forcing is, be it an increase in insolation, a lowering of albedo, or an increase in greenhouse gases.
To prove it to yourself calculate the difference in watts/square meter between minimum and maximum northern latitude summer insolation over the Milankovitch orbital cycles and determine if it is enough to terminate a glaciation all by itself.
(Blunt hint: it is not.)
Without the amplifying feedbacks of lowered albedo, increased water vapour, and increased atmospheric CO2 (from both terrestrial and ocean CO2 and CH4 sinks) there would simply not be enough energy to terminate a glaciation.
Go ahead, calculate it for yourself. I dare you.
John E. Pearson says
247: netdr says: “Since the earth’s temperature has only varied by 2/10 of 1 % in 100 years. This is very very very stable. How can a positive feedback system be this stable.
I am an engineer and understand control theory and design systems with positive and negative feedback, I have never run into a long term stable positive feedback system.
Can someone please name another long term stable positive feedback system ?”
Living cells possess positive feedback loops and are stable. They maintain exquisite control over their own environment and they do it with both positive and negative feedback. In fact I can’t imagine how any complex system can maintain any sort of stasis without positive feedback.
Completely Fed Up says
15 March 2010 at 9:05 AM
BPL”4.5 C/doubling of CO2 would be catastrophic. 2.1 C/doubling would also be catastrophic, just not as fast. Either way human civilization collapses.”
I regret to say you that I consider this is an unjustified statement.”
Which is itself an unjustified statement.
It’s also absolutely stupid to say.
There IS a temperature where human civilisation will end.
Lets call it “+100C”.
If every doubling causes a 2C increase, you get to +100C after 6.6438561897747 doublings.
If every doubling causes a 2.1C increase, you get to +100C after 6.2069529438066 doublings.
The second is a smaller number of doublings. Therefore if no other change occurs apart from the sensitivity, you will reach +100C earlier with 2.1C per doubling than 2.0.
“BTW, I can’t understand the logics behind the belief that exhaustion of fossil fuels will certainly not cause the collapse of civilization”
Then why do you say that without burning fossil fuels we would have economic collapse, when you say here you can’t understand the logic behind it?
Kevin McKinney says
Gilles, you seem very confused to me (#271):
. . . “stratosphere is cooling” isn’t a valuable justification for me.
It was raised as an example of a successful scientific prediction based on CO2-climate theory, not as a “justification” of the whole AGW hypothesis. It stands as such–if you want to “justify” the whole complex of the science, you need to extend your focus; there isn’t “one fact/prediction/paper” that wraps it all up–and I find it a little difficult to believe you think there is; you don’t appear to be a fool. Confused, but not a fool.
BTW, I can’t understand the logics behind the belief that exhaustion of fossil fuels will certainly not cause the collapse of civilization, whereas a few degrees more would do it.
I don’t think anyone said this. In fact, I think most here would agree that resource depletion is a potential cause of collapse if not dealt with. That’s part of why there is so much debate here about possible means of dealing with the problem. And I must say that I don’t follow your logic here–if you are concerned about a collapse of civilization due to depletion of fossil fuels, why argue about climate effects at all? Whether we restructure our energy economy to avoid dislocation of supply, or to mitigate emissions, the issue is to get on with doing it, yes?
Given the common wisdom that industrialized countries should mainly be able to cope with a rise of several degrees,
When did this become the common wisdom? A moment ago we were talking about the collapse of civilization. In fact, the IPCC–which is summarizing the best information available, if you recall–sees increases beyond 2C as increasingly damaging.
Note that the challenges are multiple–increased human mortality, loss of infrastructure & human displacement on a very large scale, greatly increased food insecurity and environmental degradation all at the same time.
“Able to cope” is pretty ambiguous to me. And is it a good standard for decision-making? I’ve “coped” with the effects of recession on my life. But you can damn well bet I’d have avoided those effects altogether if I could have! Similarly, maybe–maybe!–civilization can survive all of the stressors I’ve mentioned (and my list wasn’t exhaustive), but does imposing such consequences on ourselves and our descendants seem like a good idea?
why wouldn’t the entire world reach this state of prosperity that would allow it to deal with AGW in the same way, if availability of fossil fuels isn’t an issue ? I don’t see the argument.
And given that availability is an issue, as we both agree, I don’t see the point.
That’s one of the most tooth-gnashingly frustrating things about this whole debate. Everybody knows that the supply of fossil fuels is not endless, and that the end is coming rapidly closer. Just how close is still being debated. But given that fact, in conjunction with the strong evidence that the by-products are truly dangerous, it’s just mind-numbingly stupid to be doing so little about building up the infrastructure for a sustainable energy economy.
It’s quite parallel to conservation: if the rate of consumption is high enough, you know FOR A FACT that at some point you’ll come to the last river, the last old-growth tree, the last buffalo, the last passenger pigeon, the last dodo. You know you’ll HAVE to stop.
So why not stop BEFORE irretrievable damage is done?
Sorry to raise my typographical voice. . . but, Gilles, stop dancing around with sophistry. Get real. An airy assumption that “a few degrees” of climate change is the equivalent of a vacation to the tropics is just dumb. You aren’t. So what keeps you insisting on such a foolish and unsupported premise?
Completely Fed Up says
Gilles:”A sensitivity “between 2 and 4.5°C” would mean that f is somewhere between 0.5 and 0.75. Well that’s not impossible, but that’s bizarre.”
“Because such an uncertainty means that f is not very well constrained by strong principles but could vary following complicated , contingent phenomena”
And they all add up to something between 0.5 and 0.75.
Why is this bizarre?
Todd F says
I used to be a skeptic a few years back as well. I think I was starting to warm to the idea that humans were having an impact on climate before I watched An Inconvenient Truth, but I didn’t really know what the truth was. I watched the movie as a skeptic, and I wanted to test out the claims in the movie, particularly the paleoclimate link between CO2 concentrations and temperature. I started by looking for a crtical response to this link, and I found out that CO2 lagged temperature by 800 years, so I became a bit more “skeptical”. But, I didn’t stop there, and I continued to look for a response to see whether this was true, and if so, what significance it had. This site often contained the types of responses I was looking for, and I have found through time that more often than not, there is a more than reasonable response to the claims of “skeptics”. Given that well over 90% of published articles either implicitly or explicitly endorse the theory of human induced global warming, and given that the theory and responses to critics make sense, I think it is sound to believe there is something to the consensus opinion.
CFU :”The second is a smaller number of doublings. Therefore if no other change occurs apart from the sensitivity, you will reach +100C earlier with 2.1C per doubling than 2.0.”
Yes, but your figure of 6 doublings is naturally unrealistic (64 times proven reserves !!) . When I said it is unjustified, I meant that I don’t think that there is a real risk that human civilization collapses with realistic reserves and 2°C/doubling – and that the risk that it collapses because of the lack of fossil fuels is much higher.
Matthew L says
Climate4you is one guy – Ole Humlum. There is a link on the C4U home page if you look carefully:
As you say he has a sceptical / contrarian tone with some fairly weird theorising. However I use his site simply as a handy repository for pretty well every climate metric you care to think of all in one place. Rather than fill my favourites with links to various sites covering snow cover, Arctic ice, temps in the tropics etc I can go to C4U and use the links and references he puts against each graph.
He may be in denial, but he does have his uses! I am confident enough of my grasp of the science these days that I can visit denialist sites without fear of being “contaminated”. Some times I go just for a laugh. Steve Goddard’s posts at WUWT being some of the funniest stuff on the web.
“Then why do you say that without burning fossil fuels we would have economic collapse, when you say here you can’t understand the logic behind it?”
You just forgot the second half : AND it would collapse with some degrees more. I don’t see why IF we are able to sustain a society without fossil fuels, we wouldn’t be able to face some degrees of warming. If we continue indefinitely the growth, after all, we should be able to travel into the universe in some centuries or a millenium, so why bother with a 15°C; 16°C, or even 20°C average temperature (which is less than the native temperature of the human race anyway).
Russell Seitz says
Giles asks :”
Ray, why do you (and others) spend your time in emitting judgements about me, .., and not simply give scientific arguments showing why I’m wrong ?”
Because , Gilles, “it hurts my sense of order of magnitude physics ” that you are indisposed to use the sidebar ten centimeters away where the :
categories exposit all those arguments in encyclopedic detail.
prefering to ask
J. Bob says
#265 Ray – On the contrary, http://www.rimfrost.no/ has a great deal of good long term temperature data, that looks quite reliable. You just have to know what to look for, and how. After all, aren’t we looking at “long term” data. So it may may be perfect, but that, along with the DeBilt and Central England direct temperature data can give insight over a 200 year period, in one part of the world.
As far as positive and negative feedback in control systems, many systems have both. Example, missiles and high performance aircraft. In many cases, these vehicle are designed to be unstable in order to enhance performance. What happens is the control system provides the necessary negative feedback, or stabilizing effect to overcome the positive feedback or instability.
Neal J. King says
All your statements seem to amount to is the claim that we don’t know how to replace the contribution of fossil fuels cost-effectively YET.
That alone doesn’t prove that we will never be able to do so.
But it certainly will take an effort; and to generate an effort, we have to begin.
John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) says
Maybe because motive and premise is a foundation for confirmation bias?
If your arguments are to limited in scope to address reasonability of relevance of inter-dynamic issues that have significant impact, then they do not stand.
Non sequitur straw-man arguments are not reasonable. Arguing that (our current version of) modern industrial society needs fossil fuels is not the point. The point is that modern industrial society will be seriously challenged by the use of that fossil fuel, even to it’s potentially severe degradation on the extreme end of the probability range. But even that is qualitative. What is extreme?
As to why India is not using more solar panels and windmill, cost is a factor in relation to consumption, need and desire.
Yes, the wheels could fall off because of peak oil, but I would argue that is because of over consumption, greed and ignorance in not preparing renewable and sustainable s, to assure the wheels would not fall off. This of course because some people and/or companies are so focused on profits that they fail to see that “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
Your main mistake is the association of oil and success. This is a myopic view. A good analogy might be a cocaine addict. It’s great, and the high lasts and lasts, right up to the time you have sold your house and car, lost your family and realize you can not afford anymore cocaine. You may then turn to a life of crime to attempt to maintain the habit but at that point cocaine become harder and harder to find.
It is reasonable to see right now that economic degradation will derive form CO2 in the atmosphere and Peak Oil. Catch 22? Or do we start getting real smart, real quick?
Your argument to authority is too limited. “are all these people as ‘idiotic” as myself?” Just because they say, does not mean we should keep burning fossil fuels do our own demise.
Balance & context are key.
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Hank Roberts says
> “Please name one specific, falsifiable prediction that
> the theory of AGW makes and that has been tested.”
“Antarctic sea ice is increasing. This is expected from climate modeling. Nice to see someone else is picking up on this interesting confirmation of our scientific expectation.
The prediction is old. In 1992 Manabe and coworkers, in running a changing CO2 experiment [climate model], noticed that the Antarctic sea ice cover increased with increasing CO2. …. The trend in [actual observed] Antarctic ice cover managed to be statistically significant by about 1997 ….”
That’s a brief excerpt; see the full article:
Comparing creationism vs. evolution to AGW vs. skeptical-theory-of-the-month is apples and oranges. There is no true creationism vs. evolution debate because there is no intersection between the two theories. A right-minded creationist will tell you that the bible purports to describe the beginning of the Earth, not the advancement of species over time. A right-minded evolutionary biologist will tell you that the theory of evolution purports to describe the advancement of species of time, not the beginning of the Earth. The supposed controversy exists only in the minds of those who try to misapply either theory, and there are many. The theories themselves are not inconsistent with each other.
As for climate science, the controversy is real because it is centered on a yes or no proposition: are humans primarily responsible for significantly affecting the Earth’s climate? What you “believe” is of no consequence – the answer to that question is either yes or no.
Not to discourage the author, but we really don’t need another book that describes the logical traps that people fall into when attempting to wrap their brains around a difficult concept of which they likely have a pre-conceived notion of the outcome based on their worldview. What we need are people who have the patience to sit down and unpack the science in a way that is accessible to a greater number of people. I know you all think that is what RealClimate does, but that’s not true. I am a highly educated person with no science background but a ton of curiosity and patience – I still have no idea what you all are saying. If you can’t explain the processes used in coming to the conclusions you reach in a way that a vast majority of people can understand, then you’re just noise.
14 March 2010 at 7:53 PM
Norman: “But each city ends up with different average temperatures. What is the reason for this?”
“Have you considered other variables of geographical location rather than cloud cover? Including the exact location of the recording stations with respect to that geography? There are obviously reasons for a desert climate beyond the amount of solar energy recieved and cloud cover. Here on the west coast of Canada I regularly have wildly different weather than a friend in a similar location on the east coast of Canada.
30 year averages:
West coast: Jan +4.5c Feb +5.3c Jul +17.6c Aug +17.6c year 9.1c
East coast: Jan -6c Feb -5.6c Jul +18.6 Aug 18.4 year 6.3c”
Could you tell me the nearest cities to the temp data you posted. I can get the climate data for these and see if there is a variation of sunshine.
Hank Roberts says
> in on the hoax
> tobacco, asbestos, ozone
Ask your friends how long ago they think it was that people quit arguing against the idea that crap in drinking water would make people sick.
I’ll bet very few of them say “less than 200 years” — but yep, less than 200 years ago, people with the power to fix the problem didn’t believe there could be a problem with health from crap in drinking water.
(Many pumps were privately owned and fed private water companies; the owners did _not_ want to believe the water they sold could be making people sick):
“Snow’s work on cholera received mixed reviews during his lifetime…. the president of the Board of Health … and the former president … openly denounced his ideas. He was summarily rebuffed by the Committee for Scientific Inquiries, whose report read, “… we see no reason to adopt this belief. We do not find it established that the water was contaminated in the manner alleged …, nor is there before us any sufficient evidence.”….
However, the overwhelming statistical evidence gradually led the medical community to embrace his conclusions.”
More at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2557471/?page=9
Really, if you look, you can find the same “it’s a hoax, it’s a trick” claim made arguing against much that we’ve learned from science.
It’s a pattern.
Completely Fed Up says
Joe: “Comparing creationism vs. evolution to AGW vs. skeptical-theory-of-the-month is apples and oranges. There is no true creationism vs. evolution debate because there is no intersection between the two theories.”
And in the anti-AGW side there’s no theory at all. Hence the intersection is the null set.
Completely Fed Up says
Gilles: “I don’t see why IF we are able to sustain a society without fossil fuels, we wouldn’t be able to face some degrees of warming.”
Do you know what non-sequitor means?
There is nothing in common between a 2C rise and a society without fossil fuels.
Why would the ability to manage with one indicate an ability to manage with the other?
“My mum can eat asparagus and I don’t see why the dog can’t like it too.”
Completely Fed Up says
Gilles: “Yes, but your figure of 6 doublings is naturally unrealistic (64 times proven reserves !!) .”
And we don’t need 100C temperature to make civilisation collapse.
Hank Roberts says
Joe, a lot of us do try to boil down the explanations to words that are clear and simple — for our own understanding, but sometimes that can benefit others. Keep looking and asking; if you say what you _think_ you understand from one of the scientists’ posts, they’ll usually tell you if you’re getting it. Focus on the main post, not the comments. The climate scientists sign their posts, and make the original main posts. If any of the rest of us in comments get something figured out, they’ll let us know.
It’s not easy. The US average reading level, last I heard, is “7th grade” — but it’s so long since I was in the 7th grade I don’t remember what an average 7th grader can be expected to read and understand. It ain’t much.
And half the people read _below_ the 7th grade level.
So yes, we need better, clearer, simpler explanations.
Have you seen the car mechanic’s sign that says
“We do good, fast, cheap work–You choose, two out of three.”
Hank Roberts says
Does ‘rimfrost’ have anything you can’t get directly from the source now?
(If so, it should be added to the list of data sources)
Problem with second-hand copies is that anyone who’s keeping selected copies of data need to warn people they aren’t providing the full picture of what’s available. Pointers to original sources help people avoid the natural and human tendency to fool themselves about what’s important and what not to bother with. If you’re only seeing someone’s selection, there’s going to be some selection bias, conscious or not. It’s a standard caution for everyone.
Jim Eager says
Re Gilles @279: I meant that I don’t think that there is a real risk that human civilization collapses with realistic reserves and 2°C/doubling…
Once again, you focus exclusively on reserves of conventional fossil fuels and completely ignore the potential for release from natural carbon sinks at temperatures well below what combustion of all fossil fuel reserves would produce, flippantly dismissing the possibility as a mere “movie scene.”
Unfortunately it is a movie that has played out quite naturally before, over and over in fact, without humans burning fossil carbon fuels, and we know the ending.
Now we are measuring increases in methane levels and discovering large releases from clathrates. Are you sure it’s a good idea to rerun the movie again?
“Gilles,All your statements seem to amount to is the claim that we don’t know how to replace the contribution of fossil fuels cost-effectively YET.
That alone doesn’t prove that we will never be able to do so.”
Just as all climate alarmist warnings assume that we don’t know how to face a warming of some degrees, isn’t it ? all dire predictions and estimates of costs of warming are JUST (due or undue) extrapolations of known facts. I’m just saying that known facts show that we are just currently much more sensitive to a decrease of fossil fuel than to the increase of temperature they produce (that’s obvious, otherwise we should stop NOW using them). And that we need a very good justification that this ratio could reverse in the future before we stop. Very good justification goes well beyond “come on, the stratosphere is cooling”, or even beyond ” but there is a risk”. They are plenty of cases where we KNOW for sure that civilization brings issues and drawbacks (it’s not a possibility, it’s a certitude !!) : for instance, cars produce accidents that kill more than 1 million people each year, and may double within 30 years (unless PO reduce them of course). And still we accept cars and aren’t ready to forbid them. So just saying “we’ll get in trouble” is not enough to convince people to stop burning fuels : you first have to justify than not burning them (and forbid poor people to do it instead of us, even if we do some conservation), brings less trouble.
JPR #285 : I agree that everything is in balance and context (that’s precisely what I try to elaborate). I can’t see any other scientifically justified statement in all what you said.
CFU ; “There is nothing in common between a 2C rise and a society without fossil fuels.”
Sure !! I agree on this point ! 2 C more means for me going in Italy. Society without fossil fuels means going to Chad or Haiti. There is nothing (or very few) in common indeed. Or if you prefer a historical comparison, 2 C is only two times the warming in France since 20 years (which I could hardly notice) , and society without fossil fuels is France in 1800. Nothing in common again.
“Gilles: “Yes, but your figure of 6 doublings is naturally unrealistic (64 times proven reserves !!) .”
And we don’t need 100C temperature to make civilisation collapse.”
Of course again ! I just want to estimate what is the threshold for this collapse, and which evidence it is based on.
Jean B. says
#276 Kevin McKinney
“Note that the challenges are multiple–increased human mortality, loss of infrastructure & human displacement on a very large scale, greatly increased food insecurity and environmental degradation all at the same time.”
No that’s not true, because the scenarios that lead to those kind of catastrophes also say massive economic development and especially for poor countries.
“Whether we restructure our energy economy to avoid dislocation of supply, or to mitigate emissions, the issue is to get on with doing it, yes? ”
Some people are interested in the science, not just on the policies.
Good policies with bad reasons doesn’t satisfy people who want to understand how nature works…
“So why not stop BEFORE irretrievable damage is done?”
Because fossil fuels being the most efficient, affordable and useful things men have ever discovered, if YOU in rich countries “decide” to lower your consumption, you can’t force POOR countries who need to develop … and development can only happen with fossil fuels (or show me one country that developed without massive fossil fuels consumption).
China doesn’t build a coal power plant every WEEK for fun…
“An airy assumption that “a few degrees” of climate change is the equivalent of a vacation to the tropics is just dumb. You aren’t. So what keeps you insisting on such a foolish and unsupported premise?”
The thing is you or anyone else has no idea when a “global warming” (whatever it means) becomes dangerous.
What we know for sure is that climate in some areas will become less suitable for living, others will become more suitable for living. What we know for sure with fossil fuels is that you live better with them.
Moreover, thanks to fossil fuels we were able to build houses for 5 billion people over the course of the XXth century.
Why wouldn’t we be able to build new houses for the few millions that could be threatened by some local climate change ?
I also wanted to add a word of thanks for the RC site. I admire the RC crew, knowing full well there are no professional rewards for blogging on your area of expertise. I also suspect you find the need for this site pretty maddening. How much longer until we have a RG site (Real Gravity) to make the science of weak gravitational forces more accessible and provide a counterweight to the gravity skeptics?
Stephen Berg says
I wholeheartedly agree with the letter-writer! You have done a massive service by putting this site together! Without it, the scientific discussion would be far less rich and complete. The site is also quite accessible to all, despite the complex nature of the discipline.
I also agree with the comment about the intellectual gulf between this site and most of the “skeptic” blogs. This can be illustrated not only by the contents of each thread, but also in the quality of most of the comments by readers. Most of the comments here are well thought out, while most of the comments on sites like ClimateAudit are knee-jerk, full of ad-homs (going off on the likes of Al Gore, Dr. David Suzuki, Dr. James Hansen, etc.), and partisan that any semblance of objectivity is lost.
Thank you for all your hard work and perseverance!