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The most popular deceptive climate graph

The “World Climate Widget” from Tony Watts’ blog is probably the most popular deceptive image among climate “skeptics”.  We’ll take it under the microscope and show what it would look like when done properly.

So called “climate skeptics” deploy an arsenal of misleading graphics, with which the human influence on the climate can be down played (here are two other  examples deconstructed at Realclimate).  The image below is especially widespread.  It is displayed on many “climate skeptic” websites and is regularly updated.


The “World Climate Widget” of US “climate skeptic” Anthony Watts with our explanations added.  The original can be found on Watts’ blog

What would a more honest display of temperature, CO2 and sunspots look like?

  1.  It is better to plot the surface air temperature.  That is what is relevant for us humans: we do not live up in the troposphere, nor do natural ecosystems, nor do we grow our food up there. By the way, the satellite-based tropospheric temperatures shown by Watts show almost the same climatic warming trend as those measured by weather stations near ground level (in both cases 0.16 C per decade over the last 30 years).  However, variability in the tropospheric data is considerably larger, especially because of higher sensitivity to El Niño (as happened in 1998) and the solar cycle (we showed that in Foster and Rahmstorf ERL 2011 – when corrected for those factors the surface and troposphere data agree closely).  Because of increased noise, the trend is less obvious to the eye, especially if one shows monthly values which adds yet more noise.  Let us thus use the GISTEMP global annual temperature record from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Science (all surface data sets agree to better than 0.1 °C, see comparison graph).
  1.  One needs to scale the CO2 data correctly for an honest comparison with temperature, so that it can actually be used to evaluate climate scientists’ predictions of the CO2 effect.  You can calculate this with a complicated climate model, but one can also use a back-of-envelope estimate.  A CO2 increase from 280 to 400 ppm (equivalent to 2 Watts/meter2 radiative forcing) produces about 1 °C of global warming (at the time when 400 ppm is reached – some further warming will follow with delay). Thus, an increase of 100 ppm CO2 on the right hand side of the graph corresponds to a temperature increase of 0.8°C on the left hand side. That matches the IPCC’s estimate of the “transient climate response (TCR)” of ~2°C at the time of CO2 doubling (see Technical Summary of the IPCC WG1 report, p. 84). The TCR is smaller than the equilibrium climate sensitivity (about 3°C for doubled CO2) because it takes time to warm the oceans. The full equilibrium warming is thus only reached after a time delay. We are going to use the annual values from the famous CO2 measurements which began in 1958 on Mauna Loa in Hawaii.
  1.  And last but not least one should show honest sunspot data (annual time series), not just a snapshot of the number of spots on the sun today (which is completely uninformative for climate purposes – it’s apparently been added to the widget simply to insinuate an important role of the sun). Here also there is a question of the proper scaling (which is actually not that important because solar activity is cyclical and shows no significant trend over the period of the graph).  We will chose the scaling from the correlation analysis of Lean and Rind (2008) from which one can find a measurable effect on global temperature with an amplitude of 0.05°C.

When done this way the graph looks like this:


One of the readers of our German sister blog KlimaLounge, Bernd Herd, has programmed a widget for this graph so it can be added to any website at a size you like, automatically updated annually.

The trends in the CO2 and temperature anomaly curves agree very well with each other.  This is surprising at first because CO2 is of course not the only factor that influences global temperature. There are two reasons for this agreement:

(1)  Of the other anthropogenic factors, some have a warming effect (other greenhouse gases such as methane) while others have a cooling effect (air pollution). These roughly balance in global average. The IPCC AR4 report found a radiative forcing of 1.7 W/m2 from the CO2 increase alone, while the total from all anthropogenic factors amounted to 1.6 W/m2.

(2)  Natural factors (volcanoes, solar cycle) influencing the trend are very small in comparison to anthropogenic CO2 (as e.g. standard correlation analyses show, see for example Lean and Rind 2008Foster and Rahmstorf 2011). The IPCC AR5 found their contribution to global temperature change since 1951 to be in the range of −0.1°C to 0.1°C.

It requires quite some skill to produce a misleading graph like Watts’ global climate widget, which hides the actual connections between global temperature, CO2 and the sunspot cycle. Watts’ widget is quite a useful indicator though: whenever you see it on a website, you know they are trying to fool rather than inform you there.


A quick ‘n dirty guide to falsifying AGW

Dot Earth: Warming Trend and Variations on a Greenhouse-Heated Planet

217 Responses to “The most popular deceptive climate graph”

  1. 51
    Matt London says:

    Icarus62 says: “As ‘SecularAnimist’ memorably said:

    “Please stop referring to Anthony Watts, WUWT and similar purveyors of deliberate deceit as ‘skeptics’.

    They are not ‘skeptics’. They are propagandists who are paid to lie.”

    I think that such claims need some sort of evidence. WHO pays Anthony Watts to lie?

  2. 52
    Sou says:

    The widget died at WUWT a few weeks ago. It disappeared from the sidebar on 16 September this year (yes, I checked the archives. Too much time on my hands. Not really. :D).

    There was no wake nor any memorial notice that I saw. I only noticed because someone at WUWT commented about it missing just the other day.

    It hasn’t been updated since August. WUWT has a tab that links to where you can get it from but I’d say it’s either dead or in a coma.

  3. 53
    Leo Geiger says:

    Steve (#44) – You are still conflating the real scientific debate which takes place in published research with so called “debates” in forums like the TV show you mentioned. In the latter, it is neither true that one can “let the data stand on it’s own merit” nor is it true that “if their arguments are truly lies, they will not prevail”. Any number of well established public debate tactics can be used of confuse, obfuscate, mislead, and in general convince an audience of things that established facts do not support.

    This is a win-win for so-called science skeptics, unfortunately. If scientists agree to these TV “debates”, effective public debate tactics can easily trump established fact and sway opinions. If they refuse to participate, people such as yourself will imagine they suffer from closed minded religious dogma and suggest those who agree with their choice must also belong to that “camp”. What really matters — the mountains of published research, stretching back decades, open, available, and rigourously debated (in a valid scientific sense of the word) — never enters the picture. Surely opinions should be guided mostly by this, not by the impression one gets from a TV event or lack of one?

    How to effectively convey to the public the breadth and depth of knowledge contained in all this research is clearly a hard thing. All I can say for sure is that it isn’t going to happen during a “debate” segment on the Stossel show.

  4. 54
    Chris Dudley says:

    Hank (#43),

    Nice quote. However, it applies to philosophy not science. Science requires skeptics and they may be the most useful members of the community. Science does not require you to “know thyself” but it is helpful to know that you may be much more credulous of your own work than you might ever suspect. And, even so, you can be drawn into enthusiasms that require skeptics to curb.

  5. 55
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Surely you see this? If you want credibility ….

    I think the counterexamples are plentiful. Public health examples where science works and debate delays change abound: vaccination, diet, antibiotic resistance, laetrile as a cancer treatment, chrysotile asbestos, lead paint, tobacco — all have been publicly debated at great length. The more extended the debate, the longer confusion lasts.

    Can you name one fundamental belief you find credible but science won’t publish?

    Yes, sometimes having scientists engage in public debate would add more credibility than spending the same time writing for the public in science journals.

    You’ve read Stephen Schneider, I trust? If not — alas, how did you not?

  6. 56
    Jim Eager says:

    For Peter Anderson: The Widget only shows CO2 concentrations from 1959 onward simply because we only started accurately and reliably measuring atmospheric CO2 in 1958.

    [Response: The CO2 record can be extended back in time using Antarctic ice core data. We’ve asked Bernd Herd to implement that. May take some time since he is busy. -stefan]

  7. 57
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Shall we open up the debate over the luminferous aether again? How about the phlogiston theory of life essence? A flat Earth? After all, we wouldn’t want to shut down debate prematurely, would we?

    Perhaps, rather than casting aspersions on the credibility of your hosts here, you might want to tell us precisely what is open to reasonable debate. I am willing to bet that any truly reasonable subject is being or has been addressed in the peer-reviewed research.

  8. 58
    Jim Eager says:

    Steve Harris wrote: “science is all about open public debate…,

    Open, yes, public, no. As was already pointed out to you, open scientific debate takes place among scientists qualified in the relevant field within the scientific literature and at scientific meetings and conferences. It does not take place in staged public debates in the media. To assert that it does undermines confidence in your grasp of what science is.

    Furthermore, a one-on-one public “debate” of the science of anthropogenic climate change would present the false impression that there are two equal sides to such a debate when there are not. On one side is the overwhelming majority of scientists working in the field of climate change—97%, while on the other side there are only a very small hand full—3%. Thus to accurately reflect the actual state of disagreement within the scientific community any public debate would have to be among a panel of 32 scientists for the one side verses one single scientist for the other. I think it highly unlikely that any contrary scientist would ever agree to such terms.

    In the long run I agree that scientific truth and data will prevail over deliberate disinformation and outright lies, but so far a highly motivated and well funded and organized campaign has managed to keep the truth at bay. Meanwhile the clock keeps ticking and CO2 keeps rising.

  9. 59
    dhogaza says:

    Steve Harris:

    “Science is all about open public debate on beliefs that are falsifiable. Religion is all about shutting down debate on beliefs that are not falsifiable. It is quite clear which camp you are in”.

    So the fact that geologists don’t spend time debating, or publishing papers in professional journals by those who, having read the bible, claim the earth is only 6,000 years old shows that geology is a religion, while christianity is science?

    Are you sure you’ve thought this through?

  10. 60
    wheelsoc says:

    Steve @44, you’re simply incorrect when you say that science is “about open public debates.”

    This is something that the biological scientific community has decades of experience with. Creationists are the bio equivalent of climate deniers in many, many relevant ways. One thing biologists have learned from trying to handle them and their message is that “public debates” always favor those who can lie. There are several reasons for this.

    One is that it always takes more effort to correct a lie than to tell one. A person can say to you that the sky turns red in the morning because red is a colder type of light than blue and the air hadn’t warmed up yet. It will take you longer to explain why that’s not so and what actually happens to make the sky look red in the morning and blue at noon than it will take for the other person to make their claim.

    Related to the above is the tendency of many “skeptics,” either of evolution or AGW, to employ a fast volley of lies and disinformation that cannot all be rebutted in the time allotted for debate. Not only does this mean the volume of bull can be left unanswerable, it also eats up to the other side’s time which could have been spent explaining things accurately. It lets the bullshitter lead the debate and forces the legitimate expert to try and keep up, inevitably failing to address all the bad arguments and without sufficient time to make their own. This is called the Gish Gallop, after the Creationist who most infamously embodied the tactic.

    Another reason is that the uninformed listener (which is really the majority audience of a public debate, no?) is more readily convinced by things that make sense to them and fit into their existing world-view, even if it’s wrong and doesn’t have a lick of scientific evidence. Even in the presence of correct information, people by and large tend to gravitate towards what they like instead of what is rigorously supported.

    Furthermore, a debate between 2 parties implies that each side has about equal representation and equal merit. This is simply not the case much of the time, especially not when it comes to climate “skeptics.” If you set 1 denialist against 1 legitimate scientist who represents the mainstream view of climate science, you are giving the denialist a vastly inflated representation compared to their numbers. It projects a false sense of balance. A more accurate representation would have about 32 scientists in the Mainstream camp to every 1 scientist in the “skeptic” camp. What kind of a “debate” would that make for?

    Scientists are also keenly aware that legitimate scientific controversies cannot be resolved through public debates. They must be resolved within the scientific community by people who are qualified to weigh in and examine the evidence. This means that the appropriate place for settling real issues is in the scientific literature, not on stage.

    The experience of biologists who have tried to engage Creationists in public is extremely valuable here, and it does not support your belief that you speak for most scientific minds when you say public debate is a necessary and beneficial tactic. Hard experience (you know, that “empirical” stuff?) has taught them that it is at least fraught with peril, and can have the opposite effect of what you intend.

    You do yourself absolutely no favors by trying to compare the state of climate science with a dogmatic religion, either. It does not speak well of your ability to discern what’s really going on. As for calling the denialists names, deniers/denialists/etc. are entirely appropriate and descriptive labels for people who actively engage in denial of reality. The same term is applied to AIDS denialists who refuse to accept that HIV causes AIDS, and rightly so.

  11. 61
  12. 62
    SecularAnimist says:

    Steve Harris wrote: “I watched a John Stossel show where Dr Schmidt outright refused to debate, or even converse with for that matter, Dr Spencer.”

    John Stossel has a history of blatant dishonesty in defense of polluters.

    In 2000, for example, Stossel was reprimanded by ABC News and was forced to apologize on the air for making false statements in a 20/20 story about organic produce. He had claimed that laboratory tests performed for the network found that neither conventional nor organic produce had any pesticide residues, and that organic produce was more likely to be contaminated with E. coli. Not only were these claims false, but in fact no such tests had actually been done.

    Stossel has repeatedly stated that scientists who acknowledge the reality of anthropogenic global warming are lying for money; he used his documentary “Tampering With Nature” to promote the views of global warming deniers; and in his book “Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity” he equated climate scientists with astrologers.

    Other commenters can no doubt provide details of Dr. Spencer’s denialist antics.

    If there is any basis for criticizing Dr. Schmidt regarding this, it would be to question his judgment in deciding to dignify the likes of John Stossel by appearing on his program at all.

  13. 63
    John Mashey says:

    Re various discussions about debates:
    once again, Psuedoskeptics Are Not Skeptics and debating with people who have Sauron-class Morton’s demons accomplishes little.

  14. 64
    Hank Roberts says:

    > quote…. applies to philosophy not science. Science requires skeptics

    Read the context; you’ll find Bertrand Russell was talking about science.

    Yes, he was using a definition of “skeptic” rather older than yours; he’s not talking about the organized Skeptic groups that have emerged. Today, he might use septic for those who are “certain of … not knowing” — the ignoramus et ignorabimus people.

    Russell was talking about being clear about statements, including uncertainty — that’s science. Today we talk about error bars and try to quantify that uncertainty — not nail it down, but understand the range.

    When someone tells you two numbers are different to three significant digits, and both fall within the error range around our best idea of the fact — that’s how advocacy science operates, for example — watch out.

  15. 65
    Radge Havers says:

    Steve Harris, if I recall, it was noted (in that propaganda hit piece that Stossel engineered) that Spencer was not willing to ‘debate’ either — noted by Stossel himself in a rare moment of candor. But I see that there’s a lot of noise about Gavin’s position among the more downscale segments of the fake skeptic echo chamber, so I guess it’s not surprising to see it raised here even though it’s totally irrelevant to the post.

  16. 66
    wheelsoc says:

    For the unfamiliar, a definition of Morton’s Demon. Once again, named after someone who participated in the evolution/creationism debates.

  17. 67
    Peter Andersen says:

    #45 and #48:

    One of the main points of Stephan’s article is that “The trends in the CO2 and temperature anomaly curves agree very well with each other.” So I think it highly relevant to point out that this dependency cannot be deduced by simply looking at the graphs of CO2 ppm and average temperature anomaly.

    The period 1905 to 1945 shows a rate of increase of the temperature as great as the recent one from 1976 to 1998 — and yet the rate of increase of CO2 concentration was but a fraction of the recent one. Also from 1945 to 1976 the temperature actually decreased while the CO2 ppm was rising more and more rapidly. And I am not even mentioning the negligible warming from 1998 a period with the most rapid CO2 increase.

    My point is that you can not argue for the greenhouse effect of CO2 simply by looking at the CO2 and temperature curves. The temperature is obviously influenced by much else besides CO2, including “natural” causes that completely escape both simple-minded analysis and the climate computer programs.

  18. 68
    Steve Harris says:

    #57 Ray – Two hundred years ago on the topic of luminiferous aether, what would the results have been on a poll of scientists as to the existence of such? Likely around 97%? And what would the results of that same poll be if taken now? Yeah that’s right, zilch. And furthermore, are there any credible researchers now claiming that it may yet exist? I am not aware of any. But yet, there are MANY credible scientists saying that there is significant uncertainty on whether CO2 is going to cause thermagedden within 50 or 100 years. Your position, along with many on this site, seems to be that anyone who disagrees with your basic premise is not credible. Really? In two hundred years, a possible outcome will be that our time will be ridiculed as the great CO2 scare that wasn’t. Or another possible outcome will be that thermagedden ensues, and it will be said that the public could not be persuaded to curb CO2 emissions because of the arrogance of scientists of the time which polarized the population. You could take a lesson from Steve Koonin, who I find very credible.

  19. 69
    Leo Geiger says:

    I think the moderating of comments, where they are held a while before appearing, has the unfortunate side effect of allowing many similar comments to build up in the queue because people are unaware that others are writing very similar things. I would likely not have bothered to respond to Steve Harris’ comment now that I see how many others were doing the same. Comes across like a bit of a mobbing…

  20. 70
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Peter Andersen
    > … I am not even mentioning the negligible warming from 1998

    I believe you have contradicted yourself there.

  21. 71
    SecularAnimist says:

    Peter Andersen wrote: “My point is that you can not argue for the greenhouse effect of CO2 simply by looking at the CO2 and temperature curves.”

    Of course there is no need to “argue” for the greenhouse effect of CO2 on that basis, since the greenhouse effect of CO2 is an observed fact of physics.

  22. 72
    vukcevic says:

    Peter Andersen says: 10 Dec 2014 at 2:03 PM –
    : ………………..
    You are correct about the case for natural variability.
    NOAA provides data for the temperature anomaly since 1880 and the most likely source of ‘natural variability’ since 1900 (see the GRAPH .) while other sources go further back in time. Proper debate and any conclusions should be based on the whole data span available, instead of ‘cherry picking’ sections of the data either after 1950s or 1990s to suit ones viewpoint, rather than pursuing correct science. It is regrettable that either the natural variability or the role of CO2 is treated as irrelevant from one or the other side.

  23. 73
    Jim Eager says:

    Peter Anderson, I’m pretty sure that everyone here will readily agree that earth’s mean temperature is influenced by factors other than CO2. Some of those things would be a change in solar output (more or less energy in), a change in average volcanic activity (more or less dimming and thus cooling), a change in anthropogenic aerolsols (same as volcanic aerosols), even ENSO, although it tends to even out over the long term. But one can hardly fault computer climate models for being unable to predict changes in solar activity beyond the nominal 11 sunspot cycle (one cause for the 1905-1945 warming), or large volcanic eruptions or their lack, or economic and political activity, which determines anthropogenic aerosols (one cause of the 1945-1976 masking of CO2 forcing), or even ENSO (the 1998 spike).

  24. 74
    Steve Harris says:

    Everyone, I realize my original comment could have been stated in a less inflammatory way, I will try to do better. I have several questions about the science, which I would very much enjoy a polite discussion. They may be pointed skeptical questions, but I think they are legitimate.

    First question: What is the theoretical rate of warming that we would get from only the laboratory quantified greenhouse effect of CO2, without any other feedback effect added, and would this be catastrophic, and if so, when?

  25. 75
    SecularAnimist says:

    Steve Harris wrote: “there are MANY credible scientists saying that there is significant uncertainty on whether CO2 is going to cause thermagedden within 50 or 100 years”

    Actually, there are NO credible scientists saying anything one way or another about “thermagedden” because “thermagedden” is not a scientific term — it’s a nonsense word that you just made up, which has no real meaning.

    On the other hand, the US National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Academy, the World Meteorological Organization, and pretty much every national scientific academy of every nation on Earth, and every international scientific organization that has anything to do with climatology, have ALL issued public statements asserting that unmitigated anthropogenic global warming is a grave threat to human civilization, and have called for urgent action to deal with it.

    And there are in fact no “credible” scientists who dispute that.

  26. 76
    wheelsoc says:

    Steve, you can’t compare what amounts to a placeholder mechanism like aether to an empirically demonstrable relationship like GHG emissions and anthropogenic global warming. It really seems like you don’t understand science as well as you like to think.

    Furthermore, nobody here is talking about “thermaggeden” and I don’t know of any serious scientists discussing such a thing on timescales of either 50 or 100 years, despite your capitalized insistence. Hyperbolic straw men are not your friend here.

  27. 77
    John Mashey says:

    1) “Thermagedden” is not a term commonly used by climate scientists. AGU is next week, but I’ve never heard that term even once at these meetings, and would be surprised to hear it next week.
    AGU is a great meeting. People who actually want to learn something might try it in place of reading WSJ OpEds, not a source for accurate climate science. Real scientists attend (~20,000). Those who know people do this for the cushy lifestyles can walk the posters and talk to grad students/postdocs/other researchers whose field work cannot be described as resort vacation.

    2) If someone wants debates, they should try to get medical researchers to debate tobacco-funded think tank pundits (or maybe Jenny McCarthy) regarding effects of tobacco/nicotine on disease …
    The latter can say there is little harm by citing a 90-year-old smoker they know and Richard Lindzen’s claims that secondhand smoking statistics were dubious. They can point out that no doctor can predict which 12-year-old smokers will end up addicted or get ill. They can point out that there is little or no evidence of health damage from exhaled vapor. They can point out that nobody has done the truly definitive experiments…. They can mention that at least one great statistician (Sir Ronald Fisher) never bought the hypothesis that cigarettes caused lung cancer.

    The important part for those who want this sort of debate, to see how serious they are:
    make sure *their* children/grandchildren/young-enough relatives watch. They can thus learn there are always at least 2 sides, and as long as there is *any* disagreement, a topic can be labeled “controversial.” Then, they can feel free to try smoking or vaping until enough research is done for everyone to agree that they shouldn’t.

  28. 78
    Hank Roberts says:

    > luminiferous aether …furthermore, are there any credible researchers
    > now claiming that it may yet exist? I am not aware of any.
    – See more at:

    Well, how do you define “credible” and did you look?
    See, you’ve illustrated the problem of arguing from what you’re aware of.
    “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.”
    the first hit is:

    Michelson‐Morley experiment proves light speed is not constant
    S Das – Physics Essays, 2014 –

    No, I’m not arguing that’s “credible” — that’s up to you.
    I’m pointing out that the debate continues in the journals as long as there’s anyone curious enough to try to overthrow any particular scientific idea — that’s how science works.

    Doubt something? Publish something.

  29. 79
    John Catley says:

    And this is Climate Science from Climate Scientists?
    A widget on a blog?
    Heaven forbid.
    Fortunately most of us know better.

  30. 80
    Data says:

    Hi, why doesn’t the temperature line in your graph look like the data in the link you gave.
    Is your line a model output? Enquiring minds want to know!

  31. 81
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Steve Harris, you asked:

    > First question: What is the theoretical rate of
    > warming that we would get from only the laboratory
    > quantified greenhouse effect of CO2

    Since you want to start with the earliest and most basic questions, rather than ask people to retype them for you, would you be willing to read the basic introductory history?

    Start for example with Here’s what all scientists agreed they knew by 1988 — the third of the three paragraphs under that heading answers your first question.

    I asked that question myself when I started reading about this, a decade or more ago. But I’d wear out if I tried to retype what I’ve learned since then one question at a time.

    > … catastrophic?

    Well, try this for that:

  32. 82
    Steve Harris says:

    My apologies to those of you who could not discern the meaning of the term thermagedden. I didn’t realize what a struggle it would be for you. You see, it is shorthand for thermal armagedden. Now if you still can’t figure it out, well I’m so sorry that you can’t. I tried. I suppose it is just beyond the comprehension skills of some people. I have enjoyed my brief interaction here, and you have all helped solidify my conclusions. Thanks for playing.

  33. 83
    Steven Sullivan says:

    re: Mr Harris: Oh great, another *engineer* tilting at a scientific field he thinks has got it all wrong. I’ve seen this over and over in debates about evolution. Is just something about the ‘engineering’ mindset that makes them more prone to Dunning–Kruger delusions?

  34. 84
  35. 85
    Avery Harden says:

    Steve Harris, number 44. Regarding your request for a “debate” with you “skeptics”, there was a lively “debate” back in the 80s and early 90s on the health effects of smoking tobacco. Most scientists believed smoking tobacco was harmful and a small number of highly educated and talented scientist representing the tobacco industry perspective argued that smoking tobacco was not harmful. That “debate” went on for a few years before the truth finally overwhelmed the discussion. Same was true for CFCs, leaded gasoline and other environmental issues. Forgive us if we don’t care to take you up on your offer for a “debate” with your premise that AGW may not be happening.

  36. 86
    Larry Wirth says:

    I would think mid-tropospheric measurements would be the most reliable. From them surface temperature can be inferred using the lapse rate. The mid-trop temps would, seemingly allow us to eliminate the large influence of urban heat? This is apparently a real problem with surface temperatures. Is it not?

    [Response: Or it’s a problem with assuming constant lapse rates, or a problem with inhomogeneities in tying the different satellites together or a problem in the stratospheric contribution etc. When there is a discrepancy the answer is rarely that the one series you like for aesthetic reasons is perfect and everything else is wrong. – gavin]

  37. 87
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Larry Wirth,
    It would appear that you have been taken in by the “Any problem I don’t understand must be easy” fallacy. One only need look at the history of satellite data series and the corrections applied to them to realize that this is a very difficult problem indeed. And to this one must add that as soon as you get a working algorithm, the sensor on which you are relying probably starts failing and you have a whole new set of corrections. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be an active area of research.

  38. 88
    Hank Roberts says:

    > thermagedden ensues … because of the arrogance of scientists
    – See more at:

    Yeah, that’s the sixth stage of denial:

    It can’t happen
    It won’t happen
    It isn’t happening
    It won’t be serious
    It’s too late to do anything to stop it
    It’s all your fault for not convincing me in time to do anything about it

  39. 89
    Chris Dudley says:

    The neologism thermageddon appears to be about tipping points.

    Those have been discussed here:

    There has been extensive discussion here in comments that the most disruptive of these, the Venus Syndrome, can’t occur as a result of greenhouse gas forcing but rather requires solar forcing.

    The advent of low cost renewable energy, however, does open up vast new fossil resources that would otherwise be energetically sequestered owing to low energy return on energy invested. There appears to be enough available to get to more than four doublings of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This would make a good bit of the earth uninhabitable for mammals. So, we have crossed a technological tipping point where our capabilities for destruction have expanded again.

  40. 90
    wheelsoc says:

    So Mr. Steve Harris decided to drop in. He insisted that real science requires public debates. He compared the state of climate science to a stodgy religion. He completely mischaracterized the mainstream view. He cited a non-expert scientist who now has a track record for disinforming the public, and insisted that the lack of public acceptance for legitimate science is due to the arrogance of scientists rather than the well-funded FUD campaign of moneyed and political interests. He ignored any on-topic engagement of his claims. He then left abruptly after finding that his agitations and rhetoric only produced responses that made him seem foolish and that nobody was taking his word or cause seriously.

    Shall we all make a note not to engage this same troll in the future?

  41. 91
    Ray Ladbury says:

    No, Steve. I really don’t care what you think. If you dispute the consensus of scientific opinion, you are welcome to submit your dissent to a reputable scientific journal, where scientific debate actually occurs. If your insights significantly increase understanding of climate, then yours will become the consensus opinion. If not, they’ll wind up on the rubbish heap where they belong.

    Steve, the luminiferous aether was posited because scientists at the time could not comprehend how you could have a wave (e.g. light or electromagnetic waves) without a medium. Einstein and others showed how this was possible and so advanced our understanding of the physical world. Had they merely fulminated on the sidelines and sought to “debate” the science in public forums, they would have been rightly shunned as cranks.

    Also, Steve, I would point out that there never was any physical evidence for the luminiferous aether–it was always a conceptual construct. On the other hand there are mountains of evidence that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that anthropogenic emissions of it are warming the planet. How about you, Steve? Got evidence?

  42. 92
    Steve Metzler says:

    Perhaps I’ve missed it, but it would seem that one feature both the WUWT (or, ‘LOL, WHUT?!’ as I affectionately refer to it) graph and Stefan’s much less disingenuous version are lacking in is a reference to what baseline period the anomalies on the Y axis are with respect to?

    Or, in the absence of such, can we just assume that the baseline period is the entire X axis of the graph?

    I kind of expect there to be no baseline period on the LOL, WHUT?! version because Anthony has demonstrated quite a few times on his blog that he just doesn’t understand baselines. That’s why he always prefers the satellite temp series: more recent baseline period means the anomalies are smaller. Ergo, nothing to worry about. QED :-)

  43. 93
    Jim Eager says:

    With his departing “Thanks for playing” Steve Harris confirmed my suspicion of what he was up to when I read his first comment.

    Come on Steve, admit it, your conclusions were already quite solid before you came here. You could have saved everyone some time by just writing “I’m an electrical engineer, how hard can radiative physics and geophysics be?”

  44. 94

    #82–“I tried.”

    No, Steverino, you really didn’t.

    Have a nice life if you can, and don’t say we didn’t warn you.

  45. 95
    Chris Colose says:

    #74- Steve Harris

    “First question: What is the theoretical rate of warming that we would get from only the laboratory quantified greenhouse effect of CO2, without any other feedback effect added, and would this be catastrophic, and if so, when?”

    Depends on how you define “no feedback.” In climate science, we traditionally frame the problem by asking what extra infrared flux to space (via increased temperature) would be demanded in order to offset the decreased infrared flux caused by CO2 increase. That increased emission is a “feedback” but we usually define a reference state such that we keep other non-CO2 factors (water vapor, clouds, etc) constant, and then determine the slope of outgoing emission vs. surface temperature. You get about 1 degree C warming throughout the troposphere for a doubling of CO2 in this exercise.

  46. 96
    pinroot says:

    Maybe you could write about this suspect widget next:

  47. 97
    Grant says:

    Debate in conferences and journals does not help inform the voting, carbon-emitting public.

    I’m an engineer who has recently begun to invest in alternative energy. For this reason I’ve started to research AGW. What I found reminded me of economics: a heavily-politicized, non-experimental science where in-group biases run rampant (to the point of name-calling!). Nothing about climate science fills me with confidence.

    You may rah-rah your fellow “alarmists” when you call detractors “deniers” (or vise-versa), but such terminology does little to sway the “deniers’ to your side. In many cases it probably just polarizes things further, and convinces “deniers” of your biases.

    Skepticism on the seriousness of AGW appears to be rising:

    So I agree with Steve Harris.

  48. 98
    Grant says:

    AGW would appear to differ from vaccination autism and the aether in one extremely important respect: you cannot conduct repeatable experiments on Earth’s climate.

    You can conduct experiments on small portions of the climate, such as the effects of additional CO2 on infrared absorption. I think this is why virtually no skeptics argue that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas and is not warming the atmosphere.

    Expert forecasting is very often wrong. Is there a site somewhere which compares various forecasts (whether from models or individuals) to the data as its becomes available? Such as, but for climate? Statements such as “I believe mean global surface temperature will be at or above X in dataset Y by year Z; if it is not I will re-examine my views” would increase my confidence.

  49. 99
    Russell says:

    Where would John Mashey be without all the books written and science done under the influence of the demon Nicotine?

    I don’t think it’s a two pipe problem, but his attitude illuminates the poltical dangers of entangling the climate wars with the prohibitionist impulse in America.

  50. 100
    Steve Harris says:

    @93 Jim Eager – you have a point, I was already somewhat biased when I came here. Watching Gavin so rudely shun discussion with Roy Spencer did bias me – a lot. Bottom line – I’m not saying I can interpret climate science better than climate scientists, I have no where near that expertise. BUT – and this is important – I can see tremendous incentive for bias in this industry. I see MANY tax dollars going to pay MANY researchers in this field. I see a correlation between the amount of those dollars and the level of climate fear in the public. I see that if your consensus was that CO2 isn’t a problem, your funding would dry up immediately. Most of you would be on the street, the few left employed would be working in obscurity, because unless they are scared, no one gives a damn about climate predictions. If you want me to believe you, you need to go the extra mile to convince me that you are not biased – consciously or subconsciously. If you are truly scientists, then you well know how badly personal bias can skew conclusions – even bias that you are not consciously aware of. Every single one of you knows – whether consciously or subconsciously – that your job security depends on keeping a scare story alive. Not true you say? Well, you sure as heck aren’t putting forth much effort to convince me of that. I came here in good faith hoping that my suspicions might be unfounded – but they have been pretty much confirmed, in fact it seems even worse than I imagined. I help pay almost every one of your salaries – and it looks to me like I’m being taken for a ride. You have achieved yet one more name added to the rapidly growing list of people who are upset about this. All your talk of “deniers” and the name calling – you have really screwed the pooch. And you can’t even see this.

    [Response: Hmmm… well, people looking to have their biases confirmed are quite common, and there isn’t much to be done about that. However, before you rush off, let me make a couple of points that (given the source) I have no doubt you’ll ignore. First off, seeing me or someone else find better things to do with their time than get into shouting matches on Fox TV could logically lead to a number of responses – that I genuinely have no desire to have a shouting match with Roy Spencer; that I am a terrible person who shuns controversy; or that Fox TV shouldn’t lie to their guests about what they are coming in to the studio for. Any of these would be logical (though only two are true). What isn’t logical is thinking that this incident is an indictment of 1000’s of other scientists or that CO2 has no radiative effect (the fallacy of “Because Gavin.”). Your secondary argument that we are all just ‘in it for the money’ is just funny. Think about it: If that was the driving motivation, all the scientists would be saying “it’s all too uncertain, we need to do more research!” (because, remember, research is what they are paid to do). Instead, scientists have been saying for decades that the problem is real and needs to be addressed. Sure, there are lot’s of uncertainties so there is still lots to do, but just like scientists who were researching ozone depletion in the 1980s, once the main work was done, people simply moved on to other topics. I work for NASA, and the notion that NASA has run out of excellent research topics to work on is laughable. So no, my job security does not depend on ‘scare tactics’. However, the notion that you are simply looking for excuses to have you biases confirmed appears to match the data quite well. You might want to think about that. – gavin]