Probably everyone has heard this argument, presented as objection against the findings of climate scientists on global warming: “The climate has always changed!” And it is true: climate has changed even before humans began to burn fossil fuels. So what can we conclude from that?
A quick quiz
Do you conclude…
(1) that humans cannot change the climate?
(2) that we do not know whether humans are to blame for global warming?
(3) that global warming will not have any severe consequences?
(4) that we cannot stop global warming?
Not one of these answers is correct. None of these conclusions would be logical. Why not?
(1) The opposite conclusion is correct: if the climate had hardly changed during the course of the Earth’s history (despite variable incoming solar radiation and changing amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere), then we would conclude that there are strong stabilizing feedbacks in the climate system. The drastic climate changes in the history of the Earth (ice ages, hot ice-free periods) show that the climate system is sensitive to changes in the radiation budget. The measure for this sensitivity is called climate sensitivity: how much global warming will result from a CO2 doubling in the air? For the first time it was estimated by the Nobel laureate Svante Arrhenius in 1896. According to our modern knowledge this climate sensitivity is around 3°C (uncertainty ± 1°C).
Paleoclimatologists determine the climate sensitivity from data from the Earth’s history. A recent review article in Nature on this method showed “a warming around 2.2 to 4.8 °C per doubling of atmospheric CO2, which agrees with IPCC estimates”. In short: the larger past natural climate changes have been, the more vulnerable is the climate system, and the more it will react to the greenhouse gases that humans are adding to the system.
(2) Imagine there has been a forest fire. The police have extensive evidence that it was arson. They know the place where the fire began. They found traces of fire accelerants. Witnesses observed a man whose car was parked nearby. In his trunk the police finds bottles with fire accelerants, and in his house they find even more of it. He has been convicted for arson several times before. Plus some further evidence. In court, he defends himself: forest fires have always occurred lit by lightning, even before there was any man on Earth. Therefore he must be innocent. Does the argument convince you?
The evidence for the human cause of global warming is overwhelming. This is why there has been a consensus among climate researchers for a long time, and almost every scientific academy on the planet has come to the same conclusion. The most important evidence: when it gets warmer, the energy has to come from somewhere (1st law of thermodynamics). It can only come through the radiation budget of our planet. (No, Rick Perry, the energy does not come out of the ocean. To the contrary, measurements show heat is going into the oceans). The changes in this energy balance are quite well known and are shown near the front of any IPCC report – see Fig. 1. The biggest factor is the increase in CO2 concentration as well as a few other greenhouse gases, also added by human activities. The incoming solar radiation has changed just a tiny bit in comparison – since 1950, by the way, it has even decreased and thus offset a small part of the human-caused warming – hence humans have probably caused more warming than is observed (best estimate is 110% of observed warming).
Fig. 1 Radiative forcing is the cause of global temperature changes. Red bars show warming, blue bars cooling effects. I am showing the diagram from the fourth IPCC report of 2007, because it is easier to understand than the more recent from the 5th IPCC Report of 2013, which Gavin discussed here. The overall human-caused radiative forcing, which is given here as 1.6 watts per square meter, had already risen to 2.3 watts per square meter by the year 2011 according to the 5th IPCC report. Source: IPCC report 4 Fig. SPM.2.
Overall, humans have caused an additional heating (radiative forcing) of 2.3 watts per square meter of Earth surface – as of 2011. It has increased further since.
(3) Those who can’t deny that humans are causing warming often seek refuge in the hope that the consequences might not be so bad, so we might just adapt rather than having to stop further warming. The climatic changes in Earth’s history do not support this point of view. As a result of the global warming by around 5 ° C from the last ice age 15,000 years ago to the mid-Holocene, global sea levels rose by 120 meters until 5,000 years ago! At that time hardly a problem – but for today’s humankind even a rise of two meters would be a disaster, bringing devastation to coastal cities and small island states. We still have enough ice on Greenland and Antarctica to raise the sea level around the world by 65 meters. Both ice masses are losing ice more and more quickly. The West Antarctic has probably already crossed its tipping point and is unstable. Greenland could soon follow.
Fig. 2 Ice loss of Greenland measured by GRACE satellites. Source: NASA .
By the way: the just mentioned 5°C rise within ten thousand years at the end of the ice age are among the fastest global temperature rises documented in the Earth’s history. That is 0.05 degrees per century. In the last hundred years we have caused the twentyfold rise. This pace of change overtaxes the adaptability of many ecosystems and will lead to their collapse as the warming progresses. In coral reefs this is already in progress.
The pace of the completely man-made CO2 increase (by now the CO2 concentration is higher than at any time in the past three million years) leads to a rapid acidification of the world’s oceans, because it overcomes the buffer capacity of the oceans. The last major acidification event 250 million years ago has apparently led to a massive extinction of species in the world’s oceans.
(4) Often I hear that the aims of the Paris Climate Agreement are absurd, because humans cannot stabilize the global temperature – after all, our climate changes even without human intervention. This argument is also wrong. As already mentioned, without human interference there would have been no global warming since the middle of the 20th century. If anything there would have been a slight natural cooling. The fluctuations in the sun’s activity are causing variations of 0.1 or 0.2 °C in global temperature in the last thousand years (e.g. at the Maunder Minimum of solar activity in the years 1645 to 1715). In the longer term, the astronomical Milankovitch cycles of the Earth’s orbit and the Earth’s axis dominate the natural climate changes (hence the ice ages). The shortest of these cycles has a period of 23,000 years – for the next hundred years, it practically does not matter. However, our fortune would last much longer than that: the Milankovitch cycles can be calculated over millions of years with astronomical precision (and incidentally be used to predict the beginning of all the past ice ages), and according to that, the next major climate change would arrive only in about 50,000 years. Namely the next ice age.
So if we weren’t doing something really stupid, we could benefit from another 50,000 years with a stable climate. Nothing in our knowledge of paleoclimatology suggests that natural factors could prevent us from limiting global warming to below 2°C. Only our own dithering, our own inertia can do that. Or that we prefer to be lulled into fatal complacency by the reassuring fairy tales of the “climate skeptics” rather than confronting the danger.
Among the most ill-informed claims of those “skeptics” is the assertion that climate researchers do not know or consciously ignore the fact that the climate has always changed. Utter nonsense, of course. Almost all of the authors here at Realclimate have done substantial work in paleoclimate for decades, as you can see from our publication lists (including the textbook Paleoclimatology). A lot of other climate researchers do the same. This May, three of us were at a conference of almost one thousand paleoclimatologists in Zaragoza (see photo below). These researchers know more about the natural, past climate changes than anyone else. Nobody there expressed any doubts about the ongoing human-caused global warming. On the contrary, many paleoclimatologists are particularly concerned about anthropogenic warming, especially in view of our findings about Earth’s history. Already when I was working as lead author on the paleoclimate chapter of the 4th IPCC report more than a decade ago, some of the discussions within IPCC revolved around us paleoclimatologists regarding some risks as considerably more serious than the colleagues specializing in the modern climate, such as the risk of rapid sea level rise or instability of ocean currents and ice sheets.
Whoever tells you that the fact that “the climate has always changed” is somehow reassuring, does not know what he is talking about – or he is trying to con you.
Paleoclimatologists: participants in the PAGES Open Science Meeting in Zaragoza in May 2017
243 Responses to "The climate has always changed. What do you conclude?"
Mal Adapted says
[Warning: tl;dr; the ‘soul of wit’ can snort my taint. And except where noted, it’s as rude as I can make it while staying truthful*. I’m going for excoriation in detail, with savage glee! MA]
Maybe! Pigs might fly, after all! Just because nobody ever saw an actual Sus scrofa domesticus individual moving through the air on natural-born wings doesn’t mean one might not! Why, there might even be an invisible pink teapot in orbit around the Earth!
By consensus, however, a sufficiently prolonged utter absence of evidence is considered evidence of utter absence. If you assert either porcine volancy or crockery transparent to all observation methods in Earth’s orbit, but fail to produce extraordinarily convincing evidence for your claim, you’ll be ridiculed and ignored by the people you hope to convince, just as you, Victor are on RC. Nor [I confidently predict – MA] will any of us later be seen holding up a hog-manure umbrella or staring at the sky for something invisible.
Science is the best method humanity has yet invented to separate what’s real from what’s possible. It’s hardly perfect, but its success is conspicuous all around us. Science is successful because it’s first and foremost a way of trying not to fool yourself. It explicitly addresses Feynman‘s wry truth: you, Victor are the easiest person to fool, since you, Victor apparently want so much to fool yourself!
Feynman’s dictum is why consensus, or ‘peer review’, is at the foundations of science, notwithstanding your foolish insistence otherwise, Victor. It’s much harder to fool trained and disciplined scientists than to fool yourself, Victor. While your ‘peers’ [whom I humbly beg to accept my sincere apologies. Please don’t demand satisfaction on the green at dawn! MA] might all be wrong and you, Victor the sole keeper of truth (see first paragraph), the genuinely skeptical non-specialist’s money will always be on the scientific consensus. [If I were a betting man, I’d bet ad hominem on any hypothesis that contradicts Victor’s! MA]
Psychologists call the impulse to fool yourself ‘cognitive motivation’, and observe it in people like you, Victor who are in denial: “in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.”
To say that you, Victor are an AGW-denier, I needn’t be any kind of ‘freaking’ expert or demonstrate just why AGW makes you, Victor so uncomfortable; I need know only that you, Victor reject evidence plenty overwhelming enough for a lopsided majority of working climate scientists. What baffles me is why you, Victor seem desperate to convince actual experts, who aren’t fooling themselves about the utter absence of evidence to date, that invisible ‘natural cycles’ or perhaps leprechauns are causing climate change. So desperate that you, Victor compulsively and pugnaciously provoke escalating ridicule on RC, of all places!
* IOW, short of actionable. Not an issue here because AFAIK or wish to, there’s no such literal or incorporated person as ‘Victor’ who can be injured; but I want to maintain the habit.
Phil Scadden says
Mack, I am somewhat surprised at you making public statements of your inability to comprehend science and then actually linking to them. I am less surprized that you then move from your inability to understand to assuming dishonesty. Since you still dont seem to have grasped this concept, then try page 664 of the IPCC report which is the ultimate source for how the term is used in climate science. Just because you dont understand something does not make it wrong.
Mr Know it all @94
“The jet fuel exploding did not do the damage, it was the loss of strength in the building structural steel, due to heat of the burning jet fuel which caused the collapse.”
Yes fair enough it was primarily heat, but I was simply summarising the issue in one word. It wasn’t really worth a detailed explanation to make my point.
I understand the steel floor structure was badly affected by intense heat. I think from what I have read the explosion had blown the fire proofing off the steel floor tray, so an explosion was still part of the problem.
With the steel floor structure weakened and bending the outer columns failed, as the floor structure held them in place. Once everything failed at that floor level, the full weight of multiple floors above crushed everything.
When people tell me ‘throughout Earth’s history, the climate has always changed’, I respond with a challenge ‘Name something, in the Universe, that hasn’t changed, over those intervals of time’. Everything has changed over geologic time: continents, mountain ranges, the distances between galaxies, the cosmic background radiation. Given this, it would be almost supernaturally odd, if Earth’s climate hadn’t changed.
I took a look at the last 22,000 years of global temperature, and calculated my best estimate of per century temperature change for each of those 220 centuries (this involved applying the standard deviation obtained for the Pages-2k record for earlier records that could only be estimated over millennia). I got an average change of 0.014C/century with std dev of 0.077C/century, so the limit of ‘natural climate change’ (3-sigma limit) is 3*.077 = 0.24C/century. The change over the 20th century was 0.78C/century, or 3 times this disqualifying limit: modern change is not ‘natural’ by these statistics. If the last 25 years continues for the rest of this century, then 21st century change will be 2.2C/century, or ten times the disqualifying limit. Nowhere even close to ‘natural’.
Brian Dodge says
Chris O’Neill says: 22 Jul 2017 at 2:37 AM
I see no evidence of a long-term correlation between CO2 emissions and temperature.
Why don’t you get a list of CO2 levels and global temperature anomalies for each year since 1910 and see what correlation they have?
BD: Been done. https://www.skepticalscience.com/The-CO2-Temperature-correlation-over-the-20th-Century.html
Mal Adapted says
Mr. Ironically Anosognosic Typist:
There are none so blind as those who will not see.
.. do you have ventriloquism as a side hobby, BPL?
Victor @ 97
We have plenty of evidence that greenhouse gases are causing recent warming.
For example numerous characteristics of the recent warming point at CO2, like more of the heating taking place at night, stratospheric changes, measured changes in rates of energy exchange at the top of atmosphere, changes in hadley cells. All this is expected if greenhouse gases are responsible, and it is inconsistent with solar cycles.
Lack of exact correlation between CO2 and temperature since 1900 proves precisely nothing. Correlation can be masked for periods of time by other factors, like changes in solar cycles, particulate emissions, etc as happened in the middle of last century.
You need causation and correlation in general terms to prove something, but correlation is not essential (I’m talking simply looking at a simple graph) as it can be masked by other factors. If you look at a statistical analysis, you will see correlation is there in the background.
Correlation alone actually never proves anything, as it can be coincidence. It is just an indication that something suspicious may be happening. Causation is the prime factor. You are placing too much weight on correlation over short term time frames.
Facts and feelings matter when communicating climate science
John Cook and Sander van der Linden
Effective science communication requires an inclusive, holistic approach that integrates different social science perspectives. To simplistically focus on a single perspective paints a limited and increasingly inaccurate view of how humans form judgments about social and scientific issues.
Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation: Exposing misleading argumentation techniques reduces their influence
John Cook, Stephan Lewandowsky, Ullrich K. H. Ecker
(fwiw these studies ideas match up well with research reports by Lakoff’s cognitive science work I have shared here. Good to see RC and other sites following Cook et al suggestions. Kudos)
On a personal basis I do try to separate general agw/cc denial & skepticism of everyday ‘misguided people’ from the self-interest corp/political activists and organizations sewing doubt and bs with intent to deceive/manipulate the populace and politicians.
Folks like Victor are in the later group not the former, imv, and so is treated accordingly. Even if they are genuine sincere in their ‘doubts’ because – road to hell – good intentions.
I also tend to separate the history and actions of FF miners corps and major users in general from the present day intentional deceptive ‘conspiratorial’ activities of a minority group of powerful players and their public political/media proponents.
Why? Because historically all FF miners land clearer’s timber getters big Ag farmers cement makers power stations car makers and airlines and Governments especially have done what they have done historically due to the PUBLIC (Voter) demand and desires. iow the long term “cause” is actually “us” not “them”.
Tony Weddle says
Then look at the argument again. It is not logical to assume that some past cause must be the present cause. Why not, instead, use knowledge accumulated by scientific endeavour and apply that knowledge to look for causes of the present warming. It is not logical to ignore that scientific knowledge and not use the scientific skills to determine the recent and current causes of warming.
Barton Paul Levenson says
A bit old, but serviceable:
Blatant lies ? Show the evidence ! Please do !
There is none, absolutely none ! Most of their evolutionary path humans were already on 100% renewable energies and by then their population was at best roughly one order of magnitude less and more importantly except an elite of parasites, most people had to struggle the whole day long to simply grow or raise their food. Slavery, no democracy, no time left to do or study science etc etc. Nor to post nonsense wrapped in a lot of wishful thinking as you do in #53 while the fossil fuels literally “grow your food”.
There is plenty of evidence that we have to stop using fossil fuels and that 100% renewables are the only real alternative for supplying the energy needs of 7+ billion human beings.
Well there might be “plenty of evidence that we have to stop using fossil fuels” yet this does by no means provide any evidence that 100 % (and even 80 %) renewables must in any way be a possible alternative for powering a civilization of 7+ billion people ! There is even absolutely no reason to believe that that there must be an alternative at all …
You can even show that switching to renewables from fossil fuels will grow the global economy and improve people’s health and well being.
No, that’s just wishful thinking. Nobody “can even show this” and it most likely plainly violates the laws of physics. No wishful thinking might ever change the latter.
MA Rodger says
Mal Adapted @101,
I agree with your comment but would put it differently.
Victor the Troll’s position that a “mysterious natural cycle … could be operating right now to cause warming” is really just another manifiestation of his “leprechaun” argument @78 which he attempts to wield to poo-poo AGW.
@78 he tells us ” It is the proposers of the theory who are the ones with the assumption, and it is their responsibility to “show in detail” that their assumption is in accordance with the facts and that no other explanation is possible. That’s a tall order.” He then points out that this “tall order” (and indeed it is tall) would prevent someone arguing for the existence of leprechauns, presumably because it could be pixies or perhaps that invisible pink teapot orbiting Earth which provides the “other explanation.”
He later sets the AGW ‘argument’ as being “In other words, CO2 must be the culprit because we cannot think of any other possibility. Just as leprechauns must exist because we cannot prove they don’t.” This, of course, is fundamentally at variance to his previous leprechaun statement. Leprechauns do not exist because there is no evidence for them. And as with leprechauns, a “mysterious natural cycle … operating right now to cause warming” cannot exist because, while we cannot prove that it doesn’t exist, like leprechauns there is no evidence for its exisence.
If this were not the case and Victor’s epistemological logic was correct, such thinking could be used to disprove gravity because any religious nutcase worth his salt can then tell you that gravity doesn’t exist. Isaac Newton was an idiot. It is actully the hand of God that sets all on its path. Such deluded nutters will not care about any evidence you produce because for them the situation is defined by what they want to see.
So, is Victor the Troll and his bullshit any different from a religious nutcase who will deny the whole universe if it is not what they want to see?
Mal Adapted says
On the order of a billion people still do.
That’s still the case in large parts of the world.
That’s not literally true. On the order of hundreds of millions of people still cultivate kitchen gardens literally by hand. If they didn’t literally have to work for someone else, and armies didn’t keep literally interrupting, they could produce a lot more literal food. It’s literally been that way since the spread of sedentary agriculture following the Younger Dryas.
Modern industrial agriculture uses massive inputs of energy, but it need not be fossil. And if consumers paid the full marginal costs of their fossil fuel consumption (i.e. a few bucks more to drive your car across town), market forces would drive global carbon-neutral build-out with alacrity. They would have done so already if not for the political power of fossil fuel profits concentrated in a triple-digit number of people out of 7+ billion.
Well so? We still have to stop using fossil fuels. Believe it or not, AGW has already cost tens of thousands of human casualties globally in this century. If there’s no collective intervention to substantially reduce global GHG emissions soon (for values of soon), then by early in the next century the world won’t need to power a civilization of 7+ billion people. Long before then, you yourself may be killed by extreme weather you helped cause, or by ‘civil unrest’ brought by climate refugees who don’t appreciate having to pay for your crosstown errands with their homes. Bummer, huh?
Mal Adapted says
While that’s by no means unflattering, I’ll diffidently point out that I linked leprechauns in toward the end of my comment. That’s OK, I don’t always read to the end of your comments either. On the whole, your last one was fine 8^D!
Thomas @109, yeah, I think climate sceptics fall into two broad groups.
The first group is ordinary people, and we all have some healthy scepticism of new ideas, but are open to persuasion. If you explain things they see reason, eventually.
The second group are the stubborn, longer term denialists. When I read their rhetoric it often emerges that they have strong political views, strong ideologies, vested interests, various chips on their shoulders. Its not unreasonable to conclude this colours their views of the science. This group are harder to convince and stubborn.
Warmists come across as more laid back and less rigid in their politics.
“Well there might be “plenty of evidence that we have to stop using fossil fuels” yet this does by no means provide any evidence that 100 % (and even 80 %) renewables must in any way be a possible alternative for powering a civilization of 7+ billion people”
Have a read of “cost of electricty by source” on wikipedia which is the levelised cost, for a large range of specific countries. It’s highly detailed and specific with all sources of data cross referenced. If you don’t like wikipedia, then Forbes are a business magazine, and have done articles coming up with much the same results. Britanicca is much the same. Dozens of sources will tell you much the same.
Summarising things, wind power is now one of the cheapest forms of electricity, often cheaper even than coal. Costs of solar are similar to nuclear and hydro, geothermmal, but falling fast, and are projected to fall further. The most expensive power is generally gas
So your claims are just wrong.
Jacobson has done a large study showing how renewable energy is viable in virtually all countries. However there is also the nuclear option which is low emissions, which might suit some countries.
From your post :”You can even show that switching to renewables from fossil fuels will grow the global economy and improve people’s health and well being.No, that’s just wishful thinking. Nobody “can even show this” and it most likely plainly violates the laws of physics. No wishful thinking might ever change the latter.”
Coal and gas are implicated in various lung diseases and heart disease. Renewable energy is cleaner. Renewable energy is already creating quite a lot of jobs, far more than traditional forms of energy as below:
What evidence do I have in mind? Very curious that after all the time you spend writing on this site you still do not know the evidence behind AGW. Perhaps you should try reading the science as presented by the founders of this site and take advantage of the various reference links provided. But then again, perhaps not, that would take away your only possible tactic, an argument from your ignorance. And no, I am not referring to any of your spurious claim of theories to account for a so called lack of evidence because as I stated before, there is significant and robust scientific evidence. You also need to rethink Occam’s Razor, because you clearly do not have a clue how to apply it.
Kevin McKinney says
On the economics of switching to renewable energy:
#111 Barton Paul Levenson says:
“A bit old, but serviceable:
Thanks so much, BPL, for this carefully contrived scattergram. Here’s another:
For details on how this one was contrived, see https://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/09/12/a-look-at-carbon-dioxide-vs-global-temperature/
I don’t doubt that you’ll find problems with this, and we can argue forever about which one is truly representative of what the data is telling us — but for me such differences confirm a long held suspicion of findings based purely on statistical analyses, which can all too easily be tweaked to produce just about any desired result.
In any case, I must say that I find the Danley Wolfe correlation more convincing, not only because it supports my pov (admittedly it does), but because it represents an attempt to dig more deeply into details otherwise masked when the data is considered in toto. In my experience (not only in researching climate science, but also in my many years of involvement with anthropology), this is the biggest problem when assessing results based on statistics, because it is far too easy to use such methods to mask certain essential, but also “inconvenient” details.
Barton Paul Levenson says
Carefully contrived? I don’t appreciate the implication. In any case, the point is that correlation does not mean “a vague relationship.” It has a specific meaning, something that can be measured. There is a high correlation between carbon dioxide and temperature for at least the last 167 years. You don’t get to say you don’t find the correlation to your liking. It is what it is. Those who say there’s no correlation do not have a brave, new, different take on things. They’re just wrong. And so are you. Victor.
Google “correlation coefficient.” Like “theory,” “correlation” is one of those words that have a different meaning in science than in popular discourse.
r = ssxy / [(ssxx * ssyy)^0.5]
That’s the correlation. Memorize it. Try it on some test data. Get a feel for it. And once you have, stop saying things like “I find the Danley Wolfe correlation more convincing.” What you personally find convincing or not has no bearing on what the correlation is.
“When examining the many graphs depicting the history of worldwide temperatures over the 20th and 21st centuries, I see no evidence of a long-term correlation between CO2 emissions and temperature”
Victor, never getting tired of his troll reiterations… how boring
The excuses of denialists has always changed.
Then came “rinse, repeat”.
What do you conclude? :-)
Mal Adapted (#114)
Maybe this might even be quite true and so what ?
If drastically reducing global GHG emissions right now, as mandatory according to the nice computer models, kills at least as much people immediately because of a lack of food and affordable energy rather than by the end of the century because of extreme weather or sea level rise, all those people who are expected to die right now won’t hesitate any longer or ask your opinion about saving the climate and definitely prefer to die by the end of the century from climate change…
As you acknowledged there are still about one billion people in a state of slavery, no democracy, no education etc. And guess what? They consume very little energy and unfortunately only fossils fuels were up to now cheap enough and capable to improve drastically the situation of the 6 other billions.
Of course it’s literally true. Either you can inject huge amounts of energy (not solar or wind that can’t do that job) in the food production, get enough food for 7+ billions people, get time to do other things, be educated, study medicine, build hospitals, etc or you work hard the whole day long to just grow and raise your food.
And even kitchen gardens, an excellent way indeed to produce vegetables and fruits, don’t work without fertilizing for instance and you don’t get that such as enough compost without being integrated in a farm that benefits largely from fossil fuel injection. Otherwise you need a truck to transport it to your location. And as far as physicists know carbon “neutral” wind and solar energy can’t power neither a truck nor a tractor.
And of course fruits and vegetables isn’t enough and by far to feed human beings.
Actually, there is no “clean” energy when one has to power a civilization of 7+ billion people. And for a 70 millions people civilization every source of energy would be “clean”.
Maybe but your’s are just wishful thinking.
I know of course all those studies but it is much telling that you don’t even mention that renewable energies are intermittent. So if you want to continue to get your computer powered or your train getting you where you have to go even when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine you need a lot more than just implement windmills and solar panels.
The cost of wind and solar
Ray Ladbury says
Sigh! Even a few seconds of investigation combined with a modicum of Google Fu would have brought you here:
where poor Danley is eviscerated quite convincingly–at least to anyone who has not turned gullibility and innumeracy into a profession.
MA Rodger says
Troll Victor @120.
We have been here before with that gobshite you serve up, both with the cretin that devised it as well as later with you. Here is the rebuttal provided back then (usually 2 clicks to ‘download your attachment’). Nothing has changed since.
101 Mal Adapted says:
‘Of course its always possible we have missed some mysterious natural cycle that could be operating right now to cause warming, …'”
No, that is NOT what I wrote. And I see that my biggest fan, Mr. Rodger, has leapt thoughtlessly to the same conclusion. Et tu, MA? (And by the way, I responded to Mal in an earlier post that seems to have disappeared.)
Anyone who read what I had written with any degree of understanding would not have made such an egregious error. My point was that it is not necessary for the skeptic to provide evidence of an alternative explanation in this case, any more than it would be necessary for a skeptic to provide evidence when questioning the theory that leprechauns exist. It is enough to note that “the climate is always changing,” and then challenge proponents of the prevailing theory to demonstrate that this particular climate change is 1. different and 2. due to the burning of fossil fuels. No need to speculate regarding “some mysterious natural cycle.” The burden of proof is on the proponent of the hypothesis, NOT the skeptic.
Hank Roberts says
A new paper concludes that humankind’s available carbon “budget” — the amount of emissions that can be emitted in years ahead while still preventing the most dangerous warming levels — may be smaller than previously estimated.
In essence, the paper in Nature Climate Change says that while the researchers have commonly viewed “pre-industrial” as the mid-late 1800s, even the small amounts of human-influenced warming that occurred before that means there is less leeway to avoid more than two degrees celsius of temperature rise.
“For stabilization at 2 ◦ C, allowable emissions decrease by as much as 40% when earlier than nineteenth-century climates are considered as a baseline,” the paper states.
The Washington Post has a detailed piece on the new paper here.
A summary from Penn State, where scientist and co-author Michael Mann is a professor, is available here, and the full paper ($) is here.
Steven Emmerson says
I’m surprised at the level of uncertainty in the solar irradiance term — in both the uncertainty bars and the level of scientific understanding (LOSU). Of all the radiative forcing terms, I would have thought that one to be nailed.
Would someone please explain.
“but for me such differences confirm a long held suspicion of findings based purely on statistical analyses, which can all too easily be tweaked to produce just about any desired result. ”
Intellectual laziness rears its head once again. Once again you make it abundantly clear that you have made no effort to learn the scientific method. Your “suspicion” is irrelevant. Science is based on data, analyses, fact, and peer-review. You’ve been told this countless times yet you make no effort to comprehend it and continue to simply troll based on preconceived, anti-science beliefs. Statistics are not “tweaked to produce just about any desired result”. Now read that last sentence again, this time for comprehension. Peer-review…learn what that is. Hint: It is the cornerstone of science and has been for centuries. Even the select science you might perchance “believe”.
I’m not sure of your point. You seem to be claiming no correlation between CO2 and temperature, but the graphs in your links show a pretty obvious and strong visual correlation for the full period of 1950 – 2016.
Of course The correlation breaks down during the alleged pause from about 2006-2013.You simply cant seem to grasp nobody has ever claimed or expected a perfect correlation over short time frames like this of about 10 years, due to the influences of natural variation, (noise). All climate science has ever claimed is we expect an approximate correlation between CO2 and temperature on long time scales. I know this has been explained to you before so why dont you get it?
The pause is only because a combination of ocean processes and solar cycles suppressed temperatures for a short period.
My university maths is pretty limited and rusty, but BPL’s methods and calculations look valid and conventional to me from what I do remember. There’s no tweaking or selective use of anything. He has been upfront with methods, data, probabilities, limitations etc.
I think you are way out of your depth, or refusing to listen to people.
Victor @120, you are also comparing apples and oranges I think. BPL’s calculations are based on long term data of about 70 years, while your link was just looking only at the alleged pause of a few years.
Mal Adapted says
Irrelevant to climate science, certainly; but suspicion underlies Victor’s AGW-denial. Specifically, suspicion of anyone who suggests he owes a bill in arrears for his socialized marginal climate-change costs, and that he ought to pay for them at time-of-sale from now on. Surely, such an impudent knave can only be working to impose world soshulizm or whatever.
Thanks for your comments.
“Actually, there is no “clean” energy when one has to power a civilization of 7+ billion people. And for a 70 millions people civilization every source of energy would be “clean”.’
Strawman argument! Renewable Energy is cleaner than coal. This is the case in terms of total CO2 outputs over time, and also health risks, manufacturing process etc.
“So your claims are just wrong. Maybe but your’s are just wishful thinking.”
No they are careful studies. And you have provided nothing to refute them, just empty rhetoric and one link and its only a person’s opinion, not a published study.
“I know of course all those studies but it is much telling that you don’t even mention that renewable energies are intermittent.”
Of course I agree renewable energy is intermittent. This can be overcome with a combination of multiple energy sources, a surplus of wind power or storage, or some combination of all three. Some countries may require some gas fired for a limited period as backup. The jacobsen reference I gave you shows on a country by country basis how this is feasible.
It will not come cheap, but it is certainly feasible. My country of New Zealand already has over 80% renewable energy (hydro, geothermal and some wind) and it is affordable.
Thank’s for your link on costs of wind power etc. I will read it fully later, but its only the opinion of one person, not a proper peer reviewed study.
Special Delivery for NON-Critical-Thinkers – NON-Skeptical folks in Victor, Mr KIA and Company …. (well not really, because they still will not get it, obviously)
It turns out that there’s simply a lot that’s unknown about climate science, or certainly that was the case when I started at the Cato Institute in 1991.
I was charged with pushing back against what I thought and a lot of my colleagues thought was one of yet another long series of wolf-crying exercises from the left that never liked capitalism in the first place, never liked fossil fuels at all, and had some weird [inaudible] yen to go back to a pastoral civilization where we didn’t have factories and pollution and industrial processes and whatnot.
That was my task. I was pretty good at my task, but I found that my position from 1991 to the present began to degrade completely. I’m here to tell you a little bit about how that happened and what I think you might want to conclude from that growth when it comes to climate change as an issue and broadly when it comes to all these issues where people feel relatively intensely about.
The first thing I found out was that I discovered that a lot of the scientific narratives I was offering were really dodgy. I’ll give you a little story about one of the things that helped change that. About five or six years into my time at the Cato institute, a colleague of mine who was a climate scientist of some renown in the skeptic community gave testimony in front of the United States Senate.
He said, “10 years ago, James Hansen at NASA gave testimony in front of the Senate and talked about how climate change was leading us into disaster, and it turns out, 10 years later, if you look at the business as usual scenario that he offered to the Senate, you will find that the warming he predicted has been only a quarter in reality of what he predicted in that Senate testimony.”
The narrative that my guy, my scientist, argued was that Hansen, like the rest of the scientific community, grossly overstates the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the climate. His own evidence, his own 1998 testimony, indicts it. He argued there should have been four times more warming than we’ve actually seen in the course of that decade.
I went on TV, as the good gunslinger that I am, and was in one of these debates on CNN. The fellow I was debating with, I offered that narrative, and he said, “Go back and take a look at that Hansen testimony. You tell me if it really says that.”
I said, “I’ve seen that testimony.” He says, “Go back, unless you want to be a hack and I’m going to make fun of you all the time, but if you care about your job, go back and look at that testimony. Give it a close due diligence look, which I rather doubt you’ve ever given it, and then you tell me if that’s really what Hansen said.”
I like that kind of challenge. I go back to my office. I take a look at the study, and it turns out Hansen had offered three scenarios for the future — scenario A, B, C. A, he labeled business as usual, and yes, it turns out that business as usual was much warmer in his scenario than what we’ve actually seen, but the problem was, these scenarios were based on estimations of future emissions.
James Hansen may be a very good scientist, but he’s not necessarily the best economist. Scenario A had far more industrial emissions in that scenario than scenarios B and C. The scenario that was closest to the pattern of industrial emissions that we saw in the course of the subsequent decade was the scenario, scenario C, that actually matched the warming we saw nearly perfectly.
The conclusion, I looked at this, I said, “My gosh, it’s not that Hansen overestimates the impact of greenhouse gases, it’s that Hansen, 10 years ago, overestimated how much greenhouse gas emissions we’d have, but his scenario for what would happen with a certain degree of emissions was virtually spot on.”
Read the rest here:
First of all, I don’t expect anything other than derision from the denizens of this blog, regardless of what I might argue, or any research I might reference. (Typically my explanations are ridiculed on the basis of what the attacker thinks he’s read rather than what I actually wrote, which is in fact rarely addressed at all.) I’m not impressed, because juvenile language of that sort is not the language of real scientists, but dilettantes for whom a little knowledge is most certainly a dangerous thing. Unlike so many of you, I don’t claim expertise in any field relating to climate science. But I do claim an understanding of basic epistemological principles, as well as the right to apply critical thinking to any “scientific” claim regardless of where it might be coming from.
Secondly, to be specific, I find Wolfe’s scattergram more convincing than BPL’s simply because it is consistent with the raw data, which in itself reveals no clear long term trend (despite the many efforts to explain the problem away by invoking various “forcings”). I find it difficult to understand how BPL can translate a graph filled with suchups and downs into a smoothly rising trend leading to a correlation other than by the use of statistical legerdemain. As for the technical issues raised in the critique of Wolfe’s work, I’m not qualified to comment. But unlike BPL’s result, “scientific” as it might be, Wolfe’s does seem to reflect the ups and downs of the actual data, so I’m sorry but I find his results more convincing.
My larger point, aptly illustrated by the conflict between these two very different pictures, painted by two individuals claiming to understand statistics, is that, contrary to what many of the dilettantes posting here might want to believe, it certainly is possible to game one’s statistics to get just about any desired result. And this is not simply the opinion of a rank amateur (i.e., me), but a very well known issue in the sciences generally. To cite one example out of many: https://www.physics.smu.edu/pseudo/LieStat/
128 Victor, the blind folded man guessing what an elephant is again PUBLICLY presents his extreme degree of IGNORANCE “It is enough to note that “the climate is always changing,” and then challenge proponents of the prevailing theory to demonstrate that this particular climate change is 1. different and 2. due to the burning of fossil fuels.“
1. different – been done a thousand times already. Indisputable evidence = a Fact.
and 2. due to the burning of fossil fuels. – been done a thousand times already. Indisputable evidence = a Fact.
PLUS 3. due to land clearing, land use changes, cement use, agriculture methods, and general human industrialisation. – been done a thousand times already. Indisputable evidence = a Fact!
Victor, you are either a rank idiot or a lying shill, or maybe both. But whatever the cause is you are 100% WRONG about everything you BELIEVE is True regarding AGW/CC science.
You are NOT a skeptic, you have zero CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS on this subject and are clearly, and repeatedly, ignorant of the facts.
Now it appears you may be also bordering on pathological narcissism with your “delusional crusade” here.
REF: One of the most important symptoms of pathological narcissism (the Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is grandiosity. Grandiose fantasies (megalomaniac delusions of grandeur) permeate every aspect of the narcissist’s personality. They are the reason that the narcissist feels entitled to special treatment which is typically incommensurate with his real accomplishments. The Grandiosity Gap is the abyss between the narcissist’s self-image (as reified by his False Self) and reality.
When Narcissistic Supply is deficient, the narcissist de-compensates and acts out in a variety of ways. Narcissists often experience psychotic micro-episodes during therapy and when they suffer narcissistic injuries in a life crisis. But can the narcissist “go over the edge”? Do narcissists ever become psychotic?
Some terminology first:
The narrowest definition of psychosis, according to the DSM-IV-TR, is “restricted to delusions or prominent hallucinations, with the hallucinations occurring in the absence of insight into their pathological nature”.
And what are delusions and hallucinations?
A delusion is “a false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everyone else believes AND despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary”.
imho, it helps to call call spade a spade, rather than a tea spoon only because they may “look” kind of the same thing, when they are not. Accurate labeling can help in understanding ‘what is’.
Bob Loblaw says
Steve Emmerson @130
Solar irradiance changes are at the top of the atmosphere, not the surface. Think of how long we’ve been able to make direct measurements without the atmospheric transmission causing problems. Surface-based measurements can be used to extrapolate to top-of-atmosphere, but it ain’t easy (and tends to be a tad less accurate).
Nigelj: first I want to thank you for your recent comments, which, unlike those posted by most here are both civil and reasonably considered. We see things very differently, however, and will probably continue to do so. I don’t see that as a problem at all. Provided we are both willing to respect one another’s views and make some attempt to understand where each of us is coming from. I see no such effort on the part of most of those posting here, however. Sure, lots of nasty insults are hurled my way. But that’s the case with anyone who dares to challenge the prevailing view, so I find it hard to take personally.
Nigel: “I’m not sure of your point. You seem to be claiming no correlation between CO2 and temperature, but the graphs in your links show a pretty obvious and strong visual correlation for the full period of 1950 – 2016.”
Not sure what graphs you’re referring to. But if you look closely at this fairly typical one (http://csas.ei.columbia.edu/files/2015/01/Global-surface-temperatures-relative-to-1951-1980.png) you’ll see all the ups and downs pretty clearly. Down until 1910, up until 1940, down until 1950, steady as she goes till about 1979, then abruptly up until roughly 2000 when things level off considerably (the hiatus). And 1880-2014 is more long-term than just 1950-2016 (what’s so important about 1950 anyhow?).
Nigel: “BPL’s methods and calculations look valid and conventional to me from what I do remember. There’s no tweaking or selective use of anything. He has been upfront with methods, data, probabilities, limitations etc.”
Yes, and I certainly won’t accuse him of deliberately “cooking the books” or “lying with statistics” or anything like that. However, by casting his net so broadly, over such a long period of time, certain key details of the temperature record get lost. It’s not enough to simply produce a statistical result and claim you’ve demonstrated some basic truth. All such results need to be critically analyzed and compared with other results, covering a range of different domains. Basic science, as I see it.
“I think you are way out of your depth, or refusing to listen to people.”
If I’m out of my depth, then so are an awful lot of other people who share my skepticism on this issue. And many of those people have Ph.D.s, in physics, ecology, climatology, geology, meteorology, etc., a wide range of highly technical fields.
Barton Paul Levenson says
Alnair: So if you want to continue to get your computer powered or your train getting you where you have to go even when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine you need a lot more than just implement windmills and solar panels.
BPL: That’s why God made energy storage and wide-area smart grids. BTW, neither fossil fuels nor nuclear is 24/7, either.
re #126 and #127
Ray, I’m not qualified to evaluate the critique you’ve linked to, but a truly scientific report is expected to be unbiased, not larded with sarcasm. And a post on a blog called “Hotwhopper” is not exactly the same as a peer reviewed paper. The author’s bias is all too clear, so everything he writes has to be taken with a huge grain of salt.
MA, I first examined your graphs some time ago and very much appreciate the effort you put into this. Was it produced for my benefit? If so, I pat myself on the back for inspiring you. :-)
However: a close look at your uppermost graph reveals a scatterplot very much like that produced by Wolfe, only without the guidelines: a featureless clump on the left, followed by a gradual ascent in the middle, followed by another featureless clump on the right. The black trend lines added in your bottom-most graph (based on Wolfe’s) make perfect sense to me. And the sudden, very brief, spurt upward at the extreme right is clearly due to the most recent El Nino.
How is this a rebuttal of Wolfe’s result?
You suggest that it is ‘not necessary for the skeptic to provide evidence of an alternative explanation in this case, any more than it would be necessary for a skeptic to provide evidence when questioning the theory that leprechauns exist’ . Good try at arguing for a non-testable hypothesis. Your problem is that in this case you are the one arguing that leprechauns exist. So it is incumbent on you to provide the evidence.
You are the holder of the burden of proof, in exactly the same way that were I to argue that I the moon was made of blue cheese, I would need to a) have a convincing case why I thought that, b) demonstrate that all the evidence from astronomy and from going there and hitting it with a geological hammer was false and c) show some evidence of a celestial source of curds and penicillium. I can definitely make the assertion, but my reasoning skills are good enough not to expect NASA to take me seriously. And I would be humble enough to accept that a planetary scientist’s knowledge, evidence and experience might trump my feeling based on watching a Wallace and Grommit cartoon.
(and while you didn’t use the phrase ‘mysterious natural forcings’ you would have to acknowledge that your argument is based on a natural forcing that scientists have missed – and hence is ‘mysterious – difficult or impossible to understand, explain, or identify.’ )
#144 Astringent: “. . . and while you didn’t use the phrase ‘mysterious natural forcings’ you would have to acknowledge that your argument is based on a natural forcing that scientists have missed . . .”
No, not at all. The skeptical argument is based, very simply, on the failure of certain climate scientists to offer convincing evidence supporting their theories. There are many possible reasons other than the failure to identify all natural forcings. The problem could lie, for example, in their over-reliance on dubious statistical methods, or their failure to take certain complexities in the physics into account, confirmation bias in their selection of data (for example, identifying the steep temperature rise from 1910 to 1940 as due to the lack of volcanic activity — that one is pretty obvious — as is the claim that the cooling from 1940 to 1979 was due to industrially produced aerosols), etc. Or even more simply, biases inherent in methods of data collection.
As far as those “forcings” are concerned, the fact that the climate has changed many times in the past for reasons either unknown or not well understood, should be enough. If climate changed in the past for reasons unknown, then it might well be changing now for reasons unknown. Just as temperatures went down in the 40’s for reasons unknown, leading to speculation about a coming ice age.
Victor @141, correlations exist in shades of grey from perfect, to good, to fair to less than great to zero etc.
If you plot CO2 against temperature for about 1850 – 2016 the correlation is reasonably good. Its not perfect but its a fair correlation. You can see this in one glance visually.
Bartons maths proves you have a significant correlation over the long term since 1850. This maths is the same maths used in any field of science and engineering.
Climate science does not require perfect correlation, just statistical significance. Barton has proven that as have hundreds of others.
More importantly we know what causes the bumps in the nasa graph you lined to, el nino events, etc. The flat period mid last century was due to high levels of particulates fighting against the greenhouse gas trend. I think deep down you know this.
Most of the people critical of climate science have absolutely no relevant qualifications. They don’t have the first clue how the climate operates or what the equations mean.
Back to correlation briefly. Its like tobacco smoking, not all lung cancer or emphysema is from this but an awful lot is. Its not a perfect correlation, but its a good or fair correlation. This is more than enough to deeply implicate tobacco in disease, plus we have a causative mechanism from laboratory studies. Its a fair analogy for climate science.
MA Rodger says
Victor the Troll @143.
You ask the specific question “How is this [the graphic posted @127] a rebuttal of Wolfe’s result?”
“Wolfe’s result” is that global mean surface temperature relative to atmospheric CO2 levels 1958-to-date shows a fixed temperature followed by a linear rise followed by a fixed temperature. There is however no underlying basis for this “result”. It is not a “result” obtained by anything other than Wolfe drawing some lines on a graph. His result is thus entirely bogus, a lie. And you bring it here, to a science-based forum because you believe it. Well done you.
Of course, it is easy to see where you are coming from on this. You are in denial about there being warming since 1998, and you know there was a period in the 1950s and 1960s with a ‘similar’ absence of warming. So with CO2 rising year-on-year over this period, such denial would lead to an expectation of a plot like Wolfe’s. Add to this a firm belief (based on denial of oh-so-many facts) that there is no impact from CO2 on global temperatures, and “Wolfe’s result” must provide complete vindication for your dellusions. Such a shame it’s just a bogus lie.
MA Rodger says
Victor the Troll @78 insisted that we are unable to develop any scientific understanding because all a skeptic has to do is insist the phenomenon we investigate is the result of leprechauns and, game over, all scientific theories are thus broken.
Victor the Troll @137 adds statistics to the list of useless learning. This is because people use statistics to mislead others, to spread lies.
I suppose if you are a stupid as Victor the Troll, it would be difficult or even impossible to determine when something is a correct representation of the evidence and when something is a lie. In such circumstance a world full of facts and fictions is a mighty difficult place.
It seems to me we are faced with two alternatives. We could put aside statistics and science so stupid morons like Victor the Troll can sign off on what we do. Or such folk as stupid as Victor could stick to activities where lies and complex analysis aren’t a problem, like music perhaps.
I am inclined to the second alternative. Dire idiots like Victor the Troll have no place here making bold statements about something they can have little or no understanding of, no place outside the borehole.
Barton Paul Levenson says
V 137: I find Wolfe’s scattergram more convincing than BPL’s simply because it is consistent with the raw data, which in itself reveals no clear long term trend (despite the many efforts to explain the problem away by invoking various “forcings”).
BPL: In statistics, “trend” has a specific meaning. Your saying there is no long-term trend is simply incorrect.
If you want to know how to do it properly, the trend is the slope of the line when you plot a linear regression against time. If it’s significantly above zero, you have a positive trend. If it’s significantly below zero, you have a negative trend.
V: I find it difficult to understand how BPL can translate a graph filled with suchups and downs into a smoothly rising trend leading to a correlation other than by the use of statistical legerdemain.
BPL: Your inability to figure it out doesn’t make it meaningless. I suggest you take a course in introductory statistics. I’m using no “legerdemain” whatsoever; I am applying some fairly simple, basic analyses.
V: As for the technical issues raised in the critique of Wolfe’s work, I’m not qualified to comment. But unlike BPL’s result, “scientific” as it might be, Wolfe’s does seem to reflect the ups and downs of the actual data, so I’m sorry but I find his results more convincing.
BPL: You find his results more congenial to your position, you mean.
Even coal would be clean if one had to power a 70 millions people civilization ! A hundred times less CO2 emissions and there is no sizable effect to be expected on climate anymore. Same for mercury, sulphur and other “pollutants”.
Coal is a problem for a 7 billions people civilization but so are most likely intermittent solar and wind and even hydro. The former need storage capacity and a lot of mining (thanks to fossil fuels, by the way !) to get the huge amounts of (usually toxic) metals, involved in batteries, for instance. Not to mention electric mobility. Hydro if every resource is to be used has major environmental impact too.
The idea I wanted to convey is that it is not clear at all that there exists a satisfactory solution to power sustainably a civilization of that much people ! An inconvenient truth.
If it doesn’t come “cheap” enough it won’t be done. I do not dispute that some wealthy countries, with a low population density and favorable resources (hydro, geothermal) like New Zealand, Canada or Norway and Iceland may largely produce their electricity in this way. In Asia or most of Europe it’s by far not so easy. Germany has increased his CO2 emissions since his “transition” to wind and solar… France, my country, is largely “carbon neutral” in his electricity production but it’s nuclear energy with all it’s risks …
And everybody, New Zealand and Iceland included, still imports large amounts of fossil fuels for transport, agriculture etc where wind, solar, geothermal and hydro are of little help, though in principle one might produce synthetic fuel with them, but it’s much much much too expensive.
And what about Africa, such as Cameroun, a country I know fairly well, with very favorable resources too, but there is by far not enough money to continue to equip the huge hydro potential ? Gas or fuel plants are so much cheaper and affordable for them and for most people there is still no grid at all ! And when there is one, power is available a few hours a day only.
Reality versus dreams