Global warming and partisan divides

By Phil Plait | July 22, 2008 12:14 pm

I find politically-based interpretation of science fascinating. Why would party affiliation have anything to do with how you view science?

Maybe if the top politicians in your party lie constantly about the science, that plays a part.

A recent survey indicates belief in global warming is slightly lower than last year, due almost entirely to Republicans denying it. Incredible. With Inhofe claiming it’s a hoax, and with Bush and Cheney doing what they can to suppress real research and public release of information on the effects of GW, I’m not surprised.

I hope people don’t get their science from Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck, but I do a lot of hoping.

And speaking of which, you also have the right-wing machine which takes any little thing, spins it madly, and totally destroys reality in the process. The American Physical Society — a professional society representing tens of thousands of scientists — has long been vocal about the reality of global warming. However, in one of their newsletters, a single editor posted a ridiculous assertion from a long-debunked GW denier. That was from one editor, who does not speak for the APS as a whole at all… and mind you, this was in a newsletter, and not a peer-reviewed journal.

However, Drudge picked it up, and then so did many neocon blogs. A lot of them, including Drudge, claimed that this was coming from the APS itself. That is clearly and obviously false, but the pressure got so high that the APS had to issue a followup restating their support for the reality of global warming.

Incredible. The influence of smear tactics on science is truly terrifying; we have an election coming up in November where the future of this country and the people in it are profoundly affected by how well the voters understand reality. That’s why I’m so vocal about this; there are very bad people doing very bad things, and if those of us who like reality the way it is — real — don’t speak up, then things will get very bad indeed.

I’ll add that Jennifer Ouellette has an excellent blog post on this topic as well.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Debunking, Politics, Science

Comments (143)

  1. Stephen

    I believe you mean “Glen Beck”, the mentally-handicapped TV/Radio talking head, and not Jeff Beck, the rock guitarist.

  2. JackC

    Incredible indeed. Last week, I had this conversation with both my father and a friend, a PE in Florida. Both appear to get their information straight from WSJ and Limbaugh.

    The funny thing is – if we take this thing by the nape and actually solve it, these nuts will get to claim they were “right all along” – and frankly, I personally will not care. Just as long as we DO nail it.

    The amusing thing is – my friend the Engineer made a statement once that dish antennas for satellites in Florida had to be so much larger than in NY. The reason he gave was that the main programming satellites “orbit major cities, like NY and LA”. I just had to laugh.

    Yes, you can get your PE without having to produce any defined ability to think about what you are saying.

    JC

  3. JackC

    “Jeff Beck”!! HAHAHAHA – I missed that entirely!

  4. BMcP

    My main worry are politicians using global warming as an excuse to balloon the size, scope, and power of the federal government to leviathan proportions, especially if global warming is mostly natural causes, since the earth’s climate is historically rarely stable for long.

  5. Papabear

    I think a part of the problem is that for as bad as the right wing machine spins things, the left is just as capable of spinning with equal tenacity. Maybe not on this topic, but the result is that people tend to not believe either one.

    Of course a little research can answer most of the questions.

  6. That would be Glenn Beck. Isn’t Jeff Beck the musician?

  7. Utakata

    @ BMcP:

    Your governement has already ballooned in size, scope and power…and in mostly the wrong areas. And no, this global warming is mostly not caused by natural causes…unless you can provide evidence of how 6 billion plus resource taxing humans are not effecting the climate.

  8. Oops, I see Stephen already caught it. Although Jeff Beck is a vegetarian, so… :)

  9. Kevin

    Who knows? Maybe Jeff Beck is anti-climate change as well. :)

    I mean, he does have a song called “scatterbrain.

    And @Stephen – you are mistaken about “Glen Beck.” Calling him a “talking head” is incorrect. You are using the wrong orifice.

  10. Quiet Desperation

    O’Reilly seems to be an AGW skeptic, but not a GW skeptic. He’s advocated the US becoming energy self sufficient and pursuing cleaner energy technologies for some time now.

    Personally, I don’t have a major problem with that position because at least it’s someone who recognizes we need to pursue new technologies. You have to take what you can get sometimes. I’ve never seen Glen Beck’s show, so I don’t know his current position.

    I do have a Jeff Beck album or two, though. :-)

    My main worry are politicians using global warming as an excuse to balloon the size, scope, and power of the federal government

    My fear is the “quick, shut down the economy!” types. I exaggerate there (but only a bit in some cases), but the the one essential thing needed to solve our problems is a robust and healthy economy that can afford to pay for all the research and development required, and I’d much rather the private sector do the heavy lifting via tax incentives. It’s very good at it despite what certain ideologues claim.

    I take the Reps to task for the things Phil mentioned, but I take the Dems (and those further to the Left) to task for refusing to allow any short term measures, like development of local oil resources, or being mindlessly anti-nuclear.

    BOTH sides have a lot to answer for.

    Yes, we need new ideas and a change in the way things are done, but get this clearly: it is not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to happen quickly even if the majority of the public supports it. There’s too much inertia and infrastructure to change. So we need both short term and long term solutions.

    To deny that is just useless ideology, which gives us one party only supporting the short term fix and the other party only supporting the long term.

  11. And yet, the same people think Noah’s Ark is real.

  12. Sam

    Why would party affiliation have anything to do with how you view science?

    It does seem to make some bloggers post rabidly against one Party while, beyond some token efforts, basically ignoring the faults of the other.

    Just one example, during the primaries, did you *ever* mention John Edwards anti-science crusade against doctors when he was a trial lawyer?

  13. Ray

    Phil, please try to be rational in your rants. The right-wing machine is matched equally (if not more) by the left-wing machine. Someone infalted guys like Al Gore to unheard of proportions and it wasn’t the right-wing machine. The reality is that both sides play the game, and only a rational evaluation of both sides can get to the bottom of things.

    I believe that GW is a problem, but there is a significant amount of debate about how bad it is and whether we can do anything about it.

  14. Heh. And I don’t like Jeff Beck either. :-) Fixed the mistake, thanks.

  15. Adnan Ahmad

    On the other side of the pond, we’re having to deal with a small rise in the number of people who think that global warming is a hoax. You may have heard of the “documentary” (I use the word very very loosely) by Martin Durkin, titled “The Great Global Warming Swindle” by any chance? The channel that commissioned the programme, Channel 4, has gotten into hot water over it. George Monbiot’s got an interesting article on all that… http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/21/climatechange.carbonemissions1

  16. Glenn Beck twists the facts very often in his arguments. Take for example the following from desmogblog.com

    ————————————-
    MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann named CNN host Glenn Beck as his runner-up for the “worst person in the world” after Beck made the claim that the hottest year in global history was 1934.

    Olbermann:

    Glenn Beck in trying to deny global warming, told his sheep that the hottest year in global history was 1934 – actually 1934 was the hottest year in American history, whereas the globe, where all of us live, the hottest year was 2005, followed by 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006. I mean I know facts aren’t mandatory in what you do, but isn’t it embarrassing when you get them wrong every night.”

    On a technical note (a very minor one), according to NOAA, the organization charged with officially monitoring US surface temperatures, the hottest year on record in the United States is still 1998. Minor point though, because as we all know, expect for maybe Glenn Beck, it’s called “global warming,” not “American warming.”

    —————–

    Here’s another article he wrote, falsely citing polls and using logical fallacies.

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/04/03/beck.oilexecs/index.html

    In the article he goes on about how Al Gore likens the people who deny GW to those who deny the moon landings, which he claims to be 6% of the population. He then misrepresents a NYT/CBS poll by stating that only 21% of Americans say that “the release of greenhouse gases is the most important factor causing global warming”. My skeptic antenna went up and with a quick google search I found the actual poll. The question is as follows:

    49. Greenhouse gases are released when coal, oil and gasoline are burned by cars, utilities and factories. Which comes closest to your opinion: 1. The release of greenhouse gases is the most important factor causing global warming, or 2. The release of greenhouse gases is one factor among many causes of global warming, OR 3. The release of greenhouse gases is NOT a factor causing global warming at all.

    Most Important – 21

    One Among Many – 63

    Not a Factor – 9

    DK/NA – 7

    So the “Not a Factor” crowd is actually closer to the 6 percent of Americans that believe that the moon landings were faked, which is the crowd Al Gore was comparing to, not the opposite like this guy falsely sets it up to be. In fact 84% of Americans, according to this poll, believe that greenhouse gasses are indeed a factor. Both groups of people, those who believe the moon landings were faked and those that believe greenhouse gasses are not a factor in global warming, are completely delusional and far in the minority.

  17. Sam: no I didn’t, because for one reason I didn’t think Edwards was a viable candidate.

    Ray: I am being rational. There is hardly any left-wing spin; it’s mostly media over-sensationalism going on when something like AGW is overblown.

    In science, as in reality (there is no difference between them) there are not two sides to an issue. Unless you mean the correct side and the wrong side.

  18. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Ray

    I believe that GW is a problem, but there is a significant amount of debate about how bad it is and whether we can do anything about it.

    Not going to argue that, whether I agree or not… but just taking your statement at face value (it’s a common one amongst GW deniers… not saying you are one… just saying it’s commonly used), can you agree that even with that, isn’t the most responsible thing to do, if we don’t know how mauch damage we are doing or not doing, to act as though we might be potentially doing some harm and do whatever we can to prevent it going forward? Seems like a rational direction to take, even if you’re not sure about GW, it’s causes and effects. Just my two cents.

  19. Andy Beaton

    Because a lot of the conservative “identity” , as defined by the Limbaughs, Coulters and O’Reillys involves hating liberals, or hippies, and everything they stand for. If hippies believe mercury pollution is bad, these people will stand up and shout that mercury is an essential part of the economy and anyone against it must want to destroy America and live in trees.

  20. Phranque

    It amuses me that many responses here are “the left does it, too!” Own it, people. And fix it.

  21. CanadianLeigh

    I need some help from you guys. The timing is spot on. A local newspaper hack has been writing opinion pieces lately in which he takes great zeal in trashing “climate warming alarmists”. I have been tempted several times to write a letter to the editer and comment on his rants. Problem is I am never sure how my letter will be edited which is the papers right to do.
    His column today uses an article from an Australian paper written by a Dr. David Evans. I googled the name and came up with the following links:http://www.lavoisier.com.au/papers/articles/DavidEvansbio.html
    There is also a link to a paper he wrote:
    http://www.lavoisier.com.au/papers/articles/DavidEvanswager.html
    The follow has done all his science work in computer programming it would appear. I have read the article but I do not have the educational background to judge fully the validity of his claims. I have tried to keep up on reading of this issue and fall in the group of people that would rather be safe than sorry regarding future policies regarding global warming. I would appreciate your help with this.

  22. Ooxman

    I love how you can take the words ‘Global Warming’ and replace it with ANY science-based topic currently being discussed in the media, and that whole article still works.

  23. Glenn Becker

    Yes, unfortunately it is Glenn Beck (with two Ns). Unfortunate for me, that is: I have had more than one person comment on the similarity of my name to his. I emailed Beck re: my dislike of sharing so many name-letters with a brainless windbag, but he seems not to have done anything about it. ;^)

  24. Caleb Milam Turberville

    Well, Phil, what do you think about Penn & Teller’s little controversy at TAM 6?

  25. BMcP

    @Utakata: Your governement has already ballooned in size, scope and power…and in mostly the wrong areas. And no, this global warming is mostly not caused by natural causes…unless you can provide evidence of how 6 billion plus resource taxing humans are not effecting the climate.

    I am well aware of the ridiculous size of the federal government and its abuses of power it should not have, in my mind most areas are the wrong areas to expand government. However what I want is to at least prevent the power of the federal government to exponentially increase more. It is indeed bad how powerful the feds are now, but we need to draw a line in the sand somewhere even if the preferred line should have been drawn many years ago.

    Although the onus isn’t on one to disprove something typically, I will point out that I said “most” effects are that of nature, not “all” effects. For even 6 billion humans combined is still minuscule to the power of the natural forces of the Earth we regularly witness through history. After all, a single sufficiently large volcanic eruption would be enough to cool the Earth’s average temperature for years, easily overpowering any effects by 6+ billion people. In the grand scheme of the Earth, we are not as powerful and influential as we like to believe ourselves to be.

  26. BMcP

    @Quiet Desperation

    My fear is the “quick, shut down the economy!” types. I exaggerate there (but only a bit in some cases), but the the one essential thing needed to solve our problems is a robust and healthy economy that can afford to pay for all the research and development required, and I’d much rather the private sector do the heavy lifting via tax incentives. It’s very good at it despite what certain ideologues claim.

    I have to generally agree with you there, the idea of cutting back the economy and regulating and pushing back down people’s standards of livings is the exact wrong route to take. If the private sector has taught one thing it is that private enterprise can always do what the government can but faster, at less cost, and more efficiently because their motivations are more attuned to basic human desires.

  27. CanadianLeigh

    I fogot the link to the original article in The Australian:

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24036736-7583,00.html

    I also appoligize for my poor sentence structure in the last post. My editor was busy sewing.

  28. jtradke

    Celtic:

    isn’t the most responsible thing to do, if we don’t know how mauch damage we are doing or not doing, to act as though we might be potentially doing some harm and do whatever we can to prevent it going forward?

    Oh, for cryin- let’s not be wishy-washy and phrase it like Pascal’s Wager. We ARE doing harm. We ARE causing global warming beyond a reasonable scientific doubt. Global warming data shows us the grubby fingerprints of human effects all over the planet.

    And we do know how much damage we’re doing by certain measures – ice core temperatures and such (I certainly don’t know the details – I leave that to the dedicated scientists). What we DON’T know with any precision (yet) is the cost-benefit analysis – how much effort do we take to get how much positive climate effect? We have no idea, as far as I’m aware, where the sweet spot is where the climate and the economy are both stable.

    Your phrasing makes it sound like we should throw any garbage at the wall and see what sticks, which is just as ineffective as denying the reality of the climate situation. To the extent that certain solutions are free or of negligible cost, like stores encouraging reusable shopping bags over plastic ones, that’s totally acceptable. But tossing bajillions of dollars at solutions of questionable efficacy is folly.

    So, to that extent, we should not conflate cautious pragmatism with denialism – one is reasonable, and the other is not. Do not cast your net so wide that you catch them both.

  29. Celtic_Evolution

    I was just trying to make a subtle point, jtradke… sheesh… take a pill. And don’t tell me what I was trying to say and put your own exaggerations on it.

    But thanks, though.

  30. OT

    One factor in the rise in global warming denialism is fundamentalist Christian organizations. Although there is no legitimate relationship between global warming and Christianity, it is surprising how widespread denialism is among fundamentalist Christians. Christian broadcasters and websites eagerly repeat any story critical of global warming, while giving wide dissemination to denialsts and their claims.

    I just wrote a post about it at my blog. It’s a bit conspiratorial, but I think the connection is valid: fundamentalist serve the corporations causing global warming as foot soldiers, which is why the denialist message is so prevalent in Christian broadcasting.

  31. Phil, I will presume that you will spend equal time debunking the likes of Al Gore who use psuedo-science for the liberal cause, all the while from the back of a private jet?

    Funny how liberals are very often the least liberal people around. You label anyone who dares disagree with your sanctimonious environmentalism as neocons and ignorant. I think conservatives do not have the monopoly on smear tactics.

  32. Hey Phil,

    I sent you an e-mail last week. If you search for “Request for permission…” you should be able to find it. I don’t know if it made it through your spam filter. Can you please look it up? It’s not a spam. Rebecca Watson, among others, already granted my request. Thanks.

  33. jtradke

    You’re welcome, I guess.

  34. @Celtic_Evolution

    Not going to argue that, whether I agree or not… but just taking your statement at face value (it’s a common one amongst GW deniers… not saying you are one… just saying it’s commonly used), can you agree that even with that, isn’t the most responsible thing to do, if we don’t know how mauch damage we are doing or not doing, to act as though we might be potentially doing some harm and do whatever we can to prevent it going forward? Seems like a rational direction to take, even if you’re not sure about GW, it’s causes and effects. Just my two cents.

    The problem I have with the Al Gore types – and the “let’s get regulation started now!” types – is that it’s not going to do any good. Even severe caps and regulation, barring the shutdown of industry all over the planet, won’t stop the steady rise in CO2 generation and the eventual effects of global warming. Regulation may slow a 90mph train down to 85mph but it’s still going to hit the wall with a lot of energy.

    So the question becomes, where do you spend your money? Do you spend it on setting up carbon tariffs and regulatory authorities to make sure that the factories are producing 2% less CO2, or do you spend it on dealing with the inevitable consequences?

    Look, you can show me slideshows all day about Manhattan being flooded by melting icecaps, but everyone knows that’s not going to happen. Not that the sea levels won’t rise – they very likely will – but a system of levies like New Orleans or some type of other technology to prevent the water rise from reaching the valuable Manhattan island real estate will be built, because we have the money and resources.

    And this is the ultimate key, the real issue here – Global Warming is not a threat to first world countries. Some coastlines might change, some people might be forced to move, some places may change slightly in overall climate, but those are adaptable and easily mitigated with money and technology. We’ve seen it already – look at how the tsunami affected Indonesia and the Hurricanes affected Burma. Terrific horror and tragedy and loss of life, in the hundreds of thousands. And then we have Hurricane Katrina hitting the US – essentially the same scale of damaging power – and less than 2000 are dead. Because we have the resources to deal with what comes up.

    So the obvious question is, why is it SO important to slow down the speeding train that we all know will hit the wall eventually, when the trillions of dollars would be better spent developing support systems for people in the third world who will have to deal with the major impacts? Why is everyone focused on regulation? Regulation is nonsense, political bickering that makes people feel like they accomplished something without accomplishing a thing. Lowering your carbon footprint may make you feel good but it does nothing to help the people in Indonesia when they deal with the next typhoon.

    If it’s a question of resources, where we spend it – and why – is the most important thing we can ask ourselves. Blindly throwing money at Global Warming conferences and treaties accomplishes absolutely nothing.

  35. xav0971

    I’m concerned about a positive feeback loop that will occur because of AGW in the future. GW is most definately caused by humans. You can’t deny the billions of tons of CO2 put in the atmosphere every year by us and the destruction of our environment

    1 CO2 put in atmosphere by humans
    2 CO2 increase causes slow increase in avg world temps
    3 Increased freq of droughts causing more wildfires
    4 Wildfires increase – puts more CO2 in atmosphere
    5 Ice cap melting reduces solar radiation being reflected out into space. Planet warms up more
    6 Thawing of permafrost in the artic regions increases CO2 emissions in atmosphere
    7 Destruction of major forested regions caused by humans reduces planet’s ability to absorb CO2
    8 etc.

    Humans have to avoid AGW induce positive feedback loop from occuring at all costs. If not GW may become unstoppable or costing tens of trillions of dollars to fix. World econmies will most definately be affected severely by this in the long run. It’s in our best interest to solve GW now while we still can. The longer we wait the higher the cost will be.

    This has been a reality check sponsored by me!

    Now let the angry rants against me begin! Will I be called Al Gore Jr? LOL

  36. jtradke

    Celtic – I wasn’t trying to put words in your mouth. That’s specifically why I said “your phrasing made it sound like…” rather than actually claiming to know your thoughts. It’s called “benefit of the doubt”, and I thought I gave you that.

  37. aleph1=c

    It’s not Party Affiliation causes GW Denial, or even the other way around. I think it’s more like Stupid causes Party Affiliation AND GW Denial.

  38. jasonB

    Is that trip to comic con reaalllly necessary?

  39. Brant D

    Greg: And this is the ultimate key, the real issue here – Global Warming is not a threat to first world countries. Some coastlines might change, some people might be forced to move, some places may change slightly in overall climate, but those are adaptable and easily mitigated with money and technology.

    If you assume that the most severe forms of climate change will be slight, affecting only poor foreigners living along coastlines, then of course it will seem more reasonable to adapt than to mitigate. When you accept the possibility that AGW means increased incidents of heatwaves and droughts over areas already stressed by heavy water usage, such as the US southwest and possibly much of the Great Plains where we get much of our food, the “we’ll adapt” claim does not feel very comforting.

  40. Charlie Brown

    I think you link to the APS site is malformed (repeats http://).

  41. If you assume that the most severe forms of climate change will be slight, affecting only poor foreigners living along coastlines, then of course it will seem more reasonable to adapt than to mitigate. When you accept the possibility that AGW means increased incidents of heatwaves and droughts over areas already stressed by heavy water usage, such as the US southwest and possibly much of the Great Plains where we get much of our food, the “we’ll adapt” claim does not feel very comforting.

    I don’t see why not. Think about it – relative to our lives, even extreme global warming effects will happen at a glacial pace. And technology has proven to move at a lightning pace and is constantly accelerating. Will some farmlands not be usable farmlands anymore? Sure. Will we figure out ways to make farmlands out of previously unusable farmlands? You betcha. Will we be able to make more food from smaller stocks, get more nutrition out of less food, get better technologies for moving water? Yes. And will some towns in some areas necessarily die because of climate change? Yes. For sure. But people will move on and adapt, as they always do. The old west was littered with ghost towns, when the resources dried up. We’ll just find what we need somewhere else.

    It’s staggering to me that people who consider themselves “progressive” can have such a “conservative” view of the constantly changing world and the constantly adapting society.

  42. Davidlpf

    @jasonB, the trito comic con is necessary because that is where the leftist media have their secret meeting to discuss how to make people more nervous about global warming. Also in secret meetings is how great a job scientist are hiding proof of Intelligent design and that the moon landings were a hoax and giving the BA a special award for his efforts in keeping the public in the dark about the truth about the moon landings.

  43. Robbie

    xav0971, the climate is not a linear system and is not so easily predictable. Actually, complex systems aren’t predictable at all, that’s what makes them complex systems. Unless you’ve invented some magical computer no one knows about yet.

    I know it bothers the sensibility of people that the universe is inherently and fundamentally unpredictable, but that’s reality.

  44. on the other hand, some conservative blogs, like mine, tore this up. It’s not just that people jumped on an unrefereed article in a newsletter — many global warming deniers resented the “backround” section as though it were the conclusions.

    I used to be skeptical of global warming but the last IPCC report was very convincing. And as I like to point out, the worst thing that happens if global warming is overhyped is that we get off fossils a little faster than they cease to be economically viable. My touchstone for this was Ronald Bailey, the excellent science correspondent for Reason magazine, who was a skeptic for a long time but has been persuaded by the steady accumulation of evidence.

    But I’m angry that both sides make this an either-or thing. I accept the reality of GW, but I don’t buy the irresponsible doomsday scenarios being painted by some nor do I accept that the solution to this is massive government intervention. A carbon tax with money being invested in pure R&D would be my favored policy. it’s transparent and it gets us working on ways to completely and economically replace fossil fuels rather than cripple our economy for a 0.1 degree reduction in warming. That to me, is the view of a true conservative.

  45. Rusty Wilson

    1. The greenhouse signature is missing. We have been looking and measuring for years, and cannot find it…

    …2. There is no evidence to support the idea that carbon emissions cause significant global warming. None…

    …3. The satellites that measure the world’s temperature all say that the warming trend ended in 2001, and that the temperature has dropped about 0.6C in the past year (to the temperature of 1980)…

    …4. The new ice cores show that in the past six global warmings over the past half a million years, the temperature rises occurred on average 800 years before the accompanying rise in atmospheric carbon. Which says something important about which was cause and which was effect…

  46. Quiet Desperation

    MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann named CNN host Glenn Beck as his runner-up for the “worst person in the world” after Beck made the claim that the hottest year in global history was 1934.

    Which shows how ideology makes some people bat**** insane. Glenn Beck as one of the “worst people in the world”? Is Olbermann smoking carpet samples?

    Where was Robert Mugabe on his little list? Where were the slavers of Darfur? Radovan Karadzic? Omar El Bashir?

    It amuses me that many responses here are “the left does it, too!”

    Within the context of this blog it’s a fair call.

    Own it, people.

    I’m sorry, is that some hip, vacuous thing The Kids[tm] are saying these days?

    And fix it.

    Rock The Vote! Word! LOLZ! KTHX!!1!

  47. Darkurthe, nice try. But first, Al Gore’s claims in Inconvenient Truth were examined and found to have very few errors. Second, you might remember how hew as Vice President of the United States for 8 years? You expect him to ride coach? He has guards and such who go with him as well.

    The smear point about the private plane has been making me laugh for a year now. It’s another ridiculous distraction from the important issues, just like the lapel pin nonsense.

    Oh, and you care to back up the claims that he’s spouting pseudoscience? I sure hear that a lot, but I never seem to hear any actual evidence.

  48. Rusty Wilson

    Phil Plait,
    Untrue, the new ice cores show that in the past six global warming’s over the past half a million years, the temperature rises occurred on average 800 years before the accompanying rise in atmospheric carbon, which says something important about which was cause and which was effect. This was known and past dispute by 2003, yet Al Gore made his movie in 2005 and presented the ice cores as the sole reason for believing that carbon emissions cause global warming. In any other political context our cynical and experienced press corps would surely have called this dishonest and widely questioned the politician’s assertion.

  49. Robbie

    Phil Plait: “The smear point about the private plane has been making me laugh for a year now. It’s another ridiculous distraction from the important issues, just like the lapel pin nonsense.”

    How is personal hypocrisy from a blow-hard a distraction?

  50. Rusty Wilson

    Robbie Says,
    So no prob then. I’ll just use as much energy as I want. Thanks for clarifying.

  51. Rusty Wilson

    This is actually a left wing blog, masquerading as a science blog isn’t it?

  52. Al Gore must be the most overused subject for ad hominem type attacks. Can ya’ll try something new please??

    @Quiet Desperation: Keith Olbermann’s Worst Person in the World segment, is not meant to examine true villains but rather used for short spotlight on people he finds to be ignorant and sometimes harmful in their public pontifications, such as his Fox news rival, Bill O’reilly. It’s most always meant to amuse more than anything.

  53. Beck Fan

    Funny, I suspect you’ve never listened to Glenn Beck’s radio show. Do you just read what mediamatters says?

    Phil, you really should drop your politic-speak. You sound like an idiot when you simply parrot left-wing talking points (just like, say, Hannity does when he parrots right-wing talking points).

    There are reasonable objections to the current Global Warming hype, and to simply dismiss them like Al Gore is unscientific.

  54. Chip

    The far-right hypocrisy is pretty clear: if the proposed plans to cultivate alternative energy sources put forth in TV ads by the anti-liberal, enormously wealthy oil man T. Boone Pickens had been made instead by Al Gore, the far-right would be screaming how terrible it is. Yet, Beck, O’Reilly, Stossel and other mindless commentators say nothing because their commentaries are not about real knowledge or data, be it proven or not. Their spiel instead is only based on what’s in line with the far-right status quo. Stossel still dredges up the strawman non sequitur that Al Gore’s entire presentation is wrong because he’s rich. You don’t see them apply that one to T. Boone Pickens.

  55. Well, we seem to know that the carbon-heat lag is on the order of fifty years, so we know that even if we go to the trees now we’ll still be getting hotter for another fifty years (assuming carbon to be the only driving factor for the sake of argument) and, since we’re in the trees, we have very little capacity to adapt to the situation, leading to a much bigger disaster than if we work to adapt both to higher temperatures in the medium-term and minimizing carbon emissions in the long-term. Since the newly industrializing nations are the biggest risk in the long term, they need to be brought on board with honest-to-goodness technology sharing that doesn’t make them re-dependent on the West.

    Even if we DO SOMETHING NAOW we’re still hosed for fifty years. Let us assume, then, that we are hosed in such a way and work from there. Surviving and thriving in this hosed case is our first priority; while doing that, we can establish the structure that will allow for repair in the long term.

    Oh, and space exploitation. I can’t wait for when heavy industry is exported to high-orbital platforms and the Moon.

  56. (addendum: I refuse to talk about ideology in association with AGW. Ideology dissolves rationality on contact, and we’ve reasonable concerns to deal with in sustainable [economically as well as ecologically] ways. Rationality is more important in this case than being RIGHT!)

  57. GoatTuber

    If reality was real, they’d show it on reality tv. Der.

  58. llewelly

    For what it is worth, Al Gore buys carbon offsets to offset the carbon emissions of his plane flights – and all of his other carbon emitting activities. Presently these carbon offsets help pay for wind power which is made available to people who would otherwise have used fossil-fuel power.

    For those convinced little or nothing can be done, please see Joe Romm’s website, climateprogress.org , particularly:
    http://climateprogress.org/2008/06/26/california-leads-the-way-toward-climate-sanity/
    http://climateprogress.org/2008/06/24/just-in-time-energy-revolution/

  59. Rusty Wilson

    Chip Says:,
    What a load of bull. Right wingers are for drilling now while simultaneously putting solar, nuclear and wind energy in place. All you need to do is go to Hannity’s web site.
    The Centipede Says:
    How do we know that the carbon-heat lag is on the order of fifty years? What do you base that on? Also, I am failing to see any rationality here.

  60. Ad Hominid

    The “right wing” is not quite in monolithic agreement over this. For example, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs posted an article debunking the claims of an APS reversal.
    This is consistent with Johnson’s now-daily articles defending evolutionary science. This campaign, initiated a few months ago, led to vitual civil war among the regular posters. The comments are still infested with YEC trolls, but Charles has stood his ground. Many of the IDers have now left in a pique, presumably for Free Republic or other creation-friendly sites.

    Barry Goldwater would almost certainly approve.

  61. JMA

    Phil, you say that “Al Gore’s claims in Inconvenient Truth were examined and found to have very few errors.” Can you point me to something on that? Every reasonable examination I’ve seen of it tells me the errors (mostly in the form of exaggerations) were pretty egregious. I was an AGW believer before seeing it, but it really turned me off. The potential threat of GW itself is scary enough without exaggerating the point. Things that give me pause include:

    1. While the Antarctic peninsula is getting warmer, and it’s associated ice sheet is decreasing in size, this represents a very small portion of the continent. I am told the rest of the continent is actually cooling, and the associated ice sheet is getting thicker.

    2. The IPCC author said something along the lines of “Yeah, the model predicted temperatures should continue to increase, but they don’t seem to be doing that. We need to learn more and refine the model.” (Not a direct quote, I’m not in the mood to look it up, but will gladly do so if it makes a difference.)

    I have to add, the skeptic in me is disappointed by the sudden (and hopefully temporary) disappearance of the skeptic in you. Maybe you’ve gone into detail on all this in the past (I’m a relatively new convert to your blog). Personally, I think there is room for some reasonable (and un-emotional) doubt here. But you’re pretty fired up, which suggests to me you’ve given careful and level-headed consideration of these questions, and concluded that those who disagree are idiots, liars, or both. If you could post (or point me to) your train of thought, I’d appreciate it.

  62. Brant D

    Greg: I don’t see why not. Think about it – relative to our lives, even extreme global warming effects will happen at a glacial pace. And technology has proven to move at a lightning pace and is constantly accelerating.

    That is not necessarily true. You use the term “glacial”, when the forces governing the ice ages occurred on a timescale of tens of thousands of years. In contrast, the forcing occurring presently is on the time scale of centuries: a 30% increase in the second most important greenhouse gas in the 20th century, and possibly a doubling by the end of the 21st century. Evidence of past rapid warming events, while caused by very different mechanisms than what is currently happening today, show that Earth’s climate system can buck like an angry beast when sufficiently perturbed. Fortunately, to date we have been spared the worst of rapid climate change because of thermal inertia in the oceans and remaining continental glaciers, but they can only absorb so much heat and CO2 before they begin responding vigorously. We don’t know where those limits are precisely, but major changes within the next few decades are not out of the question.

    As for technology, just like with climate, the trend today may not be the trend several decades from now. I certainly hope that new technologies capable of scrubbing out excess CO2 and restoring the damage already done will be developed and implemented quickly, but we must be prepared for the possibility that no such magical bullets will be created. We have the technology to reduce much of our CO2 emissions today, of course at a price, but not such a steep price that it “shuts down the economy” as the AGW deniers constantly claim. I see no reason why we cannot create a plan of action that begins work today using currently existing technologies, yet leaves room open for any future major technological achievements to be quickly implemented alongside older working technologies.

    It’s staggering to me that people who consider themselves “progressive” can have such a “conservative” view of the constantly changing world and the constantly adapting society.

    “Conservative” and “progressive” are completely arbitrary terms in an era of change such as the one we live in today. Of course, if the decision is between a planet that humanity has been able to live and prosper in for thousands of years versus a planet in which we don’t know how much prosperity we will have to forfeit in order to just keep most of us alive and healthy, then I don’t see why some measure of conservativeness with regards to environmental policy is unreasonable.

    And according to the Republicans for Environmental Protection, conservation is conservative… (whatever that’s worth)

  63. BMcP

    econd, you might remember how hew as Vice President of the United States for 8 years? You expect him to ride coach? He has guards and such who go with him as well.

    He should now, he was a Vice President, and at that point, sure, I can see hm on a private jet, but now he is just a citizen. I say if he is is as serious as he claims about people’s impact on the environment he should put his money where his mouth is or more bluntly “put up or shut up”.

    I am not taking seriously about energy savings a guy who flies in a private lear jet while I putz around in my small 4-cylinder no frills Saturn. Just so sick of those of privilege telling the rest of us how we should live.

  64. A Real Climatologist

    Phil,
    Global warming ended six years ago. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is now in cooling mode. There will be global cooling for at least the next 25 years.

    Stick to astronomy! You’re an amateur at climatology.

    Shifting of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from its warm mode to cool mode assures global cooling for the next three decades. If the present cooling trend continues, the IPCC reports will have been the biggest farce in the history of science.

    Don J. Easterbrook, Dept. of Geology, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA

  65. Beck fan– yes, I try to always take advice from 1) people who call themselves “beck fan”, and 2) people who call me an idiot.

  66. Beck Fan

    I called myself “Beck Fan” to make my bias clear. I’m a regular listener to his show, so I’d bet I know his positions better than you. You might even be surprised to know that I think the “Intelligent Design” movement is a joke.

    I find your insights into astronomy (and your obvious enjoyment of the topic) compelling, and in fact have referred to your site several times as we homeschool our kids.

    I said that you “sound like an idiot” when you parrot left-wing talking points, not that you *are* an idiot. If you tackled political themes with the same fervor as science, I’d love to read your opinions on that as much as on astronomy–even if your opinion is different from mine.

    I enjoy Glenn Beck’s show because I think he’s honest–admits when he’s wrong, and rejects people who simply toe the party line on either the left *or* the right. I disagree with him on several points, but enjoy his show.

    I’d love to see you do the same–stop throwing around the names of people you don’t actually know or know about, and just state the principle.

    You believe the consensus on AGW, fine. I used to but don’t anymore (the hockey stick convinced me, but it’s debunking shattered my acceptance of it). Efforts like http://surfacestations.org/ show that there are some problems with measurements. Recent stories about cooling in the oceans are showing AGW to be an ad-hoc theory which keeps adding epicycles (kind of like String Theory).

    But if you just want to go the ad hominem route, that’s your privelege–it just isn’t very convincing.

  67. A Real Climatologist: yes, of course I’m an amateur. That’s why I rely on the research and findings of the thousands of climatologists who study this, and who vastly outnumber the few who are the so-called “skeptics”.

  68. Beck Fan

    BTW, I mention “Intelligent Design” as an example of something I think is a joke that you’d probably expect me to accept as fact, just because I’m not on the same end of the political spectrum you are.

  69. Rusty, nice try, but this is a science blog, and reality has a well-known left wing bias.

  70. Beck Fan

    What?!? “Reality” has a left wing bias? Are you serious?

  71. Beck Fan

    It doesn’t matter how many people are on one side or another. It’s the data that matter. And when I dig into the data, I can’t find support for AGW.

    Furthermore, are the “thousands” of scientists who agree with AGW all climatologists?

    Where is a single prediction of AGW which has been verified?

  72. Bramblyspam

    I’m a global warming skeptic. And for what it may be worth, I’m not republican, not religious, and I can’t stand the Limbaugh/Coulter/O’Reilly crowd.

    I find it darkly amusing the way the global warming believers react to deniers. You see it on display in this incident too: “Yikes, this person doesn’t believe in anthropogenic global warming! That makes him irresponsible or scientifically illiterate, so he should be fired from whatever job he has, and preferably prevented from publishing anything again”. What’s curiously absent is any evidence disproving the claims of the GW skeptics.

    Here are some of the claims I’ve read that make me a skeptic:
    - If you plug in past data into the GW models and ask them to predict today’s climate, they fail spectacularly. This indicates that the models are worthless at predicting the future.
    - Historically, atmospheric warming seems to occur *before* CO2 levels rise. This is at odds with the theory that increases in atmospheric CO2 cause global warming.
    - Global temperatures (and CO2 levels) have in the past been significantly warmer than they are today – and not just on geologic time scales. The climate was warmer 1000 years ago, back when the vikings settled Greenland. (This argument also makes me discount the “feedback loop” claim, btw).
    - While temperatures have risen since the end of the “little ice age” (approx. 1880), the bulk of the temperature rise took place prior to 1940, whereas the bulk of anthropogenic CO2 emissions took place after that. Again, this discredits the theory that the warming is caused by a rise in atmospheric CO2.

    Perhaps all these claims are lies, misinformation, or otherwise just plain wrong. I’m open to the possibility, but I haven’t seen these claims properly addressed. What I’d love to see is some site that tackles this issue in the same way that talkorigins tackles creationism, or the way a certain Phil Plait tackles the moon landing hoax myth. I want a good, solid website that tackles the skeptics’ claims head on and refutes them (or not, as the case may be).

    If anyone knows of such a website, I’d love to get the URL. If no such site exists, then I’d love to see someone try to make one.

    In the meantime, I firmly believe that there’s every bit as much bad/distorted science on the left as there is on the right. Have you ever taken a look at some of the more ludicrous environmentalist claims?

  73. Brant D

    Bramblyspam: See “A Few Things Ill-Considered” for responses to common myths and misunderstandings.

    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/

  74. For those pointing out Phil’s skeptical blind spot, I applaud you. I gave up a while ago, but still love to watch the train-wreck political posts!

    Here’s one where he said Bush was killing all of us:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2007/08/22/bush-political-hackery-puts-kids-at-risk

    My response was on Aug 23rd at 11:31 am (the link appeared to get broken in the transfer to Discover)

  75. @Phil 5:50pm There are thousands of climatologists? That estimation seems high.

  76. Lowbacca

    I’m a tad disappointed about the bias in the post. If you want to complain about people that are denying global warming, then do so, however to then argue Bill O’Reilley as an example of that seems like the point of the post is not about reality and only about politics since O’Reilley’s stance is global warming is real, and he seems to generally view that its not significant to argue the causes as the things that are suggested to prevent increased global warming (such as greener fuels) are intrinsically good anyway and should be pursued regardless of global warming. In which sense, I don’t see why his name is at all relevant to people denying global warming exists.

    That said, there has been a horrible job done at presenting the evidence for global warming, imo, as far as actual data tied to temperature goes and not anecdotes and fearmongering. In large part, IMO, because what should be a scientific issue has been turned into a political one and that has butchered any attempt to discuss the issue as far as what roles various factors play.

    And this isn’t from an angle of disagreeing with global warming. I was very skeptical of it for a few years before I was able to find well presented data that explains the conclusions drawn. it doesn’t do any good to trying to explain how this is a real issue to people by turning it from science into politics.

  77. Mike C.

    Good grief. Folks, the models are non-predictive. They’ve blown the last 10 years. It’s a modeling problem, and it happens regularly to anybody that attempts to model complex systems, not just climate. When that happens, a modeler is SUPPOSED to work towards fixing the model. The modeler is not supposed to make excuses and defend an obviously flawed model. And insist that TRILLIONS of dollars change hands based on the obviously flawed model. Oh, and I have never seen any of these climate models presented in any sort of stochastic fashion (probability plots and such, you know) which is absolutely standard when modeling all manner of complex systems, including geological ones.

    And IMHO (as a geoscience type), the basic flaw here is attempting to model essentially geological time frame processes with models that go back a whopping 158 years. 158 years ? Are you kidding me ? Kick it up at least two orders of magnitude, make proper stochastic iterations, present it in a probabilistic fashion, and then I’ll listen.

  78. Daffy

    “Have you ever taken a look at some of the more ludicrous environmentalist claims?”

    Yes…most of them propagated by the right wing CLAIMING that the left wing said them.

  79. Mike C.

    ADDENDUM

    Let me clarify one point, as I see my statement may be confusing. My base opinion is I think that the models the IPCC hangs it’s hat on are ridiculously short-framed in the time domain. So why do I say they are non-predictive because they’ve blown the last decade ? Sorry, but that’s not my fault. It’s the modelers who have insisted on that time frame (because a longer one clearly wouldn’t work), so as far as I’m concerned, they are hoist by their own petard here.

  80. quasidog

    Human nature has a part to play here too. People are easily scared. Humans love hype. When is finally sinks in however, we have a crazy knack of getting ‘used to it’.

    Amazon rain-forest destruction, lack of clean water, people starving en mass, earthquakes and then the insane act of rebuilding on an earthquake zone, building under an active volcano, the 60′s, hippy ideals in general, re-electing presidents that are clearly stupid, re-electing leaders that are clearly insane, forcing corrupt leaders out of power for some great yet false ideal, ignoring other corrupt leaders when the same ideal applies, sars hype, bird flu hype, then people forgetting what these diseases were about, World Aid (world aid was going to fix everything, but it is now worse),people thinking ‘Family Guy’ was worse than ‘The Simpson’s’ then switching to the opposite view, etc. … digress ?

    We just cant make up our mind. We get all uptight over one issue, and ignore another more important issue, after getting used to the first issue. Now I reckon it is global warming’s time. People are getting used to the idea of global warming. Some people (including myself) have given up caring about the term global warming. I prefer now to focus on GLOBAL POLLUTION, because warming may have a bit to do with nature. The earth has gone through changes before. But pollution has clearly been shown to be the culprit behind the massive current average temperature shift around the world. Plus pollution is smelly, makes everything dirty, stuffs up my asthma, dumps countless tonnes of toxic garbage into our water, makes the sky look crap, possibly adds to cancer and other crap diseases, oh yeah … and now its clogging up the atmosphere and turning the Earth into an over-heated greenhouse. Awesome. Pollution is awesome-n’t.

    So temperature change is not the issue to me. The pollution accelerating it is. The hype is shifting, but it needs to shift to the real focus; how we are polluting the earth. The term ‘global warming’ is not sinking in. It never sunk in with me. Many people are getting used to it. If the focus shifted more to ‘global pollution’ people would probably get used to that too. It is just human nature the way I see it; eventually if the hype goes on long enough, it is the natural human response to stop caring and focus back on living day by day. Everyone does it. So it is no surprise to me to see a survey stating that the global warming issue is not as important to as many people as it used to be.

    This sort of ‘hype-then-forget’ is something we need to tackle also. Humans in general can be pretty short-sighted. *hums Midnight Oils – Short Memory*

  81. Davidlpf

    Bramblyspam it is not the temperature has increased in the past or increasing presently but it is the rate of warming that is causing most of the problems.

  82. Mike C.

    Ah – another geoscientist chimes in…

    “Phil,
    Global warming ended six years ago. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is now in cooling mode. There will be global cooling for at least the next 25 years.

    Stick to astronomy! You’re an amateur at climatology.

    Shifting of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from its warm mode to cool mode assures global cooling for the next three decades. If the present cooling trend continues, the IPCC reports will have been the biggest farce in the history of science.

    Don J. Easterbrook, Dept. of Geology, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA”

    Thank you, sir.

    Phil, and with all due respect, you might remember in the last montha number of very serious AGW proponents, the ones who actually run these models, making statements as to how factors not included in their models were “temporarily” making their models non-predictive. Like for over 10 % of the modeling time frame. And as Don Easterbrook has pointed out, the factors not included in their models are some of the most studied and well-known climactic events we currently measure. El Nino and La Nina (pardon the absence of the accent marks) were not included in these models upon which we are supposed to base very drastic policy changes ? Climactic events that have been regularly appearing in the popular press (think Newsweek and Time covers) for two decades now ?

    I’m sorry, but that does not inspire me to have a whole lot of confidence in the modeling process.

  83. Brant D

    I’d still like to know when the accuracy of GCMs became the only means of proving AGW instead of GCMs only being a means to investigate the details of AGW as they were originally intended. I mean, it’s not like the ability of CO2 emissions to greatly increase Earth’s average temperature isn’t a very basic and robust prediction of the theories of atmospheric science.

  84. deserttrail

    @Bramblyspam:

    I believe the site you’re looking for is RealClimate ( http://realclimate.org/ ).

    Although, if you’re anything like one friend of mine, you’ll find that it’s pro-AGW, therefore biased, therefore worthless. That bit of logic makes me cringe, but I’m assuming that you actually want to read an opposing view.

  85. Tammy

    “Rusty, nice try, but this is a science blog, and reality has a well-known left wing bias.”

    Phil – Did you actually write that or is somebody trying to make it seem like you did? That’s a pretty huge statement of wrong to make in a quick sentence. And I don’t mean that left wing views are wrong (per se- I’m left on some things, right on others).

    Although fantastically wrong (linking science with political ideology- you just did what you supposedly rail against- that doesn’t make any sense) I appreciate the fact that you stated it so clearly.

    I do believe in global warming and think we should keep taking prudent steps (like going huge on nuke power like France has, T Boone’s plan sounds interesting, etc).

    I also agree with many others in thinking that Al Gore is a blowhard. Buying “Carbon Offsets” (especially from a company that he created!) is like paying indulgences to the Catholic Church. At least guys like Ed Begley and Bill Nye actually live the lives that they want others to.

    “Why would party affiliation have anything to do with how you view science?”- um, calling Dr. Phil?

  86. Randy A.

    I skimmed through the 80 posts here, and found lots of back and forth about the existence of global warming. But you’re all missing an important point!

    If we do nothing, and Al Gore, et al. are right, then we are totally and completely screwed. And our kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, etc. will be screwed, too.

    If we work hard to stop global warming, and it turns out that global warming was all a mistake then:
    * We’ll have less pollution (burning fossil fuels inevitably causes pollution).
    * We’ll be healthier, because we breathe less pollution and walk more.
    * We’ll use energy more efficiently, which means we’ll pay less for energy, eventually.
    * We’ll have a more efficient economy, with more U.S. employment, and less money going to pay for oil imports.
    * We’ll (hopefully) have a more rational foreign policy, without the need to appease or invade oil rich countries.

    PLEASE don’t post dissecting each of these points — instead, look at the big picture. Fighting global warming will be good, but doing nothing could be really, really, really, bad.

    So please spread the word!

  87. James Schend

    Here’s the problem.

    I believe global warming is happening. I don’t believe that it’s nearly as bad as the constant press assaults would have us believe, and I also do believe that humanity is clever enough to make the whole problem a non-issue. We’ve already invented the air conditioner.

    The problem is that this makes me a “denier” in a lot of people’s eyes. Not because I actually deny its existence, but because I don’t think we should be running around like headless chickens. I can guarantee for that survey they put people like me in the “denier” column.

    The *real* question around global warming is, “what do we do about it?” That’s the question that stories like this, frankly, don’t even come close to answering. Instead, you turn it into a game of “us vs. them.”

  88. James Schend

    I should also mention I’m not sold on the “global warming is 100% bad” thing, either. It seems to me that rising temperatures would also increase farmland by a large amount, thus increasing food production. I’d love to see a balanced “Good vs. Bad” on global warming, instead of just the constant “the sky is falling!”

  89. Brant D

    James: The 2007 IPCC report had a section weighing the pros and cons of continued warming (as a function of temperature rise). Basically a small amount of warming (less than about 3C by 2100) would result in a small net increase in food production worldwide from increased growing season length and increased precipitation in some areas, mostly in the midlatitudes, though subtropical nations will suffer from increased drought occurrence. Above 3C food production worldwide declines because of worldwide heat stress and drought over many major food production areas (even in the midlatitudes). This is one of the IPCC’s findings. You may not agree with the IPCC, but you should know that scientists aren’t simply assuming that GW will be 100% bad. The problem is that finding positives in GW is a difficult task even with a lot of people looking for them.

  90. The “left wing bias” gag is from Stephan Colbert. I thought most people would recognize it.

  91. EmptyGodShapedHole

    I see a lot of logical fallacies in this whole discussion, number one being ad hominem, which usually seems to shut down any kind of productive debate.

    I see a lot of selective skepticism and confirmation bias also.

    We tend to look at GW as a package deal. But I understand that all predictions of its affects are not universally agreed upon. It has many parts that I believe should be examined individually.

    Observational data is difficult to dispute, except of course for the non-science types out there. I have not seen much observational data about what will happen, and I don’t think anyone knows for sure.

    I think that first we should break it down into its respective parts and look at them individually, as follows:
    Are we producing CO2?
    Is CO2 a greenhouse gas?
    Is there evidence of temperature increase?
    The evidence supporting these first three is pretty solid, and I think that this is the limit of the consensus scientific view. When it comes to some of the other questions it becomes more unclear.

    “We need to stop it” is not science. It is a value judgment. Which to me means anything you believe is ok. Just like in religion, no one should be forced into a belief system, nor should any be considered superior unless supported by observation. Some species will do better in a warmer climate, as will as some people, some will die.

    So, is it bad if the planet warms? Why? Because some species will die, because the sea levels will rise? Science does not judge whether these things are “bad”.

    If global warming was occurring naturally, would we try to stop it?

    If warmer is bad, is colder better?

    Is it only bad if humans are causing it? (This leads to a concept I call secular puritanism, meaning that anything a human does is bad, especially as it relates to the environment. I think I read something about grubby human fingerprints. This sort of thing is totally a personal value judgment.) Then there is also the fact that humans are generally afraid of any type of change and tend to focus on the negative aspects of it.

    What are we willing to sacrifice in order to fix it?

    Can we fix it?

    Is it worth it for us to try when in the future, China is producing more CO2 than anyone else, and refuses to do anything about it?

    These may seem like stupid questions, but I don’t hear them debated much. Mostly what I hear is a package deal, either you buy the whole thing, or you think it’s all a sham.

    These questions are asked without prejudice and the only conclusion I am trying to reach is that we need to think critically about all these things.

    In order for CO2 emissions to change, two things have to happen. Everyone has t0 agree on all the above questions, and everyone has to be willing to make the same sacrifices to prevent it.

    Frankly, I don’t think that will ever happen, so adaptation seems like the only real option.

  92. Stan/Tx

    Phil,
    With respect because I like the science that you teach so well; you need to consider how the Global Warming issue is playing out.

    Consider the debate that occurred in science related to the Big Bang Theory. It was a scientific debate with passionate followers both for and against. It was resolved after years of study by scientist to become respected and mostly accepted.

    Now consider the fact that if you are not a full believer in Global Warming, then you must be a denier of truth. Your scientific credentials are questioned and your personal morals are faulted.

    Good scientist and good people are asking honest questions about the data that is being used to support the Global Warming Theory. Even using the word theory labels a person as a denier and not a believer. Instead of reasonable answers and discussion, they receive emotional arguments and putdowns.

    If this debate was contained in the scientific community then the disagreement would not matter greatly. However, politicians all over the would have grabbed this issue as justification to impose additional government controls over people and at the same time impose solutions that are unlikely to make any contribution to reducing CO2 production. They are using their bias to influence the debate to obtain the results that help them.

  93. James Schend

    Brant:

    I’ve read approximately 30,000 articles and blog posts of the form: “is global warming happening?” “global warming is happening and people who don’t think so are morons” “global warming is not happening and people who think it is are morons” etc etc etc. And roughly zero that actually describe, in any detail:

    1) The effects of global warming, both GOOD and BAD. Typically I only see the ludicrous claims, like that the sea levels are going to ride 20m before 2020. (Yes, I actually read that on a blog, and no the writer wasn’t joking.) And don’t try to convince me there are only bad effects; I live in this place called “reality” where absolutely nothing is entirely bad.

    2) The cost/benefit analysis of “doing something about it.” Usually they get to the point of saying, “we have to do something about it” and leave it there. Poor suckers like me are left asking, “do what? When? How? How expensive is it?” That’s what leads to claims like “doing something about global warming will destroy the economy”. “Doing something” can be anything from giving a tax credit for electric cars to tearing down all of civilization and going back to living in caves. (Sometimes I think the latter is what the truly rabid global warming fans want.)

    The real irritant to the thinking man is that people are so busy talking about whether it exists or doesn’t exist that they never get around to answering: “so what?”

    Frankly, if you’re right that a rise of less than 3C before 2100 will increase food production, I say go for it. We have air conditioners now, by 2100 they’ll have air conditioners that run a thousand times better.

    More seriously, I think the best action to take at the moment is to focus on delivering nuclear-generated power to more people. Of course, Greenpeace, the largest “environmental” lobby, opposes nuclear power. The quotes around “environmental” can not be emphasized enough.

  94. Davidlpf

    It is not believe it is we think global warming is happening. Believing in something is means you do not have any evidence.

  95. Brant D

    James: I have no way of knowing the quality of the articles and blog posts that you read. If you are really interested in learning what the scientists think, I would start with the Real Climate blog, which discusses the scientific side of the climate issue in terms of risks and dangers. For the political side, you can follow the link trail from there to other blogs and websites. Of course there is a fairly wide variety of opinion between scientists on what should be done politically about AGW. There is quite a bit of support for increased use of nuclear energy to replace coal-fired plants, though renewables are not completely useless either. Don’t confuse scientists with environmental organizations like Greenpeace; there is often considerable disagreement between the two.

    As for your “ludicrous claims”, you presented only one, and from that you seem to imply that all claims made by people concerned about AGW are that ludicrous. What are your criteria for judging what is a “ludicrous” claim and what is reasonable? Are they based of scientific understanding and intuition, or do you simply dismiss all claims that have a sufficiently negative effect on civilization?

    As for “reality”, I don’t think you can find too many positives in yourself being hit by a bus. It is still quite realistic to consider that such an event could occur if you don’t take proper precautions. I find your claim pretty silly, actually. There are realistic cases that have no good consequences as far as we humans are concerned.

  96. Randy A.

    James Schend isn’t “sold on the “global warming is 100% bad”. That’s an understandable position.

    James, my point is that we can’t afford to wait and find out. Since there is a real possibility that global warming will have seriously negative consequences, we should act. It helps that acting to slow global warming will have positive side effects.

    You ask what should we do about global warming. Well, step 1 is simple: vote for politicians who are members of the “reality based community” — party affiliation, and even acceptance of global warming — isn’t as important as a willingness to accept reality. With a little luck, we can discuss steps 2 through 100 on November 5.

  97. The main reason I’m skeptical about AGW is that I see thought processes in people like Gore that are identical to those of the worse kinds of religious zealots, right down to the desire to burn heretics. Both religious and AGW zealots use propaganda and demonization of Evil Doers to increase their control over their mind-numbed followers.

    AGW looks to me like an excuse to raise my taxes to pay for Gore et.al. to fly to Bali in private jets to devise ways to lower my standard of living.

  98. quasidog

    Just to reiterate, replace WARMING with POLLUTION, and then everyone can agree. Focus on the pollution causing it, more than the warming itself. Pollution is bad no matter what way you look at it. Focusing on warming just takes the focus off the cause, and even if it ends up not being the cause, pollution is bad m’kay. I mentioned it in my earlier post that I have now given up using the term ‘Global Warming’ and now always speak of ‘Global pollution’. Even a 5 year old kid can see pollution = ‘the Earth is sad’. The term the way I see it, has more immediate impact on our feeble and apathetic human minds.

  99. DavidGD

    Current CO2 levels are the highest they have been for at least the last 400,000 years. CO2 level as measured on Mauna Loa on the island of Hawaii have gone from about 320 ppm in 1960 to 385 ppm in 2008. CO2 levels vary on an annual basis, reaching a high in early spring and a low in late fall. Go on Google images and look for “graphs of CO2 carbon dioxide concentration”.
    Over the last 400,000 years based on ice core samples in the Antarctic, the correlation between CO2 levels and temperature increase is very good. CO2 goes up, temperature goes up. However, at no time in the past has there been 6 billion + large animals on the planet who just love to ignite combustible material and bask in the heat. You buys your comfort and you pays your price. Nothing is free. You cannot throw tons and tons of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere and wish it away. As much as you might like it to be true, magical thinking is a deadend to oblivion.

  100. Sush

    In a perfect world it would be nice if we could keep politics and science separate.

    But since we don’t, at least we now know Discover magazine is politically left. And can use that info to dial in our “Skeptic” lenses when we read stuff from this magazine.

    And also, that Inhofe guy is completely nuts. He’s crazier than Robert Byrd and Ted Stevens combined (see the Daily Show).

    Reality is a tricky thing to figure out when you have everybody’s biases to deal with. Just have to try to get as much unbiased info as possible and make the best decisions about how to vote and think I guess.

  101. @Rusty Wilson

    In short, the fact that the oceans act as part heat-sink, part temporary-carbon-sink, explained in better detail at this link (which comes to the opposite conclusion that I do, more or less).

    The long-term solutions for any sort of GW, be it anthropogenic or not, are good. Capitalism and human economy is extremely resilient and adaptable and people will still make money and have a decent standard of living in the long term in the First World. It’s the transition to those long-term solutions which are the kicker, which isn’t helped by the fact that most everyone seems to have taken this to be a black-and-white issue, when it’s not.

    In short, let’s summarize the issue like this: what is the optimal long-term solution in terms of human survival that will work? If people don’t accept the solution (going back to the trees) then they don’t get on board and the solution is meaningless. If the solution doesn’t solve any sort of problem (business as usual) then it’s by definition meaningless. Note that this summary of the issue doesn’t talk about AGW v. GW v. no-GW. What’s best in the long term?

    1) Minimized pollution
    2) Maximized sustainability of resources
    3) Acceptable, preferably increased, standard of living (this being the carrot to go with the stick)

    Now, if we aim for 1) and 2), then the AGW problem automatically goes down over time. If the A in AGW doesn’t exist, for the sake of the argument, then we minimize our impact and still prepare ourselves for warming. If GW itself doesn’t exist (unlikely, but again, sake of argument), then we still build a better standard of living based on renewable and sustainable resources. It’s a win-win situation for everyone, including the oil magnates who have long-term vision and decide to take some of their money to corner the market on the Next Big Thing.

    Will the transition be seamless and painless? Of course not. It won’t be seamless because we’re humans and not some sort of hive mind. It won’t be painless because it requires changing the very foundation of the energy economy, and modern civilization is extremely energy intensive. By keeping the long-term in mind, though, we can develop short-range strategies to get us towards those long-term goals while dealing with the inevitable backlashes of delay. The only people who lose out are those who embrace the oil, which will eventually deplete itself, no matter whether or not [A]GW is real.

    Someone mentioned the development of the Big Bang theory earlier. Did it pop, fully formed and mature, from the brow of Zeus? Of course not; it needed to adapt to explain all known phenomena acceptably before it was accepted. The goals of those convinced and those not convinced of [A]GW are the same–survival–and it’d be much easier to work together rather than argue about who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s the person with the Truth and who’s the denier or the skeptic or the wingnut or the alarmist. That’s beside the point, and the war’s out there against whatever cold equations that run the Universe and we’re not privy to.

  102. Quiet Desperation

    Keith Olbermann’s Worst Person in the World segment, is not meant to examine true villains but rather used for short spotlight on people he finds to be ignorant

    Well, OK. Maybe he should call it something else, though.

  103. madge

    Look around you people. How could a population the size of the Earth’s, with all our energy consumption and pollution NOT have an affect on the planet? It ain’t going to clean up itself. It’s time we stopped finding excuses to do nothing because the way we are abusing our resources is just not sustainable. Things will HAVE to change. The planet may survive but we won’t. We need to stop arguing the what ifs, whys, whos and start acting.

  104. Ragutis

    Professor Easterbrook:

    If the Pacific Decadal Oscillation has the effect you suggest, that’s great. However, would you kindly explain how it alters the laws of physics and chemistry that dictate the way that greenhouse gases behave in and affect the atmosphere? So there may be some cooling, ahead, OK. But how is this anything but a temporary respite? In 20 or 30 years, the PDO’s mitigating influence will wane and we’ll pick up right where we left off, or worse if we continue to use excuses such as yours to delay or avoid action.

    At best this just buys us some time to implement new technologies and energy strategies and have a better chance at avoiding the most serious effects of GCC.

  105. Utakata

    @ BMcP Says:

    “I am well aware of the ridiculous size of the federal government and its abuses of power it should not have, in my mind most areas are the wrong areas to expand government. However what I want is to at least prevent the power of the federal government to exponentially increase more. It is indeed bad how powerful the feds are now, but we need to draw a line in the sand somewhere even if the preferred line should have been drawn many years ago.”

    One can do this by shifting prorities of said government to things that would actually help us. Such as moving funding for it’s military to focus on fixing the environment for example. The size of said government would not increase.

    “Although the onus isn’t on one to disprove something typically, I will point out that I said “most” effects are that of nature, not “all” effects. For even 6 billion humans combined is still minuscule to the power of the natural forces of the Earth we regularly witness through history. After all, a single sufficiently large volcanic eruption would be enough to cool the Earth’s average temperature for years, easily overpowering any effects by 6+ billion people. In the grand scheme of the Earth, we are not as powerful and influential as we like to believe ourselves to be.”

    If your goverment where to lodge a full scale nuclear attack on Russia and China the enviorment of the Earth would radically change within seconds. This is probably one in a few examples of how we can change our physcial world if so choose so and in drastic ways.

    But I am not talking about major catalysms nature made, man made or otherwise. I am talking about how we put screws to our environment over a long period of time of our history…and tightening it more increasingly proportional to our population growth and industry. I think you underestimate how thin our atmosphere actually is and how sensitive it can be to change nature made, man made or otherwise.

    To add: I am dumb founded how people would put their heads in the ground…hoping this will all go away. It won’t. It will bite us in the ass. And I won’t tell you I told you so when it does. And no..all the Michael Crichton types won’t make it go magically away either.

    Anyway…sorry for taking so long to reply.

  106. George Kopeliadis

    When 1/4 of the USA submerges, they’ll believe it!
    Or not even then?

  107. Thanny

    JackC:

    Regarding the likelihood of people saying, “See, it wasn’t a problem after all!” after the problem is fixed, I have to agree.

    Just look at how many people whine about the billions we wasted on Y2K, when it turned out not to cause any real problems after all. They don’t seem to realize that it’s because we spent billions of dollars fixing the software that havoc was averted.

  108. Lowbacca

    For anyone wanting a good examination of both sides thats readable, but includes the data, I’d recommend the following book:
    The Science and Politics of Global Climate Change: A Guide to the Debate by Andrew E. Dessler and Edward A. Parson

    They do a good job, imo, of breaking it up into what the evidence is, then what the policy is (and the effects of various policies) and then their idea of a course of action. They keep the first section pretty clear of the next two, which so few things seem to do.

  109. SteveHB

    reading these posts is like drinking from a firehose…

    so i just took 1 item from the blog which i though was very, very odd. it concerned what year was the warmest (1934 or 1998) and seemed to me to be the most simple thing to answer by going to the source, NASA.

    http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20080116/

    i’ll let the NASA press release speak for itself:

    The data processing flaw did not alter the ordering of the warmest years on record and the global ranks were unaffected. In the contiguous 48 states, the statistical tie among 1934, 1998 and 2005 as the warmest year(s) was unchanged. In the current analysis, in the flawed analysis, and in the published GISS analysis, 1934 is the warmest year in the contiguous states (but not globally) by an amount (magnitude of the order of 0.01°C) that is an order of magnitude smaller than the certainty.

    So whoever above said that 1934 was the warmest, appears to be correct based on the data. however, they should limit the celebration since it’s really a statistical tie with 2 other years.

  110. SteveHB

    Side note: in the original post, Beck was quoted as talking about 1934 as the warmest for the globe. In fact, the data supports that 1934 was the warmest (stat tie w/ 1998 and 2005) for the US, not the globe.

    one item that i though intereesting in http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20080116/ was the 2nd graph on the right. If i look at the red line in the graph (5-year mean), then it appears that there has been a 0.6 rise from 1970 until present. But there was a 0.4 rise from 1910 until 1940.

    so before everyone starts to get nuts, i would really like someone to explain to me in laymans terms why. my background is in engineering, so i can understand the math. i would really like for both sides to please inform me why they think that the rise occurs before and after the 50′s & 60′s.

  111. Cheyenne

    I think what we could all maybe agree on is that we need as much data as possible.

    “how well the voters understand reality”. That’s nice underhanded chin shot to anybody that doesn’t vote the way Phil Plait wants them to.

  112. I’ll use a famous part line. “You’re either with us or against us”. You either want a polluted country full of sick, dying and unhealthy people or you want a healthy planet. There is no middle ground. Global Warming is just a fraction of the problems introduced through human waste, consumption based social systems and just plane ignorance in the name of corporate greed.

    The economy is not more important than the well being of humanity itself. Money is the root of all evil, not the solution thereof.

  113. Sully

    I thought science was supposed to be predictive. Hanson put out predictions of future temperatures. Unless I’m reading it wrong the temperatures have not followed his predictions for several years. I understand that the system is very complex and hence prediction is difficult, but why should I be willing to change my already relatively green lifestyle based on a predictive system that has failed?

    And this notion of so called environmentalists living like pigs while buying indulgences in the form of carbon credits does not build confidence.

    And T.Boone Pickens is a businessman ready to jump onto the environmental bandwagon for subsidies and special favors, just like those who jumped on environmentalism for ethanol subsidies, although I can’t help but like the man for answering honestly when asked why he doesn’t have windmills on his ranch. ‘They’re ugly,’ is basicly what he said.

    And Phil Plait, I like your site for the astronomy but I think you’re acting more than a little like the Allah in the gristle folks on this topic.

  114. MartinM

    Unless I’m reading it wrong the temperatures have not followed his predictions for several years.

    ‘Several years’ is too short to establish meaningful trends. The observed long-term trends fit nicely with model predictions, however.

  115. Mark Schaffer

    Sully,
    I think you meant to type Dr. James Hansen rather than Hanson. What have you read about his predictions and where? Is the notion of “so called environmentalists living like pigs” true? How do you know this?

  116. Sully

    “Several years’ is too short to establish meaningful trends. The observed long-term trends fit nicely with model predictions, however.”

    Was there a model before the “observed long term trends” that predicted them?

    It’s been said that predictions, especially about the future, are hard. Back in a younger day I spent some time going back in the history of the stock market and discovering “models” that “predicted” some aspect of it. Since I’m not rich I have to assume that making models about complex systems to predict past events does not necessarily mean one can make a model that predicts future events.

    As an aside I’ll mention that I’m not a total doubter just from the simple fact that we must at some point get big enough in our activities to have effect on the overall environment. I thought and said in the 1970′s that we should start a small tax on imported oil and increase that tax gradually and predictably every year until no more oil was imported. I think we should do the same thing now on all fossil fuels, but doing that cleanly and openly and gradually is a lot different from what I think we’re going to get out of the sausage factory down in Washington if we let this train run through that place at high speed.

  117. David D.

    Surprising to see BA is now alienating a whole new group of readers.

  118. Sully

    Mark – thanks for the correction. I read the the Hansen stuff on a link from Climate Debate daily on the environmentalist side of the list. What struck me was that the answer to the question about why his predictions had not panned out was defensive and scornful of the doubters rather than honest and illuminating. When I commented (respectfully I thought) to that effect, my comment was censored as judgemental even though I was commenting on the judgementalism of the article and some of the comments.

    As to living like pigs anyone who owns a home larger than about 1000 square feet per person in his family, or who uses, even one time, a private jet on a route served by a regular flight is a pig in my personal measuring system, and he or she is a hypocritical pig if he or she purports to be an “environmentalist,” Al Gore is the archetype. What really surprises me is that he’s so dumb as to provide his enemies with the easy ammunition his life style provides. Sort of like a fat doctor smoking and drinking while he tries to convince a patient to live healthy.

  119. Mark Schaffer

    Sully,

    Why would you consider Climate Debate authoritative on Hansen? Please post the link to the actual discussion you are referencing.
    What if the house is doubling as office with employees? Does this not alter your perception or are you immune to complexity on this? Since you are obviously referring to Al Gore have you read how he is offsetting his carbon energy use?
    Your analogy is really poor, or good depending on point of view. Since the health effects of being overweight, smoking, and, I assume you meant excessive, drinking are blindingly obvious, than it is irrelevant that the doctor is not practicing what he tells the patient. This is, as if I should have to point this out, because the health benefits still exist for losing weight, quiting smoking, and moderating or stopping all alcohol consumption. So your argument fails to convince as the evidence is that changing our carbon consumption habits will bring many benefits whether public speakers are perfect or not. QED.

  120. Chip

    Sully -
    Ha! Get real. You probably also believe Al Gore said he invented the internet and that the Nobel Prize he earned is worthless. At least those are the Limbaugh-Hannity inspired goofy talking points. Yet no mention of Republican supporter T. Boone Pickens having to give up his wealth and live in a house less than 1000 square feet in order to legitimately promote his energy independence plans? Give me a break. The truth is neither of them should and both of them support energy efficiency. Your arguments are made of straw. Have a nice day. For change try tuning in to Air America sometime.

  121. Sully

    Mark – Climate Debate links to sites arguing both sides – for the record I think the environmentalist side sites are generally more convincing than the doubter side sites, but I don’t keep a list of links, and, frankly, I’m not qualified to judge the more complex arguments.

    However, I’ve read sites on both sides of the debate about the issue of Hansen’s predictions and their recent innacuracy. When a theory fails to predict I expect folks to at least be open to the possibility that the theory is flawed. Folks who merely cite dogma don’t impress me, and a lot of the environmentals seem to spout dogma.

    As to “Since you are obviously referring to Al Gore have you read how he is offsetting his carbon energy use?”

    Here’s another analogy for you. If a murderer feeds the poor and contributes to orphanages it doesn’t absolve him of murder. Generating CO2 is either bad or good. If it’s bad one shouldn’t capriciously generate it no matter how many trees one plants. Private jet travel capriciously and unnecessarily generates CO2, as does living in a 10,000 square foot house.

    Good point about him possibly having staff in the house. If Gore has staff in the house and it’s his office he should publicize that but then I will want to know how much office and living space he rents or owns elsewhere for himself and his staff.

    Subject to more info I have to assume that Al Gore wants to live like a king while he preaches like a prophet and pushes for laws to circumscribe the lives of others. He’s not the only one who wants to do that, but it still makes him a hypocrite. And, I saw the hockey stick graph he pointed to and later noted that it was statistically falsified. I don’t know he was aware that it was cooked up when he showed it, but. . . now I have to doubt his other “evidence” especially in light of the recent turnaround of the temperatures. Why I should have been surprised that a lifelong politician would play fast and loose with facts is another question.

  122. Sully

    Chip,
    You apparently don’t read or analyze very well.

    I mentioned T. Boone Pickens earlier and my comment wasn’t flattering although I gave him some credit for honesty.

    Also, I never said that anyone has to live in 1000 square feet or give up his wealth as you allege. I said that anyone who poses as an environmentalist is a hypocritical pig if he flies in private jets or lives in more than 1000 square feet. There are excellent sources on logic and usage out there for you to study if you have trouble understanding the difference between the two concepts.

  123. Mark Schaffer
  124. William Hyde

    CanadianLeigh:

    Evans’ article is full of the usual distortions and omissions, some
    of them debunked long ago, e.g. on realclimate.org.

    This statement, for example:

    “In October 2006, a team led by Henrik Svensmark showed experimentally that cosmic rays affect cloud formation, ”

    is quite untrue. They found that in the lab, cosmic rays produce
    particles. The idea is that these particles can serve as cloud condensation nuclei (or their precursors) and thus affect the
    cloudiness of the earth. However, as I said in a newsgroup posting a couple of years ago:

    In the lab it has been shown that cosmic rays produce small particles, true, but these particles are orders of magnitude too small to be cloud condensation nuclei. It is a bit of a handwave to say that they will combine to form CCNs in clouds, when they have not done so in the lab.

    Clouds are quite complex systems. They both absorb and reflect solar radiation, and the balance of this depends strongly on the distribution of sizes among the cloud droplets. Changing the number and type of CCN may change both the amount of cloud, and cloud optical properties (or neither). Clouds also absorb and emit IR and that may also change.

    Given that we don’t know *anything* about how clouds will change
    in response to these so far unseen extra CCNs it is impossible to
    tell whether the balance of radiation, solar and terrestrial, will
    be positive or negative. Or by how much.

    We are also putting vast amounts of other CCNs (real CCNs, that can be measured and analysed) into the atmosphere. So far they don’t seem to be having that big an effect. Studies on ship tracks (ships put plenty of aerosols in the area of low cloud formation) so far show nothing major. The degree to which CNNs are a limiting
    factor in cloud formation is not clear. It may be that over most
    of the world there are more than enough CCNs, which would
    pretty much kill the cosmic ray theory.

    Even if this process produces CCNs, and if they affect cloud
    optical properties, it still remains to be shown that this change is
    significant, and that it agrees with the data we have.

    Finally, there is the matter of prediction. The AGW theory predicts that night will warm more than day, winter more than summer, and the poles more than the rest of the world, on average (local effects can be quite different). This is what we observe.

    Theories that rely on more sunlight hitting the ground predict
    the opposite – day warms more than night, and so on.

    The CO2 based AGW theory has predicted a colder stratosphere for decades (first publication in the 1960s), and this is now happening. No solar/cosmic ray theory makes this prediction.

    On Tim Lambert’s blog http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/ you
    will find many articles on “The Australian” and its dubious attitude
    towards actual science.

    William Hyde

  125. Brant D

    SteveHB: Much of the warming in the early part of the 20th century was caused by an increase in the sun’s brightness. If you look at a solar constant record you will find a maximum occurring in the 1930s. During the 1950s and 1960s the warming trend was mostly suppressed by aerosols released by human activity. This is evident when comparing the temperature records for the northern and southern hemispheres: the northern hemisphere contained most of the industrial activity back then, and the warming trend was suppressed more than it was in the southern hemisphere.

    Sully: Saying that the models are failing currently because of a temporary decrease in observed global average temperature is silly in the long term view. If you look at the GISS data that were presented earlier in this discussion, you would see that according to your definition of a model failing or being inaccurate – predicting a warming trend when the obs show cooling – since the year 1980 the models failed in predicting 1982, 1984-1985, 1989, 1991-1992, 1996, 1999-2000, 2003-2004, and 2006. Yes, not every year is warmer than the last. Not every year has a monster El Nino event like 1998 did. Natural variability does not disappear even with GW. The models have problems, yes, but replicating a very fundamental property in our atmosphere, the relationship between greenhouse gas concentration and global average temperature, is not one of them. I find your position silly and unrepresentative of both the observations and the state of the science currently.

    You mentioned that good science should have predictive power. So here is a prediction for you: the next time Earth experiences an El Nino event with an order of magnitude comparable to the 1998 event, the temporary rise in global average temperature will swamp any temporary cooling Earth may have experienced in the years beforehand. It will stick out in the temperature record just as strongly as the 1998 anomaly currently does. I also predict that the response from TeeVee talking heads will be hysterical, and well worth the popcorn and cola consumed watching them making ridiculous excuses.

    Also, please don’t confuse what environmentalists say with what climate scientists and other professionals say. Environmentalist groups like Greenpeace might mean well, but scientists generally many of their claims to be questionable at best.

  126. Ian Perceval William Standing

    Brant D: “Saying that the models are failing currently because of a temporary decrease in observed global average temperature is silly in the long term view. If you look at the GISS data …”

    I’m curious. The AGW hypothesis seems based upon: more CO2 –> higher temperatures. If the apparent hiatus in the last 7+ years is insufficient to negate AGW, could you tell me, in your opinion, what it would take to do so? Would, say, another 10-20 years of cooling do it?

    The anti-AGW position seems to be: the amount of anthropogenic CO2 is an insignificant modifier of climate — IOW, what we have seen to date is merely natural variation. Apparently, you don’t believe it has been natural. Why? What is your evidence?

    Phil apparently takes it only on authority. Do you as well?

  127. Ragutis

    Ah… I think I figured it out. His critics are hoping Al Gore will begin living the hermit lifestyle in a cave so he’ll stop being in the public eye, raising awareness, and persuading governments to change energy policy.

    He doesn’t have much choice in terms of security and travel decisions. The Secret Service pretty much dictates that. I doubt Nancy Reagan can get her hair done without a dude with sunglasses and an earpiece tagging along. And anyone with any experience in business or politics knows the value of face-to-face meetings. Teleconferencing and video-meetings are useful, but limited. A look in the eye and a firm handshake can be invaluable.

    He runs offices out of his house, with a staff. So, yeah, the electric bill is sorta high. Especially since he pays 3 times the regular rate to get green power. And he’s also extensively renovated recently to improve the efficiency significantly beyond what one would expect of the typical 80+ year old home.

    And you know what? Even if he was the biggest hypocrite in his lifestyle, that wouldn’t change a damn thing about the fact that AGW is real and happening. And who the hell ever said we need to adopt some ascetic lifestyle in the first place? There may be some radicals saying we should tear down the cities and return to the wild, but just about every rational person is looking at solutions for us to keep our way of life, as well as improve that of others in undeveloped nations only without releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the environment.

    “So-called ‘global warming’ is just a secret ploy by wacko tree-huggers to make America energy independent, clean our air and water, improve the fuel efficiency of our vehicles, kick-start 21st-century industries, and make our cities safer and more livable. Don’t let them get away with it!”

  128. James Schend

    Randy A:

    If it turns out this whole affair is nothing, then it does hurt us to “do something” now instead of waiting for later. Or, if it turns out we don’t have enough data, “doing something” could actually make things worse rather than better. Look at how we (as a race) have tried to “fix” the balance of Australia’s wildlife over the last century, and how well that’s turned out.

  129. Brant D

    James: We understand the basics of risk management. In any decision we make, there is always the possibility of some unexpected development popping up and thwarting our efforts. We have to make our decisions based on imperfect and incomplete information. That’s what leadership is; anyone could run a nation successfully if they had perfect, completely reliable information available at the time important decisions are made. If we always hesitated at any sign of uncertainty, than the human species would still be scratching the dirt with sticks for food and pooping in holes. The risks of uncertainty are not a sufficient excuse to avoid taking action based on the information we currently have.

  130. Stan/Tx:

    “Consider the debate that occurred in science related to the Big Bang Theory. It was a scientific debate with passionate followers both for and against. It was resolved after years of study by scientist to become respected and mostly accepted.”

    Not exactly. The cosmic microwave radiation was predicted by the Big Bang Theory, and when it was discovered it was very strong evidence for its basic correctness. There was little substantative controversy about the Big Bang, but a LOT of noise from people with their own pet ideas — and by people I mean both big name astronomers who were very biased and by cranks, typically outside of astronomy. The situation in climatology is nothing like that situation. There is LESS substantive controvsey from people within the field, and a lot more from cranks outside the field (and by that I include our so-called “climatologists” here who don’t seem to be in the correct departments, and don’t seem to understand the difference between weather, seasons, climate, etc.).

  131. Sully

    Mark S – Thanks for the patience and the link but unfortunately I don’t understand it a lot better today than I did the last time I read it last fall or so. Now that I’ve seen that site again I do recall that it was on that site that I observed a bunch of judgemental and downright nasty comments about doubters or questioners who posted but where my comment questioning some of the premises of the judgemental posters was censored by the monitor. Maybe it was just one monitor and maybe he had seen enough of back and forth on the questions, but since then I’ve been suspicious of RealClimate as at least as much a quasi-religious site as a scientific one.

    Brant D. – “Also, please don’t confuse what environmentalists say with what climate scientists and other professionals say. Environmentalist groups like Greenpeace might mean well, but scientists generally many of their claims to be questionable at best.”

    The problem is that non-climatologists like me have to depend on popularizers, so naturally we judge the debate based on the pronouncements of the popularizers for each side. The doubters say we can continue with our lifestyles and relax so they start with a natural advantage since no one wants to be taxed or forced to sacrifice if that isn’t necessary. The burden of scientific proof and the burden of effectively selling that proof are with those who want us to act.

    And, re your prediction about the effects of an el nino. The prediction that matters is what the average global temperature is going to be in 2010, 2020, 2030, 2040, 2050 etc. if we do nothing. Hansen was (trusting RealClimate.org) reasonably predictive between 1988 and 2005 but that’s only 17 years. And I understand (from other reading) that he was not so predictive re 2006 and 2007. It’s all well and good to say that data from a couple or a few years can be anomalous but not when you only have only 17 years of successful prediction behind you.

    So what is a voter to do?

  132. Brant D

    Sully: I agree that climatologists do not do a good job of communicating the science to the public, hence the overreliance on popularizers. Naturally most climatologists have the public relations ability of a bookworm, and training for this kind of work is not emphasized at all in the profession. So there is a lot of work that needs to be done. The “burden of proof” has been met, in fact was met at least a decade ago, but this point is not well communicated.

    However, I also infer from your words that you expect the general public to be passive participants in this topic, receiving their information only from the TeeVee from designated media outlets. I am highly critical of this opinion. Democracy depends on active participation from the public in order to succeed. As a nation we are going to crash and burn if we make no effort to doublecheck the official sources. And that includes questions where the answers may not be particularly comforting. I understand that unfortunately many people actually do operate as passive participants currently, but that doesn’t mean it is a good idea. And if you think that this is the way things were, are, and always will be, then I can’t find much hope or a reason to care about the future.

    Also, “sacrifice” is what religious people offer to deities. The word you are looking for is “investment”. It takes money to make money.

    As for the prediction, I offered a prediction that could be likely be verified within the next decade or two. You keep pushing the interval of prediction back further into the future, so that it would be impossible to meet the obligation you set up. It might warm from 2010 to 2040, but what if it cools from 2040 to 2050? That’s the silliness that the AGW contrarians pull (not that you are a contrarian), and sadly it convinces people. As as for prediction, the first prediction for AGW was made in the late 19th century. It was not taken seriously back then, and rightly so (no known way to verify), but the math that predicts AGW is over a century old. And while global climate models are only three decades old, and the best ones one decade old, they have succesfully “retrodicted” the long-term warming trend over the past century. It is impossible to explain what happened in the 20th century without considering the influence of CO2. So the timespan in which we can check the theory with the observations is longer than 17 years.

  133. stopgap

    “Darkurthe, nice try. But first, Al Gore’s claims in Inconvenient Truth were examined and found to have very few errors. Second, you might remember how hew as Vice President of the United States for 8 years? You expect him to ride coach? He has guards and such who go with him as well.”

    Oh I get it! He is better than everyone else. Everyone else must hold to his ideas, but he can’t be bothered to exercise them. You lead by example. Do as I say not as I do never works.

  134. Beth

    George Bush has already “balloon[ed] the size, scope, and power of the federal government to leviathan proportions”.

  135. Sully

    Brant – Very good points and thanks for the patience. I’ll review the “start here” material on realclimate.org again, more carefully this time.

  136. davesbot

    As a lay person, I’m retaining my skeptical views of both sides of the AGW/Climate change debate. Much hype was presented in the late 90′s and early 2000, and of course the media ran with the crisis angle to sell newspapers and eyeballs. 10 years later, and all the dire predictions have failed to pass.

    Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for cleaner air, land, and water. Who wouldn’t be. But the focus on the elimination of carbon, apparently to the exclusion of all else, has resulted in a number of knee-jerk reactions that may do more harm than good.

    Incandescent light bulbs are to be banned, in favour of flourescent bulbs that are more expensive, appear (to me) to be more complicated to manufacture, require more materials to manufacture, and contain more dangerous materials.

    Perfectly good food is being turned into ethanol. Certainly burning ethanol produces less carbon than petroleum products, but can produce more nitrogen oxides, which are more hazzardous to one’s health,and possibly a more effective greenhouse gas. When we include the effects on the land, fertilizers, production energy, etc., the overall environmental improvement becomes negligible or negative. Especially when you burn down half the rainforest to grow it to boot.

    Cap and trade systems don’t appear to do anything to me; you’re not producing less carbon, just shuffling around who has to pay for it. The big producers get to deduct the costs as expenses, and anything they can’t write off just gets passed to the consumer.

    We’re confused and frustrated. And too many times, we’ve seen human interference with the best of intentions turn out badly. People want to move the polar bears to Antarctica? Because introducing a predator to a delicate ecosystem won’t screw anything up…

    Phil, your skills at explaining scientific concepts to the rest of us are needed here. You have better access to and understanding of the studies. Please, put on your skeptic hat, and write us some articles covering both sides of the story. Teach us and convince us that the information that’s appearing now that disputes the AGW trend is flawed or faulty.

  137. Phil, your suggestion that criticism of AGW comes only, or even primarily, from uninformed right-wing apologists is ignorant at best and disingenuous at worst, as is your implication that the motivations of the pro-AGW crowd are unaffected by political considerations.

    Many scientists with little or no apparent interest in politics question the extent to which humans are contributing to global warming, and few would suggest that Al Gore’s (for instance) interest in AGW purely academic.

    Don’t let your disdain for the politics or tactics of one party blind you to similar limitations and bias in the arguments of the other.

    You would appear to benefit from spending a little more time over at climateaudit.org or wattsupwiththat.com.

  138. Leonard Slazenger

    Phil, you must be aware of astrophysical data collected over the past decade, which shows:
    1. the polar ice caps on Mars appear to be shrinking
    2. the temperature on Titan has gone up 2-4 degrees in the past 12 years
    3. the temperature on Pluto has also increased by 2-4 degrees

    many other observations also show that the perceived warming is not just limited to Earth, but may be solar system wide. If so, the cause of Earths
    warming is due to the sun, and not solely human etiology.

  139. Mark Schaffer

    Leonard,

    You are apparently not aware that Phil comprehensively addressed your points and debunked them here:
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2007/04/29/is-global-warming-solar-induced/

  140. mike

    Gorebull warming

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