I'm skeptical of denialism

By Phil Plait | June 9, 2009 2:00 pm

Sometimes, words matter. Crispian Jago brought this up recently on his blog, discussing the difference between the words "skeptic"and "denier".

I have used the phrase "global warming denialists" in the past and gotten some people upset. A lot of them complain because they say the word denial puts them in the same bin as holocaust deniers.

That’s too bad. But the thing is, they do have something in common: a denial of evidence and of scientific consensus.

Moon hoax believers put themselves in this basket as well; they call themselves skeptics, but they are far from it. Skepticism is a method that includes the demanding of evidence and critical analysis of it. That’s not what Moon hoax believers do; they make stuff up, they don’t look at all the evidence, they ignore evidence that goes against their claims. So they are not Moon landing skeptics, they are Moon landing deniers. They may start off as skeptics, but real skeptics understand the overwhelming evidence supporting the reality of the Moon landings. If, after examining that evidence, you still think Apollo was faked, then congratulations. You’re a denier.

Really, it’s this difference that biases people against skeptics like me. I am always accused of having a closed mind — of being a denier. But that’s not only not true — I can be convinced I am wrong by evidence or a logical argument — but it’s usually the person accusing me that has a mind closed against reality. No matter how much evidence you put in front of them showing them clearly and obviously that they are wrong, they refuse to see it. Just go read the comments on my latest UFO post for evidence of that.

I guess the most ironic thing of all is that people who say I should be more open-minded are too open-minded, and have closed their mind to the one true thing: reality itself.

Comments (178)

  1. SLC

    Sometimes even very intelligent people believe dumb things. J. Allen Hynek, who, like Dr. Plait was an astronomer (and, I believe a former president of the American Astronomical Society), went to his grave believing in alien visitations and alien abductions.

  2. Sili

    The Guardian’s Science Weekly Podcast had a discussion about this a coupla months back.

    I don’t know what concensus they reached, but my impression was that they’d stop talking about AGW-deniers exactly because that to some people made it seem as though the AGW-ds were being binned with the Holocaust deniers.

    That annoyed me, too, since their methods are exactly the same. It would make as much sense to say that Buddhists are not “people of faith”, since that bins them with militant Hindu nationalists.

    If they don’t wanna be called “Deniers”, they should stop denying facts.

  3. IVAN3MAN

    The difference between Skepticism and Denialism.

  4. With the 40th anniversary of the moon landing coming up, I expect the idiots to be coming out in force.

  5. mk

    I think Shermer’s book, “Why People Believe Weird Things” is a must read for those who deny they are deniers.

    And let me be the first to say it since Phil set it up nicely: “If you open your mind too much, your brain will fall out!”

  6. I like this video that explains open-mindedness.

    Also, for mk: Tim Minchin :)

  7. Doc

    You should sit down and have a long talk with Jeff Wagg. From posts he’s made in the past on the JREF site, he’s pretty well situated in the “global warming denialists” camp.

    I could be wrong of course. Please let me know if this is the case.

  8. El Spectre

    The problem is that “Denier” was used as an attempt to shame people who disagreed about AGW. For a long time, the evidence was inconclusive, so it made a lot of sense to reserve judgement. Once the evidence got more solid (its been a few years now), its a lot easier to be convinced. And I am.

    The issue is that, overnight, a lot of folks – and I think this includes you, Phil – started flinging around “denier”, and making holocaust comparisons. It wasn’t “here’s the evidence, it’s pretty good now”, it was “you’re just a denier”. That kind of approach accomplishes nothing but push people away.

  9. Gary Ansorge

    # 1:
    Again, with the foolishness, I see you are fond,,,Are you fearful of using your own name when you make implications in mine?

    Silly dufus: tricks are for humans,,,

    There’s an old saying:
    It’s good to keep an open mind:just not so open that the wind blows through.

    Which makes the sound of WOOOOOooooo,,,

    4. IVAN3MANs link says:

    “Scientific skeptic generally accepts claims,,,based on testable hypotheses and critical thinking”.

    ,,,and I really like this version of denial, called DARVO, in which the abuser, er, I mean denier,,,”attacks, intended to chill and terrify, typically includes threats of law suits, overt and covert attacks on the whistle-blower’s(or skeptics) credibility,,,”

    Yeah, that pretty well says it all.

    GAry 7

  10. I have this debate all the time with someone, especially when it comes to this person and his dad. EVERYTHING is a conspiracy with his dad. I got to the point where I didn’t even want to entertain any more of the dad’s ideas because anything I had to say was nulled and I would be told that I am buying into the propaganda sold to me by the THEM.

    My higher educational background demanded that I was a critical thinker. I had to take courses that were specifically designed to teach critical thinking and how to analyze data that you may come across to decipher which is good data and which may be flawed data. But that does not matter either, because that is just THEM brainwashing me into thinking the way THEY want me to.

    It drives me insane this notion that scientific thinking = close-minded. Jeebus if it weren’t for scientific thinking and scientific method we would still be falling to the your bodily waste is demons leaving you stuffs and well a lot more.

    I think I will shush now cause I could rant about this for hours.

  11. Technolinguist

    I feel compelled to mention Qualia Soup’s excellent video, “Open-mindedness.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T69TOuqaqXI

    A great illustration of exactly these concepts.

  12. Cusp

    I’m an academic (physicist) and have looked at the evidence and am not (yet) convinced that global warming is due to human activity, that sea-levels are rising and that we are going to hell in a hand-basket. This doesn’t mean that I can’t be swayed, but at the moment I don’t find the evidence that conclusive. The problem I have with the debate is that people seem to be swayed by emotive stories rather than evidence, and also see the “accepters” as closed-minded as many “deniers”.

  13. Ryan

    There are several issues when it comes to Global Warming *cough* excuse me “Global Climate Change.”

    One is the argument that the climate is warming. If you look at the climate from 1200 AD to today, yes the climate is warming, ice cores show that, no argument. Nobody’s denying that.

    However, you do have to take into account that the Maunder Minimum was in there somewhere, and that perhaps coming out of a mini ice age was not so much a bad thing. That also leads us to the second argument.

    Is the warming caused by human activity. Since most of the warming in the climate happened *before* the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the answer is that over the long term the warming seems to have been part of Earth’s natural cyclical nature. Since the 1800s however, we have been putting more CO2 into the atmosphere. No question there. However, it’s still a trace gas, at .3% of the atmosphere. Water vapor is, on average, 1% of the atmosphere and is a significantly more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, but nobody’s trying to tax evaporation.

    Which of course leads us to the third and most pressing issue. Even if the world is warming at an alarming rate (which according to temperature graphs of the past 7 or so years, it’s not, it’s cooling), and even if this warming is caused by humans, is the best way to deal with this really dismantling our economy? Is the best way to deal with a crisis like this to tax everything based on petroleum (read everything) and give the money to our government to spend? Is it logical, or reasonable to think that we can go from coal generated electricity (currently about 50% of our grid’s power source) to solar (less than .09% as of 2006) and wind (.7% as of 2006)?

    If the real problem is CO2, we know how to solve this, and yet we don’t. We know that nuclear works, is safe, and cheap, and currently provides 20% of our (US) power. It’s the majority by a fair margin in France. Why aren’t we putting $1 trillion into new nuclear power plants? Why do we instead insist on investing in power sources (namely wind and solar) which aren’t available in the quantity or reliability which is necessary to sustain a national grid? If CO2 is the problem, why aren’t all coal plants equipped with a system to bubble the exhaust through an algae tank. We could then turn the resulting algae into bio-diesel, or hell just bury the stuff if you really want the CO2 back in the ground. Why aren’t we researching potentially game changing technologies like Polywell fusion? They say they need a mere $300 million to potentially change the face of power generation forever. They could be wrong, but we just pumped $1 trillion into a collapsing banking market and got nothing out of it.

    It’s not so much that people like me are “against” global warming. We do not see the necessity to implement a cap and trade consumption tax on everything, taxing consumers while providing huge loopholes for current producers. We do not see the need to shut down coal plants, and stop digging for coal while refusing to do development using other proven technologies. We do not believe that there is a “scientific consensus” when the scientists refuse to be scientists and look at all sides of an issue before deciding they are right. Most of all we do not believe that the only thing that can save us is to get our CO2 levels back to something approaching 1900, and the only way to do that is to do without our cars and air conditioners.

    I am very *skeptical* that taking our economy backwards 100 years is the best thing for humanity. Even if the climate begins to heat up again, I’d rather live in a warm age than an ice age.

  14. Dave S

    Whilst I thoroughly enjoy your blog on Astronomy and other subjects (having studied Astrophysics at university), I am a little concerned about your attitude towards AGW and its non-supoporters :-) and by logical extension towards scientific methodology.

    The evidence for AGW is at best limited. Sure, we have seen a rising temperature over the past three hundred years since the end of the Little Ice Age, but surely the scientific method requires that AGW proponents provide a theory that claims mankind is NOT responsible for that warming and then shows it is wrong in all respects.

    In science, it is essentially expected that a theory can only be assumed to be true ONLY if no other theory can account for a particular effect, and that other scientists are always encouraged to carry on trying to disprove it, even if only to further refine its accuracy by so doing.

    With climate change we see the exact opposite. No attempt was ever made by the IPCC to try and look for alternative theories; the explcit remit of the IPCC was to show the effects of AGW based on the a priori assumption that AGW was true. Anyone now trying to “disprove” AGW is classified as a “Holocaust Denier”, personally vilified with ad hominem attacks and denied funding, but never treated as someone trying to further the scientific investigation into AGW.

    I won’t mention the fact that the past decade or so of global cooling is in direct contradiction of (most of) the AGW theories, or that polar ice extent is at some of the highest levels since satellite measurement started (bad for Al Gore but good for the polar bears) for fear of not being published on your blog, but a scientific approach demands that any anonomalies are not only acknowledged but are investigated as a means to further bolster the basic tenets of the AGW non-Deniers.

  15. flapple

    blogger John Quiggin solves the problem with using “denialist” but using the term “delusionist”.

  16. Joey Joe Joe

    AFAIK, there still is no empirical evidence that increased carbon levels lead to warming. It’s just assumed that it is carbon because we don’t know what is. Kind of like how religious folks assume anything we don’t know must be God.

  17. Grey Wolf

    Your points about what being open-minded means, and when it is a bad thing, are explored in this excellent video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T69TOuqaqXI

    Hope that helps,

    Grey Wolf

  18. @Ryan:

    Ignoring the rest of your post (I can see a number of factual errors, but someone else may go after those), I do strongly take issue with this:

    “Even if the climate begins to heat up again, I’d rather live in a warm age than an ice age.’

    It’s awfully easy to take that position in your cozy, American home. Meanwhile, those who would be most affected by uncontrolled climate change, which include the poor and starving in the developing world, probably have a very different view of the matter.

    See, a warming globe means shifting rainfall patterns, leading to droughts and flooding in current breadbaskets, changes in rainfall patterns causing potential water shortages, changes in disease patterns (warmer whether expands the range of malarial mosquitos, etc), potentially more severe weather which could damage homes, etc. Those people most certainly don’t want the climate to change. Ideally, they’d like it to stay exactly the same. But, at minimum, if it’s going to change, they want it to change *slowly* so they have time to adapt.

    So, while it’s all well and good that you’d be happy with warmer weather (cue ignorant jokes about better weather for Canada), you, culturally and geographically, represent a mere 1/20th of the population of the world.

  19. TW

    “Scientific consensus” is a silly standard.

    The ‘consensus’ has been wrong many many times in the past, and will be wrong many times in the future.

  20. TheBlackCat

    One is the argument that the climate is warming. If you look at the climate from 1200 AD to today, yes the climate is warming, ice cores show that, no argument. Nobody’s denying that.

    However, you do have to take into account that the Maunder Minimum was in there somewhere, and that perhaps coming out of a mini ice age was not so much a bad thing. That also leads us to the second argument.

    That is not the warming people are concerned about. Over the last 100 years there has been a massive increase the rate of warming, far outstripping any natural changes in an extremely long time.

    Is the warming caused by human activity. Since most of the warming in the climate happened *before* the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the answer is that over the long term the warming seems to have been part of Earth’s natural cyclical nature. Since the 1800s however, we have been putting more CO2 into the atmosphere. No question there. However, it’s still a trace gas, at .3% of the atmosphere. Water vapor is, on average, 1% of the atmosphere and is a significantly more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, but nobody’s trying to tax evaporation.

    There are so many problems with this paragraph I do not know where to start. First, no, the extremely fast warming we are worried about did not start until the beginning of this century. Second, trace gasses can and do have a huge impact. Earth is inhabitable for us due in no small part to CO2. And we are causing a major change in the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. Third, if we get too much water vapor in the air it comes right back out again, as rain, snow, dew, or some other form of precipitation or condensation. I doesn’t matter how much water vapor we pump into the atmosphere, it will be out again in a matter of weeks if not weeks. Changes in the levels of CO2 can take years, even decades to disappear. That is why CO2 is what is called a forcing, it something that drives climate change. Water vapor is a feedback, something that amplifies climate change. It is not quite that simple, CO2 can also be a feedback because increasing temperature can trigger the release of CO2 through various mechanisms, but it is a forcing while water vapor is not.

  21. TheBlackCat

    “Scientific consensus” is a silly standard.

    The ‘consensus’ has been wrong many many times in the past, and will be wrong many times in the future.

    Then what standard do you propose we use? Gut feeling?

  22. Utakata

    It appears the denialists, along with their apologists, are already clouding up the comments, Mr. Plait. :(

  23. Ryan

    @Brett

    Things change. Weather changes in cycles; they’re called seasons. Climate changes; it goes from sweltering jungles and deserts to snowballs. Climate *is* going to change, just as it always has, there’s no question there. It may get warmer, it may get colder. Both change things to situations we aren’t used to dealing with. Drought and floods can be dealt with with money and technology provided by a an advanced civilization not hampered by regulations limiting the use of readily available fuel. However, taxing people with the intent of discouraging the use of proven reliable technology makes dealing with these problems impossible.

    People have dealt with droughts and floods for thousands of years. We’re better at it now. We don’t know how to deal with mile thick ice moving southward. I’d pick 2 degrees C warmer over 2 degrees C colder any time.

  24. @TW *sigh*

    “The ‘consensus’ has been wrong many many times in the past, and will be wrong many times in the future.”

    And that is where being a Skeptic comes into play. Its not either/or. The idea is this is the current data. This is the current consensus. Let us keep testing and be open to change. If it weren’t for skepticism (as a very broad and general example) we would still be living in the time of Newton and Einstein’s theories would have never been accepted as the new “consensus”.

    I could continue to give example after example to show the if it weren’t for skepticism there would be no advancement in science, but am afraid I would be beating a dead horse.

  25. Ryan

    Historically CO2 levels have risen *after* warming trends, not preceeding or corresponding with them.

  26. mk

    @ Brock…

    Thanks. I’ve been rockin’ Tim for months now. Brilliant stuff!

  27. 14:
    “is the best way to deal with this really dismantling our economy”
    “taking our economy backwards 100 years”

    why is that always the presumption? What in the world makes you presume that is what will happen? I see huge economies and security made available to us as we switch over to renewables. That is such a tired canard particularly from denialists. Please show me where that has happened. Is germany filled with homeless and loss of basic services? Denmark? Japan? That hasn’t happened to any country that has started down the path of renewables.

    Who says we need to or even can switch over tomorrow? Its going to be a long process, you will be dead when it is over. Stop being greedy and pretending the world is designed for your comfort. No one says we are all going to die. However the distinct suffering that is already happening due to this is measurable, even though it may not be happening in your town. not acting on GW is a moral issue. If you don’t care if millions of people die, or are displaced and live in poverty over the next 50 years, well that is your opinion. Perhaps you think of it as a much needed culling. I do not.

    “We know that nuclear works, is safe, and cheap, and currently provides 20% of our (US) power.”

    not cheap at all. I’m for nukes because they are clean. I’m not for nukes by government spending becuase we are simply replacing one limited resource for another. Not cheap. Not once have we had a nuke that was profitable without help from the government. And yeah its because of the cost of safely storing the waste, which is part of the source of power, you don’t get to ignore that part. When McCain offered the idea that we could be like France and get 80% of our power from nukes, I agreed, but he was unwittingly proposing the single largest act of his fearful socialism ever seen in America.

    Why not the algae ponds? Here is why, a typical coal plant would require 30,000 acres of algae to convert that CO2 (I did this calculation once), plus ultimately you are still adding CO2 to the atmosphere, you have not done anything to stop that, you just moved it from the coal plant to whatever is burning the biofuel. the key is to lower the amount of coal buring through alternative energy sources, efficiency improvments, and conservation. Poor you, there is no silver bullet.

    “past 7 or so years, it’s not, it’s cooling
    wow talk about cherry picking data. Look up sun cycles. You have not bothered to understand the basics of climate change.

    Most of what you have brought up has already been answered by AGW sites. Just go and look it up so you can at least get some new claims against AGW and move the conversation forward instead of staying in stagnation.

    17:
    “there still is no empirical evidence that increased carbon levels lead to warming”

    yeesh. 10 minutes of basic googling would help you out there. “no evidence” my ass. Just look at absorption bands. that is evidence. That is the mating call of denialists, “No evidence” which is demonstrably wrong.

  28. TheBlackCat

    @ Ryan: Did you miss the part where I pointed out CO2 was a feedback and a forcing?

    And humans have never dealt with the sort warming we are dealing with right now before, nor have they ever dealt with temperatures that all indications are they are going to have to deal with soon.

  29. “Historically CO2 levels have risen *after* warming trends, not preceeding or corresponding with them.”

    Yes that is 100% correct…. until about 100 years ago. The 800 lag is clearly gone now. Why? easy, there was no CO2 producing mechanism before that didnt require the earth to heat (well there was a volcano every once in a while). now we can produce megatons of CO2 a day irrespective of the temperature of the oceans.

    http://www.usgcrp.gov/usgcrp/Library/nationalassessment/LargerImages/OverviewGraphics/1000YrRecords.jpg

    Here is where you say “is that nasa/hansen data? Thats crap”.

  30. Gary Ansorge

    10. Jules (Julia):

    I had a co-worker in Saudi Arabia that always took the opposite POV whenever we got into a discussion, just to see if he could piss me off, an effort in which he often succeeded. It took me quite a while to figure out what he was up to but when I finally caught on, I had to admit he taught me a good lesson. Sometimes, I/we feel compelled to respond to an obvious mis-statement of fact, when all we’re really doing is defending our ego centric viewpoint. Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference.
    I hope I’ve learned the difference in the last 30 years,,,

    AH, the Maunder Minimum. A cooling period for which we have few good explanations, though I suspect a major volcanic out gassing of SO2. No hard data however. It’s just that such things occur every now and then so,,,

    12. Ryan:
    Coal is the dirtiest form of energy production we have. A single plant even releases more radioactivity than a dozen nuc plants however, I expect we’ll be building more of them because we need energy. Solar, in all it’s manifest forms, is likely to remain a supplement to conventional power generation because it’s tapping into a very diffuse source. If we could just get to practical solar power sats or fusion, that would solve our energy needs for many millennia but the SPS concept requires a vast improvement in our access to space, ie, such that commercial enterprise can run with the ball, w/o a need for government subsidy. There are multiple approaches to reducing launch costs(to LEO), by a couple of orders of magnitude but none are currently practical.
    Bummer! I really wanted to move to the low rent district on Luna,,,

    I’ll note in passing that Dr. Bussards pursuit of fusion(Polywell) was a direct assault on high launch costs and a desire to make personal space access possible. If Polywell succeeds in generating cost effective energy, it will also eliminate the need for SPS, at least in the short term. I’ve seen some far out proposals to tap solar energy on Mercury to create anti-matter, which would be the ultimate fuel for space craft but, we don’t have any way to do that in anything approaching a reasonable cost/kg, even if plant construction was done by self replicating ‘bots. We need more knowledge about mass/energy conversion and that likely won’t come until we’re already a Dyson Type II civilization,,,too bad I’ll not likely be around to see it.

    GAry 7
    PS. It’s the LONG term trend toward global warming that is indicated by our data. Short term variations are insignificant. It also has nothing to do with planetary survival. It DOES have to do with the survival of millions, possibly billions, of humans who have developed dependence on reliable food production/weather patterns. I really don’t want a billion, hungry,female deprived Chinese beating on my door,,,

  31. Bobby Berry

    I agree that there is evidence of global warming but I see no evidence that it is man-made. I also don’t see it as a bad thing. The earth has been warmer in the past.

  32. Aaron Luchko

    I don’t like the comparison because while I believe in AGW the deniers do have substantially better looking evidence than holocaust deniers and moon hoaxers. There’s certainly some for whom the evidence doesn’t matter but I do think a lot of them will come over in 5 years or so when the current cooling trend is finished and the last few years of CO2 emissions really kick in.

  33. Ryan

    @29

    How many acres of land do you have in a skyscraper? Don’t build ponds out, build tubes up. This should be obvious.

    As for nuclear, the ‘waste’ that we store still has 95% of its energy breeder reactors, fuel reprocessing, ocean uranium mining and thorium reactors would give us enough power to last thousands of years with none of the deadly CO2.

    We are much larger than Germany or Japan. We need terawatts of power every year. 5-10 MW solar stations in the desert cannot fuel this country, certainly not at night. Liquified salt storage is promising, but it isn’t proven yet. I am all for better power generation. Oil is worth much more as a fertilizer and building material (plastic) than it is burning, but isolated wind and solar is small and unreliable. We’re at capacity for hydro. Even if we weren’t, you have to fight the greens to bild any more dams. Geo thermal is great for home temperature regulation, but again it’s mostly sub 100 MW plants in geographically isolated regions.

    Stop using oil and coal, by all means! But you do this by building what works in the short term (nuclear for a few centuries) and developing what works for the future (space based solar and fusion). You so not accomplish this by launching media campaigns based on fear and giving politicians the ability to tax everything in the name of SCIENCE and the ENVIRONMENT.

  34. anon

    I’m not sceptical that the climate is changing. What I AM sceptical of is that
    a) It is entirely due to human-resultant emission of CO2 (i.e. sceptical that guesstimated models, and they ARE guestimated, are entirely accurate for a short-and-long-term chaotic system)
    b) That curbing CO2 emissions will do anything whatsoever to affect the change (i.e. already pushed off the limit cycle onto an attractor if the very recent global temperature change really is an indicator of a longer trend)
    c) That engineering the environment is not a viable option
    d) That adapting humans to the changing environment is not a viable option

  35. Ben

    tl;dr warning:

    Personally, I have no problem with the observation that the earth is, figuratively speaking, moving along a graph of temperature. This is the normal course of events. This will continue. The changes are minor, and slow, as always. We will, as long as we are residents unable to leave, have to deal with them. Our presence is certainly not without consequence, and the (probably *totally* swamped by other effects, such as precipitation) output of considerable CO2 lately is one of them.

    So if, and it’s a big if, the ocean rises significantly due to warming (or any other reason) in the next hundred years, we’ll have to (very slowly and without much concern) move our businesses and persons from here to there. Not that this is a serious issue. We move around all the time. I’ve lived in Pennsylvania, Florida and Montana so far, for instance, over the course of just a few decades. Some move around more, some less. But we *can* move if we need to.

    Docks and wharves don’t generally last a century; they’re rebuilt or overbuilt with new infrastructure or they are let go to the sea, depending on the local situation. Beach erosion is normal, as is the formation of new tidal areas (and the loss of same.) This is change, and change is normal. The planet is not static, and if it were, you’d be deep trouble. Some people, and businesses, will have trouble moving, and some will not. Again, as per usual. Surely when nations can spend trillions on bombing each other, they can just as easily spend a little moving mom and pop from here to there over extended time scales. BigCorp can move itself, most likely (and probably will long before any of this becomes an issue, along with other wealthy nodes of society.)

    Now if, and it’s a big if, the temperature curve continues upwards, some land will become more amenable to cultivation (to the delight of the local landowners) and some less (to the dismay of same.) Fishing will get better in some places, and worse in others. Some ports will get better, some worse, some will fail, new ones will be created. Technology may put a huge crimp in any prediction there; ships may be entirely obsolete, as may activities like fishing. It doesn’t do to presume that anything remains static in the face of an attempt to predict consequences (and that’s where many predictions fall right on their faces.)

    We’ll continue to watch and see if there’s anything that we might do about any portion of a warming trend we might have caused (like reducing carbon output) and if we’re insanely capable, we may, just may, be able to have a very slight effect on the process as a result of Herculean effort. Not today, of course; anything we do today is totally swamped by natural systems, and will likely remain so unless new technology or an entirely new global political unity manifests itself. Or both.

    Now, as global warming panicmongers, (aren’t nasty appellations charming?) you folks have a vested interest in jumping up and down and proclaiming your (a) sensitivity to the issue and (b) the importance of the issue because (c) if the issue isn’t important, your much trumpeted sensitivity isn’t worth much. So I think I understand you quite well, and I accept your shrill, manufactured panic for what it is — shameless self-promotion, well meant, if rather high-pitched. As a direct consequence of some varying dose of actual concern, of course.

    But the scientific facts contain many items panicmongers like to bury.

    For instance, the effect of CO2 as a mechanism for inwards heat sequestration is a tiny fraction of the effect of precipitation to bring about outwards heat transfer. The idea that a change in the tiny amount of CO2 that makes up the atmosphere can swamp the established ability of precipitation to moderate heat transfer is both radical and untested.

    For another, the simulations that have been run to “predict” the future climate fail calamitously when applied to all global regions (for instance, they don’t predict the poles correctly if they somewhat predict the mid-latitudes, and vice-versa.) This pulls the rug directly out from under those that rely on said simulations for their predictions.

    Another interesting fact (not theory) that seems to rarely make it into the panicmonger litany is that the last few years haven’t been on the upward side of the graph; they’ve been downward. Severely downward.

    Measurements have been corrected. The hockey stick has been shown to be incorrect. The hottest years list was wrong. Many of the talking points for the panicmonger set have been invalid for some time.

    Historically speaking, CO2 increase lags warming, it doesn’t lead it; so while the theory that Co2 sequestration will lead to warming is interesting, it is in no way confirmed by the historical record — it is, in *fact*, a completely untested and unverified theory that *counters* the historical record, which shows that increased CO2 is a co-existing datum with *cooling*.

    The Co2 sequestration = warming theory is fine as far as it goes as a theory — we will see if it is correct — but it is far from being an established fact, as the common panicmonger likes to present to anyone who will listen.

    Now, should we reduce Co2 output? Sure. We should do that for the same reason that we should not litter… because that’s a change applied to the world that would not normally occur, were we not here… and we kind of like things as they are, natural change is not viewed with great fondness.

    It’s the same reason we should reduce all particulate and gaseous output; it’s the same reason we should not overfish; it’s the same reason we should not wipe out animal species when we perceive them as being in our way. These general ideas are obvious (unless you’re one of those poor demented souls that thinks “gawd” gave the planet to you to do what you like with it) and to a degree, they should be the basis for all human activity.

    But there are a lot of us and that equates to lots of people-oriented inertia; once we move in, we don’t like seeing wolves in the yard, streams flooding, and tree roots compromising our building’s foundations. Change is natural, we are natural, and to that extent, we are natural agents of change.

    Is global warming a problem in the sense that we’re causing it, the pedantic AGW? That’s not been established. Is the globe warming? Not at the moment, no. Is that definitive? No. Are we in control, either way? That has certainly not been established. Is the Co2 sequestration = AGW theory valid? That has also not been established. Is that theory backed up by the historical record? No, in fact, the historical record argues against it (temperatures dependably drop when CO2 increases… and right now, temperatures are dropping… hmmm.) Should legions of people be joining together, asserting that AGW is “fact”, and calling anyone who disagrees a “denialist” or similar loaded appellations? Well…

    My message to the panicmongers is basically that you’re far too sure of yourselves in the service of a completely untested theory; and that your use of “deniers” isn’t so much hurtful as it is self-destructive. There is more than adequate reason to take a skeptical view on the predictions of your pet theory, and like *any* theory, the theorists and their supporters are making the claims, consequently validation is on your shoulders, not the shoulders of the skeptic.

    I will now discontinue the use of the term “panicmonger”, optimistically presuming that at least some of you are not so dense that you have failed to take my point, even though it be made by someone you’d consider at least a borderline “denier.”

    In closing, whatever is happening, is actually happening, and opinion – yours or mine – isn’t going to be the deciding factor. The one constant is change. I suggest a moratorium on both the name calling and the assertion of stone-cold certainties, and a retreat to observing the progress of the validation (or not) of the AGW/CO2 theory. The reality may lie somewhere between the two pole positions, as it often does.

  36. 31. Gary

    If it were a matter with this person just disagreeing to disagree I would have no issue with that. I actually have a few friends that we will pick a topic and draw out of a hat what side to debate. We have been doing this ever since we took debate in high school. What frustrates me is the conspiracy theories or the regurgitated spoon fed info that makes people stop looking at other sources for their data.

    My sister and I have this argument all the time too. She studied Anthropology in Uni. I studied Psyc. I had thought she would have been taught critical thinking. She would bring up some topic and always her argument was well my teacher who is a PhD says this so its gotta be right totally ignoring that there are so many different “standards” within the Arts even if it is a scientific art. I was very fortunate that some of my teachers wrote the text books from which we had to study. Not once did they ever say well I wrote the book so it is law because they know that within their fields, it is not exact. So my sister is another person I stopped having discussions with because she was not open to include new information or new developments in a field unless it was something her teacher had spoon fed to her.

    Like I said on another blog here, I love to play devil’s advocate. I have been taught to see each side of a topic. The side I may talk about may not be the side that I believe but I can still see it and could debate it effectively. My issue with people comes when they have been debating one side for so long they become myopic and be damned anyone who tries to show them data that is contrary to their beliefs.

    I welcome data. I ask for it constantly. Bring it on and I will look at it with an open mind. Even data that may support my already placed opinion, I look for holes in it to make sure it was gathered in a proper fashion. Being a skeptic (to me) means being open to possibilities and not trapping yourself into a box that does not give room for your knowledge on any subject to grow.

    And now I am just ranting and rambling. My apologies but this topic is one of my fire topics.

  37. “How many acres of land do you have in a skyscraper? Don’t build ponds out, build tubes up. This should be obvious.”

    Sorry, you have clearly not thought it out. Light doesnt get to each of the floors. You have to break up the light. So your acres of algae ponds with be sharing the small amount of sunlight that hits the exterior of the building. There are some ideas about getting to 30 stories, but this hardly make up enough acreage of isolation for the algae. so even if you fiber optically channel the light to other floors all you are is diminishing the light each floor gets. As for tubes, Its not a novel idea and suffers from much of the same problems (green tech tried it, they are closed now, for whatever reason).

    “As for nuclear, the ‘waste’ that we store still has 95% of its energy breeder reactors, fuel reprocessing, ocean uranium mining and thorium reactors would give us enough power to last thousands of years with none of the deadly CO”

    None of that changes that fact that you are switching from one limited resource to another or requiring huge “socialist” investments (read that as taxes in your language) to make that work. I am aware of the improvements in nuke technology and I am quite happy about them. They are just not that great of a solution when compared to decentralized power (rooftop, parking lot, roadway, wind and solar) and a myriad of other power generating technologies. I also question your “thousands of years” data point. Please site a reference.

    SPS and fusion are barely on the drawing boards. ITER isn’t firing up for years and even that may not provide more power than it consumes. Solar, solar thermal, wind and biogas are old technologies, ready now. Solar has decades of use behind them and lives of up to 40 years, 25 easily.

    “solar stations in the desert cannot fuel this country, certainly not at night. Liquified salt storage is promising, but it isn’t proven yet.”
    Why cant solar fuel this economy? You only need to put out solar on 3% of the landplace (including houses, parking lots, desert, roadways, etc etc. Solar thermal (Salt storage as you mention) is not only promising, it has be proven, and is in use around the world. Perhaps your idea of “proven” requires that it has to have run for 40 years, but then you talk about fusion? weird.

    Why shouldn’t things be taxed for this? Things got taxed for us to get to the moon. They get taxed for your streets to be cleaned and so your poop gets to the water treatment centers. Saying it shouldnt be taxed to provide improved future economy and security is really quite ridiculous. Would you rather deal with your poop yourself? Every bit of infrastructure requires social investment.

  38. I blogged on this issue a while back: http://saltcityskeptics.blogspot.com/2009/03/what-makes-someone-skeptic-what-makes.html

    Skepticism is looking at every issue from an evidence-based perspective. Whenever I hear someone describe themselves as a “global warming skeptic” or an “HIV skeptic” or whatever other “x”-skeptics you can think of, it immediately calls into question the genuineness of their supposed skepticism.

    I do feel that the evidence on AGW is so overwhelming now that “denialist” is an entirely acurate and appropriate term for those who, well, deny it.

    I’ve found that discussions with global warming deniers take place in a few stages:

    STAGE 1: “There’s no proof that global warmig is taking place” (or some variant thereof). When this argument fails to win you over, due to massive evidence to the contrary, it’s on to…

    STAGE 2: “Maybe it’s warming, but there’s no evidence that it’s caused by humans.” Again, this argument fails in the face of evidence, leaving them with…

    STAGE 3: (quoting from above) “is the best way to deal with this really dismantling our economy?” Here’s where the political motives behind the denial is laid bare. Global warming will almost certainly force changes in the way we live our lives, and (in my experience), the deniers simply don’t want to be inconvenienced. If you want to argue that you don’t want to modify the way you live for the benefit of the common good, then fine. I happen to be of a different opinion, but you’re ENTITLED to your own opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts, to butcher a quote.

    The issue, it seems to me, is that saying “I don’t really care about how my actions and lifestyle affect others, both geographically and temporally” is a bit hard to defend without coming off as a complete jackass, so it’s easier to justify and rationalize if you can tell yourself and others that there are no consequences.

    That’s my take.

  39. XMark

    TW’s post:
    – “Scientific consensus” is a silly standard.

    – The ‘consensus’ has been wrong many many times in the past, and will be wrong many
    – times in the future.

    That’s a logical fallacy. Scientific consensus changes with the available data. Right now the data clearly points to a warming trend, and the source is quite clearly humans. Are you going to deny the scientific concensus on all other issues as well, just because it has been wrong in the past? Do you think that the sun revolves around the earth and gravity goes up?

    Someone mentioned that there is a cooling trend in the past 7 years. However, the cooling in the past 7 years is an extremely small amount, less than 1% of the magnitude of the warming in the century preceding it. It would be more accurate to say that the warming has leveled off somewhat, but is holding at a level which is still too high.

    I should also note that we’re at the bottom of a solar minimum now. So the question should be, why have global temperatures held more or less steady this decade when solar activity went down?

    It’s almost as if… something is holding the heat in? What could it possibly be?

    We know how carbon dioxide works. We know we’re emitting one heck of a lot of it. The evidence for anthropogenic global warming is clear as day.

  40. Charon

    “So if, and it’s a big if, the ocean rises significantly due to warming (or any other reason) in the next hundred years, we’ll have to (very slowly and without much concern) move our businesses and persons from here to there. Not that this is a serious issue. We move around all the time. I’ve lived in Pennsylvania, Florida and Montana so far, for instance, over the course of just a few decades. Some move around more, some less. But we *can* move if we need to.”

    This is just mind-boggling. You are comparing the fact that you’ve lived in a few different states to moving the entire human population of the Earth? Are you seriously that egocentric? You think the UK will happily accept the whole population of Chad?

    What’s worrisome to me about global warming is that the system has such huge inertia. That’s precisely why a precautionary principle is clearly needed – once we get to the point where warming is obvious to everyone who looks outside, rather than to scientists who look at global data and run computer models, we’re screwed. It’s a problem that needs to be stopped early.

    I’m a physicist. I’ve looked at some of the evidence, and some things are obvious – rising CO2 concentrations heat the Earth, no kidding. However, I can’t evaluate all the evidence, which is why I listen to many independent atmospheric and climate scientists. They all seem pretty convinced at this point, which makes me pretty convinced. Scientific consensus isn’t perfect, but it’s the best thing we’ve got. In addition, correction in science comes from within. Einstein, Heisenberg, etc. were physicists modifying physics within the framework of science. If you want to disprove global warming, you need to get some expertise in atmospheric science first, learn what people have already thought about, and then get some evidence yourself. Whining about it in general terms is stupid.

  41. RAF

    Can I just say that the term scientific consensus drives me crazy. Science is not about consensus it is about discovering truth. If something is true who gives a d*** about consensus. Consensus is for polititicians. Science shouldn’t worry about consensus it should worry about the truth.

  42. Joey Joe Joe

    TechSkeptic: ““no evidence” my ass. Just look at absorption bands.”

    Oh dear. Is he seriously suggesting the fact that carbon absorbs radiation is evidence that carbon is the cause of GW?

    *shakes head*

    Edited to add:

    Evidence that something *could* be the cause is not evidence that it *is* the cause.

  43. @RAF But science is about consensus because there are few absolutes. Its about probabilities and data that will stand up to peer review and results that can be replicated time and time again.

    If it were about truth, we would still think the earth is flat or the sun rotates around the earth, the old way of carbon dating would still be the standard, Einstein would never have been able to improve on Newton, the medical field would never advance and we would still be bleeding people for everything, etc etc etc

  44. Charon

    And to those who say the Earth was warmer in the past: not while 6+ billion humans lived on it, and used a substantial fraction of its plants and animals. People worried about global warming don’t believe it will end all life on Earth, not at all. However, it quite possibly could lead to catastrophic collapses in human populations (drought, famine, war over scare resources, spread of tropical diseases, etc.). For some reason, I like humanity generally, and would be sad if this happened.

    For all sides to keep in mind:
    Please don’t burn the straw men! It just puts more CO2 in the atmosphere!

  45. Charon

    Jules: exactly. Consensus is how science establishes its provisional truth. (Science doesn’t establish absolute truths. That’s because it’s an evolutionary, iterative, self-correcting process.)

  46. Zar

    So what if the seas rise? People can move. Surely everyone on earth has the mobility and resources I do! Surely massive immigration/emigration won’t lead to social unrest! Surely changes in temperature and weather patterns won’t disturb agriculture, leading to food shortages on a massive scale!

    Let them eat cake!

  47. Mark Hansen

    @Gary Ansorge (the real one!)
    Does that first post look similar to some posts made by a recently banned poster?

  48. Jeremy

    You have failed to put the burden of proof in the proper place, BA.

    You are saying, “It’s overwhelming how many people say this is happening, therefore everyone who disagrees must prove a negative.”

  49. Ryan

    As far as algae growing in tubes, the purpose would be to scrub some portion of the CO2 from the emissions, not all of it. Surely a 50% or even a 25% reduction is worth building, as opposed to shutting down the plants? Particularly if the algae can be sold at a profit.

    There is an estimated 4-4.5 billion tons of Uranium dissolved in the worlds oceans. In 2007 the world consumed 80.5K tons. Do the math and you get 50 thousand years worth of reserves at today’s usage levels. Even if usage goes up by a factor of 10, I’m okay with that (I got those numbers from here: http://tinyurl.com/nqxmo3 and here http://tinyurl.com/mk7gcl. Wikipedia states that the concentrations are significantly higher). All of this is assuming we don’t add Thorium or breeder reactors (OMG Plutonium! oh noes!) to the mix. Feel free to look up those numbers yourself.

    As for solar fueling the country, we need constant power. Distributed power is great for reducing your power bill, not so good for running your factories. Transmission costs are still prohibitive, as is storage. You still need a baseload power system to provide at night and when it’s cloudy. Currently that’s Coal. I’m all for it being nuclear, but we seem absurdly opposed to that.

    I spoke in favor of fusion and space based solar because they are viable alternatives that provide power 24/7 and on a large (tera-watt) scale. Wind and ground based solar can’t do that. They’re dead end techs for large scale grids. I want to know why we are funding with public money them instead of viable sources.

    I have no problem using public money for public infrastructure. Taxes for roads and power lines and data corridors are necessary and provide great things for us. I do have a problem with manufacturing a tax specifically designed to cripple the energy industry (while giving kickbacks to politicians who decide not to cripple a given company), and make everything that is made using fossil fuels or transported with them (read everything) significantly more expensive in the process. Our civilization has advanced when food, materials and energy are cheap. We are doing our very best to make food, materials and energy very expensive because we feel guilty or afraid. These are bad reasons.

  50. Charon

    Jeremy: once scientific consensus is in place, the burden of proof then lies with those going against it. It is reasonable to ask people to prove the negative here, because scientists are saying, “we have data that shows this effect.” For people who claim there is no effect, they must explain the data that contradicts them. If there were NO data, you would be correct. But there is in fact lots of data.

    Plus, we’ve got a precautionary principle in action here. The possible consequences are so bad, and the system requires change early on, and the consequences of acting to prevent further global warming are so innocuous, that it is reasonable to act even with imperfect evidence. (And yes, contrary to the claims of many Republicans, acting to stop massive CO2 outputs will not tank the economy. Gee, GM did so well to ignore the silly hybrid car craze early on.)

  51. JoeSmithCA

    I say, keep pumping out the CO2, bring back the Cambrian Period!

  52. Joey Joe Joe

    @Charon: “It is reasonable to ask people to prove the negative here, because scientists are saying, “we have data that shows this effect.” For people who claim there is no effect, they must explain the data that contradicts them. If there were NO data, you would be correct. But there is in fact lots of data.”

    But the issue here isn’t the effect itself – it’s the cause of the effect. Where is the data for this? Remember, correlation does not equal causality.

    While I agree with your statement about the precautionary principle, I also don’t believe we should abandon all rationality and do something for the sake of doing something.

  53. Let’s all advocate performing ritual trash separation to make the Earth Goddess happy so she doesn’t punish us with hurricanes, and speak about the “original sin” of carbon emission, and then wonder why the public doesn’t accept the credibility of Human caused Global Warming. People recognize a religion when they see one. Complaining about the “apostasy” of denying Global Warming doesn’t help your cause.

  54. John

    Consensus does not equal proof, Phil. And the IPCC doesn’t even equal consensus.

    Let’s face it, a denier is just someone skeptical about something you believe, and you need to categorise them as something other than a skeptic because it makes you feel more comfortable.

    Anyway, this is always interesting reading, maybe you should chat to these ‘deniers’ sometime:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientists_opposing_the_mainstream_scientific_assessment_of_global_warming

  55. I don’t believe in anything I can’t touch, taste, smell, feel, hear or at least infer from a good particle accelerator run.

  56. Sman

    Someone, somewhere wrote:

    “… an open mind is good thing, but not so open your brains fall out”

  57. IVAN3MAN

    @ #50. Mark Hanson,

    That is yet another reason to have a registration/log-in requirement before commenting — to prevent impersonators.

  58. @Sman Yeah mk @ #6 :P

    /cheeky

  59. John

    @MarkHB #58

    Now that’s real skepticism. I knew there were others out there….

  60. I’ve posted about this before also: http://www.sciskep.com/2009/05/04/skepticism-versus-denial/

    There is a very important distinction between the two – basically skepticism is informed, and denialism is not. Skepticism is evidence-based, denialism tends to be ideologically based. Sound familiar? One is scientific, the other is psuedoscientific, or even anti-scientific.

    When it comes to people who doubt global warming, they are definitely denialists, as there is no good scientific reason for true skepticism any longer, barring the introduction of new evidence to the contrary of course. They belong in the same camp as people who deny evolution, the holocaust, the moon landings, etc. And if those people are offended by that, too bad. It’s their own fault for casting their lot with bad science and bad ideology, and they can change their tune at any time.

  61. SLC

    Re Patrick

    This is what, in legal circles, is called the Racehorse Haynes defense. Richard Racehorse Haynes is a legendary Texas criminal defense attorney. Thus, in a murder trial, Mr. Haynes would argue as follows

    1. My client was out of town then the murder occurred.

    2. My client was in town but was 10 miles away then the murder occurred.

    3. My client was in the vicinity where the murder occurred but didn’t commit it.

    4. My client committed the killing but it was self defense

    5. My client committed the killing but the SOB deserved it.

    Re John

    Let’s take a look at a few of the names on the list.

    1. Roy Spencer is a young earth creationist who rejects the theory of evolution and believes that the earth is less then 10,000 years old,.

    2. Ian Plimer is the author of a book that has been totally discredited as being filled with errors and distortions.

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/06/lambeck_on_plimer.php

    3. Harrison Schmitt is a former Senator and extreme right winger.

    4. Fred Singer, in addition to being a global warming denier is also a cigarette smoking/lung cancer denier and a CFÇs/ozone depletion denier. A world class denier in other words.

    5. Richard Lindzen is a shill for the energy compaines.

    http://www.logicalscience.com/skeptics/Lindzen.htm

  62. El Franko

    Plenty of non-consensus, honest-to-goodness, non-moon-hoax-believing scientists out there who don’t think global warming the way the consensus lovers do – and they use evidence to back up assertions.

    Some of the most obstinate, manipulating crap comes from the consensus crowd, Phil. I’m sick of people saying “case closed” over this stuff.

  63. What a topsy-turvy world, where people think global warming is a myth, and Noah’s Ark is real.

  64. IVAN3MAN

    @ Jules (Julia) and Sman,

    Actually, the full quote is…

    By all means let’s be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.

    – Prof. Richard Dawkins @ The Richard Dimbleby Lecture: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder (1996).

  65. #45
    “Evidence that something *could* be the cause is not evidence that it *is* the cause.”

    I think I have a new definition of a denialist. Someone who asks for evidence but actually wants proof. In science, unlike math, you never get proof of anything, you only get evidence and as that evidence piles up, eventually we accept it as a provisional proof.

  66. mk

    To all…

    I love this opening to the oft cited youtube performance from Mr Minchin.

    http://tinyurl.com/n426r4

  67. @ryan
    “scrub some portion of the CO2 from the emissions, not all of it. Surely a 50% or even a 25% reduction is worth building”

    you are still missing the point. When you take the carbon from the ground where is was stored in a nice and stable condition, it doesnt matter what you do with it, if you release it straight away, or convert it to algae, then make oil and then use that as fuel, you are putting the same amount of CO2 into the air. There isn’t a way around it, the key is to use less coal (which is the better way to do this) or to sequester the CO2, which we don’t even know how to do right now.

    If you scrub 50%, you still need thousands of acres of land.

    “There is an estimated 4-4.5 billion tons of Uranium dissolved in the worlds oceans”
    ooh, that sounds easy to get at. Those links were cool. thanks. Here is a link to an article about how much energy is available from the sun as compared to other sources. If we are going to invest that much money, why would we do it in nukes? here is another article about getting uranium. It is more likely that we will continue to get it from the ground,much like we get coal that way. The demand will rise by that switch as will the price. We don’t have to pay for sunlight and wind.

    Again, I’m not against nukes, I’m against spending taxpayer money on a limited resource that has its own waste issues (even if new nuke methods minimize it drastically from 1970′s tech). I’d much rather spend tax money on an unlimited resources that will never require invasions and wars to get materials. the ocean may have lots of U in it, but as long as mining is the easiest way to get it (as indicated by its price), it becomes a security risk. renewables simply do not have this.

    But thanks for those links they were informative. That japanese should sell that sea catching material as a product. If I had a boat, i’d put out a few bouys! however I am still a bit skeptical of that number (its form a blog post without a link to a study where he got that number). Plus I’m a little skeptical that that bouy method of getting is isn’t prone to getting hte pores filled by sea gunk. but its looks neat anyway.

    Solar is not a silver bullet. Neither is wind. neither are nukes. You need to do a multipronged approach. we are starting that effort now after to many years of delay. All the prongs have to be in unison to reduce fossil fuel use.here is a good article on that written 5 years ago.

    “I spoke in favor of fusion and space based solar because they are viable alternatives that provide power 24/7 and on a large (tera-watt) scale. Wind and ground based solar can’t do that. They’re dead end techs for large scale grids.”

    what you spoke in favor of are things on the drawing board that might be useful especially since we havent really done anything close to them so we do not know the problems. What in the worl dmakes you call solar and wind “dead end techs”. Why in the world do you think they are not viable? The sun rises every day, we can store extra daytime energy in a whole variety of ways at night (when the power consumption is lower anyway). As long as there is sun, there will be wind. You are trying to make your opinion about solar and wind to be a fact, and it simply isnt. If every home felt responsible for their own energy use, via solar or wind, that would cut overall energy use by 1/2! For those living in the cities their solar could easily come from farms, parking lots, roads, etc. Decentralized power makes out grid more secure and less prone to blackouts (which cost an amazing amoutn of money, 8 billion for that recent one in new york).

    I think you are thinking about how to do solar and wind in too narrow of a scope.

    We are not trying to make food and materials more expensive because we feel guilty. I’m sorry, but that is an idiotic accusation.

  68. El Spectre

    Alternately, we could try to persuade, and not call names…

  69. John

    Anyone who puts global warming in the same box as evolution, moon landings and the holocaust doesn’t understand the difference between a prediction about the future and a documented provable event that happened in the past. (@MikeK)

    The idea that we’re only destroying the environment in one single way is a matter of incredible convenience. We’re destroying the planet in *many* ways, and if they don’t connect directly with taxable co2 emissions, they’re being totally ignored.

    The net result – huge unchecked damage to our environment and huge profits for carbon traders, consultants, environmetal journalists and companies who want to dump iron sulphate in the ocean under the pretense of reducing co2.

    The billions global warming prevention is going to cost us isn’t going to end up in the stratosphere, it’ll finish up in someones bank account. Most likely the ‘experts’ who contributed to the ‘overwhelming consensus’ that has so many of you fooled.

  70. Joey Joe Joe

    #66 (TechSkeptic)

    #45
    “Evidence that something *could* be the cause is not evidence that it *is* the cause.”

    I think I have a new definition of a denialist. Someone who asks for evidence but actually wants proof. In science, unlike math, you never get proof of anything, you only get evidence and as that evidence piles up, eventually we accept it as a provisional proof.

    Nice strawman.

    Put whatever label on me you want, if it makes you feel better, but you somehow managed to completely missed the point.

    Evidence that A could be a cause of B is not evidence A caused B. Even more so when A is known not an exclusive cause of B.

    It’s not hard.

  71. doofus

    First, prediction is really hard, especially about the future. So when science says, “hurricanes will be worse because of global warming” :

    http://tinyurl.com/mo79zz

    and it doesn’t actually happen, then people begin to doubt you.

    Second, all the carbon-limiting schemes seem to say it’s ok to continue what you’re doing, as long as you are in a “developing” nation. If it’s bad, it’s bad, isn’t it? So again, more ammunition for the doubters.

  72. G Williams

    There is still room in the current AGW consensus (or consensuses as the case may be, consensii?) for skepticism.
    Being skeptical of the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring and that human activity is a very likely factor for example, is a completely different thing from being skeptical of the media consensus that this will lead to all sorts of impossible/improbable doomsday scenarios.

    Unfortunately, the loads of alarmist press is clouding the air, it’s pretty difficult to tell the difference between someone who doubts the truth of Global warming because they’re fed up with the media portrayal of AGW, the People who doubt AGW because they’re really deniers, and the people who are skeptical of global warming claims for good reasons, such as the lack of good data on how accurate global climate monitoring stations really are

  73. Yojimbo

    Just an observation from the periphery. It is fascinating to compare the AGW arguments with the UFO arguments. On the one hand you have some folks saying “because there is not absolute undeniable proof, we doubt it”, and on the other “if there is the slightest chance it might be true, we should not doubt it”.

    Evidence is evidence. It isn’t proof, but it gives a good idea where you should put your money. Mine goes on a couple centuries of industrialism tipping delicate climatic balances, and not on big-eyed grey flying saucer drivers. Of course, your mileage mayvary :)

  74. MadScientist

    Yay for the BA! He refuses to join the “open minded = pull brain through nostrils and throw it onto the floor” mob!

  75. llewelly

    Aug. Every time global warming is mentioned, the kooks and ignoramuses come out with their oft-refuted arguments, their straw men, their misrepresentations of data, their misinterpretations of statistics, their pretend knowledge of ancient climates, and on and on.

    They credulously accept and parrot a seemingly endless series of bad arguments, and yet they call themselves ‘skeptics’.

  76. MadScientist

    @Yojimbo: The evidence is that there is in fact an anthropogenic contribution to warming. At the moment this is a small amount and the uncertainty is just small enough that there is little doubt about the warming; throw in the fact that all we know about radiative transfer within the earth/space system indicates that increased CO2 = more warming and there really is no doubt at all about the warming.

    The greatest confusion comes in when modelers make their predictions; the uncertainty in the predictions seem to be far larger than the predicted changes – meaning that they really cannot make any meaningful predictions but will have the believable odd accident – just ask Jeane Dixon’s ghost – if you shout out enough drivel, you will get a few ‘hits’. Despite the inability to make meaningful predictions, ridiculous claims are often made such as “there will be *more* and *stronger* hurricanes” – oh, puh-leeze – how much more frequent and how much stronger? Many modelers are sensationalist, cannot make meaningful predictions, and obscure the real science and real observations; I really don’t understand what cause they purport to support. Work is still ongoing to develop a true model (can make meaningful predictions) vs 100% of ‘models’ out there today which are technically analogs (produce something which is believable but not necessarily correct).

  77. Nick B

    It would help if the “Global Warming” crowd stopped faking their data. I seem to remember NASA swapping August and September (IIRC), and then screaming about “OMG THE GLOBAL WARMINGS!”. Then there was the “OMG THE POLAR ICE CAPS HAVE MELTED” followed a week later by the 12094th page story in microprint “oops, sorry about that, our sensors drifted, the ice caps are doing fine”.

    The other itty bitty detail that a remarkable number of folks ignore, our “passable” climate data (and I use that term very generously) goes back 100 years. We know of multi-decade long climate cycles. We’re pretty sure there are meta cycles around some of those cycles. Can someone explain how we can make predictions based on less than one full cycle of many weather patterns?

    On an unrelated note, reduction of pollution would be good, lets start with stopping making the nasty nasty nasty nicad batteries, like the ones used in the Prius….

    Nick

  78. Ema Nymton

    Oooh. A three in a row! Cusp, Ryan and Dave S, thank you for making clear that stupidity will always have a place.

  79. Grant H

    Wow! What a debate! It’s been fantastic.
    I’ve been on the fence so long with this, my rear end is getting numb. However, the consequences of saying we’re not a catalyst of global warming and being horribly wrong is tremendous. For that reason I’m of the belief we should change our energy infrastructure.

    Having said that, I’m not sure I trust the motives for this carbon tax. I know what some people are like, and the ones that would sell their mothers for a shiny watch are usually the ones that find themselves among the political top end. Ok, I’m generalizing, but I would be pleasantly surprised if that revenue was truly invested into a new, non-greenhouse gas emitting infrastructure.

    But, I want to say that reading though this debate has been pretty great. There should be debate and saying “case closed” has the potential to be very damaging, but (because of what we may be doing to our future) there should also be action.

  80. tehdude

    All I can say is that you are setting yourself for the greatest humiliation in the history of modern thought. The very word green will be synonymous with idiot when the solar cycle plays out.

  81. G Williams

    @ Grant H

    >However, the consequences of saying we’re not a catalyst of global warming and being >horribly wrong is tremendous. For that reason I’m of the belief we should change our energy >infrastructure.

    On the other hand, saying that global warming is very likely to doom us all in the next $_Small_Number of decades could be just as disastrous, The government is already considering Geo-Engineering programs that could easily lead toa more disastrous outcome than not doing anything at all.

    WHat is needed is a measured, rational approach and media scaremongering is making that harder and harder to accomplish, lots of people either believe AGW will kill us all in the next fifty years, or that it’s total bunk, and either viewpoint could be as dangerous as the other.

    We should certainly do /something/ about AGW, and changing our energy infrastructure to cleaner renewable and nuclear power sources is an excellent and safe start, and a great idea for many other reasons as well (hey, whether you believe in global warming or not, you gotta agree that old dinosaur gas ain’t the fuel of the future :P ), but until we have a better understanding of the consequences of our actions, we need to exercise moderation and ensure we don’t over-react with ill-conceived geo-engineering plans or some form of rapid economic restructuring as has also been advocated.
    The AGW community needs to realize that they have just as many whack jobs, conspiracists and ‘deniers’ as the anti-AGW movement, and until they acknowledge that, those whack-jobs will continue chipping away at belief in AGW and causing other damage.

  82. Rob

    I’m still not convinced that human activity is the cause of Global Warming. Regardless, I’m inclined to agree with Bjørn Lomborg that we have MUCH better things to spend money on:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/bjorn_lomborg_sets_global_priorities.html

  83. Dave S

    @Ema Nayton
    Thanks for finally reading my post – I hope the references to following a scientific approach to sceptism/denialism/AGW didn’t cause you too much pain to understand. Actually, its obvious you didn’t understand it as you resorted to the standard AGW fall back of personal insults instead of putting up any sort of rational argument.

    @Grant H
    Doing something/anything because of the possible consequences of not doing something is a terrible argument. For example, the undisputed consequences of NOT banning cars will be that many millions of people will die or be injured over the next few years from road accidents. We must therefore ban all private cars and spend billions of dollars making a completely safe transport system.

    Or try: The undisputed consequences of NOT providing adequate food, water and medicines world wide will be that millions of people will die each year. We must therefore spend tens of billions of dollars providing these to them.

    In contrast, the (highly disputable) consequences of AGW according to even the most extreme alarmists lie somewhere between these two scenarios, yet the AGW alarmists want to spend trillions of dollars on unproven solutions (even though mitigation is easily shown to be just as effective and far cheaper) at the expense of proven solutions to undeniable problems.

  84. XMark

    Here’s a little metaphor.

    Let’s say there’s thousands of boxes on a table. 100 people open boxes and every single box opened has a piece of paper with the number 25 written on it. The consensus is that the boxes on the tables contain the number 25. You can speculate that the next box opened may contain a different number, or a letter, or a kitten, but until you open a box and demonstrate that there’s something different inside you’re in no position to challenge the consensus.

  85. Peter

    ““Scientific consensus” is a silly standard.

    The ‘consensus’ has been wrong many many times in the past, and will be wrong many times in the future.”

    Ah I see.. science has a quality level of 90%, therefore it is worthless. So let’s go for an alternative that has a quality degree of 0%.

    Right.

    Human stupidity does not know bounds.

  86. sdn

    @ XMark:

    The anti-AGW version of your metaphor would go like this:

    There are millions of boxes on a table, and somewhere in the room is a poster with a random number on it. Thousands of people open thousands of boxes, one at a time, and each time the box is found to contain a slip with the number 2. Every time a box is opened, the number on the poster goes up by 4.

    One group of people claims the number on the poster increases by 2x, where x is the number on the slip. Another claims it increases by x^2; another says x + 2; another that it would increase by 4 no matter what was in the box; and so on.

    People who aren’t satisfied with a particular theory won’t be any more satisfied when a thousand more boxes reveal a thousand more twos.

    (We’ll have to assume that some theories are more parsimonious than others, some are more plausible, and most people agree that the number on the poster is increasing.)

  87. G Williams

    @ Dave S

    >The undisputed consequences of NOT providing adequate food, water and medicines world >wide will be that millions of people will die each year. We must therefore spend tens of >billions of dollars providing these to them.

    I want you to seriously consider what you just said there, that the cost is too great for saving millions (potentially tens of millions) of lives.

    That’s is pretty barbaric, especially considering how little money a few tens of billions really is in the world economy, the EU and U.S. governments have both misplaced as much in a single go.

  88. Most skeptics of global warming do not deny the warming trend of the last 100 years. They are skeptical about the link between the current warming trend and proposed anthropogenic causes. Instead, they seek an origin in natural climate cycles.

    In that sense, I feel ‘skeptic’ describes their position much better than ‘denialist’. They do not deny the warming trend: they are skeptical of arguments that it is proven to be something else than due to natural climate processes.

    These global warming skeptics usually base their critique on scientific arguments (whether these are open to argument or not doesn’t matter: most science is). In that sense too, it is not denial.

    I am not talking here about right-wing politicians who say “it is all made up” (or commenters here suggesting the data are faked: they are not!) but of genuine skeptic scientists.

  89. Yojimbo wrote:
    “Mine goes on a couple centuries of industrialism tipping delicate climatic balances”

    Puh-leeze…..!!!!! There is no such thing as a “climatic balance”. Climate has changed wildly over the past 2.6 million years (and before that, although less fast). *At no point* has it been stable.

    Humans typically have difficulty accepting that things change. We therefore strive for keeping things the same, because we think that is “natural”. But it isn’t. Climate has always changed, continuously. Environments have changed, continuously. Ecologies have changed, continuously. There is no such thing as a “balance”!

    (note: I am a scientist working in the field of Human evolution over the past 2.6 million years. If one thing is pressed upon you in that field of study, it is exactly the thing I point out above)

  90. Llewelly wrote:
    “their pretend knowledge of ancient climates”

    So, does this mean you summarily brush away a complete field of genuine scientific research? Paleo-climatology is an established field of science, you know. With this kind of remarks, it is *you* who shows that you are just parroting opinions and are an ignoramus.

    Put it simple: any discussion of the warming trend of the last century that ignores what we know about climate change on the longer term (based on paleoclimatologic research: and longer term measured in thousands of years), is simply ignorant and flawed.

    As long as people keep focussing on data from the last 200 years only without seriously putting these in the larger context of climate variation during the last 10000 years (the current interglacial), you are open to valid critique coming from the field of paleo-climatology.

    (to put that in context: 200 years upon the full duration and variation in temperature of the Holocene, is like one week of temperature variation upon the variation of a full year)

  91. Cusp

    >>82. Ema Nymton Says:
    >>June 9th, 2009 at 10:53 pm
    >>Oooh. A three in a row! Cusp, Ryan and Dave S, thank you for making clear that stupidity will always have a place.

    Hi Ema – Can you point out which part of my post is representative of “stupidity”? I’ve written a lot of scientific articles (>200 in fact) and have significant research experience in astrophysics. I look at “evidence” all the time. I expressed my current view and don’t quite see why it was “stupidity”.

  92. Joey Joe Joe

    @G. Williams

    I think you took Dave S. too literally. He was using that as an example to contrast against the example of banning cars.

  93. mk

    @Cusp…

    I just read your first comment. “Stupid” might be too harsh a word–in my opinion. However, it does show a lack of understanding or genuine ignorance. As Tech Skeptic said, 10 minutes of googling will clear things up quite a lot on the “human-caused” evidence you claim to seek.

  94. Cusp

    >> However, it does show a lack of understanding or genuine ignorance.

    I don’t “claim” to seek – I’ve read beyond the “internet” from a number of sources. I don’t think my approach to the question is a sign of stupidity (unless stupidity is not stopping what google throws up).

  95. Cusp

    Ach! stopping ** at ** what

  96. mk

    Again, I don’t think you’re stupid. (Not yet, anyway.) I do think you clearly are not interested in learning.

    If you have indeed read beyond the internet, tell me what have you learned about CO2?

  97. @ Llewelly:

    Okay. Just to show your ignorance, I have prepared a simple diagram of GISP core data covering the last 10500 years (the Holocene, the current interglacial).

    Diagram here:
    http://i19.photobucket.com/albums/b176/marcoaliaslama/MoH/gispd18o_2.jpg

    It shows delta 18_O variation over this timespan, which is a proxy for climate variation (18_O variation is a measure of the amount of water trapped in ice caps: hence the diagram shows the waxing and waning of ice cover, a proxy for climate variation/global temperatures. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D18o).

    I have indicated in red of what part of this sequence we do have actual temperature measurements (the last 200 years basically).

    As you can see, on the total pattern of variation, this temperature dataset covers an abysmal small part. Also look at the scale of some of the variation present in the delta 18O dataset and compare that to the scale of available temperature records.

    Anyone pretending that the larger climate variability as shown by the delta 18O proxy in this diagram is irrelevant to the discussion, is clearly ignorant. And any discussion which does not take into account this larger climate picture, is clearly flawed.

  98. Jean-Denis Muys

    The case is not closed. It’s never closed in science. If new data is evidence for the contrary, the consensus will turn around.

    In the meantime, based on the available evidence, it’s not reasonable to doubt that we do have a man-induced global-warming situation to handle.

    And even with doubt, you could consider it a random variable, but then its expected value (in a mathematical sense) is so largely negative that it would be foolish not to try and act upon it.

    I also find it “interesting” (revealing) that it’s only among you americans – the people with the most wasteful collective lifestyle on the planet – that there are so many doubters.

    It might be useful to remember that after all it’s not the fall that hurts, it’s the sudden stop at the end.

    Jean-Denis from France

  99. Gary Ansorge

    Ryan:
    “4 billion tons of uranium in the worlds oceans”

    ,,,out of how many tons of water???

    Every naturally occurring element exists in the oceans of the world, to some degree. So what? Are you going to evaporate 100 billion tons of H2O to obtain 1000 kg of uranium? How much energy will that require? Get real, Ryan. Some things are, in fact, economically impossible to do, such as getting more peanut butter out of a jar than you put in the jar in the first darned place or obtaining enough energy from dissolved uranium salts to pay for the extraction process. Like the tar sands in Alberta Canada, which require injecting steam into the sand to liquify the tar for extraction. Last time I looked, it required the energy of four barrels of oil to extract 5 barrels, so you have a gain of one barrel, but a net loss, for that doesn’t include transport cost, infrastructure costs, CO2 liberation, etc.

    There’s a reason Saudi oil is relatively cheap. Most of it is still pushed out of 28,000 foot deep wells by the methane dissolved in the oil. When the methane runs out, we inject sea water to force the oil up that long hole and that costs money(read: energy) so costs to recover increase. Most of the worlds easy energy sources are already being tapped. As has already been pointed out, solar ENERGY is free. It’s the conversion/storage equipment that’s expensive and those expenses will only decrease as we develop technological expertise but that won’t happen until people accept the necessity for it. The only reasonable sources of radioactives is in concentrated mines and those are subject to political intrigue, like what’s happening in Bolivia with their lithium mines.

    Solar, both earth based and as SPS, are accessible technologies with no fuel costs.

    50. Mark Hansen: Yes and I just hope the 12 year old behind it finds another toy to play with,,,

    GAry 7

  100. Monkey Deathcar

    “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it”

    -Max Plank

    Seems to be an appropriate quote.

  101. zamia

    There are two kinds of people who doubt AGW is currently happening, despite the substantial environmental changes noted by lay people as well as by biologists, astronomers, and climate scientists.
    1. People who don’t want to accept that we could be heating the earth so badly that we are changing the climate. People who don’t want to change their daily routines, and are afraid of having to make uncomfortable sacrifices.
    I don’t want my standard of living to degrade, or to make changes, because changing is stressful even when it’s for the better ultimately. So I agree with these people so far: but I know the climate will only be the worse for wishful thinking.
    2.A few persons who deliberately lie, for the gain of fame and fortune. Someday they’ll be in the hottest part of hell. In the meantime they are having fun, knowingly lying, repeatedly proclaiming specious facts, disproven ideas, endlessly reiterating the same disproven nonsense. Denialist is too mild a world for these; they are Liars.

  102. Bjoern

    @Joey Joe Joe:
    “Evidence that A could be a cause of B is not evidence A caused B. Even more so when A is known not an exclusive cause of B.”

    In general, right, obviously.

    But:
    1) It is well-known that CO2 is a greenhouse gas – without CO2 (and other greenhouse gases), Earth would be much cooler (do the math yourself, using the Stefan-Boltzmann law!). So it is really so much a jump of logic to say that an increase in CO2 will lead to an increase in temperature?
    2) You can do an experiment for yourself quite easily, if you have access to CO2: fill a jar with CO2 and place a thermometer in it and close it. The temperature will rise higher than in another jar with only ordinary air.
    3) As TechSkeptic has already pointed out, simply chemistry and physics (looking at the absorption bands of CO2 and calculating the consequences of that for radiation) will tell you that CO2 contributes to warming.
    4) Climate models (run on computers) have consistently shown that a rise in CO2 leads to a rise in temperature.
    5) Other possible causes (natural cycles, or solar activity) have been shown to be not sufficient to explain the observed rise in temperature.

    What more do you want?

  103. David D.

    @SLC #64

    My friend, SLC. Engaging in the ad hominem attacks again. You seem to shy away from attacking the arguments, but you don’t seem to grasp this concept.

    In our last dance (the Neocarbon post) you falsely claimed that Anthony Watts was a 9/11 troofer. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so trustworthy of your judgement on other members of the scientific community.

  104. Gary Ansorge

    Humans have prefrontal lobes which allow us to anticipate the consequences of our actions or to see that a tornado is heading our way. Most normal people will head for their storm shelter when they spot that tornado on the horizon, not wait until it’s in their front yard.

    There’s a storm heading our way. It’s composed of energy shortages, climate warming, changes in food production and hordes of hungry people. I’m not willing to wait until all that is on my doorstep before trying to do something about it,,,but then, I do have functional prefrontal lobes.

    GAry 7

  105. Gary Ansorge

    ,,,and, as a child once exclaimed,,,

    Observe,
    our Emperor,
    naked,
    senile,
    fat,
    and ugly

    ,,,which is one way of exposing,
    denial.

    GAry 7

  106. John

    Gary.

    I too have pre-frontal lobes that warn me about oncoming tornadoes.

    I also have a temporal lobes that tell me when someone is lying to me about an oncoming tornado because they want billions of taxpayers money.

  107. Stone Age Scientist

    Hi Phil, nice debate going on here. It’s good to read and learn the diverse views concerning global warming. Indeed, global warming is a very tricky subject, but one that needs to be addressed despite the many concerns of all the camps of thought involved. One thing that I have observed in global warming debates is that the issue tends to shift the focus out of another grave subject; a subject which predominantly existed on the other side of the coin with global warming. This subject is Pollution (I tend to see the two as separate topics). Nowadays, the talk is about climate change, cracking ice shelves and diminishing glaciers. These are all well and good, but why is no one pointing out that the selfsame pollutants we suspect of causing global warming are in fact leading causes as to why the quality of human life has been diminishing? We all know that Earth’s population will only keep on increasing; and with ever-growing population, an increase in pollution will definitely come as a corollary (not to mention that the natural reserves needed to fight carbon emissions will be compromised as well). Where Third World developing countries are concerned (the place where factories are dumped due to cheaper labor), this reality becomes all the more concrete. The point I’m trying to make is, disregarding the origins and effects of global warming (either by dubious or valid excuses) does not justify disregarding pollution. People may or may not argue that global warming is naturally caused, but one thing is sure, there is nothing natural about man-made pollution. Burning fossil fuel on massive scales causes pollutants that are directly harmful to the natural environment and humans. That should be strong enough indication that a shift to clean, renewable energy is sorely needed. Simply put, if scientists cannot agree to the extent of the damage done by global warming, then at least see the issue as a deadly side effect on terran environment and life. Who can disagree that pollution kills all manner of life by degrees?

    The thing that most escapes me is why clean energy isn’t being quickly implemented on a global scale, when it’s already obvious that we’re being done in slowly by the pollutions we create? Why the procrastination? Are we so embroiled in the complications that we cannot discern the way out?

  108. Daffy

    John:
    “I also have a temporal lobes that tell me when someone is lying to me about an oncoming tornado because they want billions of taxpayers money.”

    That’s a pretty harsh claim. Do your lobes have any evidence for this? Or do they just tune into Rush Limbaugh and believe anything he says?

  109. Doc

    @doofus #74

    ‘So when science says, “hurricanes will be worse because of global warming” and it doesn’t actually happen, then people begin to doubt you.’

    Try this on for size:

    “Records of hurricane activity worldwide show an upswing of both the maximum wind speed in and the duration of hurricanes. The energy released by the average hurricane (again considering all hurricanes worldwide) seems to have increased by around 70% in the past 30 years or so, corresponding to about a 15% increase in the maximum wind speed and a 60% increase in storm lifetime.”

    Emanuel, Kerry, “Anthropogenic Effects on Tropical Cyclone Activity”
    http://wind.mit.edu/~emanuel/anthro2.htm

  110. Daffy

    Doc,

    Such evidence is irrelevant in the face of conspiracy theories produced by talking temporal lobes. Clearly you are part of the conspiracy.

  111. John Foudy

    “I do feel that the evidence on AGW is so overwhelming now that “denialist” is an entirely acurate and appropriate term for those who, well, deny it.”

    I disagree, the vast majority of those who “deny” global warming have:
    1: Not looked at the evidence themselves; and
    2: rely on others to interpret and report the evidence to them.

    You have many people who have neither the time and/or ability to look at and understand the evidence, who turn on the TV and see someone in a suit or lab coat on TV (with a PHD after their names) , who authoritively says:
    AGW is a hoax; or the evidence isn’t there; or ….

    Telling those people that that they are in denial is useless, you need to be able to tell the why they should trust the Phil Plaits of the world rather than the Pat Robertsons.

    On certain types of issues the delusionists will certainly lose- a good size whooping cough epidemic will take a bite out of the anti-vaxxers’ audience, having high tide routinely swamp the streets of lower Manhattan will seriously dent the AGW denier audience- unfortunately on some issues- the delusionists will always have an audience (Holocaust denial)

  112. David D.

    @117

    “I disagree, the vast majority of those who “deny” global warming have:
    1: Not looked at the evidence themselves; and
    2: rely on others to interpret and report the evidence to them.”

    Any proof to back up this statement? Or is it “true” because that’s what you believe?

    ” . . . why they should trust the Phil Plaits of the world rather than the Pat Robertsons.”

    I might trust Plait over Robertson on a lot of issues, bit neither one is a climate scientist or meteorologist. Shouldn’t I be looking for more authoritative opinions on AGW?

  113. SLC

    Re David D

    I have already admitted, although not on this blog, that I incorrectly identified Anthony Watts as a 9/11 troofer. Mea culpa.

    However, for the information of Mr. David D, Mr. John @ 57 made no argument relative to global warming. He merely provided a list of global warming deniers which is an argument from authority. Therefore, it is quite unnecessary to provide an analysis of Mr. Johns arguments because he didn’t have any.

    However, when one provides an argument from authority, it is quite legitimate to question the bonifides of the authorities. I questioned the authoritativeness of some of the so-called authorities provided by Mr. John. For instance, pointing out that Roy Spencer is a young earth creationist who rejects evolution shows him to be a whackjob and therefore unreliable as an authority on anything. Similarly, pointing out that Fred Singer has also denied the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer and the link between CFCs and ozone depletion, casts grave doubt on his scientific judgment. In addition, pointing out that Richard Lindzen accepts considerable sums of money from energy companies who have a vested interest in denying global warming would certainly indicate that he has a conflict of interest.

  114. Daffy

    “I might trust Plait over Robertson on a lot of issues, bit neither one is a climate scientist or meteorologist. Shouldn’t I be looking for more authoritative opinions on AGW?”

    Let’s see…one is a scientist and one is a paranoid lunatic. Gee, let me think about that one.

  115. Yojimbo

    @ Marco Langbroek said:

    “Puh-leeze…..!!!!! There is no such thing as a “climatic balance”. Climate has changed wildly over the past 2.6 million years (and before that, although less fast). *At no point* has it been stable.”

    Okay – poor choice of words on my part to describe a near chaotic system. What I was getting at was that small changes in such systems can have very large impacts, and the evidence appears to be that we are having just such an impact.

    Anyway, I think it is possible to be an AGW skeptic and not be a “denier” – that is, if someone really looks at what climatologists say and then concludes that there is still enough grey that the correct course of action is not clear, that seems like an essentially skeptical stance. I don’t agree with that conclusion, but it is possible to come to it rationally.

    For me, a “denier” is part of the “it’s all a hoax/liberal conspiracy/alarmist nonsense” crowd, who seem to get all their information from Talk Radio. The other night I saw (once again) someone on Fox saying “thirty years ago the scientists were saying we were heading into an ice age…” It is that kind of insistance on irrelevence and non-facts that is so frustrating.

    My too sense…

  116. Dan

    You guys are all close-minded!!! We never went to the moon. It’s scientifically impossible!! Yes! I’m a conspirationist and glad to be!! I also believe that astronauts saw UFOs and aliens on the moon, there are pictures proving it and… euh… well… hmmm… never mind!

  117. TheBlackCat

    For the people claiming that the accept the Earth is warming, but that there is no evidence that it is caused by humans, you are simply wrong. Here are just a few of the lines of evidence that it is caused by humans:

    1. We know the CO2 increase is due overwhelmingly to human influences. This is because the amount of C12, C13, and C14 varies depending on the source. Plants, for instance, preferentially absorb C12 vs. C13, as compared to the natural distribution of the isotopes. Fossils fuels, as their name suggest, are very old, so they are depleted of C14 (which decays over time). By looking at the carbon isotope ratios, we can tell that most of the increase in CO2 emissions comes from a combination of burning fossil fuels and deforestation.

    2. The upper layers of the atmosphere (stratosphere) is cooling while the lower layers (troposphere) is warming. If the increase in temperature were coming from space, we would see the stratosphere and troposphere warming. Only increasing the greenhouse effect can explain stratospheric cooling, because only it leads to a decrease in the energy reaching the stratosphere. Similarly, changes in albedo (reflection) would not cause this effect.

    3. Similarly, the warming is greater as you get away from the equator. In other words the poles are warming the most. Once again, if the energy was coming from outside (i.e. the sun) then the equator would be warming the most. Changes in albedo would also not cause this change.

    4. Of the greenhouse gas forcings (as opposed to water vapor, which I already pointed out is a feedback), the changes in CO2 have been by far the largest. Other greenhouses gases are more powerful per unit weight or per number of particles, but their tiny concentrations and even smaller overall change means the total impact in their changes is much, much smaller. That is ignoring that changes in other greenhouse gass are caused largely by humans as well.

    So we know three things: the current change is almost certainly due primarily to changes in the concentration of greenhouse gasses, the greenhouse gas that is primarily responsible for the change is CO2, and humans are the ones primarily responsible for the change in CO2 levels.

    And all of that is without requiring any reliance on modeling. If you include models, only models including human-caused increases in CO2 are able to explain observed changes in the climate, and if only human sources of change are included the models still work quite well, while if human sources are excluded the models work very poorly.

  118. mk

    Cusp said:

    am not (yet) convinced that global warming is due to human activity, that sea-levels are rising and that we are going to hell in a hand-basket. This doesn’t mean that I can’t be swayed…

    OK… what precisely would “sway” you?

  119. Jeff

    Labelling people is the whole problem. I can’t turn on the TV or even internet without seeing all types of labels thrown around. All of those terms were invented long after I was in school, long ago, so I know they are make-believe.

    I hope Phil will address the whole issue of labeling in a blog someday, his opinion.

    There is really only one thing: critical thinking, using logical principles to reason from evidence (as long as it’s real and not planted or cheated, don’t ever think people don’t do that) to a conclusion.

    By labelling, you invoke “collateral damage”: you trigger all kinds of emotional responses not related to the primary issue and that poisons the critical examination of an issue.

    During the Copernican revolution, adherents were labelled for example : “heretics”, “witches” . What did astronomy have to do with the other stuff implied in those terms.

  120. Yojimbo

    @Jeff

    Well – wasn’t “revolution” the negative label for someone who believed the Earth revolved around the sun? The label was so useful it turned into a regular word :)

  121. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Denialism is to skepticism as religion is to science.

    With the 40th anniversary of the moon landing coming up, I expect the idiots to be coming out in force.

    Rejoice! The LRO mission is, according the the Planetary Society blog, scheduled to cover at least one moon landing site with 0.5 m resolution. I.e. they will be recognizable against older photos.

    Of course, idiots being idiots, this will not stop them. But the laughter will increase.

    I don’t find the evidence that conclusive

    Exactly: in the face of IPCC summarizing climatologists knowledge and consensus – and yes, the experts now find the many evidences conclusive and not “limited” – you think your (outsider) perspective is relevant. It is neither science nor skepticism, it is blatant denial.

    “Scientific consensus” is a silly standard … has been wrong … will be wrong

    Besides the silly standard of having empirical methods functioning or accurate at all times in the face of empirical evidence for the converse and methodological models telling us why that must be so, it isn’t a standard but a measure.

    It is both a convenient measure to judge an areas position, and a measure to be expected from having an elitist (i.e. competitive) method. You can’t always know when the first expert is swayed by the evidence, but you can know when it matters for the field.

  122. Jeremy Parker

    Phil has a tendency to speak about topics on which he is not an expert. Some people clearly are ok with this, because they keep coming to his site. I ignore most of his posts that have nothing to do with astronomy. He commonly posts about politics, anti-vaxxers, and more. Why would I come to his site for political views, when he is not a political analyst? It’s just as bad as listening to any celebrity who thinks they understand how politics work. Therefore if Phil wants to convince people of global warming, he should post a link to a meteorologist or other expert he might know, but keep his opinions to himself.

    Just some advice for Phil… please stick to what you know. You’re more interesting on those topics.

  123. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    the poles are warming the most

    Yes, and while there is no evidences yet, today I saw an article that people have started to notice that the US wind power isn’t following the static predictions. It may be that the winds have gone down 10 % since 1970s, which is 30 % less power.

    So instead of naively having more energy pumped into the system to extract as “clean” energy, it can be expected to be less accessible. News to me.

    Unfortunately the energy will return with a vengeance in climate catastrophes, which will become more serious. I also believe I saw that a UN report expects climate refugees to increase from todays ~ 20 million to ~ 700 million @ 2050. If indeed the population increase tops out 2030 as predicted, nearly 10 percent of Earth population will be on the run a few decades later.

    Morally devastating, as well as economically so; we know this from what happens in wars. (But of course people will survive and adapt.) But we couldn’t afford to pay IIRC 1-2 % extra to prevent this a few decades back, noo – because that was to “take our economy backwards” to exacerbate such risks.

    Fortunately for the AGW denialists they don’t need to put up with “scaremongering” scientists much longer, as the scare will AFAIU monger itself from now on, regardless of any realistic measures taken against.

  124. Jeremy (#129): Please read the post I wrote about politics and religion linked in the sidebar before you go away.

  125. Jeremy Parker

    Phil, I read that post just now for the first time. I just want to say that I completely understand where you’re coming from which is why I usually just skip those particular entires. You’re very good about labeling so I haven’t had an issue yet. I actually never had an issue, I was just commenting on #118.

    You’re right, it’s your blog and you can do what you want with it. But if your intention of this post was to point out that people are blind to the obviousness of Global Warming and it’s human connection, then a link to something to prove what you are saying would help. It’s just a critique is all.

  126. mk

    Jeremy @ 129…

    That was an unbelievably stupid comment. Aren’t you the slightest bit embarrassed after re-reading it?

    That’s OK… I’m embarrassed for you.

    Cheers.

  127. Joey Joe Joe

    @Bjoern

    First, thanks for the reasonable response.

    I don’t have issue with your first three points, but I do with your points 4 & 5:

    > 4) Climate models (run on computers) have consistently shown that a rise in CO2 leads to a rise in temperature.

    First, the models also show that the increase in CO2 alone is not sufficient to account for the warming which has been observed. So additional feedback forcings have to be postulated, such as the CO2 driven warming increasing water vapor from evaporating oceans. Water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas and could explain the observed increase (I will come back to this for point 5).

    Second – none of the climate models predicted the current stall in warming we have experienced for the last 10 years, despite rising CO2 levels. This is a failure of the models. Why climate models get a free pass in this regard is beyond me.

    > 5) Other possible causes (natural cycles, or solar activity) have been shown to be not sufficient to explain the observed rise in temperature.

    No *known* natural cycle has been found to be the cause – but we have a very tenuous understanding of natural cycles. We know there is a lot we don’t know (as opposed to things we don’t know we don’t know – in which case we wouldn’t know we don’t have the full picture!).

    I’ll concede that variations in Solar output are not sufficient to account for the warming – just like CO2 – which brings be back to water vapor. Given the impressive correlation between the variation in Solar output and the historical climate record (yes, I know correlation is not causality), it would seem prudent to me to at least investigate possible feedback systems wrt the Sun.

  128. Dan L.

    @Joey blah blah:

    “Second – none of the climate models predicted the current stall in warming we have experienced for the last 10 years, despite rising CO2 levels. This is a failure of the models. Why climate models get a free pass in this regard is beyond me.”

    How many times do I have to point this out? The “current stall in warming for the last 10 years” is not a valid argument against AGW. This is true for several reasons:

    1) Climate studies cannot use 10 year intervals. The solar cycle causes variability on an 11 year cycle, meaning climate studies must examine trends longer than 11 years to get rid of this expected variation. A 10 year interval is meaningless in climate science.

    2) The “stall in warming” isn’t an accurate way to describe the evidence. What you’re describing is a downward sloping trend line from 1998 to 2008. Why is that trend line downward sloping? Because 2008 was a convergence of a solar maximum and el nino and was thus way hotter than would be predicted by following the curve exhibited by the other data points. 2008 wasn’t very cold at all — one of the ten warmest years on record in fact. The “stall in warming” is the result of a well-known fact of statistics: an outlier. And the outlier isn’t even relevant in this case due in part to (1).

    This is exactly why you’re a denier and not a skeptic. A skeptic would look at the data and immediately see that the negative slope of the 1998-2008 trendline is an artifact of the data itself and not suggestive of an actual trend — actually, a skeptic would realize that no conclusions can be drawn from a single trendline in the firstplace. It’s the hundred or so upward sloping 30 year trendlines that matter here. Of course, since the bulk of the evidence contradicts your argument, you manufacture a single data point (which is, again, irrelevant in climate science) to support it. Laughable. Science fail, statistics fail, skeptic fail — really, a general critical thinking fail.

    “Given the impressive correlation between the variation in Solar output and the historical climate record (yes, I know correlation is not causality), it would seem prudent to me to at least investigate possible feedback systems wrt the Sun.”

    Which is exactly what climate scientists do, genius.

    Yes, CO2 is almost certainly not enough to account for all the warming we are seeing. This is because, as you say, CO2 production reacts in a complex way with the geosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. No one denies this. But we can talk about proximate causes and ultimate causes.

    CO2 is a greenhouse gas, easily verified empirically as others have mentioned. So at least some warming is due to CO2 in all likelihood. You talk about H2O as a feedback — that’s exactly the concern here. The slight warming from CO2 causes a greater-than-usual amount of H2O to remain in the atmosphere instead of precipitating. This extra H2O acts as a greenhouse gas, trapping more heat and causing more H2O to enter the atmosphere. It’s called a feedback loop — get an electric guitar too close to an amp and you get the same effect.

    How does this notion bolster your case at all? If anything, it suggests that we’re underestimating the scale/speed of climate change.

    Finally:

    “No *known* natural cycle has been found to be the cause – but we have a very tenuous understanding of natural cycles. We know there is a lot we don’t know (as opposed to things we don’t know we don’t know – in which case we wouldn’t know we don’t have the full picture!).”

    What does this even mean? How is it relevant at all? We have several proximate causes that look likely, and ultimate cause that is consistent with the proximate causes, and you’re insisting that because there just might be something else out there, we have to avoid coming to any conclusions? If we applied this philosophy across the board, both science and criminal justice would be impossible. “Yes, your honor, my client possesses a weapon consistent with the victim’s wounds, has a strong motive for murdering the victim, and doesn’t have an alibi, but you can’t rule out the fact that there might be an even better suspect somewhere out there!”

  129. Dan L.

    “Because 2008 was a convergence of a solar maximum and el nino and was thus way hotter than would be predicted by following the curve exhibited by the other data points.”

    Should be “Because 1998 was a convergence…”

  130. Daffy

    Jeremy Parker,

    What is your area of expertise? I would really like to know.

  131. Joey Joe Joe

    @DanL

    I will grant you that the downward trend is easily explained. That is not my argument here. My argument is, the fact that climate models failed to predict this trend – which you portray as being a matter of certainty – does not speak well for their predictive powers when it comes to forecasting the end of the world.

    My comments regarding the feedback mechanisms were simply to point out (in the part of my post you snipped) that these same mechanisms could also function using a non-CO2 catalyst, such as Solar Irradiance. Is there a good reason why this can’t be the case? (serious question, btw).

    I could have phrased the final paragraph you quoted better. My point was, our understanding of climate is so incomplete that to say “we have not found a natural cause” is an almost meaningless statement.

    Your analogy was entirely fallacious. But you knew that.

    EDIT: Typo

  132. mk

    @Monkey Deathcar #105…

    That quote, with a little tweaking, is appropriate for pretty much every GLBT issue as well! Once all the intolerant, ignorant, old foggies die off, we will look back in horror at the things that were said and thought during the whole Gay Marriage “debate”! Ugh. Can’t come soon enough.

  133. Dan L.

    @Joey Joe Joe:

    “I will grant you that the downward trend is easily explained. That is not my argument here. My argument is, the fact that climate models failed to predict this trend – which you portray as being a matter of certainty – does not speak well for their predictive powers when it comes to forecasting the end of the world.”

    Models never forecast statistical noise. That is pretty much the definition of statistical noise. And again, climate science cannot predict the temperature trend for any particular ten year trend, because ten year trends are simply not good subjects for study in climate science.

    This is irrelevant anyway; you’re focusing on one data point out of dozens, and it happens to be one of a very few data points that bolster your argument. That is not how a skeptic would approach evidence.

    “My comments regarding the feedback mechanisms were simply to point out (in the part of my post you snipped) that these same mechanisms could also function using a non-CO2 catalyst, such as Solar Irradiance. Is there a good reason why this can’t be the case? (serious question, btw).”

    If there was an anomalous incident of solar irradiance, you would think one of the world’s hundreds of thousands of astronomers might have told us about it. I can’t rule it out as a possibility, of course, but there is no evidence for such a proposition and a fair amount of evidence against it.

    “My point was, our understanding of climate is so incomplete that to say “we have not found a natural cause” is an almost meaningless statement.

    Your analogy was entirely fallacious. But you knew that.”

    Your understanding of climate science is incomplete. From what I can tell, your knowledge of climate science couldn’t fill a thimble. Based on the past couple months that I’ve spent looking at this, “our” understanding of climate is actually pretty good considering the scale of the problem.

    “I knew that,” huh? Actually, I thought it was entirely apt. If you disagree, please feel free to explain why. And I’ll explain why you’re wrong.

  134. Dan L.

    @Ryan:

    “I do have a problem with manufacturing a tax specifically designed to cripple the energy industry (while giving kickbacks to politicians who decide not to cripple a given company), and make everything that is made using fossil fuels or transported with them (read everything) significantly more expensive in the process.”

    Guess what? Those politicians are already getting kickbacks from *dum dum dum* the oil companies. So would you rather crooked politicians get money from lobbyists (in which case they keep the money — which is money you spent on oil in the first place) or get money from taxes (in which case the money would be appropriated for public use). As far as making everything more expensive…well…you haven’t been paying very much attention. We’ve already gotten all the easy oil and coal; the more we mine and drill, the higher the cost of extraction gets, so even if demand remained constant, the price will go up. But demand isn’t remaining constant. Demand is rising precipitously. It seems likely that the cost of fossil fuels is going to be exorbitant in a matter of a few decades.

    The idea behind a carbon tax is that increasing the cost in the short run encourages innovation in other energy technologies. We want to use the tax to encourage the growth of businesses and technologies before fossil fuels become too expensive to support the Wall Mart supply chain and our many coal and oil power plants. A little pain now means less pain later.

  135. gopher65

    Brett from Canada said: “So, while it’s all well and good that you’d be happy with warmer weather (cue ignorant jokes about better weather for Canada), you, culturally and geographically, represent a mere 1/20th of the population of the world.”

    Joking aside, the warming trend will make the tree line move several hundred kilometres north of its current maximum average northern point. This will cause major changes in both Canada and Russia. IE, permafrost melting, extra forest coverage, northward march of animals that are normally only found in the southern regions of the countries, etc. Some of the changes that will happen in northern countries are good, and some are bad.

    A great deal of currently uninhabitable terrain in Canada (a couple million square kilometres, maybe) will open up for development. Course, Several of the rivers that feed major cities will see a flow decrease (or dry up completely), since they are fed from glacial runoff. And Vancouver might be in a bit of trouble:P. All in all this will probably be an economic wash for Canada.

  136. Joey Joe Joe

    @Dan L.

    I’ll concede the 10 year trend point for now. I’ll just add that those who say “it is just statistical noise” have no more justification in making that claim who those who say “it proves global warming is over”.

    >”If there was an anomalous incident of solar irradiance, you would think one of the world’s hundreds of thousands of astronomers might have told us about it.”

    Uh… You mean the increasing solar activity since 1950? Which has recently gone completely quiet?

    >Actually, I thought it was entirely apt. If you disagree, please feel free to explain why. And I’ll explain why you’re wrong.

    Because we don’t have a motive for causing global warming. For a long time, we had no motive to not pollute the atmosphere, because we weren’t aware of the potential consequences. In fact, our “motive” is irrelevant.

    An apt analogy would be:

    “Yes, your honor, my client possesses a weapon consistent with the victim’s wounds and does not have a motive for not the murdering the victim, but you can’t rule out the fact that there might be an even better suspect somewhere out there!”

    Please to try explain why I am wrong. I could use a laugh.

  137. Dan L.

    “I’ll concede the 10 year trend point for now.”

    Any data set is going to have anomalous values. Statistics gives us a set of tools to recognize anomalies and separate them from the trends, which are what we’re usually trying to study in the first place. When we look at temperature data, there is a clear trend. The fact that there are a few data points (including the most recent) that violate the trend is not in and of itself a reason to assume that the dozens of data points that make up the trend don’t correspond to anything real.

    ” Uh… You mean the increasing solar activity since 1950? Which has recently gone completely quiet?”

    Citation please.

    “In fact, our “motive” is irrelevant.”

    You didn’t understand the analogy.

    In the analogy, carbon dioxide is the defendant, and the motive is carbon dioxide’s infrared absorptive properties. Does it make more sense now?

  138. Joey Joe Joe

    >>” Uh… You mean the increasing solar activity since 1950? Which has recently gone completely quiet?”

    >Citation please.

    http://www.physorg.com/news160043689.html

    Google “modern maximum” and you’ll probably find a whole lot more.

    >You didn’t understand the analogy.

    >In the analogy, carbon dioxide is the defendant, and the motive is carbon dioxide’s infrared absorptive properties. Does it make more sense now?

    Not particularly. Unless you meant “weapon” instead of motive. That makes a little more sense, but what are motive and alibi similies for?

    Sorry, I think it was just a bad analogy.

  139. Ema Nymton

    Well, Cusp. I apologize if you felt I was rash. I took the time to re-read your comment early in the thread to be fair. It doesn’t change my opinion, but I did re-read.

  140. Cusp

    >>Well, Cusp. I apologize if you felt I was rash. I took the time to re-read your comment early in the thread to be fair. It doesn’t change my opinion, but I did re-read.

    Care to explain?

  141. TheBlackCat

    @ Joey: That link says nothing whatsoever about solar output increasing over the last century.

    In fact, if you had bothered to go to the original article, instead of a second-hand summary, you would see it actually directly contradicts your position:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8008473.stm

    In the mid-17th Century, a quiet spell – known as the Maunder Minimum – lasted 70 years, and led to a “mini ice age”.

    This has resulted in some people suggesting that a similar cooling might offset the impact of climate change.

    According to Prof Mike Lockwood of Southampton University, this view is too simplistic.

    “I wish the Sun was coming to our aid but, unfortunately, the data shows that is not the case,” he said.

    Prof Lockwood was one of the first researchers to show that the Sun’s activity has been gradually decreasing since 1985, yet overall global temperatures have continued to rise.

    “If you look carefully at the observations, it’s pretty clear that the underlying level of the Sun peaked at about 1985 and what we are seeing is a continuation of a downward trend (in solar activity) that’s been going on for a couple of decades.

    “If the Sun’s dimming were to have a cooling effect, we’d have seen it by now.”

    and

    “We would expect it to be more than 100 years before we get down to the levels of the Maunder Minimum.”

    He added that the current slight dimming of the Sun was not going to reverse the rise in global temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

    And it doesn’t look from that article that everyone agrees that this current issue means anything at all.

  142. Flying sardines

    @ # 66. Toby :
    What a topsy-turvy world, where people think global warming is a myth, and Noah’s Ark is real.

    Best comment in this whole thread so far – & yes I’ve read them all. ;-)

    This one gets my runner up award :

    **********************************************

    # 135. Dan L. Says:

    June 10th, 2009 at 4:26 pm June 10th, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    @Joey blah blah:

    “Second – none of the climate models predicted the current stall in warming we have experienced for the last 10 years, despite rising CO2 levels. This is a failure of the models. Why climate models get a free pass in this regard is beyond me.”

    How many times do I have to point this out? The “current stall in warming for the last 10 years” is not a valid argument against AGW. This is true for several reasons:

    1) Climate studies cannot use 10 year intervals. The solar cycle causes variability on an 11 year cycle, meaning climate studies must examine trends longer than 11 years to get rid of this expected variation. A 10 year interval is meaningless in climate science.

    2) The “stall in warming” isn’t an accurate way to describe the evidence. What you’re describing is a downward sloping trend line from 1998 to 2008. Why is that trend line downward sloping? Because 2008 was a convergence of a solar maximum and el nino and was thus way hotter than would be predicted by following the curve exhibited by the other data points. 2008 wasn’t very cold at all — one of the ten warmest years on record in fact. The “stall in warming” is the result of a well-known fact of statistics: an outlier. And the outlier isn’t even relevant in this case due in part to (1).

    This is exactly why you’re a denier and not a skeptic. A skeptic would look at the data and immediately see that the negative slope of the 1998-2008 trendline is an artifact of the data itself and not suggestive of an actual trend — actually, a skeptic would realize that no conclusions can be drawn from a single trendline in the firstplace. It’s the hundred or so upward sloping 30 year trendlines that matter here. Of course, since the bulk of the evidence contradicts your argument, you manufacture a single data point (which is, again, irrelevant in climate science) to support it. Laughable. Science fail, statistics fail, skeptic fail — really, a general critical thinking fail.

    “Given the impressive correlation between the variation in Solar output and the historical climate record (yes, I know correlation is not causality), it would seem prudent to me to at least investigate possible feedback systems wrt the Sun.”

    Which is exactly what climate scientists do, genius.

    Yes, CO2 is almost certainly not enough to account for all the warming we are seeing. This is because, as you say, CO2 production reacts in a complex way with the geosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. No one denies this. But we can talk about proximate causes and ultimate causes.

    “CO2 is a greenhouse gas, easily verified empirically as others have mentioned. So at least some warming is due to CO2 in all likelihood. You talk about H2O as a feedback — that’s exactly the concern here. The slight warming from CO2 causes a greater-than-usual amount of H2O to remain in the atmosphere instead of precipitating. This extra H2O acts as a greenhouse gas, trapping more heat and causing more H2O to enter the atmosphere. It’s called a feedback loop — get an electric guitar too close to an amp and you get the same effect.”

    How does this notion bolster your case at all? If anything, it suggests that we’re underestimating the scale/speed of climate change.

    Finally:

    “No *known* natural cycle has been found to be the cause – but we have a very tenuous understanding of natural cycles. We know there is a lot we don’t know (as opposed to things we don’t know we don’t know – in which case we wouldn’t know we don’t have the full picture!).”

    What does this even mean? How is it relevant at all? We have several proximate causes that look likely, and ultimate cause that is consistent with the proximate causes, and you’re insisting that because there just might be something else out there, we have to avoid coming to any conclusions? If we applied this philosophy across the board, both science and criminal justice would be impossible. “Yes, your honor, my client possesses a weapon consistent with the victim’s wounds, has a strong motive for murdering the victim, and doesn’t have an alibi, but you can’t rule out the fact that there might be an even better suspect somewhere out there!”

    ********

  143. Flying sardines

    Al Gore did NOT invent the greenhouse effect.

    Svante Arrhenius (spelling?) first wrote about it many centuries ago.

    It is very basic physics and very basic climatology.

    It is what happened to Venus and why our planet is currently averaging approx. fifteen degrees Celcius rather than minus eighteen degrees Celcius.

    (Whatever those numbers are in Fahrenheit, come on America get into the modern metric era please!)

    The overwhelming majority of people who actually know what they’re talking about – the atmospheric physicists and climatologists who have spent years of studying and thinking about the issue are in no doubt. (& I believe them and insist that anyone saying otherwise needs to back their extraordinary claim with extraordinary evidence.)

    The data is in:

    Glaciers are melting, rains are failing, the climate is recorded to be heating up … and, yes, this is very clearly down to Human induced changes in the C02 and other greenhouse gases. rather than ideological refusal to accept reality.)

    That’s fact – plain & simple.

    Disputing it is as crazy as disputing evolution or gravity.

  144. StevoRaine

    @ #64 SLC :

    3. Harrison Schmitt is a former Senator and extreme right winger.

    Is that the same Harrison Schmitt who was on the Apollo 17 lunar landing?

    2. Ian Plimer is the author of a book that has been totally discredited as being filled with errors and distortions.

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/06/lambeck_on_plimer.php

    Ian Plimer is an interesting case.

    I’ve heard him speak and met him personally and when it comes to his fight against the Creationists esp. the “we found Noah’s Arwk” mob he is one of my heroes.

    I think he is a decent, sincere bloke who passionately believes what he’s saying.

    BUT

    On this Anthropogenic Global Warming issue I think he is dead wrong.

    I am most definitely with the majority of scientists – esp. those who have real expertise and years of knowledge when it comes to atmospheric physics and climatology – who say that Global warming is real and that the Anthropic Greenhouse Effect (AGE) is the primary cause.

    I find it much harder to accept the wishful thinking idea that we are doing NO harm in our copious pollutings and constant emissions of gases and wholescale environmental alterations
    than the reverse.

    I also think Plimer’s argument of similarities between some extremist greens thinking and religious fundamentalists is missing the point. In fact its a non-sequiteur.

    So what if some Greens have some kooky ideas, so what if Al Gore has moments of hypocrisy and less than perfection?

    This has NOTHING to do with whether the ACTUAL SCIENCE and logical and physical case for the AGE are valid. All the evidence, all the reasonable, unbiased and actually experienced people in the area seem to agree the AGE is real and we do, indeed, need to do something urgently about it.

    So .. the question then remains

    Is Ian Plimer a ‘Skeptic’ or ‘Denier’?

    On Creationism he’s a Skeptic, on the Greenhouse effect (GH FXT) a denier.

    So sometimes people can be both … I think. Sometimes its not so clear-cut.

  145. Dan L.

    @StevoRaine:

    I tend to think that the definition of a denier is one who uses denialist tactics — moving the goal posts, argument by assertion, Gish gallop, etc. The “skeptics” above are deniers because rather than examining the evidence critically, they just parrot lines from Cato Institute policy papers.

    If Plimer honestly believes CO2 has nothing to do with global warming and makes honest arguments to that effect, I would be willing to call him a skeptic rather than a denier. (I’m not actually familiar enough with his work to make that judgment.) I believe honest climate skepticism is possible; it’s just not what I see on internet comments pages.

  146. Dan L.

    “>In the analogy, carbon dioxide is the defendant, and the motive is carbon dioxide’s infrared absorptive properties. Does it make more sense now?

    Not particularly. Unless you meant “weapon” instead of motive. That makes a little more sense, but what are motive and alibi similies for?

    Sorry, I think it was just a bad analogy.”

    “Weapon” would be the empirical evidence we have for CO2 being a greenhouse gas. Look, we could spend forever parsing the stupid analogy. It should be obvious that analogies can only correspond to what they’re being used to explain up to a certain point. If they corresponded exactly they wouldn’t be analogies. I tend to think you’re capable of parsing analogies into relevant and irrelevant dimensions and that you’re purposefully being obtuse to avoid conceding any more points, but I have to agree there’s a possibility that you’re just too dim to understand arguments by analogy.

    So to be more literal, I’m saying there’s lots of evidence that CO2 is the root cause of 20th century global warming. There’s not a lot of evidence for anything else. Your proposition is that despite all this evidence we should just assume that the evidence is wrong and search for a new culprit for which there is currently no evidence and no need in terms of explanatory power. This directly violates Occam’s Razor. This is not how science is done. Sorry.

  147. Dan L.

    “>Citation please.

    http://www.physorg.com/news160043689.html

    This link fails to support your assertion. While the evidence certainly suggests that the sun is more active in the 20th century than during the minima in the last few centuries, there is little evidence to suggest that the recent solar maximum is exceptional within the last few centuries (though there are a few studies that argue this point based on various proxies taken from ice core measurements). Within the current maximum, we have seen the natural solar variation expected from the 11 year cycle, so this isn’t a matter of the sun ramping up up up and then coming to a complete stop. The sun is sometimes less active and sometimes more. Currently, we are overdue for an upswing however.

    The fact remains that there is only a little evidence, much of it circumstantial, that the sun is the primary cause of observed 20th century warming. Even in studies arguing for such a conclusion, there is question of attribution: to what extent is the sun responsible? I haven’t seen a single study that suggests that solar variation alone could have caused the degree of warming we had in the last century.

  148. Steven Cook

    I really enjoy reading this blog but think that the quality has been dropping off of late (like the global temperature) with endless posts about sci-fi – and now this.

    I’m a supporter of science and rationalism, I don’t believe in god, I don’t believe ANY conspiracy theories, am probably more ‘green’ than most of those on here (don’t own a car, don’t fly, have insulated my loft, every light in my house is low energy, etc.) BUT I’m one of the ‘deniers’ (people) who think AGW is total nonsense. Politicians love it (at least here in the EU) because it gives them another excuse to ramp up taxes and pretend to be morally superior – but that’s another matter.

    Where is Phil’s insistence on ‘evidence’ above all else here? Sea levels ARE NOT RISING. Global temperatures have been FALLING since 2001 (Last winter here saw the first snowfalls in years and it was bloody FREEZING) evidence of rising temperatures IS NOT evidence that we are responsible. CO2 levels in the past have been far higher than now and so on and so on… The ‘scientists’ (weathermen?) who’ve cried wolf won’t admit they’re wrong because they’ll lose funding and won’t be listened to again.

    How many of the AGW believers have sold their cars or done ANYTHING significant to ‘tackle’ climate change? “We’ve ‘done our bit’ and stopped leaving the TV on standby” – come off it! If you really believe the world is in serious danger, don’t post to a blog – put your money where your mouth is and DO SOMETHING!

    Phil – Get back to the astronomy and off AGW and ‘Antivaxxers’ (who’s she?).

  149. TheBlackCat

    @ Steven Cook: Please read the comments. We have already dealt with all of your claims, sometimes several times over.

  150. Mark Hansen

    Yes, Phil, it is rather rude of you to post what is important to you on your blog. When will you have pity on the poor lost souls that can’t read the titles or the sections that the thread is posted in?

  151. Steven Cook

    Mark Hansen: ‘Hansen’!? – You’re not related, are you ;-) ? Seriously though, I did say at the start of my post that I love reading this blog. It just seems that the non-astronomy posts are gradually taking over.

    TheBlackCat: I have read the comments. How do you deal with (to pick one example) the ‘claim’ that temperature is actually falling? (other than with a silly comment about ‘cherry-picking’ data) I thought that we were supposed to be worried about the temperature increase during the 20th century because of its’ unusual and unnatural rapidity – now it seems that natural climate cycles and/or solar cycles can overwhelm this and cancel it out – that does not make sense.

  152. TheBlackCat

    Please see post number 30, where someone address that specific issue:

    “past 7 or so years, it’s not, it’s cooling
    wow talk about cherry picking data. Look up sun cycles. You have not bothered to understand the basics of climate change.

    Or the first several paragraphs of post 135, which deal exclusively with this issue.

    What is more, the comment immediately before your first comment, post 154, also deals with this claim.

    To put it simply: 2001 was near the peak of a solar cycle. Right now we are near the bottom of a solar cycle, so it is cold relative to the trend. So what we have is, if anything, an extremely tiny cooling trend, based on a well-known phenomena, over a very short period of time superimposed an a much larger increase over the last century. If you actually look at a plot of temperature over the last century, there are numerous small periods of time where the cycle is increasing faster than average, and numerous small periods of time where it increasing slower than average or even decreasing slightly. These period cancel out over longer periods of time, leading to a significant net warming. Pulling out a few years of a decades-long trend and saying that this somehow disproves the trend is cherry-picking because it ignores the whole point of looking at trends: to filter out smaller, short-term changes so we can see the long-term pattern. I could do the same thing at numerous points of time over the last century.

    Pulling out a single winter, as you did, is even more extreme case of cherry picking. There will be cold winters and warm winters, cold summers and warm summers. We are talking about a trend here.

    As for your other claims:

    evidence of rising temperatures IS NOT evidence that we are responsible.

    I’ve already explained that this is a strawman argument. There are a number of different lines of evidence pointing to humans being the culprit, and the mere fact that the world is warming is not one of them. Please see my post 124.

    CO2 levels in the past have been far higher than now and so on and so on…

    Yes, during periods where the world was much warmer, there were few or no glaciers, and the sea levels were much higher. Humans have not lived through such a period, though, as I have already pointed out. Rapid rises in CO2 (probably related to methane hydrate release, which has not happened this time yet, thankfully) appears to generally be associated with mass extinctions (not the big 5, but some of the larger ones in the cenozoic era). So it is not really something we should be hoping for.

    The ’scientists’ (weathermen?) who’ve cried wolf won’t admit they’re wrong because they’ll lose funding and won’t be listened to again.

    First the ad hominem attacks (dismissing several entire branches of science as “weathermen). Then, despite the fact that you claim not to believe in conspiracy theories, you dismiss the scientific consensus on the issue using a conspiracy theory. You claim to support science, yet you seem to have an extremely low opinion of scientists.

    Sea levels ARE NOT RISING.

    Do you have a source for this. Because what I can find says the exact opposite. For example:
    http://nsidc.org/sotc/sea_level.html

  153. Steven Cook

    TheBlackCat: I take your point about short term variations masking longer term trends, however does this observation not invalidate alarmist claims in itself? To put this another way, I’d guess that temperatures where I live (the UK) vary by say 40C over the course of a year…

    Regarding your post 124, sorry but I don’t agree that you are establishing that humanity is the cause of GW, only that we are releasing CO2 into the atmosphere.

    You agree that over geological time the average temperature (and sea level) has been much higher than the present?

    I couldn’t resist that ‘weathermen’ jibe, although it has been noted that the IPCC reports are full of forecasting-based language despite claiming otherwise. I think that my opinions on research funding are simple observations of human nature, not conspiracy theories. I have HUGE respect for science but would have to admit that there is enourmous variation in the quality of research, ranging from measuring the age of the universe at one extreme, to chocolate is good for you/makes you fat/thin/sexy/etc at the other end.

    With regard to sea levels – looking around on the internet, you’re right and I’m wrong. Sea levels are rising at maybe 1 – 2mm per year. But the tidal range where I live is 22 feet (sorry for the mixed units!) so I don’t think I need to worry yet. Maybe during the next hundred years the sea walls where I live will be rebuilt a few inches higher.

  154. TheBlackCat

    I take your point about short term variations masking longer term trends, however does this observation not invalidate alarmist claims in itself? To put this another way, I’d guess that temperatures where I live (the UK) vary by say 40C over the course of a year…

    How does that invalidate anything? Yes the temperature has gone down slightly, down from an already high level. It may have masked the warming trend, briefly, but it did not come anywhere close to erasing the warming that has already happened. It is still way above what it had been before this all started. In the end the warming was delayed slightly, not reversed and not stopped. When the solar cycle goes on the upswing again, as it invariably will, temperatures will start increasing faster than the trend. That is what a trend means. So I fail to see that invalidates anything.

    Regarding your post 124, sorry but I don’t agree that you are establishing that humanity is the cause of GW, only that we are releasing CO2 into the atmosphere.

    First, CO2 is a known greenhouse gas. Releasing it into the atmosphere can’t help but increase the temperature. Even if we aren’t causing the warming now, we will eventually.

    But ignoring that, I established three things. One, we are releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. Two, it is primarily greenhouse gases that are causing the warming. Three, it is the CO2 that we are releasing that is the primary greenhouse gas responsible. I guess you can draw any conclusion you want from that, but for me the implications are clear.

    You agree that over geological time the average temperature (and sea level) has been much higher than the present?

    Yes. There are many reasons that can lead to substantial change in temperature (although there are few that can cause as rapid a change as we are seeing now). Those include, amongst other things, the position of the continents, changes in Earth’s orbit, growth or weathering of mountain ranges. But changes in climate do not happen randomly, they happen for a reason. Looking at the pattern of warming and the various factors that can lead to a warming, CO2 is the only one we know of that can account for most of the warming. If you want to say it isn’t CO2, you need to provide another mechanism that is responsible.

    I couldn’t resist that ‘weathermen’ jibe, although it has been noted that the IPCC reports are full of forecasting-based language despite claiming otherwise. I think that my opinions on research funding are simple observations of human nature, not conspiracy theories. I have HUGE respect for science but would have to admit that there is enourmous variation in the quality of research, ranging from measuring the age of the universe at one extreme, to chocolate is good for you/makes you fat/thin/sexy/etc at the other end.

    You are accusing pretty much every scientist in several large branches of science of not admitting they are wrong just to save face. That does not indicate a very high degree of confidence in science.

    With regard to sea levels – looking around on the internet, you’re right and I’m wrong. Sea levels are rising at maybe 1 – 2mm per year. But the tidal range where I live is 22 feet (sorry for the mixed units!) so I don’t think I need to worry yet. Maybe during the next hundred years the sea walls where I live will be rebuilt a few inches higher.

    Tell that to island countries that are going to disappear. Tell that to most of our major cities that are right at sea level. We have the habit of building our major cities at natural ports, which tend to be low-lying, fairly flat areas on large bodies of salt water.

  155. Tom Moore

    There are two ways to get by in life without thinking: believe everything, or believe nothing.

  156. K

    http://royalsociety.org/uploadedFiles/Royal_Society_Content/News_and_Issues/Science_Issues/Climate_change/climate_facts_and_fictions.pdf

    Facts and myths about what the IPCC does and doesn’t do … and about climate change, too. That whole “I wouldn’t mind 2 degrees warmer …” thing is in there, too.

  157. Bee Kay

    Anybody wonder what we were orginally discussing? Language.
    Not global warming, politics and pragmatism, or the other nine million tangents people have written.

    Denier – a four year old, covered in lipstick, saying “No mommy, I have not been in your makeup.”

    Skeptic – The parent, trying to create scenarios where this could actually be the truth, and not coming up with any tangible evidence.

    Silence is golden – the older sibling going all 5th amendment, in order to prevent the proverbial book being thrown at him/her- for letting it happen and/or causing it to happen.

  158. James Morrison

    Sorry, but you are the one in denial, CERN has good scientific practice, unlike the closed door dishonest, nepotistic & obfuscated IPCC approach. (how much has the railway engineer, his family & cronies made out of the gullibility of others).
    How much has the high priest Al Gore made, & why is it rumoured that He’s spent $M’s on beachfront condo’s with apocalyptic sea level rises looming?

    One could extrapolate the discussion (not by much) and state that Nazi party policy & propaganda was peer reviewed (by other members of said insidious party) and deemed as being good, honest, wholesome and truthful without the factual & moral input from ‘outsiders’ ‘heretics’ ‘deniers’ or whatever they (or you) decide to bandy about as an insult next.

    The evidence is not overwhelming, I am far from convinced, but please carry on trying, as I’m not a flat Earther with a closed bigotted mind, convinced that ‘the science is over’ – it NEVER is….. we haven’t even got as far as a GUT yet!

  159. I will own the “fact” that there are a fair number of ideas/suppositions in which I believe for which I have little or no supporting evidence, yet I still classify myself as an empiricist. Why? Because I will never, ever, allow myself the narcissistic luxury of defending those ideas/suppositions in an effort to get someone else to believe them. In fact, whenever I state something someone is expected to accept (or have presented “facts” to students or colleagues), I imagine myself being asked, “So exactly WHY should I believe you?” and I’m frightened by the idea I may have mislaid the evidence I needed for just such an occasion.

    That said, I am slow to accept evidence, but once it’s in and digested, I’m quick to give up unsupported inferences. That is skepticism. Our planet and species will be damaged by the Deniers because they will never accept the consequences of their denial, even after the evidence of the predicted disastrous outcome is no longer in the future. Then they will believe it’s someone else’s fault for not having been sufficiently convincing in the first place.

  160. Damon

    Sorry SLC, but you won’t get away with your snide little distractionist comments that easily. Alien Visitations / Abductions are a highly documented and widely experienced phenomenon. You mat scoff, but I can think of hundreds of thousands of folks who would like to have a chat with you. Who is really guilty of believing dumb things: the guy who believes in the supernatural or the guy who ignores him without doing as research of his own? Shame on you. As for this J. Alen Hynek person, I hadn’t heard of him until you mentioned the name, but am now very fascinated and plan to study his research and add his voice to my internal repertoire of data.

  161. Denialist – a person who refuses to admit the truth of a concept or proposition that is supported by the majority of scientific or historical evidence.

    Scepticism – a sceptical attitude; doubt as to the truth of something.

    (c) Oxford Dictionary

  162. The notion of a CO2 influence on earth’s climate, continually tested and proven through nearly a century of primary research.
    About CO2 and its effects, THE MAIN QUESTION IS HOW LARGE IT IS.
    To debate the notion that CO2 as a gas traps outgoing infrared radiation, hence leading to a greenhouse effect, is a refutation of basic physics.
    Carbon dioxide is produced under certain conditions.
    In practice, sources of carbon dioxide, including that resulting from natural or human factors, they do not produce pure carbon dioxide, for example, forest fires, volcanic activities and incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, etc.
    CO2 mainly is associated with soot and aerosols.
    However, the formation of soot or Black Carbon (BC) seems to be influential in climate change.
    Black Carbon gives a short-term, but powerful boost to heating the planet. It is a “short-term” Climate Forcer, acting for a few days in the atmosphere and a few months on snow and ice.
    So, reductions in BC have immediate, but not long-term effects on global warming. Each CO2 molecule continues to block heat loss from the Earth for YEARS (http://c3headlines.typepad.com/.a/6a010536b58035970c0120a5e507c9970c-pi) that it stays in the atmosphere. That is why sometimes CO2 is known as the Biggest Control Knob for the climate.
    Finally, about the greenhouse effect and increase in atmospheric temperature per 20 ppm increment in CO2
    (http://c3headlines.typepad.com/.a/6a010536b58035970c0115707ce438970b-pi).

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