What is Basic Climate Science Literacy?

By Chris Mooney | December 22, 2009 8:30 am

Climate-Literacy-CoverIn the last post, I asked whether we should go back to basics on climate science. I also wondered how to do so in a way that wouldn’t be a waste of time and energy, by requiring me to re-write things that have been written a hundred times.

But I may have found a solution: NOAA’s Climate Program Office has done a nice brochure about the basics of climate science literacy, which are enumerated as the following:

CLIMATE LITERACY: The Essential Principles of Climate Science

  1. The Sun is the primary source of energy for Earths climate system.
  2. Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.
  3. Life on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate.
  4. Climate varies over space and time through both natural and man-made processes.
  5. Our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling.
  6. Human activities are impacting the climate system.
  7. Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.

Anyone who wants can read the brochure for further explanation of each point. I actually am surprised that the greenhouse effect is not one of these 7 major points, but is subsumed under 1.

But anyway, it is interesting to contemplate whether climate “skeptics” take issue with any of these basics, or whether they are indeed “climate science literate” by this standard. For after all, the complicated data and “hockey stick” type issues that “skeptics” seem to seize upon don’t appear to have much to do with these basics; and yet these basics are all you need to know that global warming is a serious concern and that we stand to get fried.

So perhaps finding clarity about who accepts the basics can provide a firm foundation for further discussion. So let’s hear it, “skeptics”: Has NOAA gotten anything wrong in its attempt to spread climate science literacy on a pretty rudimentary level?

Comments (121)

  1. gillt

    Why not direct the skeptics here, where all their questions are anticipated and answered.

  2. Madrocketscientist

    Number 6 is the primary point of contention. Are we really impacting the climate? And if so, exactly how are we impacting it (is CO2 the primary driver, or is it just one part of human activities that can impact the change), and to what degree (are we driving the change, or just adding to the delta)?

  3. Helio Takai

    I think that the answer to that is Science Literacy. Compartmentalizing knowledge is one of the biggest mistakes we make in modern educational system. There are many issues that are truly interconnected. The climate issue is tightly coupled to energy questions, pollution, transportation, food and in the end the well being of each of us. If you are pro or against any issue I think that a debate made on common science knowledge would only profit us all. We tend to debate more about what works or not as far as education is concerned. Should we adopt standards? should we teach this or that? But we don’t face the problem in hands, which is to teach science. Of course this is one opinion in about 6 billion…

  4. Somite

    The deniers that come out of the woodwork after posts like this do not have questions. They only have links to wattsupwiththat, climateaudit and editorial pages of conservative newspapers. This is what they believe and nothing will change their minds.

    More and more I think this is a concerted effort that includes discrediting the peer review work. Now deniers can dismiss with a broad brush all efforts by researchers and the IPCC.

    I have a serious question. How can you debate the ideas when the other side can make ANY statement and it is given relevance by the MSM and the ideology of its followers? That’s the important question.

  5. moptop

    “and yet these basics are all you need to know that global warming is a serious concern and that we stand to get fried.”

    Really, I don’t disagree with a single one of the “principles” laid out there, but I don’t see the part where AGW is quanitifed and outside the bounds expected of normal variability.

    Gillt,
    Instead of pointing us to “computer scientist”, Tim Lambert’s blog, why not answer objections you see here from skeptics directly? Or does your understanding of the “science” boil down to “trust the scientists”? And your arguments, they amount to “assurances” that the scientist are right and we should not ask them to prove anything? If that is the case, why do you point us to a web site maintained by a guy who teaches computer programming?

  6. greengut

    found this new faq offered from Sally Ride and a group named Climate Central

    http://www.climatecentral.org/images/uploads/breaking/feature_faq_book.pdf

    here’s a blurb from the site:

    Climate Central is proud to announce the release of it’s first publication: What You Need to Know: Twenty Questions and Answers About Climate Change (downloadable below). This book represents a joint effort between the scientists and communicators at Climate Central and Sally Ride Science. Using straightforward language, the issue of climate change is divided into three parts: The Science, The Impacts, and The Solutions.’

    http://www.climatecentral.org/breaking/features/what_you_need_to_know/

  7. gillt

    The guy whose website I recommended simply compiled questions from morons and answers from scientists.

  8. When reading such a smug lecture on the need for climate science literacy, I consider the source.

    This is not a serious attempt to engage skeptics, it’s just Mooney rallying the true believers, and trying to change the subject from the fraud in Climategate. He’s selling an either-or choice that doesn’t square with the more complicated reality, but is better suited for the simplistic alarmism of the left, such as that peddled by the IPCC.

  9. gillt

    btw., I have answered many silly objections from people clueless on this blog as to how science addresses and answers questions. That seems to be the problem here, a problem you share with creationists. It’s not that I blindly believe in science, but I have a working knowledge of science which leads to a healthy respect for the self-refuting nature of science. All the AGW deniers here wouldn’t know science if it hit them on the head with a text book.

  10. EyeRon

    To accept that human activity impacts the climate only provides a basis for initiating a research investigation. At a minimum a robust scientific inquiry would investigate the following:

    (1) How cyclical is the earth’s climate? What are the feedback mechanism that allow the climate to recalibrate? How responsive are they? How robust?

    (2) How powerful are natural climate trends? How sensitive is the earth’s climate to changes in atmospheric elements, whether those changes be natural or man-induced?

    (3) What influence do particulates have on the climate? How does adding or removing particulates from the atmosphere impact global temperature? For example, what role did the Clean-Air act have in removing particulates from the air and allowing more solar energy to penetrate the atmosphere?

    (4) Can an accurate model of the earth’s climate be constructed? What are the significant input parameters? How accurately can they be measured? What are the relationships?

    (5) What are the real benefits and costs of climate change? How can man best anticipate and profit, or otherwise make the most efficient use of resources, from the changes that will occur (no matter who caused them).

  11. david schofield

    Chris,

    No problems at all with this.

    I have a problem with the numbers. Withour rigour in sampling historical data, and testing our models, we cannot know if human effects are 0.1 degrees per century or 10 degrees per century. Neither do we know if temperatures follow carbon dioxide increases or lag behind them.

    On the precautionary principle I would wait until the data is proven to be honest, and a genuine technical concensus reached among all serious players, before enpoverishing further the developing world and raising green trade barriers.

    Opinion shift is happening by the minute, mainly because Fundamentalist Warmists are intent on insulting the good guys out there. Also suggest you look at whats been happening to Global Warming on Wiki.

    DavidS

  12. gillt

    The short and dirty answer, and one based on your previous track record here, is that you’re clueless–scientists have answered the questions, you’re too lazy or politically motivated to look.

    (1) How cyclical is the earth’s climate? What are the feedback mechanism that allow the climate to recalibrate? How responsive are they? How robust?

    First tell me the mechanism behind this alleged earthy cycling, then explain why 35% increase in CO2 does not affect global temperatures.

    Answers to some feedback mechanisms are found in the literature.

    Kang, S M., D M W Frierson, and Isaac Held, September 2009: The tropical response to extratropical thermal forcing in an idealized GCM: The importance of radiative feedbacks and convective parameterization. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 66(9), doi:10.1175/2009JAS2924.1.

    Zhang, Rong, S M Kang, and Isaac Held, in press: Sensitivity of climate change induced by the weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation to cloud feedback. Journal of Climate. 2/09.

    Soden, Brian J., Isaac Held, R Colman, K M Shell, J T Kiehl, and C A Shields, 2008: Quantifying climate feedbacks using radiative kernels. Journal of Climate, 21(14), doi:10.1175/2007JCLI2110.1.

    (2) How powerful are natural climate trends? How sensitive is the earth’s climate to changes in atmospheric elements, whether those changes be natural or man-induced?

    http://www.grida.no/publications/other/ipcc_tar/?src=/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/fig2-22.htm

    http://www.grida.no/publications/vg/climate/

    (3) What influence do particulates have on the climate? How does adding or removing particulates from the atmosphere impact global temperature? For example, what role did the Clean-Air act have in removing particulates from the air and allowing more solar energy to penetrate the atmosphere?

    I’ve already gone over this in another post.

    (4) Can an accurate model of the earth’s climate be constructed? What are the significant input parameters? How accurately can they be measured? What are the relationships?

    Here’s some pretty pictures of models and they work.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Satellite_Temperatures.png

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/275/5302/957

    http://www.earthinstitute.columbia.edu/news/2005/story04-28-05.html

    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/2005/2005cal_fig3.gif

    (5) What are the real benefits and costs of climate change? How can man best anticipate and profit, or otherwise make the most efficient use of resources, from the changes that will occur (no matter who caused them).

    The question you saved for last is the most thought-provoking, which isn’t saying alot. However, it too has been addressed many times over.

  13. Doug

    While, on this post, wanting to stay outside the discussion of the science, I do want to say that I’m finding Chris’ tone when speaking to/of the ‘skeptics’ to be increasingly condescending. Chris, are you trying to antagonize your detractors, or are you truly looking to educate? Who am I kidding here, we all know the answer to that.

    In the past, you’ve talked about the PR side of science, and have offered up opinions about the ‘siege mentality’ that overtook the CRU scientists when the emails were leaked. It would seem to me that, in this post, you’ve hunkered down yourself. This matches well with some other telltales, such as calling skeptics anti-science in an earlier post.

    Chris, all mention of the science aside, your tone won’t win you any fans, and it’s wearing thin with this fairly issue-agnostic observer. If you want to call those who don’t agree with you stupid, just do it, and spare us the elaborate preamble. I already know that there will be several follow up posts to this one, walking your example case skeptic through the science as it has been explained to you until you reach the moment where it’s ‘obvious’ that one must convert or renounce all claims of a functioning brain. It’s tired, it’s disingenuous, it will only serve to further entrench both sides, and you know all this beforehand.

    Be efficient, children. That, in and of itself, is sound scientific advice.

  14. Jon

    Sometimes it helps to realize that sometimes we’re arguing with people who use logic like this:

    A reporter asked [Inhofe]: “If there’s a hoax, then who’s putting on this hoax, and what’s the motive?”

    “It started in the United Nations,” Inhofe said, “and the ones in the United States who really grab ahold of this is the Hollywood elite.”

    If you try and get into the details of climate science with someone like this, you can’t be surprised if the debate gets a bit off. You get the “paranoid style” from the first words out of his mouth.

    But I do think scientists should do more to explain things like these studies:

    http://tinyurl.com/heatisonline

    How do we *know* that CO2 is an an agent of the warming? Maybe explaining more what experiments and evidence *show* that it’s Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Candlestick, so to speak. (Although it wouldn’t be a very good mystery novel, because it’s not like we never knew CO2 had certain properties.)

  15. moptop

    “Answers to some feedback mechanisms are found in the literature.” – Gillt

    Bwa ha ha ha. Sorry but unless you can demonstrate that all substantial climate feedbacks have been addressed, you can’t model climate reliably.

    Why can’t you answer these questions in your own words? Summarize why a study applies, then provide the link backing it up? If saving the Earth is too much bother for that, how about permalinks to comments you have made in the past which answer these concerns thoroughly? Partially would be fine too.

  16. moptop

    Chris,
    Look at Jon’s post and ask yourself if the people you ought to be teacher are the “believers”, not the deniers, since the believers seem consistently to call out for somebody more knowledgeable to smite the deniers.

    You know as well as I do that there are many comments like Jon’s “But I do think scientists should do more to explain things like these studies” Why not train some of your followers to be able to answer real objections? Instead, you have posters like Gillt calling people who want proof before being asked to pay $8 a gallon for gas “morons.”

  17. gillt

    moptop: “Sorry but unless you can demonstrate that all substantial climate feedbacks have been addressed, you can’t model climate reliably.”

    Ah yes, the argument from personal ignorance, how original.

    moptop: “Why can’t you answer these questions in your own words? Summarize why a study applies, then provide the link backing it up? If saving the Earth is too much bother for that, how about permalinks to comments you have made in the past which answer these concerns thoroughly? Partially would be fine too.”

    It’s obvious you’ve been conditioned to having someone spoon-feed you all the answers in small four letter words, but either you’re admitting incomprehension of the science or you’re too lazy to take the initiative.

  18. TB

    More real science here:

    http://futurity.org/earth-environment/from-space-daily-snapshot-of-co2-levels/

    Excerpt:

    “TEXAS A&M—Researchers studying climate now have a new tool at their disposal that yields daily global measurements of carbon dioxide and water vapor in a key part of Earth’s atmosphere.

    The data are courtesy of the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua spacecraft and confirm the mainstream scientific view that large changes in the climate are likely over the next century.

    Moustafa Chahine, the instrument’s science team leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, unveiled the new measurements at a briefing on recent breakthroughs in greenhouse gas, weather, and climate research from AIRS at the recent American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

    The new data have been extensively validated against both aircraft and ground-based observations. They give users daily and monthly measurements of the concentration and distribution of carbon dioxide in the mid-troposphere—the region of the atmosphere located between 5 and 12 kilometers, or 3 to 7 miles, above Earth’s surface and track its global transport.

    Users can also access historical AIRS carbon dioxide data spanning the mission’s entire seven-plus years in orbit. The product represents the first-ever release of global daily carbon dioxide data that are based solely on observations.

    In another major finding, scientists using AIRS data have removed most of the uncertainty about the role of water vapor in atmospheric models. The data are the strongest observational evidence to date for how water vapor responds to a warming climate.”

  19. Matt

    Wow…lol…now we’re bringing in the term “fundamentalist”?

    @DavidS: The way I read your last post, it seems you are making 3 points. Let me first address #3: the popular opinion is shifting. That may be true, but do you honestly believe that popular opinion should matter? I know it *does* matter because without popular support, policy can be difficult to enact. But I sense that you agree with me that ultimately this is a science question with a definable (if not complicated) answer. Opinion will have little to do with the numbers in the end, so it does no good to worry about which way the winds are blowing while both sides exhaust their air supply.

    I believe points 1 and 2 are compelling. You rightly assert that the numbers are still too hazy to begin “impoverishing further the developing world” (I believe that’s a bit exaggerated, but there you go). But you DO agree that humans are effecting the climate in some way. With global population increasing the way it is, whatever effect we are having now will only increase in severity.

    I *think* you might also agree that whatever small effect that we are having, it will take a long time to dissipate. The human population has been hard at work converting energy for a LONG time, and if we have only had a small effect on the planet’s climate, it will still take a lot of work to try to reverse it, no matter how small the effect is.

    Now let me throw it back over the fence to the non-AGW crowd: Do you see any trends lately, or any events that have happened, that make you think that it might be a good idea to figure out HOW to minimize our effects, even if it turns out we won’t need to? Because if it turns out that we do need to do something, I think we better get started pretty soon.

  20. EyeRon

    Thanks gillt for the link. This one explains that (a) earth’s climate has naturally experienced sudden, extreme shifts and (b) scientists believe there is a strong correlation between CO2 and temperature but IT IS UNCERTAIN how sensitive the climate is to external forcings. And what is unstated and is yet to be proven is whether CO2 levels are a cause or effect of global temperature change.

    Real scientists would propose an experiment to find out.

    Oh, and I love the scary prognostications of “projected” and “potential” climate doom. Nothing like climate pornography to mislead school children and educators.

    http://www.grida.no/publications/vg/climate/page/3057.aspx

    Over the last 400,000 years the Earth’s climate has been unstable, with very significant temperature changes, going from a warm climate to an ice age in as rapidly as a few decades. These rapid changes suggest that climate may be quite sensitive to internal or external climate forcings and feedbacks. As can be seen from the blue curve, temperatures have been less variable during the last 10 000 years. Based on the incomplete evidence available, it is unlikely that global mean temperatures have varied by more than 1°C in a century during this period. The information presented on this graph indicates a strong correlation between carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere and temperature.

  21. bob

    This (from Doug):

    “I do want to say that I’m finding Chris’ tone when speaking to/of the ’skeptics’ to be increasingly condescending. Chris, are you trying to antagonize your detractors, or are you truly looking to educate?”

    If an atheist put up a blog post written like this regarding evolution, the Intersection would cite it as evidence for how mean New Atheists are. This place really is a mess. It’s even bad at its supposed strength (communication).

    As for the content of the post, it’s not going to do anything for “skeptics” or “deniers” or whatever you’d like to call the “other side.” I’m on “your side,” Chris, but I can’t believe that #6 (Human activities are impacting the climate system) was simply asserted in complete analogy to something undeniable and painfully obvious like #1 (The Sun is the primary source of energy for Earths climate system). Again, isn’t communication your thing? How could you believe that #6 can be communicated as easily as #’s 1, 2, 3, and 7? Jeez.

  22. Jon

    but IT IS UNCERTAIN how sensitive the climate is to external forcings.

    But if so, why is “uncertainty” necessarily good? Why is uncertainty a plus, and a call for us to do even less than the small amount we’re doing?

  23. Jon

    These rapid changes suggest that climate may be quite sensitive to internal or external climate forcings and feedbacks.

    Sure. But which ones are you proposing in place of CO2? What evidence do you have?

  24. JJ

    I don’t believe the chief debate is whether warming is occurring because of us, but rather how much do our activities impact the climate and what should we do to be limit environmentally destructive human behaviors. There’s no reason to believe our actions will have a catastrophic affect if we don’t act immediately, as we’re seeing in the political arena. These “knee jerk” actions revolve around money and power more than proving environmental action. If these people really cared about our impact on the climate, they would look toward building more nuclear plants, utilizing natural gas over fossil fuels, and developing more applications for wind, solar power, and geothermal power. All of which are not supported by the left wingers that want to simply cap and tax carbon emissions, which will serve no purpose in limiting CO2 and will increase energy costs and tax revenue for big government. Doesn’t it make more sense to develop clean coal technology now or build nuclear plants, rather than charge businesses for their carbon output? How is this helping combat “climate change”? We need more action and less reaction.

  25. JJ

    Let me revise that, the left wingers only oppose nuclear power and expanding uses for natural gas.

  26. JJ

    The left wingers oppose nuclear power and expanding uses for natural gas. Why?

  27. JJ

    I don’t believe the chief debate is whether warming is occurring because of us, but rather how much do our activities impact the climate and what should we do to be limit environmentally destructive human behaviors. There’s no reason to believe our actions will have a catastrophic affect if we don’t act immediately, as we’re seeing in the political arena. These “knee jerk” actions revolve around money and power more than proving environmental action. If these people really cared about our impact on the climate, they would look toward building more nuclear plants, utilizing natural gas over fossil fuels, and developing more applications for wind, solar power, and geothermal power. The first 2 of which are not supported by the left wingers that want to simply cap and tax carbon emissions, which will serve no purpose in limiting CO2 and will increase energy costs and tax revenue for big government. Doesn’t it make more sense to develop clean coal technology now or build nuclear plants, rather than charge businesses for their carbon output? How is this helping combat “climate change”? We need more action and less reaction.

  28. gillt

    EyeRon?

    Since when are the words “projected” and “potential” scary? These are words common among scientists. Perhaps they’re polysyllabism scares you.

  29. Doug

    After giving the brochure a read, I will say that if you can get someone to agree to all the points in this brochure simply by having them read the brochure, that means essentially nothing. This brochure is essentially a repackaging of the 2007 IPCC report, and is more a primer to advocacy than any sort of educational piece. I especially like that my electronic copy says it is printed on recycled content paper.

    I believe that when Chris calls this a “nice brochure”, he means “they say things that I immediately agree with, and that is nice to me.”

    Chris, I appreciate that you are trying to start the demonstrator by defining the ground rules in your favor, but if you are serious about teaching, you should use a document that is at least espoused by the National Science Foundation. This one isn’t, if we can trust the disclaimer at the end.

  30. EyeRon

    gillt,

    Words like “projected” and “potential” convey meaning that cannot be proven unless one erroneously assumes climate events follow a Gaussian distribution. In which case one has proved nothing.

  31. Thomas L

    Game changer:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TVP-4XVC4M5-1&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=f16d0fd89651f3da2143b7aa4c85445c

    “My findings do not agree with the climate models that conventionally thought that greenhouse gases, mainly CO2, are the major culprits for the global warming seen in the late 20th century”

  32. gillt

    AGW deniers and creationists, besides being largely right-wing and science illiterate, share so much in common that they’re now trying out-do one another in government conspiracy theories.

    Judy Wesselhoft, Moore, the wife of Rep. Paul Wesselhoft of Oklahoma. had this to say:
    http://www.obse.org/aboutus.htm

    “If you think the biggest scientific hoax is climate change or global warming, examine this: Government spends billions of dollars every year promoting evolution. The number of renowned scientists that have publicly expressed doubt concerning Darwin’s theory of evolution is on the rise. The Discovery Institute’s Dr. David Berlinski writes about this hoax in his book about scientific pretensions.”

  33. TB

    @33 and 34

    Don’t bet the farm.

    Oh, and BTW, CFCs would be man-made, right? Gosh, there goes the whole “global warming is naturally occurring” meme.

    So, no, even if this paper is proven correct, climate skeptics don’t get off easy.

  34. gilt #10

    “I have a working knowledge of science which leads to a healthy respect for the self-refuting nature of science. ”

    From a philosophical point of view, this statement carries a certain unintentional hilarity. I don’t know about you, but self-refutation is generally not something commanding respect. Now, I am not disputing anything you’ve had to say about the science itself, but your incorrect use of the term “self-refutation” does tend to underline the empirical fact that many or most scientists are philosophical dunces. Not knowing the meaning or essence of self-refutation does lead many scientists (and many academics in general) to tenaciously hold self-refuting philosophies. Not that this has anything to do with the climate debate, but still: funny stuff.

  35. Adam

    @gillt: You don’t really want to win this debate do you. Don’t you understand the other side is spoon feeding the public? That is why they are gaining ground. The more you call anyone who questions you ignorant or lazy the less convincing you become. Pretend you were watching two scientists debate this issue on television. I am talking about a structured debate, not some shouting match on Fox or MSNBC. If you were the judge of the debate would you award the win to the scientist who said “Global warming is being caused by human activity and if you are too lazy to go find the research then I can’t convince you,” or the scientist who says “We cannot say global warming is caused by humans because the study has flaws. This study by another person contradicts this assertion.” I want to be convinced but I have not been because the AGW proponents are not communicating to convince. Sure someone will try to refute a counter argument here and there. But mostly I see comments like yours which leave me unimpressed.

  36. gillt

    And just as many and most philosophers are science dunces. What’s your point?

    Self-refuting in this case doesn’t mean self-nullifying, it means self-correcting. Some advice: our language can be wonderfully ambiguous, so helps to read things in context.

  37. Doug

    gillt, you are an angry, angry person, and you have my pity.

  38. Chris Mooney

    I am sorry some feel I am “condescending” to skeptics but the real point of the post is, clearly, to try to find where there is common ground, and where there isn’t. Some of the comments above help do this, but I feel, too few of them. But those are the kinds of comments I’ll be responding to in the next round, as we try to move the ball forward….

  39. gillt

    Kooks have that effect on me.

  40. Adam

    Chris,
    I have posted before about how to convince reasonable people like me. This brochure is not the way. All of these positions are standard AGW stuff. I want to see more treatments like you did with George Will. Your refutation of his polar ice caps are roughly the same now as they were argument was spot on. You showed where hi argument was flawed and did it in a way that I did not have to go to four hundred other sites to verify. To me this is a debate between reasonable people. You may not see that because you are attacked by the fringe and offended by them. However, if you want to convince me and reasonable people like me you have to win the debate. A debate is like a fencing match. You thrust by making an argument. The skeptics parry by showing something that does not fit your argument. You counter by showing how even if they are right your argument still holds and then show why. Stop reeling from the blow of climate gate, get your footing, and start debating again.

  41. Doug

    I don’t believe you can move the ball forward until you agree whose field you are playing on. As I stated earlier, you’re using a piece of advocacy literature as the basis for your discussion. There’s no doubt where your conclusions will lead from that starting point.

    Tell you what, Chris. Replace the word ‘Science’ in your post title to ‘Advocacy’, and I’ll leave you be. Or you can just moderate me out of existense, your call there.

  42. Jon

    JJ: The left wingers oppose nuclear power and expanding uses for natural gas. Why?

    Even if that sweeping generalization were true (which it’s not), what’s that have to do with the science? Deniers have this strange way of slipping into culture-war speak instead of actually coming to grips with what’s presented… You start with the paranoid style, and you never leave.

  43. gillt

    Adam: ““Global warming is being caused by human activity and if you are too lazy to go find the research then I can’t convince you,” or the scientist who says “We cannot say global warming is caused by humans because the study has flaws. This study by another person contradicts this assertion.”

    In your trite scenario, the first scientist might sound arrogant but be correct. I imagine she’s personally fed-up rehashing the same tired arguments from the denialist camp.

    The second scientists is intentionally misrepresenting the science as it’s understood by a majority of experts.

    Thinking people will base their opinions on the data and not the style or tone of the debate. But that’s irrelevant because science isn’t decided by debate and science isn’t democratic…it’s methodological and empirical. If you’re arguing for public funding of science, then maybe you have a point, but you’re not. You’re trying to decide science by popular vote and that’s insane.

  44. Chris Mooney can’t stop reeling from the Climategate emails (and documents) until he confronts it fairly. He’s mentioned in the emails, as is Andrew Revkin, but the attitude of the Climategate scientists toward the two of them is strikingly different.

    Revkin was too independent for the Climategate cabal’s tastes, which counts in his favor as a reporter. From Michael Mann:

    p.s. be a bit careful about what information you send to Andy and what emails you copy him in on. He’s not as predictable as we’d like

    By contrast, Mooney is considered one of the team, a go-to reporter for a hatchet job on a skeptic. From Tom Wigley:

    I think the scientific fraud committed by Douglass needs to be exposed. His co-authors may be innocent bystanders, but I doubt it.

    In normal circumstances, what Douglass has done would cause him to lose his job — a parallel is the South Korean cloning fraud case.

    I have suggested that someone like Chris Mooney should be told about this.

    Mooney has an obvious conflict of interest on Climategate because of his coziness with the Climategate people. He should just admit it and stop pretending it doesn’t matter.

  45. Somite

    If you don’t agree with the scientific consensus you are not a skeptic you are a denier. It was all spelled out neatly at skepticblog:

    “3) Where scientific domain expertise and consensus exist, but also a denier movement or pseudoscientific fringe, skeptics can finally roll up their sleeves and get to work.
    This is traditional ground for us, our bread and butter, as when we combat creationism or vaccine paranoia or AIDS denial. But note that there are two distinct components to critiquing fringe movements: knowledge of pseudoscience (our own area of domain expertise); and knowledge of the contrasting body of actual scientific literature — a literature on which we are not typically expert.
    On the straight science component, we are obligated to defer to the current state of the science. On the pseudoscience component, we are often able to make a contribution in our capacity as the best available experts.”

  46. “Deniers have this strange way of slipping into culture-war speak instead of actually coming to grips with what’s presented… You start with the paranoid style, and you never leave.”

    “Deniers” is culture-war speak, and is an example of the paranoid style.

  47. Thomas L

    TB,

    I suggest you cough up the 32 bucks to read the paper or wait tell you can access is in the printed journal at a University nearby (I won’t even begin to tell you how many times “peer review!!!” Has been screamed at me, and while I understand such is not exactly available to the public, such is not my demand, but theirs…). The global warmingcooling aspects were not expected, they happen to be a byproduct of the research – research which builds on previous work. CFCs maxed in the early 90’s (I believe, may be mid 90’s). Indications are it actually goes quite far in explaining the coolingflatness of the past decade. The increases through the mid to late 1900’s also seem to pretty accurately reflect the warming since the 1960’s. One would hope there will be increased work on this insight and apparent connection to clarify the degree of the effect. The projection in the paper says cooling for the next 40~ish years as the CFCs continue working their way out of the atmosphere.

    And my point is the same as always. “Climate” is an incredibly complex system with much still not very well understood, many parts of the system barely looked at or as yet not even known, and connections which are already there but as yet unrecognized (as this study implies). Unfortunately the whole subject became a political play ground far too early in the process for the normal workings of science to have prevailed. Thus rather than critical analyses we ended up with attitudes such as “everything is settled” and the all knowing attitude and everything, no matter how opposite the projections of the models, only prove it more. Sociologically Co2 is a nice theory for various reasons for many (dislike of capitalism, opposition to various industries, proponents of population control, and advocates of world governmentregulation – lots of varying theologies which could all find much to like in the idea of Co2 as a problem…). Such attitudes overtook and overran the usual skeptical and critical work required for any level of scientific certainty to be attained.

    The only thing “climate-gate” has really done is attract the attention of the greater scientific community. The harsh critical work of normal science is now being highly focused on this area, and interesting things are coming to light. Perhaps such will strengthen the previous understanding; perhaps it will greatly undermine it. Only time will give us those answers. As the process moves forward I continue learning. My world is not dependent on which side wins.

    Have to go be productive, will catch up later…

  48. Jon

    Matteo: “Deniers” is culture-war speak, and is an example of the paranoid style.

    No, it’s just a way of describing fact. I could say “climate science deniers” if you want. It’s not paranoid, it’s just a description. There is the climate science published in the scientific journals, and there are the people who deny it. Not that complicated, not paranoid.

  49. Adam

    @gillt: Unless you can convince me you are correct you are wasting your time. What good is the science if the public doesn’t believe you? They will not support any initiative to fix the problem. My point is you cannot rest on the science alone because the other side is not resting on the science alone. I am telling you what you need to do to convince me. Being condescending by calling my scenario “trite” doesn’t help. I understand you think you are right. But, I am not so sure. I do not think you are wrong. I just think you and AGW proponents need to realize you are losing the debate because you are not addressing the other side directly. If the second scientist is misrepresenting the science he is either lying about the facts or not telling us how the facts fit the theory. In the previous thread someone brought up Ice Corps data. No-one was able to refute it and no one tried to show how it fit in with AGW. These type of rational points need to be brought up. If you are sure you are right then you have to rehash and rehash until the rational people are convinced. Realize that new people are coming to this debate all the time. So you have to rehash your point of view otherwise the other side is the only opinion herd.

  50. gillt

    If you’re not swayed by the facts or a general consensus among the experts then perhaps you’re a denalist, which is why I find your agnostic posturing insincere. I vote for loud mocking and marginalization of your views.

    Here’s some polemic.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/dec/07/climate-change-denial-industry

  51. Adam

    On a side note, I wish I could edit my posts after posting. I always find an error. Ice Core data was in the privious thread. I have yet to hear of a Corps of Ice.

  52. moptop

    “I vote for loud mocking and marginalization of your views.” – Gillt.

    If there is a “denialist industry”, as you claim, you are a valuable asset to them.

  53. Adam

    @gillt: I am swayed by the facts. You just aren’t addressing all of them. No, I am not swayed by a consensus because it is not a logical argument. It is an appeal to the masses. How do I know people like Steven Milloy aren’t right and it is a case of group think. Your facts are your argument. Now, how are you going to refute the counter arguments? I am seeing the AGW community get beaten up in the debate because they will not in general continue the debate process. If Milloy is misrepresenting the science show me how, and show me in a logical thought out way that doesn’t insult my intelligence but doesn’t assume I know the science. I don’t know that is why I am looking for answers.

  54. Adam

    I thought I posted this already. Forgive me if it comes up twice.

    @gillt: I am swayed by the facts. You just aren’t addressing all of them. No, I am not swayed by a consensus because it is not a logical argument. It is an appeal to the masses. How do I know people like Steven Milloy aren’t right and it is a case of group think. Your facts are your argument. Now, how are you going to refute the counter arguments? I am seeing the AGW community get beaten up in the debate because they will not in general continue the debate process. If Milloy is misrepresenting the science show me how, and show me in a logical thought out way that doesn’t insult my intelligence but doesn’t assume I know the science. I don’t know that is why I am looking for answers.

  55. Jon

    Adam: I am swayed by the facts.

    Is Steven Milloy swayed by the facts? I think he’s swayed by the money he gets from tobacco companies, etc.

    What’s his web site on climate? “Demand debate .com”? How much more transparent can you be? The idea is to create noise and make it look like there’s controversy. “Doubt is our product,” read the internal tobacco industry memo. The Discovery Institute basically did the same thing with evolution. “Teach the controversy!” Well, controversy didn’t exist before they manufactured it.

  56. JJ

    How is stating general facts about left wingers paranoid? It’s simply a fact, the general consensus of those on the left are against nuclear power and expanding uses for natural gas. It’s correct and that simple. Those that question scientific claims with supporting factual evidence are not paranoid, it’s science. The integrity of the climate data and the large political agenda riding on it are what most “deniers” are concerned about. Calling them “deniers” is indeed paranoid, similar to the moon landing deniers that think everyone else was duped by the government.

  57. Adam

    John, who cares where he gets his money? Refute the arguments he presents on JunkScience.com. I only know of him from his opinion pieces on FoxNews.com under the feature by the same title. And as I look at junk science I find a lot of articles by Tom Kondis. I do not know anything about the man other than what he has written here. Do I care? No. I care that he has made points that look like they are based on scientific fact. Can you refute these without the personal attacks? Are his assertions correct? If not, why? If so how do they fit in the AGW theory?

  58. Adam

    Also Jon, you didnt answer my question. How do I know him and those that think like him are not right about the group think? Answer my questions directly and convincingly and you will convince me. Otherwise, they look like they are right.

  59. Jon

    JJ: How is stating general facts about left wingers paranoid?

    Because the implication is that it has something to do with what we’re discussing here, and it doesn’t. It’s slipping into culture war stereotyping and name calling instead of having an on point discussion about the science.

    JJ: Calling them “deniers” is indeed paranoid, similar to the moon landing deniers that think everyone else was duped by the government.

    Moon landing denial is definitely more extreme. But insisting that a massive set of independent organizations, institutions, and researchers worldwide, have 1) all fudged their data, 2) deliberately denied competing hypotheses in peer review, 3) never let other ambitious, merit-worthy scientists question their work, and 4) all acted in a coordinated fashion to do these things, is essentially a conspiracy theory. So yes, it strikes me as paranoid.

  60. Jon

    JJ: How is stating general facts about left wingers paranoid?

    Because the implication is that it has something to do with what we’re discussing here, and it doesn’t. It’s slipping into culture war stereotyping and name calling instead of having an on point discussion about the science.

    JJ: Calling them “deniers” is indeed paranoid, similar to the moon landing deniers that think everyone else was duped by the government.

    Moon landing denial is definitely more extreme. But insisting that a m@ssive set of independent organizations, institutions, and researchers worldwide, have 1) all fudged their data, 2) deliberately denied competing hypotheses in peer review, 3) never let other ambitious, merit-worthy scientists question their work, and 4) all acted in a coordinated fashion to do these things–is essentially a conspiracy theory. So yes, it strikes me as paranoid. And calling people who do these things “deniers,” does not.

  61. Jon

    How do I know him and those that think like him are not right about the group think?

    Truthfully, I’m n0t familiar with Steve Milloy’s arguments. He’s a former tobacco “skeptic” for hire. So I make the rational judgement that he’s not worth the time to read. So my question for you would be, why do you find him worth your time?

  62. Jon

    Does he pay you?

  63. JJ

    The political implications riding on the climate data and the fact that politics may be influencing the argument are the cause for concern. Since most scientists tend to identify as Democratic, it’s no surprise people are skeptical of the man-made argument and plans to combat it. On the political side, the actions planned by the current administration will have negative affects on our economy and don’t seem to address the issue as I mentioned earlier. Those serious about combating CO2 should favor nuclear power and expanding use of natural gas, as well as solar, wind, and geothermal. Taxing carbon emissions doesn’t keep them out of the atmosphere, so one would assume these actions are more political and less concerned with science. This raises red flags. Any real, concerned scientist would support nuclear and natural gas. Which brings us back to the stereotype that the right denies climate change, which is not true. They actually favor more serious actions, nuclear and natural gas, as well as solar, wind, and geothermal.

  64. Timothy

    Let’s see we have the following points:

    1. The Sun is the primary source of energy for Earths climate system.
    2. Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.
    3. Life on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate.
    4. Climate varies over space and time through both natural and man-made processes.
    5. Our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling.
    6. Human activities are impacting the climate system.
    7. Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.

    Which are uncontroversial, but now according to C.Mooney: “these basics are all you need to know that global warming is a serious concern and that we stand to get fried.”

    LOL?

    Mooney you are science illiterate if you think your silly conclusion is supported by those 7 points. That would require *QUANTIFICATION* of human impact on climate AND *PROOF* that said impact will lead to significant temperature rise in the future – enough to “get us fried”.

  65. Jon

    Which brings us back to the stereotype that the right denies climate change, which is not true.

    That’s not what I’ve heard. From a recent poll:

    Republicans are the only group in which a minority (42%) believes it’s the result of human activity.

    They actually favor more serious actions, nuclear and natural gas, as well as solar, wind, and geothermal.

    I wish this were true. How serious can they be if most don’t believe GHG’s are the culprit?

  66. Busiturtle

    Jon,

    What percentage of greenhouse gases are man made?

  67. Adam,
    To many people, trying to disprove individual anti-AGW claims is like trying to disprove individual penis enlargement claims.

    Where do you start?

    When a claim uses a mix of literature and made-up numbers, disguises them by converting to inane metrics, and presents altered graphs, how does one approach the problem?

    The fact that slapping a bunch of numbers together take much less time and skill than checking them means that checking each and every claim is simply not possible, even if every scientists with the know-how to do so stopped doing research and spent 12 hours a day debunking web claims.

  68. JJ

    I wouldn’t use such political polls as a scientific basis. Even the President ignores such approval polls. That poll is posted on a Washington Post affiliated website, which favors the Democrats, which destroys all credibility. If you were paying attention to the Presidential debate, the Republican candidates all supported nuclear and natural gas, etc. and have actually supported nuclear power before the global warming debate became mainstream. However, nuclear power was never sought before the debate because coal was a cheap and abundant source of energy, dating back to the industrial revolution. In light of the debate, Republicans have proposed nuclear power and been shot down by those on the left in recent years. I offer you a non-partisan poll, courtesy of Gallup, which shows support is growing:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/117025/support-nuclear-energy-inches-new-high.aspx

  69. TB

    @51 Thomas L
    I don’t need to pay money to see the research. I understand how science works. If this paper really does bring something new to the field of climate science then it’ll have an impact. If not, it won’t. That’s how science works.
    And my main point stands: If it’s not carbon but CFCs it means warming is still manmade.

  70. JJ

    Denying the safety of nuclear power is similar to denying the moon landing. If one was asked if flying was safe, most people would say yes based on the number of crashes/deaths over X amount of years. Applying the same logic to nuclear power, the number of nuclear disasters in the last 50 years can be counted on one hand, therefore how can one conclude it is not safe? It’s been used in the US Navy and Europe since the mid 50’s.

  71. Thomas L

    TB,

    there isn’t much you are going to do about “man made” in regards to the environment – unless you are advocating species mass suicide. somehow I don’t think that is going to happen, so we’d best just get on with learning and figuring out how to limit our overall impact (preferably with politically naive suggestions that will lead to mass revolts – those are severely counterproductive…). Seeing as most CFCs are no longer usedpermitted, that is a problem area that only time will continue fixing – it isn’t currently being added to.

    And you do not need to jump threads on a discussion, if I post I feel I’m obligated to keep an eye on what is going on in a thread – no need to clutter up one on a different topic. It is also why you will not see me post in every thread – only those I find interesting.

  72. Thomas L

    Oops, thought I was in a different thread Tb :)

    (wife was babbling in my ear…)

  73. J.J.E.

    I take issue with Chris’s general claims about global warming being serious and the general implication that we’re destroying “the environment”. He needs to be more explicitly anthropocentric. What we do about climate change isn’t some abstract, aesthetic desire for a “harmonious environment”, it is an attempt to avoid crapping in our one and only nest any more than we already have.

    Dick Lewontin puts it nicely.

  74. Read the Code

    Hey, Chris, have you ever disclosed that you are mentioned in a Climategate email? Apparently, one of the warm-mongers suggests that “someone like Chris Mooney” should be informed of a particular issue they were having with a skeptical scientist. What do you suppose he meant by that phrase?

  75. Thomas L

    Just because some have been commenting on the mistake about glaciers in the Himalayas melting by 2035… Seems it gets even more interesting, From John Nielsen, the Texas state climatologist:

    http://www.chron.com/commons/readerblogs/atmosphere.html?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&newspaperUserId=54e0b21f-aaba-475d-87ab-1df5075ce621&plckPostId=Blog%3a54e0b21f-aaba-475d-87ab-1df5075ce621Post%3aa2b394cc-5b5f-47ad-8bb5-c1aec91409ad&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest

    It does seem much is being re examined, this is a good thing.

    Someone posted something about wishing they could correct posts – I second :) The above should have been “without causing…”. Should know better than to rush & hit submit when the wife is talking and reminding me of some task I need to go do (those of you still single will learn about that).

  76. Re #78 and the Himalayan screw up.

    Yes, they screwed up. Was this an elementary mistake that never should have been made at this level?

    Absolutely.

    Should they have a system in place to catch these kinds of mistakes?

    Yes they should.

    Has any other major science organization ever done anything similar?

    Sure. In 1999 a failure to convert between metric used by the science team and pounds used by the engineering team caused NASA’s Mars Climate Orbiter to crash into the planet.

    So is that evidence that NASA is obviously incapable of landing on other planets, and must have faked the landings?

    Does it undermine the veracity of all previous pictures taken by planetary probes?

    Does it mean we should stop spending billions of tax dollars on space exploration because it is inherently uncertain and incredibly complicated?

    Did the metric-wielding global UN government conspire to create the problem in order to undermine the patriotic US standard system of measurement?

    Is there any reason to read more into the Himalayan glacier goof than the MCO one?

  77. moptop

    “And my main point stands: If it’s not carbon but CFCs it means warming is still manmade.”

    Except you missed the part about spending trillions with a thousand ‘B’s on the *wrong* solution. Yeesh!

  78. moptop

    “The fact that slapping a bunch of numbers together take much less time and skill than checking them means that checking each and every claim is simply not possible, even if every scientists with the know-how to do so stopped doing research and spent 12 hours a day debunking web claims.”

    Wow, this argument is nearly impenitrable in its emotional fortification.

    We have the argument from ignorance that there are no peer-reviewed skeptical arguments.

    We have assurances that all serious skeptical claims have been debunked elsewhere, so don’t worry your pretty little head about it and just fork over the trillions.

    We have the claim that the good scientists are so busy in their virtuous pursuit of truth that they don’t have time to debunk all of these made up claims, which combined point one with a twist of absolution emotional certainty regarding a property of a vast chaotic system.

    Basically, it boils down to “All doubts have been answered, no new doubts can exist, all skeptical arguments use made up numbers and so are not worth my time, therefore you shouldn’t read them either, and I am certain that I am right.”

    Did we miss anything? Oh yeah, the classic “Reject first, ask rhetorical question later!” logical argument; right up there with warmies with Modus Ponens.

    Oh wait, here’s one from Jon:

    They[the Right] actually favor more serious actions, nuclear and natural gas, as well as solar, wind, and geothermal. [<- The argument.]

    I wish this were true. [<- the rejection… wait for it…] How serious can they be if most don’t believe GHG’s are the culprit?" <- The rhetorical question.

    You can have good fun spotting this method of argument all up and down, not just this thread, but any thread on this or any other subject that has captured the interest of the Left.

  79. SLC

    Re Madrocketscientist @ #34

    Maybe I’m missing something here but I was under the impression that CFCs have been phased out. Actually, I seem to recall reading that the phaseout of CFCs itself contributes to global warming, although I can’t find a link to that information.

    Re moptop

    This notion that alleviating the CO(2) problem will require trillions in expenditures is another big lie spread by the denialists as a part of their goal post moving activities, which I denote as the Racehorse Haynes defense. For instance, the US could reduce its CO(2) production by some 20% by replacing coal burning power plants, which produce 47% of US CO(2) with natural gas burning power plants. Natural gas produces 1/2 the CO(2) as coal for the same BTUs produced. Even if one is a global warming denier like Mr. moptop, I think he would have to admit that this would be a good idea just from the point of view of eliminating other pollutants, such as mercury, from the environment. Since vast deposits of natural gas have now become feasible due to improved technology, this seems like a win win situation to me. This would certainly tide us over until more nuclear power plants could be built and, hopefully, nuclear fusion comes on line sometime in the next 50 years, as existing coal burning power plants can be modified to use natural gas instead. Inducing China and India to do the same would further reduce CO(2) production as those nations are even more heavily dependent on coal then is the US (it might also help reduce our balance of trade with China if we exported natural gas to them).

  80. Adam

    Again Jon I don’t care what motivates Milloy only that he has brought up a critical point. I am judging this debate just as a jurist would judge the debate of a court case. Do I care that a defense attorney is paid by someone who may be guilty? No. I only care that he can argue his case. If you don’t find him (and, I presume, others like him) worth of your time to read than you fail to understand your opponent whom others are listening to.

  81. wws

    You do realize that China (with India’s support) has just made this entire debate moot, don’t you? China very convincingly demonstrated that they are more than willing to spike any international agreement that could limit their CO2 releases, ever. There is no more pressure that can be put on them than already has. (that has something to do with how they are providing the money required to keep the US treasury afloat right now) They spiked the Copenhagen conference because they knew they could and they knew no one could stop them.

    So there are some obvious conclusions that can be drawn from this, and it surprises me that so many on all sides are avoiding thinking about them.

    (in the honor of the scientific method, I would appreciate anyone who disagrees pointing out the flaw in the logic

    1) China could not care less about climate change, but they DO care about ensuring their future economic growth. They see any international agreement as a threat to their future growth, therefore they will use their power to block one.

    2) China has the full backing of India. (plenty of links available to show that) China also has the backing of the group of 77.

    3) China is now too strong for any other nation to oppose. If the US couldn’t do it, no one can.

    4) If China and India are out of an agreement, then the US is out. (at least 10 Democratic Senators are on record as to this)

    5) Since the US, China, and India account for over half the worlds CO2 production and most of the future growth, the other nations of the world can do nothing to meaningfully change world CO2 levels even if they were all to agree. (and the group of 77 does NOT agree with any limitiations)

    6) Thus there is now no hope for the international limiting of carbon emissions, now or at anytime in the near future. There will be no binding treaty, and any nation which does so voluntarily will lose jobs and economic strength to those nations which refuse.

    7) therefore it is pointless to talk about limiting emissions or other legal restrictions – I know it is hard for everyone to wrap their minds around the fact that a few days ago, that boat sailed away for ever – but it has. Although limitations may be emotionally satisfying, the math says that there is no way any unilateral restrictions can change world CO2 levels.

    8) Final Conclusion – Copenhagen ensured that all of this talk about reducing CO2 is pointless, because it is not now going to happen. Emissions are going to go on as usual, and there is no longer any realistic hope of any other outcome, because unilateral action is pointless. (Burdening US factories with high costs now will simply shift that production to China, resulting in the same or more CO2 production but far less American jobs)

    Discussions on these matters had meaning when it looked like they would be the basis for serious policy changes. As that possibility has slipped away over the last 3 weeks, the relevance of any of these overwrought discussions has slipped away with it. Of course there are many people who are locked into their opinions and who will fight forever to uphold their “honor,” or whatever – but from now on, it’s just another internet topic to fight about, nothing more. Global warming, Brangelina, whatever – it’s all the same now. And nothing anyone reading this can do can change that.

  82. Adam

    Lab Lemming @72: Sure debunking individual claims is time consuming and hard. But, If you let enough of them go unchallenged, the case mounts against you. Start by taking the arguments that attack your premises. For example, Tom Kondis along with others I have seen post here say the CO2 in the atmosphere is not significant enough in properties or volume to account for the warming being observed. This attacks the very foundation of the green house effect. The brochure Chris sites claims our understanding is improved by models. Yet claims challenging the reliability of the models go untouched. You do not have to refute every skeptical argument but at least try to defend your most basic premises. The argument I hear most often is a consensus of the scientific community agrees. Yet Jon has answered me twice about group think and avoided a direct answer both times. The other side is in the mud attacking your foundation. If you want to win you have to be willing to get your hands dirty too.

  83. TB

    @82. moptop Says:
    “Except you missed the part about spending trillions with a thousand ‘B’s on the *wrong* solution. Yeesh!”

    And you missed the part where I said don’t bet the farm.

    But this is a very good example of how disingenuous this debate is. There are crap loads of posts on this blog with climate change deniers attacking the basic data showing that there is warming. Many of them doing so while in the same breath saying “Now I’m not denying there is warming, but is in manmade?” In other words, they don’t even have a basic scientific position of A) whether there is warming and B) whether it’s manmade.

    Now along comes a study – one study – that claims CFCs are responsible for warming and not carbon. Huzzah! say the deniers. We told you it wasn’t carbon!

    Well, no, you told us a lot of things. You told us there was no warming, that there was warming but that it was naturally occurring and now you want to add number three: there is warming but it’s caused by CFCs (that have conveniently already been banned here in the U.S. so we don’t have to find out what you think about them).

    What ever happens with this study, science wins. Because it wasn’t the deniers who contributed ANYTHING to this debate. This study will either stand up to scrutiny or fail OR do a bit of both: in other words, add important information that improves our overall understanding of climate ALONG with all the work that’s already been done.

    But that third thing? That’s personally the best I think will happen. Because he’s making some pretty grandiose claims in that abstract and story, and one thing that’s a bit hard to believe is that he’s single-handedly overturned decades of climate science, study of the carbon cycle and how it affects the world.

    As a matter of fact, there’s an EQUAL chance that he turns out to be a bit of a nut because, you know, it’s not enough to prove the one thing does something – you also need to DISPROVE that another thing also does something.

  84. Jon

    Adam: If you don’t find him (and, I presume, others like him) worth of your time to read than you fail to understand your opponent whom others are listening to.

    Who reads Milloy? I know he appears on Fox. That audience is so propagandized, and carefree about being propagandized, that I don’t have time to listen to all the junk that’s fed to them. (I barely have time for this, really.)

    So you tell me Milloy says something like “blah blah blah scientists, blah blah blah groupthink.” I would be crazy to go and read and analyze his “blah blah blah”s and respond. It’s a waste of time. The guy practically screams “doubt is my product“, being the tobacco boy that he is. It’s not real debate, it’s public relations trickery disguised as debate. And I don’t care to participate. (Why are *you* participating?)

  85. Adam

    Jon, like it or not FoxNews is the most watched of the 24 hour news networks, especially in primetime where most of the content is opinion based. I stumbled across Milloy looking for the other side of the debate on climate science. And I bring him up because he was prominently featured at the time on the FoxNews blog roll. It was an easy search that brought me to a skeptic who looks like he is using science to refute AGW science. In other words, he is an easy to find influence. He is also only one of many saying the same thing. You have time to tell me he is a tobacco denier but not enough time to tell me what steps have been taken to overcome group think.
    Again, I am telling you what you have to do to win the public debate. If you refuse, for whatever reason, then you will lose the public. Then, no matter how right you are, nothing will be able to be done to solve the problem. How satisfying will the “I told you so,” be when you stopped fighting and didn’t do everything you could to prevent it.

  86. ab

    If people want a green world.
    then stop buying Chineese products.

    No more “made by china” unless approved by a green label.

    China frustrated the COP top, now people act themselves.
    No more “made by china” unless approved by a green label.

    Start yourselves, start today, start small!
    If governments want to join, they shloud implement green labels.

    We make china transparent! That should be done anyway.
    How can you expect your government to take responsibility if you do not even bother about a green
    label ?

    Imagine a green label, next to “made by china” (hi hi)
    People who care act. Hypocritical to ask your covernment and at the same time you want to buy communist party polluting toys

  87. Jon

    But you don’t win by “debating” Steve Milloy. His intentions are not debate in the normal sense. Read the link I put in my last comment.

  88. Thomas L

    SLC,

    I’m not sure where anyone is coming up with their numbers from (most on both side seem to be repeating some figure they memorized from their favorite pundit), but I tend to look at the CBO reports, keeping in mind they have a historical record of being incredibly optimistic – generally by a lot.

    The estimates on the Houses bill are for approximately $175 PER household – per year by 2020 “the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the net annual economywide cost of the cap-and-trade program in 2020 would be $22 billion—or about $175 per household’. I would advise reading the entire report: http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/103xx/doc10327/06-19-CapAndTradeCosts.pdf

    Now, why I realize few in these threads seem to have a clue about what the real financial state is, I can assure you such would truly be stretching the feasible realities in our economy. Most of the states are borderline bankrupt, and this year’s budget talks are going to make last year’s look like a walk in the park (See California’s response to the present health care bill being finalized as an example). There are no signs of a recovering tax base (receipts are down 20+% for personal income, and are in the high 50% range for corporate income), so to just stay even the states are talking about significant increases in taxes and reductions in current services. As an example, New York needs an 8% tax rate increase on property to keep the current level of teachers… Also, keep in mind that by 2020 we are going to be having other serious issues as the boomers will be pretty much into retirement, and that 60 trillion in unfunded liabilities will have kicked in full swing and begin seriously crimping the Federal’s general fund (there is no Social Security “trust” – it is rather an IOU from the general fund…).

    There are of course benefits, but they are as yet an unknown with no clear way to quantify, so anyone saying what we will have a net gain in exchange is talking without knowing.

  89. Adam

    You are missing the point. It is not the person or his motives it is the claims he makes. If those claims come from a PR perspective you still have to counter them. Again he is just one of many saying the same things. Address the ideas not the motivations or the person. You will never change Milloy or other extremists. Your audience is those who are trying to wade through all of this information to make sense of it. Most of them are not going to take the time to look at motivations. All they hear are the assertions.

  90. Jon

    If those claims come from a PR perspective you still have to counter them.

    I am countering them right now, in this thread.

  91. moptop

    SLC,
    I don’t disagree with a single one of your suggestions re the direction of future energy development in the US. I really don’t like burning coal. I live on a lake where you can’t eat most of the fish due to mercury. What I strongly disagree with is the concept that we are better off leaving our own oil in the ground, with the externalities involved in having our economy’s lifeblood in the ground of nations that hate us, and have since before the crusades,look at the early history of the Marine Corps, not the sanitized Wikipedia version either.

    So I would say, drill here now. Get disentangled from the M.E. sooner than quicker, develop Nuclear and develop Natural Gas. If I thought that is what cap and trade was about, I would be all for it. It’s not though. It is about continuing are dependence on foreign oil, but collecting huge gasoline taxes for use in buying votes.

    The scare tactics used by the Al Gores of the world are not supported by the science. Sorry if that makes me a “denier”. We have time to do the right thing, but Noooo. SLC, if I thought that you could carry out your plan, I would vote for you for president. But all I see are attempts to control our economy and redress various “injustices” in the cause of unjustified climate alarmism.

    You really ought to think more, and spend less time tuning out alternative points of view. Are you afraid of them? I will answer that for you. Yes. Your answer of course is that reading them is a waste of time. Understanding and converting people to save the planet is a waste of time. It would be a lot more convincing if you acted like the planet was in peril, instead of using these threads to get little masterbatory frissons of superiority by imagining that all who disagree with you are morons without even understanding their arguments.

  92. Re Adam #87.
    I don’t have to refute articles at all. There is nothing stopping me* from taking a six figure slaary on a coal-based drilling rig, and using my fat salary to do dodgy real-estate deals in vulnerable coastal housing. Taking peoples life savings would probably be more educational to them than giving them links a hundred pages down a comment column.

    But since you asked, here is a paper describing how an accurate and precise climate sensitivity is obtained.

    It was originally done to counter high sensitivity alarmists, not low sensitivity denialists, but the narrowness of the peak do both jobs equally well.
    There is a fair bit of math involved, I hope that is OK.
    http://www.jamstec.go.jp/frcgc/research/d5/jdannan/GRL_sensitivity.pdf

    * Aside from the Missus

  93. Adam

    Not directly. You are like Ali playing rope-a-dope blocking and blocking and blocking. Start punching. The consensus is not a conspiracy because…? Group think is not an issue because…? Kondis is not applying the science correctly because…? Those are direct counter attacks. I pointed it out before but it bears repeating here. Chris’s take down of George Will and the polar ice caps is exactly what I am looking for in the defense against the counter claims that aim directly at the AGW central premises. Arguments that challenge water vapor being a feedback aggravated by CO2 as an example. The group thinks argument is another. Answer the counter claims directly. Treat me like a jurist who (in a perfect world) only listens to the facts presented by both sides of the case.

  94. moptop

    “But you don’t win by “debating” Steve Milloy.” – Jon

    Your side is doing great then, huh? Have you looked at the scoreboard lately?

  95. Adam

    Lab Leming #98. No, you dont have to do anything. But if you want others to believe you and not the other side soemone has to defend the AGW position.
    Thank you for the link. I will read it when I can. However, not everyone will. Thus, someone needs to be willing to “spoon feed” the information to the public or else the pendulem of popular support will keep swinging the other way.

  96. moptop

    Lab Lemming, first, I think that climate sensitivity is about 1C, with us having already seen .6 of it due to the logarithmic nature of CO2 warming. Falls right in line with your paper, which is now invalidated, by the way, because it is based on the CRU dataset, which is being re-examined, and re-analyzed. Bombshells drop on that dataset daily due to Climategate. You can cover your ears in denial, but they still go off. So it is likely that the range of likely sensitivities is even lower than the paper suggests.

  97. Jon

    Well, like I said, I’m not familiar with Steve Milloy’s argument. How does he treat the fact that researchers are in many different, independent institutions? How does he treat the fact that professional pressures are to knock one anothers’ scientific arguments down in order to make your career? How does he deal with the fact that rigorous empiricism doesn’t lend itself to group think about physical reality? How does he deal with the fact that there are many different lines of evidence? Or that basic science about GHG’s has been established for more than a century?

    I don’t know how he deals with any of these things.

    Nor do I care.

    Because an argument with Steve Milloy tends to sound like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teMlv3ripSM

  98. Jon

    moptop: Have you looked at the scoreboard lately?

    If this is a game (which is a perverse thought), the big “scoreboard” is climate change itself. Hundreds of thousands of year-old glaciers, feeding freshwater to millions of people, don’t care about any of our arguments. They’ll continue to melt no matter what we argue.

  99. Thomas L

    Well Jon

    There is a scoreboard; its score is based upon what exactly is our current understanding?

    You need to catch up the glacier melting issues, there is far more involved then Co2…

    As in “Aviation contributes up to one-fifth of warming in some areas of the Arctic”. It is their vapor trails, not Co2 which “produced 15–20% of warming” in the Arctic and “commercial airline flights shows that they are responsible for 4–8% of surface global warming since surface air temperature” : http://www.nature.com/news/2009/091221/full/news.2009.1157.html.

    Or perhaps you missed the study paper about “Strong Alpine glacier melt in the 1940s due to enhanced solar radiation”: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2009GL040789.shtml were we learn that glacier melt rates were substantially higher during that period then they are currently (and as a side note, there is that pesky 1940’s blip that everyone finds troublesome and seem to have decided were the result of faulty thermometer readings… except it would seem the glaciers think it was really there…).

    As for the scientists being competitive and therefore it would benefit them to try to disprove things in the theory… Well, you might want to explain how well that works to Cliff Mass when “A group of us noted that the snowpack in the Cascades was NOT rapidly melting away – and actually got told to just be quite and not publish his results instead of causing waves) and his fellow colleague Mark Albright who “was fired as associate State Climatologist” as a result of stating so in public: http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2009/12/climategate.html

    The “game” has changes, and it doesn’t look so good right now for AGW. We shall see what else comes out over the coming months. I’d suggest staying current as many of the old arguments aren’t going to work any longer. And as Kerry said, “amateur hour is over”, and so are such unsupported arguments.

  100. John Kwok

    Hi Chris,

    Stephen Meyer is back, making an inane comparison between global warming denialists and evolution denialists, by asserting that both have been subject to substantial “persecution”, as noted here (you can read the rest of risible commentary at http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=34935):

    Believers in human-caused global climate change have been placed under an uncomfortable spotlight recently. That is thanks to the Climategate scandal, centering on e-mails hacked from the influential Climate Research Unit (CRU) at England’s University of East Anglia. The e-mails show scientists from various academic institutions hard at work suppressing dissent from other scientists who have doubts on global warming, massaging research data to fit preconceived ideas, and seeking to manipulate the gold standard “peer review” process to keep skeptical views from being heard.

    Does this sound familiar at all? To me, as a prominent skeptic of modern Darwinian theory, it sure does. For years, Darwin-doubting scientists have complained of precisely such abuses, committed by Darwin zealots in academia.

    There have been parallels cases where e-mail traffic was released showing Darwinian scientists displaying the same contempt for fair play and academic openness as we see now in the climate emails. One instance involved a distinguished astrophysicist at Iowa State University, Guillermo Gonzalez, who broke ranks with colleagues in his department over the issue of intelligent design in cosmology. Released under the Iowa Open Records Act, e-mails from his fellow scientists at ISU showed how his department conspired against him, denying Dr. Gonzales tenure as retribution for his views.

  101. moptop

    “If this is a game (which is a perverse thought), the big “scoreboard” is climate change itself.” – Jon

    Uh, no Jon, the scorecard is political. If the problem is as big as you say, the only real solutions are political. Your debate methods do not seem to advance that goal. It seems like they are more about making Jon feel smart and superior. Just sayin’.

    By the way, just because creationists also tend to be skeptical, blind squirrel, nut, you get the point.

  102. moptop

    Before I move on, I would just like to say that I want an honest debate, and am interested in the truth. It feels more like skeptics are winning this debate by default, as Adam points out. Too bad, because it seems like an important issue.

  103. Jon

    “Honest debate” with Steve Milloy?

    http://www.no-smoke.org/getthefacts.php?id=482

    Are you kidding?

  104. Adam

    Lab Lemming: I looked at the paper you linked. Now, how does that fit in to the debate? Climate sensitivity is not as high as alarmists think but not as low as denialists claim based on this paper. So what does that mean to me? I am not qualified to judge the validity of the data so I will take it at face value. Now, you should tell me how the facts fit the narrative. Skeptics are presenting their side with a narrative that is aimed at the populace. Your answer provides me a paper that I have to take the time to read, be learned enough to understand, and be qualified to judge its validity. Which do you think is going to convince a larger number of people?

  105. Adam

    Jon: It is not just Milloy it is the entire first page of results when you Google “climate science group think.” Finally in 104 you started to make some valid counter points. Then you lost all of your momentum by going back to the same old personal attack. There are less arguments than people aspousing them. Wouldn’t it be easier to attack those.

  106. Jon

    Is it my job here to debate every “group think” page I can find slapped up by anyone with an internet connection?

    If you have specific scientific questions regarding climate science, maybe I can answer those (even though I doubt this discussion is in good faith). But the basic scientific debate is over. Is it possible that someone is going to come out all the sudden and change that debate? Anything is possible. I could drop dead here before finishing this comment. Is anything *likely*? What’s “very likely” (greater than 90% confidence) is that GHG’s are the dominant source of the warming we’ve seen.

  107. Adam

    I haven’t shown you any reason to doubt the faith of my discussion. I have tried to direct you with each post what you could say to convince me. You never said it. It may be the scientific debate is over. It is not the scientist’s that you have to worry about. It is people like me who are not scientists that need a clear direct explanation of why you are right and how you answer the claims of those who say you are wrong. An attack on someone’s motivations is not a direct answer. If you counter the argument you do not have to worry about “every ‘group think’ page…slapped up by anyone with an internet connection.”

    I think we have gone around this circle long enough. Thank you for a rigorous discussion. Happy Holidays to you and yours.

  108. The Accuser

    I personally find it interesting that many of the same skeptics here who accuse climate science of “ignoring the role of the sun” seem oblivious that the NOAA publication Chris has posted says that “The Sun is the primary source of energy for Earths climate system,” thus highlighting that their claim is grossly mistaken, at best, and a deliberate lie, at worst. But such is the nature of most skeptic argument.

    I think the problem with most (not all) skpetics’ arguments is that they shift their goalposts like crazy, ultimately highlighting a terrible, even nonexistent understanding of the basics of climate science. For example, a skeptic will say “Scientists won’t admit that the sun is the primary driver of Earth’s climate system! It’s all a sham!” In response, someone will post the NOAA booklet above, which proves them wrong outright. Then, instead of admitting a fault the skeptic will then move to something completely different, such as talking about some obscure climate data from Russia collected in the 60s and how it debunks global warming. Someone will then prove that argument wrong, and the goalposts shift again and again in a neverending circle of disprovable accusations.

    So, in essence, I don’t think the issue here is “do skeptics understand basic climate science?” Because they do – or some of them do, at least. Their goal isn’t to learn the science…because if they did, finding out that NOAA admits something they claim science doesn’t should interest them greatly. Instead, the goalpost shifting is just an example of the basic skeptic tactic – flood the conversation with enough random questions and rhetoric to obscure the issue. Seeding doubt, not advancing science, is the skeptics’ MO.

  109. Milton

    The Accuser has a point. I accept climate change as a real phenomonon, but what I see the skeptics doing isn’t trying to REALLY argue science so much as they are just trying to distract the conversation from the evitable. I’ll go out on a limb and say more than a few of them actually know that climate change is real, but their skepticism is a purely politically motivated tactic designed to muddle the discussion. Otherwise, I think we’d be seeing more real discussion of science and less distracting bunk that’s really just random sentences sprinkled with scientific terms.

  110. moptop

    “really just random sentences sprinkled with scientific terms.” – Milton

    Sorry you feel that way, buddy. That is what human language sounds like to dogs too. A bunch of random noise sprinked with terms like their name, “sit”, and “food.” Not really sure what that says about you…

  111. David

    moptop’s obvious offense to Milton’s observation – which was directed at no one specific – highlights how well moptop must think it applies to him.

    Otherwise, why be so combative?

  112. Seminatrix

    I side with TA and Milton here. What we’re seeing from the skeptic realm is mostly the “If I yell loud enough and use enough jargon, I’ll hide the focus of the discussion” style of argument. The quick topic-switching of the majority of the skeptics here shows that they don’t care a bit about thoughtful inquiry but just want to perform and posture. It’s too bad, because that stupidity overshadows what would otherwise be a handful of legitimate, well-thought arguments from one or two skeptics that have posted here but aren’t too vocal.

  113. moptop

    “It’s too bad, because that stupidity overshadows what would otherwise be a handful of legitimate, well-thought arguments from one or two skeptics that have posted here ”

    Bwa ha ha ha! But of course these “legitimate” arguments no longer apply due to the “stupidity” of others! I wish I was as smart as you guys so that I could understand arguments like that!

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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