The Sea Ice Affair, Continued

By Carl Zimmer | February 19, 2009 11:12 pm

[Correction appended]

Monday I bemoaned the lack of fact-checking of opinion pieces in newspapers, pointing to a George Will column on global warming in the Washington Post as evidence. Now the Washington Post op-ed folks claim that it was in fact heavily fact-checked. All I can say is that none of them better apply for a fact-checking job here at Discover.

To recap: George Will wrote a column in which he tried to downplay the evidence that global warming has already affected the Earth, and that it will have bigger impacts in the future. Various bloggers have pointed out examples where Will misrepresented scientific studies in this column. The most glaring one was this: “According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.”

The Research Center put a statement on their site explaining that Will was wrong. On February 15, the day Will wrote his column, there was substantially less ice than on February 15, 1979: the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.

I picked up this story from Talking Points Memo, and it has been bouncing around for a few days now. The folks at TPM and elsewhere have been trying to get a response from the Post about why they haven’t posted a correction. Today, Wonk Room appears to have finally broken through. And, oh, what a response they got. It’s worth quoting at length, because it reveals some intricately baffling behavior:

When contacted by the Wonk Room, the Washington Post’s ombudsman, veteran reporter Andy Alexander, “sought clarification from the editorial page editors”:

Basically, I was told that the Post has a multi-layer editing process and checks facts to the fullest extent possible. In this instance, George Will’s column was checked by people he personally employs, as well as two editors at the Washington Post Writers Group, which syndicates Will; our op-ed page editor; and two copy editors.

Wow. I’d hate to see what Will’s columns look like before the “multi-layer editing process.”

Full email from Andy Alexander (ombudsman@washpost.com):

Dear Mr. Johnson,

Thank you for your e-mail. The Post’s ombudsman typically deals with issues involving the news pages. But I understand the point you and many e-mailers are making, and for that reason I sought clarification from the editorial page editors. Basically, I was told that the Post has a multi-layer editing process and checks facts to the fullest extent possible. In this instance, George Will’s column was checked by people he personally employs, as well as two editors at the Washington Post Writers Group, which syndicates Will; our op-ed page editor; and two copy editors. The University of Illinois center that Will cited has now said it doesn’t agree with his conclusion, but earlier this year it put out a statement (http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/global.sea.ice.area.pdf) that was among several sources for this column and that notes in part that “Observed global sea ice area, defined here as a sum of N. Hemisphere and S. Hemisphere sea ice areas, is near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979,”

Best wishes,
Andy Alexander
Washington Post Ombudsman

Update: Alan Shearer, the Washington Post Writers Group editorial director, told the Wonk Room that he looked into the accuracy of Will’s claim that “According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979″:

We have plenty of references that support what George wrote, and we have others that dispute that. So we didn’t have enough to send in a correction.

There’s a lot of wiggly, lawyerly language here. What does it mean for the editors to check facts “to the fullest extent possible”? As I mentioned in my last post, magazine like Discover and the New Yorker assign a person to check every point in an article. It can become the fact-checker’s Moby Dick. The fact-checker doesn’t rely on press releases or blog posts, but calls scientists up to get the best information.

Did the veritable army of fact-checkers described by the Post fact-check to this degree? We can safely assume the answer was no, because the researchers at the Arctic Climate Research Center were baffled by Will’s claim about the ice. “We don’t know where he is getting his information from,” they wrote in their statement.

If someone from the Post’s crackerjack multi-layer squad of fact-checkers had bothered to pick up the phone, they could have simply asked, “Is it indeed true that global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979?”

And they would have probably gotten an answer like this: “Well, what do you mean by now? Today? And what do you mean by 1979? Exactly thirty years ago today? If that’s what you mean, the answer is no.”

A good fact-checker would then say, “Well, it seems this claim is based on an article that came out January 1.”

To which the scientist would say something along the lines of, “At that point it was near or slightly lower what was observed in late 1979.”

At the very least, that discrepancy would have to be corrected. But a good fact-checker would see a deeper problem, saying, “Whoa, that changed a lot in a month and a half.”

Which would then lead to a discussion of the fact ice cover is such a noisy process that picking out a single day to compare these numbers does not say a lot about how it is affected by climate change. Climatologists look over longer time scales.

A good fact-checker would also learn that almost all climate models project that increasing greenhouse gases will cause a decrease in the Northern Hemisphere sea ice area over the next several decades, but the response of the southern hemisphere is less certain. In fact, evaporation caused by the warming might lead to more snowfall onto the sea ice. If the southern ice expands, it cancels out some of the retreat of the northern ice. And lo and behold, the northern hemisphere ice is almost a million square kilometers smaller than it was in late 1979, and the Southern Hemisphere ice is about half a million square kilometers bigger than in late 1979. So not only is Will wrong on the particulars of his statement, but he’s wrong on what it means about climate change. A good fact-checker would make sure that this was fixed too.

How can I be so confident that a good fact-checker would learn this? Because it is in that same January statement from the Center that the Post cited as “evidence” that Will was correct.

If the Post’s fact-checkers actually looked at the statement before they published Will’s column, they could not have seen the sentence about sea ice coverage without seeing the broader discussion of what climate change does to sea ice as well. And yet, even if they did see it, it did not cause them to make Will change his column.

If that’s indeed what happened, it would be bad fact-checking. But it’s also possible that they only looked at the January statement after this kerfuffle broke out this week, and picked out one line that seems to justify Will’s false statement–even though it was nestled in the discussion of the differences between the two hemispheres. That’s not fact-checking at all. It smacks of quote-mining.

It’s easy to think of fact-checking as a luxury of old-time journalism, akin to three-martini lunches and business class flights. But if fact-checking is done right, it can make newspapers and magazines reliable and trusted–a distinction that may help them survive in these competitive times. Sadly, in this case, we see what happens when the process fails.

[Update, 2/22: I've added a new post addressing some confusion over some late-breaking news about the satellites that measure ice. And along the way, we are reminded of just how weak the multi-layered fact-checking at the Washington Post editorial page is.]

[Correction, 4/7: It turns out that there is no such thing as the Arctic Climate Research Center at the University of Illinois. That is a fabricated name. I should have referred to the Polar Research Group. Details here.]

Comments (116)

  1. Scott

    I have read George Will any number of times in the past and have agreed with him more often than not although I certainly have had any number of times I did not agree with him. I do have to say that he is not someone that has struck me as a columnist who is particularly knowledgeable about science (something which IMHO is far too prevalent among newspaper columnists). My impression from having read both this entry and the initial one as well as many of the responses to the initial entry is that Mr. Will would be well served to get someone better versed in science to fact check his columns when he writes about such topics.

  2. Kevin S.

    All this makes me wonder what the U.N. Meterological Organization actually says. How did Will dig out this idea that there has been no global warming in 10 years?

  3. A much better distinction between fact checking and meaning checking. While the accurate facts, taken out of context can suggest a perverse meaning. A meaning that the same facts contradict, when examined in the proper context. The noisier the data, the more prone they are to misrepresentation. The noisier the data the more likely that any representation is a misrepresentation. Using noisy data is bad science.

  4. Relatedly, I don’t know if you saw Mark Kleiman’s post on the article: http://www.samefacts.com/archives/climate_change_/2009/02/globalwarming_denialism_as_a_conspiracy_theory.php

    One largely unremarked aspect of global-warming denialism (as exemplified by George Will and demolished by Mike [below] and Zachary Roth at TPM) is that it amounts to a conspiracy theory. All of the world’s actual climate scientists, and everyone in an a allied field capable of understanding their models, would have to be co-conspirators in the plot, with only a rag-tag group of economists, meteorologists, petroleum geologists, astrologers, and political pundits capable of seeing, and willing to say, that the emperor has no clothes.

    Most of the glibertarians, cultural conservatives, and gadget-heads who constitute the useful idiots around the core oil-and-coal-company global-warming denialist constituency would be horrified to imagine themselves playing the role of 9/11 Truthers, or RFK Jr. pumping the thimerosal/autism link, or Thabo Mbeki claiming that AIDS isn’t caused by HIV. But all four “movements” are alike in depending on compete mistrust of actual scientific experts.

  5. Factcheck

    The research center lied in claiming Will’s fact could not have come from them.
    You did no fact checking before accusing Will of making it up.
    Now, with no admission of your own mistake, you’re upset because Will didn’t let the research center write his whole article for him, and tell him what conclusions he must reach based on the accurate fact it all started with.
    Right or wrong, Will looks like the one with the most integrity here.

  6. Larry Esser

    George Will once wrote a column that was utterly logical and consistent from beginning to end. A masterpiece. However, he started his column by stating that being homosexual is a “choice.” As a gay man, I know this is not so–no one ever gave me a choice! Ever since then, I haven’t trusted anything he says. Brilliant, yes. Accurate? Maybe, maybe not. You can’t take his word for it.

  7. “A good fact-checker would also learn that almost all climate models project that increasing greenhouse gases will cause a decrease in the Northern Hemisphere sea ice area over the next several decades, but the response of the southern hemisphere is less certain.”

    Only a fool would deny the reality of global warming.

    But only a greater fool would embrace human activities as it’s main cause.
    Or cling to the notion that changes in human behavior can somehow affect it.

  8. Dave S.

    “How did Will dig out this idea that there has been no global warming in 10 years?”

    My guess is he used the denialist’s best friend, cherry picking. If you take 1998, and compare it to 2008, you see 2008 was cooler. Hence cooling over that 10 year period. QED.

    The denialists should thank god for 1998!

  9. Bosch's Poodle

    Robin’s point is important. Read between the lines of George Will’s column and what he’s talking about is an incredibly sophisticated, super secret conspiracy of scientists. In fact, what he’s really saying is that science doesn’t work, that the scientific method doesn’t work, and…what? The question answers itself.

    He frankly always struck me as more level-headed than this, but he’s buying into the conspiracy theories, too. Let him and the Washington Post have their way and it’s back to the Middle Ages for us.

  10. larrydalooza

    Global Warming is natural and will lead to a period of prosperity. Population increases… CO2 increases… Plant life increases… it is Earth’s way of taking care of us. CO2 is not a pollutant. We need to fight global cooling.

  11. George Will is very literate, but often not terribly logical, and prone to seizing on any argument that supports his favored side of a debate. I pretty much stopped reading him some years ago when, during debates on vouchers, he argued that schools spend X dollars per student, so siphoning off students from public to private schools would save tax money at the rate of X dollars per student.

  12. Factcheck

    ” That’s not fact-checking at all. It smacks of quote-mining.” Like what the research center did when it cited one specific date when the data supported its position, denying the existence of any other date when the data supported George Will’s statement.

    Will is an opinion writer. He is entitled to advocate his own position, and cite only those facts that support his position, just as a defense attorney is not obligated to make the prosecution’s case for them. The research center is supposedly a neutral, unbiased source of information. Whether the majority of the evidence agrees with them or not, if they are going to subjectively spin the facts to advocate one side of the debate, they cease to be a reliable source.
    As for Zimmer and Discover (and most of the posters here), I think they are clearly coming down on the side of advocacy rather than objectivity. Anyone on your side is not held to the same standards as those who disagree with you. Ad hominem attacks are common around here. Evenhanded debates, not so much.

  13. Ian

    Where there’s a Will there’s astray

  14. solenadon

    “Factcheck”

    “Will is an opinion writer. He is entitled to advocate his own position, and cite only those facts that support his position, just as a defense attorney is not obligated to make the prosecution’s case for them.”

    From the looks of things, “Factcheck”, Will didn’t cite facts that supported his position, he made them up. There’s a difference.

    And it looks like the WaPo indulged in quote-mining to cover their collective butts.

    I am, of course, looking at this objectively.

  15. Oh, please. Factcheck, my whole discussion has been focused on how newspapers and magazines make sure the information in their publications is accurate. If a scientist tried to make an inaccurate statement in a newspaper or a magazine, good fact-checking would force a correction in that case as well.

    I don’t see why opinion writers get the right to cherry-pick bits and pieces of information like defense lawyers. Debates are not trials. If they are going to advance our collective decision-making, it would be nice if they were accurate–both in the small and big picture.

  16. Kirt Suomela

    Please fact check this:

    “On February 15, the day Will wrote his column, there was substantially less ice than on the same day in February 15: …”

    I believe there are some years missing.

    [Carl: Thanks--I'll fix that.]

  17. Nicole

    Thanks for fact checking for us. It feels good to find another trustworthy source of information to bookmark.

  18. minimalist

    “Like what the research center did when it cited one specific date when the data supported its position, denying the existence of any other date when the data supported George Will’s statement.”

    Factcheck, you knucklehead, the research center was very clearly and unambiguously referring to the TREND. Look at the link that Andy Alexander himself posted as “support” for his claim. Not only does that paper completely contradict Will’s claim, start to finish, but the graph on the right clearly illustrates the point. See how the data fluctuates from year to year? Sometimes up a bit, sometimes down a bit — it’s not a monotonic, constant change from year to year. It’s “noisy”, exactly as the research center said. The overall TREND, the average value over the years, is obviously in decline!

    Cherry-picking two years — one where the noise is “up” and one where it is “down” — is self-evidently dishonest.

  19. Justin Seabury

    What I don’t understand is why the deniers are so vehement in their denials to Global Warming – other than the fossil fuel companies I do not see anyone truly affected by efforts to stop it. Using less fossil fuel saves money, pure and simple. And really, in the great scheme of things, very little of our tax dollars are going into research for alternate fuel sources compared to what our government spends on less worthwile things, like making unneccessary war in a faraway land. The end result of trying to fight Global Warming (whether you believe in it or not) is cleaner air in cities, and hopefully vehicles that are far more conservative on fuel and cost less to run…

  20. I think Carl’s best point is that fact-checking shouldn’t be about covering editorial butt on statements that are clearly misleading but technically true, and instead try and provide non-misleading information.

    They failed in this case to even reach the miserable “misleading but technically true” goal post, which shows the risk when you aim so low.

    Meanwhile I marvel at skeptics’ self-deception here, making conclusory statements without evidence that Will was accurate. Care to back that up? How is “now,” mid-February when Will’s post was published, the same as December 2008.

    As someone else commented elsewhere, Will would’ve been just as accurate claiming that Bush is “now” the president of the US.

  21. plum grenville

    Only a fool would deny the reality of global warming.

    But only a greater fool would embrace human activities as it’s main cause.
    Or cling to the notion that changes in human behavior can somehow affect it.

    Only a fool puts an apostrophe in the possessive “its.”

    Only a fool would trust the unsupported assertions of someone who can’t punctuate. If you can’t get the little stuff right, . . .

  22. Zach

    @ larrydalooza:

    Above a certain temperature, most plants begin to lose more CO2 than they take in. This temperature varies from plant to plant, but it means that the fertilization effect of Co2 is completely negated if its too hot out.

    In other words, at higher temperatures, forests become carbon SOURCES rather than carbon SINKS. A rather scary idea…

    Here’s some articles about this idea, if you’d like to do some of your own research.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/100/10/5852.full.pdf
    http://www.science.org.au/nova/newscientist/016ns_004.htm

  23. Dan L.

    @Marshall:

    Only a fool would deny the reality of global warming.

    But only a greater fool someone with the least amount of background in physics or chemistry would embrace human activities as it’s main cause.
    Or cling to the notion that changes in human behavior can somehow affect it.

    Fixed it for you. For those of you unfamiliar with the fundamental argument, the sun emits visible light, some of which strikes the surface of the earth. There it is absorbed by the ground, grass, cars, trees, and buildings, all of which heat up when they absorb the visible light. This heat energy is released an infrared light.

    Carbon dioxide molecules are transparent to visible light, so extra CO2 in the atmosphere doesn’t interfere with the transmission of visible light (from the earth to the sun). However, it is highly opaque to many frequencies of infrared radiation, which means that when the energy is released as infrared light at the surface of the earth, it is absorbed by the CO2 molecules.

    In other words, all else being equal, an increase of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere means an increase in the solar energy retained by the atmosphere. If CO2 DOESN’T cause such an increase in atmospheric energy, then the greenhouse gas denialists need to discover the mechanism that mitigates this effect (again, the effect is predicted by the fundamental laws of physics and not any particular climate model).

  24. Dan L.

    Screwed up a couple times there. should be “extra CO2 in the atmosphere doesn’t interfere with the transmission of visible light (from the sun to the earth).”

  25. Scott de B.

    Will is an opinion writer. He is entitled to advocate his own position, and cite only those facts that support his position, just as a defense attorney is not obligated to make the prosecution’s case for them.

    That is indeed how politics is practiced. It is not how science is practiced. If George Will can’t handle that, he should stick to writing about politics.

  26. Michael Heath

    I was invited to write an op-ed column in a regional newspaper fisking three of Will’s deceptions along with providing an argument on how we should react to the fact that newspapers are allowing false premises to be published. It should be published either Saturday or Tuesday at which time I’ll provide a link.

    The core problem here is not that Will got some facts wrong, its that he quote-mined tidbits of information to intentionally make a false argument. A journalist with integrity would work with actual working climatologists to understand what science currently understands and the state of alternative dissenting arguments in order to create a proper framework on how reasonable doubt is when it comes to challenging a status quo theory prior to using it as leverge in policy debates.

    Will argues we should not use science as a method to inform our policy debates because its an untrustworthy mechanism to understanding reality, extending his examples beyond climate change hypotheses and theories and into outlier hypotheses on population control. Will was purposefully deceitful, the several examples of rank dishonesty in this one article are convincing evidence of his intent, especially given that one of his citations argued for warming when he stated they argued for cooling plus he grossly misconstrued some researchers findings three times over the past four years even after he acknowledged receipt of their corrections.

    I’m really glad to see the scientific community is not letting this issue die. The Washington Post and other newspapers who publish his column in his role as a syndicated columnist need to be held accountable. Sowell, Cal Thomas, and Mona Charon are three others I read that consistently build arguments around false premises with no repercussions.

  27. L. Carey

    Justin, thanks for your post, since your response to the issue is admirably pragmatic and to the point — “there’s obviously a problem here, why don’t we just solve it ?” However, in answer to your question, I think that a large percentage of deniers deny the existence /significance of global warming basically because it contradicts their ideological commitment to extreme free market / libertarian principle of “the best government is no government” — if global warming is in fact a significant problem, then not only is massive governmental action required, but that action (even worse, horrors!) must include international cooperation. Accordingly, the deniers basically perceive and articulate the AGW issue through the lens of a massive left-wing conspiracy of the world’s scientists and the U.N. to destroy free enterprise democracy by imposing enormous and unnecessary costs on society through an enormous and unnecessary program of de-carbonization which will grant government sweeping power to impose on society the conspirators’ secret socialist agenda . . . and take away our SUVs and guns! Accordingly, such deniers reject the mainstream scientific consensus (since it’s part of the conspiracy!), and set about “cherry picking” fringe climate theories and latching onto tiny details which can be spun and twisted to challenge the very solid mainstream consensus that anthropogenic global warming is causing climate disruption, and that said disruption poses grave risks to all of us and our descendants. When expressed this bluntly, this looks crazy, but if you spend time visiting some of the AGW denial blogs it’s pretty clearly that’s really what’s going on — for the most part it’s one big echo chamber with people busily telling each other what they want to hear and mocking scientific findings (and scientists) they don’t like. On the other hand, back in the world of reality-based thinking, there is now a rather broad economic consensus that attacking climate change is much more economically efficient and affordable than the alternative of simply suffering the enormous damage likely to result from unmitigated climate change. See Eric Pooley’s great piece in Slate:
    http://www.thebigmoney.com/articles/hey-wait-minute/2009/02/11/surprise-economists-agree
    Regards.

  28. L. Carey

    By the way (and more on topic), George Will’s previous use of this “the scientists feared global cooling” trope was thoroughly demolished by Peterson, Connolley and Fleck in “The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus” published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
    http://ams.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1175%2F2008BAMS2370.1&ct=1

    Fleck is not happy that notwithstanding the complete debunking, Will is again recycling this nonsense, and notes in his column in the Albequerque Journal on Wednesday that “When George Will last wrote about this subject, in May 2008, I sent him a copy of the 1975 Science News article, hoping he might get a fuller picture of what was going on at the time. I got a nice note back from him thanking me for sharing it. It doesn’t seem as if he read it, which would have been nicer. ” http://www.abqjournal.com/opinion/guest_columns/1897180018opinionguestcolumns02-18-09.htm
    Regards.

  29. ibc

    What I don’t understand is why the deniers are so vehement in their denials to Global Warming – other than the fossil fuel companies I do not see anyone truly affected by efforts to stop it.

    Ah, yes. But you neglect to realize that the core impulse of modern red-faced, atavistic conservatism is to piss off some idealized “liberal elitist”. That’s why what they do and believe makes such little sense.

    It’s all about “telling Hanoi Jane to F-off.”

  30. Michael Heath

    L. Carey – I used the AMS article by Peter, Connolley, and Fleck in my op-ed column. It was one of four sources I used to fisk three of Will’s lies. Will’s even went further however, he quotemines one paper from the 70s regarding aerosol forcing as if the paper promoted global cooling when in fact that paper summarized that CO2 forcing (warming) would overwhelm aerosol forcing (cooling); I did not have space to attack that lie.

  31. L. Carey

    Michael, the fact that Will keeps using this meme after such conclusive and repeated debunking speaks volumes about his real intent. He doesn’t care if what he’s saying is true or not, as long as it sows false confusion among those who (understandably!) have a life outside following climate science and policy in detail, and who look to the mainstream media for their information. “Oh, look, George Will’s a smart guy and he’s found a bunch of reputable scientific sources that say those alarmist climate scientists don’t know what they’re talking about — what a relief, I thought it might be a big problem. Now, what’s on TV tonight?” And there are no consequences for Will (but pity the fate of the the poor assistant that should dare to incur his wrath by virtue of actual fact checking – I hear the guy has a legendary temper).

  32. Jason

    George Will has never been right about anything in his adult life, so really, having his name at the top of the column is enough to tell anyone that anything he says is complete idiocy and made up. We don’t expect The Post to fact-check Family Circus or the jumble, I assume.

  33. Dick Hertz

    Will is more than simply an opinion writer, he is a paid political operative who has in the past conducted political operations on behalf of candidates (stealing Carter’s debate notes comes to mind). It is my firm conclusion based on examining Will’s history that he operates from bad faith and cannot be considered anything but the barometer of right wing extremist political thought. He is Baghdad Bob for the extremist right. As such, his grasp of “truth,” at any level, is suspect. In a similar vein, there are very few media outlets at this time that do not have a form of right wing zampolit in the writing and/or editorial staff. Roger Ailes, George HW Bush’ campaign manager, for example, runs Fox News, which is overtly political in a fashion rarely seen in America outside a few examples (the Reverend Moon’s Washington Times, for example, and Murdoch’s newspapers).
    The extremists of the right have created a system whereby a politically aligned think tank produces reports coordinated to align with media treatment to put forth propaganda supporting their agendas in a fashion that even were there a centrist or leftist oriented media outlet, they might feel compelled to put forth this kind of disinformation simply because it is cost effective and fills voids in their own content. David Brooks is another example; when his books and articles are fact checked, one finds that few of his cited facts add up to reality. The information product you read is simply political opinion with manufactured supporting evidence that they will defend by claiming partisan bias on the debunker’s part and thus imply bad faith. The Daily Show and the Colbert Report make much light of this fact when they juxtapose the same actors arguing the opposite points at different times, even in segue.
    There is no way out of this conflict because of the post-modern malaise provided by television and the defunding and abasement of school curricula. Even if citizens had suitable critical skills, they would not be provided with enough information to make rational decisions about issues such as global warming. No matter how many times rational, informed intellectuals make arguments using verified facts, there will be at least 25% of viewers who will react negatively to scientific process and rationalism or will declare bias and bad faith in the sense of the Goldbergs, Bernie, Jonah and his mommy. Jonah rewrote what fascism was such that he could invert it as an epithet; his mother has long been a water carrier and operative for the extreme right, and Bernie decided in several books that facts he did not like were biased and therefore he did not have to accept them.

  34. Sundevil

    Global Warming is now Climate Crisis after a brief stint as Climate Change (gotta love re-branding)

    Cooling = Warming, Up = Down, Dogs and Cats living together .. MASS HYSTERIA!

    Can we wait until as many as ONE computer model is even remotely accurate before trusting anything coming out of climate scientists? These people are just as innaccurate (if not more so) than economists, and that takes some doing.

  35. Jay Ballou

    “Will is an opinion writer. He is entitled to advocate his own position, and cite only those facts that support his position”

    George Will is entitled to be intellectually dishonestand argue in bad faith? Well then, let’s all keep that in mind when reading him.

    “just as a defense attorney is not obligated to make the prosecution’s case for them.”

    The American legal system is not a very good system for bringing forth the truth, but at least both sides are represented. Will’s column did not include a rebuttal to his claims. Courtrooms also have other elements like witnesses, judges, and formal rules of evidence. Care to offer any other mindbogglingly dumb analogies, “Factcheck”?

    “But only a greater fool would embrace human activities as it’s main cause.”

    Apparently, in Marshall Nelson’s vocabulary, “fool” is synonymous with “informed person familiar with the evidence”, including the vast majority of climate scientists.

    “Or cling to the notion that changes in human behavior can somehow affect it.”

    Even if human activities were only a minor cause, it would follow logically that changes in human behavior can “somehow” affect it. It is Marshall who groundlessly clings to the notion that human behavior is too insignificant relative to the global climate to affect it.

  36. Jay Ballou

    MediaMatters on George Will’s career of lies: http://mediamatters.org/items/200902200022

  37. Cindy

    Yes, but it’s a newspaper. I consider myself extremly ignorant about science, and because I don’t have the background to make knowledgable assessments, I just would never consider any daily journalism a good source for news about science.

    There are reporters I trust (Carl Z, Gina Kolata, Natalie Angier, among others) and there are publications I trust (like the New Yorker & Atlantic), but for most everything else the ignorant among us are forced to rely on book-length work and maybe even research that before we go around quoting anything.

    I have even noticed PZ Myers on his blog criticizing the NPR science reporters, and I used to think that NPR was great at fact checking. Sadly, I just take all science reporting with a big grain of salt anymore.

  38. Deech56

    The key to the whole ice argument isn’t in picking one set of dates or another for starting and ending points, but in examining the trend over a number of years. I wish the Arctic Climate Research Center had pointed this out a bit more clearly. When the Michael Asher article (which was evidently the basis for Mr. Will’s claim) came out, the blogger over at Open Mind, Tamino, addressed the cherry picking of the data here:

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2009/01/08/cold-hard-facts/

    This is simple linear regression using a tool that everyone who owns a copy of MS Office has at their fingertips.

  39. Mark

    It’s pretty obvious what’s going on here with global warming deniers. They fit some very neat categories.

    One is that they love Jesus more than their mothers. This sort of bizarre love affair with mythology is genetic. It’s the reason why we have religions that persist to this day. It’s genetically encoded into humans.

    Second, is money. MONEY. M.O.N.E.Y. Oil companies represent a meme. One of the dominant memes in our culture is the ‘Oil and Gas Foundation of Civilization’. It’s been that way for a century. That’s more than enough time for the Myth Cult Meme Lovers ™ to be in love with it. They are heavily invested there, too. So are their friends. Don’t forget to follow the money to understand why so many of them want you and me to pretend we aren’t a pervasive enough species to actually affect our atmospheric chemical composition. If they had to divest they would lose and be ‘wrong’. And they’re not about to lose or be wrong.

  40. Michael Heath

    Here is an article I wrote as an op-ed piece for the Traverse City Record Eagle, which is the paper of record for the northwestern quadrant of Michigan’s lower peninsula: http://www.record-eagle.com/opinion/local_story_052094540.html

    Basically I presented Will’s argument, fisked three of his several lies, and then presented this short argument (500 word limit on the article):

    What is the public to do? I would argue that we are obligated to seriously consider what science reports. We should also demand our news sources are accurately conveying those findings, including the scientific community’s acceptance of its theories. This methodology is self-correcting and has proven far and away to be the best knowledge-seeking approach ever developed.

    As for Will, public ostracism for him and other dishonest brokers of information is warranted given his employer’s refusal to correct the record or discipline journalistic malpractice.

  41. John

    We have only been losing ice for the last 30,000 years, how can anyone argue that the earth isn’t warming? The real question is why in hell does anyone want to turn back the clock?

  42. Buck

    IT ISN’T ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING!

    Seriously…. it is now climate change….

    and yes everyone agrees that climate changes….

    The debate is now about the human effect. Has there been climate change in the past, and was that also effected by humans? Or has the climate change in the past been the natural way the planet is?

    The planet cools and warms… it has been doing it for a really long time. There is a lot of evidence that the SUN has something to do with that…. and I don’t think my SUV effects the sun.

    Lets face it, our understanding of the indirect effects of changes in solar output and feedbacks in the climate system is almost nil.

    And if we believe the Milankovitch cycles have caused global climate change in the past, why do we dismiss it now?

    I just wish more people would talk about the hockey stick graph in the movie…. and how that was a misrepresentation as well….

  43. Doug

    “And lo and behold, the northern hemisphere ice is almost a million square kilometers smaller than it was in late 1979, and the Southern Hemisphere ice is about half a million square kilometers bigger than in late 1979.”

    Maybe not so much:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601110&sid=aIe9swvOqwIY

  44. stu

    It seems, after reading comments by the pro agw crowd that, 1. A large portion of these people would also fit in the TROOFER category. 2 This crowd will try to intimidate anyone who dosen’t share their view. 3 Any shred of evidence posited against the force fed view that humans are their own worst enemy will be met with anger and derogatory remarks.No wonder
    this mind set is quickly on it’s way out.

  45. Dr Physicist

    You can see the data here and judge for yourself.
    http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/global.daily.ice.area.withtrend.jpg

    In late 1979 the sea ice anomaly, the difference from the average for the time of year, (which is what people are usually talking about when they say the ice is melting – it would be stupid to have to say that every summer and then retract it every winter) was roughly the same as today.

    Journalists and politicians speak with imprecision – they have to if their work is not to look like a physics textbook. The truth is always a lot more complicated than people are willing to sit still and listen to. To take a classic example Dan L above gives the classic “infra-red trapped by CO2″ explanation that has appeared countless times in the media. Only problem is, it’s wrong.

    Journalists repeat it endlessly, but the physics is entirely wrong, and all those climate scientists know it. Have any of them ever picked up the phone to tell the journalists? But even if they had, the journalists have to be excused. They don’t explain because they have to keep things readable and simple. Fine. But when you start picking only on the simplifications of one side, you become a partisan, not a neutral reporter. If you pretend to be neutral when you’re actually a partisan, you’re also a propagandist.

    (For anyone interested, it’s because of the difference in pressure between the altitude from which the IR radiates into space and the surface. Air gets hotter when it is compressed, so air moving vertically changes temperature. The effective emission temperature as seen from space is fixed by the overall energy balance. The more CO2 and H2O, the higher the average emission altitude, the greater the pressure difference, and the hotter the surface gets. If you don’t know about the adiabatic lapse rate, you don’t even begin to understand the greenhouse effect. Phone up your scientists and ask them. And ask them why this is the first time you’ve heard about it.)

    The important message from the data is that apart from a short period from 2004 to 2007 (which even pro-AGW climatologists have said probably wasn’t due to AGW), the total ice anomaly has been noisy, but with no evident long term trend. This is the message Will sought to convey.

    It probably doesn’t mean anything either way. The scientists will tell you that no trend is expected to be detectable on less than a continental scale over several decades. The Arctic Ocean is only 3% of the Earth’s surface and what happens there over a period of four or five years is weather, not climate. The Antarctic shows no reliably measurable trend. So you know all those stories you’ve been reading about the poles melting and all the polar bears dying? Go fact check them, too.

  46. FrederickMichael

    As a layman with a very strong scientific background, I can honestly say that I’ve seen enough supporting data on both sides to be truly undecided. Only two things are certain in the recent data:

    1) CO2 is rising fast.

    2) Sunspots and solar flux are way down.

    This makes the next few years a great opportunity to test the competing theories. If the earth warms, then CO2 is a bigger factor than solar flux; if the earth cools solar flux is more significant.

    It is my opinion that the unprofessional behavior of the CO2 camp puts them in a bind. If they turn out to be wrong, their attempt to suppress competing theories will be viewed harshly by history. That is not the way scientists should behave even when they are right.

    Science always suffers when politicians get involved.

  47. Jeff

    Will got the “cooling for the last 10 years” from the real world. 1998 was hotter than 2008, it was also hotter than 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 and 1999.

    How ignorant are you people ?

    You talk about models but refuse to look at facts. Fact checkers should refer to the models ? you are kidding right ? models ?

  48. Jeff: Here is the average global temperature since 1880. Not a model, but observations. As I said before, trends are what matter more than a single year. The red line in the graph is the 5-year mean. The warmth of 1998 doesn’t eliminate the trend. http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/2008/Fig1.gif

  49. peter38a

    Good discussion. I see three questions: Whether there is long term abnormal warming, if man is responsible and if so, what, if anything can be done?

    Warming. Astrophysics is one of the most difficult sciences in which to conduct experiments however some years ago (Bending of light rays I think but I don’t remember the details, the area doesn’t interest me much) conditions were right and one of Einstein’s predictions was proven correct. Prediction = Quantification = Affirmation. What is the one fact that is quantifiable and must change in a predicted manner to prove the theory here? You might assert many but one will do. No such fact? Why not, the situation is not more difficult than astrophysics surely and if it is, how very much more careful of conclusion mustn’t we be?

    Deniers? Implementation of many “fixes” carry huge economic implications. People want to be sure. More, scientists attempting to falsify is iconic science. Any idea set beyond the envelope of falsification is also set outside the envelope of science. There is ‘not’ universal agreement on this subject and scientific ideas are not proven by ‘head count’.

    Conspiracy? Science has fads. One of my favorites occurred in the 1930’s. “Most” scientists were for it, “most” experts liked it, “most” opinion setters favored it. Eugenics. In fact the Nazis said that they got some of the ideas for their Eugenic laws from the state of Wisconsin. Ouch!

    Scientific ‘facts’ generally require an experiment but the earth is sizable and the time periods extensive so data sets have been collected (carefully?) and compared—keeping in mind, hopefully, one of the first admonitions of science i.e. two coincidental occurrences do not prove one is causative of the other. You have your data, made your comparison, but it is a snapshot; to prove a trend you need a model. Models sometimes contain incorrect calculations, sometimes they “creep” over time. Not in this case? Can the model be ‘set’ to 1800 and predict our present weather? If not at what date closer to the present does it need to be set to be an accurate predictor? How accurate?

    Without the first question in the first paragraph being quantified, and quantified conclusively, the other two have no weight.

    I am not trying to be argumentative and I think I have presented reasonable assertions. Am I wrong, how so?

  50. “At the very least, that discrepancy would have to be corrected. But a good fact-checker would see a deeper problem, saying, “Whoa, that changed a lot in a month and a half.”

    “Which would then lead to a discussion of the fact ice cover is such a noisy process that picking out a single day to compare….”

    It’s especially difficult when the data from the satellite in the past couple of months has understated the actual extent of the sea ice in the Arctic by a huge amount. Are you now going to retract any part of your criticism?

    Carl: My criticism is of the accuracy and fact-checking of George Will’s column. His column, which came out on February 15, specifically claiming that according to the research center, there was no difference in the ice cover between now and 1979. The trouble with the sensors was announced on February 18, three days after his column was published.

    Therefore, I don’t see why I should change my criticism. Are you implying that George Will somehow knew that there was a problem with the past few weeks of data, something the research center apparently didn’t yet see? And if so, why did he cite those same scientists as his source of information? What’s more, the Washington Post did not cite the sensor trouble in their response to criticisms of their fact-checking. They simply referred to the January report.

    I am certainly curious to see how the scientists deal with the sensors. But while the past few weeks of data seem to be off, 30 years of data shows that the ice cover is, indeed, noisy.

  51. FrederickMichael

    Carl:

    The plot you reference is at variance with NASA’s own satellite data. The skeptics are having a field day with the surface data as the errors and suspect practices are legion. Only the satellite data is worth anything for the last 30 years. Why NASA doesn’t use their own data is a mystery to me and gives more fuel to the skeptics. The satellite data is valid; the recent surface data isn’t.

    You can use the UAH or RSS interpretations of the satellite data — they are in reasonable agreement. They show 1998 to be, by far the hottest year.

    http://vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/public/msu/t2lt/tltglhmam_5.2

    http://www.remss.com/
    (click on MSU data, then TLT)

    However, as I said before, I’m unsure about AGW in general. Just because a huge El Nino year still holds the high-temp record 10 years later, doesn’t mean the trend is gone and definitely doesn’t mean that CO2 won’t ultimately overcome all other short-term variations.

  52. Steve O.

    No point trying to talk reality to true believers in Man-Made Global Warming. This outmoded 1990s theory has become the “Creation Science” of the Left. When 650 major climatologists from all over the world signed a petition two months ago declaring man-made global warming a fraud, the mainstream press totally ignored it. Meanwhile the IPCC still, after all these years, won’t release the names of the 2,000 scientists who supposedly support the theory. It’s been revealed since that only 52 actual scientists signed onto the IPCC reports that started the panic.

    There has been NO global warming since 1998. This goes unreported in the press, which loves to sustain Global Warming Panic, just as they sustain the killer bees, pit bull, and molesting priest panics. Panic sells newspapers. But the evidence that we’re entering a period of global cooling is there for anyone who looks it up.

    Man-made global warming is the greatest prostitution of science ever. Climatology, a field which has had to fight for every penny, suddenly got flooded with funding — but ONLY if their reports agreed with the politically correct line.

    “I am a skeptic…Global warming has become a new religion.” – Nobel Prize Winner for Physics, Ivar Giaever.

    “Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly….As a scientist I remain skeptical.” – Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology and formerly of NASA who has authored more than 190 studies and has been called “among the most preeminent scientists of the last 100 years.”

    Warming fears are the “worst scientific scandal in the history…When people come to know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.” – UN IPCC Japanese Scientist Dr. Kiminori Itoh, an award-winning PhD environmental physical chemist.

    “The IPCC has actually become a closed circuit; it doesn’t listen to others. It doesn’t have open minds… I am really amazed that the Nobel Peace Prize has been given on scientifically incorrect conclusions by people who are not geologists,” – Indian geologist Dr. Arun D. Ahluwalia at Punjab University and a board member of the UN-supported International Year of the Planet.

    “The models and forecasts of the UN IPCC “are incorrect because they only are based on mathematical models and presented results at scenarios that do not include, for example, solar activity.” – Victor Manuel Velasco Herrera, a researcher at the Institute of Geophysics of the National Autonomous University of Mexico

    “It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don’t buy into anthropogenic global warming.” – U.S Government Atmospheric Scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA.

    “Even doubling or tripling the amount of carbon dioxide will virtually have little impact, as water vapour and water condensed on particles as clouds dominate the worldwide scene and always will.” – . Geoffrey G. Duffy, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering of the University of Auckland, NZ.

    “After reading [UN IPCC chairman] Pachauri’s asinine comment [comparing skeptics to] Flat Earthers, it’s hard to remain quiet.” – Climate statistician Dr. William M. Briggs, who specializes in the statistics of forecast evaluation, serves on the American Meteorological Society’s Probability and Statistics Committee and is an Associate Editor of Monthly Weather Review.

    “For how many years must the planet cool before we begin to understand that the planet is not warming? For how many years must cooling go on?” – Geologist Dr. David Gee the chairman of the science committee of the 2008 International Geological Congress who has authored 130 plus peer reviewed papers, and is currently at Uppsala University in Sweden.

    “Gore prompted me to start delving into the science again and I quickly found myself solidly in the skeptic camp…Climate models can at best be useful for explaining climate changes after the fact.” – Meteorologist Hajo Smit of Holland, who reversed his belief in man-made warming to become a skeptic, is a former member of the Dutch UN IPCC committee.

    “Many [scientists] are now searching for a way to back out quietly (from promoting warming fears), without having their professional careers ruined.” – Atmospheric physicist James A. Peden, formerly of the Space Research and Coordination Center in Pittsburgh.

    “Creating an ideology pegged to carbon dioxide is a dangerous nonsense…The present alarm on climate change is an instrument of social control, a pretext for major businesses and political battle. It became an ideology, which is concerning.” – Environmental Scientist Professor Delgado Domingos of Portugal, the founder of the Numerical Weather Forecast group, has more than 150 published articles.

    “CO2 emissions make absolutely no difference one way or another….Every scientist knows this, but it doesn’t pay to say so…Global warming, as a political vehicle, keeps Europeans in the driver’s seat and developing nations walking barefoot.” – Dr. Takeda Kunihiko, vice-chancellor of the Institute of Science and Technology Research at Chubu University in Japan.

    “The [global warming] scaremongering has its justification in the fact that it is something that generates funds.” – Award-winning Paleontologist Dr. Eduardo Tonni, of the Committee for Scientific Research in Buenos Aires and head of the Paleontology Department at the University of La Plata. # #

  53. John Mashey

    If someone is not fortunate enough to have frequent interactions with actual climate scientists, it really helps to start with actual books by those folks, especially compared to the random weirdness of blogs and websites. The latter, withotu the former, often leads to incoherency.

    Readable general-audience books, by experts, you can get the bunch from amazon for <$50:
    1) David Archer, "The Long Thaw", 2008.
    2) William Ruddiman, "Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum", 2005.
    3) Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump "Dire Predictions – Understanding Global Warming", 2008.

    and for history:
    4) Spencer Weart, "The Discovery of Global Warming", 2nd ed, 2008. or his American Institute of Physics website

    and for a little more detail, i.e., math, but used in undergraduate courses for non-science majors:
    5) David Archer, “Global Warming – Understanding the Forecast”, 2007.

    For silly, long-debunked, anti-science arguments that get repeated over and over, a fine list, with brief explanations and pointers to peer-rerviewed science is at:
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

  54. Pat Dooley

    What contribution do fossil fuels make to CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere? That can be determined by 13C/12C isotope ratios, since the ratio in CO2 created by burning fossil fuels is different than the ratio for natural atmospheric CO2. According to this report (http://www.co2web.info/hawaii.pdf), the fossil fuel contribution is about 4%. That is after a century of burning coal and oil. Think about what this means if policy makers believe they can reduce global warming by reducing CO2 emissions. No matter what they do, the impact will be negligible.

    The report concludes: “Hence for the atmospheric CO2 budget marine degassing and juvenile degassing from e.g. volcanic sources must be much more important, and burning of fossil-fuel and biogenic materials much less important, than hitherto assumed.”

    I’m hoping the EPA will be able to regulate CO2 emissions from volcanoes and marine degassing (why the pop goes out of pop when it gets warmer). Otherwise, any regulation will be utterly ineffective.

  55. “Are you implying that George Will somehow knew that there was a problem with the past few weeks of data….”

    No, I’m saying you looked at the February data, got all self-righteously indignant; and now it seems that the data you saw was incorrect.

  56. Michael Heath

    Steve O. – would that be the petition signed by TV characters like Perry Mason and pop singers like Spice? Science is done not by petition of whomever, but instead through the work of qualified practicing scientists who publish their findings in peer-reviewed publications which then must bear the weight of scrutiny and the future peer-reviewed findings of their peers.

    I find your post demeaning those who do research in the field and those who accept their findings a perfect example of projectionism in action. Thanks for allowing us to laugh at you.

    Here is a fisking of this petition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Petition

    Unless of a course a new petition is forthcoming; if so, hopefully they’ll get Magnum P.I. to sign that one, that might be convince me.

  57. Lee Reynolds

    The real problem here is not the question of whether the earth’s climate is changing, but the way in which those with a particular economic and political agenda have attempted use this contentious issue as an excuse to promote policies whose real inspiration lies elsewhere.

    When devout crypto-Marxists begin promoting something, you can be certain that death and misery will follow along with it.

    Is the earth’s climate changing? Maybe, maybe not. Is man the cause if it is? Maybe, maybe not. But regardless of what the answers to these questions are, allowing the lunatic left to exploit these issues to achieve their malignant goals would be a horrible mistake.

  58. The global cooling canard is even worse. Science News and Newsweek are NOT scientific agencies. See http://www.realclimate.org for Will’s previous shennigans. He’s a denier in chief of the so-called mainstream media.

  59. Steve O.

    Michael Heath — News Flash: two months ago wasn’t 2001. The petition I refer to was signed two months ago — it has nothing to do with some 2001 Oregon petition you link to. Here’s what I’m talking about:

    http://www.prisonplanet.com/over-650-scientists-challenge-global-warming-consensus.html

    The U.N. bureaucrats and politicians who cooked up the IPCC reports only managed to find 52 scientists, most of them active in fields that had nothing to do with climate, to sign off on it. They claimed the number was 2,000, but somehow never got around to releasing their names. This petition, by contrast, is proudly signed BY NAME by 650 top, peer-reviewed scientists in climatology and related fields.

    If you had actually bothered to read my post before allowing yourself the luxury of “laughing” at me, I wouldn’t have to repeat this.

    AGW was an intriguing and important theory in the early 1990s, when rising global temps and ice core data did seem to suggest CO2 might be driving warming. But later research, including later ice core analysis, blew the theory out of the water. Turned out global temps rose many centuries BEFORE CO2 levels rose, again and again.

    The 1990s theorists, including the IPCC bureaucrats, had made a classic scientific blunder: mistaking cause for consequence. Peer-reviewed research made it clear that rising global temps, almost certainly driven by variations in solar activity, caused the oceans to release CO2 — a process which has long been understood. Warming increases atmospheric CO2, not the other way around.

    But by this time politicians, including the ever-foolish and gullible Al Gore, and greedy businessmen had figured out how to make piles of money off global warming panic, through “carbon taxes”, “carbon credits”, etc. With that much money to be made, they weren’t about to drop the theory. What is truly laughable is their changing the theory’s name to the meaningless “Climate Change” and thinking no one would notice.

    Over the past two decades, environmentalists around the world rashly put all their eggs in the global warming basket. Now that the theory is falling apart, and decreasing solar activity since 1998 is almost certainly driving us into a period of global cooling — which is MUCH more dangerous to human, animal, and plant life than warming — the entire green movement risks becoming a laughing stock.

    As a committed environmentalist, it sickens me to see billions of dollars that could be spent on real, present problems — like Amazon deforestation and water pollution — being squandered on attempting to eliminate CO2, a harmless, indeed beneficial gas produced by virtually all organisms, living, and even after they die, through decomposition.

    Many climatologists were seduced into jumping on the AGW bandwagon, or at least keeping their mouths shut, by the vast sums of money funneled into their field by governments, foundations, and politicized billionaires like George Soros. In a field that barely got pennies before, it didn’t take much funding to start producing the results politicians demanded. (It’s sadly comparable to the eugenics studies funded by the Nazis.)

    But more and more climatologists are breaking the silence and daring to speak out against what may be the greatest scandal in the history of science: a fraud bought-and-paid for.

    Since you didn’t read it the first time, let me repeat this quotation. You will note the author is NOT Perry Mason. (BTW there is no pop singer named “Spice”, but clearly fact-checking is not your forte.)

    “CO2 emissions make absolutely no difference one way or another… Every scientist knows this, but it doesn’t pay to say so… Global warming, as a political vehicle, keeps Europeans in the driver’s seat and developing nations walking barefoot.” – Dr. Takeda Kunihiko, vice-chancellor of the Institute of Science and Technology Research at Chubu University in Japan.

    Mr. Heath, I eagerly await your passionate defense of the Phlogiston Theory, which was considerably better grounded than AGW.

  60. Larry D

    Let’s do some fact checking.

    According to the article at the link shown below, the National Snow and Ice Data Center has been misreporting northern hemisphere ice coverage data because of a failure in a sensor in the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellite, probably beginning in January 2009. The estimated total under reported amount is approximately 500,000 square kilometers. When this under reporting is taken at face value along with other comments in this blog, northern hemisphere sea ice coverage is only half a million kilometers less than 1979 while southern hemisphere sea ice coverage is up by a million kilometers. Therefore, there is a net increase in sea ice coverage by half a million kilometers.

    By the way, the total combined area of Texas, California and Oklahoma is about 1,300,000 square kilometers. The decrease in sea ice in the northern hemisphere is about the size of California and half of Oklahoma. It is smaller than the size of Texas.

    But then, this doesn’t sound half as freightening as mentioning all three states.
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/02/18/nsidc-satellite-sea-ice-sensor-has-catastrophic-failure-data-faulty-for-the-last-45-days/

  61. John Mashey

    re: Pay Dooley’s reference to *1991* Segalstad paper,

    Segalstad started trying to prove humans have little or nothing to do with increase in CO2 years ago…

    See http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=87

    Also see http://rabett.blogspot.com/2006_12_01_archive.html, search for segalstad.

    From my book list, see Archer 1), Chapters 8-10, or Archer 2), Chapter 10.

    Archer is a world-class carbon-cycle expert, which can be checked via Google scholar:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&lr=&q=david+archer+carbon+cycle&btnG=Search

    Yields many articles in *top* journals, with large citation counts – the work is heavily referenced by other scientists.

  62. Black Eagle

    Oh please, Discover Mag is no “science” journal, but rather a group of armchair-amateurs with ‘science journalism’ BA degrees from radical-left universities. They go with the money and with the popularity of an issue, and also are always for every orthodox mainstream idea, and reflexively against anything new or unusual. Hence the widespread use of the term “deniers” to describe critics of CO2 and global warming theories — not the plural, as these are two separate considerations, which the “science journalists” have a hard time wrapping their minds around. Oh, yes, Discover is a part of the Time-Life group, whose science editors were, at one time, old time members of CSICOP, the “skeptics society”, and heavily into “debunking” anything that offends their big-science, big-medicine, big-ego foundations. If Galileo or the Wright Brothers were alive today, or Goddard with his primitive rockets, these Discover freaks would be calling them all sorts of names, ridiculing them, accusing them of “bad facts”, “junk science”, etc. As to GW, nature will have the last say, and for some years now, she has turned off the sunspots, and so our tiny ball of mud has gotten a bit cooler. Every conference on global climate issues over the last several years has been greeted with unsual cold and snow storm blizzards outside the conference halls, but they are so busy primming in front of mirrors, and putting a shine on their Nobel Prizes, they haven’t noticed quite yet.

    [Carl: Discover was founded by Time-Life. They sold it to another company in the mid-1980s. No one I know on the Discover staff belongs to CSICOP.]

  63. Dr Physicist

    Pat Dooley,

    The fossil fuel component may be 4%, but its accumulated contribution to the level can still be 40%. CO2 solubility in water varies with temperature, so that tropical waters outgas huge amounts, and polar waters absorb them. The atmospheric level balances at some point between them. On average, all the CO2 is replaced over about 5 years. But man plus tropics adds more than polar waters remove, so the level rises, currently at a rate of about a third of 1% a year. The Carbon cycle is still a subject of active research, and not fully understood by scientists, so that could also be wrong.

    Not explaining all this is another of AGW science’s failings, giving the public the misleading impression that fossil CO2 was simply pouring into the air and staying there. It isn’t simple, it’s very complicated.

    Mark A York,

    Realclimate isn’t a scientific agency either. It’s run by scientists, but the website is set up by a Green ad agency (Environmental Media Services, a subsidiary of Fenton Communications), and the routine censorship of dissent and invective against sceptics is hardly scientific behaviour. Quoting them persuades nobody who knows the least bit about them.

    Steve O.,

    On the IPCC 2,000 – this is generally understood to refer to the number of both reviewers and authors of both working group reports. As the second working group is about the impacts, a large proportion of the 2,000 are not climate scientists at all, but economists, epidemiologists, agronomists, and so on. Of the roughly 600 that contributed to the first working group report, most are the expert reviewers who commented on the drafts before publication. These people included such sceptical luminaries as Steve McIntyre (of ClimateAudit fame) and Vincent Gray, who went through and comprehensively criticised the many errors in the report, and were frequently ignored by the lead authors.

    The total number of lead authors was 52, the number who wrote chapter 9, which is the only place the effects are attributed to man, was 9 main authors with contributions from another 44. The contributors don’t necessarily agree with the whole chapter. I’m told that only 6 of the reviewers endorsed the chapter’s conclusions in their comments, but I haven’t checked that.

    It’s well worth actually reading chapter 9. The claims are surprisingly cautious, compared to the press releases, and many of the arguments boil down to ‘all of our models (which we wrote) say so’ and ‘we can’t think of anything else it could be’ and ‘correlation implies causation’. But see for yourselves.

    Larry D,

    It’s worth mentioning the typical noise level in the data. A ‘trend’ that is smaller than the noise is hard to attribute, especially when the data is strongly autocorrelated.

    (And if anyone doesn’t know about the effects of autocorrelation, that’s yet another significant complication the scientists are keeping from you.)

  64. Michael Heath

    Steve O. – your “petition” was merely a newstory at the site of a tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist and radio disk jockey Alex Jones. Please provide a link to the actual petition along with the peer-reviewed scientific findings supporting the petitioners. Science is not done by getting cartoon characters, dentists, TV weathermen, and TV characters to sign a petition. Again, it is done by qualified scientists, that’d be climatologists, geophysicists, etc., whose findings are independently peer-reviewed and then further scrutinized by independent, qualified peers.

    Alex Jones may be qualified to sell sheeple on 9/11 conspiracy theories, but I doubt this forum will fall for such nonsense.

  65. GrifiN

    Michael Heath,
    The page linked by Steve O. was indeed on a site of Alex Jones he isn’t a reputable source.
    however it seems that the information actually comes from a U.S. Senate Minority Report .
    for more information see the following links
    http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=2674e64f-802a-23ad-490b-bd9faf4dcdb7
    (Full PDF Report) http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=83947f5d-d84a-4a84-ad5d-6e2d71db52d9

  66. A Scientist

    Oddly enough, if you ask any scientist whose funding is based on whether or not he finds global warming to be true, you’ll find that global warming is not only happening, it’s happening at an alarming rate. If you ask a climatologist who wants to be a big name if global warming is true, then it’s not only true, it’s going to be catastrophic! If you ask a journalist to write ANYTHING on global warming, then whether it’s true or not, as long as it pisses someone else off and gets pageviews and papers sold, you’ll see what Will has done.

    The problem with global warming is that there is much less science than money and personal interest involved. Because hysteria on both sides has driven people to hold to their position, you’ll often find that peer review from like-minded people on journals filters opposing viewpoints quite effectively. This means that there really is no way to get an unbiased and expert judgement; there are only opinions that have been filtered by groups of scientists and tainted by large sums of political money.

    In short, Will might have misstated something. He might also have an agenda. However, NONE of the global warming proponents has clean hands, themselves.

    Bank on it.

  67. Mark Stephenson

    Give George Will credit. He has a highly disciplined mind and the ability to work logically through a complex argument. Logic never works better than the assumptions it makes and the facts supplied. What becomes evident when Will goes wrong is that he selects facts or makes assumptions that can logically be argued to a false result. The Jesuits have a saying: In an argument you can have the words if I can have the definitions.

    Why does Will do it? He knows that he has cheated the argument. Will services a client base that wants to hear him say things that appear necessary but are not. Global warming reduces ice flows. Ice flows now are the same as in 1979. QED, global warming does not exist. Will hopes to cause doubt and from that confusion. In that confusion, his clients hope to make profit. The fact Will does not admit that by doing so he injures the persons that he so logically has misled.

  68. Pat Dooley

    I read the citation at RealClimate. It makes a key point “Since fossil fuels are ultimately derived from ancient plants, plants and fossil fuels all have roughly the same 13C/12C ratio – about 2% lower than that of the atmosphere. As CO2 from these materials is released into, and mixes with, the atmosphere, the average 13C/12C ratio of the atmosphere decreases.”

    So, where did the ancient plants get their carbon from? Pretty obviously, the same place as present day flora, i.e. the atmosphere. Over geological times. CO2 concentrations have decreased by an order of magnitude. Yet, when that CO2 was in the atmosphere, the Earth did not enter a catastrophic run-away warming phase, as AGW zealots warn.

    Sometimes it was warmer than present, sometimes cooler. The “Late Ordovician Period was an Ice Age while at the same time CO2 concentrations then were nearly 12 times higher than today– 4400 ppm” (http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/Carboniferous_climate.html).

    Some well known facts from the previous link: “We are actually in an ice age climate today. However for the last 10,000 years or so we have enjoyed a warm but temporary interglacial vacation. We know from geological records like ocean sediments and ice cores from permanent glaciers that for at least the last 750,000 years interglacial periods happen at 100,000 year intervals, lasting about 15,000 to 20,000 years before returning to an icehouse climate. We are currently about 18,000 years into Earth’s present interglacial cycle. These cycles have been occurring for at least the last 2-4 million years, although the Earth has been cooling gradually for the last 30 million years.”

    Historians know the impact on human civilization of the “Little Ice Age” and the “Medieval Warm Period”. Suffice it to say that the little ice age brought famine, plagues and war to Europe.

    Geologists have a better perspective than historians; both have a better perspective than so-called climate scientists like Mann and Hansen. If we really were concerned about a climate catastrophe, we should focus on preventing or mitigating the next ice age. On the evidence, I somehow doubt that recycling ancient CO2 back into the atmosphere is going to cause run-away global warming or stop the next ice age.

  69. Michael Heath

    The petition referred to was championed by Sen. Inhofe when he was chair of the appropriate Senate Commitee when the GOP ran the senate a few years back, Inhofe’s team based their arguments on those made primarily by energy co. lobbyists and lawyers, the very same lawyers who used to argue that cigarette smoking and its resulting smoke was neither dangerous or that smoking was addictive.

    Inhofe has repeatedly and falsely claimed that global warming is a hoax crafted by Hollywood liberals and the UN, he does his best to avoid any discussions with actual practicing scientists who actually developed the theory, which included committee staff hearings where lobbyists or retired non-practicing/publishing scientists dominated those hearings, not scientists. After these lobbyists and cigarette lawyers were soundly beaten by science, they were hired to lobby on behalf of industries who were hoping to delay any action taken to reduce greenhouse gas forcing. Again for the like the tenth time, science is done by climatologists, geophysicists and such who base their findings on physical evidence that is independently scrutinized by their peers, not lobbying efforts within the Senate.

    Pat Dooley – your argument appears out of thin air; climatologists are fully aware of the geological record and history of the earth and consider that history in their findings and explanations. If you have a published article discrediting that, please offer it up. I am amazed at how easy some people insult the intelligence of an entire field of scientists to assume they’d fail to consider factors we layman are able to derive.

    Arguments do not equal science. Petitions are not science. Senate reports are not science. Senate hearings with lobbyists and lawyers is not science. What I find interesting regarding all the denialists in this forum is they have not once presented one, not even one, peer-reviewed article that both discredits global warming and is supportive, with convincing physical evidence, of their arguments. On the other hand the actual scientists practicing and publishing in this field have published hundreds if not thousands of articles supporting their theory, including articles that discredited cooling threats or no changes – contrary to Pat Dooley’s notion which also lacks any citations discrediting the work of today’s climatologists.

    Source: The Republican War on Science, by Chris Mooney and RealClimate.org – a website by actual practicing, publishing climatologists who base their arguments on peer-reviewed findings.

    Here is an actual peer-reviewed and more importantly, peer-accepted report on the real science with actual physical evidence of global warming rated at confidence levels at or greater than 90% given the subject: http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/assessments-reports.htm

  70. dwall

    AGW is a fraud to justify Cap and Trade which is a monsterous tax scheme.

    The USA will lose 1.5 Trill GDP and 2 million jobs when cap and trade are implemented by our new potus.

  71. ColinLaney

    Most of you guys assume Wills is an honest if misguided journalist. He’s more of a lobbyist.

    In the past, will has taken cash in the form of consultant’s fees or speaker’s fees from interests he favored in his columns. He seems to have received $200K from Conrad Black while he was defending Black against fraud charges. What the Washington Post ombudsman should really be investigating is whether Will is getting paid by the energy industry.

  72. Steve O.

    Michael Heath — You STILL show no sign of having read the posts you ridicule. I’m waiting for your admission of your blunder, confusing a 2008 petition with something from 2001. The former is signed by 650 peer-reviewed scientists, and you’ll find articles about it all over the net. I don’t know who Alex Jones is, but his site just happens to be the one I linked to. The same info can be found on hundreds of news sites.

    You’re still talking about “cartoon characters” and disk jockeys. Are you on crack? If not, please tell me which of the numerous major peer-reviewed scientists I quote you feel is not qualified to be taken seriously on this issue. Which ones, Michael? Can you answer a simple question?

    I would also be interested in knowing YOUR credentials in climatology or related fields. AGW, or “Climate Change”, or whatever you’re calling it this week, is more cult than science. This is clearly shown by the way you true believers respond when challenged. You produce no facts, no evidence, no arguments — you just personally attack the challengers, calling them “deniers”, etc. This is NOT the way real scientists respond to challenges to their theories.

    The entire AGW theory rests on COMPUTER MODELS, which reach fanciful conclusions from false premises. Any real scientist knows you can prove the moon is made of green cheese, or anything else, with computer models. One ballyhooed study showed oceans would rise 20 feet by 2005. Another said 8 feet. Another said 18 inches. This is science? GIGO, dude, GIGO.

    You really should become acquainted with something called “the scientific method”, where theories stand or fall by how well they predict actual observations of reality. By this standard, the real standard of science, AGW is a spectacular failure. Every major prediction made by true believers has failed to come to pass.

    Warming was supposed to accelerate at an alarming rate from the 1990s on. Instead it stalled and started to reverse over the past decade. The ratio between surface and atmospheric temps is the reverse of what the theory predicted. Ditto ocean temps. Polar ice was supposed to vanish in a twinkling. Instead, as another poster indicates, there has been a net gain in polar ice in recent years. Ocean levels have not deviated from their slow rate of rise since the last ice age.

    But I’ll stop here. “Climate change” cultists like yourself are not accessible to logic or argument. It’s like trying to convince a follower of Jim Jones his cult is a fraud. You’re too busy drinking Kool-Aid to listen to reason.

  73. Dr Physicist

    Michael Heath,

    I agree with you that consensus is not science. However, I think you place more reliance on peer review than is justified. As a scientist, I’ve both done peer review, and been the subject of it. It does not perform the checks of validity you seem to think it does. It has its value, but it also has its flaws, and to pretend that only members of the club can do science is mere Argument from Authority.

    The problem with your appeal for an article that “discredits global warming” is firstly that it isn’t “global warming” most sceptics are sceptical of, and secondly that the theory is too nebulous and complex for any single paper to address it all. There are certainly papers disproving components of it, but the argument simply shifts slightly to make another claim, which then has to be disproved in turn. It isn’t a single theory, it’s a mutating series of theories.

    The other problem with your appeal is that satisfying it wouldn’t satisfy you. The journal would not be suitably reputable (meaning “conforming to the consensus”). The refutation would not be sufficiently comprehensive. The article would have been refuted by some counter-paper elsewhere (although that only goes one way). Or the science would have “moved on” with many other articles giving the same results having to each be individually refuted before the least scrap of credit was granted.

    However, just to make the point, here’s a peer reviewed paper in Geophysical Research Letters. Here’s one from the International Journal of Climatology.

    I note you cite the IPCC assessment reports. You ought to know, then, that these are not peer reviewed in the conventional sense, (comments were sought, but could be ignored by the lead authors), and were definitely not peer-accepted. Did you know that Steve McIntyre, of Climate Audit fame, was one of the peer reviewers? Do you think he accepts the report? Do you have any idea how many other reviewers didn’t agree with it either? The assessment reports are not the findings of any scientific body, but of the UN, which is clearly a political body.

    But the reports are worth reading nevertheless. In particular, I recommend people read section 9.7 and the table after of the AR4 WG1 report, where they can find in summary the actual arguments used to justify their conclusions. These are that correlation implies causation, that all their models (which they wrote) don’t simulate any alternative, and that they can’t think of any other mechanisms to explain the warming. Obvious logical fallacies all. They rely on results that are disputed or have been falsified (such as in paleoclimate) and they admit to large remaining uncertainties in many aspects. But nevertheless they somehow conclude 90% certainty from them. How was that number calculated?

    Try explaining to me what the actual evidence/argument is. Don’t cite Authority, simply tell me what it is, in physics terms, and how you know it’s valid. Because I’d love to know.

  74. Steve O.

    A big thank you to the poster who documented the fact that only 9 — NINE! — scientists actually signed off on the IPCC chapter that attributed global warming to human activity.

    That’s your consensus: nine scientists on your side, Mr. Heath. 650 on my side. Which one of us is placing ideology above peer-reviewed evidence?

  75. Rob

    “A good fact-checker would also learn that almost all climate models project that increasing greenhouse gases will cause a decrease in the Northern Hemisphere sea ice area over the next several decades, …”

    A good fact checker would also point out that nonlinear models that attempt to project outcomes far into the future are basically crap.

  76. jerry

    I haven’t read many of the responses to the Will column except nonsense
    that Will is not good at writing science. What crap. Can I say crap
    in regard to Will? Can I say that Will deliberately put false facts in the
    article? Nah, I mean, where’s my proof. It isn’t polite and shows bad
    form to say such a thing about SUCH A MONUMENT to true
    conservativeness and journalese as George Will with the great hair and bla bla bla.

  77. Jake

    All the special pleading and nit-picking aside, the *essence* of what George Will wrote is absolutely correct: “Global Warming” is a myth that has morphed into a secular religion, and like all religions nothing drives its fervent adherents into a more frothing rage than to have the founding tenet questioned. I read this column here – as well as the reaction across the First Church of Climate Change blogosphere – and I am reminded of nothing as so much as the reaction if the Romans had secured Jesus’s body away somewhere, and then put it on public display just as Christianity was about to crest as a movement in the ancient world… Of course, there’s two things about that scenario: 1. Like the moronic savants here who cling to their Global Warming Religious fantasies, the ancient Christians would have, no doubt, started spinning a million reasons why it was “all a trick,” and that wasn’t a real corpse at all. 2. The Resurrection was real. The bottom line is that people who believe in man-driven “Global Warming” or climate change are simply intellectual jokes. Period.

  78. MjM

    Steve O.

    RE: I would also be interested in knowing [Michael Heath's] credentials in climatology or related fields.

    According to, ahem, “the paper of record for the northwestern quadrant of Michigan’s lower peninsula”:

    “About the author: Michael Heath is a developer and realtor living in Gaylord. He is also a member of the Michigan Center for Science and is an ardent student of scientific methodology and framing, along with the intersection of science and public policy.”

    Your exchange with him was most revealing.

  79. roy

    GCC deniers seem to not understand the difference between mathematical proof and scientific evidence. The overwhelming scientific evidence is in, but no scientific inquiry is going to have the closure of mathematical proof. All scientists need to do is establish the fact of risk, which they’ve done. The risk is extraordinary and the evidence for future catastrophe far outweighs any risk to the contrary.

    If you go to the doctor and get medicine, ask them to sign a guarantee that you’ll get well, and see how far you get.

  80. Dr Physicist

    roy,

    Yes, we do understand the difference between mathematical proof and scientific evidence. We also understand the difference between a well-established theory and a plausible hypothesis, between reliable and dubious data, and between good scientific methods and bad. Quite a few of us are scientists, too – it’s our job.

    Lots of people tell us “the overwhelming scientific evidence is in” but nobody can tell us what it actually is. It’s not in the IPCC reports. (I’ve looked.) It’s not in the media stories, or in Al Gore’s film. Where is it?

    A lot of people are even a bit unsure about this “future catastrophe”. Will we all we killed by this 23 centimetre sea level rise? Considering the Earth’s temperature varies from +60 C in the African desert to -90 C at the south pole, exactly how would being a few degrees warmer destroy the world? It never has before.

    You’ve just gone to the doctor for some cough medicine, and he’s listened to your cough and told you he’s going to have to amputate both your legs or you’ll die. Is it so unreasonable to ask him why he thinks so?

    I’m a doctor. Do you trust me?

  81. Response to roy,

    You say “The overwhelming…evidence is in, but no…closure of mathematical proof….The risk is extraordinary and the evidence for future catastrophe far outweighs any risk to the contrary.”

    This sounds very familiar. Isn’t this essentially the argument about WMDs that got us into Iraq? And isn’t it also the argument that has us borrowing now nearly a trillion dollars for future generations to have to repay?

    It just points out the intellectual hazard of conflating political and scientific arguments.

  82. Tom

    So what was the 1980 sea ice extent? What is the extent today, the gauge is off by 500,000 km3. You may be right with Will being wrong, but you are missing his point and acting like a flat earth believer

  83. Fen

    Thought I had found a credible discussion group re global warming until I see that you all demean those who disagree as “deniers” and make unfounded assumptions re their motives.

    Have fun in your echo chamber, with all your worthless carbon credits. I hope you invested heavily in your mythology. And I hope it hurts.

  84. Dan L.

    Journalists and politicians speak with imprecision – they have to if their work is not to look like a physics textbook. The truth is always a lot more complicated than people are willing to sit still and listen to. To take a classic example Dan L above gives the classic “infra-red trapped by CO2″ explanation that has appeared countless times in the media. Only problem is, it’s wrong.

    Journalists repeat it endlessly, but the physics is entirely wrong, and all those climate scientists know it.

    But from what you said, it’s not WRONG, it’s just incomplete. I’ll look up a little about the adiabatic lapse rate, but I have to say, the fact that you didn’t address me personally in trying to explain this is a little condescending and your explanation leaves a whole lot to be desired.

    Incidentally, I didn’t get the “infrared trapped by CO2″ notion from the media, I got it from a couple years of university physics classes and then reasoning on the issue. I have no problem reconsidering my position in light of new information (and of course it makes sense that temperature and pressure would affect the emission rate), but your argument would be more compelling if you were a little less dismissive.

  85. solenadon

    Pat Dooley

    you blather

    “So, where did the ancient plants get their carbon from? Pretty obviously, the same place as present day flora, i.e. the atmosphere. Over geological times. CO2 concentrations have decreased by an order of magnitude. Yet, when that CO2 was in the atmosphere, the Earth did not enter a catastrophic run-away warming phase, as AGW zealots warn.

    Sometimes it was warmer than present, sometimes cooler. The “Late Ordovician Period was an Ice Age while at the same time CO2 concentrations then were nearly 12 times higher than today– 4400 ppm” (http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/Carboniferous_climate.html). ”

    However, if you would look at http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/earlyice.htm

    it shows that you’re wrong.

    When was CO2 high during the Ordovician ice age? When it ended.

    When was it low? When it started and during it.

    So, from the Ordovician’s point of view, increased CO2 was very catastrophic. It ended the Ordovician Ice Age.

  86. Dr Physicist

    Dan L.,

    I apologise if that seemed dismissive. My intention was not to say that anyone who didn’t know the physics was some sort of an idiot, or to argue with you personally, it was to complain about the fact that this wrong explanation is so pervasive in the media that even educated and intelligent people aren’t generally aware of it. And further, are not aware that the full argument is enormously more complicated even than that, and that it is mainly in these obscure complications that the sceptical controversy lies. Everyone is aware of the argument you present. Us being unfamiliar with it isn’t the problem.

    It might be worth mentioning, since you obviously take such impressions seriously, that to an ungenerous reader phrases like “someone with the least amount of background in physics or chemistry” or “For those of you unfamiliar with the fundamental argument…” followed by a primary-school recounting might be interpreted as being patronising or dismissive of sceptics. No offence taken, mind – I’ve experienced far worse.

    A lot of what you say is correct, if incomplete. You mention that “some” visible light hits the ground, but don’t mention all the effects on the input side that affect this: albedo, clouds, orbit ellipticity, the sun, etc. The heat energy is also released from the surface by conduction/convection and evaporation. You don’t mention H2O which is the principle greenhouse gas. While CO2 is transparent to visible light, H2O does absorb some (and the effect of this approximately equals the effect of CO2 on IR, so it’s not negligible). And while the IR is absorbed by CO2 molecules, more of it is absorbed by water vapour.

    Where I think you go wrong as such is when you say “In other words, [...] an increase of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere means an increase in the solar energy retained by the atmosphere”. Saying this implies that the amount of IR trapped directly controls the amount of heat trapped, and that this is implied by or equivalent to the mechanism you outline in the earlier “words”, which you are therefore implying is as much greenhouse physics as you need to know to tell what will happen to the temperature.

    If you examine the mechanism I outlined, you’ll not that in the hypothetical case that the temperature increased with altitude over the range at which it emits to space, more CO2 would result in cooling. Even though more IR was being absorbed, because it was emitted by a hotter radiator at a higher altitude, the cooling would be more efficient. So it’s not a simple matter of more IR being trapped resulting in heat being retained.
    (Temperature inversions commonly occur on windless nights, in the Polar winters, and above the tropopause, so it’s not a fundamentally impossible scenario.)

    Secondly, you neglect convection. In the troposphere convection dominates, and any warming of the lower layers simply results in it rising faster, carrying the heat away more efficiently. Convection occurs whenever the temperature gradient exceeds the adiabatic lapse rate, and as a result, over large parts of the atmosphere this feedback maintains the lapse rate quite precisely. In other parts, clouds, and air masses moving in from other areas affect the temperature far more. It’s rare for the pure radiative balance to dominate these other effects.

    Thirdly, you neglect feedbacks, which according to consensus AGW theory actually constitute about two thirds of the predicted warming. That is to say, they are at least twice as important to the result we’re all supposedly discussing as the basic CO2 greenhouse physics you mentioned. There are a lot of these, both positive and negative, and they are one of the most poorly understood aspects of the climate system. These are effects that magnify or shrink the raw effect of CO2 changes, and include such things as the effect of ice area on albedo, changes to humidity with temperature, changes to cloud behaviour with humidity, evaporative cooling, large scale circulation changes, and so on. It’s quite possible to be in full agreement with the greenhouse bit, but to disagree with the estimated size of the feedbacks, and so be severely sceptical about the predictions. This probably describes most of the sceptical scientists I know. It’s vaguely annoying to have people constantly insinuating that we’re denying the basic “CO2 traps IR” scheme, as if we were complete flat-Earther idiots, when we’re not at all. If the feedback is small or negative, and there are some indications to suggest it might be, then most of the warming disappears and we’re left with something that would be just about detectable to scientists but not to most people.

    And finally, you don’t quantify the effect, or compare it to other natural effects. Without such a quantification, you can’t tell if it might be positive but insignificant; below the noise threshold. Someone might agree with the physics, but disagree about the calculated size of the effect. (And solving the radiative balance equations are a monster of a calculation.) This is a particularly difficult topic because we don’t really have very good information on the level of natural variation. We only went fully global after about the 1920s-1940s, and there are huge gaps even then up until the era of satellites, in 1979. Antarctica, say, or the central Pacific. Trouble is, the monitoring was designed for different purposes, and if you’ve ever seen the Surfacestations website, you’ll know the sensor locations are often poor. As for the time before that, we have a few thousand rather iffy point records, but not sufficient to estimate global averages with any accuracy. History reports various changes in climate, but we don’t really know.

    My apologies for the length, but I hope that helps more than my earlier brief description. I appreciate that you took my argument so positively, and once again, it wasn’t my intention to be dismissive of people arguing for AGW honestly based on what they’ve heard. Only for people who are evidently not even listening.

  87. Mike M

    Why did Dr. Claude Allegre change his mind about his theory that human CO2 might have an affect on our climate? Why does the UAH MSU satellite temperature data clearly show a global cooling trend since 2000 while CO2 continues to go up? Back in 2000, the IPCC’s tamest prediction was for continued warming – they were wrong; their models were wrong. Why should my tax money continue to be WASTED studying a ‘problem’ that doesn’t exist?

  88. solenadon

    “Dr” Physicist

    Water vapour is a Green house Gas, but it has a nasty habit of condensing into things called raindrops and snowflakes and thereby leaving the atmosphere as either a liquid/solid. Also, this condensing liberates heat energy. Surely you know what drives hurricanes?

    This is called the water cycle. Water vapour content in the atmosphere is a function of the temperature. Higher atmospheric temperature, the more H2O it can hold. More H2O, more heat held in. Combine that with higher CO2 levels and…

    This is opposed to CO2, which is pumped into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, fossil fuels that have held that carbon out of the atmosphere for millions of years. CO2 doesn’t condense out. And while water does seem to absorb it, it seems warmer water cannot absorb as much as cooler water (and the ocean waters do seem to be warming up). On top of that it increases water acidity.

    CO2 is pulled out by plants and certain shell making sea animals. But we’re cutting down forests and paving over tracts of land at an increasing rate. And water acidification caused by CO2 being absorbed into the ocean lessens the amount of these shell making animals.

    Hmm…more CO2 (a greenhouse gas) being pumped into the atmosphere, with less and less mechanisms available to pull it back out…

    Hmmm…

    “A lot of people are even a bit unsure about this “future catastrophe”. Will we all we killed by this 23 centimetre sea level rise? Considering the Earth’s temperature varies from +60 C in the African desert to -90 C at the south pole, exactly how would being a few degrees warmer destroy the world? It never has before.”

    Of course it never destroyed the world. But it could destroy our world. Shifting weather patterns destroying food producing areas. People displaced by rising oceans waters (guess where a lot of Earth’s major cities are located. Not inland). And there’s over 6 billion of us.

    Deniers claim it would cost too much to deal with climate change. How much will it cost when a few million (or billion) humans need to migrate just to live. How will they be fed when farmland becomes dust due to shifting weather patterns?

  89. Steve O.

    Nice to see this thread become more balanced, with both sides of the argument intelligently represented.

    The basic scientific principle of “Occam’s Razor” should be applied here. When solar activity, represented by sunspots (which have been carefully observed and recorded for centuries), is graphed against global temps, they match up almost perfectly. Higher solar activity equals a warmer earth, and vice versa.

    Virtually all the earth’s heat comes from the sun (minus the relatively tiny percentage from volcanoes, geothermal activity, radioactivity, etc.). Clearly solar activity is the first thing we should look at when earth’s temps trend up or down. Yet, as I understand it, the IPCC didn’t control at all for solar activity.

    This is crazy. It’s like standing next to a flaming fireplace and saying: “I feel warmer. It can’t have anything to do with this fire next to me. It must be because Mercury is in retrograde …”

    As we know now, global warming zealots deliberately left the “Medieval Warm Period” and the “Little Ice Age” off their graphs, falsifying the evidence to make the 20th century warming look anomalous.

    What gets really tiresome is the zealots’ accusing anyone who questions their highly questionable theory of being in the pay of the oil companies. What oil companies have paid spokesmen to dispute Climate Change hysteria is peanuts compared to what left-wing sources like billionaire George Soros and the Ford Foundation have paid spokesmen to sound the alarm.

    Jim Hansen, the NASA scientist who goes everywhere sounding the climate change alarm, has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars at least to do so, by Soros alone. You can easily find documentation of this by googling his name.

    Like another poster said, follow the money. Vastly more money has been spent to push the AGW party line than has been spent to dispute it.

  90. solenadon

    Mike M.

    What global cooling?

    Oh yeah…just because the temperatures have not exceeded 1998 levels since, well, 1998, that means the world is cooling.

    Let’s see…http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071213101419.htm , the top 11 warmest years have been in the last 13 years.

    For your assertion to have ANY MERIT, the above would not exist. 1998 would have been a one-off. But it’s not. It appears to be a pattern.

    For you assertion to have ANY MERIT, the last 11-13 years should have been significantly cooler…not 11 of the 13 warmest years.

    as for
    “Why should my tax money continue to be WASTED studying a ‘problem’ that doesn’t exist?”

    For the simple fact that you claiming that there is no problem doesn’t stand up to what really appears to be happening.

    And also when it does comes to pass, you’ll be one of the first ones griping about how that government should have seen it coming and done something about it.

  91. Steve O.

    The reason governments and politicians all over the world continue to promote the AGW or “Climate Change” theory is obvious.

    What is any politician’s ultimate wet dream? An excuse to say: “We HAVE to extend our control over all industries and triple your taxes immediately — or your great-grandchildren WILL ALL DIE!”

    “Climate Change” is the gift that keeps on giving for governments and canny hucksters like Gore, who personally has made untold millions from his backroom carbon-trading investments. Google his personal Ponzi scheme, called Generation Investment Management (GIM) and see how much money he and his wealthy friends are making off of the climate change panic.

    And for this they gave him the Nobel Peace Prize! Well, they also gave it to Yasser Arafat, so that tells you something … lol.

  92. solenadon

    Steve O.

    “The basic scientific principle of “Occam’s Razor” should be applied here. When solar activity, represented by sunspots (which have been carefully observed and recorded for centuries), is graphed against global temps, they match up almost perfectly. Higher solar activity equals a warmer earth, and vice versa.”

    Except for http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/jul/11/climatechange.climatechange1

    Apparently solar activity has been DECREASING since 1985, according to the article.

    I particularly amused by the solar forcing argument. I once read one such argument claiming that AGW was false because Pluto increased in temperature by 2.5 Kelvin. Of course, the myth didn’t follow the line of reasoning to it’s logical conclusion, just how much of a temperature change on Earth would this cause. Turns out that would be something like 20 degrees Kelvin, significantly more than models predict.

  93. solenadon

    “The reason governments and politicians all over the world continue to promote the AGW or “Climate Change” theory is obvious.

    What is any politician’s ultimate wet dream? An excuse to say: “We HAVE to extend our control over all industries and triple your taxes immediately — or your great-grandchildren WILL ALL DIE!””

    Odd. Didn’t Bushco spend lots of time, money and energy denying AGW? Isn’t Prime Minister Harper doing his best to down play it?

    This Government using this to overtax us trope is really getting old.

    How much money will it cost when this comes to pass? Significantly more than it would now to try and nip it in the bud.

    But it’s odd how Conservatives (considering your arguments, that’s the category I’m putting you in) are always short term thinkers.

    How about this as a more likely Political wet dream…

    We HAVE to extend our control over all your rights and freedoms and triple the military spending while cutting taxes for the top 5-10% of our population – or terrorists WLL KILL YOU!”

  94. Steve O.

    Solenadon: Your facts are way out-of-date. The much-publicized claim that most of the warmest years recorded were since 2000 was the result of mathematical errors. NASA has revaluated the data and now it looks like this:

    “The new top 10 warmest years are, warmest first: 1934, 1998, 1921, 2006, 1931, 1999, 1953, 1990, 1938, 1939

    By decade, you can see that the 1930’s (dust bowl years) had 4 of the warmest years of the century while the 1990’s had three and the 2000’s has had only one year in the top ten warmest so far. ”

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/347541 /nasa_admits_that_1934_not_1998_was.html

    Like I posted before, AGW was an intriguing and important theory in the 1990s. The trouble is AGW advocates, like Solenadon, are still using the old 1990s data and the “Hockey Stick Graph”, which has been debunked as a fraud, while turning a blind eye to more recent research which conflicts with the theory.

    One aspect which is rarely mentioned is the growth of cities since these temperature stations were established. Many of the weather stations used to establish the mean global temperature were built outside of cities, but now are in the middle of urban areas which generate “heat islands”, so they’re naturally reporting higher temps.

    This effect is clear in cities like my hometown Seattle where, eighty years ago, snow was common. As the city has grown, generating more and more heat, snow has become quite a rare event in the city. But drive thirty miles out into the country, and you see snow accumulations comparable to those in the 19th century. This warming, familiar to any city dweller, is obviously a local effect caused by increasing density, more heat-producing vehicles, machines, and industries, not anything in the atmosphere.

    I’m not aware of any global warming study that has controlled for this clearly significant variable.

  95. Dan L.

    @Dr Physicist

    My apologies for the length, but I hope that helps more than my earlier brief description. I appreciate that you took my argument so positively, and once again, it wasn’t my intention to be dismissive of people arguing for AGW honestly based on what they’ve heard. Only for people who are evidently not even listening.

    No apologies necessary; I probably came across as a bit more whiny than I intended. I was somewhat offended because I got the impression that you were implicitly assuming I’m arguing in bad faith, which is pretty understandable given the amount of invective on both sides of the argument.

    Anyway, I appreciate the time you put into addressing the shortcomings of the “layman” explanation of the greenhouse effect, and I can appreciate why you decided to say it’s wrong rather than incomplete now that you’ve made your reasoning clear.

    I can also appreciate that the bigger picture is more complicated than the thumbnail sketch I made above. However, I posted it from the point of view that whatever feedback loops are involved inside the process, ultimately you have an input and an output, and if the input is consistently bigger than the output over a long period of time, the energy of the system is going to increase. (I honestly hadn’t considered the variation of the output due to the atmosphere’s pressure gradient.) And I figured as long as the effect is consistent, an initially low “signal to noise” ratio would get amplified into something significant on some length of time (although it could certainly be so long as to suggest that AGW is not really much of a threat). As you point out, though, the main premise of my argument is in doubt and even if it wasn’t, isn’t quantified to the degree that we could draw any conclusions.

    Finally, I think I disagree that everyone is familiar with the overly simplified physical argument I laid out above. I think it’s telling that despite several skeptics posting their own oversimplifications between my post and yours, none of them bothered to address my post. And it should be obvious that I really just haven’t encountered some of the points you’re making before now. Again, I studied physics in undergrad for two years and did quite well (though I ended up getting a math degree); I’m not exactly scientifically illiterate. This speaks to your point of the disservice being done by climate scientists and journalists who are oversimplifying the issue.

    My father, who is also a skeptic, has suggested to me in the past that the moral argument against using fossil fuels is much more compelling than than the scientific argument, given how incomplete the latter is. I would add that there’s a compelling economic argument: using petroleum as a fuel is an inefficient use of resources considering the energy sources that we haven’t yet tapped (representing an opportunity cost) and the fact that we need the petroleum to produce synthetic materials. I think I’m beginning to see just how incomplete the scientific argument for AGW is; I’ll certainly look into it some more, but maybe I’ll focus on the non-scientific arguments the next time I get into a discussion about it.

    Thanks again for a very satisfying response to my post.

  96. Steve O.

    No, I’m not a conservative, Solenadon, though it’s characteristic of folks like you to tar anyone who questions your facts with that brush. (I’m a gay activist actually — how conservative is that?) I took an interest in the AGW theory years ago and have done much reading on both sides of the issue.

    It’s telling that your last post devolves into political grandstanding and name-calling. You provide proof that “Climate Change” is more a political fad than hard science. It’s the left-wing equivalent of silly right-wing fads like “Creation Science”. No surprise that, while the rest of us have been discussing the science, you veer off into a rant against Bush, tax cuts, the Iraq War, Harper, and conservatives in general.

    Dan L: AGW would just be another interesting theory that didn’t hold up after further research, if it weren’t for the fact it’s being used today to divert billions of dollars from really important and immediate environmental concerns — Amazon deforestation, over-fishing, air and water pollution, etc. — into the pockets of greedy politicians and crafty carbon traders like Gore and his cronies.

    The Green movement rashly jumped onto the AGW bandwagon and now we’re all paying for it. Billions that could be spent really cleaning up the planet are being wasted on vain efforts to eliminate a harmless gas, CO2, that makes up only a few parts per million of the atmosphere.

    Future generations will shake their heads at our stupidity, just as we shake our heads at the scientists who insisted on holding to the Phlogiston Theory, decades after it had been conclusively disproven.

    Re. alternative energy, I’m all for it. But the fact is fossil fuels are still by far the only affordable way for the poor, especially in the Third World, to heat their comes, cook their meals, and power their vehicles. We’re not all movie stars who can afford hybrid vehicles and million-dollar “green” technology.

    The “Climate Change” movement is incredibly callous towards the poor and the Third World in general. The attitude seems to be: let ‘em starve, let ‘em freeze, as long as WE affluent environmentalists get to feel sanctimoniously good about ourselves.

    Fossil fuels will all be used up in a century or two, and whatever damage they did to the planet will be indiscernible a century after that. Alternative fuels will naturally come into use as their cost comes down and the cost of oil rises. Trying to force this change-over now is kick in the teeth to everyone who DOESN’T earn $20 million for six weeks work appearing in a movie.

    And a lot of “clean energy” is anything but. Anyone who’s driven from Los Angeles to Palm Springs has seen mile after mile of virgin desert despoiled and polluted by huge, hideous wind mills that generate a negligible amount of power. “Wind farms” make strip-mining for coal look environmentally-responsible.

  97. Thorn

    Steve O.’s “Top 10 Warmest Years” info is widely known to be related to the U.S., and does not reflect global temps; he is flat wrong. Maybe Steve O. should check his data before correcting someone else and looking like a fool.

  98. Dan L.

    @ Dr Phycisist

    One more thing; I may have vastly oversimplified the argument regarding the mechanism for AGW, but I feel you’ve done the same with the argument about the consequences. “A few degrees difference” in average global temperature could mean vastly different precipitation patterns and could disrupt many of the same feedbacks you criticized me for neglecting to mention. I don’t think it’s just the higher average global temperature or the (possibly) higher sea level that have people worried. I know that my own concern about such a thing has more to do with the possibility that a small change in average global temperature could disrupt such a feedback system and precipitate some sort of catastrophic climate change.

    Of course, the counterargument is that for every black swan made possible by climate change, there’s a black swan made possible by fighting climate change. Still, oversimplifying the concerns of environmentalists and similar doesn’t help any more than oversimplifying the purported causes.

    @Steve O:

    Ditto for you. In addition, I’d like to point out that many of us concerned that AGW might actually be a real concern want to be pragmatic about it as well, and understand that developing countries can’t necessarily forgo petroleum as an energy source, at least not in the short term. However, small, sustainable energy sources are probably more efficient and cost-effective in the long run, especially for economies that don’t yet have massive petroleum-fueled power plants supplying all the energy.

    Also, not all of us agree that wind farms are ugly, or that the only problems with strip-mining are the aesthetic consequences, or that wind farms are a poor use for otherwise unused and low-utility desert (“virgin” if you prefer). I also doubt that wind mills generate a truly “negligible” amount of power, since they’re in rather high demand — if they couldn’t add value to the economy, they simply wouldn’t be in such high demand. They would cost more than or close enough to the cost of plant and maintenance so that one couldn’t turn a profit with a wind farm however long it stayed open. And no one would bother to open them.

    My point is that there doesn’t have to be any FORCE involved. I think there is a good case to make that renewable energy can be a more efficient use of resources than fossil fuels; given that, the most I would advocate is to alter market incentives enough so that this becomes apparent. I feel that the oil industry is subsidized enough to disguise just how viable some of the renewable sources are (when in reality, much of our petroleum costs are merely being written into our income taxes). I’ll have to admit that this is speculation; I don’t have any data on what actual subsidies exist for oil companies, but considering the subsidies for some other industries, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable assumption.

  99. Dr Physicist

    Solenadon,

    “Water vapour is a Green house Gas, but it has a nasty habit of condensing into things called raindrops and snowflakes and thereby leaving the atmosphere as either a liquid/solid. Also, this condensing liberates heat energy. Surely you know what drives hurricanes?”

    Yes, certainly. I think I mentioned clouds. And that liberation of energy is one of the negative feedbacks I alluded to – it transports heat from the surface to the upper troposphere (where it creates the so-called “hot spot” that climate models predict but which isn’t observed), and cools the surface.

    “Higher atmospheric temperature, the more H2O it can hold.”

    True. That’s one of the positive feedbacks I mentioned. But that doesn’t necessarily imply it will be holding more water.

    “…CO2 doesn’t condense out.”

    No, but it does dissolve out.

    Because of the sensitive dependence of solubility on temperature, tropical oceans release huge amounts of CO2, while polar waters absorb almost equally huge amounts. It’s called the solubility pump. (There’s a biological pump, and other exchanges of the Carbon cycle too.) The net result is that Carbon has a half life in the atmosphere of about 5 years. This does not imply, as sceptics sometimes claim, that imbalances will equalise in such a time. A difference between the amount released and the amount absorbed can accumulate and decay more slowly. But neither can we say “CO2 is forever”.

    The atmosphere will never dry out, either.

    “On top of that it increases water acidity.”

    Sea water isn’t acid, it’s slightly alkaline. And at the current rate of progress, it won’t be actually acid for several thousand years.

    “CO2 is pulled out by plants and certain shell making sea animals. But we’re cutting down forests and paving over tracts of land at an increasing rate. And water acidification caused by CO2 being absorbed into the ocean lessens the amount of these shell making animals.”

    If you check the figures, you’ll find forests are re-growing at roughly the same rate they’re being cut down. And shell-making animals can withstand far more acidic conditions than are now extant (they evolved during a period when CO2 was far higher than today). The only actual experiments I’m aware of indicated that CO2 had a net fertilising effect on such biota, but that’s not something I claim to know anything about.

    “But it could destroy our world. Shifting weather patterns destroying food producing areas.”

    Or create them.

    “People displaced by rising oceans waters”

    Twenty three centimetres? Over a period of a century?

    “How much will it cost when a few million (or billion) humans need to migrate just to live.”

    Nothing. People move home all the time. Over a period of a century, almost everybody moves. Even if any movement was necessary.

    There are certainly not billions living within centimetres of sea level, and those that are tend to be on river deltas or coral reefs where the silt deposited by flooding or coral growth maintains the land level precisely where it is. The land will rise to meet the sea, as it always has. (Bangladesh, for example, is actually increasing in area.) The mechanism of growth of coral islands was one of Charles Darwin’s discoveries on his voyages.

  100. solenadon

    Ah Steve O

    “Solenadon: Your facts are way out-of-date. The much-publicized claim that most of the warmest years recorded were since 2000 was the result of mathematical errors. NASA has revaluated the data and now it looks like this:

    “The new top 10 warmest years are, warmest first: 1934, 1998, 1921, 2006, 1931, 1999, 1953, 1990, 1938, 1939

    By decade, you can see that the 1930’s (dust bowl years) had 4 of the warmest years of the century while the 1990’s had three and the 2000’s has had only one year in the top ten warmest so far. ”

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/347541 /nasa_admits_that_1934_not_1998_was.html

    Nice little link there. Only one little problem. It states…

    According to H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), NASA scientist and famous man-made global warming proponent James Hansen’s well-known claims that 1998 was measured as the warmest year on record in the U.S.

    Wait a minute? The U.S.? Since when does the U.S. equal the world?

    Nice try there.

    On to other things

    Strictly speaking Steve O…you devolved into grandstanding first. see your post at February 24th, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Lets just say I feel no inclination to pander to your faux martyr attitude.

  101. solenadon

    Dr. Physicist

    “No, but it does dissolve out.”

    That sounds familiar. WHere did I hear that before…

    ‘And while water does seem to absorb it, ‘

    wait a minute. I wrote somnething like that. Odd.

    “Sea water isn’t acid, it’s slightly alkaline. And at the current rate of progress, it won’t be actually acid for several thousand years.”

    These guys beg to differ

    http://royalsociety.org/document.asp?id=3249

    “If you check the figures, you’ll find forests are re-growing at roughly the same rate they’re being cut down.”

    And maybe you can actually provide said figures on this? And where? Brazil, where a heck of a lot of rain of rainforest is being cut down yearly?

    ” And shell-making animals can withstand far more acidic conditions than are now extant (they evolved during a period when CO2 was far higher than today).”

    Of course that was along time ago. And then there’s this

    “The second reason for concern is for animals that rely on calcium carbonate for skeletal elements, as this mineral will dissolve in acidic media. Although this will impact shellfish and echinoderms, the big loser here is coral. Riebesell showed figures that indicated that, by 2070, its likely that the optimal growth conditions for warm-water coral will simply no longer exist, and about 60 percent of the environment for cold-water coral will be gone. ”

    from http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2008/02/aaas-that-other-carbon-problem-ocean-acidification.ars

    “The only actual experiments I’m aware of indicated that CO2 had a net fertilising effect on such biota, but that’s not something I claim to know anything about.”

    So far, out of 2, your batting 0. How about land? Increased CO2 appears to induce plants to grow. However, this does not mean their nutritional quality increases…http://pages.unibas.ch/diss/2005/DabsB_7188.pdf

    0 for 3.

    “But it could destroy our world. Shifting weather patterns destroying food producing areas.”

    Or create them”

    Where? Last map I saw showing the new growing areas had the new grain belt on the Canadian Shield. It’s hard growing grain on ROCK.

    ““People displaced by rising oceans waters”

    Twenty three centimetres? Over a period of a century?”

    Yes. 0.23 meters. Or 0.75 feet. Does this take into account expansion ofthe water due to heating? Somehow I don’t think so.

    And of course this seems to be an old figure. It’s projected to be…more.

    ““How much will it cost when a few million (or billion) humans need to migrate just to live.”

    Nothing. People move home all the time. Over a period of a century, almost everybody moves. Even if any movement was necessary.”

    Move home? You make people losing their homes so..sterile. Tell me, where is Bangladesh going to go? How are migrating people going to be fed when growing areas become desert, and growing zones move into rocky parts of continents?

    “There are certainly not billions living within centimetres of sea level,”

    But they live within 100 cms of the sea level.

    and those that are tend to be on river deltas or coral reefs where the silt deposited by flooding or coral growth maintains the land level precisely where it is. The land will rise to meet the sea, as it always has. (Bangladesh, for example, is actually increasing in area.) ”

    But is this new area higher than 23 cm? If not, so what?

    “The mechanism of growth of coral islands was one of Charles Darwin’s discoveries on his voyages.

    Why yes, he did. It’s also slow. So, unless these coral islands get a major boost from the mantle soon, this little fantasy will not save your idea.

    I hope you told the inhabitants of Tuvalu that coral uplift will save their islands…someday.

  102. Dr Physicist

    solenadon,

    “wait a minute. I wrote somnething like that. Odd.”

    Is that any odder than you telling me about water vapour feedback after I had just talked about it?

    “These guys beg to differ”

    Actually, no they don’t, not by much. Mean sea water pH has dropped from 8.179 to 8.104 since pre-industrial times. At that rate, it would take 1,400 years to reach neutrality. The RS’s projection of a 0.5 unit drop by 2100 is based on the IS92a emission scenario which assumes 2xCO2 per century. Even if it were at all likely that the rate would not reduce in future, the present rate of rise is more like 1.36xCO2 per century. (380ppm/280ppm.) The observed rise of CO2 is actually quadratic rather than exponential. And pH is a logarithmic scale.

    The problem with making Appeals to Authority rather than working through the evidence is that sometimes you miss important details that authors with an agenda have glossed over. One-nil.

    “And maybe you can actually provide said figures on this? And where? Brazil, where a heck of a lot of rain of rainforest is being cut down yearly?”

    China, actually. Estimated figures can be found from the UN’s FAO. I’m afraid you lose a point for not even trying to find out for yourself, but simply quoting the usual media-campaign’s press releases. Two-nil.

    “Of course that was along time ago.”

    So?

    “Riebesell showed figures that indicated that…”

    But are his figures either relevant or correct?
    The linked document says “basic chemistry says that the more CO2 that is present in the environment, the less efficiently these reactions will run” which is true (for animals), but doesn’t say how near we are to that point. Respiration stops when the partial pressure of excreted CO2 equals the partial pressure in the water. Land animals breath out CO2 at 40,000-50,000 ppm, I assume marine biochemistry is not that radically different. Doesn’t sound likely.

    There are cases of pure CO2 bubbling out of volcanic vents in the sea bed, with coral and sea weed growing around them. Over much of Earth’s history, coral has coexisted with significantly higher CO2 levels than today. The claims are the result of pessimistic extrapolation and hand waving, and contradict field observations. I think if you had evaluated the story as critically as you’re doing with me, you’d have noticed. Three-nil.

    “So far, out of 2, your batting 0.”

    How independent is the referee here? :-)

    “Increased CO2 appears to induce plants to grow. However, this does not mean their nutritional quality increases”

    Never said it did. You appear to be playing balls that I haven’t bowled. Four-nil.

    “Last map I saw showing the new growing areas had the new grain belt on the Canadian Shield.”

    Then the last map you saw was inaccurate.

    “It’s hard growing grain on ROCK.”

    It wouldn’t be rock for long. Soil grows.

    And it isn’t hard, actually, if you use artificial fertilisers.

    “Does this take into account expansion ofthe water due to heating? Somehow I don’t think so.”

    On what basis don’t you think so? Are you just guessing?

    If so, you guessed wrong. This is taking into account the expansion due to heating.

    And you completely failed to answer the point, which was that even the official IPCC estimate (and there are oceanographers who dispute it as being too high) is not going to send billions on the march due to rising oceans. This claim doesn’t come from the science, it has been simply made up.

    Five-nil.

    “Move home? You make people losing their homes so..sterile.”

    Have you never moved home? The point of moving, generally, is to gain a better home. You make people gaining homes sound so miserable. Six-nil.

    “Tell me, where is Bangladesh going to go?”

    Under the Himalayas. It’s in a tectonic subduction zone.

    Oh, sorry, you meant the people in Bangladesh? They’re not going anywhere. Bangladesh is a river delta, it’s level is controlled by river deposition, and it will very likely continue to grow in area. As I just said.

    Seven-nil.

    “But they live within 100 cms of the sea level.”

    Thank you for agreeing with me. Eight-nil.

    “But is this new area higher than 23 cm?”

    It will be.

    The silt deposits where the water slows down because it has hit the sea. That’s how river deltas form. Sea level controls land level. If past floods have placed the land a metre above sea level, future floods will too.

    “Why yes, he did. It’s also slow. So, unless these coral islands get a major boost from the mantle soon, this little fantasy will not save your idea.”

    You’re guessing again.

    The rate of sea level rise projected for next century is roughly the same as it was last century, and far slower than it has been since the ice retreated a mere 10,000 years ago. Coral is nevertheless not extinct. However did it manage to survive the Holocene optimum? ;-)

    Coral can grow at at least twice the rate it needs to. No volcanic boosts needed. Nine-nil.

    “…told the inhabitants of Tuvalu that coral uplift will save their islands…”

    Tuvalu is in no danger. Tuvalu’s problem is too much water extraction to supply tourism. The sea level there has been monitored for the past thirty years and has not increased detectably. But if they think they can guilt-trip rich countries into paying them compensation, I’m sure they wouldn’t say no.

    A nice, round, ten-nil.

    Thankyou for playing. :-)

    Seriously, we could argue like this for days, but is there any point? You have not expressed a single concession to any part of my argument. You don’t appear to be critically evaluating your own beliefs; for example, to see whether they fit observations like evidence of past warm periods or times of high CO2. The argument seems to be political/rhetorical, and the aim seems to be not to jointly determine the better argument, but to conclusively win, by showing the opponent to be wrong on every point.
    As with most politically-polarised issues, nobody is going to change their minds on the basis of such a discussion, and many will just find it annoying. I can play this game, but I consider it a waste of time.

    I expect matters to resolve themselves as the political fashions shift over the next few years, and I expect this will go the way of Paul Ehrlich’s predictions of imminent doom in the 1960s. But no doubt there will be a new doom to replace it. Until then. :-)

  103. solenadon

    So “Dr” Physicist…

    “Actually, no they don’t, not by much. Mean sea water pH has dropped from 8.179 to 8.104 since pre-industrial times. At that rate, it would take 1,400 years to reach neutrality. The RS’s projection of a 0.5 unit drop by 2100 is based on the IS92a emission scenario which assumes 2xCO2 per century. Even if it were at all likely that the rate would not reduce in future, the present rate of rise is more like 1.36xCO2 per century. (380ppm/280ppm.) The observed rise of CO2 is actually quadratic rather than exponential. And pH is a logarithmic scale.”

    I was pointing out that as sea water gets more acidic the shells of animals have a harder time forming. You go off on some tangent about how sea water won’t become acidic.

    1 point off for moving goal posts.

    On top of that I initially in an earlier post that sea water becomes more acidic, not that it becomes acid which is what you changed to. another point off for goal post shifting. This only thing I missed was your goal post shift.

    2 off already. My my.

    “China, actually. Estimated figures can be found from the UN’s FAO. I’m afraid you lose a point for not even trying to find out for yourself, but simply quoting the usual media-campaign’s press releases. Two-nil.”

    But no actual link. sigh. another point off.

    And too bad about the UN FAO Brazil page. Another point off.

    ““Riebesell showed figures that indicated that…”

    But are his figures either relevant or correct?”

    Well, you’ve done nothing to disprove them…aside from moving goal posts. 1 point off.

    “The linked document says “basic chemistry says that the more CO2 that is present in the environment, the less efficiently these reactions will run” which is true (for animals), but doesn’t say how near we are to that point. Respiration stops when the partial pressure of excreted CO2 equals the partial pressure in the water. Land animals breath out CO2 at 40,000-50,000 ppm, I assume marine biochemistry is not that radically different. Doesn’t sound likely.”

    Says…who? CO2 in water makes Carbolic acid. Move CO2, above animal respiration, looks to be a problem.

    “There are cases of pure CO2 bubbling out of volcanic vents in the sea bed, with coral and sea weed growing around them. Over much of Earth’s history, coral has coexisted with significantly higher CO2 levels than today. The claims are the result of pessimistic extrapolation and hand waving, and contradict field observations. I think if you had evaluated the story as critically as you’re doing with me, you’d have noticed. Three-nil.”

    Really. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v454/n7200/full/nature07051.html
    talks about your situation and about the coral DISSOLUTION.

    By the way, seaweed doesn’t have shells.

    1 point off, and another off for the critical crack.

    As for being critical…well…If you can’t handle it, c’ya.

    You entered this conversation, now your complaining that someone is CRITICAL of you? More of the Denier faux martyr complex again.

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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