Must Read from RealClimate

Not that anyone but a few Deniers was particularly worried that some microscopic revision in a few years of temperature data meant the theory of human-caused global warming was even slightly undercut — but progressives need to be know all the rebuttals. I had emailed Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate about this — I’m sure I wasn’t alone — and he put together a very nice debunking post.

As Gavin writes, “there is clearly a latent and deeply felt wish in some sectors for the whole problem of global warming to be reduced to a statistical quirk or a mistake.” Sad.


15 Responses to Must Read from RealClimate

  1. Mike M. says:

    What’s really sad is how badly you people WANT man to be responsible for global warming. If scientists discovered indisputable evidence tomorrow that global warming was natural you’d be the only unhappy people on the planet.

  2. Joe says:

    Strange comment.

    Humans ARE primarily responsible for global warming. Most progressives believe that ONLY because that is what the science says. You people don’t believe that because it doesn’t match your worldview.

    If scientists discovered indisputable evidence tomorrow that global warming was natural I’d be very happy – assuming the science showed the warming would not continue accelerating. (We are getting close to carbon cycle tipping points that, once crossed, will greatly amplify warming.) But your comment betrays a lack of understanding of the science – the evidence for warming is overwhelming and so, as Gavin wrote, it is extremely unlikely that one new piece of statistical data could overturn it.

    You people believe in science only when it matches your worldview – so you are impervious to changes in scientific evidence. That is the difference.

  3. Ron says:

    The bigger problem is the power of the propaganda.

    Even re-drawing graphs after finding errors, and then seeing no warming trend with the corrected graphs, isn’t enough to make a true believer stop and go “Hmmmm…”.

    The best propaganda makes new propagandists of the believers.

    People truly concerned about the environment would rejoice to see evidence that perhaps all is well afterall. But AGW has the force of religion for many. The issue has moved beyond science and logic for them. They believe in science only when it matches their worldview. Sad.

  4. Joe says:

    The work of thousands of scientists for the IPCC is not propaganda and not overturned by tiny changes in the data for a few years for a tiny fraction of the globe.

    Either one believes the IPCC or not. If so, we need to take action ASAP. If not, then you might as well get your medical care from a voodoo doctor — it’s all the same science.

  5. Earl Killian says:

    It seems to me that the Denyers fail to understand the processes of Science and also the basis of sound public policy in their attacks.

    Let me illustrate the different standards appropriate for Science and public-policy first. Let’s say a Scientist, a Denyer, and you are standing next to a quicksand pit. The Denyer suggests you try wading through, saying the quicksand is probably not deep enough to hurt you. The Scientist says the pit was measured a few years back at 8 feet deep. The Denyer points out that the pit may have dried out some since then. The Scientist concedes this is possible, since he doesn’t have a theory of quicksand pit depth yet, but says it could be deeper or shallower. What do you do when the Denyer says “go on, give it a try”? I think most of us would think it crazy to walk into a quicksand pit just because someone tells you they cannot prove it will kill you. That’s the wrong standard to be using. Someone had better be able to prove it won’t kill me, and that the benefits outweigh the risks.

    The situation with global warming is is even crazier than the above, because Science has proven that the pit is deep, and still the Denyers are saying “go ahead, wade in, they haven’t proven it to my satisfaction.”

    Scientists are pretty conservative (the English sense of the word, not the political sense) by nature: it takes a lot to convince them of something. Usually they are convinced by multiple consistent observations in combination with a theory that explains those observations better than any other theory. When presented with counter-evidence they are similarly conservative in discarding the theory, because there was so much evidence to support it in the first place.

    It is important to remember that global warming theory is not based upon a single observation or even a small set, or upon a single theory, or even a small set of observations and theories, but upon a very large number of *consistent* observations together with *consistent* theories that explain those observations. The Denyers seem to think it only takes a single flawed data point to make the whole edifice come tumbling down, which is false. A single inconsistent data point is more likely to be wrong when faced with a mountain of consistent data. It works the other way too: when something new (and true) is first discovered, Scientists usually consider it erroneous at first.

    An example of this conservatism: The winners of the 1978 Nobel Prize for discovery of the cosmic background radiation (Penzias and Wilson) at first thought there must have been something wrong with their equipment, and so took it apart and rebuilt it, and modified it to reduce sources of noise. Even when they still got the same signal they were puzzled because there was no widely known theory to explain this radiation. Only when they discovered another group (Dicke, Peebles, Roll, and Wilkinson) trying to build an apparatus like theirs to prove a theory that predicted the radiation, did they decide to publish a paper simultaneously with the theory paper in Astrophysical Journal in 1965, and even then they never referred to it as “cosmic background radiation” but only as “excess antenna temperature”. The CBR had actually been discovered a predicted long before this in the 1930s and 1940s, but the conservatism of Science is such that it went unnoticed.

    It is precisely this conservatism that prompts James Hansen to write papers about Scientific reticence being inappropriate for public-policy consideration of global warming. The standard for Science is often something like “are we 95% certain it is true”. This can be inappropriate for public-policy. When you are slowly killing yourself by some action, it would be wise to stop that action when the probability is much lower (one could debate whether 50% or 5% are the appropriate points, but it is clear that 95% is too high a confidence level for public-policy before one alters course).

  6. Joe says:

    Great comment!

  7. Ron says:


    It’s more like the scientist (the quicksand doomsayer) tells you he has been studying this particular mud hole for years, going out there once or twice a year and sticking a yardstick into the mud at random. He’s not sure, because the depth seems to fluctuate some, but he thinks the puddle could be getting deeper. In fact, his theory of quicksand also predicts this as a likely place to find quicksand. He hasn’t actually found any quicksand yet, but he’s found a lot of things that hint at its presence. He advises you to go around it.

    The denier (check your spelling, guys) tells you he’s been through here many times, sometimes it’s been a bit deeper, sometimes it’s been shallower. He also points out that the trip around the mud hole will add a lot of time and cost to your trip.

    The scientist, who wrote his doctoral thesis on the lifecycle of wood lice, insists that you should really play it safe and take the long way around. He admits he could be wrong, but why take the chance?

    While you ponder this wisdom, the scientist suggests a solution.

    “We should build a bridge over the puddle,” he declares. “We can tax everybody in the world a little bit and then we’d have plenty of money for the project!”

    Hmmm. You think that may not be a bad idea. Everybody pays just a little bit to insure nobody falls in quicksand.

    The he holds out his hand. He has a gun in the other. He mugs you and the denier. And makes you walk around.

    For your own good, of course.

  8. Joe says:

    The scientist has a gun and mugs people??? You don’t know a lot of scientists, do you?

    Seriously, Ron, if anybody would have a gun, it’d be the Denyer, no? I mean, after all, we haven’t taken any serious action, and won’t until 2009 at the earliest.

  9. Ron says:

    Okay, so he was sort of a scientist/politician.

    The scientist above didn’t take any serious action either. He just upped the tax rate is all.

  10. Joe says:

    Hmm. A scientist/politician who is an expert on wood lice — a rare breed.

    BTW, I wouldn’t worry so much about what he did his thesis on — it’s the training in the scientific method that really counts. For the record, I did my thesis on physical oceanography in the Greenland sea — but that doesn’t make me more convincing to you, does it?

  11. Ron says:

    I agree it’s all about the science.

    The kind of scientist that impresses me is the one who never stops questioning, and even doubting his own results. Like Einstein, spending over a decade working out a ‘simple’ formula.

    The kind of scientists that don’t impress me are the ones who say a subject is settled.

    A situation like this, in which errors were corrected from an earlier study, should elicit dozens of new questions in a scientific mind. Even the results that contradict a hypothesis or an earlier result need to be examined and worked into the theory if possibel. Otherwise it’s just not strong science.

  12. Dano says:

    The use of religion, priests, doomsayer is a clue. The commenter is projecting and likely cut-pasting something from a denialist website that appealed to their emotion.

    Best to ignore them, as nothing will convince them otherwise – their identity is tied up in the ideology and denial.

    Save your breath for the conversations society is already having on how to adapt to and mitigate man-made climate change.



  13. Joe says:

    Very clever, Ron. Don’t respect anyone who firmly believes something after looking at all the evidence — only respect doubters. Well I doubt the consensus is right — things are going to be much worse and much faster than the IPCC projects. The Arctic will be ice free long before 2080 – 2100, as most models project. Indeed, it will probably be ice free long before 2040 as the most pessimistic model says.

  14. Steve says:

    I tend to agree with Joe on the prognosis, or at least I have a serious concern that the risk of underestimating the situation is at least as great, and likely greater, than overestimating it. This is all about probabilities and risk analysis. It’s way beyond “is it real, or is it not.”

    But I also doubt you’ll get meaningful action in this country until Houston (and its refineries/terminals), Miami, or Norfolk/Virginia Beach (and the US Navy) gets hit like New Orleans did with what will have to be classified as a Category 6 hurricane…

    Or you have uncontrollable wildfires in large urban/suburban areas dwarfing what San Diego saw a few years back — in the middle of a 110 degree-plus heat wave…

    Or you get something very unexpected happening at the poles faster than anyone ever imagined (perhaps with sea level rise that is obvious to everyone)….

    Until then, there will be denyers as well as believers who hesitate to make sacrifices. If that day never comes, so be it.

    When that happens, though, you need to hope there will be a contingent of people who can explain it to fearful onlookers (willing to listen and now act), and then get swift action implemented. The tipping point theorists correctly worry that the cost of playing catch-up at that point will make today’s suggested measures look like a free school lunch program. (I know, Ron, we don’t want to take your precious earnings to feed school children… but that’s a different issue altogether.)

    In the meantime, you can only hope for steadily increasing widespread voluntary action (which is justified economically and otherwise independent of global warming issues), some meaningful federal action, more states following California’s lead on energy efficiency, and similar extreme weather events which wake up China and India as well.

  15. Ron says:

    And hope and pray things get bad so we’ll all know you’re right.