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Scientist: “Our conclusions were misinterpreted” by Inhofe, CO2 — but not the sun — “is significantly correlated” with temperature since 1850

By Joe Romm  

"Scientist: “Our conclusions were misinterpreted” by Inhofe, CO2 — but not the sun — “is significantly correlated” with temperature since 1850"


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The lead author of a new study (subs. req’d) says Inhofe’s office mischaracterized her work with its blaring headline, “Study: Half of warming due to Sun!” Far from supporting Inhofe’s denialist fantasies, the research, led by Anja Eichler, Senior Scientist at the Switzerland’s Paul Scherrer Institute, is actually one more piece of observation-driven analysis that strongly backs the reality of human-caused warming.

I pointed Eichler to the Senate website where Inhofe staffer Marc Morano not only misstated her results but also concluded:

Even if you try to stretch these numbers a little bit — but not unrealistically — you have to become sure that the participants of the Poznan conference are lunatics.

Yes, on the basis of misrepresenting the work of one study, Inhofe’s office calls the climate delegates “lunatics.” But the study showed the exact opposite of what Inhofe’s office said — and the climate delegates are working to stop humanity’s self-destruction, while Inhofe and Morano are trying to accelerate it. So who are the crazy ones here?

Eichler replied to my email:

Thank you for informing us about the controversial discussion of our paper in your country. You are totally right that our conclusions were misinterpreted and we are a bit concerned about that.

I also posed her a couple of clarifying questions:

ROMM: Am I correct that your study was NOT saying human-caused emissions were NOT the major factor driving the temperature record in the past century?

EICHLER: Yes, this is correct. We did a strong differentiation between preindustrial (1250-1850) time and the last 150 years. In the preindustrial time we found a strong correlation between the solar activity proxy and our temperature, suggesting solar forcing as a main force for temperature change in this time. However, the correlation between the solar activity proxy and Altai temperature is NOT significant anymore for the last 150 years. In this time the increase in the CO2 concentrations is significantly correlated with our temperature.

ROMM: Am I correct that your final sentence [in the paper] was merely saying that your results suggest the Sun was responsible for under 50% of the warming since 1900, but you were NOT saying your results shows that the Sun was in fact responsible for half the warming.

EICHLER: This is also absolutely correct.

She added that “uncertainties of our data” do not allow it to be used to give an exact percentage for how much solar activity was responsible for the warming in the past century. Other recent studies have concluded that the Sun’s contribution to recent warming is “negligible.”

The fact that Inhofe’s office would completely misstate the results of the study is nothing new or terribly interesting — obviously. But the conclusions of the study are quite intriguing in that they underscore the key point that the deniers refuse to accept: The Earth’s temperature does not change randomly — it changes when it is driven to do so by an external forcing.

Yes, deniers — some of whom comment on this website — the Earth has had brief warming and cooling periods since 1250. But those temperature changes were not random. They were largely responses to changes in the solar radiation hitting the earth (which is itself affected by volcanoes).

Now human-caused emissions are driving climate change to dangerous levels with forcings that dwarf previous natural forcings both in speed and scale (see “Humans boosting CO2 14,000 times faster than nature, overwhelming slow negative feedbacks“). And that’s why the time to act is now.

“The science is beyond dispute… Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response.”

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25 Responses to Scientist: “Our conclusions were misinterpreted” by Inhofe, CO2 — but not the sun — “is significantly correlated” with temperature since 1850

  1. paulm says:

    Those guys need to be locked up.

    Not only is this reckless – its criminal.

  2. Contacting my congressional representatives – and asking them to put this into the Congressional Record.

    Minimal action

  3. Alan D. McIntire says:

    In the 17th century Galileo, aware that sound has a finite speed, hypothesized by analogy that light also has a finite speed. He stood on one hilltop with a lantern while a partner stood on another hill some distance away. Galileo’s system was to hold a cloth to block his lantern, then swiftly move the cloth away. His partner would look for the lantern signal, then whip away the cloth in front of his own lantern. The time between whipping away his own lantern and seeing his partner’s lantern would be the time for the round trip plus the time for reflex action. After measuring the time lapse for one separation, his partner went to a hill much farther away. That longer time interval would equal the time for light to travel the longer distance plus the reflex time, which would be the same as for the shorter distance.

    Galileo’s plan worked in theory, but needless to say, error measurement in reaction time overwhelmed the measurement of lightspeed. I suspect those trying to measure global temperature change are having the same problems as Galileo.


    “Current models predict that, on a global average, the atmosphere absorbs about 65 W m-2, whereas observations from the top of the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface show that the actual absorption is 95 W m-2. This mismatch of some 30 W m-2 corresponds to about 10% of the globally averaged incoming solar radiation, suggesting that some extra anomalous absorption needs to be added to the models. ”

    So the models are off by 30 watts while the expected effect of a doubling of CO2 would be 3.8 watts- A. McIntire

  4. DavidONE says:

    Alan D. McIntire,

    Nice story about Galileo. Now, back to the reality of anthropogenic climate change.

    I’m not a physicist and I don’t have the time or inclination to go and research the figures you’ve pasted, so I rely on a simple piece of logic: if there were a shred of truth in what you are suggesting, you or someone else would have published and collected your Nobel by now. There’s a good reason that hasn’t happened – I’ll leave you to mull over the possible answer.

    Here’s a copy / paste in return that I use regularly and rarely receive any response to and *never* a coherent answer:

    Every national science academy of every major industrialised country on the planet confirms that recent climate change is due to human activity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change).

    Provide **evidence** that these tens of thousands of scientists (and supporting personnel) have been wrong or lying in unison *and* fabricating supporting data for *decades* in a massive global conspiracy.

    If you cannot provide that evidence, you are nothing more than a delusional idiot, no different to creationists, flat earthers and moon landing hoaxers.

  5. Alan D. McIntire says:

    “you or someone else would have published”

    I GAVE the link . The article was published “In the November issue of Physics World, Ahilleas N Maurellis of the Space Research Organization Netherlands explores the implications for climate modelling and the evaporation and condensation of water on a global scale.”

    “If you cannot provide that evidence, you are nothing more than a delusional idiot, ”
    Try googling “the art of persuasion”. You’ll learn that ad hominem attacks are GUARANTEED to be unpersuasive. Learn to attack IDEAS, not people.
    When you make personal attacks, your opponents will conclude that you
    avoided discussing the issue because you were ignorant of the issues involved, and were unable to present a sensible, coherent argument.- A. McIntire

  6. LGCarey says:

    To Alan D. McIntire — dude, the “blurb” (it’s not even an article, much less peer reviewed research) that you linked to for your breaking news is over SEVEN YEARS OLD! The models have moved on since then, and notwithstanding whatever “noise” may still exist in the models, the real world effects on Arctic ice cover, retreating glaciers, ocean acidification, permafrost melting, expanding subtropics, etc., etc. are becoming increasingly difficult to explain away through. Sniping at tiny bits and pieces of data, or even pointing out larger areas of potential uncertainty is, shall we say, entirely unconvincing at this point — as is the outright dishonesty of Inhofe’s staff in twisting Eichler’s research. If the broadly accepted anthropogenic CO2 forcing theory (which generally predicts just such real-world effects as are now being observed) is blatantly in error, then somebody should come forward with convincing peer reviewed data demonstrating an alternative mechanism which would explain these effects — that’s called “science”. In the absence of such a convincing counter-explanation, it is imperative that we act immediately on the best available scientific evidence, if we are to have any chance of avoiding a catastrophe (i.e., the sudden, complete failure of a complex system in a manner which precludes a recovery of the previous state of the system).

  7. DavidONE says:

    Alan D. McIntire,

    1. you ignore my charge that if there was a shred of credibility in that article from 2001 in challenging the science behind ACC, it would have been published (in a peer-reviewed journal – sorry, I assumed you would understand what ‘published’ means in a scientific context) and the author would have collected a Nobel Prize along with untold wealth and fame for debunking the biggest hoax / mistake in the history of human endeavour. I understand why you ignored this.

    2. of course, you duck my challenge, and instead fall back to dissembling and bleating – it’s a common tactic to avoid answering it

    3. you need to read up on what ‘ad hominem’ means – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem . I draw the conclusion that someone is a ‘delusional idiot’ if they subscribe to a fantastical belief (global conspiracy involving every (~99.something%) climate scientist on the planet) that has no supporting evidence.

    4. if you’re looking for someone to have a warm, friendly chat with, I’m not your man. If you attempt to deny the reality of what is happening, I have only contempt and will express that clearly.

  8. Rick says:

    I’d say contempt for skeptics (or deniers if you prefer) is becoming meaningless. the politicians are pretty much onside now as far as CO2 science goes – so then, lets get on with it. If we can have a decent economy without burning stuff fossil fuel, lets do it.

    the “debate” really is over. Lets get on with the climate control experiment to the extent possible.

    Best case scenario – the west quickly converts to renewables and the rest of the world follows along. I think this whole process is going to be derailed but lets see.

    For now, Gore has Obama’s ear and the rest of the pols are singing in the choir

    One small problem: politicians are all full of hot air and hypocrisy. Getting past that is going to be a bit of a challenge.

  9. Mark Shapiro says:

    Also appearing on Inhofe and Morano’s list is Dr. Frederick Seitz, who died in March 2008, giving the list that faint whiff of “Weekend at Bernies”.

  10. Mark Shapiro says:

    Dear Senator Inhofe,

    It happens at least once in every generation. The adults gather, study the evidence the best they can, and warn us to control our appetites. “Don’t drink and drive” they say, or “don’t have promiscuous sex”. “Watch out for drug consumption.”

    Then the dirty hippies come along and say it’s a hoax. They quote doctors and international scientists who debunk the consensus. “If it feels good, do it.”

    Senator Inhofe, you are one world-changing, dirty hippie. You might not have a beard or a bandana, but you are burning Clean Coal Carolers by the trainload. I especially love the economists you cite, and their concerns for our freedom. “If it feels good” they say, “burn it”.

  11. DavidONE says:

    > the politicians are pretty much onside now as far as CO2 science goes … the “debate” really is over.

    The scientific ‘debate’ has been over for years, decades, possibly. The IPCC formed in 1988. However, that’s not why we should all be arguing down the likes of Mr McIntire. People like him are spreading doubt which is willingly accepted by much of the public, because it’s preferable to what ‘we’ offer – drastic action and change.

    The politicians are certainly *saying* the right things, but I’m not seeing the action to match it. And the reason they can drag their heels is because the majority of the public are blissfully ignorant of the situation or they actively deny it (e.g. McIntire) – http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jun/22/climatechange.carbonemissions (I can only imagine that the USA is worse than this, given it is the home of ACC denial).

    I do my best to be civil when debunking the Denier talking points, but McIntire appears to be a new mini-troll – he has pasted the same comment over at Deltoid and abandoned it once the informed commenters jumped on him. After ~three years of ‘debating’ Deniers, I know that the vast majority do not enter the conversation with good intentions or intellectual honesty. Nothing will move them from their denial and they simply duck, as McIntire has, any ‘uncomfortable’ questions.

    > One small problem: politicians are all full of hot air and hypocrisy.

    Which really contradicts what you first said. Now, as much as ever, we all need to push against the Deniers and push for our representatives to take bold and immediate action.

  12. Anne says:

    Here’s my Saturday morning couch psychoanalysis of denialists like Inhofe and their ilk. Logic, facts, scientifically determined knowledge, charts, graphs, and speeches from Nobel prize winners will never, ever, ever change the minds (and hearts) of denialists, who are coming from a place of fear-driven irrationality and willful ignorance of anything that does not corroborate their own concocted world view. That world view develops not out of empirical evidence or a healthy perception of a reality, but rather, a self-directed need to protect at all costs a perceived right to consume, even more than can be sustained without making life miserable for others. It’s a narcissism of sorts, perhaps, that, may or may not have a cure or solution, but, one thing seems certain, fighting derived fiction with fact never seems to do the trick. So what will?

  13. Dano says:

    Again, the best that the likes of McIntire and the rest of the marginalized yet energetic denialist fringe can do as “evidence” is trot out old news stories.

    It’s all they have. It’s the best they can do.



  14. Dennis says:

    The trouble with Senator Inhofe’s report is that Inhofe is a Senator. He garners media attention and can filibuster any climate change legislation that comes before the Senate. The deniers need to be confronted in public with the errors by the very same people they are misrepresenting. Anja Eichler needs to get right into Inhofe’s face like the Marshall McLuhan moment in the movie Annie Hall: “I heard what you were saying! You know nothing of my work!”

  15. Bob Wallace says:

    Inhofe can only filibuster legislation away if he has 40 other Senators to back him up. He would have to hold every single Republican Senator.

    Dems have 56 + 2 Independents likely to vote with them + 1 more likely with Franken in Minn. They need that 59 + 1 Republican to break a filibuster.

    Think the Senators from the “more rational” parts of the US, people such as Snowe and Collins of Maine are likely to risk their jobs by backing the crackpot extreme?

  16. Paul Biggs says:

    I believe I was first to post this paper – on my weblog ‘Climate Research News.’

    Posted thus:

    Solar Link to 50% of Warming During the Past 100 Years?

    There is a new paper ‘in press’ in Geophysical Research Letters by Eichler et al entitled, ‘Temperature response in the Altai region lags solar forcing.’

    The Abstract states:

    The role of the sun on Earth’s climate variability is still much debated. Here we present an ice core oxygen isotope record from the continental Siberian Altai, serving as a high-resolution temperature proxy for the last 750 years. The strong correlation between reconstructed temperature and solar activity suggests solar forcing as a main driver for temperature variations during the period 1250-1850 in this region. The precisely dated record allowed for the identification of a 10-30 year lag between solar forcing and temperature response, underlining the importance of indirect sun-climate mechanisms involving ocean induced changes in atmospheric circulation. Solar contribution to temperature change became less important during industrial period 1850-2000 in the Altai region.

    In the Results and Discussion the authors write:

    “Our reconstructed temperatures are significantly correlated with the 10Be and 14C based solar activity reconstructions in the period 1250-1850, but not with the greenhouse gas CO2 (Figure 2b). This indicates that solar activity changes are a main driver for the temperature variation in the Altai region during the pre industrial time. However, during the industrial period (1850-2000) solar forcing became less important and only the CO2 concentrations show a significant correlation with the temperature record. Our results are in agreement with studies based on NH temperature reconstructions [Scafetta et al., 2007] revealing that only up to approximately 50% of the observed global warming in the last 100 years can be explained by the Sun.”

    Whilst this paper supports studies by Scafetta et al, it is clear that solar factors are still poorly understood, and there are many factors other than CO2 or Solar involved in climate change. A correlation with post industrial CO2 does not necessarily imply causation. For example, Tsonis et al, 2007 investigated the collective behavior of known climate cycles such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, the El Nino/Southern Oscillation, and the North Pacific Oscillation. By studying the last 100 years of these cycles’ patterns, they found that the systems synchronized several times. In cases where the synchronous state was followed by an increase in the coupling strength among the cycles, the synchronous state was destroyed. Then, a new climate state emerged, associated with global temperature changes and El Nino/Southern Oscillation variability. The suggestion is that this mechanism explains all global temperature tendency changes and El Nino variability in the 20th century.


    So the paper is very clear it what it says, although like all papers it has flaws and assumptions. The 10 to 30 year lag between solar forcing and temperature response is also interesting.

    Not a paper that climate alarmists or realists should get too excited about!

  17. Dano says:


    if this paper is as blockbuster as you advertise, you have a moral duty to ensure the author publishes it in a place where people read it.

    Go ahead and edit it and let us know when it gets published in a journal. Then we’ll read it. Until then, who cares?



  18. Paul Biggs says:

    I don’t understand your comments Dano – none of what you say is related to my post above – the Tsonis paper was published in 2007, and Eichler paper is in press.

  19. DavidONE says:

    Gotta love the tagline at Paul’s Denier blog – “Bridging the gap between reality and official science”.

    More like: “Bridging the gap between what I really, really want to be true and official science”

  20. Paul Biggs says:

    Reality is winning out though, Australia just set a target of a 5% to 15% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020 instead of the expected 25%, plus Poland, Italy and Germany have also gone cold on emissions reductions.

    More green redundancies to come?

    Philippe Varin, the chief executive of Corus, is threatening to shift the steelmaker’s European operations to China unless regulations governing carbon emissions are overhauled. Mr Varin warned that politicians had to help fund new clean-energy technologies or face the prospect of Corus quitting the UK and Europe. Corus employs around 25,000 workers in the UK and is in negotiations with unions over pay in an effort to curb large redundancies.
    –Tricia Holly, The Independent on Sunday, 14 December 2008

  21. Hank Roberts says:

    To find it: go to AGU, search for Altai Eichler
    Pops right up.


    Eichler, A., S. Olivier, K. Henderson, A. Laube, J. Beer, T. Papina, H. W. Gäggeler, and M. Schwikowski (2008), Temperature response in the Altai region lags solar forcing,

    Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2008GL035930, in press.

    Go back and read the original post before claiming this supports your point of view, if you’re coming into this late to copypaste.

    [PDF] (accepted 5 December 2008)

  22. Olympus Mons says:

    being a sociologist, it’s fascinating to browse trough all the related websites, pro and cons, and just try to evaluate attitudes an speech! – and I can assure you, compare to Skeptics websites … you all, it’s McCarthyism, it’s gulag frame of mind again. Fascinating, fascinating. Thanks for all the input I get from you guys. It’s it again, exactly the same, you are ready for the revolution! — get the guns and let’s shut that deniers for good! – yeah, showtime!

  23. ScruffyDan says:

    For reasons that I still don’t understand Marc Morano, has decided to
    spend his time closely watching my low traffic blog, and chime in when
    I say such controversial things as “our GHG emissions are responsible
    for the recent warming trend”. Why someone like Morano would take
    notice of my little blog is beyond, me but apparently he has nothing
    better to do.

    See here for the relevant background:

    I recently wrote a post on Morano/Inhofe’s laughable list of over 650
    scientists who dispute climate change, which included an excerpt of
    this post and a post by Tim Lambert of Deltoid.

    Well Morano has seen fit to respond to my post, and in doing so has
    also responded to your and Tim Lambert’s posts on the subject. Given the
    author of the response I am quite certain it is filled with half
    truths twisted beyond any recognition and outright lies, but I haven’t
    yet taken a close look at it (hopefully I will be able to do so

    Anyways I just wanted to give you a heads up.

    Here is my original post
    And here is Morano’s reply:

    Keep up the good work.

  24. Wes says:

    Help me out….there is 3,000 to 3,600 billion tons of CO2 in our atmosphere. Man puts out 27 billion tons each year or less than 1% of a very mobile CO2 cycle. And we’re less than 10,000 year out of a 100,000 year ice age cycle. So I’m not surprised if the average global temp rises slowly. And I live on the slopes of Mauna Loa where the famed NOAA lab is and where the famed CO2 curve was measured…but its located close to an active volcano(Kilauea) where inversion layers bring CO2 up to the station. How accurate is all this? I was a research biochemist and now a physician on the island. Aloha and Thanks

  25. Hank Roberts says:

    > Why someone like Morano would take notice of my little blog is beyond
    > me but apparently he has nothing better to do.

    They’re running scared, and you have a good blog. Lately I’ve noticed that if I do searches for his postings, it leads to finding good climate blogs I didn’t know about.

    So they’ve got either a good data mining program or a vast team of minions working.