Earth to John Christy: Misleading for free is wrong, too.

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"Earth to John Christy: Misleading for free is wrong, too."

This is by guest blogger Paulina Essunger, a science writer.

On December 9, John Christy (University of Alabama-Huntsville) and Gavin Schmidt (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies) appeared on CNN. Wolf Blitzer asked Christy if he takes money from oil companies.

Christy:

I do not take any money from oil companies, energy companies or any of those.

Let’s take as a given that Christy is not, in fact, on the payroll of Exxon-Mobil or any other energy company. That’s not the point. Since when did “not-deceiving-for-money” become the standard? “Misleading-for-free” is not the middle ground, flanked by deceiving-for-money on one side and truth on the other.

And, as shown below, Christy was definitely being misleading in the CNN interview.

Early on in the interview, Schmidt talked about the human role in climate change. In responding, Christy contributed this gem:

Christy:

“[W]hat is being referred to here is being assumed from climate models”

Christy appeared to be saying that the attribution of most of the recent warming to human greenhouse gases is an “assumption” “from” “climate models.”

CHRISTY WAS WRONG

Climate scientists do not “assume” that humans are warming up the planet “from models,” as Christy claimed. Schmidt corrected Christy:

Schmidt:

“Climate models are a tool; they allow us to understand why climate changed in the past, why it’s changing now, and what that might mean for the future”¦they provide us with very good evidence that what we’re seeing now is in fact caused by the things that we know we are doing to the atmosphere.”

Scientists make assumptions in the course of their investigations. The results of these investigations are not called “assumptions.” They are called “results.” Obviously, Christy knows this. So, why did he call the results “assumptions”?

Christy goes on:

“I am underwhelmed”¦with what we see in the ability of climate models to prove anything, they really can’t prove anything.”

CHRISTY TRIED TO FAKE US OUT

Duh. Wrong classroom, Professor Christy. Proofs happen in math and logic, not science. You know this, so why the fake complaint about being “underwhelmed”?

When Blitzer turned to the materials recently stolen from climate scientists at University of East Anglia, Christy insisted that even some of the wildest misinterpretations of the stolen materials are actually fair representations.

Christy:

“When they say [in the emails] ‘hide the decline’ that’s exactly what they were trying to do; it even is in the computer code.”

WHAT CHRISTY SAID WAS STUNNINGLY MISLEADING

I don’t think anyone really needs to hear once more why Sarah Palin and friends are wrong in thinking “the decline” in question was a decline in global temperatures and wrong in thinking that anything was actually being hidden.

If you haven’t heard the one about the “decline-hiding” being “in the computer code,” and you want to know what that’s all about, try this.

Schmidt’s on-show response pretty much sums up the whole shebang.

Schmidt:

“That’s completely wrong, John. That’s not true.”

Christy probably did get one thing right, though. He is probably right about why he is intent on being wrong and misleading.

Christy:

“As someone who was derided in many of those emails, I just completely disagree with what Gavin has just said.”

So, that’s why he’s disagreeing! He didn’t like what they had written about him! Has there ever been a clearer statement by any contrarian?

“I don’t like you; you make me feel bad, so I’m going to disagree with you, truth be damned.”

I don’t know to what extent Christy was derided in the emails. But if you want to know why anyone who worries about climate change might say something unflattering about Christy, this Climate Progress post from last year sums it up.

Joe Romm asks: Should you believe anything John Christy says?:

[Christy was] wrong “” dead wrong “” for a very long time, which created one of the most enduring denier myths, that the satellite data didn’t show the global warming that the surface temperature data did. As RealClimate [a climate science website co-founded by Schmidt] wrote [quoted by Romm]:

We now know, of course, that the satellite data set confirms that the climate is warming , and indeed at very nearly the same rate as indicated by the surface temperature records. Now, there’s nothing wrong with making mistakes when pursuing an innovative observational method, but Spencer [Christy's co-author on many papers; Spencer is/was also paid to write for an Exxon Mobil-funded website] and Christy sat by for most of a decade allowing “” indeed encouraging “” the use of their data set as an icon for global warming skeptics. They committed serial errors in the data analysis, but insisted they were right and models and thermometers were wrong. They did little or nothing to root out possible sources of errors, and left it to others to clean up the mess, as has now been done.

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104 Responses to Earth to John Christy: Misleading for free is wrong, too.

  1. sam says:

    Joe, even if you were on the same (correct) side of this global warming debate as I am, I would still think you were a [snip]. What is your problem bro? Lighten up! I have a 2 year old son that shows more emotional maturity then you.

    [JR: With this comment, I'm afraid you have demonstrated the reverse. Also, this was a guest post. In any case, I'm on the science "side" not the voodoo/disinformation side.]

  2. Bill Maddox says:

    So ….. Christy’s disingenuousness should be played nice to?

    Bill Maddox

  3. John Christy DOES have ties to ExxonMobil’s front groups:

    http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/personfactsheet.php?id=903

    Competitive Enterprise Institute
    Source: CEI website, 3/04

    Cato Institute
    Source: Cato Institute website 4/04

    Independent Institute
    Source: Independent Institute Press Release 7/28/03

    George C. Marshall Institute
    Source: Marshall Institute Website (2006)

    Heartland Institute
    Source: Heartland Institute – HeartlandGlobalWarming.org

  4. Martin Vermeer says:

    It doesn’t matter. Plenty of people (perhaps all of them except a small core of professional liars) are in denial for reasons unrelated to money. It’s still disgustingly dishonest.

  5. David Smith says:

    I would love to see a proportional representation in one of these discussions. I understand that 97% of publishing climate scientists support the notion and fact of AGW. We need to see a representative panel of publishing climate scientists in a debate; 19 pro and 1 against, and they should debate.

    In the American system we look out for interests of minorities, but this one-on-one arrangement is horribly misleading. This would be a powerful statement and might help to cut through the politics.

  6. Jeff Green says:

    To Sam #1.

    Bluntness is an important tool in disagreement.

    From what I have heard, when the scientists disagree amongst themselves, they are much more intense than this.

    A fellow scientist that is way out of the mainstream, should expect some sharp disagreements in whatever form comes their way. His suffering does not change what is happening to the climate.

  7. WAG says:

    Scott Mandia – thanks for pointing out Christy’s ties to George C. Marshall Institute and others. There’s more proof of that in the East Anglia emails.

    Christy may not take money directly from oil companies, but he did get funding for his research specifically earmarked by Sen. Richard Shelby, who wanted UAH to “examine and evaluate climate model simulations to determine the level of performance these models.” AND, this only happened after he’d contacted former George C. Marshall Institute executive director Jeff Salmon. Given Christy’s bias in the above article against the models, it’s not hard to guess what “examine and evaluate” really means.

    http://akwag.blogspot.com/2009/12/pork-barrel-spending-on-skeptical.html

  8. Pat Moffitt says:

    Climate models are not proofs– they are indeed as IPCC claims scenarios based on assumptions used for model input. If one assumes certain sensitivity for clouds, ocean circulation, irradiance etc a model will give an answer based on the assumptions and relationships used in the model. It does not and cannot prove these assumptions are correct nor can it prove that the model is a correct approximation for how climate works. How much don’t we know about climate—- well the UN just asked for $60 billion to answer the unknowns. Now if we could only convert $60 billion into precision and accuracy of the model forecasts.

  9. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Scott A. Mandia-

    Christy:

    I do not take any money from oil companies, energy companies or any of those.

    No, but he is associated with think tanks that are part of the ExxonMobil paid denier network, as you pointed out.

    This seems to be a classic non-denial denial.

    Good catch.

  10. dhogaza says:

    If one assumes certain sensitivity for clouds, ocean circulation, irradiance etc a model will give an answer based on the assumptions and relationships used in the model. It does not and cannot prove these assumptions are correct nor can it prove that the model is a correct approximation for how climate works.

    Great! Since you (chuckle) *know* (chuckle) that this is how the models work, then certainly some skeptic somewhere has written down the assumptions and has shown which of them is most likely to be wrong?

    How much don’t we know about climate—- well the UN just asked for $60 billion to answer the unknowns. Now if we could only convert $60 billion into precision and accuracy of the model forecasts.

    The UN doesn’t do fundamental climate science, so I’d sure like to see a reliable reference for this claim.

    Not that it matters – yes, a lot of money is spent by various nations (including the US) on climate research. A large percentage of this goes into running various satellite programs and to analyze the observational data gathered by them. I would hope you’d agree that this is a good thing? And, yes, big chunks go into modeling efforts – much of it for ever-faster computers so model resolution and the physics being modeled can both be improved. This, also, is a good thing, right?

  11. Dano says:

    Pat Moffit has a well-argued comment @ December 15, 2009 at 9:34 am. Too bad the premises are incorrect, making the argument incorrect as a result.

    This sort of convincing-seeming argument is what needs to be addressed by the science communication community.

    Best,

    D

  12. Craig says:

    Dano – Can you be more specific? Which of Pat Moffit’s premises are incorrect?

  13. Dr Norman Page says:

    Paulina shows her ignorance of science, modelling and indeed of simple logic.She states that assumptions are the basis of model inputs and then believes that these are magically transformed into real world results in their outcomes.Moffitt is entirely right in his comment. Indeed Schmidt himself stated on the Real Climate site earlier this year that models do not make predictions but are merely projections.Indeed they are little more than expensive draughting tools to make power point slides illustrating their input assumptions in a different form.
    Where modellers have made a grievous error is in letting the IPCC, Politicians and the MSM present their models as having predictable certainties in their outcomes way beyond what they know are the uncertainties and unknowns in their model inputs.

  14. mariana says:

    For some reason I had thought Dr. Christy was an honest skeptic. I’m rather dismayed he’d even try and use the arguments he did. In learning about climate (and it still is a steep learning curve for me) I find that it is the intellectual poverty as well as dishonesty of opposing AGW arguments that made me realize climate scientists were most likely right. Sort of, “This is your best shot against human-induced climate warming–a collection of myths, misleading statements, and outright lies long debunked?!”

    I expected more from Dr. Christy. I must be gullible…I once thought Dr. Michaels was a reasonable skeptic too. In his case at least I figured out he wasn’t just by reading his own website. I must say though I was pleased to hear him announce that global warming was real, we likely have something to do with it, so deal with it (to an audience at a Heartland Institute conference).

  15. kdk33 says:

    uhm,

    If proxies are a substitute for temperature, then when one hides a decline in proxy data they are hiding a decline in temperature. If hiding a decline in proxy data is not hiding a decline in temperature, then the proxys aren’t temperature.

    I guess I’m missing something.

    [JR: You're missing that this is one subset of one type of proxy over a limited time during which we have lots of other data, including actually temperature measurements. Why would you use proxies when you have the actual measurement they are proxies for!]

  16. Dano says:

    Craig:

    o Climate models are scenarios
    o It does not and cannot prove [sic] these assumptions are correct
    o nor can it prove [sic] that the model is a correct approximation for how climate works
    o Now if we could only [have] precision and accuracy of the model forecasts

    There are indeed accurate hindcasts from climate models, making many of the implicit assertions…inaccurate…at best.

    Best,

    D

  17. Pat Moffitt says:

    I sure would like someone to define what a skeptic is and is not- perhaps the criteria that constitutes one so labeled because I have been called a skeptic even when quoting directly from IPCC AG4. No you don’t need to take a skeptics word for it- just read the reports of the various working groups in IPCC’s fourth assessment (do not read the summary- read what the working groups said and their level of confidence in our current understanding of critical climate physics. As an example from IPCC AG4 -WG1 Level of Scientific Understanding (LOSU)— Radiative forcing components- low, aerosols med. to low, surface albedo med to low, solar irradiance low etc. Read what was said about our ability to make many of the claims for regional climate impacts based on models etc (Answer is low by the way). Read what these models are supposed to do and their limitations before you make cynical remarks- they are scenarios with various probabilities assigned. Read the likelihood in these reports of various scenarios and especially the disaster projections- you will find phrases like “more likely than not”- hardly the confidence told to the Public. Finally understand what the confidence intervals mean in these reports- they imply if all the software is correct, if the interplay of all the climate variables are correct, estimates for chaos, temperature, oceans, social dynamics are correct etc then we have say 90 to 95% confidence. However, the scientists don’t say they are correct- far from it. There is at least $60 billion worth of we don’t know recently admitted by the IPCC. Lets look at the real world and the probability that any IPCC scenario (which is what IPCC calls them) reflect reality. We now need to factor in the level of confidence we have that each component (our current understanding) in the climate model(s) reflects reality and assign a probability based on our uncertainty to each one— and then calculate them out. And finally model output in of itself simulating complex and poorly understood systems cannot be used as a proof of any assumption used within the model.

  18. kdk33 says:

    JR
    “this is one subset of one type of proxy over a limited time during which we have lots of other data”

    OK, then why hide?

  19. paulina says:

    This may be a duplicate comment. Possibly, I spammed my own post. :)

    Thx for the comments.

    Bill– Right, the general point in this post is that it’s wrong to mislead people. There’s too much noise, not enough signal.

    Scott–Exxon-Mobil <3 John Christy, no doubt about it. There's other stuff on that in the Christy cross-exam link in my square bracket insert in the RC quote at the end of the post. That said, as a general point, I don't think it's fair to hold X accountable for Y just cause Y has a crush on X, and I don't think, say, X speaking (or guest posting) at think tank Z means X agrees with Z's philosophy/values/arguments/methods etc., or shares Z's political views, let alone agrees *because* of that. I'm not suggesting this was your point, I just wanted to make mine clear.

    Martin– Yup. That's my general point.

    David– Agreed. The false balance problem is an attack on the purpose of communication.

    Pat–You got the first part right. Models are not "proofs." That's a red herring; it's addressed in the post.

    Two years ago I made a series of general comments regarding communication, in the comment section of the post linked below. Those comments may indicate where I'm coming from.

    http://climateprogress.org/2008/01/11/confusing-short-term-variability-with-a-long-term-trend/

    Norman–More noise? And, *of course,* if we are looking to *the future*, and take into account what models have to say, we are talking about projections, not predictions. Another red herring.

    kdk33–One thing you may be missing is that not all proxy records are of equal quality.

    -Paulina

  20. Leif says:

    Pat Moffitt, # 17: In addition we can look at the responses of systems in the real world. Record ice losses in the Arctic, almost universal world wide retreat of glaciers, Antarctic ice shelfs disintegrating before our eyes, Long established forests dying on a massive scale, ecosystems stressed to breaking, ocean acidification, to name but a few, that have happening often faster than projected and some even not anticipated. The scientific consensus of the singular cause of all of the above? Increased green house gas concentration.
    You go to a doctor and he tells you that he cannot be sure but his best guess is that given your numerous symptoms you have cancer and then you go to a dozen more and they say the same and baring definitive proof, biopsy, they would recommend starting treatment immediately. However still being a skeptic you start to ask others. The neighbor down the street says your dog has fleas and you have an allergic reaction, shoot your dog. The fortune teller says the cards show “no problem” and a long life ahead. The gas station supervisor tells you to buy more fuel. You congressmen says you are fine , it is all in you head. And on an on. What is your course of action. Chose delay you are a skeptic in my book.

  21. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #17: Pat, as Jim Hansen says, the bases for concern about climate chnage are, in descending order of importance, paleoclimate, modern observations and models. The models are important because we are unlikely to be able to determine very well from the first two the likely speed and pattern of future climate change.

    It’s clear that you don’t understand even the basics of modeling, since in your first comnment above you said that model results are driven by the input of different sensitivities for various components of the climate system. FYI individual components don’t have sensitivities, and overall sensitivity is a model result, not an input.

    Do some homework. This would be a good place to start.

  22. paulina says:

    This may be a duplicate comment. Possibly, I spammed my own post. :)

    Thx for the comments.

    Bill– Right, the general point in this post is that it’s wrong to mislead people. There’s too much noise, not enough signal.

    Scott–Exxon-Mobil <3 John Christy, no doubt about it. There's other stuff on that in the Christy cross-exam link in my square bracket insert in the RC quote at the end of the post. That said, as a general point, I don't think it's fair to hold X accountable for Y just cause Y has a crush on X, and I don't think, say, X speaking (or guest posting) at think tank Z means X agrees with Z's philosophy/values/arguments/methods etc., or shares Z's political views, let alone agrees *because* of that. I'm not suggesting this was your point, I just wanted to make mine clear.

    Martin– Yup. That's my general point.

    David– Agreed. The false balance problem is an attack on the purpose of communication.

    Pat–You got the first part right. Models are not "proofs." That's a red herring; it's addressed in the post.

    Two years ago I made a series of general comments regarding communication, in the comment section of the post linked below. Those comments may indicate where I'm coming from.

    The post is: confusing-short-term-variability-with-a-long-term-trend.
    (I've taken out the link so as to maybe help the comment go through.)

    Norman–More noise? And, *of course,* if we are looking to *the future*, and take into account what models have to say, we are talking about projections, not predictions. Another red herring.

    kdk33–One thing you may be missing is that not all proxy records are of equal quality.

    -Paulina

  23. Jim Eager says:

    “OK, then why hide?”

    “Hide,” like the word “trick,” is being misunderstood here. Both were being used as synonyms, for “technique” in the case of “trick, for “reconcile” in the case of “hide.”

    The “decline” was not in the instrument record, it was in the tree ring proxy after 1960, when the proxy divereged from the actual instrument record and other proxies. Prior to 1960 there was very good agreement, so the decline was known to not be related to temperature, but rather some other environmental factors, possibly such as increasing acid rain.

    This spurious discrepancy was not hidden at all, it is in the published literature and was well known among scientists doing temperature reconstructions.

    The problem was how to reconcile the discrepancy when doing a temperature reconstruction. Since the proxy was in agreement prior to 1960 then simply not using the proxy after 1960 in a reconstruction (“hide” it) would be logical, no?

    How would you have reconciled the discepancy?

  24. paulina says:

    I’m not sure why my comments are not going through. Must be some kind of conspiracy. :)

    I’ll try going one by one; maybe that will work better.

    (The following may be a duplicate comment. Possibly, I’ve spammed my own post…)

    Thx for the comments!

    Bill– Right, the general point in this post is that it’s wrong to mislead people. There’s too much noise, not enough signal.

    –Paulina

  25. paulina says:

    Well that worked wonders. Let’s try the next one.

    Again, apologies if this is a duplicate.

    Scott–Exxon-Mobil HEARTS John Christy, no doubt about it. There’s other stuff on that in the Christy cross-exam link in my square bracket insert in the RC quote at the end of the post.

    That said, as a general point, I don’t think it’s fair to hold X accountable for Y just cause Y has a crush on X, and I don’t think, say, X speaking (or guest posting) at think tank Z means X agrees with Z’s philosophy/values/arguments/methods etc., or shares Z’s political views, let alone agrees *because* of that.

    I’m not suggesting you were suggesting that, but I just wanted to make my point clear.

  26. paulina says:

    Martin– Yup. That’s my general point.

    David– Agreed. The false balance problem is an attack on the purpose of communication.

    -Paulina

  27. paulina says:

    Pat–You got the first part right. Models are not “proofs.” That’s a red herring; it’s addressed in the post.

    Two years ago I made a series of general comments regarding communication, in the comment section of the post linked below. Those comments may indicate where I’m coming from.

    http://climateprogress.org/2008/01/11/confusing-short-term-variability-with-a-long-term-trend/

    Norman–More noise? And, *of course,* if we are looking to *the future*, and take into account what models have to say, we are talking about projections, not predictions. Another red herring.

    –Paulina

  28. paulina says:

    OK, here’s a duplicate on purpose, since this comment is not lost, just awaiting moderation. I’ve removed the link.

    Pat–You got the first part right. Models are not “proofs.” That’s a red herring; it’s addressed in the post.

    Two years ago I made a series of general comments regarding communication, in the comment section of the post linked below. Those comments may indicate where I’m coming from.

    climateprogress.org: 2008/01/11/confusing-short-term-variability-with-a-long-term-trend

    Norman–More noise? And, *of course,* if we are looking to *the future*, and take into account what models have to say, we are talking about projections, not predictions. Another red herring.

    -Paulina

  29. paulina says:

    And one more:

    kdk33–One thing you may be missing is that not all proxy records are of equal quality.

    –Paulina

  30. MarkB says:

    The CNN headline is funny. “Global warming: fact or fiction?”

    Imagine any serious news organization containing a headline “Moon landing: fact or fiction?”

    I made a similar point over at AccuWeather in response to the same video regarding Christy’s claim that the evidence for the human link to global warming is based exclusively on models. It’s based on numerous observations. Christy can’t plead ignorance. He should know better.

  31. paulina says:

    Pat–You got the first part right. Models are not “proofs.” That’s a red herring; it’s addressed in the post.

    Two years ago I made a series of general comments regarding communication, in the comment section of a CP post. Those comments may indicate where I’m coming from.

    The post was on January 11, 2008: “Confusing short-term variability with a long-term trend.”

  32. Pat Moffitt says:

    Steve- IPCC climate sensitivity as you imply is a model output for a climate model’s response to increasing levels of CO2- given any number of assumptions as to how CO2 reacts with other climate variables. IPCC’s charge to scientists has as a given starting point that CO2 is the fundamental driving force in climate. IPCC was never charged nor asked whether this assumption was correct. My point and my reference to sensitivity assumes we should not start a scientific inquiry with the answer as a given. My comments above were directed at the fact public discussion of IPCC referenced model results do not properly account nor allow an appreciation of the uncertainty involved with the various model scenarios. Sensitivity analysis (SA) seeks to understand how the variation (uncertainty) in the output of a mathematical model can be apportioned, qualitatively or quantitatively, to different sources of model input. The climate model output is ALSO sensitive to the values we assign to cloud formation, solar irradience, aerosols variations and perhaps some things we have not yet considered. Perhaps the semantics and above qualifications allows us now to focus on the climate sensitivity issues raised. (and yes I know I have mixed together uncertainty and sensitivity analyses but give me some leeway to be somewhat brief)

    Additionally you use Jim Hansen as expert opinion- how do I weight expert opinion in a sensitivity analysis? Read Berkely’s Prof. Tetlock for an answer. I agree there has been warming- I don’t agree that CO2 has sufficient evidence for the climate sensitivity ascribed to it. Again paleo climate shows less than it did before- the Midieval Warm Period seemingly resurrected and lets say I agree with all the warming claims and data. Models are claimed to be unable to get the warming without C02- Well how about if we change solar irradiance, or other natural variations constrained by the models used by IPCC. Assumptions control the output. Prove the assumptions. Or at least understand the confidence in the model output.

  33. Re : Pat Moffitt’s ‘well argued’ comment

    Climate models are not proofs. It does not and cannot prove these assumptions are correct nor can it prove that the model is a correct approximation

    Mr. Moffitt’s comment may appear well arugued for anyone ignorant of science, it’s methods and how it is actually performed it real life, but is betray’s his gross misunderstanding or willful manipulation of the truth.

    Science isn’t about ‘proofs’ at all, as any undergraduate history of science major could tell you, Mathematics is about proofs and theorems, science is about evidence and theories. There is a huge difference there.

    That being said, climate models are computer programs that run on deterministic computational machines, as such they are only one of many tools and techniques that modern scientists, ranging from theoretical astrophysicists studying exotic cosmic objects, and condensed matter physicists studying the unusual properties of matter at the quantum level with interesting connections running from the microscopic to the macroscopic, from the very small to the very large, with planetary science sitting more or less right in the middle. Clearly all of these various and interrelated complex numerical and computational models work in the manner in which they have been designed, as methods and tools to check and compare the empirical evidence to the proposed current theories and to test the veracity and predictive power of those theories to current experimental and observational sophistication and resolution.

    Does Pat ‘get it’? I doubt it. Suffice it to say that if you think you can bring this entire house of cards down, then go for it. Paradigm shifts are expected, and occasionally happen, but the mesoscopic regime that planetary science resides in will soon have millions of planets as observational fodder with which to compare our theories of planetary behavior, and more or less resides well placed around classical physics. Unlike quantum physics and astrophysics and cosmology, there is not a lot of wiggle room, particularly on the singularly unique planet that we have.

  34. dhogaza says:

    IPCC’s charge to scientists has as a given starting point that CO2 is the fundamental driving force in climate

    Sorry, Moffitt, when the grown-ups get to this line they break up in uncontrollable laughter and are unable to continue through to the end of the post.

    Do you really think that putting your ignorance on display for all the world to read is going to convince anyone who actually *knows* something about climate science or models that you’re right and scientists are wrong?

    Just in case you’re capable of learning – climate scientists understand that the sun is the fundamental driving force in climate. Without it, we’d be damned cold. Without it, there’d be no warming due to CO2 in the atmosphere (but there’d be a nice layer of dry ice on the surface, I imagine). D’oh.

  35. dhogaza says:

    IPCC’s charge to scientists has as a given starting point that CO2 is the fundamental driving force in climate

    Heck, I didn’t point out the most hilarious error in your sentence – IPCC isn’t in any way, shape or form in charge of the various modeling teams at places like the Hadley Centre or NASA GISS. The notion that the modeling teams at such research centers are “charged by the IPCC” to do anything is ludicrous and ignorant.

  36. MarkB says:

    Pat Moffit writes:

    “IPCC’s charge to scientists has as a given starting point that CO2 is the fundamental driving force in climate.”

    You lost me after that hilarious statement. I’ll refer you to the following review article summarizing the robust peer-reviewed literature on climate sensitivity and CO2′s impact.

    http://www.iac.ethz.ch/people/knuttir/papers/knutti08natgeo.pdf

    The IPCC doesn’t do original research nor does it make assumptions regarding CO2 or any climate change driver. It brings together existing peer-reviewed research, and makes often rather conservative lowest common denominator conclusions.

  37. Richard Brenne says:

    Paulina, nice work. Also Joe’s comment to the comment about proxies is great, as are Jim Eager’s (#21) clarifications and Mark B’s point (#27):
    “Global Warming: Fact or Fiction?” is actually more like “Gravity: Fact or Fiction?”

    Presumably when Wolf and John jump on trampolines they’re afraid they might not come back down.

    One thing I like about John Christy is his statement that a Tambora-sized (the 1815 eruption that led to the 1816 “Year Without a Summer” that killed an estimated 200,000 in Europe alone) volcanic eruption could devastate global agriculture and potentially kill many, many millions.

    Even there I think he wants to emphasize natural variability and nature’s wrath rather than our species own foolishness in growing our population to the point where our global agricultural systems are so vulnerable.

    Two questions: How did John Christie become an IPCC Report Lead Author? He must have, like his fellow uber-denier Dick Lindzen of MIT, done some good work at some point to be appointed a lead author.

    And how much has his thinking about climate change been changed by his becoming a devout evangelical Christian?

    I purposely invited former Oregon State Climatologist George Taylor to an all-day symposium I produced to wean Oregon’s meteorologists off of him and onto far better sources like his replacement Phil Mote. At the event I asked George if he believed God’s children couldn’t harm God’s creation and if that influenced how he looked at the science.

    He said no it didn’t influence how he looked at the science, but with George and John I have to wonder. Does anyone else have more insight into this?

  38. Mike#22 says:

    Christy: “I am underwhelmed…with what we see in the ability of climate models to prove anything, they really can’t prove anything.”

    This is hilarious. The physics based models all predicted warming of the troposphere. Christy/Spencer disagreed. Then Christy’s years of work were shown to be fatally flawed, and the models right. Looks like the models may have proved something in this case as regards Christy’s scientific skills or bias.

    One has to admire Schmidt’s willingness to wade through the muck.

    Pat Moffitt, if you don’t trust physics based modelling, then I suggest that you avoid new airplanes, or anything that was designed using computers. After all, even the tiniest difference between the real world and the model means the plane is going to explode, disintegrate, crash–probably all at once. Can’t trust models until they are absolutely perfect.

  39. Pat Moffitt says:

    IPCC’s mission statement reads “IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change….” Please note the mission statement says it looks at human induced climate change (not to get back into it again but this is the “sensitive” initial condition) I ‘m not sure how to read the mission statement any other way than there is a starting conclusion of human induced climate change. Further if you read my comments above I was careful to say “IPCC referenced models”. The IPCC however does crown itself as the world’s scientific authority as to what the climate science says. And the above statement that IPCC does not make assumptions as to climate drivers is not entirely true- It selects or if you will weights the respective views on this subject.

    My point here is the confidence with which many claims are made with respect to warming are not always in keeping with the science. As an example,we are told that climate change is the most serious issue facing Africa however IPCC’s AG4 WG2 Chapter 9 pg 457 says it is a marginal issue. “Although future climate change seems to be marginally important when compared to other development issues (Davidson et al., 2003), it is clear that climate change and variability, and associated increased disaster risks, will seriously hamper future development.” Or that “Climate scenarios developed from GCMs are very coarse and do not usually capture important regional variations in Africa’s climate.
    So what if I said it is incorrect to make a definitive statement about snow at Colorado ski resorts or a particular drought in a State. Or perhaps stated as follows “Difficulties remain in attributing temperature changes (to anthropogenic and natural forcings) on smaller than continental scales and over time scales of less than 50 years. Attribution at these scales, with limited exceptions, has not yet been established.” (AG4 WG1)
    The great danger long term is that we get the science wrong. Go back to acid rain- we fundamentally underestimated the role of natural acids and the role of certain bog communities in the creation of acid water. The push to get SO2 was sufficiently important to some to embellish the role of SO2. As such we don’t deal with the issues related to fire suppression on pH, we don’t talk about forest monocultures etc. If you want to fix a problem never embellish the science.

    Perhaps I will leave with a single question- what is climate change? Is it the definition used by the UN Framework or the UNs IPCC. The answer defines whether or not I am a skeptic.

  40. MarkB says:

    Pat Moffit,

    While examining your selective quoting of the IPCC report, I’ll note that your excerpt references the following Davidson et al. study. Here is the abstract:

    “This paper explores an alternative approach to future climate policies in developing countries. Although climate change seems marginal compared to the pressing issues of poverty alleviation and economic development, it is becoming clear that the realisation of development goals may be hampered by climate change. However, development can be shaped in such a way as to achieve its goals and at the same time reduce vulnerability to climate change, thereby facilitating sustainable development that realises economic, social, local and global environmental goals. This approach has been coined the ‘development first approach’, in which a future climate regime should focus on development strategies with ancillary climate benefits and increase the capability of developing countries to implement these. This is anticipated to offer a possible positive way out of the current deadlock between North and South in the climate negotiations. First, elements are presented for an integrated approach to development and climate; second, the approach is elaborated for food and energy security in sub-Saharan Africa; and third, possibilities are outlined for international mechanisms to support such integrated development and climate strategies.”

    Nice paper. It says that mitigating climate change and economic development and poverty relief, a huge problem in Africa, can be done with a broad set of measures in part involving sustainable development.

    Moreover, the IPCC report does not appear to indicate expected climate impacts in Africa are small.

    “By 2020, between 75 million and 250 million people are
    projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate
    change. If coupled with increased demand, this will adversely
    affect livelihoods and exacerbate water-related problems. ** D
    [9.4, 3.4, 8.2, 8.4]

    Agricultural production, including access to food, in many
    African countries and regions is projected to be severely
    compromised by climate variability and change. The area
    suitable for agriculture, the length of growing seasons and yield
    potential, particularly along the margins of semi-arid and arid
    areas, are expected to decrease. This would further adversely
    affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition in the continent.
    In some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be
    reduced by up to 50% by 2020. ** N [9.2, 9.4, 9.6]

    Local food supplies are projected to be negatively affected by
    decreasing fisheries resources in large lakes due to rising water
    temperatures, which may be exacerbated by continued overfishing.
    ** N [9.4, 5.4, 8.4]

    Towards the end of the 21st century, projected sea-level rise will
    affect low-lying coastal areas with large populations. The cost of
    adaptation could amount to at least 5-10% of Gross Domestic
    Product (GDP). Mangroves and coral reefs are projected to be
    further degraded, with additional consequences for fisheries and
    tourism. ** D [9.4]

    New studies confirm that Africa is one of the most vulnerable
    continents to climate variability and change because of multiple
    stresses and low adaptive capacity. Some adaptation to current
    climate variability is taking place; however, this may be
    insufficient for future changes in climate. ** N [9.5]“

  41. Steve Bloom says:

    Thanks for looking that up, MarkB. Pat seems to enjoy selective quotations that bolster his preconceived misunderstandings. Responding to me, he used Tetlock’s work as a reason to refuse to read Hansen’s work (and presumably that of any other expert on climate), but as it happens Tetlock has made no attempt to address the reliability of climate science. They don’t call ‘em denialists for nothing.

  42. Pat Moffitt says:

    Please- I do not dispute the reality of climate change (IPCC definition) just the confidence ascribed to the various attributions. I do not argue that climate change can have deadly impacts. There is much for Africa and elsewhere to fear from climate variability as well as increasing population related stressors. I agree with your source that Africa is at risk for water supply, food supply and disaster and that rising temperatures may influence them. BUT THERE ARE MANY OTHER FACTORS, they are complex and they don’t go away with controlling CO2. It is doubtful Davidson et al would disagree. I do react – when a problem -the cause and the solution are sold as a package deal. I do react when people state science with far more confidence then is allowed by the science. Perhaps the most dangerous message being sold to the public-in my opinion- is that if we control C02 we eliminate or significantly reduce our risk from climate change. Increasingly it seems all the world’s social and environmental problems need to conform with the human caused climate change message. There are too many environmental problems that could have been solved had we not overstated our confidence as to the perceived problem cause and constrained the options for remediation. As a final caution to overconfidence- there are always perverse consequences.

  43. Leif says:

    Pat Moffitt, # 39: Again you read your own interpretation into a report and then proceed to say that it will not work. I do not feel that it has ever been said by the IPCC or climate science that solutions to CO2 will make every thing rosy. Quite the contrary. Even if we stop all emissions this instant we still have severe disruptions that we will have to deal with that are built into the inertia. Those glaciers that have melted and are gone will not return tomorrow. They are gone for thousands of years should we even get back to 280 PPM. Likewise rain fall disruptions, lake evaporations, decertification, deforestation, etc. Extinctions, NEVER! However without dealing with green house gas we are fighting a moving target that will always remain a number of steps ahead of us. We can address green house gas problems with the very same tools that help elevate all the other problems. Read Lester Brown, Plan B 4.0 for insight.

  44. Pat Moffitt says:

    If you think my cautionary language with respect to Africa is taken out of context read AG4 WG2– while reading continually ask how much is natural and how much is anthro. And as to Tetlock no he hasn’t said anything on climate that I am aware of but he has spoken in at least one volume on the poor performance of expert opinion. Hanson was used as in the context of expert opinion. Perhaps I am all the things that I have been accused of being- I’m just someone looking for answers and confidence in what I read and hear. Now please explain in very simple terms how one can have an admitted low scientific understanding of non CO2 climate forcings but a high confidence in the model results. Acid rain models could not explain low pH without SO2 emissions for many acidic environments – now we can. Been down this road once before- climate is a young science, it is complex and many claims seem overly confident.

  45. Steve Bloom says:

    Pat, you seem to need this repeated: The fact that Tetlock’s work didn’t cover climate scientists (or any of the hard sciences as far as I know) means that you can’t use his general conclusions about the reliability of non-scientist experts to say *anything* about climate scientists.

    Re “There are too many environmental problems that could have been solved had we not overstated our confidence as to the perceived problem cause and constrained the options for remediation”: This is nonsense. Name even one example.

  46. David B. Benson says:

    Pat Moffitt — Basics of climatology are much older than
    quantum mechaics
    special and general relativity
    discovery of DNA

    with basic results over 150 years ago and the basics firmly in place by 1979 CE:
    http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12181&page=R1

    I suggest that study comes first and opinions come later, if at all, hmmm?

  47. dhogaza says:

    the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change

    Pat Moffitt seems to have a problem understanding what “the scientific basis of RISK” means.

    He doesn’t seem to understand that this leaves the door open for returning a scientific finding that the risk is extremely low or nearly non-existent. If the science backed up that position, of course, which it doesn’t.

    Please note the mission statement says it looks at human induced climate change (not to get back into it again but this is the “sensitive” initial condition) I ‘m not sure how to read the mission statement any other way than there is a starting conclusion of human induced climate change.

    It’s easy to interpret it correctly, rather than misinterpret it as you’ve done. The starting conclusion is that there’s a RISK of human induced climate change, and that this RISK needs to be investigated.

  48. dhogaza says:

    Also, Joe, I’ve got a post (#37 in my view) stuck in moderation that wants to walk free in the blogosphere … :)

  49. Pat Moffitt says:

    Steve- oh that’s easy-lets move from the emotional climate issue- and I’ll tie a few together- pacific salmon decline is directly tied to dams in the public understanding. While this is true for some rivers it does not account for the fact that the most endangered stocks are coho or silver salmon where there are no dams and good but unused habitat. Smolt survival (young salmon entering the ocean) is tied to ocean conditions (PDO) which varies over the decades producing high smolt survival in one phase for the Pacific Northwest and low survival in another. When Alaska is down the Pacific Northwest is up etc. The adult salmon from Alaska and the Pac No West feed in common ocean areas are subjected to the same harvest rate intensity- do the math on what this means to stock management- NOAA has and agrees. Now lost in all this is the fact that through subsidies we maintain a commercial fleet that continues to grow in both size and efficiency beyond the carrying capacity (technologically induced and lots of NRC reports on this) Our reliance on the hatchery myth allows an unsupportable catch rate for wild fish and also justifies harvest rates that does not allow sufficent adults to return to spawn and recycle the marine derived nutrients. Why does this continue? because of the pressure from commercial interests and the publics failure to understand salmon complexity and the simplicity of dams are bad. We got into this salmon mess because the in river salmon traps and fish wheels were villified- we banned them and then turned around and subsidized chasing salmon all over the north Pacific and thus ending any chance at sane management. Salmon are tetraploids which makes a mockery of what much of ESA management is trying to accomplish without a minimum overall salmon number. The public’s concern is simplified to dams and it prevents remediation. Now lets look at salmon while still in the river and the amount of water available to them. In the Central Valley of California we grow subsidized rice in the desert that destroys the market for third world agriculture. In the process we not only destroy the salmon and deny more beneficial uses for the water we are causing salinization of the soils because of the arid climate which threatens the near and long term fertility of these soils. We the tax payers are paying to do this-talk about your low hanging fruit. Now more salmon issues but on the other side of the continent- the Atlantic salmon cannot smolt at a pH much below 6.5. The problem is that most of their habitat sits on granite with poor buffering capacity. We have in many cases planted monocultures of pines (very acid stem flow) and interupted the fire cycle- so what happens -pH goes down and so do the salmon (as always more complex). We similarly decry the loss of the fisheries in the Adirondacks as the result of acid rain however the historic fisheries followed the great Adirondack fire. Most of these lakes are naturally acidic. (Bog communities secrete organic acids and in fact some actually sequester calcium driving pH down) If you want a non acid biota to return – lime or at least restore the fire cycle and/or get rid of the high acid producing monoculture pine forests. But the problem was simplified to SO2 emissions and these natural sources of acid input were denied. Because forests are always good in all cases we also do not like to talk about the high transpiration rates and its negative impact on groundwater recharge especially headwater spawning areas. More?- much of our environmental degradation is the result of agricultural activities. Some needed but much is not but continues why? again….subsidies. Understand that a massive amount of the world’s food supply is lost while in storage to a variety of factors. Irradiation dramatically increases the available food supply by decreasing storage loss. This ultimately means less tilled acreage if we could balance our fear of irradiation against the decreased acreage and environment gain. The Chesapeake Bay’s oyster used to filter the estuaries entire water volume every three days. A variety of causes have led to the oyster collapse most importantly a virus. Oysters are a key stone species- the Chesepeake will never return to “natural” (whatever that is) conditions without restoring the health of the oyster population. we spend almost nothing on oyster research- just not sexy enough I guess- no one to sue or blame it on. I could go on…..

  50. Pat Moffitt says:

    Since we all seem to be piling on to dhogaza who said:
    “Pat Moffitt seems to have a problem understanding what “the scientific basis of RISK” means. He doesn’t seem to understand that this leaves the door open for returning a scientific finding that the risk is extremely low or nearly non-existent. If the science backed up that position, of course, which it doesn’t.”

    Certainly you didn’t mean what you wrote? Or did you? Science that might actually come back with a finding you do not like- my point exactly!

  51. Steve Bloom says:

    Pat, try making a single argument coherently rather than running incomplete ones end-to-end. Re the situation with Pacific slamon, which I’m familiar with off the top of my head, much of what you say is wrong. There are extensive habitat restoration efforts involving much more than dam removal. Is dam removal a panacea that will overcome the impact of overfishing? No. Has it been sold that way to the public? Absolutely not. All of the factors you mention (and more — don’t forget salmon farming) have been thoroughly covered by the media, and described in public education efforts and before regulatory agencies and the courts as contributoring factors to salmon decline, and the only thing blocking their mitigation has been straight-up economically-motivated resistance by fishing interests, irrigators, water agencies, dam operators and the like.

  52. Deep Climate says:

    Christy gave his standard “Climate Change by the Numbers” presentation for the API Tanker conference last year.

    http://api.org/meetings/topics/marine/tanker-proceedings.cfm?renderforprint=1

    I wonder what all the attendees who can’t wait to send tankers through the Arctic made of his presentation.

    But he does refuse to go to Heartland conferences.

  53. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Pat Moffit-

    Oh, man.

    The polar sea ice is declining, Greenland and West Antarctica are experiencing dynamic destabilization, and East Antarctica is now apparently experiencing mass loss.

    That sounds kind of like global warming.

    My point being that observation is also at the heart of science, and there are hundreds of independent lines of observational evidence of global warming. Species are migrating both northward and to higher elevations, for example.

    There is also a rather horrifying correspondence between the theory and the data. Greenhouse warming is basic physics- higher concentrations of CO2 have thicker, more intense infrared absorption bands than lower concentrations. Also this is happening at the same time that CO2 concentrations are increasing geologically instantaneously.

    Even in the absence of this sort of overwhelming evidence, wouldn’t it be prudent to not risk destabilizing the climate, being that we get trillions of dollars worth of free services from our biosphere?

    Risks are often calculated by multiplying the probability of something occurring by the consequences of that occurrence. Given the possibly infinite cost of climate destabilization leading to a methane catastrophe, what level of probability of this occurring is permissible? I submit to you that a tiny risk of runaway warming is still much too high, and something that is outright foolish for us to risk. And I think personally and most of the experts also believe that the risk of runaway warming is much, much greater than a tiny risk on a business as usual scenario.

  54. Richard Brenne says:

    Pat Moffit -

    You make some good points about complexities, but the fact is that WE KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF CO2 TO GLOBAL WARMING TO ACT!

    The basics have been known since 1896 when Svante Arrhenius, the Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, first made his calculations that if CO2 was doubled from pre-industrial 280 ppm to 560 ppm there would be a corresponding 9 degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature.

    Yes methane, nitrous oxide, deforestation and other factors play a part, but CO2 is the lion’s share (What Joe, 70-some per cent?) and so to not do anything about CO2 is to doom ourselves and all of our descendents.

    Yes we’ll always need more and better science, but using starving children in Africa or any other red herring as an excuse not to act will ultimately be seen as an act of such callous uncaring that our descendents might well compare it to a kind of genocide by neglect.

  55. WeatherRusty says:

    The Science in a nutshell.

    A doubling of atmospheric CO2 creates a radiative imbalance at the top of atmosphere between total incoming and outgoing radiation at all wavelengths by slowing the rate of Earth’s thermal emission (infrared) loss to space. This radiative imbalance or forcing amounts to 3.7W/m^2 in total. We get 0.3C warming from each 1W of forcing so we can expect ~1.2C of warming influence from a doubling of CO2.

    The climate system is not sensitive to CO2, it is sensitive to the forced warming induced by CO2 through the action of feedbacks such as water vapor and ice albedo. Paleoclimate studies clearly indicate net positive feedback to relatively weak initial forcing such that at equilibrium ( when the radiative imbalance or forcing is neutralized ) somewhere between 1.5C and 4.5C of warming will have occurred in response to the initial +1.2C . There is no mechanism conceivable to account for a range in excess of 10C degrees between glacial and interglacial periods other than strong positive equilibrium climate sensitivity.

    A radiative forcing of 3.7W/m^2 is given by a doubling of CO2. What would be the range in radiative forcing given by shifting Milankovitch cycles thought to regulate the cycling of ice ages over the past 3 million years? Significantly less I would presume?

  56. paulina says:

    DeepClimate—Thanks for posting that talk.

    Steve Bloom—Yes, there’s not much point in a discussion that jumps all over the place–that’s just noise. That’s what I was trying to get at in the longish exchange on trend lines in that old comment thread mentioned above.

    Richard—I wouldn’t want to encourage a discussion of Christy’s religious beliefs, whatever they may be. Maybe he’s perfectly public about the interplay of any religious and other beliefs and welcomes such a discussion. But in the absence of such an invitation, I’d like to do what I can to respect his privacy.

    –Paulina

  57. paulina says:

    As a general comment, I’d like to give one more shout out to the Christy cross-exam in the Vermont emissions standards case. The link is the penultimate link in the post up top, in square brackets. It’s a pdf. It’s from spring, 2007.

    For clarity, Christy was asked if he was and is in agreement with the TAR statement:

    “In the light of new evidence and taking into
    account the remaining uncertainties, most of the
    observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to
    have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas
    concentrations.”

    And Christy said that he essentially was and is in agreement with that statement, p.146-8.

  58. Here is my Web page on Model Accuracy:

    http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/climate_models_accuracy.html

    Far from perfect but definitely good enough to believe that the future is very bleak under business as usual. In fact, it appears that many aspects of climate are changing at faster rates than model projections.

    What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” — Nobel Laureate Sherwood Rowland (referring then to ozone depletion)

    Paulina: I did not say that working for an ExxonMobil front group disqualifies Christy. I just said that he lied about no oil funding.

  59. Pat Moffitt says:

    To Steve- is it possible for you to respond without an insult? I would suggest you read “The Historical Development of Fisheries Science And Managment by William Royce http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/history/stories/fsh_sci_history1.html and the work by Robert Higgs http://www.independent.org/publications/article.asp?id=2453 as a primer.

    or how about these quotes that I will be accused of taking out of context:

    “Heavy harvest rates, especially when combined with habitat problems and natural variation, can therefore drive the weaker populations to low levels, even extinction. As weaker populations are diminished or eliminated, the total biodiversity and genetic variation within and between the hierarchical populations is reduced. Setting harvest rates to maximize use of high productivity hatchery populations is particularly troublesome for intermingled wild populations that cannot withstand the hatchery harvest rate.” NOAA’s Lower Columbia River Salmon Recovery and Subbasin Plan 2004. or

    Fisheries in Puget Sound have been managed inaccurately due to failure to identify correct “maximum sustainable yield” (msy) rates given declining productivity of natural Chinook stocks. High harvest rates directed at hatchery stocks have caused many stocks to fail to meet natural escapement goals in most years (USFWS 1996).” or

    “The difference between ecologically sound escapement and conventional escapement is substantial. In streams where only coho are known to return, 93-155 salmon carcasses per kilometer of stream are thought to be needed in order to provide the maximum ecological benefit from MDN (R.E. Bilby pers. Comm..). In contrast, the escapement goal for Oregon’s coastal coho stocks is 26 fish per kilometer, and between 1990 and 1995 the actual escapement to those streams was 2-7 fish per kilometer.) (Gresh, T., 2000) It is not habitat in most cases- habitat is going unused because not enough salmon are being allowed to return! Giving more habitat is great but means nothing at present because we don’t alow enough to return. You also fail to account for subsequent loss of MDN and its cascade effect through the ecosystem. And finally for salmon

    “The industry often uses scientific uncertainty or natural variability to argue against reduction of effort(OECD 1997). The pressure for liberal catch quotas can be quite strong-often involving important political figures-and risk prone management often results. Even if managers resist pressures to make risk prone decisions, the existence of a large, chronically undersatisfied fleet exacerbates monitoring, control and surveillance. (Sustaining Marine Fisheries NRC (part of the National Academies of Science) 1999 Probably the best report I have read on the management of ocean fisheries. Guess how many recommendation of the multiple reports by the National Resource Council and NAPA were incorporated into the reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Act?—NONE!

    Now how about acid rain- and the failures of the models- and the consequences? How about one of the world’s leading soil scientists Ed Krug who having the temerity to question the extent of SO2 emissions role in acid waters and demonstrating the role of natural sources of acidity was rewarded with his career being destroyed, ritual defammation and an orchestrated smear campaign that was so bad even 60 Minutes carried it. Here is a simple test. Take some peat moss- get some distilled water to act as your rain. Pour it through the peat moss (an analog for northern bogs) and measure the pH.

    What about subsidized agriculture? Salinization of the Central Valley?

    Oysters anyone?

    What about irradiation of the food supply (surely if we are to take on the burden asked in Copenhagen we should consider it)

    Leland– I don’t argue we are warming. The amount of ice loss cited is a bit of cherry picking and exaggerated. A bit of end point bias as well. Admunsen a hundred years ago(1903-1906) navigated the Northwest Passage in a 47 ton steel seal hunting vessel. No ice breakers. I agree climate change can have the most dire of consequences. I am concerned we have massaged the science a bit and have put all our eggs in one basket. We need to harden our infrastructure with or without man made warming. And someone remind Bangladesh they lost over a half a million people in the 70′s to a cyclone before man made temperature rise. Or tell London and New Jersey that sea rise is coming with or without CO2 because of isostatic glacial rebound causing them to sink (New Jersey is pushing 7 or 8 inches per century.) However this does not mean much when you have built on a coastal plain and can experience storm surges of of 15 to 20 feet. Yes CO2 is basic physics but the statement is disingenuous since the heat is rather minor- it is the supposed feedbacks that create the real rise in temperature according to the models– and the fact that all the these feedbacks are positive is a bit hard to believe. Again IPCC says their scientific understaning of these issue is LOW. Risk is indeed multiplying the probability of something occurring by the consequences of it occurring. I agree- while IPCC has said man made warming in the later half of the 20th century is most likely occurring it is says nothing about the probability for anyone of its warming scenarios and plenty of papers showing you can’t. So what probability do we use? If we want to look at risk what are the risks to siphoning off so much capital to this one project and look very closely at how little temperature protection we will get from the current proposals. I could make a similar claim that plague (a lot of evidence that the Black Death is not what we thought it was) will return and we need to spend more money researching that– or that the great risk is another Year Without A Summer and a collapse of agriculture so we should spend the money on that, or greater monitoring of near earth objects. If you don’t think that an immediate reduction in CO2 will have an destructive impact on the world economy then I’m not sure how to argue. Reduction of the world economy carries a number of risks- less money to be spent on non C02 risks, social upheaval, increased population (yes the only way population is controlled without the point of a gun is by economic prosperity plenty of papers here too – The West if one removes immigration has had had nearly 0 population growth for the last 40 years) Risk Analysis should be done but not quite so myopic as that proposed- lets put them all down and see how much money and resources we have to address them. And please no zero sum options.

    Richard- yes we know that C02 can cause a degree or so of warming -after that it gets a little less sure. I agree we need to act but not in the manner we are doing. We need sane energy policies but not subsidized insanity like wind or solar (especially given the state of current technology) that have monstrous footprints and no means of storing energy for periods when they cannot operate. As far as my being being callous and committing genocide in Africa–well that is a bit much don’t you think? What I said was I was concerned the narrow focus on C02 and selling same as the panacea to Africa’s problems was potentially dangerous given current food supply, water supply, disease issues that will exist with or without global warming. I have been involved with aid projects (unpaid) with respect to clean water delivery hence my comments on water pumps. I certainly did not do this with the intent of killing off the population. Why must anyone who disagrees with the form of a solution be accused of genocide?

  60. Leif says:

    Greenland’s ice melt has increased by 30% in the last ten years. http://www.enn.com/ecosystems/article/40828
    Grim realities that just never seem to get better. Should we not do something while we debate the best course of action. We cannot let perfection get in the road of sound science of the present. Digging a well will do no good if the aquifer is not being replenished or becoming salty.

  61. Pat Moffitt says:

    Yes Leif – we should do something- reinforce our infrastructure (it is needed with or without global warming) while we develop a reasoned plan of action. Do you think what is happening in Copenhagen is a planning session? If so for what?

  62. Pat Moffitt says:

    Leif- Further to my point- we do not want to jump on solutions that sound good but have no basis. Although the simplistic can be quite appealing. Al Gore recently pushed for more forests to increase our water supply. There are many reasons we want temperate forests but if your aim is maximizing groundwater recharge- forests are not what you want. The high transpiration rates of forests compared to grasslands reduce groundwater recharge by 20 percent. The type of forest is also a critical consideration in water quality. And what age of forest do we want- most CO2 is absorbed in the first 50 years of growth so how do we put together a sensible management plan. I have seen in every environmental crisis to date that all the energy and resources go into the battle between whether or not the crisis is “real”. Almost nothing goes into how to efficiently solve the problem- a “solution” or plan unfortunately evolves bureaucratically later as vested interests jockey for political position-often with very perverse consequences. Please some one show me the details of the plan before you ask me to jump. The Devil is always in the details!

  63. Leif says:

    Pat: For what? For international awareness. For pointing out the plight of the poor and oppressed as being in the front lines of climatic oppression. For exploring the numerous vested interests in the status quo and exposing the inhumanity of inaction. For bringing people of common purpose together, even if only to stand in lines, and become rejuvenated in their commitments. For motivating world leaders and hopefully giving them the stones to act in a meaningful fashion and time frame. To save humanity and most of the species of the only home we have.
    Is this the best approach? Show me a better… I am all ears. We have tried science, marching, demonstrations, reasoning, swearing, humor, tears, you name it.

  64. Dano says:

    Moffit fumbled:

    Al Gore recently pushed for more forests to increase our water supply. There are many reasons we want temperate forests but if your aim is maximizing groundwater recharge- forests are not what you want. The high transpiration rates of forests compared to grasslands reduce groundwater recharge by 20 percent.

    Trotting out Algore is fat! notwithstanding,

    I call BS.

    It is obvious Moffitt is trying to mislead. On many levels. Tell NYC to cut down its forest and replant with grassland.

    Whatever, fraud.

    Best,

    D

  65. paulina says:

    Scott–I didn’t realize that was what you were saying. Thanks for clarifying. I thought you were just pointing out that he had “ties” to those groups. Could you spell it out one more time, please–just for my benefit and total clarity?

    Are you saying that if he charged for his talks or, say, book chapter, and the organizations are funded in part by oil money, then he did take money from oil companies? Thanks!

  66. paulina says:

    WeatherRusty–

    I’m going to try to divide up my reply to you in a couple of comments–sorry about the aesthetics, but due to the big global warming conspiracy, some of my comments just won’t go through. :)

    First, right, with “no feedbacks,” we get 0.3C/W; with “fast feedbacks” we get 2-4.5C per doubling of CO2. There are also slower feedbacks, relevant to the so-called “Earth System Sensitivity.”

    cont.

  67. Leif says:

    Another blog drop: Trying again.
    Pat: You are missing the big picture. Forest increased evaporation, both transpiration and surface area, allow the water to spread over a larger surface area than flat ground. They slow the rain rate allowing increased time for absorption. Look at the effects of clear cuts in the NW. They cool the air temperature which increases precipitation events. By spreading the rain over a larger area they decrease the chance of a deluge and accompanying floods.

  68. paulina says:

    WeatherRusty–

    cont.

    For some background on ESS, you might want to check out RC’s “Target CO2″ and “PETM Weirdness” (if you haven’t already, or for other who haven’t). In the latter, Schmidt made a reference to a paper that has subsequently been published, “Earth system sensitivity inferred from Pliocene modelling and data,” which I gather will get covered as well, soon.

    to be cont.

  69. paulina says:

    WeatherRusty–

    cont. :)

    In conjunction with a separate issue, last week, I used AGU’s pilot project for the media in conjunction with COP-15 to ask about that just-published paper, relative to Hansen’s “Target CO2.”

    Via the AGU service (Thank You, AGU, for providing this service!) Andrew Dessler, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Texas A&M University, responded. I’m happy to share his response here, since his comments are on-the-record, meant-for-publication comments, not part of a private conversation:

    to be cont.

  70. paulina says:

    The suspense is building. The spam filter refuses to let me tell you what Dessler said…

    So, let’s come back to that. And move on for now.

    The final thing I wanted to respond to in Weather Rusty’s comment is:

    Finally, as to how large the direct forcing from the orbital changes is, I’m not sure. I guess the *mean* forcing is very small. I think Hansen refers to it as a small fraction of 1 watt, when averaged over the planet. (Those who know more than I do about this should feel free to jump in.) But the “seasonal and geographic insolation anomalies” work over a long period of time, and, just as you point out, trigger the crucial changes in global surface reflectivity and in greenhouse gas concentrations, which serve to turn up (and down) the heat.

    Hansen’s “Storms of My Grandchildren” has more on this in Chapter 3.

    Thanks.

    –Paulina

  71. Pat Moffitt says:

    Leif- Your analysis is flawed- Transpiration exceeds any absorptive improvement. If you want to recycle water as a rain forest does- do not make the incorrect leap that water is also simultaneously stored at ever greater volumes in an aquifer. Focus- as I stated-on net groundwater recharge as a function of the vegetative cover. My statement about forests is supported by two major studies- a controlled study on the Quabbin Reservoir (Mass.) and the other a recent Dutch study of the consequences of converting arable land to forest. Google them they’re easy to find and there are many others.I never said there were no reasons for forests- I said the generic claim that temperate forests are a tool for increased groundwater recharge is unsupported. If your goal is to maximize groundwater recharge- forests are not the best answer.

    Emotional rhetoric may be comforting but has a dismal track record as a planning tool. Your plea to save the planet doesn’t contain a lot of detail-surely your not saying -do anything. I told you what I thought briefly we should do. I believe that those who want “to remake civilization a we know it” shoulder the burden to produce at least a detailed plan. Anthropogenic global warming as apocalypse is your fear – not mine. (I fear command and control more than anything- we are all allowed our personal nightmares) I have faith in mankind’s ability to solve problems when not shackled by ideology (or command and control)- perhaps that is at the root of these discussions. And I also believe that at times we are left to choose between a rock and a hard place. Dilemma and paradox have no easy answer.
    I am however confident the implied references to Christy’s religious views (which are not mine- knew we would be going there) are beneath contempt. Always curious as to why funding from Big Oil is more repugnant than funding from other forms of rent seekers- carbon traders, alternative energy companies, bureaucratic self interest etc? Perhaps some insight? And are we saying that government funding has no self interest?
    Science is about testing, replication and then doing it all over again. Science is not about questioning motives or funding or religious beliefs- that is called Ritual Defamation.

    Perhaps the problems we have discussed are indeed more than science or our confidence in a particular scientific position (Yes as Karl Popper said there is no proof) It is in large part how we see the world and our role in it that shapes us and frames our understanding. My belief is that much of our belief is a response to the dilemmas that are at the heart of existence. It is the “Sophie’s Choice” that repels us and causes us to embrace overly simplistic answers. William Blake explains better than I can “You cannot have Liberty in this world without what you call Moral Virtue, and you cannot have Moral Virtue without the slavery of that half of the human race who hate what you call Moral Virtue.”

    So let me ask again just one question to which I have received as yet no answer. Define what is meant by climate change.

  72. Leif says:

    Pat: We can obviously go back and fourth on forest and long term, short term aquifer stability. I continue to point out that aquifers were built and stabilized for eons with far more forests than today. I would point out that a precursor of decertification is removal of forest cover. Look at the prognosis for the Amazon.
    You say you fear command and control more than AGW. I ask you, is not the capitalistic system command and control. I have said before that in order to get a just solution to all of man’s problems a way must be found to make the capitalistic system work for the well being of all man kind, and not just to make billionaires out of millionaires on the backs of the poor. Currently humanity is using the equivalent of 5 earths of resources to provide the standard of current living. Surely you would prefer elected government dolling out resources in hopefully humane fashion than corporate greed skimming the top and the devil take the rest. Our present corporate system has shown time and again that it cares not wether you, or anyone else for that matter, live or die as long as profits are high.

  73. paulina says:

    Pat–

    Your first two posts make no sense, I’m sorry. You make a mix of odd claims (a model = a scenario) and quasi-tautologies (a model /= proof) that serve as a gigantic red herring which in turn serves up the even bigger red herring that “the assumptions cannot be proven.”

    When quoting from the IPCC, you need to retain context.

    If you go back and redo your first post (or maybe first two)–maybe organize them as a list of points/claims, give references where needed, links, and then get to your main conclusion–this would work better.

    I mean, if your purpose is just to post long blocks of text and have people get frustrated with you, keep going, by all means. But if you are interested in trying to have a more meaningful conversation, I’m sure there are a lot of people here who would be more than happy to engage with you.

    For my part, first impressions matter a lot. Time is limited, yours, mine, everyone’s. If you are willing to take the time and go back and give me another first impression, I’m willing to take another look. And by that I don’t mean for you to say something different. I need you to address what you did say. Otherwise, these kinds of conversations, in my experience, never get anywhere. It’s up to you.

  74. Leif says:

    Dropped blog, Try again:
    Pat: We can obviously go back and fourth on forest and long term, short term aquifer stability. I continue to point out that aquifers were built and stabilized for eons with far more forests than today. I would point out that a precursor of decertification is removal of forest cover. Look at the prognosis for the Amazon.
    You say you fear command and control more than AGW. I ask you, is not the capitalistic system command and control. I have said before that in order to get a just solution to all of man’s problems a way must be found to make the capitalistic system work for the well being of all man kind, and not just to make billionaires out of millionaires on the backs of the poor. Currently humanity is using the equivalent of 5 earths of resources to provide the standard of current living. Surely you would prefer elected government dolling out resources in hopefully humane fashion than corporate greed skimming the top and the devil take the rest. Our present corporate system has shown time and again that it cares not wether you, or anyone else for that matter, live or die as long as profits are high.

  75. David B. Benson says:

    Pat Moffitt — You no longer have any credibility whatsoever on this site.

    Try trolling elsewhere?

  76. Leif says:

    Dropped blog yet again.
    Pat: We can obviously go back and fourth on forest and long term, short term aquifer stability. I continue to point out that aquifers were built and stabilized for eons with far more forests than today. I would point out that a precursor of decertification is removal of forest cover. Look at the prognosis for the Amazon.
    You say you fear command and control more than AGW. I ask you, is not the capitalistic system command and control. I have said before that in order to get a just solution to all of man’s problems a way must be found to make the capitalistic system work for the well being of all man kind, and not just to make billionaires out of millionaires on the backs of the poor. Currently humanity is using the equivalent of 5 earths of resources to provide the standard of current living. Surely you would prefer elected government dolling out resources in hopefully humane fashion than corporate greed skimming the top and the devil take the rest. Our present corporate system has shown time and again that it cares not wether you, or anyone else for that matter, live or die as long as profits are high.

  77. paulina says:

    Andrew Dessler on the two ESS studies:

    “I view these two analyses as basically in agreement… ”

    to be cont.

  78. Steve Bloom says:

    It’s not so much the length of Pat’s posts, it’s that in combination with the constantly shifting ground. Come to think of it, that tactic even has a name: “A variant of the Gish Gallop is employed by bloggers who post an endless series of dubious assertions – each of which can be countered, but to no effect, as it will be buried under the cascade of dubious posts.”

    Paulina, are you familiar with the incident in which Christy (and Spencer) first signed on to the CCSP report on reconciling tropospheric temperature trends, and then repudiated it very soon thereafter, saying that their new data set hadn’t been quite ready? The repudiation occurred at a presentation they gave at the George Marshall Institute. I rather suspect they don’t fly up to DC to give such presentations for free. Combine this incident with WAG’s information in #7 and I think a picture begins to emerge. Fossil fuel money laundered through outfits like the GMI is still fossil fuel money.

    Also, I assume you’re aware of Christy’s recent complaint that he can’t get his southern Sierra snowpack paper published anywhere, but did you know that part of the reason for that is his very poor scholarship in his only prior paper on California climate (relating to the climate effects of Central Valley irrigation)?

    If you like I can provide pointers re both of these incidents.

  79. paulina says:

    :)

    Dessler on the two ESS studies cont.:

    “…the take-home message is that the long-term sensitivity is quite a bit larger than the short-term sensitivity, and….”

    to be cont.

  80. PurpleOzone says:

    Paulina,

    Thanks for an interesting article and comments.

    Christy and Spencer made elementary mistakes in their original analysis of the data. Anybody at NASA should know enough about the changeability of orbits to suspect position errors when they have strange results. But they believed their data and clung to it, and hence their belief their data showed that AGW wasn’t happening, for far too long. The longer they let it go, the more defensive they got, and their position hardened.

    I think I was assessed Christy as an iconoclast anyway. (It was a long time ago). The sort of guy with too much faith in his own independent judgement rather than the establishment’s. I saw him recently on TV squirming as the interviewer tried to put him in the deniers camp. He is kind of stuck now that his data has been shown wrong, sticking to some skepticism about global warming but not fully comfortable with it. He may be more comfortable in the fringes of denying than he is among the regular scientific crowd now. I’m not surprised there is some hostility to him because of the pounding the climate scientists are taking from the denier crowd.

    Spencer is said to be a creationist; there seems to be significant correlation between scientifically trained people who deny both AGW and evolution. Some (not all!) fundamentalist evangelical churches preach against AGW. (see the Cornwall Alliance, (formerly the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, which was given 50K seed money from Exxon Mobile — “charity” no doubt ).

  81. paulina says:

    cont:

    “…therefore could be significantly above…3 C”

    –Paulina

  82. Pat Moffitt says:

    Paulina- I’m not sure why you are confused about scenarios. This is an IPCC term to describe the various emission stories, maybes could happen, what ever word you want. Remember the 100 year projection is more complicated that just climate it requires population projections, economic input, state of technology leading to various projected/assumed emissions scenarios to input to the models. Here is what IPCC says:
    n 2001 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a set of scenarios in the Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES). These scenarios have been developed in a four year process with many scientists involved in the writing and the review process. The SRES scenarios have played an important role in the Third Assessment Report (TAR) of the IPCC and will be used in the upcoming Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) as the 21st IPCC plenary session (November 2003) decided that no new baseline scenario would be prepared for the AR4, in view of the time it takes before new scenarios are taken up by the research community and used in publications.”

    Leif see William Blake quote.

    Please just tell me what your definition of climate change and I will end your frustration by quietly going away.

    [JR: Obfuscation. Doing nothing, as you seem to want, takes us past the high end scenario, to 1000 ppm and 10 F warming this century. That is unmitigated catastrophe, by any definition of climate change -- read by "Hell and High Water" post.]

  83. Mike#22 says:

    After reviewing some of the lengthier comments above, I am wondering if Heartland, CEI or Russian hackers have developed a super advanced Chat Bot. Some program capable of stringing together endless snippets of Heartlandish wisdom into pseudo relevant comments.

    A fiendish plot to mine for information?

  84. paulina says:

    Pat:

    I guess that’s a gigantic “no, thanks”. Too bad.

  85. Leif says:

    Pat: I wrote a definition of climate change but it appears to have gotten transposed with a previous post.
    So be it. I would classify climate change when weather patterns change to the degree that evolved life forms and ecosystems can no longer survive and prosper within the present location. Extreme climate change is when those same life forms become extinct because changing weather patterns are so pronounced that migration or adaption is impossible.
    Examples of the former: Pine forests die back on multimillion acre scale thru out the West.
    “Dead Zone” of the Oregon, Washington coast in otherwise pristine wastes. (~7000 square miles.)
    Latter. Polar bears, ring seal, walrus, extinction from lake of sea ice and no place to go.

  86. http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/personfactsheet.php?id=903
    http://mediamatters.org/research/200705040001

    Christy has spoken for and written for CEI, Heartland Institute, and CATO Institute.

    However, according to a Fortune Magazine interview:

    But Christy has testified in federal court that his research is funded by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and that the only money he has ever received from corporate interests – $2,000 from the Competitive Enterprise Institute for penning a chapter of a global warming book in 2002 – he gave away to a charity, the Christian Women’s Job Corps.

    So perhaps he was not lying. He just might be giving his time for free.

  87. paulina says:

    Steve:

    Thanks for the “Gish Gallop” link. Right on target.

    Any and all information and pointers are always welcome.

    Thanks again.

    –Paulina

  88. dhogaza says:

    After reviewing some of the lengthier comments above, I am wondering if Heartland, CEI or Russian hackers have developed a super advanced Chat Bot.

    I would think that a super-advanced chat bot would be able to do better than to recycle the same recycled, oft-debunked denialist claptrap we’re so often exposed to …

  89. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Pat Moffet-

    Leland– I don’t argue we are warming. The amount of ice loss cited is a bit of cherry picking and exaggerated.

    Don’t think so. From NASA:

    Satellites and Submarines Give the Skinny on Sea Ice Thickness

    Extending the Record

    While satellites provide accurate and expansive coverage of ice in the Arctic Ocean, the records are relatively new. Satellites have only monitored sea ice extent since 1973. NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) has been on the task since 2003, allowing researchers to estimate ice thickness as well.

    To extend the record, Kwok and Drew Rothrock of the University of Washington, Seattle, recently combined the high spatial coverage from satellites with a longer record from Cold War submarines to piece together a history of ice thickness that spans close to 50 years.

    Analysis of the new record shows that since a peak in 1980, sea ice thickness has declined 53 percent. “It’s an astonishing number,” Kwock said.

    Nothing cherry picked about it, IMO. These are hard scientific observations from satellites and submarines, analyzed and published in peer reviewed scientific journals, by mainstream climate scientists.

    It’s not a cherry picked result, because all the reputable studies are saying basically the same thing, Pat.

  90. Dan B says:

    Pat Moffitt;

    Your posts have elicited many excellent comments on this site. It’s keeping Joe busy. Some of the comments you’ve received have been rude – or at least they sound rude on a blog posting. It’s difficult to always determine the precise intent of the responses.

    It seems as though your line of debate is limited to being afraid of doubts – incomplete data, complex data sets, unclear conclusions, etc. I believe that human caused global warming is the most accurate conclusion. My family is full of scientists. My uncle was in charge of designing the spacesuits for Goodrich. Another uncle worked on the Lunar and Mars Explorers for JPL. My father was a chemist.

    I’ve never seen such agreement on a point of science, or such loud opposition from so small a number of scientists.

    We’ve poisoned our air and are on the verge of rendering much of our beautiful planet uninhabitable – perhaps far sooner than we expected.

    Reading your posts must be what it’s like for the State Patrol when they talk to the speeder. No, I wasn’t going that fast, I couldn’t have been….. I’m a very safe driver.

    Many who believe they’re “very safe drivers” don’t notice the small child on the road until it’s too late.

  91. Christophe says:

    Pat Moffitt is “Always curious as to why funding from Big Oil is more repugnant than funding from other forms of rent seekers- carbon traders, alternative energy companies, bureaucratic self interest etc? Perhaps some insight? And are we saying that government funding has no self interest?”

    Machiavelli offers some insight, when he says (paraphrasing) to expect fierce opposition from those who will lose from the establishment of a new order, and only lukewarm support from those who will gain from it.

    Given what we saw in 2008 when oil companies hugely profited from the spike in oil prices, it’s not hard to see that a few years of delay on climate action could mean a huge difference to their bottom line. It amazes me how people who have no vested interested in those companies are so eager to play along.

    Perhaps Machiavelli can answer that one too, when he says that “men are so simple and so much inclined to obey immediate needs that a deceiver will never lack victims for his deceptions.” Sure, a skeptic could tell me to look at myself in the mirror, but then again, I love the combustion engine (and other benefits from the carbon economy). I think that global warming sucks. I wish it were not true, but unfortunately, it is.

  92. Richard Brenne says:

    Pat,

    Here’s what I said:

    “Yes we’ll always need more and better science, but using starving children in Africa or any other red herring as an excuse not to act will ultimately be seen as an act of such callous uncaring that our descendents might well compare it to a kind of genocide by neglect.”

    I did not name you or accuse you of committing genocide, but instead said – well, what I said in the above paragraph. It’s interesting that you took that so personally.

    Yes I know about the footprints of wind and solar, but feel those footprints are a small sacrifice in order to do what we can to preserve a climate that allows most of us to live.

    Paulina you’re right about John Christie’s religion being his own business. In the case of George Taylor he’s spoken very publicly about his religious beliefs, and at that point in combination with relentless cherry-picking and willful ignorance of the science of climate change, as Oregon State Climatologist he then made how he came to his views our business at least as citizens of Oregon.

    I don’t know Christie’s public statements about his religion and you’re right to keep it private unless he makes it public.

    Privately I try to understand the motivations each of the most credentialed deniers have, for instance Freeman Dyson and Dick Lindzen seem to be more professional contrarians than anything else. Lindzen is a heavy smoker who denies the link between smoking and cancer, and I think that’s telling.

    So if Christie makes his religious views public as Taylor and others do, then I think at that point discussing their points of view is fair game. I’d like to know what the rest of you think about this.

    And Pat, again I think you’ve raised dozens of points that have merit and in the right context can be parts of the overall equation. However, I think your central argument is seriously flawed. You disagree with how most of us feel we should act, by limiting CO2 emissions as much as possible, but say that we should act.

    How should we act?

  93. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Pat-

    Yes CO2 is basic physics but the statement is disingenuous since the heat is rather minor- it is the supposed feedbacks that create the real rise in temperature according to the models– and the fact that all the these feedbacks are positive is a bit hard to believe. Again IPCC says their scientific understaning of these issue is LOW. Risk is indeed multiplying the probability of something occurring by the consequences of it occurring. I agree- while IPCC has said man made warming in the later half of the 20th century is most likely occurring it is says nothing about the probability for anyone of its warming scenarios and plenty of papers showing you can’t. So what probability do we use?

    Pick any probability you like above a tiny fraction of one percent of true runaway global warming leading to a methane catastrophe. The risk of triggering such an event is way too high even if the probability is a fraction of one percent. At a guess, looking at the dynamic mass loss of the polar ice caps, and considering that the rates at which we are adding carbon to the atmosphere appear to be totally unique in earth’s history, I would give it a 90% chance, based on what the climate system is actually doing at the present time.

    You have trouble believing that all the feedbacks, or most of them, will be positive? It has apparently happened before, and methane releases from the methane hydrates as a result of changes in ocean currents or warming caused by CO2 released by volcanoes appear to actually be common in earth’s history.

    The disturbing thing about the runaway greenhouse effect theory of the Permian mass extinction, for example, which killed 90 percent or so of species then living, is that there are carbon and oxygen isotope ratio signatures of the event in the sediments and shells laid down at those times.

    What happens, apparently, is that when anaerobic bacteria produce methane, this methane is “isotopically light” – depleted in the C13 isotope of carbon. This can be measured, and can even be measured for individual fossil foraminifers, from millions of years ago.

    Associated with this Permian mass extinction is a massive negative shift in the C13 ratios, fully consistent with the release of a couple of trillion tons of methane from the methane hydrates.

    How to kill (almost) all life:
    the end-Permian extinction event

    http://www.iscv.cl/pdfs/PDFSeminars/BioGeografia/Bibliografia/IIFundamentosteoricosymetodosBiog/2Especiacionextincionmodosdeevolucion/ENDPER1.PDF

    The same sort of negative C13 shift is seen in several warming events, including the Paleocene/Eocene thermal maximum from something like 50 million years ago, the End Permian mass extinction from something like 260 million years ago, and a really massive event back in the PreCambrian that apparently destabilized the “snowball earth” state of the earth’s climate.

    Warming the Fuel for the Fire:Evidence for the thermal dissociation of methane hydrate during the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum

    http://www.es.ucsc.edu/~jzachos/pubs/D._Thomas_et_al._G18552A.pdf

    Snowball Earth termination by destabilization of
    equatorial permafrost methane clathrate

    http://faculty.ucr.edu/~martink/pdfs/Kennedy_2008_Nature.pdf

    Such negative C13 isotope shifts are also associated with warming events within the last 60,000 years, and are fully consistent with fairly massive releases of methane hyrate very recently, as this paper shows:

    Carbon Isotopic Evidence for Methane Hydrate Instability During Quaternary Interstadials

    http://courses.washington.edu/ocean450/Discussion_Topics_Papers/Kennett_Hydrates.pdf

    Sooner or later, we are all going to come to a moment of realization on this, when we realize the climate is really destabilizing, I think. We can already see the results of warming with our own eyes, in the increased wildfires, for example.

    Better sooner than later, IMO.

    What the deniers are asking the rest of us to do is equivalent to asking us to go play with truck tires on the freeway, IMO.

    We’d have to be really, really lucky for the paid climate deniers business as usual scenario to end in a happy result. Considering the complexity of ecosystems, a happy result from any significant amount of warming is essentially impossible, IMO. Our changes in greenhouse gases are all one way, and are much more sudden and systematic than most past climate changes. We are also changing many, many more factors, and meddling with many more ecosystems than has ever been the case in the past. The bark beetle epidemic, linked intimately to both global warming and wildfires, has killed something like 50 million acres of forest in North America, and it is an unexpected consequence of global warming. It’s the unknown unknowns that are likely to kill us, IMO.

    If significant amounts of methane are released by the methane hydrates, we have never seen anything like the kind of hellish unraveling of ecosystems that will ensue, IMO.

    The methane catastrophe scenario goes something like this:

    Fossil fuel burning continues to cause global warming by release of greenhouse gases. Increased warming sets of positive feedback loops, leading to tropical forests burning, melting permafrost, and release of dissolved CO2 from the oceans. Tropical forests burning release as much carbon as the industrial revolution. Boreal forests burning release maybe half as much. Permafrost melting releases maybe half as much carbon as the industrial revolution . CO2 levels soar to maybe 1000 ppm, or so.

    And during this increase in CO2 levels, methane levels start to rise due to dissociation of oceanic deposits of methane hydrates – the largest source of fossil carbon on the planet. Methane plumes increase in the oceans, leading to increased acidification, at first. The oceans turn anoxic and acidic, and many forms of sea life including most shellfish die. Soon the methane plumes make it all the way to the surface of the ocean, releasing methane directly into the atmosphere.

    By this point, the changes are totally unstoppable, I think.

    Temperatures soar, huge plumes of methane from hydrates erupt from the oceans, increasing temperatures still further. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times worse than CO2, when its effects are integrated over a century. Methane is oxidized into CO2, so this delivers a huge double punch to the climate system- a huge punch from the methane, plus a sustained push from the CO2. The oceans start to emit hydrogen sulfide, and the smell of rotten eggs from this is everywhere. Soon, the concentration of hydrogen sulfide rises enough to start killing life near the oceans.

    The methane hydrate dissociation releases gas at the base of the methane hydrate stability zone, lubricating sediments, which start to slide, releasing more methane hydrate. Deposits of hydrate all over the world start to slide, releasing gigatons of methane in a single events- and many such events occur.

    The whole scenario is worked out in very great detail at killerinourmidst.com.
    It’s a horrifying scenario. At the top end of the scenario. we kill everything including the bacteria and return the climate to it’s point of stability in the absence of life- a state resembling that of Venus.

  94. paulina says:

    Scott–

    Thanks so much for following up and clarifying.

    Richard–

    Thank you, also, for following up.

    Much appreciated,
    Paulina

  95. Richard Brenne says:

    Leland Palmer (#94)-

    Probably the best single comment I’ve ever read – really good, though of course scary as hell. How have you worked this out, have you published it (you should!) and do you care to share your background?

    Among the many red herrings that are all part of our denial about what we’re doing to our planet, we often hear about asteroid impacts. The last one that had an impact anything like the methane catastrophe you describe was 65 million years ago and killed an estimated 75 per cent of the species on Earth at that time.

    So that appears to have something like a 1 in 65 million chance of happening in a given year on that scale. (Neil deGrasse Tyson told me these things come around every 100 million years or so, so maybe there’s a 1 in 35 million chance – either way, long odds.)

    Conversely, scientists feel that we’re on track to lose half of all species this century. So that would be a 50% loss of species. That puts us two-thirds of the way to the asteroid’s impact, 50% being two-thirds of the 75% loss of species 65 million years ago.

    That’s without your methane catastrophe scenario. Do you really see the methane catastrophe scenario as almost inevitable, at something like 90% probability? And on what time scale do you see that happening?

    Time to put as much of our knowledge as possible in a variety of formats with Rosetta stones for translation into time capsules we send to the moon (without an atmosphere to corrode and Earth’s geologic forces and life to attack, these could last for hundreds of millions of years, maybe the few to several billion years our solar system has left), if we want any future visitors to remember that we were here. Maybe this cheery thought won’t make it onto Fox News anytime soon.
    - Richard Brenne

  96. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Richard-

    Sure, I’m an analytical chemist, who took some physics and engineering courses many years ago, and a solar energy enthusiast. I do analytical method development, on my job in the pharmaceutical industry.

    Before 2008 I was in denial, even though I was peripherally aware of the problem. It was the California fires of 2008, which seemed to me so unusual that I started to investigate the problem, much like it was an analytical method that needed fixing, trying to use the skills I have learned in the lab.

    Yes, unfortunately, I think a 90% probability of a methane catastrophe on a business as usual scenario is my best guess. Huge financial interests, using every form of propaganda and lying known to man, have and will continue to hinder any effective action to limit climate change.

    The Council on Foreign Relations’ Scott Borgerson, for example, seems to look forward to the melting arctic as a business opportunity, saying that something like 22% of the world’s remaining undiscovered oil and gas may be hidden under our current Arctic ice pack. There has been a long historical association between the CFR, the Rockefeller family, and ExxonMobil, even more ominously.

    Seeing the isotope ratio signature corresponding to methane hydrate release in so many peer reviewed scientific papers really and truly is horrifying, sorry to say.

    I think we need to seize the coal fired power plants and convert them to enhanced efficiency BECCS (from Wikipedia – BECCS):

    Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is a greenhouse gas mitigation technology which produces negative carbon emissions by combining biomass use with carbon capture and storage.[1] It was pointed out in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a key technology for reaching low carbon dioxide atmospheric concentration targets.[2] The negative emissions that can be produced by BECCS has been estimated by the Royal Society to be equivalent to a 50 to 150 ppm decrease in global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.[3]

    The concept of BECCS is drawn from the integration of biomass processing industries or biomass fuelled power plants with carbon capture and storage.

    Most coal fired power plants are located on rivers and lakes, and those rivers and lakes constitute natural gravity assisted transport networks to bring biomass or biochar from existing biomass sources or biomass plantations planted upstream.

    All of the green energy stuff is good, IMO, including solar, wind, hydro, and even nuclear, at this point. But the carbon negative aspects of BECCS make it capable of a huge impact on the problem, as is shown in the Wikipedia article on BECCS quoted from above.

  97. Pat Moffitt says:

    Leland- read the Real Climate post on methane hydrate its quite good. The probability of such an event however seems orders of magnitude lower than you suggest on any relevant time scale. Consider the required heat transfer necessary to boil off these 1000+ foot deep deposits- massive. The papers you cite require light carbon to trigger the event -the source of which could be either form the atmosphere or oceanic methane.(Your last citation were small scale shallower disruptions and really do not seem to apply) Consider Benton et al (your citation)state the Permian’s Siberian traps spewed out 2 million cubic miles of basalt onto eastern Russia the equivalent to covering all of Europe in lava some 400 to 3000 meters deep! Think of what Mt Pinatubo did to weather now compare it to the Siberian traps. The Permian extinction has many competing theories- I’m a Siberian traps and shallow ocean anoxia disruption person myself. The Permian- now that was a real extinction event.

  98. Richard Brenne says:

    Leland -

    I’d like to hear the latest and best current science on what the potential time frames for methane catastrophe are.

    I read much of Dan Dorritie’s on-line book about this and found everything he said quite credible and consistent with what I know about the science.

    Interesting Bill McKibben’s “The End of Nature” has an amazingly sophisticated and still-relevant section on methane and climate change -
    and it was published in 1989!

    I couldn’t find a CV or bio of Dan Dorritie anywhere, but feel he might be on the faculty at the University of California, Davis. Do you or does anyone have bio info on him? I’m always looking for panelists and feel he could be a good one.

    Pat – I find you thoughtful and very well-read, though I disagree with some of your biggest conclusions.

    Pat, you wrote to Leland: “The probability of such an event (methane catastrophe) however seems orders of magnitude lower than you suggest on any relevant time scale.”

    What are the time scales you believe to be relevant? If we make Earth uninhabitable for humans at some point in the future, or create a comparitively hellish existence that only allows a tenth or a hundredth or a thousandth of the current population, to me that seems relevant whether that happens in thousands of years, hundreds of years or less.

    I’m quite aware of the generations that included Socrates, Asoka, Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln and King (Martin Luther, not Larry) over a 2400-year period. I don’t want to be part of the generation that didn’t allow future generations to continue.

    If you commit murder – okay, we’ve been through this, sorry, not you – if someone commits the unjustifiable murder of innocents in the end that’s far more relevant than whether they did so in one decade or another.

    And so continuing with business as usual, while not always as intentionally malacious, could one day be viewed as willfully, wantonly, selfishly murderous.
    - Richard Brenne

  99. Pat Moffitt says:

    Richard- Thank you. Your question is difficult and a “correct” answer beyond my analytical abilities. I have been trained in the environmental sciences and look for how changes can ripple through a system. Often these are not what one expects it has made me cautious thinking I understood complex systems. Where and how things go are probabilistic in nature and technological evolution makes it even more so. So given this preface- We have 6 billion people we can’t go back in technology and as such with all the risks we need to push forward. If we are truly desparate we should be open to compromise on how to solve things -there are always tradeoffs.
    Generic suggestions-Choose what is is we want and then what we are willing to pay or risk to attain it. Move more from a mind set of protecting the environment to one where enhancement activities play a larger more central role. Stop using the environmen as a proxy for other issues. More specifically a plan should include- harden our infrastructure water, food storage etc its needed no matter our position on warming. Stop subsidizing practices that cost us more than they deliver. Common sense where we build things (insurance plays a role) Be more supportive of genetic engineered crops – work such as growing rice in saline waters would be a gift to the 3rd world. Irradiate our food supply (taking huge amounts of land out of agriculture our number one source of water pollution) To the response of the risk- well if we owe a debt to the planet than we take the risk. Produce a workable energy plan. Solar may play a role in the future- not yet. Wind is a disaster. Do nothing that collapses the economy (its that rock and a hard place position). Immediate carbon reduction from a human standpoint is dangerous- humans can become collectively suicidal when standards of living drop below an existing baseline. I fear this more than warming- again my nightmare My experience is nothing destroys the natural world like poverty. Population seems to be controlled by economic prosperity foster it. (I am a capatalist and have seen nothing but bad from the world’s social experiments in terms of both human misery and environmental destruction) Always check your assumptions. Build nukes (see risk assumption) and believe we can succeed (I see no upside in the converse)
    The third world needs attack on malaria and other disease that we know how to stop- clean water and efficient crops. They need to find a way to create workable governments that will promote the general welfare and stop the destructive wars. Without this there is lettle that can be done.
    Bottom-line – I take the position we are better served doing the beneficial than we are in preventing its opposite.

  100. Leif says:

    Pat Moffit: Second shift here: I trust that you have red the post about the CBO that states that both the House bill as well as the Senate bill will be good for the economy. As well as the other Anti-Science Sink Hole common clams that were shot down. CP above. If addressing a sustainable energy policy is actually good for the economy that would counter most of your concerns mentioned above. Yes we need more effort improving the crops for the third world as well as water security. But if rising sea level is removing crop land faster than growth gains where are we? I would recommend that you get a copy of Lester Brown’s, Plan B 4.0, for insight into expected grim realities as well as thought full mitigation policies. Much to much information to cover in this kind of format.

  101. Richard Brenne says:

    Leif -

    Good call about Brown’s Plan B 4.0, probably the best single source of the full-cost accounting we need available. Also you’re probably right that we can’t solve all the world’s problems with yet another comment, except mine:)

    Pat, you’ve put yourself in the hot seat here with now over 100 posts and you seem sincere and in a distinct minority of those able to think in a full-cost accounting way.

    I think we can agree to disagree for now. Mainly I see that thinking technology alone can solve the problems that technology has created, or that the free market alone can solve the problems that the free market has created are like drinking to forget that one is a drunk.

    I certainly don’t know the answers but I’m trying to at least ask the right questions. I think we’ve run into limits to growth that will only continue in myriad ways, and we need to face that honestly and openly. It doesn’t appear that we can grow our way out of the problems that growth has created.

    We are going to need to practice intelligent contraction. If we don’t find what is sustainable, then nature will find it for us as it has for every species over the last few billion years. This will not be what we want.

    While we want to do what is best for everyone on Earth today, we need to also consider what will be best for everyone comprising all future generations.

    This is like playing a kind of three-dimensional chess that is almost infinitely complex. I agree with your assessment about the complexity of eco-systems and climate and that we will never have perfect knowledge – we need to do the best with the great amount we do know.

    Lastly, to wait for all those in developing nations to achieve the lifestyles of those of us in developed nations would be wonderful, but unfortunately it would take the resources of many Earths to allow that to happen.

    Understanding resource depletion is what is most often missing from all these conversations. That’s why I bring the top resource depletion experts together with top climate experts on panels. If you or anyone else is interested in learning more you can e-mail me at rabrenne@hotmail.com.

  102. Pat Moffitt says:

    Richard- Life is neither challenging, interesting nor honest without being comfortable in a hot seat. I have enjoyed our discussion and will reach out to you. I leave you with a quote I use as a personal compass “But to manipulate men, to propel them towards goals which you — the social reformers — see, but they may not, is to deny their human essence, to treat them as objects without wills of their own, and therefore to degrade them.” Sir Isaiah Berlin– Two concepts of Liberty

  103. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Pat Moffet:

    The probability of such an event however seems orders of magnitude lower than you suggest on any relevant time scale. Consider the required heat transfer necessary to boil off these 1000+ foot deep deposits- massive. The papers you cite require light carbon to trigger the event -the source of which could be either form the atmosphere or oceanic methane.(Your last citation were small scale shallower disruptions and really do not seem to apply) Consider Benton et al (your citation)state the Permian’s Siberian traps spewed out 2 million cubic miles of basalt onto eastern Russia the equivalent to covering all of Europe in lava some 400 to 3000 meters deep!

    Consider that the Siberian Traps volcanism happened over millions of years, Pat. Consider that natural CO2 releasing processes have some randomness to them, and give the CO2 released some time to be transformed to insoluble carbonates. Consider the ocean acidification rates we are seeing, which may be restricting the ocean’s ability to sequester carbon as carbonate, and may in fact shift the chemical equilibria such that CO2 starts to come back out of the oceans, not to mention that hot water can dissolve less CO2 than cold water – kind of like a cold soft drink when it gets hot.

    Consider that until recently the IPCC was projecting that Greenland would take a thousand years to melt, while the dynamic thinning that we are seeing from acceleration of glaciers could result in the destruction of the Greenland ice sheets much more rapidly than that. Consider that ocean acidification is proceeding much more rapidly than predicted. Consider that ice mass loss from West Antarctica is unmistakable and accelerating, while ice mass loss from East Antarctica is probably occurring, and that this is entirely unexpected.

    Consider that according to the Kennett paper referenced above, there were several methane releases from hydrates, likely due to sudden slumping of sediments, in the period from 15 to 60 thousand years ago, and that these releases may in fact have caused the Daansgard- Oeschger (DO) events, sufficient to cause warming of up to 8 degrees C in Greenland in only a few decades.

    Add in a slumping of hydrate containing sediments like that that apparently caused the DO events, on top of our sudden, extremely non-random increase in greenhouse gases, firestorms from burning forests, release of methane from decaying melted permafrost soils, and so on.

    We’re in trouble, I think, Pat.