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The best argument against global warming

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"The best argument against global warming"

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Dr. Peter Gleick is co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, California.  He wrote a great op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle, with that terrific Matt Groening cartoon:

Here is the best argument against global warming:

. . . .

Oh, right. There isn’t one.

There is no good argument against global warming. In all the brouhaha about tiny errors recently found in the massive IPCC report, the posturing by global climate deniers, including some elected officials, leaked emails, and media reports, here is one fact that seems to have been overlooked:

Those who deny that humans are causing unprecedented climate change have never, ever produced an alternative scientific argument that comes close to explaining the evidence we see around the world that the climate is changing.

Deniers don’t like the idea of climate change, they don’t believe it is possible for humans to change the climate, they don’t like the implications of climate change, they don’t like the things we might have to do to address it, or they just don’t like government or science. But they have no alternative scientific explanation that works.

Here is the way scientists think science works: Ideas and theories are proposed to explain the scientific principles we understand, the evidence we see all around us, and the mathematical models we use to test theories. Alternative theories compete. The ones that best explain reality are accepted, and any new idea must do a better job than the current one. And in this world, no alternative explanation for climate change has ever come close to doing a better job than the science produced by the climate community and represented by the IPCC and thousands of other reports. Indeed, the evidence that man-made climate change is already happening is compelling and overwhelming. And our water resources are especially vulnerable (see, for just one example, this previous blog post).

But the world of policy often doesn’t give a hoot for the world of science. That, of course, permits climate deniers to simply say “no, no, no” without having to come up with an idea that actually works better to explain what we see and know. That’s not science. It’s ideology.

And in the world of media, it makes some kind of sense to put a marginal, discredited climate denier up against world-leading climate scientists, as though that’s some kind of fair balance. Scientists don’t understand that — and it certainly confuses the public.

Here is the second best argument used by deniers against global warming, (but edited for children) from a message received by a colleague of mine:

“Mr. xxx, this is John Q. Public out here. Perhaps you don’t understand there’s no such thing as man-made global warming. I don’t care if you call it f!@%$#%@ing climate change, I don’t f!@%$#%@ing care what you call it. The same thing you communists tried in the 1970s. I’ve got a f!@%$#%@ing 75 articles from Newsweek Magazine stating we were making the earth freeze to death and we would have to melt the f!@%$#%@ing ice caps to save the earth. You, sir, and your colleagues, are progressive communists attempting to destroy America…Your f!@%$#%@ing agenda-driven, money-f!@%$#%@ing grabbing paws and understand there’s no such thing as global warming, you f!@%$#%@ing idiot and your f!@%$#%@ing colleagues.”

Nice, eh? Unfortunately, lots of climate scientists get emails and other messages like this. Note the careful reasoning? The persuasive and logical nature of the debate? The reference to the best scientific evidence from 1970 Newsweek magazines? Very compelling arguments, yes?

Scientists are used to debating facts with each other, with the best evidence and theory winning. Well, this is a bar fight, where the facts are irrelevant, and apparently, the rules and tools of science are too. But who wins bar fights? As the Simpsons cartoon so brilliantly showed, bullies. Not always the guy who is right.

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67 Responses to The best argument against global warming

  1. catman306 says:

    Here’s an example of the word getting out by SETI. I’m listening to Stephen Schneider and he’s doing a great job in an interview. Keep up the good work, it’s a good cause.
    We Are Not Alone
    http://radio.seti.org/

  2. OK now that the issue has made it to the Simpsons’ cartoon characters, it is essentially resolved.

    Next is the cause – “OK there is global warming – but it is naturally caused” – Calling it part of a Natural Cycle is the code word spoken by the Weather Channel – this just means “We accept global warming but refuse to accept humans as the cause” or more directly: “I will never stop using cheap carbon fuel until you pry it out of my dead, overheated, dessicated hands”

    More cartoons please. Thanks.

  3. Skip Dihlay says:

    I have become a sceptic in the last few months. This website has helped me see all the questions the warmists run from. As long as human and other sources generate heat, we will lose heat by radiation.
    If there was warming, the need to cook the data would never have been there.

  4. Catchblue22 says:

    My favorite logical fallacy: argumentum ad baculum
    (argument by threat of force…literally, argument by the stick or club)

    Argument structure:
    Person L says accept argument A or event x will happen.
    Event x is bad, dangerous, or threatening.
    Therefore, argument A is a good argument.

    Personally, I think it is high time that we return to teaching formal logic in our schools. Logical fallacies are running rampant in our public discussions. Don’t just teach your children what to think. Teach them how to think.

  5. LucAstro says:

    This is a concise yet convincing text illustrating what Science stands for and why deniers are just rehashing the same nonsensical statements. They don´t have anything else to offer than their ideological way of thinking, which is quite akin to that of communists when it was a competing ideology. Science is a better more functional way to approach reality.

  6. Michael T says:

    February ’10 is one of the warmest in the GISS record at .71, which would make it virtually tied with Feb. ’02 at .70. It was also the 2nd warmest Feb. in the Southern Hemisphere at about .61, tied with Feb. ’98 at .62.

    The extreme warmth in the arctic stands out:
    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/gistemp/do_nmap.py?year_last=2010&month_last=2&sat=4&sst=1&type=anoms&mean_gen=02&year1=2010&year2=2010&base1=1951&base2=1980&radius=1200&pol=reg

    Globally, this could’ve been a record breaking February if not for the negative AO which caused those cool spots in the NH.

  7. Phila says:

    I have become a sceptic in the last few months.

    Great! This Website will help you to learn more about what skepticism does and doesn’t mean, and may even help you to avoid making the sort of incoherent claims you’ve made here.

  8. Leif says:

    Skip, #3: “If there was warming, the need to cook the data would never have been there.”

    The evidence was never “there.” The “evidence” was manufactured by the Anti-Science faction from quotes out of context, natural weather anomalies, honest mistakes that happen in any quest for understanding and flat out lies repeated endlessly by vested interests. All swallowed hook, line and sinker by folks with a vested interest in the status quo and biased understanding of scientific principals. The “cooked data” that you refer to is in reality the data that DENIES global climatic disruption in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Read the numerous rebuttals here on CP or thru out the scientific literature.

  9. jcwinnie says:

    Yes, this blog was a 90-lb weakling that climate deniers use to kick coal ash in its face. Then it got Gore Bulk.

  10. fj2 says:

    In the prior administration it seemed that they took a great deal of pride in not being reality-based and openly said so and perhaps this idea still permeates this culture.

    Currently, there’s a kind of silly diesel fashion ad campaign promoting the benefits of being stupid.

    That “Global Warming is a Myth!” graphic up top says it all and should be a joke banner on earth day (except maybe even more people might think that it is true).

  11. MapleLeaf says:

    Skip “If there was warming, the need to cook the data would never have been there.”

    The answer to your unsubstantiated (and fallacious) accusation is simple– data have not been cooked. Quite simple really. Even the deniers’ favourite satellite data is showing the warming. Is Roy Spencer, a “skeptic”, cooking the data Skip?

    http://discover.itsc.uah.edu/amsutemps/

    I would recommend that you use your “skepticism” and follow the link provided by Phila @7

    http://www.skepticalscience.com

    Skip, you have also erected a classic strawman argument against AGW, and failed to provide a credible alternative hypothesis that has been verified using observations. That is, your post is the classic example of what Dr. Gleick is talking about.

  12. MapleLeaf says:

    Oh and skip, here is Dr. Lindzen (a “skeptic”) coaching Anthony Watts on how to cherry-pick windows in the data so as to avoid getting statistically significant warming.

    wattsupwiththat.com/2008/03/11/a-note-from-richard-lindzen-on-statistically-significant-warming/

    More at:

    http://deepclimate.org/2010/03/02/round-and-round-we-go-with-lindzen-motl-and-jones/

  13. David Smith says:

    You are making a big mistake calling the interaction referenced above as a debate. It is not a debate. It’s a shout down. It is static, placed for a specific purpose. It should be refered to as GTD, a Great Truth Disruption. The term debate suggests that both sides have knowledge and understanding of the subject and use such knowledge to influence the outcome. The intended outcome of this GTD is to insure that no actual debate occurs. That no decisions get made, that the status quo remains intact. The desired outcome is confusion and delay based in large part on fear.

  14. fj2 says:

    re: “Well, this is a bar fight, where the facts are irrelevant, and apparently, the rules and tools of science are too.”

    Yeah, recently a denier wanted to argue the validity of the crisis and knowing where he was coming from I really wasn’t interested; but, he kept pushing . . .

    So, about the best I could come up with was “Well, do you believe the earth is round?”

    This may have toned things down a bit.

  15. Marcus says:

    I think you should give kudos to Republican Rep. Ehlers for being willing to buck his party’s anti-science trends:

    From a recent article by Sara Goodman, E&E reporter:
    “Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) chided his fellow Republicans for sometimes failing to understand the evolution of science as theories are tested and scientists disagree before a theory becomes widely accepted. “It’s time for me to speak up,” Ehlers said. “The scientific method is, unless you’ve used it consistently and thoroughly, is not always well-understood by people.

    “Science is a continually growing subject,” Ehlers added.

    Ehlers said the e-mail controversy has been largely misrepresented and that the kind of discourse revealed by the stolen texts — some showing frustration with attacks from global warming skeptics that opponents of greenhouse gas regulations have pointed as proof that scientists intentionally withheld climate data — is common within the scientific community.

    “If you’re trying to disprove the climate change issues or any of that, let’s get the people together who can answer the question and let’s fund the research that’s necessary,” Ehlers said. “I really think the economic factor is what has generated so much opposition that has led to a lot of people saying things that are simply not correct in the scientific sense.””

    [JR: Thanks. Been meaning to blog on this.]

  16. John Hollenberg says:

    Re: #3

    Skip, please tell us that you are posting a parody of the disinformer arguments along the lines of the quote posted in the piece. If not, your post is just too funny, and you probably don’t even realize it!

  17. richard pauli says:

    Selective skepticism seems to supplant scientific skepticism.

    More balanced skeptics know that there are many scientists who think the IPCC radically understates the extent of the problem and the rate of change.

    I am skeptical as to motives. I see that such targeted skepticism, cherry picked facts are consistently used by pawns and shills to the carbon fuel industry.

  18. seb says:

    “Those who deny that humans are causing unprecedented climate change have never, ever produced an alternative scientific argument that comes close to explaining the evidence we see around the world that the climate is changing.”

    That’s not true. An alternative view is that the current warming is part of a 1000-1500 solar-driven cycle including e.g. the Roman and Medieval Warm Times. Svensmark proposed a lower cloud related amplifying effect that is currently being checked out by CERN in Geneva. Even the IPCC acknowledgedges that variability in solar activity is responsible for part of the climate changes we have seen over the past few 1000 years. The CO2 greenhouse effect is real, but its significance still needs to be quantitatively established.

  19. dhogaza says:

    That’s not true. An alternative view is that the current warming is part of a 1000-1500 solar-driven cycle including e.g. the Roman and Medieval Warm Times. Svensmark proposed a lower cloud related amplifying effect that is currently being checked out by CERN in Geneva.

    Svensmark’s hypothesis doesn’t fit observations, however – there’s been no upward trend in GCRs to drive the effect he claims is responsible for observed warming.

  20. Doug Bostrom says:

    Skip actually needs to start here, so he at least knows what a skeptic is:

    The Skeptics Society

    The Skeptics Society is a scientific and educational organization of scholars, scientists, historians, magicians, professors and teachers, and anyone curious about controversial ideas, extraordinary claims, revolutionary ideas, and the promotion of science. Our mission is to serve as an educational tool for those seeking clarification and viewpoints on those controversial ideas and claims.

  21. wag says:

    here’s a Simpsons video that’s a good illustration of the predicament scientists are in when they get interviewed by the media (it’s the classic interview of Homer in the sexual harassment episode):

    http://akwag.blogspot.com/2009/11/what-do-climategate-and-simpsons-have.html

  22. here’s an excellent podcast program on the subject ” Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change” with Stephen Schneider, Australia’s Clive Hamilton and Naomi Oreskes

    http://www.ecoshock.net/eshock10/ES_100312_Show_LoFi.mp3

  23. Paul MacRae says:

    “Those who deny that humans are causing unprecedented climate change have never, ever produced an alternative scientific argument that comes close to explaining the evidence we see around the world that the climate is changing.”

    This is nonsense for two reasons. One, there have been lots of counter-hypotheses to explain the warming of the late 20th century, including cosmic rays and increased solar activity. Just because the world is warming doesn’t mean humans are at fault. We undoubtedly do influence warming, but by a small degree and not enough to overcome natural forces.

    Which brings me to the second point: There is no need for a counter-hypothesis to explain warming because, at least according to former Climate Research Unit head Phil Jones, there has been no “statistically significant” warming since at least 1995, and a slight cooling since 2002. In other words, in the last 15 years, the planet hasn’t been warming. Natural cooling forces, not human-produced carbon dioxide, have prevailed. When these forces lead to warming again, the planet will warm.

    So there’s a simple reason why there’s no skeptical counter-hypothesis to explain global warming that Gliek is willing to accept: there’s no reason for one. In complete refutation of the CO2-based climate models, the planet isn’t warming. Therefore, there’s nothing to explain.

  24. SecularAnimist says:

    Sorry, Doug Bostrom. The self-proclaimed “skeptics” of The Skeptic Society are no more legitimate “skeptics” than are the climate change deniers — they are ideologues who attack any scientific research that does not agree with their preexisting ideas.

    Not only that, but The Skeptic Society is itself a purveyor of pseudoscientific climate change denialism. Here’s an excerpt from a “Featured Article” in the issue of Skeptic magazine v14n1 which focused on climate change:

    The claim that anthropogenic CO2 is responsible for the current warming of Earth climate is scientifically insupportable because climate models are unreliable …

    So the bottom line is this: When it comes to future climate, no one knows what they’re talking about. No one. Not the IPCC nor its scientists, not the US National Academy of Sciences, not the NRDC or National Geographic, not the US Congressional House leadership, not me, not you, and certainly not Mr. Albert Gore. Earth’s climate is warming and no one knows exactly why. But there is no falsifiable scientific basis whatever to assert this warming is caused by human-produced greenhouse gasses because current physical theory is too grossly inadequate to establish any cause at all … but the choir sings seductively and few righteous believers seem willing to entertain disproofs.

    That’s what I call arrogant, ignorant rubbish — not “skepticism”.

    But for some reason, organized, ideologically-driven pseudo-skeptic groups who like to trot out self-aggrandizing stage magicians to slander parapsychologists by equating them with operators of “psychic hot lines” seem to make a lot of science-oriented folks swoon.

  25. boulderwind says:

    Joe, when are you going to do a post on why filmmaker Randy Olson, who seems in thrall to Marc Morano, is completely wrong?

    thebenshi.com/2010/03/08/19-analysis-why-marc-morano-is-such-a-good-communicator/

    [JR: I was wondering when someone would ask. Olson's website is pretty obscure, so my posting on it would have a reverse effect. BUT he did send an email to Revkin that does need some comment. Stay tuned to this space.]

  26. Doug Bostrom says:

    SecularAnimist says: March 12, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Actual skeptics are amenable to changing their minds, fake skeptics are not. Actual skeptics can support multiple points of view in pursuit of understanding, fake skeptics reject anything contrary to the prejudice they mistake for skepticism. Read editor-in-chief Michael Shermer’s article in Scientific American, “The Flipping Point:”

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-flipping-point

    Other random selections from Skeptic, the journal of the self-styled skeptic’s society:

    How We Know Global Warming is Real
    The Science Behind Human-induced Climate Change

    http://www.skeptic.com/the_magazine/featured_articles/v14n01_human_induced_climate_change.html

    and this:

    eSkeptic for 08-11-12

    In this week’s eSkeptic, Gary J. Whittenberger Ph.D. discusses how a global warming petition project has misled the public by indicating there is a consensus that the evidence is weak or nonexistent for anthropogenic global warming.

    and this:

    past Caltech lecture
    The Weather Makers: How Humans are Changing the Climate & What it Means for Life on Earth

    Dr. Flannery outlines the history of climate change, how it will unfold over the next century, and what we can do to prevent a cataclysmic future, including what every one of us can do right now to reduce deadly CO2 emissions by as much as 70%.

    Finally, read editor-in-chief Michael Shermer’s article in Scientific American, “The Flipping Point:”

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-flipping-point

    (I’m not a member of this organization, but if I were I’d be trying to reclaim ownership of the term)

  27. Bill Waterhouse says:

    RE #6 – Michael T and Joe – The NASA GISS website graphic posted in #6 clearly shows warming, but I think the graphic would be even more effective if it was split into two graphics of polar projections; one looking down at the northern hemisphere with the north pole at the center and a second slimilar graphic of the southern hemispere. With a polar projection, the warming of the arctic would be even more clear. Does such a projection exist somewhere?

  28. Fr. Tom says:

    There is a fellow in my church who said, “I don’t believe in Global Warming.” I responded, “It is not a matter of belief, it is a matter of fact; just check out the data record.” He came right back with, “The data record is wrong.” If they have their way he and Skip would make good companions out fishing in the new Mississippi Embayment.

  29. sailrick says:

    On the other hand, here’s a comment form another group of skeptics.

    Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

    The author is Mark Boslough, a physicist at
    Sandia National Laboratories.

    “Denialists have attempted to call the science into question by writing articles that include fabricated data. They’ve improperly graphed data using tricks to hide evidence that contradicts their beliefs. They chronically misrepresent the careful published work of scientists, distorting all logic and meaning in an organized misinformation campaign. To an uncritical media and gullible non-scientists, this ongoing conflict has had the intended effect: it gives the appearance of a scientific controversy and seems to contradict climate researchers who have stated that the scientific debate over the reality of human-caused climate change is over (statements that have been distorted by denialists to imply the ridiculous claim that in all respects the science is settled).”

    http://www.csicop.org/si/show/mann_bites_dog_why_climategate_was_newsworthy/

    He also talks sense about the peer review process in this article.

  30. MapleLeaf says:

    Paul @23,

    Sorry Paul, while there have been many counter hypotheses failed, all of them have failed or not ben able to produce the observed warming. Please explain to us which counter hypothesis is capable of explaining the observed warming and demonstrate it. Don’t insult climate scientists by suggesting that they have not considered all of the potential forcing mechanisms (including the sun, GCRs, aerosols, clouds, volcanism, GHGs, land use change, ozone etc. etc.) and evaluated/calculated their relative contributions (both positive and negative). The IPCC report includes the aforementioned and more, together with numbers showing the radiative forcing (whether it be positive or negative).

    As for for your claim that the planet has not warmed since 1995– that is called cherry picking and is a big no, no in stats. That question was carefully crafted (yes crafted) so that the trend would not be stat. sig. at the 95% level of confidence, the warming trend is stat sig. at almost 93% though. Moreover, that short-term trend is for a dataset which does not account for the rapid warming which has been observed over the Arctic.

    Also, Paul, those in denial will still be denying that the planet is warming in 2050, when global surface air temperatures are 1.5 C warmer than the 1951-1980 baseline, but the warming slows or even cools slightly for a short window of time?

    Think carefully about that last question. Short periods of cooling or slower warming do not mean that the long term statistically significant trend is not real.

    FInally, please understand that the increase in GLOBAL temperatures is not going to be monotonic nor will it be spatially uniform.

  31. Bob Wright says:

    I copied and pasted this from a post on another blog. Author “WTF”

    I work in a scientific campus environment, and I’ve served on a few pan-disciplinary science panels. I get to spend time with with fellow scientists who are trained in fields completely different to my own.

    What I’m finding, and it is pan-disciplinary, is that scientists are getting tired too. Everyone I talk to believe we are in deep do-do, there is consensus, and it’s only the mechanisms and time scales that the models predict that are under discussion. These scientists are tired of being attacked, having to defend science and its rigors, sometimes being threatened and family harassed.

    More and more I hear scientists are preferring to remain silent.

    This is way more serious than any of you believe.

  32. David B. Benson says:

    Well, for doubters here is a simple conceptual model for the instrumental period. It is sufficientcy simple that you can replicate it yourself, despite being firmly based on known physics:
    http://community.nytimes.com/comments/dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/the-classroom-as-science-hot-zone/?permid=20#comment20
    This versions has slightly different wording that the corresponding comment on RealClimate but contains the same data and results. Prediction: hotter.

  33. dhogaza says:

    This is way more serious than any of you believe.

    I doubt that. I think most of us here think it’s extremely serious. And likely to get worse.

  34. Jim Eager says:

    Re Paul MacRae @23: “there have been lots of counter-hypotheses to explain the warming of the late 20th century, including cosmic rays and increased solar activity”

    Except none of them have panned out. Not one, including the two you bother to note. The rest of what you wrote in that paragraph was nothing more than unsubstantiated assertion.

    PM: “There is no need for a counter-hypothesis to explain warming because, at least according to former Climate Research Unit head Phil Jones, there has been no “statistically significant” warming since at least 1995″

    Except that is not at all what Phil Jones said, that’s what the denialsphere is telling you Phil Jones said.

    PM: “In complete refutation of the CO2-based climate models, the planet isn’t warming. Therefore, there’s nothing to explain.”

    Clear and ample evidence that you are in complete denial of reality.

  35. sailrick says:

    Paul MacRae

    I’m just a layman as you undoubtedly are, but the falacies in your comment are obvious enough to me.

    You say there has been increased solar activity.

    Wrong. solar activity has been flat to down since the early seventies.
    We have been at a 100 year solar minimum since 1983. Solar activity has been unusually quiet for the past 35 years or so.

    You say “there have been lots of counter hypotheses to explain warming of late 20th century”.

    Yes, and only one scientific theory. AGW

    The moon is made of green cheese is a hypothesis.

    You are right there have been many hypotheses, but only one withstood the rigors of scientific scrutiny and peer review and became a theory, based on a mountain of evidence.

    You say “just because the world is warming doesn’t mean man is at fault. We undoubtedly do influence warming, but by a small degree and not enough to overcome natural forces.”

    Here’s why the natural cause argument makes little sense to me.

    You are familiar with the idea of carbon capture and sequestration for coal? Well, mother nature has been doing that for a long time. The coal we burn is carbon that was removed from the short term carbon cycle and sequestered in the earth. It took 65 million years for that to happen. Now man is returning all that carbon into the atmosphere and hence back into the short term carbon cycle in a few hundred years, which by my calculation is about 300,000 times faster than it was sequestered. Oil is a similar story taking tens of millions of years to build up. As far as we know, this is unprecedented in the history of the planet.

    Think thats a natural phenomenon? Think maybe man might be able to effect the planet just a wee bit more than some skeptics claim?

    As far as Phil Jones saying there has been no warming since 1995?

    Never happened. Period.

    This is the problem I see with denialism. Any statement like this is repeated endlessly over the internet and by some of the news media like Fox and the Daily Mail and the Wall St Journal, and others. And it is completely false. But what happens is this false statement then becomes another belief in the littany of the true believers, which then is further proof that global warming isn’t real. A house of cards, myth upon myth upon myth. And the sad thing is that the rebuttals of it hardly make it to the mass media and the public, but the junk gets spread everywhere.

    What Phil Jones did say is that the time period is too short and there is enough statistical noise that the trendline doesn’t have 95% statistical significance.

    The Daily Mail printed their story with the headlines proclaiming that an IPCC scientist said there has been no warming since 1995. The Daily Mail is notorious for printing distortions like this in regard to climate change. Fox news was quick to repeat the lie as were other news outlets.

    I have spent probably over 2500 hours studying this subject over the past two and a half years, and I can tell you that from what I have seen, the story above is more the rule than the exception to the rule, in climate change denial. Most of it is based on lies and distortions and misrepresentations of the science and what climate scientists say just like this.

    Maybe you consider Fox news to be reliable source of information, but considering that their favorite climate expert is Steve Milloy, who is not a scientist but a professional PR man, who is a registered lobbyist for fossil fuels, I wouldn’t count on it. Milloy’s organization was also involved with the tobacco danger denial business.

  36. Mike says:

    This editorial is a case study in how not to win people over. It gives no evidence for AGW, no analysis of denier/skeptic anti-AWG arguments, and is framed by an 8th grade definition of science.

    For real science, go to the real scientists.
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/start-here/

    For the politics that fuels much of the denier/skeptic movement see http://www.desmogblog.com/new-naomi-oreskes-talk-available

  37. Ken Johnson says:

    A friend of mine, who knows about my interest in climate change policy and politics, recently sent me this excerpt from “The Brain Advantage,” which seems apropos to the topic of this post. This relates to a study in which clinical psychologist Drew Westen of Emory University scanned the brains of thirty men of different political affiliations as they read and thought about contradictory political statements:

    “Everything we know about cognition suggests that, when faced with a contradiction, we use the rational regions of our brain to think about it,” said Westen. “But that was not the case here,” he continued. “We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning. None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged. Instead, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want.” …

  38. Cugel says:

    Regarding the “Not statistically significant” morphing to “Not significant” morphing to “No evidence of warming” …

    The “Recent cooling” we heard so much about last year didn’t even approach statistical significance, but the same voices didn’t care then. What’s clear about the deniers arguments is that they are all short-term expedients, while the scientific argument sails blithely on, decade after decade.

    Even the hacked emails are a short-term expedient – that opportunity won’t arise again, and it will get old very quickly.

  39. Jeff Huggins says:

    Dysfunction, Effectiveness, Transparency and The Future of the Democratic Party

    Nancy Pelosi had better put the Public Option into the Reconciliation Bill. Period.

    What a mess today: None of it makes sense. I do not — repeat, NOT — want to end up not knowing who did or didn’t support the Public Option when push came to shove. I don’t want to hear people pointing at each other, blaming each other with incomprehensible blabber. If one group of Democrats or another (those in the House, those in the Senate, those in the White House?) doesn’t or won’t support the Public Option, I want one crystal clear outcome of this long process to be that we can all know, clearly, which of the groups that was. Otherwise, they’ll all lose my trust.

    If Nancy Pelosi doesn’t include the Public Option in the Reconciliation Bill, to cause the Senate to have to vote on it, then the blame is on her and the House. That’s the way I see it.

    Why does this matter so much, even to climate change? Well, of course, it matters because health care and the Public Option matter. But, it ALSO matters because a lack of transparency, and so much behind-the-scenes dealing, make it easier for “tricky Dicky” politicians to avoid passing necessary legislation, and the climate legislation will face the same sorts of risks. I do not want Senators (for example) to think that they can say, publicly, that they support an important aspect of a piece of legislation even though they don’t really, all because of the assumption that they’ll never have to vote on it anyway because they’ve told House leadership that they don’t support that aspect, behind the scenes. Forget that. Viva transparency!

    Speaker Pelosi, put the Public Option IN the Reconciliation Bill. Otherwise, you and the House are responsible for the loss of the Public Option.

    If you haven’t followed this, just watch a rerun of the various MSNBC programs and interviews from tonight. That should explain the problem.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  40. Cugel says:

    Jeff Huggins :

    While I understand your frustration, the credibility of the US Congress and the whole US political system is already pushing zero, and the extent to which it matters is not lagging far behind. The US simply doesn’t have the mountain-tops, forests, nor money to make any significant difference to what happens in the next few decades. It still has a role to play as an excuse, but so does the British Empire.

  41. I give that the prize for the best nutter email. Beats all the others I have seen but I think I have one that can grab second place..

  42. Whatshisname says:

    The deniers have in fact come up with their own theories. The 2005 hurricane season, for example, was caused by the Chinese shooting hurricanes at the United States. (The hurricane cannon was financed by a county fair tour in Asia.) And here’s an oldie but a goodie: Global Warming is the result of hell overflowing with sinners, causing the heat from the rising flames to, well, you had to be there when I heard it.
    My favorite: Global Warming is caused by Daylight Savings Time.

  43. T. Fritz says:

    Re : Mark Boslough

    Mark Boslough has very little credibility in the field of skepticism, indeed has has very little scientific credibility outside of his highly specialized field of cosmic impact dynamics, and even in his own field.

    This is a guy who while in possession of the most sophisticated impact simulation models, software and supercomputers on the planetl has publicly stated that the Clovis impact at 12,900 BP, an impact hypothesized to be a one kilometer sized body onto Laurentide ice several kilometers thick, was physically impossible because in his words – ‘impacts like these only happen once in the lifetime of the Earth’. Mark Boslough is definitely not a credible spokesman for the field of ‘scientific skepticism’.

  44. John McCormick says:

    Jeff Huggins, a majority of Americans share your support of the public option and equally share their disgust for the Democratic Party.

    There is no political alternative to the Democratic Party and we voters are so jaundiced it is likely we will not turn out in November to secure the House and Senate.

    There are dark clouds on the horizon and we can only hope our children (old enough to vote) will see the storm coming in time (fiscal and atmospheric) and support candidates committed to improving their chances to have a bit of the good life we boomers have squandered.

    John McCormick

  45. caerbannog says:

    Paul MacRae,

    The “cosmic ray” hypothesis is deader than a doornail. Fire up the video at http://www.agu.org/meetings/fm09/lectures/lecture_videos/A23A.shtml and skip to minute 42. You will see a complete and utter demolition of the “cosmic ray” hypothesis. So stick a fork in cosmic rays; they’re done.

    And don’t let us catch you trying to use the “cosmic ray” hypothesis again!

  46. Anne says:

    Well sh!#T !!! Now I finally see the f!@%$#%@ing truth of it all!

    Hi five to brothers Pete & Joe for posting such a f!@%$#%@ing fine example of F!@%$#%@ING impeccable logic and reason. I so f!@%$#%@ing get it now that I am on my f!@%$#%@ing way to sell my f!@%$#%@ing stupid bicycle and get myself a bitchin’ hot Hummer, then I’m gonna leave the f!@%$#%@ing incandescent lights on all night reading up on my 1970s newsweeks!!! Oh, I’m gonna DE-FRIEND Gore, Pachauri, Hansen, McKibben, and the entire IPCC on Facebook right now!!! Jeeeeezuz, what was I f!@%$#%@ing thinking??????

    ok, ok, removing tongue from cheek now ;-)

  47. Wit's End says:

    One thing that professional deniers exploit is that there is confusion is the meaning of the word “theory”. In science, it doesn’t mean “unproven speculation” which is how many non-scientists seem to interpret the word and deniers deliberately spin it.

    When scientists talk about the theory of AGW or gravity, they are using the first meaning in the definition:

    1. ” A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.”

    and NOT

    6. “An assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture.”

    John McCormick, there is a nascent alternative to the Democratic Party and that is the Coffee Party. I don’t know if it will go anywhere, but in two weeks they have gained over 130,000 facebook fans, and a large part of their premise is the essential removal of corporate money from elections. But even if it never develops into a significant political movement, it was all worth it for the splendid denier comments this morning on the climate change forum I started at their website. Oh, too funny! Copied at the end of this post, warning, do not read with food or drink in mouth…
    http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2010/03/collapse.html

  48. seb says:

    @ caerbannog #45…I took up your suggestion and watched the cosmic ray bit of Alley’s AGU presentation. Actually I am bit disappointed that Alley still uses this argument to disqualify the Svensmark model. Svensmark has already replied to this issue (e.g. see his book Svensmark & Calder 2007).

    Svensmark says:
    The Laschamp event is a time of weakened EARTH magnetic field. The SOLAR magnetic field was still going strong. Cosmic rays conists of particles of different energies. Only the most energetic particles make it to the lower clouds level. These particles are called “muons”. Their abundance is fully controlled by the solar magnetic field (the earth magnetic field is too weak). So due to the string solar magnetic feild there are not too many muons arriving at the lower cloud level, producing few clouds, so it stays warm. The low energy cosmic ray particles (Be10, Cl36) can in turn be modulated by the earth magnetic field and therefore are relatively abundant during the Laschamp event.

    So Svensmark has indeed got an explanation for this. Scientific models develop and things are rarely that simple as they look. In this case, Beer (2005) has stimulated Svensmark to refine his model. A good example for a fruitful scientific discussion.

  49. Paul MacRae says:

    Re: Maple Leaf #30

    If you don’t believe Phil Jones (and, indeed, why would anyone?), how about Stephen Schneider who, in the Climategate emails, writes of “the past 10 years of global mean temperature trend stasis” (Oct. 29, 2009). In other words, for Schneider, no warming since 1999, although he still thinks the planet is too warm.

    Or Kevin Trenberth: “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” (Oct. 12, 2009).

    Point taken that some of the other theories for warming may not pan out, like cosmic rays (I don’t think that theory is down yet, but it may be). And, right now, solar activity is very low. However, not everyone agrees that the sun is not a factor in warming. For example, Richard Willson, a researcher with the NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, believes the sun has increased in brightness by 0.05 per cent per decade since the late 1970s, when good satellite data became available, and has probably been increasing in brightness since the late 19th century. (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, “NASA study finds increasing solar trend that can change climate.”March 20, 2003.)

    Whatever the key factors in climate are, the evidence shows that there has been no warming for the past decade, and maybe longer; the theory says there should have been. Are you going to go with the evidence, or the theory?

    Putting this another way: How can there be anthropogenic warming when there’s no warming? And why should climate skeptics have to offer alternative theories to explain why the planet is warming when the planet isn’t warming?

  50. caerbannog says:


    Svensmark says:
    The Laschamp event is a time of weakened EARTH magnetic field. The SOLAR magnetic field was still going strong. Cosmic rays conists of particles of different energies. Only the most energetic particles make it to the lower clouds level. These particles are called “muons”. …

    An after-the-fact “explanation” with zero scientific evidence to support it.

    The strong Be-10 signature is solid evidence that high-energy cosmic rays were striking the Earth’s atmosphere even with the level of solar activity at the time. Be-10 is a signature left by high-energy cosmic rays.

    If only “low-energy” cosmic rays were getting through, there would be no Be-10 spike.

    Svensmark’s “explanation” doesn’t hold water.

  51. caerbannog says:

    Previous post of mine contained some errors — Svensmark actually doesn’t claim that Be-10 signatures correlate with muon fluxes.

    But Svensmark’s work still hasn’t held up to the wider scientific community’s scrutiny. Witness the current state of affairs: the current low level of solar activity has not translated to global-cooling, as Svensmark’s theory would predict.

  52. dhogaza says:

    Or Kevin Trenberth: “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” (Oct. 12, 2009).

    Go read the paper that was attached to that e-mail rather than quote-mine the letter. It makes clear what he was talking about, and it’s not that global warming isn’t (or wasn’t) happening.

    Quote mining is a sin.

  53. dhogaza says:

    This is why quote mining is a sin, Paul McRae:

    As we enter an El Nino year and as soon, as the sunspots get over their temporary–presumed–vacation worth a few tenths of a Watt per meter squared reduced forcing, there will likely be another dramatic upward spike like 1992-2000. I heard someone–Mike Schlesinger maybe??–was willing to bet alot of money on it happening in next 5 years?? Meanwhile the past 10 years of global mean temperature trend stasis still saw what, 9 of the warmest in reconstructed 1000 year record and Greenland and the sea ice of the North in big retreat??

    Schneider of course recognizes that much of the 2000-2009 decade saw a *solar minimum* so strong that many of the WUWT types were jumping up and down going “new ice age! new ice age!”. Without additional CO2 forcing, we’d expect temperatures to go *down* during a solar minimum. He mentions that we’re flipping into El Niño – a couple of years ago we were in a La Niña, causing the Paul McRae’s of the world to scream “it’s the end of global warming!”.

    Yet, despite a drop in TSI and an end-of-decade fairly strong La Niña, the 2000-2009 decade is the warmest on record, as he points out in part of his comment that you chose to not include in your post.

    Quote mining is a sin, Paul.

  54. dhogaza says:

    And, Paul McRae …

    Whatever the key factors in climate are, the evidence shows that there has been no warming for the past decade, and maybe longer; the theory says there should have been. Are you going to go with the evidence, or the theory?

    This is false. Climate theory does *not* say that a drop in solar forcing will not be reflected in climate, that solar influence will poof! disappear from climate. All things being equal, the drop in solar forcing should’ve led to temps that were *lower* than recent decades when TSI was higher.

    Even more fundamentally, climate theory doesn’t posit that increased CO2 forcing will cause natural variability to disappear from climate. Probably theory doesn’t tell us that every time you flip a fair coin several times, you’ll get heads-tails-heads-tails or that heads-tails-tails-heads-heads-tails proves the coin is false. That is essentially what you’re arguing.

    Statisticians build artificial time series data with the measured variability in the earth’s climate imposed on a *known* trend and see exactly the same kind of variability we see in the temperature record, including “flat” spots that last for years. This is with data where the trend is *known* because it’s built in.

    Short period fluctuations in noisy data mean nothing. This is why statistics is so valuable. You have to compare the trend with the noise in the system (including knowledge of the structure of the noise), and apply a suitable significance test.

    If you didn’t know this before, you know it now. I’ll give you the benefit of doubt at the moment, but if you repeat your nonsense elsewhere, we’ll know you’re just lying.

  55. dhogaza says:

    Paul McCrae, onetime journalist, now english and writing instructor at the university level, is single-handedly overturning all of climate science!.

    Did they teach you to quote-mine in journalism school, or did you teach yourself that dastardly trick?

    And it’s funny, on your site you say:

    I can’t claim to be an expert on climate science.

    Yet you’re *sure* you’re proving climate science wrong.

    Researchers study people like you.

  56. MapleLeaf says:

    Paul @49,

    Please do not distort my words. I never said that I do not believe Jones, I do. Jones also knows that temperature trends calculated over periods less than 20-30 years are meaningless for determining statistically significant trends. There are very valid reasons for this. That is why the question was ridiculous.

    You state “Putting this another way: How can there be anthropogenic warming when there’s no warming? And why should climate skeptics have to offer alternative theories to explain why the planet is warming when the planet isn’t warming?”

    This just plain wrong. The onus is also on those in denial to prove that AGW hypothesis is wrong, and so far all their attempts have failed. Regarding the “lack of warming”, look here:

    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/global-average-temperature-increase-giss-hadcru-and-ncdc-compared/

    I am not aware of the comment by Schneider, if that is what he said, then he is mistaken. The planet has warmed at a rate of about 0.17 C/decade since 1999. You can calculate the trends yourself at Woodfortrees.org.

    “Whatever the key factors in climate are, the evidence shows that there has been no warming for the past decade”

    You can keep telling yourself this, but you’d only be deluding yourself. The first decade of the 21st century was the warmest on record. The rate of global warming in the last 10 years is about 0.12 C per decade (using NASA GISS), which is consistent with the model projections. Anyhow, I caution you that using temperature trends this short to infer stat. sig. changes in the climate is a waste of time.

    You are now just trotting out common mistruths being disseminate din the blogosphere by those in denial about AGW, especially when you make reference to Trenberth’s statement. His statement was taken out of context, and has been explained. But I doubt that will make much difference to you. But if you are interested, read the truth here:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Kevin-Trenberth-travesty-cant-account-for-the-lack-of-warming.htm

    You state that “however, not everyone agrees that the sun is not a factor in warming.”

    Climate scientists, of course, know that solar forcing is relevant. The reality is that the amplitude of the warming or cooling on global temperatures associated with changes in solar forcing over a solar cycle is only ~0.1 C.

    I’ll remind you again, that the longer term trend is up. Do not expect a monotonic increase in global temperatures b/c of factors such as internal climate models which can enhance or mute the warming over short periods.

    And a heads up, barring a major volcanic eruption, all indications are that, globally, 2010 will likely be the warmest year on record. That after 2009 was the second warmest on record.

  57. MapleLeaf says:

    Paul @53,55, you are now spamming the web site with typical denial nonsense that has been sourced from denial blogs. The work by Lu (UofW) has been soundly refuted:

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/search?q=lu+cosmic

    You could do this all week and none of the posts that you grab from denier websites will standup to closer scrutiny.

    As others have mentioned here, thus far, all the alternate hypothesis thus far have failed. Including the hypothesis that we can double CO2 concentration and it won’t lead to warming of global temperatures. That is the hypothesis which is failing, not the theory of AGW.

    You might save yourself some time and go here for a list of all the myths about AGW which have been refuted:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

  58. dhogaza says:

    You are now just trotting out common mistruths being disseminate din the blogosphere by those in denial about AGW

    Even better, he’s writing an entire *book* about it. He’s researched it two years, and obviously the only source material he’s used comes from denialist sites.

    That’s what they taught you in journalism school, Paul McCrae? If you want to learn about geology, you study web sites maintained by young-earth creationists rather than geology textbooks? If you want to learn about evolutionary biology, you only study Answers in Genesis? If you want to learn about climate science, you only read septic sites run by people like “Comical Tony” Watts, with a high school education and a demonstrated inability to understand simple algebra?

    Good lord.

  59. MapleLeaf says:

    Thanks for the sleuthing dhogaza. Wow.

    Corrigendum to #56, second last para should read:

    “Do not expect a monotonic increase in global temperatures b/c of factors such as internal climate MODES which can enhance or mute the warming over short periods.”

  60. John Hollenberg says:

    > If you want to learn about climate science, you only read septic sites run by people like “Comical Tony” Watts.

    I like the slip here (unless it was intentional). “Septic” is a good word to describe these sites–infected, putrefactive.

  61. Wit's End says:

    John Hollenberg, I like the slip especially if it was intentional!

    dhogaza, you are dazzling, I have paid humble tribute to you by reproducing your vorpal swording here: http://coffeepartyusa.com/content/climate-change#comment-7746

  62. Anna Haynes says:

    Um, to change the tone a bit, please, please a) sit down, take a few deep breaths, calm down; then b) look at Katharine Hayhoe’s climate presentation (pdf).

    Then print it out and spread it.

  63. fj2 says:

    49. Paul MacRae, “How can there be anthropgenic warming when there’s no warming?”

    And, yes here in New York City getting April showers during the middle of March is just an hallucination as were the people skiing in their underwear a couple of weeks ago at Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks where often it used to be too cold to have snow.

  64. dhogaza says:

    I like the slip here (unless it was intentional). “Septic” is a good word to describe these sites–infected, putrefactive.

    I believe it’s William Connelly who blogs as “stoat” over at science blogs who gets credit for the “slip” …

    [JR: Gonna do a post on the biggest "septic" today.]

  65. fj2 says:

    Frank Rich (March 13, 2010): “The New Rove-Cheney Assault on Reality”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/opinion/14rich.html

  66. seb says:

    @ #51, caerbannog….You made me look up again what Svensmark really said and I also didn’t get it entirely right. Svensmark says in fact that the typical radionucleids such as 10Be and 36Cl are produced in higher parts of the atmosphere. Low-energy cosmic rays (modulated by both sun and earth magnetic fields, therefore Laschamp event) contribute to this. The climatic-relevant lower clouds formation, however, takes place in lower parts of the atmosphere where the low energy cosmic rays cannot get to, but only the high-energy cosmic rays. And these are too strong to be modulated by the earth magnetic field (so by Laschamp). This then leads to the decoupling of 10Be with lower clouds/temperature. The stanford.edu link seems to support the general reasoning of this.

    http://www2.slac.stanford.edu/vvc/cosmicrays/cratmos.html
    http://www.phys.uu.nl/~nvdelden/Svensmark.pdf

  67. Anna Haynes (62),

    Excellent presentation indeed, very well put together. Thanks for the tip!