« I Like Our Dick Better | Main | Out of Control on Videotape »

March 01, 2010

Comments

"'January, according to satellite (data), was the hottest January we've ever seen,[since we've had satellite (data)]' said Nicholls of Monash University's School of Geography and Environmental Science in Melbourne."

"shooould we talk about the government?"

And when a group resorts to such arguments, it usually indicates a lack of faith in their ability to make fact-based, coherent arguments

their argument is, as always: libruls are baaaad mm-k. everything else they say derives from that catechism. and if a particular derivation leads into what appears to be a logical impossibility, that's OK - the faithful understand that the fundamental truth remains true. and thus a falsehood becomes a way to speak the truth.

... sophomoric arguments - like pointing out that sometimes it snows in February ...

They're also parochial arguments. It's summer in Australia right now.

Naturally, parochialism and hypocrisy are not mutually exclusive. If we have a record heat wave in July, the same sophomores will no doubt sputter that it means nothing because, hey, it's snowing in Chile.

--TP

And even if they are going to conflate weather with climate, they can't even figure out how weather works. Here's a clue, guys: When air is warmer, it carries more moisture. As hotter, wetter air moves across the US from west to east, and collides with the cold air, you're going to get snow in places you don't normally get snow, and more snow in places that do get it.

It's a tactic of distraction and the only counter is a slow accumulation of facts and respect for facts.

I will say this, though: the tendency of people to be very skeptical about apocalyptic scenarios that demand immediate, sweeping responses is in general a very good one.

We could have used a lot more of that skepticism when it came to Iraq and to terrorism and to the bank bailouts, and I appreciate that a skepticism that doesn't come into play for fake apocalypses but does when they're real is not the most useful, but I don't think it's that simple.

Leaving aside the specific case at hand, people think that predictions of imminent apocalypse tend to be pretexts for pushing an otherwise unattractive agenda. That's not always the case, but unless you know enough to make a truly informed decision for yourself, that's the way to bet.

I think it's good to keep that in mind when figuring out ways to persuade people about something you really think is very dangerous. In particular, I think that it's important to make clear that the response you're seeking is not in itself so unattractive that it could never be adopted without the threat.

For global warming, in recent years I think that there has been a mixed record on that. On the one hand, the increasing polarization of the debate (driven by resistance from entrenched interests that stand to lose from change, but do not represent most people) has seemed to me to drive an increased harshness of tone and far less tolerance of ordinary skepticism or even simple ignorance, to the detriment of persuasion.

On the other hand, the description of the desired response as something that is gradual, does not have to involve harsh changes, and does not mean the end of industrial society, has meant that even while "belief" in global warming has dropped, acceptance of the actual measures needed to combat it has grown. The mountain west is full of wind turbines (if you've driven cross-country in the last few years you almost certainly will have seen 100ft turbine blades being carried on trucks); overall fuel efficiency of the vehicle fleet is up; opposition to new coal plants is strong; cap-and-trade is supported even by people who aren't 100% sold on global warming, and it's likely to pass in the next year or two.

To me those seem like instructive experiences. Practical, not apocalyptic, is the tone to take. Emphasize the incidental benefits of the approach you want to follow, try to find paths that minimize disruptive change, and have respect for people's skepticism even as you politely disagree with it.

What is the difference between climate and weather?

What is the difference between climate and weather?

climate is weather over time.

C=W/T?

climate is weather over time.

So it's how fast the weather is?

Slarti and hairshirt keep thinking division.
Cleek was talking integration.

--TP

Climate is meteorological conditions over a long period of time. Weather is those same conditions over short periods of time. That's why it is possible to predict climate with better accuracy than weather.

Hey, I'm all for racial equality.

On the one hand, the increasing polarization of the debate (driven by resistance from entrenched interests that stand to lose from change, but do not represent most people) has seemed to me to drive an increased harshness of tone and far less tolerance of ordinary skepticism or even simple ignorance, to the detriment of persuasion.

I think what this analysis misses is the fact that for many people, policy questions like climate change responses are more about tribal affiliation than debates about facts. In my experience, lots of climate change skeptics aren't amenable to information: every bit of information that doesn't match their world view is disregarded or twisted. Besides, they "know" that climate change is just a crazy scam cooked up by the leftist elites. In my experience, trying to discuss these issues rationally is sort of like trying to convince someone to change their favorite football team. I mean, people argue about football teams all the time, but how often does anyone change their minds based on one of those arguments? Not very, because team loyalty has a lot more to do with tribal identification than it does with facts and figures.

Another way of looking at it is that there are lots of legislators representing flyover country who could bring a lot of cash to their constituents if they pushed for cap and trade and a smarter electrical grid, but they're not doing that. There are lot of towns in the midwest that are really struggling as the young people and jobs flee, leaving behind an economic base insufficient to support those who remain.

the presence of snow in winter supposedly disproves climate change

You need to find better sources of right-wing AGW denial, Eric.

the tendency of people to be very skeptical about apocalyptic scenarios that demand immediate, sweeping responses is in general a very good one.

I don't disagree with this, but I also don't see anybody insisting on immediate, sweeping responses.

Kyoto, in 1997, called for a reduction in the emission of four greenhouse gases by 5.2% of the 1990 levels by 2012.

Fifteen years, 5.2% reduction. Basically any way you want to get there, including market-based options like carbon credit trades, was fine.

I think what people object to is *any change whatsoever* in their existing way of life.

That's not skepticism, it's utter denial.

Slarti, don't you mean that the right wing needs to find better sources of AGW denial?

--TP

You need to find better sources of right-wing AGW denial, Eric.

Huh? Please explain. Or I'm tempted to just say: What Tony P said.

Slarti, don't you mean that the right wing needs to find better sources of AGW denial?

No.

Huh? Please explain.

Refuting hottest January ever (ever meaning: in the last 30 years) with "just look at this blizzard" is probably not convincing, but if for instance someone showed that snow accumulation for a whole winter or more was globally more heavy and widespread (I don't know of any such, this is just an example), that'd tend to be a more effective of an argument. "sometimes it snows in February" isn't one of those persuasive arguments, but that doesn't mean it's the only argument, or the best.

Slarti,

I was responding to specific, and repeated, arguments from leading conservatives (pundits, journalists and legislators) that the recent snow storm refuted global warming. If you want better GOP/conservative arguments, don't blame me. I'm with you.

Increased snowfall, even in record numbers, would never (on its own) be indicative of a cooling trend absent...an actual cooling trend.

As mentioned upthread, increased snowfall could, in fact, be a manifestation of a warming trend (increased moisture in the atmosphere due to increased evaporation). In the end, temperature readings are what matter - not snow or rainfall or hurricanes.

Refuting hottest January ever (ever meaning: in the last 30 years)...

Yes, yes, the data from that one source is indeed limited in terms of years. But then there's this from the same piece:

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in December that 2000-2009 was the hottest decade since records began in 1850, and that 2009 would likely be the fifth warmest year on record. WMO data show that eight out of the 10 hottest years on record have all been since 2000

160 years.

Buffalo gets more snow than the South Pole, ergo Buffalo is colder than the South Pole.

See how easy that is?

In the end, temperature readings are what matter - not snow or rainfall or hurricanes.

Agreed!

I think the most important current argument is over what those temperature readings mean, after they've been adjusted for shipping & handling, and over the reasoning behind the removal of goodly chunks of non-urban station data from the database used to compute global temperature trends.

There are either justifiable reasons for what has been done to the raw data, or not.

Looking to pundits or reporters of any political stripe for decently informed discussion of AGW is, well, overly hopeful.

Looking to pundits or reporters of any political stripe for decently informed discussion of AGW is, well, overly hopeful.

Totally agree.

That's why I stick with the scientists that are experts in these areas. That's my motto.

And the overwhelming consensus for such scientists is...well, an overwhelming consensus for man made warming.*

There are either justifiable reasons for what has been done to the raw data, or not.

See, above, re: stick with the scientists.

(*as published in the Tautology Club Weekly)

but since the scientists are all in on the conspiracy (cause they're all looking for that sweet sweet grant money that only comes when you support the consensus!), you can't trust them either.

Looking to pundits or reporters of any political stripe for decently informed discussion of AGW is, well, overly hopeful.

Why? Can't they read?

Slarti wants a better class of right-wing AGW deniers.

Good luck with that. You are stuck with the ones Exxon bought.

And the fact that they don't have anything less inane to say than "gee, it's awfully snowy" is a sign of how little substantive basis they have for their views.

At the end of the day, it is clear that their views are driven by the politics or by narrow economic self-interest, not by science. Hence the lack of science in their talking points.

But they can't just say they oppose doing something about AGW because it is bad for their bottom line: they know that argument is a non-starter. So they talk about snowy days and hope for the best. It's working pretty well for them so far.

Why? Can't they read?

There's more to understanding than reading and regurgitating. Or so one would hope.

There's more to understanding than reading and regurgitating. Or so one would hope.

Again, stick with the scientists that can do more, as requested.

Why? Can't they read?

Many journalists are incapable of adjudicating competing claims, despite being literate. This problem increases dramatically when evidence involves numbers. After all, only the most innumerate of people could possibly look at the journalism industry, look at the cost of going to J-school, and decide to get a J-school degree in preparation for a career in journalism.

Slarti,

There's people like you, and then there's people like Sean Hannity. With you, one can have a good-faith argument. But first you have to agree that Hannity is a spokesman for the "right wing" and you're not.

As an engineer, you probably agree that "global" temperature is a theoretical construct. There is no one place on Earth where we can stick a thermometer to measure it. (Jokes about this or that place being the armpit of the world aside, of course.) But, also as an engineer, you probably agree that "global" temperature is nevertheless a real thing. You would not argue that it's meaningless to call the Earth a warmer planet than Mars.

So, one question is whether global temperature is going up, down, or sideways. A separate question is how global temperature change in either direction would affect the to-and-fro we call "the economy". A third question is how any change to "the economy" would affect global temperature.

Maybe the answers are: sideways, very little, and not at all. I'm not qualified to say. (Hell, I'm not qualified to say that matter is made of atoms.) I venture to suggest that neither are you.

But I'd still like to know your answers to those three questions. No doubt they are tentative answers, in the true spirit of science. I can live with that.

--TP

There's more temperature data than just since the 1850s as well. The Greenland Ice Sheet carries seasonal records going back 100,000 years like rings on trees and has captured layers of dust from known eruptions that allow scientists to calibrate the data with admirable accuracy. The fossil record and the oceans also capture climate data, though with less precision.

Looking to pundits or reporters of any political stripe for decently informed discussion of AGW is, well, overly hopeful.

For a value of AGW equal to, well, damned near anything.

Today's hearing in the UK was live blogged by the Guardian here Interesting.

Blogged, quoting(?) perhaps paraphrasing Phil Jones:

Jones says CRU made the list of weather stations was available 6 months after the first FOI request.
But Jones pushes back - it is not "standard practice" to publish all the data and methods. But then concedes, "perhaps it should be".
Jones makes a mea culpa: "I have obviously written some really awful emails."

Jones is emphasising what David Adam pointed out earlier - that the divergence of the tree ring temperature data was in the open - in the Nature paper, which I have the link for now.

Well, I thought it was interesting, anyway.

The CRU thing was embarrassing for me - I'm from Norwich & love the University of East Anglia, where the CRU is based. I don't think there was a smoking gun there, but there was some stuff unworthy of ethical scientific behavior.

On the resistance of people to taking the word of scientists as a call to action, I think it's worth remembering that A) the fallacy of scientism exists, and B) people are aware that it exists. It should not be a surprise that "Trust me, I'm a scientist" is not regarded as dispositive.

I think there's a lot of tribalism in a lack of belief in AGW, but it's not the whole story - there just aren't enough rabid liberal-haters out there. I think a lot of people adopt the strategy that has worked pretty well for the entirety of human existence, which is "Wait and see." When I hear railing against the immense stupidity of those who don't believe in AGW, I don't think it's particularly fair. The fact is, convincing visible evidence of climate change isn't here yet. I don't think there's anything wrong with an individual who isn't an expert saying that they'll believe it when they see it.

The inoculation against taking the words of experts at face value is also our protection against Jonestown and Christian apocalyptic cults and [GODWIN VIOLATIONS] and a lot of other really dangerous things.

But that's why I think it's a mistake to rely on mass persuasion as to the reality of AGW as the mechanism for addressing it. If it genuinely needs to be headed off before its effects are visible, then we have to look for measures that are acceptable to a population where solid belief in AGW is a minority view.

"I think it's good to keep that in mind when figuring out ways to persuade people about something you really think is very dangerous. In particular, I think that it's important to make clear that the response you're seeking is not in itself so unattractive that it could never be adopted without the threat."

Got that precisely backwards. When the response you're seeking is something it's obvious you'd want anyway, the natural suspicion is that your danger is just an excuse for doing what you wanted done anyway.

What really provides people who claim a disaster is impending with credibility, is when the proposed response is something you know they WOULDN'T want if they didn't think there was a freaking emergency. An admission against interest, as it were.

You can demand all the photovoltaics and windmills you want, and it won't help your credibility one iota. Ask for nuclear power plants, and people will start paying attention. Because they know the people who are yelling about global warming don't LIKE nuclear power. So they'll figure you wouldn't make that concession if you weren't serious.

"Another way of looking at it is that there are lots of legislators representing flyover country who could bring a lot of cash to their constituents if they pushed for cap and trade and a smarter electrical grid, but they're not doing that."

James Inhoffe comes to mind.

I just accused Jim Bunning of being nuts in the "Dick" thread. All of the hot air Inhoffe and Bunning spew must account for an inordinate amount of global warming. (Both have very reddish faces, too, which must be a sign of somehing.)

Because they know the people who are yelling about global warming don't LIKE nuclear power.

Oh, really? All of them? Every single one? And just how, pray tell, do "they" know that? (Whoever "they" are, which I'm assuming are "global warming deniers," in which case, who cares what "they" think, as they're either liars, morons or some combination.)

Ask for nuclear power plants, and people will start paying attention.

Obama is at least not opposed to nuclear power plants. Fat lot of difference it makes to the Limbaughs of the world.

The thing about nuclear power plants in particular is that they are necessarily too big for anyone but large corporations or government to build and operate. I have a sneaking suspicion that if Obama came out for the Department of Energy to launch a massive program of government-built, government-run, nuclear power plants -- something like a latter-day Inerstate Highway System -- we would hear the right wing caterwaul about that, too.

--TP

What really provides people who claim a disaster is impending with credibility, is when the proposed response is something you know they WOULDN'T want if they didn't think there was a freaking emergency.

A good point if your goal is to convince people that there is a freaking emergency. But I could care less, since what I was saying is that convincing people that there is a freaking emergency should not be the goal of global warming science or policy, because a large number of people - probably the majority - aren't going to believe it until they see it, and when they see it they aren't going to care - and it isn't going to matter - what someone said about it 20 years earlier.

The goal of global warming science and policy should be finding ways to preempt it that are palatable to a world where most people don't believe in AGW and/or don't personally care about it very much. Ideally 50 years from now most people still don't have a firm opinion on it and don't care that much - they just drive in electric cars, use power from wind turbines, and conserve energy because, duh, everyone does, what are you, stupid?

Speaking for myself, I'm happy to spend some money on nuclear power where the numbers add up. I have yet to see any case where they do, partly because nuclear power is really complicated, dangerous, and therefore expensive, and partly because the way we do nuclear power in this country is really dumb. The way they do it in France is pretty smart - stamp out a kajillion of the same conservatively-designed reactors - but involves a lot of state intervention and little opportunity for private featherbedding, so it's not very popular here among the kind of people who push for nuclear power. Funny how that works.

My support for wind & solar isn't because I'm a giant hippie who just wants to, like, draw power from nature, but because they're relatively cheap, non-polluting, well-proven, scalable methods that demonstrably have the potential to replace coal, and don't have failure modes that involve spraying radioactive debris across an entire continent. (Coal's normal operational mode involves spraying radioactive debris across an entire continent, which why getting rid of it is so important.)

I also favor expanded use of natural gas for power generation and as a transport fuel, energy efficiency measures, CAFE standards, and infant-industry subsidies for electric cars and other clean technologies. Pretty boring stuff that we would get benefits from doing even if AGW was the figment of a drug-crazed hippie's imagination.

"Oh, really? All of them? Every single one?"

Nah, that's just a general observation, but given the extent to which global warming alarmists DON'T promote nuclear power, it's a fairly safe one.

"Obama is at least not opposed to nuclear power plants."

Yup, one of the few points in his favor.

"The thing about nuclear power plants in particular is that they are necessarily too big for anyone but large corporations or government to build and operate."

That's not really true, you know. It's really more an artifact of the regulatory environment; If you're going to spend a gazillion bucks just getting the permit, you'd better build the biggest plant you can, to amortize the regulatory costs across more megawatts. But there's been something of a renaissance in small nuclear plant designs lately, with some of them expected to get approval in the next few years.

http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/22867/?a=f

Or even smaller,

http://hyvin.nukku.net/no/toshiba.html

What really provides people who claim a disaster is impending with credibility, is when the proposed response is something you know they WOULDN'T want if they didn't think there was a freaking emergency. An admission against interest, as it were.

You can demand all the photovoltaics and windmills you want, and it won't help your credibility one iota. Ask for nuclear power plants, and people will start paying attention. Because they know the people who are yelling about global warming don't LIKE nuclear power. So they'll figure you wouldn't make that concession if you weren't serious.

I'm more than a little astonished by this.

Not least because it's my impression that large swathes of "those who claim disaster is impending" do indeed support responsible use of nuclear power. Myself included.

The only way they don't is if you've circularly defined the "believes in AGW" group to only include people that were already opposed to nuclear power - e.g., "hippies" or hard core green groups of one kind or another.

But then, that would be really stupid, because you really, REALLY shouldn't be making up your mind about whether to believe in AGW based on what those groups say anyway, should you?

You should instead be listening to what various rational scientists say. Or the IPCC. Which is probably about as pro-nuke as their organizational mandate probably allows (they're not a policy body, after all).

But then, I guess it doesn't count, because the IPCC wasn't anti-nuke before it existed, so it can't "prove that it is serious" by changing its mind and making "an admission against interest" now?

Global temperatures during the Holocene period. For "Holocene", read, "approximately the duration of settled human culture".

From about 8,000 to about 3,000 years ago, the earth was apparently warmer than it is today. On average.

There was no industrial human culture then. So human activity, or at least human industrial activity, was *not* responsible for that relatively warm period, which lasted some 5,000 years.

Does this prove that human activity is, or is not, a significant factor in the current apparent warming?

No, it does not. It just means that, as best we can figure out, the earth has been significantly warmer, and cooler, than it is now during different periods since the stone age.

The earth appears to warm and cool according to its own crazy planetary logic.

That neither proves, or disproves, that human activity is the cause of the warming we seem to see now.

We don't really know. So we make our best guess and act accordingly.

Here's what the conservative position on warming sounds like to me:

DOCTOR: your liver enzymes are elevated. How much do you drink?

PATIENT: six beers a day and a double bourbon for a nightcap.

DOCTOR: maybe you should cut it back.

PATIENT: is there any other possible reason that my liver may be crapping out?

DOCTOR: well, you could have hepatitis or liver cancer. or the test could just be an anomaly, sometimes that happens.

PATIENT: ok then, unless you can prove to me that the *only* possible reason my liver is going south is the booze, I'm gonna keep on drinking my daily six and whiskey.

Know anyone like that? We call those people drunks and junkies. They die young.

We do know that the global climate appears to be warming up. We do know that the level of certain greenhouse gases are increasing at historically amazing rates. We do know that increased greenhouse gas levels are one of the *possible* causes of increased warming.

There are other possible causes as well. Increased greenhouse gases are one of them.

If we had half a freaking brain, we would be proactive and dial it back. Just in case.

Instead, our policy is held captive by people whose basic perspective is that nobody is going to tell them what to do, they are going to do whatever they like, live however they like, no matter what, and screw you if you don't like it.

In 1997, the Kyoto protocol called for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 5.2% relative to the 1990 levels. That's not a radical goal. It doesn't call for the disassembly of industrial culture, it doesn't call for masses of people to head back to the farm, it doesn't mean you can't drive your car or eat a hamburger when you feel like it.

It's 5.2%.

There is one nation on earth that has signed, but not ratified, the Kyoto Protocol.

One.

That nation is the USA.

We're ruled by drunks and junkies.

Nah, that's just a general observation, but given the extent to which global warming alarmists DON'T promote nuclear power, it's a fairly safe one.

Ah, so it's something you made up. Noted, and moving on.

It's really more an artifact of the regulatory environment;

And if there's one thing the Bush years have taught us, it's that we need less regulation.

And that's on top of the obvious fact that it would also be perfectly rational to think AGW is a real thing that needs action, but also believe that nuclear is a little more risky than is necessary, and that other solutions might not be especially painful. They could be easily comprised of CO2-tax induced efficiency gains, salted with some solar/wind/wave/etc. expansion.

Especially if the action is, you know, prompt, since the sooner you start, the easier it is.

I just got back from France, where yesterday they had what was essentially a temperate out of season hurricane in which 45 people died.

Just thought I'd bring that up.

russell: There is one nation on earth that has signed, but not ratified, the Kyoto Protocol.

I agree with most of the thrust of your argument, but the main reason so many countries were willing to sign the Kyoto Protocol is that it didn't place any restrictions on them.

That isn't to minimize the commitments made by those countries that were restricted by the treaty, but the fact that it was signed by (in particular) China and India means absolutely nothing, because they didn't give anything up.

In fact China followed up signing the treaty with a massive coal-plant binge and is now the world's largest CO2 emitter. And Europe took advantage of Eastern European integration to lighten the burden of compliance by quite a bit. Doesn't absolve the US of its responsibilities, but let's not get too far down the road of "The US is unique in rejecting Kyoto." It's pretty easy to be in favor of something that doesn't require any sacrifices from you.

Phil:

"And if there's one thing the Bush years have taught us, it's that we need less regulation."
You're so right:

[...]
Since Bush took office in 2001, there has been a 13 percent decrease in the annual number of new rules. But the new regulations' cost to the economy will be much higher than it was before 2001. Of the new rules, 159 are "economically significant," meaning they will cost at least $100 million a year. That's a 10 percent increase in the number of high-cost rules since 2006, and a 70 percent increase since 2001. And at the end of 2007, another 3,882 rules were already at different stages of implementation, 757 of them targeting small businesses.

Overall, the final outcome of this Republican regulation has been a significant increase in regulatory activity and cost since 2001. The number of pages added to the Federal Register, which lists all new regulations, reached an all-time high of 78,090 in 2007, up from 64,438 in 2001.
[...]

Bush's Regulatory Kiss-Off: Obama's assertions to the contrary, the 43rd president was the biggest regulator since Nixon.

That's not really true, you know. It's really more an artifact of the regulatory environment;

I was under the impression that every single nuclear power plant constructed in the last decade had construction (not licensing) costs that were way over budget.


In any event, there are good reasons for people concerned about climate change to be skeptical of nuclear power. As I've explained before, it is far from clear that nuclear power is a sustainable low carbon energy source in the long term. Assuming reactor designs that have actually gone into production, it appears that there is insufficient supplies of sufficiently high density uranium to power global consumption for very long. When you run out of high density uranium, you can still use low density uranium, but the energy costs of processing and refinement go up very fast as density goes down. Now, there might not be any problem here, but there are some worrying indications. And there has not been sufficient research into the GHG emissions over the entire fuel cycle to really have confidence in nuclear power as a sustainable energy source.

Now, if you presume we have awesome breeder reactors that consume much much less fuel, then all our problems might go away. Except for the fact that these awesome breeder reactors have been talked about for the last 40 years and have gone precisely nowhere. No one has ever made a production breeder reactor, and the research prototypes have proven to be....problematic. It turns out that the engineering challenges in getting a breeder reactor to work are far more difficult than the simply physics might suggest.

We're ruled by drunks and junkies.
Don't forget the innumerates.

Turbulence-

Don't you think that's a little too pessimistic? What about designs like CANDU, for example? That's a design from the 60s, with 42 in operation and more being build. And they're apparently happy to eat all kinds of funky fuel.

And, while I'm no expert - gleaning most of what I know from Wikipedia - to me it seems like the problem with advanced breeder reactors isn't so much technical as commercial/political. It looks like there just hasn't been any particularly urgent demand for them because, for the moment, there's still plenty of good uranium.

the main reason so many countries were willing to sign the Kyoto Protocol is that it didn't place any restrictions on them.

How many is "so many"?

No country in the world signed on to Kyoto in good faith, or has made progress in reducing emissions?

The two biggest sources of greenhouse gases in the world are China, at a bit above 20% of the world total, and the US, at a bit below 20%.

China also has about 20% of the world's population. Their per-capita annual emissions of greenhouse gases are about 4.6 metric tons, just slightly above the world average. The US is about 19 metric tons, per capita, per annum.

Next up after China and us are India and Russia, each of which is around 5.5% of total emissions, and it goes down from there.

We didn't sign Kyoto because we didn't want to take the economic hit, and because we don't like the UN telling us what to do.

In other words, I got mine, screw you.

But first you have to agree that Hannity is a spokesman for the "right wing" and you're not.

I am not required to agree to anything. Sean Hannity speaks for Sean Hannity. Some people agree with most of what he says; I am not one of them.

So, one question is whether global temperature is going up, down, or sideways. A separate question is how global temperature change in either direction would affect the to-and-fro we call "the economy". A third question is how any change to "the economy" would affect global temperature.

I would venture to suggest that the only relevant question that captures the AGW debate is: is the Earth's temperature increasing any nontrivial amount due to human activity?

What the Earth's temperature is doing at any given time is irrelevant to the debate, without first supposing that mankind has any kind of controlling influence. What the temperature is doing is not uninteresting, but it's not something we can attempt to control, unless you suppose that we can (and indeed, do) control it.

My own private opinions in the matter are: 1) It's gone up, but is currently rather flat; 2) Depends on how much change, and 3) Anything we do on the scale of what's being discussed will have a huge impact on our economy.

Which is not to say that we should not look to make efficiency improvements, and pursue new technologies. Or even look for some way to achieve a quite lower equilibrium population. Those are (IMHO, of course) worthy ends, irrespective of how the debate turns out.

Now what?

There's more temperature data than just since the 1850s as well. The Greenland Ice Sheet carries seasonal records going back 100,000 years like rings on trees and has captured layers of dust from known eruptions that allow scientists to calibrate the data with admirable accuracy. The fossil record and the oceans also capture climate data, though with less precision.

Ice sheet records are not temperature. Greenland temperature is not global temperature. Tree ring widths are also not temperature. Calibrating temperature with admirable accuracy is not, as far as I am aware, possible with only the aid of volcanic dust deposits.

Don't you think that's a little too pessimistic?

Perhaps. But looking over the history of the nuclear power industry, I see a great of arrogance, astonishingly brazen attempts to socialize risks while keeping profits private, and a fair bit of incompetence. The history of nuclear power has been full of broken promises.

What about designs like CANDU, for example? That's a design from the 60s, with 42 in operation and more being build. And they're apparently happy to eat all kinds of funky fuel.

Really? I thought CANDU was able to consume slightly lower density uranium than LWRs. Is that what you mean by "all kinds of funky fuel"?

And, while I'm no expert - gleaning most of what I know from Wikipedia - to me it seems like the problem with advanced breeder reactors isn't so much technical as commercial/political. It looks like there just hasn't been any particularly urgent demand for them because, for the moment, there's still plenty of good uranium.

This doesn't make any sense to me. Power from conventional reactors is more expensive than fossil fuel generated power AFAIK. Given that, I would expect that nuclear power savvy countries would have a substantial incentive to realize much more efficient reactor designs like breeder reactors. There have been several attempts, but they've all failed. How much failure do we have to witness before we conclude that this problem is genuinely hard and perhaps even beyond our abilities? Or does the nuclear power industry get yet another a free pass?

Ice sheet records are not temperature. Greenland temperature is not global temperature. Tree ring widths are also not temperature.

By this standard, it seems impossible to measure the temperature of anything. If I try to measure the temperature outside right now using a thermometer, then you might say "the height of a column of mercury is not temperature" or perhaps "the voltage across a diode is not temperature" or maybe "the angle described by a bimetallic strip is not temperature". I don't think this sort of thermodynamic pedantry does much to advance the discussion. If you have serious methodological objections to ice core or tree ring temperature reconstructions, please state them directly.

"By this standard, it seems impossible to measure the temperature of anything."

Sure, you could just give up. Or you could use instruments designed to measure temperature to measure temperature, and accept that they have certain small, knowable error characteristics.

How many is "so many"?

Of the 187 countries that have signed and ratified the treaty, only 40 were Annex I countries required to reduce emissions levels below 1990 levels. All the rest were developing countries whose effective restrictions under the treaty were nil.

I don't want to minimize the commitments made by those other developed countries that signed the treaty, I just want to be clear about what sacrifices were asked for from the other 147 countries, which is, basically, zip.

If you have serious methodological objections to ice core or tree ring temperature reconstructions, please state them directly.

Tree ring widths are a gauge of favorable conditions for tree growth. Temperature is only one of these.

This is not really a new issue. There have been some rather well-published discussions of the suitability of using, for instance, bristlecone pine rings as proxies for temperature.

Sure, you could just give up. Or you could use instruments designed to measure temperature to measure temperature, and accept that they have certain small, knowable error characteristics.

I see. So, you don't have any specific methodological concerns about tree rings or ice core temperature reconstruction studies. You just don't trust anything more complex than a simple thermometer. And you have no reason to justify that suspicion. Is that right?

I think it would have been easier if you just wrote that rather than going on about how "measurement proxy X for quantity Y is not Y!".

Slarti, I'd like to suggest that you look at Jacob's comments. I don't always agree with him, but at least I have some idea WTF he's talking about because he writes enough words to convey non-trivial ideas.

There have been some rather well-published discussions of the suitability of using, for instance, bristlecone pine rings as proxies for temperature.

Can you point me to any of them?

And for the love of pete, why didn't you just write that in the first place? Seriously, do you just have contempt for everyone reading your comments? Do you think our time is worthless?

"o, you don't have any specific methodological concerns about tree rings or ice core temperature reconstruction studies."

I suppose There have been some rather well-published discussions of the suitability of using, for instance, bristlecone pine rings as proxies for temperature wasn't sufficiently clear, was it?

"You just don't trust anything more complex than a simple thermometer."

Complex thermometers are ok, provided they're calibrated. Trees are notoriously difficult to calibrate, because you actually need to have some more supporting information, environmental data, before tree rings can represent temperature.

More or less like a quartz rate sensor can be a decent thermometer if not rotating, or a decent rate sensor if it's covered in thermocouples and temperature-compensated. Not an exact analogy, to be sure. Feel free to disregard.

"And you have no reason to justify that suspicion."

As I said, this issue has been covered quite a lot in literature. You could start here, though, if Google seems to be broken. There's more, but I'd have to do a lot more work than I think I need to do.

Because it's not me that has anything at all to prove. I'm not concerned at all whether any of you agree with me. I'm not trying to convince you of anything. I was simply asked what I thought, and why, and this is why.

"And for the love of pete, why didn't you just write that in the first place?"

Isn't it one of the bigger challenges to the notion that we're at a historical high temperature? I thought everyone was aware of it.

Not contempt. Just the opposite, really; I'd thought if I was aware of it, most other interested parties would be as well. No contempt was intended.

Because it's not me that has anything at all to prove. I'm not concerned at all whether any of you agree with me. I'm not trying to convince you of anything. I was simply asked what I thought, and why, and this is why.

Why are you here Slarti? Seriously, why? If you're not trying to convince anyone of anything, why bother write?

And I still don't understand, why didn't you just write that specific objection in the first place? A single sentence would have done. Again, do you think our time is worthless? Are you just trolling?

And now, unfortunately, it's bedtime for me. More tomorrow, perhaps, if that check from Exxon doesn't bounce.

Isn't it one of the bigger challenges to the notion that we're at a historical high temperature? I thought everyone was aware of it.

Um, are we at a historical high temperature? I didn't think we are. I'm sorry, but I don't understand your second sentence at all.

Not contempt. Just the opposite, really; I'd thought if I was aware of it, most other interested parties would be as well. No contempt was intended.

Ah, thanks for explaining.

Unfortunately, the paper you cited doesn't say anything to call into question tree ring temperature reconstructions. So I really don't understand what point you're trying to make. In fact, it seems like the paper you cited rebuts a climate change skeptic argument.

Really? I thought CANDU was able to consume slightly lower density uranium than LWRs. Is that what you mean by "all kinds of funky fuel"?

A consensus of Wikipedians seem to think CANDUs can use anything from natural uranium, to unprocessed spent fuel, to thorium.

This doesn't make any sense to me. Power from conventional reactors is more expensive than fossil fuel generated power AFAIK. Given that, I would expect that nuclear power savvy countries would have a substantial incentive to realize much more efficient reactor designs like breeder reactors. There have been several attempts, but they've all failed. How much failure do we have to witness before we conclude that this problem is genuinely hard and perhaps even beyond our abilities?

As far as I can tell, a large number of operational breeder reactors have been built, some operating successfully for many years. That really suggests a commercialization problem, not a fundamental physics one.

Initial engineering and construction of a new type of reactor is expensive and time consuming, existing light water designs were/are cheaper to build, and, at least a few decades ago, the cost of uranium just wasn't enough to justify anything more expensive.

For example, again from Wikipedia, on the "Clinch River Reactor Project":

...it was estimated that the market price of mined, processed uranium, then $25 per pound, would have to increase to nearly $165 per pound in 1981 dollars before the breeder would become financially competitive with the conventional light-water nuclear reactor.

Government funding was eventually cancelled (...restarted and cancelled again) because of cost overruns and proliferation concerns.

But high startup costs and proliferation concerns are not the same as insurmountable technical problems. Again, it looks like worldwide there are an awful lot of working testbeds, active R&D projects, and, apparently, at least a couple production designs.

Now, if you mean that the economics is fundamentally untenable, well, maybe. I mean, existing reactors are pretty marginal as it is compared to various renewables, so adding more costs make it iffy indeed. Still, it seems premature to rule it out unequivocally. If, as it appears, there's no fundamental physics or engineering problem, a smart, easy to build design might easily overcome that.

Or does the nuclear power industry get yet another a free pass?

I don't know why you're asking me that. I'm not a nuclear fanatic by any means. Agnostic if anything. The history of the industry, at least in the US, has obviously not been exemplary, and in the short term at least, renewables/efficiency are clearly a lot cheaper and easier. I find attitudes like Brett's pretty irrational.

I mean, I guess you can accuse me of being a little more sanguine about the basic safety, technical and waste-disposal aspects. But I'll readily agree that there are obviously some nigh-insurmountable regulatory and economic issues to deal with before we can really have anything like what I qualified as "responsible use" upthread.

Slarti: I am not required to agree to anything. Sean Hannity speaks for Sean Hannity. Some people agree with most of what he says; I am not one of them.

I will settle for that, despite the dubious implication of the middle sentence. If Sean Hannity spoke only for himself, neither you nor I would have ever heard of him.

What the Earth's temperature is doing at any given time is irrelevant to the debate, without first supposing that mankind has any kind of controlling influence.

Nah. Even if you think there's no way we can influence global temperature by, say, limiting our oxidation of fossil carbon, we still have to deal with the consequences of global warming -- if it's real -- no matter what the cause. I say "we" and I mean it literally. "We" make up The Economy; "we" elect The Government. If Earth warms up by a few degrees within our lifetimes, then, "controlling influence" or no, "we" would be better off knowing in advance that it will happen -- or not happen.

So, no: the question of whether the globe is warming is NOT irrelevant to our future plans and expectations. The Economy will not somehow survive a global warming big enough to decimate us.

We're extracting fossil carbon atoms from underneath the biosphere, oxidizing them, and dumping the CO2 into the atmosphere. We're doing it on a huge scale, and in a geological instant. No other species has ever managed that.

Maybe we have made no difference to Earth's climate despite our heroic efforts. Maybe the climate is utterly indifferent to our very existence, let alone our economy. But that cuts both ways: the Earth will get along fine with or without us. If we are, in fact, changing the climate, it's not the Earth we're jeopardizing. It's us.

--TP

I think what slarti is talkingabout re tree rings is the fact that in the last 50 years the proposed relationship between tree rings and temperature has broken down almost completely. This is the focus of one of the most embarassing East Anglia quotes: "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith [Briffa]'s, to hide the decline."

By which, it is being explained to us, that he meant merely that he was normalizing the modern tree ring data to force it to show the actual temperature change (as measured by thermometers) rather than what would seem like an apparent decline in temperatures if you were to use the normal method of interpreting tree ring data.

Of course the fact that you have to do that for about a third of the modern climate measuring era (and for all of this generation's measurements) might suggest to some scientists that the tree ring method wasn't as good a proxy for temperature as had been previously thought.

But that would mean that the previous data couldn't be relied upon. Which just won't do you know.

And, for the record, I'm not particularly skeptical of global climate change as a whole, though I am skeptical of some of the bigger alarmists.

There is a slight (methodical) justification for the 'deniers's use of 'snow in winter => global warming is a hoax'. Let's assume there was a real case and that the majority of climatologists is really wrong. Then, I assume, the proof for that would rely on rather complicated scientific models that are even less easy to understand than the models used by the mainstream climatologists (otherwise it would likely not be a minority position). And since serious climatology is far beyond the horizon of knowledge/understanding of most people (me included), it would be close to impossible to make a public case arguing with one model against the other. I am a cynic. If one wants to persuade the public on anything beyond 'water is wet', simplification is needed, usually to a degree that would make most scientists cringe and refuse to sign (aka 'lies to children'). 'Science' is in most cases used only as a backdrop (same as 'experts' on other topics) while the public discussion itself remains on the kindergarten level. Try to explain the special theory of relativity in a soundbite!
So, independent of the cause/case (and the truth) usually both sides use (scientifically) questionable arguments in order to persuade the public. And it seems that the more ignorant an argument the more likely it is to be persuasive these days. So the deniers 'do it right', if winning the argument in the marketplace is the goal.
---
I am very sceptical about nuclear fission power. In the last year there were quite a number of unpleasant revelations about the French nuclear industry, undermining the credibility of claims of their superior security standards. And I have far less trust in American companies on that. Even if the design is sound, corner-cutting by operating companies for the benfit of the bottom line remains a constant danger. And if oversight is close to nonexistent due to political ideology and favoritism, this is a recipe for a catastrophe sooner rather than later. Coal ash is bad enough (even without the radioactivity) but nothing compared to a runaway fission reactor showering huge areas with fallout. Fusion will likely come too late and is, although far safer, even more complicated and therefore expensive at least during the construction period. Imo, if there is to be nuke expansion, it should be made absolutely clear that it will be the last generation to be used only as a bridge because mankind has slept at the switch and has no other choice and that each plant going out of commission will not be replaced by a new one.
---
As I have said repeatedly, one main problem is that humans have too short a lifespan. Those that create(d) the disaster will not live to be confronted with the real consequences (and don't give a damn about posterity or posterity's opinion of them).

Try to explain the special theory of relativity in a soundbite!

"If a man’s sweetheart sits on his knee, an hour feels like a minute. On the other hand, if the same man sits on a hot stove, a minute feels like an hour. That’s the theory of relativity!"
- "...and from this professor Einstein makes a living?"

If one wants to persuade the public on anything beyond 'water is wet', simplification is needed, usually to a degree that would make most scientists cringe and refuse to sign (aka 'lies to children').

But the thing about heavy snowstorms as an example of global warming is pretty much as simple as "water is wet".

It's like the theory of evolution: people don't disbelieve it because it's impossibly difficult or unprovable. Darwin's Theory is a classic example of science so simple and so "well, duh!" you wonder why no one saw it before: a perfect instance of genius putting it all together and making clear and explicable something "everybody knows".
Objections to the theory of evolution are religious and in the US political, not scientific.

Similiarly, global warming. No reputable scientist disagrees that the world is getting hotter, and that this is causing climate change: nor that mass release of long-buried CO2 into the atmosphere is likely to be a factor in global warming. (Obviously there can be proper scientific disagreement over the details.)

We should hope that it's the mass release of CO2 into the atmosphere that is causing global warming, because that is the only factor that is under human control.

If we can slow down the rate of global warming by weaning our civilisation off its dependency on oil, that is a good thing.

Given that oil is a finite resource and our civilisation is heading for catastrophe if we simply use it till it's gone, weaning ourselves off its use is a good thing too.

None of these things are hard to understand. All of them are based on facts that are easy to understand.

But they do interfere with the profits of the corporations which are reliant on our oil-based economy: not just the oil corporations, but pretty much all of them. Right-wingers repeat stupidly that global warming COULD be a myth because that's what all of their reliably right-wing information resources tell them - and because their political mindset is all against perceiving that a corporation out for its own profit is providing lies to ensure that concern for human life doesn't undercut its profits.

Except that this is all of human life on Earth, and to your average American right-winger, that means asking them to care about a mass of brown-skinned foreigners who aren't proper Christians.

Like the joke about a KKKer being the one white person in a room slowly filling with water: if he holds still and drowns, all the black people in the room drown: if he pulls the plug out and lets the water drain away, sure he lives, but he's also saved the lives of dozens of black people, and he'll never be able to hold up his head under the hood again.

Global warming is killing people in poor countries first, and poor people in the US before rich people. And the whole right-wing mindset is against valuing the lives of poor people.

Here's another one for your pile, Eric: Ann Althouse, who wrote this which went unremarked upon by all but a single of her commenters, as far as I could tell:

The "pollution" is carbon dioxide, which is what flows out of our noses and mouths when we exhale. Do you think of your breathing passages as spewing shit? There's nothing dirty or toxic about carbon dioxide. The problem has only to do with the greenhouse effect. But isn't it so much more effective — i.e., scarier — to make people think we're still talking about filth?

Um, are we at a historical high temperature? I didn't think we are.

That's pretty much the whole point of Eric's main post, as I see it. If it isn't, I've badly misread it.

Unfortunately, the paper you cited doesn't say anything to call into question tree ring temperature reconstructions.

Oh? The entire thesis of it is that bristlecone pines aren't useful as temperature proxies. If you're unaware to the degree that bristlecone pines are drivers of Mann's famous hockey stick, I suggest you go start reading.

You could go here, and start reading. It's not how I learned, but it does seem to deliver the gist of the problem.

The historical temperature reconstruction is chock full of error. Sometimes data are used upside-down.

So, no: the question of whether the globe is warming is NOT irrelevant to our future plans and expectations.

I most carefully said nothing that disagrees with this statement. Sure, it's important to know what's ahead, if we can. But if we're not the cause, then we have no control. Which is why I say it's irrelevant, absent human cause, to the discussion of what humans ought to do as regards our CO2 production. If we're not a prime cause, then varying our output does not provide a controlling effect.

The historical temperature reconstruction is chock full of error.

and the denialists are chock full of liars, bullsh!t artists, partisan shills and coal company PR flacks. if their consensus is X, it seems wise to give the benefit of the doubt to those who claim Y.

if their consensus is X, it seems wise to give the benefit of the doubt to those who claim Y.

They're much like the WSJ editorial page in that way.

But if we're not the cause, then we have no control.

Uh . . . I'm not sure your conclusion follows from your premise, here.

OT... ACORN cleared.

Why not use all that CO2 for the production of soda water?
Yes, that is a stupid question but not too stupid for some. And the answer is of course that CO2 from the stack is dirty while that from mineral springs etc. is natural and pure. No joke, a few years ago a breakout of food poisoning (originating from a carbonated beverage) around here was at first attributed in the media to 'CO2 gone bad' (as in far beyond its use-by date).

I am confused on several things. Do scientists who believe in AGW cite ice cores and tree rings as proof that past global temperatures were generally HIGHER or LOWER than they are now? I'm aware that there are climate shifts over long spans of time, but I don't know what the asserted trend is for either side of the debate.

Secondly, if scientists agitating for belief in AGW are arguing that ice core samples and tree rings show a general rise in global temperature, why does that help the AGW side? Don't those samples ostensibly show climate changes during a time in earth's history that humans weren't numerous or powerful enough to contribute to GW? I might be wrong, but it seems that way to me. Thirdly, if I am not wrong, Slarti, why does evidence against the validity of ice cores and tree rings hurt the AGW theory?

Fourthly, regarding a portion of Eric's post:

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in December that 2000-2009 was the hottest decade since records began in 1850, and that 2009 would likely be the fifth warmest year on record. WMO data show that eight out of the 10 hottest years on record have all been since 2000.

Do you mistrust the climate records cited by the WMO? If accurate and measurements have been taken since 1850 (I assume they weren't using ice cores and tree rings), then isn't that sufficiently strong proof of at least the correlation between increased CO2 output and warming? I'm guessing you don't dispute the correlation between the two, but I'd like to know how you attribute the temperature rise differently. Or, if you dispute their measurements, how you do so.

What those who are trying to make a convincing argument for global warming need is an example from everyday life of a noisy signal. That, for the non-engineers, is something that overall changes gradually, but from day to day bounces around a lot. Which, incidentally, is how climate differs from weather.

Anybody have a noisy signal to propose as an example?

wj: DJIA

--TP

One point often abused is that the correlation between CO2 and temperature is a wee bit more complicated in nature outside of a lab. The whole greenhouse effect works on the principle that certain substances act as control valves blocking a narrow band in the electromagnetic spectrum. But changes in one can influence the others. In the most simple case: CO2 rises => temperature rises => more water evaporates => water vapor acts as even more effective valve => even less radiation gets out => temperature rises. But clouds also increase the albedo => incoming radiation is reflected => less comes in => temperature goes down. These are just the most simple effects. Add to that that most effects are nonlinear and the system gets a wee bit complicated => easy to distort. The more radical deniers even dispute the physical interaction between radiation and gases the radiation passes through, some of them quoting weather data from Mars to disprove a simple fact of physical chemistry.

T = A*x + B*sin(x)
would be a simple example.
The sin function could symbolize the seasonal temperature changes while A*x is the ascent of the baseline over time.
If you want to include the higher seasonal fluctuation:
T = A*x + B*x*sin(x)
Now the changes between seasons get bigger over time too.
If A is small enough, the ascent will not be discernible easily over a long period of time.

Uh . . . I'm not sure your conclusion follows from your premise, here.

I suppose, as usual, I need to unpack a bit.

The theory is that CO2 emissions generated by humans are responsible for X amount of warming over the last several decades, and that trend, if continued, will result in Y amount of additional warming over the next century. This is a general statement, not anything you are guaranteed to get Google hits on.

If it turned out, though, that human-generated CO2 was responsible for no statistically significant amount of warming, then we don't have a controlling input on warming at current rates of production, and so literally nothing we could do, in the arena of CO2 emissions controls, would have the least bit of effect.

It's a controllability issue. If your only inputs to a system aren't firmly connected to the outputs, you don't control it.

Now, I am not convinced that either AGW or !AGW is true, so I'm not making a statement of policy that I favor. It's just that if it turns out that (the Earth is warming) AND (humans have nothing to do with said warming), then we have no controls that have anything to do with CO2 production.

wj: I'm currently reading Caro's The Path to Power, vol. 1 of his LBJ biography, and the first few chapters include a very good example, in his description of the ecological trap that the Texas Hill Country turned into in the late 19th century. (With the thin topsoil and ground cover destroyed by plowing and grazing, the land was being eroded down to bare rock, but - at least early in the process - there were enough "good years" to mask the effect and keep people hoping that they could make it.)

Thank you Tony and Jim. One of those might work. Although if we can come up with one which happens to Joe and Jane Average routinely, that would be even better. I admit, I'm not certain that such a thing exists. For example, a farmer might get that the trend in total rainfall for the season is different from the rainfall per day that he sees. But outside of a major drought, the average suburbanite probably has no clue what total annual rainfall around him is, let alone what the trend is.

Hartmut, it's certainly a good example of a noisy signal. But I'm betting that, while you and I get it instantly, the average person (who probably doesn't do much math beyond basic arithmetic) is going to just have their eyes glaze over. And that, after all, is exactly what the example needs to avoid in order to have any useful effect.

What those who are trying to make a convincing argument for global warming need is an example from everyday life of a noisy signal. That, for the non-engineers, is something that overall changes gradually, but from day to day bounces around a lot. Which, incidentally, is how climate differs from weather.

How about climate and weather?

Weather is the fact that there might be a couple days in February when you can go out in a t-shirt, or a day in August when you decide you want a sweater. Weather is noisy: temperature can easily vary by several degrees from one day to the next.

Climate is the fact that you can still expect it to be warmer in August than in February, quite reliably.

And only an idiot would cite a cool streak in August as disproof of "summer warming".

Oh? The entire thesis of it is that bristlecone pines aren't useful as temperature proxies.

I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that's quite an overstatement. The thesis is merely that growth conditions for certain bristlecones appear to have changed recently, and so there may be certain periods where they are not useful.

Also, since this was in fact discovered by way of routine critical examination of the proxy record and comparison with other data sources, and historical bristlecone data is now treated with extra scrutiny (which it has survived), Sebastian's insinuations about scientists not wanting to question data falls very flat.

If you're unaware to the degree that bristlecone pines are drivers of Mann's famous hockey stick, I suggest you go start reading.

Mann's hockey stick has been replicated numerous times, and has come through quite an extraordinary level of scrutiny and inquiry virtually intact.

I'd oh so humbly suggest that amateur skepticism based on a layman's reading of a couple random papers or popular articles on bristlecone pines probably isn't a good way to arrive at the truth here.

Now, I am not convinced that either AGW or !AGW is true, so I'm not making a statement of policy that I favor. It's just that if it turns out that (the Earth is warming) AND (humans have nothing to do with said warming), then we have no controls that have anything to do with CO2 production.

I'm not sure that's an especially tenable position. There is little doubt that CO2 plays a major role in climate regulation. There can be little doubt that human beings are responsible for a historically significant accumulation of CO2. There can be little doubt that there is indeed warming.

And the only credible explanation anyone's put forward for the warming is the anthropogenic CO2. (And even if you had another one, you'd have to explain why all that CO2 wasn't doing anything, because that would be weird.)

AFAICT, the only real remaining uncertainty--and it's a small possibility--is about the potential existence of some large counter feedback that might somehow kick in after CO2 and temperature goes up a bit more. Maybe water vapor or snow or something.

But that's not exactly the same as !(Earth is warming), nor is it the same as !(humans have nothing to do with it). It's more like, Earth is warming, AND humans are doing it, BUT it might still coast to stop somehow without our intervention.

Anybody have a noisy signal to propose as an example?

Your health (or maybe how good you feel from moment to moment) as you age. Everyone gets sick now and again, but being 25 is still a lot better than being 90. I think people could very easily grasp that.

Slarti- you are correct that ice cores are not measures of temperature. They are records of the effects of climate upon arctic ice -- which is, of course, one of the concerns that we have with climate change. Temperature is not the problem, but the apparent effects of that temperature within the system are.

I know people who are studying these things. They aren't a particularly naive selection of the populace. They aren't agenda driven, unless one counts the desire to get more reliable data and better models as an agenda.

I've asked these climate scientists about the blog you linked to above in the past as well as coyote blog and the like and about the criticisms of the 'hockey stick'. All were aware of these criticisms and had robust reasons for rejecting them (which I am inadequate to summarize). realclimate.org addresses these things all the time, along with the reasons why climate scientists reject these objections.

As I've said many times in conversations with former regulars on this blog -- there's not a single scientist I know who would not leap at the chance to publish a paper that put a serious kink in climate change or showed that a fundamental part of the consensus had severe methodological flaws if they had the data and methodology to support it. They are a competitive, argumentative bunch. Grand conspiracy really does not fit the profile.

I'd oh so humbly suggest that amateur skepticism based on a layman's reading of a couple random papers or popular articles on bristlecone pines probably isn't a good way to arrive at the truth here.

I've read Mann's work, and McIntyre's dissection of it. Do you have other material to recommend?

I've read Mann's work, and McIntyre's dissection of it. Do you have other material to recommend?

Maybe the National Research Council?

Anybody have a noisy signal to propose as an example?

the fact that prices are lower during Presidents' Day sales does not refute the fact that, overall, prices continue to rise due to inflation.

Maybe the National Research Council?

Anything more specific? NRC is a council that has a very wide variety of publications; I was thinking more in terms of a specific paper or two that helps you make your point.

I've read Mann's work, and McIntyre's dissection of it. Do you have other material to recommend?

Or maybe Mann, et al (2008).

Anything more specific? NRC is a council that has a very wide variety of publications; I was thinking more in terms of a specific paper or two that helps you make your point.

I was referring to that big review they conducted of climate reconstruction, and Mann's work in particular, in response to this supposed controversy.

That January was globally hot is not in dispute. It is a weather point. If it was globally coldest it would still be just a weather point. Quoting this as climate, is making the same mistake as those who point out any individual event as climate.

The article is also confusing the skeptics with warming deniers. The skeptics have scored real scientific points about gobs of lost scientific data (Lonnie Thompson's ice core readings, for example) and statistical errors. Look around the climateaudit.org site. A good place to start is this article.

Having said that, there is still some warming. The issue is how much, what causes it, and how "Unprecedented" it is. And, of course, what the future will be.

Don't look to politicians of either side to provide good info. The GOP folks you refer to are in a race to the bottom with Al Gore on scientific integrity.

As just one point, consider that the sea level has been rising for over a century. Yet C02 increases have been a factor in this for only about half that time. The science is neither settled nor simple.

jack lecou: even if you had another one, you'd have to explain why all that CO2 wasn't doing anything

No, no. The direct warming effect of CO2 is pretty well supported but is very small (like a degree or so from doubling CO2 concentrations).

The predictions of much larger temperature changes from the AGW theory rest on the idea that the steady push in one direction from increased CO2 is the cause of feedbacks larger than the direct effect of CO2. Melting ice decreases albedo, permafrost melts, you get fewer clouds, etc. That's the part that's much less clear.

So if you had 1) a large warming trend and 2) an alternative explanation, you could quite consistently say "About one degree of this is from CO2, and the rest is from space aliens irradiating our planet from Mars."

There's a misperception that most skepticism about global warming stems from a lack of understanding of "basic physics", but it isn't really true. For starters, the "basic physics" isn't that basic - the mechanism of absorption and re-emission of light & infrared radiation in the atmosphere is pretty complicated, it's not nearly as simple as the popularizations make it sound. But even if we take the output of those physics as a given, which I think is sensible, the direct effect of that is a fairly small temperature change. As soon as you want to account for a larger change, you have to get outside of basic physics and into stuff like cloud formation and permafrost melting and vegetation and ocean absorption of CO2 and ocean heating and other very complicated things. That doesn't mean we should say "This is way too complicated! Let's give up!" but just to say that you can't rely on basic physics alone to support the warming hypothesis.

Again, none of that casts aspersions on the scientists who are doing that research. Understanding complex systems is very worthwhile. It's just to say that when I hear someone say that the AGW theory relies only on "basic physics" it's a pretty safe bet that their understanding of the science is extremely shallow and that they probably shouldn't be going around telling other people that they don't understand it.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad