Q and A responses to climate skeptics’ arguments

I’d like to highlight a really useful information document put together by Dr Brett Parris, Chief Economist & Manager, Climate & Natural Resources Team, World Vision Australia. It’s entitled “Responses to Questions & Objections on Climate Change” and has been through some heavy revisions (currently on v3). He has also developed a scenario modeller (see below).

The climate sceptics FAQ is pretty comprehensive, running to 68 pages (PDF document here) and is well referenced. There is also a web-based html version here for convenient online browsing and cut-and-paste. Previous versions of this FAQ have been fine-tuned on the basis of iterative advice from a range of climate scientists and specialists in related disciplines, and so the content is both rigorous and reflective of the evidence-based scientific literature. I commend it to those who are interested in concise answers to a range of commonly asked sceptical questions on anthropogenic global warming.

The review covers 21 commonly raised arguments (click on number to goto):

1. The IPCC is a political body and its reports are scientifically unreliable

2. Science is not about consensus – Galileo was ridiculed by the authorities and the scientific establishment

3. There’s no consensus – 31,000 scientists signed a petition denying the link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change

4. We should wait until there is more evidence before reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

5. Climate change has been happening throughout geological and human history. What is happening now is not outside the bounds of natural climatic variability.

6. Because what is happening now is within the realms of natural variability, we can’t say that humans are contributing to climate change.

7. Because what is happening now is within the realms of natural variability, it is not something to worry about. Species have always adapted.

8. It was warmer during medieval times

9. Climate models are unreliable

10. There was a consensus among climate scientists in the 1970s that we would soon be heading into another ice age

11. Global warming ended around 1998 anyway – it’s been cooling since then.

12. Our best strategy is simply to adapt to climate change.

13. CO2 exists only in very low concentrations in the atmosphere, therefore it cannot have significant effects.

14. CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas. Doubling of CO2 from its pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm to 560 ppm would only bring warming of about 1ºC.

15. CO2 is not a pollutant – it is completely natural and essential for life.

16. Any warming is the Sun’s fault.

17. Climate change is due to the effects of cosmic rays.

18. Lack of warming in the tropical troposphere (lower atmosphere) proves anthropogenic global warming is a myth.

19. Coming out of the ice ages, the changes in CO2 happened after the warming began, so CO2 doesn’t affect atmospheric temperatures.

20. Antarctica is cooling, so that proves the global climate isn’t warming.

21. Action on climate change would ruin our economies.

Brett’s paper grew out of his work at both Monash University and at World Vision, where his focus on the current impacts and future projections of climate change in developing countries. The interested reader is referred to the reference list and the ‘Useful Resources’ section at the end for more comprehensive websites and other materials and listing of sources. Constructive comments or suggestions for improvements can be sent directly to Brett.

I don’t expect this material to change the minds of trenchant denialists (who are immune to evidence and logic, however well presented). But for the vast majority of undecided people who might be curious about these issues but not willing to make a judgement until they know more, or for those honestly confused about what has been adequately explained by climate science versus what is too uncertain, this is a really useful resource. It is also a good place to send your sceptical friends and colleagues — at least as a starting point for whetting their intellectual appetite to learn more (or, as a quick answer to blog comments).

Usefully, Brett has also put together a simple web-based tool called the Climate Scenarios Model (written in Java/NetLogo), which generates likely climate impacts from a given amount of warming above pre-industrial levels. The impacts for different temperatures are taken from the IPCC (2007) report of Working Group II and the UK Stern Report. It has an easy-to-use interface, and is a really neat educational tool. Go try it out.

Let me say, well done Brett on a sterling public communication service.

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81 Comments

  1. This is a nice way to lay out the arguments. And I think that many of the points of contention are covered. However the substance is what counts.

    Given that I’ve now read it I’ll start with the response to number 1, “The IPCC is a political body and its reports are scientifically unreliable”.

    The argument about the IPCC not being political is clearly flawed and even appears to admit it. It seeks support in statements such as:-

    another case where government intervention resulted in a more conservative stance than scientists would have preferred

    Huh!! How does that make it apolitical? The real argument being offered is that the process involves a face off between right wing (conservative) and left wing governments and that the result is some sensible centrist compromise. However a centrist position is no less political than a left-wing position or a right wing position.

    However even if there was no haggling between the left and the right the reality is that the IPCC is an organisation formed for political reasons. It is there to provide input to public policy decisions. Public policy is by it’s nature political. Anybody who thinks public policy should be decided via some process other than politics ought to suggest what specific mechanism they prefer.

    There appears to be no attempt to address the argument that the IPCC is unscientific.

  2. Much the PR problem I believe was the unfortunate use of the term ‘Global Warming’ instead of the more neutral ‘climate forcing.’ This is particularly true in Northern countries, where those against attempts at legislative action try and sell the idea of a warmer climate as a win for the region.

    Naturally they tend to gloss over the other possible impacts, but nevertheless they have a following among the less sophisticated members of the electorate.

  3. I thought the term “global warming” had mostly given way to the term “climate change”. I agree that the real issue is about “climate forcing”. Climate change is natural and inevitable. Climate forcing is something we can alter if we decide to. However even if we call it climate forcing it will still be a win for some areas of the world.

  4. It needs to be pointed out that sceptics have at least taken a moral position on climate change. They could possibly be swayed one day. On the other hand I suspect most of the adult population are quietly convinced of climate change but are unwilling to make sacrifices. Those people need to feel that some sacrifice, inconvenience or fear of the unknown will be rewarded within their lifetime or that of their children and grandchildren.

    Therefore I think the argument for climate change has been probably been won at a subliminal level but the argument for early mitigation efforts has not. At some point the public will bite the bullet and in particular accept the need for coal restrictions. That may be too late if it isn’t already. The argument then becomes the need to decarbonise earlier rather than later.

  5. Terje #1

    “another case where government intervention resulted in a more conservative stance than scientists would have preferred”

    The term conservative in this sentence refers to a reticence to take action, not to a political ideology. It’s antonym would be transformative not socialist.

  6. TerjeP – I vigorously fight the idea that anthropomorphic climate forcing can be predicted as a ‘win’ for any region. That is why I dislike ‘global warming’ so much. Changes in precipitation, prevailing winds, and any number of other secondary impacts that would follow could swamp any advantage that would come from another two weeks added to the growing season at each end.

    This is to say nothing of living with the geopolitical fallout a major rapid shift in weather patterns could cause.

    To anyone that thinks that there could be a net improvement from this anywhere specific, I would point out that with big dynamic systems like the climate there are many more way for it to go wrong than there is for it to go right when you contemplate the impacts of random change.

  7. Marion – that’s a possible interpretation but it does not seem likely given that the statement is offered as supporting examples for the preceeding point which included this:-

    the conservative government of Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter, under John Howard, the United States under the conservative administration of George W. Bush

    It seems to be very much about political ideology. In fact the writer has bought into the politics even whilst trying to deny it exists.

  8. The first instinct of every organisation (and organism) is self preservation. That goes for the IMF (which was formed to support the gold standard and by that measure should now be extinct) the Exxon oil company, the Apple computer company, ATSIC, the government of Russia or the IPCC. The difference between privately funded (customers and investors) organisations and those funded by taxes are that the former normally closes down when they no longer create value for those that fund them whilst the latter often goes on and on for decades after they cease creating real value. In fact some never create value in the first place.

    If global forcing is an established scientific fact then why do we need the IPCC?

  9. Of course the flip side is who cares if Exxon is biased or such and such think tank is right wing. The scientific argument is far more important. Generally the reason people raise the point that the IPCC is political is because somebody has just dismissed some alternate view point on the basis that it is “right wing”, “self interested”, “funded by private individuals” or whatever.

    Likewise with the CO2 follows warming point. People mainly raise this issue because Al Gore attempted to pass off past correlation between CO2 and warming as evidence or cause and effect.

  10. David,

    In the 1859 paper he showed that carbon dioxide and water vapor trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere. That is not the same as showing that past global warming episodes were caused by rising CO2. Al Gore showed a chart in his movie of the correlation between past warming and past CO2 increases and didn’t make it clear that the former caused the latter rather than the other way around. His presentation was misleading and a lot of people remain mislead. That the rise in temperature during past warmings preceded the rise in CO2 certainly doesn’t prove that CO2 won’t warm the earth. However it is an important point of note and relevant to any debate.

  11. I don’t expect this material to change the minds of trenchant denialists (who are immune to evidence and logic, however well presented). But for the vast majority of undecided people who might be curious about these issues but not willing to make a judgement until they know more, or for those honestly confused about what has been adequately explained by climate science versus what is too uncertain, this is a really useful resource. It is also a good place to send your sceptical friends and colleagues — at least as a starting point for whetting their intellectual appetite to learn more (or, as a quick answer to blog comments).

    To be sure there are a lot of uniformed people in the world. However the above passage somewhat presumes that sceptics are simply people that haven’t followed the debate. This is somewhat narrow minded.

  12. David – to be specific here is a picture of Al Gore leading his audience to conclude that CO2 has driven temperature for the last 600,000 years.

    http://www.czerniec.com/2007/04/27/an-inconvenient-truth.jpg

    This is false. CO2 has not driven temperature for the last 600,000 years. Whether it drives temperature now isn’t proven by the clearly false assertion that it drove temperature in the past.

    http://www.czerniec.com/2007/04/27/an-inconvenient-truth.jpg

  13. TerjeP (say tay-a) (14, 16) — Thanks. I didn’t see the movie and I pay little attention to AL Gore.

    Yes, the cycling between stades (massive ice sheets) and either interstades or interglacials has been the result of orbital forcing with CO2 as an positive (accelerating) feedback. Obviously this is not the case for the last 7000 or so years since the orbital forcing has been slowly declining and will continue to do so for the next 20,000 or so years.

  14. To conclude that it is a pro-warming accelerating feedback then you would need to show that during the cycles temperature drops are slower than temperature rises. I don’t think this has beed demonstrated. I think the opposite is the case.

    Even if you ignore Al Gore plenty don’t and it is now part of the mythology that drives popular belief. The point about CO2 trailing temperature was hardly ever raised before Al Gores movie tried to imply otherwise. In the context of his misleading movie it is a valid point. Sceptics don’t generally raise it to disprove AGW but to counter AGW alarmism.

  15. I’ve always wondered at the fascination of the hockey stick amongst skeptics of human-induced climate change (or global warming — I prefer climate change because it captures broader effects than simply temperature rise).

    To me, the interesting thing about reconstructions of millennial-scale temperature changes are the scientific questions they pose, rather than having all that much to do about how much warmer it is going to get in the future. How do we calibrate proxy ‘thermometers’ like tree, coral and stalagmite growth rings, isotope ratios, age-depth relationship of soil temperature profiles, anecdotal shipping records, etc.? What are the biases and uncertainties? What were the changes in historical forcings? (solar, volcanic, agricultural [e.g. methane and albedo changes]). Getting a firmer grip on these is useful in the sense that it provides mensurative tests of our understanding of Earth system processes, allows for retrospective model testing (‘hindcasting’), and gives semi-quantitative clues about climate system response times and feedbacks.

    But ultimately, whether the North Atlantic or Indian Ocean warm pool was a few tenths of a degree cooler or hotter than today in the year 1200 is only vaguely relevant to predictions of future climate warming of many degrees. Its value is in telling us how quickly we should expect change to occur, what ameliorating effects might hold back change, and by allowing us to contextualise the magnitude of current +ve greenhouse gas forcing compared to relatively trivial changes over previous centuries. The amount of variability that is apparent in the last two millennia of change worries me (and in deeper time, the huge fluctuations we see in D-Os, Heinrichs and other stadial/interstadial transitions), because it says that the climate system has a tendency to whipsaw between alternative states with only slight nudges.

    Right now, we’re not nudging, we shoving as hard as we can from as many directions as is ‘humanly’ possible. I fear we’ve just placed our foot on the end of a rake that’s been lying flat for some time (during the course of civilisations), and have now just noticed, in a figurative split second, that the handle is progressing rather quickly towards our collective face.

  16. … vigorously fight the idea that anthropomorphic climate forcing

    Sorry DV82XL …

    anthropomorphic climate forcing would be climate forcing that had human attributes such as ethical sense, sentiment, consciousness, a life cycle etc …

    It’s anthropgenic because the source of the forcing is in human agency.

    [end semantic point]

  17. I suggest the immediate task is to convince the public to pay carbon taxes, not split hairs over the evidence. To be honest I almost relish the looming imperatives of Peak Oil because it will force the public to stop talking and do something about replacing fossil fuelled energy. Any slight carbon mitigation in the last five years can be attributed to recession, not deliberate government policy, so perhaps we need more recession.

    In the next decade we want to replace or displace 40% of average stationary generation with low carbon, to replace the current 50% with an implied 80% of imported oil, to power plug-in cars and desalination plants all the while surviving ever more unpredictable twists in the weather. We’ve barely made a start on any of this. Yet I have this horrible feeling that five years from now we will still be discussing hockey stick graphs.

  18. Fran, I always thought it was called “Muphry’s Law”. The RC post on the Yamal matter is well argued and basically comes to the same conclusion as me. Which (to TejeP), if you’ve looked over WGI report of AR4, you’ll find is also they way historical temperature reconstruction is treated — as a useful line of evidence but only a small component of a vast body of literature.

  19. Fran @ 24 – Thanks, you are right of course. proving once again that one should not trust one’s spell-check to read one’s mind, and that it is no substitute for proof-reading before posting, (something I am otften guilty of)

  20. A mild observation by David Stockwell which is quite reasonable:

    One of the main reasons for persistent skepticism is that people look at the evidence and find it wanting, they look at the AGW proponents and find misrepresentation of the alternative arguments, and they look at the emotional appeals and see bias. When people of science like RealClimate start worrying that their lack of results is due to being ‘unlikable’ and ‘poor communicators’, its my experience that the real problem is the use of subjective vehicles to back up inconclusive science. Skepticism is healthy, and the way for AGW proponents to further their work is through greater openness and objectivity, not stronger emotional appeals.

    John Newlands,
    I agree that it would be good to get on with serious CO2-free energy generation but why not at the same time try to get our recent climate history better understood.

  21. Hi Terje,

    Perhaps I could clarify a couple of things in reference to your comments:

    #1 “The argument about the IPCC not being political is clearly flawed and even appears to admit it. …How does that make it apolitical?”
    #8 “In fact the writer has bought into the politics even whilst trying to deny it exists.”

    I was trying to capture sometimes complex objections in a concise heading, so my argument that the statement “The IPCC is a political body and its reports are scientifically unreliable” was false was intended to be taken as referring the statement as a whole and the overall argument it represents, being false. i.e. “Because some aspects of the IPCC assessment process involve governments, such as the summaries for policymakers, the IPCC’s reports are scientifically unreliable.” That seems to be the essence of a lot of the skeptic arguments against the IPCC.

    So I wasn’t saying that I thought that no aspects of the IPCC processes had anything to do with politics. As I said, the summary for policymakers process in particular is affected by the views of governments. But the overall effect of that political influence is to tend to soften or make more ambiguous some of what the scientists would prefer to say.

    On my use of the word ‘conservative’ – when I referred to Australia and the US I was talking about them being politically (& economically conservative), and in the other context I was, as Marion said, talking about a reticence to take action – which was not unrelated to their political conservatism of course.

    As for climate change being a ‘win’ for particular regions – that may be the case up to a certain point, beyond which it’s all pretty grim – and also only if you ignore the likely social and economic spillover impacts from the regions that are badly affected from the beginning.

  22. Barry – In case my antagonism towards silly arguments and the track record of the hockey stick has confused you regarding my overall position I’ll summarise my view for the record.

    I believe the world is warming due to human emissions of CO2. Whilst I’m skeptical about how much it may warm I’m in favour of no regret reforms including switching the tax burden towards a carbon tax on the energy and transport sectors and away from things like payroll and income. I’m in favour of removing nuclear prohibition.

    I don’t automatically dismiss the work of the IPCC even if it is political, just as I don’t automatically dismiss the work of the IMF or the World Bank or the OECD or Parliament or the Reserve Bank or the ALP or any number of political bodies. I do however know that they are political bodies and I don’t think any of them should be immune from robust criticism. If it were up to me I’d axe public funding of all of them except Parliament which I’d seriously overhaul.

    Even if AGW is a myth then an arbitrary tax on carbon emissions would be better than the current arbitary taxation of payroll and income. And even if AGW is a myth removing the prohibition on nuclear power would be a good thing because it would expand our energy options.

    I oppose the ETS, MRET and renewable energy subsidies.

  23. Barry, Dr. Parris’ is good stuff (because comprehensive); a link to it may deserve a place on your front page.

    This is the case already, sort of, indirectly: via this post and your “Non-greenhouse theorists (‘sceptics’)” category. But that’s too many steps; and, as time goes by and this post is no longer on top of the category, the link to Dr.Parris’ piece becomes further obscured.

  24. I agree that even if AGW were not true a case can be made for administratively imposed carbon pricing. The free market system does not seem to be able to think that far ahead, the salient example being the collapse of General Motors. Rather than abrupt collapse of the fossil based economy it is better to smooth the transition in easy increments starting early.

    However within that idea are many practical differences such as carbon charging via either a tax or cap, prescriptive standards (eg grams of CO2 per km or kwh) and revenue neutrality (green give-back) versus broad based energy taxation. Whatever form it takes the longer it is postponed the more traumatic will be its introduction. I doubt that either Australia or the US will have nontrivial carbon pricing by this time next year.

  25. John – I don’t regard a carbon tax that replaces payroll taxes and income taxes as no regret due to some inability within the market to deal with future fossil fuel supply shortfalls. I regard it as no regret because payroll tax and income tax are horrible taxes and replacing them with almost anything would offer an economic improvement. In particular payroll tax really ought to be history.

  26. @Spamgled Drongo, #29:

    That ‘skeptical’ view of Pielke Jr is a complaint about Gavin, and sorely lacking ANY critical references to all those blogposts and newspaper articles in which there is a clear accusation of fraud. Just look at this story from McKitrick (with whom McIntyre frequently ‘publishes’ his criticism)
    http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2009/10/01/ross-mckitrick-defects-in-key-climate-data-are-uncovered.aspx
    It’s sad reading, in which he even accuses the IPCC of fraud.

  27. Marco @ 38,
    If you’re referring to this….

    “The surface temperature data is a contaminated mess with a significant warm bias, and as I have detailed elsewhere the IPCC fabricated evidence in its 2007 report to cover up the problem. Climate models are in gross disagreement with observations, and the discrepancy is growing with each passing year. The often-hyped claim that the modern climate has departed from natural variability depended on flawed statistical methods and low-quality data. The IPCC review process, of which I was a member last time, is nothing at all like what the public has been told: Conflicts of interest are endemic, critical evidence is systematically ignored and there are no effective checks and balances against bias or distortion.”

    Being a member he should know and there is very heated debate about all this at the moment however without getting too involved, Jeff Id posted this question on RC:

    “Do you have any specific criticisms of the tree ring data used by Steve McIntyre or do you have any criticisms of the methods he used?”

    only to be snipped.

    Not really rational debate, is it?

  28. McIntyre has not personally made any accusations of fraud. However what he has uncovered and the context in which it was uncovered (this is data he has been asking for for nine years with substantial resistance from the establishment and original author) does paint a pretty shocking picture. Against the backdrop of the earlier problems for the hockey sticks, and the fact that none of these problems were sorted out during so called peer review process, the IPCC and the associated scientists do have a lot of egg on their face. Good!

  29. TerjeP,

    Hmmmm………,

    “McIntyre has not personally made any accusations of fraud. However what he has uncovered and the context in which it was uncovered (this is data he has been asking for for nine years with substantial resistance from the establishment and original author) does paint a pretty shocking picture.”

    I’ve always been sceptical about this whole ‘data-been-withheld’ thingy accusation wrt to the buzz around hockey sticks. If you go and read up about it wasn’t the usual competitive thing between academics and or/researchers people instead Mann et al were subject to a political witchhunt and Biffra saw it.

    It would be like me camping outside your house and saying, ” give me the information I want so I can destroy you to satisfy my own poltical and/or philosophical outlook and agenda”. Would you hop to it in a situation like that? Remember, rep Joe Barton demanded Mann not only provide data from his orginal work, he also demanded the data from all his publications and information on all his professional collaborations and associations. Can you blame people for being suspicious when Mcintyre comes-a-calling after that sort of experience.

  30. Fossil fuels are enormously lucrative, both for the producing industries (but they have to work for their money) and for governments.

    Prescriptions for getting the world off them that involve increasing their taxation are, I think, therefore fundamentally misconceived. It is a misconception that is understandably attractive to persons who are government-funded; they commonly assert that government supports the fossil fuel industry, rather than being supported by it, and so obscure, at least in their own minds, their own interest in that oil and gas money.

    Dr. Hansen’s prescription that the money be equitably divided out among the citizens is a very good idea, but he hasn’t yet gone far enough. He proposes this distribution only for new C tax money, not for the very large existing carbon tax cash flows.

    (How fire can be domesticated)

  31. @spangled drongo:
    He’s a member of what? The IPCC? No, he ain’t. Just so you know, YOU can become an IPCC reviewer, too.
    What I find galling is that he clearly insinuates fraud, and not just of Briffa, but of the IPCC: “fabricating evidence”.

    @terje:
    How do you understand a comment like this:
    “Jacoby, D’Arrigo, whatever other faults they may have, use the entire crossdated population from a site. (They cherry pick sites, but don’t cherry pick trees within a site.)”
    or this one:
    “While Yamal stayed unchanged in Briffa et al 2008, the Taimyr series was modified noticeably, becoming the “Avam-Taimyr” series. … One doesn’t expect Team adjustments to leave even small scraps on the table and this proved to be the case here as well – the added data substantially increased 20th century values and substantially lowered 1150-1250AD values, thereby altering the medieval-modern differential in favor of the 20th century.”

    Without using the word “fraud”, McIntyre clearly insinuates fraud. His audience clearly has understood what he means (see McKitrick).

  32. As spangled drongo put it. “One of the main reasons for persistent skepticism is that people look at the evidence and find it wanting,” There is really little doubt about this, from the latest revelations on Yamal to the surface station temperature errors all being on the high side.

    I read that engineers are more likely to be skeptics than most, so maybe we find the style used by sites like RealClimate much less appealing than say ClimateAudit. I object to not being able to post a question on RC that Gavin might think critical. I really object to the authors of papers on AGW not archiving the data on which the paper is based. As peer review is largely by fellow believers and enough examples have surfaced showing that they don’t even have access to the data, let alone look at it, it is truly necessary that the basic data is available to others.

    I think I am more likely to be persuaded that global warming is an imminent danger by good new data than believers are to be swayed by the reverse (not easy to admit being wrong.) I have yet to see proof for the CO2 forcing factors used in the models. Until we know what we are doing it is dangerous to let the CO2 level rise too much. I have been in favor to replace coal fired power stations by nuclear for decades, but the AGW crowd are mostly against that. As repeated endlessly here, renewable sources will not cut it using known technology. In the US, DOE was formed thirty years ago to reduce our reliance on imported oil. After spending $7 trillion on imported oil, they should be disbanded.

    Until more data surfaces, Syun-Ichi Akasofu’s explanation shown here (62MB pdf file) is as good as any. http://people.iarc.uaf.edu/~sakasofu/pdf/two_natural_components_recent_climate_change.pdf
    Worth reading anyway.

  33. Adrian, Realclimate does not mind “critical questions”. That is, scientific enquiry is very much possible. But starting the discussing with your opening paragraph merely shows you already have taken a stance. For example, your claim that the surface station temperatures errors are all “on the high side” is based on what exactly?

    Another interesting aspect is your complaint that people writing papers on AGW are not archiving their data. Apart from the practical issues of archiving the data, these papers are not on AGW! Moreover, there are always other scientific issues with allowing others to (essentially freely) use data that you have painstakingly gathered, sometimes over decades. There’s no-one stopping YOU from collecting the same/similar data.

    Then your complaint about the models and the proof for CO2 forcing. Well, that’s just plain physics, and actually has little to do with the models.

    Also, when you claim that ‘believers’ are less likely to change their stance than you, because “it is not easy to admit being wrong”, you clearly do not realise (well, perhaps you actually do) that if the ‘believers’ are right, YOU are wrong!

    Finally, who would be the “AGW crowd”? The scientists? In that case, you will find few that are really against nuclear power. Some are hardline proponents (Barry Brooks would be one…), others will point out that you simply cannot put everything on one horse, especially as long as there are plenty of issues to solve. Take for example the investments and time required to build even one nuclear plant. We will also need to use other reactor-types, since there is not enough uranium. Etc.

  34. Re Marco #47,

    RC does not allow critical questions from me or others. Many skeptics, including me, have given up trying to post there. My opening statement does indeed question the accuracy of some of the data. With what has been published do you not doubt some of it? Is that “taking a stance”? Problems with surface stations are shown here. http://www.surfacestations.org/ Also, look at the error at night compared to daytime for various stations: strong evidence of UHI effects.

    The people writing what I described as AGW papers are paid to gather the data by public funds. In all other branches of science but climatology, authors are required to archive the relevant data. In most cases the publisher also requires it, but this has been ignored. Pay me to gather the data and I might consider doing that.

    I don’t consider global warming has been proven one way or the other. The believers do. “The debate is over.” Lose your job if you don’t climb on the bandwagon. No grants for you, etc.

    If you don’t already know who is anti-nuclear, life is too short to explain it. Pebble Bed Reactors could be built immediately. (Or wait to buy the cheaper factory produced ones from China) Liquid Thorium Salt Reactors will take a bit longer, but they are fail-safe, don’t even use uranium and produce negligible radwaste. Either of the above would be far cheaper than the “green” alternatives.

  35. Seriously, Adrian, “some of the data”? Your choice of words suggests more than just “some of the data”. Just see how you now attack the surface temperature record, completely neglecting that GISTEMP involves a correction procedure for the UHI. Also, you appear to go find your criticism on one side, and then take it to the other to claim “you are found wanting!”. I also sincerely doubt you know that Watts’ surfacestations’ project has already been tested with respect for the data. John Van Vliet (JohnV) posted an earlier analysis on WUWT, and found no difference between Watts’ supposed “good” stations versus the whole dataset (which mere mostly “bad”). NOAA did the same with a more expanded dataset, once again no difference. Whole articles have been written about the UHI, including heavy mathematical analysis, showing that it overall has little effect (and still GISTEMP corrects for it). Having said all of that, also the satellites show warming.

    The moderation at Realclimate is at least in part to stop the continuing ‘questions’ that have already been dealt with at length. RC expects its commenters to do some work before asking something for the umptieth time. When embedded in your type of semantics, the people at RC know there is no use arguing. You HAVE made up your mind already.

    Regarding archiving data you are wrong. Not all branches of science (and certainly not all journals) require the authors to *publically* archive their data, so that anyone can use it. There is no one stopping you from applying for grants.

    There is also absolutely NO evidence that you cannot get grants if you don’t “climb on the bandwagon”. Lindzen is doing just fine. Pielke Sr. AND Jr. have few problems. Carter, McLean, De Freitas, despite their shoddy science, have little problem finding money, too. What is found wanting is their scientific evaluation of the evidence.

    Regarding the nuclear plants: I know who the anti-nuclear people are, and they certainly are NOT the ‘believer’ scientists. Plenty of other AGW’ers have a range of concerns, amongst which a small (but vocal) group who is against nuclear power, period.
    Funnily enough, I just met someone who was crying “we need nuclear!” for decades, only to cry “not in my backyward!” when push came to shove.

  36. Jeremy – the Briffa paper was published in journals that require data to be published. The fact that these journals allowed the data to remain unpublished is very sloppy on their part. All that McIntyre was asking for was for Briffa to live up to the standards of the publishing journals and for the journals to stick to their own standards. Not a big ask. And if you have nothing to hide then why hide your data?

  37. “Just so you know, YOU can become an IPCC reviewer, too.”

    I think that was just a claim at Deltoid.

    Marco, I haven’t been invited but M & M were and were therefore members of the reviewing process and according to IPCC “principles”, reviewers were supposed to do a heck of a lot of work checking the details but most of them simply signed a “tick-off” form letter.
    When McIntyre or McKitrick asked for the supporting data on any papers it was refused [by the IPCC] making the whole proceedure a farce.

  38. Re Marco #49,

    Seriously Marco, don’t be so naive. A lot of the data are very dodgy. Trees don’t make good thermometers when you are looking for less than a degree & some cherry pick the samples. GISTEMP “correction” of surface temperatures is a bit of a joke. The two extreme examples, Watts gave on the site I linked, makes the point better than anything I could write. Why not spend some of the $billions spent on climate research on building these surface stations to spec? You ignored my comment about night time vs. daytime temps.

    Talking about RealClimate and Dr. Pielke, today he writes: “If you want to know why Steve McIntyre has a large following and the respect (often begrudging) from many professionals, you need look no further than his latest post on the Yamal controversy. Some people won’t like his tone and others won’t like how his work is used and spun in the political process. All fair complaints, but they are largely a side show to the substantive issues. And so long as Steve is delivering detailed, systematic and devastating substantive arguments — and yes this post is all three — he will continue to have a following and earn respect (however begrudging).

    Anyone coming to this fresh who compares McIntyre’s latest dissection with the recent screed from Real Climate will come to a similar judgment, I’d guess….” Not you apparently.

    I was not wrong about archiving data. Note I also mentioned journals requiring it. Note that McIntyre had been trying for 10 years to get it and when it surfaced it had problems. You might scan http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2009/9/29/the-yamal-implosion.html to refresh your memory about why it is necessary to see this kind of data. Don’t you think YAD06 has problems?

  39. @spangled drongo:
    if only it was a mere claim at Deltoid. Do you really think anyone at the IPCC asked Vincent Gray to be a reviewer? A non-expert with absolutely no experience in any of the relevant fields? And yet, he was!

  40. Adrian, you show exactly why Watts is not taken seriously at all: he uses ‘examples’, while analysis of the WHOLE dataset shows him to be wrong. He was also so funny to “eyeball” temperaturegraphs of the arctic stations, and use that to claim “no increase in temperature”. And thus tamino did a bit of number-crunching, and what a surprise! Watts was wrong. Very wrong.

    And of course I neglect your statement on night time temperatures versus day time temperatures. You get your knowledge from WUWT, where actual data analysis (which Watts either cannot do himself, or does not want to do) frequently shows the original claims to be very wrong.

    Oh, and expect McIntyre’s analysis to drop to the floor quite soon. Briffa does not even have to do much extra work:
    http://delayedoscillator.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/yamal-emulation-ii-divergence/
    http://delayedoscillator.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/yamal-emulation-i/
    Does YAD06 have problems? Perhaps, but McIntyre’s analysis makes it *worse* and he does not even test his Khadyta series for potential problems. Which, as shown in the two links above, there VERY clearly are.

    Finally, journals always have plenty of qualifiers with their requirements to publish data. Science did not even require it until 2007, so why anyone would complain about Briffa not publishing the data from his 2000 paper (the data wasn’t his in the first place!) is beyond me.

  41. Marco @ 55,
    Well maybe Stoat as well but similar cred.
    Since you mention Vincent Gray, he has been a reviewer of the IPCC since its inception and has called for it to be abolished because the data collections and the scientific methods employed are unsound and the IPCC resists all efforts to try to discuss or rectify these problems. [where have we heard that before]

    Claiming that a PhD in physical chemistry is not qualified to make that claim after his personal experiences with the IPCC is not rational.

  42. @spangled drongo:
    Vincent Gray just used the possibilities given by the IPCC: anyone can sign up to be a reviewer, there is NO requirement to be an expert, all you need to do is to sign a legal statement that you will not disclose the contents of the report before the final report has been published. That’s it.

    And how does a PhD in Physical Chemistry make someone an expert in climate science? All it means is that he has a PhD in a field of science of which certain elements are being used in climate science. His own area of expertise isn’t, that’s in the chemistry of coal…

    Of course, the best way to show how ‘scientific’ Vincent Gray is, is to look at his comments to the IPCC reports. They invariably are *opinions*, making baseless accusations.
    For example, this comment of Gray to the latest IPCC report:
    “You have to face it. No model has ever successfully forecast any future climate in quantitative terms. It is surely because they incorporate only one of the many influences on the climate, increases in greenhouse gases. Why should any of us believe them?”
    is an absolute lie, since ALL models contain a wide variety of factors known to affect the climate.
    Sadly, the document showing all comments (with over half those of Vincent Gray) is no longer online. You’d see for yourself how this PhD makes a mockery of his education.

  43. This specific data wasn’t even Briffa’s, and thus it was not up to him to publish the data

    This is what McIntyre said on the topic. I’ve yet to see it refuted.

    I am very grateful to the editors of Phil Trans B (Roy Soc) – at long last, a journal editor stood up to CRU, requiring Briffa to archive supporting data. They actually asked Briffa to archive the data last year. He asked for further time. When I looked earlier this year, it was still unarchived. However, when I looked again a few days ago, it had finally been archived (without anyone at CRU having the courtesy to inform me that they had rectified the situation.)

    http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=7142#more-7142

  44. Marco [59],

    Gray, McKitrick, McIntyre and many other reasonable, normal people as reviewers had the same complaint that the IPCC’s unsound scientific practices and their resistance to even discuss them let alone do anything were farcical.
    Coming to this decision was not difficult and did not require the ultimate in climate science qualifications.

  45. The refutation of “6. Because what is happening now is within the realms of natural variability, we can’t say that humans are contributing to climate change.” relies on the refutation of “9. Climate models are unreliable”, which, if you look at the site is very weak, eg:

    No-one claims that climate models are perfect, but they are based on sound science and have been able to replicate past observations to a good degree of accuracy and have also anticipated effects such as the global cooling effects resulting from major volcanic eruptions such as Mt Agung in Bali in 1963[59] and Mt Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991,[60] as well as the more recent partial offsetting of the effects of rising greenhouse gas levels by natural internal variability.[61]

    I can model the effects of major volcanic eruptions with a simple first-order feedback model, but that wouldn’t make it a good climate model. And the climate models are known to be almost completely deficient in their modeling of clouds, to pick one example.

    Parris’ efforts have more to do with cheerleading than actual careful assessment of the state of our scientific understanding.

  46. @Adrian Ashfield:
    I see you merely repeat the same argumentation of Watts. Even when data analysis shows you wrong, say “but the pictures show it can’t be true”.

    Why don’t you ask Watts to show you the trend in temperature anomaly of all stations labelled “good” versus the trend in those stations not labelled “good”?

  47. Marco, re #66, you are missing the point. There should be no need to make “adjustments” to the temperature record, particularly when this leaves doubt whether it has been done in an unbiased fashion. We are looking for fractions of a degree and to do this well it is necessary to have accurate instrumentation and good time records.

    The pictures do indeed show large errors are not just likely, but certain. You may not want to believe your own eyes, when you don’t like what you see, but you should. What I see is a tendency to lower earlier temperatures rather than lowering the more recent ones, skewing the real rate of change. An accurate record of regional temperatures may be important too, and you can’t get those from one “adjusted” temperature for the country.

  48. Adrian, first of all you do not show there are errors in temperatures. Second, even if that were the case an error in temperature does not matter very much, as long as it is a systematic error (whether up or down). It’s all about the *change* in temperatures over time. And as long as Watts’ surfacestations project keeps showing that there is no difference in trend between the “good” stations and the rest, all your (and Watts’) brouhaha about pictures supposedly showing ‘errors’ are worth exactly zilch.

  49. Adrian, once again you show me a good example of not answering the question. The trend analysis has shown that Watts’ diatribes about poor stations don’t matter. Watts never did that analysis, either because he can’t, or because he has found out that it doesn’t matter. All he can is claim “fraud” by using one example of one station, in which he claims the homogenisation procedure is meant to get a higher warming.

    The fact you so blindly follow him makes it clear to me you simply don’t WANT to trust anyone who shows it’s warming using well-established and described scientific procedures. No need for further discussion, I would get more useful feedback from a brick wall…

  50. MArco,

    If you really think 33 detailed temperature records of different surface stations equals one, and can’t understand the way the temperatures have been adjusted to show a greater rise over the last century, there is no point in having further discussion.

  51. I thought this was interesting after the comments on surface station accuracy.

    “What if I just took the top 10% of stable thermometers? The best of the best? Those thermometers that have been tended for a hundred years plus by dedicated folks of great passion (or it would not have been done for the last 100+ years…)?

    If you told me that the average thermometer reading for a given month for the planet would not change by more than a couple of 1/10 C over 150 years I would not have believed it possible.”

    Ref http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/gistemp-quartiles-of-age-bolus-of-heat/

  52. There are just too many instances where the IPCC and the scientists involved have been caught out peddling statements that are subsequently proven to be incorrect, and/or deliberately designed to mislead.

    The IPCC should have been establishing ground rules for the quality of the science that it would accept for review including that the peer revewed papers had been submitted in accordance best practice standards, and that all data and files had been released for external scutiny and validation before they could be considered.

    The fact that Briffa has now also been caught out and that the hockey stick slides further into disrepute is a reflection on the whole process, and all those involved. It may not invalidate the hypothesis but it sure does cast a bad light over the ethical and professional standards of the whole game.

    As for Brett Parris work for World Vision Australia, it is not surprising that a graduate in theology feels comfortable about writing about another “we are doomed unless we repent” religion.

    One cannot help but be cynical.

  53. . Just a quick question if I may. Firstly let me add support to the technological bent to this site. If nothing else I think oil and coal are far too valuable to use for boiling water, so bring on the IFRs. You have my vote. Not a climate scientist, but I have meddled with datasets, some statistics, some computer models, and some EE as part of Statistical Process Control. In the back and forth of these arguments I am compelled to look at graphs (very pretty) from both camps that SHOW it’s getting [WARMER|COOLER|SAME]. If an old engineer can ponder a question, given today, in the 21st century, we can purchase or build a digital thermometer with the said specifications:

    “An LED digital thermometer with an operating range between 0°C and 150°C, 1°C resolution, and ±0.4°C accuracy is presented in the figure. This design is based on the PIC16F872 microcontroller. Because a software routine handles all tasks, an external ADC and decoders aren’t required. A National Semiconductor LM35 temperature sensor gives the circuit a high linearity and low percentage error of the sensed temperature.

    Output from the LM35 is connected to an LM6134 op amp, which is configured as a noninverting amplifier with a gain of 2. This gain serves to adjust the sensor’s resolution (V/°C) to the microcontroller’s ADC. Because only 8 bits of the ADC are used, the resolution is 20 mV.

    The ADC’s reference voltages, V+ and V−, are VDD and ground, respectively. Software in the microcontroller performs several functions, such as ADC operation, conversion from BCD to seven segments, overflow, and out-of-range detection. Register ADCON1 configures the reference voltages and the ADC’s analog input.

    Five typical temperature measurements are described in the table. Notice that the 8-bit reading from the ADC is converted to a BCD format that corresponds to the real sensed temperature. A software subroutine then converts the BCD reading to a seven-segment format to directly drive the LED display. Port RB drives the units digit, while Port RC drives the tens digit. The microcontroller’s output lines, RC7 and RB7, control the hundreds digit.

    The following description is based on the software listing, found at http://www.elecdesign.com

    Now, that modern digital thermometer, right out of the box, in a known location can offer an accuracy of ±0.4°C. If in a cluster of 10-20…100 as used in Statistical Process Control procedures (used in manufacturing), then these instruments need to be strictly calibrated to offer statistically significant results from collected data sets.

    Part one of my question revolves around you charts dating back to 1900. Are they supposed to be indicative of MEASURED data sets? If so, how many different technologies were used in the collection of the data,and what would be an approximation of the range of error?

    How is the calibration calculated over a (presumeably tens of thousands) large number of devices over a number of technologies over a time lapse of a century or more.

    Or are the squiggly lines made up? Not being a smart aleck. Just when someone showns me numbers, I like to know when, where and how they were collected.

    Which brings me to the second part of my question regarding the scope of a ‘global’ temperature. How many locations were considered a ‘global’ data set in 1900 and what were the locations? Again for 1950. 1970. And since the advent of sat. microwave in the mid 70s. How does the (presumed) shape of these data sets, changing over time, affect the overall validity of a ‘mean of means’ over the same period. Given the change in the sample size and the sample location, what would be a fair estimate at a range of error?

    Given that I am a little curious as to parts 1. and 2., what would be the cumulative range of error over the t-series proposed?

    These questions have probably been asnswered in the past, so a reference will suffice if anyone is kind enough.

    Regards,
    Mark.

  54. From the list:

    “It should be remembered then, that when critics spurn climate models as ‘voodoo science’, asserting that the sensitivity of the climate to a doubling of CO2 is just 1ºC or less, they must be implicitly adopting a climate model which either ignores all feedback effects, or which presumes that the feedbacks cancel out. To say anything about the effects of greenhouse gases on climate, there is no alternative but to use some kind of model – and any model that arbitrarily assumes either that there are no feedback effects or that they all cancel out, is scientifically unjustifiable.”

    Fair enough. I have heard comment that the models in use always regard cloud as a positive feedback and that the feedback is over estimated. Is there a way to access the algorithms/weightings used in the model runs so a person can examine them themselves?

    Regards,
    Mark.

  55. From the list:

    “15. CO2 is not a pollutant – it is completely natural and essential for life.

    Misleading. In general, whether something is a pollutant or not depends not on whether it is natural, but whether its concentration has increased sufficiently to adversely affect an ecosystem or human or animal health.”

    Agreed. To a point. If something natural happens, perhaps a super-volcanic eruption, it would be rather bad news, but could the particulate matter, gasses, be described as pollution or just rotten luck?

    ” Manure is natural and highly beneficial as a fertilizer on fields – but only up to a certain point.”

    Unsure why we took that little scatological meander, but anyway…

    “Even at current concentrations CO2 is already a pollutant, adversely affecting human and natural systems.”

    That’s the bit that worries me. It is an assertion. What exactly is being adversley affected? And how? And by how much?

    And I think this next bit falls quite well into the category of a ‘Strawman’ argument’.

    “Those who make this argument often also imply that greenhouse gases in general aren’t pollutants. In doing so, they ignore the other main greenhouse gases released by human activities like CH4 (methane) and N2O (nitrous oxide), plus around 60 other gases under the broad categories of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons), HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), PFCs (perfluorinated compounds) such as SF6 (sulfur hexafluoride), fluorinated ethers, perfluoropolyethers, halocarbons and other various other compounds.[104] Many of these synthetic gases are extremely potent greenhouse gases and contribute significantly to the overall human influence on the climate.”

    And what is the difference between a duck.

    The assertion was that CO2 is essential for life. And it is. No one is going to dispute that CO2 + H20 and photons form the basis of the food chain on this planet are they?

    Regards,
    Mark.

  56. My brain hurts … and I keep returing to the very first figure showing anomaly for various forcers.

    Why is the anomaly senstivity for anthropogenic forcing 6 times that for solar irradiance (0.6/Wm-2 cf 0.1/Wm-2)?

    How would Joe Public understand/accept this?

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