Clearing up the climate debate

The Conversation is a recently established website set up to provide an independent source of information, analysis and commentary from the Australian university and research sector. Over the last few weeks, a group of climate scientists and academics from other relevant disciplines, have been running a series at The Conversation on ‘climate change scepticism’. I’ve been involved with a group, lead by Steve Lewandowsky from UWA and Megan Clement from The Conversation, that initiated and organised the concept for this series, and the result has been some terrific articles published by folks like Karl Braganza (BoM), James Risbey (CSIRO), Ian Enting (Univ Melb) and many others. You can browse the full listing of 13 articles here.

I was a co-signatory of the lead article, Climate change is real: an open letter from the scientific community, and also the concluding piece. I reproduce the latter, below (for the original posting at The Conversation, click here).

The false, the confused and the mendacious: how the media gets it wrong on climate change

The Conversation wraps up Clearing up the Climate Debate with a statement from our authors: the debate is over. Let’s get on with it.

Over the past two weeks The Conservation has highlighted the consensus of experts that climate change caused by humans is both real and poses a serious risk for the future.

We have also revealed the deep flaws in the conduct of so-called climate “sceptics” who largely operate outside the scientific context.

But to what extent is the “science settled”? Is there any possibility that the experts are wrong and the deniers are right?

Certainty in science

If you ask a scientist whether something is “settled” beyond any doubt, they will almost always reply “no”.

Nothing is 100% certain in science.

So how certain is climate science? Is there a 50% chance that the experts are wrong and that the climate within our lifetimes will be just fine? Or is there a 10% chance that the experts are wrong? Or 1%, or only 0.0001%?

The answer to these questions is vital because if the experts are right, then we must act to avert a major risk.

Dropping your phone

Suppose that you lose your grip on your phone. Experience tells us that the phone will fall to the ground.

You drop a phone, it falls down.

Fact.

Science tells us that this is due to gravity, and no one doubts its inevitability.

However, while science has a good understanding of gravity, our knowledge is only partial. In fact, physicists know that at a very deep level our theory of gravity is inconsistent with quantum mechanics, so one or both will have to be modified.

We simply don’t know for sure how gravity works.

But we still don’t jump off bridges, and you would be pretty silly to drop your phone onto a concrete floor in the hope that gravity is wrong.

Climate change vs. gravity: Greater complexity, comparable certainty

Our predictions of climate change aren’t as simple as the action of gravity on a dropped phone.

The Earth is a very complex system: there are natural effects like volcanoes, and variations in the sun; there are the vagaries of the weather; there are complicating factors such as clouds, and how ice responds; and then there are the human influences such as deforestation and CO₂ emissions.

But despite these complexities, some aspects of climate science are thoroughly settled.

We know that atmospheric CO₂ is increasing due to humans. We know that this CO₂, while being just a small fraction of the atmosphere, has an important influence on temperature.

We can calculate the effect, and predict what is going to happen to the earth’s climate during our lifetimes, all based on fundamental physics that is as certain as gravity.

The consensus opinion of the world’s climate scientists is that climate change is occurring due to human CO₂ emissions. The changes are rapid and significant, and the implications for our civilisation may be dire. The chance of these statements being wrong is vanishingly small.

Scepticism and denialism

Some people will be understandably sceptical about that last statement. But when they read up on the science, and have their questions answered by climate scientists, they come around.

These people are true sceptics, and a degree of scepticism is healthy.

Other people will disagree with the scientific consensus on climate change, and will challenge the science on internet blogs and opinion pieces in the media, but no matter how many times they are shown to be wrong, they will never change their opinions.

These people are deniers.

The recent articles in The Conversation have put the deniers under the microscope. Some readers have asked us in the comments to address the scientific questions that the deniers bring up.

This has been done.

Not once. Not twice. Not ten times. Probably more like 100 or a 1000 times.

Denier arguments have been dealt with by scientists, again and again and again.

But like zombies, the deniers keep coming back with the same long-falsified and nonsensical arguments.

The deniers have seemingly endless enthusiasm to post on blogs, write letters to editors, write opinion pieces for newspapers, and even publish books. What they rarely do is write coherent scientific papers on their theories and submit them to scientific journals. The few published papers that have been sceptical about climate change have not withstood the test of time.

The phony debate on climate change

So if the evidence is this strong, why is there resistance to action on climate change in Australia?

At least two reasons can be cited.

First, as The Conversation has revealed, there are a handful of individuals and organizations who, by avoiding peer review, have engineered a phony public debate about the science, when in fact that debate is absent from the one arena where our scientific knowledge is formed.

These individuals and organisations have so far largely escaped accountability.

But their free ride has come to an end, as the next few weeks on The Conversation will continue to show. The second reason, alas, involves systemic failures by the media.

Systemic media failures arise from several presumptions about the way science works, which range from being utterly false to dangerously ill-informed to overtly malicious and mendacious.

The false

Let’s begin with what is merely false. A tacit presumption of many in the media and the public is that climate science is a brittle house of cards that can be brought down by a single new finding or the discovery of a single error.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Climate science is a cumulative enterprise built upon hundreds of years of research. The heat-trapping properties of CO₂ were discovered in the middle of the 19th century, pre-dating even Sherlock Holmes and Queen Victoria.

The resulting robust knowledge will not be overturned by a single new finding.

A further false presumption of the media is that scientific opinions must somehow be balanced by an opposing view. While balance is an appropriate conversational frame for the political sphere, it is wholly inappropriate for scientific issues, where what matters isthe balance of evidence, not opinion.

At first glance, one might be tempted to forgive the media’s inappropriate inclusion of unfounded contrarian opinions, given that its function is to stimulate broad debate in which, ideally, even exotic opinions are given a voice.

But the media by and large do not report the opinions of 9/11 “truthers” who think that the attacks were an “inside job” of the Bush administration. The media also do not report the opinion of people who believe Prince Phillip runs the world’s drug trade. The fact that equally outlandish pseudo-scientific nonsense about climate science can be sprouted on TV by a cat palmist is evidence not of an obsession with balance but of a striking and selective failure of editorial responsibility.

What is needed instead of the false symmetry implied by “balance” is what the BBC calls impartiality – fact-based reporting that evaluates the evidence and comes to a reality-based conclusion.

The dangerously ill-formed

An example of a dangerously ill-informed opinion on how science works is the widely propagated myth that scientists somehow have a “vested interest”, presumably financial, in climate change. This myth has been carefully crafted by deniers to create a chimerical symmetry between their own ties to political and economic interests and the alleged “vested interests” of scientists.

In actual fact, climate scientists have as much vested interest in the existence of climate change as cancer researchers do in the existence of the human papilloma virus (HPV).

Cancer researchers are motivated by the fact that cervical cancer kills, and the scientists who developed the HPV vaccine did so to save lives, not to get their grants renewed.

Climate scientists are likewise motivated by the fact that climate change kills 140,000 people per year right at this very moment, according to the World Health Organization.

The scientists who have been alerting the public of this risk for nearly 20 years did so to save lives, not to get their grants renewed.

Climate scientists are being motivated by the realisation that humanity has got itself into serious trouble with climate change, and it will need the best scientific advice to navigate a solution.

As scientists, we ask not for special consideration by the media, but simply for the same editorial responsibility and quality control that is routinely applied to all other arenas of public discourse.

Selective failure of quality control and editorial responsibility when it comes to climate change presents a grave public disservice.

The malicious

Finally, no truthful analysis of the Australian media landscape can avoid highlighting the maliciousness of some media organisations, primarily those owned by Newscorp, which are cartoonish in their brazen serial distortion of scientists and scientific findings.

Those organisation have largely escaped accountability to date, and we believe that it is a matter of urgency to expose their practice.

For example, it is not a matter of legitimate editorial process to misrepresent what experts are telling Newscorp reporters — some of whom have been known to apologize to scientists in advance and off the record for their being tasked to return from public meetings, not with an actual news story but with scathing statements from the handful of deniers in the audience.

It is not a matter of legitimate editorial process to invert the content of scientific papers.

It is not a matter of legitimate editorial process to misrepresent what scientists say.

It is not a matter of legitimate editorial process to prevent actual scientists from setting the record straight after the science has been misrepresented.

None of those sadly common actions are compatible with legitimate journalistic ethics, and they should have no place in a knowledge economy of the 21st century.

The very fact that society is wracked by a phony debate where there is none in the scientific literature provides strong evidence that the Australian media has tragically and thoroughly failed the Australian public.

———————-

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, Australian Professorial Fellow, UWA

Professor Michael Ashley, Professor of Astrophysics, UNSW

Prof. Michael Archer,  Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, UNSW

Professor Barry Brook, University of Adelaide

Professor Ian Enting, University of Melbourne

Professor David Karoly, University of Melbourne

Prof Mike Sandiford, Professor of Geology, Director of the Melbourne Energy Institute

Professor Malcolm Walter, Director, Australian Centre for Astrobiology, UNSW

Professor John Wiseman, University of Melbourne

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92 Comments

  1. At last, but why is it only in Australia that this debate still rages. Can it be attributed to the media ownership here? Can it be attributed to the failure of Australian intellectuals to get to grips with both the media ownership, and need to explain the scientific method in simple terms to the general population? Why has the debate become so rancorous, so poisonous? Why has this topic become so politicised, as with the refugee question?

  2. Deena, to answer your questions, I’d suggest you follow the money.

    Who holds the most wealth in western nations, particularly the US & Australia? Who has the most influence in what the media reports? Who funds ‘think tanks’ to produce reports casting doubt on climate science?
    Who stands to lose the most if the world weans itself off fossil fuels?
    The biggest funders of these disinformation campaigns that I know of are ExxonMobil & the Koch companies (with enormous investments in coal).

    It’s certainly not only in Australia that this debate rages – the US is, in some respects, even worse. Pretty much every Republican politician there has declared that climate change is not happening, or that there should be no effort made to combat it. A fair few Democrats have done likewise. Almost in direct proportion to the campaign donations & lobbying spending by fossil fuel industries.

    Curiously, I found this page on the GE website. Despite promoting natural gas, this visualisation points out that at current growth rates of extraction, we’ve only got 40 years’ supply of all three major fossil fuels – oil, gas, and coal. And yet energy companies are fighting tooth & nail against any alternative source of energy. Talking about wanting to drive off a cliff in order to make a buck…

  3. no truthful analysis of the Australian media landscape can avoid highlighting the maliciousness of some media organisations, primarily those owned by Newscorp, which are cartoonish in their brazen serial distortion of scientists and scientific findings.

    This could be modified by replacing ‘Australian’,with ‘UK’, or ‘US’ and probably other countries as well and remain as true.

  4. Barry,

    Here is what you said: “We know that atmospheric CO₂ is increasing due to humans.”

    OK, that hypothesis seems to have a high probability of being correct.

    Then: ” We know that this CO₂, while being just a small fraction of the atmosphere, has an important influence on temperature.”

    While I agree that there is an influence, can you prove that it is “Important”?

    And then: “We can calculate the effect, and predict what is going to happen to the earth’s climate during our lifetimes, all based on fundamental physics that is as certain as gravity.”

    Really? Then please share your predictions with the unenlightened masses, including this camel.

  5. LAME

    “Climate scientists are likewise motivated by the fact that climate change kills 140,000 people per year right at this very moment, according to the World Health Organization.”

    Ah, climate scientists are altruists, motivated by their desires to help others… all those who disagree, they are the real bad guys! Now that is an original position.

    I checked this figure and found it was reported as150000 deaths (what happened to the other 10000?) I was very disappointed to discover these death figures were not peer reviewed. Furthermore, reading a bit further, these ‘anecdotal deaths’ were far more closely related to lack of education than heat. We are supposed to believe that thousands of children died due to lack of hydration in Europe? Come on now! People in Europe dropping dead by the thousands in a heat wave? Give me a break. Are they morons? Do you really expect an educated world to believe this nonsense?

    Maybe Europeans need to learn that it is cooler in the shade, or under the porch. Maybe they should stop rioting in the streets for more government benefits on the sunny days and spend a bit more time either in school, or reading a Boy Scout Manual.

    Here is one article from a pretty lame source for any one with firing synapses who has finished the above article and wants to read something about these WHO stats.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2003/dec/12/climatechange.climatechangeenvironment

    How many lives are “saved” each year by warmer climates? (deleted unsubstantiated personal opinion – please support your scientific contentions with refs as per BNC Comments Policy.)
    Thank God for the Skeptics!

    Semper Gumby,

    Joe Rooney
    Ardsley, PA
    (Deleted potentially libellous personal opinion on another individual.)

  6. Well,Barry,you were right.The usual and not so usual deniers were ready to jump on you from a great height even at this early stage of the commentary.

    Yes,Joseph Rooney,thank God for the sceptics.They make organic idiots look sane by comparison which can only help the understanding of mental illness.

  7. something major like half of the antartic ice shelf breaking off and flooding the resorts of the big oil people and all the politicians they have working for them will not cause a change in the denier`s thinking about climate change. we are using mother earth up,and greed is the reason. thank you.

  8. Pingback: 2009 World Health Organization report | Lenz Blog

  9. The weak point in your post is the name-calling (“denier”, “zombies”, “nonsensical arguments”, “pseudo-scientific nonsense”).

    This language is not appropriate when arguing from a position of strength. It adds nothing substantial to the argument, but gives the other side an opening to complain about your style. It certainly won’t help convincing someone not already on your side.

    Most interesting was for me the link to the WHO report on the estimate of 140.000 deaths a year from global meltdown already.

    While it would be nice if your first sentence was true (“the debate is over”), I rather doubt that. If it was, you would not need to write that post. And the “Newscorp” media won’t stop publishing any time soon in Australia.

  10. @Joseph Rooney:

    1) Are scientists altruists? I can’t speak for all, but I can for myself. I am not an altruist, I do work to pay the bills, and I chose my subject because I have a passion for it. However, I do feel I am in a position to positively contribute to the human race and its knowledge, which does motivate me.

    2) Attributing anything to climate change is a tricky bussiness. However, we can see some effects, for an example, look at this article: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673606680793
    (Sorry, I skimmed it, I have work to do :p )

    Regarding the lethality of heat-waves…denying this is ridiculous. It is not a matter of being to dumb to get in the shade (I love how you manage to stereotype Europeans as dumb in the process). High temperatures add stress to the human body, as anybody who has experienced temperatures higher than 30 C can tell you, which causes an increased number of deaths.

  11. Barry,

    Rather than admit you can’t answer my questions you imply that my education that is lacking.

    Probably I understand the physics better than you as that is my specialty.

    When you invoke history to support your case you are on a sticky wicket. Historians and archaeologists have produced ample evidence that there have been several warm periods in the recent past that were warmer than today.

    This is your blog and because I strongly support what you are trying to do (and you personally), it is not worth making a big fuss even when you make outrageous statements.
    MODERATOR
    This is not an Open Thread – you need to supply peer-reviewed references to support your contentions. Further violations of this commenting rule will be deleted.

  12. Actually, GC, the ball is definitely in your court. Barry has pointed you toward a website detailing the past 187 years (or thereabouts) of climate science, along with a pointer to a well-regarded text on modern climate science.

    The onus is on you to demonstrate why the acknowledged experts in climatology have gotten it completely wrong.

    Including exactly what evidence you may have that there are ‘warm periods in the recent past that were warmer than today’. There’s certainly none out there that I know of (I like the one about grapes growing in England… it’s not like they, you know, grow grapes in Sweden or Norway these days or anything… )

    But this post seems offtopic, so I wont be surprised if it gets moderated out of existence…

  13. GC,
    You are effectively making claims about the climate, equivalent in their egregiousness to ‘the Earth is flat’ and then expecting to be taken seriously. You now have to prove your case. To expect others to prove you wrong is naive and incredibly rude.

  14. Hi Barry, thanks for this post.

    It is interesting that there are relatively few responses. There is hardly anything new to say.

    I don’t like using names. I like to talk about those who do not believe that there is a significant risk from anthropogenic climate change/global warming. My questions to such people are:

    Why have you come to this conclusion?
    Why are you sure that there is no risk from continued burning of fossil fuels?
    What is the level of risk?
    Is there a more realistic computer model projection than those published by the IPCC?

    No one I have asked has given an answer to why they think the way they do. They like to debate. Debate is about perception management and influencing opinion. Computer models and the IPCC are soft targets for such debates, but they do not give a reason why we can discount the risk.

    The rhetoric of those with this extreme bias is exactly what one would expect if there was no case for ignoring the risk. They deal with semantics and philosophical arguments about the null hypothesis, as if a hypothesis exists in a vacuum such that one can ignore atmospheric physics. They like to present something about their area of expertise to establish some credential and use bluff to dare somebody to contradict them.

    I think it is important to think about what the situation would be like if climate change science was just a giant conspiracy.

    One possibility is that dissenting scientists would be highlighting the flaws in the physics of global warming that are being ignored by the consensus. They would at least provide an alternative approach to the science. If these have happened, I have missed them.

    Of those scientists using computer models somebody at some time would have found that they could run a stable computer model with negligible effect from anthropogenic emissions. If only one or two were able to do this, these models would become well known. They would also be easy to defend the case for taking such models seriously. They would be in great demand and would be famous overnight. They would become the heroes of the energy industry and would be able to become international witnesses on international committees.

    Instead of distractions such as talking about proof and whether the science is settled, the focus of dissenting scientists would be on how to more accurately assess the risk.

    In the last week I looked at a book by Prof RM Carter called “Climate: The Counter-consensus – a Scientist Speaks.” This was published in 2010 and so should be current. After looking at this I became convinced that there was no reason why we should ignore the risk of anthropogenic warming.

    If there were a case, the dissenting scientists should present it to a world that wants to hear it. It is manifestly evident that such a case does not exist. We need to get on with stopping our dependence on fossil fuels immediately.

  15. “The weak point in your post is the name-calling (“denier”, “zombies”, “nonsensical arguments”, “pseudo-scientific nonsense”).

    This language is not appropriate when arguing from a position of strength. It adds nothing substantial to the argument, but gives the other side an opening to complain about your style. It certainly won’t help convincing someone not already on your side”

    I really understand the sentiment expressed, but disagree strongly. What we see here does not prevent scientists from doing the excellent and measured work they have done for years, expressed in calm and meausured language. It has been done this way for decades, with the result being what we have seen in Australia writ large especially over the last 6 months.

    This task is different. The state of climate denial has reached such ridiculous proportions that this is no longer a scientific matter, it is a communication matter, and scientists are as entitled as anyone to draw on plain language and colloquialisms to tackle a communication challenge. Otherwise they simply cannot win. There is actually no need to pretend that denialism is constantly deserving of respect when the point of view is patently vexatious, false and predicated on lies, and a media bloc has completely discharged itself of any sense of impartiality on such a critical issue. As the letter states, those genuinely sceptical can be approached calmly and respectfully with the science. I feel we are talking about something different here.

  16. GS it was a cheap shot to mention 2011 AD tornadoes with my defence being it is at least more observable than Greenland in 1100 AD.

    I see NOAA disavow any climate change connection and PhysOrg suggest the prevalence of trailer homes caused the death toll. However I think it should be stored in memory so if it happens again the ‘trailer home’ factor can be filtered out.

    We had something similar with the Queensland floods. There were ‘once in a century floods’ just months apart. To most people that seemed more than chance.

  17. @Decarbonise SA

    Of course scientists have the right to strong language. The question is if that adds to effectiveness of the message. I don’t think so. I am afraid that this does not help “to win”, but is rather helping the opponent.

    Calling people on the other side of this debate “deniers” and “zombies” is the equivalent of calling me an “alarmist” or a “warmist”. While it might feel good for the person doing it, it does not help get the message across to someone not already convinced in the first place.

    I agree completely that this is a matter of effective communication. I just don’t think that pounding the table is the most effective thing to to, especially in a situation where you have all the rational arguments on your side.

  18. I support the idea that mankind should stop burning fossil fuels to the greatest extent possible. Like so many here I believe the only approach that has a chance of working requires a rapid expansion of NPP capacity in the way we expanded shipping capacity during World War II.

    2,700 “Liberty Ships” were built in the USA in only four years which works out at more than two per day and each ship had a displacement of ~14,000 tonnes. We need to create the political will to implement a crash program of NPP construction and to do that we have to win the “Hearts and Minds” of the general public.

    I like the really radical ideas floated by Kirk Sorenson. He wants to put the NPPs in ships and send them wherever they are needed. It seems that ships ride out Tsunamis with relative ease and even if they go to the bottom there is plenty of water to keep the core cool. Given that so many large cities are at the water’s edge it might be a neat solution.

    Because I want Barry and his supporters to succeed, it pains me to see them devoting so much effort to the lost cause of CO2 induced climate change. These arguments have failed in the forum of public opinion and are being rejected by the courts in the USA as well as policy makers in many countries around the world including China, Brasil and India. Frankly, you can nail your colours to the mast in Australia and go your own way; nobody will notice and it won’t matter. Maintain your trust in the IPCC if you don’t mind being lonely.

    I could cite a hundred references but from past experience I have found little respect for sources that challenge the prevailing CAGW orthodoxy on this site. So here is just one:

    http://opinion.financialpost.com/2011/06/23/lawrence-solomon-supreme-skeptics/

    Remember that the Supremes voted 8-0 (Sotomajor recused herself) and the judgement was delivered by Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The Supremes recommended reading three authors, two who would be classified as “Deniers” on this site and one who would be treated with respect. Here is a link to one of the “Deniers” (Freeman Dyson) from the NYT on March 29,2009:

    http://solveclimatenews.com/news/20090329/ny-times-invents-climate-science-war

  19. I have three issues with this article (to avoid pointless attacks — I believe that the climate science is sound, with no greater issues than any other area of science has):
    1) The claims “Climate change vs. gravity: Greater complexity, comparable certainty” and “We can calculate the effect, and predict what is going to happen to the earth’s climate during our lifetimes, all based on fundamental physics that is as certain as gravity.” are incredibly arrogant and misleading. The current theory of gravity was tested numerous times to a great precision (and is being tested, see Gravity Probe B), and made some impressive nontrivial predictions.

    For climate, the magnitudes to which the various parts of the system affect the outcome are uncertain (and hard to measure in separation) and it is difficult to do experiments with it. As a result, the precision is much smaller (e.g., according to 2007 IPCC report, the climate sensitivity is between 2 and 4.5 degrees, but even that with quite a small confidence; these values hopefully got improved somewhat in the meantime). Now, the predictions based on assumed climate sensitivity 2 will be much different from those based on the value 4. Comparing this with our predictive abilities for gravity is just laughable and invites attacks (that are mostly irrelevant — but a more effective presentation would avoid this).

    2) The “140,000 deaths per year” figure, given as a sole motivation for climate scientists. Most of this comes from the increase in the number of deaths due to hunger and various diseases. The total number of deaths for such reasons is more than 30 million (according to Wiki and the cited sources, rounded down). I find it implausible that it would be more important or cost-effective to fight the climate change than to fight hunger and diseases directly, and thus as a motivation for climate research, this sounds rather weak; especially since no other motivation is mentioned (what about just a curiosity regarding how the climate works??)

    3) The claim that “As scientists, we ask not for special consideration by the media, but simply for the same editorial responsibility and quality control that is routinely applied to all other arenas of public discourse.” I don’t think climate science is being treated in any special way. It is simply more prominent than other branches of science. If someone argues against some point of theory of gravity, he usually cares about it and knows a lot about it, so his arguments will not be a complete nonsense. On the other hand, nowadays everyone believes himself to be qualified to discuss the climate, which obviously means that a lot of nonsense is being published (on both sides of the debate — see e.g. the attempts to link isolated weather events to climate change). Any other similarly prominent area of science would face the same reception (see e.g. theory of evolution).

  20. > Solomon
    Solomon won’t help you understand the physics.

    The Court held against using public nuisance claims under federal common law to address CO2 issues — because the EPA is responsible for regulation of CO2. It’s not allowing creating a line of cases under public nuisance common law because EPA is already assessing how to regulate CO2.

    “The Court held that the Clean Air Act (and EPA regs authorized by the Act) displace the Federal common law cause of action. The Clean Air Act ‘provides a means to seek limits on emissions of carbon dioxide from domestic power plants—the same relief the plaintiffs seek by invoking federal common law. There is no room for a parallel track,’ the Court said in an opinion written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

    http://www.indianaenvironmentallaw.com/us-supreme-court/supreme-court-rejects-nuisance-claims-in-greenhouse-gas-case-american-electric-power

  21. GC,

    References to a decision in a court is hardly relevant to the question of whether we face a significant risk from anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Have the judges demonstrated an understanding of the science? Have they stated that they have considered the way water vapour amplifies the effect of other greenhouse gases? If not, they have not demonstrated they are qualified to address this question.

    AGW is not merely a hypothesis. It is a logical consequence of the obvious facts of the amount of carbon dioxide emissions and atmospheric physics. There needs to be an obvious reason for rejecting such a logical outcome. In spite of prompts asking for such reasons, they are not provided by you or anyone else.

    We need to start asking the right questions in order to get meaningful answers.

    GC, why don’t you simply tell us why you think carbon dioxide induced climate change invalid, or are you just saying it is difficult to sell?

  22. @Karl Freidrick-Lenz, a simple matter for us to agree to disagree at this point and watch and learn from the outcome of this process. For the record though I don’t like what I read because it made me feel good. I like it because I think Australians, who like it or not tune into the charismatic blatherings of Monckton or the bizarre sound bytes of Plimer, will find it a highly refreshing change of pace from the side of the argument,that may have accepted that they are actually in a street fight whether they want one or not.

  23. GC,

    I like your point about the US building 2700 ships in four years; something similar needs to happen with nuclear power to have any change of avoiding exceedingly dangerous climate change. It is possible to replace the use of coal, gas and oil. To win the hearts and minds I think the global community needs to face the reality of AGW and start thinking about how to address it as a matter of the greatest urgency.

    I reject your criticism that this site does not respect other opinions. Opinions are respected if they have substance. Nevertheless, I cannot conceive of an approach that would provide a serious challenge to the threat of AGW. Many of us have been waiting for one to be articulated.

    If selling the issue is a lost cause, so is the future of the next generation or two – even in the developed world. We simply cannot afford to just give up due to poor odds due to misrepresentation in adversarial politics and media obsession with contests.

    BTW, what does the C stand for in CAGW?

  24. Decarbonise SA, on 25 June 2011 at 9:53 AM said:

    This task is different. The state of climate denial has reached such ridiculous proportions that this is no longer a scientific matter, it is a communication matter, and scientists are as entitled as anyone to draw on plain language and colloquialisms to tackle a communication challenge.

    Hear, hear. Couldn’t agree more.

  25. > what does the C stand for in CAGW?

    Carbon.

    “Say What?
    “The people on this commission are going to be people who know something about coal, oil, shale oil, natural gas, and they will be people whose businesses or individuals who have been abused by the EPA….like Shell Oil. I’m going to ask the CEO of Shell Oil would he like to be on this commission, and give me some recommendations.”
    — Herman Cain on who he would appoint to a ‘regulatory reduction commission’ which would figure out which EPA regulations should be eliminated (Quoted at today’s Doonesbury comic strip page)

  26. Deena, on 24 June 2011 at 1:16 PM said:

    At last, but why is it only in Australia that this debate still rages.

    The debate rages everywhere energy security and ‘action on climate’ don’t coincide.

    If Western Europe doesn’t cut fossil fuel use they will end up hopelessly dependent of Russian Oil, Russia Coal and Russian natural gas. Hence there is very little debate on the need to trim fossil fuel use. Climate is just one of many reasons.

    In Australia and the US we have great big piles of coal, from which we could make oil or natural gas in a pinch.(The Germans did it in WWII).
    We also have large agricultural exports which we could turn into fuel as well.

    ‘Action on Climate’ has to stand the scrutiny of being the ‘only reason’ to trim fossil fuel use in the US and Australia.

  27. @GC Good analogy of liberty ship build in WW2 and Nuke plants potential build now. As you know the ships were built in response to a clear and present danger. The same holds for a rapid roll out of NPP s now.

    BTW, I find the EPA route to wrestle with CO2 belchers in th USA very interesting. They managed to neutralize acid rain in the 70’s with, of all things , an emissions trading scheme !! Go EPA I say. Perhaps one of our american contributors could write a guest post about it ?

  28. @Hank Roberts
    I thought that the C in CAGW stood for Catastophic not Carbon.
    It is a term concocted by “deniers”, supposedly to belittle those sensible folk who, because of rising CO2 levels, are seriously worried about the future of the planet and those who dwell on it.

  29. Robert Lawrence,
    The way to make progress is to work together by finding areas of agreement rather disagreement. This site is about “Solutions” so it appeals to people who want to solve real world problems. Small government people (e.g. this camel) can get along with Marxists (I won’t mention names), united by a common cause.

    BNC is at its best when promoting innovative reactor design and a macro energy policy based on nuclear fission. You appeal to a broad and growing swathe of the public of every shade of political opinion when you concentrate on that.

    This thread makes the BNC “Tent” smaller by repelling the growing number of people who reject the CAGW concept. (Deleted violations of the citation rule – please supply refs to support your assertions/personal opinions on scientific matters or re-post on an Open Thread which does not require refs.)

    The greatest damage to the CAGW cause was done by the global economic down turn that makes it difficult for first world countries to raise taxes to fix problems that many respected scientists including Freeman Dyson and Richard Lindzen regard as greatly exaggerated.

    You are right to question the scientific qualifications of the 9 members of SCOTUS but remember that they have great power and they are quite resistant to coercion (except when the president is FDR).

  30. unclepete,
    It is highly unlikely that the USA will go for the ship mounted NPP idea but the Russians are already working on it. It is a major export opportunity for them.

    With regard to the EPA and acid rain, SO2 is a particularly obnoxious substance. Do you have any information on how much is of natural origin compared to the man made contribution?

  31. MODERATOR
    Hank – BNC has a policy of not allowing posting of links without proper commentary. The policy is as follows:
    CITING LITERATURE AND OTHER SOURCES: appropriate and interesting citations and links within comments are welcomed, but please DO NOT cite material that you have not yourself read, digested and understood. As a general rule, please introduce any and every link or reference with a short description of the material, your judgement on its quality, and the specific reason you are including it (i.e. how it is relevant to the discussion).

  32. Thanks Camel for an interesting response.

    I am not sure it is up to us to decide what this website is about. My impression has been that Barry has been keeping the range of discussion quite broad. If the only subject was on nuclear power and its implementation, I would leave it entirely to others to discuss. I only really know what is on my agenda: I am concerned about a worthwhile future for this planet, both for humanity and for nature. I want my children and any children they might have, to have a sustainable quality of life. I hope this is what I have in common with others who communicate on this site, and I think this is embodies what we all have in common.

    I think we need firstly to agree on what are the right questions to ask. By ‘we’ I mean not just readers of this blog, but all inhabitants on this planet. Communication such as on this blog is heading in the right direction towards meaningful informed discussion of the real issues, unlike the agenda of politicians and the media. The way this site is moderated makes it worth reading. With other sites there is too much unsubstantiated reactionary and inflammatory material to wade through to find thoughtful posts.

    I think the real solutions begin in the realm of meaningful communication. I don’t believe that our future depends on strong leaders. It depends on addressing real issues. The conservation movement has no clearly identified leaders, except on a local scale perhaps. It is governed by common principles that are so obvious that they do not need to be stated or rehearsed.

    I think it is also a matter of perspective, rather than getting distracted in detail. It is strange to me to think in terms of evidence being weak or strong. The relevance of evidence is measured in relation to the scientific theoretical basis. Court cases have been lost when there are boxes and boxes of evidence demonstrating systematic disregard for the law. Amount of data is not a measure of relevance or accuracy. Sometimes there is more data than can be digested.

    What relevance is a hypothesis that climate change causes carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to change? Is this an independent hypothesis, or is this just a part of the basic understanding of climate science? My understanding of the CO2 concentration change following the climate change is on a much longer time scale than is relevant to our discussion. Isn’t this a case of getting things out of perspective?

    There is something I am missing in understanding your comments on the IPCC and WHO. Why are you talking about arguments and what is convincing or otherwise? Do we want to argue or to arrive at a consensus based on understanding of the issues? If somebody finds the assessments of the IPCC as unconvincing, there is an important issue to be identified. Why would people be so convinced of something different so that they need convincing? This gets back to the question I began with above. Why are people convinced that it is safe to overlook the risks of (Catastrophic) Anthropogenic Global Warming? What is on their agenda?

  33. @Camel
    You do realise that Professor Brook holds the Chair of Climate Change at Adelaide University don’t you?
    Of course BNC promotes the latest research and information on Climate Change. There would be no BNC if Barry didn’t agree with the vast majority of the worldwide scientific community on AGW. Nuclear power is discussed here as part of a solution to fixing the grave problem of climate change – as a means to an end – not as the primary topic – which is and always will be the scientific understanding of global warming.

  34. Dear Moderator, thank you for your diligence in deleting the answers I posted without citing the question, asked in the immediately preceding post, which they answer.

    The two citations that you deleted are reposted below in response to this question, which I will quote and cite:

    > Do you have any information on how much [SO2]* is of natural
    > origin compared to the man made contribution?

    The question is quoted from:

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/06/24/clearing-up-the-climate-debate/#comment-130398

    For “information on how much is of natural origin compared to the man made contribution” I first offered this link — it is a search string using the Google Scholar** search engine:

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=SO2+natural+anthropogenic

    Typically when a link is provided following a question, it may contain an answer to that question, as was the case here. What you will see there is a full page of papers with brief excerpts suggesting answers to the question.

    From that search, from the first page of results, I recommend as a starting point clicking on the link to this paper, from 2011 (again, click on the link to see the paper, as before):

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys.org/11/1101/2011/acp-11-1101-2011.pdf

    The title, as you will see once you click on the link, is:
    Anthropogenic sulfur dioxide emissions: 1850–2005
    This is promising, because it seems to suggest there may be an answer here to the question “Do you have any information ….?” asked.

    I recommend this paper because it does in fact answer the question whether there is “any information on how much is of natural origin compared to the man made contribution.”

    I do not give a simple brief quotation answering that question, because gallopingcamel will find there is no simple brief answer that can suffice; some reading is needed to get the ballpark estimate and range of uncertainty. This too is explained in the paper, although one versed in the methods of the physical sciences can be presumed to be familiar with these, I can cite them if you insist, but I hope you will consider this sufficient response, decid that I have sufficiently cited everything mentioned, and that you will allow this posting.
    ____
    * “it” refers to SO2; “SO2 is a particularly obnoxious substance.”
    quoted from:

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/06/24/clearing-up-the-climate-debate/#comment-130398

    ** Google Scholar is explained here:
    “Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: …”

    http://scholar.google.com/intl/en/scholar/about.html

    MODERATOR
    Thank you for being so gracious and re-posting in this format, which is what we are after and will help other blog participants to follow the thread more efficiently.

  35. @gallopingcamel : “… requires a rapid expansion of NPP capacity in the way
    … during World War II… 2,700 “Liberty Ships” were built ”

    The Liberty Ships were spectacularly cheaper than the one-of-a-kind shipbuildings before the war. Just how cheap they were is obscured by the central control of costs by a wartime administration. But the precedent is clear. One major factor in its success was the avoidance of systemic faults proliferated by mass production, by selecting a very conservative design proven over decades of tweaking since its origins in the 1880s.

    Something similar was actually proposed during the George W Bush years, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership , which entailed a mass rollout of fast neutron reactors to non-nuclear nations.

    One of the criticisms of the GNEP, I think it was in the letters section of Physics Today, said that there was no fast neutron design proven enough for a mass rollout.

    The Obama administration did not fund GNEP significantly, but we can hope it evolves as circumstances change.

  36. Hank Roberts,
    Thanks for your interesting comments on SO2. Let’s look forward to a discussion in relation to its effect on climate, although we are probably drifting “Off Topic” for this thread.

    Looking for information on natural sources, I found this:

    The emissions are pretty huge compared to the anthropogenic 150,000 tonnes per year and then there are the submarine volcanoes.

  37. > compared to the anthropogenic 150,000 tonnes per year
    Awaiting your citation. Where do you get this number?

    Compare whatever source you used with, for instance,
    Fig. 3 of the paper I suggested above. Here is that citation again:
    ACPD 10, 16111–16151, 2010
    Anthropogenic sulfur dioxide emissions: 1850–2005

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/10/16111/2010/acpd-10-16111-2010.pdf

    (If you misread gigagrams in that paper as tonnes, here’s a converter:
    http://www.unitconversion.org/weight/tonnes-to-gigagrams-conversion.html )

    > and then there are the submarine volcanoes
    Awaiting your citation.

    Do you believe submarine volcanoes have increased since we started burning fossil fuels?

  38. Mr. Camel:

    “Our best estimates place human industrial emissions of sulfur dioxide and CO₂ at five and 100 times natural volcanic emissions, respectively.”

    http://theconversation.edu.au/our-effect-on-the-earth-is-real-how-were-geo-engineering-the-planet-1544

    (Barry — can you get “theconversation” to cite the source for that?)

    CO2 and SO2 accumulate because we cause them to be emitted far above the levels naturally handled — the process called “biogeochemical cycling” gets overwhelmed by the rapid addition of large amounts of either, and atmospheric level increase; the charts show the familiar ‘hockey stick’ for both gases.

    Here’s a chart showing the background natural level and the anthropogenic contribution above the natural level:

    http://joseba.mpch-mainz.mpg.de/so2t2.htm

    “Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) is an important trace species in the atmosphere, both under background conditions and in polluted areas. It is released to the troposphere as a result of both anthropogenic and natural phenomena.

    Only one-quarter of the sulfur in the atmosphere is natural, and the rest is caused by human activities. (see Figure) http://joseba.mpch-mainz.mpg.de/atmospheric_so2_cycle_small.jpg

    Note that’s “sulfur” — there are many natural sources of sulfur in the atmosphere. See, e.g. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/some-thoughts-on-gaia-and-the-sulfur-cycle-j-e-lovelock/1026120460

    How much is the human contribution? I tried citing sources above but Mr. Camel answers with a very low number without citing a source.

    Try this:
    “… the region between 35[latitude] and 50[latitude]N is seriously impacted by anthropogenic emissions with only 8% of the total sulfur emissions coming from natural sources. Natural sulfur emissions are still a significant fraction (30-100%) of the total sulfur emissions in the tropical latitudes of the northern hemisphere (0-20[latitude]N) and in all latitude belts of the southern hemisphere. Although there are certainly smaller regions in the southern hemisphere where anthropogenic sulfur emissions dominate over natural emissions, 90% of the anthropogenic sulfur emissions occur in the northern hemisphere while natural sulfur emissions are more evenly divided between the two hemispheres.”

    http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/pubs/outstand/bate1229/conc.shtml

    —-
    Barry, I’m going quit trying to answer Mr. Camel and hope he reads your blog at “The Conversation” rather than keep answering him here.

    http://theconversation.edu.au/pages/clearing-up-the-climate-debate

  39. Here’s a recent paper on rate of change of CO2 — pertinent to the topic generally, I think:

    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo1179.html

    “… The transient global warming event known as the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum occurred about 55.9 Myr ago. The warming was accompanied by a rapid shift in the isotopic signature of sedimentary carbonates, suggesting that the event was triggered by a massive release of carbon to the ocean–atmosphere system. …. We find that the total magnitude of the carbon isotope excursion in the ocean–atmosphere system was about 4‰….. the peak rate of carbon addition was probably in the range of 0.3–1.7 Pg C yr−1, much slower than the present rate of carbon emissions.”

    Rate of change is the problem.

    There are plenty of examples; here’s a search to get started if you’re not familiar with this and want to pick your own reading:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=%22rate+of+change%22+%22biogeochemical+cycling%22+%2Bclimate finds, for example, this cautionary piece of particular interest to biologists:

    Terrestrial biogeochemical feedbacks in the climate system

    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v3/n8/abs/ngeo905.html

    Nature Geoscience 3, 525 – 532 (2010) doi:10.1038/ngeo905

    “The terrestrial biosphere is a key regulator of atmospheric chemistry and climate. During past periods of climate change, vegetation cover and interactions between the terrestrial biosphere and atmosphere changed within decades. Modern observations show a similar responsiveness of terrestrial biogeochemistry to anthropogenically forced climate change and air pollution…..”

  40. One thing a lot of people haven’t commented on . . .

    A scientist would have ENORMOUS motives to disprove AGW if it were possible to do so.

    If you could do it with science which had integrity, after a lot of arguments and argy-bargy, you’d be looking right down the barrel of a Nobel Prize.

    Some would suggest “But the majority of scientists will disagree – won’t they get howled down?” To which I’d reply that this would deter some people; but if the scientists’ personality was like mine, it’d actually have the opposite effect – “I could get onto TV with a well-publicized debate? Heck yeah!”

    My own position (as a skeptic) is this: I’m now fairly convinced in the science of Climate change. I have some lingering doubts about the extent of human contribution to warming, and I seriously doubt some of the sensationalist predictions as to what Climate Change could do; but those are details, really, and I am sufficiently convinced of the gravity of the situation to agree that caution warrants a serious reduction in CO2 emissions.

  41. My own position (as a skeptic) is this: I’m now fairly convinced in the science of Climate change. I have some lingering doubts about the extent of human contribution to warming, and I seriously doubt some of the sensationalist predictions as to what Climate Change could do; but those are details, really, and I am sufficiently convinced of the gravity of the situation to agree that caution warrants a serious reduction in CO2 emissions.

    Many would agree with this. However, unfortunately, those who are the strongest proponents of action are also the strongest proponents of economically irrational action. They seem to fight tooth and nail against any suggestion of tackling the issue with economically rational solutions. Instead, they insist that society must impose their economically irrational solutions – most of which seem to be tied in with a host of other agendas, agendas which are considered immoral and repugnant to a large proportion of the population.

  42. Hank Roberts,
    I got that 150,000 tonnes figure from the Smith et al., 2011 paper that you linked. As you point out, the units are Gg (1 Gg = 1,000 tonnes).

    Thus the figure should have been 150,000,000 tonnes per year which is the one of your links. That would make the annual anthropogenic emissions more significant than major volcanic eruptions (15,000,000 tonnes from Mount Pinatubo).

    Do you have anything on the output of submarine volcanoes?

    Enter your comment here

  43. Ms. Perps,
    My earlier attempt to respond to your comment was snipped so I will try again.

    Yes, I am well aware of Barry’s credentials; I support most of what he says and does in the public eye. However, from time to time I have to (respectfully) disagree with him as in the case of this thread which revives memes like “The Debate is Over” and climate science predictions being as deterministic as Newtonian mechanics or gravitation.

    At least one part of the debate is indeed over. Kyoto and the concept of nations committing to legally binding CO2 emissions is dead and buried. Furthermore there is nothing comparable on the table that has any better chance of success.

  44. > Do you have anything on the output of submarine volcanoes?

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/06/24/clearing-up-the-climate-debate/#comment-130429

    No, do you? There’s no trend in volcanic activity that we know about.

    Would you expect hidden volcanoes to be more active since we started burning fossil fuel, with no trend in activity of known volcanoes?

    That’s been suggested by some Australians, apparently — you can find some history to that idea here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2005/06/pearson-claims-that-undersea-volcanoes-cause-global-warming.php

    But wait, I was going to leave it to Barry since you seem to be bringing up stuff you can simply look up in the FAQs.

    Let’s not derail his topic any further with stuff easy to look up, eh?

  45. @Camel
    Your position is fine- disagree with Barry and state it by all means. However, to intimate that that BNC should not post threads on AGW (as you did) for fear of alienating sceptics of the science is a ridiculous premise given that BNC is primarily a climate science site run by a climate scientist. I repeat – nuclear power is discussed here as a solution to climate change and is a secondary function of BNC. Would you agree if I suggested that Barry should cease posting threads on nuclear power for fear of alienating those who accept the science of AGW and want some action but are anti-nuclear? No – I didn’t think so!
    Convincing those who trust the scientific consensus on AGW that nuclear power is an essential ingredient to solve the problem they are so worried about, is far more likely to be successful when the latest scientific information on CC is published by Barry on BNC.

  46. “The Conversation” also has a You Tube site with several videos worth watching as an adjunct to reading the articles (12 so far) written by this group of scientists of which Barry is a member:

  47. Pingback: The Inconvenient Skeptic » Recent Rash of AGW News: Focus on Geology

  48. Ms. Perps,
    You are probably right. It may be wishful thinking on my part to imagine this site bringing together people with a broad range of views. Such a group might be influential in nudging society towards energy policies that are affordable and sustainable.

    I would never suggest it avoid presenting science relating to climate change. As long as it does that, no reasonable person will be alienated. Of course I would be happier if the “Climate Science” here was more balanced.

    Usually I am content to bite my tongue for the sake of harmony, but once in a while posts appear that go well beyond what the science can justify; this post is a case in point. Such posts come across as arrogant and unreasonable; they do alienate people like me and I think that weakens the credibility of this blog.

    I say this “more in sorrow than in anger” and will now cease my criticism until the next time my BS detector is activated.

  49. Hank Roberts,

    I should have apologized for my schoolboy “howler”. Thanks for setting me straight. Until “unclepete” mentioned it I had not given SO2 much thought.

    I used to make deliberate mistakes in my class room presentations in the expectation that the sharper students would spot them. Now I am getting older there is no need to do that as I am making mistakes by accident rather than by design.

  50. Solution to clearing up the debate

    I recently challenged Senator Minchin to explain why it was safe to ignore the risk of climate change. He directed me to the book by Prof RM Carter called Climate, the Counter Consensus. After looking at his whole approach to this issue I was left with the conclusion that, if this was the best on offer, then there is no reason at all to ignore the risk of dangerous anthropogenic climate change.

    For those of us who have come to such a conclusion, the question is one of how to progress to progressing to finding solutions.

    On the issue of public understanding, I believe that there are two main issues that need to be improved in the way scientists deal with these issues.

    The most crucial issue is the role of water vapour as a readily available greenhouse gas. An increase in global temperature will cause an increase in water vapour, which will result in further water vapour and heating. Theoretically this would happen until a new equilibrium is reached, or there would be a run-away effect if some kind of tipping-point is reached. It is dangerous to meddle with water vapour. This is what is happening when we increase carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. It is these sorts of principles that should be an essential part of a basic understanding. Water amplifies the effect of other greenhouse gasses (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas#Role_of_water_vapor). As Tim Flannery said in his book, We are the Weather Makers, carbon dioxide levers up water vapour levels and this is what makes it dangerous. While this concept is not widely understood the sceptics will continue to set the agenda.

    The second issue that is evident from the book by Prof Carter (cited above) is regarding the way science works. Discussion of proof, falsification and hypotheses is based on a misrepresentation of science. Science is essentially about building a theoretical understanding of nature. It is a corporate thing in which no individual understands more than a small part. A more thorough treatment of the nature of science is essential.

    Related to this, people need to learn to be objective and question what would be the case if either side was correct. I have dibbled in this in my first comment above on 25 June 2011 at 6:58 AM.

    Further discussion of the detail of the data begs the question of why oppose the view of the consensus should be opposed in the first place. If there was a fundamental principle that was being overlooked or significant data were being ignored, then these could be addressed in the scientific literature. If there was a different, more reasonable way of estimating the risk and effects of carbon dioxide emissions there would be plenty of people who would want to know. There are industries that would happily fund such research in the way they fund political parties.

    It appears to me that there are two main weaknesses in the sceptics’ approach. Firstly, they avoid the issue of quantifying the risk of anthropogenic climate change. Some seem to be sure that there is no or negligible risk of any significant effect of the emissions, yet provide no adequate basis for this conclusion. They need to provide some figures on the amount of warming and sea level changes that we risk. They need to address the risks of the tipping points.

    The second weakness is the need for a conspiracy theory. The concept of getting thousands of scientists to agree to a fraudulent approach is incredible. I understand that there is evidence that the IPCC has not gone far enough in that concerns about tipping points widely known to climate scientists were omitted from the final reports. (Others should be able to provide links to this – I can only refer to Flannery’s book above for now).

    The conspiracy theories are built on a less than elementary understanding of the philosophy of science. The null hypothesis argument of Carter is woefully inadequate and does not belong in the literature produced by an academic staff member of a university.

    I highly recommend the book by AF Chalmers, What is this thing called Science? for anyone interested in understanding more on the philosophy of science.

    One could speculate on whether the sceptics have a different scientific paradigm. However, there is no apparent fundamental difference in the understanding of atmospheric physics or any individual natural process. The reasons for the differences in approach are not enunciated.

    It is important not to demonise the sceptics. I hope I have not caused offence by the use of the term sceptic; the term denialist seems inflammatory whereas some have described themselves as sceptics.

    For a resolution of this issue there needs to be a forum for open discussion without questioning of motives. I believe that this website has gone a long way toward providing this. Many sceptics, it appears, have given up commenting here because their case does not stand the scrutiny. Perhaps if they can provide a revised estimate of risk and results of different computer models, they could show that they have a case worth listening to.

  51. Common Scientific knowledge postulates that trees, plants – chlorophyll based life-forms – consume CO2 and emit O2. Therefore, logically, a simple solution or at least assistance to dealing with the problem of rising CO2 levels is to plant more trees, plants, etc.

    This is not personal opinion, it is a rational deduction based on widely accepted knowledge of biology.

    MODERATOR
    This particular, well-known scientific point, as you will be aware, was not the one which gave rise to the deletion of your last post on the grounds of not supplying references to support your assertion.

  52. While agreement can be found that carbon emissions increase heat trapping gases, thereby influencing temperatures, the reality remains that the complexity of the atmostpheric ecosystem makes it all but impossible to accurately measure how quickly temperatures may rise, how sustained elevated temperatures may be, what the real, long-term effects will be or the extent to which other factors will offset any negative impact of higher average temperatures.

    Then, even if we were to agree on these issues and the worst case scenario was the accepted position of the majority, the problem remains what to do about it. We are not going to stop a billion Chinese and a billion Indians from adopting much of the West’s lifestyle so ending the global increase in carbon emissions will be impossible no matter what we do. We will not be able to realistically substitute our carbon-based economy with clean tech solutions that most certainly cannot currently meet our needs and will be unlikely to for decades to come.

    There are a number of options, but all of them call for making slow and steady technological progress toward carbon-fuel replacements and accepting that any changes coming as a result of rising temperatures will have to one of adaptation rather than stopping or reversing it. This, to me, is where the dialogue really breaks down among those believers and skeptics, or whatever one wants to call them. Believers generally accept that the increase in carbon emissions will bring about the most drastic changes to the climate quite quickly and that immediate action is required to “save the planet.”

    Among skeptics there is the feeling that we have been here before, whether it involved peak oil, over population, global cooling or other issues so-called experts claimed would doom the world without a radical response. Al Gore, the most well-known claimant for such a response, speaks about the issue around the world and demands a high fee, a private jet and a limosine to take him back and forth to the airports from which he is departing, He lives one of biggest, carbon-eating homes in all of Tennessee. The same hyprocrisy can be seen from other proponents of extreme measures. Until these (people) (deleted pejorative) get more practical and realistic little will change and the difficulty in convincing people to take even small steps will only get harder.

  53. Honestly, GW is happening, and we really need to curb our emissions of the Green House Gases.

    The problem is CO2 is inefficient as a heat holder compared to the number 1 green house gas which is H2O. H2O is can hold 10+ times more heat then CO2, yet no one is attempting to put curbs up. H2O in the atmosphere has increased at least twice the rate of CO2, yet everyone wants to lower CO2 rates. Not sure how this will do anything to solve the issues. Lets talk about curbing and controlling H2O, and make some real progress.
    (Deleted for violation of the Comments Policy.)
    MODERATOR
    BNC is a science based site and scientific assertions must be backed up by peer reviewed refs unless submitted to an Open Thread.

  54. You make a statement in your blog that 140,000 people die every year due to global warming. Where does that figure come from and how was it derived. I’m an American. I have no problem believing in climate change. It is part of the dynamism of the earth. It doesn’t matter who or what causes it. It happens. I do object to the hysteria that forms the discourse that comes from left that is based on exactly what facts? Former Vice President Al Gore is the leader of this faction. He tells people they must have fewer children. He has four while the average U.S, family has 2.2. He flies about in his own plane, owns four large houses which aren’t green. He leaves a huge carbon footprint, far larger than most Americans. He’s a hypocrite who has gotten very rich off global warming. (Deleted pejorative) The UN has prognosticated some claims that simply haven’t happened. Talk to China. It is responsible for most of the carbon emissions in the world. And you are going to tell them they should not grow their economy and try to give their long suffering people a decent standard of living.

  55. @ Mary Wilbur

    You make a statement in your blog that 140,000 people die every year due to global warming. Where does that figure come from and how was it derived.

    The answer to your question is contained in the body of the article. Perhaps you chose not to read it all.
    Here it is:

    Climate scientists are likewise motivated by the fact that climate change kills 140,000 people per year right at this very moment, according to the World Health Organization

    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs266/en/index.html

  56. From the linked factsheet above – we have more to worry about than just heat related deaths. Other diseases are also on the rise, including those spread by insects.

    Climate change and health

    Fact sheet N°266
    January 2010
    Key facts

    Climate change affects the fundamental requirements for health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.
    The global warming that has occurred since the 1970s was causing over 140 000 excess deaths annually by the year 2004.
    Many of the major killers such as diarrhoeal diseases, malnutrition, malaria and dengue are highly climate-sensitive and are expected to worsen as the climate changes.
    Areas with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond.
    Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases through better transport, food and energy-use choices can result in improved health.

  57. Two points neither scientific. First, Australia is not the only place where political discourse treats climate change as doubtful; in America it is generally viewed as doubtful. Probably for the reasons stated in the original piece. I am a partisan of sorts on the issue, siding with the deniers on many things. But I have no doubt that the warners are right about the science part of it, having read enough evidence almost all of which confirms that humans cause significant changes in their own environment (a risky thing to experiment with!) and that people are causing more free CO2, which will trap more heat, which will energize and change many weather patterns. Since civilization rests on 10,000 years of adaption going both ways between people and their climate, clearly large climate changes of any kind would be inconvenient at best, without going in to what sorts of changes they might be. I think most people “get” this.

    Second point is my explanation for the first: why I say people mostly believe in the problem but have as yet opposed action, at least in America. I think it’s because the problem was presented as a mandate for action, in affect saying, here are the facts proving you face great danger, and here are the things you must do about it. THAT is what people are skeptical about. The greatest evil of the totalitarians is that concentrating power that way leaves no recourse when failed policies are pursued, not to speak of deliberately evil policies. In a ‘normal’ somewhat democratic country, people are used to competition; to trade offs, to uncertainties, and to evolutionary changes.

    Perhaps if those most familiar with the facts, that is the scientists who are discovering the facts, were to speak more about the issue in political and social terms, there might be more support for some action policies. For example, I’d like to know what the chances are that changing climate would relocate the world’s grain belts to places where perhaps the soil is unsuitable for our crops, which unlike drowning Bangladesh would threaten EVERYONE. If it’s that bad, then semi-authoritarian means might become acceptable. If it’s not that bad, then means must be promoted which are not so authoritarian or so hostile to small-scale innovation and behavior change.

    Also just as the deniers ARE an example of a self-serving economic and/or ideological group, the warners come across that way as well, when sticking to the compelling realities of the facts as they see them. The warners are seen as shouting, “more power for the elites, including us” even when the actual words are more along the line that “there is no doubt that man is causing climate change which in turn will harm man”.

    Myself I don’t know enough about what is happening, what may happen, or what could be done to significantly change things. Neither do I have a file cabinet of possible positive actions. But I do think I see a missing linkage here, which possible others in the broader scientific community could fix. I am speaking of ideas for incentives and disincentives so as to encourage more positive decisions small and large as may tend to get us out of the business of experimenting on our own environment, without seeming to require us to abandon pursuit of comfort and wealth or to concede draconian authority to any law givers.

  58. Most people don’t dispute that there is climate change. What people dispute is the contribution from man. We know that in the past there has been climate change. Now it is happening again. So what?

    You’ve addressed the above complaint, except you haven’t addressed it all. Apparently, the Earth has no cycles that could affect climate.

    If we would only cut carbon emissions, then everything will be OK. Will it? If that is true then why doesn’t the rise in earth’s temperature track with the rise in CO2 emissions over the last 10 years? CO2 emissions keep risking, but the temperature hasn’t.

    You’ve addressed this question by stating that the Earth is still hotter than ever. That’s not an answer. It’s how the Earth’s temperature correlates with CO2 emissions over the last decade that matters. Over the last decade the correlation has been poor.

    This is a case of climate scientists acting like economists. They both get up in front of us and speak with great authority about the future. They both know how to solve our problems, except they don’t. They both make simplifying assumptions to make their models tractable. These simplifications are in fact devastating.

    The climate scientists claim their models do a good job modeling temperatures over the last hundred years. The models that economists make work really well 99% of the time. The other 1% of the time they blow up. Oh well.

    When a complex system undergoes a phase change – extreme event, then typical models breakdown. Looking at climate change models during a relatively calm period does not mean they will work in a new environment. It is likely they won’t work correctly because of simplifying assumptions. Just like water turning into ice, everything you know changes in a phase change or extreme event. That’s why economist models blowup, and why climate change models are likely to be inaccurate during this period.

    There are a couple of alternative agendas going on here. One is money. The other is worldwide socialism, which is why liberals have jumped on the bandwagon. Money flows to climate scientists who tow the party line. Liberals want to pay poorer countries for the carbon damage created by the richer countries.
    MODERATOR
    All of your points have been dealt with on BNC in the Sceptics thread.Please do us the courtesy of checking this before commenting again. BNC is a science based site that requires peer review refs for all science based opinion/assertions. You have given none in this comment. However, as this is your first post we will let it stand. Further instances of this violation of the comment policy will be deleted.

  59. Matthew Wilson said

    Apparently, the Earth has no cycles that could affect climate.

    Apparantly to whom? Why not have a look at an encyclopedia, eg
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Ni%C3%B1o-Southern_Oscillation , or
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_decadal_oscillation . You will
    see that there are, indeed, multi-year cycles that affect climate.

    Why doesn’t the rise in
    earth’s temperature track with the rise in CO2 emissions over the
    last 10 years? CO2 emissions keep rising, but the temperature
    hasn’t.

    The 10-year average for 2000-2009 was 0.16 C higher than the 10-year
    average for 1990-1999, which in turn was 0.21 C higher than the
    10-year average for 1980-1989. Looks like an increase in temperature
    to me.

    You’ve addressed this question by stating that the Earth is still
    hotter than ever. That’s not an answer. It’s how the
    Earth’s temperature correlates with CO2 emissions over the last
    decade that matters. Over the last decade the correlation has been
    poor.

    CO2 is not the only thing
    affecting temperature short-term. Year-to-year correlations are not expected. There is too much
    superimposed noise from ENSO cycles, volcanic dust, sunspot variations
    etc. For example, in 1998 ENSO/El-Nino pushed the 12-month average 0.2
    C above trend, in 2009/10 the cycle was a La Nina and pushed it 0.15 C
    below trend.

    Over decades, however, these other effects even out and the upward
    trend is clearly evident.

    There is a clear and informative page at

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/climate/seasonal-to-decadal/long-range/decadal-fc

    which shows forecast versus actual average temperatures for recent
    decades, and a forecast up to 2020. It also has a candid description
    of the discrepancies of previous forecasts, which, although they
    affected certain regions, did not in general push the global average
    outside the 90% confidence limits plotted on the graph. The one
    exception to this was the 1991 Pinatubo eruption, which contributed
    substantial cooling for two years.

    This is a case of climate scientists acting like
    economists. They both get up in front of us and speak with great
    authority about the future. They both know how to solve our problems,
    except they don\u2019t. They both make simplifying assumptions to make
    their models tractable. These simplifications are in fact devastating.

    There are a couple of alternative agendas going on here. One is
    money. The other is worldwide socialism, which is why liberals have
    jumped on the bandwagon …. Liberals want to pay poorer countries for the carbon
    damage created by the richer countries.

    You have just made your very own series of devastating
    simplifications about climate scientists, liberals and socialists.
    We try and stick to the science here. Emotional
    rhetoric takes away rather than adds.

    Money flows to climate scientists who tow the
    party line.

    If you got to know some actual research scientists, and informed
    yourself about their typical salaries and conditions of tenure, you
    would be less inclined to spout such rubbish.

  60. Matthew Wilson, on 28 June 2011 at 6:17 PM said:

    Money flows to climate scientists who tow the party line.

    I think you need to make specific allegations and of course provide detailed supporting evidence.

    Otherwise you are making unfounded libellous accusations. That sounds frightfully like a troll.

  61. > you need to make specific allegations

    Oh, please, inviting just more of the same won’t help.

    Help clear up the climate question. Take questions from people who have already done the basic reading* — at least the FAQs** — and want to learn more; ignore/filter/moderate the people copypasting stuff who try to fill every new topic with the same stuff.
    _______
    * http://www.google.com/search?q=climate+change+FAQ
    ** FAQ: “frequently asked questions”

  62. (Deleted, violates BNC comments policy: This is a website for people who are concerned about climate change, first and foremost. It is not set up to pander to any other subset, and if you don’t care about solving climate change (or at the very least if you’re not neutral on the matter), then BNC is not the website for you. If you are pro-nuclear but consider climate change to be some alarmist conspiracy, then you are welcome to frequent other energy blogs that are populated by denialists – there are plenty of them. Go ahead, it’s a free internet. Otherwise, stay, enjoy, contribute, and follow the commenting rules.)

  63. The problem we face is that extremists in the opposing groups, alarmists and skeptics, have both taken to throwing spaghetti against the wall — large numbers of claims, some of which prove to be valid, some of which prove to be false.

    This gives plenty of room for heated argument, because people on either side can validly claim “see, you are wrong! Just look at X and Y and Z! And we are right! Just look at A and B and C!”

    Seems to me that this discussion could benefit from a neutral database of sorts, that goes to a significant level of detail and provides opportunity to list scientific claims and the efforts involved in validating (ie attempting to falsify — that’s the scientific method in a nutshell) those claims.

    The fact that IPCC itself has at least internally been able to recognize significant uncertainty about many of the major aspects tells me we’ve got a long way to go.

  64. (Comment deleted. BNC no longer posts or discusses comments against the scientific consensus on AGW/CC.)

    It seems that the moderator of this site wants only posts that support the opinion that anthropogenic global warming is absolutely true and any facts to the contrary should go else where.

    MODERATOR
    Professor Brook decides on what is posted on the site not the moderator.Please read the following extract of the Comments Policy before posting again.

    This is a website for people who are concerned about climate change, first and foremost. It is not set up to pander to any other subset, and if you don’t care about solving climate change (or at the very least if you’re not neutral on the matter), then BNC is not the website for you. If you are pro-nuclear but consider climate change to be some alarmist conspiracy, then you are welcome to frequent other energy blogs that are populated by denialists – there are plenty of them. Go ahead, it’s a free internet. Otherwise, stay, enjoy, contribute, and follow the commenting rules.
    This (new policy) reflects the changed nature of the BNC blog (an evolving digital entity), and the limits of my patience in trying too hard to be all things to all people (an impossible and frustrating mission).
    So, to be clear, the working context in which BNC is embedded is that climate change is a critical problem to solve. The motivation for the blog (henceforth) is to seek the most effective solutions and discuss the pros/cons. If you are a climate change sceptic (or whatever), you are welcome to comment on the relative veracity of the proposed solutions (or even argue that none of them are suitable, if you can put a coherent case). But this is not the place to debate the whole “Is it? Isn’t it? … happening “space. We’ve moved on from that. If such dialogue entertains you, then there are plenty of other places on the ‘net to engage in this ‘repartee’ to your heart’s content. BNC is now principally a place to discuss the options for moving away from fossil fuels, and when there are posts on climate change, they will be about updates to the science.
    Such are the choices that must always be made in such intellectual ventures – what to focus on, and what to put aside? If a certain percentage of the audience is turned away by this policy, then so be it.

  65. Pingback: Gong to Pell in a handbasket: Why it is time for those who care to leave the denialists to it | Decarbonise SA

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