Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation
Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to improve their understanding. Yet this isn't what happens with climate change denial. Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports man-made global warming and yet embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that purports to refute global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?
Posted on 19 June 2013 by John Hartz
- Antarctic melting from underneath
- China launches first market to cap emissions
- China takes cautious step towards carbon emissions trading
- Global warming appears to have slowed lately
- Obama considers sweeping climate plan
- Obama fails to use National Environmental Policy Act
- UN global warming talks blocked by Russia
- U.S. airports face increasing threat from rising seas
- Vulnerable states decry slow progress at Bonn climate talks
- What to do about climate change
Antarctic melting from underneath
Ice experts have long known that Antarctica is losing ice at the margins of its vast ice sheets, where the frozen continent meets the sea — presumably, they thought, from icebergs breaking off and floating away.
According to a report published in Science, however, more than half the ice loss is coming from warming ocean waters, which are melting the ice from underneath.
"This has profound implications for our understanding of interactions between Antarctica and climate change,” said lead author Eric Rignot, of the University of California, Irvine, in a press release.
Look Out Below: Antarctic Melting From Underneath by Michael D. Lemonick, Climate Cnetral, June 17, 2013
Posted on 19 June 2013 by John Cook
Agnotology is the study of ignorance and how it's produced. For example, examining how misinformation can generate misconceptions about climate change. An interesting (and influential, at least in my case) paper on this topic is Agnotology as a teaching tool: Learning climate science by studying misinformation by Daniel Bedford, a professor at Weber State University, Utah. Bedford suggests how how examining and refuting misinformation is actually a powerful way to teach climate science, sharpen critical thinking skills and raise awareness of the scientific method. He then illustrates this with case studies applied in his own college classroom. This paper opened my eyes to the educational opportunities in addressing misinformation - an approach I adopted in the chapters "Understanding Climate Change Denial" and "Rebuttals to Climate Myths" in the textbook Climate Change Science: A Modern Synthesis.
Recently, David Legates, Willie Soon and William Briggs published a paper in the journal Science & Education, Learning and Teaching Climate Science: The Perils of Consensus Knowledge Using Agnotology. The paper comments extensively on Bedford's agnotology paper. Unfortunately, it comprehensively misrepresents Bedford's arguments. Consequently, Daniel Bedford and I have co-authored a response to Legates' paper that was just published in Science & Education: Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change: A Response to Legates, Soon and Briggs. For those without library access, our paper is unfortunately behind a pay-wall. However, the full pre-press version of our paper is available here.
Posted on 18 June 2013 by dana1981
Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) is a group that formed in order to organize and empower citizens to push for a carbon fee and dividend – the preferred solution of former NASA climate scientist James Hansen.
The Importance of Carbon Pricing
Putting a price on carbon emissions is a key climate solution. Failing to price carbon emissions is effectively a massive subsidy, estimated at about $800 billion per year globally by the International Monetary Fund. However, that estimate was based on a carbon damages cost that was recently revised upwards by about 50% by the US government, based on up-to-date economic modeling. Using conservative assumptions, global subsidies for the climate costs of carbon emissions now exceed $1.1 trillion per year, and may be much higher.
The absence of a carbon price to account for those costs is a failure of the free market. It prevents citizens from making informed purchasing decisions, because the actual costs of the products they buy are not accurately reflected in their market prices. When it comes to climate costs, American and Canadian consumers are flying blind. Unfortunately we can't avoid paying the costs of climate damage forever, and they are reflected in effects like rising food prices when crops are decimated by extreme weather like heat waves and droughts, with contributions from human-caused climate change.
Why Fee and Dividend?
Personally as long as we implement a carbon price, I don't have a strong preference about what form it takes. There are a number of options, with cap and trade and carbon taxes being the most commonly implemented. Once a carbon price is put in place, there is also the question what to do with the generated funds. Some prefer that they be used to fund low carbon technologies to help solve the climate problem, while others would prefer they be used to balance government budgets, and others prefer that they be returned directly to citizens as a 100% dividend.
Posted on 17 June 2013 by John Hartz
On May 15, the peer-reviewed paper, Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature was published in the scientific journal, Environmental Research Letters (ERL). The paper presents The Consensus Project (TCP) – a survey of over 12,000 peer-reviewed climate science papers by our volunteer, citizen science team at Skeptical Science. The analysis found a 97% consensus among papers taking a position on the cause of global warming in the peer-reviewed literature that humans are responsible.
Since its online publication, Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature has been downloaded more times than any other paper in ERL history, over 54,000 times.
Toon of the Week
Posted on 17 June 2013 by gvert, BaerbelW
In the last two decades a changing climate has started to show devastating consequences – ranging from some extreme weather events to sea level rise and rapid Arctic ice melt. At the same time peer-reviewed studies showing the effects of human activities on the climate system have grown into a vast body of evidence for anthropogenic climate change. On the other hand, those in denial have grown in number and gained a great deal of attention in politics, media and public debates. Fortunately, some internet sites try to bridge the chasm between accurate, but rather dry scientific reports and the knowledge of an average layperson about climate change. Undoubtedly, Skeptical Science fits this category by providing a vivid and accurate picture of climate change for the general public.
The Slovenian Meteorological Society, a team of a little more than one hundred people interested in meteorology, was very pleased to see the Skeptical Science internet site for the first time some years ago. We immediately decided to translate well-written scientific answers on skeptics’ arguments. It took us a few months to translate 60 articles in Slovene language. Our activities about climate change later focused on a presentation of climate change science to the broader public. A paper titled Stališče Slovenskega meteorološkega društva o podnebnih spremembah (Statement of Slovenian Meteorological Society on Climate Change) was issued in our journal Vetrnica.
In spite of these described activities, something more was needed to counteract the growing denial movement in Slovenia. The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism became available at that time and we decided to create a translation for it. In September 2011 the Slovenian version was published on Skeptical Science. Due to lack of financial resources, we were unable to print and distribute the guide to the broader public at the time. After a year and a half, in early spring this year, we had gathered sufficient funds for printing 1000 copies.
Posted on 16 June 2013 by John Hartz
The following article is reprinted by permission of its author, Stephen Leahy, who writes for the Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency. To access the article as posted on the IPS website, click here.
Healthy soil looks dark, crumbly, and porous, and is home to worms and other organisms. It feels soft, moist, and friable, and allows plant roots to grow unimpeded. Credit: Colette Kessler, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
- Soil is becoming endangered.This reality needs to be part of our collective awareness in order to feed nine billion people by 2050, say experts meeting here in Reykjavík.
And a big part of reversing soil decline is carbon, the same element that is overheating the planet.
“Keeping and putting carbon in its rightful place” needs to be the mantra for humanity if we want to continue to eat, drink and combat global warming, concluded 200 researchers from more than 30 countries.
“There is no life without soil,” said Anne Glover, chief scientific advisor to the European Commission.
“While soil is invisible to most people it provides an estimated 1.5 to 13 trillion dollars in ecosystem services annually,” Glover said at the Soil Carbon Sequestration conference that ended this week.
Posted on 15 June 2013 by John Hartz
- 2012 weather disasters: $110 billion price tag
- A fight over U.S. coal exports and the industry’s future
- Climate change could increase areas at risk of flood by 45 percent
- Climate change is the GOP’s worst nightmare
- Extreme weather and signs of climate action
- Pentagon bracing for dissent over climate and energy shocks
- Two-thirds of energy sector will have to be left undeveloped
- U.S. Department of Energy’s crusade yields results
- Warming ocean is biggest driver of Antarctic ice shelf melt
- You’re going to get wet
2012 weather disasters: $110 billion price tag
When it came to extreme weather and climate events, 2012 was a colossal year for the U.S. It was the warmest year on record in the lower 48 states, featuring a massive drought and deadly heat waves that broke thousands of temperature records. Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, and one of the most intense and long-lasting complexes of severe thunderstorms, known as a “derecho,” plunged 4 million people into darkness from Iowa to Virginia.
2012 Weather Disasters: $110 Billion Price Tag Makes It Second Costliest Year Since 1980 by Andrew Freedman, June 14, 2013
Posted on 14 June 2013 by dana1981
Update: the Chinese Academy of Sciences has released a statement about Heartland's "misleading statement". See below for details.
As Cook et al. 2013 (also known as The Consensus Project) showed, the consensus in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that humans are causing global warming has been growing over the past two decades. In 2011, 98% of papers taking a position on the cause of global warming agreed that humans are causing it.
Percentage of "global warming" or "global climate change" papers endorsing the consensus among only papers that express a position endorsing or rejecting the consensus. From Cook et al. (2013).
However, as Graham Readfearn recently documented, over those same two decades, fossil fuel interests have engaged in a number of campaigns to cast doubt on the existence of the consensus on human-caused global warming. Convincing the public that this settled science is still in dispute has long been a top priority for industry groups.
The results of Cook et al. 2013 juxtaposed with some fossil fuel-funded campaigns to deny the scientific consensus. Image by jg.
Posted on 13 June 2013 by John Hartz
- A film presses the climate, health and security case for nuclear energy
- Airlines push for global measures to control carbon emissions
- Bloomberg details NYC plan to combat climate change
- "Carbon farming" makes waves at stalled Bonn talks
- Conservative think tanks and climate change denial books
- Developing countries lead global shift to green energy
- Earth to warm 3.8C if nations fail on climate goals
- Germans still aim for future without nukes or fossil fuels
- Global carbon dioxide emissions rose to record high In 2012
- Global climate negotiations break down in Bonn
- How climate change makes wildfires worse
- What to make of a warming plateau
- Why Greenland's darkening ice has become a hot topic
A film presses the case for nuclear energy
“Pandora’s Promise” is a provocative and important new documentary making the case for nuclear power as a safe and large-scale substitute for fossil fuels. There’s a flaw in the film’s approach that undercuts its mission, but I still see it as vital viewing and a refreshing new direction in a tired old battle over the shape of America’s energy future.
A Film Presses the Climate, Health and Security Case for Nuclear Energy by Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth, New York Times, June 13, 2013
Posted on 13 June 2013 by Lindsay W
By Lindsay Wilson, Shrink That Footprint
The world reached a grim milestone recently, with atmospheric concentrations at the historic Mauna Loa observatory hitting the 400 parts per million mark due to our ever increasing carbon emissions.
While this event rightly got the media coverage it deserved, rarely do we stop to appreciate the incredible job land and ocean sinks have played in ensuring this figure isn’t significantly higher.
Using data for all sources and sinks of human carbon emissions over the last 262 years this post highlights just how hard the oceans, plants and soils are working to slow the growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.
Global carbon emissions and sinks
Since 1750 the human race has been responsible for roughly 2,000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
Posted on 12 June 2013 by John Mason
An extraordinary - and worrying - insight into the mind of Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for the Environment here in the UK, was provided during a June 7th edition of the political Q&A programme Any Questions, available on BBC Radio 4 here. The programme is broadcast from a different venue every week and consists of chairman Jonathan Dimbleby and a panel of four politicians and commentators plus a studio audience who ask a selection of topical questions. This edition was from my home town of Machynlleth in Mid Wales and more specifically from the Centre for Alternative Technology, which has been promoting renewable energy and other sustainability issues since the 1970s.
This week's panel was made up of Peter Hain, Labour MP for Neath, Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru, Owen Paterson, UK Secretary of State for the Environment and James Delingpole, blogger and well-known inhabitant of an alternate universe when it comes to climate science.
A question from audience member Sally Carr (at 29 minutes 22 secs into the broadcast) caught my attention:
"Are those concerned about climate change talking anti-scientific green ideological nonsense?"
This is of course a Delingpole quote (Daily Telegraph, June 4th 2013) turned back at him, as Dimbleby himself observed. Delingpole was on first and gave a typical performance stuffed to the gills with strawman arguments and many 'usual suspect' talking points that we have debunked beyond death here at Skeptical Science - "no warming since 1997", of course, plus a few throwaway comments about yoghourt-weavers and eco-loons, accompanied by much spirited heckling. The only thing missing was a "POLAR BEARS ARE NOT EXTINCT" arm-waving exercise. All typical Delingpole and exactly what anyone would expect. The following graphic is sufficient to address his entire attitude in general:
A Miss by Myles: Why Professor Allen is wrong to think carbon capture and storage will solve the climate crisis
Posted on 11 June 2013 by Andy Skuce
A recent opinion piece in the British newspaper Mail on Sunday by University of Oxford climate scientist Myles Allen argues that the best way to combat climate change is to pass laws requiring fossil fuel producers to capture and sequester a rising proportion of the carbon dioxide emissions that the fuels produce. We argue here that such a policy, with its emphasis on carbon sequestration, would not be successful in achieving the carbon emission reductions that Allen himself advocates—for a variety of political, economic, technological and logistical reasons. A more recent article by Allen in The Guardian covers the same ground.
Nevertheless, Allen’s prescription does succeed in focussing the mind on the scale of the problem that we face in mitigating climate change.
This is a very long post, so here is a clickable summary.
A good starting framework, then... Allen's diagnosis is clear and his framing of targets in terms of cumulative emissions is unabiguous. But his prescription is flawed.
Politics There is no reason to assume a fixed emissions cap schedule would be easier to sell to the public than a carbon tax. Caps would produce greater certainty of longer-term emission reductions at the cost of uncertain economic consequences.
Economics (i): Efficiency Imposing emissions caps without allowing trading through brokers would be very inefficient. It is not clear whether Allen supports or opposes trading.
Economics (ii) Innovation by fiat? Prescribing one form of technology as the principle solution is risky. Nobody can predict how technology will evolve and what problems may emerge in future.
Economics (iii): The information conveyed by prices The cost of one technology should not be used as a basis for carbon pricing. There is a wide range of mitigation options, with highly variable prices, all with variable and uncertain potential to contribute to solutions. Experience in British Columbia shows that even a modest carbon tax can reduce emissions significantly without harming the economy.
Scaling it up to climate relevance Even promoters of aggressive deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) do not envision it as more than a partial contribution to mitigating climate change by 2050.
Timing and feasibility The mass of the CO2 to be sequestered is about double the mass of the fossil fuels themselves. To develop a new industry, from scratch, to capture, transport and dispose of these quantities will involve vast amounts of capital and many decades, even if it were technically possible.
Hazards The magnitude of the CO2 to be sequestered in the subsurface is such that environmental risks from leakage, aquifer contamination and induced earthquakes are likely to be much larger than those from the already contentious shale gas industry. Getting public licence for CCS projects in inhabited areas is likely to be very difficult and time consuming.
Summing up The climate crisis is so vast that we need to throw everything we have at it. Claiming that any single technology will solve the problem can lead to complacency that the fix is simple. It isn't.
Posted on 10 June 2013 by Ari Jokimäki
As part of my involvement in the consensus project (TCP) that recently published its results, I looked into some aspects of the data which were not part of the final paper. One thing I did was look into what proportion of the literature was covered by the project.
Here's the description of the search from the paper:
"In March 2012, we searched the ISI Web of Science for papers published from 1991–2011 using topic searches for ‘global warming’ or ‘global climate change’. Article type was restricted to ‘article’, excluding books, discussions, proceedings papers and other document types. The search was updated in May 2012 with papers added to the Web of Science up to that date."
This resulted in 12,465 papers, but after eliminating papers that were non-peer-reviewed, not related to climate, and papers without abstracts, the resulting number of papers was 11,944.
In order to check the completeness of the search, we should compare the search results to some other known sample. To me, the obvious sample for comparison is found from IPCC fourth assessment report (AR4) reference lists because I think they cover the subject reasonably well. However, it should be noted that IPCC reference lists don't contain all the papers on the subject, but they are only a subset just like the sample in TCP. The comparison between the TCP sample and IPCC reference lists presented below only shows if TCP paper search did not cover the subject well.
Posted on 9 June 2013 by John Cook
The American Geophysical Union (AGU) are trying something new this week. They're running a conference on climate communication where many of the talks are being broadcast live online. Online viewers are encouraged to submit questions which will be put to the talkers at the end of their talks.
I strongly recommend you check it out if you can. Today alone features an amazing array of speakers - Spencer Weart, Mike Mann, Max Boykoff, Richard Alley, Stephan Lewandowsky - and that's just the first day. Right now, Michael MacCracken is giving a fascinating talk on the early history of climate science.
Check out the list of scheduled live talks, which I've been informed will be growing as more talks are added to the live feed. On Wednesday, I'll be presenting results from my PhD research into the psychology of consensus, and I may happen to mention the Cook et al. consensus paper along the way. Hopefully this will be broadcast online as I imagine there may be a few people interested in sending in a few questions.
UPDATE (h/t to Baerbel): My session will be broadcast live on Wednesday,2:00 p.m. — 2:15 p.m. You can watch it live and also submit questions which will be put to me during the Q&A session:
The Importance of Consensus Information in Reducing the Biasing Influence of Worldview on Climate Change Attitudes
Check out the full Web Session Schedule to see all speakers and times.
Posted on 9 June 2013 by John Hartz
In Lu Blames Global Warming on CFCs (Curve Fitting Correlations), Dana clearly demonstrates that Lu 2013 is a "dog that won't hunt." Becasue Lu's erroneous findings have been widely trumpted by the folk in Deiersville, it is no surprise that Dana's skillful dissection of it garnered the most comments of the articles posted on SkS this past week.
MarkR's New study by Skeptical Science author finds 100% of atmospheric CO2 rise is man-made drewthe second highset number of comments. The article summarizes the findings containted in Richardson 2013.
Toon of the Week
Posted on 8 June 2013 by John Hartz
- Central Europe floods are most dramatic in a decade
- China sticks to carbon-intensity target
- Climate change causing Pentagon planning shift
- Climate science tells us the alarm bells are ringing
- Hotter planet creating 'extraordinary' wild fires
- Meet the world's best new environment bloggers
- Mine-dependent Mongolia to push renewables
- Most Americans say global warming is real
- Obama officials raise ‘social cost’ of carbon in federal regulations
- This one picture shows how we’re causing climate change
- Warming, rising acidity and pollution: top threats to the ocean
- Wildfire smoke a rising health concern with climate change
Central Europe floods are most dramatic in a decade
More than 80,000 emergency personnel including firefighters and soldiers were on duty Saturday, working aggressively to contain the most dramatic floods in Germany in a decade. Thousands of residents were still unable to return to their homes, and bridges and streets were impassable in many regions of eastern and southern Germany.
Twenty people reportedly have already died in the floods across central Europe after several days of heavy rains. Thousands have been put up in emergency shelters waiting for the waters to recede so they can get back to their homes.
Central Europe Floods Are Most Dramatic In A Decade by Kirsten Grieshaber, AP/The Huffington Post, June 8, 2013
Posted on 8 June 2013 by John Hartz
This article is a reprint of a news release posted by Arizona State University on May 13, 2013.
Researchers launch environmental "game" for citizen scientists
Posted on 7 June 2013 by John Hartz
- Another major Tar Sands pipeline seeking U.S. permit
- Arkansas pipeline spill casts shadow over Keystone XL
- British Columbia opposes proposed Northern Gateway pipeline
- Canadian crude output to double by 2030 on oil sands growth
- Canadian workers now oppose Keystone XL
- First Nations seek alternatives to tar sands destruction
- Key parts of State Dept Keystone XL review are 'without merit'
- Keystone XL builder 'extremely confident'
- Keystone XL threatens true American ‘energy independence’
- Reid: Keystone XL vote coming
- TransCanada digging up defective segments of new pipeline
- West Coast link crucial for oilsands
Another major Tar Sands pipeline seeking U.S. permit
Canadian energy giant Enbridge is quietly building a 5,000-mile network of new and expanded pipelines that would achieve the same goal as the Keystone.
Posted on 7 June 2013 by dana1981
Miss the New York Times environment blogs and reporting? Then check out the new Guardian environment blogs whose new page is being officially unveiled today. Also check out my Climate Consensus – the 97% blog post for today, More pieces of the global warming puzzle assembled by recent research.
Posted on 6 June 2013 by MarkR
I have a new paper (Richardson, 2013) in the journal Global and Planetary Change that calculates the man-made and natural contributions to changing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) since 1980. It comments on a study by Humlum and others (2013) and uses the same data and part of the same approach as them, but gets a completely different answer. I do this because I follow the maths to calculate the size of each effect and I find that the entire rise in atmospheric CO2 is man-made.
Humlum et al’s paper caught my attention when it said that “CO2 release from use of fossil fuels have little influence on the observed changes in the amount of atmospheric CO2”. ‘Skeptics’ called it a ‘blockbuster’ paper and that’s a good description: if true, Humlum et al had just disproven the conservation of mass. This should put them top of the list for a Nobel prize and it was such a big deal that I read the paper twice, ran the numbers myself and then emailed Ole Humlum to check I was doing it correctly. But using maths, I couldn't come up with the same conclusion as they did, I got completely the opposite answer!
After providing enough information to check I was following his method, he then seemed to be too busy to respond to my other questions and calculations. This left me with the usual scientific way to check my work: to write a paper and submit it to a journal where it will be anonymously reviewed by experts. After these hurdles, the article is now in press.
Figure 1 This shows part of the mathematical approach of Humlum et al that I had a problem with. On the left is a real signal (red), which is made up from 2 signals 'blue' and 'green' added together. The red line has wobbles from the green line, but its constant increase over the graph is entirely because of the blue line. One part of the mathematical approach used by Humlum et al is called differentiation, which turns the left-hand graph into the right-hand one. Now it looks like the red line is related to the green one but not at all to the blue one. The blue contribution has been 'hidden', but with the right maths you can find it again.