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How Jo Nova doesn't get past climate change

Posted on 23 June 2010 by David Grocott

Guest post by David Grocott

In the ‘Skeptic’s Handbook II’ Jo Nova argues that because carbon dioxide levels have been higher in the past, and because this hasn’t necessarily correlated with higher temperatures, the ‘greenhouse effect’ theory is flawed. She says “Carbon levels have risen and fallen 2000 ppm and the temperature doesn’t care less… Indeed the Earth slipped into an ice age while CO2 was far higher than today’s levels”.


Figure 1: Jo Nova’s graph showing atmospheric CO2 and global temperatures through the Phanerozoic. The graph has been adapted from the original here, which in turn draws upon the Geocarb III model for it’s presentation of atmospheric CO2, and the ‘PALEOMAP Project’ for its temperature reconstruction (Skeptics Handbook II).

In order to understand the apparent disparity between past temperature and levels of atmospheric CO2 we must appreciate that CO2 is not the only driver of climate. Other drivers of past climate change include variations in solar output, continental drift, orbital variations (known as Milankovitch cycles), volcanism, and ocean variability. Any conclusions that we draw from a perceived lack of correlation in the climate record between atmospheric CO2 and global temperatures must take into account these factors.

Looking at Jo Nova’s graph (Figure 1), we can see that the further back we go, the higher CO2 levels rise. However, as we go back in time solar activity also falls and in the early Phanerozoic the solar constant was about 4% less than current levels. Royer (2006) combined the radiative forcing from CO2 and solar variations to find their net effect on climate. The result is shown in Figure 2 (cooler climate is indicated by shaded areas which are periods of geographically widespread ice).


Figure 2: Combined radiative forcing from CO2 and sun through the Phanerozoic. Values are expressed relative to pre-industrial conditions (CO2 = 280 ppm; solar luminosity = 342 W/m2); a reference line of zero is given for clarity. The dark shaded bands correspond to periods with strong evidence for geographically widespread ice (Royer 2006).

As we can see from the graph, Royer found that when solar variations are taken into account, the “total radiative forcing” correlates excellently with past temperature reconstructions. In layman’s terms, this means that when the sun is less active, the CO2 level required to initiate a glaciation is much higher. For example, if the CO2-ice threshold for present-day Earth is 500 ppm, the equivalent threshold during the Late Ordovician (450 million years ago) would be 3000 ppm, making it perfectly possible to have widespread glaciation accompanied by comparatively high levels of atmospheric CO2. This understanding of the correlation between past levels of atmospheric CO2 and global temperature is widely accepted and led the author of the paper which accompanies Jo Nova’s model of past CO2 to conclude: “over the long term there is indeed a correlation between CO2 and paleotemperature, as manifested by the atmospheric greenhouse effect”.

According to Royer’s graph however, the Late Ordovician provides an awkward anomaly. Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that there is a brief glacial period at the end of the Ordovician period (approx. 450 million years ago) which coincides with a relatively high net radiative forcing. Given that solar output at the time was around 4% lower than current levels, CO2 would need to fall to 3000 ppm to permit glacial conditions. According to the model Nova’s graph relies upon CO2 levels at the time were nearer to 5000 ppm (although it should be noted that the 3000 ppm mark lies well within the model’s ‘estimate of errors’ - the large, unlabelled, shaded area on Nova’s graph). A recent paper by Young (2009) has added weight to the argument that the model over-estimates the level of CO2 present in the atmosphere during the Late Ordovician glaciation. Young’s study of strontium isotopes suggests that large scale volcanic activity prior to the Late Ordovician glaciation drove up atmospheric CO2 levels, triggering an increase in the rate of chemical weathering – the process whereby CO2-laced acid rain reacts with carbonate rocks, locking away large quantities of atmospheric CO2. This weathering then continued after the volcanic activity subsided, thinning atmospheric CO2 to levels consistent with the expected radiative forcing necessary to match the temperature reconstruction for the period.

While it’s all very well appreciating that it is perfectly possible for high levels of CO2 to accompany relatively low global temperatures (and equally for low levels of CO2 to accompany relatively high global temperatures), skeptics might well say: “I thought CO2 was supposed to be a climate feedback? Shouldn’t CO2 levels have been mirroring global temperatures?”

The answer is that, in the same way that CO2 is not the only natural driver of climate, climate is not the only natural driver of CO2. We know that changing ocean temperatures alter the ability of the oceans to absorb CO2, thus creating a feeback effect, but, as Young’s work attests, both volcanic activity and chemical weathering can act as CO2 level forcings, entirely independent of climate. In addition, natural changes in plant and animal life have a measurable impact on levels of atmospheric CO2 and Crowley and Berner (2001) suggest that changes in ocean circulation may also play a part in CO2 variability.

Due to these various forcings, levels of atmospheric CO2 and global temperature have not always happily correlated, however, contrary to Jo Nova’s claims, high levels of CO2 have in the past been responsible for a dramatic rise in global temperatures. The K-T boundary event is an excellent example of one such occasion.

The K-T boundary is a thin layer of rocks which documents the impact of a huge meteorite 65 million years ago (the same one that supposedly wiped out the dinosaurs). When the meteorite struck, it released vast amounts of CO2 from vaporising carbonate-rich rocks, leading to a massive increase in atmospheric CO2. According to Beerling et al (2002) the impact pushed atmospheric CO2 levels up from 350-500 ppm to approx 2,300 ppm, which would have been sufficient to warm the Earth’s surface by »7.5°C in the absence of counter forcing by sulfate aerosols.

This sudden jump in atmospheric CO2 is only partially represented by the model upon which Nova’s graph relies. The paper accompanying the model (Berner and Kothavala 2001) explains that “This type of modelling is incapable of delimiting shorter term CO2 fluctuations because of the nature of the input data which is added to the model as 10 million year or longer averages”. In other words the brief jump in CO2 which marks the K-T boundary (covering a period of approx. 10 thousand years) is averaged out over a minimum of 10 million years, leading to the relatively modest rise we witness in atmospheric CO2 at the 65 million year mark on Nova’s graph.

You might also be wondering about the absence of any temperature rise to mark the K-T boundary on Nova’s graph. Well, when I followed the source marked on Nova’s graph (www.geocraft.com), and saw the original graph (Figure 3), it became clear that Nova had conveniently deleted the temperature increase which marked the K-T boundary (at the start of the ‘Tertiary period’).


Figure 3: Graph showing atmospheric CO2 and global temperatures through the Phanerozoic. CO2 levels taken from Geocarb III model; temperature reconstruction taken from ‘PALEOMAP Project’. Source: http://geocraft.com/WVFossils/Carboniferous_climate.html

Interestingly Nova’s source had in turn also misrepresented its own sources, as the temperature reconstruction which the graph at Figure 3 draws upon (see here) shows temperature as increasing from approx. 25°C to approx. 28°C at the K-T boundary, as opposed to the 22°C to 25°C jump shown in the graph. This 3°C increase is consistent with the predictions of Beerling et al’s paper when the counter forcing of aerosols is taken into account.

The paleoclimate record in fact provides excellent evidence that CO2 can have a marked effect on global temperatures, both as a forcing and a feedback. When other natural climate drivers are taken into account, levels of atmospheric CO2 are shown to be consistent with the expected radiative forcing necessary to match past temperature reconstructions.

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Comments

Comments 1 to 49:

  1. I was finally overwhelmed by curiosity and clicked the link to Jo Nova's pamphlet. Jo Nova does not seem to offer a very persuasive argument about this particular topic for anybody already familiar with the subject of paleoclimate, can't really do so in the space of four very short paragraphs containing 144 words and almost no quantitative data. Unfortunately Jo Nova's rhetoric will stick like mud to anybody so unfortunate as not to have some background on the topic and getting clean again will not prove easy.

    Here's the really vexatious aspect to such an appealingly short, simple but completely wrong treatment: How long does it take to write 144 words conveying an easily absorbed untruth as opposed to the time required to undo the confusion propagated by those words? Further to that, if the confused and wrong version of the story is easily absorbed and the accurate version is not so easily understood, what's the possibility of repairing the damage caused by such a misleading work as Jo Nova'a?

    The ratio of work required to confuse as opposed to correct is vastly lopsided.

    David Grocott, just out of curiosity how long did it take you to research and write this rebuttal?
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    Moderator Response: Doug - it took several days. A few months ago I researched and wrote another article on one of Jo Nova's claims for my personal blog. I concluded it as follows:

    "What is clear is that it has now taken me 1,739 words, at least four peer-reviewed scientific studies, the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report, various blogs and websites, and several days, to tell precisely no-one (congratulations if you're still reading), why they should partially refute what Jo Nova has told 200,000 people in 7 words. Those 7 precious words being: "Paltridge found that humidity levels have fallen.""

    This is of course the great problem associated with climate "skepticism", but until a law is introduced prohibiting criminal ignorance, we must persevere.
  2. There are two key things that Jo Nova is missing in these graphs-(1) that the sun was a full 10% "cooler" than by today's standards during this time & (b) that in spite of a significantly cooler Sun, minimum temperatures during this time period were never significantly cooler than average temperatures today (&, in fact, spent much of that time at several degrees warmer than the modern average). This disparity between warmer temperatures vs a cooler sun would actually seem to highlight CO2's vital role in maintaining temperatures far above the modern-day average throughout that time.
    What is of particular interest to me is that, from the end of the Devonian Era through the Carboniferous Era, CO2 levels fell by over 1000ppm, whilst temperatures also fell by nearly 10 degrees C. Why this is of interest is that this is the time period in which the majority of our coal & oil was being generated-& we're now burning these ancient carbon sinks to re-release this 400-300 million year old CO2 back into the atmosphere. To think this would have absolutely *no* impact on our modern climate-especially given our warmer sun-shows breathtaking naiveté in my opinion!
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    Moderator Response: Re: Ordovician glaciation - someone mentioned this in another thread. They suggested the distribution of continental landmasses during the period enabled 'glaciation' to occur at higher average global temperatures - http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~rcb7/Ord.jpg

    The 'glaciers' could be more accurately described as the south-polar ice cap.
  3. Also note that the ice-age she refers to would have had to have occurred at temperatures significantly *higher* than any of the ice-ages within during the Quaternary Era. This suggests that the glacier forming processes may well have been very different from those operating in more modern times (not surprising given that the planet looked *very* different during the Cambrian to the Triassic Eras.
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  4. "The ratio of work required to confuse as opposed to correct is vastly lopsided."
    LOL. I will quote you.
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  5. There seems to be great concern here that people can be so easily swayed by "untruths". What happened to Occam's Razor?
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    Moderator Response: In order to apply Occam's razor, competing hypotheses must be equal in all other respects...
  6. ...and it's just probably the other way around. It didnt take that long to convince people about AGW, but given enough time and energy, the truth is coming out.
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  7. RSVP #6: 'It didnt take that long to convince people about AGW, but given enough time and energy, the truth is coming out. '

    I think it would be more accurate to say that it has taken a very long time to convince people about AGW and now the truth is being 'taken' out of the argument in by people such as Jo Nova and that Monckton chappie who prefer instead to prefer misrepresentation and obfuscation.

    Why they would do this one can only guess - perhaps they see it as sort of sport.
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  8. David/John

    A great set of posts so far. I have spent some time at Jo's site, trying to argue with her followers about the range of fallacies in her 'handbooks' - have a look at some of the early posts associated with her 'debate' with Andrew Glickson. Have a look at some of this

    http://joannenova.com.au/2010/04/no-dr-glikson/#comment-43990 and others

    What I find intriguing is how different supposed arguments can be contraditory or interlinked and yet this dosen't get commented on.

    The 'missing hotspot' which isn't missing, and on the same graphic the stratospheric cooling.

    The deep paleoclimate record mentioned here seems strange until you factor in long term changes in Solar output. Then it starts to make sense. Then the fact that CO2 is an integral part of explaining the deep paleoclimate record also says that the 'Its Saturated' or 'It can't do much more' arguments are totally invalid. So they hinge on the Standard Solar Model.

    Actually I am quite surprised that advocates of AGW don't push the deep paleoclimate aspect more strongly. It is a very strong argument for the major future impact of CO2 since it actually addresses a range of sceptic arguments - Saturation, It can't do much more, Feedbacks, Climate Sensitivity, etc.

    What things were like 500 Myr ago may not have resonance with the lay public, but if its significance could be conveyed strongly, it is a powerful argument.

    As another thought John. You might like to consider a challenge (since we all have so much spare time & energy available to devote to this in amongst the rest of our lives). Invite Jo to supply a series of guest posts here, with you supplying a series of posts on her site. Specific subjects such as topics from her Handbooks. And focused on the science, not 'warmists said...' or 'denialists said...' Gore & Monckton are not invited. And a great time was had by all.
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    Moderator Response: Well observed Re: mutually exclusive arguments.

    Jo Nova's four arguments from The Skeptic's Handbook are:

    1) CO2 isn't causing the observed warming;
    2) CO2 doesn't cause warming;
    3) The observed warming that CO2 isn't causing isn't happening, and;
    3) The CO2 that doesn't cause warming is already causing as much of the observed warming that isn't happening as it can.

    Fascinating stuff.
  9. "... Royer found that when solar variations are taken into account, the "total radiative forcing" correlates excellently with past temperature reconstructions."

    Millions years, what about thousands ? Example Sun - insolation ...

    Clues from MIS 11 to predict the future climate a modelling point of view, Loutre, 2003:
    "However, we already know that CO 2 and insolation DO NOT PLAY TOGETHER. Indeed, insolation has been decreasing [such as long trend of temperature] since 11 kyr BP and CO2 concentration remains above 260 ppmv, with a general increasing trend over the last 8000 yr."
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    Moderator Response: You have conflated the relationship between total radiative forcing and temperature with the relationship between CO2 and insolation.

    As stated, CO2 has a number of forcings independent of climate (the obvious one being the burning of fossil fuels). The fact that during these last 30 years the solar total irradiance, solar UV irradiance and cosmic ray flux has not shown any significant secular trend, while CO2 in the atmosphere is rising by 15 gigatonnes per year, demonstrates the impact of human activity on atmospheric CO2.

    The study you quoted strengthens this argument.
  10. Moderator Response: In order to apply Occam's razor, competing hypotheses must be equal in all other respects...

    Thank you for the clarification.

    Mr John
    Why they would do this one can only guess - perhaps they see it as sort of sport.

    I would not call critical thinking "sport". For instance, is there anything on the face of the Earth that does not readily absorb or emit infra red radiation? And how does the thermal mass of these not so invisible objects compare with the extra CO2 that has been put out by burning of fossil fuels?
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  11. The paper by Beerling et al 2002 calculates an increase in c02 at the K-T boundary, and then infers a large amount of short term warming (~7.5degrees) by this increase. As such, it doesn't provide any direct evidence of short-term warming, all of the supposed warming is modelled.

    In your description of the end of the K-T, you completely leave out the Deccan Traps Volcanics, in order to come to the conclusion that T rises, and other associated effects were short term. The Deccan Traps volcanic episode is probably the largest series of long term volcanic eruptions in the last 65 million + years (I'll have to check it with the age of the basalt province in the West Pacific oceanic basin), about the time Inida separated from Africa (?). Beerling et al 2002, concludes that modelling of the Deccan Traps fails to account for an inferred large c02 rise at the end of the K-T. In other words, modelling, by non volcanologists, fails to account for an inferred C02 rise, which then fails to account for an inferred T rise. It's therefore so much easier just to leave out the major causative factor in the demise of 75% of the world's species about the K-T boundary-volcanism, which even Tim Flannery points out that the major extinction rates from the bolide impact only occurred about the North America continent, not globally. The rest of the extinctions, over a longer time period, were largely caused by Deccan Traps volcanism, much the same as at the End Permian (Siberian Traps Volcanism), when there was also, no bolide impact. Volcanoes are the major culprite in both extinction events, and both caused major c02 rises, and major T rises, over very long, not short, time periods.

    The evidence of the very long time (millions of years +)periods involved with eg hanges in T, which you fail to mention or discuss, is provided by: eg long term deposition of red beds at both the K-T and End Permian periods (and also the end Triassic as well-Gondwana break up volcanism-eg Karoo red beds), which occurred over intervals spanning at least several million years, which therefore can't relate to short term c02 rises. The red beds indicate hot house conditions of several million years, even about the poles, as a direct result of extensive volcanic episodes, not short term bolide impacts, and associated short term c02 rises.
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  12. Mike over at watching the deniers pointed out Nova's response to the PNAS paper "Expert credibility in climate change".
    There's nothing that will get through to her - even if she read this, she's obviously so sure that she's right that no rebuttal, no evidence, nothing will get through.
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  13. RSVP #6: "It didnt take that long to convince people about AGW"

    I think your history is a little off.

    John Tyndall first determined that changes in atmospheric composition (specifically including increases in CO2) would lead to increased temperatures back in 1859. His lab experiments proved the existence of the carbon dioxide greenhouse effect, but could not determine its magnitude (though he thought it significant enough to drive the ice age cycle).

    By 1896 Arrhenius had worked out the mechanism of temperature forcings from greenhouse gases through the Stefan-Boltzman law and computed significant warming from CO2, but his results were widely disputed.

    From 1938 through the 50s Guy Callendar argued that the effects of CO2 driven warming were starting to appear, but again this was largely dismissed.

    It wasn't really until around the 1970s that enough evidence had accumulated that scientists began to take the CO2 greenhouse effect seriously. From there it was another decade or two for it to become the 'scientific consensus', and the general populace is still mulling the issue over - the majority accept it but there is a significant segment who do not.

    That's hardly a short transition period. Jo Nova and other 'skeptics' frequently recycle arguments which were reasonable when they were first introduced 40+ years ago... but which have now long since been disproven. Neither AGW nor skepticism of it is some newfangled quickly introduced fad. This is a debate that has played out for more than a century and a half now... with the skeptics continually losing ground as evidence accumulated against their position. Modern 'skeptics' have managed to slow that trend somewhat by making outright false claims, but that can't work for long in the face of a changing world.
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  14. #6: you are right, the truth is finally coming out. Despite the feverish attempts by the deniers, nature itself is proving their theories wrong these days, with temperature records being set every month despite the denialist predictions of cooling.
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  15. I'm a huge fan of the single-variable attack:

    Sometimes when the sun comes up the temperature on my porch rises to over 100 degrees (F), and sometimes it's at 30 below zero. Consequently, the temperature on my porch "doesn't care less" whether the sun is shining or not!

    Criminal ignorance indeed!
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  16. Thanks you for your original post as well as your timesheet, David.

    Remarking on work performed elsewhere, David says:

    'What is clear is that it has now taken me 1,739 words, at least four peer-reviewed scientific studies, the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report, various blogs and websites, and several days, to tell precisely no-one (congratulations if you're still reading), why they should partially refute what Jo Nova has told 200,000 people in 7 words. Those 7 precious words being: "Paltridge found that humidity levels have fallen."'

    In our neighborhood we have a problem with kids "tagging" various objects with graffiti. The artwork appears to be faddish, with some few youngsters capable of creating an original style, the rest slavishly following. Only a few seconds are required to deposit nominally insubstantial paint just microns thick on a wall. Hours are needed to remove each occurrence of the blight, sometimes it's impossible to entirely undo the scar and inevitably the cycle of giggle-spray-grumble-remove will repeat itself. Graffiti tagging is childish vandalism especially annoying because it's lazy, usually unoriginal and at the same time imposes a disproportionate amount of effort to undo.

    To my mind Joanne Nova and her ilk are graffiti artists vandalizing our collective intellect, contributing to cultural dementia. What's different is that thanks to the Internet Nova's can of spraypaint tags minds across the entire globe.
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  17. David Grocott Are you using witchcraft here? Are you a witchdoctor?
    http://joannenova.com.au/2010/06/pnas-witchdoctors-of-science/
    Real question, do you have a graph of polar land masses for these times? Like our current glacial- inter- glacial is link to the current location of Antarctica. (As well as the snow ball periods to polar land mass at that time)?
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    Moderator Response: As if by magic...this website might be of interest.

    I don't have graphs, but if you click the links down the left hand side you can see maps of continental distribution.
  18. Doug @17,

    I love the analogy. Why is BP not on this thread?

    David Grocott, many thanks for your time and effort. Just a quick observation. Haven't the myths being perpetuated by Nova been addressed here before under "Skeptic Arguments"? I'm not saying that your contribution to refuting her misinformation is not helpful, it is just really frustrating that you and others have to keep wasting time setting the record straight.

    There has to be a way to take the fight to them instead of always seeming to have to respond.
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    Moderator Response: Have they been addressed before? They sure have!

    CO2 is not the only driver of climate
    CO2 has been higher in the past
    High CO2 in the past, Part 2
    CO2 was higher in the late Ordovician
    On temperature and CO2 in the past

    I don't think there's a 'skeptic' argument that John hasn't already covered at some point, but sadly the same misinformation is still being propagated by some individuals and needs to be corrected again and again.

    John asked me to do this post partly because Jo Nova is currently travelling around Australia as part of the 'Watts up with the climate' tour. I've pulled together the specific claims she makes in her 'Skeptic's Handbook II' regarding past climate and CO2, and drawn attention to the manipulation of the temperature reconstruction she relies upon, i.e. the deletion of the K-T boundary event.
  19. Richard Alley has a very good video lecture on this very subject, The Biggest Control Knob, Carbon Dioxide in Earth's Climate History
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  20. danielbacon... I have to say, WOW! I've spent very little time at JoNova's website but that's a particularly shocking piece of writing from her. And the comments connected to it are even more shocking that the piece itself.
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  21. Albatross, I think the situation is even worse, more akin to driving a car in complex, fast traffic with somebody dumping paint on the windshield and the wipers only able to move too slowly. Not only is our view of climate behavior being degraded, but so is all the surrounding scenery. Jo Nova's facile tactics don't just smear our perspective of climate science, they can make other things hard to see and understand as well.

    Nova's fallacies are injected for tactical purposes into a strategic discussion arising from basic physical principles. The confusion Nova instills is a potentially creeping rot because in order to superficially present some degree of coherence her musings must necessarily entail the disassembly of a lot of prior established scientific knowledge. Trying to follow her personal brand of logic backwards would be destructive not only to our understanding of climate but much else.

    As part of the tactics Nova's adopted for what she's explicitly identified as strategic financial reasons she's calling into question our reliance not just on the physics directly related to climate science but our entire scientific establishment and the benefits we accrue from assiduous and meticulous construction of a worldview that is built from multiple, independent but mutually consistent paths of research. Superstitions about vaccines, disconnected airbags, fear of "electrosensitivity" and host of other degenerate behaviors lie not far down the path Jo Nova employs in her tactical rhetoric.

    Really destructive, not wantonly so I suppose but the ultimate effect is willy-nilly smashing.
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  22. Entropy. It's always easier to destroy than to build. A flawed argument is much easier to construct than a correct argument. Deniers merely have to create doubt.
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  23. Another problem with Nova's graph is it doesn't take into account the logarithmic relationship of atmospheric CO2 to temperature. 1000->2000 ppm would theoretically have a similar effect as 2000->4000 ppm. So there needs to be a scale that compresses the larger values as you go up, similar to stock market index charts that focus on growth of the index over time are done.

    There are other estimates of CO2 concentration that indicate it wasn't quite as varied, perhaps implying a higher climate sensitivity. I recall a recent study on this.

    Also, note the error bars for 300+ million years ago.

    CO2
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  24. I don't wish to derail this thread, but the comments from doug_bostrom at 05:14 AM on 24 June, 2010, especially his last two paragraphs, brought to mind comments from a user on WUWT that I saw earlier today. They read:

    "This is NOT a simple disagreement, this is NOT a polite dinner table argument.

    This is a war, with the future of our way of life at stake. The other side knows this and is fighting us on this level. Unless we acknowledge the true nature of this contest, we will lose. They will throw *everything* they have at us, they will have no limits, they will show no standards, they will display no decency. We do not have to descend to these depths, but we DO need to be prepared to fight them, since that is what is going to be aimed at all of us who are skeptics.

    And also, because this is War, this is not going to end with some kind of gentlemen’s agreement, or scientific resolution – this is going to end with either one side or the other being completely crushed. We must make sure that it is the warmists who are crushed, and that all of the institutions that they have infested are not only discredited but destroyed.

    Sadly, most of the existing scientific establishment now needs to be torn down to the ground. It will be easier to build new institutions than to revitalize those that have decayed."

    It would be all too easy to simply write this off as the rantings of a fringe element, but it seems to be a creeping mentality that can be traced back to the type of invective Jo Nova injects into the "debate".
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  25. RSVP:

    I would not call critical thinking "sport".

    MrJon's comment (#7) about "sport" referred to people like JoNova and Monckton. Surely you are not seriously suggesting that either of these people is engaged in "critical thinking"?

    Critical thinking requires getting basic facts straight, first and foremost. That's something neither Monckton nor JoNova is willing to do, as far as I can tell.
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  26. NickD... I think you are spot on here. Literally, there are two completely different battles being waged. One is a battle for the accuracy of science, the other is an ideological/political battle. This goes back to my previous piece on Why Does Anthony Watts Drive an Electric Car.

    The very act of ensuring that the science is real and accurate is going to push those who reject climate change further away. When it comes down to it, their posts may be couched as science, but it's not a scientific battle they are waging. Their battle is ideological.
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  27. doug_bostrom at 16:36 PM on 23 June, 2010


    "The ratio of work required to confuse as opposed to correct is vastly lopsided."

    My favorite saying, which is more public friendly, is:

    "It takes 5-30 seconds to speak a damn lie but 5-30 minutes to respond to it."
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  28. villabolo... Or as the famous Churchill quote goes: A lie gets half way around the world before the truth has a chance to get its trousers on.
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  29. NickD

    "This is a war, WITH THE FUTURE OF OUR WAY OF LIFE AT STAKE" (my emphasis)

    This line seems to go to the heart of it.

    That the science of AGW puts forward a threat to 'our way of life'. 'our way of life' is sacrosanct, it is the heart of our identity, the most precious thing there is. Therefore anything that challenges that must be an attack upon the sacrosanct. And must therefore be being put forward for THE EVIL PURPOSE OF ATTACKING IT. There can be no other reason for attacking the sacrosanct. Therefore all supposed evidence for AGW, all arguments for it etc are all fraudulent, all contrived as weapons to be used in the attack. All MUST therefore be dismissed and the attackers defeated. A fight to the end.

    The fact that this world view is utterly disconnected from reality doesn't enter into it. A mindset that is perhaps all too prevalent in our science illiterate world; that doesn't really get cause and effect. A sensible view is that our way of life has to fit within the limits imposed by the physical universe around us. This alternate view says that the universe around us has to fit us because we are the centre of things.

    A profoundly egocentric view of existence, an anthropocentric view. As some have described it, a faith based reality - and I don't mean that in just a religious sense. We learnt a long time ago that the Sun doesn't move around the Earth. Also the Universe doesn't move around H Sapiens. But many people don't get that - a question for the psychologists perhaps.

    But this is a view that is extremely hard to counter since it is an impervious self-contained world view. Perhaps all we can aim to do is reach those people who aren't so closed off and show them that the Muntain never will come to Mohammed. Those locked in that other bubble may not be reachable and we may need to simply quarantine them so their disconnected thinking can't hurt anyone else.

    It is almost a case of the irresistable force and the immoveable object. Physics vs Psychology. Some people don't get that Physics will always beat Psychology. Its called death.
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  30. The Scotese temperature chart (from before 2000 I recall?) was surely never intended to be used as more than indication of warm and cool periods, and much more detailed and data based versions exist. I can't figure out why it keeps being used in this way, and very problematic to infer anything quantitative from it. The state of the art in Phanerozoic CO2 charts based on actual data has also moved on. Strange a model is preferred here?

    thingadonta at 21:47 PM on 23 June, 2010

    I’m not sure the science on volcanism being the primary cause of K/T extinctions is as settled as you suggest, I’ve a few very recent papers on both sides of the “impact” debate, but it is accepted as fact that they happened, and it now looks more likely than not that they coincided with the KT boundary and were pretty catastrophic, see Schulte 2010

    “The temporal match between the ejecta layer and the onset of the extinctions and the agreement of ecological patterns in the fossil record with modeled environmental perturbations (for example, darkness and cooling) lead us to conclude that the Chicxulub impact triggered the mass extinction”.

    Also, less well reported is the “Shiva” 40km object impacting India, also probably at the KT boundary, possibly associated with or triggering episodes of Deccan volcanism, see Chatterjee 2009 and some more detail at Chatterjee 2006.

    A link between massive bolide impact and extreme volcanism doesn’t require much stretching of the imagination. The evidence for (relatively) rapid CO2 release is robust in the paleo records, but there is debate about how rapid and how long lasting. I don't have high resolution temperature proxy d18O records covering this period, but there are multiple examples of linkages elsewhere in the data sets, and elsewhere on this website, see Zachos 2008 for example.
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  31. NickD, I certainly hope you did a screen shot of that "This is war..." rant in case it get's sanitized in the future. It is a perfect example if the unhinged paranoia all too common in the "sceptic" camp.
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  32. The argument that action to mitigate AGW "threatens our way of life" is not too dissimilar to the arguments put forward in the 18th century about action to end the Slave Trade in Britain. Indeed, many of the same arguments & tactics were used then as would later be used in relation to tobacco, asbestos & CFC's. Sorry for my reply being somewhat off-topic, but I thought it was an important point to make!
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  33. Flawed though it is, Nova's reasoning is tempting. Which is why it makes such good fodder for "sound bites" for the oil industry's side.

    This Skeptical Science refutation, though excellent as always, is hard to distill into something that can be easily explained to the general public or politician. I leave the reader to guess which of these two audiences is hardest to convince;)

    My response to Nova's fallacy has always been, "Sure, CO2 levels were higher in the past. But ocean currents were different, too. With ancient currents, rising CO2 did not always trigger warming; with modern, it certainly does."

    True, this answer neglects many other factors the SS article rightly points out. But it is enough to refute the dangerous fallacy, and it is easy to grasp.
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  34. Regarding the end Ordovician Ice Age: there was recent work done by a team at Ohio State Uni led by Matthew Saltzman that found isotopic and sedimentological studies indicated that there was an initial balance in the Late Ordivician of CO2 production by volcanoes along the newly rifting Atlantic margin, and the CO2 drawdown by immense weathering of the young Appalachian Mountain ranges. Then the vulcanism apparently stopped quite abruptly, while the weathering continued, causing a massive and rapid drop in CO2 levels. The main Ice Age only lasted less than 2 million years, possibly as little as 500,000 years. But the major sea level drop and sea level rise was probably sufficient to cause the second biggest mass extinction in the Phanerozoic.
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  35. Small correction- the temperature blip just after the K-T boundary is actually the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), not a result of the KT asteroid impact, but a separate event about 10 million years later. It has its own very interesting literature, and would be really hard to explain with a small climate sensitivity. See, for example Dunkley-Jones et al. (2010) and references therein:
    http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/368/1919/2395.abstract
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  36. < villabolo... Or as the famous Churchill quote goes: A lie gets half way around the world before the truth has a chance to get its trousers on. >>

    Quite prophetic assuming this was before the internet (for the first part of the quote), and more so if you consider how quickly certain comments on this site get deleted.
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  37. To complement this post, I highly recommend Prof. David Greenwood's comment at Climatesight, which is a very lucid description of what we know.
    http://climatesight.org/the-credibility-spectrum/#comment-2320

    Jo Nova should it read it, too, especially as David Greenwood started out as a sceptic.
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  38. When science is settled, it's no longer science.
    0 0
    Response: I'm not sure where that come from but we have a page specially devoted to the argument "The science isn't settled" - feel free to discuss the matter there.
  39. In a recent post Jo Nova thinks consensus and empirical evidence are mutually exclusive. I made the mistake of suggesting that consensus arises from the empirical evidence in the comments section. I then had "argument from authority" thrown at me when I mentioned the 97% consensus figure. Garrh the stupid, it burns!
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  40. I looked at the comments on Jo Nova's site and got fed up after a few minutes of all the repetitive -- and meaningless -- "good on ya' Jo, you really showed them scientists a thing or too!" (or similar).

    I note that they have a voting system. If enough people give a comment the thumbs down, it's automatically removed. It's a great system -- for Jo -- it means virtually every comment in the thread is in support of her viewpoint. And it completely overwhelms any criticism.
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  41. John Russell at 06:44 AM on 11 July, 2010 said...

    "I note that they have a voting system. If enough people give a comment the thumbs down, it's automatically removed. It's a great system -- for Jo -- it means virtually every comment in the thread is in support of her viewpoint. And it completely overwhelms any criticism."

    I'll assume you made this assumption out of ignorance.
    Any comment that accumulates more than 30 thumbs down votes gets "hidden" not removed. However, anybody wishing to read what the fuss was about, just needs to click the words "hidden due to rating" and the comment reappears.

    You noted in error. I note your pre concieved view and bias.

    p.s. I posted a comment here at the "hottie nottie" thread, comment number 16. IT WAS REMOVED with no explanation given.

    People in glass houses John.
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  42. Baa Humbug wrote : Any comment that accumulates more than 30 thumbs down votes gets "hidden" not removed. However, anybody wishing to read what the fuss was about, just needs to click the words "hidden due to rating" and the comment reappears.

    But why are they hidden ? To all intents and purposes they do not exist because they do not appear on the screen when you are viewing comments, so John Russell is correct when he states :

    It's a great system -- for Jo -- it means virtually every comment in the thread is in support of her viewpoint.

    What is not immediately on show (and needs active input from the viewer, if they can be bothered, to actually show), is not on show. Simple as that.

    I ask again : Why hide them ?
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  43. I quite like the SS deletions policy, although I'd quite like to see a section called "the swamp" or something that contained all the deleted posts (anonymised if felt necessary).
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  44. OK , Baa Humbug, I agree; they're not removed, they're hidden.

    So why? When I've looked at them, the majority of these hidden comments seem quite reasonable counter arguments.

    Three, I hope, reasonable questions: why are they hidden? Why choose to hide (your word) dissent? To any casual observer finding the site what's the result of hiding dissent?

    Regarding your comment that was removed on this site; are you sure it was reasonable? There's lots of dissent here; it's treated robustly but courteously (if not it's removed). Several of my own comments have previously been removed because (I assume) they strayed slightly into the political arena. So, you see, we have both been 'victimised' evenly and fairly on this site! I hope you can agree.

    Unfortunately I think your last post might be removed as arguably it's a little -- how shall I say -- aggressive? I hope my response is not.
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  45. JMurphy at 19:36 PM on 11 July, 2010 said...


    "What is not immediately on show (and needs active input from the viewer, if they can be bothered, to actually show), is not on show. Simple as that".

    Human nature JM. When one starts reading the thread and comes across a "hidden" comment, curiosity kicks in, A SINGLE CLICK OF THE MOUSE relieves that curiosity as to why the comment was hidden. hardly a task one can't be bothered with.

    As to why this function is used, I don't know. Hop over there and ask, you'll get a response.

    Also check out one of the lates popular threads, there are dozens and dozens of posts by people not in agreement with the host. None are deleted, none are hidden. The hide function is in the hands of the bloggers, not the host or mods.
    Once you are informed, then your comments about it become valid.

    It beats having ones comment removed without explanation like mine was here.
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  46. John Russell at 20:01 PM on 11 July, 2010

    "Unfortunately I think your last post might be removed as arguably it's a little -- how shall I say -- aggressive? I hope my response is not".


    John I don't keep copies of my comments but I assure you it was not aggressive nor did it contain ad homs or such. If you follow the thread, there are replies to my deleted comment. You can glean from those replies if my comment was aggressive or out of line.
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    Response: One of the moderators removed the comment because of a line about lunatic fringes which was deemed ad hominem. I reinstated the comment as there's a recent blog post that discusses this very subject.
  47. Thankyou for the clarification. My use of the term was taken from the article itself, hence why I put it in parantheses. From Brookes article...

    "I don't think there is any hope for the lunatic fringe on either side. If your starting point is that the people on the other side are evil incarnate, then you won't move from that."

    For what it's worth, whoever owns and operates this blog has the right to set the rules. Those who don't like or agree with the rules can please themselves.
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    Response:

    "My use of the term was taken from the article itself..."

    Hence the reinstatement. The comments policy here is based on behaviour, not whether the majority of readers agree with the comment, and generally works pretty well - I rarely have to overrule any action by the moderators and the discussion is IMHO of a high quality.

  48. Baa Humbug at 20:04 PM on 11 July, 2010: "Human nature JM. When one starts reading the thread and comes across a "hidden" comment, curiosity kicks in,"

    In the beginning: definitely. After a while: no.

    I've been a mod/admin on several large forums where no post rating systems were allowed, because too many people go around "plussing and minusing" not because they think posts are good or bad, but because they want their own views in sight and others' views hidden. And most of it is being done by one side only, just like with online polls where 60% says ther earth is cooling, it's a natural cycle and AGW is a conspiracy to raise taxes.

    The result is not only that only one side of the argument is really shown, but it also keeps many people from the other side from posting. Some people just don't like posting anything anymore (especially when they work long and hard on their posts), if the posts will be hidden anyway.

    Anymoo, my experience with most forums with post rating systems is that they turn political in no time - and it's nearly always the same political side.

    "All sceintsist are fruads!!!!11~" +283 -12

    "Research has shown that (insert lots of text here) which shows a clear trend towards warming." +7 -453
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  49. David what an excellent article, are you going to be writing any more posts?x
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