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Posted on 15 August 2010 by John Cook

Skeptical Science is based on the notion that science by its very nature is skeptical. Genuine skepticism means you don't take someone's word for it but investigate for yourself. You look at all the facts before coming to a conclusion. In the case of climate science, our understanding of climate  comes from considering the full body of evidence.

In contrast, climate skepticism looks at small pieces of the puzzle while neglecting the full picture. Climate skeptics vigorously attack any evidence for man-made global warming yet uncritically embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that refutes global warming. If you began with a position of climate skepticism then cherrypick the data that supports your view while fighting tooth and nail against any evidence that contradicts that position, I'm sorry but that's not genuine scientific skepticism.

So the approach of Skeptical Science is as follows. It looks at the many climate skeptic arguments, exposes how they focus on small pieces of the puzzle and then puts them in their proper context by presenting the full picture. The skeptic arguments are listed by popularity (eg - how often each argument appears in online articles). For the more organised mind, they're also sorted into taxonomic categories.

Good starting points for newbies

If you're new to the climate debate (or are of the mind that there's no evidence for man-made global warming), a good starting point is Warming Indicators which lays out the evidence that warming is happening and the follow-up article, 10 Human Fingerprints on Climate Change which lays out the evidence that humans are the cause. More detail is available in empirical evidence that humans are causing global warming. Contrary to what you may have heard, the case for man-made global warming doesn't hang on models or theory - it's built on direct measurements of many different parts of the climate, all pointing to a single, coherent answer.

Another good starting point is the SkS climate graphics page, with each graphic featuring links to informative SkS material. Good introductions to climate science can be found at Global Warming in a Nutshell and The History of Climate Science. You could lose yourself for hours in those pages!

Smart Phone Apps

For smart phone users, the rebuttals to all the skeptic arguments are also available on a number of mobile platforms. The first Skeptical Science app was an iPhone app, released in February 2010. This is updated regularly with the latest content from the website and very accessible in a beautifully designed interface by Shine Technologies. Shine Tech then went on to create a similar Android app which has some extra features missing from the iPhone version. A Nokia app was also created by Jean-François Barsoum (this was one of the 10 finalists in the Calling All Innovators competition).

As well as the list of rebuttals, Skeptical Science also has a blog where the latest research and developments are examined and discussed. Comments are welcome and the level of discussion is of a fairly high quality thanks to a fairly strict Comments Policy. You need to register a user account to post comments. One thing many regulars are not aware of is you can edit your user account details (to get to this page, click on your username in the left margin).

Keep up to date by email, RSS, Facebook or Twitter

To keep up to date on latest additions to the website, sign up to receive new blog posts by email. There's an RSS feed for blog posts and for the engaged commenter, a feed for new user comments. I recommend you follow the Skeptical Science Twitter page as I not only tweet latest blog posts but also any other interesting climate links I happen upon throughout the day. New blog posts are also added to our Facebook page.

About John Cook

Lastly, for those wondering about who runs Skeptical Science, the website is maintained by John Cook. I studied physics at the University of Queensland but currently, I'm not a professional scientist - I run this website as a layman. People sometimes wonder why I spend so much time on this site and which group backs me. No group funds me. I receive no funding other than the occasional Paypal donations. As the lack of funding limits how much time I can spend developing the site, donations are appreciated.

My motivations are two-fold: as a parent, I care about the world my daughter will grow up in and as a Christian, I feel a strong obligation to the poor and vulnerable who are hardest hit by climate change. Of course these are very personal reasons - I'm sure everyone comes at this from different angles. I go more deeply into my motivations in Why I care about climate change.

The SkS Team

However, there are many more who make invaluable contributions to Skeptical Science. There are a number of authors who write blog posts and are currently in the process of writing all the rebuttals in plain English. Translators from all over the world have translated the rebuttals into 15 different languages. There have been contributors to the one-line responses to skeptic arguments, proofreaders, technical support from boffins who understand computers a lot better than myself and commenters whose feedback have helped improve and hone the website's content. Skeptical Science has evolved from a small blog into a community of intelligent, engaged people with a commitment to science and our climate.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 244:

  1. Ok John, you got me hooked :-)

    I will take a look at your scepticism

    Michael

    Gold Coast
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  2. "Genuine skepticism means you don't take someone's word for it but investigate for yourself."

    If I go to...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skepticism

    ...I have "investigated", yet with this type of investigation, I am again having to take someone else's word for it. Since language is a convention, that may be good enough.
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  3. RSVP - just dont get lost in sophistry. Most of the time, I would accept what is in a textbook. Its too hard to learn all of science from first principles. However, when you have an observation that doesnt match the textbook prediction, then the skepticism gets going - usually with the accuracy of your results first, but then going backwards to examine where the assumption that were made really hold. This is far cry though from uncritical acceptance of a cherry-picked data on denialist site. Then it makes sense to get the all data, examine its metadata for fitness for purpose and seeing whether the cherry pick was valid.
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  4. Investigating for myself, I find the idea of GHG as a cause for global warming is not listed as a skeptical argument. Just as it says, "It's the Sun.", there should be an argument, "It's greenhouse gases.".

    Therefore this site is not about being skeptical, rather it is about defining anyone who argues with AGW as being skeptical. Quite perverse.
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  5. scaddenp #3
    Science (and language for that matter) is a tool which can be used or misused. Normally, what appears in a textbook is passive information and has not bearing on our lives until someone comes along and starts using it against you. I think that is when "skepticism gets going" as you say.
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  6. RSVP - it may not have your prefered title of "It's greenhous gases", but there is "Empirical evidence that humans are causing global warming" which provides the explanation you say is missing from the site.
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  7. Maybe you could add this post as a link in the Home page opening paragraph?
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    Response: That's the whole reason I wrote this post. I'll add it once the post has dropped down the page in a day or two.
  8. "In the case of climate science, our understanding of climate must come by considering the full body of evidence. In contrast, climate skepticism look at small pieces of the puzzle, not the full picture".

    I would suggest many of the differences berween climate skeptics and the mainstream stem from different philosophical assumptions with regards to this very statement.

    I think its best explained by the '90/10' rule, well recognised in eg business and social systems. 90% of a 'system' often fits into a coherant predictable pattern, 10% does not.

    It's has long been recognised within various philosophical and scientific contexts that these 90/10 proportions are often not proportional; that is, the 10% can over-ride and outweigh the other 90%, or to put it another way, the 10% that doesnt 'fit' can be more important than the other 90%.

    I have had many discussions along these lines with fellow scientists, and of course it really depends on the particular system you are talking about. Systems with high levels of uncertainty, highly variable rates of change or scale (eg relativity and Mercury's orbit) or those which deal with future projections with uncertain variables, are partcularly prone to being outweighed by the 10% which doesn't 'fit'.

    Some people diligently follow the '90% rule' their whole lives in all contexts and all situations, without even questioning such an assumption, others follow quite the opposite. Both have scientific validity, but again it depends on the particualr system you are referring to.

    Steve McIntyre comes from a scientific background which deals strongly with the importance of the rare 10%-mineral exploration. (So do I).

    The 90/10 rule of thumb by nature is by default strongly uneven, and is therefore also strongly a-socialistic. (Look at eg 90% of the world's remaining oil concentrated in less than 10% of countries, which is in the hands of less than 10% of any population in those countries). It produces great inequality and is also self-perpetuating, such as within capitalism.
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  9. Thingadonta, you're talking about the Pareto Principle - and it's not a particularly strong argument you're presenting. As I understand it, you're saying that climate skeptics are skeptical because there is such a paucity of evidence for their own position, not because the evidence for the other side of the argument doesn't convince them.

    The example of Mercury's orbit doesn't fit your argument either - the discrepancies in it's orbital period were measured, and provided strong evidence that Newtonian physics didn't explain everything about the universe. Similarly, Einstein's relativity, while it did a much better job than Newton's theory at explaining the trickier cases, appears to have its own shortcomings. But Newtonian physics still give a pretty good approximation, especially at relatively low speeds outside of strong gravitational fields.

    Your post reminds me of the story of the blind men asked to describe an elephant. Each had a very small piece of 'evidence', and each thus produced a description that did not resemble the whole elephant.

    Climate science is about trying to figure out which way the elephant is likely to head next... and how being prodded with a sharp stick might affect that. If you want to make any meaningful guess, you really need to keep the whole elephant in view, rather than just looking for which way it's tail is twitching.
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  10. I think your elephant example illustrates my point very well.

    You can't know which way the elephant is 'going to head next', because it is an animal with its own volition. A thick hide might mean it doesn't move at all (a climate with very low sensitivity).

    Elephants are able to be domesticated, like horses, but zebras are not. Zebras wont follow an alpha male, unlike horses, cows, sheep, or dogs. They dodge the noose thrown at their necks, and will not accept any 'external' authority. For this reason they have never been, and never will be, domesticated. Only those animals with a strong social hierarchy in their natural state in the first place are able to accept humans as a substitute authority, and are able to be domesticated (cats with difficulty). Each animal is different. How do you know that climate isn't more like a zebra than a horse, or an elephant with a thick hide? How do you know this isnt just human hubris, to say we can predict climate, affect climate, and control climate, like a horse, the same as those who still try to domesticate the zebra?

    And as for you looking at the elephant, by looking at the tail it might give you a better idea of which way its going to move (tails are known to support movement) than looking at anything else (say, its pretty tusks), or even the whole body, so your analogy isn't very good.
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  11. Oh good grief, what a surprise that thingadontas 'scientific' views are clouded by politics!

    How many scientists or engineers apply the 10% of theory in an application such as designing a car?
    People use what works.

    10% of 'theory' might suggest perpetual motion is valid, but how many people apply that to building the world around us?

    You distort and manipulate the reality thingadonta.
    We all use the 90% of practical science because it serves us well and it is how we have achieved what we have achieved.

    Human achievement I am afraid isn't based on choice, instead it is built on what works 90% of the time!
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  12. Why I don't listen to thingadonta:

    Elephants are able to be domesticated, like horses, but zebras are not.


    Wikipedia:

    "In England, the zoological collector Lord Rothschild frequently used zebras to draw a carriage. In 1907, Rosendo Ribeiro, the first doctor in Nairobi, Kenya, used a riding zebra for house calls. In the mid 1800s, Governor George Grey imported zebras to New Zealand from his previous posting in South Africa, and used them to pull his carriage on his privately owned Kawau Island.


    A tamed zebra being ridden in East Africa
    Captain Horace Hayes, in "Points of the Horse" (circa 1893) compared the usefulness of different zebra species. In 1891, Hayes broke a mature, intact mountain zebra stallion to ride in two days time, and the animal was quiet enough for his wife to ride and be photographed upon. He found the Burchell's zebra easy to break, and considered it ideal for domestication, as it was immune to the bite of the tsetse fly. He considered the quagga well-suited to domestication due to being easy to train to saddle and harness.[6]"


    Zebras wont follow an alpha male, unlike horses, cows, sheep, or dogs.


    More wikipedia, on the harem structure of two of the three species of zebra:

    "Like most members of the horse family, zebras are highly social. Their social structure, however, depends on the species. Mountain zebras and plains zebras live in groups, known as 'harems', consisting of one stallion with up to six mares and their foals. Bachelor males either live alone or with groups of other bachelors until they are old enough to challenge a breeding stallion. When attacked by packs of hyenas or wild dogs, a zebra group will huddle together with the foals in the middle while the stallion tries to ward them off."

    Note: "harems" are built around the "alpha male" Thingadonta insists don't exist in zebra social groups.

    Don't get me started on dogs, modern research into wolves, and the whole "alpha male" fallacy there ...
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  13. #2: "If I go to... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skepticism ... I have "investigated" "

    Well, no. As I tell my students, wikipedia is not a credible scientific source. Steven Colbert demonstrated that when he caused the extinction of the African elephant.

    If you really want to investigate, try Google Scholar and even then cross-check for factual misrepresentations at all times.

    Hey, if it was easy, everybody with a blog would do it.
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  14. Interesting comment on CNN debate

    Gavin and Economist Sachs say we have the technology and act now. Michaels says we should just wait to see if technologies come up...

    Fareed Zakaria "Mr. Michaels, is your research funded by oil companies?"

    Patrick Michaels-Not much of it

    Fareed "Mr. Michaels, how much of your research is funded by oil companies?"

    Michaels-I don't know, 40%
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  15. If this post is going to headline your site and introduce newcomers, you might want to work on this sentence from the first paragraph:

    "In contrast, climate skepticism look at small pieces of the puzzle, not the full picture."

    Either "skeptics look" or "skepticism looks," though I think the former is stronger, especially if you put scare quotes around "skeptics."
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    Response: Thanks for the tip. I think I went for skeptics look then edited it. Have updated the text.
  16. RSVP at 18:34 PM said
    "Investigating for myself, I find the idea of GHG as a cause for global warming is not listed as a skeptical argument. Just as it says, "It's the Sun.", there should be an argument, 'It's greenhouse gases'. "
    "
    Therefore this site is not about being skeptical, rather it is about defining anyone who argues with AGW as being skeptical. Quite perverse."


    I think you have missed an important point. Mainstream science is done with skepticism as part of the process.
    As John said in the first paragraph-

    "Skeptical Science is based on the notion that science by its very nature is skeptical."

    Scientists are constantly questioning data and conclusions and looking for weaknesses in the science that need correcting. The peer review process is more of this. This is not what happens in climate change denial.

    Presidential science advisor John Holdren has spoken clearly on this subject.
    In his own words:

    "We should really call them 'deniers' rather than 'skeptics', because they are giving the venerable tradition of skepticism a bad name.

    As my original reference to 'the venerable tradition of skepticism' indicates, I am in fact well aware of its valuable and indeed fundamental role in the practice of science. Skeptical views, clearly stated and soundly based, tend to promote healthy re-examination of premises, additional ways to test hypotheses and theories, and refinement of explanations and arguments. And it does happen from time to time - although less often than most casual observers suppose - that views initially held only by skeptics end up overturning and replacing what had been the 'mainstream' view.

    Appreciation for this positive role of scientific skepticism, however, should not lead to uncritical embrace of the deplorable practices characterizing much of what has been masquerading as appropriate skepticism in the climate-science domain. These practices include refusal to acknowledge the existence of large bodies of relevant evidence (such as the proposition that there is no basis for implicating carbon dioxide in the global-average temperature increases observed over the past century); the relentless recycling of arguments in public forums that have long since been persuasively discredited in the scientific literature (such as the attribution of the observed global temperature trends to urban-heat island effects or artifacts of statistical method); the pernicious suggestion that not knowing everything about a phenomenon (such as the role of cloudiness in a warming world) is the same as knowing nothing about it; and the attribution of the views of thousands of members of the mainstream climate-science community to 'mass hysteria' or deliberate propagation of a 'hoax'.

    The purveying of propositions like these by a few scientists who do or should know better - and their parroting by amateur skeptics who lack the scientific background or the motivation to figure out what’s wrong with them - are what I was inveighing against in the op-ed and will continue to inveigh against. The activities of these folks, whether witting in the case of the scientists or unwitting in the case of their gullible adherents, have nothing to do with respectable scientific skepticism."
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  17. Tut, tut John, there you go again with your misleading statements. You are way off beam with your “Climate skeptics vigorously attack any evidence for man-made global warming yet eagerly embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that refutes global warming”.

    The majority of those who are sceptical of The (significant human-made global climate change) Hypothesis do NOT reject the notion that humans case global warming. What we reject is the claim that there is convincing evidence that any such change is significant for global climates or that our continuing use of fossil fuels will cause catastrophic global climate change.

    You claim that you look at the science on this blog but do you distort it in the same way that you distort what sceptics stand for?

    Best regards, Pete Ridley
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  18. Pete.
    Your evidence of what the "majority of skeptics think" please? I see many who try to fool themselves that the earth isn't warming.

    "catastrophic" is loaded political language. What the science predicts is how much climate change you will get for a given set of forcings including GHGs. "Catastrophic" requires a judgment. I mean, is it "catastrophic" if you an enhanced mortality of say 1million a year from starvation and war, but none of those are US or American citizens? The term has no place in the debate.

    You claim John distorts the debate in same way that skeptics do. What, cherry pick data, misrepresent the conclusions of scientific papers, put up fraudulent graphs, misrepresent physics?

    Show me where John does ANY of these. You cannot advance an argument by making assertions like you did in that post (and many others) without backing them up. John is scrupulous in providing sources for papers and data.
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  19. Pete Ridley@17 That would be why I have spent quite a lot of time recently at WUWT trying to help Ferdinand Engelbeen explain that the observed rise in atmospheric CO2 is due to anthropogenic emissions. There are some skeptics (such as Roy Spencer) who accept the basic physics, but argue that there are negative feedbacks that limit climate sensitivity. However, there are also plenty sich as Richard Courtney, Arthur Rorsch, Robert Essenhigh and Tom Segalstad, who can't even accept that the rise in CO2 is antropogenic, and there are plenty of "skeptics" out there who appear happy to embrace their arguments, even though they are obviously wrong to anyone with an ounce of common sense.

    The fact that this even needs discussion shows your representation of the skeptic camp is somewhat inacurate.
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  20. Would another useful addition to the comments policy be a "No assertions without backing links"? Without this, discussion isnt much better than a pub political argument. By insisting on backing data (both sides), then the debate is illuminated by the collective knowledge of papers and data sources; not to mention finding for themselves where their knowledge of the world is flawed.
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  21. #21 scaddenp

    hear hear

    Michael
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  22. This article makes a philosophical mistake which, if allowed to remain, will severely impair the obvious intent of getting people to understand the difference between real scientific skepticism and the outrageously false version of 'skepticism' that the so-called "climate skeptics" practice.

    That mistake is: asserting that "Genuine skepticism means you don't take someone's word for it but investigate for yourself."

    NOBODY has the time to do this. Not even professional scientists. Even they have to carefully "pick and choose" whether and where they will be skeptical.

    This is why I have always advocated a rather different distinction: 'irrational' vs. 'rational' skepticism. When you pick and choose well, that is rational skepticism. When you pick and choose based on the conclusion you WANT to be true instead, that is quite irrational.

    An example of the difference would be: it is irrational skepticism to claim that Newtonian mechanics is more accurate then Einstein's Special Relativity, rational to claim that his General Relativity might yet prove not the best theory to explain gravitation.

    In the climate context, it is irrational skepticism to doubt the figures and measurements showing average surface temperature climbing along w/ CO2, rational skepticism to doubt that we know by how much it will climb.

    Similarly, it is irrational skepticism to hold out the hope that water vapor feedback will prove to be negative when we most need it to be so (thus limiting the rise in temperature), or that biological systems will adapt to the rising CO2 by radically increasing the rate at which they absorb carbon out of the atmosphere, using these unlikelihoods as grounds for doubting the predictions of harsher living conditions for all because of global warming (aka climate change).
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  23. #12Dhogza:

    If you read Guns Germs and Steel you will find that most animals can't be domesticated. <50% of those canditates avaiable for domestication are unsuitable for one reason or another, including the Zebra. You have quote mined rare instances of pompous Bureacrats riding around with Zebras from Wikipaedia, some of which later failed.

    Animals such as dogs have a strong social hierarchy. This can be substituted by authority from humans. Animals which do not have this heirarchy generally cant be domesticated. This is not in dispute.

    Elephants respong to authority, but some other animals do not. Some people think all anmals can be domesticated, (just like the Earth's climate).

    Jared Diamond lists the animals in his book Guns Germs and Steel which are unable to be domesticated for various reasons, despite the attmepts by pompous bureaucrats to parade through the streets with a zebra.
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  24. You have quote mined rare instances of pompous Bureacrats riding around with Zebras from Wikipaedia, some of which later failed.


    Naw, there's just not much motivation to break zebras for riding or hauling, obviously it's easily done. You claimed it COULD NOT BE DONE, which is obviously false.

    Animals such as dogs have a strong social hierarchy


    As do zebras, two of three species of which have exactly the same harem social structure as do horses, which is exactly opposite of what you claimed.

    Actually, though, the "strong social hierarchy" you claim is actually quite weak in feral dog populations, and with modern DNA testing and satellite telemetry the "alpha male/alpha female" hypothesis for the social structure of wolf packs has broken down (look up David Mech). That hypothesis came from the study of wolves in captivity, typically not related to each other. Wolf packs in the wild are typically family groups, with the traditional "alpha male/alpha female" notion being replaced in modern thinking with "mommy and daddy tell us what to do", until the kids become about two or three years old, break off on their own, meet a suitable mate, and start their own pack. This helps explain why reintroduced populations in the western US have spread so rapidly, as the kids wander off looking for a suitable unoccupied territory. Much more flexible than the older notion that when alpha male dies, subordinate males fight for superiority (as is the case for harem animals like deer, elk, horses, zebras, etc). Modern telemetry has made it possible to study packs in the wild for lengthy periods of time and that kind of competition for "alpha male/female" is non-existent, or mostly non-existent, in wild packs. In zoos, of course, wolves need to sort out the hierarchy because they're tossed randomly together, like a bunch of human criminals in prison (where you see similar behavior which is totally unrelated to how normal human families or kin-based bands work).

    Anyway, argue against science all you want, scientists don't listen to you.
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  25. Bringing this back somewhat on topic ...

    Note, though, that improved data hasn't led wolf researchers to conclude that wolf packs simply don't exist. The climate science analog would be Anthony Wolfie claiming that wolf packs don't exist, because insufficient data led to some erroneous deductions regarding the precise nature of social interactions within wolf packs ...

    And your 90%/10% rule would lead one to claim greater significance for the social interactions of the 10% of wolves living in zoos rather than the 90% living in the wild in packs, as being more explanatory of a pack's social structure ...
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  26. Thingadonta,
    Elephants are a perfect example of an animal that has never been domesticated. Asian elephants are trapped in the wild and broken to domestic use. Very few elephant calves are produced in captivity. Even now elephants kill more zookeepers in the USA than any other animal. Perhaps if you read Guns, germs and steel again you will notice that Dr. Diamond points this out. "Skeptics" alter the facts to suit their argument.
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  27. Leaving aside the fascinating discussion of domestication, the reason we think climate isn't like an elephant with a thick hide that will run off and do its own thing, is because climate is a physical phenomena, subject to the laws of physics. Applying those laws to describe climatic phenomena (including weather) works remarkably well. (eg the links in here
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  28. This discussion on elephants, zebras and wolves is part of the reason why I generally avoid the use of metaphors in trying to explain scientific concepts. I know metaphors are a valid and powerful communication tool but on blog discussion threads, they go pear shaped so quickly and before you know it, we're not discussing the original issue at all.
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  29. But what about marmots??
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  30. dhogaza #27,

    Slightly OT, but I cannot resist mentioning the Russian experiments with the Siberian Silver Fox.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRQbSdMXBk0

    This animal is a pretty savage canine, but breeders noted that in every litter there was sometimes one pup gentler and less aggressive that the rest. The experimenters started (in 1959) selecting and breeding the gentler animals and after about 50 generations, they had an animal capable of domestication.

    This was part of a documentary, which includes the suggestion that humans and dogs co-evolved - in other words, dogs' ability to track, hunt, and guard may have been much more valuable to our ancestors than to us. Where would we be without them?
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  31. John,

    Could I suggest a small change to this sentence in the main post ?
    Climate skeptics vigorously attack any evidence for man-made global warming yet eagerly embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that refutes global warming.

    I think you should replace "eagerly" with "uncritically"; to me this then sums up the contrarian/denier (call it what you will) position very well and puts emphasis on the double standards that distinguish this position from proper scientific skepticism
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    Response: Good call, your wording expresses what I was thinking better than how I expressed it. Have updated the post and the short introductory paragraph on the homepage. Thanks for the feedback!
  32. John, not everyone agrees with what you claim this site is all about. While searching for more information on positive feedbacks I happened across this beauty from Joanne Nova (http://joannenova.com.au/2010/08/skeptics-iphone-app-endorsed-de-facto-by-critic/#more-9801).

    QUOTE: .. Cook runs the ambush site SkepticalScience.com. .. SkepticalScience.com is a parody of skepticism. It is “skeptical of the skeptics” .. but it accepts everything offered up by Authorities as if it is the Word of God. “NOAA can do no wrong” (and was that NOAA or Noah?)

    All of the points held up by Cook are weak “whatever” issues: things that are hardly a flaw. He’s noticed that the disorganized mass of real skeptics sometimes disagree with each other, golly gee, which proves we think for ourselves and don’t answer to a higher bureaucracy. John Cook — who so wants to be seen as skeptical – instead is anything but, and conforms strictly to the text-book litany as written by the IPCC.

    .. Cook of course, doesn’t quote directly. This is a classic modus operandi for unskeptical scientist. If they quote directly, they can’t impute things, like “sceptics citing this fact as if it’s never occurred to climate scientists”, which we don’t say, but Cook says, thus creating a strawman. Why would he bother stringing out this kind of weak speculative stuff if he actually had something real to attack?

    He makes preposterous claims that skeptics cherry-pick, focus on small picture, never on the big picture; except the graphs the skeptics use cover the last 30 years, the last 1,000 years, the last 10,000 years, the last 500 million years. There’s no period we won’t talk about — unlike the AGW crowd, for whom a trend is between 10 and 50 years (to get the last warming period 1975 – 2001 in) and who don’t want to talk about the little ice age or medieval warm period. Unskeptical scientists think “long term” means 100 years and repeat graphs from 1880 -2010 ad nauseum. They weren’t exactly producing billboards with graphs of the last 500 million years. UNQUOTE.

    I couldn’t have described it better myself.

    Best regards, Pete Ridley
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  33. Pete,
    Is your lengthy cut-and-paste intended as sarcasm? I would assume so, as it succeeds in making Mrs. Nova look rather unhinged.

    Keep up the good work.
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  34. Pete - given Nova's abuse of science in past, it would hardly be surprising if she liked take downs of her stuff here. Do you actually believe there is any importance in her uninformed misunderstandings of science? John isn't trying to win a popularity contest, just accurately portray the science. Instead of posting useless opinion, how about putting up some actual science if you dont like John's stuff. Nova's complaints are roll on the floor laughingly bad as the "climate's changed before" thread would tell you.
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  35. Pete Ridley - I read the Joanna Nova blog posting too. It's self-congratulatory, condescending, rather lacking in facts - fairly typical of her site. A lot of the comments there point that out clearly. It's hard to say "endorsed" when John states that this Nova app is "comprehensively misleading".

    Now, I haven't purchased the "Our Climate" app myself, and have therefore not reviewed it (have you?). However, if it contains the same arguing points that Joanna uses on her blog, it is indeed self-contradictory. From her Skeptics Handbook: "Something else (not CO2) caused warming", "It's not warming", "CO2 is trivial", "CO2 is saturated".

    The disagreements between climate skeptics aren't trivial. CO2 has no effect? CO2 effect is saturated? It's the sun? Cosmic rays? Ocean? Climate has varied a lot before (indicating high sensitivity to forcings, incidentally)? Records are unreliable (then how do you know the climate changed before)? Feedbacks will cancel out all change (contradicting the climate changing before)?

    If the various skeptics weren't all arguing against the science, there would be sufficient differences between them to spark inter-skeptic wars.

    The focus on the small points rather than the big picture (somehow assuming that any potential issue with any measurement invalidates a multiply supported theory), strawman arguments (her "hit list" postings), cherry-picking (choosing the last 10-12 years to argue for warming has stopped, when the statistics argue for a minimum of 30 year averaging based on the internal variability of weather): these are serious issues with the arguments Nova presents. If they're in the "Our Climate" app, then it's a piece of junk software.

    I would agree with Trueofvoice, incidentally - your pasted quote from Joanna Nova doesn't really inspire confidence in her rationality.
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  36. John Cook writes: Climate skeptics vigorously attack any evidence for man-made global warming yet eagerly embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that refutes global warming.

    and Pete Ridley replies: The majority of those who are sceptical of The (significant human-made global climate change) Hypothesis do NOT reject the notion that humans case global warming. What we reject is the claim that there is convincing evidence that any such change is significant for global climates or that our continuing use of fossil fuels will cause catastrophic global climate change.

    I'm not sure what your confident assertion about "the majority" is based on. I doubt it's correct, but it doesn't really matter anyway.

    The great thing about this site is that it provides information to address people's questions more or less across the board:

    * Some people come here wondering whether the observed rise in CO2 is really caused by humans -- maybe it's coming from the ocean! (Nope)

    * Others have heard that the greenhouse effect contradicts the second law of thermodynamics (nope, again).

    * Some people accept that CO2 is a greenhouse gas but are under the impression that there are all kinds of problems with the surface temperature record, such that Gistemp and Hadcrut can't be replicated (wrong).

    Now, it's fairly common for people to come by here and say "Why are you addressing all these absurd and obviously wrong arguments when you should be addressing mine, which is the one that all real, serious skeptics believe?"

    In point of fact, though, all of the arguments here are addressing claims or questions that other people actually do raise.

    So, Pete, instead of giving John a hard time for all the work he's put in responding to other peoples' questions and arguments, why not do something constructive? Next time you see a "skeptic" claiming that CO2 isn't actually rising, or that it's coming from the oceans, or that it isn't a greenhouse gas, or whatever ... why not help correct their misimpressions yourself?

    I've said this before, but it's stunningly rare for any "skeptic" to ever speak up here and contradict or correct another "skeptic's" mistaken claims, no matter how absurd they are. There are a few examples elsewhere (e.g., Ferdi Engelbeen trying to convince people at WUWT that the CO2 rise is real and anthropogenic). But on this site it's very, very rare. I could probably count the number of times it's happened on the thumbs of one hand.

    So ... to end what is already a too-long comment, I would once again ask my "skeptic" friends on this site to (a) be patient when we respond to claims that you think are stupid, because someone else actually does believe them, and (b) feel free to pitch in and help address those claims.

    Hey, the sooner we can get everyone to agree that yes, CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and yes, the observed rise in CO2 is real, and yes, it is coming from fossil fuel combustion ... the more time we'll be able to spend on debating climate sensitivity or 21st century emissions scenarios or whatever you think is the real problem with the IPCC projections!

    :-)
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  37. On the other hand, if you dont' want to be constructive, continue presenting counterfactual narratives of climate science here and in a strange way you can be equally helpful to Skeptical Science's never ending quest to reassemble intellectual integrity from the broken shards scattered about as the result of degenerate rumor-mongering.

    Please, however, try to be original. Put some effort into it, don't lean on extended quotes from fringe specialist conspiracy theorist websites, don't cite political pundit blather only tangentially related to science, don't lazily say "what if" without bothering to explore "if," don't parrot the latest talking point or strange theory from your favorite contrarian source. Take a look at the "Argument" list, eliminate the obvious, innovate.

    Or, at least use the "Argument" list to make comments in the appropriate thread, rather than blurting seemingly random non sequiturs in the wrong place.

    Borrowing from Sherlock Holmes, it's the dog that didn't bark that's interesting, even if it turns out the dog has nothing useful to say when asked.
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  38. #36 Ned at 09:35 AM on 18 August, 2010
    * Some people accept that CO2 is a greenhouse gas but are under the impression that there are all kinds of problems with the surface temperature record, such that Gistemp and Hadcrut can't be replicated (wrong).

    right
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  39. Doug, it is also good to see Roy Spencer trying hard to persuade people that G&T is a load of cobblers.
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  40. 'Polar bears are affected by several factors, including hunting, pollution and oil extraction.'

    There is no evidence that polar bear numbers are affected by oil extraction. There is a lot of speculation that they might be affected by an increase in Arctic oilfield development (including some effects that would fall under 'pollution') if it is not done right and that bears would be harmed if there was a big Arctic oilspill ('pollution' again) but no actual evidence that populations have declined because of oil exploration.
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  41. The pie charts of changing sub-population status are useful, but could also be somewhat misleading in that the sub-populations vary wildly in size. So where the 2009 pie chart shows 'one sub-group' increasing it might seem like 1/19th of the total population is growing... when in fact that sub-population has fewer than 300 bears. Which is about 1% of the total population. About 17% (in 3 groups) have stable populations. Meanwhile the 8 declining sub-groups account for about half of the total world polar bear population... and the remaining ~30% (in 7 groups) have unknown population status.
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  42. Vinny, it was only a quick list of the threats faced by polar bears rather than a close look at factors behind overall population decline. According to the Polar Bear Specialist Group:
    Studies have shown that polar bears exposed to oil will absorb large quantities of oil in their fur. Following oil exposure, polar bears groom themselves and can digest sufficient oil to result in kidney failure, digestive system disorder, and brain damage that ultimately result in death. Other effects include loss of insulation from fur, hair loss, and skin and eye irritations.

    I was simply trying to highlight the fact that it's a complex issue and that many factors can increase polar bear mortality.

    CBDunkerson, I'm working on the intermediate rebuttal which will include some number crunching. I just wanted to show that subpopulations are declining, and that the number of declining populations appears to be increasing. I know it doesn't tell us anything about absolute numbers, but it does show that the picture is not as simple as the claim that polar bear numbers are increasing. Well I know what I mean ;)
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  43. Let me share an email I received a while back on the subject:
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Your best contacts would be Drs. Eric Regehr and Karyn Rode of the FWS.

    If you have done so, go to the FWS Alaska Region polar bear page for information and copies of their various reports.

    http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/mmm/polarbear/pbmain.htm

    >>> The topic of what polar bear stock size was in the 1940’s is interesting. Obviously, there were no ‘modern’ estimates at that time. Even to this day, counting polar bears is difficult. <<< Eric is an expert on this subject.

    Kim Titus, Ph.D.
    Chief Wildlife Scientist
    Alaska Department of Fish and Game
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  44. Nice summary, Anne-Marie. It's also worth noting that other species like walruses face similar impacts from declining Arctic sea ice.
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  45. The polar bears survived the millenia long Eemian and the Holocene Climatic Optimum just fine:



    Given their dramatic population explosion since the 1970s, perhaps not shooting them quite so frequently helped them survive much more significantly than any climate variation.
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  46. As you may not have intended to suggest, ClimateWatcher, the additional pressures of human interference with these animals combined with a swift loss of habitat that may or may not resemble past challenges poses a novel challenge to their population prospects.
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  47. @cruzn246: was posting that big graph really necessary? You could simply have stated the NH was warmer during the HCO.

    Polar bears are adaptable. They have already started moving south, and at least one polar bear/brown bear hybrid has been found in the wild. The problem is that "south" really means "closer to human settlements." Polar bears, the largest land carnivore currently in existence, are fearless, dangerous animals. How exactly is an increase in polar bear/human interactions a good thing?

    Incidentally, that's also the reason you mistakenly believe polar bear populations have been increasing, when actual research tends to show a decline: locals are seeing more polar bears, prompting some to say the numbers have increased, when in reality they're simply moving south to find food.

    You also miss the larger point. The fact that polar bears are leaving their natural habitat is a strong indication of the type of disruptive migratory patterns AGW is causing. As such, it is one more piece of evidence supporting AGW theory, the same theory you constantly (and unsuccessfully) try to undermine.

    See how I countered your argument without the need for a big unnecessary graph (which, BTW, climatewatcher already used on another thread)?
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  48. Wow, I'm really sorry, I could have sworn cruzn246 had posted that comment. I guess my coffee hasn't started kicking in yet.

    Please disregard the last two paragraphs as they were written with cruzn246 in mind (but not the first one after the colon, that still applies).

    Sorry for that, CW. We disagree on some things, but you're clearly not the trolling denier type (unlike cruzn246).
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  49. ClimateWatcher, given continuation of the rate at which the Arctic has been warming the discrepancies shown on your map, even if accurate, would all be overtaken within a few decades.

    Also, polar bears and brown bears remain completely inter-fertile even today - though neither can survive for long in the other's primary habitat. Dentition shows that the 'modern' polar bear has been around for less than 20,000 years... long after the Eemian. Earlier 'polar bears' were much less adapted to a life on sea ice and thus able to survive warm periods on land like the brown bears they interbred with. If current polar bears were forced to survive on land their numbers would be vastly reduced and they'd be forced into brown bear territory... where they would inter-breed and quickly cease to exist as a separate evolutionary offshoot.

    Yes, the imposition of hunting restrictions was clearly responsible for the polar bear recovering from near extinction up to a stable population... just as the loss of sea ice is now clearly responsible for the reversal of that trend.
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  50. ClimateWatcher:
    "The polar bears survived the millenia long Eemian and the Holocene Climatic Optimum just fine:"

    C'mon CW, use a few of those brain cells of yours. Assuming you were correct, how many cities, villages and human civilisations did the polar bears encounter when they migrated and survived?
    (5million in the Holocene versus 6billion today, 9billion in 2050).

    Even if today they were not endangered by global warming, every species on the planet is endangered by human growth and exploitation of resources.
    If you add to that, global warming, then polar bears haven't a hope in hell.
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