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Skeptical Science talk at University of Qld on May 7

Posted on 30 April 2010 by John Cook

University of Queensland Climate for ChangeI'll be talking at the University of Queensland next Friday, May 7. The time is 12pm to 1pm, the place is the Social Sciences Building, Room S304 (here's a link to a map - when I recently returned to UQ, I forgot what a labyrinth that place is to the uninitiated or alumni who's taken a two decade break). The talk is organised by the UQ Climate for Change and part of Climate Reality Week which is happening in universities throughout Australia. The purpose of the week is "to highlight current climate issues, the future of climate change and the power of youth involvement".

The title of the May 7 event is "The reality about climate change". What I'll be talking about is whether there's any empirical evidence that humans are causing global warming (without wanting to give away too much of the ending, yes, there is). I'll also examine various skeptic arguments along the way and discuss the nature of scientific skepticism.

Also talking at this event will be Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute and publisher of many peer-reviewed papers on the effects of climate change on coral reefs (I reviewed one of his papers in a recent blog post Ocean acidification: Global warming's evil twin). So it won't be just a climate blogger talking - there will be a real scientist there too :-)

There will also be a few members from the UQ Climate for Change as part of the panel alongside Ove. UQCfC will also have an information stall on Wednesday May 5 from 10-2pm on the Grassy Knoll at the St Lucia campus. Anyone in the general vicinity of Brisbane, Australia, hope to see you there!

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Comments 1 to 22:

  1. I wonder if "Grassy Knoll" has the same implication for Australians as it does for us United-Stateseans. You might want to have security make sure no one is hiding there just in case!

    Be that as it may, I hope the talk will be available on the Net afterwards for those of us who find the walk to Brisbane rather too challenging.
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  2. No chance of a national tour, I take it? You'd be welcome in the other states too - I'm sure there would be somebody who'd like to organize your visit at just about all the Oz universities.
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  3. As long as John is not being shot at from the "Grassy Knoll", that will be OK.
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  4. @MattJ: heh... no, it's purely descriptive, because it's a knoll which is, well, grassy... (i.e. nowhere to hide)

    There's also a Conifer Knoll on the other side of the uni, which may be well lit these days with the multi-storey car park right next to it, but back in the early 90s it was a pretty dark & spooky place at night, despite being in the middle of a well-lit campus.

    Unfortunately my calendar for next Friday is already rather full - not sure how I'm going to fit in work, let alone a trip to UQ at lunchtime... :-(
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  5. Are humans causing global warming? (I contend that this is a very loaded question. Here's why...)

    In order to answer that question, you need to break it down a little.

    What would climate be doing right now if there were no humans at all?
    would there be...
    A: warming anyway?
    B: a static condition? (and if so, for how long?)
    C: a cooling trend?

    To ask if humans are "causing" global warming only makes sense when you know what the trend would be for Nature alone without a human presence.

    For case A, humans would only therefore be contributing to warming. (And then the question would be "to what extent?".)

    If case C, humans could actually be detaining an impending iceage, or may have even reversed the trend.

    And a little more...

    The question is not, "Have humans caused global warming?", or "have humans touched off global warming?"

    When you ask if "humans are causing global warming" it seem to imply that the moment they stop activities, things will turn back to "normal".
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  6. ESVP,
    if you want to anticipate John's answers to your questions take a quick tour of this site, you'll find them and a lot more.
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  7. It's great to hear that, John.

    Let us know if the slideshow or video or audio is available afterwards.
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  8. RSVP:

    The question John asks -- " (if) ...there's any empirical evidence that humans are causing global warming?" -- is perfectly valid. That question does not exclude the possibility that there are underlying natural variations of temperature that would have occurred anyway. Any human causes of warming clearly modify natural events, either worsening or mitigating their effects.

    If you read the relevant sections of this site you'll find that a critically-important point is that the human-induced element of the current global warming is resulting in change at an unprecedented rate -- too fast for most plants and animals to move, adapt or evolve to accommodate (and I include humans). And THAT'S the rub.
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  9. Any chance of the event being recorded for those of us not in that part of the world?
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    Response: I haven't discussed it with the UQCfC. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of the idea as I don't particularly like the sound of my own voice but I'll ask. At the very least, I can always post the slideshow on the webesite.
  10. Portland, OR being a rather distant suburb of Brisbane, I won't be able to attend but I wish you the best John. Thanks for walking the talk :-)
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  11. "Qld"?

    Surely "Qnsld"...
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  12. John Russel
    "too fast for most plants and animals to move"

    Humans were nomads way before they settled down and fenced in their properties and animals migrated as needed (now they get squashed on highways). Point is, the only problem with global warming is that the status quo is finally threatening itself. Nature is equipped for global warming. Modern civilization...that is another issue.
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  13. RSVP #12

    We know Nature can cope with global temperature changes at the rate of some 6ºC in 6,000 years. That's a fast change, like the deglaciation.

    3 or more degrees in a century is quite a different challenge. And I'm being conservative. It really outpaces the moving capabilities of many species. Even some animal species have trouble shifting polewards 6.1 Km/year. And remember we humans are here this time to fragment most ecosystems, so it's not like a species can roam freely towards the pole without tripping in a city or farm or National Park limit.
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  14. Just returned home today to Dallas--site of the evil "Grassy Knoll"--and thought I'd check if Brisbane, could possibly be at our antipode, and the site of a "good" Grassy Knoll on the other side of the world. But alas, Dallas's antipode is out in the Indian Ocean, somewhere between Perth and Madigascar, and Brisbane's is in the Atlantic, in the general vicinity of the Canary Islands. So there's no cosmic symmetry there! Nevertheless, I've notified my favorite (er, favourite) UQ faculty member of the event, and hope you get lots of geologists in attendance. Break a leg!
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  15. RSVP at 12.
    You're right, all these trees in British Columbia are packing up and walking up North to escape the Pine Beetle...
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  16. GL
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  17. Give 'en hell, John! No, wait... They are gonna get that on their own. Any chance you could send the slide show to greenman3610 at YouTube?

    http://www.youtube.com/user/greenman3610#p/u

    He has a pleasant voice, a wicked sense of humor, and a solid following for his "Climate Crock of the Week" vid series. I bet he would consider how to build one based on your presentation, since you are the single-best debunker we have. Best of luck!
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    Response: In some sense, Greenman already has done a video on my presentation - he recently did a video looking at the evidence for man-made global warming. One of the starting points for this was the empirical evidence that humans are causing global warming which is also the starting point of my talk.
  18. To Philippe Chantreau...
    Thriving of the Pine Beetle is simple proof that Nature is adapting quickly to the changes.
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  19. RSVP is right here, of course. Nature adapts all the time, and it works faster than we may think sometimes. I sense a kind of anxiety with many of the debaters on this site. They are always so worried, verything is so alarming all the time, and status quo seems to be the only desirable future.
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  20. RSVP points out that certain organisms with large populations and short reproductive cycles can benefit in certain circumstances from a change of climate, usually by chewing through a local ecosystem ill-prepared for fast changes. From this we are to derive comfort.

    Thank you, RSVP. I will welcome my case of West Nile encephalitis or whatever little critters may adapt their way into my province as Good News.
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  21. John, great to have you at UQ. You should get a good audience.

    RSVP: check out my blog where I examine AMSU-A satellite data for the near surface layer since 1999. There is no known natural cause for a sharp upward trend over that period. We are coming out of a deep solar low that someone in The Australian little more than a year ago told us presaged an ice age, and our current position vs. ENSO should be the end of the cooling phase before the negative SOI phase a few months back results in warming.

    So what do I find? Over the first 4 months of the year, vs. the same period for the last 11 years, there's a warming trend of 5.8K per century. If humans aren't causing that, tell us what is. But be quick, because it's pretty damn worrying.

    Now switch to channel 9, 17km altitude, plot the 20 year average and all years. You will find every year 1999-2010 is well below the 20-year average. There is clear space between the average and the other curves. The only known mechanism that causes troposphere warming and stratosphere cooling is an increased greenhouse effect (specifically well-mixed gases like CO_2 -- water vapour can't do this, because its concentration is so low in the upper atmosphere).
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    Response: Phillip, are you based at UQ? Thanks for the link to your blog post - we seem to be cut from the same cloth because I've been geeking out over the UAH satellite data and SOI data on a semi-regular basis (every couple of days, I have a peek) - currently, I've included the latest UAH screengrab in my slideshow but I may drop it as the talk is getting a little bloated (sadly, I don't think I'll be able to fit in my Greenland ice cubes).
  22. I am at UQ (though not in something climate related). I hope I can catch up with you when you are here. I have a talk titled "Sceptical of the Sceptics" that I give sometimes. It's great to have material like yours to point people to.

    How about allowing the ice cubes to drift past while you wait for questions?
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