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What happened to the evidence for man-made global warming?

Posted on 7 December 2009 by John Cook

Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling you get when confronted with two contradictory ideas. For example, how can one be skeptical about man-made global warming when there is so much empirical evidence? Climategate has provided a way for some to resolve this issue - simply discredit all the evidence for global warming. By focusing on suggestive quotes from a handful of emails by a small number of climate scientists, it allows one to write off the entire field of climate science as a vast conspiracy. This line of reasoning allows Senator James Inhofe to conclude "This whole idea of global warming, I'm glad that's over. It's gone. It's done. We won. You lost. Get a life!"

This attack on an entire field of science is unprecedented. As historian Spencer Weart puts it, "we've never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance. Even the tobacco companies never tried to slander legitimate cancer researchers." One might argue that the stolen emails are being taken out of context and often parsed without scientific understanding. Nevertheless, lest we get bogged down in the details, the broader picture is that Climategate narrowly focuses on the behaviour of a handful of scientists and suggestive inferences about a few pieces of climate data. Somehow this allows skeptics to ignore the entire body of scientific evidence, meticulously accumulated by scientists all over the world. This evidence includes the following independent observations that paint a consistent picture of global warming:

  • Our planet is suffering an energy imbalance and is steadily accumulating heat (Hansen 2005, Murphy 2009von Schuckmann 2009, Trenberth 2009)
  • Animal and plant species are responding to earlier springs. Eg - earlier frog breeding, bird nesting, earlier flowering, earlier migration of birds and butterflies (Parmeson 2003)
  • The distribution of tree lines, plants, birds, mammals, insects, fish, reptiles, marine invertebrates are shifting towards the poles (Parmeson 2003)
  • Arctic permafrost is degrading (Anisimov 2006) plus warming at greater depths in the permafrost (Stieglitz 2003)
  • Global sea level rise is accelerating (Church 2006)
  • Antarctic ice loss is accelerating (Velicogna 2009), even from East Antarctica which was previously thought to be too stable to lose ice mass (Chen 2009)
  • Greenland ice loss is accelerating (Velicogna 2009, van den Broeke et al 2009)
  • Glaciers are shrinking globally at an accelerating rate (WGMS 2008)
  • Arctic sea-ice loss is accelerating with the loss rate exceeding model forecasts by around a factor of 3 (Stroeve 2007).
  • The height of the tropopause is increasing (Santer 2003, press release)
  • Jet streams are moving poleward (Archer 2008, Seidel 2007, Fu 2006)
  • The tropical belt is widening (Seidel 2007, Fu 2006)
  • There is an increasing trend in record hot days versus record cold temperatures with currently twice as many record hot days than record cold temperatures (Meehle 2009, see press release).

The Climategate controversy hasn't even touched upon the empirical evidence indicating that human activity is the cause of recent warming:

  • Humans are emitting CO2 at such rates that atmospheric CO2 is at its highest level over the past 800,000 years (Brook 2008). The rate of increase is the fastest in 22,000 years (Joos 2008)
  • Satellites measure less infrared radiation escaping out to space at the wavelengths that CO2 absorb energy (Harries 2001, Griggs 2004, Chen 2007)
  • Surface measurements find more infrared radiation returning back to the Earth's surface (Philipona 2004), specifically at the wavelengths that CO2 absorb energy (Evans 2006)

One cannot deny that some of the Climategate emails are embarrassing for the scientists involved. Their comments and behaviour shouldn't be swept under the carpet and more transparency in climate science is a good thing. However, using quote-mined emails to disregard an entire scientific field is not the behaviour of people genuinely seeking to understand how our climate works. It is, on the other hand, a stupendous act of cognitive dissonance.

UPDATE 8/12/2009: Things Break has emailed me a few other pieces of evidence I'd overlooked:

  • A shift towards earlier seasons (Stine 2009)
  • Lake and river ice cover throughout the Northern Hemisphere are freezing later and breaking up earlier (Magnuson 2000, Hodgkins 2005)
  • Changes to physical and biological systems across the globe are consistent with warming temperatures (Rosenzweig 2008)
  • Cooling and contraction of the upper atmosphere consistent with predicted effects of increasing greenhouse gases (Lastovicka 2008)
  • Pitcher-plant mosquitoes are genetically evolving to adapt to shifting seasons (Bradshaw 2001)

UPDATE 11/12/2009: H/T to Drosera for mentioning another study:

  • Distribution of plants are shifting to higher elevations (Lenoir 2008)

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 96:

  1. Congratulations on getting on the BBC's list of recommended blogs.
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    Response: Thanks for the link, I didn't know about that page, must be hot off the press (will "hot off the server" be a phrase used by future generations?). That page is a useful resource.
  2. It seems equally unfair to equate the rantings of one crazy rightwing senator with all those people who want a critical/depolitisized debate on the science. As it is unfair to say one email from one scientist represents the views/morals of the whole body of scientists.

    There's plenty to read here, I'm going to have to give up my day job!!! (the Hansen 2005 link seems broken)
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    Response: I'll concede that Inhofe is one of the more extreme cases of global warming skepticism but he's certainly not alone in dismissing climate science. There are many examples in the media and blogosphere. One personal anecdote: I've been corresponding by email with one skeptic, having a constructive, reasonable discussion of the science. However, Climategate has him distrusting all climate scientists, effectively making any further discussion of peer reviewed science impossible.

    Thanks for the tip re Hansen 2005 - I've fixed that link.
  3. #2 response
    In many ways there should be no boundaries to where these discussions should go. Although I can understand your impatience at the distrust shown by your mystery emailer.

    Do you want a discussion of the papers in your article?

    As a biologist, Parmesan 2003 interested me. Unfortunately it's a review which means the data is actually spread over dozens of other papers. So a quick look at them shows that most of the data is generated in Europe (in many cases naturalists in the UK), a little is in N America, I have found only one reference with data in the tropics (Costa Rica). This might put a big question mark over the "global" nature of the data. Having read a couple of papers throughout and a few abstracts I note several omissions from the review.

    ( numbers are Parmeson's references)
    36 - equates most changes with nutrient/toxin (sulphates) changes rather than temperature (can only correlate with temperature over a five year period).
    40 - shows flucuations in species correlated with changes in the NAO rather than a linear change to AGW.
    22 - showed only 60 (rather than 279) plants flowered significantly earlier in recent times. While this paper showed greatest correlatiopn with temperature it also noted a correlation with NAO.
    43 - The Costa Rica paper, this paper spend the whole time relating species change to precipitation (mist). But I do concede, and it is this sort of thing that baffles me the most, then relates this to temperature change.

    Unfortunately I don't have time to look at any others but I looked at these because they represented large numbers in Table 1 or were referred to multiple times. The case that this review is "global" or that it shows the fingerprint of AGW can be questioned.

    Personnally I don't distrust scientists. But I'm well aware they love to extract the maximum significance from their limited data. It helps to secure journals with a higher impact factor, very important to scientists.
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  4. Here´s another paper, based on tropical glaciers, that already shows a reconstruction remarkably similar to the multi-proxy papers (see graphs on page 15):

    Thomson et al 2003
    TROPICAL GLACIER AND ICE CORE EVIDENCE OF CLIMATE
    CHANGE ON ANNUAL TO MILLENNIAL TIME SCALES
    http://bprc.osu.edu/Icecore/Thompsonetal-climatic-change-2003.pdf
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  5. Imo, the CRU email has little or no bearing at all for the scientifically based critics. It does not add anything of interest and it doesnt withdraw anything of interest. It's just a curious side note in the protocol.

    However I can understand why some get upset about it, and this is the reason why they should be upset then:

    A thesis (or intepretation) in science must be inferred with the excluded third: the interpretation will be held as true only after an experiment been conducted that shows that the antithesis is false. And the antithesis in this case is "global warming is due to natural variations".

    Such experiment has been conducted – namely in simulated climate models. These models shows only a warming trend when human released CO2 is added to the model. I have no objection against accepting the simulation results, but then it should also be
    made clear that the conclusion is not based on an empirical evidence but a theoretical argument.

    Not every scientist, in particular experimentalist and field researches, is convinced about this theoretical predictions reliability and/or want to see empirical evidence supporting the theoretical predictions. But no such empirical experiment has been made so far.

    This is what the scientific criticism is (or should be) about

    The "broad view" argument, pointing at a long list of experiment showing global temperature increases, CO2 is an greenhouse gas and CO2 level increases etc etc, is nothing else than a long list of positive confirmations to the prediction made by models. From an epistemological point of view it adds nothing weather we have one(1) or one thousand experiment if they only are positive confirmation of this prediction, there is still the possibility of something else to be the cause, unless the antitheses can be experimental established.
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  6. "This attack on an entire field of science is unprecedented".

    That's true, it's never happened before. What it also means is that the climate science community has no idea how to fight back. You've allowed yourselves to be backed into a corner, while the deniersphere is pummeling you, and all you can do is cower there, covering your heads,crying and whining cuz people are being mean to you.

    Now I don't know about anybody else, but I'm reluctent to come to the defence of someone who isn't willing to defend themselves.

    Even though I have, along with a lot of other people on other websites.

    Then I come here and find out that I'm being lazy cuz I'm not offering an explanation with the link to this site I'm providing.

    I can't repeat the first thought I had when I read that,but I think you get my drift.
    But back to my point, you've got to start fighting back. It's not like the deniersphere isn't handing you ammo. The "hide the decline" email is a perfect example. Ann Coulter in her latest op-ed, "quoted" the email thus,"I used a trick to 'hide the decline' in global temperatures since the 1960s". This is a LIE. Why aren't ya'll screaming that at the top of your media lungs?!?!?!? This is what's out in the media, this is what regular people, people who are too concerned with how they're going to feed and house themselves and their CHILDREN, are reading. People who are looking for any reason to have one less thing to worry about. And they'll stop worrying about the things that they can't see. Like global warming.

    So, either start fighting back, or shut up, cuz your losing the public.
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  7. This has been a PR disaster. I've been watching this unfold for some time, having started in our local paper (which has touting global warming conspiracy theories for years) and the problem with so-called "climategate" is that climatologists are letting the Denial community totally dominate the news. I hear talk of leaked e-mails, faked and/or altered/hidden data, politicians calling for investigations and claiming hoaxes. Honestly to the casual layman this looks really bad.
    Climatologists have to make the public understand, in simple terms, what's in these e-mails exactly, how many researchers are involved, what exactly the research they're talking about is, what it means, what it doesn't mean, and most importantly all the other evidence pointing to climate change. Otherwise the public is going to buy into the conspiracy theories and nothing will get done.
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  8. One other thought, since the actual science of global warming is settled, or as settled as science can be, there's a natural tendency among climate scientists to think that there's no debate. and thus to act accordingly.

    But there is a global warming debate. However one sided it is.

    The debate exists with the public, which is the only debate that matters.

    Nothing happens without public support. Or at least public apathy.

    Facism, communisism, Tyranny, dictatorships, slavery, you name it. None of it could have happened unless the public allowed it.

    Think about that.
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  9. "How can one be skeptical about man-made global warming when there is so much empirical evidence?"

    Considering this website is about as one-sided as one can be, this quote amazes me. This website makes a few assumptions that are flat out wrong:

    1) The only studies that exist are the studies that show that man is contributing to climate change

    2) Even if studies that refuted AGW do exist, they are wrong

    These are a few of the major flaws of this website, among many others.

    Also, people seem to be downplaying the CRU e-mail event. If a skeptical scientist had manipulated and thrown out data and refused to share data, I guarantee that the AGW crowd would be all over it. It really is astonishing that people are literally shrugging at the fact that some scientists have fudged the data. I would say more, but I don't want my dissenting comments to get deleted again.
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  10. Here is a strong right-hook back at 'em:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/greenman3610#p/u/0/P70SlEqX7oY

    Keep in mind that Europeans are far more knowledgeable about AGW than Americans, Canadians, and Autralians. The governments that were in power during the past decade have a lot to do with this. Here in the US, the Bush Administration was OPENLY anti-science.

    As Dylan says, "The times they are a-changin'."
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  11. batvensson wrote:
    "A thesis (or intepretation) in science must be inferred with the excluded third: the interpretation will be held as true only after an experiment been conducted that shows that the antithesis is false. And the antithesis in this case is "global warming is due to natural variations".


    A thesis can also be inferred as likely to be the best current model when no credible competing model has been proffered to explain the data. In particular, no credible model based only on natural causes has passed muster to explain the observed trends in climate change.

    And btw, how would one show 'God did it' to be a false antithesis, by experiment?
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  12. Can anyone honestly say with a straight face that if their personal emails from the last 10 years were stolen, printed everywhere, and parsed by those looking for something bad, that there wouldn't be anything at all that might be easily misconstrued? How about if such emails were of discussions of scientific issues that require further expertise, context, and knowledge of the topic being discussed? Emails inherently are informal and lack context, and as we've seen from this incident, they've been very much abused and distorted for political gain.

    While John's broader point is more relevant, it's also not a good idea to ignore the above and simply concede the massive amount of distortion and slander that is being leveled at individual scientists.

    As the decade comes to a close, it would be nice to have a long post summarizing the evidence that has accumulated over the past decade, everything from resolving the surface to lower tropospheric satellite discrepancy, to Antarctic observations and deep ocean heat context. I think this post is an excellent starting point.
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  13. NewYorkJ,,,,

    Well said.

    kudos.
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  14. Discussions about the few details of AGW that are not well-understood take place in journals, conferences, and some blogs (Realclimate, especially).

    This site is the single best place to get the misinformation debunked. Do not forget the purpose of this site. John does a superb job of summarizing what the experts are saying - he is not doing the research himself.

    The IPCC AR4 reports, the Synthesis Report from Copenhagen, and the Copenhagen Diagnosis Report all summarize what has happened, what is happening now and why certain aspects are happening faster than expected.

    http://www.copenhagendiagnosis.org/

    The main tenets of AGW are very "settled" just as those of evolution are. The forecast is much less certain but still certain enough and scarey enough to take action now. Debating the causes of global warming just delays the cure.
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  15. #25 ProfMandia
    Copenhaen Diagnosis is a prime example on when scientists flirt with politics. The preface is shameless about this being a propaganda piece "The report has been purposefully written with a target readership of policy-makers, stakeholders, the media and the broader public."
    It reports only one side of the debate. For example in the section "Carbon Sinks and Future Vulnerabilities" while mentioning the high uncertainty of this work it continues on as if this is a known fact and certainly in the bullet point summaries states this as if it is a fact. It does not attempt to present opposing views in perfectly respectable journals such as

    Knorr, W. (2009), Is the airborne fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions increasing?, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L21710, doi:10.1029/2009GL040613.

    Knorr suggest there is no evidence that this process is occuring an important consideration you would think. At what point does "carbon sinks are absorbing less CO2" becomes one of those 'known knowns' which can no longer be questioned.

    For 25years a very large number of scientists with vast amounts of funding have been trying to develop an AIDS vaccine and have so far failed on this single question. Yet in a similar time we are expected to believe that a whole body of science has been resolved.

    Abandoning uncertainty is a very dangerous process it leads to dogma. I don't wish to throw away the science but equally we should be aware that emotion and politics are driving this science as much as rational thought.
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  16. Back to the science.

    Going down your bullet points, permafrost papers. Both papers you cited are modelling rather than measuring permafrost breakdown. Both papers identify precipitation rather than air temperature as possibly the most crucial factor. And if you read the abstracts both end with similar sentance, to paraphrase - much more work is required.

    In fact very little actual measurement has been done, given that this is 25% of the NH it seems amazing.

    One site that has tried to co-ordinate work is http://www.udel.edu/Geography/calm/index.html . They even have downloadable data sets. A very quick look at them shows no worrying trend, in many cases the trend is the opposite. I'd like to see this data analysed properly in a paper or if anybody here has the brains to do something.

    I get repetitive but the study of climate change amd permfrost seems at an extremely early stage.
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    Response: Thanks for the feedback. Probably a better resource for permafrost temperature trends is Walsh 2009 which includes a handy table that summarizes recent permafrost temperature trends in various Arctic regions (Table 6.8). For a synthesis of studies on permafrost degradation, the best resource I've found so far is section 4.7.2.3 of the IPCC AR4. Kudos for following up the links, you must get less sleep than I do :-)
  17. Steven Sullivan wrote, "And btw, how would one show 'God did it' to be a false antithesis, by experiment?"

    It all depends on what criteria you assume as valid observation and the restriction you put on the observational data. Some people may claim "it" as new born infants. Do you consider this "it" to be non-refutable?

    As to address the main point of your post: The choice of a particular theory is not of importance, it is how the theory is formulated that matters.
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  18. As an added note to my previous post – contrary to what many may believe; to include 'god' as a factor in a theory isnt a violation of the scientific method, nor does it necessarily make a theory non-refutable. The reason god isnt included in modern scientific theories is because currently god doesnt add anything extra of interest to theory building. This is simply Occam's razor in action.
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  19. "For 25years a very large number of scientists with vast amounts of funding have been trying to develop an AIDS vaccine and have so far failed on this single question."

    This argument is as false analogy.

    The money spent on HIV control is not about quantifying measurement and establishing a new science but engineering a decease control. The problem space is well understood from a scientific point of view. HIV has two strands a slow mutating and fast mutating. It is the fast mutating strand that has not been controlled successfully yet. However, this is not a scientific problem but a social problem. (This problem can be solved if we want to, but we are not willing to use such methods as they are inhuman.)

    But in principle I agree with the line of thought; counting time and money spent as a measure on success isnt really the best measure stick, however it is indicative.
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  20. ""For 25years a very large number of scientists with vast amounts of funding have been trying to develop an AIDS vaccine and have so far failed on this single question."

    This argument is as false analogy."

    I agree. A more apt analogy is identifying HIV as being the cause of AIDS. I think there are even some people out there still denying that too.
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  21. I feel a bit uneasy about the methodology when counting record highs and (in particular) record lows (Meehle 2009). I think a more robust statistic could be both less controversial and more informative.
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  22. Here is another:

    "Historical Changes in Lake Ice-Out Dates as Indicators of Climate Change in New England, 1850-2000"

    http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2005/3002/

    H/T to Douglas Watts over at Tamino's.
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    Response: Thanks for the link - I've added the reference above and also added it to the It's Not Happening page.
  23. Humanity, thanks for the constructive comments.

    Regarding Knorr (2009), let us assume that they are right. Why then is CO2 still increasing? That would suggest that all the 8.7 Pg of anthro carbon release per year is being absorbed, while immense amounts of natural CO2 are **steadily being released at an accelerated rate**. What natural process could this be? Not volcanism. If anything is absorbing those huge amounts of anthro GHGs, CO2, it much be the oceans. OK, but if they are absorbing all that CO2, how can they at the same time be releasing huge amounts of CO2? Something does not add up with their work. Also, their view seem to be inconsistent with other researchers;

    Recent article by Le Quere et al. in Nature Geoscience
    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v2/n12/full/ngeo716.html


    John Cook, you might also be interested in this new paper on climate sensitivity:
    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ngeo706.html
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  24. As far as global warmign, there are actually only four type of people in the world. By answering the following questions and adding 1 for every yes, you can basically qualifiy yourself on this scale.

    1. Global warming is real? yes, no

    2. Global warming is manmade? yes, no

    3. Manmade global warming is primary due to elevated CO2? yes, no

    I hope this helps.

    If you
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  25. As you can see by my spelling, there is a fifth category, but only I get to hold it.
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  26. John, thanks to you for this site. Betwixt you and Lucia and Steve Mac, this debate is far better!

    But this old plumber has one observation that he would like to get out there. It seems to me, that within 5-10 years, the debate will be settled. Which is a bit unfortunate, means that I'll probably be watching the junk on the tube again. :)~

    I find from travelling between the pro/anti/maybe blogs (not all of them) that a lot of energy is used by people for scoring points. As I have stated before, to me the truth comes in the quiet moments. In a quiet moment this morning, while laying in bed with my Dachsy, keeping each other warm, this thought floated into my head.

    It appears that nature is about to resolve this debate for us. The pro people see CO2 as the culprit in the latest warming trend. The anti people, mostly from what I have observed say that it is the sun. Well guess what? Right now the sun is going into what could be a very long minimum. And as we all accept, CO2 is still climbing. This looks like the showdown at OK Corral. I do think that within 5-10 years we will have our answer.

    Maybe enough time will be left that if the pro's are correct, then we can try to mitigate the effects. But if the anti's are proven right, that still is no excuse to not develop cleaner forms of energy and accept that as the one species within nature that can "see" what our actions may do, to take full responsibility for these same actions.

    But until that time, that nature lets us in on the truth, I strongly suggest that we take time to hug our kids and learn to love just a bit more.
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    Response: Nature has already resolved that particular issue. Currently, solar activity is at the lowest level in the last century. Meanwhile, the current decade 2000 to 2009 is the hottest decade on record. That and the glut of peer reviewed research showing the sun cannot be causing current global warming makes it very clear that the sun is not the culprit.
  27. Well John, the current minimum is still quite young, so it makes sense that the oceans are releasing a lot of stored energy. In my reckoning, it'll take about 3 years before things stabilize, and the cooling really arrives. If that is the way its gonna go. But if after 5-6 years, things are still heating up, then yup, its gotta be the CO2.

    Maybe we should set a date in 2015, and get everyone together to have a beer and talk about the old times at skepticalscience, whichever way it turns out. I'll even buy the first round!
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    Response: I'll take you up on that beer offer, don't think I won't! Re the ocean releasing stored energy, the ocean continues to accumulate energy even while solar output is falling:


    Figure 2: Time series of global mean heat storage (0–2000 m), measured in 108 Jm-2 (Schuckmann 2009)

    What is causing the oceans to continue to accumulate heat. Surface measurements find an increasing amount of downward infrared radiation (Wang 2009, Philipona 2004). Taking a closer look at the spectral data finds that  the increase in downward radiation occurs at specific wavelengths - from this, we can quantitatively attribute warming to particular anthropogenic gases (Evans 2006).

    The warming effect from CO2 is not theory or guess work - we don't need to wait around to find if it will continue in the future. It's happening now and it's being directly measured now.
  28. DeNihilist wrote <"the current [solar] minimum is still quite young, so it makes sense that the oceans are releasing a lot of stored energy."

    Nope. See:
    Climate time lag
    and
    Measuring Earth’s energy imbalance
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  29. I guess John, in 2015, we will have to figure out who comes to whom's continent. Thanx for the papers. I'll try to look at them, but things are quite cold here right now, and as I specialize in warm water heating, am quite busy at this tme.

    Tom, that's what amazes me about this site, I went to look at Climate time lag, not knowing it was a post from here. Great explanation by John, but also great counter arguments from others.

    Today, I read a paper by Willis Eisinbach on WUWT. doing a Temp reconstruction from the raw Darwin data. Very well done. But what I find so different there is that the comments are mostly "attaboys", while here and at some others I pop by on (Lucia's for example) there seems to be more science and debating. Wonderful stuff for this old plumbers grey matter.

    Now I know you fellows have your position, but I am still having fun just watching and learning from both sides right now. Well off to bed.

    Oh, just one last comment. I can totally guarrantee you, that if we could come up with a cheap way to produce hydrogen, or hopefully another 15-20 years we will have fusion, this carbon based economy will die a natural death!
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  30. DeNihilist you may find in 2015 it's illegal to travel between continents for such trival matters as having a beer. Certainly now many of a certain persausion would find it an immoral act.

    Back to the science Albatross #23 I don't fully follow what you write but I think Knorr balances the two sides of the equation by reducing the CO2 output due to land use change by 17%, I don't know why he chosses this. Much of the science in many of these CO2 sink papers in another language to me.
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  31. I'll start by saying that this site has enlightened me more about "climate gate" than any other, and I am now convinced that the email leaks are essentially meaningless. BUT it was possible only after I set aside the time to learn the acronyms and technical terms that are used quite liberally throughout the posts. Yes, this is a scientific forum, and no, I am not a scientist, but I am an educated man with a master's degree, and it took a real effort for me to understand some of the arguments here. Heck, it took me days before I even found this site! Scientists have a real problem on their hands, and it's relating their findings in a way that makes the general public take notice and understand. Get too technical, and you'll lose most of the non-experts. Get too general, or spectacular, and your skeptics will exploit the gaps.

    Maybe the solution starts with college-level education. Many science professors and students I've known (including my brother and father) operate in silos, quietly dismissing things such as communications skills and humanities as nonessential to their work. And yet, when one of their papers is misinterpreted by the media or a politician, they fume that it was the reporter or commentator's fault, and they may even decline further interviews in the future, as if your average newspaper reader or FOX viewer will read it in the peer-reviewed scientific journals instead. If nothing else, this "climate gate" debacle should tell climate scientists that communicating with the public isn't just something that you muddle through when the reporter knocks on your office door, nor is it of trivial consequence. Effective communications should be a distinct discipline within your field, and one that you take years to develop. Face it -- when Joe Lunchbox or Mark Banker or Jill Housewife crashes on the couch at night and feel like they need a science degree to understand your findings, it's Glenn Beck 1, you 0.
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  32. DeNihilist re 26. I followed this page for a long time before posting, and for good reason. Unlike the pseudo-science and spin at WUWT (and really, that is all it amounts to), John et al. reference the real science, and question it. If you think the prevailing attitude here is "attaboy", you are a) wrong, and b) have been completely blind to the "attaboy" mentality at WUWT and CA. Honestly, I went there once and put forth some opposing ideas and was subjected to much ridicule and vitriol. You will find the atmosphere here much more accomodating and open-minded. I have learnt much on this site, and not because of everyone says "attaboy".

    You should also know that this whole CGR hypothesis is incredibly tenuous, and at best would account for very little in terms of cloud cover. The hypothesis has also been demonstrated many times to be barring on nonsensical. Aerosols (natural and antrhro) and CCNs have a much more imporant role in cloud formation, cloud opacity and rainfall efficiency (for precipitating clouds).

    Regarding the Darwin fiasco. First, sample size of one. Second, Eschenbach does not apply the proper tests for detecting inhomogeneities. Third, he does not consider changes in sensor type, and observation times etc. Fourth, he does not use the same method as the experts at NOAA, but rather tries to replicate it in some kind of pseudo scientific and hand wavy manner, that may be convincing to the untrained eye or layperson but his method does not hold up to close scientific scrutiny.

    Now let us for moment entertain your notion that the surface temperature records are nonsense. All four of them (CRUHadT, GIIS, NCDC, JMA) gone. Now let us look at the trends in global mid-tropospheric temps. from the RATPAC (global radiosondes), and the RSS (satellite) data produced in the NCDC annual report up until December 2008 (a very "cool" year by recent standards):

    For reference, the long-term trend in global surface air temps from NCDC is +0.13 C per decade, and the 25-yr trend for NASA GISS is +0.19 C per decade.

    By comparison:
    RATPAC-- long-term trends, +0.17 C per decade (since 1976)
    RSS-- long-term trend +0.15 C per decade since 1979 (using new technique of UofW to remove stratospheric influences)

    Did not cite UAH as those data have been shown to be highly unreliable, but even those data show a long-term warming trend.

    Tim Lambert has weighed in on the Darwin fiasco over at Deltoid, as has Tamino. This is exactly what happened when the Climate Coalition (AGW "skeptics")group got hold of the raw data in NZ and then made a hash of caluting the long-term temperature trends. And WUWT has demonstrated themselves to be just as inept.

    Still not convinced about the warming? Then look at the oceanic heat content data at:

    www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/

    If these data do not convince you that something is amiss, nothing will.
    0 0
  33. Good post, Worder. Contrarians know their target audience. It's certainly not scientists, as qualified scientists can easily cut through their spin. It's the general public and politicians prone to misinformation.

    Scientists often try to talk to both groups at the same time. Most scientists are reluctant to dumb down their message too much. A great site for climate science is RealClimate, but the posts there are often too technical for your average Joe. When they dumb it down, they probably lose some of their technical audience.

    Scientists developing communications skills further might help, but I think it's a drop in the bucket. On any complex scientific topic, it can be argued that it's unreasonable to expect most average Joes to understand concepts such as radiative forcing and the Stefan-Boltzmann law in such detail that one can determine sound arguments from bad ones, in the same that your average Jane doesn't understand rocket science. Further complicating this is the psychological Dunning Kruger effect, where individuals who have the least competence tend to trust their competence more than those with more competence, when in contrast it's more rational for those without expertise in an area to defer to experts. So convincing the vast majority of people often comes down to who has the better rhetorical argument. And good repeated rhetoric to an untechnical audience can easily trump good science, no matter how effectively communicated. On any issue that has such a large degree of potential political and societal ramifications, there are going to be large groups of individuals ready and willing to muddy the waters with loud rhetorical arguments.

    I feel the best solution is long-term. Make critical thinking a requirement in public education, taught at each grade level, with increasing degrees of complexity.

    Also, thanks to Albatross for pointing me to Lambert's takedown of further pseudoscientific claims from WUWT and the "it's a hoax" crowd. I don't think these folks care how many times their rhetoric have been taken apart and exposed. Objective-minded folks with a strong pursuit of knowledge stopped taking them seriously long ago, but that of course is not their target audience.
    0 0
  34. Albatros, thanx for your time in response. But slow down just a tad, I said that the "attabouys" were NOT here, that this and a couple of other sites are more concerned with the debate (which is why I always come here first, then Steve's, then Lucia's).

    Again, I am just an old plumber who has a bit of an idea of what is being talked about here. I do not however have the depth of all these papers that get pointed too. That is what I really like about this and some other sites. There is knowledge being offered!
    I am a fence sitter on this issue, for my philosophy of life is a bit more eastern, bhuddist, you know "all is illusion" yet seek the truth.

    Technically, I cannot argue with any of you. I can just throw out some thoughts that occur to me from my experience, for most days I am transforming potential energy (nat. gas) into heat, and moving it to areas that need it.

    So I put out a hypothesis, about oceans needing time to cool down, both you and John directed me to information that I can now read, and decide for myself. I thank-you for that.

    But Albatros, what do YOU think about my main posit, that this debate is winding down, due to the fact that the major drivers of the opposite sides, CO2 and solar cycles, are now meeting head-on? Without quoting papers, I would like to know YOUR personal opinion. If you think that it is rubish, tell me, it won't hurt my feeling. But to me, this is just the thing, that is way to coincidental, that seems to happen in life, to help us realize just how wonderous a journey we are on!
    0 0
  35. NewYorkJ, have to disagree with you about the average person not being able to grasp the science. The majority, I would say with 90% certainty, of the people that I work with, work for or know, could grasp enough of the science to make an intelligent decision. But unlike you, me, or the hundreds that come here, most are to involved in their and their families lives to have the time. If it comes down to, "do I do an anyalysis of global warming or figure out how to pay the bills", well you know which one is more important.
    And to be honest, the contrarion crowd seems to have A LOT more fun at this debate then the pro crowd! :)
    0 0
  36. "we've never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance".

    Absolute Baloney. Ever heard of the church in the middle ages?, the resistance to evolution?, or Socrates and the Academy, or the Spanish Inquisition?. His use of the word 'never' here is a gross exaggeration/distortion, what would such do with the data then, if they can't even get basic history right. Would they use this word 'never' in a historical paper, or are they just plain stupid?
    0 0
  37. Albatross #32

    I wouldn't write off CGR at the moment. I think I read somebody was going to recreate the CGR/atmosphere conditions using a particle accelerator to see if the process can be reproduced in the lab. Somebody is spending 9million euros on this and using CERN particle accelerators so somebody thinks it's worth investigating. It seems admirable that they wish to test the theory by identifying a real physical process to may be occuring.
    The project is called CLOUD and you can read about it here http://cloud.web.cern.ch/cloud/
    They have a PDF of the original proposal. It addresses some of the limitations of the science but obviously mainly focuses on why this experiment is justified. You can read all 74 pages here http://cloud.web.cern.ch/cloud/documents_cloud/kirkby_iaci.pdf but may want to start with section 2.1 which gives some of the background science.

    I'd just add that calling science incredibly tenuous and nonsensical when it's published in well respected peer review journals is dangerously close to the closed mind you complain about on skeptical websites. The PDF document has 138 references at the end. This all doesn't hinge on the weaknesses, limitations and uncertainties associated with a single set of work.
    0 0
  38. Albatross #32
    on the Darwin data. I don't think Eschenbach says there hasn't been a global warming trend. In fact he says several times that the globe is warming what he speciifcally does is question the adjustment process. I also don't think he's attempting to generate a centuary trend either locally or globally. He acknowledges this is one data set, in fact he critises the sparsity of long term data sets in the region used in the adjustment process. This seems a perfectly reasonible process to do and it's perfectly reasonable to expect NOAA GISS and CRU to undergo this sort of scrutiny.

    Finally while I agree that we should give weight to experts in the field who have studied these thing throughout their career we shouldn't exclude the layman and his contribution to this debate.
    0 0
  39. NewYork,

    your argument is well formulated in comment #33, but I wonder; do you also mind to take into account the fact that scientist also oppose the hypothesis of dangerous man made global warming, and on what ground would they then do this?

    Else your argument may leave the conclusion open to that scientist that opposes this idea are evil or lies or are stupid or is a combination thereof.
    0 0
  40. thingadonta,
    i think you should distinguish between science and scientists. While it's true that we've already seen harsh controversies in the past, what Weart is talking about is personal attack to scientists. This is unprecedented.
    0 0
  41. @thingadonta, 36
    >"we've never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance".

    "Absolute Baloney. Ever heard of the church in the middle ages?, the resistance to evolution?, or Socrates and the Academy, or the Spanish Inquisition?. His use of the word 'never' here is a gross exaggeration/distortion, what would such do with the data then, if they can't even get basic history right. Would they use this word 'never' in a historical paper, or are they just plain stupid? "

    OK, the Spanish Inquisition is the correct historical parallel. I think the implied context here was the public, (allegedly) fact and science based debate of the latter centuries.

    I understand very well that this distinction is somewhat alien to you.
    0 0
  42. @albatross, 32
    "Still not convinced about the warming? Then look at the oceanic heat content data at:

    www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/

    If these data do not convince you that something is amiss, nothing will."

    I like to point to the sea level measurements, showing a trend of >3mm/year since the early 90ies.

    I think ALL temperature data series will have to be carefully checked by 'outsiders'. That's the only sensible thing to do in the present situation.
    0 0
  43. As another line of evidence for global warming you could list that plant species in mountain ranges now tend to grow at higher elevations than in the past. See for example:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/320/5884/1768

    A side effect of this is that species that are restricted to the highest altitudinal zones may be driven to extinction, both from increased competition and because they have nowhere else to go.
    0 0
    Response: Thanks, I've added it above and more importantly, added it to "It's Not Happening".
  44. Two good rebuttals of the CRU "scandal":

    http://www.pewclimate.org/science/university-east-anglia-cru-hacked-emails-analysis

    http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/global_warming_contrarians/debunking-misinformation-stolen-emails-climategate.html

    BTW, I am working on an essay targeted toward conservatives that think we should continue to "do business as usual". I will be shopping it around at the various blogs I frequent in order to get feedback to make it better. The goal will be to get an essay that we can all use to convince those that ignore the science because they do not like solution. Stay tuned.
    0 0
  45. Humanity "Finally while I agree that we should give weight to experts in the field who have studied these thing throughout their career we shouldn't exclude the layman and his contribution to this debate."

    Agreed, I do not cater to the ivory tower, but I would be very wary of taking at face value that this person's interpretation of the data is correct. Humanity, you should also know that Willis has been shown to fudge data before (look it up), so he is hardly credible. The man has an agenda and is clearly biased. He did not even succeed in properly replicating the methodology set out in the litertature.

    It is irresponsible for them to make the allegations based on a sample size of one, and for them to then make sweeping generalizations/allegations and then post these allegations on the net for everyone with an untrained eye to misinterpret at will. And that is their audience for the most part, not scientists.
    0 0
  46. Humanity #37.

    Did you read my part about the role of aerosols in cloud formation, opacity and precip. efficiency? These are known facts and have been studied extensively. See for example work by Daniel Rosenfeld.

    I do not dismiss the hypothesis that cosmic rays have no role whatsover. Is the evidence convincing? No. Is the science that has been done good? Not always.

    Don't take my word for it, read the in depth discussion and debate that was held at RC recently. John Cook
    deals with the cosmic ray hypothesis on this very site.

    I get the impression that you are looking for a silver bullet Humanity. Thank goodness, this mess is all because of comsic rays, well now we can go on with business as usual.

    Well, not so fast, even if the comsic ray hypothesis is true. How significant is it in terms of absolute radiative forcing? Can they even demonstrate that? In the greater scheme of things it is probalby (if at all) a very small player. Recently someone at the U of T in Canada found a link between stratospheric ozone destruction and cosmic rays. Next thing, denier blogs are claiming that CFCs causing the ozone hole is a hoax. Well, no. He said that CFCs and NOx were still the primary catalists, but that cosmic rays appeared to be modulating the amount of ozone loss.

    And that is what may be going on with cosmic rays and clouds-- the hypothesis and its impacts (if any) are being overstated. CGRs may be a very small player, but they are by no means the primary driver.

    Also, do not forget about the problems associated with ocean "acidification". Doubling or tripling CO2 would play even more strain on an already taxed and vunerable ocean ecosystem which is a major food source for huge numbers of people.

    So there are other very real and understood reasons for reducing our CO2 emissions.
    0 0
  47. "what Weart is talking about is personal attack to scientists. This is unprecedented."

    I do not agree. May I mention Newton?
    0 0
  48. batsvensson,
    "scientists" is plural. It's a whole scientific community that is under attack from outside.
    0 0
  49. #46 Albatross

    I take your points and there is some truth in your silver bullet idea but not quite for the reason you state.

    I see that Svensmarks data has been critised to death but as I said the science doesn't rest on the limitations of one piece of data. This should be a familiar arguement to you it's one used by pro-AGW people all the time. If you take a look at the PDF I linked to you'll see a well rounded arguement supported by many different data sources.
    On Svenmark I think his theory has been refined to say that CGR affect low level clouds. I see the graph on John's page about CGR but this looks very different to the one presented in the PDF on page 5. It's too crude to say one is lying so you'd have to conclude that the data are generated in very different ways. I'm not skilled enough to say which is right.
    It should just be pointed out that the CLOUD project is supported by groups in a dozen or so US and European institutions. The lead author is Jasper Kirkby who according to his Wiki page is a leader in particle physics, designing new accelerators. This is not mickey mouse science by petrochemical stooges.

    I accept there are many scientist that produce work that downplays the role of CGR influence it just seems you are unwilling to accept there are many who also think it's worth investigating because there is evidence to support it.

    I really suggest you read at least the first half of that PDF, it's balanced in showing the limitations of the science as well.
    0 0
  50. Hi John,

    Melanie Philips is a journalist in the UK and one who frequently appears on BBC TV and radio spouting a rabid anti-AGW scepticism and is consequently one of the darlings of the 'denialist' community. At the moment she is in full flow regarding the CRU e-mail hack. Needless to say she hasn't a scientific background and is convinced that AGW is a 'scam'.
    Although I am familiar with general scientific precepts, her latest blog, although I'm fairly sure it is a gross misrepresentation, contains some rather specialist knowledge and I would appreciate if you would critique it from a technical perspective.

    Fantastic site and keep up your invaluable work!

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/5620571/the-smoking-iceberg.thtml
    0 0
    Response: Reading through Melanie Philips' latest blog post The smoking iceberg, you'll see she is reiterating many of the most popular skeptic talking points. For example: The focus on the Darwin weather station is new though, will have a look at that in more detail if time permits.

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