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Understanding the pre-IPCC Anti-Climate Science Misinformation Blitz

Posted on 26 September 2013 by John Mason

The IPCC AR5 Cometh... and the political carpet-bombing starts in advance! (updated September 27th, 10.20am - see below!)

The basic tenets of science are pretty solid: gravity, plate tectonics, germs that cause disease and so on. The foundations of climate science, such as the role of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, have likewise been well understood for decades. Similarly, in the context of the manufactured political debate that stalks climate science, some things are so equally certain that they will turn up like buses and trains - mostly when expected. A clear example is that whenever a noteworthy climate-related event occurs, contrarian activity ramps up and on occasion goes into hyperdrive. Witness, in the latter context, the weeks leading up to the release of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (WG1) Summary for Policymakers, a time in which the background trickle of contrarian activity has become a raging flood.

It started a while back: we noticed an uptick in Astroturfing a few weeks ago: then there was a deluge of grossly-misleading articles in certain mainstream newspapers (the usual suspects) in which an IPCC 'crisis meeting' featured strongly (it was in fact a long-planned routine meeting). Study of the 'discussions' beneath many recent climate change articles in the online versions of our newspapers showed a huge increase in anti-science commentary. It's as though the contrarians have had text-files with a list of climate-myths from which to copy-and-paste as fast as they could. It brought to mind old footage of bomber-planes like B52s in action, engaged in carpet-bombing campaigns, only in this case with randomly-selected anti-climate science myths. In a similar manner to the dubious 'gish-gallop' debating technique, the intention has clearly been to attempt to derail any serious discussion on that rather important topic: the future of Mankind on Planet Earth. 

There are times when a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is one such time, so at this point I'll hand over for a moment to my graphics-savvy colleague JG -  this is the modern face of climate change denialism:

carpet-bombing with anti-climate science myths

A veritable storm of irrationality, it has not gone unnoticed, as Lord Stern observes in this Guardian article from September 24th. Look at any climate change discussion-thread right now and you'll find "Climate's changed before" (never mind the accompanying mass-extinctions) juxtaposed with, "in the 1970s they said there would be an ice-age" (a minority but media-attractive view at the time), "CO2 is plant-food" and so on and so on, ad nauseam. Well-trained parrots, indeed!

Like gravity and plate tectonics, the basic tenets of the relationship between greenhouse gases and climate change have been well-understood for decades, a product of the scientific investigations that began some two centuries ago. So well-understood, in fact, that a split has occurred in the contrarian movement, between those who deny that the greenhouse effect exists and those who figured they'd have to accept that it does exist but who continue to deny its importance and give over-emphasis to the uncertainties with respect to the fine details of just how bad things will get if we continue on this fossil fuel binge.

Notwithstanding such schisms, they all continue to throw every bit of muck that they can, in the hope that a little bit of it sticks here and there. It's happened before and it's happening again - and will almost certainly happen many more times, but the key is for people to recognise it for what it is. I don't think I'm alone in considering humanity and biodiversity to be worth the trouble that it might take you to share this - and JG's graphic - around Cyberspace.... and if you want a larger (1024 pixels wide) version, click here.

UPDATE 27th September 2013, 1000 BST

Just to kinda make my point for me, here are two screengrabs of contrarian output in the last 24 hours. The first one is from the Climate Depot website, where anti-science activist Marc Morano spends his time attacking scientists, for reasons best known to himself. The second one comes from the comments below a live report on AR5 at The Guardian. Bingo!

(warning - head-vice required if you read the text, but if you want a good example of a Gish-gallop, this is one!)

Copy-and-paste carpet-bombing - Exhibit 'A':
Climate Depot, September 26th 2013, 2.57pm.

copy & paste carpet-bombing: exhibit 'A'

Copy-and-paste carpet-bombing - Exhibit 'B':
Guardian comment, 27th September 2013, 9.12am.

carpet-bombing exhibit 'B'

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 53:

  1. Nicely done John and JG!

    "Fossil Fuel Defence Force".  Love it!

    The only reason that some of those misinformation bombs detonate (even though they are off target) is because most of the media are complicit.  

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  2. And then there is this picture from the dark side represnting the (only) 5 answers that matter from the IPCC !  ;)

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  3. I like to use the analogy of car crashes.  Imagine safety experts, automotive engineers, trauma doctors, etc. discussing exactly what will happen to the passengers of a given model of car traveling at a very high rate of speed when it hits a bridge support.  There would no doubt be some minor disagreements -- will the driver die because his head hits the windshield and explodes, or because he's crushed by the collapsing passenger compartment?  Will the passengers in the back seats necessarily die, or will some of them "merely" be very seriously injured?

    Then along comes a denier-type who says, "See?  They can't even agree on what will happen, so let's go driving at 100MPH with the lights off!"  Of course, they never mention that not a single one of the experts ever suggested that it would be a good idea to do something like that...

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  4. Lou - that is spot-on!

    Hank - the irony of caricaturing Mike Mann in an attack on ad-hom arguments is a good illustration of Josh's intellect - all by himself!

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  5. Lou Grinzo -#3  that is a great metaphor.

    I might extend it by suggesting that we are now in a slow car crash .. with 7 billion people in the back seat - we are careeening and crashing down a mountainside with the road crumbling under us, bouncing through bramble and rock.   We have no idea where we will land or crash,,, all we can do is tighten up the seat belts and check the airbags.  Many don't have any safety margins.  And we are still moving down hill. 

    I don't forgive the mass media for duplicitious reporting, but I think I understand how they might think it's just business, they are giving people what they want -  everyone WANTs a nice future without pain, so they serve up that fantasy.  

    Anyway, the ramifications of progressively worsening climate calamities are horrific.   And scenarios extend way past species extinciton - including our own.  Nobody wants to imagine their own deadly car crash -  afterall, news media have never covered a story this colossal.   Electronic media is entertainment based.   Few newspapers can manage a message that huge... - although the Guardian seems to be out in front so far  http://www.theguardian.com/us

    Skeptical Science is wonderful   Thank goodness deniers keep criticizing you, I expect many readers arrive here because you benefit from unintentional promotion from deners. 

    Interesting times. 

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  6. What never ceases to amaze me is the ability of the deniers to continually get it all totally wrong! They seem to have a sixth sense on where to look for cherry picked evidence to 'prove' whatever they think is correct. Methinks if you can continually get the wrong answer 100% of the time you DO know the correct answer! QED!

    What is even worse any time in Australia with 'Our ABC' when the key words global warming are in any article and comments are open, the comments are flooded with the same old debunked drivel. These people are so stupid they use the word dribble instead of drivel to describe the utterances of 'warmists' that have 'the faith'. The projection is so palpable it is not even worth commenting on.

    The closest analogy I can think of is the NBN debate in Australia. Where whenever the NBN comes up the flood of misinformed people who claim that wireless will beat optical fibre in bandwidth with development in the future proves they have no understanding of any Physics.

    Bert

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  7. hank_@2, your "this picture" link is blocked in Russia: "Access to the site is restricted in accordance with the Federal Law № 114-FZ of 25.07.2002 (On Countering Extremist Activity), № 436-FZ of 29.12.2010 (The protection of children from information harmful to their health and development), № 149 - FZ of 27.07.2006 (on Information, Information technologies and Protection of information) and the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of 26.10.2012 № 1101. If you have any questions relating to the work of the resource, contact your authorized representative of Roskomnadzora."

    Can you briefly describe the picture? Thanks!

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  8. The update really cheered me up this morning. Almost as hilarious as http://denialdepot.blogspot.co.uk/ . I really sympathise with the purveyors of parody - it's not easy for them to beat this kind of stuff...I think it's always worth taking a moment to stare in awe at the wonderfully twisted nature of it all.

    I really like Lou Grinzo's comment (#3).

    Gish gallops are very difficult to deal with, given their ever-changing focus, but if ever there was a tool for dealing with them then it is the pages of skeptical science.

    More depressingly, I've seen quite a lot of nonsense, full of fake balance, from the BBC this week, both online and on the TV (e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24233643  , http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24213816  ), talking about a "pause or hiatus" in global temperatures while either completely ignoring, or downplaying the evidence for, the rapid ocean warming that's continued or even accelerated in recent years (clearly the ocean is no longer part of the globe according to the first link); ignoring the fact that there's no evidence for a pause even in surface temperature records (the trend is undeniably upward even if not statistically significant in the last 15 years - therefore the repetitive use of the word "pause" is just sloppy); ignoring studies which suggest that the recent slowdown in increase in surface temperature increase is consistent with short-term variability caused by fluctuations in solar irradiance, ENSO and volcanic activity; happily quoting "climate skeptics" who mention recent papers suggesting low climate sensitivity of 1.5 to 2 degrees C, while failing to mention the large amount of published evidence (some of which has itself been published very recently) which estimates climate sensitivity to be much higher than 2 degrees C. I think it is ignorance rather than deliberate cherry-picking (and perhaps science journalists are unduly influenced by the hundreds of irate and baseless complaints from very discerning "climate skeptics" that I'm sure they receive) but it's poor journalism either way.

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  9. "Like gravity and plate tectonics, the basic tenets of the relationship between greenhouse gases and climate change have been well-understood for decades, a product of the scientific investigations that began some two centuries ago."

    (-snip-).

    The heat content of the Earth and its movements are very complex - (-snip-).   (-snip-).

    (-snip-).   (-snip-).

    (-snip-).

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Unless you provide links to peer-reviewed, published scientific papers to support your assertions, they are merely your opinion. 


    [DB] Ideology, inflammatory and multiple instances of sloganeering snipped.

  10. Just in the interests of enhancing the already impressive credibility of this post, keep in mind that if you're going to use Latin expressions, use them correctly.  Nauseam, not nauseum.  

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  11. Thanks for the proof-read :)

    Have now looked it up - quite right too! Little 'n' is acceptable, though.

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  12. I'm not a scientist by any means, so (gently) correct me if I'm wrong, but it's always seemed to me that the deniers are shooting themselves in the foot when they bring up that we should be headed for an Ice Age, because as far as I can tell, if you look at all the natural forcing the climate experts who predicted that weren't far off. If something wonky isn't messing up the system (i.e. vast amounts of carbon spewed out of tailpipes and smokestacks) we would be cooling off quite a bit.

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  13. Rob Nicholls:

    I too have been depressed by the false balance in BBC broadcasts, interestingly predicted by Will Hutton in the Observer last weekend:

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/21/climate-change-scientific-truth-collective

    But what i've found most unsettling is UK scientists being interviewed and seemingly keen to highlight uncertainties in whether the oceans are even absorbing heat at deeper levels, followed by Andrew Monford confidently expressing the assertion that the planet clearly isn't warming and the scientists have got all the models wrong.

    I was, however, cheered up earlier today by when  Sir Brain Hoskins was interviewed on Radio 5 live, and gave a superb summary of the situation.

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  14. I used to comment on Yahoo science articles but that forum is currently so inundated with denialist negativity that whatever I might post is very soon "hidden due to low ratings."

    I also read a recent Daily Kos article regarding Popular Science's shutting down of their comment section in which a paper, Anderson et al 2013, was cited as illustrative of the reason for that decision. The study's conclusion was quite an eye-opener:

    "Online communication and discussion of new topics such as emerging technologies has the potential to enrich public deliberation. Nevertheless, this study's findings show that online incivility may impede this democratic goal. Much in the same way that watching uncivil politicians argue on television causes polarization among individuals, impolite and incensed blog comments can polarize online users based on value predispositions utilized as heuristics when processing the blog's information. The effects of online, user-to-user incivility on perceptions towards emerging technologies may prove especially troublesome for science experts and communicators that rely on public acceptance of their information. The effects of online incivility may be even stronger for more well-known and contentious science issues such as the evolution vs. intelligent design debate or climate change. Future research may explore these issues to gain a better understanding of the formation of risk perceptions for controversial political or science topics in the context of user-generated online comments."

    Thus it appears that any kind incivility in a comments can, to some extent at least negate in the readers' minds the validity of the science being reported. Food for thought.

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  15. Christpher, #14 - today's Guardian thread is a case in point. >1000 comments and it's like being in a small boat far out at sea in the middle of a typhoon! By pure chance I read the thing just as it was posted and got the first comment in - someone later accused the Guardian of letting me know in advance so I could get a 'warmist' comment in first! Really. It's chaos out there in opinionsville!

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  16. nthinker: Your most recent comment was deleted in its entirity because it violated the SkS Comments Policy re Moderation Complaints.

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right. This privilege can be rescinded if the posting individual treats adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it. Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

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  17. SkS needs a pop-out mechanism that tattoos the comments policy on the forehead of the about-to-poster and then pops out a mirror. 

     

    Yes, I know: snip.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Agreed. SkS moderators have neither the time nor inclination to babysit newcomers -- especially those that are accustomed to posting trash talk on   WUWT and similar venues of denialism.  

  18. The statement:

    "Like gravity and plate tectonics, the basic tenets of the relationship between greenhouse gases and climate change have been well-understood for decades, a product of the scientific investigations that began some two centuries ago."

    ...imples that the importance of gravity to plate tectonics is equivalent to the importance of greenhouse gases to climate change.

    Would you please identify the peer-reviewed citation that supports this claim?  I would surmise that most actual scientists believe gravity is more fundamental to plate tectonics than green house gases to climate change, but I could be wrong and want to learn.

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  19. Ahhh, nhthinker . . . I thought John was trying to point out that the basic science isn't something new fangled but has been around for a very long time, even if the high-resolution predictive ability of our understanding has only recently been trending upward.

    i didn't think that John was trying to give a comparison of the relative strengths of those components within their respective systems (which are also shared).  Gravity wins in all cases.  Gravitational fluctuation, though, would be another matter, just as solar variation as a forcing and the general forcing of solar irradiation (1365 wm2) are considered differently.  

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  20. If you want to learn more, there are threads.  Note that there are three tabs for that article (basic, intermediate, and advanced).

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  21. Aahh, DSL - thanks for the interaction...

    Intentionally drawing equivelances between items scientitsts view as hard science and those that scientists view as somewhat less hard is seemingly commonly used as a grammatical trick to boost confidence in the less hard science.

    There is plenty of hard science on gravity and plate tectonics on this planet and on others.  They lead to predictions and measurements that rise to level of scientific "law".

    Climate science grew from the idea that calculating future climate temperatures over the course of decades and centuries did not have to put much account into the potential heat transfer from the atmosphere to deep ocean masses or other masses of the Earth.  Like a good use of Occam's razor, it attempts to use the fewest variables and systems to explain the data.  However, the climate models currently are much more uncertain than the models for plate tectonics and the latest data for the past 15 years seems to indicate the models may need more adjustment.

    I honestly would listen more carefully to climate writers that start with clarification of scientific uncertainty instead or using language that tries to draw equivalence of gravity and green house gases.

     

    Cheers

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] I would honestly recommend that you at least pay lip service to reading AND adhering to this site's Comments Policy, instead of continuing on in your idiom of empty assertions.

    Future comments constructed as this one will receive further, and more stringent, moderation.

  22. nhthinker - "Climate science grew from the idea that calculating future climate temperatures over the course of decades and centuries did not have to put much account into the potential heat transfer from the atmosphere to deep ocean masses or other masses of the Earth."

    Um, that would seem to be rather direct contradiction to even the very early papers on climate science. Heat transfer into the earth is governed by basic thermodynamics and easily measured (being done all the time). Heat transfer into the ocean is complicated by convection and the THC, but the limitation of this has always been acknowledged. 

    Fundimentally however, the properties of GHG mean that there is a TOA energy imbalance. If the planet is accumulating heat it will warm. How fast and where is harder to predict, especially on time scales of decades or less, but heat it will.

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  23. "Fundimentally however, the properties of GHG mean that there is a TOA energy imbalance. If the planet is accumulating heat it will warm. How fast and where is harder to predict, especially on time scales of decades or less, but heat it will."

    But the IPCC predicted atmospheric temperature rises over the next century intentially assume most of the heat imbalance staying in the atmosphere instead of being absorbed by the deep oceans and other masses of the Earth.  The IPCC emphasis on predicted atmospheric temperatures and their consequences will reflect poorly on the IPCC if it turns out a significant portion of the heat is absorbed into the oceans and less results in atmospheric temperature rises.

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  24. Thanks for the rewrite: "The basic tenets of science are pretty solid: gravity, plate tectonics, germs that cause disease and so on. The foundations of climate science, such as the role of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, have likewise been well understood for decades."


    But use of the "likewise been well understood for decades" implicates that it is as scientifically deterministic as gravity and germs. For gravity and germs, we do predictive experiments all the time. There is clear scientific certainity that greenhouse gases generate extra heat.. However, as to the foundations of climate science, we actually don't accurately know how much heat will be absorbed by the deep oceans and other masses of the Earth for conditions where extra greehouse gases are being dumped into the atmosphere (at the rate we are doing now) and how much of it will remain as higher temperatures in the atmosphere over the course of a century or two.
    This potential extra heat in the oceans could likely end up causing catastrophes of their own- but the previous emphasis on atmospheric temperature may make a significant portion of the population of the Earth see it as science getting it wrong- and part of the fault will be that climate scientists had not properly informed the public on their true scientific centainty- and how truly that we know over the next 100 years we will get so much more informed and have much more certainty on our predictive ability with respect to climate change.

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  25. nhthinker:

    If your dentist told you that he was 95% certain that one of your teeth had a cavity, would you authorize him to take appropriate action to remove it?  

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  26. nhthinker:

    While there is general scientific acceptance of the fact that gravity exists, scientists are still struggling to determine exactly what causes it to exist. That is not the case with the science of climate change. 

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  27. John Hartz.

    For the case of my dentist, I know there are millions of data points and the time scales of measurements of outcomes make it clear about cavities.  Medicince about cavities is a "harder science" than "global long range temperature prediction".

    For global climate change- there is one massive patient and generally extremely long time response time intervals.

    Are you a betting man?  If your bookie brackets a prediction on a match to high/low to have a 95% confidence on covering a spread and then suddenly changes the lower end by half- would you have confidence in that bookie?

    As to gravity- child scientists perform experiments every day to reprove Newton's laws.  Results are quick and can be rechecked.  Climate science as a means to accurately predict future atmospheric temperatures is not in that ballpack of certainty.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] "Climate science as a means to accurately predict future atmospheric temperatures is not in that ballpack of certainty"

    Your error is that focusing on the daily noise ignores the underlying signal.  Much like focusing on individual waves hides the change in tide at the beach.  Climate science is interested in the tide.  The waves are the weather and the concern of meteorologists.

    Apologies to The Bard, but "the trend is the thing" and all that matters over time.

  28. nhthinker:

    Do you believe that Annual Global Mean Surface temperature is the sole metric that scientists use to measure the impacts of the the enhanced greenhouse effect on the   Earth's climate system?

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  29. nhthinker:

     

    >>Intentionally drawing equivelances between items scientitsts view as hard science and those that scientists view as somewhat less hard is seemingly commonly used as a grammatical trick to boost confidence in the less hard science.<<

     

    I don't know whether you are intentionally misrepresenting the paragraph, but it is pretty obvious to me that it was merely stating that gravity and tectonics are well understood, not that the interaction should be any relevance to CO2 and climate.

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  30. >>The update really cheered me up this morning. Almost as hilarious as http://denialdepot.blogspot.co.uk/ . I really sympathise with the purveyors of parody - it's not easy for them to beat this kind of stuff...I think it's always worth taking a moment to stare in awe at the wonderfully twisted nature of it all.<<


    Is that for real? I read the first page and almost choked laughing, but couldn't decide whether the guy is serious or taking the mickey out of deniers. Which is it?

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] DenialDepot is a parody/satire site that lampoons the "skeptic" worldview.

  31. #23

    But the IPCC predicted atmospheric temperature rises over the next century intentially assume most of the heat imbalance staying in the atmosphere instead of being absorbed by the deep oceans and other masses of the Earth

    intentially? I think you are quite confused about the science, which can indeed be confusing. I will try to explain, though I am not an expert, and may be subject to correction.

    The heat imbalance is at the top of the atmosphere where the outgoing heat from the earth is less than that incoming from the sun. Since the earth's system will strive towards equilibrium, it must warm to radiate at a higher level. That is the cause of planetary warming, including deep ocean warming. For simple purposes you can think of the earth as just a sea and an atmosphere. Both will warm at different rates and exchange heat with each other in cycles.

    These cycles are known, and more is being learned. So heat going into the ocean will not necessarily stay there but return to warm the surface at a later stage. We just happen to be in a cooling part of the cycle. I think Thomas Stocker did a good job of explaining this today ... despite his two days without sleep.

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  32. John,

    Annual Global Mean Surface temperature is the only metric that the general media actually reports that scientists use to measure the impacts of the the enhanced greenhouse effect on the Earth's climate system.

    I know you guys are much more sophisticated than that- but it's up to you correct the media.  The dumbing down to non-scientist forums and the quotes by climate scientists that fed the frenzy specifically to Annual Global Mean Surface temperature are actually doing a disservice to the cause of science, especially if the transfer to the oceans turns out to be very significant.

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  33. nhthinker:

    So you are critical of how the media explains climate science, but not the science itself?

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  34. nhtinker,#27

    Yes, you may have a child scientist check Newton's Laws, but ask the same child to solve a problem of three moving masses in space with gravitional attraction between them, and they would need a computer, and the assistance of a whole Maths Dept. The Three Body Problem is a famous one since the days of Newton.

    In practice the motion of small bodies in the solar system is chaotic because of gravitional fluctuations from other small bodies, small planets and larger planetary masses. Large-scale behaviour is predictable, but can we pick out the asteroids that might crash to earth decades in the future? No, not until they are almost on us.

    It is much the same with the climate. We can do small scale heat flows but the large scale problem of many variables is much more difficult and needs elaborate computer models.

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  35. "But the IPCC predicted atmospheric temperature rises over the next century intentially assume most of the heat imbalance staying in the atmosphere instead of being absorbed by the deep oceans and other masses of the Earth"

    That is demostratably false. The models used in IPCC reports calculate that most of the heat is going into the world's ocean. If it was assumed that it was accumulating only (or even mostly) in the atmosphere, then the models would have predicted us frying long ago. Do the calculation yourself. You can see the the GISS-ER model prediction for OHC  here. Given all the comments on ocean heating, heat balance etc throughout the IPCC reports, I am loss to understand how you gained such an impression.

    And to be pedantic, the IPCC predicts nothing. It merely summarizes and reports on the published science. The GCM models used are a diverse lot from climate modelling groups in many parts of the world.

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  36. @miffedmax #12 you are much correct if logic is applied because it has the appearance of a fairly solid temperature decline getting started, maybe even the 8C drop over a few thousand years to next "Ice Age"getting a tiny start (we'll likely never know now) then a jolting Coolus Interruptus happening the last few decades for some bizarre, weird, mysterious reason that seems to have no possible explanation that humans can figure out and defies all logic, apparently. However, the crack (crevasse) in your logic is that so-called "deniers" target audience is not you, it's a very large group of, not to put too fine a point on it, basically <<the rest of this comment has been severely and properly snipped out by moderator response, except the last bit>> who only need to be primed with buzz phrases and most certainly will not be intelligently analyzing them.

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  37. nhthinker #9 Your understanding of the English language is incorrect. The posting would need to state "Like the relationship between gravity and plate tectonics, the basic tenets of the relationship between greenhouse gases and climate change..." to have the meaning that you incorrectly ascribe to it. As written it compares separately gravity and plate tectonics with "the basic tenets of the relationship" and I believe this is what is intended, and I certainly agree with that intent.

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  38. Me @#27 My nhthinker #9 S.B.  nhthinker #18.

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  39. Me @#38 My "Me @#27" S.B. "Me @#37". I'm attempting a Gosh Gillop, Gallup, Gollop attack on myself.

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  40. nhthinker #21 your 4th paragraph is entirely incorrect. I cannot respond on a point-by-point basis because you demonstrate no understanding of the topic so it would take effectively a small book be written in the comment to get you in at the ground level and it`s ureasonable for others to do this for your benefit. There are endless videos of actual educational lectures on multiple aspects of this topic, even text books. Suggest you study and learn to get just the basics. 

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  41. @scaddenp #35 "predicted us frying" I disagree with though I'm in agreement with your statements and rationale otherwise. I find this topic fascinating. Surface temperature increase is not "global warming" (GW is heat content increase). Surface temperature is (1) a symptom flora & fauna outside below-surface oceans are affected by (2) the Earth "trying" to stop "global warming". In a very rational sense surface temperature increase is the antithesis of "global warming" (how about the fever with flu analogy, it's your body trying to slow/kill the real enemy virus but it's really unpleasant and, I seem to recall, can damage your brain if too hot too long). So if the oceans really did have polystyrofoam insulation 1 cm down (I understand some of them do now) and if land surface also was covered by more coffee cups then atmosphere would be continuously in radiative balance and "global warming" last 100 years would be negligible, right now would be ~+1.5C air/surface symptom (BerkeleyEarth land increase plus an estimated tad) and therefore "global warming" would today be a truly trivial 8 ZettaJoules. With CO2x2 and no feedback changes from last few decades would be +3C air/surface and +16 ZJ. No "frying". In reality Balmaseda, Trenberth & Kallen estimate +250 ZJ so far and it'll keep increasing because those freezing cold pesky oceans over the entire planet are just not going to allow the surface and air to stop this"global warming" like it keeps trying to do. I strongly suspect you know the preceding very well and you threw a "frying" phrase in for its delicious sound.

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  42. @nhthinker #32 The transfer of heat to the oceans IS "global warming". The combined land/ocean surface and air temperatures are a proxy for it, even those measured today. Climate scientists could not study historical ocean heat content because what they had was historical surface temperature proxies and they must compare apples with apples so they are stuck with surface temperature when it comes to historical comparisons. Also, humans have developed more of an interest in surface temperatures and their effects, especially land, on growing food and whatnot, as opposed to developing huge overarching interest in ocean bottom temperature effects on the lifestyle and prospects of those funny glowing fish. Beats me why. Oceans have 1,100 times the heat capacity of air and 1,200 times the heat capacity of land if you go with Dr. Randall or 3,800 times the heat capacity of land if you go with Dr. Trenberth's land penetration. Either way, all of the ecosystems heat is either in oceans or 1/40th of it is in water that came from oceans (rain) and will return one day. So it is patently absurd to say that "global warming" is only an increase in atmospheric heat content and when I find that climate scientist you say told IPCC to say that I'll chastize him/her severely. 

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  43. Was simply calculating from energy accumulaton and heat cpacity of atmosphere. I agree that if the CIMP models really did ignore accumulation of heat on land and ocean then your characterisation of what the model would look like is better.

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  44. A fine article: thank you. Though "disinformation" fits better than "misinformation."

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  45. I am a sub-beginner and probably a bit skeptical of both sides.  Recently, I saw a graph from Rahmstorf showing a continuing warming.  A denier friend informs me that Rahmstorf cooked the books by adjusting for ENSO, in part.  The rationale given is that ENSO has no direct global impact and thus surface temperatures cannot be adjusted for what is a local phenomenon.  As justification, the denied offered a citation from Trenberth: "Although it is possible to use regression to eliminate the linear portion of the global mean temperature signal associated with ENSO, the processes that contribute regionally to the global mean differ considerably, and the linear approach likely leaves an ENSO residual."

    What am I missing?  Thanks in advance!

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  46. RobertF @45, I have responded elsewhere, where the comments will be on topic.

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  47. @scaddenp #43 I'm harping on this a bit but it's important because it's the basics and "denier" comments on web sites don't grasp it (the paid and mischief makers pretend not to grasp it) and you said "...CIMP models...". Yes, I`m sure the "models" would do an excellent job but I`m talking reality, not simulation, and it`s simple. It needs 5.5 ZettaJoules to raise average air temperatutre 1 degree Celsius (I got from Dr. Randall lecture + simple math) and ORAS4 reanalysis says oceans took up 250 ZJ the last many decades. Add 8% estimate for ice melt & miscellaneous and this would have today raised air temperature by 49 degrees Celsius. No simulation "models" needed just simple math & logic. The "models" are good for projecting what will happen with various emissions scenarios but whenever a simple concept can be described without reference to these simulation "models", it should be.

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  48. @RobertF #45. (On-topic) Because `a sub-beginner`, `denier friend` and  `What am I missing?` I suggest tentatively you might be missing `the big picture`. I started 6 months ago (I had assumed it was a simple, boring slam-dunk in prior years) with a few hours of getting physical quantities - sun, earth`s ecosystem, mostly oceans of course with 97.3% of all the ecosystem heat being there and the other 2.5% being water that`ll return to oceans one day, then fossil fuel reserves & consumption weights & measures. I concluded `global warming` is heat entering the oceans, it cannot be anything else. Surface & air temperatures are important to us, a fairish proxy and needed to rise eventually to stop the global warming. So, the actual question is how many ZettaJoules of heat are going into the oceans. There`s information everywhere to study and make your personal decision from, I`m going with the 13 ZJ per year. Your 'denier friend' must be going with less or he`d be an `alarmist`. After you have studied and formed your own opinion, you need to ask him for his estimate in ZettaJoules of heat per year that are going into the oceans (he must provide you with a ZJ number and accuracy range for you to ponder) and what he bases that on. Suggest you look at what`s available regarding ocean temperature measurements, XBT, ARGO floats, the prior rubber buckets, and the various numbers. Sure, surface & air temperatures are important for a few reasons but it`s all about quantifying heat change in the oceans.

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  49. I guess the deniers couldn't find any emails to steal! They do become more strident as their numbers decline.

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  50. @rockytom #49:

    As long as the fossil fuel industry exists, Deniersville will exist.  

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