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Could global warming be caused by natural cycles?

Posted on 11 January 2011 by climatesight

"What if global warming is just a natural cycle?" This argument is, perhaps, one of the most common raised by the average person, rather than someone who makes a career out of denying climate change. Cyclical variations in climate are well-known to the public; we all studied the ice ages in school. However, climate isn't inherently cyclical.

A common misunderstanding of the climate system characterizes it like a pendulum. The planet will warm up to "cancel out" a previous period of cooling, spurred by some internal equilibrium. This view of the climate is incorrect. Internal variability will move energy between the ocean and the atmosphere, causing short-term warming and cooling of the surface in events such as El Nino and La Nina, and longer-term changes when similar cycles operate on decadal scales. However, internal forces do not cause climate change. Appreciable changes in climate are the result of changes in the energy balance of the Earth, which requires "external" forcings, such as changes in solar output, albedo, and atmospheric greenhouse gases. These forcings can be cyclical, as they are in the ice ages, but they can come in different shapes entirely.

For this reason, "it's just a natural cycle" is a bit of a cop-out argument. The Earth doesn't warm up because it feels like it. It warms up because something forces it to. Scientists keep track of natural forcings, but the observed warming of the planet over the second half of the 20th century can only be explained by adding in anthropogenic radiative forcings, namely increases in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. 

Of course, it's always possible that some natural cycle exists, unknown to scientists and their instruments, that is currently causing the planet to warm. There's always a chance that we could be totally wrong. This omnipresent fact of science is called irreducible uncertainty, because it can never be entirely eliminated. However, it's very unlikely that such a cycle exists.

Firstly, the hypothetical natural cycle would have to explain the observed "fingerprints" of greenhouse gas-induced warming. Even if, for the sake of argument, we were to discount the direct measurements showing an increased greenhouse effect, other lines of evidence point to anthropogenic causes. For example, the troposphere (the lowest part of the atmosphere) is warming, but the levels above, from the stratosphere up, are cooling, as less radiation is escaping out to space. This rules out cycles related to the Sun, as solar influences would warm the entire atmosphere in a uniform fashion. The only explanation that makes sense is greenhouse gases.

What about an internal cycle, perhaps from volcanoes or the ocean, that releases massive amounts of greenhouse gases? This wouldn't make sense either, not only because scientists keep track of volcanic and oceanic emissions of CO2 and know that they are small compared to anthropogenic emissions, but also because CO2 from fossil fuels has its own fingerprints. Its isotopic signature is depleted in the carbon-13 isotope, which explains why the atmospheric ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-13 has been going down as anthropogenic carbon dioxide goes up. Additionally, atmospheric oxygen (O2) is decreasing at the same rate that CO2 is increasing, because oxygen is consumed when fossil fuels combust.

A natural cycle that fits all these fingerprints is nearly unfathomable. However, that's not all the cycle would have to explain. It would also have to tell us why anthropogenic greenhouse gases are not having an effect. Either a century of basic physics and chemistry studying the radiative properties of greenhouse gases would have to be proven wrong, or the natural cycle would have to be unbelievably complex to prevent such dramatic anthropogenic emissions from warming the planet.

It is indeed possible that multidecadal climate variabilityespecially cycles originating in the Atlantic, could be contributing to recent warming, particularly in the Arctic. However, the amplitude of the cycles simply can't explain the observed temperature change. Internal variability has always been superimposed on top of global surface temperature trends, but the magnitude - as well as the fingerprints - of current warming clearly indicates that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are the dominant factor.

Despite all these lines of evidence, many known climatic cycles are often trumpeted to be the real cause, on the Internet and in the media. Many of these cycles have been debunked on Skeptical Science, and all of them either aren't in the warming phases, don't fit the fingerprints, or both.

For example, we are warming far too fast to be coming out of the last ice age, and the Milankovitch cycles that drive glaciation show that we should be, in fact, very slowly going into a new ice age (but anthropogenic warming is virtually certain to offset that influence).

The "1500-year cycle" that S. Fred Singer attributes warming to is, in fact, a change in distribution of thermal energy between the poles, not a net increase in global temperature, which is what we observe now.

The Little Ice Age following the Medieval Warm Period ended due to a slight increase in solar output (changes in both thermohaline circulation and volcanic activity also contributed), but that increase has since reversed, and global temperature and solar activity are now going in opposite directions. This also explains why the 11-year solar cycle could not be causing global warming.

ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) and PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) help to explain short-term variations, but have no long-term trend, warming or otherwise. Additionally, these cycles simply move thermal energy between the ocean and the atmosphere, and do not change the energy balance of the Earth.

As we can see, "it's just a natural cycle" isn't just a cop-out argument - it's something that scientists have considered, studied, and ruled out long before you and I even knew what global warming was.

Note: this is a guest post by Kate from Climate Sight, is also the Intermediate Rebuttal of the "It's a natural cycle" argument and happens to be our 140th rebuttal (it's actually ranked 84th by popularity but is the 140th to be added).

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Comments 51 to 100 out of 204:

  1. #50 - h Pierce

    You posted the same question on what looks like a denialist site and R. de Hann gave a reasoned response.

    There is so much dust in the atmosphere by natural causes that even the tons of rubber caused by tire wear simply disappear in the real big numbers.
    The hundreds of millions of tons of dust stirred up by the wind moving over the Gobi, Sahara and other deserts, the hundreds of millions of tons of dust and particles set free during natural forrest fires all over the world and hundreds of millions of tons of emissions from our volcano’s.

    You won’t see the effects from tire wear from space but you can certainly see the forrest fires, the volcanic eruptions and the dust storms.

    Yet again, it’s all a matter of common sense.

    The rubber dust, most of it sticks to the road and is washed into the sewer where it is mixed with dirt and sewage.
    Modern sewage plants contain trillions of bacteria that clean up the sewage and one of the products that comes is fresh earth for your garden or your balcony flowers.

    I noticed you did not respond.
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  2. Or, Ville, we simply wouldn't be. I must congratulate SUV . . . errr 13MPG, though. This is the first time I've heard the argument that CO2 is too heavy to make it to the upper troposphere and stratosphere. Perhaps some of the more vocal "skeptics" could weigh in on this? GC, perhaps? Cruzn? KL?
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  3. #29: "Fine black dust from rubber and asphalt."

    Something as ubiquitous as this should have a well-established fingerprint of its own. We've discussed black carbon in the Arctic on prior threads; that particular soot serves as a marker for Asian-sourced CO2. If rubber and asphalt are to be taken seriously, they are not a natural cycle -- and hence are a component of AGW. Any data to substantiate this claim should go to the appropriate thread, which is probably one of the humans are too insignificant discussions.
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  4. DSL take a look over at Deltoid and the post about Ken Ring (the magician and palmist). SUV/13MPG isn't the first.
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  5. BKSea, from a little while ago.
    Let me restate what I wrote earlier.
    I don't know that anyone is staking a claim that anthropogenic CO2 will cause an abrupt change at a certain level or point in time. However, there have been abrupt changes in the past, Dansgaard-Oeschger events and others, which should imply that there is good potential for them to happen this time around.

    Here are a couple of links:

    There are different signatures for climate forcings, but for gross effects, there probably isn't much difference between forcings of similar magnitudes, even if of different causes.
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  6. DSL:

    This is the first time I've heard the argument that CO2 is too heavy to make it to the upper troposphere and stratosphere. Perhaps some of the more vocal "skeptics" could weigh in on this? GC, perhaps? Cruzn? KL?

    It's actually a pretty common argument in forums, newspaper comments etc. Apparently someone immediately noticed that CO2 is heavier than oxygen, and drew the commonsense conclusion. We've all blown up balloons and watched them fall to the floor. QED!

    This theory also helps to explain why smoke runs down chimneys like lava, and why we install furnaces in attics to ensure that they get an adequate supply of oxygen.
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  7. @13MPG: Why do you focus on the US and Europe? We are talking about *global* warming. Here in Montreal it's the second very mild winter in a row. If you look at global numbers, 2010 is among the hottest years on record.

    Stop cherry-picking, please.

    As for CO2 "sinking", that shows a profound misunderstanding of atmospheric dynamics. Even for an "amateur climatologist," that is pretty misinformed.
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  8. And those claiming "more CO2 = more pressure" might want to check the change in oxygen. For every molecule of CO2 extra in the atmosphere, we are 'losing' three molecules of oxygen.
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  9. Let's propose for a moment that humans never evolved and never made the technological advancements that allowed them to use fossil fuels to power their society.

    We have a lot of data that is reasonable agreed upon by alarmists and deniers about historical climate and rises and fall in temperatures, ice, CO2, etc... Take away our 150 years of fossil fuel using, atmospheric CO2 injecting society, and where would the planet be?
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  10. About 0.8C cooler. Not quite sure what your point is here. All the natural cycles still operate but with a sharp GHG forcing imposed over the top.
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  11. apiratelooksat50 - There's a good posting on that here, on Should The Earth Be Cooling.

    Short answer - somewhere around 0.6-0.8°C cooler than it is now.
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  12. This point is addressed in the intermediate section of argument #5 "Models are unreliable".
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  13. @ apirate: I see no point to your exercise, we are where we are, and knowledgeable professional scientists in many different disciplines, conducting research along different lines, in competing institutions, in competing nations, agree on the cause. Your question is no doubt answered very well on other threads in this blog, it really is up to you to find it. I really mean that, I am tired of seeing the contributors to this site having to repeat the same things time after time after time, because people come here with a "prove it to me" attitude. No. You just be willing to put your position on record for your grandchildren, so they will know why no action was taken to prevent excessive warming when it might have been. And if you say, "I'm just trying to learn," then take the time to review this whole site for yourself.

    Further, your use of the term 'alarmist' reveals your point of view in an unpleasant manner.
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  14. Oh, and yes, I am alarmed. But I am not an "alarmist." It is not my religion, it is not my ideology, it is not a matter of blind faith to me at all, and I am offended by the attempt to belittle the solid scientific arguments that describe what is happening in the world today. My alarm stems from daily observation of situations such as the rapidly declining Arctic sea ice over the past few years, careful reading of the arguments on both sides, and concern for my children and grandchildren.
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  15. Phila, but then a balloon filled with water will also drop to the floor. Therefore water and CO2 weigh the same. Yet I see water in the upper troposphere. This, then, can only be a proof of the existence of God: clouds are a miracle.
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  16. clouds are a miracle.

    And why would God enact this miracle? To provide a negative feedback to AGW, obviously.

    So much for alarmism!
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  17. "For example, we are warming far too fast to be coming out of the last ice age, and the Milankovitch cycles that drive glaciation show that we should be, in fact, very slowly going into a new ice age (but anthropogenic warming is virtually certain to offset that influence)."

    A) Of course it's natural. Perhaps enhanced or delayed by our actions, but the AGW theory cannot explain the previous warmings and coolings.
    B) If indeed we are offsetting the influence of the Milankovitch cycles, then that is a very good thing.
    C) And, Gordon @ 63. First, of course I care about my children and grandchildren, so please don't bring that tired and offensive arguement out. And, second, you use a term, "excessive warming", that can't possibly be quantified.
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  18. #67 "Of course it's natural"

    Prove that. I refer you back here. Explain how the recent warming looks like anything that has happened in the past 2000 year record.

    "AGW theory cannot explain the previous warmings and coolings."

    Not necessary. The whole body of climatic research contains natural mechanisms and explains them. Those same 'natural' mechanisms do not explain the current warming -- as you have been told, but refuse to accept.

    Apparently your position was, is and will continue to be 'no, its not.' That's not one borne of scientific understanding; its denial pure and simple.
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  19. apiratelooksat50

    The theory of anthropogenic climate change explains current climate change. You're building yet another straw man by suggesting that it should explain past climate change too - it doesn't, and it doesn't claim that it does.
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  20. AGW is a subset of climatological theory which does explain past climate change.
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  21. I don't know.
    Next, someone will be saying that they can float steel in water.
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  22. As for me, I'm staying in the trees where it's safe... (yeah, yeah, "Off-topic" the deleted bin I go...)
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  23. Pirate @ 67 - but the AGW theory cannot explain the previous warmings and coolings.

    Not unless you believe dinosaurs, woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers drove SUV's.
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  24. #73: "dinosaurs"

    No dino-SUVs, but they did breathe out CO2... didn't we have a thread on that, concluding that if everyone holds their breath a few minutes a day, problem solved?
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  25. Pirate:

    the AGW theory cannot explain the previous warmings and coolings.

    And natural cycles can't explain the current warming. Fortunately, modern climatology provides a coherent explanation for both.

    If memory serves, you claimed to be a teacher of environmental science. Don't you have any colleagues who could explain these basic concepts to you? Or a library?
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  26. #48 Very nice paper. By the way, the scenario studied in this paper do take account of the peak oil, peak gas and peak coal in some way.
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  27. Also, Pirate:

    If indeed we are offsetting the influence of the Milankovitch cycles, then that is a very good thing.

    It never ceases to amaze me that the very same people who prattle endlessly about all the deep, dark "uncertainties" in climate science have absolutely no problem making imperious categorical statements like this one.

    It's hard not to conclude that getting the right conclusions is more important to you than using the right facts and methods.
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  28. @pirate: "First, of course I care about my children and grandchildren, so please don't bring that tired and offensive arguement out."

    I'm sorry, but Gordon never claimed that you didn't care about your children and grandchildren. He talked about *his* children and grandchildren.

    The problem is that, of both of you, he is the one taking the cautious stance, i.e. that AGW is real, something that is corroborated by a vast amount of evidence.

    You, on the other hand, are taking a gamble. You're gambling that 97% of published Climate Scientists are wrong, you're gambling that all of the current evidence is flawed, and you're gambling that shoddy scientists who have no problem claiming that tobacco is harmless are right, even though they do not have any evidence to support their claims.

    "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst" is the best survival strategy. It's certainly a lot better than believing nearly every expert on the subject is wrong, and choosing to follow political skeptics with poor credentials and nothing to support their claim.
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  29. A few remarks.

    1. While discussing the natural cycles need to refer primarily to the work of R.W. Spencer and J.R. Christy. On the "incentive" I would recommend this graph R.S..

    2. Stratospheric temperature decreased after each volcanic eruption and then very slowly growing. Of changes in water vapor in the stratosphere - from an unknown (to end) reasons (falling since 2000 - research by S. Solomon) - You can not "isolate" sufficiently closely the possible impact of GHG troposphere - on temperature of the stratosphere.

    3. Superposition of cycles, cycles of simple summation of phases = cycles of unknown origin (eg, millennium cycle) - this field of knowledge which is at the beginning of "way of knowing. "

    2. Warming is forever GHG. Natural cycles - the sun - the temperature increase - followed the water vapor content and CO2, CH4 (respiration, deep ocean ventilation) in the atmosphere - the dominance of marine circulation - usually western circulation (especially in Europe, Antarctica) = the natural greenhouse effect.

    ... and a sea climate - winter and the nights are always warmer than the continental climate - the minimum temperature is growing faster - than the maximum temperature.
    Eg. Africa - Middle East. 13C and 18O of wood from the Roman siege rampart in Masada, Israel (Ad 70–73): Evidence for a less arid climate for the region, Yakir et al., 1994.:
    “The ancient tamarix cellulose is depleted in both 13 C and 18 O compared to cellulose from trees growing in the Masada region today. Similar trends were observed on comparing modern tamarix trees growing in the Negev Desert with those growing in the temperate climate of central Israel. Considering the factors that can contribute to the observed changes in isotopic composition, we conclude that the ancient trees enjoyed less arid environmental conditions during their growth compared to contemporary trees in this desert region.”
    Climatic effects on the δ 18 O and δ 13 C of cellulose in the desert tree Tamarix jordanis, Lipp et al., 1996.:
    “Since the Roman period, RH at Masada decreased by about 17% [!], while the δ 18 O value of local groundwater remained similar to present-day values, suggesting that changing atmospheric circulation has played a role in climate change in the Middle East over the past two millennia.”
    Stable isotopes of a subfossil Tamarix tree from the Dead Sea region, Israel, and their implications for the Intermediate Bronze Age, Frumkin, 2009.:
    “The Sedom Tamarix demonstrates a few hundred years of 13 C and 15 N isotopic enrichment, culminating in extremely high δ 13 C and δ 15 N values. Calibration using modern Tamarix stable isotopes in various climatic settings in Israel shows direct relationship between isotopic enrichment and climate deterioration, particularly rainfall decrease.” “This was apparently the most severe long-term historical drought that affected the region in the mid-late Holocene.”

    The latest version of the report being prepared IPCC I would agree only with those conclusions:
    “It is very likely that glacial-interglacial CO2 variations have strongly amplified climate variations, but it is unlikely that CO2 variations have triggered the end of glacial periods. Antarctic temperature started to rise several centuries before atmospheric CO2 during past glacial terminations.”

    3. Tropical - solar cycle - fingerprint looks like this: Amplifying the Pacific Climate System Response to a Small 11-Year Solar Cycle Forcing, Mheel et al., 2009.: “One of the mysteries regarding Earth's climate system response to variations in solar output is how the relatively small fluctuations of the 11-year solar cycle can produce the magnitude of the observed climate signals in the tropical Pacific associated with such solar variability.”

    4. Using relevant filters, we find a much larger (0.07% TSI) and the cyclical variation in TSI over the past 250 years. Jeffrey A. Glassman, PhD

    5. High solar activity cycle such as 6 thousand. years - volcanic eruptions - the XIX - XX-cycle - a decrease of ozone - a decrease of phytoplankton - the weaker “damping” of EN(LN)SO (comment 35) - more frequent and more rapid changes in the EN-LN - and for example a great floods ...
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  30. "A few remarks.

    1. While discussing the natural cycles need to refer primarily to the work of R.W. Spencer and J.R. Christy."

    Why? They're satellite data interpretation geeks, and not that great at it, as outsiders have had to correct their homework for them on about three occasions before they finally got it more or less right.

    They've done very little work on how climate works, and Spencer's is mostly grasping-at-straws stuff trying to do everything possible to throw doubt on the mainstream climate science explanations of how stuff works.

    Including how natural variations work.

    If Spencer's right, then the work of everyone who's worked on explaining how the planet enters and leave ice ages, and many other aspects of past climate that were indeed entirely driven by natural variation (if, by that, you mean "everything other than people injecting CO2 and other GHGs into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels").

    Spencer being right would be as startling as that iron sun guy being right and the mainstream science explanation of how the composition, structure, and energy-production fusion reactions of the sun work being wrong.
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  31. Arkadiusz Semczyszak, your link in your #2 covers just about every denialist meme from the Oregon Petition Project to "Al Gore is fat".

    Surely by now you understand that you have to cite credible sources if you're going to get any love around here?

    Please get real ...
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  32. dhogaza wrote : "Arkadiusz Semczyszak, your link in your #2 covers just about every denialist meme from the Oregon Petition Project to "Al Gore is fat"."

    Does that refer to the link to a Jeffrey Glassman (PhD, of course - mustn't forget that : makes him sound more important) ? I'm always constantly amazed at how so-called skeptics will reference the strangest of theories by the wildest of so-called experts, and expect to be taken seriously.

    Generally, though, I'm not sure what point that poster is trying to make ? I realise English is not his first language, but it just appears to be a stream of individual studies and reports, which only appears to suggest that because everything is not 100% settled (or because some pepple have different conclusions, not necessarily against AGW, though) AGW must be false and something else (anything else, in fact) is responsible for the warming climate.
    Having said that, however, the next posting from this person will probably be trying to suggest that the temperatures aren't rising be followed by a long list of reports, papers and oddities which have very little in common but that they are not 100% pro-AGW.
    (Oh, no - sorry : it's actually about corals not really suffering at all, with the obligatory oddity from CO2SCIENCE this time)
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  33. @dhogaza, JMurphy

    1. But let's focus on scientific argumentation. As there is no argument - these are the “biographies”?
    2. Why quoted F.S., whose argument is a lot worse - than the R.S.?
    2. Link to the second and the Guardian is so well known in the world of science ... - or say - show - an untruth?
    Conclusion: Too little is known that the high probability of greater influence of natural cycles (than currently estimated, eg IPCC) to exclude.
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  34. ... Oh, no - sorry : it's actually about corals ...

    Please read carefully all the work I have cited: 4 Years After Tsunami Corals Stage Comeback, 2008.:
    „While initial surveys immediately following the tsunami showed patchy (albeit devastating) damage to coral reefs in the region, surveys in 2005 indicated that many of the dead reefs in the study area had actually succumbed long ago to destructive fishing practices such as the use of dynamite and cyanide to catch fish. It is also possible that the crown of thorns starfish—a marine predator—had caused widespread coral mortality.”

    About these facts there is nothing in the article commented by me - only the corals are dying as a result of warming and the decline in calcification of the ocean. Well ...

    I can not help that the world of science is so divided - in terms of impact of the reduced calcification and warming of the oceans on the corals.
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  35. Website is called the “Skeptical Science” - "skeptical" to analyze the variability of solar activity by Glassman - should be subject to criticism-here shown any errors.
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  36. Arkadiusz Semczyszak, could you provide some of Glassman's peer-reviewed papers on the subject of 'solar variety' and what qualification he has that lead you to treat him as an expert that you highlight above others ?
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  37. Phila @ 75:
    Yes, I really am an environmental science teacher. Yes, I've talked to my colleagues both at the high school level, and at the collegiate level where I will soon be working as an adjunct instructor. Yes, I've gone to the library.

    Within my high school science department numbering 10, every teacher has at least one Master's degree, and 2 of them have PhD's. During our last departmental meeting, the subject of AGW came up. Of the 10, 1 person was pro-AGW, 2 were lukewarm, and 7 were strongly anti-AGW.

    The pro-AGW teacher has multiple degrees in Physics, Chemistry, and Engineering, but his answer to why he was pro-AGW was, "With all the CO2 we've put in the atmosphere, there has to be something going on." I don't quote that to trivialize him, we are actually very good friends and collaborate on numerous projects and I value his insight, but he "wants to believe".

    I would love to post a link to a project my class did with his help, but the possible actions of some extremists worry me (I've actually received death threats on another site that isn't moderated!). To the Moderator: is there anyway I can get a Powerpoint presentation posted on here without linking to a school website?

    A friend of mine who recently graduated with a Master's degree in Environmental Systems Engineering, to go along with his Master's degree in Biology, is now a professor at a small college. Not one single person in the science separtment at his college buys into the AGW theory. However, to be fair, virtually everyone in the science department at the university where he received his degree were supporters of AGW. ( -edit- ).
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    Moderator Response: [Daniel Bailey] You were almost done and then you make insinuations in violation of the Coments Policy. Accusations of deception and dishonesty, even implied in comments like yours, are quite insulting. Also, please ponder on the difference between a hypothesis and theory. AGW is a theory, and as such is regarded by the National Academies as being more than 90% responsible for the warming of the globe, which they regard as settled fact.
  38. Arkadiusz, Glassman already rejects the CO2 increase to be anthropogenic. His argumentation is completely obscure, so why should we put any merit in his other ideas?

    You know what, I challenge YOU to find errors (or major questionmarks) in his work. It's not that hard. You can start with thinking about the TSI reconstruction he uses. Also keep in mind the way he frames his own 'discoveries' compared to prior literature.

    Try to be a skeptic yourself, and then come back. You will learn from that experience. One thing you will learn is why 'we' so rapidly dismiss blog posts like those of Jeffrey Glassman.
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  39. To the moderator (Daniel Bailey)
    I understand that this is a pro-AGW site, so I should not be surprised that it is quite okay to make accusations of deception, dishonesty, and ineptitude about critics of the theory (scientists and non-scientists). Comments like that are present in this thread and others on this site.

    For the record, I was not implying dishonesty on their part. I believe for the most part most researchers are honest people and most likely gravitate to schools or institutions that support their beliefs and findings.
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  40. Re: my-Buffett-favoring-friend (89)

    For the record, Skeptical Science is a pro-science website. If you find that SkS comes across as a "pro-AGW" website, then that speaks as to your mindset.

    Commenters on "both sides" of debate get moderated on SkS. I have gone back in afterwards, after introspection, and deleted comments of my own. In the heat of debate, which is part and parcel of the peer-review process in science, words are sometimes said with meaning beyond that which we intended. That's being human. Moderation is done to keep the focus on the science (moderators are human too - needing sleep - and sometimes miss things). And it's OK to disagree with someone here and even say that they're wrong, but then the onus is on you to provide substantive linked sources to help them learn why you think that they're wrong (just keep in mind the Comments Policy and stay on-topic). We're here to learn (even me).

    If you feel the science discussed is "pro-AGW" it is then incumbent on you to provide sourced peer-reviewed testimony to the contrary. In order to overturn established consensus, which AGW has in the scientific community, you will need to provide extraordinary evidence. If you can find it, please provide it, for I and the others here have no wish for AGW to be real.

    For the most part, I find "skeptics" commenting here are honest people, gravitating to thoughts and ideas that support their beliefs.

    The age-old conundrum: Plot the data first...or draw the graph?

    The Yooper
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  41. apiratelooksat50

    The problem you have is that if the scientists you mention base their assertions on 'beliefs', they would very quickly be found out. The fact remains that there is no competing theory to explain current warming. On one hand we have a theory which has made predictions that have been verified and which is supported by a large body of independent evidence from many disciplines. On the other, we have no competing theory, only a few hypotheses which are not supported by available data.

    You and others may well think that ACC is wrong but you have failed to support this with evidence, and you have failed to provide evidence that strongly suggests that another mechanism is responsible. If I have to choose between experts who dedicate their working lives to understand current climate change, with a theory that makes sense and is supported by evidence, or people who simply claim the theory is wrong without substantiating their position, I know who I think is more likely to be correct. I'm surprised that any scientist would think that there's no problem with a lack of evidence.
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  42. apiratelooksat50 said this:
    Within my high school science department numbering 10, every teacher has at least one Master's degree, and 2 of them have PhD's. During our last departmental meeting, the subject of AGW came up. Of the 10, 1 person was pro-AGW, 2 were lukewarm, and 7 were strongly anti-AGW.

    This scares the daylights out of me. Educated science teachers are still confused and disoriented, and at the same time arrogant enough in their own knowledge to think they can justifiably refute/deny what is happening, and why.

    And they are inevitably teaching this to the kids.

    Pirate's lack of depth of understanding and misunderstanding of the science and how it fits together (as evidenced by his numerous recent posts on multiple threads here), combined with an obvious unwillingness to ever learn and admit where he is wrong, points to how vulnerable certain minds are to the skeptical "arguments." Even people who are educated, and trained in the scientific method (teaching it, or their version of it, to young minds!), who should be able to be rational, and to collect and understand cohesive logical arguments, can't come close to doing so.

    It's scary.

    Pirate: what part of the country do you live in? I'm just wondering if we can expect this to be a regional effect (e.g. coal or oil country, where people so desperately want to believe that AGW is not a problem), or if we have to worry that much of the country is this dangerously confused.
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  43. Pirate, what does "pro-AGW" mean? It is a bizarre term.

    If your purpose is simply to be a "critic" of the theory, then you are useless and lack integrity toward your fellow and future fellow human beings (a strange position for a teacher). If your purpose is to be a critic of the theory and actually learn something from the response you get, then you're ok.

    You also know--or should know, being a teacher--that there are dishonest people in the world--dishonest with others and with themselves. There are people who are willing to lie or express disbelief in the face of overwhelming evidence ("I am not a crook" or "we weren't aware that tobacco was a carcinogen" etc. ad nauseum) in order to maintain power. There is much at stake in climate change, and you're pretty ignorant if you believe that there isn't massive resistance to lifestyle and social change in the developed world--the kind of resistance that would seek out any alternative reality that would allow "business as usual." Yes, people who are defending the theory here have encountered a number of these delusional folk and have registered disgust. You can defend those "critics" if you wish, but remember that very few of them--if any--have an alternative theory to defend. Most are out there hoping to poke a hole and win a prize.

    This thread, in fact, represents one of the few places to look for an alternative theory: natural cycles. Yet the very science that tells us that there are natural cycles (science that "critics" trust) also tells us that we should be cooling (an unacceptable conclusion to those same "critics").
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  44. apiratelooksat50 wrote : "I understand that this is a pro-AGW site..."

    I would like to add my own sense of bewilderment at the term "pro-AGW" - it seems to imply that most people here are for AGW and want it to happen ! Nothing could be further from the truth.
    If you are implying that this site is biased, then I would agree : it is biased towards scientific truth, based on facts, figures and evidence. And that is why many so-called skeptics don't like it. That, and the fact that they cannot come on here and spout their zombie arguments willy-nilly, or diverge debate onto their own favourite topics of conspiracy and fraud.

    This is the only site where you don't have to wade through reams of political and idealogical waffle based on belief in anything as long as it's not AGW.
    If you, or anyone else who thinks that they KNOW that AGW isn't happening, can come up with a convincing argument based on facts (i.e. not wishful thinking, what ifs, or poorly-based hypotheses - whatever the current one is this month), why don't you ? Many have tried and failed so far...
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  45. apirateslook,
    Deception, dishonesty and ineptitude are routinely pointed out on this site when they can be substantially demonstrated, as in the series Pr Abraham did on Monckton. The individual shows all the qualities you mention, there is no reason to call them other names.

    Quite frequently, posters show similar qualities, as with the person who recently put forth the theory that, if CO2 was really increasing, atmospheric pressure should be increasing too. Not too long ago, someone suggested that albedo was a year round factor at the pole. Why would I not accuse that poster of ineptitude (which, by the way, I refrained to do)?

    Some "skeptic" web site contending that CO2 could deposit as carbonic snow in Antarctica was also called what it is. There is no apology justified for calling out BS. Should we be politically correct and say that it may be caca from a male cow?

    "Skeptics" routinely suggest fraud and deception even on this site where moderation is quite vigilant on the matter. Moderators routinely have to remind them of the comments policy but also refrain from deleting delinquant posts if they contain substance that can be of interest.

    I have myself been subjected to torrents of verbal abuse from a guy who could not even understand the legend of a graph. Skeptic posters who accuse others of fraud routinely fail to follow up on their accusations with any substance. Other skeptics have a tendency to misrepresent research results and have been called on it a number of times. Sometimes it is so blatant that one has to wonder if they bother to even read a full abstract. Yet they are still allowed to post.

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  46. 94, JMurphy,

    This is a major difference in the skeptic vs. scientific point of view.

    Self proclaimed skeptics focus on "which side are you on", "it's a belief/religion," "you're a fanatic/warmist/alarmist". It's labels and names and positions, as if it were a debate... because that's what it is to them, a debate to be won to be won or lost for a prize, rather than a problem/mystery to be understood and solved.

    What I find so disheartening is that some visitors to this site seem to be intractably wedded to their own ideas and beliefs, gathered from bastions of "knowledge" like WUWT and appinsys. There is no room there for a science teacher to learn anymore science, or to adjust his position based on new evidence or a new, better understanding of old evidence. Which is sad in itself -- that anyone has a "position" to be guarded and defended, rather than an understanding to be improved and corrected as necessary.
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  47. I would like to add my own sense of bewilderment at the term "pro-AGW"

    Ditto. apirate's term is meaningless, unless one treats it as an accusation of some hidden agenda, be it one-world government or whatever.

    I'm sure that if AGW turned out to be much less serious than scientists say it is, or wrong altogether, everyone here would be ecstatic. No one wants to see this stuff happen.

    In the meantime, I think it's safe to say that you can't be taken seriously as a "skeptic" unless you actually understand the theory you claim to doubt. Comments like "AGW doesn't explain previous warming and cooling," and absolutely evidence-free references to "natural warming," demonstrate that apirate is someone who has not yet learned enough about the theory to have a valid opinion one way or another.

    Presumably, if one of apirate's students stood up in class and announced that the nitrogen cycle is a hoax, he'd demand an explanation and evidence. Some of apirate's statements here are equally bizarre, and require an equal amount of extraordinary evidence. It puzzles me that he doesn't seem to realize this.
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  48. apirate:

    I understand that this is a pro-AGW site, so I should not be surprised that it is quite okay to make accusations of deception, dishonesty, and ineptitude about critics of the theory (scientists and non-scientists). Comments like that are present in this thread and others on this site.

    To be fair, some of these accusations are unavoidable. For instance, cherrypicking is deceptive by definition, and it only occurs when people are being inept, dishonest or both. There's not really a "polite" way of pointing this out. At the same time, though, cherrypicking is demonstrable; we can prove it. It's not a matter of sheer speculation, like your theory about some migration of "pro-AGW" climate scientists to schools that "support their beliefs," or the other forms of situational ad hominem that "skeptics" favor when trying to cast doubt on the credibility of climate scientists.

    I've had plenty of comments moderated out. I've always understood why, and attempted to learn from it. I see no grounds for complaint. The "skeptics" here are generally allowed to post reams of ineffable nonsense day after day, and to ignore repeated rebuttals and requests for evidence. That behavior is insulting enough, without bringing political or personal slurs into the picture.

    All anyone's really asking is for you to show your work. That's been the case on this thread, and on other threads. Don't simply assert that warming is natural. Instead, explain why it's natural, and why human CO2 emissions aren't a serious problem, and back your case up with facts.

    If you can do this, you won't need to call people incompetent or deceptive; your work will speak for itself. If you can't, you're wasting your time and ours.
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  49. Mr. Bailey @ 90
    Very reasonable, very centered, very sound advice. I will take it to heed.


    P.S. You should purchase the Buffett Live in Anquilla CD. Best in a long time.
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  50. To Sphaeica @ 92.
    The fact that there are science educated, experienced teachers (college and high school) who do not believe in the AGW theory, should cause you to at least consider their position.

    And, for the record, I do not teach my students my beliefs. I teach them to think. They are equally exposed to all sides, theories and evidence. They can just as easily make an A regardless of which position they take as long as they follow the scientific method and the provided rubric.

    I live in the southeastern US, and my power is generated from hydroelectric and nuclear sources. I really don't believe I know anyone associated with coal or oil.
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