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Newcomers, Start Here

Posted on 15 August 2010 by John Cook

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

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

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

Good starting points for newbies

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

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

Smart Phone Apps

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

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

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

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

About John Cook

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

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

The SkS Team

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

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Comments 151 to 200 out of 207:

  1. Tom, you said "Bodies with very uneven temperatures radiate heat far more efficiently than bodies with very even temperatures." Does that mean that polar amplification (makes temperatures less uneven) is a negative feedback?
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  2. No, it's a positive feedback (less uneven -> less radiation -> more warming)
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  3. Eric (skeptic) @151, no it means it is a very weak positive feedback.

    By reducing the difference between polar and tropical temperatures it makes the escape of energy from Earth less efficient. Because the energy escape is less efficient, the global means surface temperature must be higher for the same amount of energy to escape. However, this effect is so small (for the temperature changes involved) that it is extremely dubious that it could be detected against background noise in the coming century.
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  4. 145, Tom Curtis,

    Tom, generally I think I would defer to you in most matters, because to me I generally learn more from your posts than I already know, a sign that you certainly know more and understand it in more detail than I do.

    That said, I'm not sure about a few things in your post.

    First, as a side note, I'm unsure exactly what you are saying was wrong in my post 143, since the topic of that response was the question of why H2O does not overwhelm the GHG contribution of CO2 in overlapping bands in the Earth's atmosphere, while your discussion reverted back to the previous question of why Mars, with more CO2, has a lower temperature.

    With that said, I think that I'm right in that the answer to the question that is the actual subject of 143 (H2O masking CO2, not the temperature profile of Mars) lies in the humidity profile of the Earth's atmosphere.

    Pertaining to Mars, I would take you to task to demonstrate the numbers that rate the various factors involved. Certainly I would think that the absence of large amounts of water vapor in the Martian atmosphere must be an important factor with respect to the actual temperature at the surface of the planet.

    Pressure broadening is certainly another important factor, but one that was complex enough that I shied away from including it in an explanation on a "Newcomers, Start Here" page.

    The atmospheric density issue is two fold -- partly due to the "heat absorptive" capabilities of an O2/N2 rich atmosphere which allow an individual CO2 molecule to actually absorb more IR by quickly transferring that energy to the surrounding air, and in that way relating the altitude of emission to the density of the atmosphere -- but also due to the simple expansion of the depth of the atmosphere and in this simpler way raising the altitude of effective temperature/radiation.

    But I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like hard numbers that would explain how important any of these factors are in proportion to the others. What would the overall temperature be like on Mars with H2O or on Earth without, or with more/less pressure broadening, or more/less non-GHG gasses?

    I'm not sure what the answer is, and while I know that pressure broadening is an important factor, I don't know that the lack of H2O (with a much broader spectrum of IR absorbance) isn't still the main factor.

    Do you have a source of hard numbers for any of this? I've tried looking through a few texts on planetary atmospheric physics, but without reading them in detail, I'm not getting any further on resolving this.
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    Moderator Response: I, too, have failed to find a concise explanation accessible to a non-specialist. Maybe Ray Pierrehumbert can be convinced to contribute a post?
  5. Sphaerica @154, you are correct that my post was intended as a response to your 139 rather than your 143. I am sorry for the confusion, and would appreciate a moderator amending the original post to avoid confusion for any newcomers reading these posts.

    It is also true that I detailed what I consider the real reasons for Mars' weak greenhouse rather than explicitly rebutting the reasons you gave. I will correct that here.

    Before turning to that, I note that you raise another point as explanation of Mars low greenhouse effect, ie, the absence of H20. I of course agree that a mass of water vapour in the martian atmosphere equal to the mass of water vapour in Earth's atmosphere would substantially raise temperatures on Mars. However, the factors that weaken the greenhouse effect of CO2 on Mars (as given in 145 would also weaken the greenhouse effect of water vapour. What is more, my calculation that if the CO2 on Mars has as strong a greenhouse effect as it does on Earth, it would warm the planet by approximately twice what it does is not effected by the absence of water vapour. Hence, the absence of water vapour is not the reason for the unusually weak greenhouse effect on Mars.

    Turning to your explicit explanations from 139, you first state that on Mars there are few gases for CO2 molecules to transfer energy to by collision "...so radiation dominates, and energy transfer up and out is quick" It is certainly plausible that energy transfer by radiation is quicker on Mars than in Earth's troposphere. For newcomers, this refers not to the transit at IR photons (which is at the speed of light), but to the average time taken between absorption and emission of photons, divided by the average distance traveled by a photons between emission and absorption. Also note that this always refers to transfer of energy at a particular wavelength. Clearly energy transferred outside the wavelength of the absorption band of a greenhouse gas will leave the atmosphere at the speed of light.

    Plausible though that is, it does not follow that radiation dominates energy transfer within the atmosphere of Mars. Indeed, it is known that Mars has a distinct troposphere,ie, the region of the atmosphere in which convection dominates radiation as the means of energy transfer. The martian troposphere is about 45 km in depth.


    Further, it is known that the troposphere on Mars is dominated by convection because the lapse rate in the troposphere is that calculated for the adiabatic lapse rate, ie, the rate of change of temperature that results from convection in a dry atmosphere.

    In your post 139, you then go on to say:

    "In the Earth's atmosphere a very, very important piece of the puzzle is that closer to the surface, where the air is denser, CO2 absorbs IR, but before (usually) it is able to re-emit that energy, a collision with O2 or N2 transfers that energy to those molecules, which do then not as easily or as readily emit energy in the infrared. The end result is that surface radiation heats the CO2, and the CO2 heats the surrounding atmosphere.

    As one gets higher and higher in altitude the atmosphere becomes less and less dense, and the balance shifts, so that eventually radiation becomes the key factor, and CO2 acts to cool rather than to warm (i.e. collisions between O2/N2 and CO2 transfer energy from the O2/N2 to the CO2, which is then emitted as IR and potentially lost to space)."


    Unfortunately this only presents part of the picture, and draws the wrong conclusions as a result. The most important thing missing is that CO2 gains energy from collisions as well. How frequently that happens depends entirely on the temperature of the gas. The higher the temperature, the more frequently CO2 will collide with a molecule (of whatever variety) that has higher kinetic energy, and will receive enough energy to emit a photon as a result. Note that if the gas is cool, other molecules will draw of energy from a given CO2 molecule more frequently than they transfer energy to that molecule, and so absorbed energy will tend to be dispersed within the gas, thus warming it. This will be the case even if the gas is 100% CO2. Conversely, if the gas is hot, CO2 molecules will absorb energy from collisions more frequently and hence emit photons at a higher rate, thus cooling the gas. The average rate of emissions of the CO2 therefore depends entirely on the temperature of the gas, and is not effected by its composition (provided it contains some CO2).

    Composition does effect the rate at which the gas approaches equilibrium. Additional nitrogen or oxygen molecules will result in the gas taking longer to warm by the absorption of IR radiation. But it will not directly effect the rate of emission or absorption. (It will indirectly effect it by either increasing pressure if we do not increase the volume of the gas, thus resulting in pressure broadening, or by decreasing the optical thickness of a given depth of the gas if we increase the volume, but that is a separate issue.)

    Note that because the rate of emission depends entirely on temperature, whether CO2 cools or warms depends entirely on the temperature of the gas relative to the amount of radiation being absorbed. If on average a CO2 molecule receives more energy from collisions than from radiation, the net effect is to cool the gas. If the CO2 receives more energy from radiation than from collisions it warms the gas. In the stratosphere, CO2 cools the gas not because of altitude, but because the gas is heated by ozone absorbing ultraviolet radiation to a temperature far above that which would establish an equilibrium between absorption and emission for CO2 in the IR spectrum.

    Finally, and unfortunately, I also cannot find hard numbers on these points. I have long found that scientists have a distressing habit of using their scarce resources to conduct experiments that advance their knowledge rather than ones which would aid exposition of the basics of the theory. The hard numbers we are after here are, of course of trivial interest to working climatologists. (Perhaps we can persuade Science of Doom to look at the issue when s/he returns from their hiatus.) In the meantime, these illustrations will be of interest. The first shows the temperature profiles of Venus, Earth and Mars, along with an indication of their temperature without the greenhouse effect. The second shows the absorption spectra of Venus, Earth and Mars. You will notice the pressure broadening of the central CO2 absorption band, very obvious when comparing Mars and Venus, but also noticable in comparisons to Earth:



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  6. #142 skywatcher; The fact that one (H2O) precipitates and evaporates and the other (CO2) does not is irrelevant. The infrared is absorbed by any and all GHGs regardless of the mixture of them at any particular point in the atmosphere. The fact that the uppper atmosphere is thinner and dryer is much more important. I concur. CO2 Does indeed dominate in the upper atmosphere. Higher concentrations would indeed make a difference in the absorbtion and re-emition of thermal radiation taking place at a lower point in the atomosphere. The greenhouse effect in the upper atmosphere (and this is merely a belief) is pretty much negligable when compared with what takes place in the lower atmosphere.
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  7. Getting back to the Mars thing. The amount of sunlight received decreases proportionally to the square of the distance.(reasonable assumptoin?) Mars would receive enough sunlight to make its massive amount of CO2 cause more of a greenhouse effect than it exhibits if there were more atmposhpere for that greenhouse gas to heat through emission of thermal radiation. That further emphasizes my point that the lack of atmosphere diminishes the ability of the CO2 in the upper atmposphere to have much of an effect.
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    Moderator Response: I cannot parse your third sentence.
  8. Although I am not sold on the whole "global warming" thing, I don't consider myself a "denier". I value the opinion of crebible sources from both sides; those being the "alrmist" and "denier" camps. If I am a skeptic, then I am a skeptic of arguments from both sides. I take everyhitng with a grain of salt. I started my quest for knowledge when Fred Singer and Roy Spencer provided me with their arguments. I have been using information from many sources to try to wrap my head around the whole thing. I concede that rising CO2 has and will cause warming. I take great issue with alarmists who feel they have all the answers as to how much and when. 30 years worth of observations and they have screamed that NONE of the warming could possibly be natural variability (I mean c'mon have you seen that hockey stick). But when there was a cooling trend for a few years, that was (and I almost fell out of my seat when I read the opinion) just natural variability.
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    Response:

    [DB] "I take great issue with alarmists who feel they have all the answers as to how much and when."

    Your use of the term alarmist is revealatory.  That you yourself do not know something should preclude you from then deciding how much or how little other people know.

    Skeptical Science is about discussing the science of climate science.  It is not about opinions, innuendo or anecdotal recollection.  Please thoroughly familiarize yourself with the Comments Policy and ensure that ALL future comments you make both comply with it and are on-topic to the thread you post them on.

  9. imthedragn, you rely on demonstrably false beliefs and assumptions. That isn't skepticism. Examples;

    "I take great issue with alarmists who feel they have all the answers as to how much and when."

    Who are these mythical beings who claim to have all the answers? I'm only familiar with scientists who have said, 'it will be in roughly this range and over roughly this time period'.

    "30 years worth of observations"

    Actually, Joseph Fourier first observed the existence of the 'greenhouse effect' in 1824. A bit more than 30 years ago. Even the satellite record is (slightly) more than 30 years... and hardly the only data we have to go on.

    "they have screamed that NONE of the warming could possibly be natural variability"

    Pure nonsense. Cite one example of this claim. It doesn't exist. Made up denialist fiction.

    "But when there was a cooling trend for a few years"

    The terms 'trend' and 'a few years' are mutually exclusive for any sort of scientifically robust result on global temperatures. Your argument here is the same as saying that if the second day of Summer is cooler than the first then clearly Summer has a cooling temperature trend.

    Et cetera. You seem to be using a 'gish gallop' of blatantly false arguments. Pick one and follow it to the end. If it turns out to be false that might be a clue that you should be getting your information from someone other than Singer and/or Spencer... both of whom also say that smoking doesn't cause cancer BTW.
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  10. 157, imthedragn,
    The greenhouse effect in the upper atmosphere (and this is merely a belief) is pretty much negligable when compared with what takes place in the lower atmosphere.
    This statement is false.

    I suspect you believe it because thought-without-math suggests it will be the case, but the reality is that when you work through the radiative transfers, line by line (as done by MODTRAN), you find that in fact an important aspect of GHG theory is that ultimate radiation takes place from a higher altitude at a lower temperature. This, in fact, is the real cause of the warming.

    A simplistic way (by analogy) to look at it is to think of the earth as covered by layers of blankets. Adding more CO2 does not add a new, thinner blanket to the top. It instead adds a new, thickest blanket to the bottom, and pushes all of the other blankets up one level. You are now losing heat from that topmost blanket, but with more layers underneath.

    Another (more correct) way to look at it is that the layer from which emissions occur unobstructed into space before increasing CO2 levels is warmer and lower. By increasing CO2 across the board that same altitude is even warmer and radiates more, but in all directions. The amount of radiation going up towards space is increased, but so is other radiation heading back down to warm the surface further. More importantly, the layer above that one now has more opportunity to absorb radiation (more CO2), but it is cooler than the original level of spacebound emission and so radiates less.

    The end result is that a basic tenet of GHG theory is exactly what you claim defeats it... the idea that increased CO2 levels raise the altitude and lower the temperature of the point at which emissions effectively escape, and this in fact forces the entire planet to warm both below and at that level in order to restore the balance (i.e. to allow the planet to radiate energy away at a brightness temperature of 255K).
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  11. @imthedragn #158

    I applaud your dedication to keeping an open mind and am sure that if you do, you'll eventually sort out the genuine science from the opinions.

    With regard to natural variability, you might find this article about some new research, together with its links, useful in helping you arrive at the facts.

    And if you need to learn about any particular aspect of climate science you can do no better than putting the word or phrase into the search tool at the top left of this page, which will provide links to the research, together with discussion aplenty.
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  12. I apologize for the previous post which was more just a rant. Al Gore was the climatologist that has all the answers, or alternately the IPCC xth report of 20xx. (-snip-)
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    Response:

    [DB] For the record:

    1. Rants are not necessarily proscribed here.  But they must comply with the Comments Policy and be on-topic to the post on which they are placed.
    2. Gore is not a climatologist.  However, for a politician, he was remarkably correct.
    3. Future off-topic and/or ideological remarks will be deleted rather than snipped, as this comment has.
  13. imthedragon - I would strongly suggest you take a look at the various Global Warming & Climate Change Myths - those links will take you to discussions on many of the snipped items you brought up.

    Note that there are a lot of threads here - if you could place comments relevant to particular threads on those threads, it will keep discussions relevant. Most regular readers follow the Recent Comments page, so don't worry that your posts will be missed.

    Climate 'skeptics', or more correctly 'deniers', have thrown a lot of junk around - apparently in order to prevent changes they disagree with. If you really wish to separate fact from flummery I would suggest you look at the collected science, such as this web site contains references/links to, and discussion of said science - rather than political or ideological statements such as from Spencer and Singer.
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    Moderator Response: Indeed, the moderators quickly lose patience with off-topic comments after just one warning, and so often just delete without further warning.
  14. One more note, imthedragon: if you're serious about engaging the science and operating with a truly skeptical approach, you might ask questions instead of presenting assumptions (even light elbows and subtle finger-pokes). If you present assumptions, responses naturally seem antagonistic. Another way to present your understanding without making it seem like an unquestionable absolute is to couch it in relative phrasing: "As I understand it, _____________." Finally, if you make a substantive claim about physics, models, or data, expect to be ignored or ridiculed unless you provide references.
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  15. imthedragon @162, just yesterday I had reason to link to section 8.6.3.2 of the IPCC AR4, which among other statements of uncertainty, says:

    "Therefore, understanding of the physical processes that control the response of boundary-layer clouds and their radiative properties to a change in climate remains very limited."


    That is not the language of a report which claims to "have all the answers". Clearly you are demonstrated to either be in complete ignorance of that on which you pontificate, or to be deliberately (and stupidly) lying. Newcomers here should certainly take note of this tendency of yours, and discount your claims accordingly. The regulars certainly will.
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  16. again I must apologize for rants. I will refrain from responding the pokes and nudges others have included in their responses. I am after all looking for clarification on things of which I adminttedly do not have a firm understanding. Much has been helpful and I appreciate the time many have taken to present relevant material.
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  17. imthedragon @166, it is not a "poke" or a "nudge" to point out that somebody has completely misrepresented the IPCC reports. Nor is that something to which you should "not respond". The correct response to to admit the error, apologize for it and explain how it occurred. Something along the lines of:

    "I am sorry that I completely misrepresented the IPCC AR4 report, which I have not read. In future I will not assume knowledge of that report without reading its contents first."

    Failure to apologize and correct the genuine offense (misrepresentation) suggest only that such misrepresentation will continue into the future.
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  18. imthedragn, other newcomers - I've often seen the first few newcomer posts on SkS come in more than a bit over the top. What folks need to recognize is that the emphasis here on peer-reviewed papers, science, and you know, facts in general - that focus makes pontificating or ranting just not a viable means of making a point. Unless the point is that you have no facts to discuss, which would be unfortunate.

    Questions on the science? Wondering how some 'skeptic' point actually holds up? Ask away. But start ranting? Meet the moderators...
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Kind of a "pay me now or pay me later" situation.
  19. imthedragn,

    I'd be interested in some response to my response to you at 160 RE the greenhouse effect and how it relates to altitude.

    Let's start by doing what this site is for, and discussing the science.

    Do you have any questions or does this now correct your original misconception? Do you now have questions about other aspects of the science about which you may be confused, and you'd like to understand properly?

    If so, as KR pointed out, please look for an appropriate thread on which to post your question, and I and others will do our best to address your scientific concerns in a straightforward and factual way.
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  20. Skeptical Science just got a recommendation by Eugenie Scott,the executive director of The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) on the Rationally Speaking podcast interview #49.
    Her organization is expanding their educational outreach to include Climate Change education.
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  21. NCSE is a fine group with a great track record on education outreach.
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  22. I am curious if anyone has had the time to evaluate Natalie Mahowald's Science magazine paper
    'Aerosol Indirect Effect on Biogeochemical Cycles and Climate'?
    She proposes an additional aerosol cooling effect that current climate models are generally not taking into account.Her conclusion is that it may be more costly to abate CO2 levels than previously thought.

    http://decadal.gsfc.nasa.gov/pace-2011sdt/Science-2011-Mahowald-794-6.pdf
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  23. would like to pour over what I have to make sense of it all. I am presently stuck in the mindset that CO2 and w.v. act as one greenhouse gas with the highest concentration of about 20-30k ppm in the thick lower atmosphere diminishing to near 500 ppm in the thin upper atmosphere. CO2 alone stays at a nearly constant concentration around 380 ppm thoughout. I do not know what the avaerage ppm of w.v. is in the lower atmosphere and how quickly that concentration drops with altitude.
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  24. imthedragn. If you really want to go into all the gory detail, then can I suggest you work through CO2 series at Science of Doom. You will find all that detail in that extended series.
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  25. scaddenp - part 2 is dead on what I was looking for. For now I will use the wikipedia source for 4,000 ppm average for water vapor. It also appears by rough estimate that over 90 of the water vapor is in the part of the troposphere containing 50% of the CO2.
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  26. I was going through the Most Used Climate Myths post.. I went through it in as much detail as possible.. My belief in human-induced climate change is based on some scientific facts as well as personal observation.. 'Course I'm no scientist..not even close..So when I come across people who say science on global warming can't possibly be accurate because we only have data running back to a 100 years.. And that the Earth's been here for many millions of years so any scientific analysis is inherently flawed.. I have to say, I am unable to come up with a compelling argument.. Now I don't know if this particular sceptical argument was addressed and I overlooked it.. So I'd like to know what the answer to this is..
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  27. debunked, the argument you present disproves itself. How do we know that "the Earth's been here for many millions of years" if we "only have data running back to a 100 years"?

    If these 'skeptics' accept the proxy analyses which allow us to determine that the Earth is over 4.5 billion years old then they can't claim (without hypocrisy) that we only have the 131 year (since 1880) detailed surface thermometer record on which to base global warming. There are, of course, proxy records (e.g. ice and sediment cores) which allow us to gather data on temperatures, GHG levels, and other factors stretching back "many millions of years".

    Of course, in addition to being self-defeating, the argument is also a clear logical fallacy. You might as well say, 'Given that the universe has been here for nearly 14 billion years, Newtonian physics can't possibly be accurate because we only have data on it going back a few hundred years.' There is no inherent connection between the age of something and the amount of time it takes to understand it.

    Joseph Fourier first identified the Greenhouse Effect in 1826... if that isn't sufficient time to understand something then clearly we are not communicating through these computers which cannot possibly exist yet.
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  28. @debunked, just to add another example to CBDunkerson's excellent answer, the theory of plate tectonics was only suggested about a hundred years ago. We have accurate measurements of the movement of plates for much less time than that. However the plates have been in constant movement for billions of years. Is the theory of plate tectonics inherently flawed? Does this mean we can't predict the future movement of the plates? No, of course not.
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  29. "only have data running back to a 100 years"
    This is highly inaccurate. We only have instrumental data going back a little over 100 years but we have data in various forms covering millions of years. This also seeks to avoid the issue that climate theory is based on physics and validated daily in countless data sets. Do we not send a rocket to Mars because we only have data on gravity going back 200 years?
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  30. @CBDunkerson and @Dikran Marsupial: I understand what you guys are saying and accept it as well. It's hard to convince anybody without facts especially those who are more cynical than sceptical. What be the best site or source to read up on the proxy records on temperature data? I remember watching Attenborough interview where he said if fungi didn't exist, the world would collapse. The response someone made to that was 'this is all speculation'. I suspect they could say the say about proxy records. That's the sort of thing I want more clarity on. I mean, how do you respond to that?!
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  31. The fact that people can say false things (e.g. "this is all speculation") doesn't change the reality of well documented scientific research.

    There have now been numerous scientific studies published, including one just last week... and they all, including the ones done by skeptics, show the same overall results with minor variations... despite using different proxies and methods of analysis.

    When all available evidence and analysis says one thing and the 'skeptics' are reduced to having nothing but, 'how can we really know anything?', there really isn't any need to respond. Just ask whether it makes more sense to go with the conclusion reached by every single scientific study on the matter or those whose entire position is that they do not (and can not) know anything. Until the false 'skeptics' come up with some alternate theory / data there is nothing there to 'respond' to.
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  32. Sadly CBDunkerson is right. If someone really wants to avoid accepting any piece of science they can always use any uncertainty (and there always is some) as an excuse to say "this is all speculation". The response is simply to point out that the same is true of many other branches of science (e.g. plate tectonics, quantum physics, string theory) and ask them why it is that they accept say plate tectonics, but not anthropogenic climate change? Usually the response is to leave the scientific issues altogether and make an ad-hominem against the scientists needing their grant money*.

    At that point you both know that the issue has nothing to do with the science and there is no point in continuing the discussion.

    * Which is pretty laughable. Firstly climate science is not going to make any scientists rich, if money were the aim biotech would be a much better bet. Secondly the grant money goes on hiring research assistants, they don't get to keep it (other than a few conference trips etc). Thirdly the mindset of most scientists simply isn't like that, they do the work because it is interesting and they are interested in finding the truth, and love to point out when something is wrong (that is the way that most science progresses). Lastly there is nothing for them to gain by falsifying work, in the long run science is self correcting and they will be found out, and they will know that.
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  33. Thanks guys.. and thanks CBDunkerson for the links.. they definitely answer some of what i was looking for..
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  34. Your site is very interesting and your debunking the myths gives me cause to think - what is it that makes me sceptical? I agree that I am not an expert, so why do I have doubts? Not only are your backfire effects pertinent to me but I have come up with a few more backfire effects that also affect me.
    1. I get really turned off by the name calling - when scientists start calling people sceptics and deniers and try to belittle anyone with an alternative view I find that reinforces my sceptical view. As an example on your web site anything that is against your theory you label as a myth to be totally discredited. That labels me a sceptical denier who believes in myths. I thought I just had a few doubts and would like to hear both sides.
    2. Another backfire effect for me is the incredibly strong bias that there is only one valid opinion – do we have scientific fact? I find it hard to believe that with the enormous amount of research that is going on that every single theory that every single scientist has, supports global warming. Surely there must be some evidence of a contrary viewpoint. For me your arguments would be more powerful if you had listed the hockey stick graph in your list of myths to demonstrate your even handling of the facts.
    3. And my final backfire effect is the money. Maybe it is jealousy but I see people like Ross Garnaut making lots of money out of this theory. I can’t imagine any scientist applying for grant money to research a theory that humans are not to blame. Realistically the grant will not be approved because of our political climate.
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  35. 184 - PRussell
    Re your points 2 & 3. regarding "contrary viewpoint" and "grant money to research a theory that humans are not to blame"...

    These points are, I think, quite common. I would suggest you consider this:
    If you look at 99% (as in 99% of all statistics are made up on the spot) of research papers, you'll find they're either just measuring stuff or comparing theories with data. The vast majority are not in the least bit concerned with proving or disproving any grand thing. Example, if you read the new Mann book, he points out - and this is known - that his PhD research was on 'oscillations' in climate and he only looked at forcing as a side issue to make his analysis complete... and as a side issue, the original 'hockey-stick' just "popped out" (and it, or all the independently analysed variations of it are not myths).
    The papers which 'prove AGW' are largely calculations of attribution (what role is played by the sun, atmosphere, oscillations etc etc) - there's no "prove" or "disprove" about most of them either - it's just a question of how the system works.

    Outside the blogosphere, there really isn't that much difference between the scientific beliefs about how the climate works except for a question of degree (e.g. feedback's) and emphasis.
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  36. PRussell @184:
    1. Name calling is rarely appropriate, and should be avoided however heated the discussion is. But if you look at "skeptical" web sites, or even listen public "skeptical" figures on TV, you often encounter nice terms like: "warmists", "alarmists", "conspirators" and "climate nazis", with unwarranted accusations of fraud, incompetence and child-molestation. This has of course nothing to do with science.

    2. You have your 3% There is no consensus I suppose there is percentage of geologists, who deny plate tectonics and astrophysicists backing continuous creation cosmology.

    3. Cui bono? I have a gut feeling, that succesfull "skeptical" talking head without any credentials might earn substantially better than real scientists in the field. (many of whom could easily find hugely more profitable jobs in mineral industry, than in academia)
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  37. PRussel 1. Calling someone a sceptic is actually a complement, we all ought to be sceptics in the sense that we take nobody's word for anything and investigate the evidence behind all claims. I agree, namecalling does not help anybody, but if those on the other side of the debate are not to be called sceptics, how should we refer to them? What term would you use to describe those who hold the contrary view, but who are not swayed by evidence or rational argument? If there were more neutral terms that everybody were happy with them, I'd happily use them instead (I see nothing wrong with "sceptic" BTW).

    2. The main purpose of SkS is to provide the counter arguments to climate myths, these appear to be almost exclusively from the contrarian scientists for a good reason. For every Gallileo, who runs against the mainstream position, there will be literally thousands of scientists who are simply mistaken. This is true in all branches of science, the only difference is that in other sciences they don't generally get any media coverage.

    3. If you can't imagine any scientist applying for grant money to research a theory that humans are not to blame, then read Svensmark and Calders book "the chilling stars", where Svensmark complains about the lack of funding he has recieved, but if you actually total up the amount of grants that he mentions in the book, he is actually pretty well funded (better than I am!). Likewise look up Jasper Kirkby and the CLOUD project at CERN, which was funded to the tune of 12,000,000 Euro, in this very political climate. Note also that Roy Spencer (leading sceptic scientist) says that his work is 100% govenment funded. There are plenty of complains that sceptic science isn't funded, but that doesn't mean it is true, it is more likely that the proposals simply have too many holes in them to be funded above better proposals that are more coherent.
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  38. My 2c.

    1. Distinctions need to be made. I consider myself a skeptic - most scientists do. However fake skepticism is skepticism of a theory you dont like for reasons not based on data and no skepticism at all for alternatives or criticism that support your position. There is no name-calling of genuine contrary studies, that are published in media. They are interesting - just very rare. People who make misleading statements to the naive and take a different line when talking to their peers deserve all the criticism they get. As do those who knowingly skew and present science for the purpose of misleading the public.

    2. Well there is only valid answer - you cant have personalised reality. However, there are different opinions on what that is obviously. Contrary opinions have to be supported by data and to be taken seriously, published in peer-reviewed literature. "Blog science" doesnt count. "Surely there must be some evidence of a contrary viewpoint." Not much. Plenty on blogs - not in the literature.


    3. "I can’t imagine any scientist applying for grant money to research a theory that humans are not to blame. "

    Correct - because real scientists do not do research for a predetermined outcome and grant committees would reject such a proposal out of hand. That's SPPI/Heartland stuff. Instead scientists put in application to research what is not known - whether the results support or conflict with established theory is of no interest to granters. The common criteria for funding are:
    - is it novel?
    - does the team have the relevant expertise?
    - and for many grants, is the research relevant?

    I would say you objections are due to misconceptions. Fortunately, that is easily fixed.
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  39. Here's a newb question:

    Climate forcings are usually expressed in Watts per square metre (W m-2). So for example, James Hansen in his AGU 2011 Fall Meeting press conference explains that the anthropogenic greenhouse forcing from pre-industrial times to the present is 3 W m-2, where the forcing applies across the entire Earth surface area.

    Given an Earth surface area of approx. 5.1 x10e8 m2, we get a climate forcing of (3 W m-2)(5.1 x10e8 m2) or approx 1.5 x10e9 W.

    Given 1 Watt is 1 Joule per second, my question is:

    Does the climate forcing given mean that, on average 1.5 billion Joules is accumulating in the Earth climate system every second from pre-industrial times to the present (using Hansen's figure)?
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  40. Composer99 - You need to take the current values, roughly 0.65-0.8 W/m^2, and a surface area of 5.1x10^14 m^2 (not km^2, which is 10^8).

    That means 313.5 to 408 TW (10^12 Watts), 3.134x10^14 to 4.08*10^14 joules per second - right now.
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  41. Yes, using m2 rather than km2 would have been a good idea. My mistake.
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  42. This is kind of a high level comment, more perhaps on perspective.
    Unless one subscribes to some form of naive falsificationism, it is not necessary that AGW debunk all arguments or apparently contrary evidence. It is only necessary that it do it better, and perhaps quite a bit better, than opposing theories. In this sense, perhaps this website format puts to much stress on a defensive stance rather than also taking the offense in addressing the shortfalls of skeptics. It's true that specific arguments that skeptics have are addressed here, but not the fact that there is no real "theory" advanced by the skeptics. Maybe we need a visual- a jigsaw puzzle of climatology with various components fitting together, and a jigsaw puzzle of various "arguments" on pieces that clearly do NOT fit together. Maybe you could pull out all the stuff that might comprise some kind of skeptical theory as a whole (given that it is trying to explain climate change- not deny its existence) and go on the offense. Not sure how this could be done exactly.I'm arguing for a change in perspective.Thanks for listening.
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  43. 184 - PRussell

    With regards to money while I accept that there are some good scientists who have made serious money by publishing books the reality is the majority of us in natural/earth/climate sciences earn relatively far less than in commerical technical applied science. In the UK for example, I studied oceanography because I love science and I love the oceans. In this process I ended up with student loan debt. However I followed my passions and maintained in research science. Post-doctorial 3 year research contacts in universities and institutes is frequently in the £20 to £30k bracket, yet if one choses to turn to private companies (e.g. geologists to the Oil and Gas sector, oceanographers to offshore construction, medical researchers to pharmeceutical companies) they will be earning vastly larger sums. As research academimcs, higher earning begins via climbing the university ladder as lecturers or heads of department which does pay more - but often the reality then is that these people get little time to research as they have managerial and or teaching responsibilities.
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  44. Furthermore (and I apologise for having no references to back this up) but in my opinion some of the skeptic community are likely financially backed by various think-tanks or pro-industry groups. It's likely in these cases that private backing is not transparent or open to the public whereas research scientists pay grades in the university and research council sector are openly public.
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  45. Perhaps this money thing would deserve its own article? Most people have very vague understanding of research funding. When it's told that some project has received so and so many millions of grant money, there might rouse suspicion individual scientists walk away backpacks full of greenbacks. If it were so, Harrison Schmitt would be one damned rich geologist, all the Apollo dollars in his bank account.
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  46. I am new to this sight and have not read all posts. Has anyone brought up anything about the Inuit Eskimo claiming that they have measured a significant polar shift. If what they say is true, it would line up with the calibration of major airport runways in 2011. This could also answer why the Arctic ice mass is melting at such a rapid rate. But, I never see anything about a rapid ice mass melt of the Antarctic. Would the South pole gain ice mass if the North pole is tiled closer or rather in a more direct line with the Sun? If the South pole were to be melting at as rapid a pace as is the North pole area, I would believe that there would be significant coastal flooding by now!
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  47. AWUN @196, without a link I cannot comment directly on the Inuit claims. Certainly I know of no Inuit claims regarding shifts in the axis of the Earth such as would be necessary for the Arctic to receive more sunshine.

    More importantly, it is known that Arctic summer sunshine is reducing at the moment, continuing to follow a trend that began about 10 thousand years ago. During the Holocene Climactic Optimum (about 8000 years ago) the Arctic received much more summer sunshine than it currently does, and (by a small amount) we currently receive less summer sunshine in the Arctic than we did in the Little Ice Age. Because the sun is high in the sky in the Arctic Summer, and because snow and ice melt reduce albedo during the summer, summer sunshine is far more important in determining Arctic ice conditions than winter Sunshine (which does note exist in the Arctic Circle in any event).
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  48. AWUN. Being new to the site, you're not yet used to using the search facility.

    I've found this item which gives a bit of a rundown on the Arctic versus Antarctic sea ice.

    But there were dozens of items on the search list. If this one doesn't suit, do your own search to find something more relevant. And you'll learn a lot just by doing that anyway.
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  49. For the interested parties, Wayne Davidson (Arctic atmospheric researcher) documents changes in Arctic (atmospheric, snow and ice cover) conditions in his blogs here and here.
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  50. @196

    I came across the polar shift claim in this documentary at 42:22 forward (3 persons accounts).

    To me the reference to the mountain peak struck immediately as a question whether it may have been snow-covered (permanently), and if so, has its depth (or height) changed?

    Sorry, no facts, mere gut feeling, but at least validates that the inuits do seem to have the perception of a change in the earth tilt.
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