Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation
Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to improve their understanding. Yet this isn't what happens with climate change denial. Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports man-made global warming and yet embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that purports to refute global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?
Posted on 30 April 2016 by John Hartz
A chronological listing of the news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week.
Sun Apr 24
- Mourning Loomis Reef - the heart of the Great Barrier Reef's coral bleaching disaster by Graham Readfearn, Planet Oz, Guardian, Apr 21, 2016
- "Global Elite's Theater": Paris Deal Is Mere Starting Point for Climate Justice by Deirdre Fulton, Common Dreams, Apr 22, 2016
- Why Even President Trump Won’t Kill The Climate Deal by Casey Williams, Huffington Post, Apr 23, 2016
- New Maps Chart Greenland Glaciers' Melting Risk, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Apr 21, 2016
- Lessons From Underwater Miami, Op-ed by Peter Brannen, Sunday Review, New York Times, Apr 23, 2016
- Carbon Pricing Becomes a Cause for the World Bank and I.M.F. by Coral Davenport, New York Times, Apr 23, 2016
- Tribes have up close perspective on climate change, Op-ed by Fawn Sharp, Seattle Times, Apr 22, 2016
- Climate Change Is Fueling Violence, and Women Bear the Brunt by Daniel Oberhaus, Motherboard, Apr 22, 2016
Posted on 29 April 2016 by Rob Honeycutt
The first three months of 2016 have now all been blow-out months, all rising above 1°C anomaly over the GISS mid-century baseline. This month came in at 1.28°C. In fact, all of the past 6 months have come in at an unprecedented >1°C over their baseline. In terms of our anomaly over our 1880-1909 preindustrial baseline, this clocks in at 1.528°C and we've now marked 13 months where the 12 month average has remained over 1°C. We first crossed that point in February of 2015. (Full size image.)
Reliable sources are telling me April 2016 is coming in about the same, around 1.2°C in the GISS data. The 2015/16 super El Nino is continuing to wane but we probably have a few more months of these extreme global anomalies to come before the surface station data begins to fall back to the long term mean trend line.
Posted on 28 April 2016 by dana1981
There’s a widespread misconception about science denial – that on issues like the safety vaccines and genetically modified foods (GMOs), denial is found predominantly on the political left, mirroring the denial of evolution and climate science on the political right. This assumption has even been presented on The Daily Show, but it’s supported by precious little evidence. In fact, as Chris Mooney documented in great detail in 2014:
[The data] do not support the idea that vaccine denial is a special left-wing cause. As for GMOs, while resistance may be strongest on the far left, worries on this issue are quite prominent across the spectrum as well.
In neither case are these beliefs a mirror image, on the left, of climate change or evolution denial [on the political right].
New polling further debunks the science denial symmetry myth
A new YouGov poll provided yet more data, asking, “Do you think it is generally safe or unsafe to eat genetically modified foods?”. There was little difference in answers across political affiliations – Democrats and Republicans were evenly split on the question of safe/unsafe, and Independents were more likely to consider GMOs unsafe. Gender and family income best predicted the answers, with men and higher-income individuals more likely to consider GMOs safe.
Posted on 27 April 2016 by Sara Harris
This is a guest post by the lecturer presenting edX's Climate1x course. Dr. Sara Harris teaches global climate change, environmental science, and oceanography in the department of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of British Columbia. She has a PhD in Oceanography from Oregon State University and a research background in paleoceanography and paleoclimate.
More than 170 countries just signed the Paris Agreement with the goal to limit global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial values, and aim for less than 1.5°C. This course will help you understand what it will take for humanity to reach those goals, by learning how the climate system works.
If you’re a teacher, businessperson, journalist, student, gardener, politician, traveler, or simply an interested citizen, understanding the controls on climate and how human actions contribute to climate change can benefit you in your work and life.
The course is designed to help you be able to:
- Explain climate basics to anyone
- Evaluate scientific evidence about climate change and global warming
- Describe Earth’s possible climate futures, including the role of human choices
- Communicate about climate change issues in your region
Activities are structured for you to practice with climate science concepts, and include:
- Short videos with embedded practice questions
- Interactive simulations and on-line climate models to explore
- Selected reading materials, including from SkS, such as the Debunking handbook and the consensus on the climate consensus paper.
- Community maps with participant-generated essays about climate change from all over the world.
- Seeded and open discussion forums
You’ll have the opportunity to contribute content for other’s learning, by investigating climate change in your own region and posting your findings to course maps (e.g. Figure 1). In past offerings, participants have written about bird migrations in Europe, heat waves in the Middle East, forest fires in Malaysia, sea level rise in Kiribati, and hundreds more topics. This course will give you an excuse and the motivation to find out more about what’s going on near you, plus an opportunity to learn what’s happening in other communities around the planet.
Posted on 26 April 2016 by Guest Author
The internet represents an extraordinary opportunity for democracy. Never before has it been possible for people from all over the world to access the latest information and collectively seek solutions to the challenges which face our planet, and not a moment too soon: the year 2015 was the hottest in human history, and the Great Barrier Reef is suffering the consequences of warming oceans right now.
Yet despite the scientific consensus that global warming is real and primarily due to human activity, studies show that only about half the population in some countries with among the highest CO2 emissions per capita understand that human beings are the driving force of our changing climate. Even fewer people are aware of the scientific consensus on this question. We live in an information age, but the information isn’t getting through. How can this be?
While the internet puts information at our fingertips, it has also allowed misinformation to sow doubt and confusion in the minds of many of those whose opinions and votes will determine the future of the planet. And up to now scientists have been on the back foot in countering the spread of this misinformation and pointing the public to trustworthy sources of information on climate change.
Climate Feedback intends to change that. It brings together a global network of scientists who use a new web-annotation platform to provide feedback on climate change reporting. Their comments, which bring context and insights from the latest research, and point out factual and logical errors where they exist, remain layered over the target article in the public domain. You can read them for yourself, right in your browser. The scientists also provide a score on a five-point scale to let you know whether the article is consistent with the science. For the first time, Climate Feedback allows you to check whether you can trust the latest breaking story on climate change.
Posted on 25 April 2016 by Guest Author
Would it surprise you to learn that governments, oil companies, NGOs and major investors are coming together to map—and to motivate—the decarbonization of the global economy?
The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC) is a policy-focused alliance of national and subnational governments, intergovernmental agencies, businesses and institutional investors, nonprofits and stakeholder networks. It was launched on the first day of the Paris climate negotiations, and its mission is simple: to collaborate across borders, across sectors, sharing information, know-how and capacity, to build the most economically efficient tools for decarbonization into every nation’s climate plan as soon as possible.
Posted on 24 April 2016 by John Hartz
SkS Highlights... El Niño to La Niña... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... She Said What?... SkS in the News... SkS Spotlights... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... SkS Week in Review... 97 Hours of Consensus...
World’s largest Earth science organization to continue accepting ExxonMobil sponsorship despite calls from 250+ geoscientists, a guest post by Geoffrey Supran, Ploy Achakulwisut, Ben Scandella & Britta Voss garnered the highest number of comments of the articles posted on SkS during the past week. New Video: Surveilling the Scientists by Peter Sinclair (Climate Crock of the Week) attracted the second highest number of comments.
El Niño to La Niña
With the Pacific Ocean cooling off after a near-record El Niño, signs are pointing to an impending La Niña - the flip-side of El Niño. So, what are the odds, and if one does develop, how strong could it be?
If strong La Niña forms, here's how it will impact the U.S. by Scott Sutherland and Mario Picazo, The Weather Channel, Apr 21, 2016
Toon of the Week
Hat tip to I Heart Climate Scientists
Posted on 23 April 2016 by John Hartz
A chronological listing of the news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week.
Sun Apr 17
- Ancient volcanoes could be key to predicting impact of climate change by Andrew Good, USC News, Apr 13, 2016
- The new climate rallying cry: keep it in the ground by Sammy Roth, USA Today, Apr 13, 2016
- El Niño is Earth's rechargeable heat battery by John Abraham, Climate Consensus - the 97%, Guardian, Apr 15, 2016
- Doubting climate change is not enough, Op-ed by Thomas Levenson, Ideas, Boston Globe, Apr 17, 2016
- How can we reduce concrete’s hefty carbon footprint? by Nate Berg, Ensia, Apr 13, 2016
- World's biggest wealth fund excludes 52 coal-related groups by Agence France-Presse/Guardian, Apr 15, 2016
- The New World: March 2016 Is the Sixth Temperature Record-Breaking Month in a Row by Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, Apr 16, 2016
- Scientists Just Confirmed The Scientific Consensus On Climate Change by Alejandro Davila Fragoso, Climate Progress, Apr 13, 2016
Posted on 22 April 2016 by greenman3610
This is a re-post of Peter Sinclair's latest video
Posted on 21 April 2016 by dana1981
A record number of Americans now view global warming as a serious threat and blame human activities as the cause. But there is apparently a generation gap out there when it comes to accepting the scientific evidence. And an ethnic gap, a gender gap, and a gap in political leaning—along with whether one can be considered one of society’s “haves” or “have nots.” So, who are these climate deniers? What is their profile?
Posted on 20 April 2016 by Rob Honeycutt
We are now half way into a climate bet made between a number of climate realists and climate contrarians who were commenting on the NoTricksZone blog 5 years ago. This bet originated when I made an off-handed comment at NTZ that I felt contrarians don't have the convictions of their often emphatic beliefs because I'd never found any who would bet on the climate.
Both Dana and myself were active on NTZ at that time, and we worked up a bet through Pierre Gosselin, who owns the NTZ site. Eventually we agreed to a bet stating that, based on an average of UAH and RSS satellite data, the decade of 2011 to 2020 would be warmer than the decade of 2001 to 2010. Realists saying, "Yes, this decade would be warmer." And contrarians saying, "No, this decade would not be warmer."
From there Pierre posted the bet on his website. Eventually, the climate realists raised upward of $10,000 in "realist" bets, and contrarians raised something around half of that for the "contrarian" position.
Half way through, how do things stand? That sort of depends on how you're currently tracking the data.
Running decadal average
My preferred method to track the bet is to use a running decadal average and compare where the results would be if the bet had been made ten years previous to this month. Who would win in that case? When you look at it in that context there is no point during the past 5 years when the most recent decade was cooler than the previous decade. It's been close very recently, but still the most recent decade has remained warmer than the previous in the satellite data. (Full size graphic.)
Posted on 19 April 2016 by dana1981
A new study published in Climate Dynamics has found that humans are responsible for virtually all of the observed global warming since the mid-20th century. It’s not a novel result – in fact, most global warming attribution studies have arrived at the same general result – but this study uses a new approach.
Studies attempting to figure out the global warming contributions of various human and natural sources usually use a statistical approach known as ‘linear regression’. This approach assumes we know the pattern of warming that each source (forcing) will cause, but we don’t know how big the resulting warming will be. For example, we know that greenhouse gases cause more warming over land than water, the most in the Arctic, and more warming in response to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
As an example of this approach, this animated graphic shows what happens when a 2011 study by Foster & Rahmstorf removed the known natural influences from the observed global surface temperature record, leaving behind the human-caused global warming signal.
World’s largest Earth science organization to continue accepting ExxonMobil sponsorship despite calls from 250+ geoscientists
Posted on 18 April 2016 by Guest Author
Geoffrey Supran is a PhD candidate in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT. Ploy Achakulwisut is a PhD candidate in atmospheric chemistry at Harvard University. Ben Scandella is a PhD candidate in environmental science at MIT. Britta Voss earned a PhD in Earth science from MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Last week, the President of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) - the world’s largest association of Earth scientists - announced the AGU Board’s decision to continue accepting sponsorship from ExxonMobil, despite calls for an end to this relationship from more than 250 geoscientists owing to ExxonMobil’s past and present climate science disinformation.
The AGU’s 2015 Organizational Support Policy states that “AGU will not accept funding from organizational partners that promote and/or disseminate misinformation of science, or that fund organizations that publicly promote misinformation of science,” and that Organizational Partners are bodies that “share a vested interest in and commitment to advancing and communicating science and its power to ensure a sustainable future.”
MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel sees the AGU’s decision as “a mockery of its own bylaw,” stating that, “If the AGU cannot turn down a mere $35K from a high-profile disinformer like Exxon, then it is hard to imagine it ever adhering to its bylaw. I am considering withdrawing from the AGU.”
Posted on 17 April 2016 by John Hartz
SkS Highlights... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... He Said What?... SkS in the News... SkS Spotlights... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... SkS Week in Review... 97 Hours of Consensus...
It’s settled: 90–100% of climate experts agree on human-caused global warming by Dana Nuccitelli, (Climate Consensus - the 97%, Guardian) attracted the most comments among the articles posted on SkS during the past week. The gist of the article:
This SkS graphic summarises the studies into scientific consensus on human-caused global warming, that look at expert opinion of either climate scientists who have published peer-reviewed climate research, or peer-reviewed climate papers.
Toon of the Week
Hat tip to I Heart Climate Scientists
Posted on 16 April 2016 by John Cook
When we published a paper in 2013 finding 97% scientific consensus on human-caused global warming, what surprised me was how surprised everyone was.
Nevertheless, no-one I spoke to was aware of the existing research into such a consensus. Rather, the public thought there was a 50:50 debate among scientists on the basic question of whether human activity was causing global warming.
This lack of awareness is reflected in a recent pronouncement by Senator Ted Cruz (currently competing with Donald Trump in the Republican primaries), who argued that:
The stat about the 97% of scientists is based on one discredited study.
Why is a US Senator running for President attacking University of Queensland research on scientific agreement? Cruz’s comments are the latest episode in a decades-long campaign to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change.
Back in 2002, a Republican pollster advised conservatives to attack the consensus in order to win the public debate about climate policy. Conservatives complied. In conservative opinion pieces about climate change from 2007 to 2010, their number one argument was “there is no scientific consensus on climate change”.
Recent psychological research has shown that the persistent campaign to confuse the public about scientific agreement has significant societal consequences. Public perception of consensus has been shown to be a “gateway belief”, influencing a range of other climate attitudes and beliefs.
People’s awareness of the scientific consensus affects their acceptance of climate change, and their support for climate action.
The psychological importance of perceived consensus underscores why communicating the 97% consensus is important. Consensus messaging has been shown empirically to increase acceptance of climate change.
And, crucially, it’s most effective on those who are most likely to reject climate science: political conservatives.
In other words, consensus messaging has a neutralising effect, which is especially important given the highly polarised nature of the public debate about climate change.
Posted on 16 April 2016 by John Hartz
A chronological listing of the news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week.
Sun Apr 10
- In Science, It’s Never ‘Just a Theory’ by Carl Zimmer, Science, New York Times, Apr 8, 2016
- To stop global warming, change how we eat? by Cristina Maza, Christian Science Monitor, Apr 8, 2116
- The roots of Venezuela's appalling electricity crisis by Brad Plumer, Energy & Environment, Vox, Apr 8, 2016
- Fight climate change, urges scientist and evangelist Katharine Hayhoe by Ned Ryan Doyle, Mountain Express, Apr 9, 2016
- Development banks threaten to unleash an infrastructure tsunami on the environment by Bill Laurance, The Conversation AU, Apr 6, 2016
- 57 tube stations at high risk of flooding, says London Underground report by Damian Carrington, Guardian, Apr 10, 2016
- CSIRO must ensure climate science is maintained by John Church, The Conversation AU, Apr 6, 2016
- Bridge to bipartisan climate policy exists – if major parties want it: Grattan Institute by Peter Hannam, Sydney Morning Herald, Apr 10, 2016
Posted on 15 April 2016 by John Abraham
The recent El Niño has been in the news of late because the warm waters in the Pacific have helped lift Earth’s temperatures to new records. Recent research is helping to track energy flows between the ocean waters and the atmosphere as the El Niño builds, then slowly decays and even changes to a La Niña. This new information is an important advancement of our understanding of the Earth’s climate.
As a background, a part of the Pacific Ocean flips between cold (La Niña) and warm (El Niño) phases over a few-year-long period. Sometimes the oceans are in neither a cold or warm phase, and we call that neutral.
The flipping back and forth always occurs, but the duration and regularity can change. In general, the cycles occur over 3 to 7 years, sometimes with longer duration, other times shorter. But regardless, this El Niño/La Niña process is really important for the rest of the world. It affects the whole atmosphere through what are termed teleconnections.
Consider for instance a situation when the waters are warm (El Niño), resulting in more evaporation from the ocean waters into the atmosphere. Conversely when the ocean waters are cold, there is often less evaporation. Because evaporation requires a great deal of thermal energy – it cools the ocean while moistening the atmosphere – it’s an engine that moves heat.
Simply put, the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO; the latter is in the atmosphere) cycle can supercharge this movement of energy, or it can temporarily sequester the heat. But regardless, once the energy gets into the atmosphere, it changes the atmospheric winds around the globe and affects weather elsewhere.
So, a new study, led by Dr. Michael Mayer from the University of Vienna, focused on the energy flows during the ENSO process. The study recalls prior work that has led to a view of ENSO that is a bit like a rechargeable battery. During La Niña, heat builds up in the Pacific and then during El Niño, the heat is dissipated to other regions. The dissipation occurs in both laterally via atmospheric energy transports and vertically via radiation to space. When the warm water moistens the air (through evaporation), it invigorates storms and flow of energy in the atmosphere. As a result of these teleconnections, a substantial fraction of the heat released from the Pacific during El Niño subsequently appears in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
Posted on 14 April 2016 by Guest Author
This letter was submitted to the editor of the Wall Street Journal who did not publish it.
On April 6, 2016, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by Bjorn Lomborg entitled “An Overheated Climate Alarm” following the publication by the US Global Change Research Program (US GCRP) of a comprehensive overview of the impact of climate change on American public health. Ten scientists from around the world who have expertise in climate change and its impacts on human health have completed an in-depth analysis of Lomborg’s op-ed and conclude his account of the available evidence is misleading your readers.
While the US GCRP report is based on thousands of scientific publications, Lomborg cherry-picked only a few to support his case that 1) “cold kills many more people than heat” and 2) “climate change will reduce the number of cold days” and “that will cut the total number of cold-related deaths.”
To support his first point, Lomborg relied on a study published by Dr Antonio Gasparrini in The Lancet. Dr Gasparrini, Senior Lecturer in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told Climate Feedback that Lomborg’s account of his own work was “misleading”. He added that “the aim of this study is to establish the association between non-optimal temperature and mortality in the recent past. The article clearly acknowledges that these results cannot be easily extrapolated to the future.”
Kristie Ebi, Professor of Global Health at the University of Washington, adds that “Mr. Lomborg is confusing seasonal mortality with temperature-related mortality. It is true that mortality is higher during winter than summer. However, it does not follow that winter mortality is temperature-dependent.” The fact that people are more likely to die in winter has more to do with “incidence and virulence of influenza and similar diseases” says Philip Staddon, Philip L Staddon, Associate Professor at Xi'an Jiaotong - Liverpool University.
In response to Lomborg’s second point, Dr Staddon commented: “The assertion that warmer winters equals less mortality is a schoolboy error.” Prof. Ebi concluded that “there is very limited scientific support for the claim that reducing the number of cold days will reduce the number of cold-related deaths.”
Emmanuel Vincent, Scientist at the University of California, Merced — Lead Scientist of ClimateFeedback.org
Posted on 13 April 2016 by dana1981
There is an overwhelming expert scientific consensus on human-caused global warming.
Authors of seven previous climate consensus studies — including Naomi Oreskes,Peter Doran, William Anderegg, Bart Verheggen, Ed Maibach, J. Stuart Carlton,John Cook, myself, and six of our colleagues — have co-authored a new paper that should settle this question once and for all. The two key conclusions from the paper are:
1) Depending on exactly how you measure the expert consensus, it’s somewhere between 90% and 100% that agree humans are responsible for climate change, with most of our studies finding 97% consensus among publishing climate scientists.
2) The greater the climate expertise among those surveyed, the higher the consensus on human-caused global warming.
Expert consensus is a powerful thing. People know we don’t have the time or capacity to learn about everything, and so we frequently defer to the conclusions of experts. It’s why we visit doctors when we’re ill. The same is true of climate change: most people defer to the expert consensus of climate scientists. Crucially, as we note in our paper:
Public perception of the scientific consensus has been found to be a gateway belief, affecting other climate beliefs and attitudes including policy support.
That’s why those who oppose taking action to curb climate change have engaged in a misinformation campaign to deny the existence of the expert consensus. They’ve been largely successful, as the public badly underestimate the expert consensus, in what we call the “consensus gap.” Only 12% of Americans realize that the consensus is above 90%.
Posted on 12 April 2016 by Andy Skuce
This is reposted from Critical Angle with slight modifications and updates.
In a recent article in Skeptical Inquirer, geologist and writer James Lawrence Powell, claims that there is a 99.99% scientific consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). You might think that after all of the harsh criticism that the 2013 Cook et al. paper (C13) has received from climate contrarians that we would be pleased to embrace the results of a critique that claims we were far too conservative in assessing the consensus. While it certainly does make a nice change from the usual rants and overblown methodological nit-picks from the contrarians, Powell is wrong to claim such a very high degree of agreement.
He makes many of the same errors that contrarian critics make: ignoring the papers self-rated by the original authors; and making unwarranted assumptions about what the “no-position” abstracts and papers mean.
Powell’s methodology was to search the Web of Science to review abstracts from 2013 and 2014. He added the search term “climate change” to the terms “global climate change” and “global warming” that were used by C13. He examined 24,210 papers co-authored by 69,406 scientists and found only five papers written by four authors that explicitly reject AGW. Assuming the rest of the abstracts endorsed AGW, this gives consensus figures of 99.98% (by abstract) and 99.99% (by author).
His definition of explicit rejection would align roughly with the seventh level of endorsement used in C13: “Explicitly states that humans are causing less than half of global warming”. In the abstracts from 1991-2011, C13 found 9 out of 11,914 that fit level 7, which using Powell’s consensus calculation assumptions, would yield 99.92%. So, there is probably not much difference between the two approaches when it comes to identifying an outright rejection paper. It’s what you assume the other abstracts say—or do not say—that is the problem.
C13 also counted as “reject AGW” abstracts that: “Implies humans have had a minimal impact on global warming without saying so explicitly, e.g., proposing a natural mechanism is the main cause of global warming”. These are more numerous than the explicit rejections and include papers by scientists who consider that natural causes are more important than human causes in recent warming, but who do not outright reject some small human contribution.
Competing Climate Consensus Pacmen. Cook on the left, Powell on the right.