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Uncertain Times at the Royal Society?

Posted on 2 October 2010 by MarkR

Following complaints, the Royal Society has published a guide to climate science which has been produced with the help of 2 self selected “skeptics”. Traditional skeptical sources have enjoyed the release, including the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) and The Daily Mail, with the Mail quoting the Foundation’s Director;

"The Royal Society now also agrees with the GWPF that the warming trend of the 1980s and 90s has come to a halt in the last 10 years."

And gleefully reporting that the Royal Society “admits that there are ‘uncertainties’” - I remember a Professor who drilled "numbers mean nothing without uncertainties!" into students, so this shouldn't surprise most people with scientific experience!

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) carefully includes them with all its statements. The Society report is worth reading if you have time but if you want detail then read the IPCC report: the two agree on everything they both cover.

The Society split simple statements into 3 sections: widespread scientific agreement, widespread consensus but active discussion, and ‘not well understood’. Let's dig up a few gleaming nuggets of knowledge.

Widespread agreement

  • 0.8 ± 0.2 °C warming since 1850.
  • Rise in CO2 caused by humans.
  • IPCC heating or ‘radiative forcing’ values.
  • Doubling CO2 causes 1 °C of direct warming, feedbacks are expected to add more.

Wide consensus but continuing debate and discussion

  • Solar heating less than 10% of CO2’s, but research is checking to see if it’s magnified somehow.
  • Doubling CO will cause 2-4.5 °C global warming (the IPCC says “likely to be in the range 2 to 4.5 °C with a best estimate of about 3 °C“), and IPCC global warming projections are repeated. 
  • Sea levels will rise at least at the rate they have been.

Not well understood

  • Models struggle with clouds, regional changes, and long term carbon cycle feedback.
  • Models don’t catch ice sheet breakup, so sea level rise they give is a minimum.

Summary

Non-model evidence for future sea level rise and global warming are ignored. This tends to suggest that doubling CO2 will cause 2-4.5 °C warming and new evidence suggests that sea level rise will be 100%+ more than IPCC estimates.

The GWPF concludes that;

"The UK now formally joins the ranks of denier nations,"

which seems remarkable from the Society's statement that;

"There is strong evidence that changes in greenhouse gas concentrations due to human activity are the dominant cause of the global warming that has taken place over the last half century. "

Finally, what of the GWPF’s claim that the Society now agrees global warming has halted? Another case of confusing short term trends, being ignorant of heat on Earth and seemingly based on;

"This warming has... been largely concentrated... from around 1975 to around 2000,"

but ignoring;

"The decade 2000-2009 was, globally, around 0.15 °C warmer than the decade 1990-1999."

Make of that what you will.   

NOTE: This blog post has been added to the list of rebuttals to skeptic arguments as the rebuttal to "Royal Society embrace skepticism".

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Comments 51 to 100 out of 131:

  1. chriscanaris #39, You give Hegel a pass because of the "standards of a different era", then you used Newton's dabbling in alchemy to bolster your case, even though he lived 100 years before Hegel!! Shouldn't we judge Newton by the standards of his religion-obsessed era, also? To return to the present, the "weightings" to give to climate feedbacks should be determined scientifically. I think you are confusing those with the political weightings that will guide action in the real world. As we all know, some groups are "more equal than others" in the political sense. Thanks, I will watch Schneider and Julian Simon. Simon was an economist (or at least a professor of business management), who is usually identified with "Cornucopianism", the theory that the Earth can support humanity foreven in the manner to which we have become accustomed. Simon was the ultimate anti-Malthusian, in fact. I doubt if climate feedbacks form part of the discussion. I (and I think any scientist) would be wary of "synthesizing" scientific theories and ending up with a plastic fuzzy. The fact that Newton's theories arise as a limiting case of General Relativity is not a synthesis. Political synthesis is to be expected, yes, but on conditions of justice and fairness. "Social Democracy", for example, is often presented as a synthesis of Communism and Classical Liberalism, retaining the best features of both.
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  2. #48:"The earth will be hit by a comet or asteroid large enough to destroy civilization. The question is not if but when. ... CAGW will have to get in line with all of mankind’s other problems. " This is utterly nonsensical non-reasoning. The case of comets or asteroids is a low probability event; the case of global warming is a high probability (if not already certain) event. Never mind that those 'trillions of dollars' might have beneficial results: development of more efficient, less carbon-intense alternative energy sources for one. Maybe that's the real reason for such fierce denialism: fear of losing one's carbon-based paycheck. As far as getting in line is concerned, in the US that line goes through Congress, where even such obvious things like relief for the Haitian earthquake refugees are blocked by obstructionists.
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  3. archiesteel at 00:25 AM, I think you missed the point my earlier comment was making. It had nothing to do with whether NETDR was presenting valid arguments or not, it was all about the apparent opinion you hold in that other posters here, especially those who are on the same side of the debate as yourself, are simply incapable of deciding for themselves whether or not there is any merit in what NETDR was posting, and whether or not they should respond to his posts without having to be told by somebody who has appointed themselves as their apparent guardian. They are not as naive or as stupid as you seemed to allude to. As for your comments about unspoken rules amongst contrarians, that may be how you see it, but that doesn't mean there is any such thing, I certainly don't think there is. Sceptics by nature are willing to consider alternative ideas. In fact if you think about it, the range of views held by sceptics precludes it, it would be more something held by those who are united in one belief, people such as yourself.
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  4. GC, the IPCC did at least bother to spend a few words exclusively dedicated to uncertainty. Not enough, clearly, or not effectively in any case. That said, always nice to see our opinions roughly in alignment, heh! Like some sort of infrequent astronomical conjunction...
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  5. johnd wrote : "As for your comments about unspoken rules amongst contrarians, that may be how you see it, but that doesn't mean there is any such thing, I certainly don't think there is. Sceptics by nature are willing to consider alternative ideas. In fact if you think about it, the range of views held by sceptics precludes it, it would be more something held by those who are united in one belief, people such as yourself." I struggle to think of more than one or two times that I have seen any so-called skeptics on this site arguing against any of the wilder claims posted from time to time. Perhaps you don't think it's your job to do so ? As for sceptics naturally considering alternative ideas, that probably explains the acceptance by some that the greenhouse effect is false. That is certainly an 'alternative idea' ! How about the earth being flat; or the moon being made of cheese - alternative enough for you to consider ? Finally, "the range of views held by sceptics", especially when more than one are held by the same person at once, certainly precludes rational discussion. As is the case with the theory of evolution, if you have one theory accepted by the majority (especially in the scientific world) and many counter-theories (mainly involving religion), it is easy to determine where the rationality lies and where the blind belief is. Isn't it ?
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  6. JohnD, you have led yourself to a place you probably did not intend to go. Based on your latest remark, it's apparently your opinion that most people are fundamentally too unintelligent to be able to understand some first principles of physics and then be led through a process of exploration and elucidation by researchers to follow these principles to some conclusions that are beyond the realm of "opinion." That's a remarkably insulting opinion, but perhaps I'm wrong. Can you explain where the gulf of understanding arises here, follow the science back to the point where the average man in the street is too dull to follow the plot? On a side note, your apparent belief that you yourself are able to discern useful facts from pointless speculations suggests you believe you're in command of ground truth. Coming from a person who based an "alternative" hypothesis for energy transport to the top of the atmosphere on a failure to understand the difference between latent and sensible heat, I find this conceit quite remarkable. But again, perhaps I'm mistaken and you do not believe yourself to be uniquely intelligent.
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  7. J Murphy What we post on this site is not very important in the wider world but you do bring up an important point. When people like Al Gore go to congress and ask for reparations for Peruvians who are freezing to death because of our CO2 climate scientists are silent. But Al Gore isn’t a scientist but by their silence they allow him to speak for them. Silence means consent in this case. When John Holdren speaks of “climate disruption “ or as some call it “weirding weather” [so now weather IS climate?] no one stands up and corrects him. The extremists are ruining the credibility of the real climate scientists who are too frightened to speak up. I have news for you John. No warming no disruption! If a volcano erupted in Iceland one day the next day there would be a study claiming that volcanoes are caused or at least made more frequent by global warming. Don’t climate scientists know this makes them appear foolish ? As someone once said of a huge complex and probably wrong computation of the effects of nuclear weather. “The science is abdominal but I don’t want to appear in favor of nuclear war.” Climate policy is based upon trust of the scientific community and the trust has been seriously shaken by the scientists own inaction.
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  8. @johnd: "I think you missed the point my earlier comment was making." No, I think I got it quite right. It's you who seem to misunderstant my intent. "it was all about the apparent opinion you hold in that other posters here, especially those who are on the same side of the debate as yourself, are simply incapable of deciding for themselves whether or not there is any merit in what NETDR was posting" I certainly do not have this opinion. Rather, the opinion I hold was simply that it's better not to respond to troll, and I was arguing the merit of having that opinion. It is precisely because I believe people on this site are quite intelligent that I argued in favor of ignoring what I consider to be a troll. By presenting them with rational arguments to support my opinion, I am trusting their good judgement will cause them to agree with me. "and whether or not they should respond to his posts without having to be told by somebody who has appointed themselves as their apparent guardian." So, in your opinion, to make a suggestion that we should ignore someone is "appointing" oneself as their guardian? You've got a pretty skewed view of reality, if I may say so myself. Either that, or you're (ineptly) trying to shame me into silence, which is a much greater threat to free expression than what I'm suggesting. Tell me, how long have you been posting on Internet forums such as this one? "They are not as naive or as stupid as you seemed to allude to." I have never alluded to this, and I would appreciate if you stopped insinuating that I do. I consider such an accusation to be rude, and uncalled for. "As for your comments about unspoken rules amongst contrarians, that may be how you see it, but that doesn't mean there is any such thing, I certainly don't think there is." How many times have you corrected an incorrect statement made by a contrarian? By "unspoken rule" I don't mean some sort of conspiracy, just the very human tendency not to criticize those who are on the same side of a divide as us, even when they make clearly false statements. "Sceptics by nature are willing to consider alternative ideas. In fact if you think about it, the range of views held by sceptics precludes it," Right. Does the range of view preclude you from correcting other contrarians when they say something erroneous? Because I don't remember you ever doing so. "it would be more something held by those who are united in one belief, people such as yourself." We are not "united in one belief," we agree that the evidence supporting AGW is strong, and we accept the theory is likely true. Anyway, enough on this off-topic distraction. You are free not to follow my advice and argue with NETDR all you want. I have to say, however, that so far your actions seem to closely follow my suggestion. :-)
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  9. ... trust has been seriously shaken by the scientists own inaction. More incoherence. Scientists should involve themselves in policy decisions. Scientists should not involve themselves in policy decisions. It all depends...on what? Ideology? If a volcano erupted in Iceland one day the next day there would be a study claiming that volcanoes are caused or at least made more frequent by global warming. Don’t climate scientists know this makes them appear foolish ? What an embarrassingly crude and wrong fabrication.
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  10. @NETDR: "When people like Al Gore go to congress and ask for reparations for Peruvians who are freezing to death because of our CO2 climate scientists are silent." "If a volcano erupted in Iceland one day the next day there would be a study claiming that volcanoes are caused or at least made more frequent by global warming." "The extremists are ruining the credibility of the real climate scientists who are too frightened to speak up." Please provide actual evidence supporting any of these allegations. Oh, and what does "the science is abdominal" mean, exactly?
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  11. "the science is abdominal" - based on gut feelings perhaps?! A case of projection?
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  12. doug_bostrom at 05:22 AM, on the contrary I think most people do have at least a basic grasp of of physics, and of mathematics as well, as climate science is all about reducing an extremely complex system to a number of basic laws and mathematical equations. However the computation of such in combination is far beyond the capacity of a single human mind. In addition the depth to which those not involved in the actual research is limited to analysing the completed studies, the conclusions reached, often only the abstracts. Few people have the opportunity or ability to explore and analyse the essential elements such as the raw data, the proxies being developed or any of elements of the mathematical models constructed, these are often tightly held by the scientists themselves, not even shared with other scientists. Spencer with the work he does on feedbacks has commented that even other scientists are no able to grasp the essential elements of his work, and I think that is a very telling point. Spencer understands the perspective from which other scientists apply the accumulated laws of physics and mathematical equations, but he sees that the order in which are inserted into the "critical path", for want of a better term, may not be the correct order, and inserts them in a different order. He sees confusion between cause and effect and apparently not all scientists it appears are able to adjust their mindset to his perspective that would enable them to judge his work without bias. If it is difficult for scientists who specialise in the physics involved to be able understand the perspective of a fellow equally qualified scientist, then that puts the average poster commenting on their works at aqn extreme disadvantage leading to a situation where what they present to support an argument is more due to their opinion on the relative merits of the conclusions drawn by any study rather than any intimate knowledge of the inner workings that are generally not available to those outside the working group.
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  13. I appreciate the opportunity to post on this forum and will do so again if allowed. It is good for people with differing opinions on climate change or anything else to exchange ideas without finger pointing or name calling. Apparently I will not be allowed to respond to the questions put to me. It has been an honor and I respect your tolerance for differing opinions.
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    Moderator Response: Please study the Comments Policy for more information about why leveling false accusations of advocacy of forced contraception, reliance on websites premised on conspiracies to deceive the public, etc. will result in frustration when it comes to successfully posting comments here at Skeptical Science.
  14. archiesteel at 06:22 AM, I fully understood your intent. It just peeves me somewhat when people offer advice to others that they themselves ignore. It takes two to tango.
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  15. [Spencer] sees confusion between cause and effect and apparently not all scientists it appears are able to adjust their mindset to his perspective that would enable them to judge his work without bias. That's what I call resorting to "magic" in order to support an opinion, substitution of imaginary bias to account for disagreement rather than arguing substantive scientific differences. It's a more benign form of fantasy than chanting incantations of conspiracy to explain why research publications are lopsidedly in agreement with the gross physical causes and effects of anthropogenic global warming, knock-on effects. I'm sure it is indeed frustrating to find abstracts of so many papers including words such as: We conclude that the 20th century warming of the incoming intermediate North Atlantic water has had no equivalent during the last thousand years. and The current reduction in Arctic ice cover started in the late 19th century, consistent withthe rapidly warming climate, and became very pronounced over the last three decades. This ice loss appears to be unmatched over at least the last few thousand years and unexplainable by any of the known natural variabilities. and Owing mainly to antropogenic activities including land use change and fossil fuel burning, the 13C/12C ratio of CO2 in the atmosphere has changed over the last 200 years by 1.5 parts per thousand (from about 0.0111073 to 0.0110906). and Previously published work using satellite observations of the clear sky infrared emitted radiation by the Earth in 1970, 1997 and in 2003 showed the appearance of changes in the outgoing spectrum, which agreed with those expected from known changes in the concentrations of well-mixed greenhouse gases over this period. Thus, the greenhouse forcing of the Earth has been observed to change in response to these concentration changes. In the present work, this analysis is being extended to 2006 using the TES instrument on the AURA spacecraft. and The causes of twentieth century temperature change in six separate land areas of the Earth have been determined by carrying out a series of optimal detection analyses. The warming effects of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations have been detected in all the regions examined, including North America and Europe. and The usefulness of global-average diurnal temperature range (DTR) as an index of climate change and variability is evaluated using observations and climate model simulations representing unforced climate variability and anthropogenic climate change. On decadal timescales, modelled and observed intrinsic variability of DTR compare well and are independent of variations in global mean temperature. Taken together, no, the conclusions are not "fair." Earth is not "fair," physics is not "fair." Tough. Imaginary bias is insufficiently powerful to account for what we see in front of our noses.
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  16. Thank you for the explanation ! I have gone [online] to my library and ordered the book. [Ecoscience costs $100 in paperback !] I will refrain from commenting on it's contents until I have read it. If the quotes I have read are accurate they are scary, but I will give the man the benefit of the doubt. I believe in being accurate. He is a co-author not the only author. Again thanks for the explanation. I don't think there is any vast conspiracy just human beings responding to their own self interest. [Which is a post by itself.]
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  17. doug_bostrom at 11:08 AM , ask yourself just how easy it is to reverse your own perspective in cases where cause and effect seems to appear with such clarity. Are you able to accept that scientists such Spencer can see that perhaps cause and effect are being confused in some studies and can build a case with them being reversed? Who can adequately peer review the validity of his latest work without considering that the conventional view of cause and effect is wrong?
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  18. Half-baked, unleavened epistemological mush, gooey and and impossible to swallow, johnd, but having the non-nutritive rhetorical value of being universally applicable to any field of inquiry you choose. Unappetizing; I'm not biting.
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  19. dana1981 #15 "NETDR, you are rejecting physics in your comments. There is still a net planetary energy imbalance (measured by satellites), so we know that there is more 'warming in the pipeline'." The last information (early in 2010) I had on the CERES measurements at TOA showed an imbalance of 6.4W/sq.m - when the theoretical number (Trenberth, Hansen et al) is 0.9W/sq.m - a slight offset error of 5.5W/sq.m. Satellite measures reputedly have high precision (month to month or year to year changes) but low absolute accuracy - further complicated by ageing degradation of the hardware. In laymans terms, without huge 'theoretical' correction - the Satellite imbalance figure is as useful as a third armpit.
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  20. doug_bostrom at 11:45 AM, doug, whilst that is may be your opinion, it is the prospect of the cause and effect relationship between atmospheric warming and changing humidity being opposite to that normally accepted that underpins Spencer's peer reviewed paper recently published. Perhaps you can enlighten us all as to what flaws you have personally found in his analysis that makes it impossible for you to swallow, leaving aside the obvious bias in taste for sweetness rather than tart. It will be only those who are prepared to chew hard that may be able to digest such unappetising subjects that requires such a big bite, and given how hard it seems to be for some to digest the by comparison tiny adjustment the Royal Society has made as indicated in this thread, I am not surprised most prefer to dine on microwavable TV dinners, so to speak, rather than wild game that has been dressed and dissected in a abattoir instead of a laboratory processed untouched by human hands.
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  21. chriscanaris #10 Excellent comment chris. Agree with all of it - as a fellow 'resident sceptic'. The Royal Society has simply restored its reputation on climate science by returning the pendulum to centre from its swing to 'alarm'.
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  22. Whilst you may not have noticed, johnd, I've made no remarks about Spencer or his research, rather have declined to take a bite of the soggy, collapsed souffle of solipsism you're proffering.
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  23. Satellite measures reputedly have high precision (month to month or year to year changes) but low absolute accuracy - further complicated by ageing degradation of the hardware. But they're only as useful as a third armpit? How's that? Precision is repeatability; when repeatability is good, trends can be identified regardless of absolute accuracy.
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  24. doug_bostrom at 13:57 PM, doug, I had noticed, that is why I presented another piece of wild game to bite upon. Never mind, once you have found your false teeth again, you might like to bite onto something that requires some hard chewing. ;-) Force fed chickens may be tender, but they don't have the same flavour as wild goose.
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  25. doug_bostrom at 14:03 PM, precision and repeatability are useless without proven calibration across the full range, and instrumentation calibration can change without any obvious change in repeatability especially if what is being measured varies.
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  26. Regarding precision versus accuracy, johnd, as is so often the case the answer to whether or not general knowledge maps successfully onto specific cases is "it depends." Rather than delve into particulars here, the "A history of satellite measurements of global warming" thread already discusses some issues w/satellite calibration and data interpretation and would be a better place to continue talking about this. Start by asking, "If a satellite has an internal calibration source yet cannot measure temperature with absolute accuracy, can it still detect a trend?"
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  27. doug_bostrom at 15:00 PM, doug, yes it depends, as this simple example illustrates. Say you are 20 Kg overweight, but your scales indicate that you are on the average weight. If the regular weighings indicate that there is no trend and that you are staying on weight then obviously you will find little cause for concern even though in actual fact you are well overweight. However if a trend develops where you are losing losing weight 1Kg each month, what then matters most the trend or the actual weight? Each requires a different solution. To me, accurate calibration is perhaps more important than repeatability, within reason.
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  28. That analogy is useless for this particular case, JohnD. In any case, if you've a specific case to make about errors in TOA IR measurements by satellite making it impossible to pick out trend features, just follow the link I suggested.
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  29. @johnd (#64): "It just peeves me somewhat when people offer advice to others that they themselves ignore. It takes two to tango." Touché. :-) I never said ignoring trolls (or flamebait) was easy, and the suggestion was as much for myself as for anyone else.
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  30. tobyjoice @ 51: You give Hegel a pass because of the "standards of a different era", then you used Newton's dabbling in alchemy to bolster your case, even though he lived 100 years before Hegel!! Shouldn't we judge Newton by the standards of his religion-obsessed era, also? I'm not quite sure what you're getting at. The answer, however, is 'Well of course.' Newton's generation however wasn't particularly religiously obsessed - certainly very little more so than Hegel's - while religion had a far greater public presence, scientists and savants relied on numerous other paradigms. Our decisions also are limited prevailing standards of our times and the limitations these put on our perspectives and judgments. The late Stephen Jay Gould wrote prolifically on this theme - his works are extremely user friendly and very much written from the perspective of a secular materialist. We've no idea whether our descendants will judge the outcome of our musings on AGW as foolish denialism, proactive foresight, or a passing distraction impeding our understanding of our planet and its workings.
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  31. NETDR - you are right, I am influenced by self-interest - or at this stage of life, the interests of my children. I think the world will be safer for my descendants if we restrict emissions of GHG, based on risk-analysis of available science. And by the way, I work in oil and coal, however I would accept redundancy due to lost demand for fossil fuels with relief, as it would be the best in long term. Viewing the world through a political lens distorts reality. I believe you need to pay closer attention to data. I would like to think you would accept that say, scientists warning you of an incoming asteroid on the basis of data rather than waiting till it filled the sky while accusing them of wanting better toys to play with. If the science case doesnt convince you now, what data, at what future point, would convince you to search for a political solution?
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  32. chriscanaris #80, I delved back into some of my Hegel references - I never tried to read the man himself as he is notoriously impenetrable. However, it is clear he distinguished between Dialectic reasoning, where he proposed his "Thesis - Antithesis - Synthesis" structure, and Analytic reasoning, which he declared was the domain of the natural sciences. Hence, you do not have Hegel on your side in this argument. Ironicially, it was Marx who converted Hegel's Dialectic Reasoning into Dialectic Materialism and Scientific Socialsm, but you probably don't want to go there. I am afraid telling an Irishman that the 17th century was not religion-obsessed is like telling a Jew that Anti-Semitism was not an issue in 1930s Germany, so let's not go there either! See also the Thirty Years War and the English Civil War. There is a case of Synthesis in science - present day Evolutionary theory is known as the Modern Synthesis. However, this is not Hegelian systhesis, because the two components (Darwinian Evolution and Genetics) are complementary, not Thesis and Antithesis. Finally, I get to the point. The more I read your logic, the more I am convinced (and by other evidence also) that the climate science - denier debate is at its core political, and is really concerned with the political and economic impacts of global warming. Faux-scientific "debate" is just the first line of defence favoured by fairly powerful economic agents, as it was in the minor case of nicotine abuse. I believe we are now seeing a fallback to the second line (a grudging, fighting retreat) by denialism - that the problem is exaggerated, climate change may be beneficial etc. etc. "Synthesis" may be possible at this line, at which the core science will be conceded by denialism, but not the impacts. At the end, the winners and losers will be clear. Talking about our descendants, the imperative is to make sure they can make decisions about us their ancestors in free, secure and flourishing surroundings -otherwise they will be right to judge us harshly.
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  33. Chris: We've no idea whether our descendants will judge the outcome of our musings on AGW as foolish denialism, proactive foresight, or a passing distraction impeding our understanding of our planet and its workings. I'm struck by how this remark captures and expresses what seems a vast gulf of disagreement between us, or frightfully different perspective in any case. Reading Chris' words, I find myself asking, "In 1880, did people debate whether James Clerk Maxwell would be thought of as a fool or a scientific giant in future years, because his understanding of the phenomena he described was imperfect?" Not really a perfect analogy; Maxwell modeled certain physical behaviors in ways that were usefully predictive against observations but did not address the agencies of what he described, whereas in this case we've got predictive models comporting with observations as well as causative explanations. All the same, by the time Maxwell died it was clear he'd established foundational scientific results unlikely to be suddenly discovered worthless in later years, even though everybody was quite clear there was a lot of work left to be done before the job he'd helped advance was truly finished.. My point is, we actually have a very good idea of how this will turn out; the level of uncertainty is quite low, the chances of a big surprise are slim, the probability of future generations thinking we were mad to be concerned over this is not something we've got much cause to worry over. If things go well, if we surmount the challenges presented by our understanding, this warming business will indeed turn out to be a "passing distraction" in the grand scheme of things, in perhaps the same relative sense that dealing with infectious diseases has been a "passing distraction." The alternative is that a lot of energy has to escape the planet in a way of which we're completely unaware, and the possibility of such a discovery at this late date is very poor. To use another analogy, details of the workings of the organisms causing infectious diseases are still emerging but we long ago captured enough of the gross features of their operation so as to reasonably deal with many of them, having not taken the perspective that perfect understanding must precede amelioration; we've not decided Pasteur was a fool because his familiarity with intricacies of the operation of bacteria was not as good as ours. Not to pick on Chris, it's just that the way he said what he did sort of struck a gong in my head.
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  34. Re: tobyjoyce (82)
    "Finally, I get to the point. The more I read your logic, the more I am convinced (and by other evidence also) that the climate science - denier debate is at its core political, and is really concerned with the political and economic impacts of global warming. Faux-scientific "debate" is just the first line of defence favoured by fairly powerful economic agents, as it was in the minor case of nicotine abuse. I believe we are now seeing a fallback to the second line (a grudging, fighting retreat) by denialism - that the problem is exaggerated, climate change may be beneficial etc. etc."
    Well-spoken, sir. You unerringly strike at the crux of the science/"skeptic" debate @ expose its heart to the light of day. Deny, Delay, Mitigate, Adapt...or Die. The longer we take to reach the Adapt stage with our way of life, the more likely the option becomes closed to us & we then pass to the final stage. In the end, it may be that our descendants will have little say regarding us and these times as there may well be none left to judge us. The Yooper
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  35. Doug, I thought your comment about the treatment of uncertainty in the report was very interesting. When I talk to people in my lab (other scientists, PhD students etc) I know they understand the difference between "uncertainties" and "uncertain", we inhabit a world of error bars and standard deviations so evaluating uncertainties is second nature. But I'm really not sure how this plays to the general public. Having just read the RS Guide, what is there is almost identical to the IPCC working group 1 (scientific basis). Which as Steven Schneider observed is packed so full of caveats and expression of uncertainties it doesn't make for very entertaining reading. As MarkR observed the RS Guide doesn't deal with paleoclimate and how this is used to constrain climate sensitivity against real world data. Paleoclimate also gives us a pretty good handle on how much sea level changes with global temperature. Omission of these important points, although with the fact that uncertainties in ice melt are all pretty much in the "how much faster" category was unfortunate IMHO. As to Joe Romm's critique I think I understand where he is coming from. The report doesn't explain what a warming climate will actually mean for people and as such is lacking in meaningful context. I would guess, for example, that lay readers would be more interested in how various amounts of warming will effect heat waves than the change in radiative forcing (in Wm-2) from a doubling of C02.
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  36. Mike I think you're right about people not understanding the impacts of warming climate. The global average temperature is literally a statistic. No-one anywhere lives in this "average" state. What people really need to understand that warming or heating is another way of saying 'a higher level of energy'. Then you marry that to higher water vapour because of higher evaporation. That higher level of energy and higher evaporation means more variations and more extremes in temperature, evaporation and precipitation extremes lead to more droughts, more floods, more snowstorms. What I see in many comments in various places is that many NH people really think that another couple of degrees would be mild, pleasant and therefore desirable. They overlook the horrible 2003 summer and the recent death toll in Russia's heatwave. And it's really hard to get across the message that "global warming" means more shovelling of snow in some places rather than less. Hence my preference for the "climate disruption" description. Warming is too likely to evoke images of holidays at an idyllic beach or a hot toddy by an open fire, rather than a scalding hot bath or a non-functioning air conditioner. Disruption has no immediately positive imagery to counteract,nor is it irretrievably catastrophic. Routine disruption is roadworks or power blackouts or storm damage or delays in deliveries. It's always annoying and in some circumstances it can wreck your plans. Serious disruption can wreck your life.
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  37. Re: adelady (87) You make a very cogent point about people not understanding the impacts. Perhaps the most useful way to frame a better understanding is in terms of capacity. In a warmer world, air has more capacity to store moisture (and thus more energy). As a result, soils on average dry out more between precipitation events. When those events do occur, they have a greater capacity to deliver precipitation (think: bigger fuel tanks) due to the extra moisture available. The perverse result? More droughts AND more floods. More floods, more erosion and landslides. All of which result in declines in crop productions. Equals less food... The Yooper
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  38. An earlier post referred to how certain UK newapapers ( such as the Daily Mail) might report this . Just to point out that several commenters made a spirited defence of science of global climate change and of the Royal Society At one point there were 212 comments about their article on http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1316469/Royal-Society-issues-new-climate-change-guide-admits-uncertainties.html I'm not sure why, but these have all mysteriously disappeared . Perhaps we need a commission on this.
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  39. Daniel Bailey at 01:14 AM, whilst there may be higher levels of moisture in the atmosphere, your comments about evaporation are a distortion of reality. Evaporation data collected around the world show falling evaporation rates over the last 50 years as this study shows,CHANGES IN AUSTRALIAN PAN EVAPORATION FROM 1970 TO 2002 which notes that "the terrestrial surface in Australia has, on average, become less arid over the recent past, just like much of the Northern Hemisphere."
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  40. @johnd I'm very much at layman level, but what I understood from a very interesting documentary I once saw about "Global dimming" was that evaporation has dropped worldwide, caused by a reduction of sunlight which is a much bigger factor in evaporation than temperature (that went up in those places). I also understood that in more recent years the air in most western countries has become cleaner because of regulation (car catalyst converters etc) which has drastically reduced dust and soot particles (not reducing co2 though). Ironically the cleaner air is reducing global dimming, but increasing evaporation and increasing global warming. Neither phenomenon is nice. Apologies if I've just totally missed the point.
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  41. piloot at 07:14 AM, sunlight is also subject to cloud cover. Wind is a big factor, possibly second after sunlight. The study indicates that evaporation rates were higher in the periods when the air was supposedly "dirtier" than more recent times, so that doesn't seem to follow that evaporation rates dropped. The general consensus seems to be that clouds are a feedback mechanism, but some consider that they may instead be a forcing which could tie in with the evaporation rates.
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  42. JohnD - Firstly, want to back the assertion "possibly, second after sunlight" with data? Think for a moment on why wind affects evaporation. You take a cubic meter of air over water. Evaporation follows CC, raises partial pressure of water in that parcel of air, then wind moves it away. New parcel of air has lower pp of water so evaporation rate continues at same rate. However, our original parcel of area is over water in another place, and evaporation is slower because it already has an elevated pp of water. Locally wind is important, basin wide - not so much. The parameterization of the effect of wind used by models is based on empirical data. I cant see these studies back your assertion. Also, I cant see how wind can be a forcing. "some consider clouds a forcing". So who is "some"? How can clouds be a forcing? What can change cloud formation independently? Only the GCR hypothesis had an answer for that. Is that what you mean (which makes GCR the forcing not the clouds)? Or do you have another hypothesis?
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  43. JohnD - lets also try and make a very clear distinction between forcing and feedback. Feedback is something that changes in response to temperature change. Forcing is something that can change independent of temperature. (Some subtleties over change to other than temperature but thats an aside). Solar is forcing because both earth orbit, and solar output can change irrespective of earth temperature. Aerosols are largely independent of temperature. Albedo and GHG are both feedbacks and forcings because you can change both independently of temperature. Wind is response ultimately to a temperature differential so is feedback to whatever caused the temperature differential to change. Clouds have a more complex relation to temperature and can also be affected by aerosol but cannot independently alter.
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  44. Hello all. 30 to 35 years ago something appears to have happened to global temperatures. Indeed, that is even refected locally here in the longest dataset we have: http://hadobs.metoffice.com/hadcet/graphs/HadCET_graph_ylybars_uptodate.gif Even in the Arctic, a period of 30-35 years of gradual ice-extent loss seems again evident. Only the Antarctic shows no sign of a similar change (and a number of temp recording stations around the world). Given that science is never certain, and climate science falls a long way short of that, and if you can suspend your belief that the principle cause of this is/was man-made, what else could it be? What else could have caused a fairly-sharp upturn in temps?
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  45. And today's thought for the day is... "What's the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we're willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?" -- Nobel Laureate Sherwood Rowland (referring then to ozone depletion)
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  46. sime, or... "Science is the desire to know causes" - William Hazlett
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  47. Baz #94: "What else could have caused a fairly-sharp upturn in temps?" Increased solar radiation could have... but didn't, because solar radiation actually decreased over that timeframe. A massive change in cloud cover could have... but didn't, because cloud cover was largely unchanged. Dropping from a highly active volcanic period to low volcanism could have... but didn't, because we've been in a period of low volcanism the whole time. Et cetera. Anything which logically (and even ILlogically, c.f. 'cosmic rays') could have caused the warming has been examined and found not to be the case... except that the increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases absolutely should have caused a sharp upturn in temperatures... which did in fact occur.
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  48. Baz, Hazlitt wasn't a scientist, and I imagine he was responding as a philosopher to the fundamental shift taking place at the time from God (the external) to Reason (the internal). These days, science is performed ultimately in order to predict. Read the discussion section of any peer-reviewed, published report from the sciences. You say that science is a long way from being never certain. What the heck does that mean? I take it you're trying to say that climate science has a low degree of certainty about . . . about what? About the physics of C02, CH4, and H20? Very, very high probability. About the energy budget? Very high probability. Where is the lack of confidence you're referring to? Science doesn't say, "There can be only one." Science says, "No other explanation makes as much sense when read against the physics and the data."
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  49. DSL, Hazlett's profession isn't the point. My point was that it's science's duty to know the 'cause'. Please don't start with the, "You said"!!! I had enough trouble the last time I came here, what's up with people on here, do they read posts too fast? I said, "Given that science is never certain, and climate science falls a long way short of that." Science itself IS never certain. Climate science is the most complex, coupled, non-linear, chaotic system known. So we are indeed a long way short of being certain about it. Clouds have the largest area of uncertainty in climate modelling, and since clouds do have a profound effect then that says a lot about our inability to properly understand the climate system. Science does indeed come to tentative conclusions based on the balance of evidence, but the key word in there is 'evidence'. If your model is set with insufficient knowledge on the effects of something (clouds) that profoundly affects the result, then the 'evidence' is flawed. As I said, climate science falls a long way short of certainty. Unpalletable to some!
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  50. Baz - the only forcings we know of are solar, aerosol, GHG and albedo (though on long time scales, you have to consider plate motion as well). You cant have certainty in science so perhaps there is another cause we dont of but that is not the way to bet. On the other hand, we can consider a model which says climate is always a response to those forcings and compare measured climate to those forcings. And it fits extremely well - no mystery about change 35 years ago, nor mid-century cooling nor early 20th rise. And of course GHG emissions models make all these other predictions like stratospheric cooling, arctic amplification, warmer nights etc. Your alternative mystery cause has to fit all these too. And yes, I think everything in climate from this evenings sea breeze, to long term climate has causes in the realms of physics.
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