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What happened to the evidence for man-made global warming?

Posted on 7 December 2009 by John Cook

Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling you get when confronted with two contradictory ideas. For example, how can one be skeptical about man-made global warming when there is so much empirical evidence? Climategate has provided a way for some to resolve this issue - simply discredit all the evidence for global warming. By focusing on suggestive quotes from a handful of emails by a small number of climate scientists, it allows one to write off the entire field of climate science as a vast conspiracy. This line of reasoning allows Senator James Inhofe to conclude "This whole idea of global warming, I'm glad that's over. It's gone. It's done. We won. You lost. Get a life!"

This attack on an entire field of science is unprecedented. As historian Spencer Weart puts it, "we've never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance. Even the tobacco companies never tried to slander legitimate cancer researchers." One might argue that the stolen emails are being taken out of context and often parsed without scientific understanding. Nevertheless, lest we get bogged down in the details, the broader picture is that Climategate narrowly focuses on the behaviour of a handful of scientists and suggestive inferences about a few pieces of climate data. Somehow this allows skeptics to ignore the entire body of scientific evidence, meticulously accumulated by scientists all over the world. This evidence includes the following independent observations that paint a consistent picture of global warming:

  • Our planet is suffering an energy imbalance and is steadily accumulating heat (Hansen 2005, Murphy 2009von Schuckmann 2009, Trenberth 2009)
  • Animal and plant species are responding to earlier springs. Eg - earlier frog breeding, bird nesting, earlier flowering, earlier migration of birds and butterflies (Parmeson 2003)
  • The distribution of tree lines, plants, birds, mammals, insects, fish, reptiles, marine invertebrates are shifting towards the poles (Parmeson 2003)
  • Arctic permafrost is degrading (Anisimov 2006) plus warming at greater depths in the permafrost (Stieglitz 2003)
  • Global sea level rise is accelerating (Church 2006)
  • Antarctic ice loss is accelerating (Velicogna 2009), even from East Antarctica which was previously thought to be too stable to lose ice mass (Chen 2009)
  • Greenland ice loss is accelerating (Velicogna 2009, van den Broeke et al 2009)
  • Glaciers are shrinking globally at an accelerating rate (WGMS 2008)
  • Arctic sea-ice loss is accelerating with the loss rate exceeding model forecasts by around a factor of 3 (Stroeve 2007).
  • The height of the tropopause is increasing (Santer 2003, press release)
  • Jet streams are moving poleward (Archer 2008, Seidel 2007, Fu 2006)
  • The tropical belt is widening (Seidel 2007, Fu 2006)
  • There is an increasing trend in record hot days versus record cold temperatures with currently twice as many record hot days than record cold temperatures (Meehle 2009, see press release).

The Climategate controversy hasn't even touched upon the empirical evidence indicating that human activity is the cause of recent warming:

  • Humans are emitting CO2 at such rates that atmospheric CO2 is at its highest level over the past 800,000 years (Brook 2008). The rate of increase is the fastest in 22,000 years (Joos 2008)
  • Satellites measure less infrared radiation escaping out to space at the wavelengths that CO2 absorb energy (Harries 2001, Griggs 2004, Chen 2007)
  • Surface measurements find more infrared radiation returning back to the Earth's surface (Philipona 2004), specifically at the wavelengths that CO2 absorb energy (Evans 2006)

One cannot deny that some of the Climategate emails are embarrassing for the scientists involved. Their comments and behaviour shouldn't be swept under the carpet and more transparency in climate science is a good thing. However, using quote-mined emails to disregard an entire scientific field is not the behaviour of people genuinely seeking to understand how our climate works. It is, on the other hand, a stupendous act of cognitive dissonance.

UPDATE 8/12/2009: Things Break has emailed me a few other pieces of evidence I'd overlooked:

  • A shift towards earlier seasons (Stine 2009)
  • Lake and river ice cover throughout the Northern Hemisphere are freezing later and breaking up earlier (Magnuson 2000, Hodgkins 2005)
  • Changes to physical and biological systems across the globe are consistent with warming temperatures (Rosenzweig 2008)
  • Cooling and contraction of the upper atmosphere consistent with predicted effects of increasing greenhouse gases (Lastovicka 2008)
  • Pitcher-plant mosquitoes are genetically evolving to adapt to shifting seasons (Bradshaw 2001)

UPDATE 11/12/2009: H/T to Drosera for mentioning another study:

  • Distribution of plants are shifting to higher elevations (Lenoir 2008)

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Comments 51 to 94 out of 94:

  1. Humanity, I said "I do not dismiss the hypothesis that cosmic rays have no role whatsover." So I am open to new ideas. Am I convinced, are the climate scientists and cloud microphysics scientists convinced? No. The CERN project might shed some light on all of this, but again, the importance is very likely being overstated by the contrarians/cynics. They seem to forget that there are an abundance of giant CCNs, especially over the oceans which can readily act as CCN for cloud droplets, and most of the globe's low-level cloud (Sc, St) is found over the oceans. There is hardly a limitation of CCN over the oceans. I am not doubtful of this hypothesis b/c it is not consistent with AGW, but b/c of the tenuous science concerning the exact mechanisms involved. I cannot emphasize this enough, even if there is a link, be careful about ovserstating its importance. I'll have a look at the PDF when I have time, by the same token you should read some of Dan Rosenfeld's work, and the excellent discussion at RC. Anyhow, I don't want this thread to morph into a debate on CGRs.
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  2. I'd be happy to critique Melanie Philips for you.......she's an all round appalling person with rabid views on just about everything. Only the most deranged would consider her a darling of anything. If there's one bad thing about the anti-AGW it's that its dominated by the worst right-wingers in the mainstream debate.
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  3. Albatross it's too weak to describe those people that think there is merit in this idea as contrarians or cynics. There is a real mis-reading of the intentions of scientists on both sides of this arguement. While I accept that there are some (on both sides) that have an agenda it's true that most scientists are just generating data that hopefully adds to the body of knowledge. It seems that anybody who generates too much controvesy with their work is quickly labelled any number of denigrating terms. Given Jasper Kirkbys obvious high status in the field he could probably be working on just about any topic he wishes. He chooses to do this, I guess, because he thinks it has legs. Do you think this man is convinced by the arguement? I do. I also think the 15-20 groups involved in this project from a dozen highly regarded institions think this is important. Many of the authors from the 138 references in the PDF also probably think this is important. In terms of overstating the importance. The IPCC state the uncertanity is too great to assign a forcing value to CGR. There are other forcing (such as aerosol and cloud) which have similar high levels of uncertainty but which are aknowledged. How can you overstate or even understate something which the IPCC suggests is very poorly understood. If we followed your logic we'd remain in the dark.
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    Response: The role of cosmic rays in climate is an important question - there is still some question about the degree of influence being debated in the peer reviewed literature. However, as far as the global warming debate goes, cosmic rays have had little to no role in the warming over the last few decades. This is because measured cosmic rays have shown little to no trend since the 1950s - an unsurprising result as cosmic rays are modulated by solar activity which has also shown little to no trend since the 1950s.
  4. Jim Ryan, there are so many misleading/wrong claims in that article that a point by point critique would be quite boring. Just take two of them. The temperature has been flat in the last decade. You might want to this post that shows how the earth is still accumulating heat. Surface temperatures vary a lot and a decade of apparent flat trend is easy to find. But this does not mean that global warming has stopped. Tamino has a a nice post on the varibility of surface temperatures you might also want to read. The "Darwin scandal" is just a lye (no euphemism here, just a flat lye); Eschenbach is indeed known for playing this dirty game of manipulating data (anyone still remember how he shifted the data to show that Hansen was wrong?). What happened at Darwing is that the station has been moved and then it was necessary to apply a correction. Eschenbach is simply hiding this.
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  5. Humanity, The AR4 report does in fact quantify the forcing from aerosols (see Fig. 2.13 pg. 169 Chpt. 2). The top 3 are forving base don observations. The latest AOGCMS which will be used in AR5 include atmospheric chemistry, although I am not sure to what extent the chemistry module interacts with the cloud microphysics module/s, if at all. As John notes, there is no discernable signal of CGRs in the global temperature data, if they did have a significant impact on cloud coverage/opacity, then it would ahve in turn had an impact on the global temps. Anyhow, let us see what the CERN data show.
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  6. Al, Indeed lets see.
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  7. Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling you get when confronted with two contradictory ideas. For example, while nearly every calorie associated with human activities ends up as waste heat directly warming our atmosphere, climate scientists continue to focus on an atmospheric greenhouse effect that they are still trying to prove exists. Who are the real deniers? The reason you can "see" IR surface images using infrared optics is because air itself does not radiate IR. Once air has been warmed up by your automobile, home furnace, and local power plant, that waste heat can only be given up when it comes in contact with condensed vapor in the air or objects on the earth's surface (including polar ice and glaciers). The deniers of this notion tell us that the amount of human waste heat is insignificant next to quantities associated with the Earth's solar radiation budget, yet these are the same people who are also talking about the ponderous thermal effects of increased CO2 as measured in part per million! To see what happens with all that solar energy, all you have to do is compare the temperature of a rock at midday and then at 5 am. Waste heat on the other hand heats air first, then the Earth's surface where it later has a chance to escape into space through radiation. There are something like 500 million automobiles in circulation worldwide. It is a well known fact that climate in urban areas are affected by waste heat. If this heat it is continually generated, it must be gradually spreading out throughout the planet.
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    Response: The atmospheric greenhouse effect has been empirically confirmed by multiple, independent lines of evidence - both by satellites finding less infrared radiation escaping to space at the wavelengthe that CO2 absorb energy and by surface measurements finding more infrared radiation returning to the surface at those same wavelengths. Why do climate scientists focus on CO2? Because it is both the most dominant radiative forcing and is also the fastest rising.

    The total contribution of waste heat to our climate has been calculated and compared to the heating contributed from greenhouse gases in Warming from fossil fuels (Caldeira 2009). The radiative forcing from CO2 is around 10,000 times greater than the forcing from waste heat.
  8. HumanityRules, I agree with everything you say about Mel P and on her past record alone there are grounds for dismissing her ill-informed rants. The fact that she now assumes 'fraud' on the basis of a few decontextualised e-mail extracts is despicable, perhaps slanderous. I was really referring to the darwin data which appears to have come from leftfield and in that context I would appreciate John's technical input. Unfortunately there are now many who doubt AGW on the basis of propaganda from the 'deranged' few. Tempting though it may be we are unlikely to persuade them of the science by ad hominem attacks. Curiously I'm unable to post on her blog. If anybody here has a mind to, they're welcome to address the article in question.
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  9. Just one of my opinions is that, as humans we evolved naturally on earth. Everything we invented or developed came from the earth. We just manipulate what was already here. Therefore anything we do is just part of nature and is a natural progress. Be it good or bad. We are nature. We are not apart from it. We’re just animals that think too much. If we make a mess of things, Nature will let us know.. one way or another.
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  10. From An AP news item about the stolen emails.. "One referred to using a "trick" that could be used to "hide the decline" in temperatures". Ya'll are doing a great job, keep it up.
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  11. Regarding the Darwin station spin (Re: response to #50), this is a nice debunking: http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2009/12/trust_scientists Skeptical arguments somehow seem to be growing more irrational and shrill. I didn't think that was possible.
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  12. NewYorkJ, there have been times when the AGW theory was on the making and the challenges put on it were fruitful. A lot of things have been fixed and/or improved thanks to the true scientific scepticism; and there is still ample room for discussions, as is the case in scientific conferences and peer reviewed papers. But I know, you're not talking about science and scientists ;)
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  13. The "lack of warming" since 1998 exists only under the condition that 1998 is cherry-picked as a starting year and the effect of the massive 98 El-Nino not taken into consideration. How is it if we take 1997 or 1999 as a starting point? Why so much focus on 1998? The answer is simple: the extraordinary warmth of that year makes it easy to suggest that it was "cooler" afterward, although the following decade was, in fact, warmer than the one containing 1998. Every time someone tries to take 1998 as a starting point for anything, I know they're trying to take mo for a ride. This has been discussed already. Swanson and Tsonis conclude: "Finally, it is vital to note that there is no comfort to be gained by having a climate with a significant degree of internal variability,even if it results in a near-term cessation of global warming. It is straightforward to argue that a climate with significant internal variability is a climate that is very sensitive to applied anthropogenic radiative anomalies(c.f. Roe [2009]).If the role of internal variability in the climate system is as large as this analysis would seem to suggest, warming over the 21st century may well be larger than that predicted by the current generation of models, given the propensity of those models to underestimate climate internal variability [Kravtsov and Spannagle 2008]." A quick look at how temps have recently behaved can be see here, it is very much as expected in a noisy system, and not different from what has been seen before: http://tamino.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/giss1.jpg Skeptics like to use natural variability only one way, but it does cut both.
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  14. Phillipe, The reason that sceptics pick 98 is the same reason that Mr. Gore uses Mann's first hockey stick - for effect. Since 98, the temp rise has slowed quite a bit. Has it cooled? Of course not. That is why this decade may be the hottest that we know of, it is coming from a hugh peak. But the battle for minds continues on both sides of the debate. As I posted earlier, the majority of the people, in my opinion, are smart enough to get the basics of the science, most of us just don't have time to educate ourselves. So attention grabbers are the default argument. Simple. What intrigues me is that the pro side has not yet seen the real truth about the release of these "climategate" files and e-mails. The anti side is finally getting to debate the science, and it is very public, so more of the harried masses can now see what the pro side has contended to be the facts. Do you not see what a great oppurtunnity this can be? More people are Binging/Googling this subject (then even Tiger woods indescretions!). More people are looking for the truth. Finally, the pro side can climb out from obscurity and declare their side with logical and science backed facts! This website is a prime example. As more of my friends ask me about this, I always refer them here as the best place to get the pro side of the debate. Tell your leading lights to get off their talking points and celebrate the freedom that this leak has given them to finally explain the science to those who matter the most - Joe and Jane six pack! People don't want to be scared into doing the "right" thing, they want to walk with reason into doing the right thing. This leak is the best thing that has ever happened for CC! Dont miss the boat! Since I am not very good at pasting stuff, here is an attempt at getting some graphs from Greenland. http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/metadata/noaa-icecore-2475.html That is the info The graphs appear on WUWT in an article by J. Storrs Hall - here http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/09/hockey-stick-observed-in-noaa-ice-core-data/ more interesting material to help push us to a better understanding.
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  15. To John Cook You say above... "The total contribution of waste heat to our climate has been calculated and compared to the heating contributed from greenhouse gases in Warming from fossil fuels (Caldeira 2009). The radiative forcing from CO2 is around 10,000 times greater than the forcing from waste heat." From the Caldeira paper.. "Therefore, in year 2000, the Earth was heated >75 times more by anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere than by direct heating from fossil-fuel combustion." The huge factor you are referring to has to do with the theoretical cumulative heat from the total lifetime of CO2. When you are talking about Joules per year, even the article you make reference to only attributes a factor of 75 times. Now 75 is still significant, but what is this energy doing? This radiative energy only involves 1) the Sun, 2) the Earth's surface, and 3) outer space. Do you think electrical power lines are hot to touch? They are not. (You dont want to try this). Power lines are conduits of power between a source and a load. In the same way, the atmosphere does not absorb radiative energy however much it is increased. Heat transfers to air through convection as described by the equation, q = hA(Ta − Tb). When the air and solid reach the same temperature heat transfer stops. Ocean water temperatures are normally always cooler than sea level air temperatures (except near the Earth's poles), however, car radiators, motors, refrigeration systems, etc., are generally warmer than the surrounding air. These are warming the air, day and night.
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  16. DeNihilist, it's true that people "are smart enough to get the basics of the science, most of us just don't have time to educate ourselves." and that "So attention grabbers are the default argument.". Problems arise when, like for the post of J. Storrs Hall you link, one needs a little bit more than get the basics to not be fooled by those attention grabbers. And indeed it's a much larger problem, there no filter on what can be published on the internet. Anyone interested in climate science is continuosly forced to spend his time in debunking more or less absurd claims people find somewhere in pseudo-scientific sites. It's much like the too many "inventions" of perpetual motion machines; apart from some curiosity, i'd not spend time looking at them seriously. How many times one should repeate that no conclusions can be draw from a temperaure reconstruction in any single site which is not shown to be for some reason representative of the global pattern? And what about the too short time series so frequently analyzed? One of the great things of this site is the collection of these kind of arguments, indeed ;) Scientists have managed to find a solution to which i think we all should adhere, it's well known and called peer review process. It should represent the threshold for throwing the other claims away without wasting time debunking them over and over. Questions are always welcome and if someone can answer i'm sure he will; but jumping on a blog with a claim found in some obscure sites is not asking questions nor it's discussing science.
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  17. #'s 63, 64, 65 'Using NOAA satellite readings of temperatures in the lower atmosphere, scientists at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) produced a dataset that shows global atmospheric warming at the rate of about 0.07 degrees C (about 0.13 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade since November 1978. "That works out to a global warming trend of about 0.7 degrees centigrade over (the next) 100 years," said Dr. John Christy, who compiled the comparison data. "That's a definite warming trend, which is probably due in part to human influences. But it's substantially less than the warming forecast by most climate models, and it isn't entirely out of the range of climate change we might expect from natural causes. http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=11540 http://www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures/ The peak of global temperature in the 1998 El Nino is part of the 1998/2001 climate shift and evident in any of the (monthly) temperature records. This is the simplest part of the science. The more interesting arguments concerned major uncertainties in the solar records, cloud properites and dynamics and as a result of complex systems theory.
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  18. To John Cook Way back, someone pointed me to an experiment that shows how CO2 interacts with IR to raise its temperature, thus proving greenhouse gas theory. The experiment was a lab geared to grade school or high school students and consisted of temperature comparisons of gas in a box with and without CO2. Proportion, concentration, and geometry didnt seem to matter for this. But considering the surface of the Earth is roughly 510,000,000 km2. Taking the square root you get 22,583 km. The height of the atmosphere is roughly 10 km. Converting to meters, we get 22,583,000 and 10,000 meters respectively. If we want to model this on a 100 m2 surface, 10 m on a side, the height of our model atmosphere would be around 4 mm. If it were possible to get 4 mm of air hovering over this surface, and inject 0.0003 percent of its volume with CO2, this would be a fair comparison for study. Riccardo Is it peer review or peer pressure? The sense I get is that you are only considered a peer if you agree.
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  19. @Riccardo, I quoted "personal attack to scientists". You responded: "scientists" is plural. It's a whole scientific community that is under attack from outside." Your argument is a strawman.
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  20. batsvensson, you probably didn't follow the discussion. Much too easy to jump in between and say it's a strawman ...
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  21. RSVP, you are far away from what i think and you clearly don't know how the peer review process works. May you find an unknown blogger trustworthy while you don't trust a peer review papaer. Bizarre, i'd say. Laymen discovered peer review just in the last few years and just as climate science is concerned. Given the pathos this topic generates now everyone feels the right to pontificate on almost anythings scientists have been done for decades, if not centuries. Look at what you've just said; you are questioning gas absorption, one thing know for a couple of centuries (litterally) and confirmed up to today. Do you really think there's no one around able to do some easy experiment and calculation of absorption? Trying to counteract "the inconvenient truth" i see more and more people destroy, maybe unconsciously, science altogether; and this blindness (or nihilism) is frightening.
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  22. Robert Ellison, look at the UAH dataset in the same Dr Spencer page. Scroll down to the end and read the global trend: 0.13 °C/decade. RSS gives 0.153 °C/decade. Compatible numbers are found for the three surface temperature datasets, which is worth recalling do not measure the same thing as the satellites. All of them are compatible with what is expected from a steady global warming.
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  23. RSVP, a lot of doubts infact, it's the breading stage of science. But this does not mean any doubt, any weird unverified idea. The difference is huge. The problem with reputation you mention is exactly what i was referring to in my last comment when i said "destroy science altogether". If you put it as a matter of collective reputation of scientist (peer reviewers are scientists) you are destroying science just because you don't like (who knows why) the conclusions of part of it.
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  24. From answer to #53: "However, as far as the global warming debate goes, cosmic rays have had little to no role in the warming over the last few decades. This is because measured cosmic rays have shown little to no trend since the 1950s - an unsurprising result as cosmic rays are modulated by solar activity which has also shown little to no trend since the 1950s." Assume CO2 emissions are immediately reduced so concentrations are held constant at 388 ppm. Because of heat in the pipeline, we would still have temperature increases for decades, maybe for centuries. Applying this very same kind of reasoning, you could say in 2040 'CO2 have had little to no role in the warming over the last few decades. This is because measured CO2 rays have shown little to no trend since 2009'. As long as we don't know more exactly how equilibrium is reached when forcings change, we can't rule out 20th century changes in cosmic rays and solar activity as an explanation for recent changes, any more than we can rule out historical GHG changes. As most paths towards equilibrium probably imply a declining effect over time, it is surely little support for solar activity/cosmic rays as the only or most important factor behond recent changes.
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    Response: This issue is addressed in Climate Time Lag. Solar activity did rise in the early 20th Century. While the solar radiative forcing is small compared to CO2 forcing, let's assume for the sake of argument that the solar forcing is somehow amplified. For example, by cosmic rays. So solar activity flattened in the 1950s.

    If current global warming was a lagged response to early 20th Century solar variations, what we would see is a higher energy imbalance around 1950. Then the energy imbalance would gradually reduce as the planet warmed and outgoing longwave radiation increased. Eventually the climate would reach radiative equilibrium as outgoing radiation equalled incoming solar radiation and warming would stop.

    What we've observed is something quite different. The energy imbalance was quite small back in the 1950s. Then over the last 40 years, we've observed the energy imbalance gradually increase until it has hit current levels of 0.9 W/m2 (Trenberth 2009). If we were approaching equilibrium from past solar variations, we would expect the energy imbalance to level out. The opposite is occuring.

    This is also backed up by satellite and surface observations of an increasing greenhouse effect.
  25. DeNihilist says "The anti side is finally getting to debate the science." Total nonsense. The anti side is using the e-mails out of context to convince Joe and Jane six-pack of stuff that the e-mails don't say. See John's recent post on Trenberth' quote. Same with the "decline" thing, that Gavin Schmidt discussed early on RC after the leak. There is no debate about the science, just wild accusations and a massive press campaign. The science has always been there in the open. The litterature has loads of articles. GISS' data and code is available. McIntyre, in pure Limbaugh fashion, gets the crowds outraged about Briffa "not sharing data", while he's had those data for years. Quality debate we see there. J&J 6packs are googling and finding piles of junk like WUWT, the science blog of the year where they very seriously discussed the possibility of carbonic snow on Earth. Talk about a travesty. J&J 6pack hardly understand what a variable interest mortgage entails, you sincerely think they'll click on the subtleties of statistical methods, radiative physics or fluid dynamics? Take a look at Patrick027 discussion of Rossby Waves on this very site and tell me how J&J 6packs are going to participate. I had a brush once on this site with a guy full of himself who had to be taken by the hand to understand the Iacono&Clough stratospheric cooling graph, and he claimed scientific background. The supreme irony is with the Soon & Baliunas piece. That pathetic thing barely deserved Energy&Environment. They used backways provided by Legates to circumvent the peer-review process in such a underhanded way that the journal's editors massively resigned. Now the e-mail expressing frustration over the fraudulent presence of such a bad paper in the litterature are used to suggest that scientists are influencing the peer-review process. Well, yeah, they did, in exactly the oposite way than what is suggested by those exploiting the e-mails. Debate the science? What a joke.
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  26. Philippe, you took my post out of context! I do not expect Joe and Jane sixpack to understand the intricate science, but if a scientist, as I think Einstien said, cannot explain it to their grandmother, then they don't really understand it themselves. At the bottom of my post, I put 2 links up, one showing ice core data, (which by the way Riccardo, I never meant to it to seem that I thought this could be taken as a global signature - sorry), the other an interpretation of said data. You are right, I cannot translate said data to a graph plot. But this chap did (though I think that his presentation was poor), so I am looking for some intelligent comments on this graph. It is attitudes like yours Phillipe that drive the common folk, (who are very neccesary, to keep this world working, so that said scientists can devote their attention to their studies) to seek the more simplistic solutions. We are educated enough, that we don't appreciate being talked down to. As in your second to last paragraph, you may have had to hand hold this chap, but in the end did you clarify his reasoning? If you did you just proved my point. I'm here to learn. You don't want to waste your time on people like me, then don't. I will in the end come to my own conclusions based upon more then one persons help. If this conclusion is wrong/right, then I will repent or be happy. Now back to learning, John, could you please point me to the discussion about CO2 forcing. I have been reading more about this in other blogs lately, and some claim that as CO2 increases, its' effect decreases in a non-linear way. I find that as I go through your history, looking for something particular, I seem to get caught up with other lines of reasoning! LOL!
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    Response: The effect from CO2 is non-linear - it's logarithmic, in fact. This means as CO2 increases, it's effect diminishes (kind of like how movie sequels get less effective - for anecdotal evidence, see the Police Academy movies). This logarithmic relationship is used when calculating the radiative forcing from CO2.

    For more info on CO2 forcing, peruse the observational evidence of an enhanced greenhouse effect from CO2 (and other greenhouse gases). Another page that puts the role of CO2 compared to other forcings into perspective is CO2 is not the only driver of climate.
  27. DeNihilist, the reason your post appeared twice is that a bug in the blog software re-executes the Submit button's action if you refresh the page after submitting. Just flip your browser to any other page anywhere and then return to this page. In answer to your question, see The CO2 effect is saturated. If you want more details than that, or if you want more explanation but less detailed than the linked articles provide, do an internet search for "RealClimate Saturated Gassy Argument" and read both parts 1 and 2 of the resulting article on RealClimate.
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  28. Thanx Tom, just got back from my oldest son's hockey game (yes he uses a hockey stick! LOL!) On my way to your suggestions.
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  29. I do not really agree that I took what you said out of context. Pretty much everything about climate science has been explained in ways accessible to the general public. The PR campaign against climate science has prompted some to dig deeper. When they do, they find that things may not be as simple as was described, although not that much different. Duh! You can't explain general relativity to your grandma without taking some serious shortcuts. If she decides to dig, she will probably find that the way you explained it left a lot to be desired, even if, at the time, it was the best possible way. If she wants to go further, she will soon hit a wall of maths and physics that she is not ready for. And I don't really see any grandma doing her own tensor calculus work to independently verify the general relativity equations (unless she's a maths buff, in which case, she should be explaining the theory to you). What do you mean by "attitude like mine"? Did it occur to you that I am one of these regular folks that you mention? Did it occur to you that perhaps I spend all my workdays caring for regular folks? As a regular folk, I don't like being taken for a ride. That's what the deniers blogs, lobbyists and think tanks are trying to do. As for your argument that the stolen e-mails are fostering debate, I maintain my position on that. Specify where exactly you think that I talked down to you and I will clarify. To answer your question on the denier I mentioned, he vaguely understood the Iacono&Clough graph but maintained that it did not constitute evidence of anything, fully defining the word denier for all. I also had to endure a stream of verbal abuse and insults that, fortunately, John removed. Obviously the guy was not here to learn anything.
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  30. @ Answer #74 No, you don't really address the issue. The problem is _not_ that we have to take forcing from GHG into account, of course we have, and historical changes in non-GHG forcing can of course not be the _only_ explanation. The problem is that we can't really say, from the evidence presented here, if the present contribution to radiation imbalance from historic solar/cosmic ray changes is practically zero or somewhat higher. It can't possibly be very high today, but I can't see how the evidence presented here can answer this conclusively. To answer it, the historical surface temperature record is pretty much useless as a sole witness. And do we have reliable direct measurements of historical energy imbalance of, say 0.3 W/m2? When you say it was so small back in the 1950s, do you base it on measurements or model simulations? And if it is measurements, what is the uncertainty?
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  31. Riccardo What is that about destroying science? That is like saying someone can change the truth. My questioning (not questions) comes from what other scientists have already established. "Insignificant" details such as the fact that the absorption bands of CO2 comprise less than ten percent of the IR spectrum, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Atmosfaerisk_spredning.gif and that the concentration of atmospherice CO2 comprises only .03% of its molecular composition, as opposed to water vapor that can vary but is typically around 1.5% or more (>50 times more and while having a much wider IR absoption spectrum). And then there is the real problem that waste heat will continue to be produced regardless of the technology and no one is willing to address this problem. It's these relative quantities based on well established science that directly conflict with your highly esteemed peer review board. My only agenda is to feel confortable with the conclusions, and it would be nice to live in a world that directs itself through reason.
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  32. @Riccardo, You wrote: "you probably didn't follow the discussion. Much too easy to jump in between and say it's a strawman ..." Since you reply lacks credential substance, I take it as you agree that your argument is a straw man. Or do you wish to dispute whether or not "personal attacks" are the same as "attacks on all scientist" ?
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  33. RSVP, problem is you that are looking at the wrong quantities. It does not matter how large is the CO2 absorption band or the percent of its concentration. What is important is the forcing associated with its increase and the amount of more heat trapped. As you quote the waste heat you are aware that it's heat that matters. So, put numbers to heat in the two cases and compare; this would be "directs [your]self through reason.".
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  34. batsvensson, i'm not going to dispute anything with one who shows no real interest in it.
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  35. RSVP, "And then there is the real problem that waste heat will continue to be produced regardless of the technology and no one is willing to address this problem." Could you explain how waste heat from solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, wave, tidal or any other renewable energy source adds energy to the Earth's climate system?
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  36. All these evidences are bit misleading. The question is NOT whether the globe is warming up. The question we should ask is whether it is HUMAN who made the warming. If you look the evidence from this perspective. You will see the evidence that support AGW is really thin. I listed here: • Our planet is suffering an energy imbalance and is steadily accumulating heat (Hansen 2005, Murphy 2009, Schuckmann 2009, Trenberth 2009) • Satellites measure less infrared radiation escaping out to space at the wavelengths that CO2 absorb energy (Harries 2001, Griggs 2004, Chen 2007) • Surface measurements find more infrared radiation returning back to the Earth's surface (Philipona 2004), specifically at the wavelengths that CO2 absorb energy (Evans 2006) • Cooling and contraction of the upper atmosphere consistent with predicted effects of increasing greenhouse gases (Lastovicka 2008) Are these evidences sufficient to claim that AGW is for real? I would say those evidences are far from conclusive. Also note that if a paper was published in 2008, it is very likely that the work was done prior to 2007 and the data the work studied would be even earlier than that. Everyone know that it was relatively cold for last couple of years, as Trenberth indicated in his email.
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    Response: The question of whether it's humans causing the warming is indeed the more important question. However, there are many who even question that global warming is happening (as you do later in your comment) so all bases need to be covered.

    That reminds me, a new paper came out this October with a more comprehensive look at surface measurements of downward infrared radiation (Wang 2009) - I'm in the process of reading through that paper and will add it to the evidence for an enhanced greenhouse effect shortly.
  37. PDT asks Could you explain how waste heat from solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, wave, tidal or any other renewable energy source adds energy to the Earth's climate system? I was referring mainly to nuclear, however since you asked, if you had a very efficient solar panel, it would mean you are retaining sunlight (solar heat) that would otherwise be reflected into outer space (i.e. changing the Earths albedo). Supposedly CO2 is doing this and it is considered a bad thing.
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  38. Riccardo "It does not matter how large is the CO2 absorption band or the percent of its concentration" CO2 acts as a notch filter. The band does not widen with more CO2. The baseline for comparison is the change in the effect of that notch (preindustrial) with respect to the entire spectrum. Seen as a percentage of the total energy associated with the entire IR spectrum, the change is minute.
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  39. no RSVP, a notch filter is an interference filter, absorption works differently. In any case, quantify this "minute" difference; it's a few tenth of a percent of the totale IR emitted. Looks pretty tiny, does it? But that's enough, few W/m2 can change the temperature significantly.
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  40. RSVP wrote, "And then there is the real problem that waste heat will continue to be produced regardless of the technology and no one is willing to address this problem." and later, "I was referring mainly to nuclear, however since you asked, if you had a very efficient solar panel, it would mean you are retaining sunlight (solar heat) that would otherwise be reflected into outer space (i.e. changing the Earths albedo). Supposedly CO2 is doing this and it is considered a bad thing." Not sure how "regardless of technology" could be interpreted as "mainly nuclear". With respect to solar, you mean when plants cover the earth and carry out photo-synthesis it makes the earth hotter? Forests make the earth hotter? Have you quantified the effect? So, if we went with wind, hydro, tidal, wave, and geothermal, we'd be okay then? We wouldn't cook ourselves?
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  41. RSVP, the point is that, because radiative properties of CO2 are well known, the radiative forcing can be calculated precisely and has been. If you want to dispute the forcing's value, tell us why and give some alternative or references.
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  42. RSVP @88 CO2 acts as a notch filter. The band does not widen with more CO2. The bands will widen with more CO2, in principle at least. This is due to increasing numbers of molecules (a) with higher rotation states, (b) transitioning between higher vibrational states (assuming the usual deviation from harmonic oscillator behavior) and (c) forming complexes. As to whether these have any significant effect or not on the greenhouse effect, I'm afraid you need a climate scientist not an ex-spectroscopist
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  43. Robert Ellison at #67 above quotes an article about the UAH analysis of MSU temperatures: "That works out to a global warming trend of about 0.7 degrees centigrade over (the next) 100 years," said Dr. John Christy, who compiled the comparison data. "That's a definite warming trend, which is probably due in part to human influences. But it's substantially less than the warming forecast by most climate models, and it isn't entirely out of the range of climate change we might expect from natural causes." Robert, that quote is from a 2003 story. In 2005, Mears et al. published a paper in Science showing that the UAH algorithm for processing MSU data had a sign error in the handling of the diurnal cycle. When this error was corrected, the UAH temperature trend increased 40%, putting it in much closer agreement with the other satellite and surface temperature records. Mears et al. 2005.
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  44. - Satellites measure less infrared radiation escaping out to space at the wavelengths that CO2 absorb energy (Harries 2001, Griggs 2004, Chen 2007) - Surface measurements find more infrared radiation returning back to the Earth's surface (Philipona 2004), specifically at the wavelengths that CO2 absorb energy (Evans 2006) I think these two arguments are very strong. What would be the clincher, however, is if the radiation loss going outward and radiation increase going back onto the surface where mathematically equivalent to the energy increase in the athmosphere. Are you aware of any such calculation? The argument would be problematic if, for instance, the increased radiation back would be much less than the increase in temperature.
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  45. This may be O.T. so please direct me to the proper topic. I used the search function already and this is as close as I came. I would be interested in your readers response. Roy Spencer made the following challenge. What most people don’t realize is that the vast majority of published research on the topic simply assumes that warming is man made. It in no way “proves” it. If the science really is that settled, then this challenge should be easy: Show me one peer-reviewed paper that has ruled out natural, internal climate cycles as the cause of most of the recent warming in the thermometer record. Studies that have suggested that an increase in the total output of the sun cannot be blamed, do not count…the sun is an external driver. I’m talking about natural, internal variability. The fact is that the ‘null hypothesis’ of global warming has never been rejected: That natural climate variability can explain everything we see in the climate system.
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  46. NETDR@95 It is a bit of a strawman, have a look at the IPCC WG1 report and you will find that virtually all claims made there are accompanied by a statement of the (un)certainty with which the claim was made. If the mainstream position were that these things were proven, then such equivocation would not be necessary. There is a reason for this. It is fundamentally impossible to prove any proposition regarding the real world by means of evidence alone. We have known this since the work of David Hume, who argued that we can't observe causality. Instead, knowledge of the real world has to be based on assumptions as well as observation. That is why much of the philosophy of science is based on falsification rather than proof (proof is for mathematics). However, proof is not required for a scientific theory to be accepted as fact. Nobody has every proved that the theory of evolution is correct, yet most scientists accept it as fact. So why do we accept evolution as a fact rather than "merely a theory", simple, becuase it is a relatively simple theory that explains a wide range of observations rather well; rather better than competing theories. This illustrates an important point about scientific method; when there are competing theories that have not been ruled out by observations, you don't rule out any of them and instead assign a degree of belief in the plausibility of each theory according to how well it explains the data. how much of the data it explains, and the strength of the argument and reasonableness of the assumptions on which it is based. For those that accept AGW, it is not that it is proven, or merely assumed, there is a lot of research which suggests it is the most plausible explanation for the observed facts, not just for the climate of today, but also for paleoclimate. Now on to the challenge - has anyone proved that the species we see today are not the result of purely random mutations and was not driven by evolutionary pressure? No. Does that cast any doubt on evolution? No. The reason is that such a falsification is impossible, even though the theory of purely random chance is almost certainly incorrect. Did SPencer say what would constitute a falsification of the "theory of natual variation"? If not, he is asking for the falsification of an unfalsifiable theory, and unfalsifiable theories are non-scientific (Popper). Essentially the challenge works nicely as rhetoric, but it suggests a rather "atypical" philosophy of science. P.S. I saw the "null hypothesis" thread on WUWT, it was incorrect there as well, for much the same reason. Scientific theories are not equally plausible just because neither has been falsified; in that situation science has used the "weight of evidence" for a long time. As David Hume says "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence." (he could also out-consume Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, so he was someone worth listening to!)
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