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The New “Skeptical Science” Website: What is Going On Here?

I was recently informed of a website called “Skeptical Science” run by a Mr. John Cook. As a scientist (physicist), I decided to check it out to see what I could learn. I started with the assumption that Mr. Cook was a competent and well-intentioned person. After some looking around there, here’s what I found out and concluded.

The first red flag is the fact that Science (by definition) is skeptical, so why the repetition in the name? It’s something like naming a site “The attractive fashion model”.

Of more concern is the fact that (c0ntrary to what one might be led to believe by the title) the site is actually focused against skeptical scientists — specifically those who have the temerity to question anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Hmmm.

Mr. Cook says he’s motivated by his young daughter’s future. Great — all the more reason he should want to get it right.

I was fascinated by his site’s supposedly comprehensive list of 119 reasons given by “AGW skeptics,” as well as his rather cursory dismissal of each of these.

For instance, his answer to the consensus matter (#3) is that “97% of climatologists support AGW.” Well that in itself is debatable, but nowhere do I see any discussion that addresses the larger issue: the fact that science is not decided by consensus. What was the consensus of 99% of the “experts” about the solar system in Galileo’s time? Twenty-five years ago what was the consensus of 99% of the “experts” about the cause of ulcers? In both cases (and in many others) 99% of the experts were 100% wrong. That is exactly why science is not decided by consensus.

Another example is item #94: “Over 31,000 scientists signed the OISM Petition Project” and his response is  “The ‘OISM petition’ was signed by only a few climatologists.” Maybe I’m missing something, but I thought that this was a scientific matter (remember the website title?). Is he really saying something so elitist as “physicist, chemists, biologists and other scientists are not qualified to assess the scientific legitimacy of AGW”? Apparently so.

Oops — if so then that means that Dr. Hansen’s theories should be discarded, since he is a physicist!

Further, if Mr. Cook is saying we should listen only to specialists, and if Mr. Cook is not a specialist in climate science, what is his authority for reaching such a conclusion?  Should I also ask my barber who to listen to?

The OISM petition should be looked at as a peer-review process where a great number of scientists (from many fields) have concluded that a relatively small number of specialized scientists (climatologists) have diverged from good scientific practices. In other words, the 31,000± petition signers have concluded that the methodology for supporting AGW was more political than scientific.

The IPCC’s Own (Back Door) Skepticism: Two Examples for Mr. Cook

The Skeptical Science website can begin its revision with these two quotations from the IPCC itself to introduce skepticism toward climate alarmism and open-ended policy activism. Here they are:

“The set of available models may share fundamental inadequacies, the effects of which cannot be quantified.”

- IPCC, Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis (Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 805.

“Limited and early analytical results from integrated analyses of the cost and benefits of mitigation indicate that these are broadly comparable in magnitude, but do not as yet permit an unambiguous determination of an emissions pathway or stabilization level where benefits exceed costs.”

- IPCC, Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change (Working Group III Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 18.

So in my opinion (as a physicist), the most surprising thing is that his exhaustive list of 119 reasons does not get to the fundamentals of the AGW debate in its scientific and public policy dimensions. How can such an extensive enumeration omit the most important core issues?

Maybe it’s partly our fault. In response to the AGW claims of its proponents, it seems that good sites like this tend to respond with a shotgun approach, instead of using a rifle. For example, look at the recent articles in WattsUpWithThat. They cover an exceptionally diverse list of topics.

That’s good in some ways, but it’s bad if it leads any of us to lose our focus.

So what IS the number one concern about AGW? The answer lies in what science is all about.

The Scientific Method

Science is NOT a collection of data. Science is a PROCESS. (That’s why when 31,000 scientists criticize the process, it is apropos and significant.) When an answer (e.g., AGW) is proposed to a technical problem it is entirely up to the proponents to subject it to the SCIENTIFIC METHOD.

This has NOT been done — and is by FAR the number one deficiency of the AGW hypothesis.

AGW promoters are well aware of this key shortcoming. Their solution is to devalue the merits of the Scientific Method. Of course, they usually aren’t foolish enough to come out and say that specifically, but that is the effect of their actions.

So how are AGW proponents attempting to undermine real science? It’s in their assertions that “consensus” trumps the Scientific Method; that computer models are superior to empirical evidence; that we don’t have the time to get down and dirty so the precautionary principle justifies specious extrapolation; that “Post Normal Science” is a better way of resolving complex technical issues, etc., etc.

This is, in a word, bunk.

The Scientific Method is at the core of real science. Until AGW (and other illegitimate offspring — e.g., wind energy) are truly subjected to the Scientific Method, they remain entirely in the category of being unproven hypotheses.

We simply must keep this is mind as the most fundamental of ALL issues here.

83 comments

1 Gavin Andresen { 08.13.10 at 8:17 am }

You’re committing the logical fallacy of false alternatives here, positioning the AGW hypothesis as “useless until subjected to the Scientific Method.”

A hypothesis can be useful or illuminating or the basis for rational policy decisions even if it is later proven to be incorrect. We have to do the best we can with imperfect information; you seem to be saying we should always wait for Scientifically Proven Facts before taking action.

(Aside: personally, I think that the proper reaction to the AGW hypothesis is “adapt to the change,” because that is the only politically realistic course of action and because economically that is the policy that makes the most sense).

2 Chip Knappenberger { 08.13.10 at 9:44 am }

John,

As a climate scientist myself, it is not clear to me how the development of the theory of AGW deviates from the scientific method.

What part of the theory that enhanced levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases emitted by human activities will warm the earth do you think was developed not according to the correct method?

-Chip

3 Tom Fuller { 08.13.10 at 12:03 pm }

Hi all,

Chip, if I can step in front of our host here, I would say that there are two global warming theories. The first is the completely non-controversial theory that doubling concentrations of CO2 in our atmosphere will lead to a rise in gmt of about 1.6 degrees C.

The second is that the sensitivity of our atmosphere is so high that this warming will create large volumes of water vapor that will magnify warming from CO2 by up to 4.5 times. The science surrounding this second theory is far less robust, in my opinion and in that of many others.

What starts the cat fight is when people say that because we don’t believe in theory 2, we don’t believe in theory 1. Or alternatively, that theory 1 requires belief in theory 2.

As many readers will be aware, I’m lifting from memory from the weblog Climate Skeptic and Mr. Meyer.

4 James Mayeau { 08.13.10 at 1:32 pm }

Chip

I’d say – (can I get in on this or would that be rude?) – ok well, I’d say the part of the theory where ghg are already saturated at low (sub 280 ppm Co2) levels already occuring naturally in the pre industrial atmosphere.

The average IPCC supporting climatologist sort of hand waves past that.

5 Chip Knappenberger { 08.13.10 at 3:01 pm }

James,

I am pretty sure you can go into the lab and demonstrate that that is not the case.

-Chip

6 John Droz { 08.13.10 at 3:24 pm }

Chip:

Not sure whether you are asking a tongue-in-cheek question, but let’s say yes.

Science is premised on the PROCESS (Scientific Method) that it is entirely up to proponent of a hypothesis (e.g. AGW, wind energy) to provide comprehensive, objective, independent, transparent, empirical proof that his hypothesis is valid.

Until that standard has been realized, a hypothesis stays as a hypothesis: simply a possible explanation.

If you believe that AGW has been subjected to the Scientific Method, then send me to the report that shows the specifics.

7 Chip Knappenberger { 08.13.10 at 3:36 pm }

John,

I am not sure which part that you are suggesting hasn’t been thoroughly tested?

That humans aren’t responsible for the rising atmospheric CO2 levels or that CO2 isn’t a radiatively active gas?

Don’t those two things pretty much cover the basic “theory”?

What’s left is to work out the details of what, when, where, and how much.

-Chip

8 John Droz { 08.13.10 at 4:13 pm }

Chip:

Maybe my skeptical science roots are too deep.

When I look at the AGW proponents position, and their justifications for it, I see a disorganized hodgepodge of conflicting, incomplete, proprietary reports, mostly based on computer models.

I see no AGW study that is comprehensive, objective, independent, transparent, and based on empirical data.

If I am missing it, please refer me to the link where it resides.

9 Chip Knappenberger { 08.13.10 at 5:25 pm }

John,

Certainly, you’ll get no argument from me that many claims as to what AGW may bring are not on particularly firm footing, however, the basic concept of a human alteration to the global climate through greenhouse gas emissions doesn’t leave much room for scientifically-grounded contention.

-Chip

10 GM { 08.13.10 at 6:33 pm }

Ah, great, we’re also going to delete inconvenient comments…

11 John Droz { 08.13.10 at 7:14 pm }

Chip:

In my view, AGW is a LOT more than you are alluding to.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but (fro what I have seen) it appears that AGW proponents have the following stated or imbedded beliefs:
1) We currently have the ability to measure and report on an average annual global temperature to .01 degree Celsius
2) We have the ability to empirically calculate this same average global temperature, with this same degree of accuracy, over the last few thousand years
3) Based on the data from #1 & #2, the earth has recently (100± years) been warming
4) Based on historical records (#2), the earth is warming to an unusually high degree
5) This increase (in the last 100 years) has been .74± degrees Celsius
6) This warming will continue (or increase) for the foreseeable future (business as usual)
7) This warming will soon have profound negative environmental and economic consequences to all of the earth’s inhabitants
8) The mechanics of the earth’s recent warming are essentially entirely explained by the Greenhouse Gas theory
9) CO2 increases is the primary greenhouse gas driver that explains earth’s recent warming
10) That 350 PPM of CO2 is a critical concentration that we should not exceed
11) Other greenhouse gasses (e.g. water vapor) are discounted as consequential causes of recent warming
12) Most CO2 increases are man-made
13) The fact that we don’t understand a significant amount about CO2 sinks has been deemed to be irrelevant.
14) The solution of restricting man-made CO2 has passed an objective cost-benefits analysis
15) That proprietary computer models produce results equivalent to empirical testing

That is a more detailed description of the AGW hypothesis. No?

12 GM { 08.13.10 at 7:29 pm }

Just to illustrate the absurdity of this article, here is what has been posted on this blog before:

http://www.masterresource.org/2010/07/milton-friedman-on-mineral-resources-2010/

Where the following comments appeared:

rbradley { 07.30.10 at 7:40 am }
Matteo:

I invite you to peruse the linked essay on resourceship. Your view is the natural science view; my view (and that of Friedman and Erich Zimmermann) is business and economics.

From the social viewpoint, minerals are ‘reproducible’ because they can be found and conserved to increase effective supply. The historical record supports the expansionist view of “resources are not, they become” and “resources come from the mind, not the ground,” as Zimmermann stressed.

And another one:

rbradley { 08.04.10 at 9:43 am }
GM:

This is a revealing and a not-all-surprising comment from the physical science viewpoint. You are missing the real world of economics and business where human ingenuity is the ultimate resource.

I would urge you to read and study my “Resourceship” article:
http://www.politicalcapitalism.org/aboutrb/Resourceship.pdf

And the article cited is full of howlers of that kind.

So basically, given the attitude towards science, illustrated by the above comments, what exactly is it that gives you the right to come out and preach about “skepticism” and proper scientific practice, when you are rejecting the very idea that science matters and when you are explicitly motivated by free market ideology/religion first, and by everything else second, and you aren’t even hiding it? You are reaching the absolute heights of hypocrisy with this post.

RLB: a lot of fussing and name calling but not a lot of analysis–I did not want to post this just because of its bad tone and lack of substance. GM: can we show a bit more respect next time?

13 Chip Knappenberger { 08.13.10 at 8:46 pm }

John,

If that is how you care to define it. I didn’t see that definition in your article. I just saw a generalized reference to AGW.

To me, “anthropogenic global warming” is just what it says…human are causing the global to warm. I find this statement true, so count me among the 97%. In fact, had you asked me to estimate what that percentage was a priori, I would have guessed pretty close to that number. I know of extremely few climate scientists who don’t think human greenhouse emissions are leading to a warmer world.

You have laid out a whole host of other characteristics that I guess could be thought of as corollaries the basic theory of AGW. Some of which are scientific questions, others which are assertions. But many of which don’t have anything to do with the the failure of applying the scientific method–which you identified in your article as the “number one deficiency of the AGW hypothesis.”

My point is that I think the basics are sound science, it is the details that still need some working out. And in your article, this distinction did come come across to me.

-Chip

14 Ed Reid { 08.13.10 at 8:50 pm }

John,

1) If we have the ability to measure annual average temperature to 0.01C, why do we consciously decide not to do so? Why do the measured temperature data need to be adjusted, in-filled, folded, bent, spindled and mutilated before they can become part of the global temperature record?

2)How can you know the global temperature history over the last few thousand years until Keith Briffa’s much anticipated new book, “A Tree Grows in Yamal” has been subjected to peer review?

Enquiring minds want to know. :-)

15 DR { 08.13.10 at 8:51 pm }
16 John Droz { 08.13.10 at 9:05 pm }

Ed:

I didn’t say that I agreed with any of these 15 points.

I personally think that there are legitimate questions to be asked about EACH of them — and certainly the composite.

17 John Droz { 08.13.10 at 9:12 pm }

Chip:

AGW is a lot more than “humans cause the planet temp to rise”.

Each of those 15 points is imbedded as part of the AGW hypothesis.

If it was only what you say, the obvious answers would be:
1 – how do we know this to be true (see points#1 thru #5)?
2 – how does it happen (see…)?
3 – so what if they do (see…)?
4 – etc.

All of those are “answered” in the 15 points I came up with off the top of my head — so there well may be others.

So to say that AGW is a simple inoccuous statement is — OK, you are joking right?

I

18 Chip Knappenberger { 08.13.10 at 10:39 pm }

John,

Like I said, you can define it however you’d like just as long as we all know what you are talking about.

I would venture a guess that only a tiny number of people hold the view as described in your 15 points.

-Chip

19 Paul in Sweden { 08.14.10 at 12:17 am }

“Chip#7 says:
“What’s left is to work out the details of what, when, where, and how much.”

That is basically it Chip, but we need more than a nutshell to put the voluminous details of “what, when, where, and how much” when evidence is produced some time in the future. Until those details are answered, CO2 must continue to be considered plant food and not pollution as it has been recently proposed.

Tom Fuller has a ‘belief’ that a doubling concentrations of CO2 in our atmosphere will lead to a rise in gmt of about 1.6 degrees C. Lindzen has a 0.5C ‘belief’ for that same doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration. Until further study of feedbacks & the dynamics of the global climate are subjected to the scientific method we will not know the details of “what, when, where, and how much.”

John Droz sums it all up nicely in the OP, “The Scientific Method is at the core of real science. Until AGW (and other illegitimate offspring — e.g., wind energy) are truly subjected to the Scientific Method, they remain entirely in the category of being unproven hypotheses.” Gavin #1 brings it home with: “(Aside: personally, I think that the proper reaction to the AGW hypothesis is “adapt to the change,” because that is the only politically realistic course of action and because economically that is the policy that makes the most sense).”

I couldn’t agree more with those statements by John and Gavin.

20 John Droz { 08.14.10 at 6:14 am }

Chip:

None of what I wrote is “my” definition of AGW.

The points I enumerated are those specifically expressed by proponents of AGW. I have communicated with hundreds and I simply collected these items after ferreting them out.

These points are certainly held by the Hansens and Gores on this issue — and they are contending that they have “consensus” behind them.

It’s good that you say that only a tiny number of people (did you mean climatologists?) ascribe to these points.

As a climate scientist, please tell me which of the 15 items you believe are specifically not part of the AGW hypothesis.

If you have better wording for any of them, I’d appreciate that as well.

21 Hammiesink { 08.14.10 at 9:52 am }

“The first red flag is the fact that Science (by definition) is skeptical, so why the repetition in the name? ”

Because he tries to avoid using the term “denier.” He could have called it DenierScience but it would have ended the debate before it began.

“Of more concern is the fact that the site is actually focused against skeptical scientists — specifically those who have the temerity to question anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Hmmm.”

It’s focused on debunking nonsensical arguments, not skeptical scientists per se.

“For instance, his answer to the consensus matter (#3) is that “97% of climatologists support AGW.” Well that in itself is debatable, but nowhere do I see any discussion that addresses the larger issue: the fact that science is not decided by consensus.”

Skeptics: There is no consensus. Cook: Yes there is. Skeptics: Science isn’t done by consensus. Cook: *bangs head against wall*

I.e., Cook is responding to one single allegation here.

“Is he really saying something so elitist as “physicist, chemists, biologists and other scientists are not qualified to assess the scientific legitimacy of AGW”? Apparently so.”

No, he is saying that when you have a question, you go to the people who study that question. Want to know if the universe is expanding? Ask cosmologists. If someone from the Universe Is Not Expanding Institute came to me with a survey of 30,000 dogcatchers and podiatrists who don’t think the universe is expanding, I would be rightly suspicious and ask them why there are so few cosmologists on their list.

“This has NOT been done — and is by FAR the number one deficiency of the AGW hypothesis.”

I have no idea where you are getting this. Have you read the IPCC reports? They read like science. They are full of uncertainty. “This paper supports this, but that paper doesn’t, so there is not enough evidence of this yet” and “So far most research supports this, but that still remains to be seen” and is sprinkled liberally with “likely” and “not likely” and “don’t know yet” and so on.

22 cknappenberger { 08.14.10 at 2:38 pm }

John,

Sure it is your definition! It is definitely not my definition, which I already gave you.

Perhaps your definition is shared by others, but like I said, I would imagine that number to be relatively few.

I am not sure how to address your 15 points. They seem a mishmash of statements, some of which are generally true (e.g. points 3, 6, 12), some of which are weird characterizations of things (e.g. points 1&2, did you leave off the uncertainty which accompanies the data on purpose?), some which are are very extreme characterizations (e.g. point 10–many more people support a limit of 450 ppm than do 350ppm), some of which are clearly contentious (e.g. points 7, 14, 15), and others which are somewhere in between.

This leads me to believe that only a select few people would agree that this is a good definition of AGW.

-Chip

23 BobRGeologist { 08.14.10 at 2:44 pm }

All of the above AGW enthusiasts cannot see beyond the end of their collective noses and condemn any temperature increase at a time our planet is in a glacial mode with iced up polar regions. Our only protection from the next 100,000 year Pleistocene ice age is a robust greenhouse gas to help our sun through its weaker moments. It is our only protection from an iced up world. The answer lies in past climate history and the fact that there has never been a mass extinction due to excessive warmth. There have been 3 major extinctions due to ice. For humanity’s sake, read the world climate history before your counterproductive efforts bring on the ice and ruin our fiscal ability to adapt. Climate has always been variable. Why do you think 98% of all species that have ever lived are now extinct? Man controlled climates is the equivalent of driving railroad spikes with a tack hammer.

24 John Droz { 08.14.10 at 8:20 pm }

Chip:

Sorry I was not clear. The definition I presented is a compilation of what AGW proponents have told me their position entails. None of it is mine.

Since you are the climate scientist, please show me what is a more accurate representation of the AGW position.

Let’s start with #1 and #2.

Please reword them to you you feel is more accurate.

25 GM { 08.14.10 at 10:19 pm }

RLB: a lot of fussing and name calling but not a lot of analysis–I did not want to post this just because of its bad tone and lack of substance. GM: can we show a bit more respect next time?

Respect is given when it’s earned, or more precisely, when it hasn’t been lost (I approach everyone who I don’t know with a great amount of respect, but what happens after that is what determines my final attitude towards that person). I still maintain that you have demonstrated that you do not care at all about science, based on a number of your writings, as you are more than willing to separate worldviews into “physical sciences” and “economics” and give more weight to the other, when the reality is that:

1. Economics has absolutely no basis whatsoever to claim it is a science. It may uses some components of the scientific method here and there but there are some very fundamental portions of it that are taken completely on faith without any demonstration whatsoever of their validity (and they also happen to be wrong, which is the truly tragic problem). Those are not characteristics of proper science, but of religions.

2. Even if there were no methodological and philosophical problems with economics, it is absurd to claim superiority of economics to physical science. Because we do not live in an economic universe, we live in a physical one, which has been governed by physical laws for 99.999998% (and that’s almost precise) of its existence, and it has absolutely no intention to change its laws just because 200 years ago economics was invented on a tiny insignificant planet somewhere in the backwoods of one of the billions galaxies in that universe. The economy is a tiny tiny subsystem of the universe and it is governed by the laws of nature just as everything else, therefore the study of that subsystem should be constrained by the knowledge about the laws of nature generated by physical science. Not the other way around.

What is deeply ironic is that a lot of things in the original blog post about the scientific method are correct on the surface. What is absolutely not correct is to then turn around and immediately throw them in the trash when you have to defend your preconceived worldviews. Which is why you got called out.

BTW, one difference between scientists and economists is that the former spend a lot less time in the kind of places where your ability to do small talk, to present yourself as generally likable and be politically correct is vitally important if you are to fit in the social environment than economists do. Instead they spend a lot of time arguing over data and its interpretations, where saying what you really think without sugarcoating it wins you points, and those arguments can get pretty heated, especially in academic cultures outside the US (where I happen to come from even though I do my science in the US now). Which is the reason for your complaints about the incivility of Ehrlich towards Julian Simon – it is not that Ehrlich was being an asshole, he was simply saying what he was thinking. So am I.

So I will state it again: until you show that you have actual respect for science, you have absolutely no moral right to be writing such blog posts.

26 cknappenberger { 08.14.10 at 10:31 pm }

John,

Why do you need a AGW platform?

If you want to explore the temperature record, then explore the temperature record and what implications it may have. If you want to explore a cost benefit analysis, then do that. If you want to explore why atmospheric CO2 levels are rising, what the climate sensitivity is, what role water vapor may play, then explore those topic.

But to say that the lack of the application of the scientific process is the “number one deficiency of the AGW hypothesis” doesn’t make much sense to me.

I guess if you feel the need to have a AGW platform, I would recommend the IPCC.

-Chip

27 Jon Boone { 08.14.10 at 11:05 pm }

A number of good points are made here, and follow-up discussion could take a semester long seminar. To Gavin’s point that “a hypothesis can be useful or illuminating or the basis for rational policy decisions even if it is later proven to be incorrect,” I offer a caveat. I think that good hypotheses can be extremely useful for illuminating policy DELIBERATIONS, for they should spur the investigative impulse to determine whether they can be proven incorrect. However, an hypothesis that is demonstrably wrong should not be the basis of any DECISION to implement policy, whether the hypothesis suggests that it’s better to appease Hitler (clearly Chamberlain didn’t know much recent history) or whether it contends that massive wind technology subsides will no anything to decrease “dependence” on fossil fuels. And yes, let’s deregulate the banking industry even more, hypothesizing that Goldman Sachs, for example, can serve God and mammon by integrating its savings operation with its investment group and by severing mortgage “investments” from their connection with housing. By all means, let these ideas surface and vet them against reality, using expert policy wonks and truly independent corporate boards, rather than the political and industry flacks in these positions that we have seen in recent years.

I also enjoyed reading the comments of Tom Fuller, leavened as they were by those of Paul in Sweden.

There is much Chip says that is true–as far as it goes. One might ask, for example, precisely what qualifications one needs to be a “climate scientist,” given such a huge range of multi and cross disciplinary subjects involved–chemistry, physics, geology, oceanography, soils, biology (plant and animal), meteorology, astronomy (solar and cosmic radiation) to name but a few. Of these, the models behind continental drift and plate techtonics are so new that they are still being developed. Even the baseline data used to establish recent warming trends is suspect–and trustworthy new ones, documented by satellite data, won’t be in place for some years. Having sufficient knowledge of these areas might have been daunting to Leonardo da Vinci.

I’m not qualified to address the idea of whether, or to what extent, human activity is altering the climate of the earth, although I am aware that it has adversely altered much of the land and continues to threaten much of the earths flora, fauna, and sensitive ecosystems.

What is clear to me, however, is how complex and complicated the climate issue is. Perhaps only the nature of human consciousness is more complex and complicated. There may be a primary principle at work, such as a cascade effect from a surfeit of greenhouse gases. But, as Paul suggests here, the feedback loops that may be at play within the yet unknown dynamics of climate should give any climate researcher pause before concluding that increased dosages of atmospheric CO2 will result in a certain range of temperature 100 years from now. We know so little about solar activity and even less about how clouds form. And even less about cosmic radiation–and how all of these things interact to affect climate.

Anyone with experience operating a greenhouse knows how the effect works, how even small changes in temperature can influence the plants in its fold. However, this is not much of a “laboratory” compared with the immensity of the earth’s dynamics. The various computer simulations that attempt to model such a vast system seem inadequate, not only because the data input is surely incomplete and perhaps suspect; but also because the algorithms used to run the simulations are far too uninformed about all the variables at play. For me, there is a kind of Noh theatre involved here, a stylized masque that permeates the investigation. That so much of the inquiry seems to be proprietary, such that much of the collected data is unavailable for independent review, even after it has been studied, is cause for concern. And, as the physicist Richard Feynman once said in a general discussion about scientific integrity: ” There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea
for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else
come out right, in addition.” I don’t see a lot of this kind of explanation offered by those posing the greenhouse gas hypothesis. Perhaps it’s because their explorations are so preliminary.

In any event, I would be astonished if the 97% of climate scientists mentioned by Chip were all in accord about the causes of the warming of certain parts of the earth, or that even a majority concurred that increased CO2 levels induced by human activity were the sufficient reason (although they may be a necessary factor).

28 John Droz { 08.15.10 at 5:47 am }

Chip:

I’m sure that you aren’t purposefully avoiding answering my posted questions here, and am going to assume that you were distracted with other issues.

As I wrote earlier, in my view the research supporting the AGW hypothesis has been a disorganized hodgepodge of conflicting, incomplete, proprietary reports, mostly based on computer models.

It’s akin to the several blind men analyzing the elephant. Yes we have great detail as to what constitutes the chemical composition of the elephant’s toenail. We know, very accurately, the temperature of his breath. We know exactly how deep his ear canal is. Etc.

So what?

It is the COMPOSITE of these individual analyses that is the the only thing that really matters.

In this case the composite is (to the best of my limited communication skills) the 15 points I identified (after carefully listening to each of the blind men).

You said that the Scientific Method has been employed that puts this all together to prove that we have an elephant on our hands. I asked to see that report and you referred me to the toe analysis, etc.

You said you didn’t like the wording in points #1 and #2, so I said please send me an edited version that is more accurate. Hopefully you are working on that answer too.

29 John Droz { 08.15.10 at 5:54 am }

GM:

I am not the authority to speak for what appears in Master Resource, but my opinion as a contributor is that different authors have different perspectives.

You are not expecting all of us to be identical in our beliefs, are you?

As far as physical science vs economics, my personal belief is that such things as physics need to be resolved before we get to the economics.

You may be right that there is a different perspective in my articles from the ones you cited. As the French say: “Vive la difference”.

You should be writing Master Resource thanking them for publishing a diversity of views.

30 John Cook { 08.15.10 at 9:10 am }

Hi, this is John Cook from Skeptical Science. Sorry I’m coming into this discussion a little late, I only just found out about this post.

Firstly, let me say agree with much of what you say. I agree that science isn’t determined by consensus. If you got that impression from my website, obviously I need to work on my explanation. The point of my page on scientific consensus (http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus.htm) and the OISM project (http://www.skepticalscience.com/OISM-Petition-Project.htm) is to counter the argument that lots of scientists don’t believe in Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) – ironically, this argument itself is somewhat of an argument from authority.

When you look at these lists of scientists who are skeptical of AGW, you notice that they contain many scientists whose area of expertise has little or nothing to do with climate scientists. We have medical scientists, mechanical engineers, zoologists, metallurgists, etc. Would you trust a mechanical engineer to perform heart surgery on you? Would you hire a medical scientist to design a bridge?

A more appropriate approach is to look at the scientist’s level of expertise regarding climate science. And what you find is the more expertise they have in climate science, the higher the percentage that is convinced by the evidence for AGW. When you get to the top tier – climate scientists who are actively publishing peer-reviewed research on climate science, you get 97% of climate scientists convinced of AGW.

Does this prove AGW? No. But it does show the irrelevance of such petitions as the OISM Project. However, my personal opinion is that the reason there is a consensus of climate scientists is because there is a consensus of evidence.

John, you say there is no AGW study that is comprehensive, objective, independent, transparent, and based on empirical data. I would say there are many studies that fulfil those qualifications. There is Harris 2001 which looks at satellite measurements of outgoing radiation to find less heat escaping to space at CO2 wavelengths – this is direct observational confirmation of an increased greenhouse effect. This is independently confirmed by Griggs 2004 and Chen 2007 using data series from other satellites. Additional confirmation comes from a completely different set of observations – Wang 2009, Philipona 2004 and Evans 2006 all look at downward infrared radiation and find more heat returning to the Earth’s surface – Evans 2006 analyses the infrared spectrum to even quantify the relative contributions of the different greenhouse gases. So we have direct empirical data painting a comprehensive, objective, independently confirmed consistent picture that rising CO2 is trapping more heat.

There are many other directly observed “human fingerprints” in climate change (I’ve posted a few of them at http://www.skepticalscience.com/10-Indicators-of-a-Human-Fingerprint-on-Climate-Change.html). The evidence is quite independent of climate models which while offering valuable assistance in understanding climate are by no means necessary to establish the evidence that humans are causing global warming. Personally, I think climate models get a lot of unnecessarily bad press but perhaps spending so much time conversing with skeptics has rubbed off on me as the emphasis on Skeptical Science is very heavily on the importance of empirical evidence. So I’m quite happy to jump on board the Scientific Method bandwagon with you.

31 rbradley { 08.15.10 at 1:31 pm }

To John Cook:

Sorry that your post was delayed for approval: the moderators have been out of town and the comments on this post have been high.

Two points:
1) I think the real physical science debate–and the difference between CO2 being a positive or negative externality for public policy purposes–turns around highly uncertain feedback effects. And it is here that climate models cannot be trusted. John Droz quoted the IPCC ‘consensus’ on this: “The set of available models may share fundamental inadequacies, the effects of which cannot be quantified.”
- IPCC, Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, p. 805.

Does your rejection of ‘skepticism” deal with this vital area?

2) Now turning to policy. There seems to be at least some IPCC skepticism toward calling CO2 a negative externality where net costs are negative and large. Again, a Droz quotation:

“Limited and early analytical results from integrated analyses of the cost and benefits of mitigation indicate that these are broadly comparable in magnitude, but do not as yet permit an unambiguous determination of an emissions pathway or stabilization level where benefits exceed costs.”
- IPCC, Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change, p. 18.

Indeed, there is not only market failure in the view of those who want to price CO2 but also government failure and analytic failure. Does your site deal with this issue as it should?

- Rob Bradley

32 Paul in Sweden { 08.15.10 at 3:43 pm }

When you get to the top tier – climate scientists who are actively publishing peer-reviewed research on climate science, you get 97% of climate scientists convinced of AGW.

John Cook#30,

That great climate scientist consensus on AGW that you point to on your website link above comes down to 75 out of 77 individuals(who felt they were climate scientists) of the 3146 respondents out of 10257 earth scientists invited to respond to an online survey, who answered “yes”, to the question “Do you think human activity is a significant?” PERIOD
-http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf

Do you think human activity is significant? Not the decisive question that CAGW activists would have us believe the 97 percent climate scientist consensus entails.

If just one of the 75 self-identified climate scientists answering Yes, we think(believe) human activity is significant additionally provided quantifiable observational evidence of anthropogenic GHG emissions effect on Global Climate we would not even need to concern ourselves with the opinions or beliefs of any of the other participants in your 97 percent CAGW opinion survey.

Consensus is not science and your cited online survey is hardly a ringing authoritative endorsement of anthropogenic global warming.

33 John Droz { 08.15.10 at 4:54 pm }

John Cook:

Thank you for your constructive observations.

I had written you about two weeks ago (using your website form) but heard nothing back.

Per your comment “When you look at these lists of scientists who are skeptical of AGW, you notice that they contain many scientists whose area of expertise has little or nothing to do with climate scientists. We have medical scientists, mechanical engineers, zoologists, metallurgists, etc. Would you trust a mechanical engineer to perform heart surgery on you? Would you hire a medical scientist to design a bridge?”

As I tried to say in the piece, it is NOT a question of asking a medical scientist to design a bridge.

It IS a question whether the medical scientist (using your example) can assess whether the bridge designer is working in a scientific manner.

I say yes, the scientific PROCESS is identical across all scientific lines — which is what makes a field a science. Therefore, ANY scientist has a legitimate interest in, and is qualified to comment on, whether other scientist are following the proper process.

Whether or not certain parts of the AGW hypothesis were done properly, is worthy to examine, but is not the main issue. In other words, whether or not the chemical analysis of the elephant’s toenail was accurate, is not the cruix of the matter.

Some additional questions are: are the analyses of the blind men comprehensive? And what is the composite conclusion of their combined anayses?

Let’s say that the consensus of the blind men is that they have “an historic, amphibious, carnivorous animal.” That is their hypothesis after looking at a certain number of elements.

That hypothesis itself also needs to be tested via the Scientific Method. And the test is NOT to say “see if the chemical analysis of the toenails was done right” etc.

To my knowledge, such an analysis of the AGW hypothesis has not been. Hopefully you support such an effort — and before AGW gets incorporated into our public policies.

34 John Cook { 08.15.10 at 6:27 pm }

rbradley #31:
Sorry about the reposting of my comment. Normally I don’t do that – it annoys me no end when people do it on my site. But when I saw that comments were being accepted after my comment was posted, I couldn’t resist. I’ll show stronger will power next time.

I agree, the “real physical science debate” turns on climate feedback and I would be delighted if that’s where most discussion was focused (rather than nonsense issues like attacking the temperature record or trying to deny the CO2 greenhouse effect). Fortunately, we do have an empirical method of checking whether models get climate feedback right or not – we look at the Earth’s past and see how much global temperature has changed in response to changes in the planet’s energy balance. And what we find, looking over many different periods, the last few millenium, 15000 years ago when we came out of an ice age and even going back millions of years, is that the climate has net positive feedback and the “climate sensitivity” tends to centre around a most likely value of 3 degrees Celsius for a doubling of CO2. So again, I take the skeptical approach – assimilate the full body of evidence before coming to a conclusion. In this case, the full body of evidence comprises independent empirical measurements pointing towards a single, most likely answer – net positive feedback.

Does my site deal with policy questions? No. I’ve made the deliberate decision to focus on three specific questions: Is global warming happening? Are we causing it? Is global warming bad for us? These are purely scientific questions. My original plan was to gradually move more into the questions of solutions and I’ve been thinking more and more about that. I figured as the debate moved onto solutions, so would I. But strangely, to my surprise actually, there are still many people stuck on those first 3 questions. So for now, I’m sticking to what I do best – address the science. There are plenty of other good sites looking at solutions.

To Paul in Sweden #32, the consensus of climate scientists comes from two separate papers that use independent methods. Doran 2009 surveys the 75 of 77 climate scientists. Anderegg 2010 compiles a much larger sample of scientists who have publicly put their name to statements either supporting or rejecting the consensus. Both get similar results.

For the record, the question in Doran 2009 was “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?” Of course, what I find more interesting is the question of *why* there is such a strong consensus of climate scientists. I would argue that it’s because of the consensus of evidence.

To John Droz at #33, apologies but somehow I missed your email. I don’t subscribe to the view that any scientist’s view is just as qualified as a climate scientist’s on matters of climate science. To be as qualified, the scientist would need to be familiar not just with the scientific method but also the full body of evidence. And those most familiar with all the evidence are those scientists who have spent the professional career wading knee deep through the evidence every day they turn up to work. That these people are those most convinced by the evidence is a telling statistic.

Your requested “analysis of the AGW hypothesis”, synthesising all the various studies, sounds a lot like the IPCC reports.

35 Paul in Sweden { 08.15.10 at 8:08 pm }

To Paul in Sweden #32, the consensus of climate scientists comes from two separate papers that use independent methods. Doran 2009 surveys the 75 of 77 climate scientists. Anderegg 2010 compiles a much larger sample of scientists who have publicly put their name to statements either supporting or rejecting the consensus. Both get similar results.

John Cook #34

Here is your first study:
(-http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf):

An invitation to participate in the survey was sent to 10,257 Earth scientists. The database was built from Keane and Martinez [2007], which lists all geosciences faculty at reporting academic institutions, along with researchers at state geologic surveys associated with local universities, and researchers at U.S. federal research facilities (e.g., U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, and NOAA (U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) facilities; U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories; and so forth). To maximize the response rate, the survey was designed to take less than 2 minutes to complete, and it was administered by a professional online survey site ( http:// www . questionpro . com) that allowed one- time participation by those who received the invitation. This brief report addresses the two primary questions of the survey, which contained up to nine questions (the full study is given by Kendall Zimmerman [2008]):

1. When compared with pre- 1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?

2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?
[...]
Results show that overall, 90% of participants answered “risen” to question 1 and 82% answered yes to question 2. In general, as the level of active research and specialization in climate science increases, so does agreement with the two primary questions (Figure 1). In our survey, the most specialized and knowledgeable respondents (with regard to climate change) are those who listed climate science as their area of expertise and who also have published more than 50% of their recent peer- reviewed papers on the subject of climate change (79 individuals in total). Of these specialists, 96.2% (76 of 79) answered “risen” to question 1and 97.4% (75 of 77) answered yes to question 2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures? ] This is in contrast to results of a recent Gallup poll (see -http:// www . gallup. com/ poll/ 1615/ Environment . aspx)

Your second study John, the Anderegg Google Scholar author – English only – search compilation is nothing more than an activist blacklist. It is an embarrassment to the PNAS.

Should anyone here be unfamiliar with the scandal surrounding the Anderegg and late eco-activist Steve Schneider’s paper, it has been criticized throughout the blogosphere.

A New Black List – Roger Pielke Jr.’s Blog
“The paper is based on the tireless efforts of a climate blogger, self-described as “not an academic,” who has been frustrated by those who don’t share his views on climate change:”
-http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/06/new-black-list.html

Global warming: Debunking the Blacklist Paper, Part 1
Written by Thomas Fuller, SF Environmental Policy Examiner | August 5th, 2010 9:24 pm”
http://www.examiner.com/environmental-policy-in-national/global-warming-debunking-the-blacklist-paper-part-1

Debunking the Blacklist Paper, Part 2: The results were rigged
Written by Thomas Fuller, SF Environmental Policy Examiner | 06 August 2010
-http://www.climatechangefraud.com/enviro-extremists/7463-debunking-the-blacklist-paper-part-2-the-results-were-rigged

The online consensus of 75 of 77 climate science specialists who believe human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures, and the activist blacklist based on google searches are a sad commentary on the climate science concensus.

36 John Droz { 08.15.10 at 8:32 pm }

John Cook:

Your apologies accepted.

Sorry for my being less than a stellar communicator, but I did not intend to say that “any scientist’s view is just as qualified as a climate scientist’s on matters of climate science.”

What I said was is the central matter here (in my view) is PROCESS.

More specifically: have climate scientists employed the Scientific Method in the assessment of their elements AND theory.

As to evaluating this: ANY scientist’s view is just as qualified as a climate scientist’s on matters of sciencific process.
———–

Now to say that the IPCC’s AGW position papers qualify as a Scientific Method based critique of AGW, is humorous.

Let me review: the Scientific Method consists of comprehensive, objective, independent, transparent, empirical proof.

The IPCC’s work has very little of that.

But your probably right: that is the best the AGW proponents have.

Pretty pathetic that our standards have been so diluted that IPCC’s political agenda is considered equivalent to the Scientific Method.

37 nofreewind { 08.16.10 at 5:54 am }

Has it even warmed???
Look at this chart of temperatures from 1940-1997, it is basically flat, very little warming. Plot Hadley from 1940 to 1980 there is no change in temperature trend. Then plot satellite temp from 1978 to 1997 and that temperature trend is also basically flat.
http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut3vgl/from:1940/to:1980/mean:12/plot/uah/from:1979/to:1997/mean:12
If you look at temp this way, since 1940 – the beginning of the industrial age, the ONLY significant rise in temp was in 1998, and we all know that was due to El Nino when an enormous amount of heat was released from the ocean, and temps have been flat since.
http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut3vgl/from:1998/mean:12/plot/uah/from:1998/to/mean:12

38 Jeffrey eric grant { 08.16.10 at 2:45 pm }

OK, so here I am just a mechanical Engineer, but with an overwhelming naturalist side (I first wanted to be a forest ranger, then found that they were on food stamps). My over-riding question is “why only AGW CO2?” Does the atmosphere care where the CO2 came from? I have been doing a lot of research to try to find a CO2 balance study…to no avail. Golly, the EPA will limit this pollutant, just like it does lead particulates! The stuff must be bad for us, right?
I only ask one question: Why does no one do a study of the effects of various concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere? — real time. They could use the Biosphere (in AZ). I contend that increased CO2 is actually good for the plants and trees all around the globe. I think the reason I can’t find out too much on this subject is that either it has not been studied, or, perhaps the results are proprietary?

39 Robert Nagle { 08.16.10 at 8:07 pm }

First, thank you for restating the obvious that science doesn’t operate according to surveys.

The key question is whether it makes sense for society to assume a social and environmental risk when a peer-reviewed survey found that only 3% of experts in the field don’t agree that AGW exists. The position you are implicitly advocating seems to accept this risk.

In addition to describing the 97% survey article, I try to analyze what it means and does not mean here
http://www.imaginaryplanet.net/weblogs/idiotprogrammer/2010/01/97-of-climatologists-believe-human-activity-is-a-significant-factor-in-changing-global-mean-temperature/

40 nofreewind { 08.16.10 at 9:10 pm }

Very sorry to be repetitive. But did the globe even warm, except for the step up that occurred suddenly in 1998??
Look at the numbers. We didn’t have satellites until the late 70′s, and the satellites seem to be accepted as accurate by both sides. UAH and RSS don’t show ANY warming between 1977 and 1997. Prior to 1977 we only had land based thermometers, (which the historical accuracy of is disputed by the skeptics). The land based thermometer are tabulated and “corrected” by warmers, but they DONT SHOW ANY WARMING between 1940 and 1977 while CO2 was rising exponentially. Combine the two data sets and there is NO WARMING between 1940 and 1997, then we had a huge El Nino which spike both sets of temperatures, and we have been flat ever since.
http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut3vgl/from:1940/to:1980/mean:12/plot/uah/from:1977/to:1997/mean:12/plot/gistemp/from:1940/to:1980/mean:12/plot/rss/from:1977/to:1997/mean:12
Possibly the land based thermometers wouldn’t show any warming from 1940 to 1997, except they have been adjusted DOWN from 1940 to 1977 to show a long term warming trend.
And here is how the land based temperatures have been “corrected”, look at how they have been adjusted, by their own admission, since 1970!!
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/climate/research/ushcn/ts.ushcn_anom25_diffs_urb-raw_pg.gif
Has the globe even warmed, let alone from man’s hand? Maybe not. Not according to the data.

41 Paul in Sweden { 08.17.10 at 6:54 am }

@Robert Nagle

The 75 self-declared climate scientists who in an online survey indicated that they think(believe) human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures has no scientific value. The 75 self-declared climate scientists out of the 10,257 earth scientists invited to participate in the online survey only have spin value to eco-activists when those 75 self-declared climate scientists are represented as 97 percent of 77 climate scientists by eco-activists on their web blogs as you and John Cook have done on your web pages.

Regardless, 77 climate scientists stating a belief that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures is a long way off from evidence of a dire global emergency requiring the cessation of development in the third world and a restructuring of energy policies globally.

The key question remains, how could the CAGW hypothesis void of observational evidence have been allowed to siphon so many public resources?

42 John Droz { 08.17.10 at 7:30 am }

Robert:

This is a long post so maybe you missed my comments about this in the main article:

“What was the consensus of 99% of the “experts” about the solar system in Galileo’s time? Twenty-five years ago what was the consensus of 99% of the “experts” about the cause of ulcers? In both cases (and in many others) 99% of the experts were 100% wrong. That is exactly why science is not decided by consensus.”

So we should have employed the “precautionary” principle in Galileo’s time? That certinly would have benefited mankind.

And we did follow the consensus about ulcers — and millions of people were poorly served. Another result of skipping over real science.

Oh yes, in the Wright brothers time the scientific consensus was that air flight was a violation of the laws of nature. Guess we should have listened to the experts there too.

As a scientist I have zero confidence that the specious claim that 97% of “climate experts support AGW” is accurate. The devil is in the details.

Again: If the “experts” are right, then they can test their AGW hypothesis using the Scientific Method, and there should be no problem! That’s what real scientists do.

43 GM { 08.17.10 at 10:14 am }

Paul in Sweden { 08.17.10 at 6:54 am }
@Robert Nagle

The 75 self-declared climate scientists who in an online survey indicated that they think(believe) human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures has no scientific value. The 75 self-declared climate scientists out of the 10,257 earth scientists invited to participate in the online survey only have spin value to eco-activists when those 75 self-declared climate scientists are represented as 97 percent of 77 climate scientists by eco-activists on their web blogs as you and John Cook have done on your web pages.

What about the 85-90, or whatever it was, percent of the 10,257 scientists? Are they all wrong?

“What was the consensus of 99% of the “experts” about the solar system in Galileo’s time? Twenty-five years ago what was the consensus of 99% of the “experts” about the cause of ulcers? In both cases (and in many others) 99% of the experts were 100% wrong. That is exactly why science is not decided by consensus.”

So we should have employed the “precautionary” principle in Galileo’s time? That certinly would have benefited mankind.

Why is it that you aren’t asking the same question about the hundreds of other areas of science? Why aren’t you unconvinced that germs cause disease (and you should take antibiotics or antiviral substances to fight them), that cancer is caused by aberrant cell growth (and therefore you should get it excised, treated with chemotherapy, etc.) ? Why aren’t you doubting the physics of aerodynamics when you get on a plane? And so on and so on.

Why is that it is only on subject that are very inconvenient for the political convictions of some people that those same people bring up the “scientific consensus doesn’t equate objective truth”, “more research is needed until action is warranted”, and other canards? Why is it that only areas of science that expose the falsehood and inadequacy of people’s religious and political beliefs are getting attacked (evolutionary biology, climate science, ecology, etc.) while the rest is left untouched?

The reason is obvious – because for too many people, politics trumps science, and science is only useful when it supports the political agenda, while being a major nuisance when it doesn’t. But the universe hasn’t gotten the memo that it has to take into account the political convictions of people on the planet Earth into account, which is why science will continue to provide the best description of reality we have and we will continue to ignore it at our own peril.

The very idea that hundreds and thousands of scientists are involved in some sort of vast conspiracy to tax the hell out of the masses is absurd. After all, the actual work is done by graduate students, postdocs and programmers, who constantly come into the field from the outside, not by the scientists whose names are usually involved in the discussion, and who you see on TV. Why has no graduate student ever spoken out, out of hundreds possibly thousands of them, all over the globe?

The same goes for the idea that the whole of scientific community is incompetent and doesn’t know the basic rules of statistic and data processing, which is the other “argument” often thrown around.

If the vast majority of the scientific community accepts a given theory as true, then this is in all likelihood because that’s what the available data and evidence tell them. It doesn’t necessarily mean it is 100% true, but it would be insane to dismiss it due to it not being 100% certain.

44 GM { 08.17.10 at 10:29 am }

John Droz { 08.15.10 at 5:54 am }
GM:

I am not the authority to speak for what appears in Master Resource, but my opinion as a contributor is that different authors have different perspectives.

You are not expecting all of us to be identical in our beliefs, are you?

As far as physical science vs economics, my personal belief is that such things as physics need to be resolved before we get to the economics.

You may be right that there is a different perspective in my articles from the ones you cited. As the French say: “Vive la difference”.

You should be writing Master Resource thanking them for publishing a diversity of views.

Well, I doubt that the majority of people who read this site are looking carefully at the author’s name. So if one person writes long treatises on how the problem of scientists is that they aren’t looking at things from an “economics perspective”, then another person is schooling us on what the scientific method is and how climate science is supposedly violating it (which it isn’t, it is just doing the best it can given the nature of the field), the net effect is that conviction of the true heads that economics is the gospel truth and those pesky scientists should just go away and hide in some hole only gets stronger. Which is undesirable to say the least. Neither is it particularly fair

45 Jeffrey Eric Grant { 08.17.10 at 12:22 pm }

It seems to me that everyone has an opinion concerning AGW. After all, we all have the ability to observe local weather, and Global Warming is just a compilation of a large number of local weather observations, right? Or not right — a lot of adjusting to do….even the satellite data is ‘adjusted’ using land based observations! Put together a bunch of data into a Theory that other scientists can look at and test to their heart’s content, right? No, not right. Freedom of Information does not apply, so the data (even though it is publically funded) is withheld. You want to put forth a competing idea? Get your own data.
I’m sorry, this just doesn’t seem like a real scientific discussion to me. The more I look, the more frustrated I become.

46 Tom Stacy { 08.17.10 at 2:00 pm }

John Cook:

“When you get to the top tier – climate scientists who are actively publishing peer-reviewed research on climate science, you get 97% of climate scientists convinced of AGW. Does this prove AGW? No. But it does show the irrelevance of such petitions as the OISM Project.”

John, I would suggest that the identical level of irrelevance applies to both the 31,000 signatories and the 97% of top tier believers. In the “having a dog in the fight” department, I believe the 31,000 might be a bit less defensive about the level of scientific certainty.

47 Paul in Sweden { 08.17.10 at 2:59 pm }

@GM
“Why is it that you aren’t asking the same question about the hundreds of other areas of science? Why aren’t you unconvinced that germs cause disease (and you should take antibiotics or antiviral substances to fight them), that cancer is caused by aberrant cell growth (and therefore you should get it excised, treated with chemotherapy, etc.) ? Why aren’t you doubting the physics of aerodynamics when you get on a plane? And so on and so on.”

GM, I hold the fields of medicine and aerodynamics to a scientific standard. The ‘beliefs’ of John Cook’s top tier climate scientists in the absence of evidence is meaningless in science.

Would opinion surveys among the membership of Phrenological Societies convince you of the efficacy of phrenology?

There is no quantifiable evidence of anthropogenic influence on global climate.

We can seed clouds & sometimes make it rain. We can’t turn a thermostat dial and adjust the earth’s global temp and climate. If one day we can, I want a long discussion as I like it cold, love powder days in the winter and hate Monday morning showers. :)

48 GM { 08.17.10 at 3:37 pm }

Paul in Sweden { 08.17.10 at 2:59 pm }
Would opinion surveys among the membership of Phrenological Societies convince you of the efficacy of phrenology?

FYI, Climatology does not begin and end with AGW so your analogy is completely false. You just thrashed the whole field, which means that you have no idea what you’re talking about, and nicely demonstrates my point above.

49 Jeffrey Eric Grant { 08.17.10 at 4:24 pm }

So, I have carefully read the IPCC 2007 Reports and find a lot of very nice reading. It is a compendium of the recent literature. Analysis and political thought (with summarizing statements) abounds. What I don’t read is the real science. To get to that one must read the myriad studies, which I would like to do but I don’t have the necessary licenses. I would like the IPCC to fully state the hypothesis and describe the scientific experiments that were done to test the hypothesis. They certainly have the time and interest to do so. Why don’t they? The AGW crowd has had 40+ years to do their research and they have been (and still are) extremely well funded by governments around the world. I would think, by now, they would have more than a working theory.

50 Paul in SwedenP { 08.17.10 at 4:25 pm }

GM #48,

The problem seems to be confusion between evidence and beliefs. When climate scientists state that today’s current global temperatures have risen since the end of the Little Ice Age to levels almost equal to the global temperatures of the MWP according to non-dendro proxies & instrumental measurements, they are making a statement based on science which can be evaluated. When climate scientists, activists & national science bodies append “and we ‘believe’ that the rise in temperature is due to anthropogenic CO2 emissions” that is an unsubstantiated opinion.

There is a consensus that CO2 is a radiatively active gas. However, we have no evidence of the feedbacks resulting from an increase(doubling) of CO2 in our atmosphere.

Eco-activists have beliefs, fears & political motives regarding anthropogenic global warming. The scientific method takes a back seat in ‘climate science’.

Consensus is not science.

51 GM { 08.17.10 at 5:17 pm }

Jeffrey Eric Grant { 08.17.10 at 4:24 pm }
So, I have carefully read the IPCC 2007 Reports and find a lot of very nice reading. It is a compendium of the recent literature. Analysis and political thought (with summarizing statements) abounds.

Have you asked yourself the question what the purpose of the IPCC assessment reports is? It is to inform and advice the UN and politicians around the world. That’s what the IPCC was established for. So of course the dense science will be referenced and not discussed in details. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong

What I don’t read is the real science. To get to that one must read the myriad studies, which I would like to do but I don’t have the necessary licenses

.

Everybody at an university has access to those through the university subscription, which means that you are outside of academia. So you don’t know that nearly everybody at any university is for open access to the scientific literature, but the market is unregulated, which is the dream of free market ideologues and which is supposed to bring heaven on earth for everyone involved, but has resulted in having to pay $30 to read a single article if you don’t have the university library behind your IP. Yet, just because you can’t access those article, it doesn’t mean that those articles are fraudulent. What it means though, is that you probably aren’t particularly qualified to assess their validity as if you were, you would have had access.

I would like the IPCC to fully state the hypothesis and describe the scientific experiments that were done to test the hypothesis

.

It has done so countless times. Now if you are whining about the hypothesis not being tested, with hypothesis being that humans are warming the Earth and this will result in a disaster for those same humans, that hypothesis will be tested only once because there is only one planet. And it will be way too late at that point. Now if you’re asking about the hypothesis that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, that hypothesis has been throughly tested many decades ago (it originated in the 19th century in fact) and is an accepted fact derived from basic physics.

The problem with the grade school description of the scientific method is that it only applies to bench science where you have control over the experimental system. But science deals with a lot more than that, and when it comes to systems such as the paleontological record, the geology of the Earth, the climate of the planet, the universe, and many others, hypotheses are tested against observational evidence, not against experiments, because there is no way to do an experiment. What is so hard to understand?

They certainly have the time and interest to do so. Why don’t they? The AGW crowd has had 40+ years to do their research and they have been (and still are) extremely well funded by governments around the world. I would think, by now, they would have more than a working theory.

That last sentence reveals utter ignorance about the way science works, and complete scientific illiteracy. You aren’t really unaware of the difference in the meaning of the word “theory” between its common usage and its scientific usage, are you? And you added “working” in front of it, which only makes the comic effect even stronger.

Regarding funding: funding for climate research has been actually very very insufficient. A lot of crucial parameters have only been measured for a few years because the satellites to measure them didn’t go up until very recently, and they could have gone up a lot earlier, has the money been available. But it hasn’t been. The same with meteorological stations – it is a favorite argument of denialists that there are too few stations in the Arctic North. Well, guess why that is – because after the Cold War ended many of the few ones that were there were closed. And so on, and so on. It is simply laughable to claim that climate science (or any research that isn’t defense-related) has been “extremely well-funded”

52 Paul in Sweden { 08.17.10 at 6:07 pm }

@GM

I do not have to wonder what the purpose of the IPCC.

PRINCIPLES GOVERNING IPCC WORK
Approved at the Fourteenth Session (Vienna, 1-3 October 1998) on 1 October 1998, amended at the 21st
Session (Vienna, 3 and 6-7 November 2003) and at the 25th Session (Mauritius, 26-28 April 2006)

ROLE
2. The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.

IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy, although they may need to deal objectively with scientific, technical and socio-economic factors relevant to the application of particular policies.
http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/ipcc-principles/ipcc-principles.pdf

The IPCC has a preconceived notion that the warming of the earth since the end of the Little Ice Age is anthropogenic.

Welcome to ‘Climate Science’.
1 – Conclusion
2 – Gather supporting opinions/suppress evidence not supporting conclusion
3 – Implement global energy policy and wealth distribution

53 rbradley { 08.17.10 at 8:15 pm }

To John Cook:

Another peculiar aspect of the ‘consensus’ is that some very top mainstream climate scientists express views in private that they do not wish to publicize. This was my experience with Jerry North of Texas A&M over a full decade.

I wrote about this here: http://www.masterresource.org/2010/04/gerald-north-the-non-alarmist-alarmist/

His sensitivity range is 2C plus or minus .25C, which is well below that of the IPCC’s 3C with a range of 2C to 4.5C.

Would you count North as a skeptic?

54 GM { 08.17.10 at 8:24 pm }

Paul in Sweden { 08.17.10 at 6:07 pm }

Welcome to ‘Climate Science’.
1 – Conclusion
2 – Gather supporting opinions/suppress evidence not supporting conclusion
3 – Implement global energy policy and wealth distribution

That’s just some more completely detached from reality right wing nonsense. Again, why do you think the IPCC was formed? Because someone just said “Oh, the globe is warming, now we need to find evidence for that, so let’s form the IPCC”? No, the evidence was already there and the conclusions was made based on that. In fact, the conclusion, which really derives from very basic physics, was first reached by Svante Arrhenius in the late 19th century, was he also part of the conspiracy (he was actually thinking it is a good thinking, probably because he was living in Sweden)?

To think that anyone is doing this with wealth redistribution in mind is bordering with being in need of mental hospitalization. Again, do you think that thousands of scientists, virtually the whole of the field, are all radical commies who crave a worldwide revolution? And where did you see wealth redistribution being seriously discussed by politicians? If anything, they were trying, and still are, to preserve the status quo and not do anything at all costs.

There is a very good rational case to be made for why we do need wealth redistribution, we also need such things as a 98% population reduction combined with a reduction of wasteful consumption, eradication of free market ideology and of religions of all sort, serious reconsideration of what the list of basic human rights should include, and a bunch of other scary things, if we are to make it past this century. But rest assured, nobody in power is even remotely close to thinking about implementing these in practice.

Simpy insane…

55 Jon Boone { 08.17.10 at 8:24 pm }

GM:
When I first encountered your commentary a few weeks ago I thought you made some good points badly, but chalked up your hectoring rhetorical tone to that of a methodological parvenu insecure in his knowledge. As time passed, I changed that assessment, coming to believe you simply enjoy being a churl. After this latest bullying blast, however, you are a ranting codfish, with no redemptive qualities whatsoever; it is boors like you who make exchanging ideas on the Internet such taxing enterprise that I rarely engage in it, for I don’t like wasting my time. Instead of crafting your argument to educate and enlighten, you bully and browbeat as if you were a sadistic football coach along the lower tiers of the playing fields at Eton–or a very bad fourth-grade teacher.

Enough!

One doesn’t have to be steeped in Popper, Hemple, and Dray to know the tenets of scientific inquiry. Strictly speaking, there is a world of difference between a provisional–working– hypothesis, which is basically a series of if/then conditionals, and a theory, which has grown to become a well substantiated explanatory principle validated across a range of disciplines. And, yes, even scientists, most of whom in my (wide) experience are not well educated about the scientific method, misuse these terms, although they are taught the rigors of induction and deduction. But none misuse these ideas more than the media.

Given the present inchoate state of knowledge about the whirlwind concept of the earth’s climate (not just the climate of a small region), it is more than a conceit to call the various inquiries about it “climate science,” let alone climatology. Perhaps Monty Python should have used the term monarchology to describe its skit about Arthur, King of the Britains.

We don’t even understand very much about the El Nino/La Nina phenomena, let alone the intricate external factors beyond the earth that may influence whole-earth climate dynamics.

The truth is that no one is in a position to make trustworthy and compelling predictions about any specific future for the earth’s climate, self-styled climate scientists included. There is a fifty/fifty chance that the earth’s temperature will be greater than it has been over the last decade. Not more than that. Making such a wager isn’t science; it’s simply gambling. And who’s going to be around in ten years to collect?

It may well be that a hundred years from now the mean temperature of the earth will be five degrees warmer, and at least a portion of that rise could be attributed to human activity. It may well be that a large asteroid will collide with the earth in the next 10,000 years, with consequences greater than those 65 million years ago. It is a virtual certainty that sometime in the next 200 years there will be major seismic activity along the western rim of the United States. Ditto for another hurricane in the Caribbean in the next 100 years that may dwarf the effects of Katrina. And I haven’t even mentioned the potential for volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

So, yes, under the category of even stopped clocks are correct twice a day, a group of researchers may one day claim credit for making a prediction that came true about climate. “Scientists” like Paul Erhlich and that coquettish pied piper of “soft energy,” Armory Lovins, have, with their “You must repent, for the end is nigh” incantations, surely muddied the waters for those slogging up to their chins under real experimental circumstances to make sense of the physical world. And here I don’t include those scientists who hoard information, refusing to share it widely; this issue as not, as you suggest, merely because of the time and costs involved with copying data.

And, yes, speculative science has a role to play. I love, for example, the (true) story of the geneticist who worked to know when the first hairdresser appeared in history–then provided a plausible working hypothesis based upon a regression analysis he performed of the gene he isolated that caused human head hair to grow unregulated. Brilliant stuff, really. But still highly speculative, hardly the kind of data set one could use to justify whole new textbooks on the history of hairdressing.

I agree that, relative to total research funds available across the spectrum, the various scientists engaged in trying to understand climate dynamics haven’t received a lot of treasure. However, the amount is truly vast if assessed over the last fifteen years compared to many other relatively new disciplines, such as cultural anthropology or linguistics, or even brain chemistry and physiology, with its links to human language and consciousness, to me much more intriguing questions than climate. All of these disciplines, even cosmology, must engage physical evidence, which is why we must continue to build super colliders even larger than the one in CERN if we’re to get at the bottom of whether of not the Higgs particle exists, which would go a long way toward explaining why matter precipitates from energy the way it does.

In the same spirit, we surely should increase research funding for well considered climate inquires, made so difficult because there is so much hucksterism involved at so many levels. But, frankly, I don’t know how to do this in a reasonably functional way–which may be a good reason not to use public funds to do it all. Rather, we might consider that a better use of funds should go to general satellite reconnoissance, using a Hubble-like system to study and evaluate conditions on earth–and let so-called climate researchers use such a devise for their own purpose, in just the same way that research in any discipline proceeds.

I will not respond to anything you say from now on, given your priggish scold. But I do wish you well and hope that any light you shed in future to others might not be scattered by the heat of your rant.

56 GM { 08.17.10 at 11:02 pm }

Jon Boone { 08.17.10 at 8:24 pm }
GM:
When I first encountered your commentary a few weeks ago I thought you made some good points badly, but chalked up your hectoring rhetorical tone to that of a methodological parvenu insecure in his knowledge. As time passed, I changed that assessment, coming to believe you simply enjoy being a churl. After this latest bullying blast, however, you are a ranting codfish, with no redemptive qualities whatsoever; it is boors like you who make exchanging ideas on the Internet such taxing enterprise that I rarely engage in it, for I don’t like wasting my time. Instead of crafting your argument to educate and enlighten, you bully and browbeat as if you were a sadistic football coach along the lower tiers of the playing fields at Eton–or a very bad fourth-grade teacher.

Enough!

Actually you have it completely wrong. Here is what the situation is:

The claim the other side is making boils down to some combination of:

a) climate scientists are liars
b) climate scientists are incompetent

You do not say it so directly, but this is the essence.

Both of those are character assassination techniques and have been widely used by the denialist machine (and not just when it comes to AWG, the same tactics have been used by creationists, anti-vaxxers, and other movements of that sort).

Now, on the side of scientists, there has been very very little of that, despite what the accusation often thrown at us (that we like being rude and intellectually arrogant, and yell at people from the height of the Ivory tower, etc.) says. The problem is that being nice doesn’t work at all when you’re dealing with people who simply can not be persuaded by rational arguments. Not being nice doesn’t work either, but after years of futile attempts to persuade people with rational arguments, frustration builds up to a point at which one tells it like it is without sugarcoating it.

We can have a rational debate about things, but only if agree that we will adhere to some basic rules of proper reasoning, and we will respect science. BTW, those last two “rants” were not in response to you, so I don’t see why you are offended, unless those two people were sockpuppets of you (I am not saying they are, don’t get me wrong)

And, yes, even scientists, most of whom in my (wide) experience are not well educated about the scientific method, misuse these terms, although they are taught the rigors of induction and deduction. But none misuse these ideas more than the media.

Here is something that we can actually agree 100% on – the majority of scientists do not understand the scientific method; that’s however because they have never been taught it. What serves as a corrective mechanism in cases when improper procedures have been followed is the fact that there are hundreds of people examining the evidence and in the end the truths comes out. Which is why I get so mad when someone claims that thousands of professors, postdocs, graudate students and other researchers are part of a conspiracy or incompetent.

The truth is that no one is in a position to make trustworthy and compelling predictions about any specific future for the earth’s climate, self-styled climate scientists included. There is a fifty/fifty chance that the earth’s temperature will be greater than it has been over the last decade. Not more than that. Making such a wager isn’t science; it’s simply gambling. And who’s going to be around in ten years to collect?

Here’s some more application of the character assassination tactic. And where did you come up with the 50/50 estimate? You guessed it, OK. You simply can not throw a whole scientific field in the trash just because you don’t like it. You run climate models (and there several dozens of them, all different) without the CO2 increase, you can not explain the historical temperature record. You add CO2, you explain it. That’s as good as you can have it here, as I said, the hypothesis will be tested in reality only once, and it will be too late at that point.

But a point I have consistently made is that it doesn’t even matter, because:

It is a virtual certainty that sometime in the next 200 years there will be major seismic activity along the western rim of the United States. Ditto for another hurricane in the Caribbean in the next 100 years that may dwarf the effects of Katrina. And I haven’t even mentioned the potential for volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

Another thing that is 100% certain is that a civilization that is built on the assumption of infinite growth will collapse on any finite planet due to ecological overshoot. So we have to stop growing sooner or later, and it doesn’t matter at all whether AGW is a problem or not, the list of reasons why we have to do it is very long even without it. But, of course, we aren’t going to.

I am actually very tired of the whole “debate” over AGW, as it simply doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things, it is actually very harmful to overtly focus on it as the sole environmental issue as doing so prevents from seeing the whole picture of our relationship with the planet we live on. But I absolutely hate it when the kind of ad hominem attacks get thrown at climate scientists for absolutely no reason

57 Marlo Lewis { 08.18.10 at 1:56 pm }

To John Cook:

John, you “agree, the ‘real physical science debate’ turns on climate feedback,” but then you seem to suggest there is really nothing to debate: “Fortunately, we do have an empirical method of checking whether models get climate feedback right or not – we look at the Earth’s past and see how much global temperature has changed in response to changes in the planet’s energy balance. And what we find, looking over many different periods, the last few millenium, 15000 years ago when we came out of an ice age and even going back millions of years, is that the climate has net positive feedback and the ‘climate sensitivity’ tends to centre around a most likely value of 3 degrees Celsius for a doubling of CO2.”

You seem here to follow Hansen et al. (2008) http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/2008/Hansen_etal.html, who state: “Paleoclimate data show that climate sensitivity is ~3°C for doubled CO2, including only fast feedback processes. Equilibrium sensitivity, including slower surface albedo feedbacks, is ~6°C for doubled CO2 for the range of climate states between glacial conditions and ice-free Antarctica.”

The satellite temperature data — the most reliable data we have — show a fairly constant warming rate of about 0.13°C per decade since 1978. That works out to an additional warming of about 1.2°C by 2100. Less-reliable, land-use change-influenced surface temperature record shows a trend of ~0.17°C per decade since the mid-1970s. A faster warming than the satellite record, but still not enough to produce 3°C from doubled CO2.

You undoubtedly are aware of the observed temperature trends. Apparently, though, those data do not make you skeptical of Hansen et al.’s climate sensitivity estimate. Please explain.

58 Jeffrey Eric Grant { 08.18.10 at 4:06 pm }

GM:
“There is a very good rational case to be made for why we do need wealth redistribution, we also need such things as a 98% population reduction combined with a reduction of wasteful consumption, eradication of free market ideology and of religions of all sort, serious reconsideration of what the list of basic human rights should include, and a bunch of other scary things, if we are to make it past this century. But rest assured, nobody in power is even remotely close to thinking about implementing these in practice.”

You are joking, right? Which part don’t you agree with?

Actually, if you’ve read my posts here, I am not an Insider. I do not have access to the data. Therefore, I am at a huge disadvantage. I’ll just try to use some logic: let’s talk about CO2 (which is now subject to the EPA, just like lead particulate is). Does the atmosphere care where the CO2 comes from? How about my breathing – is that harmful? Actually, I would be very interested in reading a good study of the worlwide carbon budget, so I can judge just HOW MUCH of the CO2 is caused by my consumption of energy. I already know my carbon footprint is exceedingly small relative to, say, Al Gore’s. Does that make me a better person than him?

The AGW scenario is predicated upon a large positive feedback, mainly from cloud activity.
However, sometimes cloud activity feedback is positive and sometimes it is negative. Are we so certain of the outcome that we should implement worlwide measures to combat it? The UN Secretary General said so last November! We just do not have 45 Trillion dollars to solve this problem. We’ll have to adapt to the consequences.

I prefer to measure something more concrete (like average air temperature, or average height of the oceans) and formulate some mitigation measures to implement when or if needed. Can you tell me what to look for? At what temperature is it now “enough”.

BTW, didn’t the Chinese alter the weather during their Olympics? Why don’t we have them change the average air temperature for us?

59 Ed Reid { 08.19.10 at 9:18 am }

Jeffrey Eric Grant { 08.18.10 at 4:06 pm }

“We just do not have 45 Trillion dollars to solve this problem.”

The IEA estimate of $45 trillion in addition to the “business as usual” scenario to reduce global CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050 would not solve the “problem”, though it would arguably slow the rate of growth of atmospheric CO2 concentration. Solving the “problem” would likely require two to three times that investment.

60 Jeffrey Eric Grant { 08.19.10 at 10:43 am }

Thans, Ed…
All the more reason to take a sensible approach. I say let’s continue to monitor extensively and taske action when appropriate.
Somebody’s going to get rich if they play their cards right. I cannot accept that CO2 is even the biggest contributor to AGW.
I also don’t think a single basket of eggs is the right way to battle this thing. We should attack this in multiple ways.

61 GM { 08.19.10 at 11:26 am }

We just do not have 45 Trillion dollars to solve this problem. We’ll have to adapt to the consequences.

Statements like this are the reason I am not going to soften the language I am using. What kind of person thinks that global civlizational collapse is cheaper than 45 trillion dollars (the absurdity of trying to put a cost on this aside) so we should just wait for it and do nothing?

62 Ed Reid { 08.19.10 at 12:10 pm }

GM { 08.19.10 at 11:26 am }

There is a logical sequence to halting anthropogenic carbon emissions, in the hope of halting global climate change.

The logical first step is to stop increasing global annual emissions. (If you find that you are digging yourself into a hole, the first step is to STOP DIGGING.) The increases in global annual emissions are largely coming from the developing world; and, the emissions increases are rapid enough that it would be very difficult to merely offset them with reductions in emissions from the developed countries, no less achieve actual reductions.

63 GM { 08.19.10 at 12:37 pm }

And you are trying to tell me what exactly with this post?

64 Ed Reid { 08.19.10 at 1:04 pm }

That the governments of the two most populace countries on the globe think there are things more important to them than “global civilizational collapse”.

65 Jeffrey Eric Grant { 08.19.10 at 1:07 pm }

GM
Trouble is, I am open minded enough to grasp the AGW contention that my carbon footprint is the culprit here. How dare you!
I happen to live in a place and at a time where the wise use of energy really elevates my existence. Heat & light really do help. I do not want to give up anything.
To say “What kind of person thinks that global civlizational collapse is cheaper than 45 trillion dollars “?
is a statement that you know better than me what the problem is, and what should be done about it.
Let’s say you do. All I am asking for is some evidence I can use to ascertain the problem for myself. I am absolutely sick with the politicalization of science. I do not take anothers’ ‘word for it’. Maybe I’m from Nebraska — I need to ‘see it for myself’. So far, on this blog discussion, NO ONE has mentioned a link I can go investigate. I even asked you for a guiding hand, but all you do is shout and call me names.
At one point my job was as a an Environmental Engineer to help a company (a lead smelter) control its air polution. So, I do have some relevant work experience!
Just point me to a useful link and i will get out of your hair!

66 GM { 08.19.10 at 2:53 pm }

Jeffrey Eric Grant { 08.19.10 at 1:07 pm }
Just point me to a useful link and i will get out of your hair!

There is no single link, one has to integrate information from many sources. I can give you a list of the problems we’re facing (and a brief note about how certain things are), the vast majority of them there can be absolutely no dispute over, in fact AGW is the most debatable one. You can do the research on your own.

1. Peak Oil. That’s the most urgent issue. You can not deny Peak Oil because oil productions has already peaked in most oil producing countries, it has peaked in hundreds of oil fields and thousands of oil wells all over the world, so it is as well established a fact as they come. The techniques for predicting peak of production have quite a good track record and they converge on an estimate of global peak somewhere between 2005 and 2015 (official agencies such as EIA and IEA are a lot more optimistic because they include unjustifiably large “unknown reserves” in their reports, but even they agree on the basic reality of peak oil). So we are basically at , past or about to pass the peak.

2. The same phenomenon applies to gas and coal, with gas predicted to peak around 2020. It is more complicated with coal, because while there are enormous deposits, a lot of those are technically impossible to produce, so it is not certain how much coal we can rely on; most likely the peak would be at some point in the middle of the century or earlier if present trends continue

3. The same applies to uranium, of which even now 1/3 of the amount we use comes not from mining but from old nuclear missiles, and there are something like 30-40 years of known reserves.

4. Another extremely important mineral that is about to peak or has already peaked is phosphorus. Without phosphorus, agricultural yields will fall drastically all over the globe, as it is an absolutely critical fertilizer.

5. And those aren’t the only things that are going to peak, in fact almost every mineral resource we use is on such course and is either going to peak in the next few decades or has already peaked. Some of these such as the rare earth elements that are absolutely critical for most high tech applications are in especially short supply.

6. Alternative sources of energy such as solar and wind can not make up for the shortfall due even to Peak Oil alone, because they are too diffuse and so require impractically enormous installations to harvest them, which we do not have the resources and/or time to build.

7. While we could in theory build a different type of nuclear reactors that utilize the 99% of uranium we currently discard or thorium, of which there is a lot more out there, given that it is 2010 now, that right now there are some 400 conventional reactors in the world, which provide only 10% of the total energy consumption, that there isn’t a single non-conventional reactor that produces serious amounts of power, that it takes about a decade to bring a reactor into operation, once the technology is mature (and it is not in this case), those can’t save us on time while keeping BAU going on.

8. The argument usually brought up when people point out that we have the same peak problem we have with oil with all other minerals, is that there is huge resource pyramid and once we have finished the top, we can proceed towards the base, eventually recovering things from regular rocks, not from ores. However, because the concentration of the elements of interest gets lower and lower towards the base of the resource pyramid, the energy requirements of such a procedure increase exponentially. And if you have to do that against the background of diminishing availability of energy, it becomes simply impossible.

9. Another very important thing that we are running out is fossil aquifers. Freshwater is a renewable resource as it cycles through the hydrological cycle. However, it is not an unlimited resource, as only a small fraction of it is accessible for humans to use. A disturbingly large proportion of world agriculture depends on irrigation with water pumped out of aquifers, at rate many times higher than the recharge rate. As a result water tables have been falling all over the word, and the logical results of this is that just a few decades from now agriculture will collapse because of that (think of what would happen of Western Texas without the water from the aquifer)

10. In addition to that, we are rapidly destroying topsoil, which is lost to erosion, desertification, salinization due to irrigation, and if it is not physically destroyed, it is leached out of nutrients due to the constant cycle of taking biomass out of it and flushing irrigation effluents into the oceans. A lot of intensively farmed land is basically sterile and would produce small fraction of what it produces now if the fertilizer and irrigation inputs are removed.

11. We have so severely overfished the oceans that projections are that they will be nearly devoid of large organisms by the middle of the century. Which will result in permament shifts of the ecosystems to completely different and much impoverished communities (search of “the rise of slime”)

12. On top of that, about 1/3 of CO2 emissions is absorbed by the ocean, which leads to acidification (that’s not disputable, it has been precisely measured and is a fact), and acidification will kill many species that build mineral shells, and among those species are many of the species that form the base of the food chain. From a purely egoistical perspective, the end result of 11 and 12 will be that a lot less sea food will be available to humans.

13. The same kind of rape of the environment has been going on on land, deforestation, habitat destruction, paving over prime agricultural land, the list if very very long.

14. Then we have AGW, which I will not discuss as this has been done more than anough,

15. Finally, we have an economic and social system that’s built on the assumption of infinite growth and if growth is to stop, it will collapse completely. What is totally forgotten in economic theory is that money is nothing more but a claim on energy, resources and labor. So if you are constantly expanding the money supply and growing the economy, (which is built in the system), while the resources available are shrinking there is only one way to go, and it is not up. Combine that with population growth and you get first unemployment,than mass starvation, then the riots break out, social order disappears and it is not clear what happens with the nukes.

That’s the situation in a nutshell. Technology will not bail us out this time because we’re either asking for physically impossible things, or there is no time for the techno-fix to be implemented to prevent the collapse, is it’s available.

The sensible thing is do is organized retreat – we cut down unneeded consumption, we reduce population to sustainable levels (which are probably much lower than a billion), and we invest everything into technology development and resource recycling so that we can have a comfortable level of living indefinitely (is possible)

But it’s not going to happen because the cultural and biological imperatives which govern the behavior of the vast majority of people today all push us in the direction of continued growth at all costs, plus the ignorance of the scale, severity, and fundamental reasons for the problem is so vast that it will be a miracle if we get our act together and do the rational thing.

67 Jeffrey Eric Grant { 08.19.10 at 5:28 pm }

GW
Thanks, whew! I’ve re-read your tome a few times.
Then, I guess as we’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time on #14 on your list, we should be doing more on the top thirteen! It is estimated that the US has enormous reserves of natural gas and coal. How about putting more scientific resource into making these more efficient and effective? And, oil is not through just yet. The economic system will efficiently allocate proper dollar amounts to develop those and/or alternates as they compete. It always comes down to implementing the chespest way to accomplish our goals. Allocating proper amount of resources is best left to the system and the government (of course, we have input into what choices the government makes). The Arab Oil Embargo was in 1973, and the US still has no response. Actually, we have chosen to use the imported oil because it is cheaper to do so — not counting the military actions.

I’m still bogged down on #14. Not that I want the issue to just go away, I would like to pursue this so that I fully understand the critical nature of the issue. If AGW won’t affect the earth sufficiently for another 50 years, or so, why does it take up sooooo much of our time? Sorry, although I have read and listened alertly to the “debate”, I am still researching (currently studying the worldwide carbon balance). Also, although the ocean levels are rising, it is not exciting me. We can live with a few new sea walls to keep it at bay. I mean, really. Seawater is encroaching onto Johnson island agriculture areas, but it is not certain whether the island nation is sinking or sea levels are rising!

What is more important – water to drink, or food to eat? The answer depends on the conditions at the moment. I think today, right now, a vast number of people in this world have more important things to worry about than a miniscule rise in average earth atmospheric temperature. That rise cannot be detected by anyone. What can be detected is a change in the weather and, boy, it has been hot this summer. Reminds my father of his childhood; as he recollects, was always this hot back then. He remembers the ice cream truck coming down the street.

Seriously though, why are we spending soooo much time and energy talking about something that may (or may not) happen 90 years from now? I am interested enough to make a concerted effort to understand the science behind it, but that is extremely difficult because I have to sift through the politics and try to discern the truth. Until I come to the “eureka moment” I will still be stumbling through this maze.

And, whether you want to believe it or not, as part of the general public, I want to find the truth and then act on it. I am not a “denier”, I am uncommitted. If you need converts, I am in the group that is ready, at least I still have an open mind.

68 Paul in Sweden { 08.19.10 at 9:16 pm }

Seems there is no time to waste GM. The corner your world has painted you into requires armadas of container ships packed with condoms sailing off to the third world to convince them to continue living without electricity, running water and give up having children.

Here in the Western world we basically have negative population growth without immigration and the lack of anthropogenic global warming evidence dressed up with hyped disaster predictions hasn’t gone over too well. The third world seemed all too happy at COP15 to accept funds from Europe and North America but they didn’t seem too keen on embracing your CAGW beliefs.

Good luck to you anyway & Bon Voyage :)

69 Jeffrey Eric Grant { 08.20.10 at 9:59 am }

Paul, you didn’t get what GM was saying: one billion people will be the right number for sustainability. Since we have about 7 billion on earth right now, we MUST reduce that number as well as doing what you suggest.

GM does have a good question, though: At what point is enough, enough? Who gets to say so?

70 GM { 08.20.10 at 11:04 am }

Jeffrey Eric Grant { 08.20.10 at 9:59 am }
Paul, you didn’t get what GM was saying: one billion people will be the right number for sustainability. Since we have about 7 billion on earth right now, we MUST reduce that number as well as doing what you suggest.

GM does have a good question, though: At what point is enough, enough? Who gets to say so?

No, I didn’t say that, I said that the right number is probably much lower than 1 billion.

We want not only to be within carrying capacity, we want to be safely within it so that short term fluctuations in carrying capacity do not cause massive dieoffs due to starvation. As has happened in the past several times due to purely natural causes such as large volcanic eruptions that cause cooling of the climate for a year or two and failure of agriculture as a result. What the carrying capacity is, however, is a hard question to answer. Which means that we have to:

1) study the issue very carefully and with the best scientific tools available
2) bring population down to a number below THE LOWEST carrying capacity estimate. Because, as I said, there is a significant uncertainty inherent to any such calculation, and because we have to absolutely never overshoot carrying capacity, the only sane thing to do is to be safely within the lowest carrying capacity estimate.

71 Paul in Sweden { 08.20.10 at 11:31 pm }

@Jeffrey Eric Grant #69

Jeffery, I absolutely get what GM is saying. I hear the same from crunchy organic vegans all the time. It would be so wonderful if every grad student could bogart land, build a hay bale house & could grow their own food in perfect sustainable harmony instead of that same land being used to feed many, many families. The academic Utopia is a dream that has consumed many minds throughout history.

The world’s population is what it is and it is only going to get bigger. This is what the rest of society calls reality. With the help of science(remember science?) crop yields will continue to grow. In cities residential complexes will continue to reach for the skies. Open natural habitat will continue as it has throughout history to be encroached by mankind. Hopefully much of it will be preserved and possibly be restored in the future.

“GM does have a good question, though: At what point is enough, enough? Who gets to say so?”

Jeffery & GM, are the two of you going to ban artificial insemination and put forth programs of involuntary sterilization & euthanasia to create your academic Utopian society? Societies, Climate and the world itself changes every single day, this is not going to change.

The eradication of poverty, disease and the advancement of mankind is not going to be halted by academic Utopian society dreamers.

72 GM { 08.21.10 at 12:55 am }

The eradication of poverty, disease and the advancement of mankind is not going to be halted by academic Utopian society dreamers.

Correct. The limits to growth will do that.

Not that anything like “eradication of poverty, disease and the advancement of mankind” is currently going on, but even if that was the case

73 Paul in Sweden { 08.21.10 at 2:56 am }

GM { 08.21.10 at 12:55 am }
The eradication of poverty, disease and the advancement of mankind is not going to be halted by academic Utopian society dreamers.

Correct. The limits to growth will do that.

Not that anything like “eradication of poverty, disease and the advancement of mankind” is currently going on, but even if that was the case

GM, there is reality and then there are your Utopian academic dreams. The sooner you realize this the better.

74 Jeffrey Eric Grant { 08.21.10 at 10:27 am }

Paul, you may have painted me in the Utopian camp. Far from it, I am more a realist than you think. I do not think there is a practical limit to the number of people this planet can hold. Economics will dictate where we spend our resources so that we can sustain them all. However, politics will play a huge role in determining how we “spread the wealth”. We are making giant leaps in producing foodstuffs. If we want to guess where the limits will be, I’ll bet it is in the energy sector.
However, we are getting off the point of this thread….I am still looking for the ‘proof’ of AGW; from the perspective of scientific thought. I have been schooled in Physics and Engineering, and as such, I am looking for some nugget of truth that will allow me to embrace AGW. I want to think that we humans have so much power that we can actually change the workings of the earth systems. To me this is so complex we can’t possibly know enough to actually manipulate the weather system to make its fundamental characteristics do what we want. I think we can upset it a little, but that system has the capability to adjust and continue, as it has for countless (?) billions of years.
That being said, I also have a curiosity that pushes me to try to understand these systems. Years ago, as an Environmental Engineer, I helped a company adjust its mechanical systems to prevent the escape of lead particulate into the atmosphere. In that endeavor I learned first hand how complex the earth’s systems were. Of course mankind can harm the environment! I have yet to understand how we can overcome the huge natural processes that are built into the earth systems.

GM, I am still (and probably never will end) studying my physical surroundings. I am fascinated! I am alarmed by the realization that the world political bodies think that CO2 is the only substance in the weather system that needs to be addressed! Yes, it is a component, but to set up elaborate scemes to manipulate its concentration in the atmosphere, at a cost that will not be contained, nor even fully identified, is ludicrous. I do not share your concern, but I am interested to know more.

75 Paul in Sweden { 08.21.10 at 1:42 pm }

Jeffrey Eric Grant { 08.21.10 at 10:27 am }

Paul, you may have painted me in the Utopian camp. Far from it, I am more a realist than you think. I do not think there is a practical limit to the number of people this planet can hold. Economics will dictate where we spend our resources so that we can sustain them all. However, politics will play a huge role in determining how we “spread the wealth”. We are making giant leaps in producing foodstuffs. If we want to guess where the limits will be, I’ll bet it is in the energy sector.

However, we are getting off the point of this thread….

Jeffrey, pardon my broad brush strokes and I agree I think we are getting off the point of this thread. MasterResource is a site I come to for the great articles not to debate.

Like you Jeffrey I am also seeking knowledge. Should CAGW in fact be true I am going to be really pissed off at the jokers running the three ring circus in the Global Warming Industry. If there really was/is a crisis facing the whole of the earth I certainly would expect every nation to bring their best and brightest together and propose real solutions. We have not seen this. Instead we are witness to sloppy science and left-wing activism(I am being more than kind in that statement). If my house is on fire I would find it unacceptable for the fire department to propose to me that they will only apply a little water but perhaps not enough for me to notice the dampening of the fire and it is going to require me to mortgage my burning house and give up three generations of first born children. The CAGW movement are proposing solutions which by their own formulas will achieve nothing measurable.

If we were faced with a high rate of Global Warming, anthropogenic or natural I would first want to know the full range of implications. Instead we have the IPCC which is chartered to look at only the possible human induced negative effects on Global Climate. What is the ideal temperature for the earth? Should we be averaging the temperature of the earth at all or should we be looking at individual regions? If you are planting crops in the mid-west how valuable is a global average climate forecast? We saw the greater Moscow region having a heat wave while the entire surrounding regions were experiencing below average temperatures. What is the value of a global average?

If we have runaway Global Warming or Cooling it does not matter if it is anthropogenic or natural. What matters is how we will adapt.

Science fiction is riddled with terraforming motifs. Will we one day be able to master the global climate? I think we are a long way off and it seems dangerous to me. If we do I want a vote on where to set the thermostat!

76 FERGUS SMITH { 08.21.10 at 6:44 pm }

GM

I never cease to be amazed by people who claim that the scientific method can be dispensed with in favor of consensus when it suits their purpose.

No legitimate scientist would ever claim that consensus could somehow substitute for the scientific method. Indeed, any assertion of “scientific fact” is dangerous enough and must be reviewed and duplicated experimentally to even begin to take on the countenance of “scientific fact”.

As you consider your arguments against the value of the scientific method, you should consider the following fundamental principle of science and statistics – with which you are almost certainly unfamiliar.

“ONLY experimental data has the power to show cause. Observational data can NEVER be used to show cause.”

Although you are unfamiliar with the above, you should not take it to be wanting in validity. It is the very basis of the scientific method. Only by performing a properly designed experiment can one even begin to exclude the influence of “lurking variables” and begin to isolate cause and effect. Anyone that takes issue with this is delusional.

AGW proponents have only OBSERVATIONAL data and very specious data at that. Whenever I look at the “data”, methods, and “equations” I begin to laugh uncontrollably. There is no useful temperature data. The best temperature data is from satellites but it is incredibly flawed. The instruments are different from one satellite to another and the orbits are different. The “normalization” techniques used are so subjective as to be preposterous.

You will note that AGW advocates HAVE NEVER EVEN ATTEMPTED TO PERFORM AN EXPERIMENT TO ASCERTAIN THE VALIDITY OF THEIR HYPOTHESIS. There is a good reason for this, although they probably don’t know it. Since scale of the experiment is an ESSENTIAL aspect of any potential AGW experiment, this means that any meaningful experiment would need to be performed repeatedly at a similar scale as the Earth itself. It would also need to be performed over a relatively short time period to exclude the influence of astronomical events. One can just imagine the perils of trying to raise and lower CO2 levels of the Earth’s atmosphere from 0 PPM TO 10,000 PPM on a Saturday afternoon.

Obviously no useful experiment can be performed, the scientific method cannot be used, and no scientific determination of cause can be obtained. You might want to point this out to your mystically influenced, Malthusian friends.

This leaves the issue of “proof by model”. No legitimate scientist would ever claim that a computer model is an adequate substitute for the scientific method or experimental evidence. Computer models are simply computer programs written according to someone’s idea of how something might work.

Note the famous statement by George E. P. Box, professor emeritus of U. Wisconsin at Madison, “ALL MODELS ARE WRONG, SOME ARE USEFUL.”

It will come as a terrible shock to you, but when I analyze the influence of CO2 on atmospheric temperatures near the surface of the Earth, I find that increasing levels of CO2 should be expected to actually cause a net shading effect, thus a very, very slight cooling effect – not a warming effect. As an organic chemist, I am intimately familiar with Infrared spectrometers and find the AGW interpretation of IR spectrographs incredibly flawed. I would be happy to explain where AGW proponents went wrong, but the dogmatic response would make it pointless.

The atmosphere of the Earth is a buffered system with bistability. This means it resists change but oscillates between glacial and interglacial periods. Theories abound as to the cause of bistability, but of course the time scale of the glacial cycle makes any explanation of the phenomenon open to question. We are unlikely to see any resolution of that question any time soon, but the theory of Svenmark involving solar ejecta and Heliosphere makes more sense to me than the others.

When I was young, my father pointed out that consensus is usually wrong. Over the years I have repeatedly observed his observation to be correct. Real scientists do not rely upon consensus.

77 John Droz { 08.22.10 at 6:30 am }

Paul & Jeffrey:

It’s good that you are both open-minded individuals searching for the truth.

Last year I wrote a paper about my perspective on AGW, as a scientist. It may be of interest to you “http://www.northnet.org/brvmug/WindPower/GlobalWarmingPosition2.pdf”.

Also I have a free periodic energy & environmental newsletter that reports on the scientific perspective of issues of the day (currently over 3000 readers).

If you (or anyone else who is interested in the scientific view) are interested in getting that just send me an email (“aaprjohn@northnet.org”) with your name and city, and I will send it to you.

78 GM { 08.22.10 at 10:09 am }

FERGUS SMITH { 08.21.10 at 6:44 pm }
GM

I never cease to be amazed by people who claim that the scientific method can be dispensed with in favor of consensus when it suits their purpose.

Who has claimed that?

As you consider your arguments against the value of the scientific method, you should consider the following fundamental principle of science and statistics – with which you are almost certainly unfamiliar.

I absolutely like it when people distort what I said to the point where it becomes exactly the opposite to what I said, thank you very much.

Didn’t bother to read the rest.

79 FERGUS SMITH { 08.22.10 at 2:45 pm }

GM

It is particularly amusing and enlightening that you couldn’t bring yourself to read my comments in their entirety.

Here is what you said:
“then another person is schooling us on what the scientific method is and how climate science is supposedly violating it (which it isn’t, it is just doing the best it can given the nature of the field), ”

Your statement shows that you are obviously unfamiliar with the scientific method. You should take the time to look it up. You are steadfastly supporting a “consensus” view as sufficiently definitive as to require action. Your view is inconsistent and indefensible on scientific grounds.

This is why AGW is such preposterous silliness. They don’t even begin to understand how far from reality they are.

80 Jeffrey Eric Grant { 08.23.10 at 5:07 pm }

Fergus Smith:
If I want to do an experiment to try to explain how gravity interracts with, say, the Pacific Ocean; are you saying that scale comes into question, and such an experiment cannot be done? If not, then how can we attempt to explain the observed phenonoma of tidal movement?

You state: “Since scale of the experiment is an ESSENTIAL aspect of any potential AGW experiment, this means that any meaningful experiment would need to be performed repeatedly at a similar scale as the Earth itself. ”

I would think that deductive reasoning alone could be used to our advantage, using other proven theory (gravity) to explain possible tidal action. Then, use the power of observation to detect changes in the system that reinforce said reasoning.

However, if you are predicting a future based on a level of a parameter that does not now exist, how do you do it? Obviously, observation won’t do. I know — dream it up. But, surround it with plenty of scientific stuff. like computers. Get your buddies to all agree that you are right. Publish your data in a journal that you control. That’ll do it, don’t you agree?

The best one I’ve heard came out in the past month that AGW is coming faster than anyone realized. And it will precipitate a mass extinction. And we have found that there have already been extinctions of animals we have yet to discover!
How sad…

81 Cooler Heads Digest 13 August 2010 | GlobalWarming.org { 09.13.10 at 2:22 pm }

[...] What’s Going on with the New “Skeptical Science” Website? John Droz, Jr., MasterResource.org, 13 August 2010 [...]

82 The Climate Change Debate Thread - Page 2247 { 03.16.13 at 2:05 am }

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83 nmaif { 06.22.13 at 4:59 pm }

Re #94: Those of us who are scientists (I have a PhD in physical chemistry, a number of publications in peer-reviewed articles) do not consider those 31,000 signators to be scientists because they have never published a scientific article in a peer-reviewed journal.

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