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Andrew Dessler Challenges Rick Perry: How Should Perry Respond?

I try not to play favorites between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to supporting or undermining the ideal of what Ludwig von Mises called the free and prosperous commonwealth. To this end, I have criticized Gov. Perry for his unfortunate windpower positions in Texas (see here and here), and I will do so again to the extent he buys into a government role in “green energy.”

Dessler Weighs In

A current spat is ongoing between Texas A&M climatologist Andrew Dessler and Perry, a front-runner for the Republican nomination for president of the United States, over global warming science and policy.

Dr. Dessler has written two opinion-page editorials published by the Houston Chronicle in recent months (July 10th and September 2nd) arguing that the science is settled in favor of climate alarm, meriting proactive public policy. And he takes pains to argue that he is an expert and real experts agree with him–knowing that the majority of the public does not trust his view. (The majority of nonclimate scientists, at least judging from the 37,000+ signatories here, also do not trust the climatologists, an interesting story in itself).

And with his out-there views, Dessler goes right after Gov. Perry, a fellow Texas Aggie and climate ‘skeptic’ (or ‘ultra-skeptic’).

In response to Dessler’s second op-ed, the Houston Chronicle  published my letter-to-the-editor last week. My (necessarily brief) submission read:

Climate scientist Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M makes a lawyer’s brief for climate alarmism and public policy activism. Gov. Perry would do well to make these points in refutation.

One, there is much we do not know about natural and/or human effects on climate, much of which points toward a benign if not positive view of future climate change.

Two, higher atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have many positive economic and ecological benefits, not only costs.

Three, economists cannot make a case for regulating carbon emissions short of (falsely) assuming the problem, the solution, and perfect government implementation of the solution.

And four, political attempts to curb fossil fuel usage are all pain and no gain.

In place of Big Brother, a far better approach would be to employ carbon-based energies to make us wealthier to deal with whatever future problems may arise—climate, weather or otherwise.

Each of these points deserves elaboration, and I have invited Professor Dessler to discuss and debate these multidisciplinary issues with me at an appropriate Houston forum.

Marlo Lewis’s Advice for Perry

Marlo Lewis, the Harvard Ph.D. in philosophy who has immersed himself in the climate debate for many years if not decades, also proffered his advice for Perry. It was in the context of a recent Republican debate question by moderator John Harris of Politico who asked Perry about the “credible scientists” who questioned the role of human activity in climate change.

Perry responded:

Well, I do agree that there is – the science is – is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at – at- at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just – is nonsense. I mean, it – I mean – and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell.

But the fact is, to put America’s economic future in jeopardy, asking us to cut back in areas that would have monstrous economic impact on this country is not good economics, and I will suggest to you is not necessarily good science.

Find out what the science truly is before you start putting the American economy in jeopardy.

To which Lewis offered this better grounded and more precise answer for Perry to use in the future:

The premise of your question, if I’m not mistaken, is the notion, popularized by Al Gore, that any human contribution to climate change by definition constitutes a “planetary emergency” demanding urgent regulatory action.

This is ideology, not science. The key scientific issue is not whether greenhouse gas emissions have a greenhouse effect but how sensitive Earth’s climate is to the ongoing rise in greenhouse gas concentrations. The sensitivity issue is far from being “settled.”

You asked for names of credible scientists. Three who raise fundamental questions about the sensitivity assumptions driving the big, scary global warming forecasts are Richard Lindzen, PatrickMichaels, and Roy Spencer.

The debate on climate sensitivity will likely be with us for some time. At this point, all I can say is that those who assume a highly sensitive climate have a hard time explaining why there’s been no net global warming over the past 14 years.

And then Lewis goes from defense to offense on the climate question to provide more ammo for Perry:

Much of what we hear about global warming is hype and scaremongering. If climate change is the dire peril some people claim it is, then why has there been no acceleration in sea-level rise over the past five decades?

Why did heat-related mortality in the USA decline, decade-by-decade, from the mid-1960s to the late 1990s? Why has there been no long-term increase in hurricane-related economic damages once you adjust for increases in wealth, the consumer price index, and population?

Why have total deaths and death rates related to extreme weather events declined by 93% and 98%, respectively, since the 1920s? Why has U.S. farm output increased dramatically over the past half century?

For more than two decades, the environmental movement has been pushing an ideology that might be called Kyotoism or, alternatively, Gorethodoxy. This is the view that global warming is a catastrophe in the making from which we can save ourselves only by waging the moral equivalent of war on affordable energy. The real catastrophe would be in enacting their agenda of cap-and-trade, energy taxes, and more subsidies for companies like Solyndra.

Not even a prosperous America could afford to replace coal, oil, and natural gas with wind turbines, solar panels, and biofuel. We certainly cannot afford to do so in the current economic crisis.


Such is why Joe Romm at Climate Progress will not dare debate Lewis (or any other informed ‘skeptic’) in a public forum.

Perry’s Opportunity

Gov. Perry has the microphone to educate and persuade a vast audience that the climate-change debate is settled against Big Government, even with numerous scientific questions unresolved.

As Lewis explains in his full post at www.globalwarming.org, politicians like Perry do not have to dwell on the sole question of whether there is a discernible human influence on climate. Let the scientists continue to hammer that out. Perry should focus on the positive side of the human influence and how government intervention (forced mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions) is inferior to a market capitalism wealth-is-health approach (adaptation).

The alarmists and public-policy activists are in big trouble when the relevant, broader questions are addressed.


1 Charles Barton { 09.12.11 at 5:24 am }

In the Spring of 1971, I attended a briefing at ORNL. Jerry Olsen, ORNL’s expert on the Global Carbon cycle. talked about climate change. Jerry’s presentation had already passed muster with Alvin Weinberg, and other ORNL scientists, including my father, a senior reactor chemist who had made an important contribution to the development of the Atomic Submarine. I along with everyone else in the room, accepted what Jerry had to say, and indeed in retrospective what the forcasts he offered that day were impressive. They included forecasts of global warming, a climate trend during the last 40 years that even fanatic AGW deniers acknowledge, melting glaciers, melting ice caps, earlier springs, and other climate changes that have come to pass. Although some climate scientists had predicted a global cooling climate shift, Jerry predicted steadily rising temperature.

The threat of AGW was first brought to the attention of scientists in 1896.

Professor Dessler, rightly criticized Rick Perry for his anti-science stance. As far as climate scientists, and the national and international scientific community is concerned. AGW is very much a part of mainstream science. Labeling climate scientists and a large majority of the global scientific community alarmists may give you personal satisfaction, but the alarm expressed by scientists comes from information that has long been known. The views which you and Governor Perry demean are not scientifically credible.

Ryan Avent,has pointed out, “a serious problem for libertarians. Climate science has followed a path very similar to many other sciences over the past few decades. An interesting hypothesis touched off a great deal of research which led to a growing consensus on the validity of the hypothesis — that in fact, it was consistent with the available data. But scientific progress in other fields didn’t, by and large, generate some rather significant policy implications (the minimalist one of which, for climate change, is that something should be done, even if that something is simply preparing for the effects of warming). And so libertarian think tanks haven’t devoted themselves to trying to undermine the science in those fields, while libertarians have gone to war against the field of climate science. They made this choice not because they dislike the process of scientific inquiry, but because they dislike the policy implications of a specific scientific conclusion.”

2 rbradley { 09.12.11 at 7:52 am }


I have not and am not attacking the notion that there is a human influence on climate. Please review my book Climate Alarmism Reconsidered to see my views in 2004 and my views today.

It is a non-sequitur to jump from the human influence to AGW is bad and that it is bad and that a government response is merited.

Point #1 does not get you to point #2 and point #3.

Marlo Lewis in his full post is clear on this too.

I stand by my analysis.

- Rob

3 J Storrs Hall { 09.12.11 at 8:16 am }

It’s clearly the case that scientists’ political orientation affect their views on climate change. It’s also well-documented that a vast majority of scientists are left-wingers. One can correct, statistically, for the political bias of scientists to get what may be a more unshaded view of what the facts actually show about politically charged questions. The last time I worked through the numbers I found that the unbiassed scientist was a “lukewarmer”. That was actually before Climategate, so I suspect that the unbiassed scientist would be slightly more skeptical today.

4 Kenneth Green { 09.12.11 at 9:53 am }

Rob -

Not sure if you saw my own suggestion about how Perry should answer the climate question:

“Question: Scientists say that humans are harming the climate, and that we must urgently reduce climate pollution. What’s your view on this important subject?

Answer: Since Jefferson’s time, we’ve known that people can change the climate locally, regionally, and maybe even globally. Heck, any farmer knows we change the local climate! But activists have so muddied the issue by jiggering the data, suppressing dissent, predicting armageddon, and blaming every pooped-out polar bear on climate change it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s hype.

They want to centrally plan the economy, but won’t be honest about what they don’t know. When pushed, leading climate scientists admitted they “lost” a bunch of their original data — that’s right, the dog ate it! Now they tell us aliens might wipe us out because of our greenhouse gas emissions!


Well, I don’t believe that. What I do believe is that centrally planning our economy would be a disaster that would harm people and the planet. If the climate changes, we’ll deal with that, but it will be by moving forward, not back to the caves.”


5 David Appell { 09.12.11 at 12:36 pm }

It’s easy to refute Lewis:

1) Obviously our wealth, improved living conditions, and improved medical technology make the impact of extreme weather events less dangerous than the 1920s. We live in a different world than then.

2) The real problems of global warming and other climate change lie in the future, which we are only now beginning to glimpse. CO2′s inexorable increase is bound to cause far more changes than we’re seeing today — that’s simply basic physics, even if we can’t exactly predict the changes.

3) No reasonable person, scientist or otherwise, expects anyone to decrease their standard of living to solve global warming. That will never happen until it’s far, far too late, and it would be unfair to the billions of people in developing countries. Progress requires more energy use, not less. The only way to achieve that, while at the same time solving the CO2-climate problem, is to rapidly develop and implement noncarbon-emitting energy production technologies. That will require a concerted government effort via economic subsidies (which fossil fuel companies are now getting, directly and indirectly (because they’re allowed to dump their “garbage” into the atmosphere and oceans)) and regulations like a carbon tax in lieu of the income tax.

6 David Appell { 09.12.11 at 1:09 pm }

To expand a little on the third point: the “free market” (which isn’t really free, but anyway) is vital to solving the CO2-climate problem. What governments choose to tax and regulate in protection of the commons is vital for guidance, but it is only by innovations and development that these new technologies will be implemented , and the free market is by far the best way to do that. In fact, it seems to me this is not just the opportunity of a lifetime, but of the millennium.

In this regard it’s worth watching Scott Denning’s presentation at the 2011 Heartland Institute conference on climate change. The HI is wrong on nearly everything relating to climate science, and I’m surprised they let Denning on their program, but I think he hit the nail exactly on its head.

7 David Appell { 09.12.11 at 1:33 pm }

Kenneth Green: While its true the Hadley Centre lost some its past data, station data has been independently collected and stored by many other organizations, such as (in the US) the Historical Climatology Network. This doesn’t change the scientific case for AGW.

The Hadley Centre’s review and calculations based on this data were all vetted, peer reviewed, and published, time and again. There is no doubt about the temperature history since 1880, and very little demand for the original data in any case. (Note that when BEST reviewed temperature data–or, at least, 2% of it–they came to the same conclusions as everyone else, despite Muller’s initial (and loud) skepticism.) I doubt anyone could find Rutherford’s original scattering data either, taken by unfortunate graduate students sitting in the dark looking for fluorescent flashes, but we do not question his results on the existence of the nucleus. You have brought up a red herring as a way only of manufacturing doubt.

8 Ray { 09.12.11 at 1:38 pm }

Temperature measurements of the Earth’s lower atmosphere by satellites reveal no warming trend over the past two decades. The slight trend that is in the data actually appears to be cooling. Computer programs which model global warming say the temperature of the Earth’s lower atmosphere should be increasing, but the satellite measurements of the temperature show no such warming. Which do you believe? The satellite measurements or the computer models. Keep in mind, there are over 20 different climate models all giving different results.

9 Paddy { 09.12.11 at 1:47 pm }

Charles Barton: Sophists frequently respond by assuming their conclusion is correct and then use lies, direct or by omission, and misrepresentations and strawmen to support that conclusion.

The fact is that Perry is not anti-science. He simply premises his opposing view upon contrary peer reviewed research. Conversely, Dessler, rather than responding to the merits of contradictory research, demonizes the Spencer and Bagwell. Dessler. So far Spencer is prevailing on substantive grounds. Sophistry is not a winner.

10 Paddy { 09.12.11 at 1:57 pm }

PS: De Pileke Sr presents a far more elegant critique upon Dessler’s response to Spencer and Bagwell in a post at Anthony Watts’ blog. He brings Trenberth, Abraham and Gleick into his commentary as well.


11 Jon Boone { 09.12.11 at 2:01 pm }

David Appell quotes: “That will require a concerted government effort via economic subsidies (which fossil fuel companies are now getting, directly and indirectly (because they’re allowed to dump their “garbage” into the atmosphere and oceans)) and regulations like a carbon tax in lieu of the income tax.”

“… the ‘free market’ (which isn’t really free, but anyway) is vital to solving the CO2-climate problem. What governments choose to tax and regulate in protection of the commons is vital for guidance, but it is only by innovations and development that these new technologies will be implemented , and the free market is by far the best way to do that.”

There is a galaxy, if not a universe, of distance between these two ideas. Although I agree no modern market is “free,” it is government tax policy, as much as anything, that restricts the kind of enterprise Mr. Appell evidently seeks. A tax on CO2 is a ludicrous measure, inviting the kind of fraud seen across Europe (which has not resulted in emissions reductions).

Climate change mitigation has always been part of the human experience, made more difficult in recent years despite our wonderful technology. It’s much harder to mitigate climate “disasters” when people, with government support, move by the tens of millions into areas well known for the way climate alters the terrain. Consider the quaking earth in the Pacific West; the routine way fire regenerates the flora of Colorado and Arizona; and how epic floods regularly transform the Mississippi basin. FEMA ain’t nothing if it ain’t climate change mitigation…. There is more than irony in the way our species flaunts Mother Nature–and expects government to bail them out. What is particularly vexatious in the United States of Amnesia is how easily 50-year storms are forgotten by those who build in flood-plains.

Non carbon technologies may well be a mainstay of some far future. But they’ll take a lot longer if government tax policy continues to support such sodden technology as “renewables. Let government set the goals for modern power; let government continue to provide research support. Then let the market undertake the development and implementation. Only in the direst of emergencies should government be permitted to pick winners in the marketplace, as is the case now, where policy is technology through consensus and the public trough is being drained by unproductive pork.

12 Chip Knappenberger { 09.12.11 at 2:16 pm }

David Appell (re: #5),

A question regarding your point #1 above: Do you think that the existence/occurrence of weather extremes helped to make subsequent weather extremes less dangerous by prompting a societal and/or technological response? And if so, regarding your point #2, don’t you except the same to happen in the future?

Think responses to heat waves, changes to building codes after hurricanes, etc.

The innate human response of not wanting to die, to me, makes the future look a lot less bleak than it is often portrayed. I don’t think we have run up against the limits of human ingenuity in either in dealing with environmental extremes or meeting the future’s expanding energy demands.


13 Kenneth Green { 09.12.11 at 3:24 pm }

David -

If you read my original post in context, it was as an offering to how I felt conservatives could respond to the climate question in a way that is both rigorous and effective. And, I think you know that I don’t actually dispute the “basic” accuracy of the surface temperature record, though I am certainly open to arguments that it has not been sufficiently adjusted for urban heat island influence, as made by Anthony Watts and Michaels/McKitrick.

As for the red-herring, I disagree: I think there is no doubt that climate scientists have shown blatant disregard, if not outright hostility to the archiving, and sharing of primary data used in climate analysis. Only ceaseless hectoring by people like Steve McIntyre forced the climate science community to make their data available (however grudgingly, slowly, and incompletely) at all.

I think pointing to the kind of obstructionism (later justified as sloppy record keeping) that has been seen with regard to primary climate data is a reasonable way of drawing attention to the larger issue of climate data transparency.

If they’re not willing and able to supply their raw data to outsiders for validation, they can’t IMHO claim to be engaging in a scientific venture. Replication is a key element of the scientific process, as you know.

In summary, your red herring is my red flag. And the reason that you find it so annoying, is that you probably know that regular people, reading that post, will agree that if scientists can’t produce their data for validation, there’s no reason to trust anything they say, even if it has passed “peer-review” by their incestuous network of cronies, co-authors, and fellow-grant seekers.

14 Ken Langford { 09.12.11 at 3:58 pm }

I commend Governor Perry’s stance on climate change, but he (or his campaign staff) has not answered my questions regarding the extreme wind development in his state. I don’t see how he can be a climate science skeptic on one hand and support wind power unless he is simply another one of those political capitalists referred to in Robert Bradley’s books

15 fact check { 09.12.11 at 4:22 pm }

Got a reference for that?
“The majority of nonclimate scientists also do not trust the climatologists, an interesting story in itself.”

16 rbradley { 09.12.11 at 7:29 pm }

Fact Check:

I will put this link in: 37,000+ scientists in the ‘petition Project’ at http://www.oism.org/pproject/.

Please let me know if there is another petition with more signatures from scientists so I can either amend the statement or add a link to make a different point.

17 chris y { 09.12.11 at 9:01 pm }

David Appell blathers- “That will require a concerted government effort via economic subsidies…”.

That reminds me.
The EIA just released its 2011 update on subsidies for electricity generation for 2010. Solar PV now enjoys subsidies and incentives of $775.64/MWhr delivered, wind’s windfall is $56.29/MWhr, and natural gas receives a *staggering* $0.64/MWhr delivered. On top of that, fossil fuels generate tax revenues for the gov’t.

Apparently a factor of 1000 greater subsidies is still not sufficient for domestic solar PV manufacturers to make money. Solyndra, Evergreen and Spectrawatt have crashed and burned so far this year. On the bright side, the liquidation of these firms will generate some short-term jobs at the auction houses and attorney firms.

Anyways, you should be supportive of Nancy Pelosi’s declaration that natural gas “is cheap, abundant and clean compared to fossil fuels.”

18 David Appell { 09.13.11 at 1:09 am }

Ray wrote:
> Temperature measurements of the Earth’s
> lower atmosphere by satellites reveal no warming
> trend over the past two decades

False. UAH satellite data used to calculate global average surface temperature has a linear trend of 0.20 +/- 0.02 deg C/decade for the period Sept 1991 – August 2011. It is statistically significant and has Pearson correlation coefficient of r^2=0.28

19 Robert Bradley Jr.: Andrew Dessler Challenges Rick Perry: How Should Perry Respond? | JunkScience Sidebar { 09.13.11 at 1:15 am }

[...] Andrew Dessler Challenges Rick Perry: How Should Perry Respond? by Robert Bradley Jr. September 12, 2011 [...]

20 David Appell { 09.13.11 at 1:16 am }

Ray wrote:
> Computer programs which model global warming say
> the temperature of the Earth’s lower atmosphere should
> be increasing.

Computer models don’t make predictions.

They make projections, based on assumed socioeconomics. The IPCC suggests about three dozen different scenarios. Climate models have a saying: All models are wrong, but some are useful.

Besides, there are areas of the planet that are not being monitored for changes in heat content, such as the deep oceans. We simply do not know if they are heating up or not.

21 David Appell { 09.13.11 at 1:24 am }

Jon Boone: what countries in Europe have a carbon tax?

Climate change *is* a dire emergency — it is the worse emergency ever faced by humanity. Relatively simple physics shows we are in for at least another 1.5 C of warming, and surely much more than that because CO2 & CH4 emissions are increasing, not decreasing. At this rate CO2 levels will be 3-4 times their pre-industrial levels by 2100. That is a enormous level and enormous rate of change, not seen on the planet for at least a million years. Even now temperatures are increasing 10-15 times faster than when the Earth leaves an ice age.

Besides how to address this huge problem, the only remaining unknown is how right-wingers and free marketers will manage to pin the blame for all our inaction on Liberals. I suspect think tanks are working on this right now.

22 David Appell { 09.13.11 at 1:33 am }

Chip: Yes, I think wealth and technology will continue to protect us in ever better ways from weather extremes. But I really don’t think weather extremes are the big danger from global warming. They’re inconvenient, and get headlines, but in my opinion the real problems will come from:

(1) the inevitable rise in sea levels that will swamp low-lying areas
(2) threats to the agricultural system, which is well-honed to feed 7 billion people and not easily adaptable to a rapidly altering climate
(3) threats to water supplies from diminishing snowpacks, and
(4) destruction of ecosystems unable to adapt, in part because of the rapid pace of change and in part because they are effectively prevented from migration by human infrastructure.

23 David Appell { 09.13.11 at 1:46 am }

Ken, you wrote that “replication is a key element of the scientific process,” and you’re right, but what Steve McIntyre is doing isn’t replication. It’s “auditing.” It’s just taking someone else’s data and someone else’s computer program and running them (while, as McIntyre did, leaving some of the data out). That doesn’t help science. What science needs is independent investigators gathering their own data and doing their own independent analysis, thinking through the problems and uncertainties of each.

The two groups at CERN looking for the Higgs boson aren’t sharing a common database of particle collision data. They have each built a particle detector, and are each collecting data on particle collisions, and have each written their own software programs to analyze their data. They’ll each publish the result of their experiment. That’s replication.

Besides, my understanding is that Mann’s data was always available on his Web site. It wasn’t his responsibility to baby-step McIntyre through it all, and McIntyre usually comes across as pretty heavy-handed. And in any case the first MBH paper was published in 1998, in the nascent days of the Web. There are now large collections of climate data available with several portals.

The endless war against Michael Mann is just a distraction, anyway. He’s a very good scientist, but the case for AGW simply does not depend on his work, or the work of any individual scientist or any particular paper.

24 Jon Boone { 09.13.11 at 7:52 am }

David Appell:
What European countries have carbon taxes? See:http://www.carbontax.org/progress/where-carbon-is-taxed. Finland was the first to do so. Sweden a year later. A decade later, Great Britain weighed in with its “climate change levy.” I’m not the first to argue that the EU’s cap-and-trade policies are at root a carbon tax. Unlike other commodities, CO2 emissions, as I have argued in other writing, can only be estimated, rather than accounted for with precision. Who does the estimating? More fundamentally, who sets the permit prices? Why the agencies influenced by the corporations making the profits from “new” industries (read renewables and hyped up storage systems–GE, ExxonMobile, BP, Shell, Vestas, Dong), the carbon trading sector, the middlemen (does anyone think Goldman Sachs here?) that make the system work. The heavy lifting is done by–uh–the taxpayer.

Your hyperbolic call to action on behalf of climate change–”the worse emergency ever faced by humanity”–is unpersuasive and probably wrong. According to the genetic record, homo sapiens was reduced to a population level of perhaps only a few individuals along the west coast of Africa, likely because of volcanic action. The last great ice age must have been a real shocker to those leaving Africa 50,000 years ago. In my own lifetime, I believe Hitler represented a much greater threat to humanity than even the climate change scenario your jeremiad conjures up.

Unlike you, I find the evidence to support “dire” climate change equivocal, often confusing–and much too politically charged. Beginning with the ridiculous (Al Gore and Bill McKibben; have there ever been sillier canonical texts than An Inconvenient Truth and The End of Science?) and moving along to the sublime ignorance of Rick Perry (who has managed to conflate climate change with creationism), I have distanced myself from climate change as ideology.
Truth is that I don’t know enough about the science involved to make things as crystal clear as you evidently see them. And I don’t know anyone who does–and this includes James Hansen.

However, if one believes, for whatever reasons, that the earth is becoming a hellishly warm planet and that humans are the principle cause ( a very old proposition, actually), then why should one believe that renewables like wind can do anything except make the situation worse? More specifically, Mr. Appell, why aren’t you on the front lines cheerleading for nuclear technology, since it has the virtue of rather quickly replacing fossil fuel combustion around the world in all of the main energy sectors–electricity, transportation, and heating?

When I see the “scientific community” (whatever that means) embracing nuclear as “the power to save the world,” then I’ll believe the climate change threat is as dire as you suggest. Anything else is dithering. And dithering ain’t dire….

Finally, regarding “the war” against Michael Mann (your hyperbole seems endless). Mann seems his own worst enemy. By not releasing all of his data (was any of it really proprietary?), as well as his contextual commentary, he has fed the notion that his work is not transparent (that is, it’s the antithesis of science) and that he has something to hide, which, for a scientist, must be anathema.

25 Gene Watson { 09.13.11 at 9:25 am }

I challenge David Appell or anyone else to cite factual scientific evidence supporting the hypothetical that human activity has had any measurable impact on global climate. A hypothetical without supporting evidence is mere conjecture. And computer models that don’t predict are worthless; and when they get the sign wrong even more so. Science and prediction are joined at the hip – the better one understands the science, the more consistent and precise the capability becomes to predict results and outcomes. One more point to consider: commercial greenhouses elevate the internal CO2 level to more than 2.5 times the ambient (>1000 ppm vs 390 ppm) to decrease time to harvest and to improve yield and quality. Draw your own conclusions.

26 Charles Barton { 09.13.11 at 10:31 am }

Robert, I will leave it to david and other scientists to defend the scientific basis of the AGW jypothesis. I must add, that while I am not a Libertarian, I have some sympathy for the Libertarian perspective, and would like to see a free,open energy rich and wealthy society emerge at the end of thew climate change crisis. Most of the so called “Greens” do not share these goals. From my perspective it would be a lot more likely that such a society would emerge, if libertarians would join in the fight over mitigation choices, rather than continue their quixotic struggle over climate theory. Of course if you are wedded to the fossile fuel industry, that is not going to happen.

27 Chip Knappenberger { 09.13.11 at 10:43 am }

David (re:#22),

Thanks for the comments and responses.

I largely agree with you on extreme weather. Weather extremes are already part of the modern human experience. In fact, like I mentioned previously, the more frequent weather extremes become, the more it forces us to deal with them and ultimately, the better off we become (example: declining heat-related mortality rates in the face of rising urban temperatures in the U.S.).

But, a rapid and large sea level rise is not part of our experience. And sea level will rise as the planetary temperature rises. It is just a matter of how fast—which will dictate our responses.

I think that agriculture will keep up with the climate. It has to or many of us will perish. As that is not in our best interest (although some may argue otherwise), we will work hard to make sure it doesn’t happen. I have much faith in agricultural scientists and farmers continuing to produce the food we need (not to mention that a warming climate will open new regions for agriculture). The ‘dumb farmer’ scenario does not apply.

Nor am I worried about the loss of water supplies from reduced snowpack. The climate models are not, in general, projecting large changes in total precipitation in snowpack regions, rather, changes in precipitation type. Instead of relying on Mother Nature to store the summer water supplies in the form of snow, I think a change in water management/reservoir capacity could go a long way towards alleviating any climate-change related problem.

And, as you mentioned, the threat to various ecosystems largely comes from our slicing and dicing of habitat such that the natural response of some species to climate change becomes much more of a challenge (if not impossible). While this is certainly a problem, climate change is not the root of it.

So, what it boils down to, to me, is that the largest potential problem from global warming is a large and rapid sea level rise—a phenomenon that is beyond the (modern) human experience. I think where you and largely differ, is on how fast this will occur. And whether urgent measures (which will require sacrifices, at least in the near term) aimed at trying to prevent it (or slow it down) are called for.

My best read on the situation (at this time), is that the pace of climate change and the resulting rise in sea level will be manageable and therefore a forced large-scale change in our energy production methods is not yet urgent. Thankfully–for I don’t really envision any way that, realistically, it could happen anyway. To my way of thinking, it will require a new form of energy production, rather than existing off-the-shelf solutions. The core issue dividing many of us is what is the best way of prompting such innovation (which will inevitably come one day).


28 Ray { 09.13.11 at 11:44 am }
29 Chip Knappenberger { 09.13.11 at 11:56 am }

Ray (re:#28),

You linked to a chart showing the upper atmospheric (stratosphere) temperature satellite history (when in your comment #8 your were discussing lower atmosperhic temeprature trends). The cooling trend in the stratospheric data is an expected consequence of the declining levels of stratospheric ozone and increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases (which act to warm the lower atmosphere (troposphere) and cool the upper atmosphere (stratosphere).

A more up-to-date version of the satellite observatations of the lower troposphere is available here, and shows a statistically significant overall warming trend (since 1979) of about 0.14degC/decade.


30 Kermit { 09.13.11 at 1:02 pm }

Dr. Pielke, Sr.’s climate blog is where I cut my teeth on the discussion. I bought into the scam until hearing that he had resigned from the IPCC due governmental interference. After searching him out (on the internet) I began to see how wrong I was.

He does recognize human alteration in microclimates. A few fine examples are the metropolitan heat islands, and the increase in humidity in AZ where urban centers have been developed, along with a number of examples.

However, macro is a completely different story of the wonderful mechanism the earth has in regulating its own climate.

I can easily see that there would not be the coastal erosion along TX and LA if the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway had not allowed salt water into brackish/fresh interior marshes AND clam shell reefs had not been dredged near in offshore to feed the post WWII cement kiln needs.

31 Kermit { 09.13.11 at 1:03 pm }

Perry clearly came up blank on the question. He only had a talking point. It is sad because it was a slam dunk for him to make.

32 cknappenberger { 09.13.11 at 4:36 pm }

So, Gene Watson (re:#25), you are implying that you can infer a global influence from demonstrable effects in a greenhouse concerning plant growth enhancement from CO2, but not the demonstrable effects in a laboratory concerning IR absorption by CO2?

If this is what you are implying, then why the difference?

(also See Richard Lindzen’s comments (#3) on this MasterResource post

-Chip Knappenberger

33 Ken Langford { 09.14.11 at 12:26 am }

David Appell Wrote:

>False. UAH satellite data used to calculate global average >surface temperature has a linear trend of 0.20 +/- 0.02 deg >C/decade for the period Sept 1991 – August 2011. It is >statistically significant and has Pearson correlation coefficient >of r^2=0.28

Referring to Dr. Spencer’s graph depicting satellite lower atmospheric temperatures http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_current.gif, you can pick any period along the timeline and get a different result. However, looking at the big picture, it becomes apparent that large period cycles exist exist. It even appears in the graph that lower atmospheric temperatures may be trending downward again. Heaven forbid that we may be subject again to “global cooling” fears. When you look at this graph though, it becomes truly amazing that so much fear is generated over a .28 increase in temperature over 3 decades. The saying “pole vaulting over fly sh__ ” comes to mind.

34 Gene Watson { 09.14.11 at 11:31 am }

CK – I implied nothing in my post, I was only reporting a fact re: commercial greenhouse use of CO2 enhancement. I asked that readers draw their own conclusions – any implication is yours, not mine.

And I am still awaiting the citation of any direct fact-based evidence that human activity has had any detectable impact on global climate. Perhaps you can help me out here. Otherwise, AGW remains mere speculation (losing support daily).

35 cknappenberger { 09.14.11 at 1:08 pm }

Gene Watson (re:#34),

Carbon dioxide and several other gases absorb infrared radiation and reradiate it. The greater the concentration of them—be it in a tube in a laboratory, or in the earth’s atmosphere, the more IR radiation will be absorbed (in the case of the atmosphere this primarily comes from the earth’s surface) and remitted (in the case of the atmosphere, some of it will be directed back to the surface). This process changes the earth’s energy balance which is the driver of the earth’s climate.

Which part of this do you not consider to be fact-based evidence?


36 Gene Watson { 09.14.11 at 1:55 pm }

CK – re; #35 – Ah, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the AGW issue could such a simple matter. Fact is there are many natural climate forcings and feedbacks, by far the most prominent being water vapor and clouds (>70% if the earths surface is water). The facts you cite are the basis of the centuries old theory for the greenhouse effect – not too much dispute there. I am still awaiting the citation of any direct fact-based evidence that human activity has had any detectable impact on global climate.

37 Is Gov. Perry ‘Anti-Science’? (Updated, Sep. 14, 2011) { 09.14.11 at 3:44 pm }

[...] scholar Rob Bradley excerpted most of my blog post at Masterresource.Org in a column titled “Andrew Dressler Challenges Rick Perry: How Should Perry Respond?” Dressler is a climatologist at Texas A&M. Science writer David Appell posted a comment [...]

38 Gene Watson { 09.14.11 at 5:24 pm }

CK – it appears that my quest for evidence has drilled another ‘dry hole’ so I’m packing up my rig and moving on. My more learned colleagues have warned me of the folly of my search – they call it “fruitless”, no such evidence exists. We’ll see. Happy trails, CK and colleagues!

39 cknappenberger { 09.14.11 at 6:31 pm }

Gene Watson (re:#38),

Thanks for stopping by.

I think you are setting yourself up for continued fruitlessness if you don’t define the type of evidence that you would accept. Or perhaps your quest is designed fron the outset to be fruitless?

I would venture that virtully every practicing climate scientist accepts that human activity of some type is altering some of the the radiative pathways of the earth/atmosphere system, which in turns alters the climate. The detectibility of these changes over some temporal and spatial scales it certainly questionable. But not the fundemental process that a change in radiational balance will lead to a change in climate. And we are changing the radiational balances.


40 Gene Watson { 09.20.11 at 9:31 am }

CK – I stopped by to see if there were any loose ends and find your post #39. Indeed, I don’t expect to find any ‘direct factual evidence’ supporting the AGW hypothetical – I don’t believe such evidence exists, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t search for it. The ‘scientific method’ requires that for a hypothetical to gain credibility, evidence supporting the thesis must be provided; the more direct and factual the evidence, the more credible the hypothetical. Let’s define the wording to understand what I mean:
DIRECT – characterized by close causal relationship;
FACTUAL – based on fact, an actual occurrence;
EVIDENCE – something that furnishes proof.
These terms define the evidence I seek supporting the AGW hypothetical – as I have said, I don’t believe it exists so I do expect that my search will be ‘fruitless’.

However, I do believe that direct factual evidence refuting the AGW hypothetical exists and is the primary driver of the increasing conversion of ‘alarmists’ into ‘deniers’, myself included. While the atmospheric CO2 level continues to increase at an average rate of 1.8 ppm/annum (1) over the past 13 years, the global temperature has been essentially flat during this same period (2). This, to me, is direct factual evidence that the AGW hypothetical is seriously flawed and public policy based upon the thesis is unwarranted and dangerous to the welfare of humanity. There is direct factual evidence that the terrestrial food supply would greatly benefit from increasing the level of atmospheric CO2 to more than 2.5 times the current level.

(1) ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/co2/trends/co2_annmean_mlo.txt
(2) http://www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures/

41 David Appell { 09.21.11 at 9:01 pm }

Gene Watson wrote:
>> I am still awaiting the citation of any direct fact-based evidence that human activity has had any detectable impact on global climate. <<

Satellites in Earth orbit measure less heat escaping out to space, at the particular wavelengths at which CO2 and other GHGs absorbs radiation. Moreover, this outgoing radiation is decreasing, and at the wavelengths predicted by greenhouse gas theory, just as expected since we are adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere:
"Increases in greenhouse forcing inferred from the outgoing longwave radiation spectra of the Earth in 1970 and 1997," J.E. Harries et al, Nature 410, 355-357 (15 March 2001).

These findings have been confirmed:
“Comparison of spectrally resolved outgoing longwave data between 1970 and present,” J.A. Griggs et al, Proc SPIE 164, 5543 (2004). http://spiedigitallibrary.org/proceedings/resource/2/psisdg/5543/1/164_1
“Spectral signatures of climate change in the Earth's infrared spectrum between 1970 and 2006,” Chen et al, (2007)

More papers on this subject are listed here:

42 David Appell { 09.21.11 at 9:12 pm }

Gene Watson wrote:
>> However, I do believe that direct factual evidence refuting the AGW hypothetical exists and is the primary driver of the increasing conversion of ‘alarmists’ into ‘deniers’, myself included. While the atmospheric CO2 level continues to increase at an average rate of 1.8 ppm/annum (1) over the past 13 years, the global temperature has been essentially flat during this same period (2).<<

No, this does not disprove AGW, for several reasons:

1) AGW does not require that surface temperatures increase monotonically with CO2 levels. There are many short-term factors influencing such temperatures, especially ENSOs. They can cause swings of several tenths of a degree, which would temporarily swamp a background increase of 0.1-0.2 C/decade. This is why climate scientists stress you have to consider long-term trends. There is no precise definition of "long-term," but often 30 years is used.

2) There are other places the GHG-trapped heat can go other than to increase surface temperatures, such as the oceans (shallow and deep), and we are not monitoring all of them, particularly the deep oceans. The missing heat may be there — we simply do not know yet.

Surface temperatures will move upward at some point — they have to, by basic physics — but it need not be a steady increase, and they may even temporarily decrease in response to natural factors like volcanoes, drops in solar irradiance, ENSOs, the AMO, the PDO, etc. The climate system is complex, but the overall system is gaining heat all the time (again, see Harries et al, Nature, 2001). GHGs trap heat. More of them trap more heat.

43 Chris { 09.22.11 at 12:38 pm }

A few points (after reading the above posts):

1. What’s the point of using linear regression on a non-linear system?

2. I can’t believe someone has pulled out the “heating of the deep oceans” card. Why not try epicycles next?

3. How many more years of non-heating will it take for you to abandon your global warming fantasy? Three years ago, it was 3-5 years according to some AGW supporters. What is it now? You do realize that if temps don’t increase in the next 3-5 years you are going to look awfully stupid.

4. When will we have model results from 1979 onwards (to match the satellite data era)? Using temp data before 1979 is just hocus-pocus. Also, despite all the supercomputer power behind them, climate models are nothing more than curve-fitting exercises that have no predictive capability. This is not science.

44 Gene Watson { 09.22.11 at 10:13 pm }

David Appell (#42) – thank you for your learned exposition – I don’t see anything there that I disagree with but I am insufficiently informed to make a conclusive judgment. Having said that, I remain without an answer to my basic question …”What direct factual evidence (DFE) is there that human activity has had or is having any detectable, quantitative impact on global climate”. The Scientific Method requires that any hypothesis must be supported by DFE if it is to gain credibility. With the continuing absence of DFE, the AGW hypothetical remains incredible (un-credible) speculative conjecture.

Coincidentally, the 30 year period defining ‘long-term’ you mentioned may be one-half of a 60 year cycle that some observers hypothesize is operative, most recently comprised of the 30 year cooling period of 1940-1970 (during which alarmists were warning of the dangers of global cooling (Stephen Schneider, et. al.) and the subsequent 30 year warming period (1970-2000), during which alarmists were warning of the dangers of global warming (Stephen Schneider, et. al.). The thirteen-year global temperature trend since 1998 reveals a discernible trend toward global cooling which may indicate the onset of another 30 year period of global cooling – only time will tell since we have no laboratory other than the planet to work with.

45 David Appell { 10.02.11 at 10:49 pm }

Chris wrote:
> I can’t believe someone has pulled out the “heating of the deep oceans” card.

It’s not a “card” — it’s simply a recognition that heat moves around an atmosphere-ocean system, we are not monitoring all parts of it, and science gets refined as more data is gathered. See: Meehl, G.A., J.M. Arblaster, J.T. Fasullo, A. Hu and K.E. Trenberth, 2011: Model-based evidence of deep-ocean heat uptake during surface-temperature hiatus periods. Nature Climate Change, 9/18/11.

46 David Appell { 10.02.11 at 10:55 pm }

Gene Watson wrote:
The thirteen-year global temperature trend since 1998 reveals a discernible trend toward global cooling which may indicate the onset of another 30 year period of global cooling – only time will tell since we have no laboratory other than the planet to work with.

Talk about cherry-picking your starting year! Though actually you’re still wrong: if you do a linear regression on UAH’s global average surface temperature for the last 156 months (13 yrs) you get a trend of +0.12 +/- 0.04 C/decade, r^2=0.07.

47 David Appell { 10.02.11 at 11:02 pm }

Gene Watson wrote:
I remain without an answer to my basic question …”What direct factual evidence (DFE) is there that human activity has had or is having any detectable, quantitative impact on global climate”.

I told you: “Increases in greenhouse forcing inferred from the outgoing longwave radiation spectra of the Earth in 1970 and 1997,” J.E. Harries et al, Nature 410, 355-357 (15 March 2001).

What about this finding do you consider inadequate to answering your question? It’s direct, it’s factual, and is a verification of a prediction of the AGW hypothesis.

There are others facts, too; see “Empirically observed fingerprints of anthropogenic global warming,” http://www.skepticalscience.com/Empirically-observed-fingerprints-of-anthropogenic-global-warming.html

48 David Appell { 10.02.11 at 11:10 pm }

Gene Watson wrote:
…comprised of the 30 year cooling period of 1940-1970 (during which alarmists were warning of the dangers of global cooling (Stephen Schneider, et. al.)

No, they weren’t. There was discussion of cooling, but not much in the scientific literature and nothing NEAR the overwhelming consensus of AGW that there is today. I recommend you read Wallace Broecker’s 1975 paper in Science and compare his numbers to where we are today:

“Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?”
Wallace S. Broecker, Science Vol. 189 no. 4201 pp. 460-463, August 8, 1975

Then read:

“The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus” W. Peterson et al, Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 89, 1325–1337, 2008

You might even find this fun: in 1969 Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an aide to President Nixon, warned that we needed a monitoring system of CO2 for fears of global warming:


49 David Appell { 10.02.11 at 11:12 pm }

Chris wrote:
Also, despite all the supercomputer power behind them, climate models are nothing more than curve-fitting exercises that have no predictive capability.

GCMs certainly are not doing curve-fitting; they are numerical solutions to the PDEs describing physics of the climate system.

50 David Appell { 10.02.11 at 11:20 pm }

Chris wrote:
How many more years of non-heating will it take for you to abandon your global warming fantasy? Three years ago, it was 3-5 years according to some AGW supporters. What is it now? You do realize that if temps don’t increase in the next 3-5 years you are going to look awfully stupid.

My guess is it would take a minimum of 3 decades of surface cooling before science concluded there was something fundamentally wrong with today’s understanding of climate. With various natural oscillations worth about +/- 0.3-0.4 C, and an underlying warming of roughly 0.2 C/decade, it would take a maximum of that long for a long-term trend to pop out of the natural noise. I could be wrong though and would be interested in what an expert would say. I suspect most scientists would say it’s simply inconceivable that the world will not warm with all the GHGs we”re pumping into the atmosphere, and with so much yet to come. If ever humans want to terraform Mars, the very first thing they’ll think about doing is find a way to get more GHGs into its atmosphere, probably primarily water vapor and CO2, perhaps by melting the icecap and some regolith.

51 David Appell { 10.03.11 at 12:07 am }

Chris wrote:
> What’s the point of using linear regression on a
> non-linear system?

It’s not linear regression on a system, but on one of its outputs: globally averaged surface temperature. From experience and history we know that this function changes relatively slowly with time, with relatively small fluctuations, so linear regression is a good approximation to its rate of change. That’s no guarantee that it will always be so; there are concerns the possibility of sudden and rapid change of temperature from the underlying nonlinear system, like seems to have happened during the Younger Dryas. But people who express such possibilities tend to get labeled and demeaned, often with the term “alarmist.”

52 Political Scientists: Gerald North and Andrew Dressler Double Down on Climate Alarmism | Watts Up With That? { 10.11.13 at 9:46 am }

[...] intensity, elder Texas A&M climate scientist Gerald North joined climate scientist/campaigner Andrew Dressler to write (sign on to?) a disingenuous opinion-page editorial for the San Antonio Express, [...]

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