Desperate climate change skeptics misread the news


Internet-fueled antagonists of global warming reports probably grow weary of the constant drizzle of reports and stories confirming the bare, consensus conclusion that rising temperatures, globally, are contributed to significantly by human-provided air pollution.

So, can you blame them when they trumpet that a major organization like the American Physical Society reverses its stand on global warming, and publishes a paper by a fellow usually considered a hoax and tinfoil hat favorite, Lord Monckton?

Well, yes, you can blame them. That’s not at all what happened. It turns out that a division of APS simply opened a discussion on global warming, and in doing that, they published Monckton’s piece for discussion.

With this issue of Physics & Society, we kick off a debate concerning one of the main conclusions of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body which, together with Al Gore, recently won the Nobel Prize for its work concerning climate change research. There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for the global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution. Since the correctness or fallacy of that conclusion has immense implications for public policy and for the future of the biosphere, we thought it appropriate to present a debate within the pages of P&S concerning that conclusion. This editor (JJM) invited several people to contribute articles that were either pro or con. Christopher Monckton responded with this issue’s article that argues against the correctness of the IPCC conclusion, and a pair from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, David Hafemeister and Peter Schwartz, responded with this issue’s article in favor of the IPCC conclusion. We, the editors of P&S, invite reasoned rebuttals from the authors as well as further contributions from the physics community. Please contact me (jjmarque@sbcglobal.net) if you wish to jump into this fray with comments or articles that are scientific in nature. However, we will not publish articles that are political or polemical in nature. Stick to the science! (JJM)

Newsbusters, a right-wing, tinfoil hat driver site announced this morning that APS has abandoned its long-time position on climate change. Anthony Watts couldn’t wait to talk about it as a major hole in the case for doing something to clean up air pollution.  “Myth of Consensus Explodes” Daily Tech breathlessly exclaimed.

By this afternoon, APS had warning labels up at their site to advise the unwary who might have been misled by the deniers:

The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review. Its conclusions are in disagreement with the overwhelming opinion of the world scientific community. The Council of the American Physical Society disagrees with this article’s conclusions.

Bob Parks, former APS spokescurmudgeon, wrote about it in his weekly news comment, What’s New:

1. GOOD LORD! GLOBAL WARMING DENIERS VANDALIZE APS.
Science is open. If better information becomes available scientists rewrite the textbooks with scarcely a backward glance. The Forum on Physics and Society of the APS exists to help us examine all the information on issues such as global climate change. There are physicists who think we don’t have warming right, I know one myself. It is therefore entirely appropriate for the Forum to conduct a debate on the pages of its newsletter. A couple of highly-respected physicists ably argued the warming side. Good start. However, on the denier’s side was Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, who inherited his father’s peerage in 2006. Lord Monckton is not a scientist, his degree is in journalism and he’s a reporter for the Evening Standard, an English tabloid. Whatever it is that Viscounts do, he may do very well, but he doesn’t know squat about physics and his journalism suffers from it. Worse, somebody fed the media the line that Monckton’s rubbish meant the APS had changed its position on warming; of course it has not. Few media outlets took the story seriously.

How desperate are the anti-Gore-ites? They are desperate enough they’ll turn off their bovine excrement detectors, and claim Monckton’s goofy stuff is a new position for APS, without bothering to check the facts.

How long will this hoax survive on the internet?

Other resources:

  • APS Climate Change Statement
    APS Position Remains Unchanged

    The American Physical Society reaffirms the following position on climate change, adopted by its governing body, the APS Council, on November 18, 2007:

    “Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate.”

    An article at odds with this statement recently appeared in an online newsletter of the APS Forum on Physics and Society, one of 39 units of APS.  The header of this newsletter carries the statement that “Opinions expressed are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the APS or of the Forum.”  This newsletter is not a journal of the APS and it is not peer reviewed.

  • Why Monckton is considered good for the tinfoil hat business
  • Tim Lambert on Monckton fantasies and deceptions before the U.S. Congress (for a very thorough vetting of Monckton, go to Lambert’s blog and do a search for “Monckton”)
  • A serious case against the conclusions of human causation for global warming, by Pat Frank, published in Skeptic’s online site, “A Climate of Belief.”  Dr. Frank is a careful and generally rigorous thinker, a physicist with no axes to grind against anyone involved, who has made a good case that we cannot conclude human causation; in discussions I’ve had with Dr. Frank, he’s limited his criticisms to the science.  I’m more of an effects guy myself — but this is the one article that keeps me hoping for more, better evidence (while we make plans to reduce emissions, of course — whether warming is human caused or not, we need cleaner air).
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23 Responses to Desperate climate change skeptics misread the news

  1. [...] thanks to Ed Darrel at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub for pointing once again to the extraordinarily compelling case put together by Patrick Frank in [...]

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  2. [...] climatique serait dû aux activités humaines. Il n’en fallait pas plus pour que plusieurs titrent que le mythe du consensus sur les causes du réchauffement vient d’éclater. Le [...]

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  3. Pat Frank says:

    Hi Ed,

    You’re welcome to quote me anywhere. What’s “the thing”? :-)

    The link I gave you may require an authorization to download, by the way. This next one is to Demetris’ web-page, where the paper and the supplemental information can be downloaded for free: http://www.itia.ntua.gr/en/docinfo/864

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  4. Ed Darrell says:

    Not to drag you into the discussion again, but do you mind if I quote your comments in a post on the thing?

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  5. Pat Frank says:

    Hi Ed — just today I received a note from Demetris Koutsoyiannis that his paper evaluating 18 years of climate model predictions of temperature and precipitation at 8 locales worldwide has been published.

    The paper is open access and can be downloaded here:

    http://www.atypon-link.com/IAHS/doi/abs/10.1623/hysj.53.4.671

    I knew about this work before publication because I was an informal reviewer. Now that it’s published, I can mention it.

    Here’s the citation: D. KOUTSOYIANNIS, A. EFSTRATIADIS, N. MAMASSIS & A. CHRISTOFIDES “On the credibility of climate predictions” Hydrological Sciences–Journal–des Sciences Hydrologiques, 53(4) August 2008

    Abstract “Geographically distributed predictions of future climate, obtained through climate models, are widely used in hydrology and many other disciplines, typically without assessing their reliability. Here we compare the output of various models to temperature and precipitation observations from eight stations with long (over 100 years) records from around the globe. The results show that models perform poorly, even at a climatic (30-year) scale. Thus local model projections cannot be credible, whereas a common argument that models can perform better at larger spatial scales is unsupported.”

    In essence, they found that climate models have no predictive value. This is the result predicted by Collins’ 2002 “perfect model” study (Skeptic reference 28), and what would be expected given the validity of the Skeptic analysis.

    Best,

    Pat

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  6. Ed Darrell says:

    Wow! Thanks for the analysis. Think hard about copyrighting that phrase, “high velocity mud.”

    Always a pleasure to have your arguments and views here.

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  7. Pat Frank says:

    Hi Ed — You asked me to watch Naomi Oreskes’ YouTube presentation, and I’ve now done that. She’s a good speaker, and is clearly very sincere. But she makes mistakes that reflect her convictions. For example, she says in minute 9:29 that the physics of global warming was understood already in the 1930’s. This is incorrect. What was understood by the 1930’s was a respectable amount of radiation physics, which is far from enough to predict the effect of doubled CO2 on global temperatures.

    That is, in the 1930’s virtually nothing was known about the climatic responses of the hydrologic cycle, nor the response of clouds, nor any changes in atmospheric turbulence or in the strength of the Hadley cells, that might follow from the greater radiation opacity produced by increased atmospheric CO2. She’s trying to make the point that the basic science was ‘settled’ already 75 years ago, in order to starkly expose AGW skeptics as foolish or wrong. But the science wasn’t settled then, and it’s not settled now. All those things I mentioned are still not known well enough to predict the effect of doubled CO2 on climate. Nor are they known well enough to even say that doubled CO2 will detectably warm the climate.

    In minute 11:47, Dr. Oreskes raised the issue of a runaway greenhouse effect, due to warming oceans. At the time that possibility was first made, little was known about the behavior of the climate in the past, although the ice ages were known. The paleological CO2 concentrations were also not known. However, it’s now known that the climate has had abrupt warm and cold excursions in the past, and CO2 has been much higher in the climatologically recent past (i.e., in the Eocene and the Miocene), all without the climate ever running away into a greenhouse catastrophe. I.e., if a greenhouse runaway was possible on Earth, it would have happened long ago.

    In minute 15:59, Dr. Oreskes showed a slide containing a speculative prediction based on the understanding current in 1965, that by the year 2000 the possible 25% increase in CO2 (in the event it was ~16% ) wouldmodify the heat balance of the atmosphere to such an extent that marked changes in climate … could occur.” But the year 2000 has come and gone, and none of that happened. There has been no large change in the heat balance of the atmosphere and there has been no marked change in climate. That non-result was also evident in 2007, when Dr. Oreskes gave her talk, and it should have been evident that the prior physical understanding of climate was not accurate. In 2008 CO2 has now increased by ~23% since 1965, and there still has not been any detectable CO2 effect on climate.

    In minute 16:31 Dr. Oreskes went on to say that what scientists predicted in 1965 what “we now know to be true,” meaning it is true that there has been a large increase in the heat content of the atmosphere from CO2 and climate is markedly different. This truth-claim is wrong. No one knows any such thing.

    It’s a little revealing of a tendency in thinking, that in minute 19:54, Dr. Oreskes showed a slide referencing the 1979 JASON committee, whose stated goal was to “understand climate change in terms of the basic principles of radiation physics and energy budgets.” Dr. Oreskes repeated these goals in her talk, apparently without realizing that they completely contradict her prior claim (in minute 9:29) that the basic climate physics of CO2 was well understood already in the 1930’s, 40 years before.

    In minute 22:04, Dr. Oreskes said that the change in polar temperatures exactly verify the 4x temperature predictions made in 1979, for a doubling of CO2. She pointed to Alaska as though it represented the entire Arctic, which it does not, and completely ignored the South Polar region which showed no warming at all (most of it has been cooling). This, she called an exact correspondence with prediction, which it clearly is not. This is not even a partial verification because no climate calculation predicted a global temperature dipole.

    If I understand the meaning of “NRC Proposal for Support” correctly then it also seems that in minute 23:59 Dr. Oreskes is interpreting as a conclusion, the wording of a proposal in support of the study of CO2 and climate change. I.e., a proposal to investigate the proposition that if CO2 changes climate as is thought possible (not certain), then profound impacts on human society may occur. This is not a conclusion, but a rationale for study. Dr. Oreskes treats it as a conclusion, and then wonders what happened to the follow-up.

    In minute 27:50, Dr. Oreskes shows a quote from the 2003 Frank Luntz memo. I found pages 131-146 of that memo, and her quote is accurate. The ellipsis on her slide just stops short of this sentence-ending phrase, “and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.” That’s an important omission. The memo reads nothing like a conspiracy to deflect necessary action against CO2 in the name of profits. It’s actually quite reasonable. If you’d like, I can send you the pdf, to see for yourself.

    In minute 30:35, Dr. Oreskes asked, “And how did scientific uncertainty become a political tactic?” One could, easily with equal cause, ask, ‘And how did scientific certainty become a political tactic?” All one need do is read the climatological literature, including the deep inner pages of the IPCC Reports, to see that there is no scientific certainty at all about the effect of human-added CO2 on climate.

    I don’t want to enter the political part of Dr. Oreskes’ speech, which I did watch to the end. That arena has far too much high velocity mud. :-)

    Best wishes, Ed.

    Pat

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  8. Ed Darrell says:

    Thanks, Pat. Part of what troubles me so much about your piece is I can’t see any obvious holes in it. It’s bothered me for months now.

    I’ll check out Spencer’s stuff.

    Similarly, you may want to take a look at Naomi Oreskes presentation, here, on YouTube:

    She walks through much of the history that I got years ago from the air pollution guys. You’ll see all sorts of problems, I’m sure, but this is the angle from which I come into the issue.

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  9. Pat Frank says:

    Thank-you, Ed. You’re a real gentleman. You were actually pretty complimentary toward me above, and so really I took no personal offense. But the whole “denialist” label stinks so much from the implicit and very deliberate scurrilous attachment to holocaust deniers, that its use really upsets me and I didn’t like being associated with that label even when excepted out.

    You wanted reference to better scientific evidence that there is no CO2-warming crisis. Take a look here: http://tinyurl.com/yqzhu8 at Roy Spencer’s online essay, “Global Warming and Nature’s Thermostat: Precipitation Systems” Scroll down a bit to find it. . Spencer is a top-rank climate physicist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, whose work includes satellite measurments of global temperature. He’s completely familiar with climate physics and climate models.

    Best,

    Pat

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  10. Ed Darrell says:

    Anyway look, do me a favor and leave my name out of your public remonstrances here about desperate denialists. I don’t want to be called back to defend myself.

    What I said was that the denialists should follow your example, sticking to the science instead of going off on purely political rants. I regret if that offended, or if it was misread by anyone.

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  11. Pat Frank says:

    What’s to mitigate, Ed? There aren’t any known problems from CO2. You’re just recycling an asserted causality. Climate warms and cools. Animals migrate. Glaciers move. Seasons shift. Oceans cycle between phases. Earth turns. So it goes. It’s all indistinguishable from normal, and we just need to take care of ourselves as all that happens.

    You know what works? Prosperity enough to mitigate the inevitable disasters. That always works. And irrationally imposed legislation? That never works. But that’s the AGW program.

    Climate alarm isn’t rationally justifiable. Irrational actions court disaster. But I’m not going to argue the point here anymore, because I like and respect you and the disagreement clearly will not be resolved.

    Anyway look, do me a favor and leave my name out of your public remonstrances here about desperate denialists. I don’t want to be called back to defend myself.

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  12. Ed Darrell says:

    Not only do I remember household radon causing cancer, I was at the hearings where the National Academy of Sciences presented the information, and I met several of the lung cancer victims before they died. Of course, their plights were unusual, as opposed to the uranium miners on the Navajo reservation and in Marysville, Utah, where mortality was 100% — astounding among a group of non-smokers, but expected once one understands the causality.

    Oh, and I remember Rosalyn Yalow, Nobel laureate, testifying that we were imagining the cancers, that radiation could not cause such destruction.

    [The pseudo estrogens do cause testes shrinkage in males, sexual development dysfunctions like hermaphroditism in fish, lizards and probably birds, premature puberty in human females and other mammals, and cancers in the children of females exposed; see my posts on DDT for more data.]

    And then, three years later after we got the translations of the documents from Japan, we understood: Biological entities are better indicators of dosage than physical measurement. And in the interim we had assembled a hell of a case: The government simply lied about the exposures, at every turn.

    [Yalow stuck to her guns to the end, finally urging President Reagan to veto the bill to compensate the radiation victims, against the rest of the National Academy of Sciences, against all the statisticians, against the epidemiologists, against the Japanese national academy . . . a bravura performance of denialism, and a great roadblock in the path of justice.]

    I hear your arguments, Pat. I don’t grant them credence, not fully — not when plants, glaciers, the wind and the rain act differently. I wish there were unanimity among all you scientists, but in the absence of that, I’ll put on a policy maker hat and go with consensus. Policy makers don’t have the luxury of being certain that the things they see are not what they appear, not without understanding what the real causes are. Did you see Bob Parks’ newsletter today? I put it in a post — but here’s the text:

    4. UNCOOL: LOT OF HEAT FROM GLOBAL-WARMING DENIERS.
    Suppose, I asked myself, that the deniers are right and the CO2 thing is a mistake? What will happen if the world takes the CO2 thing seriously, adopting common sense measures to counter anthropogenic warming and there never was any warming in the first place? 1) there will more non-renewable resources to leave to our progeny; 2) we will breath cleaner air and see the stars again, the way we saw them half a century ago; 3) we could stop paving over the planet, and 4) cut down on the number of billionaires. If we’re wrong we could have a party. We could have a party either way.

    Robert L. Park, What’s New, July 25, 2008

    At Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, see also: “Starbucks controversy: The Way I See It #289 (global warming)

    You and I are looking through different ends of the microscope. I remember that we (a global we, not just you and I) got to worrying about global climate change in the process of working to clean the air more than 20 years ago. In the world of air pollution control, it’s a given that greenhouse gases need to be controlled — for health reasons from direct contact, if nothing else. In working toward that goal about 15 years ago air pollution scientists noted that the signs were that we had passed a tipping point predicted 40 years earlier. In the race to control air pollution, it’s always been understood that particulates offset the greenhouse gases, cooling enough to compensate for the warming caused by greenhouse gases. My old texts argued that, at some future date then far in the future, if only one end of the pollution spectrum were controlled, the other would cause massive climate change. Particulates were very much controlled, reduced to zero in some cases. Greenhouse gases were not controlled. 15 years ago it seemed obvious that the Earth was warming due to the greenhouse effects then pretty well understood.

    Now you say we’ve got new questions. Fine. Let’s do the research and find answers. In the meantime, the control of emissions is still critical to health, and as Bob Parks indicates, we have only a win situation if we act. If we cannot control the CO2 emissions enough to fix things, we need other compensatory actions. We can’t wait. Nauru is going underwater. The Sahel isn’t suitable for the farming several millions of people need to do to survive. Insurance rates for roofs are prohibitive in Texas. New Orleans may be a bellwether. We need to act now. Deforestation is a problem even if there is no effect on CO2, and we need to stop it — we need to reverse it. Significant progress against deforestation has led to benefits everywhere it’s been done. If CO2 can’t be branded as the chief culprit of warming, that has zero effect on the need to act to control air pollution, and zero effect on the need to stop the destruction of pollution sinks.

    (Help me out here — do your statistics include calculations of the carbon not sunk into forests?)

    How did we get from a consensus that we need to act, and oh, by the way, it looks like warming is occurring, to a position where anyone is claiming we should not act to control emissions? That’s ridiculous. Even without warming, we need to act to control emissions.

    You know the story of Semmelweiss. One of us is in his shoes now. For the sake of the planet, I think, I hope its you. That way, if we act and we’re wrong, we get additional benefits. But if its me, and we don’t act, we’re probably dooming billions of people.

    Clean air pays for itself in benefits. Acting to clean air is not an economy damning exercise, and never has been. I’m not sure where such ideas come from, but it’s not from history and not from economics. You’re assuming a political unsupportable position, that we must cut back on energy use to the detriment of economics. That’s not only not doable, it’s not on the table. You’re assuming the only action possible is to cut fuel use. That’s not what I hear from any environmental group. I do not believe it is necessary to sack and waste the entire Amazon basin for economic growth in Brazil — the sacking and wasting isn’t producing economic growth anyway. And yet, preventing the wasting of the Amazon, and the Congo, are necessary steps to controlling global warming. If we can reverse that wasting, we can probably achieve an equivalent of 20% of suppression of CO2, without cutting back on current fossil fuel usage. Maybe the figure will be smaller, but the principle is the same.

    We need to act, now. If cutting fuel use is not a viable choice — and contrary to your claims, I don’t see anyone seriously arguing to cut energy use a lot — then we need to find other methods. Freeman Dyson says we can activate the soil. A few radicals think we can sink CO2 in the oceans with simple tools, like iron supplements. Refusing to act is not a viable choice.

    Can you make the case that CO2 isn’t causing warming? Great! Now tell me what is causing warming. Can you make a case that warming is wholly natural? Fantastic. Now tell me — what do we do to mitigate or stop the effects in that case?

    The problems remain. You’re saying we cannot with 100% certainty find a culprit to blame. That’s not even necessarily the issue: The question is, what do we do to fix the problems? You say you know what won’t fix the problems. Fine.

    Tell us: What works?

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  13. Pat Frank says:

    Ed, do you remember silicone breast implants cause autoimmune and inflammatory disease? Do you remember radiation from depleted uraniium causes cancer? Do you remember MMT vaccination causes autism? Do you remember household radon causes cancer? Do you remember chemical sensitivity causes acute allergic disfunction? Do you remember environmental synthetic pseudo-estrogens cause sperm depletion? Do you remember high-voltage transmission lines and heating blankets cause cancer?

    None of those worries panned out. We can all cherry-pick the evidence that makes the case. The case you’re making is that correlation proves causation., and that case just doesn’t wash.

    You wrote, “I don’t think for a moment that carbon dioxide emissions are wholly responsible for warming — but the carbon cycle probably plays an enormous role.

    What does that mean? It looks to me like you’re excusing CO2 on the porch and bringing it back in through the back door as the “carbon cycle.” This is quite evident because your very next sentence is, “Limiting carbon emissions is one method. Carbon capture is another …,” which is all about CO2 to the exclusion of any other part of the carbon cycle.

    Your argument is all about human-produced CO2 and nothing else, and it’s to no one’s benefit to disguise that.

    And what does this mean: “Of course, denying that there is any effect at all means we need do nothing, which denial contributes to the destruction of tropical forests simply by allowing their destruction to continue unabated.“?

    How does skepticism of CO2-induced radical warming contribute to destructive logging of tropical forests? Can you possibly be proposing to use a falsehood about CO2 and climate to impose limits on logging in the name of carbon sequestration? If tropical logging is destructive, it should be addressed on its own terms. Using a remonstrative crock to effect a change discredits the very need to slow logging, because the true case against logging is replaced by a false case against CO2. When the case in terms of CO2 collapses, you have no credibility left to make the true case against logging. Your implied strategy is self-defeating. As well as ethically suspect.

    You wrote, “Is it possible that human emissions have no effect? Sure. Is it likely? No. Do current models describe perfectly how warming occurs? No. Can we wait for action?

    The answers, rather, are ‘yes,’ ‘quite likely,’ ‘they have no clue,’ and, ‘yes.’ The reason for the final ‘yes’ is that predictions of future warming are no predictions at all, and there is nothing whatever alarming in either the rate or the extent of the warming that has happened.

    Do you want to make a change in CO2 emissions that doesn’t harm the economy? Then find a political path to nuclear power. Nothing else will make much of a dent, failing a big technological breakthrough. Cap-and-trade is a fine way of enriching financial speculators and sending money to failed Socialist economies. And CO2 injection is a fine way of giving competitive advantage to India and China, as well as driving jobs abroad to regions of cheap energy. That includes high-tech jobs that require copious cheap electricity. It’s craziness, Ed.

    You wrote, “Were it true that cleaning pollution hurts poor people, we would have a dilemma.

    CO2 isn’t pollution. No one has been harmed by it, and it has had zero negative health consequences. CO2 also has nothing to do with smokestack plumes, fly ash, sulfate aerosols, smelting or anything else you implied. These can be related mostly to coal burning, which I agree is a big pollution problem. But the CO2 part of that is not at all the pollution issue, and trying to conjoin them is analytically wrong.

    From where is the money for real pollution abatement and medical care going to come if CO2 controls impoverish the economy?

    You wrote, “Do you seriously urge me to stand still in the face of such costs? How is that a wise solution?

    Whether warming causes insurance to rise is a separate issue. The central issue is whether CO2 is causing the warming. Your entire analysis assumes the truth of that last, when in fact that truth is very far from established. In fact, there is no evidence for that truth. You’re proposing actions that have no credible basis to be construed as a solution to any problem associated with climate warming. Your solutions just involve spending large amounts of money to no credible benefit, but likely increased poverty. How is that an attractive option?

    Insurance actuaries set costs based on estimated risk. The risk is set by a perception of alarm stoked by a systmatic misrepresentation of the science. That is, the perceived risk is not a factual risk, even though it in fact has actuarial consequences. This misrepresentation has been encouraged and abetted by environmental groups. They bear a large part of the blame for the shameful degradation of scientific integrity that surrounds the global warming hysteria.

    You wrote, “So, if not greenhouse emissions, what is the cause?

    No one knows. Can you live with that? It’s the truth. Climate can warm with no direct cause at all; without any change in the incoming energy flux. That’s how coupled oscillators work, and the climate subsystems are a set of hugely coupled, long period oscillators. The whole problem with conventional thinking about climate is that everyone is thinking linearly about a non-linear feedback-coupled system. They’re looking for simple cause-effect where none is to be had. It’s a huge failure of perspective, exacerbated by a general hostility toward profit-driven economies.

    You wrote (after the dust bowl analogy), “… human actions a tiny fraction as powerful as the mass release of emissions from fossil fuels.

    This again just illustrates that you’re assuming your conclusion. There is no evidence whatever that emissions of CO2 are more powerfully affective than overgrazing, or anything else. In fact, the only known effect CO2 has had on deserts is that it’s causing them to become more verdant all across the Northern Hemisphere. If the warming climate is causing deserts to advance, the CO2 is causing plants to become more drought-tolerant. And there is zero evidence the CO2 is behind the warming.

    It’s not that the physics isn’t solid. It’s that the physics is totally inadequate. It’s not a small problem with theory that is nevertheless able to reveal a true prediction in outline. It’s a huge problem with theory that is able to reveal no reliable prediction at all. Look again at the results of Michael Collins, documented in the Skeptic article. A state-of-the-art climate model couldn’t even reproduce one year of the climate it had, itself, generated. How are such models capable of predicting human-caused warming of a real climate? Why does anyone credit such not-predictions?

    Your reference to gambling is exactly correct, but pi out of phase. You’re gambling with the only economy that has ever lifted entire populations out of drudgery, disease and poverty, and into relative ease, wealth and health. All the hoopla about prosperity through sustainable energy production is a false promise. Maybe in 50 years, maybe never. But certainly not now. And for what? Certainly not to stop global warming. Even the consensus view agrees that no amount of CO2 suppression less than 80% will do anything to bring the climate models (not the climate itself) down to 20th century temperatures. And 80% suppression guarantees a Medieval existence. So, all this frenzy about CO2 suppression is not for the climate. It’s not about pollution abatement. What’s left? Inchoate fears, righteous sentimentality, and a need to expiate perceived social sins. Are they worth poverty, drudgery and no health care? Is there so much love for the poor that we’re going to unversalize that love through universalized poverty?

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  14. Ed Darrell says:

    Pat, I well recall the arguments that we couldn’t say DDT caused the decline of bald eagles, because we didn’t know the precise mechanism — correlation between concentrations of DDT in the birds’ tissues and their reproductive failures were not enough. I well recall the claims that fluoride radicals could not possibly mix into the upper atmosphere, because the models couldn’t show it, because we knew of nothing else that mixed that high, and because such mixing would require something from the upper atmosphere to mix down — none of which was in evidence. I remember well the claims that sulfates from smokestacks didn’t exist; then when we had rock solid proof of the sulfates (from a project I worked on), the claims that they could not possibly affect visibility because the only possible way these nearly clear chemicals could do that was by light scattering, and there was no physical model for such light scattering. Then there was the impossibility of smog, since none of the chemicals involved were brown and there was no known process by which brown stuff could be synthesized from any of the air pollutants.

    There are stranger things. How could any emission from a steel mill make cows’ teeth fall out? (One of the ores had a significant but unexpected fluorine content.) After all the other stuff was cleaned up, what emission from a steel mill could possibly negate the effects of all herbicides and insecticides? (Tiny carbon spheres given off as aerosol from the pouring of molten steel — activated charcoal. It absorbed the chemicals completely.)

    I don’t think for a moment that carbon dioxide emissions are wholly responsible for warming — but the carbon cycle probably plays an enormous role. Limiting carbon emissions is one method. Carbon capture is another — and don’t underestimate the power of planting trees, or the power of getting the microbes of the soil into the process of sinking carbon, as Freeman Dyson urges. Of course, denying that there is any effect at all means we need do nothing, which denial contributes to the destruction of tropical forests simply by allowing their destruction to continue unabated.

    Is it possible that human emissions have no effect? Sure. Is it likely? No. Do current models describe perfectly how warming occurs? No. Can we wait for action?

    Why would we wait, when there are so many things that we can do to alleviate the damage, so many things that harm no economies?

    Were it true that cleaning pollution hurts poor people, we would have a dilemma. Most often, however, it is poor people who bear the brunt of pollution damage. It is the poor who live in the plumes of factories and power plants. It is the poor who must drink the dirty water. It is the poor who lack medical care.

    Now, were the atmospheric models all we had, you’d have a stronger case. But there is much more. The creeping springtime, which corroborates so well with increasing industrialization, is a powerful chunk of evidence. Skeptics skoff — I suppose some (surely not you) think that all we need do is convince the native flora of North America that the temperature readings are incorrect, and they will stop leafing out 8 hours earlier every year. I take a more rational stand on that issue: I don’t think the plants get their information from the local television meteorologists, and we should perhaps pay attention to what the plants are saying.

    Add to the plants the glaciers, and warming is a fact.

    You’re not disputing warming, right?

    So, if not greenhouse emissions, what is the cause?

    Warming is a problem regardless the cause. If preventing further destruction is not a viable start, what do you propose?

    You say this insanity is urged on by environmental groups, but I know better. Environmental groups do not control insurance rates. Those are set by actuaries. Here in Texas we’ve been paying premium due to climate change for more than a decade. It’s cost us nearly $15,000, and I imagine that’s a good average cost for families in Texas. Poor families may evade some of the costs up front by failing to buy insurance, but they get it socked to them when the disasters flood their homes, or take the roofs off. Once again, it’s poor people taking the brunt.

    In any case, it’s actuaries, underwriters, and bankers who set those insurance rates, and they set the rates based on expected payouts. The payouts are enormous here, much larger than in the past. Insurance costs will only rise with warming.

    Do you seriously urge me to stand still in the face of such costs? How is that a wise solution?

    Pat, here in Texas we know about man-made environmental disasters. We made it through the Dust Bowl — but the signs of damage in the Panhandle are still there. In Oklahoma, there are still places where the dust drifts are ten feet deep. I come from Utah, where the western desert still exists — a creation of overgrazing since about 1880. I’ve seen astounding destruction as a result of human actions, human actions a tiny fraction as powerful as the mass release of emissions from fossil fuels.

    The desert in the Four Corners region — the old, deep dune desert, which has been absent for 1,000 years — seems to be returning. Navajos I spoke with talked about having to move settlements that are being claimed by the desert. Of course, Navajos probably haven’t lived there for much over 200 or 400 years. What do they know?

    Plants, forests, glaciers, deserts; storms, ocean temperatures, droughts; atmospheric composition. All of these things confirm warming, and many point to human causes. The physics isn’t solid? Is that a problem of theory, or is it really indicative that all the other indicators are wrong? Hell of a gamble, it seems to me, to do nothing.

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  15. Pat Frank says:

    Ed, you wrote, “I’m not accepting this stuff on political grounds, but rather on other information, in biology and geology. I think the annual march of Spring to earlier on the calendar is difficult to refute — and physics issues aside, it’s pretty powerful evidence.

    This sort of evidence only indicates climate change. This is climatologically trite, because climate has never not changed. The changes in climate observed over the 20th century are not unusual and no cause for alarm. If your description really constituted your position, it would contradict your alarm and outspoken criticisms, making them irrational.

    Your position is therefore far more involved than merely that climate is changing. I know from previous discussions we’ve had, and even from the essay above, that your position actually is that the centennial climate warming and its physical manifestations are caused by human-produced greenhouse gases, most notably CO2.

    So, let’s be clear about what you’re claiming. Your position is that retreat of glaciers, the earlier spring, the march of the desert in Arizona, etc., constitute ipso facto proof that human-produced greenhouse gases have warmed the climate.

    But this sort of argument is a scientific non-sequitur. It’s causality by assignment, — by fiat — rather than by deduction from theory. You’re making the argument that factual correlation proves causation, Ed. Remember the error “Post hoc ergo propter hoc”? That’s what you’re making.

    You’re well-trained in science, and you know that sort of argument carries no water at all. I can only conclude that your sense of surety regarding GHG causality is grounded in some sort of partisan psychology, because it is not scientifically rational. And I write that here with sincere regrets, because it’s accompanied by all respect to you for what you’ve accomplished and as a person I like.

    There is zero evidence that any of the warming is caused by 20th century greenhouse gases, Ed. Zero. There is zero evidence that any of the physical manifestations of a warmer climate — earlier springs, retreating glaciers, or advancing deserts — are caused by 20th century increased greenhouse gases.

    The reason there is zero evidence is that General Circulation Models are very incomplete and are unable to reliably reproduce or to predict Earth climate at a level of accuracy anywhere near that required to detect a GHG effect.

    That’s a scientific QED refutation of your position.

    The result is that no one knows why Earth climate has warmed, and no one knows whether human-produced GHGs are responsible for any detectable climate warming at all. But we do know that Earth climate has warmed (and cooled) in the past at rates entirely consistent with what is happening now, within the limits of resolution.

    About the pointers to skeptical literature, you can cull several merely from the reference notes of the Skeptic article. When have any of those citations ever been picked up in the media? When has anyone noted in public that the IPCC regularly allows people to think the numerical standard deviations on their temperature graphs are indicators of physical accuracy? In the context of thier claims of high AGW likelihood, these graphs amount to a repeated and misleading equivocation by high UN officials and by the scientists and others who wrote the Summary for Policymakers.

    These specious eqiuvocations are being used to impose a huge social burden and the unproductive diversion of billions, if not trillions, of dollars. Where is the concern about the rich getting richer and the poor, poorer as a consequence of these benighted policy decisions? Especially when these very same policies will have no effect on climate warming at all, even if the science supported your position, which it does not.

    It all borders insanity, Ed. Consciously urged on by environmental groups.

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  16. Ed Darrell says:

    Mr. Morabito argues At Unbearable Nakedness of Climate Change (and I’ve commented there with the essence of what I say here):

    We have twice as many changes that are INCONSISTENT with warming in Europe, than CONSISTENT with warming in the rest of the world.

    The lowest percentage of changes consistent with warming in the map is 89%, in Europe. In several other places 100% of the changes are consistent with warming.

    You’ve made a subtraction error somewhere. You can’t get twice as many changes inconsistent with warming when there is no more than 11% of the changes not consistent with warming in the largest set of data. [Nota Bene that the 11% "not consistent" are not "inconsistent" with warming -- they may not be contrary. There's a difference, subtle though it may be, between "inconsistent" and "not consistent."]

    It’s interesting that Europe is so heavily observed – but then, that’s what we should expect with a 400-year tradition of making such observations in Scandinavia, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, and the UK. The bias there is because that’s where the biological systems are best documented and best known. [If there were some question about the data, those data would be where you'd make the case -- but the trend is overwhelming, at 89% showing warming.]

    That 89% of the systems where we know them best, demonstrate warming, is quite persuasive if one were simply looking at the data. That data from every other major geographic area corroborates those data suggest they are no fluke.

    I think you’ve misread the chart.

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  17. [...] Rational Skepticism is Proper Response to AGW Claims 21 07 2008 Many thanks to Ed Darrel at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub for pointing once again to the extraordinarily compelling case put together by Patrick Frank in [...]

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  18. omnologos says:

    I am no Pat Frank and believe to be an “effects guy” myself so let me dare provide you a link Ed.

    Go read the IPCC AR4-WG2 Chapter 1.

    http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg2.htm

    http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-wg2-chapter1.pdf

    I hope you can spot the enormous geographical bias yourself. If not, I talk about it here:

    http://omniclimate.wordpress.com/2007/12/21/global-warming-may-be-just-european/

    Is that what one can call “pretty powerful evidence”? For Europe, perhaps. But that’s no “global” warming or climate change.

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  19. Ed Darrell says:

    Send a list, Pat. I’ll point to them.

    I’m not accepting this stuff on political grounds, but rather on other information, in biology and geology. I think the annual march of Spring to earlier on the calendar is difficult to refute — and physics issues aside, it’s pretty powerful evidence.

    Just got back from Arizona. The desert is well on the march.

    Now, one could argue as Anthony Watts appears to (to me, at least) that our temperature measuring stations have it all wrong. I really doubt that either the Arizona deserts or the plants across North America are getting their information from NASA or IPCC.

    I could be wrong, but if I am, there’s an even bigger headline there.

    Drop by any time and try to set me straight.

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  20. [...] serait dû essentiellement aux activités humaines. Il n’en fallait pas plus pour que plusieurs titrent que le mythe du consensus sur les causes du réchauffement vient d’éclater. Le [...]

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  21. Pat Frank says:

    Ed, the article supposedly proving a CO2 effect on warming in the APS Newsletter completely ignores convection and turbulence. It relies entirely on radiation physics. That’s like calculating the rate of a reaction in a stirred water solution by assuming the reaction proceeds by diffusion through static molasses. Turbulence and convection account for about 50% of the surface heat loss to space. Climate models completely miss this physical process, and the APS Newsletter article by-passes it. The conclusions are therefore unworldly and tell us nothing about how Earth climate actually responds to CO2.

    Bob Parks, I’m sorry to say, has left behind his skeptical restraint and is a complete AGW partisan — probably for the same reason you are, Ed: politics. He regularly employs the ‘holocaust denier’ rhetorical expression when speaking of AGW skeptics. I sent him a pre-print of my Skeptic article asking for his refutation. You know how he responded? Silence.

    Removing CO2 from the air does not make it cleaner. This is an entirely bogus argument for imposing cap-and-trade, or CO2 emission controls.

    Finally, there are large numbers of articles out there by fully qualified scientists that show the sad state of AGW so-called science. You don’t look for it, the media don’t, or won’t, report it, and the environmental groups demonize anyone who speaks up.

    It’s scandalous.

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  22. [...] jumps on the chance to screw up As long as there’s a dogpile of screw-ups, Powerline thought they’d jump [...]

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  23. Matti Virtanen says:

    Concerning the disclaimer now on Monckton’s piece, it remains to be seen if the APS will now submit the article to scientific peer review and tell us what exactly is wrong with it. The tinfoil should be relatively easy for the overwhelming majority to unwrap.

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