Climate Change: Another Perspective Posted by: Dale Franks
on Wednesday, May 31, 2006
For the last week or so on this blog, Jon has been writing on Global Warming. I think it is fair to say that Global Warming, as a phenomenon, is occurring and that the scientific evidence of such warming is beyond dispute. Jon loses me completely with this statement, however, which he approvingly quotes:
It is by now pointless to deny that global warming is man-made to a considerable degree.
In support of this statement, Jon sent me several links like this one, which I will quote extensively from in the hidden blockquote below.
The present trend of warmer sea temperatures, which have risen by an average of half a degree Celsius (0.9F) over the past 40 years, can be explained only if greenhouse gas emissions are responsible, new research has revealed.
The results are so compelling that they should end controversy about the causes of climate change, one of the scientists who led the study said yesterday.
"The debate about whether there is a global warming signal now is over, at least for rational people," said Tim Barnett, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. "The models got it right. If a politician stands up and says the uncertainty is too great to believe these models, that is no longer tenable."
In the study, Dr Barnett’s team examined more than seven million observations of temperature, salinity and other variables in the world’s oceans, collected by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and compared the patterns with those that are predicted by computer models of various potential causes of climate change.
It found that natural variation in the Earth’s climate, or changes in solar activity or volcanic eruptions, which have been suggested as alternative explanations for rising temperatures, could not explain the data collected in the real world. Models based on man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, however, matched the observations almost precisely.
"What absolutely nailed it was the greenhouse model," Dr Barnett told the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington. Two models, one designed in Britain and one here in the US, got it almost exactly. We were stunned. They did it so well it was almost unbelieveable."
The actual study cited by the link is by Dr. Tim Barnett of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, right in my neck of the woods in La Jolla, California. Listening to Dr. Barnett tell it, the debate over whether global warning is man-made is over. He has conclusively shown it to be true. No doubt this is most gratifying to Dr. Barnett, who has spent the last decade trying to prove exactly that.
But did he? There is actually some question about his conclusions. As Scripps explains at its web site:
Efforts to explain the ocean changes through naturally occurring variations in the climate or external forces- such as solar or volcanic factors—did not come close to reproducing the observed warming.
There, are, however, two questions that arise. First, the methodology Dr. Barnett used is not above reproach, as Colorado State university climatologist and professor Dr. Roger Pilke explains in his CSU Climate Change web site.
“…….the accumulation of heat at depth in the oceans that was reported in 2004 by J. Willis, D. Roemmich, and B. Cornuelle in the Journal of Geophysical Research ‘ Interannual variability in upper ocean heat content, temperature, and thermosteric expansion on global scales’ suggests that a significant portion of the observed recent global warming is unavailable for short-term feedback into the atmospheric portion of the climate system.”
” Maps of yearly heat content anomaly show patterns of warming commensurate with ENSO variability in the tropics, but also show that a large part of the trend in global, oceanic heat content is caused by regional warming at midlatitudes in the Southern Hemisphere. ”
In their paper, they report that,
“……a strong, fairly linear warming trend is visible in the Southern Hemisphere, centered on 40°S. This region accounts for a large portion of the warming in the global average.”
“……..the warming around 40°S appears to be much steadier over the course of the time series, as seen in Figure 7. In addition, this warming extends deeper and is more uniform over the water column than the signal in the tropics. ”
“…..the warming rate in the early 1970s is comparable to the present rate. This suggests that the present rate is not outside the range of recent decadal variations. With the present time series, it is therefore not possible to identify whether the recent increase in ocean warming is due to an acceleration of heat uptake by the ocean or is simply decadal variability. An additional 5 to 10 years of data will be necessary before such a distinction is likely to be possible.”
Also, as we reported just a few days ago on the Climate Science weblog (see), there are large region of the World’s oceans that are currently cooler than average!
Second, quite apart from the methodology, the level of confidence—or lack of confidence—in models for natural explanations for Global warming raises some questions as well.
Jon sent me several links, among which were links to RealClimate.Org, another science weblog, which is, by the way solidly in the camp of those who believe in Anthropogenic global warming. Yet, even a cursory review of that web site reveals that the models of naturalistic Global Warming are hardly sophisticated enough to make any reliable predictions at all in terms of predictive modeling.
For instance, what effect does solar activity have on planetary climates?
The authors at RealClimate are quick to point out that, "there is not much evidence pointing to the sun being responsible for the warming since the 1950s." Yet, they also write,
The solar influence on climate is a controversial topic in climate research. The irradiance changes are assumed to be relatively small and the importance of potential amplifying mechanisms is still a matter of current debate. One reason for these uncertainties is that there are only approximately 25 years of satellite-based observations of the solar irradiance.
In other words, we know essentially nothing, except through indirect evidence, about changes in solar irradiance. Somewhat amusingly, they continue:
Sunspot observations for the last 400 years clearly indicate that current levels of solar activity are very different from the state of the sun during the Maunder minimum (from approx. 1645 to 1715 AD) where almost no sunspots could be observed.
No doubt the fact that Maunder minimum occurred more or less in the middle of the Little Ice Age has no relevance whatsoever to solar irradiance and planetary climates. Or not. We simply don't know.
But if we don't know, then it's difficult to see how any reliable model can be developed to predict it. And if we don't what effect insolation may have, how to measure it, or how to predict it, then rejecting the possibility in favor of anthropogenic explanations strikes as a result that proceeds from convenience or bias, rather than intellectual rigor.
What is interesting and relevant about this is that recent observations appear to show some sort of warming is occurring on Mars. RealClimate responds:
In 2001, Malin et al published a short article in Science (subscription required) discussing MGS data showing a rapid shrinkage of the South Polar Cap. Recently, the MGS team had a press release discussing more recent data showing the trend had continued. MGS 2001 press release MGS 2005 press release. The shrinkage of the Martian South Polar Cap is almost certainly a regional climate change, and is not any indication of global warming trends in the Martian atmosphere.
OK, fair enough. A large-scale, regional variation in climate is not an indication of warming trends on Mars. Yet, regional variations in temperature rises in, say, Europe, are evidence of anthropogenic global warming. Because, of course, "global warming has global effects, unevenly distributed…". Conversely, we can reject this apparent warming on mars because...
Mars has a relatively well studied climate, going back to measurements made by Viking, and continued with the current series of orbiters, such as the Mars Global Surveyor.
And the climate of Mars, is, of course, so well studied, that we can, from millions of miles away, instantly divine between regional and global variations in Mars' climate. Our encyclopedic knowledge of the Martian climate, you see, allows us to make authoritative pronouncements about what is and is not going on there. What with five or six orbiters since 1975, and four landings on the surface and all, we've pretty much got Mars' climate wrapped up.
In addition, there remains the problem of previous interglacial periods. As RealClimate explains, in looking at Antarctic ice cores, which go back about 800,000 years, and comparing them to the previously studied Vostok core, there is a very high degree of correlation between CO2 and global temperatures.
First of all, the results demonstrate clearly that the relationship between climate and CO2 that had been deduced from the Vostok core appears remarkably robust. This is despite a significant change in the patterns of glacial-interglacial changes prior to 400,000 years ago. The 'EPICA challenge' was laid down a few months ago for people working on carbon cycle models to predict whether this would be the case, and mostly the predictions were right on the mark. (Who says climate predictions can't be verified?). It should also go almost without saying that lingering doubts about the reproducibility of the ice core gas records should now be completely dispelled. That a number of different labs, looking at ice from different locations, extracted with different methods all give very similar answers, is a powerful indication that what they are measuring is real. Where there are problems (for instance in N2O in very dusty ice), those problems are clearly found and that data discarded.
Secondly, these results will allow paleoclimatologists to really look in detail at the differences between the different interglacials in the past. The previous 3 before our current era look quite similar to each other and were quite short (around 10,000 years). The one 400,000 years ago (Marine Isotope Stage 11, for those who count that way) was hypothesized to look more like the Holocene and appears to be significantly longer (around 30,000 years). Many of the details though weren't completely clear in the Vostok data, but should now be much better resolved.
One notes, however, that there were few humans around to cause a 30,000 year warming period through adding Co2 to the atmosphere 400,000 years ago. Moreover, in every case of past instances of global warming, a rise in CO2—a natural rise—followed the increased temperatures.
So, in what way is the current rise in CO2 qualitatively different? By what methodology do we bifurcate out a natural rise in CO2—which undeniably happened in pre-historical times—from a rise that is solely caused by man?
Every so often a scientific paper comes out that truly surprises. The results of Keppler et al in Nature this week is clearly one of those. They showed that a heretofore unrecognised process causes living plant material to emit methane (CH4, the second most important trace greenhouse gas), in quantities that appear to be very significant globally. This is surprising in two ways - firstly, CH4 emission is normally associated with anaerobic (oxygen-limited) environments (like swamps or landfills) but chemistry in plants is generally thought of as 'aerobic' i.e. not oxygen-limited, and secondly, because although the total budget for methane has some significant uncertainty associated with it (see the IPCC assessment here), the initial estimates of this effect (between 62–236 Tg/yr out of a total source of 500+ Tg/yr!) give numbers that might be difficult to incorporate without some significant re-evaluations elsewhere.
In 2002, the IPCC estimated that CO2 forcing was responsible for about half of all radiative forcings that induce climate change. However, in looking at the data since then on the whole range of forcings, including insolation, methane, etc., some argue that a more reasonable figure for CO2's percentage of radiative forcings is closer to 26.5%. The human contribution of CO2 is about 7% of that, or 1.86% of all radiative climate change forcings. So, the anthropogenic theory requires that the human-induced 1.86% of all forcings is the straw that broke the camel's back when it comes to climate change.
Moreover, the whole idea of CO2 forcings is less clear than many anthropogenic climate change advocates claim.
We conclude that, at the present state of the art, the uncertainties and potential biases in EC and BC measurements are large, and that there is a poor correlation between measured ECa or BCe values and atmospheric light absorption. If these errors are systematic, and unless there is some degree of fortuitous compensation between upward and downward biases, they could call into question even the sign of the direct forcing of anthropogenic aerosols on climate!
This is a remarkable and important admission of how little we actually know concerning the human forcing of climate variability and change. If the global average direct radiative forcing from aerosols is so poorly understood, than the effect of the spatial variations of this forcing on planetary weather patterns, which respond to the spatial gradients of diabatic heating (see), are similarly very poorly understood.
This work further illustrates why a focus on the radiative effect of CO2 as the dominant human climate forcing is so inadequate.
Additionally, the complexity and uncertainty of other factors that may affect climate change and which are still poorly understood, including insolation, cloud cover and albedo, natural production of greenhouse gases, etc., present alternative theoretical paradigms for climate change which are insufficiently understood; too much so, in fact, to reject them in favor of the anthropogenic theory.
So, in response to Jon's list of "reasonable" climate change assertions, I would offer, instead, Dr. Pielke's list of reasonable conclusions:
1. The needed focus for the study of climate change and variability is on the regional and local scales. Global and zonally-averaged climate metrics would only be important to the extent that they provide useful information on these space scales.
2. Global and zonally-averaged surface temperature trend assessments, besides having major difficulties in terms of how this metric is diagnosed and analyzed, do not provide significant information on climate change and variability on the regional and local scales.
3. Global warming is not equivalent to climate change. Significant, societally important climate change, due to both natural- and human- climate forcings, can occur without any global warming or cooling.
4. The spatial pattern of ocean heat content change is the appropriate metric to assess climate system heat changes including global warming.
5. In terms of climate change and variability on the regional and local scale, the IPCC Reports, the CCSP Report on surface and tropospheric temperature trends, and the U.S. National Assessment have overstated the role of the radiative effect of the anthropogenic increase of CO2 relative to the role of the diversity of other human climate climate forcing on global warming, and more generally, on climate variability and change.
6. Global and regional climate models have not demonstrated skill at predicting climate change and variability on multi-decadal time scales.
7. Attempts to significantly influence regional and local-scale climate based on controlling CO2 emissions alone is an inadequate policy for this purpose.
8. A vulnerability paradigm, focused on regional and local societal and environmental resources of importance, is a more inclusive, useful, and scientifically robust framework to interact with policymakers, than is the focus on global multi-decadal climate predictions which are downscaled to the regional and local scales. The vulnerability paradigm permits the evaluation of the entire spectrum of risks associated with different social and environmental threats, including climate variability and change.
This strikes me as far more reasonable and measured that the points Jon quoted so approvingly.
It is also important to remember that we know of several warming and cooling periods in earth's prehistory, when temperatures were both significantly warmer, and significantly colder than they are currently. So, while the current warming trend may be "anomalous" when looking at the last 1,000 years, it is not anomalous for the last 1,000,000 years.
The earth's climate has varied widely between times of relative climactic stasis. I have seen no solid evidence that the current period of climate change is qualitatively different than the other interglacial periods extant in the geologic record. Nor have I seen conclusive evidence that anthropogenic CO2 forcings in particular, or greenhouse gas forcings in general, can be reliably bifurcated out in such a way as to demonstrate that anthropogenic sources are primarily responsible for the current round of climate change.
Other signifigant problems still exist with the correlation of CO2-induced warming from anthropogenic causes. Most notably:
Despite the fact that, since the end of the 19th century, human produced CO2 emissions have increased exponentially, the earth's temperature has increased in basically linear fashion since 1800, despite the fact that modern industrialization did not add any signifigant amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere until well into the 20th century.
Despite the fact that huge increases in fossil fuels—and commensurate increases in CO2 output occured during the last part of the 19th and early 20th centuries, global temperatures cooled signifigantly between the 1940s and 1960s.
The abrupt global temperature rises in the last few years of the 1970s occured far too fast to be the result of any linear relationship with CO2 output.
So, I think it's fair to say that reasonable arguments against the anthropogenic theory do exist, and the anthropogenic theory itself relies on models of dubious predictive reliability. At the end of the day, the anthropogenic theory may indeed be true, but for the "Anthros" to declare victory and walk off the field now is not warranted at our current state of understanding.
Now, it is widely claimed that there is a scientific consensis on anthropogenic climate change. For instance, in December of 2004, Dr. Naomi Oreskes published a paper in Science, in which she "analysed almost 1,000 papers on the subject published since the early 1990s, and concluded that 75 per cent of them either explicitly or implicitly backed the consensus view, while none directly dissented from it." While that sounds impressive, there may be a reason for that apparent consensus. A number of scientists have complained that peer-reviewed journals are summarily dismissing publication of articles that do not fit the "consensus" view of anthropogenic global warming.
Two of the world's leading scientific journals have come under fire from researchers for refusing to publish papers which challenge fashionable wisdom over global warming.
A British authority on natural catastrophes who disputed whether climatologists really agree that the Earth is getting warmer because of human activity, says his work was rejected by the American publication, Science, on the flimsiest of grounds.
A separate team of climate scientists, which was regularly used by Science and the journal Nature to review papers on the progress of global warming, said it was dropped after attempting to publish its own research which raised doubts over the issue.
Dr Peiser is not the only academic to have had work turned down which criticises the findings of Dr Oreskes's study. Prof Dennis Bray, of the GKSS National Research Centre in Geesthacht, Germany, submitted results from an international study showing that fewer than one in 10 climate scientists believed that climate change is principally caused by human activity.
As with Dr Peiser's study, Science refused to publish his rebuttal. Prof Bray told The Telegraph: "They said it didn't fit with what they were intending to publish."
Prof Roy Spencer, at the University of Alabama, a leading authority on satellite measurements of global temperatures, told The Telegraph: "It's pretty clear that the editorial board of Science is more interested in promoting papers that are pro-global warming. It's the news value that is most important."
He said that after his own team produced research casting doubt on man-made global warming, they were no longer sent papers by Nature and Science for review - despite being acknowledged as world leaders in the field.
As a result, says Prof Spencer, flawed research is finding its way into the leading journals, while attempts to get rebuttals published fail. "Other scientists have had the same experience", he said. "The journals have a small set of reviewers who are pro-global warming."
The "consensus view", it appears, may have a significant element of anthropogenic cause, itself. Perr-review, after all, only works properly when the reviewers are sufficiently objective. If reviewers are rejecting articles that do not meet their "consensus" requirements, then the very claim of "consensus' is a fraud.
Therefore, in light of the above, I reject utterly Jon's implication that there is no reasonable argument against anthropogenic sources as the dominant factor in climate change. I similarly reject his implied contention that the evidence for anthropogenic change is so strong as to close off the necessity for further debate, except as an amusing little intellectual exercise, similar to debating evolution with young-earth Creationists.
Similarly, I reject his call for government action to "internalize" the costs associated with global warming. Quite apart from the fact that such calls will degenerate inevitably into a scalp-hunt among politically unfavored groups, the simple fact is that if global warming is primarily a result of exogenous factors, rather than those endogenous to human activities, there are no costs to internalize. That isn't to say there are no costs at all, but there would, in that case, be no group that we could smugly penalize to cover them.
Since Jon feels so strongly about this, since he implies an essential uselessness in regards to a civil debate on this matter akin to debating evolution with young earth Creationists—which strikes me as more of a faith-based attitude than a scientific one—I will not endeavor to debate it with him (Quite apart from the fact that a debate between two laymen is essentially pointless). I did want to take this opportunity, however, to make it clear that Jon is not speaking for me.
UPDATE [McQ]: I'd like to add a hearty "ditto" to Dale's post. As an exclamtion point to what Dale has said, I offer a quote from an article in today's Atlanta Journal Constitution:
In fact, 55 million years ago the Arctic was once a lot like Miami, with an average temperature of 74 degrees, alligator ancestors and palm trees, scientists say.
That conclusion, based on first-of-their-kind core samples extracted from more than 1,000 feet below the Arctic Ocean floor, is contained in three studies published in today's issue of the journal Nature.
Scientists say the findings are both a glimpse backward at a region heated by naturally produced greenhouse gases run amok and a sneak peek at what manmade global warming could do someday.
Scientists believe a simple fern may have been responsible for cooling things back down by sucking up massive amounts of the carbon dioxide responsible for the warming. But this natural solution to global warming wasn't exactly quick: It took about a million years.
The Earth went through an extended period of natural global warming, capped off by a supercharged spike of carbon dioxide that accelerated the greenhouse effect even more about 55 million years ago. Scientists already knew this "thermal event" happened, but figured that while the rest of the world got really hot, the polar regions were still comfortably cooler, maybe about 52 degrees on average.
But the new research from the multinational Arctic Coring Expedition found the polar average was closer to 74.
"It's the first time we've looked at the Arctic, and man, it was a big surprise to us," said study co-author Kathryn Moran, an oceanographer at the University of Rhode Island. "It's a new look to how the Earth can respond to these peaks in carbon dioxide."
A lot of things are still "big surprises" to science on this subject. Until they get a much better handle on who and/or what is driving our climate change and what percentage of it may be caused by man, I'm not willing to entertain arguments which talk about "internalizing costs" since a) they can't tell me what man contributes to the problem with any certainty or specificity and b) they can't tell me what that cost would be or should be. Until science can confidently and accurately do all of that with scientific certainty (not "consensus"), please stay away from my wallet.
I think this is very well put, Dale. You speak for a lot of us that aren’t wholesale deniers of "global warming" per se, but are quite skeptical of the alarmism and the blame-game.
I become very suspicious of appeals to "the scientific consensus." I believe this phrase is used in a strict sense to speak to the mere fact of rising average temperatures over the last century, but it is often used as a talisman to imply a much stronger "consensus"—one that includes the political push to regulate human activity in the name of the climate’s stability (if such a thing isn’t a contradiction in terms).
So, in response to Jon’s list of "reasonable" climate change assertions, I would offer, instead, Dr. Pielke’s list of reasonable conclusions:
This strikes me as far more reasonable and measured that the points Jon quoted so approvingly.
Unfortunately, Dr. Pielke’s conclusions are too reasonable and measured to be accepted by people like Jon and Tyler.
Advocates like them aren’t interested in hearing what the actual science can or cannot demonstrate (just look at the number of times that attempts to discuss the underlying science and statistics in the comments sections triggered Jon to accuse people of going off into the tall grass!). They favor exaggerrated conclusions which allow them to insult people who disagree with them as "scientific[ally] illitera[te] and disingenu[ous]" who are guilty of "faux-scientific skepticism"; which help push the agenda of authoritarian control over people’s behaviour for the good of the planet; and which assuage their insecurities by assuring them that they are part of the morally correct "concensus" who want to "do something" about the some unspecific pending climate Armageddon.
They’re remarkably like the worst of the fire-and-brimstone religious fundamentalists: convinced that the end times are nigh, quick to condemn as heathens and heretics anyone who challenges them directly, and wholly uninterested in rationale debate with any doubting agnostics who have yet to see the[ir] light.
I’ll generally indulge your desire not to debate it with me, but I ought to make a couple points before stopping this:
1) Since Dale didn’t see fit to mention it, let me point out what I actually wrote in our exchange...
I think we need to be careful to clarify the degree of certainty in various areas. It’s absolutely certain — with scientific consensus — that global warming IS happening and that humans contribute to it. The DEGREE to which they contribute to it is less certain, but it’s generally accepted that the contribution is significant and accelerating. Differences on that, however, do not imply that there’s no widespread agreement that the degree is significant and increasing.
Dale is arguing on the area in which I said there is "less certainty" and imagining I see no reason to debate the degree of contribution. Even Dr Pielke, whom Dale cited prominently in his post, acknowledges the human influence on "the climate system" "obvious" and noting that each "of the first order human climate forcings that were identified in the 2005 NRC Report produce discernible effects."
Arguing that the climate has always changed, so how do we know it’s any different now reminds me of Keynes’ "in the long run we’re all dead". The business cycle has been with us for a long time, so how can we tell if tax policy has any effect on it? Macroeconomics is complicated! Naturally, economists, being somewhat less foolish than the lay observer, understand that and can take it into consideration.
2) Dale mentioned the couple casual links I sent, but neglected to mention or address the scientific organizations and their work. Naturally, there’s too much out there to address it all — from his perspective or mine — but Dale’s science is complicated approach to this is little more than handwaving away the scientific research that has been done.
For example, Dale asks "By what methodology do we bifurcate out a natural rise in CO2—which undeniably happened in pre-historical times—from a rise that is solely caused by man?" Gosh, however could we do that? If only scientists could look into that. You’d think they might have. Etc.
I’ve the impression that when I write something like "there is global warming and there is a significant anthropogenic contribution to that", some people read it as "Global Superstorm!", as if there was no real difference between the first statement and Art Bell-like alarmism.
"I think we need to be careful to clarify the degree of certainty in various areas. It’s absolutely certain — with scientific consensus — that global warming IS happening and that humans contribute to it. The DEGREE to which they contribute to it is less certain, but it’s generally accepted that the contribution is significant and accelerating. Differences on that, however, do not imply that there’s no widespread agreement that the degree is significant and increasing."
No "scientific" conclusion can be made that the human contribution to global warming—as opposed to Global Warming (TM)—is significant. Neither can it be said it will significantly increase, since the developing world will not be long in adopting the energy conservation and pollution reduction measures that the developed world employs.
Even if the entirety of the human world had roughly our current standard of living, using currently developing technologies, then the human part of the world would still be a small fraction of the world’s energy and carbon budgets.
The magic here is ’the degree to which we contribute’. And I think that’s the main stress point.
Jon you feel the evidence is pretty strong for the case that we do, significantly. I remain unconvinced. Do we contribute? of a cetainty, we do, by being here we do. Can we cut back? yes, more than likely with a little effort. Can we cut back enough to stem the rising tide? I think not (not without focusing pretty much all our energy on it anyway, and even then I think it’s very very very very....iffy) Can we cut back in the United States enough to effect by ourselves? NO...
"The DEGREE to which they contribute to it is less certain, but it’s generally accepted that the contribution is significant and accelerating."
Sure its generally accepted. However, is is not accepted on the basis of the data and math that now exist—it is being taken on faith. Until the data and math agree on what the past is and on how we got to tbe here—until reliable predictions can be made—then we don’t know anything with the certainty required to justify action by government.
The "consensus view", it appears, may have a significant element of anthropogenic cause, itself. Perr-review, after all, only works properly when the reviewers are sufficiently objective. If reviewers are rejecting articles that do not meet their "consensus" requirements, then the very claim of "consensus’ is a fraud.
You have just completely rejected the core of western science. Fear not, theres always a place for you at Liberty College.
Dead on Dale. I’m not denying that we are in a warming period, we just came out of an approximately 300 year little ice age. If its not warming, we would still be in it. If we were still in it, I suppose the question would be what did we humans do to to cause the cooling period.
And I reject any form of government intervention to address the amount of CO2 put into the atmosphere by humans. Dr. Richard Sandor of the Chicago Climate Exchange devoloped a way to reduce the amount of sulfer dioxide we put into the air. Since opening that market we have cut SO2 in half and virtually eliminated acid rain. He is now working on a CO2 market. I thought that libertarians looked to markets over government control.
Walt’s link confirms utterly that peer review has failed at least once. You want to beat the planet on its not being influenced by the appearance of "scientific consensus" to fail again and again?
It was once "scientific consensus" that the feeble minded and insane should be involuntarily sterilized, CindyB. Neither human nature nor the "core of western science" have improved since then, it is a human activity given to human failings, and it and Jon are failing us now in propounding Global Warming (TM) the crisis instead of merely global warming the phenomenon requiring much more study until firm conslusions can be made.
Cindy, speaking as a scientist (although in computer science and not in geophysics/climatology), faith and belief are anathemas to the scientific method. Galileo was forced to changed his research because it failed to meet the "consensus" view.
Anyway, I did not want to wade into this but here goes. Years ago, I was a fierce advocate of global warming theories but I have been very wary as I saw exactly what Dale is describing starting to happen. The science getting lost in the policy. It seems that a degree of confirmation bias is happening.
Thanks, Dale. That’s as good a summary of the situation as I’ve seen anywhere.
I’m particularly glad you did it because I considered and rejected the idea of doing something similar in comments to one of Jon’s earlier posts. However, I would not have done nearly as good a job as this, and Jon seemed to consider the question settled anyway.
capt joe, you seem to have followed a reverse course to myself. I am a solar terrestrial physicist (branch of geophysics if you will) who used to think very firmly that the whole issue of climate change could be attributed to the natural cycles of the sun through combinations of cosmic ray shielding and more importantly through variations in the solar output. The correlations of past sunspot data (for example) and changes in temperature were somewhat persuasive (even with the caveat that correlation does not equal causation). However the more I delved into the subject (and ignored the outporings of the press and hysterics on both side of the ailse) the more I came to the conclusion that natural warming cannot explain the recent trends.
I think there is a real danger (and I think it has happened actually) that the debate is hi-jacked by folk on both sides who wish to score political points with the flames fanned by a press in pursuit of sensational (or at least interesting) sounding headlines. A problem then (now) arises that as scientists produce studies that support or deny anthropogenic climate change they are derided by their ’opposition’ who are not necessarily made up of scientists finding fault with the data through rigorous re-analysis, rather it is those who were originally on the fringe of the discussion but have now co-opted the issue as a club to beat their political rivals with.
Regarding peer-review. Peer review is not infallible; however it is not broken, corrupt or censorship. I read the link provided by Tom Perkins and was surprised that the author had as little a knowledge of how the peer review process works as was demonstrated. An assumption of guilt of the process is made from the outset with carefully crafted words to insinuate editorial bias and the actions of ’rivals’ as reviewers. In addition the author makes no mention of the fact that many journals allow you to (and in fact request that you) supply a list of up to 5 potential referees and the editor can pick from zero to both referees from this list. In addition one is able to name any scientists that you would not want reviewing your work because of personal relations or whatever. To my knowledge, in modern times, this is rarely done due to the fact that most scientists acceptt that the process is fair. On a personal note I have often thought that problems of this nature could be made redundant by making it a double blind process.
The article is then rounded out with a case study with a comment on a published article that failed to be accepted. Anecdotal evidence presented as a clinching argument that peer-review is censorship under another name. The editor is clearly as encouraging as possible and even suggests that the author might like to rewrite and resubmit, an offer that was presumably rejected. It is part of the process to revise one’s paper in line with referees’ comments and then resubmit, something this author did not know, or did not care to do. As a note of interest the author of the original paper replied to Daly’s objections here. Any interested parties can decide for themselves whether Daly was right and/or whether the journal was right to refuse to publish his comment.
I suggest you take a look at the recent posts to Climate Audit as well. There seems to be new doubt about the attribution of warming to CO2. Looks like one of the founding papers has a huge flaw noone noticed before.
I won’t pretend to know enough of the science to argue it properly.
I have a few questions for whoever thinks we should act on it:
1) Though science never comes to a "final answer," how strong is our statistical certainty over time on how significant humanity’s impact is? 2) How do we measure the whole economic impact (all the costs and benefits) of that environmental impact?
That should give us a range on how much damage anthropogenic climate modification is doing, roughly.
If those questions can’t be answered with enough certainty to tell us what the costs of inaction are going to be, I want to know how anyone can advocate a course of action that will carry costs that (I think) we can more easily measure.
Various greenhouse-gas sequestration and limitation methods have many known costs and we have a short history of unexpected costs piling up. Using those, we could see what the costs of "solving" the problem are.
Then it’d be a matter of seeing whether the cure is better or worse than the disease. Only then does internalizing costs make sense... because, hey, it might turn out that burning gasoline does a lot less damage to the economy than not burning it. I’d rather not have the costs "internalized" when I’m not actually costing anyone anything (in terms of opportunity cost).
And for those who have already decided we shouldn’t act on it: have you put any effort into determining just how uncertain the damages could be, or do you listen only to people who tell you right away that there’s no problem? I mean, if it’s uncertain just how bad humans are, but the fairly probable range of damages runs between $20 trillion and $80 trillion, then wouldn’t a $5 trillion fix make sense?
Dale’s whole point was that the following statement is false
"but it’s generally accepted that the contribution is significant and accelerating."
And he’s shown it conclusively. Dale clearly has shown that there is no consensus on the human contribution to the global warming.
On the other thread I’ve tried to show you that there was no "consenus". You’ve asked about peer reviewed research. The link to Telegraph article answers this question. Also see above Lindzen article. I just don’t understand how can you still say that there is a consensus.
Kav, the argument for my going the other way was a combination two things.
First, too many non scientific personalities hijacking the debate to to point where normal discussion was too much akin a religious argument (the way the responsible left reacts to Michael Moore). I started not to trust the messengers.
Secondly, some friends/colleagues who were geophysicists explained that the interaction of the various systems (lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere) were very complex and that all the current models tried to pretend that these complex (as in nonlinear) interactions could be linearized. While that simplified prediction, it sullies the results.
As to my own background, early in the nineties, I worked for a company called Optech and lead development of the signal processing algorithms for the Ozone DIAL system at Eureka (Ellesmere Island) (search for Optech on that page). While I was not involved in climate studies directly, we had a lot of internal discussion and debate.
About solar radiation. I don’t understand how global warming (what do you call them? Advocates sounds too skeptical but I don’t think I’m just talking about the scientists....) advocates so easily dismiss the solar radiation component. The typical dismissal is that according to our satellites (25 years) solar output has not increased very much.
Assume that solar radiation is the ONLY factor in fixing global temperature on say a 50-year scale. (It certainly isn’t true but imagine it were). Assume a solar output of X giving a global temperature of T. Assume that if the sun pumps out X+1 the 50-year temp will change to an equilibrium at T+5. Now, if the sun changes over to X+1 do we expect an instantaneous change to T+5? No. We would expect a gradual increase up to T+5. This would be true even if there was an instantaneous change in solar output that was sustained over time.
Now we do know that solar output is a major factor in global temp in the long run (thousands of years). Since we have only been tracking it for 25 years, why are people so dismissive?
Kav, the only possible criticism that could be made of the "Comment" pointed to by the link I posted is that it is far to long winded. The appropriate exdcitorial response is to tell the author to cut it in half and resubmit it.
The man’s objections do in fact authoritatively eviscerate the paper he is commenting on—they can’t have the data they calimed to.
And your blithe assertion that the author of the comment doesn’t know how the peer review process works is not backed up by a more authoritative explanation for how it ostensibly does work, instead you mention ways it can work, but seldom do in practice.
The authors of the paper claim another source backs them up, although they admit their use of one of the sources in question is "shorthand". Shorthand for, "the data can’t possibly exist because critical equipment was removed"? Eh, some shorthand.
capt joe, don’t get me wrong I can easily understand why you would veer off into skepticism. Like I tried to say I think the hijacking of the debate is a big turn off and I think has done more to prolong the argument. That’s why I try to steer clear of that. The problem is that it has become the very public face of the discussion and is why some people use dismissive phrases such as GlobalWarming(TM) to broadbrush all of us who find the anthropogenic argument compelling. This is not a phenomenon unique to one side or the other. It saddens and irritates me when this happens especially when those dismissive folk then rely on the ’facts’ from the extremist counterparts in their own camp (for want of a better phrase).
The problems in modelling are vast but not necessarily unsurmountable. It is the way of science to develop simplistic models and then work towards more sophisticated ways of dealing with the problem. My own experience is in ionospheric and magnetospheric observations and the leaps made in magnetohydrodynamic coding over the past 15 years is incredible; we have moved from simple 1 and 2 D models to whole magnetosphere models that can combine with solar wind and solar models (e.g. the CISM programme) and our modellers lag the atmosphere community in experience and accomplishment.
The non-linearity of the system is being addressed all the time.
Sebastian. The scientists are not dismissive of solar radiation. In fact it is an integral part of the modelling and what has been shown so far is that it cannot account for all of the changes. When we use indicators of activity such as sunspot number we can very nicely reproduce large variations in climate such as the little Ice Age which occurred during the Maunder minimum. What we cannot do is accurately reproduce the changes in more recent years. The evidence from solar forcing of the climate actually suggests another mechanism is involved in the process in recent years.
And your blithe assertion that the author of the comment doesn’t know how the peer review process works is not backed up by a more authoritative explanation for how it ostensibly does work, instead you mention ways it can work, but seldom do in practice.
Where is your evidence that it seldom works? So far you have presented a single (biased) data point that the system is failing. As for the comment, you believe that it eviscerated the original work. By reading the referees response (who I assume are more competent in that particular field than myself) and by reading the response from the original paper authors I see that the original paper could have been worded better (the shorthand you pick up on but then grossly mischaracterise).
I am afraid in this debate I cannot agree with your viewpoint. My experience of the reviewing system of GRL and other journals is that it is a fair and working process. Your experiences may differ, but it is not up to me to defend the process from attacks.
I dont buy into Jon’s choice that everything is settled so it’s time to start forcing people thru government to follow his beliefs. However, maybe it is good to have the people who are like him talking about the whole issue. Nothing motivates the rest of us to start innovating and reseaching stuff like the threat of government (the people who can come and lock you away if you go against thier wishes) coming in and taking control of something.
As for the scientific talk and what not I’m not educated enough to join that debate but I am smart enough to know bull when I hear it. (eg..the debate is settled)
Please don’t take me wrong. I have know doubt that man adds to pollution which changes the environment.As someone else commented "man adds to it simply by being here". Man will continue to add to it simply because we breed and multiply.More of us now then ever before.So unless you are willing to give up your family and way of life then don’t come tell me I have to give up mine.
I know (before I get flames to bad) that Jon is not advocating limiting reproduction but that is the only way to decrease mans impact on the environment.
Thank you, Dale. Jon had me half-convinced my skepticism was ill-founded, but I have to say the jury’s still out. Climate warming ? Yes, to a small degree, and perhaps, possibly, accelerating a tiny bit. Carbon dioxide causation? Not so sure. The intesting thing for me was the quote below.
I am a solar terrestrial physicist (branch of geophysics if you will) who used to think very firmly that the whole issue of climate change could be attributed to the natural cycles of the sun through combinations of cosmic ray shielding and more importantly through variations in the solar output. The correlations of past sunspot data (for example) and changes in temperature were somewhat persuasive (even with the caveat that correlation does not equal causation). However the more I delved into the subject (and ignored the outporings of the press and hysterics on both side of the ailse) the more I came to the conclusion that natural warming cannot explain the recent trends.
While I’m not in Kav’s field of expertise (far from it) the evidence that I saw (hard to recall exactly where, but I think it was a 150 year solar activity chart with a temperature chart overlayed) was damn-near irrefutable, curves matching with a VERY substantial correlation. Far too close to be a coincidence, at least to my very un-scientific mind. While the study did not claim to account for all the observed (slight) warming trend, it did look to substantiate at least a large majority being due to solar output variability, the 40s to 60s cooling trend someone pointed to above being a case in point. Could you (Kav) illuminate, at least in a general way, what caused you to change your mind?
General note: I have really enjoyed the discussion on this topic, although wrapping my puny brain around some of it has been difficult. Thanks to all who have contributed.
Tom, thank you for the thinly veiled insult. I apologise if I have appeared uncivil such that it would prompt that.
Actually the way I read your comment was that I had presented a way in which peer -review could work (work as in perform properly) but it seldom did work in practice. I hope that you can see why I would make that mistake in the context of your comment. Apolgies for misconstruing your meaning.
Part of the problem here, I suspect, is that you have me pinned as an unthinking member of GlobalWarming(TM). And quite honestly I have you pinned as one of anti-global warming(TM) (though amusingly, perhaps that should be the other way around). I base my view on my reading of your posts in this and other threads and also on your dependence of Daly as a source. This could be completely unfair and it is one of the problems in the climate change debate; neither side in the great scrum truly trusts what the other says in the public forum. I hope that I am being overly pessimistic in my view.
Regardless, neither of us will convince the other of anything. but quite frankly, I really hope you are right. Because if I am, the consequences are much worse.
capt joe, I remember the Sokal affair as it came out when I was a physics undergraduate. Very, very funny. It feeds back to my earlier comment: the peer review system is not infallible. However I still stand by the fact that it is not the mire of corruption that some would seem to want to paint it.
If I was in a truly condescendingly smug-physicist-mood I would point out that it was a social culture journal and therefore not proper science so what would you expect. But I’m not and so I won’t. ;-)
Kalthior, its quite simple really. I read more. By which I mean that I hit the journals; part of my undergraduate degree was a course in directed reading and my topic was sunspots and climate change. So I read voraciously around the subject and I didn’t limit myself to those papers that drew links between the variable sun and climate I looked at alternate explanations. I also came across papers that showed that the reproductions of climate cycles that we get from sunspots fail to capture recent upswings. In particular we are in an active sun phase now (though not on the 22(11) year sunspot cycle; we are actually close to solar minimum right now) with long term averages rising, but the rise does not track so well with recent climate observations. Another factor appears to have come into play in the past century or so. So I read some more and I keep reading and it keeps me informed. I should point out that I don’t just read the papers that support ACC, I also look to those that seem to contradict it. More often then not I see the conclusions of these papers succesfully challenged. Of course perhaps I am blinded by my own inherent bias in this. I don’t think so but who am I to judge :-)
Great stuff Dale. The level of certainty required on this issue depends on how drastic the policy proposals are that are premised upon the science. Modest efforts to reduce carbon emissions may be a prudent course based on inexact science, but when you start talking about large Kyoto-style economic dislocations, the enormous human cost of those dislocations demands scientific certainty at a level we don’t have.