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Skeptics become more numerous
Posted by: mcq on Thursday, May 17, 2007

Frankly, I think this little sketch probably best captures what's going on:
Mathematician & engineer Dr. David Evans, who did carbon accounting for the Australian Government, recently detailed his conversion to a skeptic.

“I devoted six years to carbon accounting, building models for the Australian government to estimate carbon emissions from land use change and forestry. When I started that job in 1999 the evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming seemed pretty conclusive, but since then new evidence has weakened the case that carbon emissions are the main cause. I am now skeptical,” Evans wrote in an April 30, 2007 blog.

“But after 2000 the evidence for carbon emissions gradually got weaker — better temperature data for the last century, more detailed ice core data, then laboratory evidence that cosmic rays precipitate low clouds,” Evans wrote. “As Lord Keynes famously said, ‘When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?’” he added. Evans noted how he benefited from climate fears as a scientist.

“And the political realm in turn fed money back into the scientific community. By the late 1990's, lots of jobs depended on the idea that carbon emissions caused global warming. Many of them were bureaucratic, but there were a lot of science jobs created too. I was on that gravy train, making a high wage in a science job that would not have existed if we didn't believe carbon emissions caused global warming. And so were lots of people around me; and there were international conferences full of such people. And we had political support, the ear of government, big budgets, and we felt fairly important and useful (well, I did anyway). It was great. We were working to save the planet!

But starting in about 2000, the last three of the four pieces of evidence outlined above fell away or reversed,” Evans wrote. “The pre-2000 ice core data was the central evidence for believing that atmospheric carbon caused temperature increases. The new ice core data shows that past warmings were *not* initially caused by rises in atmospheric carbon, and says nothing about the strength of any amplification.

This piece of evidence casts reasonable doubt that atmospheric carbon had any role in past warmings, while still allowing the possibility that it had a supporting role,” he added. “Unfortunately politics and science have become even more entangled. The science of global warming has become a partisan political issue, so positions become more entrenched. Politicians and the public prefer simple and less-nuanced messages. At the moment the political climate strongly supports carbon emissions as the cause of global warming, to the point of sometimes rubbishing or silencing critics,” he concluded.
How does one stop a runaway gravy train? By continuing to question its findings and pointing to and giving visibility to contrary findings.

(HT: McQ2)
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Interesting discussions with David Evans and others here.
Written By: Kav
It’s probably worth pointing out that if this sort of thing came out about a right wing cause, many of the same people screaming that global warming is absolutely proven and there can be no doubt would hold this sort of article (as there are many others of this type) up as proof that it’s a right-wing conspiracy. In fact, the simple fact that there’s a lot of money flowing on this issue would be proof enough.

Of course, since it’s a left-wing issue, human-caused climate change is a settled issue and everybody should just STFU and do what the science of the early-mid 1990s deemed necessary, regardless of evidence. Even if it’s evidence that would constitute total and solid proof if it went the other way.

The opposite of "rational" isn’t irrational anymore, it’s "partisan".
Written By: Jeremy Bowers
But I thought there was a consensus! And some smart people know some smart scientists (who work for free I hear) who swear AGW is the gospel.
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
Yes, very interesting discussion. Why can’t there be a discussion like this in public without the burning at the stake that seems to occur from the various potentates.
The opposite of "rational" isn’t irrational anymore, it’s "partisan".
Yes, we are back in the middle ages again. We have papal indulgences (carbon credits), and the practice of showing the instruments of torture (the way that skeptics are treated). The whole thing has become about waste of time
Written By: cap joe
URL: http://
At the moment the political climate strongly supports carbon emissions as the cause of global warming, to the point of sometimes rubbishing or silencing critics,"
The sceptics have been rubbishing anyone who even considered that there might be global warming even before Kyoto. As to ’gravy trains’: Plenty of the sceptics are financed by industries that are oposed to reductions to carbon emissions. A lot of the arguments against global warming also are disturbingly similar to those the ID people bring to bear against evolution.

And don’t get me started on the nutty conspiracy theory that Kyoto is some kind of weaponm aimed at American industry.

Written By: Ralf Goergens
Well, Ralf, that just goes to show why one must be skeptical all around and think for yourself and act conservatively when expensive calls to action are demanded without overwhelming supporting evidence.
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
And don’t get me started on the nutty conspiracy theory that Kyoto is some kind of weaponm aimed at American industry.
In the minds of some Kyoto proponents, I have no doubt that is just what it is.

Before you scoff, remember there are people who hold that life of child is no more important than a virus or a pig.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
The three scientific topics where I see substantial skepticism are:

1. does HIV cause AIDs;
2. does human evolution require god and/or an intelligent designer;
3. whether anthropogenic global warming exists.

The evidence for 1? overwhelming, but skeptics exist. 2? non-existent but skeptics exist. 3? substantial, not overwhelming.

I’m going to need a cite before I agree that the number of AGW skeptics is increasing, as opposed to becoming more vocal.

I wonder why the posters here are skeptics. Here’s the evidence as I understand it.

All other things being equal, adding CO2 to the atmosphere increases global temperature. (See Arrhenius here.)

Are all other things equal? Milankovitch cycles (here) are currently understood to be the primary cause of ice ages and interglacial periods by varying the distance from the earth to the Sun. But my understanding is that we are currently on the downslope, ie the planet should be cooling.

Have we added CO2 to the atmosphere? no question. look out the window and see the industrial age.

Is the planet warming? yup. There are enough sensors around the world these days to be able to make this call.

Are there other possible causes? possibly. my understanding is that the direct evidence that the Sun is hotter is very limited. And evidence of weather changes on other planets? we have enough problems figuring out the climate trends on our own planet. we are a long way from being able to model climate changes on Mars.

so, why the skepticism?

Written By: Francis
URL: http://
I don’t know if the talk about other planets’ warming is valid, but you don’t have to model the changes in their temperatures. You just have to measure them.

Some skeptics also argue that the effect of C02 should be greater higher in the atmosphere, not at the surface of the earth. So they suggest a different mechanism.

Also, more C02 might cause a higher temperature, but how much higher? It might be negligible compared to other effects and that’s another reason for skepticism.

The fact that so many people advocating reductions in emissions are more concerned with preserving wilderness for its own sake than improving human life is another reason to be skeptical if you can’t tell one way or another.
Written By: Luke
URL: http://
And don’t get me started on the nutty conspiracy theory that Kyoto is some kind of weaponm aimed at American industry.
I don’t know about "Nutty" or "Conspiracy" but Kyoto does NOT bind India OR China, the end result being that the US and the West, more generally but LESS than the US, takes a hit in competitiveness. This on top of the fact that the PRC may have PASSED the US in green house gas emissions.

Bottom-Line: Kyoto penalizes the US, then Europe....then no one else, making the US poorer and India and the PRC richer, and the planet no cleaner. Now that is it’s effect, as to whether it’s INTENTIONAL or not, I can’t say "...but it is also IRRELEVANT!"-to quote an NVA Colonel.
And evidence of weather changes on other planets? we have enough problems figuring out the climate trends on our own planet. we are a long way from being able to model climate changes on Mars.
But as Mars and Neptune are getting warmer and as far as we know there are no "Smoke Stack Industries" on either of them it would seem to suggest that Green House Emissions are not the SOLE determinant of warming. Which might put a crimp into the AGW we don’t know Martian ecology that well, but we understand Terran ecology, better? Or wouldn’t be fairer to say that we lack complete data and the ability to model any ecology, on a planet-wide basis?

I remember Nuclear Winter, Acid Rain, the Death of the Rain Forest, the Great Solid Waste Debacle of the 1990’s, heck I remember phosphates in laundry detergent from the 1970’s, I remember Paul Ehrlich, The Club of Rome, and the fact that certain types of blue-green algae might be the only life forms left soon, I remember that we only had 10 years to save the oceans/planet, in the early 1990’s. In short, I’ve heard all this before and yet somehow none of these ecotastrophe’s has yet come to pass....but as soon as one "threat" fades, another emerges, demanding "Our IMMEDIATE action." Francis just colour me skeptical.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Why the skepticism, Francis? You must not be reading anything anyone has written or linked to here.

Furthermore, the skepticism isn’t just over whether or not AGP exists, but also:

1. To what extent it exists, if it does.
2. To what extent significant warming is occuring and will continue to occur from all factors (by significant I mean warming that will be disruptful)
3. To what extent we should do anything.
4. Whether or not we can do anything (if significant warming is the result of natural cycles, do we have the power to alter it?).

I also find it amusingly ironic that you lament the difficulty of discerning our climate trends yet wonder why anyone can be skeptical.

Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
How much am I overgeneralizing to state that lefties are people who are always in a big hurry to Do Something Now?
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
How much am I overgeneralizing to state that lefties are people who are always in a big hurry to Do Something Now?

It’s not just Liberals/Progressives...if you can "gin" up a crisis, you can get things done...look at the "MIssing Kids" of the 1980’s. To hear it then, the millions and MILLIONS of children had "disappeared", no doubt into the evilllll clutches of NAMBLA and the Meat-packing industry, "Soylent Green is PEOPLE!".

Turns out, millions of children ARE missing, but generally half the family knows where they are, it’s about custodial interference and nasty divorces, not NAMBLA. But at the time, no one cared, we had to DO something, so we have lots of kids on milk cartons, or did...haven’t bought milk in a few years.

I don’t think that missing kids is per se Liberal or Conservative, but it did spark a need to DO SOMETHING.... NOW! A conservative example would be the Bomber Gap, the Missile Gap, and the like...turns out those Wascally Wussians WEREN’T producing thousands of bombers and ICBM’s a year, but the USAF and various politicians-some of whom were DEMOCRATS-my how parties change-banged that drum very loudly and demanded we do something!
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
the Bomber Gap, the Missile Gap
You forgot the Mine-shaft Gap!
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
This article appears to be well done.

Grimshaw, the best modeling available so far shows that in California alone water agencies will need to spend billions to build the infrastructure necessary to respond to the climate change that is already occurring. Water engineers are not, by any stretch of the imagination, bleeding heart liberals, yet they see no choice but to require substantially higher water rates for many years to come. The modeling that supports this infrastructure commitment is on the conservative side.

Other Western states will need to do the same. Mid-west states, those west of 100 degrees longitude, will be draining the Ogallala aquifer ever faster. Minor changes in storm patterns will wreak havoc on the management of flows on the great rivers in the US: Mississippi, Missouri, etc. New locks are both expensive and time consuming to build. Changing storm patterns will also drive the need for constructing new levees across the West and South. They ain’t cheap either.

Put simply, a tremendous amount of infrastructure has been built in the US in the last 50+ years that relies on a series of assumptions about rainfall patterns. Climate change calls those assumptions into question. Since the best available evidence suggests that the climate change is being driven by AGW, it appears that slowing down AGW is in the current financial interest of the US taxpayer.
Written By: Francis
URL: http://

To make things easier, let me put it this way.

A lot of the skeptics believe there is a current warming trend. What they disagree on it how much is man’s impact on that warming trend and whether it is open ended (continues to increase).

David Evans believes that there is a 20% probability of it being due to the carbon that Man pushes into the environment. His data and observations points that way. At the moment he is making the argument that the solar warming theory is equally valid and probably more so than the current carbon based theories. As well, much of the solar warming hypothesis points to this effect diminishing over the next decade or so.

He also posits that so much money is available if scientists do research on carbon based IPCC friendly research that the end effect is self fulfilling. There is the feeling that those on the gravy train of either money or influence need to get things locked in now before they lose it all.
Written By: cap joe
URL: http://
This article appears to be well done.

Francis, this is the problem: it does appear to be well done, and, thus, many like yourself accept that it is truthful and accurate.
The problem is that it glosses over all the imprecision and imperfections that make it inaccurate and misleading. It does not do this intentionally, but because it is an article framed within an ideology that accepts human-induced impairment of the planet as its founding reality.

Those who are skeptical most often have a different founding ideology that sees technology and human habitation of the planet as a positive thing. The problem is, when skeptics then address the imprecision and inaccuracy of the AGW hypothesis they are also, by definition, attacking the inherent meta-construct of human-induced stress on the planet.

The specific arguments over data, data sets, alternative hypothesis etc. are thus largely irrelevent: those who believe that human technology is degrading the planet reject any discussion that might challenge this belief.

Data won’t change beliefs. Lomborg showed this, and Simon before him. It is the dominant construct that must be open to question. As long as it is politically convienient to impose rules and regulations in the name of saving the planet from human-induced degradation, ideas like AGW will be advocated.

Only when people are able to see that individual responsibility is paramount; that history has shown individual freedom, political freedom and economic freedom as necessary to ongoing technological innovation, and; that technology has improved both the human condition and the state of the planet, are people open to discussion.
Written By: graham smith
Here is a website started as an extra credit assignment by a Maine high school student:

No big oil, no research grants, no tenure to worry about. Just a bright high school student doing the research and assessing what she reads.

I know there are lots of blogs and websites out there: this just represents one that is free of any ulterior motive (except, the extra credit of course).
Written By: graham smith
Francis, to touch on California (though this argument applies to anywhere) if California needs to figure out new ways to supply water to its people, that’s California’s problem. Can anyone sanely argue that California’s water needs are only because of possible warming? It’s far more complex than that and people will need to respond in a number of ways. California has always had water challenges, especially in the south.
"Since the best available evidence suggests that the climate change is being driven by AGW, it appears that slowing down AGW is in the current financial interest of the US taxpayer."
The best available evidence isn’t good enough and is being questioned. And being in the financial interest is only true if the costs don’t exceed the benefits. No solid evidence of that either.

Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
Graham Smith: The evidence of human impact on a planetary scale is utterly indisputable. It appears, therefore, that you’re correct that arguments over data sets are useless if you cannot see that.

The number and size of dead zones at the mouths of major rivers, due to nutrient runoff from farm fields, is growing. The Grand Banks cod fishery and Monterey Bay sardine fishery for example have both been utterly destroyed. More and more fisheries are fishing "down the food chain" due to the functional destruction of top predators.

The Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act have forced massive reductions in the emission of pollutants from mobile and stationary sources. The air is cleaner in Los Angeles than it was 30 years ago despite a much larger population and many more vehicle-miles driven.

Contamination leaking from industrial and defense sites has polluted a literally unknown but massive volume of groundwater in this country. Groundwater contaminaion around the world is worse.

Ozone destruction in the upper atmosphere had the potential to be a major issue. Instead alternatives to CFCs were found.

According to the planet, human habitation is neither a positive nor a negative; it just is. Whatever we do, life will adapt.

But that the human species has the capacity to foul its own nest on a planetary scale cannot be legitimately disputed. So far we have adapted and I expect we will continue to do so. I’m just trying to do my bit to mitigate the total cost.

Grimshaw: the best available evidence was, in fact, good enough for Gov. Schwarzenegger, who signed the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 last fall. See Cal. Health & Safety Code section 38500 et seq, or the Air Resources Board whose climate change webpage is here
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
The number and size of dead zones at the mouths of major rivers, due to nutrient runoff from farm fields, is growing. The Grand Banks cod fishery and Monterey Bay sardine fishery for example have both been utterly destroyed. More and more fisheries are fishing "down the food chain" due to the functional destruction of top predators.
All of which have absolutely nothing to do with global warming.
Grimshaw: the best available evidence was, in fact, good enough for Gov. Schwarzenegger
Leftists used to make fun of Ronald Reagan because he had been an actor. Schwarzenegger isn’t a scientist, so I’m not particularly moved by what evidence was good enough for his standards.
Written By: steverino
"Other Western states will need to do the same."

This has nothing whatsoever to do with any global warming. What it does have to do with is too many people and too little water. Look at a map. Most of the southwest is desert, and has been for one heck of a long time. Deserts, by definition, do not have water. Southern California also has an arid climate, and has relied on imported water for over a generation, long before any global warming took place. The southwestern states, including CA., have been fighting over the water in the Colorado river since before either of us was born. When I lived in southern CA. as a child, it was warm and dry and there were lots of fires and irrigation projects. Nothing new there.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Francis, really, Schwarzenegger?! Is that supposed to be persuasive? Get some sleep and start anew in the morning.
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
Francis, it’s a weakness to think that skepticism of global warming is political for all. I don’t care if the benighted heads of the left, right, and libertarian parties all stated global warming is man’s greatest bugaboo, I’d still say the evidence is insufficient to spend my tax dollars.

Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
The evidence of human impact on a planetary scale is utterly indisputable.
Well actually it’s not, indisputable that is.
As Julian Simon demonstrated in great detail and as Lomborg later validated, the history of human occupance of the planet has not been one of destructive impact on a planetary scale. That was my point about ideological framing. Lomborg termed them the environmental litany. I use the term ecomyth. They both describe the adherence to ideological constructs despite the existence of empirical data to the contrary.

Josie Appleton has a wonderful essay here:

and you can also read Bidinotto’s essay here:

No one disputes that local and/or regional environmental issues exist. The dispute arises when people attempt to frame them as systemic, global, inevitable and/or terminal as Francis does, because human history demonstrates two things clearly: the ability for ecosystems to recover and the human ability to develop solutions to problems.
Inconvienient truths indeed.
Written By: graham smith
The initial reason that I was skeptical was simply that I grew up with Leif Erickson. I grew up with Norse lore, Thor and Odin, and mooring stones on the lake shores and a runestone in Kensington.

That’s not science at all (and certainly the idea of Vikings in Minnesota is a matter of faith more than anything, and I would never insist on it) but the very concept that climate *changes* was always a part of my understanding of the world.

That and the fact I picked the remains of glaciers out of plowed fields every spring, granite boulders mixed in with fossilized slabs of sea shells.

Even before hearing about a medieval warm period I knew that Greenland was once green and supported farming settlements. I knew that glaciers came and went.

So someone says that the Earth has gotten half a degree warmer and I’m willing to listen but always at the back of my head I remember that glaciers come and go.

So I figure that it’s up to those making the claim to prove that what they measure now is due to us and not a natural process. And I find the notion that a warming earth is disasterous to be quite an assumption. They ought to have the burden of proof for that one too.

The Earth warms and the Earth cools. It might even cause us problems.

But what if we try to fix something that isn’t broken? What then? Do we do to the Earth what has been done to rivers that aren’t allowed to naturally flood and naturally flow because the yearly floods cause problems?

What if CO2 works as a buffer and we "fix" it? What if when people feared global cooling a couple decades ago they’d managed to warm us up? What then? What if we figure out how to cool us now and the sunspot thing really does lead to a drastic cooling period?

Anyone who doesn’t worry about the "cure" being worse than the "disease" can’t actually believe in the cure, can’t actually believe that we can significantly affect our climate, or they’d be more cautious.

That makes me doubt their motivation.

I know that tests of air bubbles in amber show that the atmosphere has had *drastically* higher CO2 in the past.

And dinosaurs roamed Antarctica.

What I don’t understand is why people *aren’t* skeptical.
Written By: Synova
Ya know, I’d be almost be happier if we were funding methods for dealing with the Nemesis comet/asteroid that has Earth’s name on it. Something else we know historically has happened.

But that wouldn’t require us to sacrifice our wicked SUV driving lifestyles I suppose, and it’s not barrelling down on earth. You’d think given the number of movies on the subject in the last 5 years, we’d be more alert to the danger!

Not flashy enough do you think? Not ’clear and present danger’ enough? Or something we can’t stop by buying carbon credits and trading atmosphere certificates between the havenots and the haves?
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Oh, a world busting asteroid is so pedestrian. I rather prefer the pending North-South pole flip. Any century now, in this geologic blink of time, it’s going to happen. We don’t know to what extent the Earth’s magnetic field will be messed up or for how long.

Though that isn’t something that we can be blamed and sent on a guilt trip for either.
Written By: Synova

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