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What? Consensus about AGW is in dispute?
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Why, isn't that heresy?
A former adviser to President Carter's global environment task force and one of Canada's leading environmentalists is disputing the claim that there is a scientific consensus about the human origins of global warming.

Lawrence Solomon writes in the Financial Post that a majority of astrophysicists and other solar scientists may in fact disagree with the conventional wisdom. He points out that almost 18,000 scientists signed a petition in opposition to the Kyoto Protocol.

And he says a survey of the National Registry of Environmental Professionals found that only 59 percent believed human activities were largely responsible for global warming.
In reality Solomon thought science, in the case of AGW, was getting the bum's rush. So he took a project upon himself, and, as he proceeded, found his theory to have some credibility:
More than six months ago, I began writing this series, The Deniers. When I began, I accepted the prevailing view that scientists overwhelmingly believe that climate change threatens the planet. I doubted only claims that the dissenters were either kooks on the margins of science or sell-outs in the pockets of the oil companies.

My series set out to profile the dissenters — those who deny that the science is settled on climate change — and to have their views heard. To demonstrate that dissent is credible, I chose high-ranking scientists at the world's premier scientific establishments. I considered stopping after writing six profiles, thinking I had made my point, but continued the series due to feedback from readers. I next planned to stop writing after 10 profiles, then 12, but the feedback increased. Now, after profiling more than 20 deniers, I do not know when I will stop — the list of distinguished scientists who question the IPCC grows daily, as does the number of emails I receive, many from scientists who express gratitude for my series.
Solomon's series can be found at the cited link. He further notes this frequently missed point about the IPCC report:

What of the one claim that we hear over and over again, that 2,000 or 2,500 of the world's top scientists endorse the IPCC position? I asked the IPCC for their names, to gauge their views. "The 2,500 or so scientists you are referring to are reviewers from countries all over the world," the IPCC Secretariat responded. "The list with their names and contacts will be attached to future IPCC publications, which will hopefully be on-line in the second half of 2007."

An IPCC reviewer does not assess the IPCC's comprehensive findings. He might only review one small part of one study that later becomes one small input to the published IPCC report. Far from endorsing the IPCC reports, some reviewers, offended at what they considered a sham review process, have demanded that the IPCC remove their names from the list of reviewers. One even threatened legal action when the IPCC refused.
Solomon also gives another telling example of lack of consensus in the scientific community concerning the role of humans in the warming trend we are now seeing:
A great many scientists, without doubt, are four-square in their support of the IPCC. A great many others are not. A petition organized by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine between 1999 and 2001 claimed some 17,800 scientists in opposition to the Kyoto Protocol. A more recent indicator comes from the U.S.-based National Registry of Environmental Professionals, an accrediting organization whose 12,000 environmental practitioners have standing with U.S. government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. In a November, 2006, survey of its members, it found that only 59% think human activities are largely responsible for the warming that has occurred, and only 39% make their priority the curbing of carbon emissions. And 71% believe the increase in hurricanes is likely natural, not easily attributed to human activities.
So while those who are pushing the AGW-is-a fact agenda, there are more than a few scientists who obviously aren't buying into the hysteria. One would think that would be enough to have everyone take pause and reconsider any sort of expensive "solutions" until we have more information. Somehow, however, since politicians have become involved, I'm not sure that's possible anymore.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Can’t wait to hear our local "denier" denier lay one of his "in denial" "but, there is this consensus" pieces on us in response to this post. Either that or possibly he will be in the ER for knee surgery.
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
I thought about sending this to you, McQ, but I figured you’d post on it.

Keep the skeer up.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Most liberals live on a steady diet of stuff like this as a result of limiting their reading to the liberal cocoon. The standards of reporting in the cocoon, as a result of the lack of discernment by its liberal readers, are abysmal. The motto seems to be "If it bleeds (Republicans) it leads." "It does that, but it’s not really true? C’mon, let’s work with it a little."
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
I hope Henke reads this post. Seems he was fully on board with AGW.
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
Cap Sarcastic can’t be here right now. He’s honoring his dinner reservation at Le’ Crow.

Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
Wait a sec, might need to rethink it; Al Gore just come on TV and said "Is so."
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
Interesting commentary from Freeman Dyson
Written By: cap joe
URL: http://
I think fixating on the whole "consensus" deal too much is making us lose focus a little bit. The people who buy into consensus are the ones trying—and succeeding—to draw us into some sort of global warming scheme.

But you can pretty much concede every single point on climate change (except for anyone who thinks that sea levels are going to rise 20’ tomorrow, they’re basically hopeless) and STILL make an extremely strong case that the ideas embodied in Kyoto, Bush’s new "plan," and so on are stupid and counterproductive.

I’m gonna have an online op/ed published on this pretty soon (I’s currently being reviewed) and when/if it’s up, I’ll send it to you guys.
Written By: Matt
Even so Matt, there’s nothing wrong with smiting a poor argument. The people who use the appeal to majority authority would never stand for it, I’m guessing, if the same poor tactic was used against their point of view.
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
Without trying to sound too much like those on the other side of this issue, I just fear that we in the US are going to get sucked into something very stupid with regard to global warming in a very short period of time unless someone stands up and says, "By the way, your ’solutions’ won’t work. Here’s why."

Getting the government out of the energy business is good in general but can be framed in a way to address the concerns of environmentalists as well as people who couldn’t care less about this sort of thing. Then the scientists can fight it out in an academic setting without the rest of us fearing that government "solutions" are going to be unleashed on us.
Written By: Matt
There are a couple of ways you can approach the global warming debate. You could have a scientist roll call to see which side looks the most impressive. On the one hand, you have a scattering of scientists as presented in the National Post series. On the other side, you have the IPCC saying man causes global warming. Or if the IPCC is not your cup of tea, there’s always the Academies of Science from 19 countries endorsing the IPCC’s position. Or NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, National Center for Atmospheric Research and American Meteorological Society.

However, roll calls don’t really interest me. It’s more relevant to examine peer reviewed journals - scientists can have their theories but they need to back it up with empirical evidence and research that survives the peer review process. A survey of all peer reviewed abstracts on the subject "global climate change" published between 1993 and 2003 show that not a single paper rejected the consensus position that global warming is man caused. 75% of the papers agreed with the consensus position while 25% made no comment either way (eg - focused on methods or paleoclimate analysis).

Personally, I like to examine each argument on a case by case basis. Here’s the arguments used in the National Post series that try to explain global warming without CO2:

Part 1: "The hockey stick was debunked due to statistical errors." Since the initial hockey stick study by Mann and its subsequent "debunking", there’s been around a dozen proxy studies, analysing a variety of different sources including corals, stalagmites, tree rings, boreholes, ice cores, etc. The results all confirm the same general conclusion: the 20th century is the warmest of the entire record, and that warming was most dramatic after 1920. This is even confirmed by Stephen McIntyre, one of the original hockey stick debunkers.

Part 6: "Less cosmic rays => less clouds => global warming." The big flaw in the cosmic ray theory is cosmic radiation has shown no trend over the last 50 years. So even if cosmic rays are linked to cloud formation, all they’ll find is the cloud formation 50 years ago is the same as it is now and has little to no impact on global warming today.

Part 9: Mars is warming. The whole theory that a brightening sun is causing global warming falls apart when you consider solar output hasn’t risen over the last few decades of global warming according to direct satellite measurements that found solar output has shown no rising trend since 1978, sunspot numbers which have leveled out since 1950, the Max Planck Institute reconstruction that shows irradience has been steady since 1940 and solar radio flux or flare activity which shows no rising trend over the past 30 years. So what’s causing warming on Mars? The planet has had massive darkening storms over the last 30 years that reduce the planet’s albedo (reflectivity) which warms the planet.

Part 10 rehashes Part 6 and 9, blaming the sun and cosmic rays. Again, solar activity and cosmic radiation have shown no long term trend over the same period global warming has been greatest. If there is a "smoking gun" in global warming, solar variations sure ain’t it.
Written By: JC
Actually, what I was saying was a show of hands was a poor way to judge "consensus". Peer reviewed literature is a better indication of where climate science is at. But I don’t leave it at that either - each argument or theory should be scrutinised on a case by case basis. I’ve yet to encounter a theory or argument that adequately or even begins to explain global warming without CO2 although I’m still looking. So may I ask, what do you think is causing global warming?
Written By: JC
BTW, st4rbux, just to digress, I just went and had a quick look at your blog. I like your post on the smiling stormtrooper - I did a cartoon about this very idea (but I didn’t steal the idea - I drew it back in 2005):

Written By: JC
the 20th century is the warmest of the entire record, and that warming was most dramatic after 1920.
By "on record" I assume you mean since scientists started taking accurate readings about 100 years ago. The earth has been much warmer than it is today manny, manny times in its history. 100 years ago also happens to coincide with the end of the "little ice age" which was the coldest period in the last 1000 years. On a geological or environmental time sclae 100 years is a blink of an eye, finding a slight rise or fall (of which the temperature has done both in the 20th century) is not very indicative of anything. It would have been more unusual if the temperature had not changed over that period.

After 1920 the mean temperature started going down until the late 1970’s when its started going up again.

Just a small sample of the data found by groups not funded by oil companies:

Sunspot activity- the frequency of sunspot activity and the historical global temperature have a very similar shape. Notice that the sunspot activity coincides with the "little ice age" in the 19th century and was at its lowest during the "year without a summer" in the early 1800’s (I believe 1811 or 1812).

Solar irradiance has also showed a similar pattern:

There is also the very little understood feedback machanisms of clouds (significantly influenced by cosmic rays from the sun), water vapor, precipitation and a whole host of other mechanisms, some with lag response times of hundreds or thousands of years, that climate scientists don’t like to admit that they just don’t understand.

Of course no one factor completely explains the earth’s climate or your local weather man would be able to tell you whether it will rain a week from now or not. So the idea that one thing, like increasing a trace gas in the atmosphere by a small amount, would lead to dramatic changes in the earth’s environment looks more than a little implausible.

The one thing we do know is that the earth’s temperature has gone up and down, both much higher and much lower than today, over billions of years. None of those warming or cooling episodes were driven by CO2. CO2 concentrations lag behind temperature changes, they don’t drive them. The sun, the only forcing function in the earth’s climate, is what has driven climate changes for 4 billion years. Why would anybody think now is different?
Written By: DS
URL: http://
There seems to be this perception that AGWers think climate doesn’t change naturally or that the sun doesn’t affect climate. This isn’t the case (at least with the AGWers who know what they’re talking about). Of course there was a little ice age and a medieval warm period. The sun is absolutely the major driver in Earth’s climate change. There’s the lack of sunspots during the little ice age. There’s the dramatic increase in solar irradiance at the start of the century that coincided with nearly half a degree increase in temperature over just a few decades.

That’s what makes the leveling out of solar irradience since the 50’s so compelling. The link you gave is the exact same data I was linking to. If you look at your plot of solar irradiance over the past century, you see that irradiance leveled out in the 50’s and yet global warming has been most dramatic from 1970 until now. It’s even clearer if you look at global temperature plotted on the same timescale as irradiance. Temperature follows irradiance from 1900 to 1940. Then irradiance falls slightly from the 40’s to the 60’s as does temperature. Then from the 60’s till present day, irradiance rises only slightly (as the NASA article you linked to says, "the inferred increase of solar irradiance in 24 years, about 0.1 percent, is not enough to cause notable climate change") while temperature shoots up.

Maybe you’re right and some other mechanism is driving global warming. But it can’t be solar variations.
Written By: JC
Sorry, I’m not having good luck with posting links. The graph of global temperature plotted on the same timescale as irradiance is here.
Written By: JC
For another view of GW...
He starts out in the first video (on the left) talking about vegetation. He says you can’t do good science without good data. He notes that the data on vegetation is sparse (as in almost totally non-existant). The money went into computer models instead of data gathering. It figures. Computers are sexy. Electronic wind vanes and anemometers are not. He also notes that the carbon in vegetation dwarfs the carbon in the atmosphere.

In the second video he says the real problem is not CO2 induced global warming, but CO2 induced stratosphere cooling which may lead to bigger ozone holes.

He ends with the fact that the lowest cost way to control CO2 in the atmosphere is not by controlling energy production and use, but by planting or cutting down plants. He suggests more irrigation. For that we are going to need cheap fresh water.
He says you can’t do good science without good data.

I’ve been arguing (rather badly) this point for some time...
Written By: Keith_Indy
He says you can’t do good science without good data.
I think that the pro AGW-ers here think you don’t need no stinkin’ data. Who needs data when you have consensus?
Written By: cap joe
URL: http://
Maybe you’re right and some other mechanism is driving global warming. But it can’t be solar variations.
The frequency of sunspots, which I linked as well, follows an eirily simlar pattern as well. The combination of the two explains a lot to me, enough that I’m not willing to grant the governments of the world a blank check to try and change the weather. I find it much more plausible than the idea that a small increase in a trace element in the atmosphere can cause a global catastrophe. The fact that such a cause and effect relationship would be unprecedented in the history of the earth doesn’t make me more inclined to believe it either.

The burden of proof is on those who want to grant more power to the governments of the world.
Written By: DS
URL: http://
I’m sorry, DS, but I’m not getting you - we seem to be arguing the same point. Sunspots and solar irradiance both say the same thing (as they’re intimately related and correlated) - solar output has increased over past centuries but has been steady over the last 50 years when global warming has been greatest.

You say the cause & effect relationship is unprecedented. That’s true. That CO2 levels have increased to record levels due to human emissions is also unprecedented.
Written By: JC

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