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A questioning climate

Richard Black | 12:53 UK time, Friday, 20 February 2009

On climate blogs I've been visiting lately, discussions have formed around three main themes - cold weather, Antarctic temperatures, and the respective values of caution and catastrophism in climate discourse.

I'd never presume to have definitive words on any of these topics, if indeed definitive words exist.

But all three have raised a few thoughts in my mind that I'd like to share and discuss a bit further.

Cooling down

snowman152.jpgAt least in my part of North London, it has certainly been a colder winter than we've been used to (I'll not call it "bad weather", because the sight on our first white morning of two youngsters building what was presumably the first snowman of their young lives was far too uplifting for that description).

Turn the globe upside down, though, and the picture looks very different.

Australia's brutal forest fires have raised questions about the possible role of climate change [pdf link] in creating conditions that make fires more frequent or more rampant. The issue there isn't what cold conditions have to do with a supposed warming trend, but whether the warming trend has anything to do with the tinderbox conditions.

Those questions aren't answered yet. But it's clear that if you're looking to seasonal weather as an indicator of how the climate is changing globally, the global picture you paint depends very much on where you are in the world; and it's equally clear that all such pictures will be unreliable.

In earlier years of reporting climate change, news media were regularly accused of attributing any unusual or extreme weather events to climate change - and often the accusations were justified.

I hope that on the whole, professional journalists and broadcasters do not make the same mistake these days; but it seems to me that in the blogosphere, the two are still often confused. One cold winter, or even five consecutive cold winters, do not tell you anything about a longer-term global trend, and no-one's interests are served by pretending otherwise.

This was one of the points made by Vicky Pope of the UK Met Office, one of the country's most prominent climate scientists, in a recent article for The Guardian.

There are several themes to Dr Pope's article, which is well worth a read.

Some scientists overplay the "threat" of climate change, she argues. Media organisations ignore studies that go against the "it's all getting worse" narrative, such as recent evidence that a recent acceleration in the flow of Greenland glaciers had ceased; and the discourse around the issue errs in asking whether scientists "believe" in climate change, when scientists actually take positions based on evidence.

That someone in Dr Pope's position would write along such lines created a major stir in some circles, though quite why it should have done I'm not sure, given that many other equally eminent climate researchers have taken a similarly cautionary position down the years (including Mike Hulme, former head of the Tyndall Centre, on these pages just over two years ago).

But the points she raises are all, I suggest, worth a mull.

Yes, some scientists have on occasion gone beyond the data in arguing that climate change will bring global catastrophe; not least in the US, where there was a feeling in some quarters that only extremely graphic projections of future doom could shake the Bush administration into curbing greenhouse emissions.

Yes, news organisations are prone to reporting studies that paint a more extreme picture - and not just in climate change. That partly stems from the assumed link between lurid headlines and audience interest (and hence income), and partly because issues develop narratives, and stories that fit the narrative are more likely to make the cut.

Neither situation is ideal, but both are understandable given that scientists and editors are all human beings with human emotions.

Where I do part company with Vicky Pope to some extent is in her argument that it is not a question of scientists "believing" or "not believing" in climate change.

Instead, she writes: "Our concerns about climate change arise from the scientific evidence that humanity's activities are leading to changes in our climate. The scientific evidence is overwhelming."

I understand where she is coming from. In a previous life I worked for publications dealing with fairly advanced medical research, and one of the standard questions we asked was "what does this study tell you about how drug x or drug y should be used?".

On one occasion I received a memorable but not very helpful reply from an eminent cardiologist: "The data tells you what the data tells you" - which is basically Dr Pope's position.

But clearly, highly intelligent, highly educated people can look at the same set of scientific evidence and come to radically different conclusions - not, perhaps, on the basic issue of whether climate change is or isn't happening, but certainly on what the pace is likely to be and what threat it poses.

Which brings me to the warnings made at the weekend by US scientist Chris Field to the effect that the pace of climate change had been seriously underestimated, and impacts would in fact "be beyond anything that we've considered seriously in climate policy".

As a recently elected co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) working group on impacts and adaptation, Dr Field's analyses are likely in coming years to reverberate along the corridors of power, and not just in Washington DC.

There is some evidence to back his contention that things are moving faster than the IPCC projected in its major 2007 report.

Greenhouse gas emissions, have been rising faster than anticipatedthe oceans may be losing some capacity to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, there are hints that the more potent greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide are being released from Arctic regions, and several projections indicate that sea levels will rise further by 2100 than the IPCC projected. (More evidence to back Dr Field's case will be published early next week, by the way).

But equally you can find reasons for suggesting the situation is less calamitous than the IPCC painted. One is the research on Greenland glaciers mentioned above. Another is a recent finding that the Amazon basin may be less vulnerable to temperature rise than previously believed; and there are indications that the economic downturn is slowing the rise in carbon dioxide emissions.

These are all disparate elements of a complex picture. How do you rate them? Which do you regard as more or less important?

We are back to what you believe; and if Chris Field sees catastrophe in the picture before him, he is entitled to say so, just as Vicky Pope or Mike Hulme are entitled to urge restraint.

Warming up

antarctica152.jpgAnother element in this vast and disparate research landscape was the paper I reported on a few weeks ago indicating that Antarctica is, on average, warming up.

There's been a bitter spat between some of the paper's authors, who also maintain the realclimate blog, and some of the more "climate sceptical" denizens of cyberspace, with explosive terms such as "fraud" and "libel" being thrown around.

It's not the first time that such spats have arisen, of course, and it's not the first time that I've wondered if you could become the next billionaire by inventing the electronic version of a scary Victorian nanny who would make the errant climate offspring stand in opposite corners of their cyberworld balancing servers on their heads until they learned to be civil to each other.

There are problems with some of the data-sets used in the Antarctic paper, and although accounts vary as to who pointed them out, we should be grateful that they were pointed out.

Importantly, however, the scientists involved in the study say their basic conclusions are unaffected by these issues, and I have not seen any analysis categorically claiming the opposite - though I doubt we have heard of the last of it.

Caution or catastophe?

Another general point we can pull out of this episode is that single scientific papers rarely prove or disprove anything - they simply add to the mass of evidence we have on a given issue, and should be seen in that light.

Once they're out there, they can be pored over and pulled apart and criticised, any novel methods replicated and perhaps cast aside or improved - and through that process the whole field of research moves on.

Another is to guard against false assumptions of what "we know". Many reports of the Antarctic paper suggested that before it came out, "we knew" that Antarctica was cooling; but that isn't actually the case.

The 2007 IPCC report [pdf llink] concluded that "Antarctica has insufficient observational coverage to make an assessment"; but the temperature graph the IPCC prepared for land south of 65 degrees South (which includes virtually all of Antarctica) contained hints of an upwards trend.

So the argument I have seen often that "the paper must be wrong because we know the Antarctic is cooling" just doesn't make it.

The climate blogosphere is full of straw men; and as always, the only sure-fire way to burn them is to go back to the original, authoritative sources.

So here's my brief take on it all. Science is a repetitive process, and often it's only when we come to something as weighty as an IPCC report that the various bits of evidence are brought together and assessed. Only then can there be some reasonably definitive exposition of what we "know" - or as researcher John Christy has phrased it, "At our present level of ignorance, (what) we think we know" .

Individual pieces of research rarely prove anything by themselves, though they're a lot more valuable than opening the window, seeing what the weather's like and making a "commonsense" leap to what's happening with the climate globally.

In the meantime, scientists, politicians and Joe and Joanna Bloggs down the pub are all entitled to give their own assessments, and often there is a fair amount of belief involved, even for the scientists.

To me, there's little wrong with that. It's what we do with politics and football and music and film, and I don't see why climate discourse should be different.

There are facts out there, and we should recognise them as such, just as we should with medicine and social issues and economics; but there is freedom to believe too, and that, the last time I looked, was supposed to be a universal human right.


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  • 1. At 1:47pm on 20 Feb 2009, AlanLeon wrote:

    Ah, how this brings back memories of my time as a graduate student in the 1970s, when anyone who questioned global cooling was abused and denounced. The pet term of the time was "instant glaciation": meaning that the next Ice Age would come upon us within 2,000 years, which would be "instant" in terms of previous history. Now not only does everyone deny that they ever believed in global cooling, but they also claim that no real scientist ever did. I remember, though, how anyone who put forward observations that cast doubt on global cooling was declared a wicked ignoramus; it was a Known Fact that the ice was coming (see all the speeches at Earth Day events in the 1970s), and so any evidence adduced against it must be false.

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  • 2. At 1:57pm on 20 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:

    Thank you Richard, seems pretty fair and balanced on first reading.

    Something that perhaps should have been mentioned under the Australian fires is that local residents have been pleading with the Australian government to let them create fire breaks around their homes. It seems the government refused on the grounds of environmental protection.

    "In July 2007 Scott Gentle, the Victorian manager of Timber Communities Australia, who lives in Healesville where two fires were still burning yesterday, gave testimony to a Victorian parliamentary bushfire inquiry so prescient it sends a chill down your spine.

    "Living in an area like Healesville, whether because of dumb luck or whatever, we have not experienced a fire … since … about 1963. God help us if we ever do, because it will make Ash Wednesday look like a picnic." God help him, he was right.

    Gentle complained of obstruction from green local government authorities of any type of fire mitigation strategies."

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  • 3. At 2:11pm on 20 Feb 2009, Ian Nartowicz wrote:

    It amazes me that so many people who couldn't calculate how much energy it takes to make a cup of tea suddenly think they are expert climate scientists. What they are is people who don't want to believe, and certainly don't want to change their lifestyle, and are trying to justify their own belief. This is the worst kind of hypocrisy.

    Admit that you don't want to shiver in the dark all winter and still not solve the problem. Admit that you don't want to sacrifice your comfort while 90% of the world's population is still increasing their energy use. Admit that you don't want to walk a mile to the train station when you could drive door to door. Admit that you aren't going to stop eating wasteful meat so Asia can just add another couple of billion hungry mouths. Admit that you won't make drastic economic changes for anything less than 101% proof of impending disaster. Admit that the hijacking of the whole issue by every environmental pressure group with an agenda to push confuses you. Admit that the commercialisation of "green" scams repulses you. Admit that you're holding out for large-scale technologies to save the day. But don't try and pretend you're suddenly Albert Einstein and you know better than nearly everyone who might actually have a clue.

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  • 4. At 2:20pm on 20 Feb 2009, robelex wrote:

    Scientists may have a slight tendency to 'beleive' in a scenario but given the other people who feel entitled to comment on the issue:
    Journalists, as you say tend to sensationalise and not understand the underlying issue
    those on the political 'right' who beleive in their right to burn as much fuel as they would like and dont like the state telling hem otherwse
    The left decided this was true long ago so dont discuss it
    There are of course plenty of industrial interests who are happy to push the idea that no one really has any idea
    As for bloggers - if you are a self appointed expert with a minimal undersanding of the science then your opinion is really worth nothing

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  • 5. At 2:27pm on 20 Feb 2009, David_Chelmsford wrote:

    A good little blog and I agree that everyone is entitled to their 'belief'. The problem I have as a sceptic is the amount of data that is churned out to prove 'climate change' (note global warming has been quietly dropped) unfortunately even the famous IPCC report has been found to be part fiction, part fact. The famous 'Hockey Stick' curve they came out with made the whole document of questionable accuracy, if not a mockery. So we have a situation where it is a question of whether you 'believe' or not? As an athiest I have no religious belief, but I respect those that do, genuinely, believe in an all mighty creator. I find the concept slightly ridiculous, but I respect these peoples right to believe quite seriously in their faith.

    The problem I have is that Climate Change seems to have become a new religion, with many of its advocates behaving almost like religious fanatics against non-believers as if we were heretics. The other problem I have is that the believers seem to have gained power and are using that power to spend my money and taxes promoting their belief. It reminds me of the taxes medievel kings would levy on the people to go off and fight their religious wars.

    I also note that many of these fanatics are young, having come through schools where traditional geography has been usurped for climate change propaganda. Any non-believers who survive this onslaught get poor exam marks for giving the 'wrong' answer in their papers. Unlike these young fanatics I have seen many 'climate change' theories over the decades, who can forget the '70s predictions, scientifically backed up, that the world was entering a new Ice Age! Or that increased volcanoe activity in the world during the '80s was on the verge of creating a global disaster?

    Having safely survived all these previous scientifically proven disasters, forgive me my scepticism that you have it right this time. Please enjoy your belief, read your new bibles that scientifically prove you are right, and enjoy your belief. But please leave me to live my life and enjoy my beliefs too? Just because you believe you are right, I would prefer you not to spend my money saving me from myself too!

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  • 6. At 2:55pm on 20 Feb 2009, costmeabob wrote:

    I agree with the comments made by #2 CuckooToo.

    The Australian led with an article recently where the Fire Risk Officers recommendations to cut the trees back were overruled at the time by the green lobby.

    What is more outrageous in hindsight was the 'green' policy to refuse to allow the brush to be cleared on the forest floor between the trees.

    As we now know, a fatal decision.

    In parts of Provence, in southern France, it was compulsory (you could be prosecuted) if you did not clear the scrub between the trees at a particular time of year, in order to prevent forest fires.

    There are obviously the right and wrong things to do when looking at how to mitigate the effects of 'climate change'.

    Perhaps the media should be less sensationalist, there be less greenwash and calm the whole thing down.

    As Dr Pope correctly states "we should all be concerned"

    I say let's be grown adults and be a bit more responsible and balanced in our approach about it.

    sometimes, warming doesn't just come from having a CO2 blanket, it can come from the massive polar holes in the protective ozone layers, that allow more energetic rays (including UV) from the sun through, which in turn heats things up more intensely, land, sea, ice and atmosphere.

    The major ozone hole was found over the Southern polar region, extending over New Zealand and parts of Australia. Hence the massive increase in skin cancer rates and perhaps, the long enduring droughts and eventual tinder dry bush condition.

    ps. as an afterthought, has anyone considered serious research into the millions of Gigawatts of radiated radio, television, phone and radar waves that are emitted into the atmosphere every single day and absorbed by water and other air molecules in the atmosphere (eventually) thereby raising the energy levels (temperature) of the affected molecules?

    bit like a huge electric fire pointing at the sky everyday.

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  • 7. At 3:40pm on 20 Feb 2009, bengrumpie wrote:

    You know, one of the biggest changes I have seen in my lifetime is this expectation that things should never change. Where did that come from?

    I was pleased to see the recent examples of the same species of organisms living in the arctic and antarctic oceans - that suggests that life on Earth is much more flexible than we give it credit for. If coral reefs die out (which would be sad for me as a tourist) I have the consolation of knowing that in a few hundred years coral will be alive and well at a different latitude.

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  • 8. At 3:45pm on 20 Feb 2009, Bishop Hill wrote:

    I was at a lecture by Sir John Houghton, the former head of the IPCC yesterday. He illustrated some of his points with discussion of the hot weather in Europe a couple of summers ago. It seems that confusing weather with climate happens to even the best of us. When taken up on this by a questioner, Sir John said it was necessary to pick stories which conveyed the message!

    Talking of experts, Chris Field, who you cite above is a biologist. I thought the BBC's position was that we should listen to suitably qualified experts.

    And why don't you link to Climate Audit when discussing the Antarctica study? Is it more than your job's worth?

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  • 9. At 4:10pm on 20 Feb 2009, Thereisnotri wrote:

    Nice to read a balanced view for once which isn't overly sensationalised.

    Commentators are right to point to the creed of the 1970's, which was that we were about to enter another ice age either because of a global climate tipping point, or a change in the jet stream or north atlantic conveyer (a la Day After Tomorrow but slower). Much of what is reported today is belief and semi-religious fervour.

    There is also a horrible mixing of metaphors. There is global warming (man-made or otherwise) and there is climate change. Climate change might include global warming, but it also includes changing global weather patterns, which may or may not be 'caused' by an upwards trend in global termperatures. Much of what we see reported are extreme weather events caused by changing weather patterns but attributed to warming, which at most might only be a contributory factor. A cause of some of these events might be a rise in termperature (particularly perhaps hurricans and storms which depend on sea temperature), but too often people conflate the two issues of changing weather and climate with warming.

    We know that global average temperatures are broadly on an upwards change and have been for some time. The rate of increase may itself be increasing, although over the short term it is impossible to be sure that it isn't something which will iron itself out and return to the underlying trend over time.

    We simply do not know that it is caused by man's interference (although we can hypothesise and then test the hypothesis against the evidence until a better theory comes along - that is after all the scientific method), or that if it is, that we can stop it.

    Personally I 'believe' that it is beyond arrogance to expect tthat we can pollute the atmosphere and plunder the earth for resources for over 200 years and not expect there to be an impact. I believe that we should limit our carbon footprint, but not at the expense of technological advancement, which ultimately is the only thing likely to get us out of the mess, if there is one and assuming we can do anything about it. Finding new sources of power and ways of controlling the climate through technological means are the only cost effective solutions. It is pointless spending trillions and consigning billions to poverty by denying them the right to develop as we did when that money and effort could be put to far better use.

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  • 10. At 4:20pm on 20 Feb 2009, kimarnia wrote:

    Richard - I found your comments refreshingly down to earth and realistic about the whole climate change issue. It seems to me that it is fashionable to be divided into 3 camps, the committed 'believers', the sceptics and the 'couldn't care less'. However I think it is time for us all to take stock of our approach to this issue, as scientists and human beings. It may be that an individual, for whatever reason, is unable to take on board the view that the climate is changing because of human activity. However, this does not negate the need to be prudent in our use of natural resources, which are after all finite. Climate change is a fact of life for the earth, always has been and always will be. Quite where our humble and brief spell on earth falls in the ebb and flow of these cyclical changes is difficult to tell. We can only be sensible, and then just get on with living.

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  • 11. At 4:26pm on 20 Feb 2009, Ian Nartowicz wrote:

    "sometimes, warming doesn't just come from having a CO2 blanket, it can come from the massive polar holes in the protective ozone layers, that allow more energetic rays (including UV) from the sun through, which in turn heats things up more intensely, land, sea, ice and atmosphere."

    Like I said: suddenly everyone thinks they're an expert when actually they are talking complete rubbish. Its nice to have my thoughts confirmed every now and then :)

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  • 12. At 4:33pm on 20 Feb 2009, Googol wrote:

    Perhaps I have misunderstood you, but you seem to say that you think that it's a question of scientists believing or not believing in climate change. But, as you say, the scientific evidence is overwhelming, so where is the need for belief? The data tell us that the climate is changing, and almost every climate scientist interprets the evidence as showing that human activities are largely responsible. Yes, that's belief, if you like. Not everyone believes the Earth is round, but that doesn't make my contrary "belief" in a spherical world as probable as theirs.

    You say that people can look at the same evidence and come to different conclusions on what the pace of change is likely to be and what threat it poses. Well, to some extent. The climate is a complex system, and it's not easy to model it – but we can make a good stab at it, starting from the same hydrodynamic and thermodynamic models that generate weather forecasts.

    Climate modellers try to include all the processes that might have a detectable effect on the climate. As a consequence, climate models depend on a large number of variables, including the intensity of the Sun’s radiation, surface, aerosol and cloud properties including albedo, the concentration and vertical distribution of greenhouse gases, external forcing factors such as volcanic eruptions, interactions between the atmosphere, oceans, land and ice surfaces including drag coefficients, and ocean properties including currents, heat and salinity.

    Models also incorporate feedback between surface temperatures and the amount, type and altitude of cloud, reduction in albedo through the melting of ice leading to higher temperatures and more warming, and increasing temperatures leading to more atmospheric water vapour and a stronger greenhouse effect.

    The resulting models need hundreds of thousands of lines of code to define, and can only run on supercomputers.

    The climate models work on the basis of a planet divided into grid cells. The start point of the model is established by using observations of the state of the atmosphere around the globe to initialise the conditions in each cell. Unfortunately there are no measured data for most of the cells. This means that the initial conditions are uncertain. Other causes of uncertainty are inaccuracies in the measurements and the geographical error caused since the measurement is almost never made in the centre of a cell.

    The numerical models they use can only approximate the continuous functions that operate in the real world. This and other effects introduce uncertainties that grow with time until the predictive power of the model decays to zero. By comparing many runs of the model, however, it is possible not only to predict the most likely future, but also to state how likely it is for that prediction to be wrong.

    Thus on the pace of change, climate modellers can't say for sure "it's going to be 2.5 degrees per century". But they can tell us the probability that it will be faster – or slower – than, for example, 2.5 degrees per century.

    As for what threat the change poses, you're right, scientists can't tell us. What they are telling us, however, is that no amount of science will identify the threats posed by a given change in the atmosphere and oceans. The problem is that change is unlikely to be linear or smooth. Instead, we're likely to experience abrupt changes that we may not see coming. And it is very, very difficult to know what other dominoes might fall if the Indian monsoon collapses, gas hydrates bubble to the surface of the tundra, the Amazon forests die, ocean acidification stops rotifer reproduction, or the Arctic is empty of ice in summer.

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  • 13. At 4:58pm on 20 Feb 2009, yorkshirepudding wrote:

    I agree with David Chelmsford's comments - just what I was thinking. I am a Christian, but as far as climate change is concerned, I am an 'agnostic' - I haven't seen enough evidence to convince me that its man-made, but it makes sense to me to be efficient and to reuse and recycle as much as possible.

    I think the arguements that we will run out of natural resources very soon if we don't slow down are use of them is something much easier to prove and more likely to persuade people to be energy efficient. People don't need to 'believe' in climate change to want to conserve our envoironment and natural resources.

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  • 14. At 4:59pm on 20 Feb 2009, yazbod wrote:

    I am an oceanographer who feels that there is good scientific basis for climate change, but understands why many people are wary of the various claims being made in the name of 'global warming'.

    One thing I do not understand though is why the wary refuse to accept some of the proposed remedies for climate change, when they will benefit.

    The world is powered by a combination of oil, natural gas and coal, with a spattering of nuclear fission. All these power sources are finite and apart from nuclear pour tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

    Now, even if you disagree with the ability of CO2 emissions to cause global warming, you cannot disagree with the fact that we have to be weaned off these fuels because eventually they will RUN OUT! Any what will we do then?

    So, the choice is - do we wean ourselves onto sustainable fuels to power our future industrial needs, with the convenient byproduct of reducing climate change (if it exists) or, do we blithely keep burning finite fuels and suddenly run out, crash the world economy and possibly overheat the planet?

    The decision is yours...

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  • 15. At 5:24pm on 20 Feb 2009, Neil wrote:


    It is great, finally, to see a balanced viewpoint on Climate Change. Like most scientists say, the more you know, the less you know.

    This is not to say we should all be doing our bit to try to consume less, and why not? Why not just to keep the LOCAL environment a little bit cleaner? The guy who rides his bike to work doesn't get choked, etc...

    Why do we need to justify every 'green' action as something to combat Global Warming? It's probably going to happen (one way or maybe even the other way).

    I think if the media stopped harping on about GW/AGW/whatever and took green initiatives as _positive_ steps for even no reason at all, (i.e. NOT tax increases) the climate sceptics would probably be less inclined to be sceptical.

    Keep it up.

    a climate 'sceptic'.

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  • 16. At 5:31pm on 20 Feb 2009, paulvanp wrote:

    thanks Richard; at last a moderating and coolish analytical piece on effectively what science can do: it can add to the weight of evidence and assign probability, never prove conclusively and/or provide certainty. We scientists know that all too wel but it is not a message that the public, our leaders and our funding providers want to hear. They want results and certainty for their money.. so they get the data, an executive summary of our work and conclusions stripped of al the cautions in the main body of our work and an accompanying request for more funding.

    As a scientists and biologist I "believe" climate change is occurring (it always did anyway), I can see the irrefutable logic of humans having an influence on that this time round, but I am simply not sure where it will all lead to this time round, especially when it comes to species diversity, distribution and population.

    Part of the problem is we have a lot of detailed knowledge and data on the current situation and the dim and distant past (paleolontological evidence) but nothing much in between. We compare today with a catastrophical event (ice age, meteor strike etc) and extrapolate, which can only lead to another catastrophical scenario.

    Let us remember that Greenland was green in historical memory, but we know very little about global species distribution, diversity and populations in that period, even less about change in the comparatively micro-timescale since then other than say (over-) exploited fish stocks. So it is very difficult to extrapolate much more subtly than we are doing now.

    Human actions undoubtedly have an effect, good or bad. But that is simply another variable thrown into the mix of data we have to handle, even though it may well be an extremely important one. But where it leads to in the short term, the next couple of hundred of years or so... impossible to predict authoritatively. It may end up being a wobble or a catastrophe. Even part of a recurring longer term cycle. No idea.

    But that doesnt mean we dont have to do anything. The question is what, how much and when. But the doomsday scenario being promulgated at present to make us act is both scientifically indefensible and unsustainable in the longer term.

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  • 17. At 5:33pm on 20 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    As regular readers of Richards blog will know, I am a sceptic.

    Regular readers will also know that many of Richards sceptical contributors to these pages strongly believe that we need to protect and nurture our world, we need to cut back on wastage and reliance on fossil fuels, but only once we have a viable option. We care deeply about our environment, but the clamour for the "solution to global warming" is actually making things worse, both from a financial point of view and from an environmental point of view.

    Take for example the mad rush for biofuels. Any idiot could have told the greens that growing fuel would lead to countries cutting down trees and rising food prices for the new cash crop.

    Another example, highlighted above, is the fires in Australia, which could have been prevented or at the very least lessened by the building of fire breaks, but the greens wouldn't allow this to happen.

    I've just read an interesting article that shows how CO2 is not the culprit in the warming towards the end of the 20th century, but I won't provide a link to it until it is published properly - it was rejected by Science and Natuure - but if and when it is accepted, I will link to it

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  • 18. At 5:35pm on 20 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:

    @alanleon #1

    can you provide links please, i would be interested to read more

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  • 19. At 6:11pm on 20 Feb 2009, drmattprescott wrote:

    Humans definitely know very little about many aspects of the natural world, but we almost certainly know enough to adopt a more effective "no regrets" approach to our interactions with the environment.

    At the moment, the various unknowns and unknowables are frequently used an excuse for doing nothing, and for not acting on what we do know.

    We will never know everything about the climate, but this is the case with almost every variable used in a human decision.

    There is always a chance that new data will swing the argument in a different direction, but at the moment the data, from multiple sources, indicates that we would be wise to reduce our carbon emissions if we are to minimise the risks associated with disruptive shifts in the climate.

    Depending on who you listen to, it might be too late to stabilise our climate or alternatively new, unexpected sinks for emissions could emerge, but given that cost effective low carbon technologies already exist, and could be more widely used, I think we should be doing much, much more to stabilise our atmosphere's carbon dioxide concentration.

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  • 20. At 6:41pm on 20 Feb 2009, yazbod wrote:


    I completely agree with you that fanatical 'green' attitudes can be completely self-defeating. The two examples you give are classic cases of what I sometimes think of as the 'religious druidism' of some of the green movement - another case that springs to my mind is the storm over the dumping of that oil rig offshore some years ago with Greenpeace claiming it was full of tons and tons of pcbs and god knows what - the oil company denied it and was proven right later on.

    The 'green movement' in my view, and based on personal experience, is more interested in forcing people to accept their point of view than in the actual evidence at hand.

    Just to be clear, the sustainable power sources I was thinking of were things like the new hydrogen fuel cell powered Honda cars that are being sold in California, which have zero emissions - local and global environmental benefits, economic benefits both locally and internationally through technology development and no need to drastically alter people's living habits.

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  • 21. At 6:45pm on 20 Feb 2009, singinghannahj wrote:

    I am not by any stretch of the imagination a scientist so am ill-equipped to comment on the nitty gritty. What I do know though (know, not believe) is that human beings are not the lords of all they survey and that their current lifestyles and over-consumption cannot be a good thing, even if man-made global warming is exaggerated. We cannot keep pumping out greenhouse gases at the current rate without some kind of adverse effect, if only because it upsets the balance under which we have evoloved.

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  • 22. At 7:24pm on 20 Feb 2009, Jensen wrote:

    Well balanced article which is refreshing.

    Regarding the warning from Chris Field, is he referring to the last warnings that were worse than we ever thought - bearing in mind that these effects will be worse than previously thought which were, in turn, worse than .........

    Keep crying wolf and nobody will believe you or perhaps these warnings timed to coincide with funding for research?

    My parents used to say that the weather has never been the same since rockets were developed - except that now money can be made out of this latest theory and lots of it - just follow the money.

    One Swallow doesn't make a Summer, one cold winter doesn't mean the end of the World.
    But then nobody would make a profit!

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  • 23. At 7:30pm on 20 Feb 2009, SheffTim wrote:

    Last year The World Meteorological Organization said that global temperatures would be lower in 2008 because of La Nina conditions in the Pacific.

    That La Nina faded away in mid 2008, but late in 2008 La Nina conditions returned.

    La Nina has different effects on different parts of Australia. While the southern part of the country has seen wildfires, Queensland and parts of New South Wales are dealing with some of the worst flooding experienced in 30 years.

    Australian meteorologists are also looking at a similar mechanism in the Indian Ocean to La Nina/El Nino in the Pacific - the Indian Ocean Dipole - and what effect that has on Australia's weather, particularly when coinciding with a La Nina.

    Elsewhere south western and south-eastern parts of the USA are experiencing lower than average precipitation (drought) whilst Midwest and north-eastern regions can expect increased precipitation (If the temperature’s below zero it falls as snow, and can cause floods when it melts.) and flooding. There is a likelihood of increased tornado activity.

    In South America the most productive farming areas of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay are currently suffering drought whilst Columbia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama have had major floods.

    Heavy snowfall (as last year) and rain across the north of China have eased the worst drought in nearly five decades, but drought continues in central China. It is likely that Southern China will experience flooding in late spring.
    This La Nina is expected to have faded away by April/May 2009.

    More worryingly are reports that 2/3 of the world's most productive farmland have experienced recent drought; even if broken by rains this will lead to lower food production this year and accompanying shortages and price rises.

    As always, it is changes to long term trends that really matter when looking at climate change; as far as us humans are concerned two questions that really matter are:
    1) Do any changes to trends mean wetter or dryer conditions where I live?
    2) What impact will this have on agriculture and food production?

    El Nino and La Nina affect weather, that is what we're talking about in regard to the past 2 years.
    There's a reminder of the difference between weather and climate here:

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  • 24. At 7:51pm on 20 Feb 2009, stevejohnson72 wrote:

    The trouble is,that can we afford to carry out the experiment for long enough to be sure?

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  • 25. At 8:03pm on 20 Feb 2009, spectrum wrote:

    In my opinion, the very concept of a global temperature is just daft. It is getting warmer in the north, but not in the south. The only sensible question is why the north is getting warmer. It has been warmer in the historical past and averaging out is meaningless.

    The problem with realclimate is that they are a bunch of naughty little rascals with an agenda. No more mature scientists than a class of ten year olds making stink bombs.

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  • 26. At 8:17pm on 20 Feb 2009, Sasha Millwood wrote:

    Based on the large quantity of evidence we have so far, it is clear that global warming is occuring at a sufficient rate to have a substantial effect on our living conditions within the next 100 years, and that continuing to increase CO2 and CH4 emissions will only exacerbate the situation. That should be sufficient to necessitate radical cuts in emissions immediately.

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  • 27. At 8:24pm on 20 Feb 2009, PAWB46 wrote:

    You quote biologist Chris Field (not a climate scientist) and his alarmist propaganda. And you say "There is some evidence to back his contention that things are moving faster than the IPCC projected in its major 2007 report." I'm not sure what things are moving faster and in which direction - do you mean the current global cooling? What exactly is this evidence? I have asked the Met Office to show me the evidence, but the only response I get is to look in the IPCC reports. There is no evidence that I can find in the IPCC reports. All I find is opinions and outputs from computer models. Neither of these is evidence.

    I have been called a climate change denier. But I absolutely believe in climate change. It's just that I believe that natural climate change dominates over anthropogenic effects. We don't fully understand the climate and so all forecasts for the future are just guesses.

    You don't plan for the future based on guesses. You just do what you can to be prepared for all eventualities. I'm more concerned about a cooler future than a warmer future and so I plan accordingly.

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  • 28. At 10:15pm on 20 Feb 2009, CPslashM wrote:

    Take 1 glass of ice cubes and top up with water.
    Leave for 5 minutes in a warm room.
    Take temperature.
    Leave for further 5 minutes.
    Take temperature.

    The temperature should stay about the same until the remaining ice cannot melt fast enough to absorb the incoming heat.

    Looking for trends in the temperature of the icecaps when there is still plenty of ice to melt and thus absorb heat at an almost constant temperature is misleading.

    The volume of ice, especially easily-melted sea ice, better demonstrates thermal trends.

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  • 29. At 11:31pm on 20 Feb 2009, iainsteele wrote:

    You seem to be proposing that a kind of "number of papers" type argument in deciding if climate change is/is not real. That is the wrong approach in my opinion. Science is not a democracy - just because more people do/do-not believe in something does not make it correct or not. One conclusive result can overturn the agreement of 100 previous papers.

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  • 30. At 06:12am on 21 Feb 2009, TJ wrote:

    Richard: A thoughtful and polite article. I particularly got focused on your last paragraph; “but there is freedom to believe”, that brought a vivid memory back that I will share.
    I was having a coffee with my rowing mates after an early morning workout and we got into conversation on ‘global warming’. A wife of one dropped by with their two children and one rower asked the children what they thought about ‘global warming’. Well, the response was very articulate and strongly delivered in agreement. We were all very impressed.
    I asked where he learned such information and he said “at school lessons”
    I asked if he had heard that there were folks, including scientists that did not agree with this.
    His demeanor change and he launched into a tirade of verbal assault. I had this image of this boy 15yrs on as a Gestapo officer with a couple of SS at his side arresting me and sending me off to a death camp!! It was scary and it’s impinged on my mind.
    We all worked to change the subject quickly and started talking about the latest 49’s game and order was restored and he changed back to a normal boy.
    On the subject you have written about I was pleasantly surprised not to see the usual health warning. I would have expected to read a preface like:
    “The statement in the February 2009 edition of our blog, Earth Watch that, "There is a questioning about climate” does not represent the views of the Executive Committee of the BBC". The BBC Executive Committee strongly endorses the position of the IPCC that "Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth's climate
    I will agree to your bosses using this to save them the trouble of putting one together.
    My apology for this flippancy but I could not resists?
    Thanks again. I enjoy and respect your work……

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  • 31. At 08:31am on 21 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:

    Here are a couple of phrases to google (pdf's):

    "Validity of Climate Change Forecasting for Public Policy Decision Making"

    (Green, Armstrong, Soon)

    "Global Warming: Forecasts by Scientists Versus Scientific Forecasts"

    (Green, Armstrong)

    They make interesting reading, peer reviewed and published articles showing how the IPCC and the climate models fail to forecast correctly, by not following the principles of forecasting.

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  • 32. At 08:38am on 21 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    This is the question i have asked in the previous thread:

    "Credit to NSIDC for confirming the error with their satellite that has been over-estimating the sea-ice at the Arctic by 500,000 sq k for several months:


    Please confirm all the BBC's headlines about sea-ice loss will be amended accordingly.

    OK, I know you don't have editorial control over this, but shouldn't the BBC at least run a story confirming the error and remove the incorrect stories from circulation?"

    And of course, we all know that Al Gores movie contained errors that have still not been corrected, but still gets shown in schools etc.

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  • 33. At 10:35am on 21 Feb 2009, andesitic wrote:

    Global warming....another catastrophe in the long line of blunders the scientific community churn out every decade or so. The truth is not much is known about how climate changes.

    Yes there are Milankovich cycles, yes we are at present in an interstadial - a warm phase before global glaciation returns.
    Can our efforts change climate?
    Worryingly, it took the Earth 200 million years to lock away all that carbon in the form of fossil fuels.
    We are releasing it back into the atmosphere within 200 years.

    I like to think the planet can and has dealt with extreme changes.
    I like to think in another 200 million years some geologists will find a thin layer of strata 3 cm thick and call it the plutonium layer - and wonder what caused this to occur.
    I like to think the Earth can deal with troublesome organisms like us!

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  • 34. At 10:48am on 21 Feb 2009, Richard Ralph Roehl wrote:

    The evidence for global climate change, especially global warming, is not entirely conclusive or complete... yet. However... the evidence IS overwhelming, and only a person with the mindset of a lemming would deny the phenomena.

    Many of those lemmings (people who deny global climate changes) also fail to understand the difference between climate and weather.

    Beware! Where there is no insight, the people perish.

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  • 35. At 11:04am on 21 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    please present the overwhelming evidence you refer to and this lemming will explain why it's not conclusive

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  • 36. At 11:16am on 21 Feb 2009, Beejay wrote:

    In the late '40's my mother blamed any inclement weather, cold or hot, wet or dry on what she termed "The Atom". No doubt our ancestors blamed unusual weather on Dragons and/or Witches.
    Today the similarly blinded blame CO2.

    The Human Psyche has to have a ready answer to all unanswerable questions by producing something so convoluted in its conception that Global Warming/ClimateChange/ and now Climate...Shift [ignoring Occam's Razor of course] presently obscure a simple fact. We are only here because of the Sun.

    Carbon Footprint? We are made up of mainly Oxygen with Carbon the next on the list. Probably why we burn so easily.

    Stop wasting money on CO2 reduction/Carbon Trading/Carbon/Bio Fuels/Wind Power anything and spend the money on Fission/Fusion energy generation.
    Stop Wind Power generation as it is subsidised and The most expensive way to warm people's homes.
    And teach children that CO2 is keeping them alive and that recycling should only be done if there is a use for the end product.

    Finally, Global Warming/ClimateChange/Shift is a Faith [like all Religions] and not a Scientific Fact.

    Can anyone recycle Al Gore?

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  • 37. At 11:21am on 21 Feb 2009, zzzzzzed wrote:

    Congratulations, this is the first balanced article on the subject of climate change that I can remember reading on the BBC.

    Global temperatures have been falling for several years now whilst CO2 levels continue to increase. Records from the Vostock ice core samples stretching back for 420,000 years show that past increases in CO2 have not led to increases in global temperature. Geological records show that CO2 levels were 5 times higher than now in the Cretaceous-Jurassic period which was one of the coldest periods in the earth’s history. Physics tells us that CO2 absorbs almost all the heat that it is capable of absorbing at concentrations of 25ppm. So the fact that levels have increased from ~280ppm to ~380ppm makes virtually no difference.

    I notice that the theme for this year’s International Conference on Climate Change is “Global Warming: was it ever really a crisis?”

    Maybe someday soon we will be able to get back to tackling some real environmental problems.

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  • 38. At 11:23am on 21 Feb 2009, chrisball2001 wrote:

    I think its right that people should have freedom of belief when it comes to weighing up the scientific evidence for climate change. However I think they also need to ask themselves whether they'd be willing to bet their children on their beliefs?

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  • 39. At 11:46am on 21 Feb 2009, jayfurneaux wrote:

    Re post 31: 'Validity of Climate Change Forecasting for Public Policy Decision Making' & 'Global Warming: Forecasts by Scientists Versus Scientific Forecasts'.

    Kesten Green's field is Business and Economic Forecasting and Scott Armstrong is a Professor of Marketing.
    They've come up with a set of 'forecasting principles' they claim can apply to a broad range of disciplines, including science, sociology, economics and politics.
    And those fields (they cover pretty much everything) have exactly what in common?
    Models used to predict future climates are physics-based and fundamentally different from forecasting models used in economics.
    It's also worth noting that Armstrong and Green didn't 'forecast' the credit crunch, despite economics supposedly being their main field of expertise.

    Unsurprisingly, like most of the active deniers, they turn out to be libertarian economists - they don't believe in government intervention - (don't tell me that doesn't drive their conclusions) and have been claimed as climate experts by the old denier Senator Inhofe and spoken at climate skeptics conferences, despite having no climate science background. (They even quote Channel 4's debunked 'The Great Global Warming Swindle' in their paper as one of their references!)

    Lo-and-behold, according to Armstrong and Green's 'forecasting principles' there should be no Govt. bailout for the US economy ( ), polar bears are not endangered and governments shouldn't act on climate change because global warming forecasts are 'unscientific'.

    And peer reviewed? In a journal devoted to climate science? Hardly.
    Armstrong and Green's paper was published in Energy and Environment, a journal not listed in the ISI's Journal Citation Reports indexing service for academic journals.
    Numerous people considered climate skeptics have published in this journal, its editor (not a climate scientist) is a known skeptic who has admitted "I'm following my political agenda."

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  • 40. At 12:02pm on 21 Feb 2009, alexswanson wrote:

    "I thought the BBC's position was that we should listen to suitably qualified experts."

    True, but the BBC confirmed to me officially lsat year that "suitably qualified experts" can mean whatever any particular reporter wants it to mean, and that if any ordinary license-payer wants to know who such "experts" might be in any particular case, or how exactly they might be "suitably qualified", you have no right to know.

    Really true.

    Draw your own conclusions.

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  • 41. At 12:39pm on 21 Feb 2009, yertizz wrote:

    yazbod @ 14 writes:

    ' cannot disagree with the fact that we have to be weaned off these fuels because eventually they will RUN OUT....'

    In short, that sums-up the REALITY behind the Climate Change debate. The problem is, unless the politicos and their Eco-warrior allies have the Fear Factor to use against the population, they are afraid no-one wll listen to them!

    If they stopped patronising people and took them along with rational, reasoned debate they MIGHT JUST get their views accepted.

    In the meantime we will have to contnue to fight their fantasies with all our might.

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  • 42. At 1:16pm on 21 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    Green and Armstrong are talking about the science behind forecasting, whether it's financial or climate models and gives reference to standard forecasting principles. What they have shown is the IPCC forecasts (in fairness the IPCC don't actually use the term "forecast"), simply do not stack up, because the methodology behind the forecasts is in their words "The forecasts in the Report were not the outcome of scientific procedures. In
    effect, they were the opinions of scientists transformed by mathematics and
    obscured by complex writing. Research on forecasting has shown that experts’
    predictions are not useful in situations involving uncertainly and complexity. We
    have been unable to identify any scientific forecasts of global warming."

    The fact that they are not climate scientists does not make their study less valid and the fact that Energy and Environment may not be the outlet of choice for climate scientists does not make this study any less valid. Afterall, Manns peer reviewed and published work continues to be cited despite it being ripped apart on several occasions by McIntyre and the damning report by Wegman. Opps, sorry, neither are climate scientists ;)

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  • 43. At 1:45pm on 21 Feb 2009, manysummits wrote:

    What a surprise when I turned on my computer this morning, and found forty-one comments on this blog!!!!!!!!!

    I note the magnitude of the response, and the quality of the responses as well. Very encouraging personally.

    I've been assembling my own library of original sources lately, from journals such as "Nature" and "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science", on both climate change and the long term carbon cycle (Robert Berner of Yale - long term carbon cycle). But this is not the place to discuss details, at least I don't think it is?

    I am a geologist, with a lifelong fascination of both weather and of climate, and I am also a lifelong devotee of the great outdoors, a mountaineer, pilot, canoeist etc... And a student of the history of life on Earth, and now, perhaps elsewhere.

    What I would like to say is this:

    Soon, with our truly huge and still growing population on Earth, and our rush to world wide industrialization, soon we will have burned up this ONE TIME bonanza of fossil fuel, or at least a good portion of it, and actually doubled the amount, by volume and by mass, of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    We have become - "A FORCE of NATURE".

    For myself, I have to look a long ways into the past, to a time perhaps two billion years ago, to the 'oxygen holocaust', to find something to compare this time to. The comparison is only valid in a few respects of course - the downfall of most comparisons, but still helpful, I think.

    A geologist can certainly tell you about change, but what is important today is something we appear to have forgotten, and that is TRUST.

    The magnitude of this issue, global warming caused principally by mankind, and its only recently uncovered implications, concerns every man, women and child on Earth, and not just peripherally.

    We are all the 'scatterlings of Africa', born perhaps two hundred thousand years ago, during the previous ice age, in the shadow of great volcanoes beside one of the Earth's staggering geological features, the East African Rift Zone.

    We wandered 'out of Africa', and are now everywhere, even in orbit, as we speak.

    And we plan to go back to the Moon, and after that, who can say?

    If we don't go extinct first, or propel ourselves into an unimaginably hostile future. If we don't grow up fast.

    We are now all one tribe, and we might do well to look to our Elders, and pay them some heed, something else we appear to have forgotten in this mad world.

    - From the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains -

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  • 44. At 2:35pm on 21 Feb 2009, RolandGross wrote:

    "Individual pieces of research rarely prove anything by themselves, though they're a lot more valuable than opening the window, seeing what the weather's like and making a "commonsense" leap to what's happening with the climate globally."

    What a bizarre comment. As someone about to embark on a PhD in the subject I can assure you there is a huge amount of effort that goes into all the research and there are some incredibly smart people involved.

    All the mainstream research points to a very serious threat to our civilisation and a very depressing fall in biodiversity (the planet itself of course is not under threat!).

    Unbelievably, so far we have done virtually nothing to turn this around, so if a few individuals get frustrated and possibly exaggerate what can be extrapolated, I don't see that's such a bad thing.

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  • 45. At 4:24pm on 21 Feb 2009, jayfurneaux wrote:

    "Manns peer reviewed and published work continues to be cited despite it being ripped apart on several occasions by McIntyre" etc Comment 42.

    And McIntyre and his Climateaudit site are impartial. Ha! To borrow a line from comment 25 "they are a bunch of naughty little rascals with an agenda."

    The Hockey Stick graph was just one of many, many independent lines of research on global climate change.
    Back in June 2006, following the arguments over the Mann report, the US National Academy of Sciences was asked by the US Congress to find an answer to what period was the warmest of the past millennium.
    The Academy looked at seven different reconstructions of the past 1100 years of climate, from 900 to 2000.
    Each of these studies used different methods and each showed the same conclusion as the Mann Hockey Stick.

    In a report released on June 22, 2006, entitled 'Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years', the Academy concluded that, while Mann's statistical procedures weren’t optimal, the procedure did not unduly distort his conclusions, which the Academy reinforced.
    `The basic conclusion of Mann et al. was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on icecaps and the retreat of glaciers around the world, which in many cases appear to be unprecedented during at least the last 2,000 years.`
    If you Google the title the report's available online.

    As for Armstrong and Green, they don't seem to have convinced anyone of the effectiveness of their methods when applied to their own field - economics - so how can they be taken seriously when they dabble in other disciplines?

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  • 46. At 4:43pm on 21 Feb 2009, Robert0117 wrote:

    There is great truth in the data says what the data says. The further you try to extrapolate or interpolate the further you get from what the data says. The data says global CO2 levels are rising in the atmosphere and the sea. The data on weather is lost within the variability of the weather. There are huge multivariate models that extrapolate based on the data. It must be remembered that these are computer constructs based on observations and theories on how things are related. To a large degree they cannot be verified over a wide range except in retrospect. Applying old data to future trends is always risky. Ask anyone invested on Wall Street.

    One of the great uses for theories is what can they predict. If you believe in climate change, and that climate change is "bad," the obvious question is what must be done to stop climate change? The most common answer that I hear is that human CO2 emissions must be reduced by greater than 80%. Hmmm, UN council on Energy says that if we get serious about energy, global usage will INCREASE by only 33%.

    Based on years in the energy conservation field, there are opportunities and alternatives. Most of the increase in energy usage could be done with renewables. Our current base usage could be reduced by 25 - 35%. But when you review the sum of the opportunities the bottom line is that there is no way to meet the aspirations of the third world and meet the needs of the projected global population and reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2020, 2030, or probably even 2050.

    The models also tell us that if we could reduce CO2 emissions by 80% tomorrow it would be centuries before the impact of the atmospheric CO2 present today stabilized.

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  • 47. At 4:45pm on 21 Feb 2009, RolandGross wrote:


    The overwhelming evidence is pretty unambiguous 19th century physics......but I'm sure you won't find it conclusive so I won;t go into detail.

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  • 48. At 5:13pm on 21 Feb 2009, pmbbiggsy wrote:

    I don't think Chris Field's climate alarmism was worthy of the attention it received from the BBC - Field is a Professor of Biology in an Ecology Department - hardly a top climate scientist. There has been no increase in ocean heat content or atmospheric warming since 2002, despite rapidly rising CO2 emissions.

    As for the Antarctic 'warming' reconstruction - Eric Steig has refused to release the code he used. Climate science is blighted by withheld and un-archived data by consensus proponents - nothing to hide, nothing to fear!

    I have a different take on Vicky Pope: she doesn't like short-term alarmist predictions because they can be disproved within 10 years, instead she prefers unverifiable computer modelled projections up to 2100

    So it does come down to whether we believe that computer models can ever fully represent or predict a complex climate system that is far from fully understood.

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  • 49. At 5:37pm on 21 Feb 2009, pmbbiggsy wrote:

    jayfurneaux - you look at the 'Hockey Stick' graph through rose tinted glasses. The Wegman/NAS panel accepted virtually all of McIntyre and McKitrick's criticisms:

    "Notwithstanding claims in the MBH papers (e.g. verification r2 skill as shown in MBH98 Figure 3), we showed the answer was, in every case, No. Early segments of the MBH reconstruction fail verification significance tests, a finding later confirmed by Wahl and Ammann and accepted by the NAS Panel. Far from being “robust” to the presence or absence of all dendroclimatic indicators, we showed that results vanished just by removing the controversial bristlecones, a result also confirmed by Wahl and Ammann and noted by the NAS Panel. We showed that the PC method yielded biased trends, an effect confirmed by the NAS and Wegman panels. We showed that pivotal PC1 was not a valid temperature proxy due to non-climatic contamination in the dominant-weighted proxies (bristlecones, foxtails). Here again the NAS panel concurred, saying that strip-bark bristlecones should not be used in climate reconstructions."

    Under Oath:

    CHAIRMAN BARTON Dr. North, do you dispute the conclusions or the methodology of Dr. Wegman’s report?

    DR. NORTH No, we don’t. We don’t disagree with their criticism. In fact, pretty much the same thing is said in our report.

    Barton then asked North’s colleague on the NAS panel, Peter Bloomfield, a similar question. Bloomfield’s reply: “Our committee reviewed the methodology used by Dr. Mann and his co-workers and we felt that some of the choices they made were inappropriate. We had much the same misgivings about his work that was documented at much greater length by Dr. Wegman.”

    As for 'independent' research 'supporting' the 'Hockey Stick' - these were 'hockey team' studies sharing much of the flawed data and methodology erroneously used by Mann.

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  • 50. At 6:06pm on 21 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    I think you will find the NAS report said recent temperatures were unprecedented in 400 years and, under examination by the Senate Committee, North conceded that NAS agreed with the findings of the Wegman Report published

    Wegman concluded "MBH98 and MBH99 were found to be "somewhat obscure and incomplete" and the criticisms by McIntyre and McKitrick were found to be "valid and compelling". "

    With regard to other papers that support Mann, please note the work is based on the same data, same methodology and same mistakes, so of course the work will reach the same conclusions

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  • 51. At 6:15pm on 21 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    There is no need to explain, I understand the principles and know how this could work in the laboratory, but the earth is not a test tube, it is far more complex than that.

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  • 52. At 6:18pm on 21 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    Also you assume that CO2 levels really were at fairly consistant, lower levels in the past. The work of Jarowoski and Beck refutes this

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  • 53. At 6:40pm on 21 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    in fairness, according to his cv, Chris Field has studied climate change for many years, even if it's not his PhD study. Doesn't make him right of course! Many others have studied climate change from different backgrounds and come up with different conclusions.

    With regards to the rest of your comments, I have no disagreement.

    Going to the pub - you know, Richard, one day we should all meet for a pint and slog this one out, we seem to agree on so many things, just not the cause of global warming!

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  • 54. At 8:34pm on 21 Feb 2009, jayfurneaux wrote:

    Comment 50. Your claim that the other studies, undertaken independently by researchers in different countries, some using tree rings, some using corals, some using stalagmites, some using borehole measurements - and all of which support the same general conclusion as Mann, Bradley, Hughes - "is based on the same data, same methodology and same mistakes" is just wishful thinking.
    But the Hockey Stick is just one of many pieces of work, not the cornerstone of the global warming case that some believe it to be. The carbon cycle, the known physics and chemistry of greenhouse gasses and their interactions with infrared energy in the atmosphere etc, etc are more important.
    Reconstructions of past temperatures have some use and I'd rather they were attempted than be left with nothing but assertions.
    If evidence changes then I'll change my mind, but I've seen many deniers claims come and go without being convinced by any of them.

    Those new to the Hockey Stick may wish to start here:

    The authors, Mann, Bradley and Hughes (plus others) recently repeated their work [published in 2008] - without using Bristlecone pine treerings - and showed the same conclusion. If you Google 'Proxy-based reconstructions of hemispheric and global surface temperature variations over the past two millennia' it's online.

    The new report used overlapping proxy records, including coral reef skeletons, cores from glaciers and ice sheets and sea floor sediments, and stalagmites and stalactites formed in caves.
    Without using tree-ring growth data, the results are robust to 1300 years, i.e. anomalous 20th century warming.

    Of course McIntyre and McKitrick will do their best to find something, anything they can use to discredit anything to do with the global warming case, they're ideologically motivated.
    When has any paper ever been endorsed by them if they've decided they don't like its conclusions?
    Yet, any contrarian paper, no matter how half-baked (often contradicting other contrarians) gets endorsed and touted around by the blogsphere.
    Have McIntyre and McKitrick attempted their own research or alternative reconstructions - of course not.

    Will one side convince the other; unlikely. Debating with hard-line, ideologically motivated skeptics is like arguing with 'young earth' Christian websites that maintain that earth is 6,000yrs old, evolution never happened etc. They're not interested in evidence, just in performing mental somersaults to 'prove' their case.

    Ooooh, dinner.

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  • 55. At 03:01am on 22 Feb 2009, TJ wrote:

    jayfurneaux #50
    The ‘Hockey Stick’ was presented as the emblem of the IPCC and to put it mildly it was a travesty of deception. It was at a time when the hype was ratcheting up and I for one started my skeptic journey. When it was shown to be a fraud and then Al Gore started on his alarmist campaign I was totally persuade that this was shaping up to be the biggest con in history. What fires my skepticism is that these Mann folks are still in business after such open deception. McIntyre and McKitrick are your rank and file local heroes and the latest shenanigans over data presentation would have me believe that we need them more than ever. I lived through the 1970’s global cooling (with the same gang at the helm) as a skeptic so I have faith that reality will prevail.
    While I will agree with you that some “deniers claims come and go” I have less trust in the prediction of computer models which a few years ago were projecting tipping points and disasters. As you must have noted the real world has not been kind to AGW proponent’s predictions.
    You mention about “debating with hard-line, ideologically motivated skeptics is like arguing with 'young earth' Christian websites”. Have you ever tried to debate anything with “RealClimate”?!! “Answers in Genesis” are pussy cats compared to them.
    My dinner is now waiting. Cheers………..

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  • 56. At 07:45am on 22 Feb 2009, Bishop Hill wrote:

    The multiproxy studies illustrated in the NAS panel to support the hockey stick, and their relevant flaws were:

    Mann and Jones 03 (bristlecones)
    Moberg el al (Use of grey data, bristlecones, hilarious use of Glob bulloides proxy)
    Hegerl et al (Cherrypicked data, secret data)
    Esper et al(bristlecones/foxtails, use of dodgy Polar Urals site, cherrypicked data, secret data)
    Osborn & Briffa (Uses the hockey stick itself, naked cherrypicking of hockey stick shaped series).

    The NAS panel never explained how they could condemn the use of bristlecone pines as proxies but still cite studies based on them in support of the hockey stick.

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  • 57. At 08:54am on 22 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    adding to #55 and 56, please don't forget that Manns latest offering is full of the same errors plus new errors such as mixing up Spain and Africa. The peer review process, as stated by Wegman, must be pretty incestuous and lacking in robustness to allow errors to be picked up by amateurs

    Your link refers to the 2008 version of the Hockey Stick, but it seems that this article is out of date and doesn't include the errors above pointed out by McIntyre.

    I would also echo timjenvey's comment about Realclimate. Realclimate does not allow any dissent from the party line. I have posted comments there which were on topic, non-abusive, but questioned the party line and they were censored. AFAIK this censorship doesn't happen on any other blog, unless the comments break the house rules.

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  • 58. At 10:19am on 22 Feb 2009, MaxSceptic wrote:

    In general I'm enjoying the increasingly shrill tone of the believers as more and more people recognise that their idol has clay feet.

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  • 59. At 11:04am on 22 Feb 2009, pmbbiggsy wrote:

    Re: #54. The Mann et al paper in PNAS (2008) has once again been shown to be flawed - see comment and reply PNAS (2009) - McIntyre/McKitrick, and Mann et al.

    And don't forget the many publications/proxy data supporting a Medieval Warm Period (MWP) warmer than today. No one disagrees that the earth is warmer than 400 years ago (Little Ice Age) - it is the warmth of the MWP that is disputed - Mann et al's flawed data and methodology, along with those of the related 'hockey team' studies does not provide anything like a definitive answer (see comment #56).

    The carbon cycle isn't fully understood, and the sensitivity of climate to CO2 remains unknown - computer models rely on a large positive feedback via water vapour - Spencer and Braswell, JoC (2008) suggest otherwise.

    Re: #53 - I never claimed that Field wasn't involved in climate science, just that he isn't a leading expert as claimed.

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  • 60. At 1:42pm on 22 Feb 2009, manysummits wrote:

    Having been a field geologist for some eighteen years, I am glad to see two field projects underway which I hope will add significantly to our understanding of climate change.

    NASA's 'Orbiting Carbon Observatory' is set to launch in the wee hours of February 24, and I include a link below which I thought superb. The NASA websites are also full of information, but the article I am posting below I liked very much:

    And I see on the BBC World News this morning, that "The Catlin Arctic Expedition" is underway, to measure the thickness of Arctic sea ice over a thousand kilometer transect which will terminate at the North Pole. Good luck to them!!!

    I am currently reading Mark Bowen's book, "Censoring Science" (2008). This book is about Dr. James Hansen, head of NASA'a Goddard Institute for Space Studies, member of the United States Academy of Science, and arguably one of the top climate scientists on the planet.

    This book follows hard on the heels of Mark Bowen's "Thin Ice", which I am also rereading (for the third time), and which I now regard as the best single introduction to climatology, certainly that I have read. This book is about Dr. Lonnie Thompson, the mountain and tropical glacier climatologist, also a member of the U.S. National Academy of Science.

    Mark Bowen has a Ph.D. in Physics, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technolgy, is also a mountaineer, and has also become, in the last decade, interested in climate change. I would argue that anyone who is not currently interested in climate change is not in possesion of the facts.

    As for the skeptics - well, I am reminded of a memorable scene from Joshua Slocum's book, "Sailing Alone Around the World", and his meeting with the then president of South Africa, Oom Paul (President Kruger), in 1897. The President, and many others, were convinced that the world was flat, and refused to believe otherwise. I suspect even a live image from space, of the Earth floating in the void, would have been viewed with skepticism. I say this not to ridicule the skeptics, but to point out that intransigent worldviews exist today as well as yesterday, and they will persist tomorrow. This does not relieve us of the need for action.

    - From Calgary -

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  • 61. At 2:04pm on 22 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 62. At 2:39pm on 22 Feb 2009, WolfiePeters wrote:

    I do know enough about the climate models to say that they cannot be totally relied upon. But, given their predictions and accumulated evidence, it seems very likely that there is global warming, that it is associated with increased CO2 and it has been going on for a long time.

    We have made global warming into a religious question with commercial overtones. Worse still, we seem to be seeking religious solutions and commercial opportunities.
    - “Get rid of your four-wheel drive. Live poor and you will be saved.”
    - “Buy a new electric hybrid vehicle.” (But don’t think of how much CO2 it cost to produce and ignore the fact that it consumes as much fuel as your old car).
    And we swallow it all.

    For most problems there are the commercial and religious solutions that receive a lot of publicity, but don’t work. There are also the engineering solutions. What is driving it all? We immediately accuse transport and industry. Yet, we rarely look at agriculture and food production either as a source of CO2 or as a means of reducing it.

    Here’s a challenge. How much carbon is stored in the waste from a field of wheat? Make a rough estimate. If we were to bundle it and store it at the bottom of the ocean, how much CO2 emissions would we save?

    Ultimately, even without global warming, we will move to new energy sources. Also, we have eventually to limit the size of the human population, before nature does it for us. In the mean time, let’s look for realistic means of ameliorating the problem and put aside religious show and commercial opportunity. Perhaps then, the non-believers will come on board?

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  • 63. At 3:35pm on 22 Feb 2009, pmbbiggsy wrote:

    #60 - scientists are supposed to be sceptical - a hypothesis should be tested to destruction - not protected by an IPCC monopoly and branding those who follow proper, objective scientific method as sceptics and marginalising them.

    Consensus told us the earth was flat - if it hadn't been questioned and disproved - we'd still believe the earth to be flat, or that the sun orbits the earth, or that stomach ulcers are caused by stress rather 'Helicobacter pylori.'

    'Action' based on the unjustified, political demonisation of CO2 is more costly and damaging than no action at all. Action should be based on uncertainty - we should prepare for both warming and cooling, rather than just preparing for warming.

    Prins/Rayner and Peilke Jr have objectively pointed the way forward for action - away from failed/failing CO2 reduction targets.

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  • 64. At 6:03pm on 22 Feb 2009, manysummits wrote:

    Post # 63:

    Concensus did not tell anyone the world was flat, it was religious dogma. Intelligent and observant people have known the Earth was round for many thousands of years, but periodically, fanatics of one stripe or another refuse to see the world as it is.

    Who are you to say scientists are supposed to be this or that?

    Scientists are human beings, like other human beings. The difference is accurate observation and intelligent assessment, something most definitely not the sole province of either scientists or of science.

    Please find below the intelligent assessment of James Hansen, also an accurate observer and recorder of the world as it is:

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    His plan for mitigation is one of many. George Monbiot, in his 2006 book "Heat", offers another.

    None of us know the way ahead. Like a mountaineer assessing a route, based always on partial information, we will use our best judgement and go forward, or retreat.

    Yogi Berra, the American baseball player, once said: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

    We have just come to realize that there are many forks ahead, all of them shrouded for the time in mist and fog. But there is a clear and present danger, and we must react to it. I am sorry this is uncomfortable for you and others, but this is now a time for courage and committment.

    As for failed CO2 reduction strategies, I agree that nothing of substance is yet here. That's precisely what I'm talking about.

    Those who demonize CO2 are following an ancient human tradition, that of reducing your enemies to sub-human status. But let's not confuse the issues here. The assessment of the dangers to the planet of our CO2 emissions are not political, they are scientific certainity, and these results and findings are being used by the unscrupulous or the ignorant for their own ends. That too is in the long tradition of human beings.

    - From Calgary -

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  • 65. At 6:42pm on 22 Feb 2009, Stephen_McIntyre wrote:

    You say:

    There are problems with some of the data-sets used in the Antarctic paper, and although accounts vary as to who pointed them out, we should be grateful that they were pointed out.

    There should be no dispute as to who pointed out the problems with the data sets and I would appreciate it if you clarified your article on this matter. The problems were identified by and its readers. The only puzzle is explaining some very peculiar behavior by NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt.

    The problems were first pointed out on Sunday Feb 1 at NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt was monitoring Climate Audit, and, for reasons that remain unexplained, took it upon himself to preemptively notify the British Antarctic Survey that Sunday evening of errors in a station identifed by Climate Audit without citing Climate Audit and without notifying his own employer, NASA GISS, of a similar error in their own data base. Even more oddly, in subsequent discussions at realclimate, Schmidt pretended that the errors had been identified by a third party scientist "independently" of Climate Audit, not admitting his own role in the affair until after it had been revealed by the British Antarctic Survey and not admitting that his identification of the problem station problems had been derived from monitoring Climate Audit until after the British Antarctic Survey disclosure of his role in the affair.

    Schmidt's behavior was severely criticized by Roger Pielke Jr at and to date, Schmidt has provided no satisfactory explanation of this strange behavior - not just the reasons for his failure to cite Climate Audit, .but what accounted for such an uncharacteristic and urgent interest in altering the only public record of the station data used in Steig et al.

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  • 66. At 10:04pm on 22 Feb 2009, PAWB46 wrote:

    Steve McIntyre at 65:

    Thank you for taking the trouble to come here and set the record straight.

    People like jayfurneaux at 54 do their best to denigrate your tireless and unrewarded efforts. You have done a great service to science by shining a light into the inner workings of climate science and in rooting out deceptive (some would say fraudulent) scientific papers.

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  • 67. At 11:54pm on 22 Feb 2009, Stephen_McIntyre wrote:

    #66. I avoid the word "fraudulent" and similar value-laden language in my description of papers or analysis and I request that you also refrain from using this sort of language as it is both pointlessly inflammatory and counter-productive.

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  • 68. At 04:22am on 23 Feb 2009, kacey wrote:

    whether global warming is occurring and whether specific weather phenomenon are due to climate change are two different issues.
    Those who don't want to accept that our actions are endangering the earth usually point to uncertainties about the latter to justify doubt in the former.
    As a physician, I trust science.
    Given the ongoing failure of the human community to deal with this issue, I can't say I trust the human animal.

    Too bad. The other living things on this planet deserve better.

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  • 69. At 05:27am on 23 Feb 2009, TJ wrote:

    #67 Stephen:
    I would be interested to hear your own opinion and the words you would use to describe the original IPCC Hockey Stick and of the engineers, proponents and defenders of its use.

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  • 70. At 07:59am on 23 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    I'm not a physician, but I do trust science and one of my biggest concerns about global warming is the damage to science once this whole "warning" comes to a shuddering halt.

    Alarmist scientists do no favour to their profession by annoucing the end of the world every 5 minutes like some biblical prophet

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  • 71. At 08:57am on 23 Feb 2009, Maurizio Morabito wrote:

    Not sure if anybody else has noticed, but Richard Black has just categorised climatology as a "soft science".

    Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it surely undermines the claim that on global warming "the science is settled" things stand, I am afraid it cannot ever be.

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  • 72. At 09:16am on 23 Feb 2009, PlanetThoughts wrote:

    There is a good deal of scientific evidence that co2 and other greenhouse gas-accelerated global warming is a serious threat. The possiblities of global cooling was apparently covered in only a couple of scientific papers in the 1970s, and was based on accumulation of reflective pollution in the atmosphere. It was never at anywhere near the level of scientific support as is the evidence for warming.

    @3 ianniaan, you said it just about right. If it were not too challenging to current comfort levels, both physical and emotional, we would be taking action already to reduce the RISK of dangerous developments in our environment, including climate change. Even if there was only a 50% chance of temperatures shooting higher, we should be taking action. It appears the odds are far higher than that. And the original article appears to be a disguised form of climate obfuscation.

    For one clear visualization of the rapidity of warming going on, see this article (on my Web site):

    I find far more to trust in scientific analysis than in the attitudes of "it can't be happening because I just don't want to believe it". Look at the facts, look at the charts. When you have penetrated to the level of scientific inquiry and objectivity, those skeptics who are truly interested in the truth, and I know some are, may well change their minds.

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  • 73. At 09:18am on 23 Feb 2009, PlanetThoughts wrote:

    There is a good deal of scientific evidence that co2 and other greenhouse gas-accelerated global warming is a serious threat. The possiblities of global cooling was apparently covered in only a couple of scientific papers in the 1970s, and was based on accumulation of reflective pollution in the atmosphere. It was never at anywhere near the level of scientific support as is the evidence for warming.

    @3 ianniaan, you said it just about right. If it were not too challenging to current comfort levels, both physical and emotional, we would be taking action already to reduce the RISK of dangerous developments in our environment, including climate change. Even if there was only a 50% chance of temperatures shooting higher, we should be taking action. It appears the odds are far higher than that. And the original article appears to be a disguised form of climate obfuscation.

    I find far more to trust in scientific analysis than in the attitudes of "it can't be happening because I just don't want to believe it". Look at the facts, look at the charts. When you have penetrated to the level of scientific inquiry and objectivity, those skeptics who are truly interested in the truth, and I know some are, may well change their minds.

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  • 74. At 10:31am on 23 Feb 2009, smartartz wrote:

    The most rational and balanced piece of reporting I have seen about climate change in, well, years...

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  • 75. At 10:36am on 23 Feb 2009, PAWB46 wrote:

    Steve McIntyre at 65:

    You say "I avoid the word "fraudulent" and similar value-laden language in my description of papers or analysis and I request that you also refrain from using this sort of language as it is both pointlessly inflammatory and counter-productive."

    I agree that in your position, where you are investigating the scientific methodology, you avoid inflammatory words. However, to those of us observing your investigative work, the following appears to be apparent.

    The hockey stick was created 10 years ago and was shown by you to be invalid (use of inappropriate and cherry picked data (e.g. bristle-cones) and faulty statistical methods). The creators of the hockey stick and their clique of supporters continue to use the same methods to support their original position. To many people this use of bad data and methods to support an unproven hypothesis over a long period of time, seems like fraudulent behaviour. I cannot think of an alternative word to describe such behaviour, but if you can find an appropriate word for this behaviour then I will use it.

    We have all been victims of ignored fraudulent financial behaviour which has parted millions of honest people from their money and jobs. The "scientists" responsible for creating the hockey stick and other work that that you have investigated, also seem like a part of some fraudulent scheme designed to part honest people from their money, in the form of carbon taxes and higher fuel bills and also to reduce people's political freedoms.

    I fully support your unstinting work, but feel that we observers of your work have to cry foul about the people you have shown to be carrying out bad science.

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  • 76. At 10:40am on 23 Feb 2009, PAWB46 wrote:

    PlanetThoughts at 73:

    You write "Even if there was only a 50% chance of temperatures shooting higher, we should be taking action". Since the climate is not stable, your statement suggests a 50% chance of temperatures shooting lower (as history has shown it does). Nobody knows what the relative odds on warming or cooling are because we do not fully understand how the climate works. Do you have suggestions as to the actions we should be taking to stop temperatures shooting down?

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  • 77. At 10:45am on 23 Feb 2009, rodwell101 wrote:

    This is a really interesting and considered piece... until the end. Is science really like Film or Football? I'm not sure belief should enter into the equation at all. We either know or we don't know. And when we don't know, we should accept it and use it as a spur to investigate further, and not use belief as an excuse to make potentially dangerous decisions that could affect the whole world.

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  • 78. At 11:25am on 23 Feb 2009, manysummits wrote:

    Re: Post #68 - 'saranac'

    Yes indeed! The failure to deal with this issue is puzzling?

    I am currently reading Mark Bowen's latest book, "Censoring Science" (2008). It is about Jim Hansen, the climate scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Science.

    He is the head of the department, a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences, and is regarded by many as the world's preeminent climatologist. Be that as it may, what strikes me is his long tenure at NASA - forty-two years now (since 1967).

    I, who almost choke when dealing with beaurocracy, (really - I usually ask a friend to call even Parks Canada to arrange for a mountain hut), I am astounded by the ability of a man to endure so long at NASA. The attempts to intimidate and muzzle Jim Hansen, as revealed in Mark Bowen's book, remind me of why I left society to climb mountains for seven years.

    I would like to post a link to Jim Hansen's website at Columbia University, and to a recent article of his, which sums up the situation on climate change pretty succinctly.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    The late Carl Sagan had more faith in 'the human animal', as you put it (saranac), and I suppose we all wish in our hearts that Carl's faith will be justified in the end. From Carl's last book, "Billions and Billions" (1998, p. 135):

    "Out of the environmental crises of our time should come, unless we are much more foolish than I think we are, a binding up of the nations and the generations, and, even the end of our long childhood."

    In this Carl is in company with Thomas Jefferson's faith in 'the people'. Ultimately, I think it is the very idea of democracy which is also at stake here. Can 'the people', i.e., us, can we overcome the apathy and cynicism which modern society seems to engender in its citizens?

    - From Calgary -

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  • 79. At 1:22pm on 23 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    "Even if there was only a 50% chance of temperatures shooting higher, we should be taking action. It appears the odds are far higher than that."

    What about the millions of people who die every year from lack of clean water. Shouldn't we be tackling that problem first? That problem is happening right now, not in some distant future according to some scientists. People die through lack of clean water and sanitation.

    The number of people who produced the IPCC report is said to be 2500. Dr. William Schlesinger, University of Illinois, who supports the IPCC and is a believer, stated:

    “something on the order of 20 percent have had some dealing with climate.”

    In other words, Schlesinger was acknowledging that 80 percent of the IPCC had no dealing with the climate whatsoever. I am no mathemetian, but I reckon thats around 500 - less than the number of scientists who are sceptical of global warming.

    Please spare me the precautionary principle defence, because I would prefer to spend the $5 per annum (according to the BMJ) on providing clean water and sanitation to the people dying right now, than a single $ on something that may never happen.

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  • 80. At 1:31pm on 23 Feb 2009, RolandGross wrote:


    You're absolutely right the earth is not a test tube, but we're treating it like one. If you run a lab experiment and it goes horrible wrong you flush it down the sink and start again.

    So what are you going to do if all the mainstream scientist and national academies were actually correct (as they almost certainly are to any degree of certainty that is relevant)? Find another planet?

    respond with some nonsense if you like but i'm not arguing further with a bird!

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  • 81. At 2:33pm on 23 Feb 2009, swatts2 wrote:

    Would anyone tell me if there is any mileage in the following sceptical argument?

    Planetary Weather and Planetary Rotation.

    It is a striking feature of planetary convection systems that they exhibit directionality. One of the most significant factors determining climatic conditions on any planet is likely to be the effect of planetary rotation. This force operates independently of temperature and may well be more significant than variability in the chemical composition of atmospheric gas or the liquid of the oceans.

    In the upper atmosphere or stratosphere the jet stream flows from West to East. This fact is presumably explained by the direction of the earth?s rotation. Closer to the surface of the planet there is a contra-flow system that also exhibits a similar directionality. Water rising in the east falls on the land mass lying to the west. For example, water from the Indian Ocean falls in Africa . Water from the Atlantic falls in Brazil and water from the Pacific falls in Queensland and South Eastern Asia. As a result of such rainfall patterns, the major desert areas tend to lie on the Western side of continental land masses. In Africa there is Namibia and Western Sahara . In the Americas there are the deserts of Chile and California . In Asia much of the desert is found in the south western part of the land mass.

    A similar directionality exists in the surface liquid of the planet. The Gulf Stream is the best known part of a global conveyor belt of ocean currents that takes 1000 years approx. to circulate the planetary ocean system. The cool high density current flows in an east to west direction, whilst the faster flowing, lower density current flows in a west to east direction.

    It is a reasonable prediction that a similar conveyor belt must exist in the internal liquid core of the planet. Low density fast moving material will flow from west to east whilst a deeper current of hot dense material will circulate in an east to west direction closer to the centre of the planet.

    The speed of rotation is presumably fastest in the equatorial or tropical zone. In regard to weather systems, one therefore finds the active tropical weather systems enclosed by stable high pressure areas in the polar regions.

    A cross section of the planet shows it to be composed of a gas atmosphere and two liquid zones, the inner core and the oceans. It is probable that this causal mechanism, planetary rotation, dominates the effects of minor variations in temperature or CO2 composition. There are other many factors effecting climate including the distribution of the continental land mass and the seasonal gyration in axis of the planet. The notion that a fractional change in the level of Co2 could have such large effects on planetary climate is intrinsically improbable.

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  • 82. At 2:46pm on 23 Feb 2009, costmeabob wrote:

    #11 ianiann "Like I said: suddenly everyone thinks they're an expert when actually they are talking complete rubbish. Its nice to have my thoughts confirmed every now and then :)"

    thought you might be interested in these as resident expert

    Ozone forecasts:

    and UV indexes and forecasts:

    all from organisations in the field who are specifically funded to provide the data for the IGPCC by the EU and other Satellite data gathering organisations.

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  • 83. At 2:56pm on 23 Feb 2009, sanity4all wrote:

    this well balanced and thoughtful piece seems to have passed over the heads of many contributors, who seem to like to argue and get bogged down in intellectual discussions and at times, small insults.

    All seem to miss Richard Blacks relevant closing point, so I repeat them here:


    In the meantime, scientists, politicians and Joe and Joanna Bloggs...


    There are facts out there...

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  • 84. At 5:08pm on 23 Feb 2009, RolandGross wrote:


    Rather than discussing supposedly odd behaviour of a scientist why not discuss how much difference the two errors would make to the original paper's conclusion.......well actually the land based measurments are in better agreement with the satellite measurements (which is good) and they still show warming (in fact if you exclude the sites with erroneous data altogether the change to the results is virtually indetectable).

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  • 85. At 5:32pm on 23 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    "So what are you going to do if all the mainstream scientist and national academies were actually correct (as they almost certainly are to any degree of certainty that is relevant)? Find another planet?"

    You seem to be basing your argument on the "consensus" view of science and has been pointed out by many people, science is not done by consensus. As stated earlier "Schlesinger was acknowledging that 80 percent of the IPCC had no dealing with the climate whatsoever. I am no mathematician, but I reckon that's around 500 - less than the number of scientists who are sceptical of global warming". So, if you want to work on consensus science, then clearly there is no global warming ;)

    Ok, I'm being facetious, but there are many examples where the climate scientists have been shown to be wrong, but they still persist with the AGW warnings. This to me borders on belief not science.

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  • 86. At 5:35pm on 23 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    I think you need to read M&M's paper to see what McIntyre means. Also read the Wegman report and the NAS report, which confirmed temperatures towards the end of the 20th century were the highest in 400 years (Little Ice Age) not 1000 years as claimed by Mann.

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  • 87. At 5:41pm on 23 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:

    @manysummits #60

    I'm not sure why this was refused but here goes again:

    I don't think I will be reading any book about Hansen that supports his claim that he was censored when trying to deliver his message. According to Inhofe, Hansen took part in over 1400 interviews to get his message over, has access to media, including in the UK and can find time to testify in a UK court to get protesters off the hook. Not bad for a public employee.

    I hardly think his interviews etc constitute censorship.

    With regard to your final paragraph, I would point you to my words on eugenics here:

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  • 88. At 7:13pm on 23 Feb 2009, Rustigjongens wrote:

    ianniann wrote:
    It amazes me that so many people who couldn't calculate how much energy it takes to make a cup of tea suddenly think they are expert climate scientists. What they are is people who don't want to believe, and certainly don't want to change their lifestyle, and are trying to justify their own belief. This is the worst kind of hypocrisy.


    I have just read your comment, if you think that belittling contrary views to your own is helping to get the 'climate change' message across, then you are very wrong. Not everyone has to agree, not everyone thinks that the climate is warming up as much as the IPCC have reported.

    If you try and stop opposing beliefs from being heard, then your own argument is diminished.

    Incidentally, as you seem such a passionate environmentalist, exactly how much carbon are you using surfing the internet?, accusing people of hypocrisy can be a double edged sword.

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  • 89. At 10:48pm on 23 Feb 2009, oldgifford wrote:

    I am an amateur scientist? - MSc in Electronic Engineering, and decided to educate myself about climate change some 18 months ago. I discovered a correlation between an aspect of the Earth's magnetic field and climate change that has never been considered before, and it will appear as peer reviewed paper in the next edition of Energy and Environment. As this is probably the only paper I will ever have published I thought I would try to stir some interest, but despite writing to all the appropriate BBC science programmes, the local and national press and TV I received only two replies. Is this an inherent bias against anyone challenging what I would describe as the new carbon religion or am I just unlucky? At a seminar I attended a leading French academic refused to give his Phd students certain climate change research topics as he noted their career would be over before it even started.

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  • 90. At 03:32am on 24 Feb 2009, wfmgeo wrote:

    I am a geologist/hydrogeologist that has been cleaning up toxic sites for over a quarter of a century. In terms of sedimentary deposits climate change, and especially abrupt climate change, is one of the things I have studied at some length as climate change is one of the primary denominators in whether an aquifer (reservoir of fresh water) or an aquitard (a sealing unit of clays and silts) is deposited. And what we know from the past in terms of natural climate change makes this entire argument a lot like two fleas arguing over who owns the dog they are riding on (Crocodile Dundee, 1986). I would hope that you classify me as a denier, even though you could not be further from the truth. But the truth means nothing in this entire debate, and it will not take long to daylight the real deniers here. And that is what makes this such a human exercise.

    It finally dawned on me recently that this debate is much like a reality TV show. Are such shows really real? Or does reality have much if anything to do with it? Follow me for a while and then answer the question. Back in university, I took an advanced course in psychology in which I learned a stunning fact, that human beings are nine times more susceptible to rumor than they are to fact. A simple proof might be "Which, of all mankind's religions, is the correct one?" Let's see how well you do vis-a-vis the nine times rule. The majority of scientific opinion would appear to center around the predictions of the 20 models IPCC uses to estimate the effects of climate. Would a model result, even hundreds or thousands of model results constitute a fact in your mind? Or would that register as a potential future fact? How many of you have either written or used complex scientific models? How many have used them in a court of law, or discredited them in a court of law? We who have done so commonly consider a model result to be a future fantasy. In the case of climate models, this has been easily demonstrated to be a fact, as the science is nowhere near complete yet to even contemplate replacing facts with potential future facts. Do your homework on the tropopause before going too far down the future fantasy road. When you are done there, do a little more homework on all of the known ocean currents and what we presently know of their cycles before staking your claim to model results.

    I am in no way saying we are not having catastrophic effects on our planet's ecosystems, I am taking the first step in exploring a type of denial that you may not even be aware that you are committing. Which of course, is what denial is all about.

    Let's dig into this a little bit. Fact. The earth's temperature and greenhouse gases are tied. This is a fact and cannot credibly be denied by anyone who really knows what they are talking about. it is the truth. But it is not the whole truth. Whereas it has not been credibly demonstrated to me that GHGs can cause a climate change event, the proxy records of the ice cores from Antarctica and Greenland, the oceanic sediment cores, pollen and tree ring data can prove beyond any doubt that in terms of historical data earth's temperature rises, then GHGs rise, earth's temperature drops, then GHGs drop. But even that is not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I doubt few of you can handle all of that. Again, we shall see. And when we do you will get to see what true denial is all about, and I predict you will not like it one little bit.

    The uncontroversial facts roll out like this. We live today in the Holocene Epoch, or the last 11,500 years since we melted our way out of the Wisconsin ice age. It is called the Wisconsin because that is as far south as the miles thick ice sheets made it before T1, or termination 1. All, repeat, all of human civilization has occurred during this brief slice of geologic time. The only written human records that extend beyond 10k years ago are cave paintings. and sea levels have been at least 5-10 meters higher than today during the Holocene.

    The Wisconsin ice age is the seventh 100,000 year long ice age/interglacial couple dating back 800,000 years ago to the Mid Pleistocene Transition, before which we were on the 41k year clock for several million years. In terms of North American nomenclature, the furthest south the ice sheets ever came occurred in the Nebraskan ice age, prior to termination T4. Now it takes a lot of water to make a miles thick ice sheet that comes that far south, and those of us that study these things in their intimate details know that the swing between these cold/warm couples is about 400 feet, give or take a lot of feet.

    And we know it is not just down that far either. During the last interglacial, the Eemian, the one where Homo sapiens first appears in the fossil records, a number of sea level highstands are known from both crustally stable locations, such as the Caymans, which have been credibly documented to be somewhere between 20 to as much as 52 meters above present day sea levels. It has also been credibly shown that over half the melting that rocketed us out of the Wisconsin ice age occurred in less than a decade. That would be more than 50 meters in a single decade.

    What we have learned from all the proxy records is that abrupt climate change is very common in the recent geologic past. And it virtually always occurs with a very rapid period of natural warming followed by rises in GHGs. On the major transitions, ice age/interglacial couples, temperatures abruptly rise and on average, 1,300 years later GHG concentrations rise, temperatures drop off into an ice age, and on average 2,700 years later GHG concentrations drop down. The smallest major climate transition we know of are the Dansgaard-Oeschger events, which on average take about 1,500 years for a full cycle. They average 8-10 degrees C in something like a few years to a decade or so, with outliers running up to 16 degrees C. We have evidence of D-O events dating back some 680 million years. There have been 24 of them since we first popped onto the scene. The last one may have been the Younger Dryas (look it up).

    In just this interglacial, we know of numerous warmings and coolings, all of which occurred rather suddenly.

    Agaion, I am not saying we cannot have one of our own, but if you are expecting scientists who have studied this all their professional lives to get all worked up over a 2C and perhaps up to a 5 meter rise in sea level, then you forget our capacity to understand signal to noise ratio. Your future fantasy is decidedly less than the natural known noise, so the question almost begs itself to be asked, how on earth (literally) are you going to be able to tell our future fantasy signal from the superbly well documented natural noise (also referred to as facts)? Which brings us face to face with the nine times rule once again. You must decide which you are more permeable to fact or fiction. Even in science, it is the rare bird that can clearly discern this very thing. I often find I must place things in a context of absolute clarity to even begin to slide the register towards objectivity. I do it with perspective, often contrasting fact with fiction in such a way that it simply cannot be avoided. When so pressed the result is often quite painful for the prejudiced.

    You find yourself here and the time is now. And by now you should have learned to be careful who you consider to be a denier lest it turn out to be yourself.

    In just 300 short years, CO2 concentrations are predicted to increase from less than one tenth of one percent to still less than one tenth of one percent. This is the most important thing most of us have ever imagined and we should focus our efforts on this above all else. This just so happens to be what we continue to be sold. Should you buy? Want to gain an understanding of denial? Read on.

    In 1999 Kofi Annan announced we had just passed the 6 billion mark in human population. Last June Ban Ki Moon predicted human population would cross the 10 billion mark by 2050, making it childsplay for even the mathematically challenged amongst us to easily see doubling of population by 2100. Been hearing a lot about this lately? No? Does it even matter one whit at all? Let's see. Do a little online research and you will soon discover that if a human being does nothing more than consume carbon sources (also referred to occasionally as food) and breathe it will produce a kilogram of CO2. Six billion such hominids will produce 2 gigatons of CO2 per annum. In 2005 the Energy Information Agency of the U.S. Gov. published the fact that all U.S. industrial and transportation emissions of CO2 were 7 gigatons. The cap and trade legislation that did not pass last year would have cut 30% of that by at least 2030, or 2.2 gigatons. Assuming human populations do increase as much as predicted (there's that word again!) then this will be neatly erased somewhere after 2050 just by breathing alone assuming those extra hominids do nothing more than eat and breathe, not work for a living, moving about the planet, participating in sports and taking vacations. Beginning to understand denial yet? I rather doubt it.

    Whereas the anthropogenic focus is firmly centered on GHG emissions, as many here will attest it certainly should be, precious few will be able to remember Klaus Toepfler of the UN stating in 2001 that at the then rate of triple canopy rainforest devastation the earth would be without any rainforest within just a few decades. The 2005 estimate was 50,000 square miles per year, or an area about the size of Mississippi. That's sustainable right? Are we planting anything near than amount? You better hope we are, because rainforest cutting doubled last year in the Brazilian Amazon alone in order to satisfy the demands of biofuels production. Before 2020, a date well before 2100, the rainforests could well be gone. And this is not a future fantasy, but a hard cold reality of devastation that you can take a fossil fueled flight to and watch today. In your musings on sustainability be sure not to deny this.

    In the particularly likely event you still exist in a state of denial it has come time for your sucker punches. I will deliver them in the form of stupefying knockout punches that just keep on coming. In the past 3 million years hominid braincase size has gone from roughly 500cc's to the present average of 2,500cc's. You may fantasize that this occurred in a straightline fashion, but that would be denying the massive body of research into human origins that consistently speculates that this occurred in response to reliable, abrupt, dramatic and unavoidable global climate change. In denial or not, we are not only likely to be the result of climate change it could very well be that we are dependent on it to "smarten" us up. Think of a long slow 90k to 95k year slide into a global deep freeze as an opportunity for the braincased challenged amongst us to make that thing which modern hominids have quaintly defined as a fatal mistake.

    To sum up, whereas GHGs do not appear to have ever caused a climate change event for the past 680 million years, that is no reason to suspect it cannot do so in compliance with our will. Measuring it will be a cinch. All you have to do is develop tha ability to distinguish our maximum future fantasy 2C and 6 meter signal from the natural up to 16C and 52 meter signal produced from the aforementioned reliable, dramatic and unavoidable natural global climate change.

    All of this while completely ignoring (denying) rainforest devastation which can be observed in perhaps one tenth the timeframe by the geometrically increasing human population.

    Now do you understand denial? I think not.

    In our zeal to create a more perfect world we will spend trillions sequestering a gas which has never caused a climate change before while funding all manner of things which cannot hope to cope with the coming billions of hominids while 13 of our 16 largest cities squat on estuaries, the only known incubators of life in the universe. Every penny not spent on fusion research will turn out to be a penny squandered. Remember, fusion has sustainably supplied the known universe with all of its energy and material needs for at least the past 6 billion years.

    In the final analysis, while I watch the comical adherence to impossible to prove model predictions I find myself thinking what we really need is another ice age. It is the only thing known to smarten members of the genus homo up. And it may not be so long in coming. At 11,500 years old this interglacial, the Holocene, is getting a little long in the tooth. No other interglacial dating back to the MPT has lasted this long. Just last year we saw the solar flux drop below what we have believed is the lowest possible for the sun. We also saw the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation switch to their cool modes. You probably think this winter is just an anomaly, right? So this is another fact/fiction permeability test for you. The sun has gone very quiet as we enter solar cycle 24 at the same time as the two largest oceanic current cycles have both switched to their cool modes. In case you had not noticed these facts, you may soon come to understand that if GHGs can do what some may believe they are capable of, they had better get about doing it. We are overdue for both an ice age and an intelligence upgrade.

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  • 91. At 07:26am on 24 Feb 2009, PAWB46 wrote:

    wfmgeo @90:

    Thank you for that very thoughtful comment (no, it is more than a comment, it is virtually an article - you should get it published). It is one of the best I have read in a long time.

    Thank you again.

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  • 92. At 07:40am on 24 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    I was almost put off reading your post, because it was so long, but I have 2 words for you:

    Fantastic post

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  • 93. At 07:42am on 24 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    Fantastic post

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  • 94. At 12:49pm on 24 Feb 2009, seasambo wrote:

    As a scientist, I think you've got your ideas on belief and evidence mixed up and thats not neccesarily a good thing when you are reporting for the public.

    Scientists look in detail at a problem (reductionism) and it is only recently that we attempt to combine evidence to gain a more holistic understanding. This is very important for climate research but I dont think a scientist would compare accelerating melting in Antarctica with decreased response to warming in the Amazon basin to gain an insight into the degree of climate change. They are fundamentally different issues.

    Yes, the public want a simple answer to climate change but unfortunately there is no simple answer. But I do not think that adding all the reductionist bits of evidence together to form a holistic view of climate change implies a 'belief' required by scientists that is not based on evidence. If the evidence points to reduced warming of the Amazon, that doesnt take away the warming of Antartica. Plus once the ice caps have gone, its probably gone for a long long time! So whats the best option...!

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  • 95. At 3:17pm on 24 Feb 2009, RolandGross wrote:

    interesting if a bit condescending post. none of which really changes the mainstream climate science.

    of course the earth has experienced abrupt changes in the past, the real issue here is that we are precipitating this one ourselves.

    the temp/co2/temp cycle is fairly well understood it's just that we're short circuiting it by priming the pump with co2 rather than waiting for a peak in the milankovitch cycles.

    is this acceptable? with the current global population even a small perturbation to the climate could be catastrophic and the increase in human intelligence (which I'm not so sure exists) would be a pathetic bonus for such awful misery.

    of course it's also a matter of scale, given another 5 billion years or so nothng will be left of our little planet but whilst it's here and habitable i want to do the best i can to keep it that way.

    and putting the c02 into the atmosphere is only part of the issue. when the middle east oilwells start to run dry we will have a real issue feeding the population. again this will create a good opportunity for a survival of the smartest scenario but again at what cost.

    i'd much rather be labelled an 'alarmist' and try to get us switched to sustainable economies as well as adapt as best we can to the changes, than a 'sceptic' trying to justify the status quo.

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  • 96. At 5:36pm on 24 Feb 2009, CuckooToo wrote:

    I really don't understand why alarmists seem to think that sceptics don't care about the environment just because we don't accept AGW

    Most sceptics that post here at Richards blog seem to care passionately about nature and the world we live in, so where do the alarmists get this impression from?

    As I said earlier, I would prefer to spend the $5 per annum (according to the BMJ) on providing clean water and sanitation to the people dying right now, than a single $ on something that may never happen

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  • 97. At 04:58am on 25 Feb 2009, wfmgeo wrote:

    Seasambo, I really did not understand much of your comment. I did not discuss whether or not the temperature is changing in the Amazon, I did discuss the deforestation issue there, so please be more specific so I can first understand your concern in order to address it.

    On reductionism, again I do not understand where you are coming from. Having been a scientist for over a third of a century, this would have to be the first time I have ever been informed that we look in detail at problems from the perspective of reductionism. Again, please be more specific.

    On melting in Antarctica, you may wish to look into this more carefully as we are seeing a fairly strong recovery in ice area and thicknesses. I speak of actual data not the popular press. The popular press will tell you that both the Arctic and Antarctic are still melting. They have recovered to near their 1979 levels in recent years.

    The absolute best options are (a) human populations are either out of control or well under control, you must decide as all things flow from consumption, (b) if you are really concerned about climate change focus on the thing that will happen first that will have the most irreversible effect - deforestation, and (c) please please try to truly be a scientist and be objective, what you cannot disprove stands the better chance of being right (theory of multiple working hypotheses).

    PAWB46: Thanks for your note, however very little passes muster these days that is not related to anthropogenic impact as far as scientific publishing is concerned. I was invited to give a paper last year on this exact subject, provided it, it was published in the conference binder and my firm paid thousands of dollars to have it literally ripped out of the binder (it was spiral bound). Never underestimate the power of the human mind to believe what it wants to believe, no matter the conflicting evidence.

    RolandGross the connection between CO2 and climate is believed to be well understood. And that is one of my primary points. In the past 10 or so years, we have seen an uptick in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 in the range of 15-20%. Temperatures pretty much plateaued from 1998 through 2004 (if I remember the end date correctly) and have been edging down until late 2007, when they dropped precipitously. Last year, we gave up most of whatever we gained during the last century. This is pretty much in line with solar irradiance data, and therefore should come as no real surprise to those that are competent at manipulating more than a single variable at any one time.

    I am by no means in disagreement with the possibility that 6 to 12 billion hominids can precipitate their very own climate change. I do question the choice in deciding that something which has been the result of perhaps countless climate changes in the past is now the progenitor of the next one. That somewhat beggars the scientific method. Call it condescending if you must, but something which is quite well documented to never have caused such a thing before therefore it will this time comes across as the opposite of logical thought to me. Which is what makes it so quintessentially human.

    Which is what makes this so curious. The next "peak" in the "Milankovitch cycles" is actually a valley, an ice age. The past six such peaks (interglacials) were all over before 11,500 years, which is the age of this one. The hard core facts of the matter are unavoidably recorded in the sedimentary record. Today, the nicely recovered Arctic ice cap precludes direct interaction with the atmosphere over the Arctic basin. Meaning that sediments that are deposited on the floor of this basin are the result of proximal (local) erosion, not the result of the fetch of an open ocean. Comparison of equivalent age sedimentary horizons for proximal deposits are easily recognizable from well mixed basinal deposits which occur from a missing ice cap. So much so that the real shocker we have had to come to grips with is that the trigger event that precedes the slide into the next ice age would seem to be the complete melting away of the Arctic ice cap. A sobering thought.

    With something like 80% of all arable land already in foodstuff production we can hardly afford to double human populations.

    Ah, and now we come face to face with "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth". For this I must extend my sincerest thanks. You just daylighted the real issue, and again I could not extend more sincere thanks. Unfortunately, even I find this to be the absolute hardest pill of all to swallow. Just what would a "sustainable economy" look like? All, repeat, all of our present economic theories are based on "growth". Meaning of course that next year will be better than this, a raise, a bonus due to higher "sales". Understand that this can only be accomplished in two ways. Either more of us (meaning higher population) consume similar quantities of stuff, thereby achieving "growth" in sales, or the same numbers of us buy progressively more. Although this may sound condescending to you, it is in no way meant to be, I actually cannot think of any other possibilities!

    In fact, I have a difficult time thinking that we will ever come to grips with what really is sustainable. Other than the fact that also in 1999 the UN published that it would take another 7 planets like earth to keep all (then) 6 billion of us in the western "plush" (m term). The math there is rather simple. Take this one, add seven to it and you get eight. Divide that into 6 billion and you get a sustainable human population in western plush of 750 million. No growth of course, just sustainable.

    It is in no way condescension that I wish to leave you with the wisdom of others that I cherish, and I hope that you will consider it in the spirit in which they are intended. And who is championing the status quo? The fossil record stands sacrosanct in terms of overuse of resources and overpopulation by specific species. There is no quandary there.

    Thinking, and the methods by which thoughts are communicated, inevitably create a system permeated by illusions.
    --Zensunni Teaching

    Facts mean nothing when they are preempted by appearances. Do not underestimate the power of impression over reality.
    --Crown Prince Raphael Corrino, The Rudiments of Power

    The capacity to learn is a gift; The ability to learn is a skill; The willingness to learn is a choice.
    --Rebec of Ginaz

    We as humans tend to make pointless demands of our universe, asking meaningless questions. Too often we make such queries after developing an expertise within a frame of reference which has little or no relationship to the context in which the question is asked.
    --Zensunni Observation

    And last but in no way least:

    “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture from such a trifling investment of fact.” Mark Twain

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  • 98. At 3:17pm on 25 Feb 2009, Dungster wrote:

    I think the posts by wfmgeo are excellent. However I wonder whether these blogs are just put here so we can talk to ourselves while the BBC continues almost totally one sided reporting on climate change.

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  • 99. At 10:57pm on 25 Feb 2009, Dungster wrote:

    In a recent series of 3 one hour programs on the BBC called The Climate Wars, Ian Hunter used much slight of hand and also used the recent heavily breathed on NASA temperature graphs showing current global surface temperatures increasing at record rates.
    On Richard Black's blog he admits global surface temperatures have been going down for 8/10 years.
    How many people read the blog and how many people watched the tv series?

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  • 100. At 00:19am on 26 Feb 2009, Dungster wrote:

    What wfmgeo says is factual: we are at the end of an 11500 year cycle after which you would expect an ice age. However we are also at the end of a much bigger cycle in which we are in a cool period and would expect temperatures to rise by as much as 15 degrees C fairly rapidly.
    The truth is that nobody knows what our climate will do next and the CO2 issue is the equivalent of a man inspecting his navel while a 20 mile high tidal wave is approaching him. It does not really matter from which direction the threat comes, what matters is does he know what to do next.

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  • 101. At 11:39pm on 26 Feb 2009, dwalk0411 wrote:

    Energy consumption is at the heart of every aspect of life in the modern world. Therefore, control of energy is an indirect way of gaining tremendous power in society. Currently, control of energy consumption is largely decentralized and depends heavily on market forces combined with government regulation.

    In my opinion, a significant segment of the 'green movement' is trying to use environmental fear to achieve a socioeconomic vision that nearly died when the Berlin Wall came crashing down. Centralized state control of the economy failed miserably in the former Warsaw Pact countries, and centralized state control of economic life was widely discredited as a viable model. However, its supporters in the West, and their apologists, did not go into retirement. They had to find something else to push their agenda. They found global warming.

    I am not an anarchist. I believe that government has important functions. Yet, I must ask, do we really want the state to exert such a heavy hand in determining what kinds of energy we can consume and how much? Do we really want to go down this path? Is there a such thing as economic dictatorship, and are we now laying its ideological foundations? If so, how can such a foundation be a good thing when it is based on fear?

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  • 102. At 04:20am on 28 Feb 2009, manysummits wrote:

    To wfmgeo

    I am going to second RolandGross on this one, in spades.

    Your learned discussion is a diatribe:

    "a bitter, abusive criticism or denunciation"

    All the learning in the world is no substitute for compassion.

    Or for helping out.

    Do you really think you are that much smarter than everyone else?


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  • 103. At 05:54am on 28 Feb 2009, TJ wrote:

    To manysummits #102. We agree on many of the issues presented on this blog and I respect your opions.
    However, your remarks about wfmgeo who is calling a spade a spade and being forthright in what he thinks is refreshing in our PC world.
    Disagree if you will. It is your right.
    Calling somebody who challenges your beliefs a "smarty" is not a help to your cause.

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  • 104. At 1:49pm on 28 Feb 2009, manysummits wrote:

    To timjenvey (post #103)

    I understand your point, and I will certainly say here that if the impression I have given you is that of calling wfmgeo a name, then my words were not clear enough.

    I put the last remark as a question, and was not calling anyone a name. The question was meant to, I suppose, remind wfmgeo of our shared humanity.

    It is so easy to hurt people, and a diatribe is a form of assault.

    Obviously wfmgeo is 'aware' of many and sundry scientific issues, as are many others.

    As I have pointed out elsewhere in blogworld, we are literally awash in learned, highly ambitious, and talented men and women, and still we sail the good ship Earth into shoal waters.

    I look at my own meager contributions to the world of science - three papers form my university days as an undergraduate.

    One on cyclic sedimentation in which I 'discovered' Milankovitch and his orbital cycles. I received a good mark, but was criticized for my unscientific style.

    One on avalanches for the department of geography, in which I presented a genetic avalanche model of my own. My professor recommended I clean it up and have it published in an appropriate journal. Being true to form, I did not.

    And a third, years later, at my third university, for the department of geophysics, on tektites and meteorite impact. I got an 'A' for that one, I recall.

    I note the ratio: two papers on 'science' subjects, and one on my great love - the outdoors.

    In my seven years as a mountaineer, it is uncanny that this same ratio prevailed, for on average, I climbed one day out of three, devoting two thirds of my time to reading and learning, and of course, recovering.

    It is my fifty-ninth birthday this February day, and so I am indulging a little in reminisce. My four year old son is in bed with an upset tummy as I write.

    We all need talented people, like wfmgeo, to help us steer Spaceship Earth on a right course.

    So I am hoping to hear again from wfmgeo, perhaps in a different way?

    - Coyote Country -

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  • 105. At 7:32pm on 28 Feb 2009, wfmgeo wrote:

    Well manysummits, not only are you welcome to your opinion of me, I also owe you some thanks for your comments. Gradually, bit by bit, and as painful as it will turn out to be, we are grudgingly daylighting the real deniers. Did anyone notice how the argument was neatly turned from the facts to a personal affront? Anyone else here a student of psychology? Manysummits offered no differing opinions or facts, but he most eloquently shifted the argument to "compassion", however that fits in, then to "helping out", as if daylighting all the real issues does not. And finally by a personal attack. Any psychologists/psychiatrists here want to weigh in on that?

    I am in no way offended by such attacks because I understand their origins. In addition, some of us know that being offended is actually a personal choice, and I rarely choose to be offended.

    What compassion is to be found for those chasing after a trace gas while ignoring the 800 pound gorilla's of population and deforestation? The only proof that exists that they are right is to be found in the future fantasies of models patently known to be incomplete. I just helped you out.

    The most egregious predictions of anthropogenic climate change pale into insignificance when compared to every single aspect of reliable, dramatic and unavoidable natural climate change. I am not necessarily smarter than anyone else, but I have done my homework, a thing which few I discuss this subject with have. Signal to noise ratio means that not even the most incredible predictions I have heard trump natural climate change in terms of degree of warming, speed of warming and degree and speed of sea level change.

    Would it be compassionate to congratulate someone for being ignorant of these facts? Would exposing them to these facts constitute helping them out?

    As it turns out, climate change, as it has always been, IS an intelligence test. One of the hardest coldest facts you will ever encounter shy of an ice age itself. I am being compassionate exposing you to this fact. Paranthropus boisei, Australopithecines afrikanes, Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, Homo erectus, Homo ergaster, Homo heidelbergensis and Homo Neanderthalensis all failed the climate change test. And yet it still continues to be given by nature, every so often.

    What Homo sapiens may have learned, that apparently all our predecessors seem not to have, is that ignorance can be cured, but dumb? That's forever.

    So oddly enough the choice is actually ours. And each of us gets to make this choice millions of times throughout our lives. Which will we be more permeable to, facts or potential facts? Remember the nine times rule for just a moment. We are nine times more susceptible to rumor than we are to fact, which, if you do the math on that psychological fact, means that either 88.9% of the time we just don't get it, or only 11.1% of us ever do. More probably a mix of the two.

    If you reflect on that just a little bit in every decision you make, including everything you hear but choose not to run to ground yourself on climate change, you just may find that I have helped you out quite a bit.

    As you just helped me.

    As it turns out, and as you helped me to show, the problem with climate change is not climate change at all, but our perception of climate change - our relative permeabilities to fact and fiction. If the answer to that is only 11.1% of us "get it", I have a hard time believing that will be enough. So I have used "shock and awe" to hopefully slap you into consciousness. For some, this will be a bad choice. For others it will make the difference between not even realizing they had a single variable mind into knowing that they can make the transition themselves into our modern multivariate world.

    To that end I often end such discussions with these two quips. Arguing about climate change is like two fleas arguing over who owns the dog they are riding on. "Fixing" climate change is like an ant crawling up an elephant's leg with rape on its mind. When you combine all of the facts I have exposed you to, you may one day come to understand something I ran up on in my vast readings on this subject. In a paper submitted to Geology magazine in 2004 regarding Marine Isotope Chrons data collected from the North Sea Pleistocene sediments, the authors state “The next predicted decrease is now, though anthropogenic warming will certainly serve to temper this kick into the next ice age.”

    Meaning of course, that if the only known clock we have in the recent Quaternary record is correct, we are due for another ice age, and that if the vast majority of believers in GHG theory are correct, instead of reducing GHG emissions, you may find yourself needing to increase them, precipitously.

    Isn't it fascinating how the many facets of denial work?

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  • 106. At 10:44pm on 28 Feb 2009, manysummits wrote:

    To wfmgeo:

    Glad to hear from you!

    Where to start?

    OK - psychology:

    I notice you didn't wish me a happy birthday. It would have been nice, not necessary, just nice.

    When I turned fifty, in 2000, I treated myself to a night at a backcountry log cabin lodge in the Canadian Rockies. I was treated well by more or less perfect strangers, and a piano was played on my behalf, beside a coal fireplace, as I remember.

    At the time, I was very alone in this world.

    Times have changed for me, largely because I gave up being so smart, and became more human.

    This morning I spent almost four hours talking to my four year old son, just he and I. The best present I can remember!

    My wife is a young woman, a climber and an artist, and we are raising our son 'like an Apache'.

    Make of that what you will. I am little interested in what psychologists have to say - we are all psychologists.

    Paleoclimate/climate science/your remarks:

    I am a geologist by training, a natural historian by inclination and devotion, with a lifetime of personal research literally by my side, in my archives and bookcases.

    I don't know where you get the impression I disagree with the science part of your rather long discertation a few posts back?

    I am well aware of both the evidence and the interpretations which indicate both the magnitude and the rapidity of past climate events, as are thousands of others. The science is now robust and still growing by leaps and bounds - biomarkers, stable isotope ratio work, the long term carbon cycle work of Robert Berner of Yale, with its intriquing inverse relationship between oxygen and CO2 levels, etc....

    I could go on and on, but you have done this for all of us, and I don't happen to think this is the forum for that, but perhaps I am wrong on this? A few have already thanked you for your remarks, perhaps there will be more?

    You seem to think I haven't addressed your individual pieces of information because I disagree with them. Not at all. Without addressing each one individually, which would require an encyclopedia, I can say that it was clear to me that most of your science is at least in the ballpark, in my opinion.

    As to rapidity of past climate change, perhaps you would be interested in Graham Hancock's 2002 book, "Underworld, the Mysterious Origins of Civilization." Though not a scientific treatise per say, his sources are good, and his sections on Plato's description of the drowning of Atlantis, which were in turn simply a recounting of an ancient tale form Egypt - well, they offer a calendar date of 9600 B.C. Ring a bell? The end of the Younger Dryas, and now the official beginning of the Holocene. Also the possible end of the Clovis culture here in North America, and there is a suspicious megafaunal extinction there too. But I digress - in Hancock's book:

    There is some information from creditable inundation maps by creditable universities and scientists, of believable if not proven scenarios which match the description of events as given by Plato. A food for thought book, for geologists, as the rapidity of change implied by Plato's acoount is on the order of days, not years or decades. But this was an ice age ending, with larger than now ice cover, and a different Earth albedo, and large proglacial lakes, etc...

    Speaking of the Holocene, my personal thought is that the Holocene ought not to be an epoch, as it is clearly, at least up until industrial/agricultural/civilized man, just the last of many interglacials.

    In previous blogs I have mentioned explicitly that we are now "inadvertant terraformers", and so you see I agree entirely with your main premise there too. It might indeed be useful to know how to warm the planet in the future. The question is when, and by how much? Enter modern climate science.

    As to the present, it is unclear how a greenhouse forcing, initiated this time by the virtually instantaneous 'unsequestration' of carbon via the use of fossil fuels will play out, vis a vis the past, as it is unclear if there are any analogues in the past, except perhaps the large flood basalt/large igneous province events, which are suspiciouly correlated in time with the big mass extinction events of the Phanerozoic, and for only one of which, (the K/T - dinosaur event), we have certain proof of large bolide impact. Deccan Traps/Chixculb literally at the same time, with the event durations being very different.

    I could go on, but let me end the science part here and say this to you.

    It is the tone of your comments that disturbed me. The body language, if you will allow me literary license?

    The great Almati climber Anatoli Boukreev, of "Out of Thin Air" fame, in relating the Soviet Master of Sport training he received as a climber, spoke of something he looked for immediately in assessing his fellow climbers on a mountain. That was called by him in his book, "The Climb", 'samochuvstvie', which apparently translates to:

    "An impression of a person's state of being, the combined and observable aspects of a person's mental, physical, and emotional state."

    I have never met you, except through this website, but I like to think I have learned how to live by my instincts these last fifteen years, and have found them a more accurate guide to life and liberty than reason or political instititutions or constitutions.

    It would be my guess that you are under considerable stress just now. Whether this is true or not only you can say, but in any event, I wish you well, and bear you no animosity, either as a scientist, or as a human being.

    - from the land of the magpie and the coyote -

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  • 107. At 02:23am on 01 Mar 2009, wfmgeo wrote:

    Science. Its an amazing thing! Purposely, for the past seven such blogs (including this one), I have painstakingly staked out the turf to see if I can ferret out that most well camouflaged human imperative. And like clockwork, it happened again.

    You must absolutely not take offense at this stratagem, as it is not personal by any stretch of the imagination manysummits. You have a son. The last one was a grandaughter. Before that it was a son twice, then a daughter, and before that I should have kept better records (or bookmarks) because I do not remember the first two.

    Survival of future generations? Is this what this comes down to? The whole documented past/denial thing?

    Well, again, you get to decide. I am 0 for 7 so far since I glommed onto the survival imperative. My mistake for not having glommed onto it sooner. But this is where we end up seemingly every time I set the bait. Hit hard with the incontrovertible facts, wax a little harder on the way through, and almost before you know it, the next generation survival imperative works its way to the surface.

    What I have in no way figured out as of yet is how do we (meaning all of us, manysummit(s) included) get around this most human of imperatives and work on the overpopulation thingy, which is what we just daylighted in the first place? Are we THAT genetically driven that we will eschew all manner of factual evidence which flies in the face of the personal progeny imperative each and every time the opportunity presents itself? Are we so driven by the progeny imperative for the next generation (be it our own children or grandchildren) that we simply cannot face anything remotely resembling fact beyond just that?

    It would seem so. I have a few more such experiments cooking on other blogs, two of which I just turned the "heat" on, so to speak, to see if I can ferret out the future progeny imperatives from the main objectors on each site.

    I do not wish to offend, but in the pursuit of science, do you not find this interesting? The most vociferous objectors invariably turn out to be those with progeny in the balance, every single time. Personally, I am amazed. Someone smarter than me needs to get interested here. I have two more almost at this point, and 0 for 7 is just too compelling a result not to take notice.

    Please do not take offense, manysummits, you just happened to be the principal responder this time. There were six such "summits" before you, and two in the oven right now.

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  • 108. At 3:44pm on 01 Mar 2009, SheffTim wrote:

    #90: wfmgeo, you seem to be arguing that we are on the cusp of an ice-age and that the recent snowfall supports your case. e.g. "You probably think this winter is just an anomaly, right? "

    People's perceptions are often influenced by the weather they experience; I'm wholly unconvinced by arguments for global cooling or an imminent ice-age.
    For example, Western Europe, Midwest and NE USA have had recent heavy snow, yet also in Jan/Feb 2009 high-temperature records were being broken from Texas across to California, in Australia, China and India.

    Yes, we had snow in the UK recently, yet last night I was walking around town without a coat, it's become much warmer in a matter of weeks.
    All the above are just current fluctuations in weather and there is also a current La Nina pushing air-streams out of their normal patterns. As I keep saying, it's the long term trends (decades, not a couple of years) that matter.

    Simply because this could become a major story later this year, I'll also repeat that two-thirds of the worlds most productive farmland has experienced/is experiencing drought, this is likely lead to lower food production this year and accompanying shortages and price rises.

    As for reaching the end of our interglacial, ice core records from Vostock going back 740,000 years show eight interglacial periods.
    430,000 years ago an interglacial occurred, lasting 28,000 years. That interglacial closely matches ours - because the shape of the Earth's orbit (Milankovitch cycles*) was the same then as it is now.
    There's nothing that says our current interglacial has to end at 12,000 years; all the projections I've seen certainly give us a few thousand years before the next one.

    *Milankovitch cycles: The ice-age/interglacial cycles correlate with the Milankovitch cycles.
    The Milankovitch cycle is, itself, the product of three interlinked cycles: a 105,000-year cycle in the shape of the earth’s orbit, from a more elongated to a less elongated ellipse and back; a 41,000-year cycle in the tilt of the earth's axis relative to an axis perpendicular to the orbital plane (the tilt is known as the obliquity of the ecliptic); and a 21,000-year cycle, called the Precession of the Equinoxes, during which the moment in the year at which the earth is closest to the sun, as it traverses its elliptical orbit, shifts forward from January through February, then March, and so on, around to January again.
    These are known in short as Earth's Precession (changes in when earth is closest to the sun), Obliquity (tilt) and Eccentricity (or ellipticity). At most, the amount of variation in distribution of sunlight on earth's surface caused by these cycles is only around 0.01%. That is enough to cause temperature changes of 5 degrees C. But as temperatures have exceeded that range in the past physical factors on earth (feedbacks) also have to play a part in amplifying them.

    As for the intelligence upgrade. I'm not sure it's our intelligence that needs upgrading, it is our wisdom.

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  • 109. At 6:05pm on 01 Mar 2009, manysummits wrote:

    To wfmgeo: (post #107)

    Thanks for your reply.

    I realize why I haven't been able to understand your central point.

    It's because you have been playing mind games - this by your own admission.

    I have no time or interest in this type of what - dishonesty?

    - From Calgary -

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  • 110. At 05:48am on 03 Mar 2009, wfmgeo wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 111. At 12:36pm on 03 Mar 2009, oldgifford wrote:

    When I did my A level Physics some 40+ years ago, we were always taught about accuracy of measurements and sources of errors.

    Take a look at the What's Up project on studying the network of temperature monitoring sites.

    If we are basing our concerns on such poor sources of data then the whole question of how much we are warming must be questioned.

    Incidentally I note that many blogs resort to personal attacks, instead of debating the science, and as soon as that happens it suggests the attacker has already lost their side of the argument.

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  • 112. At 12:57pm on 03 Mar 2009, CuckooToo wrote:

    I find it very interesting that scientists studying global warming can on the one hand confirm that the warming seems to have stopped and they don't know why, and on the other hand still insist that AGW is still true.

    Couldn't it just be natural?

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  • 113. At 2:08pm on 03 Mar 2009, oldgifford wrote:

    Blowing my own trumpet again, I have found a natural phenomenon that correlates almost exactly with global temperatures, both rise and fall, over the last 100 years. However a close correlation does not prove cause and effect, and it will be interesting to see the critics tear me apart when the paper is published, sometime in the next two weeks I hope.

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  • 114. At 2:48pm on 03 Mar 2009, seasambo wrote:


    Why do sceptics have the need to have a yes or no answer? Climate is clearly not that simple. Nowhere in that article did it suggest that all climate is either natural or man made. It actually mentioned the 30 year trend that has been explained partially by greenhouse gases. That we may be entering a cooling period does not suggest that man made greenhouse gas do not affect climate. It just means that the earth-climate system is more complex than our current theories.

    Too much of this debate focuses on whether climate change is either natural or due to man. The answer I think is that it is due to both - possibly even 60-70 % natural. Sure, I hear people screaming at me now that I am ignoring the facts of past climate change as mentioned so clearly by wfmgeo. It is true that climate has changed due to variation in solar activity by the Milankovitch cycles, but evidence also suggests that feedback effects (such as ice albedo and greenhouse gases) were key in pushing the climate out of the ice age (see Hansen and Real Climate).

    The last time the world experienced temperature rises of the magintude predicted was 55 million years ago, after the so-called Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum event. Then, the culprits were clathrates - large areas of frozen, chemically caged methane - which were released from the deep ocean. The already warm planet rocketed by 5 or 6 C. (New Scientist Feb 2009).

    So I do not find it in the slightest bit difficult to believe that greenhouse gases can play a major role in climate change both past and future. Yes methane is 28 times a more potent warming gas than CO2 but mix in man made greenhouse gases with natural variation of solar activity and we are cooking the climate further. Also, the evidence for greenhouse warming has been known for the last 100 years.

    I consider myself a sceptic because I am a scientist. I dont like the terms sceptic and AGW believer (or whatever it is they are called). There are vested interests in both sides of the equation for a simple clear cut yes/no answer and these focus on the policitical movements of the greens (stop burning) and the capatilists (keep burning). Personally I have no interest in this squabbling as it is not based on science.

    I fully agree with the evidence presented by wfmgeo. However, I think it is possible that he too is in denial. There is a vast amount of evidence spanning 100 years of scientific research and to base your argument on one aspect of this such as the paleoclimate record is not good enough. Add to that the associated errors in isotope measurements that could make us less certain about the changes in temperature in the past as well as errors in recent GCMs. I think trying to compare the two is pushing the data too far. Sure past climate changes were enromous in comparison to now, but how much of that 16C change was due to errors in the isotope record. I would be interested to know as I am not an expert? How can you be 95 % sure that the recent variation can be related to past natural changes in solar cycles and not realistic forcings and feedbacks caused by mans impact on the planet? I haven't seen enough evidence to suport a complete natural impact on climate.

    I am not an expert so I am always willing to accept new evidence and discussion of that evidence as it is presented to me. Maybe the evidence of climate change is not the science we would hope it to be (experimental testing based on hypotheses). But the evidence (see Spencer Wearts 'The discovery of global warming) is there to suggest that man is affecting climate and the environment to an extent that will have dramatic influences on our lives as well as the all important biodiversity of the planet. The Royal Society, the IPCC, NERC etc etc etc all support these conclusions.

    Science is never perfect as it determines the probablity that a hypothesis is acceptable or rejectable. Based on this the evidence of the last 100 years supports natural variation in climate that has also been affected by man via greenhouse gases and aerosols. I bet you didnt know that there were global warming fears in the 1930s. Then every thought the planet was cooling from the 1940s to the 1970s. Then global warming was occuring from the 70s till the 00s. Oh yeah...and now we are seeing a cooling trend. Why is it so difficult to accept that both natural variation and man made gases are impacting on climate. To me that is the most plausible explanation.

    I am yet to find a qulaified explanation for the variation in gloabl temperatures without envoking greenhouse gases. And before you stat writing your response I mean published in a high impact peer reviewed journal like Nature or Science. Not even New Scientist (good though it is) is peer reviewed journal. Solar activity can explain a proportion of the 20th century but it cannot explain the last 30 years. Sure there are potentially a variety of forcing and feedback factors that could explain that change without envoking greenhouse gases. But I have not seen evidence that stands up to scrutiny that is more qualified and experienced than my own. For example, the cosmic ray hypothesis is probably correct and could be an important process in climate change. But from what i have read it cannot explain recent temperature variation as can the greenhouse gases regardless of whether there is error in the models used.

    I think climate science is a controversial debate because the hypotheses, evidence and conclusions will always be changing. We have to accept that every decade will be different and isnt necessarily going to fit in with the yes / no answer. As wfmgeo pointed out we have a global population that the planet cannot support. This flies in the face of all ecological theory which economists choose to ignore because they think all these problems can be solved with technology if we continue with the growth economy. However, we know this is not true as can be seen in the current downturn. How many forests or animal populations continue to grow indefinietly on finite resources? Solutions to GHG emissions such as biofuels deeply worry me because they utilise land that is required for agriculture whilst at the same time causing deforestation which produces even more GHG than burning fossil fuels. Add to that the destruction of the Asian peatlands where there is a vast store of C ready to be released to the atmosphere by decomposition. There are other postive (as well as negative) feedbacks that can affect climate including the release of CH4 in the arctic tundra and the loss of the ice albedo effect. All these have the potential to drive temperatures higher regardless of the driver.

    So, do we do something about it or do we continue to argue over who is right and who is wrong. Reducing our carbon footprint is probably a better scenario than continuing to burn fossil fuels because it gets us off the Peak Oil trajectory that we are heading on. Sure we could burn coal more and used the profits to spend on researching fusion power. But somehow I cant see the current economy supporting that. We have to fundametally change the way we live our lives and thats because of environmental limits to growth not climate change. Maybe some of my arguments are nonscientific but sometimes we cannot achieve the level of science required and must make decisions based on the evidence that we have.

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  • 115. At 6:38pm on 03 Mar 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    First of all, I do agree with some of what you say. I really do think we will have to address population, deforestation, pollution etc and wean ourselves off oil, for the simply reason is I hate the waste of valuable resources, but I will comment on a couple of issues.

    "Why do sceptics have the need to have a yes or no answer?"

    Because we can think of better things to spend trillions of dollars on that would provide more benefit to people who really need help. People like the millions around the water who do not have clean water and sanitation. AGW and CO2 as a driver of climate simply isn't proven despite the proclamations of the more vocal of the climate scientists. CO2 is not a poison

    "I bet you didnt know that there were global warming fears in the 1930s. Then every thought the planet was cooling from the 1940s to the 1970s."

    Of course I did. We also had global warming around 2000 years ago and around 800 years ago, as well as global cooling around 400 years ago. I do read a little about these things ;)

    One more thing I will say is I strongly believe in looking after our planet, but wasting considerable sums of money and man hours on an unproven theory is madness.

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  • 116. At 6:53pm on 03 Mar 2009, CuckooToo wrote:

    BTW, Gavin Schmidt was once asked what it would take to disprove AGW. His answer was 10 years of falling global temperatures. If Kyle Swanson is correct and we are in for 30 years of cooling temperatures, does that mean AGW is disproved? Probably not, it will just mean that the goalposts are moved.

    I'll try to find the link if anybody needs me to

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  • 117. At 7:07pm on 03 Mar 2009, CuckooToo wrote:

    oops 20 years not 10 - my bad

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  • 118. At 7:50pm on 03 Mar 2009, CuckooToo wrote:

    "Thus began the global climate shift known as the mediaeval warm epoch. Although it is understood as a European phenomena, it clearly seems to have been a shift in the global climate pattern recorded in North America by the first Europeans there. Up until around 900 the north Atlantic sea routes from Scandinavia and Iceland to the new communities in Greenland had been completely frozen over and impassable and at the end of the warm epoch, around 1300, temperature began to fall and sea ice again blocked the routes. After the warming epoch temperatures fell again at the beginning of the 14th century.”

    From "Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit " 1992, Al Gore, page 66

    So in 1992, we still had the MWP, but by 1998 Mann had ironed out the errors recorded almost 1000 years earlier

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  • 119. At 1:48pm on 04 Mar 2009, seasambo wrote:


    I do understand your concern regarding the cost of reducing CO2 emissions. However, I think there is enough economic evidence to suggest that reducing CO2 will in the long run be cheaper than the cost of climate impacts. If climate change impacts are natural then we have an even bigger impact to worry about because we cant do much about those! However, there is talk of geoengineering such as mirrors in space to reflext the suns rays. I find some of these projects worrying as if something went wrong the problems could get worse.

    I did not know that Gavin Schmidt said that about climate change but I would be interested to know the context of what he meant.

    With regard to the MWP there is lots of evidence out there that is good but continually refutted for many wrong reasons:

    RealClimate states in 2004 that "Claims that global average temperatures during Medieval times were warmer than present-day are based on a number of false premises that a) confuse past evidence of drought/precipitation with temperature evidence, b) fail to disinguish regional from global-scale temperature variations, and c) use the entire "20th century" to describe "modern" conditions , fail to differentiate between relatively cool early 20th century conditions and the anomalously warm late 20th century conditions."

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  • 120. At 5:35pm on 04 Mar 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    "I think there is enough economic evidence to suggest that reducing CO2 will in the long run be cheaper than the cost of climate impacts"

    I disagree. For there to be economic evidence to suggest reducing CO2 will be cheaper in the long run, you are asking me to accept that CO2 drives the climate. Whilst clearly green house gases are very important, CO2 is not the driver of climate.

    I totally agree that the various experiments to engineer our climate are very unwise. Installing mirrors in space to deflect the sun away from the earth is just crazy as well as incredibly difficult and expensive, and as you say, what if these "solutions" cause other problems? The Greens have a history of "solving" one problem and creating another, often bigger problem.

    I'm not sure what your final statement means. You say "With regard to the MWP there is lots of evidence out there that is good but continually refutted for many wrong reasons". Do you mean you agree that the MWP existed or that there is evidence that refutes the MWP existence?

    If the latter, please look here:

    CO2 science presents evidence to show that the MWP was indeed global

    Also, I am sure you are aware that RealClimate is Gavin Schmidt / Michael Manns website, so they are hardly likely to agree that, despite the evidence, the MWP existed are they?

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  • 121. At 10:04pm on 04 Mar 2009, SheffTim wrote:

    To comment, as briefly as I can, on the topic of the Medieval Warm Period. A topic that has become widely misunderstood.

    Europe has produced a number of pioneering climate historians that diligently read manuscripts (e.g. the Anglo Saxon Chronicle) monastery records, manorial records of planting and harvesting dates, ecclesiastical histories, merchants' records, church tithes, port fees, tax records, military accounts, personal correspondence and so on.
    The widely respected Hubert Lamb is the best known. Lamb coined the term 'Medieval Warm Epoch' from his work on the European records; today many know it as the Medieval Warm Period (MWP); the MWP is generally held to have occurred between 900 and 1300 AD.

    Very few today realise that Lamb believed that this was a period of warmth that mainly affected Europe and Eurasia (mid-latitudes) and peaked in the 11th century.
    (NB: There was a Solar maximum between 1075-1240 AD, though Lamb thought the MWP was caused by the Circumpolar Vortex shifting its position towards the Pacific.)
    In his seminal book 'Climate, History and the Modern World': 1982. pages 171-172. Lamb wrote that he didn't believe that this 'Warm Epoch' affected China or Japan, that its effects were mainly felt on the eastern (Atlantic) side of America and that he suspected that the Pacific cooled during this time. (He was right about the Pacific too.)

    We associate the Little Ice Age with the famous Frost Fairs on the frozen River Thames of the 17th and 18th centuries. (Lamb. 1982.)
    Yet, Lamb also found records of the Thames freezing in 923 and 998. Ice was reported on the Bospherous and the Nile in 1010/11. England's cold winters continued into the 11th century. The Thames froze for seven weeks in 1061.
    In England severe winters were noted in 1020, 1032/33, 1043/44, 1047, 1061, 1063, 1067/68, 1073/74, 1076/77, 1085/86, and 1092/93.
    In 1092/93 many rivers were recorded as being frozen so solidly that horses and wagons could travel on them. Later, that winter also saw a major flood (storm surge) caused by a storm in the Thames Estuary.
    The years 1086, 1092 and 1098 were noted for extreme wetness. The 11th century also saw a high number of floods along the English east coast, presumably caused by storm surges.
    1080-1180 saw favourable intervals of mild winters and dry summers in Western Europe (England, France, Germany). Anti-cyclonic weather brought warm summers, cold winters and low rainfall.
    1066 had a long, hot summer allowing William the Conquer to cross the English Channel. But the 'Anglo Saxon Chronicle' describes 1086 as a "very tiresome and sorrowful year . . . So unpropitiousness in weather no one can easily think."
    The 'Anglo Saxon Chronicle' described England in 1116/17 as very wet with localised flooding. Otherwise conditions seem to have comprised warm summers and cold winters.
    Drought is reported in 1102, 1114 and 1135-37. In 1114 the river Thames in London was reported to be so low men that could wade across it at low tide.
    Notably harsh English winters were recorded in 1110/11, 1114/15, 1124/25, 1141/42, 1149/50, 1175/76 and 1178/79.
    The Thames was completely frozen over during the severe winter of 1149/50.
    In England There were some very hot summers - and drought - in 1212, 1214, 1222, 1252, 1253, 1255 and 1285. Noteworthy famines are reported in 1272, 1277, 1285 and 1292.
    In England the Thames froze over again in 1204/05 and in 1269/70 and 1281/82. Frost prevented ploughing and all work on the land was suspended from mid-January to late March; winter seed was destroyed and there was major famine.
    Other severe winters were noted in 1209/10, 1216/17, 1218/19, 1224/25, 1233/34. Other years saw noteworthy major storms and flooding of coastal areas, or flooding due to swollen rivers after thunderstorms or prolonged rainfall.
    (By 1215-1350 glaciers began to advance in several parts of Europe. Thick sea-ice on the Baltic allowed a German army to march from the mainland of Estonia to capture the islands of Muhu and Saaremaa in1227.
    The three dreadfully wet summers of 1315-1317 resulted in multiple years of crop failure and one of the worst famines in European history. Without doubt the MWP was over.)

    And the above is just for Britain, a country Lamb documented better than any. I'm not at all surprised that there isn't a major global spike in temperature shown for this period; it wouldn't be just for Britain - a period of constant, sustained sunshine and warmth isn't reflected in the historical record. I imagine the same is true for most regions.

    Claims that European cathedrals rose simply because of warm conditions are just romanticised history. Monumental buildings require: a) A stable, organised state. b) Economic prosperity. c) Peacetime.
    By the twelfth century France and Germany had achieved these after centuries of warfare, invasions and migrations. William's invasion of England enforced it on the English - cathedrals were a way of demonstrating Norman dominance.
    Norse migration at the time was due to a) Population pressures on available land in Scandinavia. B) Inheritance customs [the eldest son got it all, younger sons had to look further afield for land and wealth] and C) Technological progress; Scandinavian ships developed keels capable of supporting masts and sails; this made long-distance sea-travel feasible. Warmer climate was co-incidental; by sea their main targets were to the south: Britain, Germany, Europe's Atlantic coast and into the Mediterranean.

    Some extend the MWP to include the 15th century, or even extend it to 1550. Others contend the decline into LIA began in 1300, if not much earlier. That ambiguity speaks for itself.
    I think the 14th century, for Europe at least, is so distinctively wet, disturbed and turbulent that it should be considered a wholly separate period in itself. Lamb described this time as a "cold, disturbed climate".
    For those on a temperature hunt for the warmest or coldest periods the question to ask isn't 'When?' but also 'Where?'
    Historian B. Fagan in his book 'The Little Ice Age', found that only the two decades of 1590-610 were notably cold on a world-wide scale.
    It is easier to distinguish the Little Ice Age as a distinct climatic period, particularly in the N. Hemisphere. but its effects also fade the further south you look.
    It is very difficult at times to see any periods where all continents or regions were similarly affected, all at the same time; in other words, that the MWP and LIA truly were simultaneous global events.

    We imagine the MWP as a romanticised European golden age of bountiful harvests. We don't picture it as a time of immensely varied weather; with harsh winters as well as periods of warmth.
    Nor as what North, Central and South America experienced - a time of 'mega-droughts' and immense floods - when major civilisations [Moche, Tenochtitlan, Maya, Tiwanaku, Wari, Sican, Chimu, Huari and Anasazi] collapsed.
    Nor do we picture the entire Pacific region cooling (and the Pacific is the major determinator of climate and weather in the Americas); a cooling that had began several centuries before Lamb's 'Medieval Warm Epoch'; yet this is what seems to have happened between 450-1300 AD; Pacific sea-temperatures dropped to around 1.5 degrees C cooler than they had been for 8,000 years. (There is also evidence the Pacific became warmer and wetter during the Little Ice Age.)
    An American climate researcher (Stein) has suggested that for the Americas, a better term would be the 'Medieval Climatic Anomaly' to distinguish the differences between the overlapping Eurasian (MWP) and American (MCA) climate periods.
    (NB: Chapter's 11, 12 of ‘The Long Summer’, by historian B. Fagan, has an explanation of how the change in sea-temperatures were linked to the American droughts, then evidenced through the use of sediment and ice cores etc.)

    Lamb's great work is now decades out-of-date and has been widely misquoted and misunderstood since publication. The very wide variety of dates given for the MWP shows the confusion.
    Inevitably the results of more recent research, by historians (Burroughs, Fagan et al.), archaeologists and archivists in many countries and continents (as well as proxies that were largely unavailable to Lamb) means much more detailed information is available; it needs to be pulled together to build a more comprehensive global picture, though it would be a major task.

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  • 122. At 01:38am on 05 Mar 2009, Kev wrote:

    Is belief a human right, maybe.

    Is it the right of a scientist - definitely not!

    Once upon a time we believed in thunder gods, science banished the thunder gods through one simple rule:

    Nothing is true unless proved to be so.

    Belief has nothing to do with it.

    Anyone who 'believes' in climate change is not a scientist, only those who can prove climate change are scientists.

    This is fundamental to science.

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  • 123. At 00:58am on 06 Mar 2009, SheffTim wrote:

    In comment #121 above I put the name of the city Tenochtitlan, when I meant Teotihuacan.

    Teotihuacan was a major Pre-Columbian city (central Mexico) founded early in the first millennium and abandoned in around 600 AD. Tenochtitlan (also in Central Mexico) was the capital city of the Aztecs; founded in 1325 AD, it later fell to Cortes in 1521. I apologise.

    I've also put a slightly expanded version of my comment above regarding H. Lamb and the MWP onto a web page and added a few web links and some pages [from my notes] about pre-Columbian (Central and South America) civilizations and the effects of the Medieval Climatic Anomaly climate on those; I have had a long-standing interest in both. (Follow the links on the left of the page.)
    Plus a page of my main sources and reading matter; which gives you an idea of where the information comes from and may inspire some further reading.
    There are also several references regarding the North American megadroughts should you wish to follow those up.
    I may try and add to this over the next few weeks, if I find time.

    Those with an interest in history and/or climate may wish to bookmark.

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  • 124. At 09:29am on 06 Mar 2009, SamuelPickwick wrote:

    Your claims about the MWP and Pacific cooling (for which you provide no evidence) are contradicted by a recent book:

    Climate, Environment and Society in the Pacific during the Last Millennium. P.D. Nunn (2007). Most of this 300-page book can be found on Google books. Nunn, who is a Professor of Geography and IPCC author, finds clear evidence for the MWP in the Pacific followed by a rapid cooling event around 1300 AD.

    As Cuckootoo says, the c02science site lists hundreds of scientific papers confirming the global nature of the MWP.

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  • 125. At 01:33am on 07 Mar 2009, SheffTim wrote:

    Hi SamuelPickwick - #124.
    My argument isn't that the there wasn't a MWP (I'm a major fan of Lamb, he first defined the MWP), rather that Lamb defined it much more narrowly, and that globally the picture is more complex than the simplified, romanticised view that has now taken hold.
    I know of Patrick Nunn and his work, in particular what he describes as 'the 1300 event'; a period of rapid climate change that brought massive disruption to Pacific peoples. He also promotes the idea that changes in climate and environment can result in changes to human cultures, sometimes enforced unwillingly. I think Nunn follows the existing paradigm; Lamb was always open to new lines of evidence, and I think some is emerging.

    With the Pacific it is very difficult to build up a clear picture as to what happened in past climate; partly because of its sheer size. From what we do know it does look as if there was great variability in different periods, both between areas at the same time and within areas over time; even if driven by larger scale atmospheric and oceanic interactions.
    In the Pacific are also the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Pacific Decadal Oscillations (PDO) (Two separate transfers of warm and cold water - and high and low pressure zones - from one side to the other side, to put it simply.) as well as the north/south movements of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (related to the ENSO see-saw) and the climate shifts that these each produce - and how they affect one another.

    I would expect to see differences in conditions (SSTs, precipitation etc), in any period, between different areas in the Pacific, if only because either ENSO or PDO mean that one area has to be cooler than the one at its opposite end. (I would expect to see two papers showing simultaneous higher temperatures in the western Pacific and cooling in the eastern Pacific for example; its about understanding the - ENSO - connection.)
    There are certainly distinct signatures of significant decadal-scale climate variability in the Pacific region that has to be due to changes in ocean circulation; possibly also with teleconnections between the Pacific and Atlantic (e.g ENSO and the North Atlantic Oscillation) and Indian oceans.
    e.g. 'Marine and terrestrial records indicate increased precipitation during the LIA in southern tropical South America and southern tropical East Africa as well. Conversely, a variety of records from Central America, the Caribbean, and the northern Indian Ocean suggest the LIA was marked by periods of increased aridity. This apparent latitudinal difference in precipitation is attributed to a rapid southward migration of the ITCZ.'
    Climate and Hydrographic Variability in the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool During the Last Millennium. .A. Newton et al. Geophysical Research Letters. Vol. 33. 2006.

    Compared to Europe and America we know very little about past climate in the Pacific. Written records (Pacific island cultures rely on oral histories) didn't appear until the arrival of Europeans (Ships logs, port-authority records, diaries etc).
    Much of what is known comes from proxies taken around the Pacific rim: S. America, New Zealand etc. these are now being supplemented by proxies from corals, sediment cores and also from archaeology, land surveys on islands actually in the Pacific itself.

    If I understand Lamb correctly (he was a trained meteorologist) he suspected the Pacific cooled during the MWP because the Arctic Circumpolar Vortex (a counter clockwise area of low pressure area with a main centre over the eastern Canadian Arctic and a secondary one over eastern Siberia that produces a strong band of westerly winds that blow around the pole) tilted away from the Atlantic, towards the Pacific.
    This allowed the Atlantic basin to have generally warmer conditions, but would have brought increased cold into the Pacific. This may have been Lamb's personal hypothesis; but the more I look at climate change in these periods, the more I see transport (movement) of warmth and cold around the world - not as 'everywhere got hot, then everywhere went cold'. And I see immense variability; as I pointed out above. #121 I - don't see past climate changes as monolithic, uniform, worldwide events.
    I'll also say that I am seeing the Medieval Climatic Anomaly as a separate, distinct phenomena related to the Pacific and Americas, that overlapped the effects of the MWP. There was more than one climate phenomena at work; the MCA also began before the MWP and carried on into the fifteenth century, well after the end of the MWP.

    A cooler Pacific in the MCA (MWP)? A warmer one in the LIA?
    'Here we splice together fossil-coral oxygen isotopic records from Palmyra Island in the tropical Pacific Ocean to provide 30–150-year windows of tropical Pacific climate variability within the last 1,100 years. The records indicate mean climate conditions in the central tropical Pacific ranging from relatively cool and dry during the tenth century to increasingly warmer and wetter climate in the twentieth century.'
    El Nino/Southern Oscillation And Tropical Pacific Climate During The Last Millennium. K. Cobb. Nature 424, 271-276 (17 July 2003)
    'Proxy evidence suggests that climate during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) was marked by a distinctive pattern of winter aridity through much of the Northern Hemisphere subtropics, an intensified North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and there are clear indications for a cooler, drier eastern tropical Pacific.' Graham et al. Geophysical Research. EGU General Assembly 2009. (Conference paper.)
    'We present a well-dated, relatively high resolution (25-year intervals) oxygen isotopic marine climate record and new archaeological data from the Northern Channel Islands for the last 3,000 years. These data strongly suggest that changes in human behaviour associated with increasing cultural complexity: 1) accelerated after A.D. 500 and became dominant by A.D. 1300, 2) occurred during one of the coldest and most unstable marine climatic intervals of the Holocene (A.D. 450-1300), and 3) coincided with cool, dry terrestrial conditions.'
    Competitive and Cooperative Responses to Climatic Instability in Coastal Southern California. D. Kennett And P. Kennett. American Antiquity. 2000, vol. 65, no2.
    (NB: The Kennets are a father/son archaeologist and oceanographer whose work converged on looking at how native American tribes survived a prolonged Medieval drought. The oceanographer Kennet was working on a high quality sediment core taken off that coast and analysed the section from that period to determine climate conditions. Hence publication in an archaeology journal.)
    'New evidence for the nature of the Little Ice Age in the tropics has been obtained from a 420-year record of coral Sr/Ca and O18 isotopes from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. This indicates that SSTs (sea-surface-temperatures) and salinity were higher in the 18th century than in the 20th century. The results suggest that the tropical Pacific played a role as a source region of water vapour during the global expansion of Little Ice Age glaciers.'
    Post-glacial Evolution of the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool and El Nino-Southern Oscillation. Gaga et al. Quaternary International 118–119 (2004) 127–143.
    'Terrestrial and marine late Holocene proxy records from the western and central US suggest that climate between approximately 500 and 1350 A.D. was marked by generally arid conditions with episodes of severe centennial-scale drought, elevated incidence of wild fire, cool sea surface temperatures (SSTs) along the California coast, and dune mobilization in the western plains.
    This Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) was followed by wetter conditions and warming coastal SSTs during the transition into the `Little Ice Age`.
    Proxy records from the tropical Pacific Ocean show contemporaneous changes indicating cool central and eastern tropical Pacific SSTs during the MCA, with warmer than modern temperatures in the western equatorial Pacific.
    This pattern of mid-latitude and tropical climate conditions is consistent with the hypothesis that the dry MCA in the western US resulted (at least in part) from tropically forced changes in winter Northern Hemisphere circulation patterns like those associated with modern La Nina episodes. We examine this hypothesis, and present other analyses showing that the imprint of MCA climate change appears in proxy records from widely distributed regions around the planet, and in many cases is consistent with a cool medieval tropical Pacific.'
    Tropical Pacific- Mid-Latitude Teleconnections In Medieval Times. Graham et al. Climatic Change, Volume 83, Numbers 1-2, July 2007.
    Most papers/reports on the American megadroughts are PDFs [not allowed here], but I'll try and put some links on a page on the site I put a link to in #123.

    As for CO2 science. They seem to have an agenda of Warm = Good, Cold = Bad; and are quite flexible in dating the start and end of the MWP/LIA to fit events into their paradigm. For example 950 AD is explained as being just 'the transition from the Dark Ages Cold Period to the Medieval Warm Period' in order to explain the Maya collapse.
    Yet on a page titled 'The Medieval Warm Period in Greenland' they report that: scientists 'measured between about 1100 and 700 years before present (BP), indicative of the summer presence of significant numbers of seabirds during that 'medieval warm period'.
    BP is set at 1950 - so 1100-700 BP works out as 850 AD-1250 AD. So when was the MWP again?
    And on a page called 'Medieval Drought in Peru (and Elsewhere)' they say 'the implied lack of strong El Ninos during the period of time from A.D. 800-1250 suggests that this period was truly a Medieval Warm Period.'
    Either the MWP starts at 800 AD or after 950 AD, which is it? (They also omit to mention that major Peruvian civilizations [Tiwanaku, Wari] collapsed in this Peruvian drought period and that an absence of strong El Ninos could equally mean the Pacific was in a cooler La Nina state. See above.)
    Beware people that don't use consistent dating when arguing a case, it's just flim-flam - reassuring 'spin' to fool the innocent.

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  • 126. At 10:00pm on 08 Mar 2009, SheffTim wrote:

    To follow up my previous comment #125 regarding Hubert Lamb, his suspicion that the Pacific was cooler in the MWP and that the MWP was caused by a tilting of the circumpolar vortex to wards the Pacific - I’ve typed out some sections from his book: ‘Climate, History and the Modern World’.

    Lamb wrote – I quote verbatim:
    “There are hints that this [MWP] was a cold time generally in and around the wide expanse of the North Pacific Ocean. If so, part of the explanation for the medieval warmth in Europe and North America, extending into the Arctic in the Atlantic sector and in at least a good deal of the continental sectors on either side, must be that there was a persistent tilt of the circumpolar vortex (and the climatic zones which it defines) away from the Atlantic and towards the Pacific sector, which was rather frequently affected by outbreaks of polar air. In this chapter we shall concentrate our study on the Atlantic side of the hemisphere and the lands where the warmth of the high Middle Ages was most marked, since it happens that these are the areas where both the climatic and the human historical record are at present most accessible.”
    (P171-172. Climate, History and the Modern World. H. Lamb.)

    Lamb also didn’t think that the whole planet warmed at the time of the MWP; he thought that parts of the world had remained at a fairly constant climate temperature since an earlier warm period around 300-400 AD.

    Lamb wrote – I quote verbatim:
    “As indicated in the last chapter, there seem to have been some regions of the world – particularly in the low latitudes and in the Antarctic, possibly also around the north Pacific and in parts of the arctic – where the rather greater warmth of the climate established around AD 300 – 400 continued with variations but more or less unbroken, for several centuries longer and in some cases right through to AD 1000 – 1200. In Europe and much of North America, as well as in the European Arctic there clearly was a break.”
    (P155. CHMW. H. Lamb. 1982.)

    As I said, I’m not that surprised not to see the MWP shown as a big bump in temperature reconstructions, particularly given the variability in climate I showed for that period – based on Lamb’s work - in #121.
    And Lamb thought the 11th century (1001 – 1100 AD) was the peak of the MWP.

    Even less so given that for much of the world very little was actually known at the time he was writing. He was an early pioneer.
    All that has come to light about the Americas (about the early civilisations or the effects of the climate on them for example) for example has only been pieced together since he stopped working.

    I’ve also added some more about this to the pages I’ve started about Lamb, and the MWP. I’ll add more as and when I get time.

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  • 127. At 6:31pm on 09 Mar 2009, SamuelPickwick wrote:


    You are digging yourself deeper into a hole.
    You claim to be familiar with Patrick Nunn.
    His book has a 28-page chapter on the MWP (AD 750-1250).
    And yet for some reason, in your rambling posts and web page, you never mention this work, though you mention the Pacific several times. Why not?
    At the end of this chapter Nunn says:
    "Key points
    1. The climate of the MWP in the pacific basin was marked by warm dry conditions exhibiting a low degree of interannual variability.
    2. Available data suggest that sea level rose in many parts of the Pacific Basin during the MWP, reaching a maximum at its end that exceeded present sea level.
    3. Most Pacific Basin societies enjoyed times of plenty during the MWP to which the comparatively constant climate contributed. Many societies also show adaptation to increasing warm and dry conditions. Food crises arising from droughts affected parts of the eastern Pacific Rim."
    Nunn's conclusions are backed up by numerous references.
    By not referring to this authoritative work you expose your blatant bias.
    It's just flim-flam - reassuring 'spin' to fool the innocent.

    On your web page you ask for contributions, so please include Nunn's key points on your site.

    Even more amusing is your selective quote from Newton et al 2006. In their abstract they say: "The warmest temperatures and highest salinities occurred during the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), while the coolest temperatures and lowest salinities occurred during the Little Ice Age (LIA)". Again this directly contradicts your false claim that the Pacific cooled in this period.

    Quite why you behave in this way is a puzzle. (Did you think that nobody would look up the Newton et al paper?) In fact it was this sort of blatant bias that converted me from a AGW believer to a skeptic a couple of years ago.

    To corrected the misleading statements on your site and elsewhere, I have started to write my own at

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  • 128. At 11:53am on 10 Mar 2009, seasambo wrote:


    I am interested in your argument although I am not convinced about the Idso's work at CO2 science. Aren't they funded by the energy industry? Also, there should be a review paper published in Nature or Science of all of those 650 papers about the MWP if it is convincing and I would be interested to read it.

    However, what do you think is the driver of recent climate change? A massive increase in solar activity, cosmic rays, a change in the orbit of the sun?

    If it is the sun then the temperature of all of the heavenly bodies in the solar system would be increasing. Some evidence has found that some are. But they are not all increasing relative to the distance from the sun. In fact, some are cooling and some research on one planet based there evidence on an insignificant correlation. Hardly, strong evidence but amazing that it actually got published!

    The theory of greenhouse gases causing recent climate change along with natural variation is based on the observation of a realistic mechanism. As far as I know, there is no other mechanism that can currently account for the recent variation. Solar activity, cosmic rays or wobbles in the earths orbit cannot currently describe it despite clearly causing changes in the past. There is even evidence to suggest that changes in solar activity by orbital changes cannot account for the changes in climate between ice ages without invoking feedback mechanisms such as ice albedo and greenhouse gases.

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  • 129. At 6:01pm on 11 Mar 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    "I am interested in your argument although I am not convinced about the Idso's work at CO2 science. Aren't they funded by the energy industry?"

    CO2 science have confirmed they have received donations from Exxon, the paltry sums they have received pale into insignificance when you consider how much funding AGW alarmists receive from both public funds and green organisations.

    It is a matter of fact, easily checked, that James Hansen received $250,000 from the Heinz Foundation - considerably more than CO2 Science received from Exxon

    Let's have a little perspective please

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  • 130. At 00:44am on 12 Mar 2009, SheffTim wrote:

    Mr Pickwick, on your blog you write "Until very recently, this was generally accepted by scientists. Recently however, a group of 'climate scientists' and activists have attempted to deny the existence of the MWP, or downplay its magnitude, or claim that it was only local to the North Atlantic region."

    Yet it was Hubert Lamb that first identified and popularised what has become known as the Medieval Warm Period.

    As I quoted above (#126) Lamb stated in his ground-breaking book 'Climate, History and the Modern World' that he thought:
    "There are hints that this [MWP] was a cold time generally in and around the wide expanse of the North Pacific Ocean. If so, part of the explanation for the medieval warmth in Europe and North America, extending into the Arctic in the Atlantic sector and in at least a good deal of the continental sectors on either side, must be that there was a persistent tilt of the circumpolar vortex. . ."

    And for Newton et al: It's about looking at the mechanisms of the north/south migration of the ITCZ. If it moves rapidly it's because sea conditions in one place cool, but rise in others. We'll see what comes emerges about the Pacific over the next few years. (But remember ENSO. #125 above.)

    Both Lamb and Nunn would agree that if apparently contradictory evidence starts to appear then this indicates a puzzle that must be solved; that perhaps paradigms have too be reconsidered, or new ones formed if new evidence overturns old. (The development of tectonic-plate theory is a historic example.)
    I think evidence is emerging, possibly saying that the narrative is more complex than has been thought. We'll wait and see what the next 20 years produces.

    One reason why Lamb is a hero of mine is that he wasn't afraid to make a speculative hypothesis. And in at least one instance I think he got it spectacularly right.
    (Lots of nice pictures too.)

    Nunn sees major climatic disturbance in 1300 AD (his 1300 event) in the Pacific.
    Lamb thought the warmer period ended abruptly in around 1300 AD: “The change which broke the medieval warm regime must have been devastatingly sudden". (3 years of constant rain produced the worst famine in Europe’s history)
    There's a missing period here, lasting a few hundred years. I'd say that is a mystery that needs solving. We haven’t got all the answers or the whole picture yet.

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  • 131. At 10:52am on 12 Mar 2009, seasambo wrote:


    Im sure that is true what you said. But personally I am more interested in the science and the mechanisms of climate change. The issue of funding does not prove or disprove AGW. I would like to see the evidence that recent climate change is caused by natural mechanisms. So far all those mechanisms cannot explain the variability within the last 40 years without invoking greenhouse gases.

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  • 132. At 1:39pm on 12 Mar 2009, CuckooToo wrote:


    I'm sorry seasambo, but you can't throw in a line about oil funding and then say you are only interested in the science, although I totally agree that funding does not prove or disprove the existence of AGW

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  • 133. At 4:50pm on 12 Mar 2009, seasambo wrote:


    Ok it was a low punch. What i meant was I am more interested in the science for obvious reasons.

    However, I still havent seen strong enough evidence for a natural mechanism of recent climate change. If someone showed me a mechanism, i would happily support a natural cause of recent climate change. Changes in solar activity cant do it, the cosmic ray hypothesis (whilst good) cannot account for it fully, and nor do orbit wobbles. Of course i am sure it is far more complicated than that but still the impact of greenhouse gases on climate is more plausible.

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  • 134. At 6:07pm on 12 Mar 2009, SamuelPickwick wrote:

    CO2science gets its funding from donations. Where these come from I don't know, and it doesn't matter. All they are doing is reporting the work of hundreds of scientists - do you think all these scientists are funded by the energy industry :)
    Yes I think we would all agree that a good review paper would be very interesting, if it could be written in an unbiased way.
    Regarding 'what is the driver of recent climate change', I am not sure what you mean, and I suggest you look at the latest data at

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  • 135. At 6:32pm on 12 Mar 2009, SamuelPickwick wrote:

    It's interesting that Tim not only ignores Nunn, and misrepresents the conclusions of Newton, he even distorts the opinions of his hero Lamb. Lamb said:

    "By the late tenth to twelfth centuries most of the world for which we have evidence seems to have been enjoying a renewal of warmth, which at times during those centuries may have approached the level of the warmest millennia of post glacial times. "

    Compare this with Tim's comment:

    "Lamb believed that this MWP was a period of warmth that mainly affected lands surrounding the northern Atlantic (mid-latitudes)."

    Quite astounding.

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  • 136. At 7:04pm on 13 Mar 2009, SheffTim wrote:

    Hi Sam, # 127, 135 etc. I only look in on this blog now and again.
    I should have been clearer about the significance of Pacific sea temp's from different locations in my earlier post #125.
    Remember my saying that I wouldn't be surprised to see two papers showing contrasting results from different sides of the ocean.; Newton's part of that picture.

    Some locations first:
    Newton's samples came from Makassar Strait, Indonesia
    Cobb's samples came from Palmyra Island in the central tropical Pacific = mid-pacific. (Between Hawaii and American Samoa.)
    Kennett's samples came from off the California coastal shelf.
    It's approx 12,000 miles from Indonesia to California.
    Indonesia is in the western Pacific, W. America is in the eastern Pacific.

    To quote Newton. 'Climate and hydrographic variability in the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool during the last millennium'
    'The warmest temperatures and highest salinities [of the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool ] occurred during the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), while the coolest temperatures and lowest salinities occurred during the Little Ice Age (LIA)'

    To quote Cobb et al. 'El Nino/Southern Oscillation and tropical Pacific climate during the last millennium.'
    'The records indicate mean climate conditions in the central tropical Pacific ranging from relatively cool and dry during the tenth century to increasingly warmer and wetter climate in the twentieth century.'

    To quote Kennett: 'Competitive and Cooperative Responses to Climatic Instability in Coastal Southern California'. D. Kennett And P. Kennett. American Antiquity. 2000, vol. 65, no2. (See my post # 125 above.)
    'These data strongly suggest that changes in human behaviour associated with increasing cultural complexity: 1) accelerated after A.D. 500 and became dominant by A.D. 1300, 2) occurred during one of the coldest and most unstable marine climatic intervals of the Holocene (A.D. 450-1300), and 3) coincided with cool, dry terrestrial conditions.'

    From Graham et al. 'Evidence for a Warming Tropical Pacific during the Little Ice Age.'
    [Google the tile, you'll find it. It's a PDF – these blogs don't like them for some reason.]
    'Proxies from the tropical Pacific and western North America provide evidence indicating that tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures (SST) were cool during the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and warmed during the onset of the Little Ice Age (LIA).'

    I interpret the above as saying that the waters of the eastern Pacific were cool during the MWP, whilst the waters of the western Pacific were warm. During the LIA the two sides of cool/warm water exchanged positions. The eastern Pacific warmed, the western Pacific cooled.
    (Nunn's chapter on Pacific climate also shows much complexity.)

    This does seem to me to be a new line of evidence emerging, and I think goes some way to explaining the US megadroughts, the Maya droughts and climatic events that affected central and southern America (and elsewhere) around these periods.
    We know the oceans drive earth’s climate systems.

    As I said, I'm seeing changes in past climate (say the past two millennia) as movements of warmth and cold around the world.
    Not as 'everywhere became warm simultaneously, then everywhere went cold simultaneously'. I'm interested in what other evidence emerges. And Lamb saw complexity too.

    Rather than trade quotes as to what Lamb said, I've put a scan (GIF) of a couple of relevant pages [171/172) of Lamb's 'Climate, History and the Modern Word' onto a web-page (and this is one section of a pretty hefty book), so people can read it themselves.

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