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Rebutting skeptic arguments in a single line

Posted on 20 July 2010 by John Cook

When I first started writing rebuttals to the various skeptic arguments, each rebuttal was a long, technical piece with graphs, detailed scientific discussion and links to peer-reviewed papers. At some point, someone suggested I write a short paragraph summary at the top of each page so people didn't have to read the whole page to get an answer to a skeptic argument. Initially, I frowned upon this idea. Firstly, it was a lot of work. More importantly, I figured if someone wanted to understand the science, they could jolly well take the time to read the full article. A proper understanding of climate requires the full picture which you can't get in a soundbyte! That's right, I'm quite the science curmudgeon.

Eventually, I began to see the need for a short summary. If Mohammad won't come to the mountain... So I began writing short paragraph summaries of each rebuttal. It wasn't easy - it's a tough ask boiling down complex concepts into a short paragraph, trying to cram as much science into as few words as possible. The result was all the skeptic arguments and a paragraph rebuttal on a single page which I thought was a fairly useful and concise summary.

In May this year, I received an email from Dr. Jan Dash, ex-theoretical physicist and Director of the Climate Initiative of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office. He had just co-led a series of "Counter the Contrarians" classes at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County, NJ along with an expert in science communication who had dealt with evolution deniers while working at the Denver Zoo. Participants broke up into pairs with one playing the contrarian, given a skeptic argument, and the other rebutting the skeptic argument with the Skeptical Science paragraphs as source material (I have to confess it would've been fun getting to be the contrarian). The feedback from the participants was almost unanimous. My paragraph answers were too complicated to use.

Okay, that feedback was a bit of a kick in the guts but I guess I can see why. As I said earlier, I try to cram as much science as possible into a single paragraph. Jan suggested having a one-line, short sentence as a response to each skeptic argument. Something easy to remember and not too technical. The idea is the short one-liner would enable you to "bat the ball back over the net" and then more detail could be provided in subsequent discussion.

Now I must admit my initial reaction was skepticism, similar to my negative reaction to the initial paragraph idea. It was hard enough boiling the answers down to a paragraph, let alone a single line. So I emailed back, suggesting if Jan wanted to have a go at writing some one-liners, he was welcome to. After not getting a response, I assumed Jan found it as difficult as I did.

Then around a week later, I got a reply. Jan had gone through every skeptic argument and written a one-line answer! I started reading through them, thinking "okay, this'll be interesting". After the first page, it was obvious - by George, he'd done it! As I kept reading, I found myself thinking, "hmm, wish I'd said it like that!" He'd created a fantastic resource - short, non-technical, user-friendly answers to every skeptic argument.

I finally saw my problem was trying to cram every bit of science into my short answer as possible, in order to make the paragraph bullet proof to any objection. But Jan had the right approach - just "bat the ball back over the net" and get into the nitty gritty afterwards. So I'm immensely grateful for Jan for both providing some immensely useful content and also teaching me a lesson about science communication.

I've changed most of the rebuttals to skeptic arguments to Jan's one-liners. But if you're going to complain about any particular wording, I still take final responsibility for all the content - sometimes I changed his wording and often made the one-liners even shorter than Jan's version. You can also get the one-liners in printable format. This makes a handy resource to carry in your pocket in case a skeptic jumps out at you on the street. This also goes into the iPhone app and Android app so if you have either app on your phone, you probably already have the one-liners.

But being a hoarder who has trouble throwing anything out, I've kept all the old paragraphs and indulged in a comparison between the old paragraph answer and the new one-liners. I still keep the paragraph answer at the top of each skeptic argument page. So translators, no need to go back and change everything - hold off for a little while as I'm planning to restructure the whole database to use both the one-liner and paragraphs. More on this shortly...

By the way, a while back, Rob Honeycutt (author of Kung-fu Climate and Why does Anthony Watts drive an electric car?) suggested I should write 4 to 5 word answers to each skeptic argument. I'm going to go on record here and say that's impossible! Prove me wrong, Rob!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention, I welcome suggested improvements to any of the one line answers. So please post a comment suggesting how they can be better. But I do recommend rather than a "you should include something about..." in your comment, actually give specific wording, keeping it under 100 characters. If its better than the existing wording, I'll update the database. Thanks for your suggestions.

Lastly, Jan asked me to mention he prefers the "contrarians" nomenclature for people who reject mainstream climate science, following the professional climate website RealClimate.org. This is because mainstream climate scientists are the true skeptics. In general, it takes a lot of good evidence to convince a scientist. I personally agree with this assessment of true skepticism but use the term 'skeptic' so we don't get distracted into arguments about labels and instead stick to discussing and understanding science.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 91:

  1. Hah. Wouldn't it be simpler to say: "I'm sorry, you don't know what you're talking about."

    The way I see it, technical arguments are only as good as the technical background of the person making them/hearing them. Most people who say, or rather parrot, those arguments don't really know what they mean; it's just something that gives them comfort. So you can't actually refute the argument because...well, there is no argument.

    If a know-nothing says, "Antarctica is gaining ice," and we hit back with "Antarctica is losing land ice," they will respond with "Yeah, but Antarctica is gaining ice."

    You cannot conquer ignorance with brevity.
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    Response: Well, it needs a hint of specificity - "Satellites measure Antarctica is losing ice at an accelerating rate". Then you can go into more detail about how the GRACE satellites measure changes in gravity and other ways that satellites measure the ice sheet's mass balance. Well, that's the theory anyway.
  2. "This makes a handy resource to carry in your pocket in case a skeptic jumps out at you on the street". Haha.
    This is a great resource (yet again), thanks Jan and John.
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  3. I disagree, wildrunar. I think the one-liners are great. Sure trading one-liners is no way to conduct a scientific debate, but a lot of people think in one-liners (or use them as an alternative to thinking, as you point out). If you can't respond succinctly, you lose the point.

    Each one-liner in John's table links to a more complete statement of the sceptic argument (such as it is) and the rebuttal. Brilliant.
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    Response: Think of them not as the definitive answer but as "batting the ball back over the net". It's just a lead-in to more detailed discussion.

    Here's another way they could be useful - tweets with a link back to a page with more details. I intentionally trimmed down every one-liner to less than 100 characters so they're ideal for a tweet + a bit.ly URL (I'm also working on a database of bit.ly URLs for each skeptic argument).
  4. This is magnificent progress! After all, it is the widespread easy acquiescence to the appeal of "one-liners" that has left the so-called 'skeptics' with the edge in the public mind for much too long. Now we finally have the means to blunt that edge.

    As for the Antarctic ice, example, there is nothing wrong with cutting them off ahead of time in the following manner:

    Skeptic: Antarctica is gaining ice

    Scientist: No, it is not. It is only seasonal ice over water that is gaining, but seasonal ice does not count. It is land ice that counts. That is being lost

    Now the skeptic cannot simply respond with "Yeah, but Antarctica is gaining ice".

    True, it is no longer a one liner. But notice how it heads them of at the pass. If you absolutely must have a single English sentence, then you could reword as:

    "Total ice is not what counts, land ice is what is being lost, and THAT is what counts".

    Note how important the order of clauses is: the first clause refutes the deception, the second brings in the real facts of the case, the third seals up the matter quite tightly replacing disinformation with real information, and that in a memorable form, even if it does have the feel of a run-on sentence;)

    Now speaking of memorable forms, since I have not seen the case of Antarctic ice put in such memorable form, and am relying on memory as I write this, I realize the value of what I write may be vitiated by my own imperfect memory of what the facts of the case really are:( But I hope the idea is clear. Not only can you counter ignorance with brevity, but you must do it; otherwise you are handing victory to your opponent. There is, after all, a REASON people have long said "brevity is the soul of wit".

    The 'skeptics' understand this reason very well.
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  5. These are good!
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  6. John, this is fantastic! And as for the 4 to 5 word versions... give it time. It took a while for one liners to come out of full paragraphs. It might take a while to distill these down to simple "frames" as discussed by George Lakoff.

    Think of it this way: The shorter versions don't have to describe the issue, only frame it. Think of the genius of the right wing in framing the abortion issue as "Right to Life." If we could apply that same kind of genius to climate then no one could ever disagree with AGW.
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  7. Good work with these summaries - being able to bat the ball back over the net is very valuable, as it puts the 'denier' or 'contrarian' on the back foot. They then have to come up with (or try to come up with) evidence to support their argument, and those will be a lot easier to counter than the initial one-liner!

    I'm going to post a copy on the noticeboard at work for people to peruse.
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    Response: Let us know how that pans out, would be interesting to hear the reactions.
  8. I would also suggest that framing likely applies to categories rather than individual arguments. I'll try reading through a bunch of these and see if I can craft some initial framing.

    Again, though, this is fantastic!! Stuff like this one is absolutely perfect: "1934 was not the hottest year globally, only in the US." The more brief they are the more powerful.
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    Response: The first thing I think when I read "1934 was not the hottest year globally, only in the US" is that, well, actually, it's statistically indistinguishable from 1998 and 2006 and a USHCN v2 adjustment actually put 1998 and 2006 above 1934. So it takes a great act of discipline to not include all that information in the one-liner. The big picture here, what people need to know, is that global temperature is a more appropriate metric for global warming than regional temperature. You have to find that one core truth and let the rest of the details come out in the subsequent discussion.
  9. Something useful to do might be to make each sentence short enough to be a tweet (less the @handle of the person you're responding to, and the shortened url of the actual page containing the argument)
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    Response: Actually, I have done that. See my response to comment #3 - last week while working on the one-liners, I trimmed down every one-liner to less than 100 characters so they're ideal for a tweet + a bit.ly URL. As soon as I get time, I'll publish the one-liners along with a shortened bit.ly URL for each skeptic argument (am open to suggestions on how to best make tweeting the arguments as easy as possible).
  10. Thank you for this!
    The short response is useful in certain circumstances, and where more detail is required, it's available.
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  11. For #26, I prefer

    Greenland's ice sheet is thousands of years old.

    That's actually a bit too simplistic, but then, so is the original statement. The point is, you are arguing with someone who hasn't considered the effect of having thousands of square miles of ice not too far off. It could not have been all that lush or warm. It really doesn't matter as far as recent warming is concerned anyway; it's just another, it's-been-warmer-before argument.



    #51
    The line of argument I like starts with:

    Saturation arguments regarding CO2 most commonly rely on density not decreasing with altitude.

    What you have is just as good; just a different line.
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  12. The list is convenient in that it brings together many ideas in one handy location, however, it seems a little dangerous to assume one must agree with every one liner. Worst still if one concludes: "global warming is caused by man" AND "it is not due to human waste heat" AND "it doesnt matter if the total population of the Earth goes unchecked" AND "the problem will go away when we stop buring fossile fuels".
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  13. Brings back childhood memories of reciting the Catechism but nevertheless a concise condensation of prevailing orthodoxy :-)
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  14. These one line answers are vital in the battle with denialism. Well done Jan Dash and you, John.

    The important point that comes out of this is never to let someone get away with making a clever-dick denial comment that makes everyone nod their head in agreement, without immediately coming back at him. The more they do it and get away with it the more everyone starts to believe it's the truth; and then when someone does a survey it turns out that the majority of the population are sceptical about AGW -- not because they know anything about the subject, but because all their mates down the pub say so.
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  15. Some possible alternate wordings;

    #1 Since 1970 solar output has decreased slightly while temperatures have been rising.
    #10 Sea ice has increased slightly, but satellites show total ice volume is decreasing.
    #11 In the ice age cycle CO2 lags, but in other events CO2 increases come first.
    #17 1934 was one of the hottest years for the US, but nowhere near the hottest globally.
    #22 Arctic ice is currently melting despite being in the expanding phase of the ice age cycle.
    #26 Greenland had local warming around 1000 AD, and global warming is now making it green again.
    #37 Far north polar bears are still recovering from overhunting, but most groups are declining.
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  16. 22. Thick arctic sea ice is undergoing a rapid, unprecedented retreat.

    These are quite useful - they fit right into what I would call "bumper sticker slogans", and the more bumper sticker slogans that are developed that maintain scientific accuracy, the better, since it'll help out in the public policy debate.
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  17. Perhaps we also need an English teacher - not just fewer words, but shorter words, preferably with fewer syllables.

    #10 Sea ice has increased a bit, but satellites show total ice volume is lessening.

    It's not just how it reads - it's how it sounds. Less, even as part of a longer word, has more impact than a slowish sounding word like decrease. Can't always be used, but it should be used more often.
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  18. Great idea, great post. I have already been able to use some of the soundbites.

    While I generally despise the soundbite culture, realistically today people demand information in bite-sized chunks. The interested few will delve deeper.
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  19. John, I think this is a great idea, and very much worth doing. Thanks to Jan for coming up with these, and to you for editing them and making them so widely available.

    That said, I can't let this pass without telling a little story here:

    ------------------

    Before the start of the Holocene, early humans lived in small bands, slowly wandering from Africa into Eurasia and spreading wherever their feet took them. When two of these groups crossed paths, they might scream at each other, make threatening gestures, and perhaps throw rocks or sticks to drive away the others.

    With the invention of agriculture, the world changed. People began to settle down. Surplus food permitted the development of more organized society. Writing was developed, the first maps were drawn, small cities grew up.

    Cities were linked into nations, and then empires. The written word became even more important as a means of passing down knowledge and communicating across great distances. Books and scrolls were precious objects, and the clerks and copyists who transcribed them were respected.

    With the invention of the printing press, it became possible to mass produce books. Literacy rates increased. By the time of the Enlightenment, in the mid-18th century, the western world was awash in intellectual debates on the subjects of politics, economics, religion, natural science, the arts, and other subjects ... all carried on through the medium of the book.

    Years passed, society and technology developed further, and people began reading fewer books and more newspapers and magazines. An invention called "talk radio" appeared on the scene, allowing people to argue about stuff with more brevity and at greater distances.

    Later still, the Internet formed out of previously disparate communications networks. People began reading "newsgroups" and "phpbb forums" and "web logs." They liked this, because they could shout at each other anonymously in comments on the web logs (or "blogs"). The discussion forums were popular, too, especially those that let the participants pick from an endless variety of ugly but colorful "avatars" to symbolize themselves.

    At the turn of a new century, as the older generation was shuffled off into obsolescence and nursing homes, their grandchildren invented "texting," "tweets," and other ways to exchange information in even shorter, more effortlessly digested blobs. With some of these methods, the user's fingers could actually do all the communication with no participation by the cerebral cortex at all.

    Eventually this arc reached its logical end point. Across the "developed" world, millions of people gave up on Twitter, which was now seen as too deliberative and too intellectually demanding. Instead, they began to interact by tossing handfuls of letter tiles from "Scrabble" at each other. If emotions ran high, the tile flinging might be supplemented by grunting or by emphatic gestures with the middle finger.

    Although this new means of communication ("B!" ... "G!" ... "auughn grrrhuhh?" ... "K!") would have been ill-suited to the style of discourse used by their grandparents and great-grandparents, it was perfectly adequate to convey the streamlined and softened thought processes that characterized the waning years of post-Enlightenment civilization.

    --------------

    Millions of years later, alien archeologists traced the origin of this strange cultural transformation to the invention of one Philo Farnsworth in the mid-1900s....
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  20. ... and, that's our dose of cranky curmudgeon for today

    :-)
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  21. It's very interesting how the science community resists honing their arguments down to words that are concise and easy to understand. And how surprised they are when it works! Let me suggest something as a non-scientist who works in business:

    Because you people who are MORE science oriented than I do believe in empiricism and facts, consider that there is a whole body of work out there, both academic and trade-oriented about how to persuade people and what works when you do that. And yes, they do suggest boiling things down to what is important and persuasive, while also having done the homework and study (in your case, research) to back it up.

    It's not "dumbing down", it's being persuasive. And expecting other people to on their own do the study to think as you do is a loser strategy. Indeed, the expectation that such a strategy might work is itself a superstition, based on all the contrary studies out there in the business world. Kudos to the efforts shown on this thread, I think this path will work a lot better than the tack of trying to stuff every scientific argument in every response mode.
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  22. This is great. When I was looking at many of the Arguments articles, frequently, the first paragraph would be very similar to the scientific argument. This provides a good one-liner plus the scientific details.
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  23. Great resource.

    Two suggestions for improvements:

    #28 "Climategate CRU emails suggest conspiracy"

    "Several investigations have cleared scientists of any wrongdoing in the media-hyped email incident."

    I'd suggest focussing on the data as the average contrarian will dismiss investigations as part of the lizard man conspiracy anyway. How about:

    "Independent analyses of the data reach the same conclusions as the CRU, revealing this to be media hype"

    #30 "Climate sensitivity is low"

    "Net positive feedback is confirmed by many different lines of evidence."

    Whilst I understand this, I don't like it as "net positive" implies runaway whereas the radiative emissions always ensure a net negative feedback.

    How about

    "Ice ages cannot be explained without relatively high sensitivity" which focusses on well known phenomena - the other lines of evidence can be used as follow-up.

    And how about, on the 4-5 words challenge:

    #28 "Independent analysis agrees with CRU"
    #30 "This makes ice ages impossible"
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  24. Compare
    #10 Sea ice has increased a bit, but satellites show total ice volume is lessening.

    to

    #10 Sea ice extent has increased a bit, but satellites show shrinking ice volume.

    So long as "shrinking" is accurate, it carries more punch. Also active voice is preferred for clarity & brevity (can't see how to de-passify "has increased" without making it longer
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  25. Dr.Stephen Schneider has died on a flight from Stockholm to London.

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2010/07/stanfords-nobel-winning-climate.html
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  26. You know that I write slowly. This is chiefly because I am never satisfied until I have said as much as possible in a few words, and writing briefly takes far more time than writing at length. -- Karl Friedrich Gauss

    If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today. If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare. -- Mark Twain
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  27. This is excellent. May I suggest a few tweaks?

    #77 "Michael Mann was quoted out of context, and nothing was hidden." It was Phil Jones, not Michael Mann who was quoted out of context in this case.

    #116 "CO2 emissions were much smaller 100 years ago." To nitpick, the industrial revolution ended more than 100 years ago. I prefer the one-liner that the full rebuttal begins with: "Global CO2 emissions during the Industrial Revolution were a fraction of the CO2 we are currently emitting now". (The "fraction" is actually less than 1%, so you might rather say "tiny fraction" and add "annual" to "emissions" to distinguish rates from cumulative emissions.) So, I'd suggest: "Annual CO2 emissions during the Industrial Revolution were a tiny fraction of current emission rates."

    BTW, In the rebuttal to point #81 you refer to "Peisner" and "Benchley", whereas those names should be spelled Peiser and Brenchley.
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  28. And "Moonbat" should be "Monbiot"
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  29. John,

    maybe this layout can work as an inspiration for you as well.
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    Response: I have a similar taxonomy style layout here.
  30. Finally found the list - here are some suggestions that make them more powerful for me (if you like the suggested wordking make sure the science make sense - I am perhaps better at communicating than climatology).

    1. "It's the sun." - Since the 1970s the sun is cooling and the earth is warming

    2. "Climate's changed before" - The natural changes that completely explain past climate change do not explain warming now.

    5. "Model's are unreliable" - Climate models from the 1980s successfully predicted today's temperatures.

    *** I think the skeptics don't care that the hindcast is good, they like to say no model has EVER predicted the future, which, according to skepticalscience, is wrong.***

    11 "CO2 lags temperature" - CO2 accelerates warming.

    *** Sounds good. Can that be said truthfully? ***

    14 "It's cosmic rays" - Cosmic rays DO NOT correlate with the current warming.

    21 "It's just a natural cycle" - Natural cycles cannot explain the current warming.

    29 "Climategate CRU emails suggest conspiracy" - Emails do not melt ice, warm the earth or acidify the ocean.

    *** I realize that is a different take, but I try to bring it back to the physical evidence, rather than defend Mann and Jones ad nauseum.***

    30 "Climate sensitivity is low" - Multiple lines of research indicate a 3C warming for each CO2 doubling.

    *** I don't know if the science is that strong. I personally think this is the best denier argument (most of them do not make it...). The current wording doesn't really counter the point.

    35 "It warmed before 1940 when CO2 was low" - Early 20th century warming is largely attributable to the sun.

    *** I like to show that the solar changes DO matter and ARE in the models ***

    48 "Neptune is warming" - And the sun is cooling

    *** Huh? I don't have any suggestions here, but this is NOT a good argument for AGW - if we can't explain Neptune warming with a cooling sun, what business do we have claiming we know why earth is warming with a cooling sun. Maybe I am being obtuse?? ***

    52 ditto above

    60 "Arctic sea ice is back to normal" - Artic see ice volume is shrinking.
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  31. actually thougtful @ 7:29 am: "Huh? I don't have any suggestions here, but this is NOT a good argument for AGW - if we can't explain Neptune warming with a cooling sun, what business do we have claiming we know why earth is warming with a cooling sun. Maybe I am being obtuse??"

    Very. I completely fail to see your logic here. What does alleged climate change on Neptune (or Mars or Alpha Centauri) have to do with the relationship between observed climate change and known forcings on Earth.
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  32. Part 2
    Here are some suggestions that make them more powerful for me (if you like the suggested wordking make sure the science make sense - I am perhaps better at communicating than climatology).

    69 "Humans are too insignificant to affect global climate" - We easily affected the Gulf of Mexico

    *** A different take, but one that brings the point home. BTW - the percentage of oil in the Gulf by volume is 184,000,000 gallons oil/640,000,000,000,000,000 gallons water or 0.000000029% - much lower than CO2 in the air, but it is wreaking havoc; small things CAN hurt you. ***

    79 "Ocean acidification isn't serious" Past history shows that when CO2 rose quickly, there were mass extinctions of coral reefs.

    *** grammar nazi strikes ***

    104 "Southern sea ice is increasing" While the sea ice increases, the more important land ice shrinks.

    *** scientifically valid?? ***

    I agree with the comments above that this is a good thing and does give us a quick response (especially when the tiny URLs are added).
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  33. 31 hadfield - your response "What does warming on Neptune (or Mars or Alpha Centauri) have to do with the relationship between observed climate change and known forcings on Earth."

    is much better than "And the sun is cooling" - yours at least addresses the question. I still don't think a warming on another planet in our solar system that we can document but not explain helps the AGW case (because there is no "A" on that other planet).

    thanks for the helpful response.
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  34. Honestly, you have a great site and have educated me by correcting many of the fales skeptic agurments that I was lead to believe. But with all do respect, there are some that you haven't suffeciently addressed. Please endulge me as I bring them up.

    First, the contribution of CO2 from fossil fuels versus that from more natural causes. I have read your post at on this topic located here,

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/human-co2-smaller-than-natural-emissions.htm

    But I still don't understand how you can attribute all the increase to man made causes, when even the sightest accounty error of one of the natural causes would dwarf what you attribute to man made CO2.

    also, please don't insult me in your response. If you truley think I am ignorant, then please point me to the information that will corret me rather than just insulting me.
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  35. Truth Seeker - It is theoretically possible that somebody didn't carry the one - but that is the strength of AGW theory, there are so many lines of evidence, if one seems faulty or questionable, you have to ask yourself what about the other items that indicate the same thing. So I suggest you ask yourself the following (you can research all of this on this site):

    1. Why does the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere match the expectations from burning fossil carbon (less the amount natural systems absorb)?

    2. Why is the decrease in oxygen in the atmosphere consistent with burning fossil fuels as the increase in CO2?

    3. Why does the carbon isotope of the additional carbon in the atmosphere match the signature of fossil carbon?

    Any one of these (including the fact that with all we know about climate, no models can match the trend over the last 3 decades without including increased CO2 - by the amount the theory predicts man is producing!) are a slam dunk in and of themselves.

    The fact that there are at least 4 independent lines of evidence, logic and reasoning that I can come up with (I am a plumber - someone more knowledgeable might be able to increase the count of valid, independent arguments) should be some indication that this is not a weak spot in the AGW theory.
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    Response: I learnt of several other lines of evidence that fossil fuel burning was causing the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels just a few weeks ago in my trip to Perth, speaking to a coral reef researcher who had analysed carbon isotopes in coral reefs over the last few centuries. He emailed me his paper a few weeks ago and I've been meaning to post about it but just haven't found the time yet :-(
  36. My favorite (almost) one-liner to throw at deniers?

    "No warming since 1998, eh? Well, the same graph shows WILD, OUT OF CONTROL WARMING since both 1997 and 1999. Two out of three, I win."

    Either they are too stupid to counter effectively, or smart enough to know that they are entering into a cherry-picking contest with someone who owns an orchard.
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  37. For all the denier bashing, I am still waiting to see the list of recommendations to prevent global warming, along with some one-liner impact analysis.
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  38. RSVP - that requires political action and variety of strategies is possible. Solving a problem is a separate question to acknowledging a problem exists. What is warped is deciding on the truth of proposition based a perception of what is required for a solution, which seems to be the case for those whose primary concern is something like "AGW causes higher taxes", "AGW is making me be a greeny", "AGW is taking away my toys", rather than "I dont like those solutions, so here is what I think is a better one".

    This is a place to discuss the science.
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  39. So Pete Ridley you think Hansen's 1988 model just got lucky in predicting the climate from then until now? I suppose it is possible. Something can be messy and still be accurate enough. That models are not perfect is not a counter to AGW - it is a fact of life.

    That an imperfect model can come up with the right answer, year after year (Hansen's 1988 work) - is notable.

    So does reality trump your criticism? Or do we need a 2nd earth to catch all the intricacies and satisfy the false bar you have set?

    I have computer models that tell me what size pump I need for certain piping applications. I guarantee the model does not understand chaos theory. It MIGHT be aware of laminar flow. But it gives me the right answer, every time.

    I am not convinced that a model (which I think almost by definition cannot/will not include every bit of variability in the real-world conditions it models) can't provide good answers. Maybe the current climate models don't actually provide good answers, but to say no model, ever, can provide good answers seems way too strong of a claim.
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  40. actually thoughtfull (whoever you might be) are you able to provide a link to convincing evidence that Hansen and his team of computer programmers were able to predict in 1988 what the global climates would be in 2010? I have searched unsuccessfully for this.

    I did come across an interesting blog “The Discovery of Global Warming” run by Spencer Weart (Note 1). This includes a section on Hanson’s activities surrounding his scare-mongering presentation to a Congressional hearing on a very hot summer’s day in 1988 (Note 2) about his expert opinion QUOTE: .. "with 99% confidence" that a long-term warming trend was underway, and he strongly suspected that the greenhouse effect was to blame .. ”. Is it particularly surprising that during the recovery from an ice age there should be high confidence that there will be a continuing warming trend – until nature decides that it is time for the globe to have another ice age, of course. When that happens can’t we be equally confident that there twould be a peak in mean global temperature, a turning point then a cooling trend? Looking at the Hadley Centre’s “Global Average Temperature 1850-2009” graph (Note 3) couldn’t it reasonably be argued that there are signs of this happening?

    As far as I can see from the most recent paper that I could find from Hansen et al. “Earth’s Energy Imbalance: Confirmation and Implications” (Note 4) Hansen does not attempt to make predictions of global mean temperature, only comparisons with global mean surface (I take this to mean excluding sea surface but may be mistaken) temperature measurements – Fig. 1. Hadley Centre produce a graph of global average land temperature (Note 5) which shows the reducing warming trend continuing beyond 2005.

    Sceptics argue that the models can only be made to resemble reality by “tweaking” parameters. The following statement towards the end of the Hansen et al. paper hints of this QUOTE: ..
    A caveat accompanying our analysis concerns the uncertainty in climate forcings. A good fit of observed and modeled temperatures (Fig. 1) also could be attained with smaller forcing and larger climate sensitivity, or with the converse. If climate sensitivity were higher (and forcings smaller), the rate of ocean heat storage and warming ‘‘in the pipeline’’ or ‘‘committed’’ would be greater, e.g., models with a sensitivity of 4.2- to 4.5-C for doubled CO2 yield È1-C ‘‘committed’’ global warming (3, 4). Conversely, smaller sensitivity and larger forcing yield lesser committed warming and ocean heat storage. The agreement between modeled and observed heat storage (Fig. 2) favors an intermediate climate sensitivity, as in our model. .. UNQUOTE.

    That word “uncertainty” rears its ugly head again.

    If you can provide a link to a recent paper in which Hansen actually makes predictions/projections of future global temperature then I would very much appreciate it.

    NOTES:
    1) see http://www.aip.org/history/climate/author.htm
    2) see http://www.aip.org/history/climate/public2.htm
    3) see http://hadobs.metoffice.com/hadcrut3/diagnostics/global/nh+sh/
    4) see http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/2005/2005_Hansen_etal_1.pdf
    5) see http://hadobs.metoffice.com/hadcrut3/diagnostics/comparison.html

    Best regards, Pete Ridley
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  41. Peter Ridley, you can find links to the Hansen paper and discussion of the predictions here and here for Dec 2009. Note that the nature of the prediction is one of "if you do this, then you get this climate". You have to compare the prediction for the scenario which actually matches what we really got. (Doctored version of the prediction showing actual temperature against a worst-case scenario are common).
    For recent predictions about future climate, then you try IPCC WG1 of course. Great list of the relevant papers and nice summary of the predictions.
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  42. actually thoughtfull, the reason for the 'The sun is cooling' rebuttal on the various 'Planet XYZ is warming' claims is that the underlying 'skeptic' argument is that these other planets are warming BECAUSE of the Sun. The reasoning goes that warming on multiple planets can only be caused by a common source... which is of course a logical fallacy, but since the supposed common source has also been in decline the claim is obviously specious.

    In my opinion the best argument against the various 'planet XYZ is warming' claims is that we have nowhere near enough data for any reasonable person to even make such a claim. Here on Earth we have thousands of temperature stations all over the planet with daily readings going back over a century... and 'skeptics' say we can't pin down the temperature trend from that. Yet for these other planets we have VASTLY less temperature data for a far shorter time and the same 'skeptics' are absolutely convinced that ANY uptick in the readings means a warming trend.
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  43. Scaddenp (whoever you are) thanks for those links. I see that the Realclimate article (Note 1) suggests that “we have come out of the recent La Niña-induced slump .. ” Some sceptics are arguing that the “slump” will continue for a few decades at least so it will be interesting to see if in 2040 Gavin is still sticking to his opinion that “.. temperatures are back in the middle of the model estimates .. ” or if he’ll find some way of spinning the continuing cooling into a result of our continuing dependence on fossil fuels for economic growth.

    I love this statement of Gavin’s “there are multiple model runs that have a lower trend than observed .. Thus ‘a model’ did show a trend consistent with the current ‘pause’. However, that these models showed it, is just coincidence and one shouldn’t assume that these models are better than the others. Had the real world ‘pause’ happened at another time, different models would have had the closest match ..”. I would suggest that one shouldn’t assume that any of the models are able to make reliable predictions/projections of global climates even for just a decade from now, never mind to 2100.

    As Dr. Vincent Gray said recently “ .. It has to be admitted that climate models have never been validated in the manner I have stated. They always forecast so far ahead that nobody is able to check, and if they are tempted to forecast just a few years ahead they always have an excuse when it fails .. ”.

    NOTES:
    1) see http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/12/updates-to-model-data-comparisons/

    Best regards, Pete Ridley.
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  44. Just to let you know that John has asked that comments about the computer models be taken to his http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-models.html thread.
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  45. Sorry, wrong link - should be http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php?p=4&t=189&&a=15
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  46. Would it be possible to get something like this for the translators too? (Yes, I'm one of those.) :D

    As it is now in the translated sections, the titles (like "Did global warming stop in 1998?") wind up as the sceptic arguments in the Arguments list (while they aren't) and the rebuttal is the entire content of the green box in the actual article, which sometimes is kinda, well, long. :P

    Proposed adjustments:

    - make the bold first line in the "red box" show as the sceptic argument. (I could use the sceptic arguments as titles so they'd show in the Arguments list, but that'd mean misleading titles like "We're heading into an ice age!" or "It's cosmic rays!", which I assume we don't really want.)

    - make an extra window for a short rebuttal, which doesn't show up in the actual rebuttal article but only on the Arguments list. If no short rebuttal is submitted, the content of the green box is used automatically instead.

    *hurries back to working on "Wordt opwarming veroorzaakt door kosmische straling?"*
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    Response: Re translations and the one-liners, I'm going to shortly restructure the whole rebuttal database so that will throw everything into disarray and we'll need to rethink the whole translation system too. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it.
  47. 42 CBDunkerson - THANK YOU - now it makes sense.
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  48. Pete Ridley - "Some sceptics are arguing that the “slump”... ". And this opinion is based on what physics?

    15-20 years of flat or negative temperatures while GHGs rise would clearly invalidate AGW. However, the point that Gavin is making is that models do not produce linear warming and demanding that do is a straw man. The actual pattern of temperature rise that you get in the model depends on how the model is initialised. The nature of the models is that are predicting climate not weather - trends over a 15-20 year. They do not have the skill to predict shorter periods and make no claim as such. Everyone might wish they do but so far this has not been possible. The predictions that do make are rather accurate and in this I mean the patterns of warming, not just the temperature trend. (eg warmer nights, arctic amplification, upper stratospheric cooling, warming ocean etc)

    "I would suggest that one shouldn’t assume that any of the models are able to make reliable predictions/projections of global climates even for just a decade from now, never mind to 2100."

    You can suggest butterflies in India are responsible for climate but until to you provide a basis for your suggestion, how would we take it seriously? This is to profoundly misunderstand the nature of the models. Hansen 1988 did very well for a model so primitive. My favourite analogy - put a large pot of water on a flame. You will have a hard time predicting the surface temperature distribution beyond a certain accuracy - however you can make the completely solid prediction that the pot will get warmer.
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  49. scaddenp at 07:07 AM, re "15-20 years of flat or negative temperatures while GHGs rise would clearly invalidate AGW."

    Would the converse also apply, IE. 15-20 years of flat or negative GHG whilst temperatures rise?
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  50. scaddenp at 08:16 AM, I was thinking in terms of that positive feedback mechanism being a GHG itself, namely water vapour, and should any warming continue if atmospheric water vapour content stabilises or even falls over such a time frame?
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