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Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation

Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to improve their understanding. Yet this isn't what happens with climate change denial. Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports man-made global warming and yet embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that purports to refute global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?


2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #43

Posted on 25 October 2020 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... SkS Week in Review

Story of the Week...

Alarm as Arctic sea ice not yet freezing at latest date on record

Delayed freeze in Laptev Sea could have knock-on effects across polar region, scientists say

Laptev Sea Ice

Climate change is pushing warmer Atlantic currents into the Arctic and breaking up the usual stratification between warm deep waters and the cool surface. This also makes it difficult for ice to form. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

For the first time since records began, the main nursery of Arctic sea ice in Siberia has yet to start freezing in late October.

The delayed annual freeze in the Laptev Sea has been caused by freakishly protracted warmth in northern Russia and the intrusion of Atlantic waters, say climate scientists who warn of possible knock-on effects across the polar region.

Ocean temperatures in the area recently climbed to more than 5C above average, following a record breaking heatwave and the unusually early decline of last winter’s sea ice.

The trapped heat takes a long time to dissipate into the atmosphere, even at this time of the year when the sun creeps above the horizon for little more than an hour or two each day.

Graphs of sea-ice extent in the Laptev Sea, which usually show a healthy seasonal pulse, appear to have flat-lined. As a result, there is a record amount of open sea in the Arctic. 

Click here to access the entire article as originally published on The Guardian website.

Alarm as Arctic sea ice not yet freezing at latest date on record by Jonathan Watts, Environment, The Guardian, Oct 22, 2020



2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #43

Posted on 24 October 2020 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Oct 18, 2020 through Sat, Oct 24, 2020

Editor's Choice

A second Trump term would mean severe and irreversible changes in the climate

No joke: It would be disastrous on the scale of millennia.

Wildfire in US  


This piece was originally published August 27, and has been lightly updated.

During the final presidential debate Thursday night, both candidates were asked how they would combat climate change and support job growth. President Donald Trump offered few specifics, merely saying that that, “We have the Trillion Trees program. We have so many different programs. I do love the environment.”

But let’s be clear: If Trump is reelected president, the likely result will be irreversible changes to the climate that will degrade the quality of life of every subsequent generation of human beings, with millions of lives harmed or foreshortened. That’s in addition to the hundreds of thousands of lives at present that will be hurt or prematurely end.

This sounds like exaggeration, some of the “alarmism” green types are always accused of. But it is not particularly controversial among those who have followed Trump’s record on energy and climate change.

“As bad as it seems right now,” says Josh Freed of Third Way, a center-left think tank, “the climate and energy scenario in Trump II would be much, much worse.”

Click here to access the entire article as published on the Vox website.

A second Trump term would mean severe and irreversible changes in the climate by David Roberts, Energy & Environment, Vox, Oct 23, 2020



The Debunking Handbook 2020: The elusive backfire effects

Posted on 22 October 2020 by John Cook, BaerbelW

This blog post is part 3 of a series of excerpts from The Debunking Handbook 2020 which can be downloaded here. The list of references is available here.

The elusive backfire effects

Ten years ago, scholars and practitioners were concerned that corrections may “backfire”; that is, ironically strengthen misconceptions rather than reduce them. Recent research has allayed those concerns: backfire effects occur only occasionally and the risk of occurrence is lower in most situations than once thought.

Do not refrain from attempting to debunk or correct misinformation out of fear that doing so will backfire or increase beliefs in false information 66, 67, 68.


Backfire Effect: A backfire effect is where a correction inadvertently increases belief in, or reliance on, misinformation relative to a pre-correction or nocorrection baseline.

Familiarity backfire effect

Repetition makes information more familiar, and familiar information is generally perceived to be more truthful than novel information (the aforementioned illusory-truth effect). Because a myth is necessarily repeated when it is debunked, the risk arises that debunking may backfire by making a myth more familiar (see figure below). Early evidence was supportive of this idea, but more recently, exhaustive experimental attempts to induce a backfire effect through familiarity alone have come up empty 69, 70. Thus, while repeating misinformation generally increases familiarity and truth ratings, repeating a myth while refuting it has been found to be safe in many circumstances, and can even make the correction more salient and effective 71.

FamiliarityBackfireEffect “Debunking a myth makes it more familiar but the debunking usually overpowers the increase in familiarity.”



Skeptical Science New Research for Week #42, 2020

Posted on 21 October 2020 by doug_bostrom

Dust-up at the Denial Corral, in "journal time"

Way back in 2017 the Institute of Physics publication Environmental Research Letters (ERL) published a featured article, Assessing ExxonMobil's climate change communications (1977–2014),  by Supran & Oreskes. The article reverberated widely as it exposed a documented pattern of behavior arguably described as perfidious. The authors also apparently touched a nerve. A desperate attempt to steer attention from the main topic at hand ensued in "journal time" (like "bullet time" yet even slower) but has backfired spectacularly.

Years later— measurably more ppm CO2 later— ERL has published a comment by Swarup on the original work, and an immediate follow-up reply by the authors. Allez! It's fortunate that tickets for this event are free, because it's extremely short. The shot at Supran & Oreskes did not land wide— it bounced off on a reciprocal trajectory, with added energy. 

As Supran & Oreskes seem to have demolished Swarup's remarks we'll leave the last word with them. From the reply to comment: 

ExxonMobil Corp Vice President Vijay Swarup's criticisms of our 2017 study (2017 Environ. Res. Lett. 12 084019), which demonstrated that ExxonMobil misled the public about climate change, are misleading and incorrect. Thanks in part to his feedback, we can now conclude with even greater confidence that Exxon, Mobil, and ExxonMobil Corp have all, variously, misled the public. We introduce new evidence that by the early 1980s, more than a decade before Mobil launched a vast advertising campaign to attack climate science and its implications, they were already explicitly aware of the potential for their products to cause dangerous global warming. We also observe that part of the comment is based on material provided by a contributor recruited and paid by ExxonMobil Corp, in our opinion as part of a product defense strategy. The comment does not disclose that. This is a case in point of what we argue is misleading behavior documented in our original study.

Bold ours. Touché doesn't quite describe it. "Tripped and fell on foil?" The comment, and the reply. Enjoy. 



The Debunking Handbook 2020: Prevent misinformation from sticking if you can

Posted on 20 October 2020 by John Cook, BaerbelW

This blog post is part 2 of a series of excerpts from The Debunking Handbook 2020 which can be downloaded here. The list of references is available here.

Prevent misinformation from sticking if you can

dbh-preventBecause misinformation is sticky, it’s best preempted. This can be achieved by explaining misleading or manipulative argumentation strategies to people—a technique known as “inoculation” that makes people resilient to subsequent manipulation attempts. A potential drawback of inoculation is that it requires advance knowledge of misinformation techniques and is best administered before people are exposed to the misinformation.

As misinformation is hard to dislodge, preventing it from taking root in the first place is one fruitful strategy. Several prevention strategies are known to be effective.

Simply warning people that they might be misinformed can reduce later reliance on misinformation 27, 78. Even general warnings (“the media sometimes does not check facts before publishing information that turns out to be inaccurate”) can make people more receptive to later corrections. Specific warnings that content may be false have been shown to reduce the likelihood that people will share the information online 28.

The process of inoculation or “prebunking” includes a forewarning as well as a preemptive refutation and follows the biomedical analogy 29. By exposing people to a severely weakened dose of the techniques used in misinformation (and by preemptively refuting them), “cognitive antibodies” can be cultivated. For example, by explaining to people how the tobacco industry rolled out “fake experts” in the 1960s to create a chimerical scientific “debate” about the harms from smoking, people become more resistant to subsequent persuasion attempts using the same misleading argumentation in the context of climate change 30.

The effectiveness of inoculation has been shown repeatedly and across many different topics 30, 31, 32, 33, 34. Recently, it has been shown that inoculation can be scaled up through engaging multimedia applications, such as cartoons 35 and games 36, 37.



A Skeptical Science member's path to an experiment on carbon sequestration

Posted on 19 October 2020 by doug_bostrom

During what now seems like another era entirely- back in February of this long year- Skeptical Science regular RedBaron (aka Scott Strough) mentioned in a discussion thread here that he'd been working on an idea for no-till cultivation of vegetables, was seeking to quantify what appeared to be promising results. Scott was a bit stymied on raising a modest amount of funding to defray expenses in connection with a formal experimental method. We suggested he try the crowd-sourced science funding organizer  Despite the singular travails of this year 2020,  Scott's application there (resembling a grant application to such as NSF in many ways) has panned out and he is now in the final days of completing his funding drive. Scott Strough

Scott's story of how he arrived at this juncture  is a bit reminiscent of our own Bärbel Winkler's path to Skeptical Science; life affords ample opportunities for observation, and those observations often compel us into action.

Scott describes himself as a conservative capitalist skeptic- skeptical in the true sense, we note. As he's a properly skeptical inquirer and member of Skeptical Science with a story to tell about how he's applied genuine skeptical thinking to the good, we feel it worth highlighting his work. 

We've taken a bit of Scott's time to explore where he started from, how his skepticism served a useful roll in formulating his concept,  his extended effort to refine what he's discovered about sequestering carbon while raising food,  how he's seeking to quantify that. As well, Scott tells us some useful things about applying for funding and the persistence required for success. Finally, for home gardeners and cultivators Scott has some practical advice to offer on gardening or raising vegetables in a "climate friendly" way. 

And again, Scott is currently seeking to complete funding for his project, so if you're excited by his approach do lend some support. 



2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #42

Posted on 18 October 2020 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... Opinion of the Week... Toon of the Week... Coming Soon on SkS... Climate Feedback Claim Review... SkS Week in Review... Poster of the Week...

Story of the Week...

Earth has warmest September on record, and 2020 may clinch hottest year

Record warmth in Europe and Asia overwhelms a burgeoning La Niña cooling event.

Photo collage-climate scenarios-global climate reports-NOAA

Photo collage by NOAA

The planet just recorded its hottest September since at least 1880, according to three of the authoritative temperature-tracking agencies in the world. The data, most of which was released Wednesday, shows that 2020 is on track to be one of the hottest years on record, with the possibility of tying or breaking the milestone for the hottest year, set in 2016.

In addition, 2020 is likely to be the hottest year when a La Niña event was present in the tropical Pacific Ocean. This climate phenomenon is characterized by cooler-than-average ocean temperatures near the equator in the central and eastern tropical Pacific, and it tends to lower global temperatures slightly. (El Niño events, on the other hand, add even more heat to the planet, causing temperature spikes on top of global warming.)

These trends are all consistent with rapid global warming driven primarily by human emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.

Click here to access the entire article as originally published on the Washington Post website. 

Earth has warmest September on record, and 2020 may clinch hottest year by Andrew Freedman, Capital Weather Gang, Washington Post, Oct 14, 2020



2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #42

Posted on 17 October 2020 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Oct 11, 2020 through Sat, Oct 17, 2020

Editor's Choice


 Field Guide

The presidential election is just weeks away, and climate change has broken through as a defining issue for Americans this year, even amid a historic pandemic and deep economic uncertainty weighing upon the nation.

Two-thirds of Americans say the government isn’t doing enough to reduce the effects of global warming, according to a June survey from the Pew Research Center, and the two presidential candidates’ approaches couldn’t be further apart. President Trump has often dismissed global warming as a hoax; his rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., calls climate change an “emergency” that requires rapidly overhauling the nation’s energy system.

Their differences raise profound questions about the government’s role in shaping the United States economy and America’s place on the world stage. Here’s a guide to major climate questions in the election.

Click here to access the entire article as originally published on The New York Times website. 

A Field Guide to the Election and Climate Change by Brad Plumer, Climate, New York Times, Oct 14, 2020



The Debunking Handbook 2020: Misinformation is damaging and sticky

Posted on 16 October 2020 by John Cook, BaerbelW

This blog post is part 1 of a series of excerpts from The Debunking Handbook 2020 which can be downloaded here. The list of references is available here.

Misinformation can do damage

DBH-damageMisinformation is false information that is spread either by mistake or with intent to mislead. When there is intent to mislead, it is called disinformation. Misinformation has the potential to cause substantial harm to individuals and society. It is therefore important to protect people against being misinformed, either by making them resilient against misinformation before it is encountered or by debunking it after people have been exposed.

Misinformation damages society in a number of ways 4, 5. If parents withhold vaccinations from their children based on mistaken beliefs, public health suffers 6. If people fall for conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19, they are less likely to comply with government guidelines to manage the pandemic 7, thereby imperiling all of us.

It’s easy to be misled. Our feelings of familiarity and truth are often linked. We are more likely to believe things that we have heard many times than new information.

This phenomenon is called the “illusory truth effect” 8, 9. Thus, the more people encounter a piece of misinformation they do not challenge, the more the misinformation seems true, and the more it sticks. Even if a source is identified as unreliable or is blatantly false and inconsistent with people’s ideology, repeated exposure to information still tilts people towards believing its claims 10, 11, 12, 13.

Misinformation is also often steeped in emotional language and designed to be attention-grabbing and have persuasive appeal. This facilitates its spread and can boost its impact 14, especially in the current online economy in which user attention has become a commodity 15.

Misinformation can also be intentionally suggested by “just asking questions”; a technique that allows provocateurs to hint at falsehoods or conspiracies while maintaining a facade of respectability 16. For example, in one study, merely presenting questions that hinted at a conspiracy relating to the Zika virus induced significant belief in the conspiracy 16. Likewise, if you do not read past a headline such as “Are aliens amongst us?” you might walk away with the wrong idea.



The Debunking Handbook 2020: Downloads and Translations

Posted on 14 October 2020 by John Cook, BaerbelW

DBH2020-EN-ThumbIn November 2011, we published The Debunking Handbook. As the update notice on that page already shows, more research has come in since then and the time had finally come for a complete overhaul of this very popular handbook (it still gets downloaded a couple of thousand times in most months!). The two authors of the original handbook - Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook - got in touch with other researchers who look into how best to counter misinformation and 20 of them signed up as co-authors. The result of their work can now be downloaded as The Debunking Handbook 2020.

The handbook is a consensus document that was created by an innovative process that involved a series of predefined steps, all of which were followed and documented and are publicly available. The authors were invited based on their scientific status in the field, and they all agreed on all points made in the handbook. We therefore believe that the new Handbook reflects the scientific consensus about how to combat misinformation. Read more about the consensus process.

The Handbook distills the most important research findings and current expert advice about debunking misinformation and contains information about these topics:

  • Misinformation can do damage
  • Where does misinformation come from?
  • Misinformation can be sticky
  • Sticky myths leave other marks
  • Prevent misinformation from sticking if you can
  • Simple steps to greater media literacy
  • The elusive backfire effects
  • Debunk often and properly





Skeptical Science New Research for Week #41, 2020

Posted on 14 October 2020 by doug_bostrom

Zika follows climate

Sadie Ryan and coauthors combine what we know about the Zika virus and its preferred regime with modeling to show the pathogen will greatly expand its range during the next few decades. We do have some remaining control over the situation. From the abstract:

"In the aftermath of the 2015 pandemic of Zika virus, concerns over links between climate change and emerging arboviruses have become more pressing. Given the potential that much of the world might remain at risk from the virus, we used a previously established temperature‐dependent transmission model for Zika virus (ZIKV) to project climate change impacts on transmission suitability risk by mid‐century (a generation into the future). Based on these model predictions, in the worst‐case scenario, over 1.3 billion new people could face suitable transmission temperatures for ZIKV by 2050. The next generation will face substantially increased ZIKV transmission temperature suitability in North America and Europe, where naïve populations might be particularly vulnerable. Mitigating climate change even to moderate emissions scenarios could significantly reduce global expansion of climates suitable for ZIKV transmission, potentially protecting around 200 million people."

Open access and free to read: Warming temperatures could expose more than 1.3 billion new people to Zika virus risk by 2050

95 Articles

Physical science of global warming & effects

Entropy Production Rates of the Climate
Open Access pdf DOI: 10.1175/jas-d-19-0294.1

Observations of global warming & effects

Record‐setting climate enabled the extraordinary 2020 fire season in the western United States
Open Access pdf DOI: 10.1111/gcb.15388

Observed snow depth trends in the European Alps 1971 to 2019
Open Access pdf DOI: 10.5194/tc-2020-289 (preprint)

Revisiting climate change effects on winter chill in mountain oases of northern Oman
Open Access pdf DOI: 10.1007/s10584-020-02862-8 (preprint)

Global and cross-country analysis of exposure of vulnerable populations to heatwaves from 1980 to 2018
Open Access pdf DOI: 10.1007/s10584-020-02884-2

Extending and understanding the South West Western Australian rainfall record using a snowfall reconstruction from Law Dome, East Antarctica
Open Access pdf DOI: 10.5194/cp-2020-124 (preprint)

Dominant Influence of ENSO-Like and Global Sea Surface Temperature Patterns on Changes in Prevailing Boreal Summer Tropical Cyclone Tracks over the Western North Pacific
DOI: 10.1175/jcli-d-19-0774.1

Contributions of climate change, elevated atmospheric CO2 and human activities to ET and GPP trends in the Three-North Region of China
DOI: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2020.108183

Identification of possible dynamical drivers for long-term changes in temperature and rainfall patterns over Europe
Open Access pdf DOI: 10.1007/s00704-020-03373-3



What does the global shift in diets mean for climate change?

Posted on 13 October 2020 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Carbon Brief by Josh Gabbatiss

To limit global warming while feeding an expanding population, every part of the food system from farming to refrigeration will likely need to become cleaner and more efficient. 

At the same time, there is growing recognition of the important role people’s diets will need to play in achieving international climate targets.

The food people eat is heavily influenced by culture, geography and wealth, but governments can also play a key role in influencing dietary change, through everything from farming subsidies to healthy eating guidelines.

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief examines how diets are already changing and what will be required to ensure the world’s food consumption is “climate-friendly”.

What is a ‘climate-friendly’ diet?

There has been extensive discussion of what constitutes a “climate-friendly” diet. While there is no universally accepted answer and no internationally agreed guidelines, the scientific consensus has converged on a handful of key features.

Chief among these is the importance of keeping animal products – particularly red meat, such as beef, and dairy – to a minimum. 

Nevertheless, the impact of meat and dairy on the climate is a complex and contentious issue, which is explored in far greater depth in Carbon Brief’s interactive explainer.

Food and climate
This article is part of a week-long special series on how food production, consumption and waste are helping to drive climate change



Bleak views of melting Antarctic ice, from above and below

Posted on 12 October 2020 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Karin Kirk

Images from satellites high above the Earth have helped a research team put together a stark visual chronicle of decades of glacier disintegration in Antarctica. Meanwhile, a separate international research team has taken the opposite perspective – studying the ice from its underbelly. Both teams are documenting the stress on two glaciers in West Antarctica that so far have helped check a massive stream of melting ice responsible for about 5 percent of Earth’s rising sea levels.

Climate researchers have long monitored ice sheet dynamics in the Amundsen Sea, focusing specifically on the Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers. The two sit side by side on Antarctica’s western peninsula covering an area roughly the size of nine U.S. coastal states stretching from Maine to Maryland. The two glaciers alone store ice that could account for about 4 feet (1.2 meters) of global sea level rise. Their “seaboard” location may help bring increased public attention and interest to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which if it melted could raise seas by a catastrophic 11 feet (3.4 meters).

An international effort led by the British Antarctic Survey recently published two papers (Hogan et al. and Jordan et al.) showing the first detailed maps of the seafloor at the edge of the Thwaites Glacier. The team mapped deep submarine channels that have been funneling warm water to this vulnerable location. High-resolution imagery pinpoints the pathways that allow warm water to undermine the ice shelf. Lead author Kelly Hogan of the British Antarctic Survey says the findings will improve estimates of sea-level rise from Thwaites Glacier. “We can go ahead and make those calculations about how much warm water can get under the ice and melt it,” Hogan said.

The other researchers, led by Stef Lhermitte, found stark visual confirmation of glacier disintegration using decades of time-lapse satellite imagery. Their work sheds light on the accelerating feedback process, wherein the rapid loss of ice is opening the door to ever-increasing melting.



2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #41

Posted on 11 October 2020 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... El Niño/La Niña Update... Toon of the Week... Climate Feedback Article Review... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... SkS Week in Review...

Story of the Week...

How Joe Biden could reorient foreign policy around climate change

A new report lays out a series of bold steps Biden could take as president without any help from Congress.

Joe Biden


When climate activists evaluate Joe Biden, they tend to focus on domestic policy. But the realities of the US system of government are such that the president is fairly constrained on domestic policy — by Congress, the courts, and his own party.

It is foreign policy where the president has the most power and discretion. How and whether Biden centers climate change in his foreign policy will be an enormous part of his legacy.

Biden has a deep record on foreign policy — his personal connection with world leaders is one of his regular talking points — and in particular he claims considerable credit for securing the Paris climate agreement (though the exact extent of his involvement is somewhat in dispute). But relative to his domestic policies, his climate pledges on foreign policy have come in for less attention and scrutiny from the climate world.

new report out Friday from the Climate Solutions Lab (CSL), housed at the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University, helps address that deficit. It takes a close look at what Biden has pledged to do to advance climate action through foreign policy and suggests 10 further actions he could take — on his own, on day one — without any help from Congress.

One of the overarching lessons from the report is that the president’s foreign-policy powers are extensive and have never been fully pressed in service of climate action. It is a look at how Biden can best use his power where he has the most of it.

The report is divided up based on the three core foreign policy goals Biden has articulated: restoring US leadership on key global challenges, safeguarding America’s economic future, and strengthening US democracy and democratic alliances. In each area, CSL recounts the climate commitments Biden has made so far and explains why and how he should go further. Let’s run through them quickly.

Click here to access the entire article as originally poted on the Vox website.

How Joe Biden could reorient foreign policy around climate change by David Roberts, Energy & Environment, Vox, Oct 9, 2020



2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #41

Posted on 10 October 2020 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Oct 4, 2020 through Sat, Oct 10, 2020

Editor's Choice

What Have We Learned in Thirty Years of Covering Climate Change?

Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, WY

A climate scientist who has studied the Exxon Valdez oil spill earned the Democratic nomination for the Senate in Wyoming, a state that has a lot of coal. Photograph from National Park Service / NYT / Redux

About a year ago, the editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick, called to ask if I thought it might make sense to publish an anthology of the reporting on climate change that has appeared in the magazine’s pages. Since he works at a breakneck pace, that volume appears in print this week, under the title “The Fragile Earth.” It’s a wonderful book, demonstrating not only the depth of The New Yorker’s commitment to this planet but also the ever-growing sophistication with which writers have taken on this most important of topics. The dark splendor of Elizabeth Kolbert’s pieces alone is worth the thirty dollars. 

Click here to access the entire article originally posted on The New York Magazine website. 

What Have We Learned in Thirty Years of Covering Climate Change? by Bill McKibben, Annals of Climate Change, The New Yorker Magazine, Oct 7, 2020



Why a climate vote for Biden means the Earth

Posted on 8 October 2020 by Guest Author

Voting is always one of the most powerful things we can do to fight climate change. Even so, sometimes it can feel like a choice of the lesser of two evils. But Joe Biden's climate policy platform is potentially Earth changing, especially compared to Donald Trump's. So in 2020, the result of the US election could mean the world.



Skeptical Science New Research for Week #40, 2020

Posted on 7 October 2020 by doug_bostrom

"Regression to the tail"

Distinguished scholar Bent Flyvbjerg offers some sobering words on our experiential boundaries and hence our limitations on statistical thinking. To help address these he introduces a new concept:

"There is nothing as practical as a theory that is correct. Regression to the mean has been proven mathematically for many types of statistics and is highly useful in health, insurance, schools, on factory floors, in casinos, and in risk management, e.g., for flight safety.

But regression to the mean presupposes that a population mean exists. For some random events of great social consequence this is not the case.

Size-distributions of pandemics, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, wars, and terrorist attacks, e.g., have no population mean, or the mean is ill defined due to infinite variance. In other words, mean and/or variance do not exist. Regression to the mean is a meaningless concept for such distributions, whereas what one might call "regression to the tail" is meaningful and consequential."

Professor Flyvbjerg elaborates and elucidates his thinking in this must-read comment to ES&P: The law of regression to the tail: How to survive Covid-19, the climate crisis, and other disasters

New Research tweak on "preprint" articles

In our feeds we occasionally receive pointers to  "preprint" versions of papers. The paper has crossed the second hurdle (after research and writing!) before publication and has been accepted for review by an editor, but has not yet been waved through by peer reviewers for publishing. After a bit of internal discussion our decision is to list these with a tag "(preprint)." The deciding factor here is deference to the policy of a journal to invite members of the public to see such work in progress. 

It is inadvisable to construct an elaborate mental model or argument based on the content of papers with preprint status.

101 articles

Physical science of global warming & effects

The dimmest state of the Sun 1
DOI: 10.1029/2020gl090243

Factors Regulating the Multidecadal Changes in MJO Amplitude over the Twentieth Century



What Tucker Carlson gets wrong about causes of wildfires in U.S. West

Posted on 6 October 2020 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

Western wildfires – their principal causes and not just their impacts – have gotten some prime time media attention in recent weeks, including even in the final segment of the September 29 first presidential “debate” between the two major party candidates.

Is it forest management or land management generally that’s the principal cause for sparking the fires that have crumbled hundreds of thousands of western acres into ashes? Or is it climate change? Or is it both?

That’s the focus of independent videographer Peter Sinclair’s new video for Yale Climate Connections. He sets the table using a CBS clip capturing the historical scope of the current fire season’s blazes. And then cuts to Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson telling his vast audience that “all we have is conjecture from a handful of scientists and many politicians” pointing the finger primarily at climate change. “None of whom has reached a definitive conclusion,” he says of those holding that view.

After National Center for Atmospheric Research distinguished scholar Kevin Trenberth and Harvard professor Loretta Mickley pour water on those embers of misinformation, the video shows Carlson quoting words he attributes to UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain appearing to support Carlson’s take on things.

But Swain comes in to say he’s never spoken to Carlson, his staff, or others at Fox on the issue. He thinks that he’s been misrepresented through a cherry-picked paraphrase of his actual position. He points to an article in MIT Technology Review as the likely source for Carlson’s flawed conclusion.

At that point, the headline of the article in question is shown: “Yes, climate change is almost certainly fueling California’s massive fires.” In that article, Swain is reported as saying extreme summer lightening events in coastal parts of Northern California are so infrequent that “it’s hard to assess whether climate change played a role in sparking the fires.”

Important question: What happens after the initial spark?

Swain, in the new video, says, “The reality is that there’s always going to be sparks that can start a fire. The real question is what happens given that spark? All of the evidence points in the direction of strongly suggesting that those fires are becoming larger, more intense, and behaving more extremely because of climate change.”

The Sinclair video reports also that the Fox piece by Carlson omitted “the very next paragraph” from the MIT Technology Review source report: “But so called extreme weather attribution studies have clearly and repeatedly found that climate change exacerbates heat waves, which help create the conditions for wildfires to burn intensely and spread rapidly.”

Jonathan Overpeck, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan, says the current prolonged western U.S. drought is “not a drought of yore.” Instead, it’s an example of an aridification – the result of Earth’s warming temperatures and the further drying out of already dry regions.

Mickley, of Harvard, points not so much to the specific spark that might lead to a wildfire as to “the extent of the fires, how big the fires grow really depends on the weather.”

Back to Swain. He points to the once-famous “Smokey the Bear” forestry fire public service campaigns well-known to many Americans over a certain age: “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.” He says the century-long drive to stomp out virtually every fire, regardless of risk posed, led to a “deficit of ‘good fire,'” the kind of planned burns and other controlled fires that helped consume excessive underbrush.

That well intentioned, but perhaps overly zealous, campaign resulted in a “buildup of unusually dense vegetation, which unfortunately has become a buildup of unusually dense fuel for wildfires over the past few decades.” Overpeck agrees, saying forested areas could benefit from more controlled fires, but “the job is gigantic” and resources to do it inadequate.

“Just about all the fire scientists I talk to agree that climate change is making” the wildfire challenge “worse than it would be otherwise,” Swain says in the video.

To Mickley, the situation appears bound to only get worse in coming years. “Not just one, but all the climate models predict uniformly higher temperatures and drought in the western U.S. by 2050, and certainly by 2100. The outcome will be “really large increases in the area burned,” she says, with some areas seeing 25% more acres burned and others seeing a four-fold, or 400%, increase in acreage burned in wildfires.



Critical Thinking about Climate - a video series by John Cook

Posted on 5 October 2020 by John Cook, BaerbelW

This is a collection of videos based on individual blog posts on John Cook's Cranky Uncle website. The videos are part of a virtual grad class “Understanding and Responding to Climate Misinformation” that John Cook is teaching at George Mason University with Natalie Burls & Tim DelSole. Their class teaches climate & communication students the climate & comm research needed to debunk climate misinformation.

Part 1 - The five climate disbeliefs

The five climate disbeliefs: a crash course in climate misinformation (27 minutes)

You can summarize climate change in just ten words: it's real, it's us, experts agree, it's bad, there's hope. Climate change misinformation is like a bizarro world version of this summarized with five categories: it's not real, it's not us, experts are unreliable, it's not bad, there's no hope. Understanding the arguments of climate denial is the first step to countering it. This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality of climate change and delay climate action.



2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #40

Posted on 4 October 2020 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... Toon of the Week... Coming Soon on SkS... Climate Feedback Article Review... SkS Week in Review... Poster of the Week...

Story of the Week...

Global heating warming up 'nights faster than days'

Effect seen across much of world will have profound consequences, warn scientists

Polar Bear

The changes will impact many animal species and their ability to adapt to the climate crisis, research shows. Photograph: NiseriN/Getty/iStockPhoto

The climate crisis is heating up nights faster than days in many parts of the world, according to the first worldwide assessment of how global heating is differently affecting days and nights.

The findings have “profound consequences” for wildlife and their ability to adapt to the climate emergency, the researchers said, and for the ability of people to cool off at night during dangerous heatwaves.

The scientists compared the rises in daytime and night-time temperatures over the 35 years up to 2017. Global heating is increasing both, but they found that over more than half of the world’s land there was a difference of at least 0.25C between the day and night rises.

In two-thirds of those places, nights were warming faster than the days, particularly in Europe, west Africa, western South America and central Asia. But in some places – southern US, Mexico and the Middle East – days were warming faster.

Click here to access the entire article as originally posted on The Guardian website.

Global heating warming up 'nights faster than days' by Damian Carrington, Environment, The Guardian, Sep 30, 2020



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