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Do 500 scientists refute anthropogenic global warming?

Posted on 15 September 2007 by John Cook

The latest attack on global warming consensus comes from Dennis Avery and Fred Singer who claim to have found 500 peer reviewed papers refuting that the last few decades of global warming are primarily anthropogenic. Previous attempts to find peer reviewed skeptic studies tend to miscategorise as skeptic despite the intent of the author or indeed the content of the paper. Avery and Singer appear to carry on this tradition.

While their press release peddles many skeptic myths (which I'm sure I'll be covering in future posts), the major theme is that over 300 studies have found climate has changed in the past and/or that the sun is connected. Tamino at Open Mind does a good job explaining the 1500 year natural cycles (or Dansgaard-Oeschger events) along with some useful links to relevant peer reviewed studies. I've also touched on the notion that climate has changed naturally in the past so it must be natural now.

My personal hobby horse is the sun's connection to global warming (or lack thereof). I would've thought the empirical data and many studies on the topic had long put this baby to rest but going on the long line of comments, the facts don't seem to have made a dent in the misconception. Blaming climate change on the sun is intuitive - to paraphrase the Great Global Warming Swindle: "me small... sun big". Hard to refute that kind of barnstorming logic. Nevertheless, I'll have another crack at breaking down the logical steps of why we know solar variations aren't causing global warming:

  1. The sun has closely correlated with temperature in the past and been a major driver of climate
  2. The correlation ended in the 70's when the modern global warming trend began
  3. Therefore the sun cannot be the driving force of global warming over the past few decades

In other words, all the studies showing past correlation between solar activity and temperature only serve to emphasise the fact that the correlation no longer exists. Rather than refute the consensus, they reinforce it.

The other debate raging in the sun comments is whether the sun has been getting hotter in the past few decades. No matter how you look at the data - whether you use PMOD or ACRIM, whether you compare maximums or minimums or take 11 year averages, there is still no correlation between sun and climate. The fact that we're arguing about whether there's a slight cooling trend, a slight warming trend or no trend at all underscores the sharp divergence between sun and temperature over the past 30 years.

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Comments 1 to 14:

  1. Over 500 scientists from all over the globe showed up in NYC recently to discuss AGW and Climate Change. It was sponsered primarily by Heartland. I have read their "consensus" on the Heartland web site but I have no idea what branches of science they represent. Heartland are definate AGW deniers so I don't put much stock in their summary but I sure would love to know who they were and how the discussion went (I'm a skeptic, not a denier).
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  2. You guys might have heard about this, but there are some very annoyed scientists around now that they have discovered their names are on the list without permission. They are also very annoyed at having their science twisted around to suit Heartland's purposes e.g. "I am horrified to find my name on such a list. I have spent the last 20 years arguing the opposite." Dr. David Sugden. Professor of Geography, University of Edinburgh"
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  3. Professor Sugden should be adviced to take note of Richard Feynman's attitude towards science: Any time we come up with something new, our responsibility as scientists is to try find out what is wrong with it. (Don't have the exact quote at hand, but i am sure it was better in the original wording). Now everybody is more concerned about who belongs to which tribe in the climate war than about trying to find out how they themselves might have erred. After every new paper one should ask: how could this be falsified? If that can be answered, we are talking science, if not, politics.
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  4. Well I don't know how many (nor do I actually care) but I have talked to quite a few and read the papers of quite a few more now, that refute the IPCC stance. They do not refute the issue however, just CO2 as the cause.
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  5. Re #3 That's not real a good description of science. On reading a new paper one should ask: (i) Does the data justify the interpretations? (ii) What implications does this evidence have for the particular issue under study? (iii) Does the paper stimulate me to address the issues with new experiments and what might these new experiments be? Note that the issue of "falsification" is much better addressed during the process of experimentation and observation that lead to the preparation of the paper. Indeed that's where "falsification" should be addressed, and it's a major part of the peer-review process in pukka scientific journals to ensure that this is done properly. Initial observations should be addressed with appropriate control experiments. Alternative explanations of observations should be tested with appropriate experiments. Notice that your comment about "tribes" is unjustified and doesn't relate very well to real science. It's more of a political allusion. There aren't really any "tribes" in the science (of course all scientists make a personal investment in their particular ideas and hypotheses, and sometimes these can give rise to a certain set of more widespread preferences in ill-defined research areas). In general there is only the science and its evidence. The notion of "tribes" is a construct of those that wish to create the illusion of controversy or uncertainty where this might not exist...
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  6. Sorry, it's the sun. Arctic air temperature is strongly correlated with total solar irradiance over the period 1880 to 2000 [Soon, W. (2005) Geophysical Research Letters 32, 2005GL023429, and Hoyt, D. V. and Schatten, K. H. (1993) J. Geophvsical Res. 98, 18895-18906]. What is NOT correlated with arctic air temperature is hydrocarbon use [Marland, G., Boden, T. A., and Andres, Ri J. (2007) Global, Regional, and National CO2 Emissions. In Trends: A Compendium of Data on Global Change. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, TN, USA]
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  7. @oxymoron: sorry, but it's definitely not the sun. Arctic air temperatures have been going up in the past decades, like CO2 concentration, while TSI has been going down.
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  8. archiesteel: CO2 concentrations began rising significantly around 1940, but temperatures dropped from 1940 to 1970, so it definitely is not CO2.
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  9. oxymoron, you might want to look at the following: CO2 is not the only driver of climate What happened to greenhouse warming during mid-century cooling?
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  10. You also might want to consider whether CO2 or "the Sun" is a better fit for the temperature trend, especially post-1970s: Ignore the PDO line for now, and just focus on temperatures (RSS, GISS), CO2, and TSI (solar). ------------- PDO data from University of Washington. Surface temperatures from GISS land+ocean. Satellite temperatures from RSS. Law Dome CO2 from NOAA NCDC. Mauna Loa CO2 from NOAA ESRL. PDO and temperature data shown in monthly and 120-month LOESS smoothed versions. Law Dome CO2 dating based on "air age" with 20-year smoothing. Mauna Loa CO2 (monthly) are seasonally adjusted. Both CO2 data sets were log-transformed (base 2). Data sets with differing units (PDO, temperature, log[CO2]) have been scaled to fit on the same graph. Solar irradiance data from University of Colorado, shown annually and with a 22-year LOESS smoothing function.
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  11. @oxymoron: what Ned said. In one word: aerosols.
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  12. archiesteel: Certainly before 2000 the correlation between TSI and temperature is obvious. Ned: Thanks for the references. I will take a look. I do not see any correlation between CO2 and temperature.
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    Moderator Response: Wrong thread for that conversation. Please look through the list of "Arguments" to find a more relevant one on which to post your next comment on that topic.
  13. @oxymoron: I responded to you in the It's the sun thread. Needless to say, you are wrong in your assessment, as that article demonstrates.
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  14. Most interesting these "500 scientists."  Sen. James Inhofe came up with a similiar list of "700 scientist opposing global warming."  We chased down this list.  Turns out there were just a little over 200, and a number of those were duplicative entries.  Many were non-degreed weathermen (I appologize for not having numbers, but we did this a couple of years ago for fun).  Some were from "private institutes," consisting of one man's living room or listed as being on the faculty of an institute not found in Google (doesn't mean they don't exist, but . . .).  Many were retired.  The vast majority were from unrelated fields.  25 or so worked directly for or in a research institute funded by the oil industry. We finally narrowed the list to just one person who had a PhD in climatology with an appointment in a legitimate university.  They quote attributed to him turned out to be taken grossly out of context, with the paper clearly stating that he considered his findings supported anthropogenic global warming.

    It would make an interesting study to put the list of "published papers" to a similiar examination.  Did Singer/Avery actually publish the list?

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