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Climate Hustle

The Missing Link, Creationism and Climate Change

Posted on 17 July 2010 by gpwayne

Guest post by Graham Wayne

I’ve always thought it rather specious to demand conclusive causative evidence that anthropogenic CO2 causes climate change. Skeptical Science has frequently demonstrated how good a case science can make for anthropogenic climate change (ACC), including a round-up of multiple lines of empirical evidence.

Yet the evidence does not impinge on some arguments. In desperation, I’ve also tried logic – don’t laugh – and it’s hard to know quite how the wheels can come off so fast, except to observe that logic depends on conventions that both sides of a debate must consistently observe. The glorious advantage of the ‘missing link’ argument is, as creationists already know, it presents a perfect, self-reinforcing paradigm of scientific failure, built on the straw foundations of mathematical proofs applied to linear systems; predictable – if not inviolable, processes. The inferential science of observation and rationalisation is demeaned and denied, even though a control Earth to play with is a patently absurd idea. So many arguments depend on the exclusive precepts of classical science; rule and regulation, set in stone (or so they appear to the unwary). Too bad the ecosystem doesn’t work like that.

* * *

William of Ockham’s razor often gets wielded in a dangerous manner. When you apply it properly, you have a fairly standard reductionist chain of inference that leads to anthropogenic climate change, because no other contender is left standing. This isn’t a popular line of reasoning in the climate debate, however, because it lends itself to easily to rebuttals that focus on what you might call a negative proof e.g. ‘it’s what is left’. In fact, science works through many hypotheses in this way, starting with as many ideas as can be generated, before testing them with the ubiquitous razor – truly the cut and thrust of science: last theory standing.

Personally, I don’t have any problem with this rationalisation, although I have read enough science to know that the evidence is very coherent. I was won over by the sheer weight of it; overpowered, actually. Only the cautionary note of scepticism remained: it was theoretically possible that some exotic, as yet undiscovered, causative mechanism was at work, heating up the planet. Theoretically. The weight I assign to this probability is measured by the time we’ve had to postulate, let alone find, such a mechanism. For all the hot air, the denial industry has failed spectacularly to suggest anything that fits all the criteria.

All the criteria. There it is; the catalyst for this article. I’ve been looking for a better way to explain how climate science adds up, and when I read Naomi Oreskes reference to "multiple, independent lines of evidence converging on a single coherent account", I found what I was looking for.

Climate science is a Pandora’s box, out of which come primary questions. These questions, which are fundamental, cannot be un-asked; we asked what would happen to the climate if we artificially increased the proportions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and the answer is important. Science cannot get bored with the question, turn to something more interesting. Nor can it be halted by threat, by intimidation or censure, by propaganda or popular opinion. We are compelled now, as ever, to answer the primary questions that science is asking. And when we consider the sheer scope of potential and observed climate changes and the multi-disciplinary range of investigation, it becomes evident how powerful a paradigm anthropogenic climate change really is, for it is the ‘single coherent account’ that Oreskes identifies so well.

Anthropogenic climate change is not where science starts, thinking to fit the theory to as many phenomena as it can. ACC is where you end up following any single line of enquiry. Only when you reach this destination do you look around, to discover that everyone else has arrived at the same terminus. This is the consensus of climate change: the end point of all journeys for those studying sea level rises, the Arctic, the Antarctic, the glaciers and the ice caps, the changes in precipitation, seasonal periodicity, changes in ocean pH, weather events, droughts and famines, resource management, agriculture – and every effect being studied is occurring simultaneously. (I cannot stress how important I believe this last point to be: nearly all phenomena associated with climate change have occurred in the past – and this is a common argument of course. What rarely gets asked is this: at what point in the history of the earth did all these things happen at the same time, and at the same speed?)

Every discipline that finds itself affected or threatened by climate change reaches the same broad conclusion, the ‘single coherent account’ that is anthropogenic climate change. It is time we stopped pretending there is likely to be another theory, another causative agent, that could be changing the planet’s ecosystem, and owned up. So far, we look rather more like children crying ‘I didn’t touch it...it fell all on its own’, than adults accepting responsibility for what we do. We have a coherent account; let’s match it with actions that are equally coherent, and let’s do it while we can, because we are surely running out of time.

You can catch more of Graham's musings at gpwayne.wordpress.com.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 115:

  1. Nicely done Graham, well summarised. Your comment "So far, we look rather more like children crying ‘I didn’t touch it...it fell all on its own’, than adults accepting responsibility for what we do" doesn't quite do justice to the denialist approach though. To continue your metaphor, they are more like the child who says "it broke on its own". "No it didn't". "Well, it was an earthquake" "No, there wasn't an earthquake" Well it was an elephant who escaped from the circus and came in our house and knocked the vase down" "There is no circus, and elephants wouldn't knock down one vase without leaving other tracks". "Well, it was a ghost of a naughty child and they are invisible and no one can see them except me" ,,,,,
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  2. Gosh David, you were quick off the mark. I also suspect you may have children (I don't) because your exposition seems authorative :)

    (I'd only add that perhaps it was a naughty invisible scientist, whose proof that climate change isn't being caused by us has similar properties - only deniers can see it).
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  3. In general, it seems warmists are looking for something terribly exotic to explain global warming.

    An anecdote from the past might help illustrate this situation...
    Ohm's Law (V=IR) is an algebraic rule that describes the relationship between voltage, current and resistance. It was named after Ohm, who's work was rejected initially by the top scientific circles of his time for being too simple. To them, a description of electricity just could not be that simple, (and as it turns out there are many other formulas needed besides Ohm's law to deal with electricity and magnetism.) However, the point is, Ohm received posthumous credit only after someone else (with more clout in the scientific community) arrived at the same conclusion.

    If it was difficult for scientists to reach consensus as in this case where experimentation is limited to a lab setting, imagine a hot potato (no pun intended) like global warming.
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  4. RSVP: "In general, it seems warmists are looking for something terribly exotic to explain global warming".

    We really don't need exotica. In fact, another aspect of Oreskes 'coherence' is the consistency between ACC and classical science. The whole shebang is predicated on very straightforward premises: CO2 and certain other gases re-radiate LWR in random directions. The earth's atmosphere traps heat, warming the earth by around 30K. CO2 is sequestered in carbon sinks but the ability to absorb the gas is finite - and ocean's ability to do so is a function of temperature.

    These are the fundamentals of climate change science, and they are old hat:

    Fourier calculates colder earth without an atmosphere (1824)

    Tyndall discovers relationship between CO2 and long-wave radiation (1859)

    Arrhenius calculates global warming from anthropogenic CO2 (1896)

    Chamberlin models global carbon exchange including feedbacks (1897)

    Callendar predicts global warming increase catalysed by CO2 emissions (1938)

    Revelle predicts inability of oceans to sequester anthropogenic CO2 (1958)

    (From Spencer Weart's history of ACC - http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.htm)

    The dates suggest that although the ideas might have been exotic at the time, we've had a century and more to get over it.
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  5. "This is the consensus of climate change: the end point of all journeys for those studying sea level rises, the Arctic, the Antarctic, the glaciers and the ice caps, the changes in precipitation, seasonal periodicity, changes in ocean pH, weather events, droughts and famines, resource management, agriculture "

    Even seen birds flock together?. The biological drive to conform to achieve a group end is very powerful. This is your "how powerful a paradigm anthropogenic climate change really is".

    "at what point in the history of the earth did all these things happen at the same time, and at the same speed?)"

    Whenever the Earth has warmed by natural processes. It's nothing new.

    Your refernce to the missing link obfuscation and creationists and evolution is ironic. Evolution is glacially slow. Sketics contend that, yes, c02 warms the atmosphere, but like evoltuion it isnt 1-6 degrees by 2100, but more like 1-6 degrees by 21,000 AD. The stratigraphic record is consistent with this sort of time frame, but has been conveniently left out. The sun and clouds can account for warming in the late 20th century, despite the admitted fact that tree rings so beloved of Mann et al cant.
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  6. RSVP - nice straw man, completely demolished by Graham - Ouch!

    Graham, Excellent post!
    I note your mention of creationism, but that it only occurs in the title. AFAICT, creationism is a huge problem, because it stifles scientific understanding. Some of the most virulent denialists are people like Inhofe, who is IIRC a Dominionist, AFAIK, seemingly the worst kind of creationist, at least in terms of scientific understanding.

    God put man in charge of the resources of Earth, and mankind has the divine right to use it as it pleases. And, added to this, they hold the mistaken belief that God created the Earth with enough resources to last until he destroys it again, and after he "raptures" his "chosen ones".


    I fail to see how anyone can have a rational and useful discussion with anyone about the science when that someone 'knows' that the Earth is Man's playground to do with as Man pleases i.e. pollute / despoil / etc.?

    Especially, when according to OpenSecrets when they are in the pockets of the FF industry.
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  7. Thingadonta, do you not even bother to read the scientific studies cited in the arguments?. Sun & clouds?.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/solar-activity-sunspots-global-warming.htm
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  8. Graham, with the greatest of respect, you've created the ultimate straw man. No serious (ie, non-silly) contenders in the sceptical camp believe that CO2 is not increasing, is not anthropogenic, and would have no impact on climate. Steve McIntyre, for example, is on record many times as saying he is not a climate change sceptic and that he believes in the need for mitigation strategies.

    The skeptical camp (barring some articulate and not so articulate windbags who come out with 'CO2 is plant food' type statements)tends rather to ask:

    1) What is the probability that AWG will lead to catastrophic change (often abbreviated to CAWG)? The notion that AWG will result in catastrophic change requires the assumption that numerous positive feedbacks will automatically come into play to amplify the effects of CO2 which on its own would have a relatively modest impact on climate. It also ignores numerous possible negative feedbacks which might come into play (all sorts of unsettled questions around aerosols, cloud cover, and the like).

    2) Do non-anthropogenic factors play a significant or more significant role in currently observed warming? While the consensus view suggests otherwise, serious scientists, whilst 'outliers' still query the contribution of insolation, cloud cover, and the like.

    3)Is current warming in fact unprecedented? For example, while the consensus view suggests that the MWP was an event limited to the northern hemisphere, serious players such as McIntyre question the validity of the palaeoclimatic reconstructions and the data selection cum statistical underpinnings of Mann's 'hockey stick.' Others highlight the paucity of data for the southern hemisphere.

    4) Is it valid to attribute events such as changes in Arctic ice cover to AWG? WUWT has been rightly taken to task on this site for arguing that Arctic sea ice and the Greenland ice cap will never disappear because the ice can't melt in an environment in which temperatures don't exceed 0 degrees. Sea ice cover and glacier cover depends on much more than temperature - factors such as wind patterns, ocean currents, etc, all come into play. However, acknowledgement of such complexities requires equal caution in attributing ice loss to AGW.

    Most of these questions have of course been thoroughly debated on this site in various locations. However, suggesting that those who pose such questions are kith and kin of the 'creationist' fraternity does them a grave injustice.

    The notion of 'multiple, independent lines of evidence converging on a single coherent account' is very attractive but reflects also our human propensity to seek simple overarching explanations. Likewise, Occam's razor, whilst often useful, is not infallible. Those who rely upon it need to be wary of excising inconvenient bits of data.

    An example from this site illustrates this well. We had a piece on accelerating species extinction events as a consequence of AGW. However, species extinctions have multiple explanations including habitat change, hunting, introduction of competing species, and the like none of which may relate to AGW. Moreover, some 99.9% of all species that have ever existed are thought to have become extinct. Currently, the rate of species extinction is thought to be between 100 to 1000 times the rate observed in the fossil record. Implicit in such estimates is the notion that the fossil record is sufficiently complete to make such estimates - a proposition that might be quite debatable.

    In short, each of the converging lines of evidence carries a significant probability of predominant linkage to non-AGW events. This neither proves nor disproves AGW. It does explain however why reasonable and well-informed people entertain honest doubts about the consensus.
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  9. The problem with 'musings' by a member of the 'pro-AGW' community is that it attracts 'musings' by members of the denial lobby, and we then end up with a 'tis, 'tisn't', tit-for-tat, exchange -- as seems to be developing on this thread.

    Let's stick to the scientific evidence packed with links. Such posts scare off most deniers -- because they can't present their counter-arguments in this way -- while attracting the genuine, honest, sceptics who are weighing up the pros and cons before deciding for themselves on the likelihood and causes of AGW.
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  10. via chriscanaris #8

    "species extinctions have multiple explanations including habitat change, hunting, introduction of competing species, and the like none of which may relate to AGW"

    This is a nice example of why a reductionist approach doesn't really work well for considering the impact humans have on their environment. Habitat change (exploitation), hunting, propagation of weed species and so on are independent of human caused global warming, but all are symptoms with the same underlying cause - the ability of humans to manipulate their environment, and the unforseen consequences of doing so.

    As an well informed lay person (on the topic of ecosystems), I think that the the majority sepeces extinctions at the moment are caused by over-exploitation of the local environment, and that attributing this to global warming at this stage is poor reporting. As far as I know, global warming is projected to accellerate extinction events, for which the correct measurement is the number of extinctions per unit time, and not the total number of extinctions during the history of the planet.

    Anyway the Earth will be fine (until the sun goes out), it's our capability to sustain civilisation over the next 80 years or so that we should be worried about.
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  11. The sun and clouds can account for warming in the late 20th century

    How?
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  12. There is a more fundamental problem with 'musings': they lack focus, by their very nature, they can never be "hard hiting words". They fail to convince the very people who most need to be convinced, they can only be useful for "preaching to the choir".

    But with such a hard battle ahead of us, we cannot afford to waste time and energy preaching to the choir.
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  13. From the point of view of the converging lines of evidence it's worth pointing out that the reason James Hansen could speak up clearly on the subject in the 1980s when most other people studying climate science weren't happy to do so was that he had surveyed the area quite widely and could see all the various lines whereas others had only considered their particular specialities and so were a lot less confident. Right from the political beginning the multiple-lines aspect was important.
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  14. Graham,

    Your definition of the scientific consensus, as opposed to counting the numbers of scientists and/or papers, was an 'aha moment' for me. (I then noticed that your blog title is Small Epiphanies!) While both definitions are useful, yours works on a different level I think. I hope you don't mind if I quote you during climate change debates.

    Well done!
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  15. thingadonta wrote : Evolution is glacially slow.


    "The cichlid fish in the lakes of East Africa are a classic example of rapid evolution and extreme adaptation, In Lake Victoria, more than 100,000 to 400,000 species of cichlids have evolved and probably even in a much shorter period, because there are indications that 14,600 years ago the lake was completely dry."
    Super-fast evolution


    "Human diseases are excellent examples of evolution. Pathogens must evolve rapidly to avoid the human immune response and medical interventions, such as drugs. Because bacterial and viral pathogens have short, and generally quick, life cycles, evolution can be observed in a few days or months."
    NESCent

    You constantly give the impression (to me, at least) of being very behind-the-times, or very selective with your ideas.
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  16. Thanks for the comments - I'll respond to those I think pertain to my subject...

    thingadonta

    I asked: ""at what point in the history of the earth did all these things happen at the same time, and at the same speed?"

    To which you responded: "Whenever the Earth has warmed by natural processes. It's nothing new".

    In which period of earth's history did a 40% increase in atmospheric CO2 precede or occur simultaneously to global warming?

    chriscanaris

    I'm keen not to get bogged down in pedantry, but can I say that many of the arguments you put forward are those of sceptics, not deniers. I will pick up on a few issues:

    On Catastrophe - how does one measure the catastrophic? Elsewhere, I have predicted a form of 'climate colonialism', where the industrial nations in Europe and the US suffer some disturbing phenomena - extreme weather, food and energy shortages - but the 'colonies' suffer egregious effects. So whose catastrophe are we talking about? (I also reflect on the value of a human life: what analysis is morally balanced in which a single death is considered insignificant? How many must die, be displaced, starving or disenfranchised, before we call it catastrophic?)

    On the attribution of ice loss, the first stage attribution is heat, not AGW. And while we should be cautious where caution is required, there's no point in downplaying the probability it's us causing the warming out of some notion that we are invoking profound scepticism by doubting when all the other signposts point in the same direction - the essence of the article and my argument.

    Another implicit premise of my argument addresses "our human propensity to seek simple overarching explanations". We don't have a simple, overarching explanation and nobody is proposing one. We have a complex set of phenomena, some classic and established physics and chemistry, and a logical premise that is such a good answer to all the questions, it becomes the 'single, coherent account'.

    EOttawa

    Thank you - and be my guest. I'm just the messenger here...the message is addressed to us all.
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  17. Besides, glaciers are moving (and falling apart) pretty fast these days, so that bit of figurative language is also increasingly behind the times!
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  18. chriscanaris, #8, asks:

    "1) What is the probability that AWG will lead to catastrophic change (often abbreviated to CAWG)?"

    This is a denier question, not a skeptical one. It creates a straw man that allows the denier camp to label its "opponents" as crazy alarmists out to stop all human progress.

    The probability of catastrophe requires you to define what you consider to be a catastrophe and propose something that might bring it about. Then you can try to compute a probability.

    The actual science surrounding AGW predicts a series of ongoing changes, some of which are already upon us, and some of which will affect humans and the global ecosystem.
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  19. gpwayne asks:

    "How many must die, be displaced, starving or disenfranchised, before we call it catastrophic?"

    Hey, is it our fault those people are starving? We're trying as hard as we can to put plant food in the air.
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  20. thingadonta @ 5.... Rather than equating scientists to a flock of birds the more accurate metaphor would be a herd of cats. Each is of its own mind. But when you see all the cats heading is the same direction... THEN you know something is really happening.
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  21. "gpwayne at 16:34 PM on 17 July, 2010
    The whole shebang is predicated on very straightforward premises: CO2 and certain other gases re-radiate LWR in random directions. The earth's atmosphere traps heat, warming the earth by around 30K."

    In your remark, "gases re-radiate LWR in random directions..." you forgot to add "...as a function of a difference in temperature", which means this effect diminishes as temperature increases. RSVP (2010)
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  22. RSVP - "gases re-radiate LWR in random directions...": True! However, that's not a function of difference in temperature whatsoever. Objects and gases radiate omnidirectionally based upon their own temperature, not differences in temperature. And this effect increases, not decreases with increasing object temperature.

    Differences in temperature only come into play when calculating net energy flows, which change the temperatures of the objects involved.

    I don't mean to be yelling - just went through this on another blog. But this is basic science here, RSVP, and you stated the exact opposite of what is observed.

    Graham - excellent post.
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  23. RSVP at 22:

    'In your remark, "gases re-radiate LWR in random directions..." you forgot to add "...as a function of a difference in temperature"...'

    Radiation depends on temperature only, not difference in temperature.
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  24. To CBW...

    If I give you a dollar and you give me a dollar at the same time, neither of us has gained much. Heat transfer works the same way.

    http://biocab.org/Heat_Transfer.html

    This link contains the following...
    The formula to know the amount of heat transferred by radiation is:

    q = e σ A [(ΔT)^4]

    Where q is the heat transferred by radiation, E is the emissivity of the system, σ is the constant of Stephan-Boltzmann (5.6697 x 10^-8 W/m^2.K^4), A is the area involved in the heat transfer by radiation, and (ΔT)^4 is the difference of temperature between two systems to the fourth or higher power.
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  25. KR
    Heat has to go somewhere. As the ambient temperature "down here on Earth" increases, the GHG effect must diminish. It will want to go where it is cooler, which is up and out.
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  26. Scared Amoeba: the strongest pin against the Creationist balloon is the thought that if you accept that an entire universe, including layered fossils, decaying isotopes and light en route from ancient supernova suddenly sprang into existence 6000-odd years ago, you can't exclude the possibility that it happened a fortnight ago and that Jesus Christ never actually existed.

    The best definition of Occam's Razor is; When you hear the sound of hoofbeats in the night, think "horses", not "zebras" let alone "Arcturian mega-donkeys".
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  27. RSVP, your "correction" to gpwayne's sentence was wrong. Period. The sentence was about radiation, not heat flow.

    A correct statement:

    "CO2 and certain other gases re-radiate LWR in random directions."

    An incorrect statement:

    "CO2 and certain other gases re-radiate LWR in random directions as a function of a difference in temperature."

    Radiation is a function of an object's absolute temperature, not a difference in temperature. See this link for a discussion of thermal radiation.
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  28. SkepticStudent @21:

    Are you not aware of the "creationist" literature that purposely distorts and misrepresents the scientific literature; especially in the areas of physics, geology, biology, astronomy and even climatology? I don't mean that as a criticism, it's just a fact.
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  29. The great biologist Theosdosius Dobzhansky made the oft-quoted statement that "Nothing in Biology makes sense except in the light of Evolution".

    What Graham is arguing (I think) is that nothing associated with rising temperature in the world today makes sense except in the light of Anthropogenic Global Warming. AGW links phenomena the world over - arctic ice, retreating glaciers, rising sea levels, ocean acidification etc.

    Howiver, AGW is not a meta-theory in the sense that Evolution is. AGW depends primarily on atmospheric and radiative physics as an explanation. It is not therefore a paradigm in its own right.

    This makes the denialist's task even more difficult. What they seem to be trying to do is attack every single item of evidence piecemeal - it is ALL either faked or mistaken, that is every one of the many thousands of papers that have been written by thousands of scientists. The unlikeliness of this is obvious, and links denialism to other conspiracy theories, like Ufology (e.g. the government is covering up the existence of aliens). Creationism obviously falls into this bracket also, particularly the way denialists project themselves as an oppressed minority defending "true" science.
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  30. RSVP - what what CBW said. Your statement was completely, absolutely wrong.
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  31. CBW:
    "Hey, is it our fault those people are starving? We're trying as hard as we can to put plant food in the air."

    Probably not.

    Climate Change Surprise: High Carbon Dioxide Levels Can Retard Plant Growth, Study Reveals (2002)

    Rising CO2 levels threaten crops and food quality (2010)

    Food for Thought: Lower-Than-Expected Crop Yield Stimulation with Rising CO2 Concentrations. Long et al (2006)

    And then we have more immediate observations of a different kind of the retardation of crop yield:

    Russia swelters in heatwave, many crops destroyed

    (Reuters) - Soaring temperatures across large swathes of Russia have destroyed nearly 10 million hectares of crops and prompted a state of emergency to be declared in 17 regions.
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  32. The most obvious missing link is clouds, or rather an adequate understanding of clouds, what drives their formation, and their effects.

    Overall, clouds have a nett cooling effect on the planet, but different clouds at different levels act differently.

    Water vapour from which clouds form, is by far the most abundant GHG. In theory it responds to the initial warming initiated by CO2 and thus is directly responsible for the bulk of the warming.

    However there appears to have been virtually no change in the last decade as it hovers at levels around the lower levels of the past three decades.


    Within the still short period of satellite cloud cover observations, the total global cloud cover reached a maximum of about 69 percent in 1987 and a minimum of about 64 percent in 2000, a decrease of about 5 percent. This decrease roughly corresponds to a radiative net change of about 0.9 W/m2 within a period of only 13 years, which may be compared with the total net change from 1750 to 2006 of 1.6 W/m2 of all climatic drivers as estimated in the IPCC 2007 report, including release of greenhouse gasses from the burning of fossil fuels.

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  33. J Bowers at 08:47 AM, you appear to be missing the point of some of the articles you linked to.

    For instance, "Food for Thought: Lower-Than-Expected Crop Yield Stimulation with Rising CO2 Concentrations" compares modelled results to actual results obtained in real world FACE trials.
    The models were developed from trials in laboratory enclosure trials under ideal and controlled conditions, and as shown in the article do not reflect reality.
    Part of the purpose of FACE trials is to allow more realistic models to be developed.
    If you look carefully at the results tabulated, whilst the FACE results are lower than the enclosure results, what did you expect, there is still a significant increase in yield under the enriched CO2 FACE trials.
    All the article proves is that the models being studied were unrealistic.
    It reminds me of the wheeler dealer who hoped to make 5 million on a deal, and when he only made 4 million complained of losing 1 million.

    The link "Rising CO2 levels threaten crops and food quality" also only provides half the story.
    What it fails to mention is that whilst grain % protein levels fell, the increased grain yield meant that overall the amount of protein produced per unit area of land increased. This is in line with the situation under normal growing conditions where, as grain yields vary according to the growing conditions year upon year, the protein levels vary inversely. Thus years where growing conditions have been tough, and grain yields are down, grain protein levels are often some of the highest.

    Plants require mainly carbon, water and nitrogen. Therefore it should be no surprise if increased CO2 allows improved structural growth, the water and nitrogen requirements also increase.
    What has to be considered is whether the inability of the plants to achieve optimum ratios is source or sink related, that is is the limitation within the plant itself to take up, or within the soil to give up.

    Given the advances in knowledge and techniques related to improving crop yields, I would reserve any pessimism for when scientists start indicating that they know all there is to know and that they are unable to make any further advances.

    I don't see that, in fact, my impression is that they are at the other end and only starting to understand, and whatever gains have been made so far are only the beginning, with no limits being set, except by the pessimists that is.
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  34. You may be describing general scientific rules but climate science is different from any other science. It's driven by political necessity not empirical data. There is a dynamic here that doesn't really exist in any other field.

    "because no other contender is left standing" - this statement is primarily true because the IPCC demands only that CO2 be left standing, there is no interest in other contenders. Research other contenders and you begin to find yourself in the Wikipedia list of climate deniers. What is the point of researching other aspects of climate control than CO2 when all it does is highlight you as an outsider?

    Science, probably like the rest of the world, is a brutal game. I've only in recent years noticed how much culling of mid career scientists occurs, mainly because I've reached that point in my life. Reputation, connections and past record are the only thing that counts to whether you will continue in your beloved profession. Who's going to jeopardize that for a few controversial idea's? Like many others I'd always assumed that deniers generally being of the older generation was a sign of the conservative nature of this strand of thinking. It makes equally good sense that these people also have less to lose from standing out of the crowd. In other strands of science you maybe labelled a bit of a loose cannon. In climate science you become a heretic. Who wants to find themselves on a list like this? Just on a small note I just noticed that this list not only lists climate deniers but also all their recent PhD and MSc students, looks like the consensus might be getting in early to blacklist the next generation of potential deniers. Petr Chylek strikes me as a perfect example of a scientist doing science who sticks his head above the parapet.

    Everything you say may be true but with the IPCC to lead the science and a culture exemplified by the blacklist one has to go beyond the empirical data to question what is driving the consensus.
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  35. Really HumanityRules? Your post is full of cynicism. Overturning the standard quo is the dream of every young person, and certainly of young scientists. Hansen et al had to do that when the idea of a serious problem was first proposed in the early 80s. Where is the data, the research - even the brilliant ideas, in need of funding? The same place the brilliant ideas to bring the world gold from iron - no where - because it isn't realistic.

    How can we read your post as anything but cynical cover for the lack of real ideas amongst the deniers/skeptics?
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  36. "we asked what would happen to the climate if we artificially increased the proportions of greenhouse gases"

    I'm not sure that's what we did. We developed society, we followed a development path which allows more and more individuals the possibility to express their full potential rather than live basic hand-to-mouth existences. We developed the extraordinary machines you're sitting in front of that allow people from across the planet to communicate, and very much more. We developed great ideas. Reducing human society (and human beings) to simple carbom emmitters is part of the problem of the approach of climate science and enviromentalism in general. You reduce humanity to the role of polluter. Take that mind set and any set of empirical data and I'm sure you come up with dire conclusions.
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  37. 37.actually thoughtfull

    I think my post is more of a response to cynicism. The radical ideas of today are cynical and conservative. I'm not sure how the politics of fear, catastrophe and apocalypse can be interpreted in any other way. This used to be the playground of religions now it's seen as youthful radicalism.
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  38. HumanityRules wrote : Everything you say may be true but with the IPCC to lead the science and a culture exemplified by the blacklist one has to go beyond the empirical data to question what is driving the consensus.


    I know : it's that great big conspiracy, isn't it ?
    All I can think of is the line from Carry on Cleo - "Infamy, infamy ! They've all got it in-famy !!"
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  39. HR #36:

    Where to start?

    "driven by political necessity not empirical data. There is a dynamic here that doesn't really exist in any other field."

    Climate science is drowning in empirical data, so much so that we often read arguments that are little more than 'my data is better than yours' (for example, see: UAH vs. RSS LT temperatures vs. GISS temperatures, etc or ice extent vs. ice volume, etc).

    "What is the point of researching other aspects of climate control than CO2 when all it does is highlight you as an outsider?"

    The point is that its necessary to know the effects of sulfur and aerosols and methane and yes, even water vapor. None of that is outside the mainstream; nor are glaciology, paleobiology, plate tectonics, etc. This is one of the biggest scientific tents you'll find; we need expertise in lots of disciplines.

    "In climate science you become a heretic. Who wants to find themselves on a list like this?"

    People who signed the Oregon petition presumably did so because that was what they believed at the time. Its all public record.

    "a culture exemplified by the blacklist one has to go beyond the empirical data to question what is driving the consensus."

    Blacklist? Have you forgotten what was happening to Hansen et al during the Bush years?
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  40. 40.JMurphy

    Let's just be clear here that list really does exist?? And it's worth remembering Kenneth Williams did have several knives sticking in his back when he spoke those immortal words so it would be fair of him to assume that not everybody was on his side :)

    So the IPCC is not a political beast? It's purely an information gathering service?
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  41. 41.muoncounter

    Not all the list signed that petition and does it matter if they did? They presumably produce science which question aspects of AGW. This is what is important, digging out petitions they signed and labelling them denier is a way of denigrating the science from the outset.

    I agree Bush did the same. It's a two-sided political debate. You can't seem to accept the other side exists though.
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  42. HR. First of all, the relationship between increased CO2 & an enhanced Greenhouse effect was discovered *long* before the IPCC was ever created-& initially in the face of some stiff opposition. It was large amounts of empirical data that enabled this relationship to be shown-& to date the various denialists have yet to provide any COUNTER-EVIDENCE to undermine this relationship. Instead, the Denialists resort to all kinds of political & ideological arguments to try & attack the theory of AGW. 2nd, you whinge about the existence of a list of Climate Change Denialists existing on the internet, but I ask you-have any of these Denialists been subject to hate mail? Death threats? Threats of legal action? Threats of funding cuts to themselves or their organizations? Climatologists who support the theory of AGW have been subjected to *all* of these threats-not to mention being subjected to computer hacking & accusations of being engaged in massive global conspiracies. Yet you accuse *us* of being politically driven. Ha, that's hilarious. The politics driving this so-called "debate" is that the people who control access to our primary sources of energy do *not* want to relinquish that control any time soon-yet AGW poses the greatest threat to that control which they have ever faced. So they're deploying every weapon in their arsenal to undermine it-not with science, but with emotive claims about "World Governments", "Global Socialism" & "Economic Ruin"!
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  43. Ah, John D is still pushing his beloved FACE trial as proof that a higher CO2 world will be better for agriculture-& still he ignores the basic facts. He ignores the fact that evidence of Acclimation was already being seen by the researchers at the end of the 3rd year of the trial-suggesting that peak yield increases of +20% had already been reached (longer term trials suggest only a 5% to 8% increase). He ignores the fact that the 20% yield increase was achieved only under the optimum conditions (& that the so-called "sub-optimum" conditions are not a truly accurate simulation of the conditions farmers will face in an increased-CO2 world). He ignores the fact that nitrogen demand increased by about 25%, in spite of a decrease in protein yield (which of course means that human & animal consumers will need to eat *MORE* grain to get a similar amount of protein-thus partly negating the increased yield benefits). He ignores the fact that the FACE trials also don't simulate for changes in weed propagation &/or the presence of insect & microbial pest species in an enhanced CO2 world. The fact he *really* ignores, though, is that a number of trials have shown that increased nitrogen &/or water-in ambient CO2 conditions-can yield the same, or greater, levels of yield increase as enhanced CO2 conditions-but without any decline in protein content. This strongly suggests, once again, that it is nitrogen & water-not CO2-which are the limiting factors in plant yield. The fact remains that, if John D were reading the FACE trials, & all the other studies cited above, in an unbiased fashion, then he'd realize that none of them really support his assertion that increasing the planet's levels of CO2 will *automatically* lead to improvements in agricultural output. It's exactly this kind of simplistic thinking that so undermines the denialist argument.
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  44. Hmmm John D (post#34) seems like you're cherry-picking again. If you look at the period just prior to 1987, I see cloud cover at levels closer to 65% to 66%. The 69% cloud cover around 1987-1990 seems more like an aberration than a normal state of affairs. For much of that graph, cloud cover levels seem to hover at closer to 64% to 67%. I certainly don't see any *trend* in cloud cover-either increasing or decreasing.
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  45. 44.Marcus

    I think most, if not all accept that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. It's the apocalypse that is usually questioned. Secondly I don't whinge I point out that a political processes is occuring here and that is a two-sided process, the AGW supporters on this website only seem to recognise one side of this debate exists while on the other side is pure science and empirical data, that's selective blindness.

    Your description of the underhand tactics is applaudable except that it's intention is simply to paint one side as devils and the other crusaders. Unfortuantely the more degenerate individuals on the other side of the debate believe the same thing but in reverse. The Deniers have thier own brave heros on WUWT while the AGW are evil communists. Approach the debate from this perspective and we'll get nowhere.

    I try objectively to think about my field of science and how ideas compete, ego's clash and petty personnal rivalries work through. And then I look at climate science and see what's going on there and honestly try to ask myself whether this is just the same thing only exposed to full public scutiny. Honestly I see no connection between the two things it's bizarre to try to fit the tactics of both sides into your own field of science, try it. I'd go back to my original comment there is a dynamic going on here that does not exist in other fields of science
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  46. Marcus at 13:08 PM, you seem to have drawn a lot of conclusions about what might, or might not be aberrations or normal and missed the point completely.

    A decrease of about 5 percent corresponds to a radiative net change of about 0.9 W/m2 within a period of only 13 years, which may be compared with the total net change from 1750 to 2006 of 1.6 W/m2 of all climatic drivers as estimated in the IPCC 2007 report, including release of greenhouse gasses from the burning of fossil fuels.

    Trend or not it is something that still has to be accounted for over the period observed, especially a change of that magnitude.
    Disregard whether it is a trend or not and consider instead how it fits in or otherwise with other observations over the same period.
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  47. Marcus at 13:01 PM , what you seemed determined to ignore is that despite lower grain protein %, with increased yields the amount of protein produced in the grain PER HECTARE INCREASES.
    In addition given that plants are about 50% carbon, increased structural growth, not only requires firstly an additional supply of that carbon, but even a very basic understanding of plant biology surely suggests that the plants will also require additional water and nitrogen, but somehow this basic truth seems to elude you.
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  48. Thanks Graham.

    Regarding the perils of wielding Ockham's razor...

    I have a possibly 'weaker' version Ockham's razor that works for me. If the traditional version is something like "Of two explanations that equally well explain the data you have on hand, the less complicated explanation tends to be the correct (better?) explanation." , then the weaker version is "Of two explanations that equally well explain the data you have on hand, assume the less complicated one is correct as a working hypothesis because it will be easier to disprove it with new data." If one disproves it, one can move on, and the chance one can move on is increased because it is easier to empirically debunk the less complicated argument.

    In either version, the problem remains that people dispute the ranking of the complexity of explanations and whether two different explanations equally well explain the data.

    In the climate change blogs, the situation is confounded because some folks who don't generate new data simply deny the current, full ensemble of data. No form of Ockham's razor addresses that situation.

    Sigh...

    I mean look at the preceding comments, eg Humanity Rules. I hear adults and children in the US are over weight and that it is a public health issue. What an insult! But If humanity rules, why doesn't humanity just decrease the acceleration due to gravity. That would solve the weight problem. Oh wait. humanity may not actually rule gravity, but it does rule perception... better to claim that US citizens are not overweight and the data is flawed. Why? Any reason may do.

    Well the climate data, at least, we know is flawed because "You may be describing general scientific rules but climate science is different from any other science. It's driven by political necessity not empirical data. There is a dynamic here that doesn't really exist in any other field." Oh, that explains the data? Those climate scientists are different. Uh, planetary scientists, geologists, atmospheric scientists, glaciologists, oceanographers, mammalogists, ornithologists, ichthyologists, herpetologists, invertebrate biologists, ecologists, phenologists, physicists, chemists, mathematicians, and statisticians are all conspiring with this unscientific, oddball, special group of "climate scientists" to create a fantasy of climate change?
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  49. 50.Donald Lewis

    Still far worse to global human health is mal-nourishment and lack of access to resourses in general. Being vastly over-weight may be bad for your health but it's not showing up in the broard US metrics such as life expectancy, which against all the odds is still going up! Again this degraded view of humanity would prefer to see us as greedy over-consumers or victims of the food industry rather than challenge the real issues.
    One thing that brought this home strongest during the Copenhagen Summit was Oxfam, a Christian charity which for the whole of it's history has argued for more resourses for the developing world. It turned it's attention to the industrialized nations for their over-consumption. It seems their intention now is to drag us all down the worst possible conditions rather than dream for a better life for all. Personnally I'd prefer to follow the idea of more for all even if that means I'm flawed.
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  50. actually thoughtful @ 37

    You say to HR: Your post is full of cynicism. Overturning the standard quo is the dream of every young person, and certainly of young scientists.

    From my limited exposure to scientific research (personal experience, interaction with scientists, and reading scientific papers in my field), this is certainly not the case.

    From the moment you embark on your honours research project, you are constrained by your supervisor and the prevailing views in his/her lab and the department. Any hopes of overturning a consensus are rapidly dissipated. Most science proceeds by tiny incremental advances in ever increasingly specialised areas.

    HR seems to have some real insights into the enormous competitiveness in the scientific world, the size of the egos, and the fierce struggle for survival epitomised by the struggle for research grants.

    To get past Honours into a Masters/PhD stream, you have to have first class honours. No honours project would be on the scale that would overturn a prevailing paradigm. First class honours are very difficult to attain - most science students leave the field at this point and find a paid job - often secondary school teaching or a job in industry.

    I myself quit basic (ie, pre-clinical) sciences upon completing the equivalent of an 'Honours' degree and went back to medicine after a nightmarish year in which I effectively sunk what my then supervisor thought would be a groundbreaking explanation of sudden infant death syndrome. I should add that I didn't do anything startling or innovative and in any case I didn't have the self-confidence to handle the stresses inherent in trying to climb the greasy pole of lower level academia. I did some modest research while training in psychiatry (much less stressful when you have a secure job).

    Even at PhD level, you very rarely find yourself doing ground breaking research. Mike Mann is one outstanding exception. At the same time, you depend on the goodwill of your supervisor for financial support (opportunities to tutor, an adequate allocation of grant moneys for materials and equipment, and the like).

    At postdoctoral level, you have to struggle for appointment as a lecturer in your field - often your initial appointment is temporary. Even when you attain tenure, your academic salary does not suffice to carry on research - you need grant moneys. To get these, you need to have a good name and a sufficiently impressive publication record. You also have to have a good publication record to be promoted. Indeed, much research is as much driven by the need to publish and be cited as it is by the genuine importance of the questions posed.

    To publish good research, you have to go through the peer review process which is sometimes intensely stringent, sometimes lackadaisical, and sometimes in-between. However, you also have to be very careful not to upset a potential reviewer.

    Hence, there are powerful incentives to avoid controversy. There are equally powerful incentives to piggy back onto 'fashionable' areas.

    Does this apply to climate science in all its branches? Frankly, I am not qualified to say. It does apply strongly in medicine in Australia where a great deal of research is funded by pharmaceutical companies. Pharmaceutical companies fund research partly because it creates goodwill and good publicity. They also like to fund clinical research which may create markets for their products. The potential for distortions has generated significant debate in medical journals though on the whole pharmaceutical companies have an interest in not doing anything too obviously shonky.
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