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I had an intense conversation at work today.

Posted on 13 January 2020 by Guest Author

Claire Cohen-Norris volunteers with Citizens Climate Lobby as a chapter founder and leader in rural New York. Her climate advocacy sprung from her drive to provide a secure, joyful and fulfilling life for her two wonderful children. It has become a life’s mission, shared with her like-minded husband and partner. Claire earned her biology degree from Mount Holyoke College and her law degree from Tulane Law School. She has taught high school biology and environmental science since 1996.

I had an intense conversation at work today.

There is a man with whom I work that dismisses climate change. He is a good man who works hard. He and I talk from time to time. At one point, we talked cars. He likes muscle cars, but he was curious about my electric car. So we talked EVs. The savings on maintenance sounded really appealing to him. He said he would check into them for his wife's next car. I offered a test drive. He may take me up on it when the weather is nice.

volunteer firefighter with koalaFast forward to this week.  

He is from Puerto Rico, as are quite a few of the people that work in my school district. There have been a lot of anxious and worried faces and a lot of talk about the earthquakes. Someone suggested that the earthquakes were caused by oil drilling. He looked at me to see what I had to say. I said that I didn't think traditional offshore drilling is associated with increased seismic activity. He was surprised. He expected me to say the earthquakes were caused by oil drilling. I said I wasn't sure what drilling was happening there, that there is clear evidence that fracking increases incidence of earthquakes all across the midwest, but not something like this. I said I would read up on it. I looked up to see what offshore drilling is happening in PR.  It appears that in 2013, it was determined that there were no appreciable oil or gas deposits there. I came back to him and told him this.

That conversation gained his trust in a way that no other conversation could have. He did not expect me to be thinking critically. He expected me to be guided only by motivated reasoning. My integrity and honesty gained his trust.

And I relied on that trust today.

I said, if, in fact, I got the facts right and there is no offshore drilling in PR, PR should be very, very glad. Yes, it wouldn't cause these earthquakes. But one spill, and the tourism industry of PR would be destroyed. I said, why anyone would put up an offshore oil rig when they could put up an offshore wind farm is beyond me.

Then I looked right at him and I said "we have to get off gas, oil and coal. We must end its use, completely. Look at Australia." He nodded about poor Australia...but replied that he read those fires were started by arsonists. He allowed me to explain how greenhouse gases work and that the warming was drying the forests and making them burn more fiercely, no matter the cause of the spark. We talked about how the climate here in New York has changed. He said "it is supposed to be 60 this Saturday. Sixty!" Then he said, "but what about God?"

And I replied "I am not religious, but I know of an Evangelical Christian climate scientist who is married to an Evangelical Minister and she points out that the Bible says that we must take care of God's creation." "Yes," he said, "but God is more powerful than humans."

And I said "if your neighbor throws his trash on your yard, does that mean that God is not all powerful?" "No, of course not," he replied.

"We are throwing our garbage all over the skies. We cannot see it but it is there. God helps those who help themselves."

He answered "then our grandchildren and great grandchildren will suffer..."

"No," I said. "We are suffering already. Look at Australia."

He got very quiet.

I repeated, "I am not religious. But I believe we have an obligation ..." He cut me off "of course." I said, "an obligation not just to stop harming others, but to step in where others are harmed. We must stop using fossil fuels, or all the work we do for our children will be for nothing."

My eyes were all welled up. He listened, quietly.

Tomorrow? Maybe we will talk about cars again.

(illustration: The Science Nature Academy)


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Comments 1 to 50 out of 54:

  1. Great attitude Claire. This is a model of how to talk to climate sceptics and denialists, in that context anyway. I take my hat off to this woman and learned a lot. 

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  2. Well done Claire. 

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  3. A followup - I wonder if your co-worker will be responding to you again.  My experience (online) is patience, knowledge, courtesy are key to having meaningful dialogue, but I've not had any success getting others to accept climate science.

    Thanks - Ken

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  4. awesome, but please follow up with him in a month and then in 6 months... i've had these encounters and most people just reset after they walk away; not to mention there's a chance the person won't tell you what they are thinking anymore since they probably don't want to upset you anymore... but hey, if they start campaigning for bernie, i reckon that'll be the proof in the pudding

    sort of funny it's a CCL person; most of those i know seem to think we've got decades to make drastic changes and are very naive about the way taxation and regulation work (if CCL had started in 1924, their methods might have had enough time to work)

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  5. "i've had these encounters and most people just reset after they walk away;"

    Yes I have seen the same. 

    The way I see the whole denialist issue is we all have some natural healthy scepticism of new ideas, but get round to accepting them after hearing explanations etc. History shows this. Scepticism looks to me like it exists in many shades of grey from healthy scepticim to denialism, and its hard to know what category people are in, so we have to hope they are open to persuasion. Some will be some wont.

    They may say they agree and walk away and reset into denialism, but it could operate the other way where they vehemently disagree, but go away and vote for the Green party or whatever. I've seen one or two characters do similar things.

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  6. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments and questions.  It is not easy to put a simple intense moment out for everyone's scrutiny.  Thank you for taking it with the seriousness that these conversations really deserve, though often do not get.

    This conversation is now several days old.  This man has sought me out each day since to raise another concern...a challenge to accepting climate change.  He starts with the concern, we talk about it a bit.  Then we talk about some niceties, about our families, our pets, events at work.  Then he raises some other idea that confirms climate change, with a spark of how crazy the weather is, or how scary things are.  Usually at this point, he talks about what he needs to do to protect his financial and familial interests.  Then I return us to our obligations to others.  Today, after talking about disappearing housing insurance in California, and plummeting house values in Miami, he began to talk about selling his houses and renting.  I said that might be sensible.  But we have an obligation to others.  His go-to reaction is that everyone should pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  So I said, if you want to talk about needing walls, imagine what this nation will look like if everyone in Miami that is poor becomes homeless.  We need a plan...a avoid that...even if it isn't out of kindness, but simply to deal with this in a way that maintains stability.  If only we had had a plan 20 years ago to deal with the current insurance crisis in California.

    So what is interesting here is that he has decided he trusts me.  And he is continuing to come to me to try to grapple with the conflicting feelings and worries.

    It now feels like a heavy weight in some ways because he is clearly counting on me to help him make sense of this.  And, of course, making sense of this is no easy task.  I will be grateful if I ever do, myself.

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  7. ilfark2... Perhaps you can consider me a data point of evidence that your impression of CCLers is not quite accurate?  Most of the people I work with (as a volunteer), live, eat, breathe climate work, driven by a sense of urgency that our families and relatives marvel at.  I certainly do not want this post to be about CCL, or the relative merits of our work or our bill.  We can save that for another post, another day.  

    But please know that this CCLer, along with many others, are quite alarmed and engaged to act.

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  8. Hi, as I live in Australia (Queensland) I have to comment that - again - here we have a tragic, though common, occurence couched as climate change driven. There have been much larger Australian fires in the past - 1974 comes to mind - so about 50 years ago - maybe climate change was worse then? These latest fires were in much more populated areas, hence the larger media coverage, despite covering one tenth the area of previous years'. Having said that, if you are really interested in understanding the science and why it has been hijacked, it is not difficult to conclude that CO2 is not the main reason behind planetary warming. My background is Physics, with a masters in engineering (both from the UK) and I have been directly invovled with geosequestration projects where we meet scientists vying for a share of $100 million in grants. I can tell you, that is a mighty strong cognitive biasing agent. My experience is that, if you're already believing the dogma, stating facts has little infuence because the issue becomes emotional, not rational. People have to research the facts themselves and question their belief - so if you google the bushfire histories, I can assume you are on the path to knowledge...

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  9. I live in southern BC, Canada and we've had some wicked wildfire seasons in recent years, not as close to devastating as in Australia right now though. I've been following this since the late 1980s and watching the warnings being made then now start to become a reality is surreal, how could we ignore something that so many of the most informed people have been stating over and over in clear terms is an existential threat.

    Getting caught in the middle of the extreme impacts of this is frightening, last year I almost lost my home to massive wildfires all around the area I live in and the year before that my brother and his family were the last ones out of the small city where we grew up and that was evacuated and patrolled by our military for a month Because of the massive wildfires all around it. One reached over 500,000 hectares, that seems pretty Biblical to me.

    How can anyone still seriously claim that this isn't happening and that it isn't of the utmost importance that we take systemic measures across the globe to deal with this. They should have started decades ago, now we're looking at emergency mitigation of an exinction event that already seems to be well underway.

    It sounds hopeful that you were able to make at least some progress with an individual, but how meaningful is that really. In the province right next door which had record wildfire activity last year and in 2016 had most of a city burn down from an early spring heat wave, the government there is spending millions of dollars to openly attack the science of climate change because it negatively impacts the main economic driver there, the oil and gas sector.

    Jason Kenney touts $30M 'war room' but provides few details

    How do you address a dominant groupthink that still places short term individual interests over everything. Even the survival of our species on the scale of decades from now when we look at how much trouble the biosphere is already.

    If we've already killed half the life on Earth;

    Understanding extinction — humanity has destroyed half the life on Earth


    A what is left is at great risk;

    UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’


    Then this is no longer about short term individual interests at all.

    I just shake my head when people go on about price of power from different sources and economic projections decades or more in the future based on factors that are already well on the way to exterpating most life on Earth in a matter of decades.

    I'm not sure what the answer is, but refusing to even ask the question which is still the default on a policy level almost anywhere is... I don't have a word for it. How do we even describe killing off the overall biological system that makes life possible for such a rich biosphere in the first place.

    I'm no longer religious, but I'm pretty sure this is not what was meant about god giving man dominion over the natural world. It was meant as stewards, not destroyers. Yet that is exactly where we find ourselves.

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  10. Barryn56 @ #8 , you are hinting that there is some major causation (of our modern global warming) which must be "not CO2" .

    It would be a kind deed if you explained this in detail at once, for it would relieve some of Doug_C 's unhappiness.

    Sure, the rapid warming and ocean acidification etcetera would still be causing considerable biosphere damage . . . but at least Doug_C & other citizens would feel much less of collective guilt.

    Barryn56 , I hope you are not toying with us readers, by going on to suggest Electric Universe effects, or Cosmic Ray effects, or Planet Nibiru effects, or suchlike fantasies.  A genuine scientific explanation is required from you.  And please don't come out with PRATT*  [*Points Refuted a Thousand Times] or other insane nonsenses which surface all too often on the WUWT website.

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  11. Gidday there Barry,
    by complete coincidence, as i was scrolling through some other posts just now elsewhere, i discovered this... and so thought of you:

    Link to article in The Conversation

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    Moderator Response:

    [BW] embedded and activated link to avoid it breaking the page formatting

  12. 2019/2020 Australian wildfires: 10 million hectares.

    1974/75 Australian wildfires: 117 million hectares

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  13. TomJanson , like Barryn56 @ post #8 , has failed to understand the essential differences in 1974 and 2019.

    In the 1970's (and 60's and other years) there were frequent very extensive areas burnt ~ mostly grasslands / arid lands / unpopulated regions   An apples and oranges comparison with the fires of end-2019.

    Dr Spencer and other anti-science apologists try to drown the significant differences, with a flood of misleading statistics.   (They are desperately trying to prevent the "sleepers" waking to the new realities of AGW.)

    Better analysis is found with Nick Stokes at his moyhu.blogspot and his twitter comments.   (For those unaware of Stokes, he is one of the few sane scientists to be found in the comments columns of WUWT ~ he is almost universally reviled & loathed by the Wattupians, because he shows them up for what they are.)

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  14. Well done!

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  15. #6 Claire

    Thanks so much for the updates. I agree that you seem to have gained his trust enough that he is confiding from where he is coming from, which from your perspective is less about helping the community than helping himself. But since you are in conversation, he might learn to look at his community from a more inclusive perspective. And the uncertainty you and he feels is also good to share, because in times of change there is plenty to go around. Uncertainty allows the best solutions to emerge the soonest because when everyone is certain, they stop looking.

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  16. Eclectic,

    There have been larger areas burned on the eastern states in previous fires, including the 1974 fires.

    There's no scientific basis to the claim that these fires are completely different. The difference is people have climate change on their mind and will see every event thru that lens.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Sloganeering snipped.  Evidence for assertions is a mandatory condition of participation here.

  17. We see the current massive wildfire activity as associated with climate change because it is global in scale not local. And repeated.

    Claiming there was an isolated wildfire season 50 or 70 years in a limited geographical local that was larger in scale therefore the current spate of massive wildfires is not an indication of a changing climate is rational white noise.

    We don't just have the evidence of a changing Earth due to climate change from this global accelerated wildfire activity, we have all the other empirical evidence and all the theory learned over centuries to back it up. You just have to go through the volumous articles on this one site to totally refute claims that this vastly expanded wildfire activity in EurAsia, both Americas, Australia and other locations isn't linked to the very well support fact of how much heat we've added to the Earth mostly from burning fossil fuels.

    Just scroll up and check the heat equivalent meter on this page based on solid science and explain how we can have added 2,828,000,000 and counting Hiroshima bomb heat equivalents to the Earth since 1998 alone and not profoundly altered the way that weather and climate operates on Earth. Especially since most of that heat is going into the oceans which are the weather and climate drivers of the planet as they contain most of the heat in the ocean/atmosphere system and move most of it around the planet with ocean currents.

    This is happening, it's us and it's already devastating. Anyone living in Australia with the massive and deadly wildfires and a rapidly dying Great Barrier Reef should know this as well or better than anyone on the planet.

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  18. "Claiming there was an isolated wildfire season 50 or 70 years in a limited geographical local that was larger in scale"

    Those wildfires covered a larger total area and were more widely distributed than the current fires.

    And it wasn't just one wildfire season (the 1974 season was simply the largest one). There were other larger ones than 2019/2020 over the past 100 years. But all that's irrelevant isn't it. Because "global warming". The old ones don't count. Only today's ones do.

    I look forward to the excuses when we have the next run of calmer fire seasons. No doubt that'll be climate change too. The highly ERRATIC nature of modern climates. Fires one day. Calm the next.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Off-topic, sloganeering and inflammatory rhetoric snipped.

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can and will be rescinded if the posting individual continues to treat adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Moderating this site is a tiresome chore, particularly when commentators repeatedly submit offensive or off-topic posts. We really appreciate people's cooperation in abiding by the Comments Policy, which is largely responsible for the quality of this site.
    Finally, please understand that moderation policies are not open for discussion.  If you find yourself incapable of abiding by these common set of rules that everyone else observes, then a change of venues is in the offing.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

  19. Here's a first class argument "against" CO2 causing climate change.

    I can't follow the physics - it passes to quickly - but appears genuine.

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  20. TomJanson @16

    "There's no scientific basis to the claim that these fires are completely different. The difference is people have climate change on their mind and will see every event thru that lens."

    Blatant straw man fallacy. People aren't generally saying they are completely different. They are saying there are some important differences. Tamino discusses one here.

    From the Tamino article : "One of the things making wildfire/bushfire worse, contributing to the current conflagration in Australia, is the increase of daily high temperatures. It increases the Vapor Pressure Deficit (VPD), the difference between how much water vapor the air can hold and how much it does hold. When VPD is high, it can suck the moisture right out of potential fuels big and small, which increases the frequency and severity of fire dramatically. The data are clear, that for daily high temperature last year (2019) was the hottest on record for Australia:..."

    TomJasson @18

    "And it wasn't just one wildfire season (the 1974 season was simply the largest one). There were other larger ones than 2019/2020 over the past 100 years. But all that's irrelevant isn't it. Because "global warming". The old ones don't count. Only today's ones do."

    We are very early in this fire season, so you cannot compare areas burned now so far, to total areas burned back then for the total fire season. We shall have to wait and see. 

    You also missed the point. I don't know the data for Australia but studies in other countries here have detected an increase in area burned and longer fire seasons over the modern warming period, and after considering other factors conclude warming is to blame. Australia will follow suit because the physics is the same. 

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  21. TomJanson @18

    From geogrpahically isolated droughts and heat waves, my point is this is global in scale and we are seeing the exact same effects across the planet that is entirely consistent with climate change as forced by the massive use of fossil fuels.

    Which is also entirely consistent with the scientific evidence that the Earth is fact warming due to all the carbon dioxide we emit and other large scale human changes to the Earth.

    10 key climate indicators all point to the same finding: global warming is unmistakable

    We already have a perfectily valid explanation for what is happening including the increase in catastrophic extreme weather events like severe droughts and the wildfires that can follow, why look for something much less likely.

    Expecially since the time to actually mitigate this unfolding catastrophe is rapidly running out.... if it hasn't already.

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  22. What happened to the moderation here, comments directly attacking the scientific validity of climate change used to be removed immediately.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] While this is a moderated forum, all work is donated by volunteers.  Rest assured, a moderator will always be available for "cleanup on aisle 3", soon enough.

  23. Doug_C @17 , the comment by TomJanson (as he rightly points out) was not simply referring to an isolated "bad year" of Australian wildfires in the end-1974 summer.   There were many & extensive fires in other years of the 20th Century ~ yet they don't support the denialist case he is desperate to make.

    But hilariously, TomJanson seems to have failed to take a careful look at a map of Australia.   Perhaps he is too busy himself "fighting fires"  on multiple SkS threads at once?    ;-)


    TomJanson @ 16 /18 , you seem to be basing your opinion on just reading a few headines  (WUWT?  Murdoch Press with its "183 arsonists" and suchlike flagrant disinformation?)

    Yes, the state of NSW is one of the "eastern states" of Australia, and the 1974 summer wildfires did include a section of the well-settled Hunter Valley near the coast.   But there were vast areas burnt to the west in NSW ~ which is typical inland terrain, being grasslands / arid lands / unpopulated regions (the "Outback").

    The frequency of burning of large areas of "Outback" . . . provides an apples & oranges comparison with the currently famous fires in the populous south-east of Australia.  And provides a "statistical camouflage"  for desperadoes like Dr Spencer, who really don't wish to properly examine the issues.   His is a fine exampe of Motivated Reasoning . . . as is all climate-science denialism.

    And I did not say "these fires are completely different".   But they are different enough, for it to be wise to learn a lesson from them.   For irregular/"noisy" events like major wildfires (in Australia), we have to look at exacerbating factors & underlying causations (of which there are many).

    Over the long term, one prominent new factor is Global Warming.

    How much can we blame AGW for the extent & ferocity of the fires?   At an educated guess, perhaps one-third of it can be blamed on climate change.

    #  The point is, with the ongoing warming over the next 30 years , it could well be that the AGW factor will grow to become two-thirds contributor to the extent & ferocity of wildfires in the "settled south-east of Australia".   (Other regions of the world will have their own problems.)

    But the modern wildfires of 2019 are becoming a wake-up call to the local population (and a warning to the rest of the world) . . . and as a consequence to that, the science-denialists are very desperate to propagandize against the obvious AGW connection.

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  24. How's that for science. Deleting anything that detracts from the narrative and which could "undermine faith". Just like Mann taught you all...

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] And you're done.  Respondents, this user has self-recused himself from further participation here, finding the burden of compliance with the Comments Policy and using credible evidence for claims too onerous.

  25. TomJanson @24, the point of the thread is Taminos article at the top which points out how these fires are different from the 1970's and how they are being influenced by warming. 

    Your comments are disgraceful. People have died, the fires a very much in urban areas, billions of animals have died. People wont forget that in a hurry.

    Your claims of temperature adjstments are sloganeering. But  for the record the key global adjustments, done for proper reasons, adjust global temperatures down as below. So this doesn't look like much of a conspiracy to exaggerate warming now does it.

    As you can see from the graph down the page, most adjustments for the global record are in the early part of last century, and relate to problems with ocean measurements. The difference between raw and adjusted data since the 1980s is insignificant.

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  26. Wol, the sentence

    "I can't follow the physics - it passes to quickly - but appears genuine."

    doesn't make sense. 

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  27. TomJanson @24 , certainly the worst of the anti-science nonsense is deleted by moderators.  But your own comments, being only 90% nonsense, are mostly permitted.   Moderators do (I gather from observation) usually give the benefit of the doubt to general commenters, allowing [such as in your own case] for the possibility that probable bad-faith comments may be simply be ill-informed comments (deriving from ignorance or Dunning-Kruger-like over-confidence . . . or from reading little more than the headlines found in the internet's Denialosphere).

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  28. Great to see the quality of this sites remains, staffed by volunteers or not, there is noting else like it in the online world today.

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  29. Doug @ 26: No. it doesn't! The "to" is a typo for "too" but the comment refers to the fact that in the video the graphs roll past to quickly for me to follow given that I'm listening to the commentary and in any case they are poor res.

    Very good video though!

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  30. Eclectic @ 10. No, not toying. As I mentioned, I'm not going to tell you what to think, nor claim that the earth's temperature or climate is not changing. If you are really concerned about these factors, then the effort should be in understanding the problem before trying "solutions", less you make matters worse, not better.

    You can first of all consider that scientists are human; they have the same failings as all of us, myself included. Take, for example, the assertion by scientists that aircraft con trails were a source of atmospheric warming - for the very same reasons the claims for greenhouse" effect. During the moratorium on flights over the US for 3 days, the opposite was found, so why were they wrong?

    If you research the physics, the Earth is modelled as a Black Body, so all the energy from the Sun is received and re-emitted (otherwise temperature would continue to rise). The temperature expected is calculated based on the source strength, the reflection (albedo) of the body and the orbital radius. A common theme in researchers is that the difference between the exected temperature (251K) and the "average" temperature (288K) is the warming effect of the "greenhouse" effect of the atmosphere (about 30 degrees C). Well, you can check that theory yourself by checking the BB radiation and surface temperature of a celestial body that is essentially the same distance from the Sun as the Earth, but has no greenhouse gases. You will find its daytime temperature is 400K - about 130degC, while the BB temperature is calculated at 272K - about 0 degC. So does the moon have a 130 degC greenhouse effect? So direct measurement - no theory here - shows a body at our distance from the Sun is much hotter than the estimated BB radiation calculation. Anyone who owns a dog probably has a good idea what controls the temperature on Earth... Next, we can delve into the spectrum and absorption, the basis for the "greenhouse" effect.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB]  There was found no significant correlation between air travel restrictions post 9/11 and surface temperatures (here and here).

    As for the potential impacts of jet travel, per the IPCC AR5, WG1, Chapter Contrails and Contrail-Induced Cirrus, P. 592

    "Estimates of the RF from persistent (linear) contrails often correspond to different years and need to be corrected for the continuous increase in air traffic. More recent estimates tend to indicate somewhat smaller RF than assessed in the AR4...we assess the combined contrail and contrail-induced cirrus ERF for the year 2011 to be +0.05 (+0.02 to +0.15) W m–2 to take into uncertainties on spreading rate, optical depth, ice particle shape and radiative transfer and the ongoing increase in air traffic."

    And from the IPCC AR5, WG1, Chapter Contrails and Contrail-Induced Cirrus, P.686

    "AR4 assessed the RF of contrails (persistent linear contrails) as +0.01 (–0.007 to +0.02) W m–2 and provided no estimate for contrail induced cirrus. In AR5, Chapter 7 gives a best estimate of RF due to contrails of +0.01 (+0.005 to +0.03) W m–2 and an ERF estimate of the combined contrails and contrail-induced cirrus of +0.05 (+0.02 to +0.15) W m–2. Since AR4, the evidence for contrail-induced cirrus has increased because of observational studies (for further details see Section 7.2.7)."

    Sloganeering snipped.

  31. So let's look at absorption spectra - you can find the Sun's online and look at the regions where different chemicals affect the transmissivity versus frequency of the radiation. You will note that CO2 has a strong absorption, though in a relatively short band, while there is something of a big "hole" in the region 10-20 micrometres and, of course, the visible region. Water vapour has the largest impact but, it too, has low absorption in the same band (10-20 micrometres). So, about the people with dogs...

    Those of you who walk your dog in the evening after hot days may have noticed that, despite the same daytime temperatures, the evenings might be cool or hot on different days - why was that?

    Might it have something to do with nighttime cloud cover, perhaps? So at might, we can exclude the Sun's influence, and all we have is the radiative cooling of the Earth which, assuming the black body model, emits energy as a function of tempertaure to the 4th power (T(degK)^4). So, if there's a big "hole" in the infra red spectrum where water vapour is, then it must be the CO2 holding back the radiation, right? Hmmm...OK, so what are clouds made of? Well, looking it up, it seems they are made of liquid water droplets or ice particles. So, would the next step be to check what the IR absorption spectrum is of ice/liquid water compared to water vapour? Let me now what you find in that 10-20 micrometer region...


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    Moderator Response:

    [DB]  As this site is focused on the scientific method and the usage of citations to credible sources to support claims, this is perhaps not the best website for you to participate in.  Plenty of electrons exist elsewhere.

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can and will be rescinded if the posting individual continues to treat adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Moderating this site is a tiresome chore, particularly when commentators repeatedly submit offensive or off-topic posts. We really appreciate people's cooperation in abiding by the Comments Policy, which is largely responsible for the quality of this site.
    Finally, please understand that moderation policies are not open for discussion.  If you find yourself incapable of abiding by these common set of rules that everyone else observes, then a change of venues is in the offing.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

    Sloganeering and off-topic snipped.

  32. Wol, not a quibble on "to" vs. "too." You say the video's explanation of physics passes too quickly to be understood, but it's "genuine." 

    Forced to put on the semantic hat, the hasty explanation is surely "genuine" in the sense that it exists, but if it's indecipherable as received then one cannot say it's "genuine" in the sense of being true. 

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  33. In answer to wildfire history, this paper:

    Global trends in wildfire and its impacts: perceptions versus realities in a changing world:

    Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2016 Jun 5; 371(1696): 20150345.
    doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0345
    PMCID: PMC4874420
    PMID: 27216515


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  34. Trying again with link:

    <a href="">

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  35. <a href="">Global trends in wildfire and its impacts: perceptions versus realities in a changing world</a>

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  36. Barryn56 @ #35 , thank you for providing the reference to the "" article.  (IMO it is not off-topic . . . as this whole thread is rather non-specific in subject.)

    Permit me to make a thumbnail sketch for SkS readers :-  The article is fairly general, and discusses data relating to some of the world's wildfire-prone regions.   But it is far from exhaustive in scope, and it particularly concentrates on 30 years of records (mostly up to about 2013 in its cited references).

    To quote from the article :   "The comparatively brief periods of observation discussed here are strongly influenced by regional interannual variability and are too short to be indicative of longer term trends."

    To put it another way :-  for noisy data such as that of major wildfires / areas burnt / severity of damage / etcetera (and constituted of incomplete world coverage) . . . 30 years or 60 years of data would be insufficient to draw any very useful conclusions.

    Even 100 years of better-quality data would be unhelpful, because of the "Moving Target" nature of Climate Change, combined with the Moving Target effect of the major changes such as population increase; fire-fighting technology changes; communications & mass media changes; and so on.

    Barryn56, the article could not help being vague & imprecise.   So really, for wildfires, we must be guided by basic science and common sense ~ bearing in mind the large differences between monsoonal tropical regions, and colder or hotter "temperate" regions, and differences in vegetation of regions (such as the high-flammability eucalypts of Australia).

    All in all, Barry, I would be interested to hear what you made of "your" article, and why you recommended it.

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  37. The Australian bushfires are unprecedented.  I read The Guardian regularly (an Australian newspaper).  In early December when "unprecedented" started to be used to describe this years fires deniers pointed to 1974 as having burned more acres.  

    Since then The Guardian has had many articles sourced to fire experts that describe the current fires as burning in temperate rainforests that have not burned in hundreds of years.  The fires in 1974 were grass fires that burned in the outback.  Grass fires often cover much more acreage than forest fires.  

    The grass fires happen after large winter/spring rains.  This causes high growth of grass which dries out in summer.  Large fires result that are not controlled.   Similar fires happen in Africa, the USA and other places around the globe.  They are often (by far) the largest fires by acreage, but do not cause much damage.

    The current rainforest fires have no precedent in Australia.  They are caused by the three year drought combined with extreme record heat that dries out trees that normally are too wet to burn.  

    This report from the US National Fire Protection Association describes the difference between grass, brush and forest fires.  Comparing acreage of grass and forest fires, as the deniers are doing here, is comparing apples and oranges.  They are completely different.

    The point that extreme fires are happening around the world is a good reason to be concerned about future fires.  That is not what makes the Australian fires unprecedented.  The Australian fires are unprecedented because they are burning in areas that have never burned before in human experience.

    Comparisons to the deaths 10 years ago in the Victoria fires are also deceptive.  The Victoria fires were the first ones where forests burned from climate change in Australia.  Many people stayed on their properties to defend the properties from the fires.  This was a good strategy in the past when fires were not extreme climate change fires.  Many people died defending their properties.

    This year everyone is fleeing the fires so few people are being killed.  Obviously, people learned 10 years ago that it is a bad idea to defend property from extreme climate change fires.  Duh.

    The fires in Australia are unprecedented because they are burning in areas that have never burned before.  Acreage and death rates are distractions by deniers.

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  38. As far as wildfires go, it's not jsut their extent, but how they start and spread has greatly changed in this region. Our BC summers used to have far more moisture with shorter intervals of hot dry weather. Now we tend to get fairly intense rainfall in early spring and summer then longer period of hot and dry weather as summer progresses. This causes an acceleration of growth in the forests which then dry out and become tinder to start fires. 

    Then in years like 2017 and 2018, thunder storm systems that can span thousands of square kilometers start hundreds of fires in a very brief period of time. A brother who as a member of the Forest Service here and an expert in fighting wildfires for decades has never seen anything like it. Our father also a forestry expert can attest that even with some of the large wildfires in the 1950s, the situation was never as chaotic and dangerous as it is now.

    That's just one tiny window into this critical subject that all the evidence says is about as serious as it gets. When placed in the context of the overall change in climate globally documented on this and many other sites like the Extreme Ice Survey and others plus all the data available from centers of higher learning, GISS, and other research institutes, there's no question that this is happening and almost certainly because we have significantly altered the Earth's radiative balance by changing how the atmosphere exchanges heat with space mostly due to the introduction of hundreds of billions of additional carbon dioxide.

    The heat meter constantly running here tells the constant tale and how this become more critical every day.

    It can be an intense exchange in trying to explain this to some people. My mother a trained geologist and someone who I usually have a free exchange of ideas with including politics even though we are on different parts of the spectrum, can't talk about climate change because of how emtional she becomes about it.

    I've tried to direct her to this site and some others, but I don't she'll ever fully be able to accept the reality of this subject.

    The more people who do and who then demand the necessary actions be taken are a benefit to us all. This is a quest anyone who cares about this issue and its implications to life itself on Earth should never give up on.

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  39. "mostly due to the introduction of hundreds of billions of (tons) of additional carbon dioxide."

    Important word left out from above.

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  40. Doug C @38

    Fyi: Lightning is Sparking More Boreal Forest Fires in Far North America

    Wildfires in the boreal forests of northern Canada and Alaska have been increasing in frequency and the amount of area burned, and the drivers of large fire years are still poorly understood. But recent NASA-funded research offers at least one possible cause: more lightning. As global warming continues, lightning storms and warmer conditions are expected to spread farther north, meaning fire could significantly alter the landscape over time.

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  41. nigelj

    I've watched it happen. In 2018 we had a wet spring and early summer with plenty of growth. Then about three weeks of hot dry weather that dried everything out. Then the first thunderstorm came through with a tiny bit of rain but a great deal of lightening. About 15 minutes later as I was walking into the nearby town there was a small peak to the south that was already fully engulfed in flame and smoke and a couple of kilometers to the north there was smoke from a fire that eventually burned over 4,000 hectares, homes and shut down the main highway for days. Directly across a large lake to the east a fire started from the same storm that eventually burned over 100,000 hectares. Later that week a thunder storm system started over 600 fires across the province in a day, there is simply no way to even fight most of these fires with limited resources.

    The year before my brother and his family were down here for a month because the 20,000 population city where they lived was evacuated due to the massive fires in central BC.

    My parents who live just across the border in Washington state were on evacuation notice for over a month in 2015 as there were huge wildfires in all directions, they weren't sure how they would have escaped if they had received an evacution order.

    And with these fires comes the smoke, two summers in a row with most days sunless due to the dense smoke which was so intense at times that people with asthma - like me - had to find refuge in buildings with filtration systems or wear masks.

    The smoke was so bad in 2018 from the fires here that they were issuing air quality alerts in Winnipeg Manitoba 1,500 kilometers away.

    Manitoba affected by BC wildfire smoke, special air quality alert in effect

    We've all here been watching fo decades as the pine beetle population which is controlled by prolonged bitter cold has exploded because we no longer get prolonged cold spells of under of -30 C for a couple of weeks at a time. This alone has wiped out about 18 million hectares of forest and fundamentally changed the region.

    Mountain pine beetle

    With everythting that is happening I simply don't understand how anyone is still able to deny the existence of this growing catastrophe.

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  42. Can the posters here produce any papers covering the claims? My posts have been moderated (rightly so) because I didn't put paper references. I object to the denier refence, I am trying to be objective and question the research on CO2 (e.g. Attribution of the present‐day total greenhouse effect
    Gavin A. Schmidt,1 Reto A. Ruedy,1 Ron L. Miller,1 and Andy A. Lacis1) one of the models estimating the effects of doubling CO2 and the resultant forcing.

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  43. Barryn56 , if you want information on "Attribution of the present-day total greenhouse effect", then you should go to the top left of the page, to the Search box and type in attribution.  That will give you a choice of posts to read.

    Alternatively, you could (again, top of page) select from the list of "Most Used Climate Myths".   Scroll down until you see a likely candidate.   For your case it will be Myth 188  "IPCC human-caused global warming attribution is unfounded".   Here you will get the OP discussion plus the comments column discussions.  Various references to scientific papers are to be found in the OP and often in the subsequent comments.

    For reasons of economy & common sense, commenters who state that the Earth is round  ~ are (usually) not required to provide supportive peer-reviewed scientific papers from respected journals.  And likewise with other well-established facts.

    For those (such as yourself) who wish to make novel or extraordinary claims, then you are asked (as seems reasonable) to supply some published research on which you base your claims.   If it weren't for this requirement, then the comments columns would fill up with all sorts of bizarre & crackpot ideas.

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  44. barryn56 @42

    If you are genuine in your pursuit of a clearer understanding of this issue then use this very expansive resource, there is very little around climate change and the role that carbon dioxide plays in moderating the Earth's heat budget that hasn't been covered here repeatedly.

    If you're posting unsupported claims that are consistent with a decades long pattern of denial of the best evidence then you are probably going to be moderated for it.

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  45. barryn56 @35

    As per this article

    Global trends in wildfire and its impacts: perceptions versus realities in a changing world

    Perceptions versus reality?

    Last year we set a record for wildfire activity in this province BC, the year before that was the third worse on record and 2009 one of the worst. 

    2018 was also California's worst wildfire season on record.

    We are seeing the same pattern in Siberia and also in Australia where as michael sweet comments they are seeing wildfires in places where they have never been encountered before. 

    The same trend in Europe and the Amazon was on fire last year, a rainforest where wildfires are typically not of that extent.

    This all in the context of most of the highest global average temperatures being in this century just 20 years old.

    Climate change science is based on observation and theory that dates back centuries, are you asking that we discount the role that carbon dioxide plays in moderating the Earth's heat budget. Something that was well established over a century ago, this is hardly new science that needs to be deciphered.

    If as you claim you have a genuine desire to learn the full extent of this subject then take the time to learn it to the depth necessary. Spend a few days or if you have the time a few weeks going through this and other resources.

    James Balog has been traveling the world documenting on film and video the rapid retreat of the cryosphere, if you want a visual representation if the ability of carbon dioxide to trap heat then view his work at;

    Extreme Ice Survey

    Or the works of James Hansen at Columbia and GISS

    Dr. James E. Hansen

    Or the IPCC 2017 Report

    IPCC 2017 Summary

    Or many other resources that others here can fill you in on.

    If you are presenting a viewpoint that runs counter to what almost all the evidence is telling us then in the end that comes down to you chosing those resources that are presenting a contrary position.

    And while you can ask for assistence in determing the most likely explanation, you simply can't demand that anyone "prove" to your satisfaction this isn't happening or that it can't be carbon dioxide responsible.

    In the end that is an impossible task with those who refuse to accept any case that this is so no matter how strong the theoretical and practical observational evidence that supports this.

    The simple fact is, carbon dioxide is the most important persistent gas in the atmosphere for moderating the heat budget for the Earth's surface. This was recognized in the 1850s and quantified in the 1890s.

    The case for this has only grown stronger in the century that followed as theory and experimental equipment has evolved to provide a very clear picture of this subject. 

    We know the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased by over 120ppm in the last century and we also know that the Earth's average temperature has increased as well as EM radiation in the spectrum absorbed and re-emitted by CO2 has increased at the Earth's surface consistent with far more of it being intercepted by all the extra CO2 we have emitted.

    At about 100 times the rate of natural tectonic activity.

    Are Volcanoes or Humans Harder on the Atmosphere?

    You need to look at the entire picture to get an understanding of the scope and impacts of climate change and the still massive output of human generated CO2 every year.

    Cherry picking extremely isolated subtopics and trying to conflate that into real doubt about what is one of the most solidly grounded topics in science today simply isn't genuine in any sense.

    Look at the entire forest - to see that much of it is on fire - instead of picking an isolated tree that happens to be in a region that hasn't been impacted yet and claim that is indicative of the real picture. 

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  46. barryn56 - See this discussion on attribution; there are numerous papers referenced that demonstrate we're responsible for current warming.

    For an earlier reference specifically about the effects of CO2 increases, see Arrhenius 1896 - "On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground". His initial estimate of temperature increase for a doubling of CO2 was high, perhaps 6C, but he revised it a few years later upon reviewing the standard samples he got from Prof. Langley of the Smithsonian (properly compensating for mutual displacement of CO2 and water vapor in the samples) to ~4.3C per doubling - which is within the current 1.5-4.5 range estimated by the IPCC.

    It's basic science, and we've known about it for quite a while. Increasing CO2 warms the planet in a way that matches theory and observations; nothing else can account for it.

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  47. Sorry, the correct revision by Arrhenius was to 4C/doubling of CO2, from the 1908 book Worlds in the Making.

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  48. barryn56 @42, just my 2 cents worth. Climate models have proven to be quite good at predicting the future, including temperature trends. Go to and theres an article on their home page about half way down.

    Yes there are uncertainties about the more distant future due to uncertainties about clouds etc, but the weight of evidence from modelling, temperatures over the last couple of years,  and the paleo history suggests we are in for a lot of warming. The thing is a lot of evidence points in the same direction, and it would be foolish to dismiss that.

    You mentioned something that appears to have been deleted due to sloganeering rules. You said something like cloudy nights are very warm because of water droplets and ice in the clouds, implying that water vapour and CO2 are very weak greenhouse gases. Please note that humid nights with no clouds are also very warm. I'm not a climate expert, and some healthy scepticism is good, but dont jump to conclusions before doing your homework very carefully.

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  49. Wol@19 said: "Here's a first class argument 'against' CO2 causing climate change."  For a response, check out this websites 'Most Used Climate Myths' #74.

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  50. Wol@19 refers to video by Mallen Baker : "The best argument AGAINST CO2 causing climate change?"  (posted Jan 7,  2020)

    Actually quite a good video, properly science-based.  My impression is that Mallen Baker composed the title as clickbait for denialists.  His video in essence shows that there is not  any good argument against CO2.

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