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Climate Hustle

The contradictory nature of global warming skepticism

Posted on 11 September 2010 by dana1981

A major challenge in conversing with anthropogenic global warming (AGW) skeptics is that they constantly seem to move the goalposts and change their arguments.  As a consequence, they also frequently contradict themselves.  One day they'll argue the current global warming is caused by the Sun, the next that it's "natural cycles", the next that the planet is actually cooling, and the next day they'll say the surface temperature record is unreliable, so we don't even know what the global temperature is.  This is why Skeptical Science has such an extensive skeptic argument list.

It should be obvious that the arguments listed above all contradict each other, yet they're often made by the same skeptics.  As one prominent example, in 2003 physicist and skeptic Fred Singer was arguing that the planet wasn't warming, yet in 2007 he published a book arguing that the planet is warming due to a 1,500-year natural cycle.  You can't have it both ways!

It's a testament to the robustness of the AGW theory that skeptics can't seem to decide what their objection to it is.  If there were a flaw in the theory, then every skeptic would pounce on it and make a consistent argument, rather than the current philosophy which seems to be "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks."

It would behoove AGW skeptics to decide exactly what their objection to the scientific theory is, because then it would be easier to engage in a serious discussion, rather than the current situation where we're basically playing whack-a-mole with the favored skeptic argument of the day, which totally contradicts the favored skeptic argument from yesterday.

Just as one example, you can't argue that the Sun is causing global warming and that climate sensitivity is low.   Solar output has only increased by about 0.1% over the past century, and the way you determine the associated global temperature change is to multiply the change in solar radiative forcing by the climate sensitivity factor.  So they only way you could argue for a significant solar warming would be if climate sensitivity is high.  You just can't have it both ways - if climate sensitivity is low, it's not just low with respect to greenhouse gases, it's also low to solar activity, orbital variations, volcanic emissions, etc.  And if it's low, then the Sun has caused less than 0.1°C of the 0.8°C warming over the past century.  Similarly, arguing for a low climate sensitivity contradicts the climate has changed before argument for the same reason.  If climate sensitivity is low, it will prevent significant climate changes regardless of the cause, whether they be anthropogenic or solar or some other natural forcing.

If you want to argue that the warming is due to a natural cycle, then pick a specific natural cycle and research it.  Make sure there's a scientific basis to your argument.  For example, don't argue that it's due to a 1,500-year cycle when the planet wasn't warming 1,500 years ago!  But most importantly, don't contradict yourself by claiming that the planet isn't warming the next day.  These kinds of flip-flops are common on Anthony Watts' blog, which had a very schizophrenic six month period:

And that's when he's not arguing that the surface temperature record is so contaminated that we don't even know if the planet is warming.  Or that this supposedly unreliable data shows cooling.

But until skeptics start making some consistent arguments, Skeptical Science has set up a page listing all the skeptic arguments that contradict each other in order to make the mole whacking a little easier.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 353:

  1. Link to "skeptic arguments that contradict each other" is broken.

    The science is sound. All they have is repeating the same old talking points that have been dis proven again and again. Skeptical Science makes it easier to whack the mole, saves researching the same old stuff again and again.
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  2. Lots of broken links in the article, could it be my system?
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  3. Links are busted, badly formed - looks like they were created with an HTML editor that had some issues.
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  4. Looks like we lost the links somewhere in translation there, but I think I got them all fixed.
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  5. * puts up hand, looks guilty * sorry, I think thats the second time I've gone and ruined all the links in a guest blog post. Maybe that's what happens when you blog from an iPad :-(
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  6. Not a problem, at least you get to play with an iPad!
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  7. In general changing theories is a good thing especially if the old ones are wrong.

    "Karl and his colleagues conclude that there is only a one-in-20 chance that the string of record high temperatures in 1997-1998 was simply an unusual event, rather than a change point, the start of a new and faster ongoing trend."

    But then warming decelerated and that's ok, there's no way Karl could have predicted that. But a skeptical scientist would have acknowledged the likelihood of natural acceleration and deceleration and not proclaimed 95% confidence of 1997-1998 being the "start" of anything.
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  8. All of your links to WattsUpWithThat seem to link to one page tut-tutting at a picture of a thermometer placement, 'How not to measure temperature, part 22'. Any chance of fixing that?
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  9. Eli has long recognized that the denialists believe ten impossible (well, contradictory) things before breakfast

    and they get....annoyed when this is pointed out
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  10. I actually don't think that it does behoove the denialists to come up with a single objection-after all, a moving target is much harder to hit, so to speak. Its harder to debunk them when they come up with a new reason daily. Also, remember that they're not directing this at people like us-who at least have tried to understand all the facts-but at the average person who elects their local politician.
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  11. @ Eric (Skeptic), you are aware that sunspot activity for the current solar cycle (2000-2010) has been falling, & spent an extended period of time at levels unseen since the Maunder Minimum?

    You also know that 1998 was an aberrant year, with a peak in solar activity & the strongest El-Nino in a century producing an above average anomaly?

    Yet in spite of this, the average temperature anomaly for the 1990's was +0.321 degrees C (above 1961-1990 levels), wheras for 2000-2009 it was an average of +0.515 degrees C. Also, wheras the average anomaly for 1990-1999 was only 0.141 degrees higher than the 1980's, the average anomaly for 2000-2009 was 0.194 degrees higher than the 1990's. Doesn't sound like a deceleration to me-even with decreased inputs from the sun!
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  12. Just as one example, you can't argue that the Sun is causing global warming and that climate sensitivity is low. Solar output has only increased by about 0.1% over the past century, and the way you determine the associated global temperature change is to multiply the change in solar radiative forcing by the climate sensitivity factor

    Of course we can. Not all forcings are created equal. They act on different parts of the climate system and have different effects. You simply can't convert all kinds of forcings to a common currency of W/m2.

    For example while the overall brightness of the sun varies little indeed, it is not true for the UV portion of the spectrum. Here variability is two or three orders of magnitude higher.

    As the atmosphere as a whole is not transparent at most UV frequencies, this radiation gets absorbed in the stratosphere. We can of course argue over what effects this highly variable input has on the climate system, but it has nothing to do with sensitivity to other kinds of forcings, like soot pollution on snow, which increases absorption right on the surface.

    In popularization of science you should make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.

    Advances in Space Research
    Volume 1, Issue 9, 1981, Pages 101-115
    The variability of the sun's ultraviolet radiation
    G. E. Brueckner

    "Typical values for the solar UV variability over a solar cycle are: <1% at wavelengths longer than 2100 Å, 8% at 2080 Å (continuum), 20% at 1900 Å (continuum), 70% at H Lyα, 200% in certain emission lines 1200 < λ < 1800 Å and more than a factor of 4 in coronal lines λ < 1000 Å."
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  13. Berényi, I debunked "it's the Sun", including your UV variability argument a couple of days ago, and linked to it in this article.

    Been there, done that, mole whacked.
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  14. Berényi - You are correct, in that different forcings have different effects. However, once they get down to W/m^2 imposed in specific levels of the atmosphere and on the ground, they are the same. And the various climate sensitivity feedbacks will act upon them.

    We're seeing stratospheric cooling - given that UV absorption is mostly stratospheric, it doesn't appear that UV is increasing the energies (joules) in the Earth/atmosphere system.

    Total solar output has varied 0.1%, UV has perhaps varied 20%, but with no discernible warming of the stratosphere. This is not a disproof of a CO2 driven enhanced greenhouse effect.
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  15. #13 dana1981 at 12:59 PM on 11 September, 2010
    I debunked "it's the Sun", including your UV variability argument a couple of days ago

    You have debunked nothing, just referenced this rather coarse model study:

    Science 9 April 1999
    Vol. 284. no. 5412, pp. 305 - 308
    DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5412.305
    Solar Cycle Variability, Ozone, and Climate
    Drew Shindell, David Rind, Nambeth Balachandran, Judith Lean and Patrick Lonergan

    "We used the GISS stratospheric general circulation model (GCM) a primitive equation model including parameterized gravity waves, with 8° latitude by 10° longitude resolution and 23 levels extending from the surface to 85 km (0.002 mbar). The two-dimensional (2D) model­ derived chemistry parameterization includes wavelength-dependent ozone response to changes in radiation and temperature"

    As for actual measurements performed all we get is this:

    "Observations cover less than two solar cycles, however, and were perhaps affected by the two large volcanic eruptions that occurred during the data period near successive solar maxima."
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  16. The problem as I see it is that climate is very complex and as in many areas of science multiple factors may help explain a range of phenomena in different parts of the world at similar an/or different times.

    Pointing this out does not necessarily amount to shifting the goalposts.

    However, my principal gripe lies with the following:

    'These kinds of flip-flops are common on Anthony Watts' blog, which had a very schizophrenic six month period...'

    Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness affecting around 0.5 - 1% of the population causing an enormous burden of distress to patients and families alike.

    Some of the best and bravest people I have been privileged to meet have had protracted struggles with this illness.

    I strongly protest the use of the adjective as a pejorative label for perceived incoherence in argumentation.

    Remember, someone reading this blog might well suffer schizophrenia or a related illness or have a loved one thus afflicted.
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  17. chriscaranis: schizophrenia "commonly manifests as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking, and it is generally accompanied by significant social or occupational dysfunction" (according to wiki) - seems a good description of what goes on at WUWT.
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  18. What skeptics claim is that climate is complex, and the effects of the contributing phenomena have not been modeled well enough to accurately predict future climate. This is in contrast to the claim that while other things drove climate in the past, nothing of consequence is driving climate now except CO2.

    The old-fashioned National Geographic magazine described in an article on the Arctic a couple years, unrelated to climate change, ago how the arctic ice pack receded on a regular cycle, last in the 1930s and before that in the 1800s. CO2 crisis advocates ultimately acknowledged that El Nino caused the spike in warming in the 90s. Everyone acknowledges the cold year resulting from the eruption of Mt.Pinatubo; the climate models were fudged for that one. The Little Ice Age is be well correlated with a long period of low sunspot activity, and the Medieval Warm Period with high activity.

    The reason why skeptics don't settle down and pick one dominant driver of climate is that they do not believe there is one, or even that all of the factors are known.
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  19. Oh, I should mention that skeptics acknowledge that CO2 causes global warming, as the equations of physics say. Way is at issue is where the CO2 effects are multiplied by three as crisis advocates claim.
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  20. Roy, it seems as though you're saying that what real AGW skeptics dispute is the value of climate sensitivity, which I agree, is a valid issue to question (although it's constrained quite well between 2 and 4.5°C for 2xCO2).

    However, you're missing the point that you can't one day argue that the Sun is causing global warming, the next day argue that the planet isn't warming at all, the next day that it's some unspecified "natural cycle", the next day that the temperature record is unreliable, etc. etc. These arguments contradict eachother.

    If you want to dispute the accepted range of climate sensitivity, then by all means go for it. But I'm simply saying that a little consistency would increase skeptics' credibility by leaps and bounds.
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  21. You're list of five WUWT article really highlights what WUWT is about. The first 4 are reports around recently published papers or press releases of those studies. The fifth seems to be a response to a NASA GISS announcement. I'm just getting this from the title and the first few lines, somebody can correct me if they want to read all five articles. I know WUWT wants to highlight reports they think are critical of the concensus science but if you keep that in mind means its a worthwhile place to look at a range of opinions.

    It strikes me that WUWT isn't necessarily saying "here is the answer" in each of the articles but highlighting the rainbow of opinions in climate science. In fact I've very occasionally read articles from very pro-AGW climate scientists there. Would these guys also be included in the crackpot range of opinions on WUWT?

    Dana1981 why don't you ask Antony Watts for space to put a pro-AGW article on his blog, I'd be interested in seeing his reply?

    In many ways there is no need for consistency, everything is always changing, improving and up for debate.
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  22. Roy Latham:
    "The reason why skeptics don't settle down and pick one dominant driver of climate is that they do not believe there is one, or even that all of the factors are known."

    Mainstream scientists seek to understand what is happening and accept that all factors are not known.

    Scientists successfully use current physics knowledge every day despite the knowledge that all factors are not known. So what's different about climate science. The difference is politics.

    But more to the point. Skeptics do not have a consistent explanation and aren't seeking one. A scientist wishing to improve human knowledge would seek an explanation.
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  23. I recently received an email from a friend that gave me a new insight into the mind of sceptics. I'd like to share it with people on this excellent forum.

    "When a problem becomes too great, we stop being concerned about it! This is fairly well-known psychological effect, sometimes referred to as "mortality salience". It's as if our brains can't cope with an overburden of anxiety, so we blank off the concern - shutting it out of our minds or (perversely) inventing reasons why not to worry. An example is a study undertaken of people living in a narrow valley under a dam - who might be killed if the dam burst. They questioned people in the valley about how concerned they were about living below the dam. As they got closer to the dam, they found people were more concerned, as you'd expect. However, less than a critical distance below the dam, they found people had no concern at all. It was as if one couldn't survive if you were looking up at the dam every day and worrying about it."
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  24. I think part of the problem here is that there are several, overlapping, schools of "skepticism". Some are genuinely confused by the science or mislead by the popular press. For these folks is an excellent resource.

    Others are political "reactionaries", for lack of a better word. They just don't like Big Government, feel that the world is a bit out of control etc. For these folks, this this site may tip them or not depending on how important their adherence to their political agenda is. Evidence, for them, sits on a part with social studies of the economic affect of socialized health services or the leangth of prison sentences. It's just stuff that backups Our or Their political platform.
    For these folk, their agenda is clear and open. But never forget, talking to this world you are doing politics not science.

    There is a third school is conspiracy theorists. For these folks "evidence" is nothing to do with facts. For these folk, "evidence" - be it science papers, websites, news paper articles, enquirers etc. - is True if it supports their view and False if not. Simple as that. From this POV, is either something "They" have put out to delude the public or something generated by "Sheep". This site will have exactly no impact on their thinking.
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  25. Sorry, should have added to the above..
    .. For the conspiracy theorists their arguments are *not* contradictory (let alone hypocritical, which the average reader might think). When a theory based argument supports AGW, theory is a bad thing (it's just guesses, incomplete, chaotically unpredictable etc. etc.); when a theory "demolishes" AGW it's True, reliable, precise... why isn't this contradictory - because the criteria for support of the statement is not what most people would consider "fact", the criteria is conformation or not of their USP (Ultimate Sacred Postulate, ref: Rappaport).
    Same with climate history - proxy data is evil when it shows we're in exceptional circumstances, but the fountain of truth when it shows that the temperatures have been warmer than today at some past time. It matters not that this is all the same methodology, the same data, worked with and understood by professionals as much as Those In The Know...
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  26. The point is not to find the single cause (which does not exist) that overall drives the climate, there are several known factors that in the short or long term influence it.
    Many (not all) skeptics use these factors to claim that there's more than CO2, which we all know. What they do not do is give a complete picture of the behaviour of our climate "glueing" together all the pieces in a coherent framework. In this way they are free to "attack" any single piece, not being bounded by the consequences on the other aspects of the large picture, as evidenced by dana81 in this post.
    This is why it's often pointeless to discuss with them and why i do not think it's appropiate to call them skeptics, although i still use this term for "political correctness".
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  27. dana1981 #13
    "Been there, done that, mole whacked"

    Is that a scientific attitude?

    ...and is it truely scientific to assume inherent solar stability into the future.
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  28. Marcus (#11), it is best to take Riccardo's advice (#26) and give a complete picture by considering all the evidence and potential factors. One piece of evidence you left out was a deceleration of warming shown by satellite temperature measurements. Since they measure the troposphere rather than the surface they depict the strong 1998 El Nino nicely (much stronger than Karl realized when he wrote his report which turned out to be wrong). That same measurement shows that the recent El Nino was weaker (smaller relative peak) yet the running average will likely exceed 1998. That means there is warming from 1998 to present, likely from steady (not accelerated) CO2 warming.

    You considered only one solar factor of many and no terrestrial factors. One terrestrial factor you left out was positive PDO which may have changed to negative around 2008. The result of that factor is less heat in the ocean and more in the atmosphere where your surface measurements were taken. According to the Pielke thread that also confirms the deceleration in warming based on total heat in the ocean atmosphere system.

    Bottom line is steady CO2 warming with acceleration and deceleration due to natural influences.
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  29. RSVP, it doesn't matter if you show a whole coherent community of moles, they will just pick one and whack it.
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  30. Except, Eric, that your mob have no coherent moles, & so instead create illusory ones to keep everyone off balance. The reality is that your claims are not supported by the available evidence. The solar component is a major part of the energy balance of the planet, & can't be casually dismissed as you try to do, that we're still getting warming *in spite* of a significant decline in sunspot activity suggests that something else-very significant-is at play. Remember that we've had a downward trend in sunspot activity for THIRTY YEARS, yet each decade has been, on average, warmer than the decade before over that entire period. Even when sunspots are almost non-existent we still get a warming trend-where we actually should see-if anything-*cooling* (the correlation between PDO & warming for the last 30 years is less than 2% btw). Bottom line-accelerated CO2 warming with further acceleration/deceleration due to natural influences.
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  31. RSVP - I don't know, perhaps we should resume debating whether the Earth revolves around the Sun and whether or not it's flat.

    Or we can realize that at some point, when there is overwhelming scientific evidence against a certain concept, it's time to acknowledge that it's incorrect and move on. There simply is nothing to the UV warming theory. It's a small fraction of total solar irradiance and only impacts local temperatures and climate, not the average global temperature.

    And nobody is assuming solar output will remain completely constant in the future. Then again, it's only changed by about 0.1% over the past several hundred years, so it's pretty safe to assume it won't be undergoing any radical changes, either.
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  32. I like mucking around with the interactive graphs at woodfortrees.

    Solar v Temps

    Solar, CO2 and Temps

    Temps v PDO

    Global 'cooling' since 1998 (using statistically significant periods)

    And if your interlocutor likes working with periods that are not statistically significant, then it's good to let them know that global warming restarted with a vengeance in 2006! ;-)

    I ginned these up a couple of weeks ago and saved them, and because of the deep fascination with alleged cycles at WUWT, I tried to make sure solar data ran from peak to peak (or trough to trough in this case).

    Just for fun, of course.
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  33. BP @ 12 IIUC the UV radiation is so weak, that it's not even measured in mW but in photons/second. So although it may vary by large percentages, what amplification method turns less than mW at the edge of the atmosphere into Watts lower down?
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  34. Marcus (#30) and barry, painting a linear trend in sunspots is pointless since sunspots are only a proxy for a variety of solar phenomenon which themselves only affect weather indirectly and then weather modulates the sensitivity for CO2 warming. As many people have pointed out in this forum, more unevenness of water vapor causes less back radiation from WV and less sensitivity, the cloud changes are secondary but also modulate back radiation and albedo (please don't whack the albedo mole, he is not important).

    As just one example, the neutron count has only very recently reached new highs
    and this will affect clouds and weather and sensitivity, likely lowering it. Another example is UV that BP pointed out, with its affect on weather (regional temperature changes probably caused by modulation of the jet stream, likely lowering sensitivity by increasing meridional flow following an increase in UV). When I say sensitivity I mean the amount of added back radiation from WV for a given amount of added back radiation from increased CO2. Note I don't say "added WV" since hypothetical "average" increases in WV don't matter, only the weather-controlled distribution of WV matters.
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  35. One wonders if climate skeptics are skeptical of science in general, and perform open heart surgery on themselves.
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  36. Evening all. Apparently I am a 'sceptic'. What I am sceptical of is that the predicted warming will occur as a result of the increase of CO2. I believe we don't know. Well, that's not just a belief, of course, but a fact - we DON'T know.

    As a sceptic I don't recognise the panel of excuses on the left of this site. Some of the points are valid, some are not - to actually make as statements. I find very many comments made from both 'sides' very silly, unconstructive, and poor science.

    Anyway, that aside, what I want to know (from those that hold the warming faith) is, what would it take for man-made global warming to be falsified? Is there a recognised criteria which would make, for example the owner of this blog, to state "Whoah, that shouldn't happen if man-made warming is true". Is it, for example, a 10-year long downturn in global temps, or a 10-year period of reduced ocean temps? We all know that climate change is real - climate changes. We all know that there will be blips in warming or cooling. But what if that 'blip' lasts 10 years? Is that valid? Or should we wait another 20 years after that?

    Try and be nice, it makes for a pleasant conversation.
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  37. Re: Baz (36)
    "what would it take for man-made global warming to be falsified?"
    This is the short version of what we know:
    1. Increasing the level of a greenhouse gas in a planet’s atmosphere, all else being equal, will raise that planet’s surface temperature.
    2. CO2 is a greenhouse gas (Tyndall 1859).
    3. CO2 is rising (Keeling et al. 1958, 1960, etc.).
    4. Therefore (given 1-3 above) the Earth should be warming.
    5. From multiple converging lines of evidence, we know the Earth is warming (NASA GISS, Hadley Centre CRU, UAH MSU, RSS TLT, borehole results, melting glaciers and ice caps, etc., etc., etc.).
    6. The warming is moving in close correlation with the carbon dioxide (r = 0.874 for ln CO2 and dT 1880-2008).
    7. The new CO2 (as shown by its isotopic signature) is mainly from burning fossil fuels (Suess 1955, Revelle and Suess, 1958).
    8. Therefore the global warming currently occurring is anthropogenic (caused by mankind).
    In order for man-made global warming to be falsified, a physics-based alternative would have to exist (and survive scientific scrutiny) that explains the multiple lines of converging evidence we see that also explains why the physics of greenhouse gases works in every instance except for those GHG's produced through the activity of man.

    Decades later, no such theory is forthcoming.

    As far as trends emerging from the noise (weather vs climate) see here.

    Obfuscation (waiting for surety) is pointless. By the time "all" would be satisfied (and some denialarati never will be) it will be too late. So it comes down to risk management.

    Try this: you are given a pistol. You are told it "may" contain a bullet and that you are to put the pistol to your head and pull the trigger. You ask about the surety of that "may", right? Is 1:6,000,000 a safe risk? 1:6,000? 1:6?

    Science tells us that the world is warming (NAS) and that human-released CO2 is likely (90%) causing it.

    The gun is to our head and we are pulling the trigger...

    Wasn't that pleasant?

    The Yooper
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  38. Baz,

    it's interesting to ask these questions.

    The current rate of warming is about 0.2 degrees per decade and the noise on the data has a standard deviation of about 0.2 degrees (taking the annual figures).

    If you use (for example) excel to plot this as modelled data then you can see how likely it is for a 5, 10 or 20 year period to show net cooling.

    Why not try it ? It's easy to do and it will show you that what scientists say is correct: that significant periods of apparent cooling can be expected and that climate should be considered over a 30 year period.

    If you do it yourself you'll believe the results. Come back and tell us what you find ?

    (Hope that was pleasant enough ?)
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  39. Baz, I'd suggest reading several of the article on this site to get a basic grounding in the science. For instance, this article should help to start to explain why your question about falsifying man-made global warming is a non-starter.

    To disprove human warming of the climate you would have to find the entire science of spectroscopy to contain fundamental errors, explain why the planet is not a frozen ball of ice (since the greenhouse effect would have hypothetically been disproven), explain away thousands of scientific observations and measurements which show that humans are warming the planet, and otherwise rewrite about 200 years worth of science.

    In short... it isn't going to happen. Which is why 'sceptic' scientists don't dispute that humans are causing global warming... only HOW MUCH warming will result.
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  40. @Barry: *golf clap*

    I would like to say that the incredible work done here at Skeptical Science has helped a lot in whacking moles further.

    The best deniers can come up when I provide links to this site are that John Cook is a "cartoonist," admittedly one of the strangest Ad Hominems I've ever heard.

    I once tried to categorize deniers/contrarians/political skeptics on the late news aggregator site Digg by putting them in four categories:

    a) Those who believe the world isn't warming;

    b) Those who believe the world is warming, but argue it's due to natural causes;

    c) Those who say that AGW exists, but it's on too small a scale to be a cause of worry;


    d)Those who agree AGW exists, and is serious, but argue adaptation is better than trying to change our ways.

    I quickly found out it was an impossible task as most contrarians ended up belonging to many of the (mutually exclusive) categories over a period of time.
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  41. I'd written a post a while back listing the ways climate skeptics are contradictory and hypocritical - and not just on the science. For example, you can't believe both that markets solve all problems and that a CO2 price will destroy the economy. They also said the US did not need a permission slip from other countries to go to war in Iraq, but don't want to act on climate change until poor countries have done so. We got up to 55 contradictions:
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  42. @beam me up scotty (35)
    A certain constituency certainly is - and resent all science even as they tap away at their computers, in warm lit rooms posting stuff on the internet claiming that science is corrupt and produces nothing of value.
    Some of the reason for this is that some (maybe only a few) actually have an alternative, constructed reality including ufology and technologies beyond the reach and understanding of current science... it's an odd little world.

    Should also be pointed out that a large group who are anti the economic impacts of AGW ameliorate policy are hugely pro-science as they generate a huge part of their wealth from it --- oil, power production, air travel (Hi
    Michael O'Leary) etc. The "Merchants of Doubt" documents how ever very good science and scientists can be used in this way.

    Again - and on-topic for this article! - In both these cases the proponents are not being contradictory in their own worlds. The science, as discussed here, isn't at being technically approached. It's the work of folks which is judged right or wrong based on how it agrees with their respective agenda, not in it's own right.
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  43. @Baz: "Anyway, that aside, what I want to know (from those that hold the warming faith) is, what would it take for man-made global warming to be falsified?"

    Okay, first the choice of the expression "the warming faith" pretty much destroys any pretense of impartiality on your part. This site is for scientific discussion, try to "play nice."

    Second, it's pretty easy to falsify AGW theory. If AGW wasn't happening, then we wouldn't find an increase in outgoing longwave radiation (or downward radiation) at the wavelengths of greenhouse gases that have seen their atmospheric concentration increase due to human activity. Observations that didn't show such an increase would pretty much disprove most of AGW theory. Thus, it can be falsified.

    Of course, that says nothing about climate sensivity values, which seems to be the point you're making in your opening statement - before moving the goal posts to "AGW theory isn't falsifiable" in the *same* comment (thereby proving the article's point...)
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  44. Baz:
    "Anyway, that aside, what I want to know (from those that hold the warming faith) is, what would it take for man-made global warming to be falsified?"

    Falsifying or proving something wrong doesn't give an answer for how the climate works.
    That's your problem. In science, it isn't acceptable to be just in opposition.

    General Relativity did not falsify Newtonian Physics, it built on it and filled some holes.

    It is your attitude that is incorrect. It may be OK in politics (actually it isn't), but it isn't acceptable in science.
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  45. @Eric (Skeptic):

    First of all, we are all skeptics here. Science and skepticism go hand in hand. Being a skeptic, however, doesn't mean that one doesn't believe AGW theory: it means they have looked honestly at the scientific evidence and can form a logically-sound argument as to whether they agree with the statement or not.

    The fact of the matter is that the current evidence all points to AGW being real. Thus, the logical position for a true skeptic is to acknowledge that AGW theory is almost certainly correct, and that it is the contrarian viewpoint we should be increasingly skeptical about...

    Anyway, I just wanted to say I'm a bit puzzled by one of your arguments:

    "As just one example, the neutron count has only very recently reached new highs and this will affect clouds and weather and sensitivity, likely lowering it."

    First, it doesn't seem from looking at the linked graph that there is any kind of long-term increasing trend in neutron count. Second, what exactly do you base yourself when you claim a high neutron count (which seems to coincide with low sunspot numbers) affects cloud cover, weather and climate sensitivity? A link to peer-reviewed science would be nice.
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  46. Baz - disproving that humans are the dominant cause of the current global warming would basically require changing our understanding of basic physics. I recommend my post on quantifying the human contribution to global warming. If you read that, you'll see the basic physics upon which man-made global warming is based, and that's what would have to be disproven.

    There are open questions, such as how much the planet will warm in the future, how cloud feedbacks will change in response to global warming, how much we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and so on. But the human cause of the current global warming simply isn't going to be disproven.
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  47. Hi, I spend a a fair amount of time alerting skeptics to their internal contradictions. To do this PROPERLY you have to have the exact skeptic saying the contradictory thing.

    So lets see how you did with WUWT.

    June 2009: global warming was blamed on the sun.

    WRONG: This article is a repost of a NASA study:
    " NASA Goddard study suggests solar variation plays a role in our current climate"
    The suggestion is NASA's suggestion not Watts. Although watts does write the following:
    "Some researchers believe that the solar cycle influences global climate changes. They attribute recent warming trends to cyclic variation. Skeptics, though, argue that there’s little hard evidence of a solar hand in recent climate changes.

    [NOTE: there is evidence of solar impact on the surface temperature record, as Basil Copeland and I discovered in this report published here on WUWT titled Evidence of a Lunisolar Influence on Decadal and Bidecadal Oscillations In Globally Averaged Temperature Trends - Anthony]"

    His interest is in sun spots more than TSI. while I think its bunk. Its hardly ACCURATE for you to cite this as "WUWT" blaming the "SUN". they are posting a NASA article.

    July 2009: it turned out global warming was caused by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

    THIS is Watts citing Another article:
    "“Surge in global temperatures since 1977 can be attributed to a 1976 climate shift in the Pacific Ocean”" That article is by australian researchers. He also notes a REBUTTAL by trenberth. So, again, you dont have a SKEPTIC saying two different things you have a skeptic POINTING OUT that two papers say different things. HARDLY a contradiction. If one scientist says A and another says -A, then the fact that I point this out does not foist the contradiction onto ME.

    September 2009: back to the sun.

    AGAIN, you miss the mark. This is a repost of an opinion piece and it is called out as an opinion piece. Its an opinion piece offered by someone other than Watts.
    Now watts ALSO posts pieces by me, but we dont share opinions. Does he "catch" or get infected by an opinion by merely posting it?

    Svensmark: “global warming stopped and a cooling is beginning” – “enjoy global warming while it lasts”
    Posted on September 10, 2009 by Anthony Watts
    UPDATED: This opinion piece from Professor Henrik Svensmark was published September 9th in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Originally the translation was from Google translation with some post translation cleanup of jumbled words or phrases by myself. Now as of Sept 12, the translation is by Nigel Calder. Hat tip to Carsten Arnholm of Norway for bringing this to my attention and especially for translation facilitation by Ágúst H Bjarnason – Anthony

    December 2009: no wait, it turns out CFCs are the major culprit

    You are WRONG AGAIN: This is a repost of an article:

    "Study shows CFCs, cosmic rays major culprits for global warming"
    The tactic goes like this. The skeptic points out "conflicts" in the science. he doesnt own those "contradictions" by pointing them out. NOW, they do say contradictory things, as you note, BUT you have to be better at this game of catching them than you are. It does not ay to be a lazier thinker than the person you are criticizing

    January 2010: hello, we're back to El Niño as the major driver of climate

    WRONG again. This is watts refering to Bob Tisdales work,

    If you want to catch somebody in a contradiction you have to cite THEIR WORDS and their beliefs.
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  48. archiesteel - "I quickly found out it was an impossible task as most contrarians ended up belonging to many of the (mutually exclusive) categories over a period of time."

    I sadly found that many "skeptics" are view the problem through a political lens. Changing their mind would involve changing their values which just isnt going to happen. Its worth refuting disinformation for the sake of other readers but that's all.

    The contradictory nature has at its bottom a determination that nothing should change. When you are just looking for an excuse for inaction rather than truth, then ANYTHING will do. They have no problem with "it not happening/its not us/its good for us" because all of those argue against change.

    It makes me deeply pessimistic about our future.
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  49. we're basically playing whack-a-mole with the favored skeptic argument of the day, which totally contradicts the favored skeptic argument from yesterday

    Some elementary logic, sir. Suppose you have a hypothesis H which in fact can either be true or false (but you firmly believed it was true).

    Then there are two others, X and Y, both contradicting H, but also contradicting each other.

    Does this latter contradiction confirm hypothesis H?

    Answer: No.

    I hope you realize the logic is entirely symmetric under permutations of these three hypotheses, therefore if H would be confirmed, so would both X and Y be. Three hypotheses contradicting pairwise, but somehow all being confirmed by these contradictions is a somewhat whacky idea, we should agree on that.

    The only asymmetry in the situation is that you supposed H was true. In this case of course both X and Y should be false regardless the contradiction between them, just because each contradicts a true hypothesis, H.

    So the contradiction between X and Y adds nothing to your confidence in H (which is already perfect anyway).

    On the other hand if we approach the situation with no prejudice, we can only conclude at most one of the three hypotheses can be true, nothing else. That is, either all of them are false or there is a true one the others being false. But from the pairwise contradictions alone we can not tell which one of the four possible cases does hold in fact.

    That being said I ask you why should so called skeptics be consistent among them? It is not a war where one either seeks protection by choosing a side or gets pillaged by both armies. Genuine skepticism is never settled and considers its subject from all possible (and impossible) angles, that's only natural.

    On the other hand the science is supposed to be settled. One necessary condition to it being free of internal contradictions. But unfortunately it is not the case, at least not for mainstream AGW communication.

    Just one example. The ARGO fleet happens not to measure any accumulation of heat in the upper 700 m layer of oceans since its large scale deployment started around mid 2003. As time goes by, the situation is getting ever more inconvenient for the computational climate model suggested hypothesis of an ongoing radiation flux imbalance of the planet on the order of 0.8 W/m2.

    One possible rescue operation is to suppose the missing energy went below that level and was sequestered there (just to come back later to haunt us). However, heat conductance of water being absolutely inadequate for such a large scale energy exchange, it can not happen without so far hidden material flows between the surface and the abyss.

    Now, if mixing of oceans is in fact so much more vigorous than we thought, the hullabaloo around ocean acidification is just much ado about nothing. The water going down from the surface would carry not only heat with it, but also dissolved CO2. Dissolved carbon in the entire water column being about 5000 times more than our annual emissions, that is, even if all the CO2 would stay in solution indefinitely (which is not the case), it would increase by 2% in a century, which is unmeasurable on the pH scale (because it is logarithmic).

    For that matter, it would also debunk any century scale several degrees centigrade warming, because 0.8 W/m2 excess energy flux needs 500 years to increase ocean temperatures by 1°C if the entire water column is heated uniformly (that's 0.2°C/century).

    Therefore if the scare is to be kept up, we are left with no choice but to suppose the upper 700 m is a good indicator of energy balance after all. However, in this case the heat trapped by atmospheric CO2 has nowhere to go. It can only be radiated out to space, that is, it's not trapped at all.

    Fine mess.
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  50. Re: Cornelius Breadbasket (23)

    Apologies. I missed this earlier:
    "When a problem becomes too great, we stop being concerned about it! This is fairly well-known psychological effect, sometimes referred to as "mortality salience".
    Thanks for that. I see that in action every day, but didn't know it had a name.

    Mainstream America in general, and our leadership in specific, suffers from a massive dose of it.

    The Yooper
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