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Why climate change contrarians owe us a (scientific) explanation

Posted on 11 October 2013 by gpwayne

For a while now, I’ve considered climate change denial to be akin to superstition, which the Oxford Dictionaries site defines as “a widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences.” I mention this because when challenged, contrarians often claim that the climate changes we are witnessing are not man-made, but products of ‘natural variability’.  In this context, I find that ‘natural variability’ appears to be a synonym for ‘supernatural influence’.

Why? Because they can’t explain it. Not just that: many seem to believe they are not obliged to do so, which is suspiciously convenient, and all too reminiscent of those who would claim they don’t need to ‘explain’ God. In this, they share a view once expressed in a Guardian forum which, to this day, remains one of my favourite denialist non-sequiturs. When challenged, a poster calling himself Hamlet 4 insisted “I don’t need to prove climate change is caused by natural variability. It just is.”


Recently in the Guardian, Dana Nuccitelli wrote an interesting article entitled Magical climate contrarian thinking debunked by real science. The first sentence creates the context:

“One of the most important concepts to understand when trying to grasp how the Earth’s climate works, is that every climate change must have a physical cause”.

He follows that up with the premise on which his argument is based:

“It’s not sufficient to say global warming is the result of “a natural cycle” – which cycle is causing the change? For example, is it due to the Earth’s orbital cycles around the Sun, which operate very slowly over periods of thousands of years? Is it changes in solar activity, which has on average remained flat and even declined slightly over the past 60 years? Is it ocean cycles, which shift heat between the oceans and air, and don’t cause the Earth to accumulate more heat?”

Dana is taking issue with a specific paper, authored by Syun-Ichi Akasofu, a retired geophysicist and former director of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks:

“[Akasofu] claimed that the current global warming is merely a result of the planet “recovering” from the Little Ice Age – a cool period (the cooling mostly isolated in Europe) that lasted between the years of about 1550 and 1850. Problem – Akasofu didn’t identify any physical cause for this supposed ‘recovery.’”

I’ve often remarked that climate change contrarians have no science. A common retort is that since we ‘warmists’ are making the claims, it is us that need to produce the evidence to support it. On the face of it, this seems fair enough – and indeed we have produced the evidence, not that contrarians are prepared to acknowledge any of it. (No surprise there). However, as with calls for probity, accuracy and transparency, one might imagine that such virtues, attributes or burdens of proof would be applicable to us all, not just scientists, advocates or journalists. Evidently, one would be wrong.

Clearly, the pseudo-sceptics do not care to understand that when they make claims, the same rules ought to apply. Describing the changes we have already witnessed as ‘natural variability’ without explaining the forcing or its origin is exactly the superstitious ‘magical thinking’ that Dana discusses, which explains absolutely nothing and has as much credibility in scientific terms as claiming that God did it.


Since theological explanations are no longer popular, contrarians need some kind of new, unknowable force to conveniently explain climate change; the new superstition of ’natural variability’. They don’t seem to understand that, in the scientific context in which these claims are usually made, this is yet another hypothesis, and requires exactly the same standard of scientific examination they demand of existing climate science.

Natural variability is not an explanation of cause, but the observation of a pattern of effect. It is not a mechanism, nor is it a description or function. Natural variability is an attribution, a generalisation, a vague but convenient catch-all. All phenomena are 'natural' and they vary a lot. Citing 'natural variation' as an explanation, explains nothing. The missing component in this 'explanation' is how and why ‘natural variability’ takes place at all - and to discover this, we must turn to science.

To bring about a ‘natural’ change still requires an energy input or output. Climate change contrarians cannot produce any science that attests to energy changes that might cause this recent ’natural variability’ any more than creationists can produce science (or evidence) to support their claim that 'it was God what done it'. This should not be surprising, because climate change denial is a belief system, founded not on science and evidence, but something akin to a religion, or superstition.

The problem with the claim that all the climate changes we are already witnessing are within the bounds of natural variability is that those making the claim cannot identify the forcing – the change in energy levels – required to increase the global temperatures rapidly over three decades, to melt glaciers, to warm oceans, to change seasonal periodicity, to expand deserts, to cause extreme weather, change precipitation patterns, to decrease Arctic ice volume or increase Antarctic sea ice extent.

All these and many more changes in our environment require energy, and what climate change contrarians cannot produce is even a convincing alternative hypothesis to explain where this energy is coming from, let alone produce empirical evidence for it. Yet this is their ‘theory’, their alleged explanation for what is happening to the climate. I think they owe us more than some vague, hand-waving generalisation. They owe us a scientific explanation of what drives this ‘natural variability’, because without it, they are asking us to dismiss a cohesive, consistent, consilient scientific theory in favour of nothing but untestable, unprovable, unfalsifiable superstition. They might as well be asking us to dump science in favour of magic – and then again, perhaps that’s exactly what they are doing.


When it comes to credibility, a source of information should surely maintain some kind of balance. That isn’t to say that an editorial policy can’t be applied – the Guardian is still (barely) a left-wing media outlet but that doesn’t mean its output is mere propaganda, even though its detractors might conveniently characterise it as such.

This point is particularly salient when considering the main contrarian websites. These sites cannot possibly be considered sceptical, for a simple reason; they find fault in all climate science, not just some of it.

Think about it: thousands of papers published over the last 50 years. I just wrote about the Charney report – a remarkably prescient bit of work dating from 1979 – but the audit trail goes a long way further back than that, all the way back to Fourier, Tyndall, and Arrhenius with his greenhouse theory, published in 1896. (Arrhenius received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1903 by the way, and in 1905 became Director of the Nobel Institute, where he remained until his death).

Surely I can’t be alone in thinking that a site calling itself ‘sceptical’ would find some papers to be accurate, some to be debatable, and some to be in error. That would be the logical assumption in regard of any statistical breakdown of technical materials, particularly when the material originates from scientists so geographically and culturally diverse.

The probability that all climate science is wrong (or right, for that matter) is, statistically speaking, zero. Indeed, Skeptical Science, while lauding many papers for their insight, had no compunction in finding fault with a recent paper about an alleged methane bubble. (A fine demonstration of true scepticism, the lack of an agenda – and the pernicious corruption of proper spelling by the colonies. Have they no respect?).

The unfortunate result of finding fault in everything is that one can no longer be seen to persuade, but to hector and harass, to denigrate and deny. Without a counter-argument, all that’s left is propaganda. Persuasion requires a counter-position at least as credible as the one argued against; propaganda requires only a credulous audience willing to believe something that confirms a view they already hold. When the subject is climate science, it isn’t a valid argument to dismiss one theory without being able to propose an alternative. As I’ve said before, to knock down an edifice, all that’s required is brute strength and a sledgehammer. Constructing a new edifice out of the rubble requires more; intelligence, architecture, planning, skills and crafts, design and construction. Contrarians certainly know how to wield the hammer, but there’s not much evidence of anything constructive in their position.

Why do I claim that criticism without a counter-theory is invalid? For the same reason Dana eschews ‘magical thinking’. At the heart of the climate change debate there is a question being asked, and to answer it requires science. (The Oxford Dictionary on-line defines science as “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment”).

We study the physical and natural world for many reasons, but chief among them must surely be the desire to understand changes in the world around us that may affect us for better or worse. So we find ourselves contemplating an important question; the climate is changing – why is that?

If contrarians want to argue their case, it is not sufficient to be dismissive of climate science, any more than it is appropriate to pitch opinion against theory. There is no material explanation for climate change proposed by deniers, except the magical thinking of ‘natural variation’. The only valid way to improve science is through better science, and better science is not achieved by taking a sledgehammer to the existing canon, any more than it could be improved by burning books.

We have a really important question to answer: why is the climate changing? This question cannot be answered through rhetoric or debate. It is the stuff of science, and until those who take issue with anthropogenic climate change can produce an alternative theory of equal merit, they must rely entirely on hyperbole, demagoguery, personal attacks, misrepresentation, and bad science to promote their invidious case.

I’m open to persuasion, but only by one means; science. ‘Natural variation’ doesn’t explain anything. It doesn’t answer the fundamental question, which cannot be put back in the Pandora’s box it came from. We need an answer, and ‘natural variability’ isn’t it. What contrarians cannot do is persuade us that such a pressing question does not require an urgent answer.

All physical change involves changes in energy states. Until climate change contrarians can come up with a plausible, testable alternative explanation as to where this energy is coming from and why it is changing in distribution and quantity, they cannot present an argument that will persuade by force of logic. Appealing to pseudo-superstitions like ‘natural variation’ is an appeal to a mob mentality. It depends on predisposition, a certain ignorance, a credulous audience and a lack of sceptical enquiry. What it will never do is stop the ice melting, nor explain why it is.

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Comments 101 to 131 out of 131:

  1. Tom #96: I disagree that "It will not with a dominant focus on OHC". I think any other way is a reverse description. I see it as: Radiative imbalance moves heat into oceans over long term. All the while it moves around the land & sea surface with complexity due to atmosphere and water in it. Land & sea surface must reach a higher temperature to balance and stop warming, it tries but the oceans keep stymying its efforts in rather jittery ways because ocean mixing isn't a smooth process. One day if the imbalance remains steady for long enough then the oceans will be ~85% sated and at ~85% and the surface temperature will finally rise to its new level (until the next big change in radiative balance).

    Land surface flora & fauna will be battered by the surface temperature rise that is trying to stop the warming, but that's irrelevant to the Group I climate science. ENSO is currently the big repetitous example of "oceans keep stymying its efforts in rather jittery ways".

    I contend that is the logical way to picture the physical processes. Incidental to it, I think the science is going to need the nuclear "half life" equivalent for ocean heat balance because I doubt the oceans have ever been 100% at balance with whatever is the surface temperature and never will be. I stand to be corrected but I see graphs depicting Greenland surface temperature shooting up & down during the glaciation. I've suggested above 85% of the balance point of the oceans with the surface temperature.



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  2. DSL @97, by AGW I mean the theory that:

    1)  Human's have caused a rapid increase in well mixed greenhouse gases over the last 150 odd years;

    2)  That this increase has lead to a rapid rise in GMST, and more specifically, is responsible for at least half of the rise in GMST since 1950; and

    3)  That unrestrained, a continuation of the rapid increase in well mixed greenhouse gases will lead to net effects which are bad, and possibly disasterous for humans and ecosystems.

    I think clause (1) is so well established as to be unassailable under and plausible analysis of the data.  It is technically up for grabs in the face of recalcitrant data, but only in the trivial and uninteresting way that the oblate spheroid shape of the Earth is also up for grabs.

    I think that (2) would be falsified for all practical purposes should we have a rapid decline in temperature in the next five years despite strong El Ninos and no volcanism.  Such a circumstance would only be compatible with the theory with a most unusual concurrence of other data - so unusual as to not be worth considering in hypotheticals.  It would demonstrate both that climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases was very low (< 1 C per doubling of CO2) and that there was a strong and large internal mode of variation in surface heat content that explained most of the increase in temperature over the twentieth century.  It would also demonstrate that climate sensitivity with respect to internal modes of variation was very different from that due to external forcings, which would be odd to say the least.  Needless to say, I consider such a prospect very unlikely under current evidence.

    This definition of AGW, which I believe to be close to that which is generally assumed, may explain one difference between me and doug-bostrom.  He may include the theory of the atmospheric greenhouse effect in the theory of AGW itself, whereas I do not.  It contributes to our understanding of AGW, but is a separate theory just as the theory of black body radiation is a seperate theory, and the ideal gas laws are a separate theory, and the theory of universal gravitation is a separate theory (all of which are distinct from, but contribute to the theory of the atmospheric greenhouse effect).  Thus, a five year rapid decine in temperatures as specified above would not call into question the theory of the atmospheric greenhouse effect, which is sufficiently well established as to be practically unassailable.  It would call into question the nature and sign of the feedback response to warming by the atmospheric greenhouse effect, which is a different matter.

    I find your background on this issue from discussions with the general public interesting.  It certainly helps understand the tack you take.  Never-the-less I believe it is always better to ensure your presentation is accurate and balanced with respect to the theory rather than with respect to what your interlocuter needs to learn.  That requires some skill in discussion, but the alternative is that you replace one strawman view with the theory with another strawman view of the theory.  

    A part of the attraction of climate change denial is (IMO) simply the fact that the greenhouse effect is most often explained in terms of the unphysical grey slab model.  Bright people apply themselves to the physics of that model and realize it is unphysical, and reject the greenhouse effect as a result.  They do not pause to remember (if they were ever told) that that model was just a teaching tool, not the theory itself.

    In a similar manner, public and media focus on rising temperatures have set us up for the rhetoric of the "pause".  The theory of AGW was explained and justified in too simplistic a manner.  Our own educators have established the strawman which the deniers now argue.  I would hate for our response to that predicament to establish yet another strawman view of AGW.

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  3. KR @100, I agree with everything you say.  I just think that when discussion of increased warming was easy (as it was till 2007), in an attempt to keep it simple we (meaning the defenders of climate science in general, not any particular person, nor SkS specifically) have helped establish the strawman the deniers are now arguing.  Shame on them, as you say, for they should know better.  But we (see above) have helped prepare the fertile ground for their lies.

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  4. grindupBaker @101, with respect to an oceanic equivalent to the half life, use google scholar and search for "ocean" "thermal relaxation time".  The earliest hits on the first page are in 1969, and there is an interesting early paper by Hansen in 1984.  These early mentions should give the lie to claims that a focus on OHC is just an ad hoc response to the "hiatus" in GMST.

    The problem with your picture is that, absent an ocean, the final temperature response to an increase in CO2 would be the same as with one (if we ignore details about humidity).  Thus, the theory of the atmospheric greenhouse effect, and AGW is fundamentally about what happens on the surface, ie, the increase in GMST.  Further, the impacts are primarilly the effects of increased surface temperature.  Admitedly that includes the ocean surface temperature, but that does not alter the central point.

    The picture is very incomplete without the ocean.  The ocean acts as a flywheel to the surface temperature engine when it comes to responses to radiative forcing.  It slows the response by absorbing (or giving up) heat far more slowly than the surface would alone, but does not change the final response in terms of GMST.  (The ocean is also a significant player in the redistribution of heat.)  But if you had to leave one feature out of your account, OHC or GMST, it is OHC that is less essential to the theory.

    Of course, I strongly advise that you don't leave either out.

    As an indication of the relative importance of OHC and temperature to the theory, you might what to compare the early climate models such as Hansen 1988, which had a swamp ocean (and hence no OHC) with current generation models which treat the movement of heat into and around the ocean in great detail.

    Finally, in response to denier talking points about the "hiatus", I can refute them without discussion OHC just be showing the effects of ENSO on GMST.  Doing that alone would be myopic, IMO.  Far better to give a better understanding of the theory by including discussion of OHC.  But that should be as an addition to discussion of ENSO effects, and short term changes in forcings, not as a substitute for it.

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  5. So we think of AGW in different ways, Tom, and I happen to agree with both definitions. More useful to me is using the reconciliation of the two as a method of engagement with members of the general (non-invested) doubting public.  I can say, "For me AGW is simply such and such, but for others it is also such and such.  So when you say AGW is falsified because of X, I feel I have to clarify."  That allows me to lay out the full spread of major components to the broad theory (GHE, anthro source, GMST, OHC, modeling) and allow the interlocuter to choose the one s/he finds most worthy of doubt.  The balance for me is finding a way to empower the other, not get too detailed too soon, keep the conversation going, and sort of surreptitiously work in ways of discovering if actual learning is taking place. You'll probably find it appalling that I sometimes exhibit laziness in my definitions of certain elements in order to be corrected by the person I'm talking with . . . err with whom I am talking.  

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  6. Ok - this is what is happening. There are 2 sides to this debate. Those that support the view that man made climate change is occurring and those that either question or do not believe that man made climate change is occurring. When the IPCC was set up, their aim was, and I quote "The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy, although they may need to deal objectively with scientific, technical and socio-economic factors relevant to the application of particular policies."The IPCC were not set up to challenge whether or not man made climate change existed, but to assess the risk, possible impacts and how to reduce them. At no point were they asked to consider whether or not man made climate change was even a threat at all.Every site that supports man-made climate change has the IPCC at its disposal. To ask someone to offer scientific evidence that man made climate change is not occurring given the initial remit of the IPCC and the wealth of information that followed is quite frankly impossible. There are sites that support man-made climate change and there are sites that do not. This site heavily supports the view that man made climate change is occurring. So do you really wish to ask the so named contrarians to offer evidence that refutes the argument. It really is a rather pointless exercise and I find the offer to provide evidence disingenuous at the very least.What I do find speaks volumes is how sites on both sides of the discussion can never find any common ground with each other. This results in the same group of people flapping their wings on the same few websites, but never agreeing or accepting alternative opinion. I blame Skeptical Science and WUWT equally for that, or any other site for that matter that shares different views on this. What I will say however in defense of Anthony Watts is that he challenges the science. Anyone can quote peer reviewed papers and the work of a body set up to determine the effect of something. It takes a different kind of person to challenge that.Not so long ago, people that believe climate change is occurring were scratching their heads because there hasn't been a warming for a few years - putting forward suggestions that it could be due to north atlantic oscillation. yet, when the skeptics simply say there hasn't been a warming, the alarmists say we need to look at bigger time scales. It's funny how the same suggestion by 2 different groups produces 2 totally different answers by the group that is trying to prove climate change. And here lies the problem for me.On a final note and given that in the last 15 years or so there has been no warming, what has made the IPPC now 95 percent sure that man made climate is occurring over and above the previous 90 percent. have I missed something?
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  7. @Elephant in the Room:

    In reposne to your question, you are missing a basic understanding of science and the scientific process. 

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  8. That a risk from human induced climate change exists has been known since Arrhenius. You cant pump CO2 into the atmosphere without increasing the GHE - this is established from experiment and observation for 150 years. The extent of the risk and whether there are mitigating factors etc. is most certainly what the IPCC was set up to report on. If you read the FAR, you will see how much was known at the start.

    However, the important point is that anyone can conduct a scientific investigation into anything and publish it. The IPCC only reports on published science, it doesnt conduct it. If someone somehow discovered evidence against AGW, then you can bet that it would make a big publication splash. It is not a pointless exercise to ask for such a paper. FF companies could certainly conduct such research but prefer misinformation.

    One side is basing their case on careful published papers covering 150 year of study - the other is going for "blog science", misquoing, misinformation, and cherry picking. If someone asks for evidence for AGW, then as you know you get overwhelmed by the 10s of thousands of papers on just that. Ask for peer-reviewed evidence against and you get .... what?

    What are you going to base you opinion on then? Unqualified opinion, paid misinformation, ?   ... or those papers and the review of qualified experts.

    Watts doesnt challenge science.

    The only way to challenge science is publish better science. Watts doesnt do that. On a more serious question, why are you even reading him? You can easily find his stuff debunked, demolished and yet you go back for more? Why is that? Are you hoping against all reasonable evidence that one day he will get it right? Is that actually a rational behaviour.

    As to answer to your final question, why dont you read it yourself and find out (and a great deal more besides). The answer is there. You ready to read Watts et al junk, why not read that?

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  9. I should also point out that science is evaluated against the predictions that it actually makes,  not against straw-men arguments of those who wish to mispresent the science make. When someone claims "science predicted this but", then it a good idea to check the primary literature to ensure that is true. Of course only one side of the argument goes in for tactics like this. I wonder why.

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  10. Elephant, if you admittedly don't know enough about the science to evaluate the claims being made on "both sides," how are you able to assess Watts' ability to "challenge the science"?  I can challenge an oncoming locomotive by standing in the middle of the tracks.  Does that make my challenge worthy of the locomotive?  Watts' campaign--all the blog posts, guest posts, and the one publication over the years--hasn't challenged the science in the slightest.  In fact, the output of Watts' surface stations project was embarassingly in line with mainstream science.  It's been an absolute goldmine, though, for examples of bad statistical analysis.  Perhaps if you can give an example of what you think of as a Wattsian "challenge" to the science.    

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  11. The elephant in this room is the obvious non sequitur between EITR's quotation from the principles of the IPCC that:

    "The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation."

    (My emphasis)

    and his then going on to argue that:

    "The IPCC were not set up to challenge whether or not man made climate change existed, but to assess the risk, possible impacts and how to reduce them. At no point were they asked to consider whether or not man made climate change was even a threat at all."

    The non sequitur is the assumption that a scientific and objective assessment of the risk of AGW cannot conclude, in virtue of its being a scientific and objective assessment, that there is no risk.  Indeed, such a scientific and objective assessment of the level of risk is logically capable of determining that the largest risk is of beneficial gains from global warming, something the IPCC has concluded for limited regions for low levels of temperature increase.  That they have found some potential benefits makes it obvious that it was open to them, if the evidence had supported it, to find that the benefits out weighed the risks.

    EITR apparently finds the possibility of an objective IPCC unpalatable, and grasps at any straw to pretend it is not.

    What makes this even worse is EITR's facile assumption that because the IPCC was set up to assess the risk, no original assessment of whether or not there is a risk exists.  In fact, the IPCC was established at the end of a long string of reports assessing just that risk.  The Scientific Committee on Problems in the Evironment (SCOPE) 29 report of 1986 lists six assessments of that issue which preceded it.  The earliest international study was the World Climate Program report of 1981; but that was preceded by yet other reports, notable the Charney report of 1979.

    EITR is, therefore, wrong about history, wrong about the role of the IPCC, and without a rational argument for his position.  His equation of SkS with WUWT is so insulting it should be regarded as ad hominen.  In all, he has nothing to justify his view; a point ably demonstrated by Scaddenp above, so I need add no more.

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  12. @108 - Scadden P made a good point here.


    One side is basing their case on careful published papers covering 150 year of study - the other is going for "blog science", misquoing, misinformation, and cherry picking. If someone asks for evidence for AGW, then as you know you get overwhelmed by the 10s of thousands of papers on just that. Ask for peer-reviewed evidence against and you get .... what?

    And this hits the nail on the head and is the very reason why I challenge the invite to ask 'contrarians' to give scientific evidence. There isn't any on paper because it hasn't been asked for.

    I still maintain that the purpose of the IPCC was to quantify the risks to us from man made climate change and not whether or not it existed at all. As for what drove the IPCC to be formed I put to this forum that it was driven by a political agenda. I am allowed to suggest that because it is a very real possibility. If my comments are to be snipped for that then I draw inferences from that. Not because it is not relevant, but because it could be relevant. There are enough articles out there and books by Thatcher that demonstrate well the beginnings'.

    And yes, Co2 is a warming gas. But, it has been in our atmosphere for many millions of years, and at much higher levels. We are cold and we are Co2 starved. No-one can argue with that point. We have coal because it was sequested from our atmosphere. Why are we not allowed to burn it to provide fuel for our ever increasing population. We have thousands of years supply of it. And we should frack for gas too. Until there is a realistic alternative I am afraid we are stuck with it. I would of course be in favour of it not being burnt if there was a realisitic alternative.

    On a personal level I am paying green taxes and higher gas and electricity prices because of the 'threat' of climate change. All the green people that insitigated the use of wind farms should be ashamed of themselves as wind turbines are the biggest blot on the surface of this planet. They are inefficient and extremely expensive to build. And all subsidised by me as the tax payer.

    I find it very sad because we need to burn coal and gas to support our ever increasing population. Electricity and fuel should not be luxuries, they should be basic to life. The climate change drive is destroying people's lives with the subsidising it forces, the speculation and the green taxes that we all now pay. Any why, to prove a scientific point.

    Our planet does very well with higher levels of Co2 and it also does very well with higher temperatures. Just because the level of Co2 suits 'us' at the moment does not mean it is right.


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  13. Elephant in the room wrote "And this hits the nail on the head and is the very reason why I challenge the invite to ask 'contrarians' to give scientific evidence. There isn't any on paper because it hasn't been asked for."

    This is utter nonsense, publishing papers is a scientists' job.  It is the way that their research is promulgated to their field of research.  If the science actually did support the arguments made by "skeptics", there would be no shortage of papers they could use.  We don't need to ask skeptic scientists for papers, they ought to be earning their living by writing them whether we want to read them or not.

    Discussions of climate on blogs frequently asks skeptics for papers supporting their side of the argument, which is why Poptech made his list of 800 or so papers that he thought supported his skepticism.  The fact that most of the papers (if you actually read them) support no such conclusion, or have been refuted, or weren't actually peer reviewed, gives an indication of the paucity of papers supporting a skeptic point of view.

    There is little I would like more than some solid evidence that increasing atmospheric CO2 was unlikely to have serious economic, social or environmental impacts.  Like Keynes, when the evidence changes, I change my opinion, but we do need evidence.

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  14. @111 Tom Curtis

    It is not ad hominen to make comparisons between sites and how they respond to each other on an ongoing basis. A remark like this is not against an individual and is therefore not ad hominen. The fact that you believe it to be so is based on your perception of the merits of your own site when compared to your obvious dim view of WUWT. 

    I have a real issue with this thread and what it claims it wants to achieve here. I have indicated that the peer reviewed data is overwhelming. Therefore to ask anyone to provide good evidence when faced with that really is rather pointless. All it invites is replies that are duly jumped on. There is an inevitability about it from the outset.

    We are talking about climate here. To ask anyone that has no scientific paperwork, peer reviewed at that, to offer scientific evidence that man made climate change is not occurring is ridiculous given the current position. You know it and the author knows it.

    Now we are where we are what are we going to do. Justify to me the green taxes and explain how I and others are going to be supplied with our energy now that everyone has jumped on the climate change ship???



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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] You are now skating on the thin ice of sloganeering and excessive repetition -- both of which are prohibited by the SkS Comment Policy. Please cease and desist, or face the consequences.

  15. @dickran marsupial.


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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] You are now skating on the thin ice of sloganeering and excessive repetition -- both of which are prohibited by the SkS Comment Policy. Please cease and desist, or face the consequences.

    [PW] EITR your inflammatory and fact-free comments were removed. Do it again, and you will recuse yourself from *all* further commenting on SkS.

  16. Elephant in the room, your reply to my post is essentially a non-sequitur (and shows you haven't actually looked into the matter, as otherwise you would know about Gerlich and Tscheuschner, who did publish a paper that "proved" that CO2 does not cause warming, but unfortunately was found to be incorrect), and shows that you are merely trolling.  Life is too short to indulge this sort of behaviour further.


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  17. So there we have it. EITR's defence of AGW skepticism against the demand for scientific justification of their position is that the demand is unfair, for the skeptics have no such justification.  Well, at least he has chutzpah for trying that one on.  And WUWT is superior to SkS because Anthony Watts "challenges the science" without having any poblishable scientific basis for doing so; while SkS is inferior because it merely reports the published science.  And thus, haveing declared virtues to be vices, and vices virtues, he concludes that his own position is virtuous indeed, by his definition.

    Clearly at this point any pretense that a rational discussion can be held with EITR is just that, pretense.  As I am no good at pretending, I will therefore leave the "discussion".

    No doubt EITR will now expostulate that it is unfair of me to expect from him rational discussion as he has no rational basis for his views ...

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  18. Elephant in the Room:

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

    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.

    Warning #1. 

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  19. The "ask" on this thread was pretty straightforward: a scientific explanation of why we should be less concerned about anthropogenic warming. 

    Complaints about the remit of the IPCC, annoyance at wind turbines, resentment over taxes, insult over improper comportment in correspondence and all the rest of the litany of evasion we've heard here are glaringly conspicuous in their being devoid of anything useful to offer in the way of science. We've heard a veritable encyclopedia of policy complaints, social nits, personal preferences and myriad other excursions, but none of those are science.

    Is it so difficult to stay on topic, if you're a person who disagrees with the scientific premise of global warming?

    Surely-- please-- you can do better.  

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  20. (-snip-)

    0 1
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] If I had seen this comment earlier, I would have deleted in its entirity for violating numerous parts of the SkS Comment Policy. Because so many excellent rebuttals to EIR's comment have already been posted, I will let this comment stand as a teaching tool. 


    [PW} I will not: EITR, your last warning is this one. Moderation complaints, arguments from personal incredulity, ad hominem comments, and sloganeering snipped. Next time you do so will result in your removal from commenting on SkS.

  21. EIRT is a case example of the downside to pseudonyms and anonymity. (-snip-)

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    Moderator Response:

    [PW] Though your points be arguably correct, in order to maintain a fair and equable level of moderation, I've snipped the off-topic observations you've made.

  22. EITR@120 the original article did not suggest that ALL alternative explanations are superstition just the common "it is a cycle" explanation.  If contrarians are unable to provide any eidence as to which cycle and why then there is no explanatory power to the claim.  It is unscientific, unverifiable and unhelpful.  If they would claim a specific cycle like "We are currently in Time-Cube Polymodal Cycle 18 which is esponsilbe for the Solar time beam flux that is warming the  atmospheric" it may still be unscientific but it is testable and therefor superior to the handwaving of blaming some "natural cycle".

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  23. It is simply the case that the current state of the evidence shows that human emissions of CO2, and other activities with equivalent effects on global energy balance (e.g. land use changes), are causing massive and rapid climate changes. What is more, these changes if left unabated have consequences that are on balance very unfavourable (sea level rise is my favourite example: it might take a century or two for, say, Miami or Bangladesh to be swallowed up by the ocean, but unless emissions are curbed and global warming abated, it will happen).

    The simplest form of the contrarian position is that the evidence available to date is somehow wrong - either it is itself wrong, or the conclusions drawn from it are. As noted in the OP, the obligation is therefore on contrarians to come up with more and better evidence to support their position. This is the proper way to do science - come up with more and better evidence than the other guy.

    Simply going around saying "nuh-uh!", which appears to be Elephant's modus operandi (as well as of climate science contrarians in general), just isn't going to cut it: when the bulk of the empirical evidence says 'X', asserting "not X" won't get anyone anywhere, because it doesn't account for the existing evidence. (This is the great failing of the majority of so-called climate "skepticism".)

    One has to instead come up with some 'Y' that replaces 'X' and accounts for all the evidence that led to 'X' in the first place. Several have tried (such as the above-mentioned Gerlich & Tscheuschner), however their efforts have not withstood proper scrutiny.

    To tackle the overall gist of Elephant's complaints:

    1. Elephant in the Room asserts that contrarians' suggested alternatives to what the evidence currently shows are unfairly characterized as superstition and that this is not a 'reputable' behaviour.
    2. Elephant in the Room appears to reduce the matter down to differences in opinion.

     With respect to Elephant's point #1:

    1. If contrarians' proposed alternatives end up appearing indistinguishable from "superstition", that says more about those alternatives than about the person remarking upon such lack of distinction.
    2. If proposed alternatives do not withstand scrutiny, that is again hardly the fault of the scrutineers, nor does it reflect badly on them.

    With respect to Elephant's point #2:

    1. I should also add that what is being sought from contrarians is most definitely not alternative opinions, but rather scientifically viable alternative conclusions inferred from viable premises.
    2. There is nothing stopping contrarians from making the effort to do the science. Yet from actual scientists such as John Christy or Judith Curry on down to the most anonymous Internet commenter, such effort is either lacking entirely or at best cursory. (Indeed, the most rigorous scientific effort by self-styled skeptics was the BEST project - and see where that ended up.)
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  24. EITR @5:55 AM, Oct 26th writes:

    "What is telling however is that not one person has responded to my comment that the planet is cool and Co2 starved. Nor has anyone commented on why the warmists can explain away an absence of warming over the last few years, yet the skeptics are not allowed to suggest an absence of warming as the time scales are not large enough. Talk about having your cake and eating it."

    EITR continues his theme that because he has no evidence, expecting him to have evidence is unfair.

    In this case, he has no evidence that people at SkS cannot address the issues he raises.  Rather, he has evidence that we ignored him when he attempted to distract us from the topic at hand with a game of "look squirrel".  He has evidence that when he goes off topic (in contravention of the comments policy) we decline to also violate the comments policy.

    Had he bothered using the search function, he would easilly have been able to find detailed discussions of the issues he raises, many of them with contributions by his respondents on this thread.  He would then have been able to post his arguments in a thread in which they were on topic.  Of course, doing so he would face the disadvantage that his post would follow detailed discussions which refer to the evidence, ie, the peer reviewed literature.  He would find himself once again having to plead the unfairness of expecting him to have evidence for his views, given that the evidence supports the other side of the argument. 

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  25. Elephant wrote: What is telling however is that not one person has responded to my comment that the planet is cool and Co2 starved. Nor has anyone commented on why the warmists can explain away an absence of warming over the last few years, yet the skeptics are not allowed to suggest an absence of warming as the time scales are not large enough. Talk about having your cake and eating it.


    Elephant, these comments of yours that failed to draw a response are so densely loaded with misunderstanding that no simple response is possible. Cool? Co2-starved? Really? Try a more nuanced approach with a little more respect and people might take you more seriously.

    Read a bit more, try to understand what the evidence shows, and then if you have specific questions, you will find the folks here amazingly patient and willing to share their understanding. On the specific question of why surface temperatures have not continued on a relentless upwards monotonic trend, there is already ample discussion of the issue all over this site. Read those discussions first, then come back with thoughtful criticisms of the warmist view if you like, but parroting previously debunked slogans from WUWT is a waste of everyone's time.

    If you think WUWT is really in the business of providing an honest challenge to the warmist view, please identify just one WUWT article that you think is valid.


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  26. If the commentor @120 wishes to discuss the taking of cake, perhaps we should first remind ourselves who it is who is taking the biscuit. Elephant In The Room demonstrates @120 he is in denial over the comment @41.

    To promote the view that "Co2 is not a threat - population is" is but the unacceptable ranting from someone who has yet to demonstate the silghtest understanding of the threat AGW poses to the future wellbeing of mankind. Please disconnect the troll.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] If EITR choses to post new comments, they will most likely be deleted in their entirity. EITR's refusal to abide by the SkS Comment Policy have been duly noted and enough warnings have been issued.    

  27. I think there is something constructive that come out the exchange with EITR

    1/ just because we want/need something doesnt invalidate science against it. Watch the mental hoops people do over chocolate/coffee/alcohol/marijuana (and previously tobacco) also. The typical one is: "I dont like proposed climate solutions/promoters; ergo climate science is wrong". That thinking is just  crazy.

    2/ Proposing FF as a solution for continuing population growth is similarly logical flawed.

     - it only postpones a problem because FF are finite.
     - if we only used FF for growing and transporting food, then it wouldnt have much impact on climate.
    - from climate perspective, the population problem is the number of wealthy westerners guzzling FF, not the teeming population in 3rd world.
    - no problem is solved by denial. 

    Over population does need a solution (one of about 10 problems we must solve simultaneously) and preferrably lets do it by reducing fertility rather than increasing mortality. Climate change does the later.

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  28. The typical one is: "I dont like proposed climate solutions/promoters; ergo climate science is wrong". That thinking is just crazy.

    Oh, come now, scaddenp, where would we be if we couldn't get on with the classic standbys of dismissing climate science, "because Al Gore!", "because David Suzuki!", or "because Obama, that's why!" - where, I ask you?

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  29. For those no longer with us, Mike Lockwood has posted at Carbonbrief due to a badly reported BBC interview. Of course, there are those who may consider a scientist writing on his specialist subject cannot be trusted and consider they knows better. But is there a place for such fallacious arrogance in this forum? I think not.

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  30. All:

    Elephant In the Room's comments of today have been deleted for violating the sloganeering prohibition of the Comment Policy. He/she had been warned about the consequences of continued violations of this provision. If I had the authority to do so, I would bar he/she from commenting on SkS. 

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  31. All:

    Elephant in the Room posted a lengthy moderation complaint laced with sloganeering. It was therefore deleted. 

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