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Climate Hustle

Senator Inhofe's attempt to distract us from the scientific realities of global warming

Posted on 26 February 2010 by John Cook

There has been a shift in the climate debate over recent months. It seems people are talking less about the science and more about the alleged actions of a small group of climate scientists. Senator Inhofe is an extreme example with his recent attempt to criminalize 17 leading scientists. These accusations are largely based on stolen private emails that are being quoted out of context and/or without understanding of the science involved. Unfortunately, this is shifting the focus away from the most important element of the climate debate: the scientific reality of global warming. The empirical evidence that global warming is happening and that humans are the primary cause has been and continues to be observed, measured and documented in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

We find out what's happening in our climate by empirical observations - measurements made out in the real world. We have even more confidence in our understanding when independent measurements find the same result. In the case of man-made global warming, we have multiple lines of evidence that global warming is happening and that human activity is the predominant cause. There are not only independent scientific teams all over the globe but also measurements of a wide range of phenomena all painting the same picture.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing. This is measured by hundreds of monitoring stations across the globe, all finding the same increasing trend (NOAA). The rising trend is confirmed by satellite measurements conducted independently by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Combined with ice core measurements from Greenland and Antarctica, this tells us that atmospheric CO2 levels are the highest in over 15 million years (Tripati 2009).

What's causing rising CO2? We can use energy statistics to calculate human CO2 emissions at around 29 billion tonnes per year (CDIAC). In contrast, atmospheric CO2 is rising by 15 billion tonnes per year. Humans are emitting nearly twice as much CO2 as ends up remaining in the atmosphere. Measurements of carbon isotopes confirm that the rising CO2 originates from the burning of fossil fuel (Ghosh 2003). Further independent confirmation comes from observed  falling oxygen levels caused by the burning of fossil fuel (Manning 2006).

What's the effect of all this extra CO2? Satellite measurements of outgoing longwave radiation find an enhanced greenhouse effect (Harries 2001, Griggs 2004, Chen 2007). This result is consistent with measurements from the Earth's surface observing more infrared radiation returning back to the surface (Wang 2009, Philipona 2004, Evans 2006). Consequently, our planet is experiencing a build-up of heat (Murphy 2009).

This heat build-up is manifesting itself across the globe. Arctic sea-ice loss is accelerating beyond the worst case scenarios of model forecasts (Stroeve 2007). Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are losing ice mass at an accelerating rate (Velicogna 2009). This is speeding up sea level rise as observed by tidal gauges and satellite altimeters (Church 2006). Spring is coming earlier each year (Stine 2009). This leads to observed changes in animal breeding and migration (Parmesan 2003). Distribution of plants are shifting to higher elevations (Lenoir 2008).

How will global warming affect humanity? For brevity's sake, let's focus on just one impact. The latest research that takes into account accelerating ice loss estimates sea level rise by the end of this century of between 75 cm to 190 cm (Vermeer 2009). An independent study of glacier ice dynamics predicts similar results (Pfeffer 2008). Studies of Earth's climate 125,000 years ago find that sea levels were at least 6 metres higher than today (Kopp 2009). Global temperatures were around 2°C warmer - this is the amount of warming expected for some of the IPCC's lower emission scenarios. This provides additional evidence that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are highly sensitive to sustained warmer temperatures.

Senator Inhofe is trying to distract us from the unpleasant reality: within the lifetime of our children and grandchildren, they'll witness sea level rise of around 1 to 2 metres. To hope to mitigate against such a future, it's imperative that the climate debate returns to a focus on science. Scientists need to do better at communicating their research to the public. Skeptics who are genuinely seeking scientific truth need to search the peer-reviewed literature to obtain the broader picture. The stakes are too high to be distracted by political manoeuvring and ad hominem attacks.

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Comments 101 to 137 out of 137:

  1. gallopingcamel at 03:10 AM on 3 March, 2010

    Dropping stations is not a problem.

    To investigate the 1st claim, I computed separate northern-hemisphere averages for stations that stopped reporting after 1992.0 (the “pre-cutoff” stations) and those that continued to report after 1992 (the “post-cutoff” stations), in order to see whether there’s a significant difference between the trends according to those two subsets.


    Using only the post-cutoff stations did not introduce any false warming trend — if anything, the stations which were retained showed slightly less warming than those which stopped reporting, although the difference is not statistically significant.

    False claims proven false

    These results are being submitted for publication but in any case you'll need to show how he's wrong in order to continue effectively promoting the "dropped stations introduce warming" argument.
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  2. gallopingcamel,
    even though in principle one experiment may disprove a theory, it is not any experiment. None of those you quote, even if accepted, disprove the AGW, at maximum would require some corrections.

    As for MWP, historians tell us the Europe was colder. We have no comprehensive reports from Asia or North America, let alone southern hemisphere. So we need to rely on proxies, which tell a different story.

    As for the station drop off Watts "suspect" that it might be a problem but not a single number came out. Those who looked at the numbers (Tamino for Northern Emisphere using "optimal averaging", Zeke at Lucia's blog using simple averages of raw data, people at Clear Climate Code reproducing GISS reference station method) found a different picture. Three methods, three different griddings, same result. Not a surprise indeed, a larger percent of urban stations have been dropped and the colder stations dropped show a larger temperature increase. If any, i would have expected a larger trend.

    If you got different results please describe your averaging algorithm, the gridding method and the results.
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  3. With regard to the "station drop off problem", you folks are defending the indefensible. Peterson, Schmidt and Hansen at NASA/GISS need to explain why they discard the vast majority of data that is reported to them.

    NASA told us they were dropping stations years ago but they failed to give a valid reason for so doing. See Peterson & Vose 1997. D'Aleo & Watts brought things up to date since stations are still dropping to this day. GHCN v2 now includes less than 1,000 stations compared to ~6,000 in the 1970s.

    Riccardo, you don't need any fancy algorithms to count stations; it is not rocket science. I used "gedit" to break the files down to sizes that Open Office Spreadsheet could digest. For Windows users "Wordpad" and "Excel" should work just as well. I broke the GHCN v2 files into individual countries using the fact that the first three digits of the station codes are country codes (e.g. "403" = Canada). After that it is a simple matter to sort by station number and by reporting year. Scoff at my lack of software skills all you like but it does not change the facts.

    I fail to see how y'all can be so sure the station drop out problem "makes no difference" unless you have access to the full data sets as well as the truncated ones. All the fancy algorithms Zeke can come up with won't help unless he has the data. Ooops! I forgot about the CRU and its ability to fill in the blanks as exposed in the HARRY_READ_ME file:
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  4. gallopingcamel at 14:04 PM on 3 March, 2010

    You'll need to explain better than these folks why the station drop problem is indefensible:

    A simple model for spatially-weighted temp analysis

    False claims proven false

    Long story short: dropping stations has no deleterious effect on estimating temperature trends. In fact, if anything (though not statistically significant) it -reduces- apparent warming.
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  5. gallopingcamel at 14:04 PM on 3 March, 2010

    Oops, w/regard to dropped stations, as Yogi Berra said "It's deja vu all over again!" I didn't remember I'd already produced the same answer to your durable misapprehension as recently as last night.

    Gallopingcamel, what is your argument about this? Kvetching about "fancy algorithms" does not really cut it. What have you got?
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  6. gallopingcamel,
    did i say that stations has not been dropped? No for sure, i said that it has no significant effect on anomalies. Whatever the reason why stations have been dropped the only important thing is that it does not influence the final results. No reason to suspect any dirty business behind it.

    By the way, the GHCN dataset is not maintained by GISS folks.
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  7. Riccardo (#106), are you suggesting that the NOAA/GHCN and NASA/GISS data sets are independent?

    What about HADCRUT and UCAR? OK, I will concede that UAH is independent.

    As a physicist I understand the importance of preserving every photon to ensure that the "Signal to Noise Ratio" will be as high as possible. In climate science we are trying to filter tiny AGW temperature signals out of much larger natural background (noise) and yet we can afford to discard most of the data?

    Why can't you see that this is nonsense? Maybe I should have said non-science.
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  8. gallopingcamel,
    i said the the GHCN dataset is not under the responsability of GISS.
    What I can see, and you reject without any reason, is that the number of stations do not influence the outcome of the analysis. This is a simple fact, easily seen if one has the will to. I do not know any scientist who insist to accumulate more data than useful nor that keep the data from, say, a broken instrument; if something went wrong anyone would through the data away.
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  9. Riccardo (#106), are you suggesting that the NOAA/GHCN and NASA/GISS data sets are independent?

    No. NASA GISS uses the data that GHCN provides. You incorrectly blamed Hansen, Schmidt, and GISS for dropping stations, but they have nothing to do with the station network. Riccardo was just pointing that out.

    As a physicist I understand the importance of preserving every photon to ensure that the "Signal to Noise Ratio" will be as high as possible.

    Temperature anomalies show a high degree of spatial autocorrelation. Dropping stations doesn't have much effect on the results as long as there are still a sufficent number of stations, because of this autocorrelation. Thus, in the past month we have seen multiple experiments where people looked at the trends for the dropped stations and for the included stations. There's no significant difference.

    See the links in Doug Bostrom's post above. If you are going to keep insisting that there's a problem, you need to demonstrate it, not just assert it.
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  10. gallopingcamel at 02:10 AM on 4 March, 2010

    With regard to station dropping being innocuous, You say, "Why can't you see that this is nonsense?", but you have not shown how it is nonsense. How are we to follow your reasoning?

    This treatment of the net effects of dropped stations

    A simple model for spatially-weighted temp analysis

    is described in complete detail. You might find food for argument in steps described by the author.
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  11. #99 gallopingcamel at 03:10 AM on 3 March, 2010
    "The biggest problems for the Mann et al. Hockey Stick reconstructions come not from climate scientists but from historians"

    Yes. Here in Europe we have chronicles going back to Medieval (and even earlier) times. According to one Hungarian chronicle, in 1216 "fruit trees blew in January". At that time there was no Gregorian calendar, so it might have occurred a week or so later, in early February. Even so, it is unheard of in recent times.
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  12. It has been fun but my last two replies failed to post. I was hoping that this site would not resort to censorship on the lines of "Climate Progress". Sad!

    All that remains is to wish you well; "live long and prosper".
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    Response: I deleted the "religious zealots" comment as that violates the "no ad hominem" policy. Ditto for the previous comment likening scientists to "used car salesmen". You will notice that comments that express skeptic views without making value judgements are not moderated.
  13. John Cook, thank you for your gracious reply. I promise to moderate my metaphors.

    Riccardo, (#108) you may be right. The results may be unchanged by discarding over 80% of the data before starting the analysis. However, you can't be sure of that until the full data has been compared to the truncated data.

    My point was something completely different. Scientists who discard most of the available data before starting their analysis need to provide cogent explanations for their actions. CRU, NASA, and NOAA failed to do that.

    You are defending a position that has already been abandoned by the professionals. Reto Ruedy at NASA and Phil Jones at CRU have admitted to poor data base management and sloppy analysis. Inhofe gives a glimpse of this in his "Minority Report" but you need to read all 274 pages of the HARRY_READ_ME.txt file to get your arms around the bungling and incompetence at the UEA.

    It gets worse! The UK "Met Office" recognises that the historical climate data is hopelessly compromised so they propose a "do over". If you are right the conclusions will remain unchanged after the "do over". Let's wait and see.
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  14. Fortunately, the surface station data sets such as GHCN are not as important as they once were because satellite measurements have been accumulating for 37 years.

    Satellite measurements diverge significantly from the three main (independent?) surface station data sets. For example, John Cristy (UAH) has published a data set that shows significant cooling since 1998 in sharp contrast to James Hansen's much publicised Hockey Stick presentations.

    When Hansen says that "Catastrophic" warming is taking place, Joe Sixpack wants much more of it, at least where he lives.

    Mother Nature plays such cruel tricks!
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  15. gallopingcamel at 16:24 PM on 5 March, 2010

    There's been quite a bit of analysis done on dropped stations of late, leaving the Great Needle of Credibility pointing at the empty mark for the notion of dropped stations inflating the record of warming temperatures.

    I think this has already been mentioned in this thread? Undoubtedly somewhere else, in any case.

    To shift the Great Needle of Credibility away from the empty mark with regard to dropped stations inflating the record of warming temperatures, one would need to refute as opposed to ignore these three independent investigations:

    A simple model for spatially-weighted temp analysis

    The 1990s station dropout does not have a warming effect

    False Claims Proven False
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  16. gallopingcamel,
    good that you (almost) admitted that the temperature record isnot affected by the dropped stations.
    For the rest, i'm not defending the supposed "abandoned position" of good archive management (they were talking about a different issue than station dropping), I do not know how they do it.
    But what i'm interest in as a citizen that has to take decisions, or better, express opinions is the scientific value of their work. It proved to be at the very least good enough.

    Finally, I agree that all these discussions on the temperature records are bogus given that we now have independent satellite data set. The skeptic's beloved UAH dataset gives a decadal trend of 0.13 °C/decade, RSS 0.16 °C/decade. Both a strong confirmation of the quality of the surface stations datasets which should stop once and for all the chattering on this non-existent issue.

    P.S. There's no "do over" proposal due to archive mismanagement. Read the proposal they presented at the WMO meeting.
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  17. Riccardo, (#116), your P.S. comment is puzzling to say the least. Are you talking about this document:

    Some see this as a PR or CYA exercise aimed at dousing the Climategate fire. Frankly I don't care what you call it as long as the data gets cleaned up and published in its raw state so that researchers can make their own decisions about what is good, bad or ugly.

    With regard to the UAH data set. The one I am looking at runs from 1978 to 2009. Over this 31 year period the trend is 0.05 degrees Celsius or 0.016 C/decade. In other words, not statistically significant.
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  18. doug_bostrom (#115), I have never claimed that the dropped station issue will inflate or deflate the apparent rate of warming. To make that determination one would need the full data set as well as the truncated one.

    At the risk of repeating myself, my point is that a good scientist does not discard data without explaining why he is doing it. Phil Jones has made his excuses for the problems with HADCRUT3. We are still waiting for Tom Peterson to explain what is going on at NASA/GISS. With regard to NOAA/GHCN, take a look at "Digging in the Clay":

    P.S. Thanks for that link about wine growing on the other thread.....very interesting!
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  19. galopingcamel,
    the file with the UAH dataset quote the decadal trend in the last line. The number they give updated Jan 2010 is 0.130.
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  20. gallopingcamel at 02:57 AM on 6 March, 2010

    I'm totally in favor of a ground-up redo of CRU's analysis, even if only necessary because 30 years ago few could see how fraught with suspicion and controversy such a relatively mundane data processing exercise could become. I'm sorry if I misread your remarks as cynical; the air these days is positively thick with not even risen as opposed to half-baked accusations of intentional misbehavior on CRU's part.

    I recently participated in another discussion with a fellow who insisted that losing any data raw or processed was the height of irresponsibility for a practicing scientist, especially one expending taxpayer dollars in pursuit of research. He identified himself as an active experimental particle physicist and it was clear from his examples he was (no surprise, accelerators==taxpayer money) relying on other people's money to conduct his research. He referred over and over again to his work in the 80's supporting his PhD thesis, how important it was to preserve detector data and the like, how his adviser would never have tolerated any loss. Finally somebody thought to demand he restore all of his raw data, algorithms etc. which of course he could not do, frankly admitting that was now impossible because of the passage of time. That's a particularly appropriate example, because the physicist in question found his own earlier work became unpredictably controversial in a later context and then of course could not produce every last iota of data collected decades before.

    The entire time I've been listening to the CRU badgering, I've been thinking about the proverbial glass house and stone throwing therein. Ignoring the statute of limitations, if the IRS decided I had some problem with my taxes back in 1980 both they and I would have the dickens of a time making a firm case to demonstrate every last dollar had been accounted for.

    As to the fundamental issue with dropped stations, I urge you to read carefully the work at the links I provided.
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  21. doug_bostrom, (#120). Good story about the physicist; for a moment I thought you had tracked me down as my field is particle accelerators!

    It seems that we agree that it makes sense to get the data sets cleaned up. Will that change anything? Let's wait and see.

    I hope you agree with the idea that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Should we spend hundreds of billions of dollars unless the evidence is truly "unequivocal"?
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  22. gallopingcamel at 12:28 PM on 6 March, 2010

    Indeed circumstances have changed and so has our perspective.

    Extraordinary claims do indeed require extraordinary evidence. However, in my humble opinion a rising tide of evidence is submerging what initially seemed to be eye-popping claims. As time has passed and I've read more on this matter I'm increasingly persuaded that C02 may represent a type of WMD that will cost us a lot whether we ignore it or not, probably more if we try to dodge accountability. Unlike the the phantom WMD of the late unpleasantness in Iraq, I don't think we'll be wasting trillions on the subsequent war; by fixing our C02 problem we'll simultaneously be getting a jump on work we need to do within the next 200 years regardless and thus making a vital and unavoidable investment while it's more easily leveraged.

    If I were a physicist I'd be delighted to see us finally moving from our atavistic caveman habits of setting things on fire just to derive a little heat and motive power. Instead, as a layperson who sits on his duff cashing royalty checks obtained from petroleum production, with mixed feelings, I'll still be very happy to see us stop using petroleum in a neolithic style. We should instead be husbanding petroleum for more useful things, thereby avoiding for as long as possible the need to jam hydrogen and carbon together using energy we have to obtain from elsewhere.

    Call me simpleminded, but this whole matter just does not seem complicated to me at all, not the physics part anyway. Human nature, different story!
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  23. doug_bostrom (#122),
    Like you, I want to see a reduction in CO2 emissions. It bothers me that the two sides of the AGW debate are enjoying the war of words so much that they are not looking for things they can agree on.

    As John Cook is not ready to get into "solutions" yet he suggested that I contact a Barry Brook. I am pretty impressed with what he has to say about replacing coal fired power plants with nukes.

    The above is probably "off subject" so at the risk of irritating you I will now say something relevant to this thread:

    In the "intro" John Cook says that CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is rising. OK.

    Next he posits that man made emissions are causing the rise in CO2. Probably OK but I have some quibbles. Let it go.

    Then he says the extra CO2 is causing a "build up of heat". OK

    Then he tries to quantify the likely rise in temperature caused by CO2 and other GHGs. This is the point at which AGW theory descends into wild exaggeration and alarmism.

    CO2 concentration correlates with global temperatures over long time scales but now we have high resolution ice core studies it appears that CO2 follows temperature by ~700 years.

    Mann's Hockey Stick boils down to the idea that CO2 concentration has a strong short term effect on global temperature. This theory fails to model the past on any time scale and fails to predict current trends.

    When the "science" does not fit the facts it is time to ask where the theory went wrong. The simplest explanation (often the best don't you think) is that the coupling coefficient used in the GCMs is wrong. Lindzen & Choi 2009 suggest that the coupling is 6 times less than what the IPCC assumes.

    Even though I reject this segment of AGW theory, I still support the idea of reducing CO2 emissions for quite different reasons. First do no harm..........
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  24. gallopingcamel, you wrote "CO2 concentration correlates with global temperatures over long time scales but now we have high resolution ice core studies it appears that CO2 follows temperature by ~700 years."

    That topic is covered in the thread CO2 lags temperature. If you want to discuss it, that is the appropriate place.
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  25. gallopingcamel, you wrote "Mann's Hockey Stick boils down to the idea that CO2 concentration has a strong short term effect on global temperature. This theory fails to model the past on any time scale and fails to predict current trends."

    That is completely incorrect, because all the hockey sticks (Mann's and the others) graph only temperature, not CO2. Relationships of those temperatures to anything else are entirely different topics, so your "This theory" does not exist. If you want to discuss the temperature hockey sticks, these threads are appropriate places: Hockey stick is broken, and Can you make a hockey stick without tree rings?.

    But if you want to know about and discuss theories about the multiple causes of temperature changes, including the relationship of CO2 to those graphs, here are the appropriate threads: CO2 is not the only driver of climate, and What does past climate change tell us about global warming? and Hockey sticks, "unprecedented warming," and past climate change.
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  26. gallopingcamel, you wrote "Lindzen & Choi 2009 suggest that the coupling is 6 times less than what the IPCC assumes."

    That Lindzen and Choi paper is fundamentally, thoroughly, and fatally flawed, as shown in a peer-reviewed article in press and summarized by its authors in the RealClimate post Lindzen and Choi Unraveled. If you want to argue about that, then I think that RealClimate comment thread is the appropriate place, because maybe you can get responses from the authors themselves.

    If you want to discuss it here at Skeptical Science, here is an appropriate thread: Climate sensitivity is low.
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  27. gallopingcamel, you insisted that the GCMs have failed. I don't understand why you insist on that. Instead of me repeating the evidence for GCM success here, I'll just point you to the Skeptical Science argument Models Are Unreliable. If you want to argue or discuss that topic, that thread is the appropriate place.
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  28. gallopingcamel, you did write one thing that at least prompts my following response that is on the topic of this thread: I had pointed you to a detailed, factual, technical, peer-reviewed rebuttal of Lindzen and Choi's claims that you were touting. You could have responded that you are unconvinced by the content of that rebuttal and will post your technical objections either on that RealClimate thread or on the Skeptical Science thread Climate Sensitivity is Low, and invited me to follow you to those threads to continue discussion.

    Instead you responded only by writing that you are more impressed by Lindzen's than Trenberth's demeanors in TV appearances. You did not even say that Lindzen's factual arguments in those TV appearances were more complete--just that you liked his demeanor better.

    Your response is a good illustration of the topic of this thread: attempts to distract us from the scientific realities.
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  29. Tom Dayton, my point is that the AGW predictions of global temperature trends do not fit the facts. The recent cooling trend baffles the Hockey Team. Simply a case of reality trumping theory.

    Speculations on why the AGW predictions are wrong are indeed distractions, but interesting none the less. Lindzen and Trenberth are experts in climate science, yet they disagree; neither of can claim sufficient expertise to know which of them is closest to the truth.
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  30. gallopingcamel at 14:00 PM on 8 March 2010

    If Lindzen is in disagreement not only with Trenberth but also a majority of other scientists qualified to discriminate between his work and Trenberth's, it's possible and reasonable to conclude Trenberth's analysis is the better of the two, less possible and less reasonable to form the opposite conclusion. That situation indeed being the case, it seems there is after all little controversy to discuss with regard to Lindzen versus Trenberth.
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  31. gallopingcamel at 02:03 AM on 7 March, 2010

    "Next he posits that man made emissions are causing the rise in CO2. Probably OK but I have some quibbles. Let it go."

    Whoa, pardner! Hold the phone!

    That's reflective of a misunderstanding on your part which will leave you bereft of complete comprehension of this topic and unable to construct a useful mental model in your head, one delicious taco shy of a combination plate so to speak.

    Among other techniques isotope ratios especially tell us beyond a reasonable doubt that the rise in C02 we're seeing is anthropogenic. If you have a quibble with this you'll need to take it up with archaeologists and a number of other disciplines depending on radiocarbon dating methods; the calibrations here are an offshoot of radiocarbon dating refinements having nothing directly to do with climate change.

    As to lag/lead, that's been treated elsewhere in abundance, as Tom has pointed out. I just wanted to jump in and help you over the isotope matter before you wasted more of your time and effort by missing that fact.
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  32. doug_bostrom (#131),
    Maybe I have been hanging around this site too long as I find myself agreeing with you again. The shift in carbon isotope ratios is convincing evidence that the extra CO2 is from fossil fuels.

    My quibble was related to the residence time for "new CO2" in the atmosphere. The IPCC went with a high figure which may explain why the CO2 concentration is not increasing as fast as the IPCC predicted. As I said earlier, just a quibble as the CO2 curve is still a genuine Hockey Stick although the blade appears to be straighter than IPCC (AR4) predictions.

    With regard to the Trenberth vs. Lindzen issue, the number of scientists backing either one is irrelevant. However, if counting scientist heads did matter, your cause would be lost beyond redemption. The opposition already has over 30,000 signed up:

    Trenberth has credibility problems because he admits recent cooling trends in private while denying them in public. See Inhofe's "Minority Report". Please look at pages 20 and 22 which quote Trenberth denying recent warming thrice.

    In (#129) I made a typo. It should have read:
    Lindzen and Trenberth are experts in climate science, yet they disagree; neither of US can claim sufficient expertise to know which of them is closest to the truth.

    The Inhofe report published last month has already garnered support from 700 scientists. While counting heads is unimportant in hard science it does give politicians a warm feeling to know they are not alone.

    I was hoping you would scold me for the "First do no harm..." statement in (#123).
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  33. gallopingcamel at 14:59 PM on 9 March, 2010

    Roger on the "US" versus "them" correction, but I still disagree. I've read this account:

    Lindzen and Choi unraveled

    and find it to be quite tractable as well as convincing thanks to the author's skill with translating the technicalities of the case into terms most of us can understand.

    As to "first do no harm", I think we may have a fundamentally different perspective on this. My view is that the current mode of operation we're following with regard to energy sources and expenditures is astoundingly anachronistic, habitual and thoughtless in the bad sense and worst of all will not scale successfully and in fact is headed inexorably toward collapse.

    Even if the C02 efflux from our fossil fuel consumption were entirely innocuous, we still need to move as swiftly as possible to a more progressive suite of energy sources. Particularly with regard to liquid and condensate fossil fuels we appear to have squandered our limited endowment of these irreplaceable temporary scaffolds without focusing on how they could have been exploited to lift us to a more permanent arrangement for improving the human condition. We're fecklessly burning a limited resource that cannot satisfy our needs in perpetuity but instead should have been used as a temporary tool while seeking a better and more reliable means of powering our civilization.

    When we've mindlessly consumed our petroleum gift, we've got another problem. We'll then not only be faced with replacing petroleum as an energy source for uniquely demand applications such as aviation, but we'll have created the necessity to jam hydrogen and carbon together to create polymers using money and "alternative" energy supplies when we could have used petroleum for this application for centuries, if we'd not burned it all. Burning petroleum is the most rottenly crude way to use it and we'll realize this to our deep regret a short while from now.

    I'm deeply unhappy with the choices we're making with regard to our stewardship of petroleum. We're doing a lot of harm right now, that's my opinion.
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  34. doug_bostrom, (#133) with regard to "first do no harm", every one of your arguments makes perfect sense to me. Burning fossil fuels at ever higher rates is something our children will blame us for.

    My take on "first do no harm" is that it is better to do nothing than take action that makes things worse. If John Cook's blog proves anything it is that the climate is poorly understood, so it is hard to be certain what will cause harm. When you tweak complex eco-systems there are usually unintended consequences. As for example when Ethanol was added to most of the gasoline sold in the USA.

    Will the rising CO2 concentration be harmful or beneficial? As I can't say with certainty that it will be beneficial, I have to side with you.

    Getting back to Inhofe, he is against any form of carbon tax. The carbon tax reminds me of the old lady who swallowed a fly. To get rid of the fly she swallowed a spider. My fear is that carbon taxes could reduce CO2 emissions but the unintended consequences will be much more serious than the original problem.
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  35. gallopingcamel at 15:07 PM on 10 March, 2010

    Well, we're plunging into the future at a fixed paced so the outcome will reveal itself in due course.

    Welcome seque back to Senator Inhofe, thanks. W/regard to a carbon tax, if such is not to be then we need to provide our collective adult with a different whip to apply to our backsides. It's not in our nature to eschew things that appear to be free, even when our inner grownups tell us they are not. Somehow strict accountability needs to brought into this picture or we'll end up going the hard way, with regard to both C02 emissions and progressing past fossil fuels.

    Senator Inhofe is particularly annoying because he asked for and received a role as a person who will be responsible for the public interest. The public interest is clearly not aligned with ripping through our petroleum resources as quickly as possible, yet he behaves as though it is.

    Some folks speculate Inhofe is in the pocket of the petroleum industry. Maybe, but perhaps this is just a form of cowardice, of failure of will, of reluctance to be the bearer of bad tidings for fear of being punished. Maybe Inhofe is certain that his constituents must be treated as children, indulged even as they're protected from some ugly truths lest they scream. Whatever the case, I'm certain that he is engaging in absurd, degenerate political theatrics wholly useless for conducting the public's business.
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  36. Arkadiusz Semczyszak

    "Here you can see that the increase in pCO2 - is a function of temperature."

    This argument never made sense to me.

    I'm not a scientist, but common sense says that is wrong. It isn't like we don't know if we are emitting x amount of gigatons of carbon annually into the atmosphere.
    It is quantifiable. There is no mystery where CO2 is coming from. For that reason, the argument has always seemed absurd to me. Showing that CO2 might have followed warming in some past warming event doesn't really tell me anything about what happens when there are 6 billion people with modern industrialization burning fossil fuels like all get out. And it doesn't seem like very good logic to say that because x happened in the past, y can't happen at another time.

    And when was the last time on this planet, that a species decided to take the carbon that mother nature has been "sequestering" in the earth, for a period of 65 million years in the case of coal, and putting it all back into the atmosphere and hence the short term carbon cycle in a few hundred years, or a geological nanosecond? Mother natures' sequestering of carbon as coal and oil, just might be one of the main things keeping the carbon cycle in a balance that supports life as we know it.
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  37. Tony Noerpel

    "Corporations are not citizens and should not be treated as such. Corporations are only tools of society and if they don’t serve the public good, we have a right to eliminate them or break them up. My own view on ExxonMobil, as a shareholder, is that they should stay out of the political process, let whatever regulation, which needs to happen to meet the requirements of society, happen and then compete fairly with other companies under whatever rules society deems necessary. This is easy because we understand the problem, but given the SCOTUS decision of the Supreme Court it pragmatically may not be solvable."

    You really hit the nail on the head with that. I've been thinking about the contradiction that corporations have been given the legal status of a person, and yet the Supreme Court says they can donate unlimited funds to political campaigns etc. Now doesn't an individual person have a limit on how much he/she can donate? Am I missing something, or are the corporations having their cake and eating it too? Take away that status of a person, to start with. I don't remember the consitution saying anything about government by and for corporations.

    Its not new that industrial interests twist our government policies in ways that do not benfit the citizenry. Global warming denialism is just the latest example.
    Consider hemp. Probably the most useful plant on earth. One that could make a serious contribution to mitigating climate change, if it weren't banned. One acre of hemp would replace about 5 acres of trees in the making of paper, and make a better paper. It could be grown for biomass power, or for biofuels. Its good for the soil, and doesn't need weed killers. Its oil and seeds are highly nutritious. There is a process for building long lasting buildings with a form of "petrified" hemp. A 1300 year old bridge in France made of this material was found in pretty good condition. Plastics can be made from hemp, like the car body that Henry Ford built. It makes excellent clothing, rope, burlap, paints, canvas and lots of other uses. It can grow on marginal land.

    But DuPont, who had just invented nylon at the same time that a new machine was invented for mass processing of hemp fibers, manuevered the govt to ban hemp. It wasn't just Dupont, but oil companies, Hearst newspapers who owned huge tracts of paper pulp forests, Mellon, Allen Dulles, liquor industry, etc. They made up bogus stories about the dangers of marijuana and launched a huge propaganda program to instill that idea in Americans and policy makers. Other than a breif respite for the WW2 war effort when Victory Hemp was grown, these actions killed the hemp business, not only here but in much of the world. The U.S. stipulated that hemp be eradicated in countries that wanted to trade with us. They got rid of books in the Library of Congress that described the benefits of hemp.
    Good book called "The Emperor Wears No Clothes" by Jack Herer, an effort of about 30 years, spells this all out, as well as telling the fascintating story of the history of hemp.

    I thought about this as I watched Naomi Oreskes speach, the other day. It goes back even further than the SDI events involving Frederick Seitz, that she mentions.
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