Settled Science

Fake skeptics retch at the phrase “settled science.” Well they should. They’re wretched.

They’ll try to persuade you that there’s no such thing, that even to suggest it perverts science. They want you to believe that they reject any notion of “settled science” because they are scientific purists seeking only the truth, but the real reason they object so strongly is that there’s some very real, very genuine, very settled science which is in conflict with their political, economic, and/or religious ideology. Hence they reject the very notion of settled science in the vain hope to make unreasonable doubts seem reasonable.

In fact there are a lot of things which are settled science. For example: cigarette smoking causes lung cancer. That’s settled science. If you happen to meet Murry Salby, ask him point-blank whether or not this is so. Don’t accept any answer other than “yes” or “no.” Do let us know how he responds. Be sure to note whether or not he gags.

Far too many have spent their lives denying the truth of settled science. Some denied the link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer — in fact there used to be quite a few scientists who did so, even long after the science was settled. Some were paid to do so by the tobacco industry. Some of those same scientists went on to deny the reality of global warming. But these days, denying that little bit of settled science is too difficult to get away with — we all know that anyone who denies that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer is either a liar, and idiot, or deranged.

Here’s another bit of settled science: the increase of atmospheric CO2 since the start of the industrial revolution is due to human activity. Not just a little of it, the vast majority of it, for all intents and purposes, all of it. That’s settled science. It’s a fact. It’s undeniable unless you are either a liar, an idiot, or deranged.

Yet many waste their time and ours denying this settled science. Like Murray Salby. And Roy Spencer. You can add Joe Bastardi to the list.

There’s a great deal about climate science that is not settled. But when people — like Murry Salby, Roy Spencer, and Joe Bastardi — seriously claim in public discourse that the increase in atmospheric CO2 is not wholly man-made, their statements should be called what they are: bullshit.

Congratulations to Al Gore for doing it. They’re up in arms about it. They’re claiming that Al has “lost it.” That’s just more of their bullshit.


105 responses to “Settled Science

  1. Good post, I’m sharing it on FB even though there’s a spelling error in the first sentence.

  2. Tamino,

    When thinking about the methods of the inactivist movement, I find it best to view them not as a means to obtain some sort of contrarian truth, but rather as a big clockwork machine that spews out strings of words that occasionally parse into something grammatical or even meaningful.

    Phrases such as “the science isn’t settled”, “the alarmists are losing it”, “ad hominem ad hominem ad hominem!”, “it’s true of both sides”, etc. etc. etc. serve mainly as a quick way for inactivists to ward off inconvenient facts. Such phrases can be rattled off at breakneck pace without the inactivist having to do any actual thinking or analysis or fact-checking.

    — frank

  3. I love one of the comments on the piece about Al Gore

    “Let’s face it; if it turns out that CO2 is a Terrible Threat to All Humanity, our lack of response will be squarely on the heads of Al Gore and people like him. Why? Because, instead of using the slow, careful path of science, such folk chose the path of the demagogue. Instead of offering careful evidence and funding disinterested research, they merely tried to silence and defame critics.”

    A liar, an idiot, or deranged. Take your pick, perhaps all three.

  4. I’ve come across this, the utterly stupid assertion that science is always about doubt. Dumb, really stupid, wilfully so, how do these idiots function in the real world, or are they all posting from within some form of institution?

    I’m an electronic technician by trade (applied science), working in calibration, so I deal with uncertainty all day long. Nonetheless, if they don’t think any science can be settled I could, in a strictly hypothetical sense, introduce them to a 1kV source with a very, very, low impedance.

    I can (scientifically) guarantee they’ll find the introduction a very ‘warm’ one. ;)

    But of course being full of self-righteous scepticism they’d doubt that, and being dolts they’d accept.

    I share your anger at these idiots Tamino.

  5. Yet many waste their time and ours denying this settled science.

    Please consider adding Judith Curry to the list:

    I just finished listening to Murry Salby’s podcast on Climate Change and Carbon. Wow.

    If Salby’s analysis holds up, this could revolutionize AGW science.

    While she doesn’t endorse the talk and wants to see the paper, clearly she’s open to the possibility that anthropogenic CO2 emissions just poof! themselves out of existence …

  6. Well, they are wasting our time, I can very well agree with that. But at least, it has one good thing. I am now more than eager to learn calculations and other science myself, just to be able to refute these Bastard(i)s myself. In a scientific correct way. The stuff I’ll learn by doing this is interesting and inspiring. And I have to thank you Tamino, for very insightful and educative posts. Which I sometimes find difficult to understand and I will (cause of lack of spare time and energy which I can afford to use for this learning) have always trouble understanding when some paper is worth attention and which is just pure rubbish. And in the end, my greatest reward will be some knowledge gained, which I may well use someday also in my basic field (computer programming) – actually, some of it has been used already. My thanks goes of course also to all of the honest scientists, who tries to warn us of consequences from our lifestyle.

  7. Lars Karlsson

    Speaking about Bastardi: here he is on Fox News claiming that AGW “contradicts what we call the 1st law of thermodynamics. Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. So to look for input of energy into the atmosphere, you have to come from a foreign source.”

    • Saw that.

      I think that, at one point, democracy should amend itself for its own survival : everyone can speak, but when someone trashes so blatantly basic physics he should loose his right to speak or get a fine for “discussion pollution”. Period.
      Either that, or a guy disguised as Boltzmann should slap him with a trout.

    • “… what we call …”. Doesn’t it make you angry to see such an obvious incompetent pretend that’s he’s any kind of expert on thermodynamics?

  8. While I agree entirely with Tamino’s thrust, the foundations of both deductive and inductive logic assure that no empirical ‘fact’ or knowledge can be known with absolute certainty. All of science is, to some degree, unsettled and provisional. See:

    The great positive distinction between the tentative current formulation of the most probable (and useful) scientific models (theories, speculations, ideas, etc.) and ideological beliefs is that their ‘predictions’ are subject to further empirical tests to either increase our confidence in them – or help change our minds. Ideological beliefs are usually unchallengeable.

    So don’t throw out the baby with the bath water! The statement that all science is “unsettled”, while ‘true’ – in no way weakens sciences values, in competition with ‘other beliefs’, when we try to cope with the ‘real’ world.

    [Response: I don’t buy it. Do you really believe that the statement “a helium atom is more massive than a hydrogen atom” is unsettled or provisional?]

    • There are physical ‘constants’, uncertain to only about 1 part in 10^10 to 10^12, e.g.,

      The confidence interval for such are darn narrow – but not zero. Similar ‘certainty’ is associated with statements like “a helium atom is more massive than a hydrogen atom”.

      More than 200 years ago, Hume taught us:

      Statements of inductive reasoning appear likely to be ‘true’, based on empirical observation. (These include some statements of theoretical science, all the positive results of experimental science and many statements about ordinary experience and recorded history.) Statements of Inductive reasoning imply ‘faith/belief’ (in the implicit axiom) that an incomplete sample of reality, that already has been observed, will probably turn out to be a reasonable and reliable basis to generalize, by extrapolation, or interpolation, to predict what so far remains unobserved.

      This is the heart of science, and has never been successfully refuted.

      Opposing ‘positions’ ultimately depend upon ideological dogma (like the Platonism that some Physicists profess – that well formulated claims of science asymptotically approach ‘the universal truth of reality’ ).

      Click to access ScienceInTheSpectrumOfBelief.pdf

      [Response: Do you really believe that the statement “a helium atom is more massive than a hydrogen atom” is unsettled or provisional?]

      • Leonard Ornstein,
        I think where you are missing the boat is that you assume scientific evidence and conclusions are constrained ONLY by logic. They are not. There is a physical world in which not all logical possibilities are–for practical purposes at least–possible. It is “possible” that all the oxygen atoms in the room where I am typing this will suddenly depart the room, leaving me to suffocate. It is NOT something I worry greatly about.

        Logic is a tool we use to explore possibility and ensure proper reasoning. Likewise probability. However, when you reach a certain confidence level and a certain probability of a proposition being true, the fact is that you can take it to the bank.
        I recommend reading the following two essays by Helen Quinn–especially the first:

      • Leonard. Does thermal emission vary as the 4th power of temperature, or could it the exponent be somewhere between 3.9 and 4.1?

      • isn’t the key point, philosophically, that one would actually have to produce a hydrogen atom that is more massive than a helium atom in order to uphold the idea that such is possible?

        so, yea, sure, by all means, challenge scientific dogma whenever possible….but at least have the decency to honor the multitude of occasions on which scientific dogma continues to emerge unscathed by evidence. unlike certain other types of dogma (which consist purely of ideas that make no reference to the world as it is) scientific dogma cannot be damaged by mere philosophy.

        Or, if you insist on defending Hume’s view, let’s ignore the comprehensive list of things that have been observed and start work on a comprehensive list of things that have not yet been observed, all of which, oddly enough, seem to support his (irrefutable?) view.

      • I’d like to nominate unicorns, barrow-wights, Nessie, souls and the Higgs Boson as test cases by which to weigh Hume’s philosophy. Am I leaving anything out?

        (Where would experimental confirmation of Higgs leave Hume’s approach, by the way?)

      • To be fair to Leonard, in a strict philosophical sense it is impossible to know that what you are observing is ‘reality’. So from that viewpoint even the existence of hydrogen atoms – and therefore their relative mass – is indeed provisional.

        However, that argument cannot be used to refute a given scientific theory; if we are declaring that our perception of reality itself is provisional, then we can still make observations of that reality (i.e. if we really live in the Matrix, then even though we know nothing of what the underlying reality is we can still derive the rules of the Matrix that we all share).

        What you CANNOT say is that ‘Since science is based on the assumption that reality exists, all scientific hypotheses are equivalent’. And that is the (frequently deliberate) mistake often made. Generally by 1st year philosophy students who are keen to declare that they have ‘refuted science’, shortly before reaching for the light switch and expecting it to work.

        So.. assuming that what we observe is real, then helium and hydrogen atoms exist and the helium ones are heavier. And those who don’t want to make that assumption are invited to walk out of the nearest 10th floor window because, hey, gravity is provisional..

      • Andrew Dodds: “To be fair to Leonard, in a strict philosophical sense it is impossible to know that what you are observing is “reality”. So from that viewpoint even the existence of hydrogen atoms – and therefore their relative mass – is indeed provisional.”

        The existence of hydrogen atoms isn’t “provisional” at all. Of course we have to be careful to deal properly with the semantic quagmire about what we actually mean by “hydrogen atom”, since we can’t see these little animals and can only describe them according to their properties. Taking this in mind, it is not possible to sustain the deceit that the existence of species with the properties of hydrogen atoms, which we call “hydrogen atoms” is in any way “provisional”. Here’s a demonstration:

        1. One of the ways in which we can determine the atomic resolution structure of proteins in solution is nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR). To cut to the chase, NMR structure determination relies on the properties of hydrogen nuclei (nuclear spin, nuclear spin transitions and their relaxation and so on) which are abundant on proteins (around 10 hydrogen atoms per amino acid on average). One of the properties of hydrogen nuclei (spin ½) is that these can exchange their nuclear spin state (cross-relaxation) with spatially-close hydrogen nuclei (within ~ 5 angstroms), a process called the Nuclear Overhauser Effect or “NOE”. We can measure these NOE’s (maybe 1000 separate pairwise distance constraints defining hydrogen nuclei within 5 angstroms), and use these constraints to determine a high resolution structure of the protein.

        2. We can take the same protein, crystallise this (if we’re lucky) and determine the protein structure independently by X-ray diffraction. Interestingly, the low electron density of hydrogen atoms makes these essentially invisible to X-rays and the structure is determined without the hydrogens (but since we know pretty exactly the positions of these on structure (tetrahedral or planar carbons, bond lengths etc), we can build these into our atomic level crystal structure.

        Guess what… the high resolution protein structure determined by NMR (defined by a large matrix of pairwise distance constraints between not-so “provisional” hydrogen nuclei), and the structure determined by X-rays which defines the spatial location of electron density of all of the heavy atoms (but not the hydrogens with their puny electron density) is the same. Clearly “hydrogen atoms” exist, whatever they might smell like.

        3. If we’re a little concerned about the lack of hydrogens in our crystal structure we can replace the hydrogens with deuteriums, which can be observed if we use neutron diffraction rather than X-rays…..and there they are in the protein structure just where we expect them to be. Clearly these little guys exist non-provisionally.

        4. And we can take our protein structure (say it’s the AIDS viral protease), design a molecule that fits neatly into the active site and develop a drug that suppresses the progression of AIDS (sadly it doesn’t cure AIDS but we understand why that is too).

        There’s nothing provisional about any of this, and we should be careful to properly recognise the boundaries between the philosophical and the real, and especially the potentially confusing quagmire of semantics that can unnecessarily muddy this boundary.

  9. Yes, in a technical philosophical sense, all science is provisional. But that does not mean we can’t know things to a very high degree of certainty. I cannot prove with absolute certainty that gravity is not due to invisible fairies pulling us down, but I think that the existence of a force between masses, which we call gravity, can be reasonably regarded as “settled science” — a level of certainty that (while perhaps not absolute) is sufficient such that in common parlance we refer to it as “fact.”

    That human release of CO2 is driving up atmospheric CO2 concentrations, or that atmospheric CO2 increases average temperatures certainly falls into the same category.

  10. It is completely settled science that rising CO2 is caused by human activity. I don’t understand why Curry and Spencer seem to have a problem with that when they seem to get the greenhouse effect.

    One thing bothers me on this subject is an argument I have been using that human emissions must be the cause of the rise because we emit more CO2 than the rate CO2 is rising. Until recently I thought this was effectively proof. In fact I only ever used this argument and wondered why people bothered referring to other evidence like icecores and isotopes when I thought the argument above alone proved CO2 rise was human caused. I think now I might have been wrong, but I just want to check.

    What I realize now is that theoretically you could have a situation where in response to humans stopping emissions, nature turns into a source of CO2 so that CO2 continues rising at the same pace with or without our emissions. How would that work? Well if CO2 was moving towards some ever rising equilibrium point determined by something other than man for example. Then the rate of increase in CO2 has to happen whether man or nature does it. If man stops then nature picks up the slack.

    I wager this idea is bunk and there is good reason why this “rising equillibrium” does not exist. But even so it does seem I shouldn’t be using the simple “we emit more CO2 than the rate it is rising” argument as proof.

    I understand the timing of the the increase, the faster than exponential rate of the increase, the north-south hemisphere lag, the isotopes, the unprecedented nature of the recent rise vs the icecores, etc all scream that it’s human caused. But I just want to make sure I am not using a wrong argument.

    • David B. Benson

      sam | August 10, 2011 at 9:39 pm — If humans stopped burning fossil fuels (and maybe also stopped cutting down trees faster than forest regrow) then the CO2 in the oceans would eventually come into equilibrium with the atmosphere. As the oceans are vast and the atmosphere is not (anyway less vast), this would lower the atmospheric concentration of CO2.

      In the longer term, carbonization of various kinds of rosk would begin to remove CO2 from the combination of ocean and atmosphere.

      That is, of course, replenished by volcanic activity. However, on average, for tha last 50+ million years this contration has decreaased. Carbonization has been winning over vulcanism.

    • The key here is that nature cannot tell the difference between CO2 we emitted this year and CO2 we emitted a long time ago, or CO2 that was naturally emitted — the fact that natural contribution is negative tells you the equilibrium point is below current levels. If we immediately stopped emitting, the rate of change would initially be the current rate of change – human emissions, but over time this would slow as we approached equilibrium.

      [Response: Not so. If we stopped all human emissions (both fossil-fuel burning and land-use changes) the CO2 increase would stop.]

      Best available science suggests that equilibrium level has, in fact, gone up — because natural sinks have absorbed so much of our emissions.

      [Response: If the equilibrium level has gone up it’s because we have added so much carbon to the system that there’s more of it in *every* reservoir (except of course fossil fuels).]

      • Eric L.,
        Be careful. The equilibrium point shifts with temperature. At some point Mother Nature will need to exhale.

      • Tamino, I think you and Eric L are talking past each other, and the two of you actually agree.

        To rephrase his arguments in my own words (and some equations):
        [CO2] = atmospheric concentration
        t0 = current year

        [CO2](t0+1)= [CO2](t0)+human emissions +natural emissions
        Because we observe that [CO2](t0+1) < [CO2](t0)+human emissions, we know that natural emissions 10,000 year time scale, weathering and sedimentation can draw the CO2 back down to the original timescale…

      • Ack. And obviously, my comment had some math symbol which ate most of the text.

        The bits to highlight are, 1:
        “the rate of change would initially be the current rate of change – human emissions”: Eric is, I believe, saying that the rate of change if emissions went to zero would be negative, and approximately equal to the current natural sink. The natural sink can be derived by taking the current rate of change and subtracting natural emissions.

        2: Equilibrium level has gone up: Now I’m sad I didn’t save my spreadsheet. I took CDIAC emissions, assumed that (as per David Archer) 20-30 percent of emissions are essentially permanent additions to the atmosphere, and calculate our new, current equilibrium: which ranged from 310 ppm (if we use 20 percent, and only fossil emissions) to 350 ppm (if we use 30 percent, and include land-use change emissions).

        I did not include a correction for the natural response to temperature change: I think that is unlikely to be more than 10 ppm based on temperature change to date, so reasonable guesses for current equilibrium could range from 310 ppm to 360 ppm.

        (I’m kind of surprised at how high the high end is…)


    • Sam
      A couple of days ago in “Bag of hammers II”, I expressed an essentially similar view to that given in your second paragraph above.
      It is true that humans have emitted more CO2 into the atmosphere in recent times than the increase in atmospheric CO2 during those times (The balance has been absorbed by the oceans and terrestrial environment that have acted as net sinks).
      But in order to argue conclusively that therefore humans are responsible, rather than the rise in global temperature, from that mass balance argument ALONE, we ALSO have to show that the equilibrium response of atmospheric CO2 to a rise in temperature (ie. d[CO2]/dT ) is low. That IS the case (see references in Bag of Hammers from Chris and Paul S) giving c.8-10ppmvCO2/degC, which is far too low to be able to account for the increase in atmospheric CO2, even if all other considerations were conveniently ignored.
      Of course, there are other very powerful reasons to conclude that humans are responsible for the increase in atmospheric CO2, not least the (literally!) “Mother of all Hockey Sticks” graph of atmospheric [CO2 ] for the Holocene.

    • sam, as others have stated, if we were to stop emitting greenhouse gases immediately, then atmospheric [CO2] will stop rising.

      There are scenarios in which atmospheric [CO2] would continue to rise in the circumstance that we stopped emissions dead. Consider the situation 100 years from now, say, during which intervening period we’d made little effort to limit our emissions. Atmospheric [CO2] is 650 ppm and the global surface temp is 2.5 oC warmer than now.

      We have reached a temperature where the natural world is not a net sink for CO2 anymore: ocean warming and stratification limits [CO2] partitioning into the near-surface mixed layer, greenhouse gases are leaking from tundra and die-back of tropical forest under temperature stress and drought exceeds high latitude forest growth.

      In this sort of scenario, switching off our greenhouse gas emissions could be accompanied by a continued rise in atmospheric [CO2], although the rise would be slower (absent the contribution from our emissions). I expect this sort of scenario has been studied, and there are better bounds on the [CO2]/temperature conditions that would lead to such a scenario…

  11. David B. Benson

    Leonard Ornstein raise a point about the foundations and philosophy of science. It is only applicable at the outermost margins of science, where various matters are not settled. It certainly never comes into view in those areas which are more settled. For all practical purposes we may proceed upon the supposition that helium isotopes are always heavier than hydrogen isotopes; otherwise those isotpes would not have the physical and chemical properties of helium rather than those of hydrogen.

    In other fora Leonard Ornstein might well be reminding us about how to approprately conduct science; not here.

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      For all practical purposes we may proceed upon the supposition that helium isotopes are always heavier than hydrogen isotopes

      Eh, tritium is heavier than helium-3, into which it beta-decays: 3.0160492 u vs. 3.0160293 u

  12. Sam, Well, what would determine the equilibrium value–and why would the equilibrium values be so different on Earth and Venus and Mars? And why would Earth’s equilibrium value vary over time?

    Equilibria happen for a reason. They are not arbitrary.

  13. Leonard Ornstein, you are probably correct that at a fundamental level nothing in science can be known with 100% accuracy. But this is different from “settled science” as I understand it. Exactly because we could spend eternity trying to approximate 100% certainty about every single datum and theory, at some point we need to say they our current conclusions are good enough as they explain all the data adequately (and better than any other available hypotheses) and accept them as fact. This does not imply that some future data may not force us to re-evaluate some “settled science”; but for now, in order to make progress (and maybe even in order to be able to get to the ‘unsettling’ data) we need to work on the assumption that we have the best available explanation currently available.

  14. Horatio Algeranon

    Science isn’t settled
    –by Horatio Algeranon

    Science isn’t settled
    Buildings do not stand
    Bridges fall into the gorge
    Collapse like so much sand
    Rockets never reach the moon
    And atoms are illusion
    The human source of CO2
    Is simply a delusion
    The polar ice ain’t melting
    And species aren’t hurtin’
    Uncertainty is certainly
    The only thing that’s certain

  15. “Here’s another bit of settled science: the increase of atmospheric CO2 since the start of the industrial revolution is due to human activity. Not just a little of it, the vast majority of it, for all intents and purposes, all of it. That’s settled science. It’s a fact. It’s undeniable unless you are either a liar, an idiot, or deranged.”

    I have been engaging for the last week or so in a discussion on a local motorcycling forum about the reality of global warming. The majority of the participants are actively hostile to the idea, some declaring it a giant scam and some professing to be open-minded but still waiting to be convinced. At least one of the participants, the one who originated the most recent discussion and several in the past, definitely does deny that the increase of atmospheric CO2 since the start of the industrial revolution is due to human activity. But here’s the thing: I’m pretty sure he’s not a liar, I see no reason to think he’s an idiot, and nor do I think he’s deranged. Actually he comes across as an ordinary level-headed and rather likable bloke who likes robust debate (though he tends to lose interest if asked to think too hard). As I have mentioned in the discussion, I wonder how he can be so sure and so wrong.

    So if he’s not a liar, an idiot, or deranged, then what? Almost certainly deluded, in this instance by a book called Air Con (ISBN 978-0-9582401-4-7) written by Ian Wishart

    Ian Wishart appears to suffer from a conviction that the experts are wrong and a vast overestimation of his own powers of reasoning. But my forum friend merely suffers, I think, from a dysfunctional credibility meter.

    • I think that probably 95% of the time, delusion is the culprit more often than “out and out” lying or idiocy. The problem is that delusion is much more effective than plain old dishonesty, because the untruths are told with so much passion when you’re deluded! I can’t find the reference, but some tentative hypotheses in sociobiology wonder if the ability to self-delude has an evolutionary advantage in this way…

      I think the strength of the self delusion (denial of fact) is stronger when the facts more directly challenge the deluded’s fundamental worldview. Patients with cancer deny their cancer because of the obvious fundamental challenge to their worldview of a permanent “self.” For example, while extreme true-believer libertarians may rarely today challenge the fact that firsthand smoke causes lung cancer (?because limits on tobacco companies are suggested?), many professed free-marketers will openly challenge the fact that secondhand smoke causes cancer (because the notion that regulation of businesses may be needed is implied by this fact). Even more threatening to this worldview is global warming, because regulation is so much more suggested in a very wide ranging sphere of commerce.

      I’m thinking of asking some cancer doctor friends what they do in the setting of such delusions as occur in those who deny the reality of danger of a malignancy. Not sure they’ll have any answers about it that would apply here, but you never know…

    • Mark,

      Just what is the claim? That “our” CO2 is being magically sequestrated? That by pure coincidence natural CO2 is increasing but by a lesser amount? That the figures are false (a particularly unpleasant person at the JREF forum tried to tell me a while ago that we have no idea how much fuel we burn and therefore no idea how much CO2 we produce)?

      People can be clever and very stupid at the same time.

  16. H.A., that’s your best yet …


    You should post it on every thread Judith Curry starts up (a bot would do, making sure you’re First Post! etc)

  17. Bravo Horatio, rework third last line and you have a hit , maybe use “are not”

    I am going to use that, with acknowledgement of course.,

  18. To Horatio Algeranon:

    There ‘s ‘Leftist Science’and ‘Righteous Science’.The truth is fluid(think Celtic druid).

    ‘For God is Great!’says Inhofe mate,’Fil’buster ‘s ours,so send us flowers!’

    And ‘true’ and ‘false’are but a waltz;while ‘wrong’ and ‘right’are judged by might.

    — frank

  19. Funny how this “settled science” produces peer-reviewed papers on both sides of the aisle almost weekly and billions are of dollars still being poured into a science that is settled.

    Clearly the science is only “settled” when activist scientists want to drive policy. But when it comes to getting more funding, then suddenly all kinds of research still needs to get done.
    Is there a lot about climate science that we still don’t know? Only a buyer of the Brooklyn Bridge would answer that question with “n0”.
    Anyway, thanks for the entertaining piece, Tamino.

    [Response: You can only get from “It’s settled science that CO2 increase is man-made” to “all the science is settled” if you’re either a liar, an idiot, or demented. Thanks for showing what a fake you really are.]

    • It’s like saying, ‘Look, scientists spend so much money studying cancer! Clearly it’s not settled whether cancer is actually a type of disease!’

      — frank

    • Rob Honeycutt

      Pierre… Oh, come on. This is a pretty low level comment coming from someone who professes to know something about science. Tell me please, would you take it that evolution is a settled science? It happens to be one of the most universally accepted theories in all of science. And yet we continue to see paper after paper after paper published every year on this topic. Why? If we already know it’s right, why publish more? Because there is always more to know. We can always deepen our understanding. That is human nature, to ask questions and desire to know more.

      Same applies to climate science.

  20. To Ray Ladbury – and most others:

    In your link to Helen Quinn’s, What is Science:

    “That is the sense in which no theory can be proven to be true, truth is too complete a notion. We need to emphasize that the incompleteness of theory in no way compromises the stability over time of well-established understanding in science – an important notion that is seldom made explicit”,

    is exactly the point I wanted to make.

    The ‘correct’ objection that Tamino makes in this thread, is, however, an overstatement, in the limit.

    To appreciate why well-established science (that strictly speaking, can never be PROVED as absolute truth) should override other beliefs, it’s important to understand that ALL allegations of empirical truth are, at best, approximations. But that only the well-supported approximations of science are – or become the best – in the long run.


    “Without the postulate of the universality and immutability of the laws of nature, I do not even know that the Sun will rise tomorrow morning. Without the validity of that postulate, there would be no point to doing science! How does such a postulate differ from a belief? In science the essential point is that every idea has a tentative nature – if data tell us we are wrong, we must give up that idea, A belief, on the other hand, is typically not subject to test; it must be taken on faith”,

    from her Belief and Knowledge – A plea about language, is slightly overstated.

    Data that “tell us we are wrong” are like data that tell us we are right in that there are confidence intervals (some uncertainty) associated with the significance of BOTH. In this connection, neither can ever provide ABSOLUTE certainty. Thus, Karl Popper’s ‘falsification criterion’ is very misleading.

    So Quinn’s “postulate of the universality and immutability of the laws of nature” is a version of the axiomatic element of ‘faith’ that Hume noted we all must accept when we use inductive reasoning.

    If all of this is appreciated, the nonsense that Tamino is criticizing can be more easily distinguished from the necessary residual uncertainty in “settled science”.

  21. Daniel J. Andrews

    It seems we are seeing some truly poor arguments in comments and in the news. Self-contradictory, leaps of illogic (see Gosselin’s), etc. Now I’m wondering if the same sort of thing happened with the tobacco wars? Counterarguments first started off interesting, but as evidence accumulated, the arguments became weaker until finally they were the laughable tripe and forehead-shattering (i.e. head-desk) idiocies we’re seeing more of now.

    Did smoking advocates start saying scientists were corrupt? Had an agenda? That smoke particles don’t enter the lungs? It might be interesting if it were possible to trace the genesis and development and deterioration of counterarguments for tobacco, ozone, evolution, acid rain, asbestos, etc to see if a similar pattern recurs.

  22. When one pushes an empty cart and then stops pushing, the cart keeps moving until the work done on it is dissipated. How is it, that the earths temperature has leveled off, if co2 continues to rise and it is supposed to be what is causing the rise.. The answer is obvious. it is the earths temperature which is driving the co2 release into the atmosphere. That is what Salby opines, and he is correct.

    For the sake of argument, lets assume you are correct, the co2 is adding energy to the system. Okay, how much? We have a gas that is .04% of the atmosphere that increases 1.5 ppm and humans contribute 3-5% of that total yearly , which means the increase by humans is 1 part per 20 million. As if that is not small enough , the TOTAL energy in this system is ocean, land, and atmosphere, with the ocean containing the vast majority of energy in the system. So lets just try to measure the addition of energy of co2, assuming that it is adding energy. The fact is you cant measure it. It is infinitely small. You dont have a leg to stand on, except the idea that the temperatures have gone up since 1800. So even if I give to you the idea that co2 is adding energy, its so small for all intents and purposes the energy added is neglible.

    Ah, but here is where the 1st law works just fine. For after a prolonged period of LACK OF SUNSPOT ACTIVITY, the world was quite cold around 1800. The ramping up of solar activity the past 200 years until now can easily be argued as the introduction of extra energy into the system. Much more so than the argument is co2, which gets shot down since the earths temps have leveled off the past 15 years while co2 is rising.

    So what is it you deny? DO you deny co2 is rising? Or do you deny the hadley center, hardly right wing idiots like you think we are, has the correct measurements. What makes sense is there is continued response to previous warming of the system that is being driven, but not the driver. That is real world observation.

    I am not going to call you the nasty things you call me, or any other person that argues with you. But the fact remains that a simple test over the next 20-30 years suffices. With the solar cycles and now the oceanic cycles changing, there should be a drop in global temps as measured by objective satellite measurement, back to the levels they were in the 1970s, when we first started measuring them via an objective source. If temps start up again, you carry the day. But you are already busting, the temps have stopped rising and its not me but a source very much vested in your side of the debate that is saying so.

    Stop the name calling and demonizing, and think the way the opened minded progressive is supposed to think.. freely, objectively and in pursuit of what we all want. A better world

    • Ian Forrester

      It’s great to hear the thoughts and inspirations of someone outstanding in their field.

      You are indeed “out standing in your field”, I have passed by that field many times and observed the mindless scarecrows nodding in the wind.

      Joe Bastardi, you are definitely out standing in that field nodding mindlessly with the other scarecrows.. What a load of pure unadulterated rubbish you have posted here and elsewhere. You should be ashamed of the misinformation you are spreading .

      • Indeed, as so many others have already noted, Bastardi’s illegitimate ‘interpretations’ of science are nothing but ignorant ideological nonsense.

        There is one good thing about Bastardi’s post though – in hitching his star to Salby’s wagon, said astral object will burn up on entry to the atmosphere of scientific scrutiny, just as Salby’s wain’s momentum will wane and then catastrophically disipate when it contacts the immovable wall of physical fact.

        No back-pedalling out of this one Joe, especially now that you’re on the record.


    • Let’s see if I got this right – a talk, no slides, no paper and decades of science is suddenly overturned. Where’s the skepticism?

    • If the Earth’s temperature is leveling off over the last 15 years, why was 2010 the hottest year on record for NASA and NOAA?

    • “the temps have stopped rising “

      Seriously? You want to hang your hat on that? Remember 2010 being tied for the warmest year on record? The 2000’s being the warmest decade on record (warmer than the 90’s, which were warmer than the 80’s, which were warmer than the 70’s…)? Needless to say, I can’t be bothered to deal with the rest of your “gibberish”. Fish in a barrel.

      Dude, you are so far into Climastrology and Mathturbation that your comment should receive the Bag of Hammers of the Year Award. And, based on the unscience you continually spout, you deserve the same for lifetime achievement in the category. Perhaps Tamino will rename the award for you…

    • ”How is it, that the earths temperature has leveled off, if co2 continues to rise and it is supposed to be what is causing the rise.. The answer is obvious. it is the earths temperature which is driving the co2 release into the atmosphere. That is what Salby opines, and he is correct.”

      How indeed? How is it that 2010 is/equals the warmest year on record (NASA Giss) and yet the solar output has drifted downwards since the mid 1980’s, we’re at the bottom of the solar cycle and the current solar minimum has been anomalously extended (and so we’re told the negative phase of the PDO is producing an additional supposed global cooling contribution)? The answer is obvious. It is the co2 release that is maintaining the earths temperature during a period when natural contributions are temporarily aligned to give significant cooling.

      It’s easy to make “how is it” arguments. But surely we should address the science Mr Bastardi, rather than appeal to incredulity or worse the “opines” of someone who has chosen to say some seriously dopey things in an effort to publicise a book.

      I seriously hope that “the way the opened minded progressive is supposed to think” is not to fall to one’s knees before the “opines” of some guy who has chosen to sell a little snakeoil! That’s taken “opened minded”ness to the point where one’s brains are in danger of falling out.

      As for your argument from incredulity about the greenhouse effect of CO2, I suspect pretty much everyone here is noticing that you are (as you say) “pushing an empty cart”

    • Incidentally, Mr Bastardi, it’s difficult to take your “arguments” seriously, when your agenda-lead approach leads to such wrong-headedness. Those of who have read your astonishingly ignorant post here, may also have watched the video under “Crock” (the most recent article posted on Tamino’s site) and observed the spectacular failure of your “wishful thinking” based satellite temperature projection (see video under “Crock” from 6min:30sec onwards). Nothing I’ve seen of your “output” inspires confidence in your scientific competence, though you clearly have other talents…

    • “the earths temps have leveled off the past 15 years”

      Mr Bastardi,
      You might want to look at the following before you set that little lie in stone.

    • “We have a gas that is .04% of the atmosphere that increases 1.5 ppm and humans contribute 3-5% of that total yearly , which means the increase by humans is 1 part per 20 million. As if that is not small enough , the TOTAL energy in this system is ocean, land, and atmosphere, with the ocean containing the vast majority of energy in the system. So lets just try to measure the addition of energy of co2, assuming that it is adding energy. The fact is you cant measure it. It is infinitely small. ”

      OMG! How many wrong ideas can we fit into one paragraph???

      1) That the “small” size of the perecent of CO2 in the atmosphere is relevant: it isn’t the percentage of the atmosphere that’s important, but rather the absorptive properties. N2, O2, and Argon have almost zero relevant absorption (for basic quantum mechanical reasons having to do with lack of vibrational modes that can create dipole moments). Therefore, CO2 is actually contributes a very high percentage to the IR absorptive properties of the atmosphere, especially at higher altitudes where there is less water vapor. And the IR absorption of the atmosphere is pretty key for keeping the Earth warmer than a blackbody would be.

      2) “Humans contribute 3-5% yearly”? This canard is just ridiculous. If I buy $1000 worth of goods a week and sell them for another $1000, then even though the $10 I spent on advertising a week is small in comparison, it is the reason my bank account keeps dropping. Humans contribute almost 100% of the average yearly rise.

      3) The amount of energy that CO2 adds is “infinitely small”. Actually, we can use basic radiative physics to determine that the CO2 increase since 1750 is trapping about 1.76 W/m2 of the energy flowing out of the Earth… that’s one christmas bulb every square meter of the planet, running constantly night and day… that’s actually a heck of a lot of energy. If I remember my back of the envelope calculations, the CO2 we’ve added to the atmosphere will generate more than 100 times as much heat this year as all the fossil fuels we burn add in direct heat. That’s, um, a lot larger than “infinitely small”.

      None of these points are contested by anyone with a basic grasp of the relevant science. Does that mean all the science is settled? No, there’s plenty of legitimate uncertainty to do with cloud feedbacks, aerosol-cloud interactions, the response of ecosystems to temperature changes, etc. etc. etc. But for some reason, stupid-ass arguments just draw people like you like nothing else. Why don’t you try taking a basic undergrad class on climate before opening your big (and unfortunately, widely heard) mouth on this subject ever again?

    • Robert Murphy

      Is this really Bastardi posting? I knew he was dense, but this post under his name is laughably nonsense. Salby is right? Really??

      “How is it, that the earths temperature has leveled off, if co2 continues to rise and it is supposed to be what is causing the rise.. The answer is obvious. it is the earths temperature which is driving the co2 release into the atmosphere. That is what Salby opines, and he is correct.”

      Hey Einstein, if the temperature is what is driving the CO2 rise (on a very quick time-scale), how can you claim that temps have leveled off but CO2 has continued to rise? You can’t have it both ways. The natural world has been a carbon sink, not source. The oceans are taking in more CO2 than they release. Only the most desperate of “skeptics” denies the overwhelming evidence that the CO2 increase is from us.

      “We have a gas that is .04% of the atmosphere that increases 1.5 ppm and humans contribute 3-5% of that total yearly”

      Actually the increase is over 2 ppm a year, and it essentially all from human contributions.

      “So lets just try to measure the addition of energy of co2, assuming that it is adding energy. The fact is you cant measure it. It is infinitely small.”

      It’s called the greenhouse effect. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Do you deny that too?

      “The ramping up of solar activity the past 200 years until now can easily be argued as the introduction of extra energy into the system.”

      Except solar trends have been at best flat for the last 40-50 years, and probably declining in the last few decades. It’s not the Sun.

      “Much more so than the argument is co2, which gets shot down since the earths temps have leveled off the past 15 years while co2 is rising.”

      Nonsense; lower tropospheric temps have increased about .12C in the last 15 years, and the oceans have been gaining heat too. Your “fact” is a fiction.

      “With the solar cycles and now the oceanic cycles changing, there should be a drop in global temps…”

      And yet, in the midst of the deepest solar minimum in 100 years, we just had the warmest decade on record.

      “measured by objective satellite measurement…”

      Which is in excellent agreement with the ground based data. Both are objective, and both are saying the same thing.

      “But you are already busting, the temps have stopped rising…”

      Nonsense. Read up on sample sizes as they relate to linear trends and come back to us.

    • Wow, that is quite the Gish gallop and rant by Bastardi. Thanks for letting that through Tamino– shows what ignorance and “omniscience” science is up against. I would refute his misguided notions, as the others could also easily do, but I won’t spoil the fun for you.

      What I will ask of Mr. Bastardi is if he is willing to concede that his forecast made on 27 June 2010 that of the UAH LT temperatures in the following 12-18 months would drop close to those observed following the Mont Pinatubo eruption was horribly wrong.

    • Stephen Baines


      You 1) ignore the conservation of mass (where did all the anthro CO2 go anyway?), 2) mischaracterize the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere due to humans (increase of 40%, not 1.5ppm, or 1/20,00o,oooth), 3) give a false impression of the importance of CO2 as a greenhouse gas (10-25% of IR absoption in atmosphere dependeing on clouds, not 0.04%), 4) mischaracterize the scientific position on the little ice age (yes, solar activity was important and it does play a role in climate -we know!) and 5) cherry pick the temperature record (and even then get it wrong!)

      You also contradict yourself by 1) claiming temp controls CO2, temp is not increasing, and CO2 is increasing and 2) appealing to 10 year trends despite your own admission that the ocean storage of heat makes 10 year trends pointless.

      And you manage this in a single post! How is that science? How can you then appeal to fair play?

      Look, I don’t know about Tamino, but I don’t call anyone names. And I don’t think science is about left and right, or I wouldn’t be in it. That’s for policy. You have an important role to play as a communicator of actual science. We live in a fractured time that absolutely needs clear headed guidance.

      All I ask is that you DO YOUR JOB!

    • Joe,

      Just a couple of things.

      “Ah, but here is where the 1st law works just fine. For after a prolonged period of LACK OF SUNSPOT ACTIVITY, the world was quite cold around 1800. The ramping up of solar activity the past 200 years until now can easily be argued as the introduction of extra energy into the system. Much more so than the argument is co2, which gets shot down since the earths temps have leveled off the past 15 years while co2 is rising”

      First. Could you please provide a link to your 15 yr trend line for global temperature that shows the leveling off together with the statistical significance of the line slope?

      Second. In the post below a multiple regression analysis of surface temperature is performed where solar activity is represented by sun spot number. The analysis shows that solar activity i.e. sunspot number has a barely significant effect on the surface temperature.

      can you refute the analysis in that post?

    • Joe,

      Check out my avatar. What it shows is the carbon dioxide concentration at roughly 8 km from July of 2003. It has been imaged by the Atmospheric InfraRed Sounder. You can see plumes of carbon dioxide rising off of the the East and West coasts of the United States. The reason why we are able to see those plumes is that carbon dioxide absorbs infrared radiation in certain parts of the spectra. In this case the band around a wavelength of 15 μm that exists due to the bending mode of carbon dioxide.

      As you increase the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere you increase the optical thickness of the atmosphere to radiation in that part of the spectra, just like thick smog getting in way of visible light in LA. Increase the concentration of carbon dioxide and you increase the altitude from which thermal radiation is radiated before it is able to escape without being reabsorbed. However, the further up you go in the troposphere the cooler it gets. Cold things don’t radiation as much thermal radiation. If the rate at which energy is leaving the system is to balance the rate at which energy is entering the system things have got to heat up, just like an iron in a fire. You should be familiar with this sort of thing, as it is the same principle that makes it possible for us to satellite image water vapor in the atmosphere, even at night. When that higher, colder layer warms up, given a roughly constant lapse rate (that is, rate at which temperature decreases with increasing altitude) the surface will have to heat up. That is global warming.

      The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is too small to make a difference, you say? It is only greenhouse gases that are capable of absorbing and emitting radiation. Nitrogen and oxygen aren’t greenhouse gases, so they play no part in that. They are able to thermal energy when the collide with other molecules, but they can only lose that energy through collisions. They increase the capacity of the atmosphere to store energy, but neither absorb nor radiate it, and it is only through radiation that energy may enter or leave the earth’s atmosphere. Carbon dioxide can’t make a difference since water vapor already absorbs the radiation in that part of the spectra, you say? Given its freezing point water vapor has a much smaller scaling height than most atmospheric constituents. Roughly 4 km, with the concentration being cut more than in half for each 4 km. Carbon dioxide acts at a higher altitude. And as the atmosphere becomes more rarified the absorption lines become narrower and more distinct, so that there is less overlap between carbon dioxide and what water vapor exists at higher altitudes.

      The amount of carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere is too small compared with what nature puts into the atmosphere to make a difference, you say? But the rate at which nature puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is roughly in balance with the rate that it removes the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Plant growth during the spring taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere being balanced by plant decay releasing it in the fall. Like someone breathing in, breathing out. Taking into account only what nature is putting into the atmosphere without looking at the other side of the accounting sheet is like a young earth creationist estimating the age of the earth by considering the rate at which nickel enters the oceans and the amount that is already there, but omitting the rate at which it is removed.

      The carbon dioxide is coming from the ocean, you say? But the acidity of the ocean is increasing due to the absorption of “carbonic acid” (carbon dioxide, in older lingo) from the atmosphere, not decreasing like it would if the ocean were releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide is coming from volcanoes, you say? But volcanoes normally release a small fraction of the carbon dioxide we release each year. What you would need is not a Pinatubo, not a Yellow Stone Caldera blanketing the United States in ash (roughly 100 Pinatubos erupting simultaneously), not even the eruption of Colorado River large igneous province, but something comparable to a supervolcano the likes of which we see only during continent formation. The formation of the Siberian basalts during the breakup of Pangaea that precipitated the Permian-Triassic extinction 251 million years ago, the supervolcano that formed the Deccan basalts in India as it collided with Eurasia, the major engine of the End-Cretaceous extinction event 65 million years ago, or the formation of the North Atlantic Basalts 55 million years aqo during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum that put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and raised the acidity of the ocean at only a tenth the rate that we are now.

      You are arguing against well-established science and well-established physics. We didn’t know about quantized states of excitation then, but we realized as far back as 1859 that increasing the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would reduce the rate at with infrared radiation escapes, and by the principle of the conservation of energy, this implied that the temperature of the earth must increase. Like it is now. You are arguing against science that has existed for over a hundred and fifty years. Like a creationist arguing against Darwin given our discoveries of genetics, mutation, the hypermutation of simple sequence repeats. Arguing against Darwin given the retroelements that leave simple sequence repeats behind, and even the lateral gene transfer by means of the endogenization of retroviruses, responsible (among other things) for creating a barrier to the mother’s immune system that makes possible the implantation of the oocyte and growing plancenta during normal mammalian embryonic development, even though the embryo is only half descended from the mother and would otherwise be rejected, like an organ transplant in the absence of something to suppress the immune system. To say that you are behind the times would be a great, grave understatement.

    • Joe,

      Concerning your comments on sunspot cycles. Here is a post from the archives that addresses the problems with TSI (again using sunspot number as a proxy) causing global warming. They may do so more directly than the post referenced in the previous reply.

      Here is another post on the same topic that is worth reading. It discusses the findings in a paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society that shows that TSI really cannot be the cause of the surface warming trend.

      Check them out they are excellent reads. If you can respond to the assertions made in the posts (or the paper, the post provides a link) please do so.

    • Joe Bastardi,

      Would you be willing to have a debate on the science of climate change in an online public forum, initially constrained to the two of us? Clicking on my name will reveal who I am (bottom introduction post) and a flavor of my views on the matter.

      This could be setup in a format with extended initial arguments and shorter counter-arguments to each other, or if you have a preferred format let me know. You seem to be influential in several circles; I also have contributed to several blogs on the matter of climate change, and I think it would be interesting to lay out our respective views for a lot of people to see, and where they can then evaluate the merits of the science on their own.

      • Given the above, If I were in such a debate, I’d make my first point about watching for the amazing Gish Gallops!

    • Chris O'Neill

      Joe Bastardi:

      it is the earths temperature which is driving the co2 release into the atmosphere.

      And the dog ate our (human generated) CO2.

      Keep it up Joe. The more ludicrous the claims from those who deny climate science, the better.

    • Joe Bastardi,
      Your contribution is indeed remarkable–an argument masquerading as science without a single fact or figure, no logical structure persisting more than 2 sentences without a complete nonsequitur and no understanding of the mechanisms you refer to.

      The fact of the matter is that we can measure the energy added to the atmosphere by CO2, whether the addition be a single molecule or a doubling. The greenhouse effect is settled science. It has been known since the 1820s, and well understood since the 50s. Our planet would be a snowball without it. For you to simply assert–absent any evidence that it does not exist makes you either a liar, a fool or a lunatic. I will leave it to you which you consider the lesser charge.

      Let me see if I can construct an argument even your brain will understand. Consider a 15 micron photon rising from Earth’s surface. To interact with a CO2 molecule, it must pass within a wavlength (i.e. 15 microns). How many CO2 molecules will it encounter on its way up? Answer: I get on the order of 10^17 molecules. Now what do you suppose the chances are that it will get out of the atmosphere without being absorbed are?

      So, Joe, you’re right. I want a better world–and in a better world, people won’t just spout unsubstantiated opinions. They have to do the frickin’ math. Do the frickin’ math, Joe. And then I promise that we’ll try to be nicer if you try to be smarter.

    • “As if that is not small enough , the TOTAL energy in this system is ocean, land, and atmosphere, with the ocean containing the vast majority of energy in the system. So lets just try to measure the addition of energy of co2, assuming that it is adding energy. The fact is you cant measure it. It is infinitely small. You dont have a leg to stand on …”

      By the same logic, wearing clothing in a blizzard can’t help keep you warm because it doesn’t add any energy to the system.

    • “We have a gas that is .04% of the atmosphere that increases 1.5 ppm and humans contribute 3-5% of that total yearly”

      Wrong. The average annual rise for the last 10 years has been 2ppm, and the amount of CO2 that is added to the atmosphere each year is equivalent to around double that. Are you being ignorant or are you being dishonest?

    • Rob Honeycutt

      Mr Bastardi… I would like to point out that there are a dozen or so responses here, each and every one of them merely astonished at your lack of understanding of basic scientific principles. You stated your expectation that there would be “name calling and demonizing.” I don’t know if that is what you read in these comments but it’s certainly not what I read. I read a group of people who have taken the time to understand all these principles and are aghast that you, as a public figure, have not. These people only want to teach you where you clearly do not understand science.

      Though, I hold no confidence that you would actually read these comments, or even if you did that you would have the willingness to listen and learn.

  23. Leonard Ornstein,
    Belief in a proposition that has repeatedly proven its validity and worth hardly constitutes “faith”. For one thing, the “belief” in it is provisional–it would be abandoned if evidence against it were uncovered. For another, beliefs of the type Quinn is discussing are actually beneficial from an epistemological point of view–in that they make it easier to distinguish between hypotheses.
    What you are ignoring is that much of life is more like a multiple choice test than a math exam. Once the evidence is stacked high enough for one outcome, we can safely ignore other possibilities. The conclusions that can be drawn are more solid that what mere formal logic would allow.

    Now of course, there is another difficulty that is more profound–namely, as Quantum Theory has shown us, the actual physical world cannot correspond in any naive way to our conceptions of that world. It doesn’t fit neatly into concepts our brain can conceive of . That does not, however, diminish the predictive power, and therefore the truth, of the model of the world we have constructed.

    • “Once the evidence is stacked high enough for one outcome, we can safely ignore other possibilities.”

      Make it “fairly safely” – admitting to marginal remaining uncertainty – and we’re in agreement.

      That’s the element of “faith” that Hume taught us distinguishes all logical proofs that follow from faultlessly applying axioms of definition, syntax and grammar – from all inductive “proofs”. That “faith” in each particular model is conditioned by what we subsequently observe. That’s what distinguishes it from dogmatic faith of ideologies.

  24. How is it, that the earths temperature has leveled off, if co2 continues to rise and it is supposed to be what is causing the rise.. The answer is obvious. it is the earths temperature which is driving the co2 release into the atmosphere.

    How is it that the CO2 levels have kept rising while the temperature has leveled off if the Earth’s temperature is driving CO2 release into the atmosphere? The answer is obvious. More than one thing can have an effect on the climate.

  25. David B. Benson

    The good, the bad, the indifferent and the poetic.

    FOr that last, my thanks to HOration for his best yet!

  26. Mr. Bastardi, that kind of drivel may pass for argument in political circles, but it’s empty talk here (and there too, if you’re serious). The increase in CO2 levels is obviously due to fossil fuel burning: observed isotope changes, decrease in atmosopheric oxygen and the total of human emissions, which exceeds the annual increase in atmospheric CO2 as the oceans continue to absorb some of what we release. The direct effect of that increase is a reduction in outgoing longwave radiation: the Earth’s energy budget is out of balance, taking in more than it’s emitting to space. Related observations include an increase in downward longwave radiation, a decrease in outward, a rise in the tropopause and cooling stratosphere (all simple predictions), as well as the ongoing increase in average temperatures and ocean heat content. Solar activity has been well-observed, and doesn’t account for recent warming– further, if it did, we should see a warming stratosphere, not a cooling. On past performance and evidence of your completely delusional approach to this issue, I expect you’ll be offering the same bet (with a new starting point) again in 5 years, and 10 years, and so on…

  27. I guess if you wanted to be really pedantic you could say that in a given x number of photons from the sun at any time segment y, they all ‘miss’ the CO2 molecules in the atmosphere, which would explain all those moments on Venus when telescopes can see clear to the surface. By probability it will have to happen eventually, but the sun won’t last that long.

  28. Bryson Brown, you wrote: “Mr. Bastardi, that kind of drivel may pass for argument in political circles, but it’s empty talk here (and there too, if you’re serious).”

    My guess is that Mr. Bastardi knows this. But his work does pass muster in some political circles, sadly, as well as among some of those who know little about climate science and atmospheric physics. If Mr. Bastardi would like to prove me wrong and demonstrate that he seriously believes what he has posted, all he need to is provide citations and full references to support the many interesting claims he has made. I’d certainly like to see him defend his claim that temps must be driving the recent increases in CO2 when temps, as he argues, haven’t risen for the last decade.

    And then there’s his figures about humans contributing only 3% of atmospheric CO2, etc., etc. Sources, please, Mr. Bastardi.

  29. andrew adams

    P Gosselin,

    The contradiction you mention does exist, but it’s the “skeptics” who are the guilty parties. On the one hand they argue that climate scientists are pushing the idea of “catastrophic” AGW in order to get more funding. OTOH they argue that we don’t know enough about how the earth’s climate works to know whether AGW really will be a problem and we need to do more research, especially into “natural variability” – research which will presumably be carried out by the same climate scientists and will need to be funded.

    Of course scientists will freely admit that there are areas where our knowledge is incomplete and more work needs to be done, such as on clouds and aerosols. On whether humans are responsible for the increase in CO2? Not so much.

  30. Question: how much CO2 emitted by humans makes it into the free atmosphere, and how much is absorbed by local sinks?

    Additionally, would those local sinks absorb as much as they do (or more than? less than?) if there was no CO2 emitted by human activity?

    This has some implications for how much goes into the oceans, but to my mind the terrestrial biosphere can’t be an indefinite sink, doesn’t it kind of get full? I hope I’m making some sense.

    • Good questions.
      The first one depends on what you mean by “free atmosphere” and “local”. Certainly some local emissions get absorbed near that location. There is an enormous seasonality involved in what gets absorbed and where. In the N hemisphere, human emissions are far exceeded by NPP (Net Primary Productivity) in the warm season, but this difference is even greater and in the opposite direction during the cold season, thus creating the slowly rising sine wave seen at any of the global monitoring stations north of about 30 deg N.

      Your second question must assume all other confounding factors equal–in particular land use and terrestrial vegetation dynamics. If so, the answer is no they would not, because increasing CO2 is not only a radiative forcing, but also a chemical forcing, driving reversible reactions more forcefully in one direction than the the other–in this case into the ocean and the land biosphere. However, the nature of those reactions are very different in the oceans vs on land, the former driven largely by solubility and the latter largely by enzyme kinetics of a key carbon fixation enzyme (Rubisco).

      Your last statement is a good one. Even though increased atmospheric CO2 creates a negative feedback, in that it increases carbon fixation rates in plants with the most common fixation method (C3), it has to be remembered that this is only a *rate*. It means C will be fixed faster by Rubisco**, but it does not necessarily mean that the total terrestrial C pool will increase, because vegetation–especially forest veg.–is potentially limited in maximum size by other biophysical factors, including for example, temperature-induced increases in respiratory C loss, and water and nutrient limitations on growth.
      **And on top of that, there’s still a lot of uncertainty as to whether even an increased fixation rate will actually even lead to faster NPP (i.e. growth) over time, which appears to be a complex and contingent process.

      However, having said all that, the big wild card is land cover/use/management and changes therein over time. That can swamp out all the above issues. Landscape scale agricultural, forestry, and fire management practices can all have major impacts.

  31. Well, most of the major points have been covered already. But from Mr. Bastardi’s rant, and from Lars Karlsson’s comment, it would appear there’s an issue with the former’s understanding of how CO2 affects energy in the atmosphere. (He said, drily.)

    “Adds energy” is a poor formulation in that it might mislead the unwary into thinking that the incoming energy flux is somehow affected, which is not the case. GHGs affect the other side of the equation–you might say it helps Earth “retain energy.” (Of course, that results in a net addition to the total energy.)

    No violations of any thermodynamic principles visible. . .

    (Crossing my fingers that my HTML is right, as it appears to be. Oh, for a preview function, as I haven’t done this for a while. . .)

  32. JB: it is the earths temperature which is driving the co2 release into the atmosphere. That is what Salby opines, and he is correct.

    BPL: No, both Salby and you are beyond wrong and into the area of delusional.

    1. The radioisotope signature of the CO2 increase shows clearly that the new CO2 is coming from burning fossil fuels, NOT from the ocean or anywhere in the climate system. Hans Suess pointed this out tentatively in 1955, and Revelle and Suess confirmed it in 1957.

    2. In a natural deglaciation, where temperatures rise first, the average lead time from temperature increase to CO2 increase is 800 years. But for the past 160 years, the correlation between CO2 and temperature in the same year is r = 0.87. That’s not an 800 year lag, Joe.

    JB: We have a gas that is .04% of the atmosphere that increases 1.5 ppm and humans contribute 3-5% of that total yearly , which means the increase by humans is 1 part per 20 million.

    BPL: No, you missed it. Humans contribute ALL of the rise. It’s 3-5% of the SOURCES, but 0% of the SINKS. You’re showing only one side of the ledger. Do that in accounting and you get indicted.

    JB: As if that is not small enough , the TOTAL energy in this system is ocean, land, and atmosphere, with the ocean containing the vast majority of energy in the system. So lets just try to measure the addition of energy of co2, assuming that it is adding energy. The fact is you cant measure it. It is infinitely small.

    BPL: What are you talking about, “adding energy?” Do you even understand how the greenhouse effect works? CO2 doesn’t “add energy,” it redistributes it. Hello? Do you see a volume fraction term in Beer’s Law? Do you even know how to write it down?

    As for measuring it, surprise! It has been measured, quantified, and published:

    Evans, W.F.J., and E. Puckrin 2006. “Measurements of the Radiative Surface Forcing of Climate.” 18th Conference on Climate Variability and Change, P1.7

    “The earth’s climate system is warmed by 35 C due to the emission of downward infrared radiation by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (surface radiative forcing) or by the absorption of upward infrared radiation (radiative trapping). Increases in this emission/absorption are the driving force behind global warming. Climate models predict that the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere has altered the radiative energy balance at the earth’s surface by several percent by increasing the greenhouse radiation from the atmosphere. With measurements at high spectral resolution, this increase can be quantitatively attributed to each of several anthropogenic gases. Radiance spectra of the greenhouse radiation from the atmosphere have been measured at ground level from several Canadian sites using FTIR spectroscopy at high resolution. The forcing radiative fluxes from CFC11, CFC12, CCl4, HNO3, O3, N2O, CH4, CO and CO2 have been quantitatively determined over a range of seasons. The contributions from stratospheric ozone and tropospheric ozone are separated by our measurement techniques. A comparison between our measurements of surface forcing emission and measurements of radiative trapping absorption from the IMG satellite instrument shows reasonable agreement. The experimental fluxes are simulated well by the FASCOD3 radiation code. This code has been used to calculate the model predicted increase in surface radiative forcing since 1850 to be 2.55 W/m2. In comparison, an ensemble summary of our measurements indicates that an energy flux imbalance of 3.5 W/m2 has been created by anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases since 1850. This experimental data should effectively end the argument by skeptics that no experimental evidence exists for the connection between greenhouse gas increases in the atmosphere and global warming.”

    Table 2: Measured Greenhouse Fluxes at the Earth’s Surface
    Greenhouse Gas Emission
    Band (cm-1)
    Measured Flux (W/m2)
    Simulated Flux (W/m2)
    CFC11 830 – 860 0.14 0.12
    CFC12 900 – 940 0.12 0.11
    CFC12 all bands 0.28 0.26
    CFC11 & 12 all bands 0.42 0.38
    CCl4 786 – 806 0.046 0.039
    CFC113 800 – 830 NA 0.033
    HCFC22 780 – 830 NA 0.031
    HNO3 850 – 920 0.085 0.060
    N2O all bands 1.06 0.99
    CH4 1200 – 1400 0.85 0.80
    CO 2000 – 2200 0.032 0.033
    CO2 all bands 26.0 24.8
    O3 950 – 1100 3.26 3.20
    Trop. O3 950 – 1100 0.61 0.58

    Table 4: Comparison of Measured and Model
    Increases in Downward Surface Flux
    Greenhouse Gas
    Measured Flux Increase (W/m2)
    Model Flux Increase (W/m2)
    CO2 2.10 1.30
    CH4 0.38 0.33
    N2O 0.15 0.13
    Trop. O3 0.40 0.40
    CFC11 0.14 0.14
    CFC12 0.28 0.28
    CFC113 0.00 0.033
    HCFC22 0.031 0.031
    CCl4 0.046 0.046
    Total 3.52 2.55 (-3.1)

    Philipona, R., B. Du”rr, C. Marty, A. Ohmura, and M. Wild 2004. “Radiative Forcing–Measured at Earth’s Surface–Corroborate the Increasing Greenhouse Effect.” Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L03202

    “…Here we show that atmospheric longwave downward radiation significantly increased (+5.2(2.2) Wm2) partly due to increased cloud amount (+1.0(2.8) Wm2) over eight years of measurements at eight radiation stations distributed over the central Alps. Model calculations show the cloud-free longwave flux increase (+4.2(1.9) Wm2) to be in due proportion with temperature (+0.82(0.41) C) and absolute humidity (+0.21(0.10) g m3) increases, but three times larger than expected from anthropogenic greenhouse gases. However, after subtracting for two thirds of temperature and humidity rises, the increase of cloud-free longwave downward radiation (+1.8(0.8) Wm2) remains statistically significant and demonstrates radiative forcing due to an enhanced greenhouse effect.”

    May I make a suggestion, Mr. B? Get hold of a copy of Houghton’s “The Physics of Atmosphere” or Petty’s “A First Course in Atmospheric Radiation.” Read through it and work all the problems. And do the same with an introductory statistics course, paying special attention to the chapter(s) on linear regression. Then, if you like, re-enter the debate.

  33. Dikran Marsupial

    It always amazes me that there are skeptics that can’t accept that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is of anthropogenic origin. It ought to be intuitively obvious that if we dig up fossil fuels from the lithosphere where they have been kept out of the carbon cycle for millions of years and burn them that atmospheric CO2 ought to rise. Even if they can’t understand this intuitively, the observational proof of this (atmospheric CO2 is rising at a rate less than anthropogenic emissions) is so straightforward that anyone capable of operating a bank account ought to be able to understand it.

    As Einstein said, “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the the universe.” (although in this case it is not so much stupidity as denial/delusion).

  34. It wouldn’t surprise me if “Joe Bastardi” is an impostor (since there is no link back on his name), who has succeeded in engaging commenters who could more productively spend their time organizing resistance to corporate control of public policy – or better still demonstrating in the streets – rather than feeling clever for scoring points against a fictive troll from the comfort of a chair in front of their computer screens.

    Even if it is Joe Bastardi, the notion that it is a waste of time to refute tired denier canards holds true. When is the climate community going to get past blathering and actually grapple with the imminent planetary emergency the scientists have delineated so well?

    • Rob Honeycutt

      It would have been easy enough for Tamino to check the email address for the person posting as Joe Bastardi, and I think he would have taken the time to check it before posting. I’m pretty confident this Joe Bastardi is the real Joe Bastardi. If not it’s certainly a great impression because he lays out the exact same arguments that I’ve seen Bastardi make before.

      • Yes, but – ALL the deniers lay out the exact same arguments as each other. That’s why they are known as zombies!!

        As I said, it doesn’t really matter who that poster is. His idiocy has succeeded in distracting people from what really needs to be accomplished.

        For instance, here is a great idea, put forth by “Go the Limit”

        If everybody participated in “civil OBEDIENCE” and drove in formation across the highways at the legal speed limit, we would conserve vast amounts of energy, reduce CO2 emissions, and raise awareness. (LOTS of awareness!)

        How to implement that on a wide scale would be a useful discussion. Perhaps there should be some agreement among climate activists of how to deal with the zombies.

        For instance, Skeptical Science has a refutation for every one of their stupid lies. So maybe be would make a chart, and whenever on of them is posted, give them just one reply – go see #whatever at and be done with it, and then talk about something that might really make a difference instead.

  35. Lets not tell Joe Bastardi how his doltish infamy is encouraging such wonderful science exploration. He might stop.

  36. You don’t think that was actually Joe Bastardi, do you?

    Come on, with that closing line “think the way the opened minded progressive is supposed to think.. freely, objectively and in pursuit of what we all want. A better world”?

    Bastardi? Seriously????

    Someone is obviously having a good laugh at your expense, folks.

  37. For the sake of argument, lets assume you are correct, the co2 is adding energy to the system. Okay, how much? We have a gas that is .04% of the atmosphere that increases 1.5 ppm and humans contribute 3-5% of that total yearly , which means the increase by humans is 1 part per 20 million.

    OK, so I’m going on two questionable assumptions here. (1) Joe Bastardi (and not an imposter) really did say this, and (2) he was serious.

    Current annual CO2 emissions (from fossil-fuel use and cement production) are on the order of 30 billion tons a year (very rough estimate).

    The Earth’s atmosphere weighs about 5.5 quadrillion tons.

    Now, let’s run through the sort of math that Mr. Bastardi should have learned in junior high.

    The ratio of the annual tonnage of CO2 emitted by human activity to the total weight in tons of the atmosphere is about 30e6/5.5e15=5.5e-6.

    Scaling that number by the ratio of the molecular weight of CO2 to the average molecular weight of the atmosphere gives you about 3.5e-6, which is the ratio of the number of molecules of CO2 emitted by humans to the total number of molecules in the atmosphere.

    Now, if you take that 3.5-e6 and multiply by 1,000,000 (that’s 1e6), you get 3.5 PPM equivalent that humans have dump into the atmosphere each year.

    If in fact you are the real Joe Bastardi, would you not agree that 3.5 PPM is a wee bit more than 3-5% of 1.5 PPM?

  38. Jim Eager “You don’t think that was actually Joe Bastardi, do you?”

    g2 (if you will excuse me shortening your pseudonym)

    assumption: “(1) Joe Bastardi (and not an imposter) really did say this”.

    I don’t think that there is any room for doubt about this: it was Bastardi. See:

    I think he deserves to have a placard hung around his head, declaring;
    “Look on my words, ye mighty, and despair.”

  39. Michael Sweet


    Are you aware that Richard Lindzen STILL claims that the data does not show a link between smoking and lung cancer? He has testified in court that there is no link and has been quoted recently saying the same thing. I think you should mention that in the lead post. There must really be no settled science!

    [Response: Really? Lindzen? Do you have a link?]

  40. Horatio Algeranon

    “Say it ain’t so, Joe please, say it ain’t so
    That’s not what I wanna hear Joe
    Ain’t I got a right to know
    Say it ain’t so, Joe please, say it ain’t so
    I’m sure they telling us lies Joe,
    Please tell us it ain’t so.

    (Ooo Babies)
    Don’t you think we’re gonna get burned? ”

    — Murry Salby – “Say It Ain’t So Joe”

    (Ok, it’s actually “Murray Head” who wrote it)

  41. Sounds like ‘roid rage, mayhap the same off braand that set off Michael Fumnento’s campaign against the germ theory of disease a decade ago.

    No wonder TV meteorologists have made the grade as satire fodder for The Simpsons

    • You’re a treasure trove of most handy finds, Hank… what the Aint True funded side can do to good people as Charles Monnett & Michael Mann, the good people can do to the not so [paid for] good people. Duly employed elsewhere to slap the Lindzen Iris “believers”. Every new nail in GW, adds up to a below zero K state of our planet, if it all were reproducible/testable fact.

      Keep sawing at those Merchants of Doubt legs.

  42. Hank Roberts wrote:

    (registration required)

    Registration is free. “pattern” is a new one on me, though.