Climate Deniers’ Top 3 Tactics

Climate deniers don’t just want to deny global warming and its danger. They want you to deny it too.

But man-made climate change is real, the danger is extreme, so they have to use guile to persuade you otherwise. There are three tried-and-false tactics they use often, and to great effect. Let’s take a close look at these misdirection methods, so you can arm yourself for defense against the dark arts.


#3: REJECT THE DATA

Climate deniers don’t like what the data say. What they probably hate most is the temperature data — especially at Earth’s surface (where we live) — because it shows so plainly and obviously that the world is heating up. Here are the three best-known global-average surface temperature data records (yearly averages since 1880), from NASA, NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), and HadCRU (the Hadley Centre/Climate Research Unit in the U.K.):

big3

They all tell pretty much the same story: Earth is heating up.

Pinning down global average temperature change is a complicated business. You have to gather data from around the world, including thermometer readings from thousands of surface stations for land areas and sea surface temperature measurements from ships and from satellites. You have to average them properly, in a way that doesn’t over-emphasize regions with lots of observations but underplay regions more sparsely observed (a process sometimes called “area-weighting”). You need to remove the seasonal cycle, because we’re not interested in whether summer is hotter than winter, we want to know whether the world as a whole is heating or cooling. You have to watch for things like station moves where temperature seems to change only because the station was moved to a hotter or colder location. Truly, it’s a complicated business.

The longer they’ve been doing it, the better they’ve gotten at it. In particular, they’ve learned to spot the signs of data problems and make adjustements to compensate. As a result, they’re a lot better at it now than they were just a few decades ago.

But because there are “adjustments” — whose only purpose is to make thing better by compensating for known problems — deniers have seized on that word to claim that the scientists doing it were perpetrating a fraud, that adjustments were only to introduce false warming into the record.

Richard Muller, a physicist at Berkeley University, thought that maybe they were right about that — he was highly suspicious of the surface temperature data. He decided to find out for himself, by organizing a team to go back to the original, unadjusted data, and use the most sophisticated and mathematically sound procedure for estimating a world-wide average, one which didn’t allow any way to make the results “lean” one way or the other to introduce a bias toward cooling or warming. The effort is called the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project.

Climate deniers were thrilled — they waited in anticipation of genuine scientists, using the best available methods, finally showing that the existing records were wrong.

The admiration of climate deniers for the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project didn’t last long. It vanished into thin air as soon as the results were announced. That’s when the climate denier community turned on Richard Muller like a pack of wolves, because the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, the fakeproof method, showed that the existing data sets got it right all along. Muller himself had this to say in a 2012 op-ed in the New York Times:


CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

And how does the new Berkeley Earth data set compare to the others? Like this:

big4

Climate deniers don’t just use this tactic on temperature records; when data disagree with their narrative they’ll attack the data. Far too often, they won’t just say the data are mistaken, they’ll accuse the scientists who put it together of fraud. It’s reprehensible.

Climate deniers like to call themselves “skeptics,” but they’re not. What’s the difference? I think Neil deGrasse Tyson said it best:


“A skeptic will question claims, then embrace the evidence. A denier will question claims, then reject the evidence.”


#2: DISTRACT FROM THE TREND WITH FOCUS ON FLUCTUATIONS

Almost all data is a combination of trend, which has persistence, and fluctuation, which doesn’t last. The trend reveals how climate is changing, but the fluctuations are weather, and just because climate changes, doesn’t mean we won’t still have weather. Fluctuations go up and down and down and up — they just won’t stop — but they never really get anywhere.

Climate scientists can tell you, it’s the trend that matters. Heat waves, flood, drought and the like are things we’ve always had to deal with, and they spell trouble. But when they get more frequent, and more severe, it can be disastrous. It costs money, it costs jobs, it costs lives.

Deniers don’t want you to know how the trend is going, so they go out of their way to shout about fluctuations that go the other way. Maybe the most infamous example is when Oklahoma senator James Inhofe carried a snowball onto the floor of the U.S. senate one day to try to ridicule global warming. He ended up ridiculing himself, because the idea that you can discredit global warming because you happened to find some cold weather — in winter, no less — is truly ridiculous. As in, worthy of ridicule.

Temperature is one of those things that fluctuates. It can show large swings from day to day, from month to month, even from year to year. But there’s also a trend, which is upward — it’s called global warming. Lately deniers have been taking temperature fluctuations that happen to go downward and braying about “global cooling.” Of course the fluctuations don’t last — but they still accomplish their goal of creating doubt in the minds of the scientifically naive.

Christopher Booker writes for the British newspaper The Telegraph. He recently included a comment about England’s meteorological office acquiring a new computer for their weather and climate simulations, in which he had this to say:


“Only gradually since 2007, when none of them predicted a temporary fall in global temperatures of 0.7 degrees, equal to their entire net rise in the 20th century, have they been prepared to concede that CO2 was not the real story.”

— Christopher Booker, U.K. Telegraph, 22 October 2016.

It that true? Did global temperature actually fall far enough to negate the entire 20th-century rise? Here’s Earth’s average temperature change each month from 1880, according to NASA:

nasa

If we zoom in on the last 40 years or so, starting about 1975, we can easily see what it is Christopher Booker is talking about:

nasa_booker

He’s talking about a couple of fluctuations. If you compare an especially high fluctuation to an especially low fluctuation, you might convince yourself that temperature is falling fast.

But a fluctuation is not a trend. Trends have some persistence; fluctuations don’t last. Climate scientists tell us that it’s the trend that matters — that’s why it’s what they talk about:

nasa_real

Another example: about a week ago David Rose had an article in the U.K. Daily Mail with its focus on a “sudden drop” in global temperature. Rose searched far and wide to find a data set he could use to make that claim, and the best he could come up with was satellite data for the lower atmosphere (not at the surface) over land areas only (excluding the 2/3 of the world covered by ocean). His story was repeated by others in the U.K. Spectator and the alt-right propoganda-driven Breitbart News.

What’s fascinating is what they chose to focus on: some fluctuations which they seemed to think were worth shouthing about, with no mention of the trend. Here, in blue, are the fluctuations they made such a fuss about, and in red is the trend they didn’t want to discuss:

stupid

Fluctuations will always be with us, they’re part of nature. But the rising trend of global temperature that we’ve been seeing is man-made. According to the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, this trend spells trouble. And the reason? Mainly, it’s CO2.


We now come to the most common, most pernicious, and probably most effective climate denier tactic:

#1: CHERRY-PICKING

On April 15, 2013, Lawrence Solomon published a brief article in the Financial Post suggesting that sea ice in the Arctic wasn’t really declining, that there was no trend toward persistent long-term melting. He started with this:


Arctic sea ice back to 1989 levels

Yesterday, April 14th, the Arctic had more sea ice than it had on April 14,1989 – 14.511 million square kilometres vs 14.510 million square kilometres, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center of the United States, an official source.

His opening sentence is one of the most extreme examples of cherry-picking: showing or talking about some evidence that supports your claim, while ignoring or rejecting evidence that contradict you.

He went on to add a couple more cherry-picked “facts” for good measure. Then he ended with this:


“The only evident trend in the ice, as in the weather, is variability.”

It all sounds pretty convincing, doesn’t it? Arctic sea ice was no more extensive on that day than it was 24 years ago! Plus, he actually mentions the words “trend” and “variability” — how scientific.

The following day (April 16, 2013) I posted this graph showing all the available “sea ice extent anomaly” data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (yes, an official source):

seaicepicture1

In case you’re wondering what’s happened since then, it’s this:

arcice

The red line is an estimate the trend — the one that Lawrence Solomon said isn’t “evident.”

This particular example is also a case of tactic #2: distract from the trend by focus on fluctuation. It’s executed by the never-ending tactic of cherry-picking: discuss evidence that supports your claim while ignoring or concealing evidence that contradicts you.

The most frequent target of cherry-picking is temperature data. Here, for instance is senator Ted Cruz’s favorite temperature graph:

cruzgraph

It certainly looks like there’s been no global warming! But remember that data is a combination of trend and fluctuation. Fluctuations sometimes go down, which can make an upward trend look downward, even when that trend — which we call global warming — hasn’t stopped or even slowed. What deniers do is cherry-pick — find a time span which starts with a large upward fluctuation, maybe even ends with a large downward fluctuation, to create the false impression of a downward trend.

In 1997-1998 we had a particularly strong el Niño, one of the factors that can cause an especially large upward fluctuation. That’s why climate deniers start so many temperature graphs with 1997-1998 — it’s the large upward fluctuation they need to give a false impression of trend.

But that’s not the only time span one can cherry-pick to show fluctuation and claim it’s a trend. There are many, which led to a now-famous animated graph from the website Skeptical Science:

escalator500

No matter how temperatures change, as long as there are fluctuations deniers will be able to cherry-pick some time span to look like their false claim. And there will always be fluctuations.

What if we didn’t cherry-pick the time span? The data in Ted Cruz’s graph starts back in 1979, well before 1997, and we’ve got some more data since he showed it in his latest senate hearing. Here’s the whole story:

rsstltv3

The red box shows the part included in Ted Cruz’s graph. The interesting part, that reveals the upward trend, is what Ted Cruz didn’t show.

Picking an outlier for your start and/or end points isn’t the only way to cherry-pick and hide the trend. Another is simply to pick a time span that’s way too brief for the trend to make itself clear.

Fluctuations can be large, especially for temperature data, and the trend can take years to accumulate enough warming to overcome them. That’s one of the reasons the typical time span to define climate instead of weather is 30 years. If all you show is a brief span of time, the trend doesn’t have long enough to “rise above the noise.” But it’s still there.

The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) features a temperature graph in their logo. The data are yearly average temperature according to the Hadley Center/Climate Research Unit in the U.K. (HadCRU). Here’s the HadCRU data itself:

hadcru

The year 2016 isn’t complete yet, but will be soon, so I’ve shown the average for the year-so-far.

Here’s the graph GWPF includes in their logo:

gwpfgraph

Notice how it doesn’t start until 2001? Notice that it doesn’t include 2016’s year-so-far value? I wonder what they’ll do when 2016 is complete and it’s harder to hide the temperature rise? Notice how squeezed the data is into a small space, so the total variation looks small? If they showed what came before, or what came after, or even on a scale that helped see the changes better, you might notice how clear the upward trend is.

There are many ways to cherry-pick. Choose a time span selected to give the wrong impression (start with 1997-1998); choose the one data set that supports your claim but not any of the others; choose a single event which bucks the trend (my grandmother smoked cigarettes and lived to be 98 years old).


Climate deniers use these tactics because they work. When they suggest that the temperature data are a fraud, it raises your suspicions. When they point out a “sudden drop” in temperature data while concealing the trend, it can be persuasive. When you hear that Arctic sea ice is no more extensive than it was on this date 24 years ago, it sounds convincing. When you see temperature data on a graph starting in 1997-1998, it looks convincing.

Even the best of us, even the smartest of us, are all too easily fooled by misdirection (stage magicians can use that fact to make a very good living). There’s no shame in being fooled by a charlatan, we’ve all been taken in at one time or another. My hope is that now that you’ve seen some of their tricks, when you run into them the next time you’ll recognize them for what they are: tricks.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice …


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93 responses to “Climate Deniers’ Top 3 Tactics

  1. Hi Tamino,

    I think there might be an whoopsie in this paragraph:
    What if we didn’t cherry-pick the time span? The data in Ted Cruz’s graph starts back in 1979, well before 1997, and we’ve got some more data since he showed it in his latest senate hearing. Here’s the whole story:

    Cruz’s graph starts in 1997 I believe.

    [Response: I see what you mean. Cruz’s graph starts in 1997, but the *data* used start in 1979.]

  2. Number 4 is to completely own/control the medium.

    For instance, broadcast and cable TV is advertiser supported by mostly carbon fuel commerce… (when did you last see a car ad for an electric car?) This influence extends to all channels… good messages get good ad revenue.

    Facebook is made to deliver misinformation by its very structure. Facebook is like another internet with a fence around it… once inside, you get to be with everyone you agree with. Talk about subjects you like and meet more people like you, And you shun and unfriend anyone who upsets you. This means everyone in facebook believes only what they want to… The structure of facebook also makes it easy to discover who teh influencers are – and so magical thinking and delusion are the norm.

    Twitter is a broadcast medium that is artificially promoted by subscriber numbers… so I make a twitter publication on the subject I want to promote – then I buy or install a few thousand followers. Any nation or institution should be able to gather up a few hundred thousand. So when a rube comes along – he sees your site has 70,000 subscribers… so he joins then retweets a few.. and soon the numbers become more huge. All this has NOTHING to do with facts or science. Just a group of people (a network) that all agree to their interests.

    Koch and carbon commerce owns TV, and are pushing to dominate twitter and facebook with feeding misinformation. All this is outside of physical laws that may be involved with global warming.

  3. The way your RSS TLT V3.3 plot under your heading of ‘#cherry picking’ isn’t quite as long as the one shown under ‘#distract from the trend….’ is absolute gold.

    [Response: One is for land areas only (as chosen by David Rose), the other is global.]

  4. Thanks Tamino for your excellent work and a great resource that I’ll be able to use in AGW debates!

  5. David B. Benson

    What happens if I wasn’t fooled even once?

    • Even Feynman wasted part of his life by actually going in person to see if Uri Geller could really bend a spoon with his mind.

    • Apparently, not much. These bozos are still active, and Trump is still President-elect.

      Data analysis and logic are great–indeed, indispensible–but the needs of the moment are organization to resist, and the search for ways to become highly inconvenient to the new status quo.

  6. Hmmm, I wonder, whether the y-scale of the next incarnation of the GWPF logo will go from 13.5°C to 15.5°.

  7. And when rejecting the data, concentrating on fluctuations and cherry-picking all fail there is one sure-fire way for deniers to ensure their citadels of ignorance remain intact: they refuse even to look at articles like this. There is nothing quite so impregnable as a closed mind.

  8. Nice.

  9. Paul Butler @PaulButler999

    I’m puzzled by something else abourt the Solomon figures. They indicate that the low point you pick out in 1989 occurred in April (Solomon specifically says his figures are for April 14th in both years). That can’t be right surely – sea ice is highly seasonal and will usually be at its highest point in April

    [Response: Those are *anomaly* values, i.e. the seasonal cycle has been removed. It enables us to see the trend better.]

    • Paul Butler @PaulButler999

      Ah yes, thanks. Presumably the anomaly is also seasonal however; there is less variability at maximum sea ice than at minimum, which is presumably why Solomon was able to make that comparison for April.

  10. This:
    “Experts at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) have issued a new assessment of temperature trends and variations from the latest available data and analyses. They present evidence that global warming slowed less from 1998 to 2012 than first thought.

    The experts also document substantial warming since then: global temperature peaked in February 2016 at a level around 1.5ºC above its level early in the Industrial Revolution. Pursuing efforts to limit the long-term temperature increase to 1.5ºC was a goal set in the Paris Agreement in 2015.”

    From here: http://climate.copernicus.eu/news-and-media/news/report-reassesses-variations-global-warming

    Just thought it was interesting and relevant…

    • That’s interesting. I believe there is a unusually certain professor who uses that source as part of the rationalization.

  11. Tamino, you need a ‘bag of hammers’ rating system… (I’ve got little doubt many of these deniers you subject to your regimen are paid to disseminate their tripe… Morano and Inhofe tole a bell ;?)

  12. “HadCRU (the Hadley Centre/Climate Research Unit in the U.K.)”

    Super picky, I know, but it’s the ClimatIC Research Unit; weirdly.

    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/

  13. I used to put the Monckton-Cruz graph in context. I’ve just updated it with the November anomaly. Please feel free to use it: http://imgur.com/8HIFQ68
    It works on some audiences to illustrate the cherry picking.

  14. methan madness

    I see them as conspiracy theory lunatics and the problem with debating a lunatic is that they are expert in the field of lunatic.

    The greater population chooses to give air to these nutjobs because they assuage their guilt over continued burning of fossil fuels.

  15. In discussing the second denialist tactic (their obcession with fluctuations), the quote from Booker featuring the fluctuation was actually nothing but a throw-away comment. His main argument was to assert that the UK Met-Office-run computer models are wrong because they are all about CO2 warming and ignore the likes of the NAO, using models “programmed to overlook the influence of such natural factors as ocean currents and solar radiation.” In my view this talk of solar wobbles & ocean wobbles well illustrates the denialist tactic of obcessing about wobbles. This was surely once a top three tactic but it is a bit difficult if predictions of a new ice age or mini-ice age resulting from the AMO if it stubornly refuses to appear. Wobbleology – will it make a come-back?

  16. If scientists were predicting severe global cooling for natural reasons, and burning more fossil fuels was proposed as the solution, then denial would be non-existent! The industry would be behind the scientists all the way. Denial exists solely because industry profits are threatened by climate change mitigation.

  17. “Climate deniers don’t like what the data say. What they probably hate most is the temperature data — especially at Earth’s surface (where we live)….”
    =================
    Was that qualification necessary ??
    Are you talking to 5 year olds ??

    • u.k(us).
      I think the answers to your questions are ‘yes’ and ‘yes’.

      The qualification you speak of clarifies why the surface temperature is important as we, the denizens of the planet, human and otherwise, bar deep-sea monsters are directly dependent on that surface environment.
      But there are some who will be reading the OP and who, as far as their grasp of our dependence on that surface environment is concerned, ‘are living on another planet.’ These poor souls will need spoon-feeding the reality of the situation, so for them a message suitable for 5-year-olds is most necessary.

      More seriously, there is the apocryphal comment that the UK’s Sun newspaper is written for 12-year-olds, comment usually used to belittle the paper’s readership. This is unfair. The point of writing in a simpler fashion is to ensure the message is presented clearly and not drowned out by unnecessarily contorted language. Clarity of the message is important and thus the answer to your first question should be an emphatic ‘yes!!!’

    • Absolutely necessary! Deniers are always focussing on the satellite record rather than the surface temperatures because it suits their argument better. Mocking their choices is pretty much essential. You don’t think we should let that sort of thing pass underided?

    • u.k(us), the plain truth is that even when the science is pitched at such a low level the Denialati still have their scotoma demons filtering the understanding from their minds.

      The fact that science can be reduced to its most simple and still be ignored, misunderstood, misrepresented, and lied about demonstrates that the denialism industry is not concerned with intellectual rigour or honesty, but only with self-interested ideology and short term profit.

      At some point we as a society (and not just the scientifically-motivated minority) need to understand that denialism is playing us for mugs. More fool us that we can make it so blantantly obvious that a five year old should be able to grok it, but our governments, business, and media are still flapping their wrists decades after it should have been a done deal.

      Heck, my eight year old daughter said to me this year “you can’t walk away from saving the planet.” She knows what’s at stake, and that we need to act now, and yet most nations still seem to be ineffectually mired in the first stage of grief.

      Hopefuly before its too late we’ll all grow up, get our shit together, and salvage something for the future. If it takes reducing the message to a primary school level, well, so be it.

      • Yes. Viewed dispassionately, the sorts of arguments being made by the Roses and Delingpoles are prima facie evidence that they can’t make a decent case on the merits. Why else would anyone, regardless of the motivations driving them, fail to use better arguments if they existed?

        (Well, there is one reason, alluded to elsewhere in this thread, which is that they are angling for the votes of folks who really can’t deal with any but the simplest arguments. IOW, doing just what you said: “reducing the message to a primary school level.” Unfortunately, it’s much easier to do that crudely, inaccurately, and unscrupulously than the reverse of those things. The examples under consideration are certainly all of the above.)

  18. Jeffrey Davis

    What will the children and grandchildren of deniers say in 50 years time? AGW deniers may be the most cynical people in the world.

  19. I’m seeing a lot of #2 and #3 this week, what with the Rose/Delingpole defenders and those crowing about the cold snap happening across a decent part of the U.S. I find it to be amazing the extent to which people are pushing such nonsense.

  20. Looks to me like a classic straw man argument, characterized by statements such as this: “Climate deniers don’t just use this tactic on temperature records; when data disagree with their narrative they’ll attack the data.”

    I’m not a climate denier, nor am I a “skeptic” in the sense you’ve alleged. I have no interest in formulating “tactics,” nor do I even know what it means to “attack the data.” In other words, I don’t see myself at war with anyone, though clearly you do.

    I, along with many others like me, am simply confused by what looks like contradictions between certain claims and the data we so often see, as depicted on the many graphs — such as the ones you’ve displayed here. If your goal is to help those like myself understand such apparent discrepancies, then I’d think it would be wise to treat us with a certain amount of respect, rather than as enemies who’s every question constitutes an “attack” on “the science.”

    • docgee says – ”I’ll stand by what I wrote. Actually, if you look at the temp. data and the data representing CO2 … you see NO correlation whatsoever (because) … I see a different set of numbers.
      “If there had been a steadily upward trend in temperature rise from then to now, that would correlate nicely with the steady rise in CO2 levels. But that is NOT what we see.
      “I’ve presented perfectly valid data, in graphic form, to support a reasoned argument
      (valid data which strangely didn’t feature any CO2 data). I’m not a climate denier.
      “If your goal is to help those like myself understand such apparent discrepancies, then I’d think it would be wise to treat us with a certain amount of respect, rather than as enemies who’s every question constitutes an “attack” on “the science.”“

      Are we meant to respect such gobshite? Why would that be? (Do note, docgee, the preceeding two sentences formed questions. My comment contains no other questions. I thought this information would be useful to you. While you have demonstrated that you can ask questions, you have not asked a single question that concerned “the science.” So it is possible you are not aware what constitutes a question and what does not.)

      • “Are we meant to respect such gobshite? Why would that be?”
        Because this is precisely the sort of “gobshite” that intelligent people all over the world have been asking, when trying to make sense of a “science” that presents itself as dogma, and refuses to be questioned..

        [Response: As long as you believe that you’re the victim of dogma rather than begin to question your own beliefs, it’s not likely you’ll learn much.]

      • docgee.

        Do heed the response from our host.

        And do review the comment you made on the Nominees for the “Proud to be Stupid” Club. You seem to believe that you are here asking for an explanation of the science of AGW. This is untrue. You ask nothing but instead present your own contrary version of what you think the science should be. You then add to the travesty by not listening to any reasoned response, be that response gentle or harsh.
        If you dislike being treated like one of the village idiots, docgee, you need to stop acing like one. Simples.

    • “…am simply confused by what looks like contradictions between certain claims and the data..”

      Honestly, if you are still confused at this point then there is just no helping you or addressing your “confusion”. You have been provided with abundant quantitative and objective information to address your alleged confusion. You ask for respect, but seem incapable of respecting the data, methods and conclusions. In fact, knowingly or not, you come across like nothing more than a concern troll.

      • docgee:

        I, along with many others like me, am simply confused by what looks like contradictions between certain claims and the data we so often see, as depicted on the many graphs, If your goal is to help those like myself understand such apparent discrepancies, then I’d think it would be wise to treat us with a certain amount of respect, rather than as enemies who’s every question constitutes an “attack” on “the science.”

        Here are some observations on how to be genuinely skeptical of anthropogenic global warming, docgee:

        1. When a genuine skeptic sees what look like contradictions between claims and data, he doesn’t assume bad faith on the part of the scientists making the claims. Instead, he acknowledges it’s more likely that the scientists know something he doesn’t. IOW, the genuine skeptic does not evince the Dunning-Kruger effect.

        2. A genuine skeptic recognizes that if repeated demands for an explanation he can understand elicit exasperation in the scientists, it’s probably not because they’re trying to fool him, but because understanding the explanation requires more knowledge of the relevant scientific principles and methods than he has. Taking responsibility for his failure to understand, he refrains from making further demands until he’s at least read a book or two.

        3. A genuine skeptic who does not wish to become an expert on AGW but wants to know what the experts think about it, recognizes that not everyone who claims to be an expert actually is one. When distinguishing genuine from fake expertise, the genuine skeptic acknowledges that scientists who have published peer-reviewed papers on AGW are more likely to be experts than are politicians, journalists, bloggers and random guys on the Internet. He identifies suitable information sources by drawing on what Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon calls scientific meta-literacy:

        Those of us who are trained scientists but who do not have enough personal literacy to independently evaluate a particular statement do not throw up our hands in despair. Instead, we evaluate the source and the context.

        We scientists rely upon a hierarchy of reliability. We know that a talking head is less reliable than a press release. We know that a press release is less reliable than a paper. We know that an ordinary peer-reviewed paper is less reliable than a review article. And so on, all the way up to a [US] National Academy [of Sciences] report. If we’re equipped with knowledge of this hierarchy of reliability, we can generally do a good job navigating through an unfamiliar field, even if we have very little prior technical knowledge in that field.

        4. A genuine skeptic recognizes the importance of consensus in science, knowing that scientists rely on their trained and disciplined scientific peers to keep them from fooling themselves (“The first principile is you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool!” –Feynman). If he learns that more than 90% of working climate scientists have thoroughly examined the evidence, iteratively discussed it with each other in scientific venues, and agreed that the Earth’s climate is warming, that humans are the cause, and that the impacts on human society and the biosphere will be severe if warming is allowed to continue, then the genuine skeptic places more confidence in the >90% consensus than in the small percentage of holdouts with scientific credentials.

        5. A genuine skeptic discounts conspiracy theories he hears about on television or the Internet. If a scientist is accused of publishing fraudulent research but is formally exonerated by multiple authorities including the NAS, the genuine skeptic does not regard the exoneration itself as evidence of conspiracy. If a politician tells him that the scientific consensus for AGW is The Greatest Hoax ever perpetrated on American taxpayers, a genuine skeptic considers the probability that a hoax enlisting thousands of scientists around the world could be sustained for 200 years, and suspects the politician may have ulterior motives for making such a ludicrous claim. Knowing that science is organized skepticism, the genuine skeptic suspects that anyone who insists that scientists can’t be trusted is a pseudo-skeptic at best. He asks the pseudo-skeptic whom he does trust, and why.

        Any questions, docgee?

      • Mal Adapted: If you read, or even skim, my book (https://www.amazon.com/Unsettled-Science-Climate-Change-Critical-ebook/dp/B00YOARTPQ/), you’ll see that I’ve done a good deal of research on this topic. My book is based almost exclusively on peer reviewed publications. While not a climate scientist, I have been active in the social sciences for many years, have published in several peer reviewed journals, and have collaborated both recently and in the past with highly trained statisticians. From time to time I’ve had occasion to question some statistical result that appeared to make no sense and in every case it’s turned out to be an error. The statisticians I’ve worked with have relied on me and my colleagues to frame the problems to be analyzed and evaluate the results, and my evaluations have never been questioned. Your tendency to assume I know little or nothing about how scientific research is done is evidence of your own confirmation bias and has nothing to do with my qualifications.

        Moreoever, the issues I’ve raised here have been raised many times by experienced climate scientists who are also skeptical of the mainstream dogma. There are a lot of them, by the way.

        The argument from authority is a well known fallacy. For a great many years the consensus on Wall St. was 1. that Bernie Madoff was a perfectly honest and legitimate market maker, and 2. the housing market, as it exploded from 2000 through 2007, was perfectly sound. We all know how that turned out.

      • docgee,
        You happily have told us ”I’ll stand by what I wrote.”
        Your recent blather included the following “what I wrote” from you.

        “Moreoever, the issues I’ve raised here have been raised many times by experienced climate scientists who are also skeptical of the mainstream dogma. There are a lot of them, by the way.”

        If you are not the village idiot we all think you to be, here is your chance. You should not have much trouble as you tell us ” there are a lot of them.”
        Who are these “experiemced climate scientists” you speak of? Tell us their names and, if you are able, to prevent any ambiguity do tell us where it is they raised these issues you’ve raised here.

    • 3 paragraphs about how you been done wrong, accusations of strawmanning, and vague talk of ‘certain discrepancies.’ Just a thought, but maybe you’d have more luck with your questions if you actually asked them?

      • “Moreover, the issues I’ve raised here have been raised many times by experienced climate scientists who are also skeptical of the mainstream dogma. There are a lot of them, by the way.

        The argument from authority is a well known fallacy.”

        I don’t even need to edit you. The irony is perfectly delicious.

  21. All well and good regarding climate change deniers. I have a number of friends and correspondents, however, who acknowledge global warming, but deny that human activity, i.e., CO2 accumulation, is responsible. I find myself ill-equipped and unable to answer their objections in such an excellent manner. Could chapter 2 of your presentation be, perhaps, an equally concise answer to their objections?

    • Mark,
      First, the energy must be coming from somewhere. Svante Arrhenius predicted back in 1896 that CO2 from fossil fuel would warm the planet. Where else would the energy come from? It is not the Sun–solar irradiance picked back in the 1950s. It’s not the oceans–they are warming, too. Greenhouse gasses can explain the warming. If you reject that hypothesis, it is incumbent on you to come up with a viable alternative.
      We can also ask whether there is other evidence favoring a greenhouse mechanism–and there is. It turns out that while greenhouse gasses warm the troposphere, they cool the stratosphere, and guess what–the stratosphere is cooling.

      So, it appears we have strong evidence that the planet is warming via a greenhouse mechanism.

      How do we know the greenhouse gas is CO2?
      Because that is the ghg with the most rapidly increasing concentration, and it is the second most important greenhouse gas after water (the atmospheric concentration of which cannot be increased without increasing temperature).

      And how do we know that the CO2 is anthropogenic?
      Because it turns out that CO2 from burning of fossil fuels is depleted in the heavy isotopes of carbon (C-13 and C-14), and these have been decreasing as a proportion of total carbon.

      If your friends are at all interested in the truth, this should at least make them think. Good luck.

      • Thank you, snarkrates, for your very reasonable exposition of the physics of climate change, so refreshing after the long list of ad hominems and arguments from authority I’ve been seeing here. What you’ve left out, however, is the necessity of feedbacks to the process you’ve described.

        From my book:

        . . . that CO2 emissions in themselves are not sufficient to produce significant global warming is a generally acknowledged fact, borne out by physics. To produce the expected effect on climate it is necessary to add certain positive feedbacks that could serve to amplify the warming effects of this gas. Yet, as Roe demonstrates [see http://earthweb.ess.washington.edu/roe/Publications/Roe_FeedbacksRev_08.pdf%5D, there is no reliable way to assess the strength of these feedbacks, assuming they exist at all.
        Given the many uncertainties in any attempt to base significant climate change effects on feedbacks associated with CO2 emissions, it is therefore difficult to understand how anyone can claim that the physics of climate change is “settled science.”

        [Response: Given the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, and the already observed increase in atmospheric water vapor, it is difficult to understand how anyone can describe feedbacks using the phrase “assuming they exist at all.”

        Given the obvious relationship between temperature and the melting of ice, and the already-observed dramatic decrease of both sea and land ice, it is difficult to understand how anyone can describe feedbacks using the phrase “assuming they exist at all.”

        Given the fact that glacial cycles are observed to induce dramatic climate feedbacks, both in terms of ice albedo and the carbon cycle, and how much global warming accompanies CO2 increase considerably less than doubling, it is difficult to understand how anyone can describe feedbacks using the phrase “assuming they exist at all.”

        It is difficult to understand how you can expect to be taken seriously.]

      • The paper with the inoperative link provided by docgee, Roe (2008) ‘Feedbacks, Timescales, and Seeing Red’ can he found here. although it does not support the statements that docgee attributes to it (What a surprise!) in that it nowhere diminishes the role of feedbacks in Earth’s climate and nowhere describes the assessment of feedback mechanisms as unreliable. Rather the author calls such assessments “theoretical cornerstones” of climatology and examines theoretical reasons for uncertainty in such assessments. Perhaps docgee would find it less challenging if he examined a different work by the same author which is a little less theoretical in nature Baker & Roe (2009) ‘The Shape of Things to Come: Why Is Climate Change So Predictable? The title rather says it all.

      • In response to Al Rodger | December 13, 2016 at 11:33 pm:

        From the Roe paper to which I referred above (http://earthweb.ess.washington.edu/roe/Publications/Roe_FeedbacksRev_08.pdf):

        “When the net feedbacks are substantially negative, the system response to a forcing can be well characterized even though the individual feedbacks may be quite uncertain. However, when the net feedbacks are substantially positive, a high degree of uncertainty in the system response is inevitable as a fundamental and inescapable consequence of the amplification by the system dynamics . . . Unfortunately, it is often the positive feedback systems (i.e., a large response for a small forcing) that are of most interest both scientifically and societally. In these cases, the most important implication is that, rather than trying to solve for the specific system response to a given forcing, it may be that characterizing the feedbacks and their uncertainties is the better and more tractable scientific goal.”

        This indeed seems to be the goal of the paper you’ve cited, by Baker and Roe. The title has evidently misled you, as the paper distinguishes between climate change and climate sensitivity:

        “In this sense, climate change is much
        more predictable than climate sensitivity. The width of the distribution grows gradually over time, a consequence
        of which is that the larger the climate change being contemplated, the greater the uncertainty is about
        when that change will be realized. Another consequence of this slow growth is that further efforts to constrain climate sensitivity will be of very limited value for climate projections on societally relevant time scales. . . . ”

        This highly technical paper deals largely with problems in estimating uncertainties. I see nothing in it that contradicts the passage I quoted above.

      • docgee… what is this book of which you wrote?

      • Hi Martin. The link to my book was presented by someone else, on a previous thread, so I foolishly assumed everyone reading here would know how to find it. The title is “The Unsettled Science of Climate Change” and you can read a sample for free at the Kindle store: https://www.amazon.com/Unsettled-Science-Climate-Change-Critical-ebook/dp/B00YOARTPQ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1481718589&sr=8-2&keywords=the+unsettled+science+of+climate+change

      • I thought so. You’re that nitwit Victor, but popping up under a new name. You’re using a slightly different voice, but you still haven’t got a clue.

      • docgee (two comments up-thread).
        You referred to Roe (2008) above? I think not. You referred to your own self-published book which cites Roe (2008).

        Your silly book apparently accuses Roe (2008) of demonstrating that there is no reliable way to assess the strength of what you call “certain positive feedbacks”. This is untrue. A reading of the paper (rather than a cut&paste of its final paragraph) shows this clearly. Roe (2008) considers the impact of feedback on system response and the resulting implications for uncertainty within feedback or system forcing. In setting out the paper Roe is quite specific. Although this will be well above the head of docgee, the following extract explains the scope of Roe (2008) (Note – Roe’s use of the term ‘quantitative’ concerns feedback formalisms not feedback magnitude.):-

        “This(sic) purpose of this article is a pedagogic review of the basic principles of feedback analysis.The reasons for this are twofold. First, despite its central importance in Earth systems dynamics, the quantitative analysis of feedbacks is rarely presented in textbooks or even applied in practice In its most common application, climate dynamics, the literature is confusing and, in some places, flat out contradictory …. Second, although there is a widespread qualitative understanding of feedbacks, there are some useful lessons and subtleties that come from the quantitative analysis, which are not as widely appreciated as they might be. Such aspects of feedbacks have important consequences for the interpretation of climate time series and geophysical data in general. These properties are drawn out and highlighted in this review.”

        And docgee, your assessment of Baker & Roe (2009) is just as incompetant the assessment of Roe (2008) which you present in your silly self-published book.

    • also the physical heat trapping properties of CO2 can be demonstrated in simple lab experiments – simply use google

      they would need to show how this does not cause warming outside a lab – do the physics change?

  22. The best part about their argument is that it’s always too late to stop it. ^_^

  23. Fun and Games. Philip K Dick had a name for the climate deniers: PURSAPS. You can add to the evidence by including a graph of atmospheric CO2. The measurement precision is sufficient to easily show the annual variations attributable to green vegetation differences between northern and southern hemispheres.

  24. Al Rodger: “Who are these “experiemced climate scientists” you speak of?”

    Judith Curry, Roger Pielke Jr., Richard Lindzen, Lennart Bengtsson, Steven Koonin, Patrick Moore, Garth Paltridge, Nils-Axel Mörner, Timothy Ball, Anthony Lupo for starters. There are many more. If in doubt, Google.

    [Response: Roger Pielke Jr. is not a climate scientist. Niether is Nils-Axel Mörner — he’s a first-magnitude crackpot, and the very fact that you mention him reflects very badly on you. Neither is Patrick Moore. Judith Curry is a joke. As for the others, I’ll leave them up to readers.

    The list you provide doesn’t help your case, rather it cripples it.]

    There’s a long list of noted physicists as well, including Freeman Dyson, among the most prominent in the world.

    [Response: I’ll see your Freeman Dyson and raise you Stephen Hawking. But physicists aren’t really relevant here. Before you mention nobel laureates, do I really have to point you to the vast number who signed a declaration calling the need for climate action urgent?

    When it comes to the genuine consensus, among climate scientist and among other scientists, you’re pinning yourself to a losing proposition. You are being ridiculous.]

    Not all of the above agree on all aspects of the issue, but all do fall under the category I mentioned, i.e., “skeptical of the mainstream dogma.”

    And no, there is no “argument from authority” behind my claim, because, unlike so many followers of the mainstream view, I have nothing to prove. These are not authority figures for me, and I would never base an argument on their opinions, or the opinions of any authority figure, as I prefer to think for myself. I mentioned them simply to demonstrate that I am not alone in questioning the prevailing dogma.

    • docgee: “because, unlike so many followers of the mainstream view, I have nothing to prove. ”

      Indeed, that is how we know you aren’t doing science. Science always involves presenting evidence.

      • snarkrates: “docgee: “because, unlike so many followers of the mainstream view, I have nothing to prove. ”

        Indeed, that is how we know you aren’t doing science. Science always involves presenting evidence.”

        Evidence yes, if you check out my book you’ll see gobs of it. Proof, no. Proof is expected of someone who frames a hypothesis. It is not required of anyone who critiques it. If there’s a flaw in your hypothesis all that’s necessarily is to point it out. The burden of proof is on you. This is a basic principle of science.

    • On his website, Tim Ball writes:

      “Both sides believe CO2 is a greenhouse gas causing warming, but disagree on the amount. Warmists claim it explains 90 percent, Skeptics an insignificant amount. Both avoid the real issue that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas, as demonstrated in the book Slaying the Sky Dragon.”

      The guy is a crank.

      • I didn’t cite Timothy Ball as an authority, but simply as a climate scientist who’s a skeptic. That’s what I was asked to do by my biggest fan, Al Rodger, so how could I possibly have denied his request?

        For a very through debunking of “Slaying the Sky Dragon,” see the customer review by Martin A, at https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Sky-Dragon-Greenhouse-Theory-ebook/dp/B004DNWJN6

      • docgee,
        Nobody asked you to list those who are ” a climate scientist who’s a skeptic.” That you managed to present a list that was not requested, you do demonstrate an answer to your own question “How could I possibly have denied his request?”

      • docgee, you wrote:

        “I didn’t cite Timothy Ball as an authority, but simply as a climate scientist who’s a skeptic.”

        Ball is not a climate scientist. Whatever work he may have done as an historical geographer 30+ years ago is not relevant to atmospheric physics, of which he knows less than I do. His belief that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas should be sufficient evidence that he is unqualified to make any assessments about the current state of knowledge of the global climate system. He is not a skeptic. He is a denier, and nothing more.

        Earlier you wrote:

        “I mentioned them simply to demonstrate that I am not alone in questioning the prevailing dogma.”

        And yet you included Ball in your list as if it means something. You could have equally named any semi-literate twit, as there are many who “question the prevailing dogma (sic)” without a clue as to how we came to our understanding, that is, the immense amount of scientific evidence that points in the same direction.

    • -l -5 reads “…I would never base an argument on their opinions…” It should read “…all of my arguments are baseless…”. (Sorry but I am in the middle of refereeing a hard math paper, so this is what you get).

    • docgee,
      You present the same tired old list of denialists and say that “I mentioned them simply to demonstrate that I am not alone in questioning the prevailing dogma.” I think you are off on another of your deluded escapades because you were not asked to present such a list for that reason. You were asked (& I appreciate the Q&A format is something you find difficult, so be sure to pay full attention here); you were asked:-

      Who are these “experiemced climate scientists” you speak of? Tell us their names and, if you are able, to prevent any ambiguity do tell us where it is they raised these issues you’ve raised here.

      As for you allegedly being “not alone in questioning the prevailing dogma(sic),” have we not established that you are not asking questions? You seem to have some pathological aversion to acting so humbly as to require that somebody else tell you something about science. You present no “questioning.” All we get is daft statements that you cannot back with evidence.
      And let us be candid; the “prevailing dogma” as you call it rightly deserves to be rigorously questioned. But given this tired old list you present, are any of those named on the list asking the same questions for which “the issues … raised here” constitutes some sort of valid answer? Any old fool can compile your tired list off Wikipedia or wherever. Their relevance to “the issues … raised here” has not been made apparent.

  25. Timothy Ball?

  26. “Roger Pielke Jr. is not a climate scientist.”

    “Roger Pielke, Jr. has been on the faculty of the University of Colorado since 2001. He is a Professor in the Environmental Studies Program and a Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). . . . In 2012 Roger was awarded . . . the Public Service Award of the Geological Society of America. Roger also received the Eduard Brückner Prize in Munich, Germany in 2006 for outstanding achievement in interdisciplinary climate research. Before joining the faculty of the University of Colorado, from 1993-2001 Roger was a Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.” http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/about_us/meet_us/roger_pielke/

    “Niether is Nils-Axel Mörner”

    “Nils-Axel Mörner (born 1938), is the former head of the paleogeophysics and geodynamics department at Stockholm University. He retired in 2005.[1] He was president of the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) Commission on Neotectonics (1981–1989). He headed the INTAS (International Association for the promotion of cooperation with scientists from the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union) Project on Geomagnetism and Climate (1997–2003). He is a critic of the IPCC and the notion that the global sea level is rising. He was formerly the Chairman of INQUA Commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution, and led the Maldives Sea Level Project.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nils-Axel_M%C3%B6rner

    “— he’s a first-magnitude crackpot, and the very fact that you mention him reflects very badly on you.”

    He very likely thinks the same of you. I mentioned him because, yes, he is climate scientist, and I was asked to provide some examples of climate scientist’s who are skeptics. I don’t necessarily agree with all his claims, though from what I’ve read so far they seem more reasonable than yours.

    “Neither is Patrick Moore. Judith Curry is a joke. As for the others, I’ll leave them up to readers.”

    Well obviously anyone who disagrees with you is “a joke.” Grow up, “Tamino.” If you want to be seen as a scientist, stop acting like a spoiled child.

    [Response: Roger Pielke is not a climate scientist, and Nils-Axel really is a crackpot. The fact that you can’t face the truth, doesn’t change that. Grow up yourself … you’ve got a long way to go.]

    • The sentence you left out, in your quotation: “(CIRES)……..In 2012 Roger was awarded”, says “Roger holds degrees in mathematics, public policy and political science, all from the University of Colorado.”
      Funny you should leave out the part that says that he is not a climate scientist but a political scientist.
      He is now the director of the Sports Governance Center within the Department of Athletics.

      • Yes, Pielke decided to discontinue his research on climate science thanks to vicious attacks in response to his congressional testimony. He did not back down, he just got tired of continually having to defend himself. If he had no climate science credentials it’s hard to understand how he qualified to testify before the US congress.

        But all this is beside the point. If you want to argue that no one qualified in the field of climate science is skeptical of the mainstream view you will be wrong. There are many highly qualified skeptics, whether you choose to accept that or not. In your eyes, of course, anyone who challenges the mainstream view is unqualified, which tells us more about your confirmation bias then anything else.

        When I interact with specialists in any other field, it’s possible to engage in a civil, reasonable and educational dialogue. When I post on climate change websites such as this, I find dialogue of this sort almost impossible to pursue. The degree of defensiveness is something I have never before experienced on any scientific forum and leads me to wonder regarding the maturity of people in this field. If you want to question anyone’s qualifications you need to start with yourselves, because serious scientists are capable of serious and respectful interchange with dissenters as well as supporters.

      • After the Wivenhoe flood in Australia Professor PJr put out a graph that purported to prove that historic floods were much larger. It was worse than a rookie mistake, so yes, he’s a perfect witness for a Republican congressional panel.

    • docgee,
      This interview with Nils-Axel Mörner was published in June, 2007:

      http://www.climatechangefacts.info/ClimateChangeDocuments/NilsAxelMornerinterview.pdf

      In it he states:
      “I am a sea-level specialist. There are many good sea-level people in the world, but let’s put it this way: There’s no one who’s beaten me.”

      Never mind that this is a very stupid thing to say, earlier that year, in response to a terribly botched analysis by Mörner, Nerem et al (2007) wrote:

      “Mörner’s paper completely misrepresents the results from the T/P mission, and does discredit to the tremendous amount of work that has been expended by the Science Working Team to create a precise, validated, and calibrated sea level data set suitable for studies of climate variations. Finally, Mörner ignores substantial other oceanographic (e.g. Levitus et al., 2001; Antonov et al., 2002; Munk, 2003; Willis et al., 2004) and cryospheric (e.g. Dyurgerov and Meier, 2000; Rignot et al., 2003; Krabill et al., 2004; Thomas et al., 2004) evidence of sea level rise which corroborate the altimeter observations.”

      More here:
      https://www.scribd.com/document/35911894/Damning-Evidence-of-Fraud-by-Nils-Axel-Morner

  27. Nils-Axel Mörner – lol,

    he presented a graph to the UK parliament that was skewed, so desperate was he to “prove” a flat trend line

    do the deniers have no intellectual self respect, parading lunatics to support nonsensical arguments

  28. In several of the plots, Tamino omitted to plot the temperature drop at the end of the 2016 El Nino: very deceiving.

    [edit]

    [Response: In all the plots, I showed all the data available.]

  29. There are currently 24,000 planetary scientists of various sorts at the fall AGU meeting. Only a fairly small percentage of them are actually climate scientists but many of the rest have the background to evaluate various aspects of climate science.

    If there was a significant flaw in the “dogma” we’d have heard about it in the peer-reviewed literature (maybe not in a specifically climate-science journal but there are plenty of other physics, geology or astronomy publications). We wouldn’t be relying on a few outliers who don’t seem to be able to string together a coherent argument and are obviously politically motivated in one way or another.

    (Richard Lindzen made a sensible contribution with his iris-effect theories but they turned out not to hold water. The rest?)

    The way I see it, there are four fairly simple steps to the whole argument:

    1) Humans are pumping a lot of CO₂ into the atmosphere and about half of it is staying there accounting for the rise in CO₂ over the last century and particularly over the last 50 years.

    2) The extra CO₂ in the atmosphere tends to cause a small amount of warming.

    3) Feedbacks result in more warming.

    4) That warming is likely to disrupt human civilization in various ways, particularly when water goes to different places at different times of year (e.g, floods Florida or runs off the Himalayas in one season rather than as slowly melting ice throughout the year).

    1 and 2 are very firmly established: it’d take multiple Nobel-prize-level discoveries to overturn either of them. Anybody who argues with them is (to use Richard Linzen’s word) a nutter.

    3 is a little bit more tricky. However, lots of modelling by dozens of groups around the world over multiple decades support the conclusion as does examination of historical and pre-historical evidence. E.g., the relatively small effects of orbital cycles are sufficient to move the Earth in and out of glaciations (“ice ages”).

    4 is a bit speculative but we’re already seeing some effects and it’s difficult to see why, for example, sea level wouldn’t rise if you heat the oceans up and melt land ice (modulo damming and ground-water extraction which have smaller but similar orders of magnitude effects but tend to cancel each other out).

    We don’t really know what effects AGW will actually have, directly or indirectly, on humans. That’s part of the problem – it makes it harder to prepare. However it is apparent that they could be severe so, if the precautionary principle has any sensible meaning, the onus is on those who wish to continue burning fossil fuels in large quantities to show that the harms will be small and to arrange adequate compensation for those who will have to adapt.

    • Thank you, Ed. This is the sort of reasonable and balanced argument I was initially hoping for. Two points:

      First, as someone who’s spent a good amount of time working with audio equipment, I have lots of experience with various types of feedback, and based on such experience I can report first hand that uncontrolled positive feedback becomes unstable very quickly. That should hardly be news to anyone who’s ever lectured over a poorly implemented PA system.

      So I’m wondering what it is about the positive feedbacks so essential to the amplification of the CO2 greenhouse effect that prevents them from causing the overall system to become unstable and basically out of control very quickly. Since CO2 levels have been steadily increasing since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, it seems as though the instability would have become alarmingly apparent many years ago.
      I’m not claiming that my anecdotal experiences with feedback make me any sort of authority on this matter. I’m just wondering what there is about the feedbacks in the climate system that differ from the audio feedbacks with which I’m familiar.

      Secondly, I feel it necessary to remind you that drastically altering the economic system that forms the basis of an entire civilization world wide is NOT the same as encouraging people to quit smoking. Quitting smoking is a win win decision and the only social consequence is some loss of jobs in the tobacco industry, while “quitting” fossil fuels would have a far reaching economic and social impact that could be just as disastrous as the worst effects of climate change (assuming climate change to be a real threat). In the face this enormous problem I don’t think the precautionary principle can meaningfully be applied. The impression I’m getting is that, even if the Paris accords are accepted by the likes of Donald Trump, and the emissions controls are implemented, this would likely do no more than delay the anticipated worst effects by a year or so at most. Wouldn’t it be wiser to apply the same funding to more reasonable attempts at adaptation, such as the building of sea walls, etc.?

      • Victor (or docgee, if you prefer), you oscillate between asking interesting questions to ignoring the answers to them. You did that on multiple occasions when you popped up on RealClimate. So, some might be tempted to answer your questions about feedbacks in the climate system, but I suspect you already have your fixed ideas on the subject, and no amount of explanation and evidence will change your mind. The fact that you still harp on the fact that temperature graphs are not monotonic tells me it’s not worth engaging you.

      • Yes, you guessed it. I am the “notorious” Victor.

        “Victor (or docgee, if you prefer), you oscillate between asking interesting questions to ignoring the answers to them. You did that on multiple occasions when you popped up on RealClimate.”

        I never ignored any responses to any of my questions — or questionings. However, most were unconvincing, as I pointed out. The degree of bias is such that any attempt to refute any claim offered on behalf of the management is perceived as “ignoring” it. I suppose I’ll be (falsely) accused of the same thing here.

      • Docgee–“If he had no climate science credentials it’s hard to understand how he qualified to testify before the US congress.”

        It’s not hard at all. Presently the majority party has no interest whatever in the truth about AGW. Pielke Jr. simply had a congenial position and a research record (of sorts).

        “…”quitting” fossil fuels would have a far reaching economic and social impact that could be just as disastrous as the worst effects of climate change …”

        No. This is catastrophizing that is common, but utterly unsupported. Most analyses (eg., the UK Stern report) find a cost to mitigate close on the order of 5% of GDP. Expensive, but doable. Admittedly, the uncertainties are considerable, but what we choose to do would be subject to complete ongoing control.

        By contrast, the costs of climate change cannot be reliably constrained at all, could negate all human control as the feedbacks become truly ‘uncontrolled’, to use your word, and many (notably species loss) would be completely irreversible in principle, unlike economic costs.

        “The impression I’m getting is that, even if the Paris accords are accepted by the likes of Donald Trump, and the emissions controls are implemented, this would likely do no more than delay the anticipated worst effects by a year or so at most.”

        Then your impression is erroneous. If Paris is implemented fully, the probable result would be that warming by 2100 would be about 3 degrees C, rather than the 5 degrees we’ve been on track toward.

      • “Wouldn’t it be wiser to apply the same funding to more reasonable attempts at adaptation, such as the building of sea walls, etc.?”

        That’s like asking a trauma surgeon to stop suturing blood vessels in order to help arrange a blanket. True, it may be important to manage shock, but stopping the bleeding is not optional.

      • Where would you build them? How high? Who would you ask? Nils-Axel Mörner?

      • “I have lots of experience with various types of feedback, and based on such experience I can report first hand that uncontrolled positive feedback becomes unstable very quickly.”

        The term “feedback” is used differently in the two disciplines. A positive feedback in climate means the same as amplification in audio. A positive feedback in audio would be equivalent to a runaway feedback in climate and probably cannot happen due to a temperature to the fourth power term in the equation.

      • [edit]

        This site is not for deniers. You’ve had your say, you’ve pushed your “book,” you’re done.

      • docgee, wrt “positive feedback”, you are getting hung up on differences in terminology between fields. Note that to say that, for example, water vapor provides positive feedback is not the same as saying the net feedback is positive. The main negative feedback in the climate system is outgoing long-wave radiation (thermal or blackbody radiation). This always rises when the temperature of the system rises.
        What greenhouse gasses (including CO2 and water vapor do) is take a big bite out of that outgoing IR radiation, and since that is the ONLY way the climate loses energy, that is going to make increase the energy (and the temperature) of the system. The temperature rises until the outgoing IR (minus the chunk subtracted by the ghg) again equals energy in. The net feedback is always negative.

      • Docgee,

        Your comparison of fossil fuels to tobacco is completely incorrect.

        The economy has only used large amounts of fossil fuels for about 100 years. Before that it went fine without coal and oil. In World War One horses were still important. In addition, there are only enough fossil fuels economically recoverable to last 20-50 years. After that it will be switch to renewables or go back to living in caves. Why should we be completely committed to a system my grandfather did not grow up with?

        Already in Florida they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year in a futile effort to hold back the sea. Hundreds of millions of people will lose their homes before 2100 from sea level rise alone. Drought has caused wars. The number of billion dollar weather disasters is growing due to climate change.

        Like Tobacco, fossil fuels have dramatic down sides with little upside in the long run. You have just not paid attention to the problems climate change has caused.

      • For completeness.
        The commenter “docgee” who admits up thread to being the self-styled “notorious” Victor Grauer first appeared as on both SkS & RealClimate in October 2014 declaring:-

        I’ve recently completed a pretty serious blog post dealing with climate change, with reference especially to the new NASA report on deep ocean (non) warming, which as I see it, could make a huge difference to the debate. And no, I’m not a “denier,” but a card carrying lifelong Democrat, liberal to the gills. I’d appreciate feedback from anyone reading here in the form of comments, positive or negative. http://amoleintheground.blogspot.com/2014/10/common-sense-on-climate-change.html

        The blog has long since disappeared but was all that you’d expect. He gained his feedback only at RealClimate where he trolled about rather a lot before the mild moderation at RealClimate consigned him to the borehole where he continued to post his trollish nonsense to no one. He did escape occasionally, most notably this August precipitating a proper hoo-haa to the delight of those who enjoy a good laugh but not appreciated by others. This seemed to enbolden the troll who set off from under his bridge back to SkS where he lasted a whole week without once mentioning Occam’s Razor* before he “relinquished his privilege of posting comments”” as the SkS moderators politely say. So ‘well done!’ Victor the Troll. You managed to spend four days longer here than you did at SkS.
        (*Weektor has this quaint theory that because Occam’s Razor favours the simpler theoretical constructs and because he is a total simpleton, he therefore must be absolutely right all the time.)

      • Sorry to be so late responding but I’ve been a bit unwell for a few days which has at least given me the opportunity to reflect on this a bit.

        docgee: “Thank you, Ed. This is the sort of reasonable and balanced argument I was initially hoping for.”

        In which case you completely missed the point of my post. Maybe I should have made it more explicit; I’ll try now. The point was not to present arguments for why it makes sense to believe AGW is happening and should be a worry but rather to try to make clear the weight of argument which would be needed to make a convincing case against those conclusions. It was written in response to your earlier comment:

        “I, along with many others like me, am simply confused by what looks like contradictions between certain claims and the data we so often see, as depicted on the many graphs”.

        As long as you think of it as simply a matter of some scientists in one corner holding up some graphs and some others in the other corner holding up some other graphs you will continue to be simply confused (to give you the maximum benefit of any possible doubt as to your motivation). You need to look at the depth of research and peer review behind those graphs to come to any sensible conclusion. As long as you fail to do that others will be acting reasonably when they assume that you have other, probably political or economic, motivations for expressing doubt.

  30. docgee: “So I’m wondering what it is about the positive feedbacks so essential to the amplification of the CO2 greenhouse effect that prevents them from causing the overall system to become unstable and basically out of control very quickly.”

    They’re not large enough. We hope.

    In theory they could be, as they were on Venus and also, in the opposite direction, to cause snowball Earth but it seems very unlikely (though not completely out of the question) that we can push the system hard enough to actually cause a runaway.

    Richard Alley’s “Control Knob” lecture is worth a watch [¹]. It’s a while since I’ve watched it so will have another look this evening, I think.

    “Quitting smoking is a win win decision and the only social consequence is some loss of jobs in the tobacco industry, …”.

    There are plenty who argue that switching to renewables would be a win-win (including for some medical reasons very similar to those which make quitting smoking a win – think particulates in lungs) and the only social consequence would be the loss of jobs in the fossil fuel industry. Some of the very same “merchants of doubt” argue the other way.

    However, the point of my post was not really to get into a discussion of details but rather to suggest a simple filter: if somebody argues against humans increasing CO₂ in the atmosphere or that that would cause at least some degree of warming then they’re a nutter and can be dismissed very quickly (unless they’ve got a very compelling argument about why our understanding of physics is seriously flawed, something which would be very surprising and I doubt either of us is qualified to judge.)

    As to how much warming would be caused: again the argument needs to be pretty compelling though it wouldn’t be quite so revolutionary. Still, it’s got to have something pretty special about it to counter multiple lines of evidence from many hundreds or thousands of scientists over many decades (at least since the 1979 Charney report [²] (well worth a read, BTW)). Just pointing at one graph or another and saying “it doesn’t look like it’s going up much recently” isn’t close to enough, there’s got to be a very detailed discussion as to why a lot of scientists have got a lot wrong. Absent that, arguments of that nature can be fairly easily dismissed, too.

    “Wouldn’t it be wiser to apply the same funding to more reasonable attempts at adaptation, such as the building of sea walls, etc.?”

    Who knows? Probably not, I think, but it’s at least open to discussion. However, few of the deniers actually make sensible arguments in that direction. It’s hard to say why but I’d suggest it’s probably because they’d then have to confront the fact that many of the people who will suffer as a consequence of AGW are not the rich who benefit from current fossil fuel burning.

    And don’t forget AGW’s evil twin, ocean acidification.

    [¹] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RffPSrRpq_g
    [²] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jule_Gregory_Charney

  31. docgee:

    Mal Adapted: If you read, or even skim, my book

    I see no reason whatsoever to read or even skim your book, “docgee”.

    I’m not myself an expert climate scientist, but I’m scientifically meta-literate enough to distinguish genuine from fake experts, and on the evidence of your comments here it’s clear you’re not a genuine expert. That’s not the argumentum ad hominem, as I’m able to reject those of your arguments I’m familiar with on their merits, not just because you’re the one making them.

    Furthermore, I recognize the importance of consensus in science. Even if you were one of the few working climate scientists who reject the lopsided consensus of their peers, it’s extremely unlikely that you’re right and they’re wrong. In any case, your comments reveal that you’re too willing to fool yourself to be taken seriously as a scientist. I’m not going to waste any more of my time on you.