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February 10, 2009

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I would like to add to your excellent article one more indication of the unreliability of global warming skeptics. Anyone who has followed this issue seriously for a decade or two must be aware that the vast bulk of global warming denial is financed by oil companies such as Exxon Mobil, automobile manufacturers and others with a direct financial interest in quelling action on climate change. The most notable of the organizations paying for the production of this pseudoscience is the so-called Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is virtually entirely financed by large corporations with a direct interest in this subject. Other examples abound.

Oh, how handy - I've just found myself sucked into yet another stupid argument on this subject.

Hi, what about the fact that experts are not always right at any given moment, and this is one of the pros of modern science, that it is evolving towards a complete understanding of the universe in which we live?

Anyone who has followed this issue seriously for a decade or two must be aware that the vast bulk of global warming denial is financed by oil companies such as Exxon Mobil, automobile manufacturers and others with a direct financial interest in quelling action on climate change.

I actually rather hate that reason to reject the denialism. Its just like the CAM folks whining about pharma funding vaccine safety trials. I wouldn't have a problem with that funding if they were towards science (instead of politics and propaganda). But its not the source of the funding that bothers me, its the politics and propaganda.

"It’s presented as a fact that, if falsified, falsifies the whole of AGW."

oh goody. at least they have come to the conclusion that AGW is a falsifiable theory. That's progress.

Anyone who has followed this issue seriously for a decade or two must be aware that the vast bulk of global warming denial is financed by oil companies such as Exxon Mobil, automobile manufacturers and others…

Actually I wouldn’t use this argument which is really just Ad hominem - a fallacious argument as I explained before.  Denier tactics include cherry picking, fake experts etc as I wrote.  Being funded by an oil company is not a tactic, and is not a problem with the arguments presented.

Nice article!

Regarding TechSkep's point, I actually argue that AGW is not easy to falsify.

First of all, "AGW" is a noun phrase. You sort of need a verb. "AGW will contribute X degrees of globally averaged warming in Y years" is a falsifiable hypothesis, but it's one of a large family for various values of X and Y.

A deeper point is that it is not really a single hypothesis but a result of the whole fabric of physical, observational and paleo-climatology. I make that point here.

Thanks for this. I've been looking or some good information on the science behind global warming for some time and it looks like some good links here.

I've come to the same conclusion as you, I don't understand all the ins and outs of global warming, but I've seen enough denier tactics to know which side uses reason.

I think Nova's argument that you are relying on the argument from authority is correct. When you say that you shouldn't need to go and study all these things and that it is sufficient to take the words of the experts for it, you are in essence saying that you either don't want to know or you lack the ability. Relying on the word of experts is not an unreasonable thing to do in these circumstances, but it means that you are essentially ducking out of the argument rather than deciding it.

The argument from authority is rather misunderstood. Authorities in logical terms are people who can lay down rules. The philosopher Jamie Whyte pointed out an example of a real authority as being a parent - literally the "author" of the child's bedtime. Scientists of course aren't authorities in this sense - how would any scientific paradigm be overturned otherwise. So evoking experts to decide scientific arguments is, as Nova says, the logical fallacy of the argument from (false) authority.

Sorry if this is little off topic.

I agreee with you in this context, but have a small objection.

Faith is trust. What you are referring to is belief.
I trust science. I don't believe in it.

This distinction is applicable to the argument over atheism verses religion. Most people don't understand that there is a major difference between religion and spirituality. Not mutually exclusive but largely so.

Anyone who has experienced spirituality in their life, as a result of following a spiritual discipline, knows that results are reliably repeatable, just like science depends on repeatablility for validity.
One develops "faith" in this repeatability. This is not belief. In fact, belief is usually one of the biggest obstacles to spirituality. The goal of these paths is enlightenment, which is largely the process of letting go of preconceived concepts and beliefs.
That's why the debate about creationism, intelligent design etc is so lame. All the debaters are coming at it with their own baggage of beliefs and concepts about what God may or may not be. This is true whether one is an atheist or not. The atheist is trying to disprove some concept he himself has about God, even if it's a God he doesn't think exists.

Faith is just trusting in the process.

Belief gets you stuck in concepts that block the process from happening. Because the process requires an opening up and a vulnerability to the unknown. It's a journey into the unknown, which is pretty hard to do when you think the unknown is known. The ego wants to cling to what it "knows" about reality.

Lao Tzu probably said it best.

"In the pursuit of learning, one knows more and more every day. But in the pursuit of the TAO, one knows less and less every day until one knows nothing at all.
And when one knows nothing at all, nothing is left unknown."

This is the faith of trusting the process, by not clinging to the known.

Lao Tzu's words may sound like horsepucky to some, but contain great wisdom.


I just want to clarify one point. Most people, on the paths I speak of, consider God to be infinite. The infinite is unknowable with the rational, logical mind. It's about experience, not belief.


An idea held by many today, and considered something of a consensus, is that religion sprung up as a result of man trying to understand the natural physical world, without the benefit of science.
I think this is a false assumption. I think man experienced the transcendent and then went about constructing a set of beliefs that explained it.
The result is religion.

I assure you that there is something transcendent.
But I don't want you to "believe" in it.

Do you honestly think that all the greats of the past were just unfortunate and deluded because they didn't have modern science to inform them? Such hubris. I am referring to Plotinus, Plato, Socrates, Pythagorus, Shakespeare, Lao Tzu, Buddha, St Augustine, Emerson, Whitman, Blake, Herman Hesse, and on and on and on. I could list hundreds but you get the point I hope.
You can add the names of some of America's founding fathers to this list.

The freedom of and from religion that Jefferson was instrumental in including in the constitution, was based on just this. He and Franklin and others called themselves Deists. They obviously were raised Christian, but their thinking was more universal, they knew a higher power, but didn't necessarily believe in the "God" of any particular religion. They certainly weren't athiests. But they encouraged freedom for all, including atheists.

Sure they all had their concepts, but it was the transcendent which they experienced, that they were applying their concepts to, in an effort to make the ineffable accessable to reason. It's in man's nature to do so. Just like it's in our nature to develop science to explain the physical world.

I protest against religious dogma as much as you do.
But, stop fighting a battle that you can't win, because you are just as much to blame as the religious, for claiming to "know".
Otherwise you are engaging in dogma as well.
Stick to science. It's a great thing, but not everything. And it will alienate the science community from the religious at a time when we need trust in science.

All the people I have ever met who are "spiritual" as opposed to "religious" are environmentalists. every one of them. And I have met hundreds, if not thousands. In fact, that has been one of the major impetuses of the enviromental movement. An awareness that we and all of nature are one, and that it is all "sacred". They are your biggest supporters on climate change.

By the way "sacred" is not a belief, it's an experience of how it really is, when you are free from limiting concepts that color your pereception.

It's what the one man from Plato's cave experienced when he decided to have a look outside the cave.


#11 - the fact that we may feel the "transcendent" and believe in it without objective evidence to support the feeling the way you describe is itself evidence for a side affect in the way our brains are wired & perceive the world. Perhaps it conferred an evolutionary advantage.

I am certain the experience exists - however it's usefulness as an explanation for anything else is minimal.

Thanks for your analysis of the U.S. Senate Minority Report: U.S. Senate Minority Report Update: More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims. You make several assertions and seem to have a lot of “faith” in the analyses of RealClimate.org and Tim Lambert of Deltoid.

You assert: “Of course we know that [Atmospheric Scientist Dr. John S. Theon wasn’t actually Hansen’s ‘boss’” and you link to Gavin Schmidt of RealClimate.org to “prove” your point.

Here is what Theon responded: “I worked with Hansen from about 1983 to 1994 during which time he was at GISS in NYC and I was at NASA HQ in Washington DC. I retired from NASA in 1995. I had completed 37 and 1/2 years of federal service (civilian Navy, USAF, and including 33 years with NASA.) The money came through me. We were in the Earth Observations Program which later became the Mission to Planet Earth Program. I visited GISS at least once a year to review and evaluate the GISS work. When I visited NYC, to review the research that GISS was funded to do out of the program for which I was responsible, Hansen was most cordial. When I asked him to give a lecture in Japan, he complied,” Theon wrote. “It was what it was, and no amount of denial will change that,” Theon explained. “I repeat what I wrote to you in January: “I was, in effect, Hansen's supervisor because I had to justify his funding, allocate his resources, and evaluate his results. I did not have the authority to give him his annual performance evaluation,” he added.

You also wrote: “Theon seems like the archetypal fake expert.” Are you aware that on the website of one the experts you put faith in – Tim Lambert of Deltoid – smears like yours against Theon are being refuted?

At the Deltoid blog -- no friend of climate skeptics -- several readers are lamenting the disparaging remarks against Theon. Some of its readers are now essentially screaming “Enough” in response to the attacks on Theon. A January 31 comment on Deltoid blog stated: “Theon did some serious work (about 30 papers, some edited books, plus lots of monographs), including a couple of Science papers in the 60’s, so he wasn’t puffing up his accomplishments like some, and an h-index of 6.” Again, these comments are coming from a website devoted to vilifying global warming skeptics. A February 1 comment on Detloid stated: “This attempt to smear Theon is terribly, terribly thin.”

Here is a Google scholar search on Theon: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q="author:JS+author:Theon"

You also write: “Compare these 650 (really less than 100) ‘skeptics’ with the American Geophysical Union (AGU) which has 50,000 members, most of whom really are earth scientists.” I assume you mean the ‘consensus’ statement issued by AGU on global warming as if all 50,000 member signed off on it. In reality, only two dozen or so governing board members of the AGU and the AMS voted on the so-called consensus statement without the direct vote of members or adequate input. The AMS members according to many were was outraged at these types of statements. You are basically appealing to authority and putting your faith in these governing boards which are subject to political pressure. In short, you are citing an essentially POLITCAL statement of AGU as somehow being scientific. – End Excerpt.

Not a “conspiracy” as you allege, but does appear to be groupthink by the members of the governing boards. See the Senate report on these consensus statements here: http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=595F6F41-802A-23AD-4BC4-B364B623ADA3

The prestigious International Geological Congress, dubbed the geologists' equivalent of the Olympic Games, was held in Norway in August 2008 and prominently featured the voices of scientists skeptical of man-made global warming fears. [See: Skeptical scientists overwhelm conference: '2/3 of presenters and question-askers were hostile to, even dismissive of, the UN IPCC' & see full reports here & here ]

More evidence that your “faith” based appeal to authority fails. See: A canvass of more than 51,000 Canadian scientists revealed 68% disagree that global warming science is “settled.”

You also have great faith in UN IPCC. Are you aware this is a political organization? It is called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Government is even in the title to help anyone who might otherwise be confused.

Your appeal to the authority of RealClimate.org also leaves much to be desired. Not all scientists agree with your high opinion of the warming partisans.

See this report: Real Climate Woes: Pielke Jr.: 'Gavin Schmidt admits to stealing a scientific idea from his arch-nemesis, Steve McIntyre' . Also see: Prominent Scientist ‘Appalled’ By Gavin Schmidt’s ‘lack of knowledge’ – ‘Back to graduate school, Gavin!’ – Climate Science Blog By Atmospheric scientist Dr. Hendrik Tennekes, a scientific pioneer in the development of numerical weather prediction and former director of research at The Netherlands' Royal National Meteorological Institute, and an internationally recognized expert in atmospheric boundary layer processes.

And see these links from Israeli Astrophysicist Nir Shaviv’s website: “The aim of RealClimate.org is not to engage a sincere scientific debate. Their aim is post a reply full of a straw man so their supporters can claim that your point ‘has been refuted by real scientists at ReaClimate.org.’” Shaviv, who calls the website “Wishfulclimate.org” noted that the “writers (at RealClimaet.org) try again and again to concoct what appears to be deep critiques against skeptic arguments, but end up doing a very shallow job. All in the name of saving the world. How gallant of them.”

As for citing “analysis” by Tim Lambert, you may want to rethink your reliance on Lambert’s embarrassing rants after reading this. Response to Romm, Lambert and other blogs attacks on 650 Scientist Report

In addition, you link to an analysis of the Senate 650 plus dissenting scientist report and make this bold claim: “58% of the "experts" quoted have no credentials in climate research and only 16% have top-notch credentials.” Once again, you should make sure you verify the information you link to. It appears the analysis you linked to reveals a failure of basic arithmetic.

The analysis was done by a Professor Steven Dutch of University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. Below is a note I sent to Professor Dutch on February 10, 2009:

Hi, Professor Dutch,

Just wanted to drop you a few comments on your analysis of the U.S. Senate Minority report of 650 plus scientists dissenting from man-made climate fear claims.

First off, you claim, “I know what scientists do. I know what it takes to be considered credible in a given scientific field. I know what fields are relevant to a given topic and which are not.”

Really? As a scientist, can you do simple arithmetic? It appears you failed your first task.

Your wrote that you “ended up with just over 600 individuals.” Sadly for you, the report has well over 650 scientists on it. But then again, maybe I should just defer to your qualifications instead of actually counting the scientists.

Your analysis reveals that you reject many physicists, chemists, engineers, meteorologists and many others as not being “qualified” to offer their views on man-made global warming. I wonder if you use the same criteria for the UN IPCC “thousands” of scientists. Are you aware that the man the Associated Press calls a “climatologist”, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, is an economist and engineer? Do you publicly shout that Pachauri’s view of climate science is not relevant? If so, I would love to see your past statements on him.

Thanks for taking the time to read this note.

Sincerely,
Marc Morano

End Note to Professor Dutch.

#

Marc Morano
Communications Director
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) Inhofe Staff
202-224-5762
202-224-5167 (fax)
marc_morano@epw.senate.gov
www.epw.senate.gov

Back on topic - Hard to know where to begin with this article ...

I guess we could start with what it is to be a sceptic (English spelling)

When we say we are "sceptical" about a world changing claim, we obviously mean that we need to see compelling evidence before we would believe it.

The onus is on those making the claims to make the case.

Those who are not convinced by the claims that human activity is likely to be causing catastrophic global warming are thus simply not yet convinced by the evidence so far presented, or by the reliability of the interpretations of the evidence presented.

The very language chosen in article however starts things off rather badly - scepticism is immediately labelled "denial", with the perpetrators employing "tactics" - a classic ad hominum attack

The author goes on to assert "the so-called skeptics kept repeating the already debunked arguments."
citing a link to
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/index/

However in a quick scan through the "debunking" material therein I found only links to anti-sceptic arguments that have themselves been debunked, or that at least remain controversial.
http://www.climatescience.org.nz/'

Included of course are at least a couple of "straw man" items on the debunked list (weak counter arguments proposed at some point, which presumably by implication discredits the validity of all scepticism)

We then move onto another openly discussed classic fallacy - "argument from authority" - where the author nevertheless explains that thousands of scientists couldn't be wrong (depends WHICH group of thousands of scientists you ask of course - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientists_opposing_the_mainstream_scie
ntific_assessment_of_global_warming


Then we have the inference that acceptance of the claims equates with "trust in the scientific method" itself - an example of the so called "genetic fallacy", or "fallacy of relevance". One can of course trust in the scientific method without being convinced that it has been applied correctly in a certain case.


Then we move on to the "Denier tactics" themselves


"1. Conspiracy"

Yet many believers themselves are guilty of making assertions about scepticism being part of some oil company funded conspiracy (i.e. guilty of not distinguishing between oil industry lobbying & good faith scepticism) http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/campaigns/global-warming-and-energy/exxon-secr
ets


"2. Selectivity (cherry-picking)"

Yet at least some believers seem on occasion to have cherry picked from available evidence themselves http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/co2-in-ice-cores/


"3. Fake experts"

There are certainly likely to be many "fake experts" on both sides - a large proportion of the reported experts on the original IPCC report panel for example seem not to have been scientists at all http://nzclimatescience.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=419&It
emid=1


"4. Impossible expectations (also known as moving goalposts)"

It is very difficult to PROVE a negative - to prove that humans will not somehow cause catastrophic global warming, or that there is not a flying spaghetti monster for that matter. Yet this is what sceptics are routinely asked to do when questioning the "consensus" - because the consequences of the claims being true are deemed to be just too terrible.

Of course a sceptic shouldn't have to prove anything - the burden of proof lies entirely with those making the claim. If a claim is not well
supported by physical evidence and experimentally verified mechanisms established (as opposed to mathematical models tweaked until the curves fit), I can imagine this might well lead to cries of "impossible expectations"


"5. General fallacies of logic."

This article offering several cases in point!

Each and every point above can (and should!) run to many pages of debate - and I am not claiming anything more here than that believers in the global warming "consensus" are guilty of a similar range of logical offences.

Name calling and other attempts to discredit are however unlikely to progress anyone's understanding of the issues at hand.


I don't think many sceptics are claiming humans have NO effect on climate, but most appear to be concerned by what seems to be a disproportionate level of alarm and a disproportionate level of proposed economic sacrifice to address an issue where there is little evidence of a corresponding beneficial impact - from the evidence so far presented.

These resources and attention are meanwhile taken away from what appear to be much more pressing and damaging environmental and humanitarian concerns that we could much better influence given the same investment.


Cheers

Hmm - interesting. I can comment here on peoples feelings about God, but when I attempt to respond to the blog article itself, my post disappears into the aether as soon as I hit "submit" - every time!

Sorry if this is little off topic.

A little?!? I hope skeptico deletes those comments.

Well, of course Nova could be absolutely certain that "rocket scientist" David Evans' paper had to be correct, whether peer-reviewed or not.

http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2008/12/skeptics_handbook_not_novel_no.php,

wherein Tim Lambert mentions a connection.

Bishop Hill, Skeptico makes fairly clear that we should not simply let experts decide an issue; rather it is the reliance on the scientific method, the peer review proces, etc. that gives weight to the opinions of scientific experts.

I find it interesting that you would misread this point. From the first comment in this Deltoid post you can find a link to Nova's "skeptics guide":

http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/02/joanne_nova_emails_skeptico.php#commentsArea

in which she defines a skeptic as a "person indisposed to accept currency or authority as proving the truth of opinions." Thats a very self-serving definition often used by your typical AGW denialist. As a scientist and skeptic myself (but a believer in AGW) I find it frustrating that denialists try to pass themselves off as "skeptics" using this bogus argument.

- Paul it's because of this
Comment Guidelines
The spam filter sometimes holds long comments, or those with multiple hyperlinks. Unfortunately I have no control over TypePad's spam filter, but I can manually release any comments that have been held. If your comment does not appear after you have posted it, the best bet is for you to to email me and just tell me your comment is held. I will release it the next time I check my email. Again, apologies for this, I will continue to ask TypePad to dial down their spam filter, but it's really out of my hands.

Excellent application of the denialist tactics to these arguments. I also see Marc Morano has visited. Guess what, you're on his annoying-ass email list for life. He's a classic crank.

You make several assertions and seem to have a lot of “faith” …

I already explained why I don’t have faith.  Standard denier tactic – repeat debunked arguments.  It’s right here in my post.

Re Theon – I pointed out that he hasn’t worked in he field since 1994, so his views will be out of date.  That is no “smear” it is a fact.  Again, a point you ignored.  As you again use the word faith – again, already refuted. 

You also write: “Compare these 650 (really less than 100) ‘skeptics’ with the American Geophysical Union (AGU) which has 50,000 members, most of whom really are earth scientists.” I assume you mean the ‘consensus’ statement issued by AGU on global warming as if all 50,000 member signed off on it.

No, I am referring to the fact that hardly any of these 50,000 scientists joined this huge list of 650 people.  As I wrote – fake experts.

And you mention faith again.  Broken record. 

More evidence that your “faith” based appeal to authority fails. See: A canvass of more than 51,000 Canadian scientists revealed 68% disagree that global warming science is “settled.”

Oh yes, one list debunked so we have another.  (Yawn.)

You also have great faith in UN IPCC. Are you aware this is a political organization?

More”faith”.  You really don’t have very much do you?  all you really can do is keep repeating “faith” as though it is a meaningful argument. 

Also, ad hominem – being “political”is not a valid criticism of its conclusions.  I guess “the IPCC is a political organization” must be in the denier handbook.  Along with “repeat faith every paragraph”.

As for citing “analysis” by Tim Lambert, you may want to rethink your reliance on Lambert’s embarrassing rants after reading this. Response to Romm, Lambert and other blogs attacks on 650 Scientist Report

What response?  Also, I cited more than just Lambert.

In addition, you link to an analysis of the Senate 650 plus dissenting scientist report and make this bold claim: “58% of the "experts" quoted have no credentials in climate research and only 16% have top-notch credentials.” Once again, you should make sure you verify the information you link to. It appears the analysis you linked to reveals a failure of basic arithmetic.

And yet you failed to show where it was wrong.

First – apologies about the spam filter.  I wish it gave some sort of message when it held comments but it doesn’t.  Anyway – I released it once I knew.  (Thanks JR.)

The very language chosen in article however starts things off rather badly - scepticism is immediately labelled "denial", with the perpetrators employing "tactics" - a classic ad hominum attack

Obviously completely wrong. Criticizing a tactic is criticizing the actual argumentation content, methods and weaknesses thereof, not the arguer.  So by definition this is not ad hom.

We then move onto another openly discussed classic fallacy - "argument from authority" - where the author nevertheless explains that thousands of scientists couldn't be wrong…

Which is a straw man.  I said no such thing.

Followed by yet another list. 

Then we have the inference that acceptance of the claims equates with "trust in the scientific method" itself - an example of the so called "genetic fallacy", or "fallacy of relevance". One can of course trust in the scientific method without being convinced that it has been applied correctly in a certain case.

Again, not really what I said. 

I take some of your points on the denier tactics list, but then I was just applying it to what Nova had written.  Sure, some AGW believers use bad arguments too at times, but the deniers seem to rely on them.

Of course a sceptic shouldn't have to prove anything - the burden of proof lies entirely with those making the claim.

Except when the evidence is overwhelming. At some point the burden is back on the deniers to show that thousands of scientists are wrong.  Nova claimed they had been proven wrong – falsified.  Her word not mine.  She is cherry picking in a big way.  And Nova did claim that humans are having no “more than trivial” effect on warming – which is pretty close to saying they have no effect. 

I'm having trouble following the evidence regarding troposphere warming. My current understanding is that:

  1. all greenhouse gas models predict that temperature increases will be greater in the troposphere than at the surface
  2. although there has been much debate about the uncertainties of measurements and analysis, such temperature increases in the troposphere have not been demonstrated

Is this false?

Yes, those 2 are false. Paste them into Google and read.

I guess “the IPCC is a political organization” must be in the denier handbook.

Yes, it is. I was going to note that referencing the IPCC or RealClimate does no good as support for any contentions that you may have about AGW theory. The denialists simply write is off like anti vaccinationists write off any references to the FDA or CDC. You know, the people who actually do the science to support their contentions.

Unlike faith, trust is based on something concrete called truth.
However, trust is not certainty.
But, you can trust scientific theories to change as new information is discovered.
So you are up to date with the theories as they are now, what else can you do?

Regarding TechSkep's point, I actually argue that AGW is not easy to falsify.

AGW is perfectly easy to falsify in theory - there are at least 4 different ways you could do it. You could demonstrate that global mean temperatures aren't on a rising trend. You could demonstrate that CO2 levels aren't on a rising trend. You could demonstrate that human activity isn't driving the CO2 trend (in which case you'd need to explain where all the CO2 we know we're producing is going, and where the excess CO2 we measure is coming from). Finally, you could demonstrate that CO2 isn't driving the temperature trend (in which case you'd need to explain why CO2 isn't behaving the way that basic physics says it should, and what is actually driving the warming). Any one of those would falsify the theory.

It's only difficult to falsify in practice because none of those things are actually true.

My current understanding is that:

1. all greenhouse gas models predict that temperature increases will be greater in the troposphere than at the surface

The exact opposite, I'm afraid.

I'm no skeptic... but I must admit that I quite like Jo Nova's site. She is a denier of sorts, but more a skeptic who has unlike most of us has decided that the opposing views present a stronger case.

I don;t agree... but her site is not a bag a AGW believer site at all. I honestly genuinely believe that she believes that the science of AGW is seriously flawed.

Incidentally she is presenting at Heartland, and is that David's Evan's partner (nothing wrong with that though). And you;d do well to take her gold trading advice seriously:)

Help me out though... because I personally AM struggling (not that I'm an intellectual giant) to counter the lack of evidence claim... I trust the science... but I'm realising there is a whole lot of trust...

And the "evidence for AGW" section you provide leaves me wondering... you see that would be classic "believer" tactics... to like to a whole lot of reports that don;t have much "evidence".

AS I say I'm a passionate AGW advocate... but someone needs to take this Nova lass seriously and find us some honest to goodness "evidence" as at the very least it is an arument that has the potential to gain traction in the popular psyche. "what... there is NO evidence... no way"

Just to nit pick....

You could demonstrate that global mean temperatures aren't on a rising trend. You could demonstrate that CO2 levels aren't on a rising trend.

That is not two, but only one way to falsify AGW. Those two have to go together. There have been a number of trends in recent history where the average temp has dropped, but the reason for those drops are pretty well understood.

The thing to falsify it is that you have to find CO2 rising, with temperature dropping that is not explained by other reasons (tail end of solar cycle, volcano, previous el nino year, etc)

Matt,

The problem of AGW evidence is that it is a lot like evolutionary evidence. In order to really understand the detailed mechanisms and debunkings is that you often have to get into the science farther than most people are willing or able to. So we rely on a cleaned up version of it. most of the denialists arguments are relatively easy to debunkwith actual data if they are actually interested in looking at it. There was a time the denialist were saying "its just cosmic rays and clouds". Some easy to gather data that started in the 1950's easily puts that to bed, so then they move on to something else and something else.

Above you'll find a link to the cleaned up reasons why i think we should move forward with spending a great deal of money to stop using fossil fuels. The problem with these "cleaned up" reasons is that they too, are more easily able to find flaws in becuase they do not provide the details.

Matt,

I find this site useful:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

What's nice about the refutations to the skeptic arguments presented here is that they are backed by and usually link to the peer-reviewed articles or primiry source material (versus simply rehashing opinions on else's website or blog).

I think you're possibly taking a rather shorter-term view of trends than I am, TechSkeptic - I'm talking about trends in long-term (typically 20-year) moving averages, which is long enough to smooth out most of that short-term variation, and I was also meaning a sustained change in the trend - say 10 years or more. I should have made that clear. But yes, if you're looking at global means for individual years over a short timescale, you're quite right, and your nitpicking is always welcome. :)

Oh the irony. Professional denier and employee of Jimmy Inhofe (aka Oklahoma's disgrace), Marc Morano tells us we should dismiss the IPCC because it is a political institution. If we apply the same standard to his convoluted rants, we get to ignore him!

No, I was not talking about single year variations either. Look at any chart of global temps, you'll see that from 1940 to 1980 or so there is a decline in global temps, even if you use a 20 year trend, while CO2 production was increasing.

This is one of the talkng points of denialists. In which of course once again they ignore relevant data (even though I hate linking to wooey New Scientist).

The linked chart only looking at a 5 year mean - I suspect that if you were to use a 20-year mean, the deflection of the trend would be much less evident. But anyway, I accept your point.

Nevertheless, I think we're still left with a situation in which the AGW theory could quite easily be indisputably falsified, if only reality would deign to provide the right data.

does anyone, anywhere know of the execution of what should be a high school experiment:

Get a fish tank

Paint the bottom black or put stones in the bottom

Insulate the fish tank so that room temp fluctuations don't affect the inside of the tank

Put a temp sensor at various heights within the tank

Place a number of lights at the top of the tank that output wavelengths similar to that of the sun (including infrared and ultraviolet)

fill the tank with air that is in the same composition as is thought to be what was in the air in 1900

Turn on the light and measure the temp rise throughout

Then increase the CO2 and methane concentrations to that of today

Watch for any change in temp

I propose that this test, if the temps drop, would falsify AGW. Further, if there is no change at all, it would further falsify AGW. I realize that this is not a complex system like the earths climate, but it should show the mechanism by which the warming is done. Further, it should show that the change in CO2 and methane concentrations can in fact cause the temp changes that they are predicted to (there is a denialist argument from incredulity that says “I can’t believe that little CO2 could do anything to the environment").

If no one knows of a link to an experiment like this, maybe I'll blog myself running this experiment. But as I say, this should be a high school science experiment.

I find it's interesting that one of the first replies of denialists is that "you do it too" fallacy. There are several reasons why this is nonsense. The first is that the tactics of denialism are just that - tactics. They don't bear on the actual truth or falsity of the claims but they are indicative of sloppy thinking, intellectual dishonesty etc. You can of course apply them to perfectly true arguments but it would be wrong to do so as it represents bad rhetoric.

The rest is a clear misunderstanding of the tactics or a desire to be purposefully obtuse.
Conspiracies, for instance, do happen. The issue with a "conspiracy theory" is that they are non-parsimonious. That is they do not unify facts but merely exponentially increase the number of questions that need explanation. Further, they classically use no evidence. Oil companies clearly do conspire to alter public opinion by hiring crank tanks to spread misinformation. The money, ideological links, and ties are present and demonstrable in tax and other records. Further, it's a pretty bland pay-for-play tradeoff. Were not talking about holographic planes and illuminati.

Second, AGW is of course independently true with or without the conspiracy. They have data, and don't need a conspiracy to explain anything other than the source of influence of the denialists. Unlike with denialists - who can only rely on the tactics - AGW supporters have real experts, real data, and real arguments in support of their theory. Denialist arguments might get made but they aren't the primary arguments or the sole ones available.

"Actually I wouldn’t use this argument which is really just Ad hominem - a fallacious argument as I explained before. Denier tactics include cherry picking, fake experts etc as I wrote. Being funded by an oil company is not a tactic, and is not a problem with the arguments presented."

Well, yes and no. The science must stand or fall on its own, but it is not unreasonable to point out when one side has a conflict of interest--especially when it is undisclosed. In such cases, it is entirely reasonable to be more skeptical of the results.

Lachan O'Dea says

I'm having trouble following the evidence regarding troposphere warming. My current understanding is that:

all greenhouse gas models predict that temperature increases will be greater in the troposphere than at the surface

First of all, there is no such thing as "greenhouse gas models". Rather there are climate models that can include forcings due to changes in greenhouse gases, among other things. Second, the discussion is specifically about the tropics. Third, yes, in the tropics the models predict that temperature fluctuations or trends at the surface will be amplified as you go up in the troposphere. This is independent of the mechanism causing the fluctuation or trend in temperature and is a consequence of what is called "moist adiabatic lapse rate theory".

although there has been much debate about the uncertainties of measurements and analysis, such temperature increases in the troposphere have not been demonstrated

Note that in the above, I pointed out that the amplification is expected to hold not only for the trends in temperature over several decades understood to be due to greenhouse gases (which has been the focus of most of the studies you hear about) but also for fluctuations in temperature that occur, for example, over a time period of several months to a few years (due to things such as El Nino / La Nina). For these latter fluctuations, it has been demonstrated. For the multidecadal trends, it has not yet been demonstrated...although it also has not been demonstrated that such amplification is not occuring. And, in fact, I think most of the smart money (backed by some recent publications) is betting on the notion that the problems with seeing this amplification in some data sets is due to problems with the datasets. (Any small artifact producing a drift over time will totally contaminate the trend [where some of the data sets do not agree with the predictions], but will not significantly affect the fluctuations on the shorter timescales [where the data sets do agree with the predictions]).

And, at any rate, while the question of whether the data agrees with these predictions is certainly a test for how realistically the climate models are modeling the tropical atmosphere, it is not a test that directly impacts on the question of what is causing the warming since, as I noted, the prediction is NOT a unique signature for warming due to greenhouse gases.

What is a more unique signature of warming due to greenhouse gases (at least in distinguishing between it and warming due to increasing solar irradiance) is that the stratosphere should cool as the troposphere warms. And, indeed, this is what is seen observationally. (Some of the cooling of the stratosphere is also believed to be due to stratospheric ozone depletion but, as I understand it, the magnitude and structure of the cooling can't be explained without also invoking the effects of GHGs.)

Ugh. After skimming Morano's hysterical screed I need a wash. Clearly that man is getting high on his own supply. To not notice the jarring hypocrisy in taking offense of the 'disparaging' of Theon while in the next breath sliming Gavin Schmidt with no doubt libelous allegations must take quite the ideological jihadist.

Of course, it pays to have the words 'Inhofe Staff' in your salutary as most people know immediately to laugh up their sleeve. This is not ad hom mind you, just an acknowledgement of the mountain of empirical evidence that suggests these clowns have about as much credibility as Pravda on an airbrush day.

A thinking person would have to wonder to themselves why a no one like Theon would generate such huge news, while the myriad former skeptics that have been moved to the dark side by their lying eyes languish in obscurity. Unfortunately, not too many of those come from god forsaken oakliehomey, which at least accounts for Inhofe.

PS Skeptico, the real scientists would no doubt be uncomfortable with this gross simplification, but I like to think of the empirical evidence thusly: the greenhouse effect is physically demonstrable, (i.e. C02, etc. absorbs long wave radiation). The carbon cycle is (very) long. And the amount of carbon that we are responsible for in the atmosphere is large and growing, much of which we can actually attribute to fossil fuel combustion by carbon dating. These three things imply warming, and indeed, so does the temperature record (all of them).

And that's a pretty good reason to at least never be caught uttering the phrase 'global warming is a fraud perpetrated on the American people', lest you want to make yourself look like a complete ass.

Meanwhile, skeptics cannot even agree on why that story is wrong. Some say it's not warming, some say the sun, some cosmic rays, others mysterious and irises, etc. etc. etc. What they all have in common is an exceptional degree of skepticism on evidence that supports global warming, and none on the absurdly flimsy ones they float to support their own understanding of the climate system wherein man-made carbon is not a problem. Which is probably why we get so much of the former and so little of the latter (certainly by Stevie Mac and Co).

And all of that is before we consider the vaunted consensus as measured surveys or what have you, statements by the IPCC, etc. etc. etc. Which makes me wonder whether we're playing into their grimy little slimy hands by going there. Perhaps we ought to show some more restraint...

The problem with your fish tank idea is that it really doesn't address the question of interest. Essentially every serious scientist in the field, including skeptics like Lindzen and Roy Spencer, accepts that CO2 absorbs infrared radiation and, indeed, that the radiative effect is an ~4 W/m^2 forcing at the top of the atmosphere. (While you can find some people on the web contesting this, they are akin to Young Earth creationists and really not even worth bothering with.)

The interesting question is what the feedbacks in the climate system produce in terms of climate sensitivity...and that you will get no clue of with your proposed experiment.

In fact, while your experiment could presumably measure the absorption of IR by CO2, it is not really even good enough to get out what the radiative forcing is because that already involves the radiative balance between the earth, the sun, and space, and the fact that in the troposphere the temperature decreases with height. I.e., at the end of the day, the radiative forcing comes about because increasing the CO2 levels increases the effective level from which radiation is being radiated by the earth back into space and, since temperature decreases with height, that means that the effective temperature from which the radiation is being emitted is colder...and, since the radiative power of a body is proportional to the 4th power of the temperature, that means there is less radiation being emitted. That puts the earth out of radiative balance (less radiation is being emitted than is being absorbed from the sun), which causes the earth's atmosphere (and oceans, cryosphere, etc) to heat up until the radiative balance is restored (because as the level of the atmosphere that most of the radiation comes from heats up, it emits more radiation again by that T^4 law).

Here is a good reference to the historical evolution of our understanding of how increasing CO2 causes a radiative forcing http://www.aip.org/history/climate/co2.htm , including discussions of the experiments and theoretical calculations that led to this understanding.

Re TechSkeptic's proposed high school experiment: it will fail. I have actually seen a couple of science fair experiments of the sort, on of which I had to grade. The student claimed to have detected a small response. I had to explain to her about noise, experimental error and experimental bias. Another, daughter of an acquaintance, found no effect and made a skeptic of her dad.

In order for a greenhouse gas to affect temperature, you must have optically thick layers at different temperatures. I have been thinking about how to get this to happen with cheap materials but it's a challenge.

In an isothermal atmosphere such as you would get ion a tank there is no greenhouse effect.

Tobis/TS: what do you think about this simple experiment? Scroll down to page 5:

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/2702414/Introduction-to-the-Greenhouse-Effect

Might as well share tonight's google-tour findings...

#24 asked

2. although there has been much debate about the uncertainties of measurements and analysis, such temperature increases in the troposphere have not been demonstrated

Is this false?

#25, you replied that yes this is false and cited "Google". After doing all your work, I eventually found this from page 730 of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (link)

There are observational uncertainties in radiosonde and satellite records. Models generally predict a relative warming of the free troposphere compared to the surface in the tropics since 1979, which is not seen in the radiosonde record (possibly due to uncertainties in the radiosonde record) but is seen in one version of the satellite record, although not others (Section 9.4.4).

It looks as if the IPCC are admitting here that their model does not correspond to the observed data. Also Douglass et. al. (link) seems to disagree with you:

Model results and observed temperature trends are in disagreement in most of the tropical troposphere, being separated by more than twice the uncertainty of the model mean. In layers near 5 km, the modelled trend is 100 to 300% higher than observed, and, above 8 km, modelled and observed trends have opposite signs.

Luckily for you, there is also Santer et al (2008):

We revisit such comparisons here using new observational estimates of surface and tropospheric temperature changes. We find that there is no longer a serious discrepancy between modelled and observed trends in tropical lapse rates.

I couldn't be bothered to get into the details of the supposedly flawed statistics in the respective studies, but say I wanted to deploy Denier Tactic #2: Selectivity (cherry-picking), which one of Douglass or Santer should I chose??

Martin: Douglass et al made an elementary statistical error (confusing standard deviation and standard error) that renders their conclusions invalid. (Douglass et al. also tend to leave one with the incorrect impression that the tropospheric amplification prediction is some sort of unique signature for GHG-caused warming which, as we noted, it isn't.)

So, I would say Santer et al is closer to the mark, although one could argue that one might still be able to find a discrepancy with a stronger test (e.g, if one plotted the temperature trend normalized by the surface temperature trend, as was done in an earlier paper by Santer et al [2005?] rather than just plotting absolute temperature trends as they did in this paper). But, that would still leave the issue that the observational data has significant structural uncertainties...So, it is at least as plausible to attribute such discrepancies to problems with the data and not with the models.

Well, yes and no. The science must stand or fall on its own, but it is not unreasonable to point out when one side has a conflict of interest--especially when it is undisclosed. In such cases, it is entirely reasonable to be more skeptical of the results.

Factors such as conflicts of interest should be a part of the process in which we evaluate claims but not the end.

It is a logical fallacy if you dismiss something entirely on the basis of a conflict of interest - ie the pharma-shill gambit.

"TechSkeptic's proposed high school experiment: it will fail."

Uh, thats a problem then. If I ran this experiment, and if after debugging it (for drafts and what ever else I didnt think of when I designed the apparatus. If it still doesnt work after all that, I too would become a skeptic. The ability of CO2 to let through visible light and absorb infrar4ed is the cornerstone of the theory. so much so that Joel Shore above said it is not really part of the debate any more.

Crappy test design is different than verification of a basic part of the theory

In an isothermal atmosphere such as you would get ion a tank there is no greenhouse effect.

That makes no sense, either CO2 passes visible light and absorbs infrared or it doesnt. Now in a small tank that effect may not be measurable simply due to the total amount of CO2 present providing a very low thermal mass, that I would agree to, but the effect must exist otherwise i'm switching sides..

Perhaps the way to do it is to pressurize the tank, increasing the total amount of CO2 present.

Mr. Shore,
I disagree. One of the plays in the denialist handbook is the there is not enough CO2 to cause any change at all. It does not matter if one or 2 knowledgeable skeptics don't use that play, its is still well used and I see it often. Showing that the change in CO2 concentration does in fact have a measurable effect on temperature shows that at least that part of it is true. After that has been established, then we can start talking about positive and negative feedback systems.

I'm having a hard time believing that this test has not been done successfully. How did we find measure the infrared absorption ability of CO2 and Methane in the first place?

I've read a bit about this blog and everything. And what I'm wondering is this:

Have you got some evidence that could justify this "global warming" racket?

Surely you would have something if you were being true to the stated aims of this blog.

Tech Skeptic:
Joel Shore already pointed at the right source, Spencer Weart's fine http://www.aip.org/history/climate/co2.htm .

Search in that for "Angstrom" and read the next few paragraphs.

The original experiment was done ~1900, but as Spencer Weart says:

"He failed to understand that the logic of the experiment was altogether false."

Have you got some evidence that could justify this "global warming" racket?

Surely you would have something if you were being true to the stated aims of this blog.


I guess you just skipped over the part at the end that was headed "Evidence for AGW"?

So no-ones got anything to back up this most transparent of science frauds right?


I didn't skip over it. There just wasn't any evidence there that could justify this fraud. Since after all if we are in a brutal and pulverising ice age we ought not look any gift-horses in the mouth as it were.

So nothing at all then?

How come I can only see all but one of my posts if I've actually just finished posting? What is the deal with that?

Right I get it. "Show More Comments"

Now the thing is this. There seems to be a bit of warped Popperism going around. And there appears to be the wrong epistemological contention that one can justify ones theory, without evidence of ones own, but merely by picking holes in alternate points of view.

This cannot actually be done. A theory has to be able to stand on its own independent of the iniquities of proponents of a differing theory. The search for the truth of matters cannot be "inspected" in. Its got to be designed in by the methodology of how one goes about sorting truth from falsehead.

It cannot be discovered by a cookie-cutter approach of conjectures and refutations where the conjurer is prounouncing summary execution on alternative points of view.

Coby Becks encyclopedia of snappy comebacks and excuses for the lack of evidence isn't going to make a bad theory good.

We need to relate evidence to SPECIFIC hypotheses. And in this case we need to relate the evidence to specific hypotheses which have powerful relevance to public policy.

It is typical of denialists that they invariably content that any organization of qualified scientists is engaged in some kind of conspiracy against the truth based on political or pecuniary motives. So global warming deniers dismiss the conclusions of the IPCC on the grounds that it is a "political organization."

But of course, it doesn't stop there. Every major elite independent scientific review body that has considered the question has concluded that the evidence is adequate to conclude that global warming is real, substantially due to human CO2 emissions, and a serious global threat. These include organizations such as the US National Academy of Sciences, established as an independent organization of elite scientists by Abraham Lincoln to provide advice to the nation on critical scientific matters. Members serve pro bono, and are selected by the current membership based upon a record of major scientific achievements. Similar conclusions have been reached by the Royal Society of London, the oldest and most renowned independent scientific academy in the world.

It's all in my original post.

oh good god greame. Go to any of the links provided in the post and then go to the links at those posts. There is so much evidence for global warming its kind of a joke that denialists even bother rehashing decades old canards still.

Mashey, I see what you mean. However, I was looking for an experiment done with actual data and pictures of a test set up. Something a little more modern. I understand that the analogy is flawed due to the very reasons mentioned at your link (which is quite good BTW), i.e. true complexity of the earths climate. But clearly folks like greame here could use a simple display of the CO2 based greenhouse effect working.

trrll,

yeah but don't you know that those tens of thousands of scientists, from all those groups, are all in on the conspiracy? They are all getting rich by sucking taxpayer money for research funding. I mean really look at all those rich scientists!

Meanwhile there are obvious "real" scientists at the Heartland institute, Junkscience.com, and Cato institue who reall know what they are talking about and are not part of the conspiracy (but are still managing to take tax payer money!). Obviously.

/sarcasm

I wish the denialists could point out one single time in the history of man where a conspiracy, that involved tens of thousands of people was ever successful.

A very helpful book, that has given me some insight on the issue of climate change and global warming, is a book written by 41 experts, including the editor, John Dernbach and is titled, "Agenda for a Sustainable America." What I liked most about the book was its constructive and achievable recommendations. This is not a "gloom and doom" book. Rather, it shows specific ways we can improve the quality of our lives and those of our children.

How did we find measure the infrared absorption ability of CO2 and Methane in the first place?

Spectroscopy.

Nice article, and very well argued.

I wrote a post on a similar topic: How is a layperson to decide who is right and who is wrong about a complex topic such as climate change: Who to believe

In my list of 'clues' I included the importance of someone's motive for telling you a particular side of the story, be it on economic or ideological grounds. I'm surprised that you put the former of those two aside as invalid in your response on February 10, 2009 at 07:17 AM. Of course, it is not solid evidence by any means, but it should raise an eyebrow.

Graeme Bird - "Have you got some evidence that could justify this "global warming" racket?"

That would be hard since there is no "racket", but I suppose you missed all the links under "Evidence for AGW"?

Reply to my own post - Nevermind, I see you already parrot the endlessly debunked talking points of deniers.

You can also observe other planes flying in the air to confirm whether they actuall work. If you observed that the planes crashed every flight, then you would be justified in not trusting those who claim the planes work.

Trust is how eugenics became consensus science, skepticism is how Galileo broke the church.

anon: Calling oneself a "skeptic" doesn't make one really is a skeptic. I have met very few people who call themselves "skeptics" on AGW who are actually skeptics in the real sense of the term. In practice, what they actually seem to mean is that almost no argument against AGW (or for an alternate hypothesis) is too stupid for them to embrace and no evidence for AGW is compelling enough for them to accept.

John Mashey's reference is a very good one; read it.

Also -- a particularly lucid explanation of the greenhouse effect (addressing the point raised by TechSkeptic) may be found in David Archer's Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast.
Briefly, it goes like this:


1) If you know total insolation and the earth's emissivity and albedo, you also know, from the Stefan-Boltzmann relationship, the effective temperature of the earth: T=((1-alpha)*Iin/(4*epsilon*sigma))^1/4. This temperature only depends on the earth's reflective and radiative properties, and is influenced only indirectly by greenhouse gas concentrations.


2) The effective temperature of the earth is deemed to be its skin temperature, as if radiation exchange happened at the skin of a balloon. In the real atmosphere, radiation is reflected, absorbed and re-radiated by various gases, at their respective concentrations and altitudes. All those exchanges balance at an idealized altitude called (you guessed it) the skin altitude.


3) In an incompressible atmosphere, the temperature would be the same top to bottom and the earth's surface would be at the skin temperature. In a compressible atmosphere, temperature drops with altitude, and (here's the key point) that is why we have a greenhouse effect. The effect of increasing greenhouse gas concentration is to increase the average IR absorptivity of the atmosphere, and thus to raise the skin altitude. Since the skin temperature is already known, we can slide back down the altitude-temperature profile defined by the lapse rate, and find the temperature of the surface. Higher skin altitude, higher surface temperature.


That's why TechSkeptic's proposed experiment will not replicate the greenhouse effect. The equilibrium temperature of a fishtank atmosphere will depend only on the strength of the radiation source and the tank's emissivity and albedo.


I hope all of the above makes sense.

In a compressible atmosphere, temperature drops with altitude, and (here's the key point) that is why we have a greenhouse effect.

Well that makes sense as does point #1 where the temp outside the atmosphere is required to be different than that of the earth (i.e. there must be a delta T).

however both the relative pressure and delta T could be modeled in an experiment. Yeah, we are outside of a highschool experiment and it is not a fishtank, but a rather long pressure vessel. However, the argument I am trying to get at the is argument from incredulity by people who do not have climatological science backgrounds much less science backgrounds at all, that the 40% change in a gas that represents less than 1% of our atmosphere is big enough to cause a significant temperature shift.

I remain surprised that this strong effect has not been verified experimentally. Perhaps it has.


Thanks for that though.

TechSkeptic:

In response to the point about CO2 being such a small component, there are a few things to point out:

(1) Since 99% of the atmosphere consists of molecules that don't absorb infrared radiation at all, the 1% that do play a disproportionate role in affecting the climate.

(2) It also turns out that over a large range of concentrations, the effect of a greenhouse gas is logarithmic in its concentration (although the magnitude of the effect is also different for each gas, depending on what wavelengths it absorbs). This again means that even gases with quite low concentrations can have a disproportionate effect on the climate.

(3) It doesn't take that much of an effect to cause a temperature shift that is significant as far as we are concerned. For example, the difference in global temperatures between the last ice age and now was about 5 or 6 C, which corresponds to a change of only about 2% in absolute temperature but obviously had a big impact on our climate.

Tech Skeptic,

Let me back up just a little. I suppose it should be possible to have a tank of CO2 in an infrared-transparent container suspended in space next to a block containing only ambient air at a comparable pressure, such that the CO2 talk absorbed more infrared.

This is not exactly the same as the greenhouse effect for a number of reasons. For one, this will eventually saturate once you have a sufficient optical depth in the cube, while the greenhouse effect does not saturate, which accounts for conditions on Venus.

I estimate you would need approximately pure (90% would do fine) CO2 at something like standard temperature and pressure in a one meter cube to get something on the order of a watt, assuming everything else is perfect.

A major engineering effort might create a warming barely noticeable to the touch.

This would not be easy or spectacular, nor would it really prove anything besides absorption spectra in CO2.

The atmosphere has the advantage over you in that it is very deep and has layers at multiple temperatures which interact radiatively. Increasing CO2 decreases the communication between layers. Since the atmosphere is largely heated from below (sunlight striking the surface) this amounts to a blanket, trapping more of the escaping heat below for a given temperature profile. This puts the earth out of equilibrium with space, so heat builds up until the profile emits enough to satisfy the balance condition.

Even if it heats up a little, your tank won't be doing that.

Darn, I had just gone to all the trouble of writing up the below when Michael beat me to it, and more pithily. On the plus side I have advance confirmation that I wasn't completely wrong. :) For the sake of posterity, here it is anyway:

IIRC the papers calculating the absorption wavelengths date to the '50s and so are not on-line. I think Eli Rabbett has posted on this, but as a logical shortcut consider e.g. that CO2 lasers do indeed work.

I think another way of putting the problem with the CO2 warming tabletop experiment is that even using pure CO2 the temp difference one would expect to detect (given that the box would be constantly dumping its heat to its surroundings) would be so small as to be impossible to measure, bearing in mind that the expected warming is very small indeed. Probably the key point is that whatever set-up one could do would bear little resemblance to the real atmosphere.

But what we're probably really interested in here is whether CO2 in fact absorbs and emits photons at the specified wavelengths, and (ignoring the CO2 laser shortcut) that's something that can be measured at home (albeit probably with an expensive spectrometer) just as it was in labs in the '50s.

That having been done, I don't think it's much of a leap to saying that the CO2 will behave no differently in the atmosphere. How much the ocean-atmosphere system will then warm under a given CO2 increase scenario is a vastly more complicated question, but as Michael never tires of pointing out that's why the modelers make the big bucks. :)

The day you run out of things to blog about is the day that the world becomes a better place.

OK, going backwards:

Deep, you are an idiot

Steve:
I dont really feel like collating the evolution of the experiment I am proposing here, but if you read above you'll see that I was talking about a well insulted tank (so heat leaking out should not be a problem) a tall pressure vessel that is forced to have a large temperature gradient across it (by cooling the top end) and at pressure to increase the thermal mass of the gas inside the tank. I think (but am not sure) that this should address most of the issues you are talking about for an experiment to be done that shows that small changes in concentration of CO2 can in fact lead to large temperature changes at the bottom surface. I agree this is no longer a high school table top experiment.

I understand the spectrometer. However I have a PhD in engineering, I fully understand many scientific concepts and how we can extrapolate information from one set of test or other scenarios. However this is not the case for most of the world. I am looking for a specific test that puts to bed the incredulity found with respect to small changes in CO2 concentration in our atmosphere.

Micheal: I am not thinking of a test done at STP because we need to model the thermal mass of the entire column of air between the surface of the earth and space. If it really take 90% CO2 to show a change in temperature of the bottom surface, this is a problem.

Joel: Even water has some absorption in the infrared although not at the same wavelengths as CO2 (this is one of the denialist talking points, that there is far more water as greenhouse gas up there than there is CO2, completely ignoring the magnitude of the greenhouse effect of each gas). If what you say in 2 and 3 are true, then the pressure vessel proposal I am describing should show the greenhouse effect properly, no?

So in fact none of you have any evidence then?

We wanted

1. evidence for the likelihood of castastrophic warming.

2. Evidence for the idea that a little bit of human-induced is a bad thing in a brutal and pulverising ice age.

3. Evidence that industrial-CO2 release warms the climate by a non-negligible amount.

Evidence has to be related to a specific hypothesis for it to be evidence. And of course for this racket to NOT be science fraud the evidence would have to relate to RELEVANT hypotheses that relate to the policy demands of the energy-deprivation-crusade.

Now it appears that most of you have fallen for this racket though you have no such evidence. Which is pretty embarrassing when it comes down to it.

Graeme: Creationists don't believe that there is evidence for evolution either. We are not going to convince you that there is evidence for AGW. There are big scientific reports and hundreds of scientific papers out there that you can read on this if you want. However, you prefer to remain ignorant and pollute the internet with your nonsense. I have visited your blog and see no reason to deal with an extreme ideologue as disconnected from reality as you are.

TechSkeptic: First, I think you are a bit naive if you think that you can come up with some sort of "killer" experiment to convince the denialists. Graeme Bird is a good example of them...They won't believe evidence right in front of their noses. Over at Anthony Watts' blog, I have been trying to explain to them how the myth that Hansen once was arguing for global cooling is a fabrication ... The evidence for this is clean and clear and yet most of them seem to be refusing to give up their myth. They are simply too wedded to it. Second, even with a temperature gradient, you are missing an important piece of the greenhouse effect, which is the change in the pressure with height...I.e., the level from which the atmosphere effectively radiates is determined by this.

So, to summarize, as the experiment on that NASA Glory page that someone linked to discusses, one can apparently easily demonstrate the ability of CO2 to absorb infrared radiation and warm a container as a consequence. (I was actually surprised that this effect would be as easy to measure as they claim but I am willing to at least tentatively believe them.) However, to reproduce enough of the greenhouse effect to satisfy most so-called "skeptics" will be impossible. Because, they will always be able to rightly argue that the situation in that atmosphere is somehow different...which, of course, would only not be true if you make your experimental apparatus the entire earth (which is what we are effectively doing, of course). No model of the climate system or experiment simulating the climate system will be perfect and therefore the unconvinceable will remain unconvinced! (And, frankly, I think that at this point most of those who remain "skeptics" are unconvinceable, although I suppose it still doesn't stop me from trying.)

1. evidence for the likelihood of castastrophic warming.

2. Evidence for the idea that a little bit of human-induced is a bad thing in a brutal and pulverising ice age.

3. Evidence that industrial-CO2 release warms the climate by a non-negligible amount.

OK, first, if had answers to all this would you actually change your mind, or would you simply move goal posts?

1) you only have to look at the past to see the effects of large temperature changes. almost no scientist thinks that AGWE is the end of the world. But you precious economy is likely to be ruined, not to mention the suffering of billions of people. For the exact evidence, I recommend a book called "Ice, Mud and Blood: Lessons from Climates Past (Macmillan Science)"

We do not have to have anthropomorphic global warming to know the effects of global warming.

2)I have no idea how to respond to that one since it is so wrong on some many levels with so few words. Maybe you need to back up the numerous claims you made there? What pulverizing ice age? Isnt that a relative statement? What do you mean by "little"?

3) We have a good correlation particularly since the historical 800 year lag is gone. That is evidence, though I agree its not all the evidence, and taken alone is not enough. which is why all the other evidence mentioned in this article and elsewhere goes along with it. To me, the disappearance of the lag, and the continued rise of ocean Ph with rise of Co2 concentration are strong enough to start taking action. There is no denialist explanation for those symptoms that I have heard of. Here are the other reasons I think we should act towards AGW.

Joel,

I'm not looking for a silver bullet. Don't be silly. I'm looking for something more tangable than a bunch of computer simulations that I can point at to tackle the presumption, that greame showed in such a timely way, the small changes in CO2 can lead to large changes in temperature. Not everyone is married to their denialist POV and a demonstration of a prediction is a good tool. not all AGW sceptics are denialists.

Besides you could still modify the test by putting a few separators in the pressure vessel and having different pressures in each section. These layers would have to be made of something that transmits both infrared and visible light and absorbs very little of each. I'm not sure what material that is. But at least with that set up you could show that a pressure difference along the length of the vessel actually makes the warming worse.

Yes I think these claims of AGW are testable. I think we should demonstrate it as a matter of good science, even if they are not all encompassing. I think we should make computer models that predict the response of this test set up, and then verify those computer models as evidence that our modeling skills are good enough.

Of course I know that denialists will just move goalposts. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't validate our models and perform a reality check every once in a while.

And again, perhaps all this was done, I am certainly not aware of all the testing that has been done to date.

We do not have to have anthropomorphic global warming to know the effects of global warming.

Anthropomorphic global warming? You nitpick me, I'll nitpick you - it's a form of primate grooming. ;)

I'm looking for something more tangable than a bunch of computer simulations that I can point at to tackle the presumption, that greame showed in such a timely way, the small changes in CO2 can lead to large changes in temperature.

Well, if you want to demonstrate the effect of CO2 specifically, that's very hard. However, you can easily demonstrate the general principle that very small changes to a system in dynamic equilibrium can result in large changes in the final equilibrium point. Take a 2 or 3 litre plastic bottle, punch a small X-shaped hole near the bottom with a sharp knife, and stick it under the tap, running water in through the neck. This is a very simple system in dynamic equilibrium, as the rate at which water flows out of the hole at the bottom is dependant on the level of water in the bottle. Try and adjust the flow so that the water level at equilibrium is exactly half-way up the bottle - you'll find that it's virtually impossible, because the tiniest change in the flow rate results in a much larger shift in the equilibrium point. Now imagine that, instead of a single hole, you have a bunch of holes of varying sizes at various heights above the bottom of the bottle, several different taps and a bunch of float valves which change the flow rate of the each tap depending on the water level, and that you can only adjust one of them - now you're starting to appreciate some of the complexity of the feedback mechanisms involved in climate and why a tiny variation in any one of them can have dramatic effects on the system as a whole.

However, I can't say whether anyone will be prepared to accept and understand the analogy. Given my past experiences, I'd guess not...

yes a classic controls problem! still you are right, its too big of a jump. however this lack of a concrete set of experiments is why ithink many poeple have trouble with AnthropoGENIC GW. Its like evolution, you can't really show it in a lab very easily (thank you Dr. Lenski!)

I'm looking for a set of Lenski experiments for AGW.

Even if you could demonstrate it in the lab, they'd just whine that it's not representative of the real world and that you fudged the experiment - just like the creationists do with Lenski's experiments.

Yes, but as I said, not all skeptics are denialists. We dont need to do science for denialists. But we should verify our methods and provide evidence for those folks who are interested in see it.

Techsceptic... in addressing Graeme's 1,2,3 questions (which is exacly the debate I've had recently with the man at Jen Mahorasy's blog very recently)... point 2 is to point at the long term temperature record indicating that we are currently in an interglacial period of a prolonged ice age... which is true. the response to your post, predictably, will lampoon you for denying the fundamentals of historical climate. Of course the words brutal and pulverising are his own... I reply by looking outside and not seeing much pulverising going on... in effect he takes a timescale that is irrelevent to the era of human existence and development, rather than observe the obvious that rather than being in a brutal and pulverising ice age we are actually at a point in time that has created the perfect conditions for our species and many others to thrive.

The thought process then follows is that since we are in a fractionally warm period that allows life, in the midst of what is actually a brutal and pulverising ice age, and the planet is actually trending back down to the more brutal and pulverising phase, then surely adding a but of CO2, if it did raise temps, would be great as it would allow a bit more time for humans to thrive, rather than be plunged to the depths of cold.

I think the implication is that climate science is somehow pig-ignorant of this plain to see imminent plummet back to glacial conditions.

:)

Its also similar to the folks who think its OK to pumo out all the fossils fuels from the ground and inject the carbon into the air.

The thinking is: it was there before and life survived, why should it be bad now?

I always ask what the human population was and how the economy of the various nations were doing at the time.

So no evidence at all then? Isn't this taking human denialism and contempt for science to the ultimate extreme? You true believers have no evidence of your own but just to push the denialism still further you pretend that your opponents are "denialists". You get that shot off pre-emptively.

I wasn't using an irrelevant timescale as one of you erroneously suggest. Interglacials last only about 10 000 years on average and since we have been cooling for about 5000 years clearly we are on the downhill swing. The last "little-ice-age" wasn't a pleasant time and neither will be the next one or the one after that. Hence you were simply being foolish when you claimed my time-scale was out. There appears to be no evidence that a little bit of human-induced warming is a bad thing during a brutal and pulverising ice age.

In fact obviously a little bit of human-induced warming is obviously, except for an incredible idiot, a GOOD THING during a brutal and pulverising ice age. There was a time not long ago when you would have to search all around town to find anyone so mentally afflicted as to want to look a gift-horse like that in the mouth. The only problem being that you cannot find evidence for the idea that industrial-CO2 is causing even a little bit of this human-induced warmth.

The idea that there are 1000's of scientific reports with this evidence in them is a straight lie. You might have thought we were after lies. But what I really wanted was evidence.

Have you got any? Or is it going to just be endless filibuster?

Isn't this taking human denialism and contempt for science to the ultimate extreme?

That does seem to be an accurate assessment of your comments thus far, yes.

No you are lying skemono.

Now do you have that evidence or are you in fact BOTH in denial and projecting that denial onto rational people?

The latter conclusion is obvious if you cannot make good with the evidence.

GO!!!!

Cripes graeme click a link, many have been provided for you. Stop being an idiot.

Graeme - I don;t have the answer to this, but it would be interesting to look at:

1) Accepting that at some stage in the future the earth probably will head back in to a particularly brutal and pulverising stage of this brutal and pulverising ice age.
2) Seeing if there is in fact any amount of greenhouse gases that could be put in to the atmosphere by humans to resist that pull to brutality and pulverisation.

That is my point about irrelevant timescales... returning to a glacial phase is clearly something that will happen because of non-human climate forcings - and I doubt that any amount of CO2 would do much against those kind of influences. But I don't know to be honest.

As a lurker (all right troll,) it seems obvious after reading this string that "the science isn't settled".

In fact I can't find one comment referring to the ongoing Ibuki, CLOUD or ARGO experiments. Or indeed any ongoing studies.

These 3 experiments above, in the case of Ibuki at least, will take up to 5 years, but will give definitive answers on the distribution of CO2 and CH3, cloud/cosmic ray interaction and sea temperatures.

In addition, it seems that the menage between science, politics and economics has become seriously unstuck, and that consensus at Copenhagen is looking doubtful.

With the scientific and political uncertainty abounding perhaps a truce needs to be called. After all, so what for China/India if global temperatures increase by a degree or sea level rises by a centimetre over the next 20 years ?

Would/should they or their citizens give a toss ? Or would they rather their kids did their homework with electic lighting rather than candles ?

You don't have a point about relative timescales you dummy. We have been cooling for 5000 years. Interglacials tend to last around 10 000 years. So you point about timescales just wasn't there mate. You didn't get it from out of your own head because no two people could be that fucking stupid. Clearly you must have got it from coby becks pathetic excuses for not having any fucking evidence.

No people this an embarrassment. You have all been pimped, stooged and violated.

Being a skeptic used to be about learning to think for yourself. Now the whole thing has been flipped on its head.

No way could you have realistically come up with an idea so stupid as the one that says that I'm using the wrong time scale.

I'm not.

Do you understand that.

It was a fucking stupid thing to say in the first place.

From here on in. If things go to normal pattern. We will have one new "little-ice-age" after another. And each one will have a more than 50% chance of being worse than the last. If thats the normal pattern how can you be so fucking dumb as to say I'm talking about the wrong timescale.

How you blew it, and made such a cunt of yourself is you simply did not THING for yourself.

So lets get this right.

All of you have made a fool of yourself. If you hadn't you would have good evidence for me. Or for you or for anyone who asked.

So you are all just going to find some evidence or you are going to fucking act like grownups and admit that you were wrong.

So, are you going to find some evidence that Bad Astronomy is an anti-science blog, or that Phil Plait is an anti-science nutball or are you going to act like a grownup and admit that you were wrong?

MattB said:

2) Seeing if there is in fact any amount of greenhouse gases that could be put in to the atmosphere by humans to resist that pull to brutality and pulverisation.

Actually, I think the current thinking is that we have already put more than enough greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to prevent this, at least over the "near term" of thousand of years. The current thinking is also that the current interglacial likely would have been quite long-lived because of the way the orbital parameters are now (basically, the ellipticity of the earth's orbit being so small)...See, for example, this Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_Age :

The Earth has been in an interglacial period known as the Holocene for more than 11,000 years. It was conventional wisdom that "the typical interglacial period lasts about 12,000 years," but this has been called into question recently. For example, an article in Nature[10] argues that the current interglacial might be most analogous to a previous interglacial that lasted 28,000 years. Predicted changes in orbital forcing suggest that the next glacial period would begin at least 50,000 years from now, even in absence of human-made global warming [11]

I think I never completely understood what all this talk about "trolls" meant until I saw Graeme Bird's posts on this thread. It boggles my mind to try to figure out what he believes he is accomplishing by his outbursts other than displaying his ignorance for all to see.

But, since even the worst student gives an opportunity for a teaching moment, I can't resist commenting on this:

You don't have a point about relative timescales you dummy. We have been cooling for 5000 years. Interglacials tend to last around 10 000 years.

A typical rate of warming from glacials to interglacials has been at about 0.1 C per century. And, the rate of cooling from interglacials to glacials seems to be, if anything, slower (presumably at least in part because ice sheets can break up by nonlinear processes more rapidly than they can form by accumulation). That is much smaller than the rates of change that we are expecting over the next 100 years due to AGW.

And, as is noted, current scientific understanding of the orbital oscillations that trigger the ice age - interglacial cycles is that this interglacial is likely not an "average" interglacial but one that likely would have, left to its own devices, have lasted much longer than the average one.

There is a alternate hypothesis due to William Ruddiman (see the same Wiki page for reference or here: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=how-did-humans-first-alte ) that we are indeed overdue for an ice age but that early humans averted it starting about 8000 years ago when the switch toward agrarian societies resulted in some modest rises of CO2 and methane levels. Strangely, a few AGW "skeptics" embraced this hypothesis since it made humans into "the good guys" in regards to climate. However, the actual fact is that for Ruddiman to be correct would require a climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases that is at or above the upper end of the IPCC likely range. (Note that I said above that the amount of greenhouse gases we have emitted since the industrial revolution is believed to be enough to forestall another ice age but Ruddiman is arguing that much more modest increases as a result of these land use changes were already enough!!!)

Bird:

I deleted your last comment due to the repeated extreme and unnecessary obscenities. In the comment guidelines I say occasional F words are OK but don't go overboard. That's quite plain. Clean your language up pal - any more like that and you'll be banned.

Lets have some evidence skeptico or can you stop describing yourself as a skeptic. I find it totally offensive that you would act this dishonestly. A skeptic does not believe things that he can find no evidence for.

"And, as is noted, current scientific understanding of the orbital oscillations that trigger the ice age - interglacial cycles is that this interglacial is likely not an "average" interglacial but one that likely would have, left to its own devices, have lasted much longer than the average one."

No thats not right. Current understanding is that its already lasted somewhat longer than usual. You are basing the above of some speculative essay that barely made a case and that received undue prominence due to the global warming racket. Pull it up and you'll see what I mean. One little study and people are pretending we've got 30 000 years to go based on very little.

The article didn't imply at all that there wouldn't be a series of "little-ice-ages" each one with a greater than 50% chance of being more severe than the last. That would be the normal assumption and thats what we ought to assume. The specifics of the Malinkovitch cycle seem to imply that we might have a bit of luck on our sides and the downslide could well be less severe. Giving us more time to deal with things. But this is all conjecture. We ought to go with what we know. And what we know is that we've been on a 5000 year downslide and if nothing emerges that changes matters thats where we are set to continue.

So far we have seen that the effect of CO2 must be small-negative or small-positive or very very slow acting..... The latter could only really be the case if it were serendipitous in its actions. Like if it worked just enough in the cold dry air in conjunction with wind to retard glacial advance in some way.

In all cases from what we know then, if the CO2 has a slight positive warming effect IT IS CLEARLY A GOOD THING.

Its not going to save us from this new little-ice age we are about to slip into. But if we are lucky and it is a net positive effect well obviously we ought to just throw a street party.

The Swedish fellow who formulated the flat earth model this is based on (Arrenhius) thought it would be a good thing to stave off glaciation. This is because he wasn't a lunatic.

So what is the matter with the rest of you. Arrenhius would be rolling in his grave right now.

Everyone:

I just banned Graeme Bird for being a troll. 11 comments in the last hour alone on four separate posts now. It's just getting ridiculous. He's obviously not interested in real debate, just on being obnoxious. And I've got better things to do.

If he breaks the IP blocking and manages to post anyway, I would like to ask everyone not to reply. His posts will be deleted eventually anyway, and your replies won't make any sense when the thing you're replying to are not there any more. Thanks.

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