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Are You a Global Warming Skeptic? Part II
Scientific American ^ | March 17, 2006 | George Musser

Posted on 03/18/2006 6:04:59 AM PST by beavus

The airing of doubts about global warming that I solicited last week has been remarkable: 169 blog comments (albeit with some repeats) and a number of private emails (including one from a college suitemate and engineering classmate I haven't seen in 18 years). I started the whole discussion because I felt communication on an important scientific issue had broken down, and I figure the best way to make sure we've reconnected the wires is to try and summarize what everyone has been saying. That way, you can correct me if I've misunderstood, misclassified, or just plain missed something. Later, I can take a stab at analyzing the comments and answering some of the requests for further reading, and I hope the discussion will continue from there.

The two most common arguments were:

* Climate has varied naturally long before humans ever arrived on the scene, so it seems likely that the present trends are simply a continuation of that.

* The prediction of global warming is just another instance of doomsaying, which has proved so wrong in the past.


I've organized the comments into categories. Obviously there is some overlap among them.

I. Warming may not actually be occurring. Most respondents seemed to agree that the global average temperature is rising, but some did not. Their doubts hinged mostly on the reliability of temperature and CO2 reconstructions.

A. This past winter was so cold. Where's the warming?

B. The hockey-stick graph, which suggests the present warming trend is historically anomalous, is flawed. One respondent said it "has been proven false by many papers." Others worried that, at least, it downplays the natural variability in climate.

C. The ice core data, one of the ways used to reconstruct past climate conditions, are dubious. They may not represent the global paleoclimate because they sample only a few locations; they appear to contradict the paleobotanic (leaf stomata) data; and they cannot be meaningfully compared with modern surface temperature readings, because they are distinct data sets.

D. Ground temperature readings are subject to systematic errors such as the urban heat island effect. One respondent went further and complained that the Climatic Research Unit raw temperature data are "kept under wraps," so outside observers cannot verify that selection effects were properly accounted for.

E. Ground temperature readings contradict satellite measurements.

F. Reports of changes in polar climate are anecdotal and could be localized effects.

II. The present warming could be a natural uptick. Respondents pointed out that climate conditions fluctuate because of volcanism, the obliquity cycle, changes in solar output, and internal (chaotic) variability. Why, they asked, do climate scientists attribute all pre-industrial fluctuations to such natural causes and all industrial-age ones to anthropogenic ones? One respondent put it this way: "Every time I read that we have had 'the hottest summer in 100 years' I wonder what caused that hot summer 100 years ago."

A. It could be a rebound from the Little Ice Age or indeed the last Pleistocene glaciation.

B. It correlates "nearly perfectly" with solar output.

C. It could be explained by variations in cloud cover, which alter how much sunlight the planet absorbs. The cloud cover could, in turn, be explained by variations in cosmic ray flux, modulated by solar magnetic cycles.

D. It could be explained by decreases in Earth's magnetic field strength.

E. It could be explained by natural methane sources, ranging from termites to the recently discovered aerobic processes in plants.

F. It could be partly anthropogenic, but the natural variability is larger. A number of respondents argued that it is hubris to suggest that humanity could have such a large effect on the planet. "Many people seem to have a very exaggerated view of how significant we---and our activities---are," one wrote.

III. CO2 emissions cannot explain the warming. This is complementary to the previous item on natural causes, but I broke it out because respondents offered such a variety of hypotheses for why CO2 cannot cause warming.

A. Negative feedbacks stabilize the climate system against the direct effect of added CO2. One respondent wrote: "The Earth's ecosystem is far too robust to be affected by this minor change [in CO2 levels over the past century]."

B. If CO2 drove climate, changes in gas levels should be followed by changes in temperature. Yet paleoclimate data show the opposite: temperature changes first, then the gas levels.

C. In modern times, temperature and CO2 have been only weakly correlated. For instance, there have been long periods of declining temperatures even as CO2 levels have risen. Climate scientists attribute this to masking by aerosol cooling, but their explanation struck many respondents as ad hoc. Also, most human emissions came after 1950, yet the rise in temperature started earlier.

D. High CO2 levels earlier in geologic history (for example, during the late Ordovician) did not correlate with high temperatures.

E. CO2 is a pittance compared to water vapor. By one estimate, it can cause only 0.2% to 0.3% of the warming.

F. The greenhouse effect has "saturated"---further CO2 input does not increase it.

G. No one has done lab experiments to study CO2 absorption.

H. If CO2 causes warming, then the warmed air should rise, reducing air pressure at the surface. That is not observed. The correspondent who raised this objection cited Marcel Leroux's "Mobile Polar Highs" theory.

I. Although CO2 may be a factor, rising levels of this gas are due not to emissions but to reduced uptake by the oceans (perhaps caused by a diminished phytoplankton population).

IV. Climate models are unconvincing. In this category, I put the argument that, whatever the inherent plausibility of anthropogenic global warming, climate scientists have yet to present a solid case. The concerns here revolve around the inability of models to capture the complexity of the climate system.

A. The correlation of CO2 levels with temperature is not causation.

B. Weather forecasting is so unreliable. How could long-term climate forecasting be any better?

C. The range of model predictions is wide, casting doubt on their reliability.

D. Models can't even predict El Nino.

E. Models can't even explain past data. One respondent wrote: "Claiming the models can predict climate is either wishful thinking, ignorance or deceit." Others were more circumspect. One of the few respondents to say what could change their minds wrote: "I'd like to see environmental data from the 1970s fed into today's climate models and the 'predictions' match what actually happened." Another asked whether models can explain climate over geologic time.

F. Models are not proof. They can be used to prove anything. Being non-falsifiable, they are not really science.

G. The burden of proof rests with those claiming anthropogenic warming. Because mitigating climate change would entail huge costs, and because past warming episodes have been natural, it is up to climate scientists to dispel all reasonable doubts---not to climate skeptics to prove them wrong.

V. Warming is a good thing, so we shouldn't try to stop it. The arguments here varied from specific benefits of warming to general reassurances that Earth and its inhabitants have done just fine in earlier periods of warming.

A. It will increase humidity in tropical deserts and improve the lot of high-latitude regions.

B. Higher CO2 levels encourage plant growth, and that's good.

C. Sea level will rise gradually enough that we can readily adapt. The example the respondent gave was beachfront property. Its value will gradually decline as sea levels gradually rise, encouraging a move farther inland over the usual cycle of property investment.

D. Historically, humanity has done better during periods of warmer climate.

E. For most of its history, Earth has been warmer than today. The idea is that global warming is nothing to fear because it merely takes us back to a more natural set of conditions. Animals and plants seemed to do just fine in those periods of warm climate. One respondent wrote: "Our present chilly climate is the aberration when judged on a geological time scale." Over geologic time, the global mean temperature is 22 degrees C, versus today's 15.5 degrees C.

F. It staves off the next glaciation, which we're due for.

G. Claims that global warming has worsened storm damage, or will do so, are overblown. If storm damage seems to have increased, it is simply because more people live in storm-prone regions and their plight is more widely publicized than before.

H. Attempts to stop global warming would do more damage they than avert. Warming might be bad, but it is better than the alternative, be it Kyoto or some other mitigation strategy. The underlying assumption here is that the null strategy---letting the economy adopt non-carbon energy sources as commodity prices dictate, without any explicit reference to global warming---carries the least costs.

VI. Kyoto is useless, or worse. Many of the complaints were specific to the Kyoto Protocol, which sets up a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases.

A. It would bankrupt us. One correspondent said Kyoto mandates "a practically unlimited expenditure of effort (and money, naturally)."

B. Even it would not bankrupt us per se, it would divert resources from other, better-established priorities.

C. It would reduce warming by a meager 0.02 degrees C.

D. It exempts developing countries, whose emissions intensity and growth rates are much higher than those of developed countries.

E. People may claim to support it, but their energy-wasting habits belie their true sentiments.

VII. People who argue that human activity causes global warming can't be trusted. Now we get to what seems to be the single biggest complaint: doubts as to the competence or motivation of scientists and others who accept anthropogenic climate change. Many respondents perceive scientists as jumping to conclusions, haughtily dismissing doubters, refusing to take the time to explain things, and adopting absolutist positions. One respondent wrote: "What data would convince me? I don't know if data is the problem as much as needing to perceive an objective voice." Cataloging these complaints has been hard, but here is my attempt.

A. Climate scientists have lost their credibility by making bad calls.

1. They used to predict an imminent ice age.

2. They falsely attributed the ozone hole to CFCs. The respondent who raised this point wrote that the ozone hole was clearly not due to CFCs because it began to recede before CFCs were phased out.

3. They uncritically accepted the hockey-stick graph, which was clearly "fraudulent" from the start.

4. They are guilty of doomsaying, which has been so consistently wrong in the past.

5. They were too quick to connect last year's hurricane season with global warming.

B. Climate scientists behave unscientifically.

1. They ignore contrary data and alternative explanations. Respondents complained that climate scientists are guilty of groupthink. For them to admit they might be wrong would hurt their reputation and funding chances, so they tend to cling to positions with a fervor that the data do not justify. The IPCC was said to seek out evidence that supports its preconceived conclusion. Similarly, people complained that scientific journals do not publish contrary data, presumably because of negative peer reviews by dogmatic climate scientists.

2. They are arrogant. Researchers, wrote one respondent, "go ballistic if anyone voices doubt." Another said: "A person with doubts, or simply unanswered questions, is shut out of the debate. One can only ask questions when it is phrased with unwavering support for warming."

3. They have let themselves get caught up in activists' agendas.

4. They themselves have an activist agenda. Respondents were suspicious that global climate change fits a little too conveniently into a certain environmentalist narrative that holds that humans can do no good (least of all if those humans are Republicans). Moreover, respondents said that if taken at face value, global warming seems to demand Soviet-style government action, which is problematic in its own right and a sign that the hypothesis is ideologically motivated. Because the U.S. is often singled out for its policies, there is a whiff of anti-Americanism, too.

5. They have a financial interest in global warming. Now we're starting to get into more serious accusations that scientists push global warming because it helps them curry favor with granting agencies. One person wrote: "There are no grants available to disprove global warming.... [Researchers] gather at government's teats for monetary nourishment, telling mommy whatever she wants to hear." Kyoto, too, has created vested interests and a strong incentive to "massage data."

C. Activists and journalists have gone overboard.

1. Experts do not, in fact, argue that humanity is the main cause of global warming.

2. The media sensationalizes warming. It focuses on worst-case scenarios and presents tenative research as definitive.

3. Scientific American lost its own credibility on the subject when it printed a one-sided critique of Lomborg's book. One respondent claimed that the magazine "threatened legal action to stifle debate" about Lomborg's book.

So there you have it. Let me know whether you think I've been fair, and I'll try to fix it up.

TOPICS: Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: globalwarming; stateoffear
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To: beavus

The pop. of earth has risen from 1+Billion to 6 Billion, yet tese turdbuckets NEVER mention the CO² emissions of ALL mammals on earth???? Bravo Sierra!!!

21 posted on 03/18/2006 6:52:50 AM PST by Waco
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To: beavus

Are You a Global Warming Skeptic?

No, I'm a cynic.

"global warming" is a wedge issue, period.

Designed to divide the general public and confiscate wealth to be used to continue the "debate" and conduct "studies"

22 posted on 03/18/2006 6:55:48 AM PST by WhiteGuy ("Every Generation needs a new revolution" - Jefferson)
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To: beavus
A good article, I think. It presents what the author avers are summaries of the responses he got to his questions.

I am reminded of an old Bugs Bunny cartoon (I can't remember if it was on film or in print).

Dramatic personae:

Laboratory Rabbit: Bugs Bunny
White Coated Scientist: Elmer Fudd

Several Scenes where the rabbit is presented with a choice of two foods: A large carrot and a small carrot. The rabbit repeatedly chooses the small carrot.

Scientist asks rabbit, "Wabbit, why do you keep choosing the smaller cawwit?"

Rabbit: "Because if I took the bigger one, you'd stop bringing me cawwits!"

The lesson?

If the scientists slopping at the public trough ever admitted that there is no scientific basis to their repeated claims of anthropomorphic climate changes -- they'd lose their funding!

What we have is the repeating absurdity of climate modelers continually presenting their latest tweaks -- only to be upstaged by skeptics pointing out what these geniuses missed -- followed by a new cycle of "corrected" models.

If the science behind Kyoto was so good, then why do the proponents have to continually revise their models to take account of the factors they missed on the previous go-around?

What we never hear is an admission that their previous models were flawed and that the Kyoto accord was based on flawed data and flawed models. Instead, we continually hear, "We got it right THIS TIME!"

What a hoot!

Norman Rogers
23 posted on 03/18/2006 6:56:05 AM PST by Norman Rogers
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To: Baynative
It is sometimes interesting as a separate matter to follow chains of thought, but there is a danger in not separating the idea from the person.
24 posted on 03/18/2006 6:58:49 AM PST by beavus (Hussein's war. Bush's response.)
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To: beavus
He only alludes to the use of "global warming" as a [hockey] stick whose main purpose is to jealousy attack the US.

And in the same vein, he fails enumerate all of the other moonbat "causes" that seek to use "global warming" as the
reason to get their agendas implemented, such as PETA.

25 posted on 03/18/2006 7:02:51 AM PST by Calvin Locke
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To: beavus

...and danger in not separating the thing from its label.

26 posted on 03/18/2006 7:04:04 AM PST by (The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense.)
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Comment #27 Removed by Moderator

To: Roccus
Obviously Mars was inhabited by conservative LGM.

LGMs who play with Little Green Footballs?


28 posted on 03/18/2006 7:07:22 AM PST by DuncanWaring (The Lord uses the good ones; the bad ones use the Lord.)
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To: beavus
If someone really believes that global warming is a crisis they will demand replacing coal plants with nuke ones as fast as possible. I will walk arm in arm with him.

If he does not support this, but instead advocates mandates for solar power, windmills, electric cars or monorails, he's a phony and should be ignored.

29 posted on 03/18/2006 7:09:27 AM PST by Tribune7
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To: beavus
I believe that the left wing enviornazis blame global warming on mankind and this is simply not true, they use the issue to block all forms of oil and nuclear power plants that would supply the next generation needs sufficiently because the EPA is staffed with marxist one world order fascists who hate American sovereignty. The fools despise our nation and the children's interests because they are arrogant elitist fools who don't know what and why America is great. They are proud, arrogant, selfish and ungodly people who lie and hate the God blessed nation (praise Jesus the Christ who has used America as a missionary nation to the pagan and heathen nations that always oppose themselves in their lust for self indulgent materialism)that nurtured them, they are foooooooools with a degree who could not find their butt in the middle of the Sahara desert on a bright shiny day.
One day, they will understand. Until then, they will lie and cheat and steal all the worlds childrens good in their hateful and dispicable self interest and will continue to lie about global warming being man's fault, they intend to destroy mankind from the face of the good earth. May the good Lord Jesus Christ defend us from those that hate him and keep America safe from the evil of materialistic atheists.
30 posted on 03/18/2006 7:13:14 AM PST by ohhhh ( I pray the public school system collapses for the good of the children.)
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To: Baynative

Ward Churchill is just one of the leftist moonbat icons of The People's
Republic of Boulder:

31 posted on 03/18/2006 7:16:39 AM PST by VOA
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To: Baynative
Yet, in political debate, the opposite also often proves true.

In politics you judge what a person will do. But the truth value of any particular statment has nothing to do with the politician who uttered it. You need to decide if you are judging the idea or the man. The latter has no bearing on the former.

32 posted on 03/18/2006 7:17:16 AM PST by beavus (Hussein's war. Bush's response.)
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To: beavus

33 posted on 03/18/2006 7:19:38 AM PST by BenLurkin (O beautiful for patriot dream - that sees beyond the years)
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...and danger in not separating the thing from its label.

True, but I don't know what you are referring to here. What here is the "label", and what is the "thing"?

34 posted on 03/18/2006 7:20:50 AM PST by beavus (Hussein's war. Bush's response.)
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To: BenLurkin

That is an excellent link, thank you!

35 posted on 03/18/2006 7:40:30 AM PST by Decepticon (The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day (NRA)
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To: beavus
First things first:

Our most immediate threat to survival is from the hell hot heat of hatred being stoked in the teenie weenie brains of rabid Islamites-brains so minute that the atom seems massive by comparison. With demented Muslim Clerics acting as the tool to split these sub-atomic brains as the power of the atom was similarly released by scientists splitting the atom-the possible destructive power in the hands of Muslim Clerics can only be measured by mathematicians armed with yet uninvented computer programs.

We will have plenty of time to worry about global warming as we who survived by converting to Islamites as the only means of keeping on breathing- stick our asses into the western air with faces toward Mecca,atop Mount Lemon in Arizona, praying for help from a alleged to be God, that even his followers admit is incapable of wiping his own @$$. Allah Lululya??
36 posted on 03/18/2006 8:23:17 AM PST by F.J. Mitchell (President Bush isn't perfect, but he does have less flaws than his most rabid critics .)
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To: beavus

nice summary

37 posted on 03/18/2006 8:24:01 AM PST by NonValueAdded ("If I were a Cuban, I'd certainly be on a raft," Isane Aparicio Busto)
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To: beavus

'IT COULD HAPPEN TOMORROW" thanks, Weather Channel!

38 posted on 03/18/2006 9:05:02 AM PST by wolfcreek
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To: Baynative
Nice. Are you suggesting that instead of Occam's Razor, we apply the "Churchill factor"?
39 posted on 03/18/2006 9:08:56 AM PST by Fielding (Sans Dieu Rien)
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To: beavus
Anti capitalist, commie, American hating liars, who manipulate data to their liking.
40 posted on 03/18/2006 9:20:18 AM PST by boomop1 (there you go again)
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