I'm not looking for something telling me how to behave or react, just something that covers how/what we know for certain. Or is the science and understanding required too far out of reach for laymen?
Trying to figure out whether or not humans are a direct cause of climate change is like trying to figure out if exposure to a certain household product gives you cancer. People get cancer all the time from various sources, and while certain folk can point directly to said chemical being a carcinogen, even if that agreement exists it starts to open up a whole new debate about whether or not there is enough of a link to matter.
From what I can tell, ignoring the single idiots on either side, we've got:
1. A general consensus that the world is warming;
2. A slightly less strong consensus that humans are contributing to this warming;
3. A majority (but not a consensus, IMO) extending that to humans being the most direct and primary cause of warming;
4. A strong consensus that we should reduce our overall carbon emissions (for obvious reasons), regardless;
5. A small but significant scientific group arguing that we are not the primary cause of warming, even though we may be a contributing factor;
6. A large contingent of non-science laymen that feel that because 5 may be a valid opinion, the entire study of climate science is bunk;
That's basically the best I've found. There are zealots in every camp above. There are also those that feel that each individual point being right means we should either ignore everything else, be it science or consequence.
Given how complex the earth's climate is, and how little we know about things like the sun, earth's climate history, and the long term effects of particular chemical compositions in our atmosphere, I feel we won't progress much past our current stage in enough time to make much a difference overall. IMHO, if we believe that climate change is real, we should be focusing all efforts on dealing with it as best we can.
That's just flat out wrong. There is a scientific consensus that humans are responsible for global warming. To elaborate: "That humans are causing global warming is the position of the Academies of Science from 19 countries plus many scientific organizations that study climate science. More specifically, around 95% of active climate researchers actively publishing climate papers endorse the consensus position." 
This is based on models that have been refined over decades, and data and analysis from multiple separate scientific disciplines that agree with each other.
Your resignation that we don't 'know' (which alludes to an unscientific requirement for 100% certainty), and that climate science is 'still very much a work in progress' betrays a lack of knowledge about scientific models in general. It is worth reading this section on climate models to understand their purpose, value, and reliability .
Sorry, but there is a significant minority that in my mind prevents a consensus from existing. Majority is 84%, consensus is in the high 90s for me.
Take away vocal proponents, and you can clearly see that there is still room for debate here.
"The skeptic attitude to consensus usually starts with “there is no consensus”. That’s wrong, and they usually retreat from it to “but consensus science is meaningless”, and/or “consensus has nothing to do with science”. The latter is largely true but irrelevant. The existence of the consensus doesn’t do a lot to determine what science is done; it doesn’t prevent contrary lines being explored. But the consensus view does come into the tricky interface between science and policy, and science and the media."
Also, I've been discussing the arguments all along, not sure what the reference to 'ad hominem' is about.
Here's the actual Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_c...
It mentions: "No scientific body of national or international standing has maintained a dissenting opinion; the last was the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, which in 2007 updated its 1999 statement rejecting the likelihood of human influence on recent climate with its current non-committal position."
Maybe the American Association of Petroleum Geologists made that image you reference before changing their position. I don't know, it's completely out of context.
I'd agree- significant majority, but not a consensus right now.
I understand the logic but I find it counter-intuitive that pollutants emitted from Cows (burps and farts), are contributed to human behavior. Specifically, Agriculture accounts for 14% of Green House Gas, and a majority of it is from Methane emission. Similar to our trying to reduce CO2 emissions from cars, humans are trying to reduce Methane emissions from Cows including genetic modifications and harvesting the Methane to power the farms.
So I personally think the idea of measuring "human contribution" is complex, especially when Cow farts and burbs are contributed to human activity. That said whether or not there is consensus that Human activity is responsible for global warming it does not matter, there is certainly consensus that Human's are the only ones who have a chance at addressing global warming, unless unknown to us the Cows are currently convening in secrete meetings to discuss how they might better regulate their own emissions of Methane and Ammonia because their contribution to global warming is weighing so heavy on their conscience.
Also, they did not eat corn or soy-based diets much in nature, which both cause increased methane emissions. Alfalfa and flaxseed are proven to reduce emissions.
I agree with you that cow methane is our doing ultimately, but to say it's 'complete nonsense' is dishonest.
Sorry, your whole point is more intellectually dishonest than you accuse the "complete nonsense" phrase of being.
I did not post to be controversial, I was not suggesting humans are not responsible for Global Warming, however, the contribution of humans to global warming is not always black and white. Cars and coal plants? Yes, black and white humans are responsible. Cows? Yes and No, sure you can count the 1.5 billion domesticated cattle as human behavior, but on the other hand 20% of all cattle are found in India where they are not domesticated or raised to be eaten. However, I suppose it is a matter of time before someone makes an analogous argument to the agricultural argument, if you can argue Humans raise cows to be feed on therefore their pollution is attributed to humans, then you can argue that if Humans raise cows to be worshiped their emissions are still attributable to humans....Screw it....whether you drive a car, operate a coal factory, spray an areosol can, eat a steak or passively worship cows you are 100% responsible for global warming.
Models on decades when considering climate change are meaningless: we are talking about extrapolation, going into a warmer world for which we have no models working so far. Beyond that point it's just supposition.
> climate science is 'still very much a work in progress'
It is very much a work in progress, since there are clear setbacks from the reality vs what has been predicted so far.
See this - do you see a huge global warming effect?
The recent CERN CLOUD experiments results show that many climate scientists seem to forget that there's a huge fireball in the skies that may also have an impact on our climate. It's not all about CO2.
See the consensus report here for the net effects of different factors on the climate. The net effect from human activity is the largest component.
Stating that 'The two sides of the "debate" are not equal. There is not substantial disagreement ... that humans are directly responsible ' is trying to bully someone into accepting your idea of the world and is what politicians do at TV not what engineers and scientists are supposed to do.
(Contents behind link: The amount of ice on Greenland have seen significant variations over the last few hundred years, even before we started using fossil fuels.)
(Personally I'm all for reducing the use of fossil fuels but my _biggest_ reason is because they are a very finite resource and seem to be running out during our lifetime at the current rate of consumption.)
Yes, because of well known past climatic variations (some of which were probably localised). There are other drivers of climate than carbon emissions, and these drivers have caused climate to change in the past. That doesn't mean carbon emissions can't drive climate today. We can measure many of these other drivers, and we can see that changing solar output for example can't be driving the current warming.
The problem with it is that scientists see the exact same evidence as you do, and of course have already taken it into account. The whole point of science is to rake in as much evidence as possible and include it in the calculations.
Those figures mentioned upthread, for scientist consensus on climate change? That's including facts like this, not ignoring them.
On the other hand I'm feeling that way too many take this debate to a level where they actively deny any evidence that points towards a different solution.
Try to find where this was considered. I haven't heard a good explanation yet.
The History of Science is full of such "largely admitted theories" that fell flat when new data, new methods were introduced.
What may seem "obvious" to a group of scientists now, even if they constitute 90% of the voices out there, may not be the actual truth.
I am not saying who is right or who is wrong, but even if you had a consensus, it would not mean that they get it right. We are ever learning.
The answer is "yes", and some point past that is where the discussion currently exists.
Models, measurements, their comparisons to expected outcomes are all that we've got in this particular scientific department. The "experiment" is comparing your best model with what happened before and what happens next, not with running the same thing a thousand times.
I remember Al Gore showing the level of CO2 increase by jumping on an elevator and saying "imagine how much this increase will bring the temperature up!". But truth is, we don't know, nobody knows how much it will increase. There is no model data for that.
Scientific opinion should always - always be encouraged. This is part of what is supposed to separate science from religion. No major leap forward in our understanding has every been provided by the consensus.
> Scientific opinion should always - always be encouraged.
Scientific research should always be encouraged. Anyone can hold an opinion.
Seems to me the only people getting upset about my comment are people that want the matter closed. That's bad science. This isn't a fox news program where loonies are "valid opinions".
A "Scientific Opinion" is an opinion based on research.
You are suggesting that research that leads to alternate conclusions should be stifled, which is precisely the problem with your line of thinking.
I think its pretty fucking logical that this would cause or contribute to warming. Obviously figuring out the magnitude is difficult.
BTW, calling it a "debate" pretty much automatically puts you in a category also. The only reason it's even put into the public's mind as a debate is because of the huge business interests which are threatened by the science. You might as well say that you aren't on either side of the "cigarettes cause lung cancer" debate. Do you think Exxon is going to do anything different than R.J. Reynolds and Phillip Morris did when they spent decades challenging the science of tobacco induced cancers?
I am all for questioning and challenging the science WITH SCIENCE, as opposed to economic arguments and ad hominem attacks.
In other words, you are punting at precisely the critical point in the analysis.
Fact: If you just calculate the effect of CO2 on its own, it's too small to be significant. To make CO2 significant, you have to assume large positive feedbacks elsewhere in the system that amplify the effect of CO2. That assumption has not been validated.
There are very few authorities who flatly deny the planet has warmed a degree or so over the last 100 years. There are very few authorities that deny that man is the most likely cause of this warming. And yet, nearly every post in this whole thread is essentially debating how moronic, on a scale of 1-10, those "climate deniers" are.
I find this even more fascinating from a place like HN, where the users are generally very intelligent and often have some science education. It's ironic that the users ranting against these uneducated people who don't believe in climate change are exhibiting the very same sort of ignorance they decry: they've accepted the media's characterization of the debate.
To clarify: those in the Al Gore camp calling for drastic reductions of CO2 are essentially asking the third world to remain poor, and are asking the first world to become a little less rich. Their justification is that there will be catastrophic results unless emissions are immediately curbed. The reasoned opposition is not that humans cannot affect the atmosphere, or that warming hasn't happened. The argument is that the hypothesized positive feedback loops that make the models predict catastrophic warming are wrong. Interestingly, many scientists have continued to lower their forecasts for just how sensitive the climate is (See http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/04/a-closer-look-a..., for an example in the news just today).
To clarify the clarification a bit further: those in the Al Gore camp are asking most people in the first world to become less rich, but that's mainly because some (like Gore himself) stand to make quite a bit of money by using "carbon credits", cap and trade, etc. to siphon wealth from other people's pockets into their own. That's a key reason to oppose such centralized schemes: even if there is a real problem, it won't get fixed that way, because any expected benefits will be more than swallowed up by the social costs of people gaming the system.
> That's a key reason to oppose such centralized schemes: ... any expected benefits will be more than swallowed up by the social costs of people gaming the system.
Wait, what? I'm not sure I've understood this allegation here, or that I have all the facts, so please correct me if/where I'm missing something. With that in mind, here's what I know.
With respect to solutions, I think you're saying that "centralized" incentives are a bad idea because they can be gamed (to various degrees). Suppose with me (just for this paragraph) that there is a catastrophic problem looming. What alternatives are there to centralized schemes, whether absolute restrictions, or capitalist incentives? Are you hoping that everyone will spontaneously change their behaviour? If that's what you're proposing, I disagree violently. If you have some other proposal (other than centralized planning, and other than spontaneous distributed action), I'm curious what it is.
With respect to Al Gore in particular, I think you're claiming that Al Gore's bona fides as an objective judge are compromised by his profit opportunity. All I'm aware of is that he is a partner at KP, which is invested in greentech, where he has forfeited his salary. He presumably has some equity there (not known to be forfeited), so I guess he might profit some if centralized schemes are implemented. But it strikes me as downright crazy reasoning to assume that because he has allocated (some of) his personal wealth to a capitalist solution (in the capitalist country that he is loyal to) to a problem he's worried about, that therefore he's not _sincerely_ worried about the problem.
If there is a catastrophic problem looming, and we can't adapt, we're probably screwed. I agree people aren't likely to spontaneously change their behavior just because someone tells them there is a catastrophic problem looming; they will need much harder evidence than that, and on the hypothesis that there is a catastrophic problem looming, by the time there is hard evidence it will probably be too late.
However, that doesn't make centralized schemes look any better, because on the hypothesis that there is a catastrophic problem looming, the schemes will have to be so drastic and so draconian that to say they will be gamed is a massive understatement. The sorts of relatively mild things that are being proposed, like a carbon tax or cap and trade schemes, won't stop a catastrophic problem. We would have to massively re-engineer the world's entire economy. And nobody knows how to do that, so even if we tried a centralized scheme, it wouldn't work; we'd be at least as badly off as if we'd hoped people would spontaneously change their behavior.
(The above is all irrelevant anyway, because we already know we can't re-engineer the world's entire economy; China and India and the rest of the developing world won't let us.)
If there is a catastrophic problem looming, the best we can do is to try to figure out how to adapt. If sea levels are going to rise, build levees. If agriculture is going to have to shift to different areas of land, work on how best to shift it. Or figure out how to induce cooling to offset the warming--for example, by pumping aerosols into the upper atmosphere to simulate a volcanic eruption, since those are known to have a cooling effect. (To me, trying to induce cooling is more risky than adapting, because I'm not convinced we understand the climate well enough to predict the effects. But since we do have past data on volcanic eruptions, we can at least use that as a benchmark if we were desperate enough to try such a scheme.)
I think you're claiming that Al Gore's bona fides as an objective judge are compromised by his profit opportunity
That's certainly not the only reason I think Al Gore isn't an objective judge. I just point it out as an example of the sorts of conflicting interests that are in play in any centralized scheme.
As far as Gore being sincerely worried about the problem, I think he is, but it's hard to be sure, just as it's hard to be sure with any politician. In any case, whether or not his worry is sincere is irrelevant; people can be perfectly sincere and still game the system, because they don't see what they're doing as gaming the system. The very fact that their beliefs are sincere makes it harder for them to do that; they think their beliefs are just reality, since that's how sincere beliefs present themselves to the human mind, so they don't even bother exercising critical thinking about them.
"[If] there is a catastrophic problem looming, the schemes will have to be so drastic and so draconian" Citation needed. I claim that there is no reason to believe that moderate action, taken collectively, cannot meaningfully improve our long-term outcomes. In fact, as a general rule of thumb, for arbitrary problems, I tend to assume that results generally improve monotonically with (productive) effort taken, although usually not linearly (and admittedly not ALWAYS monotonic). If the no-coordinated-action-taken path is ten feet of sea level rise, maybe with reasonable coordinated action we can limit it to 9. Or 1. Maybe with draconian and drastic coordinated action we can limit it to 5 or 0 respectively. If the no-coordinated-action-taken path is ecocide, maybe drastic action would be required to maintain our standard of living, but moderate coordinated action could improve from "ecocide" to "many disasters". In any of these cases, people gaming the system is a source of friction, and we should resist that, but not at the expense of tackling the problem!
So, then, usually coordination on things like environmental change requires a certain amount of majority-rules coercion. Libertarians might think it's better to die free, but most people seem to agree that sometimes this sort of coercion is worthwhile (but surely not for every little thing!). So reasonable people are left without the solace of blanket statements like opposing all centralized schemes without a cost-benefit analysis.
"That's certainly not the only reason I think Al Gore isn't an objective judge"
I didn't say it was the only reason, I said you made that attack. I think the context in which you made it makes it look like Al Gore is markedly unworthy of the trust we might place in a randomly-selected human (that is, I think you're proposing that we have extra reasons to mistrust him). I think that the very evidence of his investment is, in fact, a reason to trust him slightly MORE than a randomly-selected human.
And the (purported) conflict of interest (singular) that you point out is not a conflict of interest in a centralized scheme. That's completely missing the point. Even if people take action collectively, without any centralized incentive structure, green companies will profit. So arguments about gaming the system are generally not arguments against centralized action. People are taking decentralized action doing things like buying carbon credits for airplane flights. You think that's not being gamed? The question is how to take effective action, and then to coordinate people to take that effective action together.
"If there is a catastrophic problem looming, the best we can do is to try to figure out how to adapt."
That might be true, but it's not at all clear.
If there is a catastrophic problem looming, the best we can do is
* understand the scope of the problem, and the true cost to us
* understand what levers will move the problem
* make cost/benefit analyses of which levers we should move, and how hard
* coordinate people to take action, and hopefully share the cost somewhat "equitably" (including figuring out what that means)
Let me acknowledge that a large part of the cost to us is really "lose lives", "lose cities", "lose agricultural land", and thus "build levees, shift farms, etc" MIGHT be the most effective solutions. But I think that it's hard to imagine how high those costs will be.
(Especially considering that we're all gonna hafta get off the oil soon anyway, when it runs out.)
Saying that there are things humanity could collectively do in theory is not the same as saying that centralized "solutions" will actually achieve those things. To do that, we have to actually know the right solution; we have to have enough understanding of the problem domain to be able to make accurate predictions of the effects of our actions. We don't have that knowledge in the case of climate change; indeed, we don't have it in most areas in which we currently force collective action on people.
Take the recent mortgage bubble as an example. This was the result of a centralized "solution" to the "problem" of not enough people owning their homes. The result was to create a new way for people to game the system that ended up tanking the entire economy, and now all those additional people who were supposed to own their homes are being foreclosed on and evicted.
In short, you appear to have a lot more faith in centralized solutions than I do. I would have thought that the twentieth century, if it showed anything, would have showed that centralized control doesn't work--after all, the Soviet Union was a 70-plus year experiment demonstrating that.
Let's translate this into another domain: the very evidence of Wall Street's investment in mortgage securities is a reason to trust them more than a randomly-selected human. Does it still seem reasonable?
Even if people take action collectively, without any centralized incentive structure, green companies will profit.
Why? Because they're actually solving a problem, or because they're gaming the system? You admit carbon credits are being gamed. Al Gore is therefore one of the gamers. How is that supposed to increase my confidence in him?
I should note that, as I've posted elsewhere in this thread, I agree there are good reasons to reduce fossil fuel consumption that are independent of the climate change issue. (Among them are national security and foreign policy: as I've noted in other posts, if we were smart we would have made eliminating our dependence on foreign oil a national priority in the 1970's.)
It's not just the media's characterization; it's the characterization of mainstream climate science. They are equating any opposition to the "consensus" to being a "denier". There are lots of positions in between.
Thanks for the support, btw. :-)
Actually, warming has not occurred at all in the last 15 years or so. So how "extreme" we've been is a matter of vantage point.
While I'm not in the camp to suggest the last 15 years are anything but a variation in the overall trend, be careful what you use to support dire predictions.
In the 1850-2012 graph the temperature is mostly increasing, but not straightly increasing. The interesting part is the flat part at the end. It is expanded in the 1997-2012 graphic. In this period the temperature anomaly is ~.5C, it is even very slightly decreasing, but it's too noisy to take the decrees seriously.
The graphs are based in the HadCrut data: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2012/hadcr... compiled by the UK Met Office. I didn't download the data and redraw them, but in that page they have a table of yearly global average temperature of the last ~15 years. The temperature anomaly is ~.5C and the variation of the numbers look similar to the values in the graph.
Please read my comments before you assume my opinion.
please link to some source to backup this claim
I personally believe both in anthropic global warming and that we should do something about it, but have no problem with the grandparent post's observation about the existence of some scientific opposition to this point of view. You'll note that the contrarian scientists listed at the link above tend to be relatively qualified to have an opinion by virtue of their academic specialty (as opposed to the opinions of scientists with no particular insight into such matters like, say, metallurgists or linguists). I find such counter-arguments interesting and worthy of consideration even when I don't agree with the conclusions drawn.
"Abdussamatov claims that "global warming results not from the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but from an unusually high level of solar radiation and a lengthy—almost throughout the last century—growth in its intensity." This view contradicts the mainstream scientific opinion on climate change as well as accepted reconstructions of solar activity.  He has asserted that "parallel global warmings—observed simultaneously on Mars and on Earth—can only be a straightline consequence of the effect of the one same factor: a long-time change in solar irradiance." This assertion has not been accepted by the broader scientific community, some of whom have stated that "the idea just isn't supported by the theory or by the observations" and that it "doesn't make physical sense."
Abdussamatov also contends that the natural greenhouse effect does not exist, stating "Ascribing 'greenhouse' effect properties to the Earth's atmosphere is not scientifically substantiated." He further states that "Heated greenhouse gases, which become lighter as a result of expansion, ascend to the atmosphere only to give the absorbed heat away." He has stated that more work is needed to model the effect. However, this effect cannot happen because the mean free path of molecules in the atmosphere is very short, transferring energy by collisions and preventing greenhouse gases from retaining the excess energy they absorb.
In early 2012, Abdussamatov predicted the onset of a new "mini-iceage" commencing 2014 and becoming most severe around 2055."
Is this really a a significant contrarian as the OP stated?
Just because I think they're wrong doesn't mean they don't exist or that they're necessarily lying.
The use of the word 'significant' was a value judgement on the OPs part, and one that I wanted him/her to substantiate. You replied with a link attempting to substantiate that claim, so I replied with that context in mind.
Baliunas is a strong skeptic in regard to there being a connection between CO2 rise and climate change, saying in a 2001 essay with Willie Soon:
But is it possible that the particular temperature increase observed in the last 100 years is the result of carbon dioxide produced by human activities? The scientific evidence clearly indicates that this is not the case... measurements of atmospheric temperatures made by instruments lofted in satellites and balloons show that no warming has occurred in the atmosphere in the last 50 years. This is just the period in which humanmade carbon dioxide has been pouring into the atmosphere and according to the climate studies, the resultant atmospheric warming should be clearly evident.
The claim that atmospheric data showed no warming trend was incorrect, as the published satellite and balloon data at that time showed a warming trend (see satellite temperature record). In later statements Baliunas acknowledged the measured warming in the satellite and balloon records, though she disputed that the observed warming reflected human influence.
Baliunas contends that findings of human influence on climate change are motivated by financial considerations: "If scientists and researchers were coming out releasing reports that global warming has little to do with man, and most to do with just how the planet works, there wouldn't be as much money to study it." 
Given the first two from teh top of the list, I'm not convinced of the OPs statement if this list is the evidence for it.
I tried editing a few inaccuracies related to a scientific misconduct hearing involving Bjorn Lomborg, and was stunned at the vicious personal attacks I received in response. I gave up on Wikipedia at that point, as have many other moderate, reasonable people.
That's completely irrelevant. If you've read the IPCC bricks, you'd know there is a very sharp line between what's known and what's not and speculating on hidden variables makes no sense at all. But doing nothing or business as usual is not an option, except you pretend to live alone on this planet.
For the details of the science, they suggest just reading the IPCC reports.
Here's a faq from the IPCC that is basic but thorough. https://www.ipcc-wg1.unibe.ch/publications/wg1-ar4/ar4-wg1-f...
Real Climate is written by academic climatologists. Its last five non-open thread posts were:
1) The Greenland melt
2) What to study?
3) Sea-level rise: Where we stand at the start of 2013 — Part 2
4) Sea-level rise: Where we stand at the start of 2013
5) On Sensitivity Part II: Constraining Cloud Feedback without Cloud Observations
Climate Audit is written by a retired mathematician/mining prospector. Last 5 posts:
1) More on Acton’s “Investigation”
2) Acton and “Natural Person Powers”
3) Acton and Muir Russell at Tribunal
4) Duke C Punctures More Attempted UEA Obtuseness
5) More Tricks from East Anglia
Watts Up With That, written by a former television meteorologist/newscaster:
1) The Revkin-Gavin debate on lower climate sensitivity
2) NPR finally gets it – does this signal an end to the polar bear as poster bear for global warming?
3) The yearly lukewarm report
4) Here there be Dragons
5) New paper by Richard Tol – Targets for global climate policy: An Overview
I think that speaks for itself.
I've seen bad science debunked before (we all have), like ulcers being caused by stress(actually caused by bacteria), cold fusion, etc. The folks cruasading against antrhopogenic global warming have all to often picked a position based on opposition to the most commonly proposed solution to antrho global warming(reducing consumption of fossil fuels), and then sought out science to support their position.
The problems are obvious:
1) Let's say there is a legitimate argument about reduction of fossil fuel use vs. a geo-engineering scheme to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. This argument never gets to happen because people who are against fossil fuel usage reduction as a solution never admit the problem even exists. (I have to admit, I think reduction of carbon emissions is unrealistic, because the countries which benefit the most from carbon rich fuel consumption in the short term are the poorest countries with the most people. I don't realistically see India decide to keep its people poor and without electricity/transport when they don't have to. People don't give a shit about saving the planet until they have food in their own and children's bellies, and aren't dying of diseases easily prevented by fossil fuel powered infrastructure)
2) The group of people who are currently arguing that the warming is not caused by human activity heavily, HEAVILY overlap with the group of people who were denying that warming was even happening 8 years ago. This is a huge red flag. Do I discredit scientists if they are proven wrong one time? No. But if a "doctor" says vaccines are bad because they cause autism, and when proven wrong, invents another argument against vaccines, I write him off as a quack who doesn't follow the scientific method. And I'm right. These guys are basically saying "Don't cut carbon! The planet isn't getting warmer." Now they have changed their answer to "Don't cut carbon. It's not the reason the planet is getting warmer. "
And frankly, I'm getting sick of people who don't even have a single scientific degree attacking scientists. It all reeks of the same attitude I was innundated with as a kid by my classmates because I believed in evolution and dinosaurs.
What about people without a single scientific degree supporting scientists?
Question: Do you ever run into customers who know nothing about software, and are demanding a capability that doesn't exist? Sometimes these customers will argue, and tell you that you are wrong, despite the fact that you have orders of magnitude more knowledge on the subject than they do. I call these people arrogant fools.
I call them students.
So he doesn't need to show you the science behind what he was saying, he can just show you the math behind the bookkeeping.
And you too will come away a believer ;).
What I have read of the writings of the people that the Catholic church venerates, especially from pre-modern times, I find they strongly smack of sincerity when they talk about metaphysics (like resolving theodicy, or the "limbo of the infants", etc). They argue so passionately, and in such convolutions. And people have chosen to be burned at the stake, just to avoid saying "Yeah, you're right, I was wrong about God, I take it back." Those people, at least, must really believe, at a profound level.
Mind you, I find that they strongly smack of insincerity and self-service when they talk about worldly matters, like excommunicating kings for applying new taxes, or taking sides in WWII, or the whole condom thing, or dealing with accusations of pedophilia, or....
Such a surprising juxtaposition. Other churches seem to me to exhibit similar patterns, although few western religions have had a chance to build up such a legacy as the Catholic.
What would happen if a pope (no capital, and it's not a typo) would abdicate saying they no longer believed? Or if a pope would attempt to dismantle the church and spread their belongings amongst the poor?
As someone without the knowledge, time or intellect to critique climate science in depth, I don't 'support' the scientific consensus & IPPC reports vs the WUTW blog because I personally support the scientists involved. I do it because I have a certain level of trust in the ability of scientific processes (and the institutions that enforce/practice them) to provide us with better understanding of the world. It's the same reason I'm prepared to fly in a plane even though I don't have the physics or engineering qualifications or knowledge to asses whether it will stay in the air.
Also, what I think you are trying to say without really saying it is that people without scientific degrees should be able to critique science. I'm sure nearly everybody involved in climate science is fine with that, so long as you are prepared to publish your data and methods and face the scrutiny of peer review (finding a journal that will publish doctored graphs, fabricated citations and grossly misused statistical methods is probably the real challenge: even Medical Hypotheses is peer reviewed now…).
The problem with this is that the scientific processes in the two cases (climate science vs. physics and engineering of airplanes) are not actually comparable. That's part of the problem: climate scientists have used the "it's Science, therefore it's right" argument to keep from having to actually prove that their processes are as reliable as the ones in physics and engineering that have given the public its confidence in Science.
When you look at the processes in climate science, they aren't even close. To take just one example, in physics or engineering, the sorts of admissions climate scientists have made about losing raw data, not archiving it properly, not properly recording the manipulations they've made to the data, etc., would be grounds for dismissal of the people involved and repudiation of all of their conclusions. The work would have to be re-done from scratch using proper procedures.
You act as if there has ever been a targeted attack on the entire scientific community of physics and engineering, like there has been on the climate science community. There has not been, so therefore there isn't some single record of all of the errors and bad data in these scientific communities. When you talk of mistakes made by "climate scientist" with ther data, what percentage of climate scientists do you think have committed these errors? You are using mistakes made by individuals and organizations to smear an entire science. This is both erroneous, dishonest, and false, and is the scientific equivalent of "Asians are bad drivers because I got rear ended by this guy."
Proving climate science right, compared to proving physics/engineering is comparing apples and oranges. Unless you know of a duplicate earth-like planet to use as a control group while we proceed with binding formerly buried carbon molecules with atmospheric oxygen in our current planet to see what happens.
Instead, they are left with computer simulations, which have, so far, been too consevative to be accurate. They have failed to take into account all of the positive feedback loops, and the result is that the planet is warmer than predicted. These simulations are then challenged and attacked, other variables such as solar output variation, etc are mentioned, and the science is dismissed as being phoney, biased, cherry picking.
I don't even beleive carbon reduction is viable. I want geo-engineering solutions to handle the problem. But the people who would otherwise be on my side in the debate are too busy wringing their hands about a small percentage of studies which are, ironically, themselves cherry picked by the opponents and used to dismiss the science.
There hasn't had to be. Those fields have properly policed themselves, so they haven't needed to be policed by outsiders.
When you talk of mistakes made by "climate scientist" with ther data, what percentage of climate scientists do you think have committed these errors?
That's the wrong question. The right question is, what percentage of the data that all these models and theories are based on is corrupted? The answer is, we don't know. That, all by itself, is unacceptable.
You are using mistakes made by individuals and organizations to smear an entire science.
No, I am using the fact that the data that the science is based on can't be trusted. Who did what to make it that way is useful to know, but it's not the central point.
Proving climate science right, compared to proving physics/engineering is comparing apples and oranges.
It's true that we can't run controlled experiments on the climate the way we can in physics or engineering. That doesn't change the fact that you can't do science at all if you can't trust the data. There's no reason for climate data to be treated any differently than, say, particle physics data, and there's no reason to excuse failure to properly control data in climate science any more than there is in physics.
the planet is warmer than predicted.
Reference, please? Last I checked the planet was cooler than the IPCC had projected it to be based on the current CO2 level. Remember that there is not one single projection; there are a bunch of them, each making different assumptions about how much CO2 will rise. The actual CO2 rise has been close to the "business as usual" model scenarios, but the temperature rise has been, at most, what the "minimum" model scenario predicted, the one that assumed sharp cuts in CO2 emissions.
I want geo-engineering solutions to handle the problem.
I have no problem with this, if we can have reasonable confidence in what the effects will be. For example, we have reasonable confidence in how much aerosols high in the atmosphere can affect the climate (based on data from volcanic eruptions), so we can make reasonable predictions about that kind of geoengineering.
But for whatever reason, right now there's a giant gap of approach in how "amateurs" on both sides approach science. I guess what I'd like is amateurs who are actually interested in the science engaging with and contributing to expert discussion.
Not merely for the sake of amateurs, but for the sake of the expert scientific discourse itself. Science has no sides except reality; but if you have a situation where one political side vociferously attacks you while another political side defends you, it's psychologically very easy to forget that and your role as a scientist.
Manipulative tricks only work when the vast majority of the people have no clue about the inner workings of the pale blue dot that we are stewards of. But I cringe at the way the polarization is worked on both sides of the divide, support by ignoramuses is just as sought after by both sides and just as meaningless. But since we all live in democracies support by the numbers is important even if those supporting you have no clue about the facts or the underlying mechanisms.
In the end that support should not matter. What should matter is facts and the way (big) money is distorting the picture is very worrisome. Plenty of scientists (in absolute numbers, not in percentages, the far larger number are as ethical as can be and even some of those critical of the evidence are critical for pure motives, not because of some paycheck) have zero compunction about supporting whatever side pays for their mortgage. A preponderance of evidence (unfortunately) no longer offsets a preponderance of marketing dollars. And that is to me - for the moment, I may revise that statement, living 45' below sea level - far more worrying than climate change in and of itself.
Considering the possibilities of a runaway effect and the reality of China/India starting to use far more power and hence emitting far more CO2 this may be a thing that is already too far gone to stop, even if we did act today (Nobody seems to be sure about that one, though the consensus seems to be there will be a mitigating effect, magnitude unknown). But then imagine some real disaster triggered by our carelessness does befall us, what are we going to do to deal with the aftermath if we can't even agree on what to do when it is not yet rearranging our lives with careless abandon?
Nature doesn't care, one way or the other whether we're going to agree with each other or not. It'll just let physics run its course, and physics tends to be a pretty good if harsh teacher. Humans are pretty fragile. Maybe we will learn from this, maybe we won't, time will tell. But for now I'm not too hopeful about how this is playing out and both sides are guilty of trying to politicize this instead of letting the facts simply speak for themselves.
An inconvenient truth indeed.
There is plenty of effort being put into preventing that . More to the point, evidence suggests that education doesn't make much difference:
For Republicans, in contrast, increasing education makes virtually no difference in their acceptance of anthropogenic climate change. Roughly 70 percent of Republicans with a high school education (or less) reject climate science, and about the same percentage holds for Republicans with a post-graduate education.
1) I don't have a single college degree
2) What does it matter if you have a college degree in some soft science versus a someone without a degree that has tried very hard to keep current with a number of scientific fields?
3) What does support from uninformed / soft sciences people mean when it comes to stuff like this? To me it counts for next to nothing.
Plenty of scientists are religious and you could easily find a way to argue that apparently being excellent in one field does not at all qualify you as even moderately informed in another. (and some would go a lot further than that).
Scientists apparently have enough trouble dealing with the facts in their own fields, let alone those in other fields or in metaphysics or about something mystical. That doesn't mean that they are bad, but in that sense they may not be much more useful than your average, uninformed layperson when you're looking for support, depending on the area of interest.
The only people that should have a say in the debate at all are the climate scientists (the religious ones too), and those versed in analysing large volumes of data with questionable pedigree and discontinuities. We pay those guys to do their jobs, policy should be informed by that and commercial interests should have 0 say in it.
And those suckers that massaged their data to make it look more dramatic have done more damage than all the naysayers put together.
Put it this way: your point 3) implies that 'hard science' people have valid inputs. Why does a materials engineer specialising in ceramics have a greater validity than someone from the 'soft sciences'? What about a mathematician working on better algorithms for wifi comms, why do they have more validity? An astronomer working a radio telescope? The guys in the laser lab in the basement? So on and so forth.
Ironically, the 'soft sciences' have more do to with the climate change debate than any of these 'hard sciences' - not because of the scientific findings related to climate, but in order to understand the psychology of the debate itself - there's lots in interesting things going on in terms of how people communicate.
Neurophysiology and psychology are science as much as physics and math. We just don't have the right formulations yet (we never may, but given the progress over the last 200 years I'd say it would be a bad bet to place limits on what we will ultimately find out).
To me soft sciences are cultural anthropology (cue cultural anthropologist disagreeing), political sciences and a whole pile of other interesting subjects that are not sciences per se but studies of interesting but ultimately non quantifiable subjects without falsifiable hypothesis.
If you want to crack the psychology of the way the debate shapes around subjects that are ultimately important to lots of people and where those people make decisions against their own interest you should study how marketing really works.
It is applied psychology with a twist, it's on how to use knowledge about people against themselves (cue marketing guru that is offended, I hope they won't be watching Bill Hicks). Marketing is exactly that, a way to sell people on something that doesn't benefit them and that they do not need.
When people without scientific training attack scientists--without having gone through similar training and evaluation--then it's not surprising they would be met with suspicion.
Of course they would be. But their support counts for just as much. Nothing.
If you want to settle things this way you're looking for something we do not have, a meritocracy. And even in science sometimes the lone guy was right after all (in fact, you could argue that every radical departure from the norm in science was exactly such a situation).
Science needs to work really hard to be above politicization of the work they are doing. If scientists can't do that then how are we going to hold the ignorant masses (you know, those without even a single college degree, because they're all ignorant) to a different standard?
To them either side looks equally good, in fact the side that throws the most money at it will probably be able to look better than the other, even when they're not right.
So the trick is to decide the issues in such a way that such support is no longer needed.
I actually sympathize with this point of view, because I've been in exactly the same position because I accept evolution as a scientific theory. I remember one discussion group (in a Sunday school class at a Unitarian church, of all places) with six kids plus the adult who was leading the group arguing for creationism, and me all by myself arguing for evolution. Not surprisingly, nobody convinced anybody to change their mind.
However, I do not accept the implied claim in your statement that climate science is in the same position as the theory of evolution. It isn't. We do not understand the climate well enough for that, but for political reasons it is impossible for "mainstream" climate scientists to admit that. That's not a good situation.
As far as reducing our use of fossil fuels, there are good reasons to do that anyway. IMO, we should have made that a national security priority back in the 1970's, when the economic and foreign policy consequences of buying oil from the Middle East became clear enough. But linking the argument for reducing fossil fuels to the argument for reducing CO2 does not help; it hinders, by muddying the waters of what should be a straightforward argument about foreign policy with a highly contentious argument about climate change.
These guys are basically saying "Don't cut carbon! The planet isn't getting warmer." Now they have changed their answer to "Don't cut carbon. It's not the reason the planet is getting warmer."
This may be a valid criticism of at least one faction in the climate change debate; but showing that that faction is wrong does not show that another faction must be right.
The way it looks to me, everybody is both right in part, and wrong in part: the climate is changing, humans are contributing to the change, but cutting CO2 emissions will not fix the problem, because there are too many other factors involved that we don't understand.
A partial solution is better than sticking to the dogma that no solution be attempted until a wholly-conclusive one is found.
This assumes that reducing CO2 emissions is in fact a partial solution. It may not be; it may, on net, make things worse, because the cost of making the reductions may be greater than the expected benefits.
That's not the point. If you read only realclimate, you are getting a biased viewpoint. The fact that it is written by academic climatologists does not prevent it from being biased.
And for the record I clearly pointed it out: he is a mathematician, albeit one in mineral prospecting and never academics. No words minced.
(There are doubtlessly a couple people queueing up to say the IPCC's part of some grand socialist conspiracy or had some minor error that's since been corrected in the errata section.)
1) Compare your collected data series to each other to determine a "reliability" index for each data series.
2) Construct a series as a weighted average on this reliability index.
3) Iterate, using your new series to calculate the reliability index.
There are substantial issues with the above approach, having to do with sensitivity to particular kinds of signals. For a while, the Climate Audit folks got a lot of mileage over a data set that was put in "upside down" in one of the reconstructions. Rather than claiming "data error," the author defended it based on the idea that the above process would just give it a negative weighting!
Regardless, you should see why the above could easily be susceptible to issues. Further, the disagreement between these reconstructions and what our limited historical sources tell us about the MWP, etc., makes them further suspect.
This is a problem for the global warming model because it means that we don't know what the historical standard deviation for temperature is. So we can't say whether the last 3 decades warming is "within normal deviations" or "unprecedented."
I would just point out that scientific debate occurs through published papers and conference presentations, not programming message boards. I hope that you are publishing in those channels if you feel you have substantive contributions to this kind of research.
And happily, informal communication and message boards matter more than you would think!
Also, the published papers reporting these studies are all easily available. I highly advise reading them for yourself.
I don't have direct experience with climatology, but from what I understand it's somewhat similar: conferences like AGU are really important to climatologists for that reason.
Edit to acknowledge: obviously a lot of work gets done informally during conferences as well.
But it's in the service of publishable research, is it not? I don't think many scientists are going to say, "I'm changing my research program based on something I read on Hacker News yesterday." There's a bar for serious consideration.
I stand by the importance of published work in scientific discourse, but I apologize to schoper for taking a personal shot that was not called for.
The thing about this process is, if you feed in completely random red-noise time series you will get a hockey stick. The reason is simple, the selection period will mirror the instrumental temperature (mental check: it has to, after all we only selected the proxies that matched the instrumental temperature). You have your blade. But none of those red noise proxies actually reflect past temperature do they? They just happened to be selected by random chance. So in the time before the selection period, the noise cancels out and you have a flat line. There is your stick.
This is the core of how these "proxy reconstructions" work, and it is nonsense.
Outside of that, it gets even better. The stories are comical and numerous. Mann famously fed a contaminated Finnish lake sediment series into his algo, which happily regressed it against temperature and found that it passed significance if it was used upside down (in the opposite orientation to that suggested by the author in the original source paper). So in it went. GIGO.
Or how about the question of which temperature series to regress against? You'd think you'd regress against local temperature right? Or maybe at least the same continent? Oh ye optimistic fool, go and google "teleconnection" and "non-local statistical relationship". This is what passes as "climate science".
Paleoclimatology isn't any worse than some other soft sciences I guess - the difference is that there isn't so much riding on them being right.
There are countless arguments and rebuttals to be found on both sides of the debate, but I've found the ones below to be particularly helpful:
Pro Hockey Stick:
 Original MBH98 paper (PDF): http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers...
 Wahl and Ammann 2007 (PDF): http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/ccr/ammann/millennium/refs/Wahl_Clim...
 Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hockey_stick_controversy
 Real Climate Hockey Stick "Dummies Guide" (PDF): http://www.realclimate.org/dummies.pdf
Skeptical of Hockey Stick:
 Skeptic blog post "Casper and the Jesus Paper": http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2008/8/11/caspar-and-...
 "The Hockey Stick Illusions" book (same skeptic author): http://www.amazon.com/The-Hockey-Stick-Illusion-Climategate/...
 McIntyre & McKitrick 2003 (PDF): http://climateaudit.files.wordpress.com/2005/09/mcintyre.mck...
By the way, are you a climate scientist?
I don't even get what you're getting at: scientific arguments are also not decided by someone spouting off something they read off of Climate Audit and pretending to be an expert when they don't even have a passing familiarity with the scientific literature. Asking an open question "well, what would make you change your mind" is a perfectly reasonable response, especially when the answer is, expectedly, "nothing."
No, I'm not a climate scientist, though an immediate family member is.
Your second paragraph is an ad hominem, where you make various assumptions about the OP. Yet there is still not a single coherent argument why the OP was actually wrong.
If you ran this experiment numerous times I would expect to see the "average" line prior to the instrument record vary as a random walk.
Of course you don't have to take my word for all this, thanks to Climategate we have all the behind-the-scenes dirty laundry:
Here Rob Wilson does just the test I'm describing and seems a little concerned about the results.
The cousin refers to the obvious long-term temperature variability. Nobody doubts the major ice ages. But the long-term reconstructions use very different techniques.
The stick all but vanishes when you look at a long term climate projection, rather than the last 500 years or so.
Age of the Earth: 4.5 Billion years. Time we've had weather satellites up: 30 years. Geologic time, it's cool, wrap your head around it.
Fun fact, C3 plant life dies at 220 ppmv or lower CO2. Wheat, rice, soybean, cotton, tomato, barley, potatoes - all gone. No ifs and buts about that one, photosynthesis ceases. That's how dangerously close we were teetering to extinction, with the world's carbon entrapped underground. Luckily, along comes man to dig up fossilized carbon and free it back into the carbon cycle where it came from...
The author is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
The book walks through the science with detailed explanations why the science is sound. It is an eye opening read and framed as what the world will be like for our children.
Do give it a read.
Human-made global warming is taken as fact here.
The only ones denying it are (with a few exceptions) oil producers, guzzlers, and those who protect their interests, none of which are active in local media.
If there were a scientific consensus that an asteroid was flying at us and with all likelihood, in a decade or two, would wipe out all life on the planet - the only solution being all governments working together and raising huge amounts of $$ to head off disaster - the same faces would crop up attacking the science, and reminding us that if God wanted us to die he'd have sent a plague of locusts.
Maybe I underestimate the power of obscurantism.
But also you have the desperate need by the institutions themselves to denigrate science in order to stop it clashing with fundamentalist interpretations of their religious texts. For example, more belief in science might lead to people accepting that Evolution is science and Creationism is nonsense.
Climate change allows both the cynical moneyed political interests whose wealth relies on resource extraction (which is a hugely politically corrupt industry), and the religiously inspired underminers (made up word alert) of science to have common cause. That's a powerful political force. If you could find a way to rope in the NRA you'd have the trifecta.
Maybe run a report saying "Climate Scientists want to take away your guns"?
Its anticipated consequences are as bad if not worse, and it is far less contentious than its atmospheric cousin.
The fact that the climate has historically changed does not lead to the conclusion that humans can't affect a change in the climate. Nor does it lead to the conclusion that everything will be OK if humans are affecting change.
By the 19th century, that belief had changed. Today, we accept implicitly that human-caused extinction is a fact of life. The rate of extinction for North American freshwater fish species is 877 times the background extinction rate. Of course, there are still people who oppose preservation efforts...
Humans are literally an extinction event. Why is it so hard to accept for some that humans are also responsible for climate change?
"The fact that the climate is changing does not lead to the conclusion that humans are causing that change"
"Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility" is an excellent discussion on the politics of these questions.
Written by a prof at UMich School of Information, it discusses how we know what we know about climate change.
I think it's a good read. You can tell he has awareness of the relevant numbers - and doesn't like bull.
Free pdf available.
Everyone should see this movie.
Be careful, there are two equally unsupportable view points on climate, one is that the climate isn't changing, and the other is that humans can direct climate change.
We know from records, both recent and geological, that the climate will change, we also know there are things well beyond our foreseeable control that can change climate significantly (volcanic activity, asteroid impact, changes in solar activity, earth-solar orbital variations)
Invest in surviving change.
Humans also almost assuredly can change climate, if they want. It's a lot easier to cool vs. warm -- set off a bunch of nuclear weapons (easy, produces nuclear winter, although maybe less so than fearmongered); or, be sane, and put a bunch of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere to reflect more sunlight and thus cool the Earth.
I personally think it's probably prudent to try to reduce CO2 emissions, but not drastically. The costs (financial and quality of life) of massive reductions in CO2 now are far higher than the costs to remediate with SO2 or other methods, at least until there's more precise data, the costs of reducing CO2 emissions are reduced, etc. We could probably drop them by a good amount in the developed world, but doing so in China/India/etc. would mean an unreasonable restriction on quality of life for billions of people.
"We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them."
There are a whole host of assumptions that your arguments rest on, from our ability to predict and control non-linear dynamic systems, to what we even mean when we say "cost" or "quality of life". It's great that you're optimistic, but I fear this is more of the same arrogance that got us into this mess in the first place.
It seems the same group of people with vested monetary or emotional interests in doing nothing on climate have simply dug in their heels, and their arguments change as they get dragged along. In 5-10 years I'm sure it will be solidly "well duh the climate is changing and it's our fault, but nothing to be done now except learn to live with it". This is extremely frustrating.
I have no doubts that we are undergoing climate change, however, since when have we NOT undergone climate change?
We have had catastrophic ice ages and the Medieval Warming Period, when the Earth was warmer than it is now. All without the help of man-made "greenhouse gases". We know that extreme climate changes have occurred in the PAST, and we know that extreme climate changes will occur in the FUTURE. What makes THIS particular climate change so different and more significant from the previous ones? Just because we happen to be alive for this one? A theory that only answers one particular observation but can't explain other observations doesn't feel particularly valuable to me.
Maybe you're skeptical that they're man-made. If so, why not put the quotes around "man-made" instead of "greenhouse gases"?
Unfortunately we are stuck with this misleading terminology in what is an already complex and politically charged area.
The speed at which it's occurring and it's correlation with man-made CO2 emission levels.
Uh, yeah, that'd be it. What with all the massive extinction events and all, it might be in our interest to minimize the effects.
Consider that our ancestors were fighting for survival in the midst of an ice age. Sure, its "pre-written-history" but it isn't "pre-human-history".
There is a common set of exchanges that occur in climate discussions that go like this:
Person A: "Here is climate change without humans"
(person A in this context is trying to argue that change
will occur because there are other sources of change)
Person B: "That was millions of years ago"
(person B in this context is often trying to argue
that what ever caused climate change 'back then',
doesn't apply to current change)
Neither person directly addresses the emotional argument/fear, and neither person tries to establish a common frame of reference.
In context, kjackson2012 was making the 'things change' argument and your (snowrestler) response about the 'cold comfort' was in the context of the emotional argument.
It is kind of like an exchange that goes "Oh we ordered too much food for the party." followed by "That's cold comfort to Ethiopians who are starving."
On its face it seems like an argument that had we ordered less party food, there would be more food for Ethiopians. And yet the link between this party's food budget and that country's food problems is tenuous at best and generally a non sequitur.
The point I was trying to make was that responding to the comment about change with a statement about timelines is a common one in climate discussions.
Had I not reflexively responded to what I see as a common fallacy in the debate, I might have more constructively asked this:
Given that coastal dwellers are now aware that the sea level will change, possibly significantly, for their great grandchildren. And that we know that there is nothing known to science today or predicted by our models that can stop it, how do you suggest we comfort these coastal dwellers of the present?
BTW, I interpretted your post to be something like "houses have burned down throughout history. Let's start trying to make all our stuff fireproof just in case." To which I think a reasonable response is "let's figure out how fires are most likely to start, and do what we can to prevent a fire in the first place."
The fundamental question is whether we can do anything to slow or stop the global warming trend that we see today. Scientifically speaking, we know that the answer is yes: if we reduce the rate at which we produce greenhouse gases, we will reduce the expected warming. Whether that is politically feasible is a whole 'nother question.
The same body of science that you appeal to has noted that relative to the geologic record we are 'overdue' (or 'about due' depending on who you read) for a glacial event (aka an Ice Age). Given that, how would you score the sequence of events that humans managed to scale back their CO2 emissions and the world then subsequently plunges into an ice age which probably destroys civilization as we know it?
You may find that question is not as much a straw man as it first appears (or a false dichotomy), ice ages are a perfectly valid climate 'state' on our planet. Some literature would have you believe that the planet is usually an ice ball and periodically warms, but I haven't found those papers as compelling.
However, that we cannot, with certainty, rule out another ice age occurring as the 'normal' course of events suggests to me that the next millenium's climate is going to be different regardless of our actions. So I tend to favor a policy where we invest in survivability and mitigation and research, in that order.
The climate has such a huge impact on human society that we cannot invest to mitigate all outcomes equally. A major reason to fund scientific study of the climate (beyond the intellectual joy of finding things out) is to rigorously and continuously quantify the likelihood of potential climate changes, so we know where to invest.
The overwhelming conclusion right now is that warming is the most likely change in the near future. If you surveyed 1,000 climate researchers tomorrow, I'd be surprised if even 1 said that imminent glaciation is more likely than imminent warming.
Now, that could change, but if it does then the same scientific research that warned us of global warming would warm us of global cooling. But right now it's not, so it would be wasteful to start sending parkas to Florida.
Now, you might ask how we should invest our money in the face of coming warming, and that is a very good question. How much should we invest in changing our energy sources vs., say, building sea walls around low-lying cities like New York or Washington, DC?
To have such a discussion we would first need to accept the information we are getting from scientists--but it is here that we are stuck as a society. People simply do not want to accept it, so right now there is little investment in any direction.
Not actually true, and in any case a much more gradual warming over a longer timescale; it's well summarized at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_Warming_Period
I can't help being struck by the contrast between climate skeptic's loud insistence on greater scientific rigor in discussions of the present climate, and their hand-waving invocations of the MWP as a general-purpose tool of dismissal. I mean, all you need to do is look at a graph of the temperature data to see how different the rate of change is between the MWP and today.
First and foremost: The black line is an actual temperature measurement, while all the other lines are estimates based on proxies. Except of course: Secondly all the proxies appears to be correlated to the black line, because they have been chosen to do so. That is, the correlation to the black line is manufactured, and not a finding.
The rest of the graph is made in a completely different manner, and the proxies are allowed to carry the signal for themselves. I think it is very interesting that you can see a small medieval warming period from the proxy data, but nevertheless one shouldn't be too eager to compare the right part and the left part of the graph, as the methods used are actually not the same.
One can also show that the noise in the proxies will tend to pull the data towards the average and away from the extremes, which is exactly the lower rate of change and lower peaks you see. So that graph is really not very good, at all...
It seems like this is saying,
1. (implied) Humans are affecting the climate, but
2. Humans can't direct the change of the climate, and
3. The climate will change, regardless of Humans.
4. (Implied) Negative affects that Humans behavior has on the climate is irrelevant, and
5. Invest in Human survival.
Maybe I'm misunderstanding the argument. It seems to assert that individual or collective behavior which may negatively impact the welfare of others is irrelevant, because those others should have been anticipating overall negative impacts and adapting anyway.
Maybe someone could give me an analogy to another uncontrollable phenomenon where it makes sense for Humans to ignore the consequences of their actions which may indirectly (or directly) affect others.
Now, to cover your points.
1) (Implied) Humans are affecting the climate.
Of course they are, so are sheep, so are whales, so are trees. Its a relatively closed system and the activity of all the internal pieces have an effect.
2) Humans can't direct the change of the climate
That is a true statement, there are theories about various geo-engineering things we are capable of doing to change the climate, but our best models disagree about the effect of those changes. We can detonate all our nuclear bombs and put megatons of aerosols into the atmosphere, we can try to jump start various ecosystems, we can try to change the proportion of various chemicals in the atmosphere. The bottom line is we don't know what those changes are bringing or what other strategies will bring.
3) The climate will change, regardless of Humans
This too is an accurate statement. When Yellowstone next erupts, the climate will change for centuries. I don't think there are any lines of research or reasoning that suggest that wouldn't be the case. All of our models predict that you put that much stuff in the upper atmosphere and it will change things down here.
4. (Implied) Negative affects that Humans behavior has on the climate is irrelevant.[sic]
This gets to the heart of the emotional crisis. Human behavior affects the climate, it enables change. Given the amount of leverage green house gases have in the models, it seems to enable a lot more change than we originally suspected. It is quite sensible and rational to work out how to minimize that forcing function. But the climate will still change, because Humans aren't the only agent pushing on the climate.
The emotion comes from the realization that no matter what you do, you can't stop this 'bad thing.' And that is really scary, especially when people put it inside what might be considered your 'time horizon' (the next 50 to 100 years [which is in itself bogus because we're still working out the models])
To use an illustrative example which is outside our time horizon, the Andromeda Galaxy is going to collide with the Milky Way. It will, in all likely hood, result in the complete destruction of our solar system. There is nothing we can do about it. Except its going to happen in about three to four billion years. So nobody cares.
5. Invest in Human survival
So if you can accept that we don't know what we don't know about the way climate changes or might be changed. Then the best investment of your time is to work on things you do know how to do. There are lots of things that serve both purposes, you can work on battery technology that would make using electricity easier (fewer pounds of CO2 per joule than gasoline for example) or colonizing the moon (nobody on the moon is going to be directly changing the Earth's climate), urban planning at higher elevations, housing and moving populations above a rising sea level and at a reducing sea level. After all if we start another ice age all that seawater will be trapped in ice again.
I think a responsible species would be ready for any change, while developing a deeper understanding of how change occurs. So if you're not already in a research program studying the climate, your next best choice would be getting us ready for a change.
Point 1: do you think humans are effecting the climate as much as whales or sheep? Less, more? If so, what order of magnitude, and what is the primary cause of the difference? (EDIT: also, do you accept the notion of the climate as a closed systems as excluding geologically sequestered reservoirs of hydrocarbons like oil and coal, or not?)
Point 2: If you accept as a given that man-made CO2 production is causing climate change, would reducing CO2 emissions be an equally valid strategy that geo-engineering?
Point 3: I don't believe anyone is disputing this.
Point 4 and point 5: If the human species is creating a preventable crisis, would it be wiser to _not_ cause that crisis and devote the same resources to solving a less avoidable one instead? (like say, an eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera like you mentioned)
ps - You say that the collision of Andromeda and the Milk Way will destroy our solar system, but from the referenced article, "The merger poses no real danger of destroying Earth or our solar system, researchers said"
Hopefully the reputation is not for flaming and invective, I'm a rational guy and seek out contrary points of view to understand them.
1) Humans are a huge energy transformer on the planet, so by definition, they have a big influence. One can argue that by raising sheep (flatulence jokes aside, a source of methane) and killing whales, you can link us to pretty much a lot of change. My original point is that the world is a closed system, our existence as the dominant species on the planet ensures our place at the top of the influencer pile of all other species.
The primary cause for the disparity of our impact is that we use energy to amplify our existence. We use gas to move our cars, we use electricity to power our appliances and light our buildings and homes etc etc. To achieve 'neutral' impact with the rest of the species we would have to live a feral existence without fire. (Long way of agreeing that our species has more impact than other species)
I don't quite get what you were driving to with the sequestration question. I tend to think of the world, at a gross level, as a thermodynamic system. Heat goes in from a variety of sources and heat goes out through other systems. Current climate models highlight the reduction of heat loss through the atmosphere as a factor in raising the mean surface temperatures. This is also the primary argument in the IPCC work for the case of anthropogenic contribution to global temperatures. I find the argument credible.
"If you accept as a given that man-made CO2 production is causing climate change, would reducing CO2 emissions be an equally valid strategy that geo-engineering?"
I think its more nuanced than that. I think of "climate" as the name of the emergent property of 'weather' which occurs as a result of the interaction between a lot of variables in a very complex system. The planets climate is thus the measurable combined effect of all these variables. In all of the models, the effect of CO2 concentrations is perhaps the greatest single factor on the overall climate.
That said, how the climate "should" behave (which is to say predicted to behave) at various concentrations, has not been all that great. Models say Greenland should have less ice than it does, or more, or temperatures should go up by X but instead they go up by Y or not at all. And all that says is that the climate is a complex system that we don't completely understand it.
And because don't understand it well we can't really say what will happen if we pull a few peta-tons of CO2 out of the air, or cover millions of acres (hectares) of land with solar cells, or replant millions of acres of trees, or remove them. Every push on the system causes it to respond, and that response can affect future pushes. That is what makes systems like this so amazing difficult to study. Very hard to isolate variables.
So with that in mind, my answer is that I believe that changing CO2 levels in any direction will push on the thermodynamic balance of the earth. What I don't have an answer for, and I have yet to see a credible argument for, is a solid statement how those changes will manifest, either way. At the extremes? Sure, but plus or minus 10%? Not so much.
And if you're thinking "But if we went back to pre-1900 levels of CO2 in the atmosphere wouldn't we reverse the change?" I'm going to disagree with that, a hundred years of higher CO2 and the system has adapted, take it all away all at once, and you don't know what adaptations will be wrenched away, even slowly we don't know. Consider the following.
There is evidence that bird migration is happening earlier as a result of higher average temperatures. This has happened over the course of decades, possibly centuries. As the migrations change other parts of the system also change, and the birds change as well. Now we figure out we can 'fix' CO2, pull it all out of the air and in under a decade CO2 levels drop and temperatures go back to what they were a century ago. Now the current generation of birds is screwed, they make their migration at the wrong time and freeze/starve to death. Not enough generations to evolve a new timing.
Clearly it's speculative but I am trying to illustrate that it has never been true that there is some lever that humans have their hand on where they could just 'dial in' the climate.
"If the human species is creating a preventable crisis"
I think this is a good way to frame the different ways of thinking about this.
One is "preventable crisis" where climate change is like pollution or small pox, we just make a few policies and regulations and put our minds to fixing it.
I think this is a comfortable way to think about climate change because it contextualizes it in human terms of past victories.
The other is "ignoring a preventable crisis" where climate change is like an earthquake or a hurricane.
This is the less comfortable way (but I think more rational) way of thinking about climate change. There are things we can do to lessen our risk (generate less CO2 for example on climate, not build on earthquake faults for earthquakes) but we approach it from the perspective of living with a changing system, and maximizing our quality of life in the presence of those changes.
p.s. If you want to be pedantic, it is hard to predict the local effects on our solar system from the impending collision with Andromeda, a more predictable 'bad' event is that the Sun will eventually run out of hydrogen and Earth will not survive its 'Red Giant' phase, but again, outside the timeline that humans perceive as a threat.
As for my response... you seem to have made a few presumptions about what I believe. Your comments about "all at once" restoring a pre-1900s atmospheric level, or humans ever having been able to "dial in" a climate aren't reflective of what I feel, fwiw. As the question you asked, I mentioned the closed system/sequestered carbon because I don't think it's valid to include carbon that has been removed from the atmosphere (CACO3, coal deposits, etc) when talking about a normal climate cycle.
I don't entirely understand the differences in the framing at the end, either. If you believe we need to reduce CO2 emissions, then we're in agreement.
And regarding the postscript - I didn't mean to be pedantic, nor am I an expert in the subject. I was just pointing out the discrepancy, and I probably didn't have to, so my apologies there.
Point 4: I'm not sure if there is anything we can do about Yellowstone, unless our hydroponics have advanced enough to allow us to live and farm underground and we establish tremendous power capacity to make up for the lack of sunlight.
do you accept the notion of the climate as a closed systems as excluding geologically sequestered reservoirs of hydrocarbons like oil and coal, or not?
Is this even a point of contention? Sequestered hydrocarbons like oil and coal are almost entirely from plant life, which means that carbon is from the air. (90%+ of plant mass is from the air) I don't see how you could consider those deposits of hydrocarbons to be separate from the earth's climate, at least from a macro perspective.
I'm fairly certain that assuming we are influencing and that we (society, not necessarily the individual) can do something, anything about climate change would be considered the more careful path.
NB My own view on the climate change question is probably summarised as "profoundly confused" - I don't trust much of the popular or political literature on the subject and I don't have the time to review the academic literature (which will be biased anyway - I worked in academia for long enough to know well enough how that game works).
So I find it all too easy to believe that we can have an impact - but I probably agree that directing climate in a constructive way is probably beyond our capabilities as a species.
What I find so fascinating about climate change is that we are able to do this. It's a bit less huge than our atmosphere getting populated with oxygen for the first time, but still really exciting. Intellectually exciting, I mean, and personally terrifying.
Just because an asteroid might hit and change the climate doesn't mean we throw our hands up because it doesn't matter. I don't start smoking three packs a day just because there's a chance I could get lung cancer spontaneously.
Are you saying that humans lack the ability to create social structures that can control our emissions? Or are you saying that the IPCC is incorrect in attributing climate change almost entirely to human activity?
This video is simply staggering in it's immensity. For the life of me, it is these events that make me seriously question whether the climate change deniers have ulterior motives. The fact that the calving scale has so dramatically increased in the past 10-20 years is terrifying and how anyone can pass it off without concern is beyond me.
You also shouldn't expect deniers or people like me, who think that there is little that can be done to prevent climate change, to be impressed by that footage.
Edit: Wait. What? You said you are someone "who think[s] that there is little that can be done to prevent climate change"
What makes you think that? Since humans are a leading cause of the existing change, almost by definition we are capable of working to prevent further damage. Sure, it's going to be extraordinarily difficult and near-impossible, but we can do it. Why would you think otherwise?
Assume you buy that human emissions are driving enough of climate change that if we removed that driver things would stay "cool enough". China has already markedly surpassed the U.S. as the largest total CO2 emitter, and they're not even close to the U.S.'s per capita emissions. Even if they can manage to continue to industrialize while only emitting per capita as much as the nuclear-heavy French, you're still looking at an increase of 15-20%, and I think that's optimistic. AFAIK, the Chinese are building coal fired power plants as fast as they can.
And that's just China. India and Africa would like to enjoy a Western quality of life as well.
I am extremely skeptical that CO2 emissions can be substantially curtailed, short of a world economic collapse that would make 2007-2009 look like a walk in the park.
But I am more than willing to be convinced. I think it would help the alarmed AGW folks immensely if they would unify around a politically impractical "if we ruled the world" plan. One sufficiently detailed that it could be analyzed for its climatic, economic and social effects, as well as publicized, criticized and modified until it becomes practical. A starting point might be, "Tax fossil fuel extraction at the source at levels sufficient to reduce emissions the necessary N%". But then you have to figure out what to do about the facts that this sort of plan would likely never be accepted by Russia or China, and that it's a massively regressive tax on the world's poor. There are solutions to these issues. Figure them out, add them to the plan, lather, rinse, repeat. If something like this already exists, I haven't seen it.
Bring something similar to the low-end market. Bring it at a competitive price. Make it more desirable than the existing stuff and people will switch because they desire it. Not because some law says they have to.
Do the same for everything else. Invent better cheaper and more eco friendly housing, energy, food production, transportation. Like the Tesla it must be more desirable and better in nearly every way then its competition.
IMO that's the only way forward. As you pointed out there's no way to get the entire world to follow some eco laws. Especially when most of the world is wants a better quality of life. If we give them that quality of life or better but with affordable and better eco-tech / eco-design we'll solve the problems.
I don't see why that follows at all. I understand that if everybody thought and acted as you and I probably do, and would build nuclear plants, maybe the effects of GW can be mitigated, but that obviously is not the case.
I'd argue the other way around: the best evidence that there is little that can be done is that there is little that is being done. The Chinese don't even care if you can't see your own hand before your eyes in Peking today, what hope do I have that they care about remote places in 50 years?
Doing something individually against GW is at the far far far bottom of my TODO list. Because it is not an effective use of my time. Maybe the most effective would be working for a Geoengieering company if I had the opportunity.
How much did the glacier retreat 1000 years ago during the Medieval Warm Period? And how much did it grow back 400-500 years ago during the Little Ice Age?
100 years of data is not enough to understand what's really going on.
This is not a direct response to you, but it's a fact that few people seem to realize when discussing ocean levels and global warming.
edit to fix link
I don't follow.
I'd think ulterior motives would be all but implicit in any case where there's even a perception of money / power to be gained/lost.
I am not "truly" amazed that people can mentally delete the human population in whole or in part and claim to know what the Earth's climate should be like without mankind (or at least the "unnaturally" large number of them) as if the totality of human existence were an input to a computer model to be optimized for some target value.
My point is that it is easier to deny than work towards finding a solution.
The ones in power do, but the followers accept plenty of concepts because they run contrarian to what various "authorities" state and believe.
It follows with plenty of subjects, not just "What do scientists know, anyway?" but plenty of "What does medicine know?" and other fields.
I think that the only ulterior motives deniers have is to refuse to face a simple fact: 8 billion people and all the cattle needed to feed them is probably something that earth cannot widthstand for very long. So either we all start eating insects (they are way more environmentally friendly than cattle) or we start limiting birthrate.
I know that it is estimated that total world population shall go down by 2100 or so but I'm not sure we can wait that long.
One kid per couple. Boom. Problem solved.
But who wants to hear that?
If you don't value future people, then developing-world health interventions can do more good with your time/money. And if you do, then other x-risks overwhelm climate change.
There are a lot of problems that we need to look at before climate change, like population control, water management, antibiotics etc etc.
This is wildly incorrect. All of us were born after our climate started to change. And the vast majority of us will live to see increasingly bad effects from it.
> There are a lot of problems that we need to look at before climate change, like population control, water management, antibiotics etc etc.
We should be solving all these problems simultaneously. Your suggestion that we should not work on fixing our climate problems right now, but that we should wait, is extremely dangerous. The longer we wait and the less we do, the worse it's going to get and the more expensive and difficult it will be to survive.
Who says some of these aren't related to climate change anyway? As others have pointed out, we need to be working on these problems simultaneously, if we tried to solve them serially there's a good chance none of them get resolved.
Edit: Ahh, pressure sensor. I had no idea most smartphones had anything like that.
I'm livestreaming the data to Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington. He's got a small team analyzing it to calibrate the sensors and as we grow the network, he'll be using the data to improve weather models and try out new systems of forecasting.
I'm uncomfortable when outlet glacier calving events like this--which are very common, geologically speaking--are used as proof of climate change, or to advocate for action on climate change. They are spectacular looking, but I think it's intellectually dishonest. Outlet glaciers advance and retreat constantly, based largely on local climate variations.
The best proof that humans are affecting the climate is the huge bulk of rigorous scientific data that has been collected and analyzed for decades. It's rarely cool-looking, but it's right.
We also had the pleasure of hearing and witnessing a huge icefall off one of the faces of Mt. Baker. Imagine the loudest thunder you've ever heard, rolling continually for about 5 minutes.
I can only imagine what a fall of this magnitude sounded like in person. One might believe that the earth was splitting in half.
The second time, through good headphones. There's a low rumble and roar that is missed on the smaller speakers. (I should hook up the sub. )
I can't imagine what it must have been like in person.
The scene where there is a significant calving event on the glacier is pretty awesome....
You're relieved? How? The implications of the film and the clip you see should be far more worrying and scary than some data loss that you should have a backup of anyway.
I'll try to be less zealot-y. Pretty much every other person here is saying "meh, calm down everybody, not a big deal." Sometimes someone has to be a zealot, you know?