An overview: Understanding the Global Warming Debate

Guest post by Warren Meyer

Likely you have heard the sound bite that “97% of climate scientists” accept the global warming “consensus”.  Which is what gives global warming advocates the confidence to call climate skeptics “deniers,” hoping to evoke a parallel with “Holocaust Deniers,” a case where most of us would agree that a small group are denying a well-accepted reality.  So why do these “deniers” stand athwart of the 97%?  Is it just politics?  Oil money? Perversity? Ignorance?

We are going to cover a lot of ground, but let me start with a hint.

In the early 1980′s I saw Ayn Rand speak at Northeastern University.  In the Q&A period afterwards, a woman asked Ms. Rand, “Why don’t you believe in housewives?”  And Ms. Rand responded, “I did not know housewives were a matter of belief.”  In this snarky way, Ms. Rand was telling the questioner that she had not been given a valid proposition to which she could agree or disagree.  What the questioner likely should have asked was, “Do you believe that being a housewife is a morally valid pursuit for a woman.”  That would have been an interesting question (and one that Rand wrote about a number of times).

In a similar way, we need to ask ourselves what actual proposition do the 97% of climate scientists agree with.  And, we need to understand what it is, exactly,  that the deniers are denying.   (I personally have fun echoing Ms. Rand’s answer every time someone calls me a climate denier — is the climate really a matter of belief?)

It turns out that the propositions that are “settled” and the propositions to which some like me are skeptical are NOT the same propositions.  Understanding that mismatch will help explain a lot of the climate debate.

Full essay here at Forbes (well worth your time, Anthony)

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106 thoughts on “An overview: Understanding the Global Warming Debate

  1. A good, balanced article – the only bit of BS being the 97% figure for all scientists agreeing about ‘global warming’, but that is probably because no one explained how that goofy figure was arrived at.

    As for geologists – the guys who really understand historic/ancient climates, the figure would probably be a mirror image 3% – excluding those who work for government, who are told what to think in regards to climate change and lose their jobs if they disagree.

  2. Thinking about the idea that all the observations show warming during the last century, and getting really moving in the post-war period, it occurs to me to ask if the UHI effect really took off after the advent of nuclear power?

    The widespread (in the West) installation of nuclear power stations, and competing coal, hydro, and oil stations, must have translated into a significant net increase in human heat production – wouldn’t you think?

    And since the non-satellite temperature readings are all clustered around the same (mostly) western industrialised urban areas … well, is it too radical to question the very first proposition, that warming has in fact occurred at all?

  3. Best quote I think I’ve ever heard to summarize such a divided opinion:
    At best, this is a function of the laziness and scientific illiteracy of the media that allows folks to talk past one another; at worst, it is a purposeful bait-and-switch to avoid debate on the tough issues.

  4. Really excellent article — well balanced and reasonable. It lays out almost perfectly the rational skeptical position on CAGW. If anything, it is too nice to “warmists” as it completely leaves out the political subtext of vested interests in the warmist crowd, especially in the IPCC itself which simply wouldn’t exist (and soon will very likely not exist) if it weren’t for a plausible “C” in CAGW with all sorts of strong positive feedbacks.

    rgb

  5. A bit of information is missing: how many people were asked the question to which 97% answered one way and 3% the other, and what were their qualifications?

  6. Who says doubling [CO2] causes temperatures to rise by ~1 k? The ‘consensus’ of course, but it has to be wrong. I’m not the originator of this argument but the assumption of 100% direct thermalisation of of quantised intramolecular vibration in asymmetrical molecules to symmetrical molecules is plainly impossible: there is no mechanism; the energy can only be passed to other GHGs in one tranche.

    In reality, another excited molecule will emit the same energy photon in a random direction, restoring the Local Thermodynamic Equilibrium. So why did Tyndall and the PET bottle experiments measure higher delta T for CO2? Easy to explain: they were at constant volume so because CTE for CO2 is higher than permanent gases, they measure the temperature rise due to compression. Unscrew the PET bottle cap and delta T falls significantly showing it’s from scattered IR thermalised at the bottle walls.

    This is but the first of five major scientific mistakes in the IPCC claims. It’s a joke to any professional scientist with sufficient advanced physics willing to piece together how since 1997 this pseudo-science has probably been based on systemic deception.

  7. I was just thinking, if these ultra low temperatures during the winter start occuring more often, we will have to emit more and more co2 while heating ourselves, which in turn wil make the global warming even more severe :))).

  8. I agree – really well-balanced article. And if you follow the links at the end there is a slide pack and/or a video and/or a DVD available as well.

  9. “In a similar way, we need to ask ourselves what actual proposition do the 97% of climate scientists agree with.”
    They were asked:
    “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?”
    So I guess then that he ‘deniers’ as you call them were denying that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global.

  10. Warren Meyer also wrote this summary about Mann in another article linked to the one above…

    “Postscript: You will notice that I wrote this entire article without once mentioning either the words “hockey stick” or “Climategate.” I have never thought Michael Mann’s hockey stick to be a particularly compelling piece of evidence, even if it were correct. The analysis purports to show a rapid increase in world temperatures after centuries of stability, implying that man is likely the cause of current warming because, on Mann’s chart, recent temperature trends look so unusual. In the world of scientific proof, this is the weakest of circumstantial evidence.

    As it turns out, however, there are a myriad of problems great and small with the hockey stick, from cherry-picking data to highly questionable statistical methods, which probably make the results incorrect. Studies that have avoided Mann’s mistakes have all tended to find the same thing – whether looking over a scale of a century, or millennia, or millions of years, climate changes absolutely naturally. Nothing about our current temperatures or CO2 levels is either unusual or unprecedented.

    The best evidence that the problems identified with Mann’s analysis are probably real is how hard Mann and a small climate community fought to avoid releasing data and computer code that would allow outsiders to check and replicate their work. The “Climategate” emails include no smoking gun about the science, but do show how far the climate community has strayed from what is considered normal and open scientific process. No science should have to rely on an in-group saying “just trust us,” particularly one with trillions of dollars of public policy decisions on the line.”

    Perfect comments for Mann’s book over at Amazon…

  11. I thought it was well written, but a bit too soft on the warmista. And he uses ‘deny’ a lot – (thought that was now taboo?).

    But anyway, I don’t think it is sufficiently simple and well written for the Average Joe (too many long words and sentences, no disrepect intended, but there are many folk who simply will not bother to read slowly, re-read, and then understand stuff, they are too busy trying to earn a crust! – they need quick sound bite type cartoons and graphs!), and it’s far too simplified for those that have followed the CAGW debate, IMHO.

    He hits the nail on the head wrt the seemingly ideological/dogmatic stances of the warmists (i.e. always running back to the basic theory, earth is warming stance, and not accepting any real discussion of the implications) – but doesn’t explain that the D…’rs are not really the ones being ideological/dogmatic. Skeptics in science are to be applauded and listened too – and if they get converted (by a new theory), then you are likely on to a winner with ones theory – if they aren’t, your theory is likely full of BS. That’s the way science generally works, and so, IMO, the ideological/dogmatic stance of the theory and it’s ardent suporters, should be exposed as a weakness, especially, as Meyer explains, that it’s largely the subsequent ‘use’ (or rather misuse!) of the theory that is being exploited and that use is the primary part that the skeptics deny.

  12. Warming is a trend that isn’t supported by the data in the linear fashion reflected in their conclusions — ergo their conclusions are Null.

  13. Regarding the “97%” of climate scientists, I understand that the actual numbers were 77 out of 79 climate scientists who had, within the past 5 years, had 50% or more of their publications related to climate science, answered yes to both these questions:

    1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?
    2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

    However, when we look at the numbers of the polling of these scientists we find they represent 0.75% of all earth scientists (10,257) who were originally sent the questionnaire, and just 2.4% of those who responded (3146).

    Further, the 77 were only 24% of all climate scientists who responded (268).

    When was the last time you saw a headline saying “97% of 2.4% of all earth scientists agree AGW is real,” or, “When Does 24% = 97%?”

    Samuel Clements’ lies, damned lies and statistics should be used as a disclaimer on the reporting of the 97% figure.

    It appears global warming has extended the cherry picking season as well…..

  14. Excellent article. I am impressed by the clarity of Meyer’s writing.

    A followup article discussing in depth the positive benefits of rising CO2 (plant food) and moderate global warming (longer growing seasons, 20 humans die from cold for every death due to heat, etc.) would be valuable.

    Another article discussing the various rents that the CAGW’s seek would also be valuable.

  15. The argument would not exist if there was a technology that could replace coal oil gas and nuclear and by omission Warren forgot to mention that other dirty sordid word “hard cash” who in their right mind would pay Al Gore $120,000 a hit if all he said was “gee folks everythings just fine” as one contributor said last week if you want to know why all the hype then just follow the money.

    The claims had to be hysterical John Houghton said “it has got to be dark and catastrophic otherwise no one will take any notice” the greens are to climate change what Bernie Madoff was to ethical behaviour.

  16. I agree with Robert Brown and good for you to post it on Forbes where it will have reach and an immediate benefit!!!

    Best,
    John from CA

  17. I read the article and found the following

    “While some of the talk-show-type skeptics have tried to dispute this greenhouse theory, most of what I call the science-based skeptics do not, and accept a number circa 1C for the direct warming effect of a doubling of CO2.”

    I, for one, do not accept this number. It can NEVER be measured, so how anyone can claim it is valid I have no idea. It is a hypothetical, and completely meaningless number. It is based on the assumption that it can be estimated by ONLY looking at radiative effects, neglecting conduction, convection and the latent heat of water. The assumption that “the structure of the atmosphere does not change”; i.e. the lapse rate remains constant.After reading that, I did not take too much notice of the rest of the article. Sorry, Anthony, the article is not really worthwhile reading.

  18. Peter Miller says: “…the guys who really understand historic/ancient climates…”

    Peter, You should know better ! ALL propositions about the geologic past are based on our understanding of PROXIES. For instance, stratigraphy, examination of fossils in those rock layers, etc are all proxies from which climate inference is made. As is the case in ALL science, our understanding is only as good as those inferences, which can and generally do contain errors.

    My overall point is that geologist’s “understanding” is only an approximation of “truth” and no geologist worth his salt would conclude that we really understand everything/anything about ancient climate in more than general terms. No precision to plus or minus 1 degree C, so sorry !
    Humans have real perspective issues with timescales in millions of years.

    .

  19. John says:
    February 9, 2012 at 9:49 am

    The problem is the word “significant”. It is undefined and hence left up to the reader to define.
    In some fields, as little as 5% can be considered “significant”.

  20. Jim Cripwell said: “I, for one, do not accept this number. It can NEVER be measured, so how anyone can claim it is valid I have no idea. It is a hypothetical, and completely meaningless number. ”

    Jim, your criticism is valid, but the article is not flawed by maintaining 1C. First the 1C can be simply calculated in radiative column models in clear and cloudy conditions, followed by some sort of averaging. There are flaws with that, with the 1C we will get circulation changes particularly convection which will change albedo, latent heat transfer, etc. But the gross concept is sound because 1C is not a drastic warming so drastic circulation and weather changes should not be anticipated.

  21. I’m surprised there was no link to Warren Meyers site http://www.climate-skeptic.com, although he doesn’t seem to post to it as often as he used to. This was the first site I visited when I decided to open my eyes to the whole GW issue, and it was a link there that led me to the wonderful here.

    Seeing his graph showing the temperatures superimposed on the PDO was what made it all click into place for me.

  22. Well balanced article. Pity about the glaring error ” (a phenomenon we can hear with loud feedback screeches from a microphone).” The feedback screeches from the speakers, not the microphone. You have to wonder if that something that obvious can slip past.

  23. Meyer writes:

    “But the science of this positive climate feedback theory is far from settled. Just as skeptics are probably wrong to question the basic greenhouse gas effect of CO2, catastrophic global warming advocates are wrong to over-estimate our understanding of these feedbacks. Not only may the feedback number not be high, but it might be negative, as implied by some recent research, which would actually reduce the warming we would see from a doubling of CO2 to less than one degree Celsius. After all, most long-term stable natural systems (and that would certainly describe climate) are dominated by negative rather than positive feedbacks.”

    Right, Mr. Meyer, but you leave out the most important point. Climate scientists have produced no well confirmed physical hypotheses that explain “feedbacks,” such as the effects of rising CO2 on cloud behavior, and they have no plans to do so. Without such well confirmed physical hypotheses, they have no science of feedbacks. They should readily admit this. They should claim that they have some rational reason for believing that feedbacks exist but that it is not science.

    Also, genuine scientists would find their faces turning beet red if they talked about “feedbacks” the way climate scientists do. “Feedbacks” is just a hand waving term that hides the fact that there are no well confirmed hypotheses that can be used to explain and predict the phenomena in question.

  24. An excellent summary. One specific bit to quibble with however is the lack of a distinction between fast and slow “earth system” feedbacks. The planet has not yet found an equilibrium point to the current level of greenhouse gases, so it is huge misstatement to give any specific increase to 390 ppm, as even if somehow the CO2 level suddenly stopped rising, there are still decades worth of warming ahead until all the Earth system feedbacks have caught up to reach equilibrium. Mind you, I am a warmist, but not a believer in “catastrophic” AGW, but I do understand the reality of fast and slow feedbacks, and the fact that it takes decades for a system as large and complex as the Earth’s climate to reach equilibrium once all feedbacks have fully acted.

  25. Theo Godwin said:

    Also, genuine scientists would find their faces turning beet red if they talked about “feedbacks” the way climate scientists do. “Feedbacks” is just a hand waving term that hides the fact that there are no well confirmed hypotheses that can be used to explain and predict the phenomena in question.

    ——
    This is a very ignorant statement, and indicates that you obviously know nothing of the field of medicine or biology where feedbacks play a vital role in nearly all aspects, and are talked about in much the same way as climate scientists do. In this regard, the paradigm of viewing the Earth as a single living organism with all the same complex feedbacks as any organism has is quite valid.

  26. This is an outstanding high-level summary of the problems with the CAGW position. Thank you for drawing the article to our attention.

  27. R. Gates says:
    February 9, 2012 at 11:31 am
    “An excellent summary. One specific bit to quibble with however is the lack of a distinction between fast and slow “earth system” feedbacks. ”

    Radiative exchange of energy (absorption and re-emission) happens in milliseconds. Thousands of such processes happen within seconds.
    Absorption and re-emission near the surface happen after an average free path length of about 30 m.
    So much for “slow”.

  28. “R. Gates says:
    February 9, 2012 at 11:40 am”

    Did you intentionally misunderstand him? He was referring specifically to the use of the term “feedbacks” as it’s used by “climate scientists”. He was not referring to biology or medicine.

  29. I am not a warmist, but agree with R Gates’ entry at 1140 AM.

    I would add that a complex system such as the Earth’s Air/Oceans system with its continuously changing inputs on multiple timescales is never at equilibrium—–this is part of what will always make good climate science difficult. At every moment the system is settling toward some equilibrium, but the changing inputs continuously change the equilibrium, so the system never gets there. Since we never get to see the equilibrium, empirical studies can never measure it, and models can never be verified.

    Models, however, can be refuted if the real world does produce measurements that are inconsistent with the models. We know that the CAGW models circa 1990 have all been refuted by the failure of the climate to warm anywhere near the level predicted by those models as measured CO2 has continued to climb.

  30. Eric (skeptic) writes “Jim, your criticism is valid, but the article is not flawed by maintaining 1C. First the 1C can be simply calculated in radiative column models in clear and cloudy conditions, followed by some sort of averaging”

    I respectfully disagree. Any number which can NEVER be measured has no meaning in physics. Second, no model, unless it has been fully validated, can ever “calculate” anything. It can only”estimate”. By the way, if you have a reference to how this “calculation” is actually done, I would be grateful. TIA.

  31. Wow, the pedants are clearly out in force today. They should try actually reading the article in question at the source.

  32. To Warren Meyer……please:
    Warming does not only produce “many” effects….but, a good list has been
    compiled, please see

    its time….. we buy our tumbstone soon……
    JS

  33. Thank you, Warren Meyer, for this clear and well-balanced essay. It deserves to be more widely circulated. I have noticed a few minor points which you might consider when preparing a future edition. However there is one point where I think you may have unnecessarily laid yourself open to criticism. The ‘97%’ figure for support of the consensus in the Doran paper is indeed meaningless as both the leading questions would be answered in much the same way by sceptical scientists as by adherents of the orthodoxy. The Doran paper is thus irrelevant to the climate debate. However the figure 97-98% appears in another recent publication which I think may be cited by your critics; namely the Anderegg et al (2010) paper ‘Expert credibility in climate change’ (PNAS, Volt 107, 12107 – 12109). This paper, which is not hidden behind a paywall, may, along with the discussion it has given rise to, deserve more attention than the Doran paper. As far as I know PNAS papers are not subject to conventional peer review, which may itself reflect on the credibility of the Anderegg et al paper. I still think it deserves a mention.

  34. R Gates, when you say “there are still decades worth of warming ahead until all the Earth system feedbacks have caught up to reach equilibrium.” do you mean thermal inertia? Or more ice and tundra melting? Those do not seem to be very significant since the ocean warming may be deep (i.e. not part of the short term equilibrium) and the tundra also has depth that will take more than decades to warm.

  35. @RHS

    “…Best quote I think I’ve ever heard to summarize such a divided opinion:
    At best, this is a function of the laziness and scientific illiteracy of the media that allows folks to talk past one another; at worst, it is a purposeful bait-and-switch to avoid debate on the tough issues…”

    Actually, the worst is a lot worse. What is entirely left out of this essay is the question of WHY people are avoiding debate. The initial reason was probably scientific arrogance, but now it is more likely to be because a lot of jobs and money are riding on the debate, and in a fair debate they will lose. So at worst this is a conspiracy to defraud and enslave the world’s taxpayers – it probably didn’t start that way, but that’s what it has become…

  36. Now that “volcanoes” are now being blamed for the Little Ice Age (to divert attention from solar minimums) it is nice to see the warmenizers are admitting that there was a global Little Ice Age.

    Since there was an agreed upon global Little Ice Age, I await the day when the sane warmenizers (a small percentage) agree than any 20th century warming is just a bounce back from the global Little Ice Age.

    Did you know some January’s were 10C colder than the warmest ones?

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/hadcet/mly_cet_mean_sort.txt

  37. Eric (skeptic) says:
    February 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm
    R Gates, when you say “there are still decades worth of warming ahead until all the Earth system feedbacks have caught up to reach equilibrium.” do you mean thermal inertia? Or more ice and tundra melting? Those do not seem to be very significant since the ocean warming may be deep (i.e. not part of the short term equilibrium) and the tundra also has depth that will take more than decades to warm.
    ______
    Certainly there is some “thermal inertia” (I really hate that phrase) in the oceans, in that at least some of the energy has gone into the deeper ocean through the THC, and it will alter patterns in climate for centuries. However, the earth system feedbacks specifically I’m referring to are related to changes in the cyrosphere and biosphere. The cyrosphere is still reacting to 390 ppm, and will for several more decades. Unfortunately, over that time period we’ll be seeing 410, then 420, 430, etc. ppm. But even if somehow we stayed around 390, it would take many decades before the cryosphere settles in to some equilibrium just from 390 ppm (not to mention the higher amounts of methane and N20. Thus, in the shrinking of ice cover, summer sea ice cover, glaciers, etc. more heat is still being absorbed as these shrink, meaning the thermal equilibrium temperature is still higher from here. In terms of the biosphere, the response of plants and animals to the warming we’ve already seen will take decades to fully complete. These changes (such as species migration) alter the amount of energy absorbed by the system (plants now covering formerly ice covered rocks in Greenland for example). These are long-term slow feedbacks, that mean the actual equilibrium temperature from the amount of CO2 we currently have is still many decades out. To state that the world has warmed only 0.7C from the 390 ppm we currently have is to miss the underlying warming that is still going on from the 390 ppm, such that even if we stayed at 390 ppm, we might very well still see 1 to 1.2C of warming just from these levels after the slow feedbacks have completed. Of course, we’ll never know as higher higher we go in CO2 for the next several decades.

  38. R. Gates says:
    February 9, 2012 at 11:31 am

    An excellent summary. One specific bit to quibble with however is the lack of a distinction between fast and slow “earth system” feedbacks. The planet has not yet found an equilibrium point to the current level of greenhouse gases, so it is huge misstatement to give any specific increase to 390 ppm, as even if somehow the CO2 level suddenly stopped rising, there are still decades worth of warming ahead until all the Earth system feedbacks have caught up to reach equilibrium.

    Yeah I agree Mr Gates. When the sun rose this morning, I didn’t feel it’s warmth, what I felt was the warmth from the sun that rose many decades ago.

  39. Rob Crawford says:
    February 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm
    “R. Gates says:
    February 9, 2012 at 11:40 am”

    Did you intentionally misunderstand him? He was referring specifically to the use of the term “feedbacks” as it’s used by “climate scientists”. He was not referring to biology or medicine.
    _____
    And my point was that it is equally as valid for climate scientists to talk about feedbacks as a biologist would. They are both dealing with complex systems with multiple interacting feedbacks. In this sense, CO2 additions to the atmosphere should be viewed more like any change in input to a biological system.

  40. DirkH says:
    February 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm
    R. Gates says:
    February 9, 2012 at 11:31 am
    “An excellent summary. One specific bit to quibble with however is the lack of a distinction between fast and slow “earth system” feedbacks. ”

    Radiative exchange of energy (absorption and re-emission) happens in milliseconds. Thousands of such processes happen within seconds.
    Absorption and re-emission near the surface happen after an average free path length of about 30 m.
    So much for “slow”.
    _____
    Suggest you read a bit more about the changes going on to the biosphere and cyrosphere, and stop trying to give me schooling on basic radiational physics.

  41. I really wish that those knowledgable folks in this climate debate, including Warren Meyer, would stop confusing theory with hypothesis. Per the NAS, an hypothesis is a “tentative explanation for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation. Scientific hypotheses must be posed in a form that allows them to be rejected.”, whereas a theroy is “a plausible or scientifically acceptable, well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena and predict the characteristics of as yet unobserved phenomena.” CAGW has not yet risen to the level of theory, nor have the many hypothesized negative impacts of a warming world.

    Warren Meyer says “We are discussing the hypothesis of “catastrophic man-made global warming theory.” Huh? And then he says “….scientists are looking for confirmation of the theory in observations.” If it hasn’t been observed, supported by emperical evidence, passed falsification tests, and shown to have predictive capability, it ain’t a theory. Saying CAGW is a theory unjustifiably elevates its status.

  42. Thanks R. Gates. I like using phrases that you hate like “thermal inertia” or “in the pipeline” because those phrases have been broadcast to the public as a reason for future concern and it forces you to confront them. Deep oceans are of course a short term heat sink, not a source of any kind of heat regardless of any circulation changes (which could cool or warm in the decades we are talking about here).

    Are you sure you are not overestimating that 1 to 1.2 degrees from various feedbacks? I don’t see how forests around the edge of Greenland is going to make a huge difference. Most places on Greenland the ice is a centuries scale feedback. Wouldn’t other plant changes (e.g. transpiration) increase the water cycle?

    I believe the equilibrium temperature is only partly determined by the radiative balance that includes the extra CO2, but mainly by the patterns of weather as determined mainly be geography. For example, stick a large new mountain range somewhere (in a variety of potential locations) and the earth’s equilibrium temperature will probably drop. The question with 1C of added CO2 warming is how weather patterns would change and how that change would affect the equilibrium (the weather pattern changes essentially dictate sensitivity).

  43. R. Gates says:
    February 9, 2012 at 3:16 pm
    “Suggest you read a bit more about the changes going on to the biosphere and cyrosphere, and stop trying to give me schooling on basic radiational physics.”

    Don’t know what you’re alluding to. CO2 makes corals go berserk? Is that it? I heard they grow with an unsustainable speed. Yeah, that must be it. Soon there’ll be no more space for the water in the ocean basins. Which will obviously lead to some severe flooding. Quick, have a platoon of researchers in Boulder write papers about it. And run for the hills.

  44. R. Gates says:
    February 9, 2012 at 11:31 am
    <>>

    I agree that it is stupid to use 390ppm as a start point. But I cannot follow the rest of your statement, and certainly, I am unaware how you can support those assertions..
    I’d call it hand waving, but from the massive sweeping statement its more like flag waving!.

    1) Where, when and why and for how long has CO2 ever been in ‘equilibrium’ during earths history – (who says what ‘value’ equilibrium is?) and just for the heck of it, give us a ppm value at the same time – and since you are obviously hand waving, why not give us the corresponding/correlating temp as well!!

    2) Who will say when equilibrium (an imaginery figure, any sensible person will agree, but we will let that slide for now) is reached, and how will we know? How do we know that equilibrium (an imaginery state as I already suggest) has not technically ‘occurred’ – no warming for some years despite increasing CO2. Mind you, I could accept that we are seeing CO2 rises as a result of temp increases 800 years ago!

    3) There is still no certainty that the NET effect of increased CO2 is indeed positive (despite IPCC protestations) – it is entirely feasible that the sum of all the supposed changes within the climate will be a negative feedback effect. (Personally, I consider this to be the most likely scenario, as Earth has ALWAYS come back from past climate extremes and with much higher CO2 values!)

  45. Thanks Warren, very good article.

    I have been publishing about the Global Warming debate and the science of climate in my page “Climate Change (“Global Warming”?) – The cyclic nature of Earth’s climate”, at http://www.oarval.org/ClimateChangeBW.htm

    I agree completely that the position one holds must be clearly defined so that discussions can be engaged and conclusions can be reached eventually. Honesty is required of all participants for discussions to have value.

    BTW, I think both global warming and cooling have happened and will happen again, cyclically and naturally.
    Some man-made contribution is possible, but has to be proven first. This with real evidence, not models.

  46. Nice one, Warren. I also read your column on Hugh Hefner’s responsibility for abstinence while I was there. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad, and so expensive.

  47. You people amaze me. Why anyone would respond to r gates after seeing what his past comments have been is …well amazing.

  48. Not impressed. The whole reason the CO2 debate became so heated was because it was swiftly and deliberately enmeshed within a political agenda by those who were arguing for catastrophic consequences for increasing carbon dioxide concentrations. By describing this in a rather bloodless fashion as an almost purely scientific debate, Meyers obfuscates the reasons for the two sides supposedly talking past each other. Have we not seen here countless pleas for the warmists to show us the evidence that temperature increases are beyond normal ranges and to show us to what degree these changes are due to anthropogenic CO2 effects alone? Two sides talking past each other implies a circular argument, but that is not what is going on here: I think most of us understand and reject much of the rhetoric put forth by the alarmist scientists.

    And I don’t think the business of the 97% of scientists agreeing with CAGW was well deconstructed by Meyer, who makes it sound like a huge number of scientists really is in agreement with some version of AGW: saltspringson above gives a much better reminder in the comments above of the actual derivation of this figure. Meyers should also have mentioned the funding context which leads to so many scientists to write articles that include specious connections to the AGW issue.

  49. I hate it when people start talking about the albedo change because of reduced sea ice in September in the Arctic.

    1) It’s around the equinox, the incidence of the Sun means a lot of the incoming SW will be reflected.
    2) All that exposed sea means that the Arctic is uninsulated & energy can escape from the waters. It’s a NEGATIVE feedback!

    DaveE.

  50. Not covered is after “knowing” what is happening then “knowing” what to do. Of course at what cost is any action?

  51. DirkH says:
    February 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm
    R. Gates says:
    February 9, 2012 at 3:16 pm
    “Suggest you read a bit more about the changes going on to the biosphere and cyrosphere, and stop trying to give me schooling on basic radiational physics.”

    Don’t know what you’re alluding to.
    _____
    I recognized that. Suggest you go to google scholar and type in: slow earth system feedbacks CO2.

    Among the many excellent scholarly articles, you’ll come across this one:

    http://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/2/211/2011/esdd-2-211-2011.pdf

    If you actually read enough about these, you’ll come to the conclusion that the 3C estimate of warming for a CO2 doubling is probably a pretty good one when factoring in slow feedbacks, and that the paleoclimate data shows that the models don’t fully capture all the slower feedbacks, and hence, underestimate the warming we saw in the past when CO2 levels were at higher levels. All this leads me to the conclusion that the .7C or so warming we’ve seen in the past century (not all due to CO2 mind you), but that figure is probably not indicative of the final equilibrium temperature from 390 ppm of CO2, and so even if we stopped pumping up the CO2 level, we’ve probably got another .3 to .4C of warming “in the pipeline” already, based on slow earth system responses to the CO2 already present. As we go higher in CO2, methane, and N20 concentration, approaching that 3C in global temperature rise is well in range for a doubling of CO2 when factoring in the slow earth-system responses especially. On the current trajectory, we’re likely heading for Pliocene climate conditions, or even possibly late Miocene over the next few centuries. Will this be a “catastrophe”? Who knows? It will certainly present humanity with interesting challenges…

  52. Has anybody noticed that the Forbes piece got only 13 comments, but there are roughly 60 at WUWT?

  53. How did they manage to find even 3% who would disagree with one or both of those trivial assertions?

  54. “The two researchers obtained their results by conducting a survey of 10,257 Earth scientists. The survey results must have deeply disappointed the researchers — in the end, they chose to highlight the views of a subgroup of just 77 scientists, 75 of whom thought humans contributed to climate change. The ratio 75/77 produces the 97% figure that pundits now tout.”

    http://opinion.financialpost.com/2011/01/03/lawrence-solomon-97-cooked-stats/#ixzz1A5px63Ax

    The only credible (although far from perfect) surveys conducted that I have been able to find were done by Hans von Storch. The current numbers are that around 80% of climate scientists endorse the IPCC position. This seemed to be up from a survey done a few years earlier which suggested 60% agreement at the time. However, because the methodology was improved and the questions less general, it is difficult to do a direct comparison between the two surveys.

  55. R. Gates said:

    This is a very ignorant statement, and indicates that you obviously know nothing of the field of medicine or biology where feedbacks play a vital role in nearly all aspects, and are talked about in much the same way as climate scientists do. In this regard, the paradigm of viewing the Earth as a single living organism with all the same complex feedbacks as any organism has is quite valid.
    ——————————————————————————————
    Just to check my own perception, I ran this comment past a friend who is a senior biochemistry researcher. He replied “This person doesn’t know what they are talking about. Any comparison between the Earth and a living organism in the use of the term ‘feedback’ is science fiction, not science”. Oh, and I didn’t tell him in what context the comment was made.

    Climate researchers may well coin a term like ‘feedback’ and (assuming agreement on the meaning) use it in their own field. But if science means anything at all, it means being very clear about terminology. Biologists and medical researchers (reputable ones, anyway) don’t use the term to mean ‘just like Gaia’, or ‘as used in climatology’.

    I also agree with vigilantfish that the issue has been mischaracterised as a falling-out in the common room between academics. While this approach may well serve a gentle back-pedalling without loss of face for those in academe, in the real world it has been much, much more. We are starting to see people who profited immensely from the CAGW paradigm leaping off the ship, making their eyes go big (with the occasional tear) and saying that like Victorian former maidens, they were cruelly deceived. No, they weren’t – they hopped on the bandwagon and raked in the benefits.

  56. Baa Humbug says:
    February 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm
    R. Gates says:
    February 9, 2012 at 11:31 am

    An excellent summary. One specific bit to quibble with however is the lack of a distinction between fast and slow “earth system” feedbacks. The planet has not yet found an equilibrium point to the current level of greenhouse gases, so it is huge misstatement to give any specific increase to 390 ppm, as even if somehow the CO2 level suddenly stopped rising, there are still decades worth of warming ahead until all the Earth system feedbacks have caught up to reach equilibrium.

    Yeah I agree Mr Gates. When the sun rose this morning, I didn’t feel it’s warmth, what I felt was the warmth from the sun that rose many decades ago.
    ———
    Of course, when I took a hot shower this morning, I felt the warmth of the sun from many millions of years ago, as the water was heated by natural gas, which is of course stored ancient sunlight. In burning this natural gas, I convert this energy to unusable easrw heat, burn up this stored sunlight, and increase the total entropy in this universe.

  57. johanna says:
    February 9, 2012 at 8:02 pm
    R. Gates said:

    This is a very ignorant statement, and indicates that you obviously know nothing of the field of medicine or biology where feedbacks play a vital role in nearly all aspects, and are talked about in much the same way as climate scientists do. In this regard, the paradigm of viewing the Earth as a single living organism with all the same complex feedbacks as any organism has is quite valid.
    ——————————————————————————————
    Just to check my own perception, I ran this comment past a friend who is a senior biochemistry researcher. He replied “This person doesn’t know what they are talking about. Any comparison between the Earth and a living organism in the use of the term ‘feedback’ is science fiction, not science”. Oh, and I didn’t tell him in what context the comment was made.

    ——
    All I can say to that is I feel heartily sorry that someone so smart (it takes a good deal of intelligence I would imagine to be a senior biochemistry researcher) hasn’t got a clue about the incredble interconnectedness of the systems of this planet. From the carbon and rock weathering cycle, to volcanic activity, to the connection between plankton and the composition of the atmosphere, to the magnetic field that protects us like the skin of a cell, for this biochemcial researcher to not see the vital living connectedness of this Earth, and the multiple interrelated systems and feedbacks there are, and how those are very much like living organism, proves this person lacks not imagination, but true scientific vision. How much more wonderful it will be, in the not too distant future, as we discover more and more planets spread across our galaxy capable of supporting life, and come to realize that life, and creating these living planets, are in some amazing way, what this universe seems to be all about.

  58. R. Gates says:
    February 9, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Of course, when I took a hot shower this morning, I felt the warmth of the sun from many millions of years ago, as the water was heated by natural gas, which is of course stored ancient sunlight. In burning this natural gas, I convert this energy to unusable easrw heat, burn up this stored sunlight, and increase the total entropy in this universe.

    Surely you mean you felt the warmth from the forcing of CO2 from many millions of years ago. The sun alone just isn’t powerful enough remember?

    I’m glad you grasp the silliness of your original statement. Self deprecation is good humour.

  59. R. Gates says:
    February 9, 2012 at 11:31 am

    even if somehow the CO2 level suddenly stopped rising, there are still decades worth of warming ahead until all the Earth system feedbacks have caught up to reach equilibrium

    You could be right, but it would really be nice to get a tiny hint of the feedbacks in the meantime that prove CO2 is a possible culprit. Suppose that you calculate that a 180 pound man needs 1,800 kcal (or Cal) of food every day to maintain his weight. You could make a model that if he got 2,300 kcal every day, he would gain weight and his health would be in danger before too long. So if this man got 2,300 kcal every day for 15 years and there was no weight change, what would you conclude?
    A. Your model was wrong.
    B. Your model was correct but the man exercised every day to make up for the extra kcal.
    C. Your model was correct, but 15 years is too short a period to necessarily notice a change. So the extra weight is somewhere deep inside his entrails where no scale can detect it. However it is there somewhere and unless billions are spent now, the man will balloon up by the time 17 years are up.
    D. Other? If so, please specify.

    P.S. See

    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/rss/from:1980/plot/rss/from:1997/trend

  60. Warren –

    Yes, a questionnaire about what skeptics and ‘believers’ are denying or believing would be a good thing.

    As much as skeptics are ridiculed, I am sometimes squeamish about voicing what degree of skepticism I have. Although I am a Liberal and reasonably moderate in my overall approach to things, over time I have come to the following realtively extreme denial positions:

    1. I do not accept that warming is occurring, because I do not trust the past data, especially the proxy data.
    1.a. This is in part because in looking closley at tree-rings over a reasonable length of time, I’ve decided that dendroclimatology is a pseudo science, in that its assertions that tree-ring growth correlates linearly with the temperature is unsupportable.
    1.b. This is also because the climate scientists are stonewalling FOIA on releasing which data has been used and what adjustments have been made.
    1.c. This is also because the climate scientists’ keep adjusting the past temperatures, which IMHO is a fraudulent activity. The past data, once determined, cannot change. If there is reason to modify it, a full paper should be published ONLY on that subject and pointing out to everyone the reasons and informing everyone to adjust all their work in this area. Such openness is not happening; the new adjustments are simply sneaked into reconstructions with no notice and no explanations. This is such bad science I don’t even know strong enough words to use to label it.
    1.d. The Hockey Stick is so patently wrong, what with pretending the MWP and LIA didn’t happen. The collective climate community should have laughed Michael Mann right out of town and branded him as a data fudger, preventing him from ever getting a job again in the field. Instead, he is winning awards. The entire field should be ashamed of itself.

    2. I further do not accept that any warming that might really be occurring is due to human industrial activity in terms of CO2 emissions.
    2.a. No paper or series of papers has been presented to falsify any other forcing. It was my first assumption when I first got interested in this subject: That obviously they wouldn’t be going around claiming, “Humans did it,” if they hadn’t ruled out other possible forcings. Those papers simply have never been done. Assertions about single factors are all over the place, but no falsification studies of alternate explanations have been done to date.
    2.b. No reconstruction adequately accounts for UHI. If humans are affecting the climate, it is MUCH more likely to come from UHI and the ‘great dying off of the thermometers’ than from CO2.
    2.c. The great dying off of thermometers conveniently occurred right at the base of the Hockey Stick blade. No one, to my knowledge, has looked into what effect this has had on the reconstructions.

    If these people weren’t trying to destroy Western civilization and its necessary industrial base, I wouldn’t even pay it any attention. The climate scientists are so obviously cherry picking and massaging the data that they really wouldn’t be worth my time. But to destroy industry WOULD take down Western civilization, and I believe they know it – which leads me to believe that the climate scientists are all misanthropes of the highest order. The world needs to be protected from them. I applaud and support everyone who opposes them.

    Again, I remind that I am a Liberal and thus should be on board with “cleaning up the planet for our grandchildren.” But I can’t agree with terrible science and human haters who would cause the starvation deaths of many tens or hundreds of millions of people.

    James Hansen is the most wacko guy I have ever seen. Everything out of his mouth is a terrible and massively exaggerated lie.

    I may be Liberal, but I am not stupid.

    Steve Garcia

  61. R. Gates says:

    All I can say to that is I feel heartily sorry that someone so smart (it takes a good deal of intelligence I would imagine to be a senior biochemistry researcher) hasn’t got a clue about the incredble interconnectedness of the systems of this planet. From the carbon and rock weathering cycle, to volcanic activity, to the connection between plankton and the composition of the atmosphere, to the magnetic field that protects us like the skin of a cell, for this biochemcial researcher to not see the vital living connectedness of this Earth, and the multiple interrelated systems and feedbacks there are, and how those are very much like living organism, proves this person lacks not imagination, but true scientific vision. How much more wonderful it will be, in the not too distant future, as we discover more and more planets spread across our galaxy capable of supporting life, and come to realize that life, and creating these living planets, are in some amazing way, what this universe seems to be all about.
    ———————————————————————
    You may be surprised to find that many people on this site (including me) are awestruck by the natural world. Not only that, many of us are keen to mitigate change to the bits of it that we especially like. I make this point because landscapes, like animals, have a ‘cuteness’ factor. However, change is going to come, whatever we do. That is the one thing we can be sure of.

    Nevertheless, as soon as you start to confound Gaia concepts with science, we are back in the realm of animism and shamanism. These are mystical traditions, and if you want to live by them, fine. But please do not confuse them with science, or expect others to suffer material deprivation because of them.

    It is insulting to claim that refusing to conflate scientific terms is a result of lack of ‘true scientific vision’. True scientific vision is where people see things clearly and they see them whole. No fudging of terms or concepts is involved.

  62. R. Gates… you said…
    “This is a very ignorant statement, and indicates that you obviously know nothing of the field of medicine or biology where feedbacks play a vital role in nearly all aspects, and are talked about in much the same way as climate scientists do.”

    Well, the truth is, there IS a difference between what medicine and biology discusses as feedbacks, and what climate science discusses as feedbacks.

    The difference?

    Simply that in biology and medicine, the feedbacks can be identified, quantified, and their mechanisms demonstrated explicitly.

    In climate science, the term feedbacks is used loosely, with hand waving in the direction of possibilities, but with nothing actually quantified or with any mechanisms actually demonstrated. In other words, your “feedbacks” in climate science are simply fudge factors that you make up in an attempt to get your models to work out the way you want.

    Climate science “feedbacks” are not at all the same thing as feedback mechanisms in actual science.

  63. Thinking about the idea that all the observations show warming during the last century, and getting really moving in the post-war period, it occurs to me to ask if the UHI effect really took off after the advent of nuclear power?

    Probably not nuclear power. per se However, this is a period during which cities grew tremendously and industrialized. Fewer farmers going to bed shortly after sundown, more people staying up later. Streetlamps being put up over larger areas and running all night, more motor vehicles (forget CO2 for a moment… that many engines = radiators dumping heat into the air at a good clip), etc, etc. I personally don’t see how AGW guys can just wave their hands and pretend that all of these heat sources don’t exist.

  64. I am indebted to DirkH for the link to the ‘How the 97% of Scientists…’ was arrived at – surely this link should be sent to the numpties (a UK term, meaning on-message civil servants) at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, in case they are tempted to trot it out once again…
    I am reminded of a commercial on British tv which advertises a particular brand of electric toothbrush – which states that (I’m guessing here, because I can’t remember) ‘95% of people prefer an electric toothbrush to an ordinary one..’ Well, of COURSE they do – its a bit like asking: ‘Would you prefer to travel 100 miles by car or on foot..?’

  65. Kev-in-UK
    February 9, 2012 at 3:53 pm
    Re your questions to RGates, did he ever answer them? He seems to have managed to answer a number of points in a vague sort of way but not yours requiring some precise answers, I wonder why?

    I would have been interested in the answers had he felt bold enough to put it in writing.

    Sandy In Derby(UK)

  66. Johanna:[there you are but the sense of what is in the post isn't changed by it . . kbmod]

    The term “Gaia”, which I never used in my post, is an anthropomorphism, and I don’t especially care for such things. But the more we learn about this universe, the more we see how exceptionally balanced and interconnected things are, right down the the basic forces. And moreover, they seemed to be balanced toward one thing– to bring about planets that flower with life. But we are just on the verge of the true discoveries in this area, so perhaps this is too ” visionary” for you, and you’d rather paint such talk as shamanism and such. But with new planets being discovered around stars everyday, and more and more of these planets in the habitable zones around those stars, I think those with scientific vision can begin to realize that life is what galaxies are all about. It would be an extreme waste of starlight otherwise. Admittedly, there is a mystery most profound here, and if it doesn’t spark and ignite the scientific vision of some, probably nothing will.

  67. As one of the everyday people (with a longstanding interest in the issue of energy and the enviornment going back to when CO2 was the desired benign byproduct of energy production) and someone who observes how 98% of “relevant scientists” are being made to dance on science that is the size of the head of a tiny pin, I have one remaing question:

    Why the urgency to come to a conclusion of any kind when you have a greenhouse theory – or is it really an hypothesis – and a bunch of exrapolations? Even if the hypothesis (or is it a set of interrealted hypotheses – all required to be true – postulated from an empricial observation in a lab) that earth’s atmosphere will rise 1 degree with the next doubling of CO2 is elevated to the level of theory, it is an unproven, if not unprovable, frame of reference. Additionally, acceptance of such a theory as theory, does not preclude the fact that such an effect of CO2 is only one of a large number of (potentially more powerful) effects.

    I would caution warmists not to dwell too insistently on the theory on the left of their model. Even the left side of the model has a lot of holes in it when it comes to knowing. Given the conentration of warming on land and not in SST or in the atmoshpere, given the recent CO2 sensitivity report here on this site, given the arguments of saturation levels, given observations proving that the troposphere did not behave as theorized, given …,there are holes. There is even another competing theory equally postulated from an empirical result regarding the sun and cosmic rays. Instead, I would hope warmists would take it down to the level of an interesting “what if.” That’s what it is. What if the planet has warmed unusually and, if so, is it significant and is it temporary? What if man-made CO2 is significantly responsible for any recent warming that may have occurred and to what degree? What if all that is true , will it and how will it continue?

    When scientists have scientific answers to all of these questions, the politicians can start debating what, if anything, can or should be done while those scientists can be relied on to be objective and accurate. Until then, they’re just activists with degrees.

  68. SandyInDerby says:
    February 10, 2012 at 6:24 am

    Obviously he cannot, Sandy!
    But in truth they were somewhat rhetorical and a bit tongue in cheek as they form (some) of the flaws in the whole CO2 based CAGW alarmism.
    The basic premise of some form of equilibrium CO2 concentration is pure poppycock and fantasy. Earths CO2 has never been in equilibrium, per se, and has varied hugely, depending on the life forms upon it.
    Similarly, Earths Temperature has never been in equilibrium.

    In all parameters one might care to think of, Earth has never been in equilibrium – from hot deserts to ice ages, shallow warm seas to deep cold oceans, from the old archaic continents to hot seething new mountain ranges and volcanoes – the earth has NEVER been and will NEVER be in equilibrium – at least not until the sun dies, and becomes a red giant encompassing the solar system and blowing us all to space dust!

    I like to think of the climate as a bit like roller coaster, a kind of continuous loop around a circuit with ups and downs, circular horizontal loops, vertical loop the loops, etc, etc. If we take initial planet earth (after formation of the atmosphere), and current planet earth, we have two points somewhere on that rollercoaster circuit. Does anyone know where the rollercoaster starts and finishes? Where are we ‘now’ relative to the the start and end? Are we at the top of a hill, the bottom of a loop the loop, etc, etc ? No-one knows – and any claims to the contrary are pure bulldust!
    Now, using my analogy, we KNOW that no matter what has happened in the climate past, the rollercoaster stayed FULLY on the rails, and came ‘back’ from any ‘tipping’ point, such as snowball earth, raging tectonic upheaval, etc! This simply cannot be disputed because we are still here! (Mother nature is amazing and seems to be able self correct and compensate for any such massive geological and natural upheavals – and seemingly has easily managed to deal with things like several thousand ppm CO2 in the past!)

    The reason I call it a rollercoaster is because, as far as can be known, many events are repeated, implying a cyclical trend – which we generally accept is likely, and caused by many external influences, (Milankovic cycles, gravity, comets – blah, blah blah)

    So, anybody talking about climate equilibrium in the context of some ‘achievable’ state – is plainly talking out of their rear end. Without detailed plans of the rollercoaster (earths past climate) and detailed data of such periods, we are talking entirely hypothetically. FFS, we cannot even place where we are on the ‘track’ with a poxy 100 years or so of data!!

    Perhaps, it would be easier if one imagined riding a rollercoaster wearing a blindfold, whereby you cannot see the next climb or drop. Our current scientific knowledge re the climate is in THAT state, (IMHO). We haven’t been round the circuit enough times, and collected enough data to memorise the circuit and predict where we are in the cyclic ‘system’. Sure, we may know some palaeo data, but we really don’t know where we are in RELATION to that data. For all we know, we could be on the top of a plunge into a natural colder period, or we could be levelling out before the next rise or fall….right now, the way I see it, nobody, but nobody can tell us any different. Even the latest solar predictions mean squat – because all we can do is estimate based on past poor data, we may enter a grand minima or we may not, we may have another LIA or we may not, etc, etc.

    It follows, if one is logical, that any decision of future policy is potentially completely futile and indeed could be exactly the opposite of what is required.
    just my lowly geologists view, you understand!
    Kev

  69. Kev-in-UK says:
    February 9, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    1) Where, when and why and for how long has CO2 ever been in ‘equilibrium’ during earths history – (who says what ‘value’ equilibrium is?) and just for the heck of it, give us a ppm value at the same time – and since you are obviously hand waving, why not give us the corresponding/correlating temp as well!! ANSWER: First, it is not an issue of CO2 being in equilibrium, but rather, the climate response to various levels of CO2. Certainly the climate and CO2 are constantly changing, but during interglacial periods, the levels and the climate are far more stable than during glacials and during times of transitions into and out of glacials. During most of the Holocene, CO2 had been in a range of about 270 to 280 ppm, and the rather docile weather that human civilization enjoyed was a direct result. In fact, in looking at back at the ice core data, we see similar kinds of rather mild weather periods during most interglacials, when temperatures and CO2 levels are roughly the same as what had been experienced during the Holocene. True, some interglacials were slightly warmer or slightly cooler (and CO2 levels slightly higher or lower accordingly), but the average rather docile global climate human civilization has enjoyed during the Holocene could be said to be the equilibrium response to CO2 in the range of 270-280 ppm. Some might say, “but look at the Little Ice Age, you call that docile?”. In fact, the cooler temps of the Little Ice Age barely register as a small blip when compared to the kinds of climate changes that happen when CO2 levels and temperatures swing wildly inside of glacial periods and when entering and exiting from glacials. The Holocene and 270-280 ppm have been good to us.

    2) Who will say when equilibrium (an imaginery figure, any sensible person will agree, but we will let that slide for now) is reached, and how will we know? How do we know that equilibrium (an imaginery state as I already suggest) has not technically ‘occurred’ – no warming for some years despite increasing CO2. Mind you, I could accept that we are seeing CO2 rises as a result of temp increases 800 years ago! ANSWER: We need to look at the full range of fast and slow (earth system feedbacks) to answer this question. The slow feedbacks, such as cryosphere and biosphere responses take many decades and even up to centuries to fully complete once an external forcing such as the addition of CO2 by human activities is. If, for example, we could lock CO2 at around 390 ppm, then we would know that any forcing from this has been completed when there is no underlying signal in the climate once natural variations have been removed (i.e. solar, ENSO, volcanic activity). So if some regression analysis is done, you would find a flat-line underlying signal over a period of decades. Then you’d know all the slow feedbacks had been completed and a new climate equilibrium had been reached.

    3) There is still no certainty that the NET effect of increased CO2 is indeed positive (despite IPCC protestations) – it is entirely feasible that the sum of all the supposed changes within the climate will be a negative feedback effect. (Personally, I consider this to be the most likely scenario, as Earth has ALWAYS come back from past climate extremes and with much higher CO2 values!) ANSWER: I find it highly unlikely that the sum total of all feedbacks, fast and slow, to increasing CO2 will be negative. Nothing in the paleoclimate record would indicate this, and when looking at the paleorecord, it is most appropriate to look at the most recent period in which CO2 levels were at or above where they are now, as the further back you go, the more other variables changed, such as solar output, position of continents, etc. This takes us to the Pliocene, about 3 mya, and even into the Miocene. In looking at the paleoclimate data from these periods, it would show that higher temps are in order, and the 3C in temperature rise for a doubling of CO2 from 280 to 560 ppm is quite a reasonable estimate as a final equilibrium temperature, assuming of course that CO2 stopped at 560 ppm.

  70. Gates says:

    “During most of the Holocene, CO2 had been in a range of about 270 to 280 ppm, and the rather docile weather that human civilization enjoyed was a direct result.”

    Admit it. You just made that last part up.

  71. Smokey says:
    February 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm
    Gates says:

    “During most of the Holocene, CO2 had been in a range of about 270 to 280 ppm, and the rather docile weather that human civilization enjoyed was a direct result.”

    Admit it. You just made that up.

    _____

    I suppose you wish I made it up, and likewise you wish the ice core record and our own human history of the Holocene did not corroborate it.

  72. R. Gates said: “ANSWER: I find it highly unlikely that the sum total of all feedbacks, fast and slow, to increasing CO2 will be negative. Nothing in the paleoclimate record would indicate this, and when looking at the paleorecord, it is most appropriate to look at the most recent period in which CO2 levels were at or above where they are now, as the further back you go, the more other variables changed, such as solar output, position of continents, etc. This takes us to the Pliocene, about 3 mya, and even into the Miocene.”

    The paleo record shows no evidence of temperature equilibrium with CO2 . In all the interglacials the warming from other factors triggered greenhouse gas amplification. What stopped the amplification process and determined the temperature peak is the geography, the ultimate solar peak, the earth’s tilt and a myriad of other exogenous (non amplifying) factors. GHG amplification is not a driving factor, it has to be driven, otherwise each interglacial would reach GHG saturation.

  73. Mr Gates, Sir,
    To be fair, you havent really given any answers:
    I’ll add another question first, as you clearly missed my point,
    A) what is the definition of equilibrium CO2 value (I’ll let you google this, or whatever else you do)

    and now to return to the the original questions;
    1) What is the equilibrium CO2 value?
    2) What is the equilibrium Temp value?
    3) On what basis are such equilibrium values defined – i.,e. relative to what, exactly? etc

    But, I am indeed being unfair in my taunting, in that you, even as a warmist, MUST accept that there are no such values available. Even taking the RANGE of CO2 values over the last million years or so,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Atmospheric_CO2_with_glaciers_cycles.gif.

    what do we see??

    Well, lets say a minimum CO2 value of 190ppm, and a high CO2 value of 290ppm – In very round figures, the CO2 variability is what, 30 to 50%, depending on what you use as ‘normal’ value! – Curiously, what is the current claim for anthropogenic caused CO2 rise? Oh, that’s right its about 30%!! well fancy that! BTW, how do you KNOW that a large proportion of it isn’t natural??

    Now, what if we went to the Neogene, supposedly, mean CO2 values were 500ppm – over say, 40 million years! Hmm, wouldn’t that be a better selection for a mean equilibrium value, 40 million years is an awful lot longer than the last 50 years, wouldn’t you say?? I mean, it is supposed to be the time when mammals first exploded on the scene, so it must have been pretty good growing and feeding weather too?

    Or maybe that’s not good enough for you? – Well,. how about we go back to the Cretaceous – at that time, for around 65 million years, the mean temps was suposed to be 4deg C warmer than today Co2 value is supposed to have been around 1700ppm (6 times todays value!)!! (There’s a direct comparison in there with the IPCC values for Co2 doubling I’m sure too! but I’m just PMSL) Wowser, the seas were boiling (metaphorically speaking) too with some deeper ocean temps being much warmer than today!
    Isn’t it absolutely amazing how the planet managed to survive!
    Are you getting the picture yet???

    Now, I know I am being facetious, and I really do not mean to be obtuse, but until someone can come up with reasonable explanations and useable data where we can make direct and sensible correlations, we are simply peacing in the wind……
    regards
    Kev

  74. Eric (skeptic) says:
    February 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    The paleo record shows no evidence of temperature equilibrium with CO2 . In all the interglacials the warming from other factors triggered greenhouse gas amplification. What stopped the amplification process and determined the temperature peak is the geography, the ultimate solar peak, the earth’s tilt and a myriad of other exogenous (non amplifying) factors. GHG amplification is not a driving factor, it has to be driven, otherwise each interglacial would reach GHG saturation.

    ____
    You seem to suffer from that common myopic disease of thinking that CO2’s rise and fall through the history of the planet always has the same causes. In reality, CO2 has risen and fallen through many different causes, but one thing is absolutely certain: CO2 is a greenhouse gas that will act as a positive forcing on the climate. The strength of other forcings acting on the climate at any given time will determine weather or not a rise in CO2 will translate to a rise in temperatures.

    Some causes of CO2 rises:
    1) Warmer oceans leading to more outgassing of CO2
    2) Lower fertilization of phytoplankton leading to less uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere
    3) Slow down in the rock weathering cycle leading to less uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere
    4) Volcanic activity
    5) Forest Fires
    6) Burning of fossil fuels by humans
    7) Ocean circulation patterns causing less CO2 to be sequestered into the deeper ocean

    The inverse of many of these would naturally lead to a reduction in CO2.

    Most of these, by the way, work slowly on very long time scales. The exceptions are number 4, 5, & 6, which can potentially cause rapid (geologically speaking) changes in CO2 levels. The anthropogenic addition of CO2 to the atmosphere in particular is something the planet has not seen before, and the rise from 280 ppm to 390 ppm has not been seen before. The greenhouse warming from this rise can certainly be seen has a driving factor in climate, unparalleled in Earth’s history. Exactly how the Earth might respond to this is unknown, but the climate will try to find a new equilibrium point to adjust to the new higher energy balance from the additional CO2 greenhouse forcing.

  75. R. Gates says:
    February 10, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Oh dear: R Gates has fallen for his own propaganda:

    quote”The anthropogenic addition of CO2 to the atmosphere in particular is something the planet has not seen before, and the rise from 280 ppm to 390 ppm has not been seen before…”
    and
    “The greenhouse warming from this rise can certainly be seen has a driving factor in climate, unparalleled in Earth’s history”……I have to resort to teenage internetspeak and simply say OMFG!! LOL

    WTF? Hey Man, I respect you trying to take a particular stance, but get your basic knowledge and facts right! C’mon, accept it – your ass is burned, baby! LOL

    I think a serious retraction is in order! (Mods, I suggest you save him the embarassment and snip it for him!) ROFPMSL

  76. R. Gates says:

    “I suppose you wish I made it up, and likewise you wish the ice core record and our own human history of the Holocene did not corroborate it.”

    Gates had stated:

    “During most of the Holocene, CO2 had been in a range of about 270 to 280 ppm, and the rather docile weather that human civilization enjoyed was a direct result.”

    I responded: “Admit it, you just made that up.” I was referring to Gates’ fantastic assertion that the weather over the past 10,700 years was a direct result of CO2 levels.

    Gates, me boi, if you believe that, you’re losin’ it.

  77. All this discussion of CO2 levels below 280 ppm is purely academic, The biosphere would show incotrovertible massdieoof effects if CO2 had dipped that low. Widespread Flora and hence Fauna failure would have occurred. 280 ppm in ice cores merely represent a failed proxy that does not include the conversion of Co2 to hydrates with as litle as 5 atmospheres of pressure of overbearing ice.. The former IPCC chariman of the subgroup concernedwith ice cores constantly noted that and was constantly ignored about applying a hydrate qualification before his death.

    I suspect that George Becks’ recall of laboratory measurements of some 93,000 measurements conducted by 18th and 19th century scientists including the works of at least four Nobelists, are more accurate than these hydrated ice cores proxies. Theyy show that the CO2 levels in the atmsophere, are not appreciably different from those of 200 years ago,differing by only less than 40 ppmon average but withother measurement sin response ot the Tambora super erruption showing elevations of up to 440 ppm for a few years.

  78. Why would the majority of scientists agree that CO2 causes warming? Maybe the earth’s warming (from something other than CO2 – like the big hot white thing we see sometimes in the sky) caused the increase in CO2?

  79. R. Gates says:
    February 10, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Johanna:[there you are but the sense of what is in the post isn't changed by it . . kbmod]

    The term “Gaia”, which I never used in my post, is an anthropomorphism, and I don’t especially care for such things. But the more we learn about this universe, the more we see how exceptionally balanced and interconnected things are, right down the the basic forces. And moreover, they seemed to be balanced toward one thing– to bring about planets that flower with life. But we are just on the verge of the true discoveries in this area, so perhaps this is too ” visionary” for you, and you’d rather paint such talk as shamanism and such. But with new planets being discovered around stars everyday, and more and more of these planets in the habitable zones around those stars, I think those with scientific vision can begin to realize that life is what galaxies are all about.
    ———————————————————-
    Honestly, R. Gates, it is almost redundant to point out the silliness of some of your posts.

    “Exceptionally balanced and interconnected” – um, either things are balanced or interconnected, or they aren’t. No middle ground there. Which brings me to:

    “moreover, they seemed to be balanced toward one thing– to bring about planets that flower with life.” Please explain how anything can be ‘balanced’ in a particular direction? And, if bringing about planets that ‘flower with life’ is the bias of the balance (my brain is hurting, but I persevere) the project is not working out very well so far. There may well be other planets that ‘flower with life’, but to the best of our knowledge, ours is the only one so far. Every other planet we know anything about is failing to respond to the ‘balance’ in favour of ‘flowering with life’ that you claim is at the heart of the cosmos.

  80. Mr Meyer, thank you for such a detached and reasoned article. However, I’m not sure about the importance of the media’s laziness and scientific illiteracy. To their credit, they know what sells…it’s not science. People are not interested in DLW photon behavior, it doesn’t matter to them if the little buggers heat up the surface or just delay the radiative cooling process by increasing the optical path. It’s best to sell the carbon tax to combat climate doom as the money will go to the various government treasuries and help finance the monetary needs of the West…debt, health, education, infastructure, etc. So don’t worry….be happy.

  81. correction to above coment, instead of “by increasing the optical path” it should be “from the increase of the optical path”. So what? Nobody is listening…the advocacy, or those who suggest a CO2 link currently dominate the media. They are respected.

  82. R Gates said “You seem to suffer from that common myopic disease of thinking that CO2′s rise and fall through the history of the planet always has the same causes. In reality, CO2 has risen and fallen through many different causes, but one thing is absolutely certain: CO2 is a greenhouse gas that will act as a positive forcing on the climate. The strength of other forcings acting on the climate at any given time will determine weather or not a rise in CO2 will translate to a rise in temperatures.”

    The point that you are missing is that the equilibrium temperature is not determined just by “forcings” but by weather patterns which control heat transfer from low to high altitude and low to high latitude. The main effect of CO2 in our current climate is to increase the lapse rate (see http://www.john-daly.com/forcing/forcing.htm) which causes increased convection and latent heat transfer (a negative feedback).

    The primary effect of CO2 in cold climates is to amplify swings in other forcings (via fast and slow feedbacks and forcings from your list). The amplifying role of CO2 is strongest during transition from glacial to interglacial (along with albedo decreases). That’s mainly because the glacial atmosphere has much less water vapor on average so other GHG are more important for determining equilibrium.

    Your contention that the burning of fossil fuels is a unique and profound change would be relevant if we were in the depths of the ice age. Your side would be correctly pointing out that the rise in sea levels of several hundred feet will flood the English channel etc, etc. Some ice age cave man would counter with the benefits of a warmer world which you would scoff at and talk about how the polar bears, no longer able to walk from England to France, would become extinct.

  83. johanna says:
    February 10, 2012 at 10:25 pm
    R. Gates says:
    February 10, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Johanna:[there you are but the sense of what is in the post isn't changed by it . . kbmod]

    The term “Gaia”, which I never used in my post, is an anthropomorphism, and I don’t especially care for such things. But the more we learn about this universe, the more we see how exceptionally balanced and interconnected things are, right down the the basic forces. And moreover, they seemed to be balanced toward one thing– to bring about planets that flower with life. But we are just on the verge of the true discoveries in this area, so perhaps this is too ” visionary” for you, and you’d rather paint such talk as shamanism and such. But with new planets being discovered around stars everyday, and more and more of these planets in the habitable zones around those stars, I think those with scientific vision can begin to realize that life is what galaxies are all about.
    ———————————————————-
    Honestly, R. Gates, it is almost redundant to point out the silliness of some of your posts.

    “Exceptionally balanced and interconnected” – um, either things are balanced or interconnected, or they aren’t. No middle ground there. Which brings me to:

    “moreover, they seemed to be balanced toward one thing– to bring about planets that flower with life.” Please explain how anything can be ‘balanced’ in a particular direction? And, if bringing about planets that ‘flower with life’ is the bias of the balance (my brain is hurting, but I persevere) the project is not working out very well so far. There may well be other planets that ‘flower with life’, but to the best of our knowledge, ours is the only one so far. Every other planet we know anything about is failing to respond to the ‘balance’ in favour of ‘flowering with life’ that you claim is at the heart of the cosmos.
    —————
    It appears you are not familiar with particle physics and the exceptionally fine balance between the basic forces that exists to even have a universe at all. And yes, there are degrees of balance and connectedness, as these are not all or none propositions. But I don’t want to cause your “brain to be hurting” anymore than it is. The amazing revelations brought forth by the Kepler mission (http://kepler.nasa.gov/) appear to be lost on your scientific vision. There likely are billions of habitable planets in this galaxy alone. But that’s probably too challenging a concept for some even now. It means Earth is just one of billions and life is the spread everywhere. Intuitively, many have guessed this must be the case, as it would be such a waste of space and starlight otherwise, but now missions like Kepler are giving us the first scientific evidence. Our grandchildren will find it quaint that anyone in our era could have doubted the galaxy was filled with life sustaining planets.

  84. R. Gates said “It appears you are not familiar with particle physics and the exceptionally fine balance between the basic forces that exists to even have a universe at all”

    A tautology. Or maybe just angels dancing on the head of a pin.

  85. So I take it that ALL of these “Climate Scientists” are PhD Physicists. There wouldn’t be any statisticians among them, would there, since there isn’t any dispute about the validity of statistical prestidigitation. Maybe there is dispute about the valdity of the data; but that is the beauty of statistics; it is basically a 4-H club subject, and it can be rigorously applied to ANY set of data whatsoever; even data, entirely manufactured out of nothing by some computer program. The rules of statistical mathematics aren’t altered by the validity of the data they are applied to; just as in general the rules of arithmetic or algebra aren’t changed depending on the data they are applied to.
    Statistics leads majestically to the observation; Garbage in, garbage out.
    So statistics isn’t climate.
    I doubt that there are any students of sampled data system theory included among climate scientists, because if there were, they would be screaming bloody murder about the lack of validity to the sampling strategies applied to “climate” or at least “weather” observations and data collection.
    There wouldn’t be too many analog circuit designers or process control scientists doing climatism, because they would know how to connect up a feedback loop, and they would connect the feedback back to where it could control the input signal, which in the case of climate would be the sun. Instead , the climatists connect the feedback (CO2 emission) to one of the internal nodes, like the output of some integrator that was integrating the signal from the sun, and producing some slightly varying surface Temperature.

    Well it seems that there must be a whole lot of otherwise unemployable Physicists, who wouldn’t have jobs if they couldn’t scare the taxpayers into funding their boondoggles.

    So who are these other three percent of climate scientists, who are too dumb to go with the flow and just enjoy the gravy train their 97% brethren are on ?

    I’d wager that at least half of all the “Climate Scientists” don’t have ANY sort of degree in Physics, and likely have never taken any sort of class in what could even be framed as Physics.

    Now that is NOT a declaration on my part that Physics is necessary, or even important to the study of “climate science” ; just that when physics is applied to the data, that is observed and used by “climate scientists”, the output conclusions are somewhat different from what climatism yields.

  86. David Wells says:
    February 9, 2012 at 10:03 am

    The argument would not exist if there was a technology that could replace coal oil gas and nuclear…”
    Could happen. If the LPPhysics.com project works out (and the crucial make/break “unity” proof could come this year) then all CO2/renewable etc. issues are moot. No waste, easily installed almost anywhere, tiny footprint, costs <10% of BEST North American wholesale, etc. Every generation tech from solar to nuclear to coal, even gas, becomes economic roadkill.

  87. About the 97% figure: a variation I’ve heard (unsupported) is that that’s also the % of published articles in the field supporting AGW. Given the gatekeeping stranglehold warmists have on the journals and research funding, that’s just self-congratulation at excluding efforts to falsify. Sleazoid disgusting.

  88. Why not clear the question first,
    wether CO2 is capable of warming the earth at all.
    It has nothing to do with “consensus”
    but with physics

    Paul

  89. of course it is “political incorrect” to repeat the experiment of WOOD 1909,
    but some have done open and secretly,
    not only with window glass, with CO2 in laboratory,
    all with the same result:
    a cooling effect.
    The last was as far as I know Nasif S. Nahle, Monterrey, MX, 2011

    Physically the main question is the position of the source of radiation (the sun).

    indeed, a very difficult question:
    is the source of radiation inside or outside the atmosphere?

    Paul

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