Climate Change – Who is allowed to opine?

Guest post by John Goetz

A story appeared briefly yesterday on the CNN homepage titled Ruthless drought in West Timor puts children in crisis. There is no doubt that this particular drought – like so many throughout history – is causing a significant amount of human suffering, much of it being shouldered by children. Having children of my own, including one very young one presently occupying my home, I feel torn inside when I read about or see kids living and dying in such conditions.

Before I clicked on the article to read it in full, a “story highlight” saying the drought was due to climate change caught my eye. I immediately knew the article would not only be heart-wrenching, it would be controversial as well. Seeing that it was posted under the CNN Planet in Peril banner sealed the deal.

The CNN article was one that allowed readers to post comments, and as expected a number of them took CNN to task for claiming this particular drought was caused by Climate Change. A roughly equal number of commenters countered with charges of insensitivity and the turning of blind eyes. Part of me considered commenting that, assuming drought was not a normal condition in West Timor, then the drought was in fact due to a climate that had changed. But of course I am also aware that “Climate Change” is the rebranding of “Global Warming”, not unlike “Death Tax” is the rebranding of “Estate Tax”. The commenters obviously knew this as well, freely substituting global warming for climate change.

One comment in particular caught my eye. The writer was someone who went by the handle of “Marc”, and his response is typical of the type of ad-hominem attacks I’ve seen in a number of other related, but less widely read blogs:

Hmm, so it seems the less-than-stellar scholars on this board disparaging the existence of human caused climate change must also be card carrying members of the Flat Earth Society. How truly noble of you and your tiny-brained ideas.

Other than successfully proving your vast and utter ignorance of science, you’ve achieved little else. Of course you all know more than the dedicated scientists who’ve spent their entire careers studying the history of global climate and the overwhelming volumes of data that now conclusively point to humans as the root cause of impending global climate change.

I bet you also know more than the doctors treating your grandparents’ cancer, the physicists smashing atoms and the biochemists advancing gene therapies to prevent your child’s birth defects. The point is, climate scientists are EXPERTS in their chosen field, just as the experts I’ve listed in the prior sentence. To argue you know more than they, without a shred of contradictory evidence, is sheer lunacy on your part.

Now please get to back to your job and take the customer’s food order, your lunch break is about over.

The reason I fixated on this comment was because I had actually read the article. My guess is that nearly all of the commenters, regardless of opinion, did not read the article but instead read the headline, story highlights, and looked at the pictures. Marc included.

You see, no scientist that I can find has claimed a tie between human caused climate change and the drought in West Timor. Furthermore, CNN did not say a scientist made that claim either. Paragraph four starts with

Maria is fighting to live, wasting away in her remote village where aid officials say climate change has brought on a severe drought in recent years.

That’s right, aid officials made the claim, not scientists. Of course, I am assuming the aid officials are not climate scientists, but I think it is a reasonable assumption.

Marc’s smackdown is one I have seen time and time again. It is a popular tactic of certain posters who regularly bully their way around dotearth and a handful of other, minor blogs (I love dotearth, by the way, and visit it as much as I visit this blog and ClimateAudit). Unless one is a card-carrying board-certified climate scientist then one has no right to dispute the tie between Weather That Causes Suffering and Human Influence On Climate. The rule however, does not seem to work in reverse.

Go figure.

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The engineer
July 8, 2008 7:16 pm

Isn’t the real message that marc is sending – “Hey, I dont need a brain, I’ve got a concenus instead” ?

July 8, 2008 7:24 pm

Great post. I think this argument falls under the same category as “the debate is over”. None of these kind of statements recognize that there are climate scientists, and many of them that don’t agree that “climate change” is mostly caused by human activity. Back to the point of your post though, I have to wonder what “Marc’s” qualification to make commentary on climate is, and how many peer reviewed theses he’s written. My bet is that he’s just another environazi that wants to control the tone of the debate to meet his own end, and is not interested in the facts about climate at all.

July 8, 2008 7:28 pm

Global warming ™ / Climate Change is not the only place where this approach is now too common. I keep wondering if it’s
1) Inadequate education
2) Poor manners
3) The internet as a moron amplifier
that has caused so many to give up critical thinking in favor of cheering “my side” in almost anything from politics to weather to science. Like most things in this world I hope it works like a pendulum and before I die I can see a new generation of young people who think for themselves and giggle at the old bolsheviks as they regurgitate whatever the nonsense of the day happens to be.

July 8, 2008 7:30 pm

For reference, here’s a graph of SST around Timor:

July 8, 2008 7:34 pm

China just had it coldest winter in 50 years and that has been a driver to food shortages in SE Asia. Imagine the headline that wasn’t – China’s coldest winter due to global warming! What’s it going to take to end this debacle? Btw, I haven’t seen a blip of a new sunspot on SOHO in weeks.

doug w
July 8, 2008 7:43 pm

Schools today take such great pains to point out that they teach critical thinking, when in fact they simply criticize those people and ideas they disagree with and call that process critical thinking.
I do like the term “moron amplifier”.

George Bruce
July 8, 2008 8:07 pm

Bruce H
My guess is that it is all three at once.

July 8, 2008 8:11 pm

@floodguy – I am not a pro solar physicist or a meteorologist (I write computer software), but I am hoping to read some informed opinions soon on Cycle 24 and what the quiet sun could imply for us.
What kind of nasty coincidence would it be if we had a solar driven cool down at the moment when so much is being fretted on it getting warm. My Scottish blood makes me love the cold, but for most folks in this world it’s much better to be warmer than normal than colder than normal.
If mother nature wanted to put some icing on that cake, she could light off a Pinatubo or larger scale eruption some time this year to give us some upper atmosphere ash to boot.

July 8, 2008 8:13 pm

And, Congress is going to have hearings next week attempting to correlate the Midwest floods to “global warming” even though, as readers of this blog well know, the earth is cooling.

Jeff Alberts
July 8, 2008 8:32 pm

Was watching a Hitler Channel, er, History Channel show today about ancient climate. Of course they had to go on about how CO2 caused the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods to be “cooking the Earth”, and that these were times when the Earth was “seriously out of kilter”.
Hmm. Is there a large label on Antarctica which says “Keep at 287 Kelvin for best results” Or “Keep in a cool, dry place”? Why would any period in the Earth’s history be “out of kilter” and any other period be the perfect optimum? It was another example of scientists speaking in absolutes. According to them, the ONLY reason the Earth was warmer then was due to high CO2 levels. No other reason was given. They also didn’t mention how life thrived during those times, except for photosynthesizing plants to provide us oil today. They really don’t know why any given time is warmer or cooler than any, especially one hundreds of millions of years removed.
John Goetz says: Now, now, I thoroughly enjoy the History Channel.

Jeff Coatney
July 8, 2008 8:50 pm

History bulges with examples of scientific pronouncement that was subsequently proven false. (I won’t bore the reader with a dreary list.)
The point is that citations of scientific certitude are one of the worst arguments one can bring to bear in favor of a new theory.

July 8, 2008 9:06 pm

Hey John G, nice post.
REPLY: Ditto that, – Anthony

July 8, 2008 9:10 pm

As an electronics instructor, I can agree with the term “moron amplifier”. But, if I may use electronic terms, there seems to be a group of “common emitters”, ie, people who continue to tell the same story.
But like a common emitter amp, their output (CAGW) is 180 degrees out of phase with the input.

Leon Brozyna
July 8, 2008 9:25 pm

The fact that aid officials cite AGW as the cause of the problem illustrates how everyone is latching onto that particular gravy train.
As for that commenter and his ad hominem attack, I’d hate to be his child and develop an illness and have him take me in to the first doctor he came across for treatment. Would he, in blind faith to the doctor’s pronouncement, agree to a proposed course of treatment without ever questioning what was being done and why? Would he never seek a second opinion?

July 8, 2008 9:46 pm

Regarding Marc, he seems to be one of the Kos kiddie brand of leftist. His is a typical approach; it’s a derivative of the enlightened speaking to the benighted. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with these terms, use google.) This of course is underscored with the sneering assumption about the job of those he takes aim at. Kos brand leftists believe that the right is comprised of NASCAR loving, trailer dwelling, gap toothed, mouth breathing morons who go to family reunions for dating opportunities and otherwise wholly unfit for the oxygen they waste. Marc believes the std Kos assumption #21 that the Left is educated and the right is not.
And then of course Marc invokes argument from authority, calls it a day, and is completely unaware of the irony. The mind truly boggles at such a display.

July 8, 2008 9:50 pm

I am not a Scientist, but I have spent the last five years extensively researching the subject of AGW and have come to the conclusion that “AGW Believers” are mostly “Uninformed Idiots”. They are nothing “Sheep” following a “Green Religious Cult” driven by the real crooks, the “Political Money Grabbers”. If the AGW crowd would just spend a few hours looking at the last the 1000 years of Climate History Trends of this Earth instead of believing the hype being feed to them by the “Political” driven “Enviromentalist/Money Nuts of the World”, there wouldn’t be any concern about AGW. The Earth has been much hotter and much colder in spite of man and it will do it’s thing, despite man. Sure we can do things better, but mans actions have “zilch” influence on the climate. IMHO!!!

July 8, 2008 11:01 pm

John Goetz and others, my advice is to target the worst offender and go after them with detailed fact based and referenced rebuttals. I’ve been around online forums a lot longer than most and I assure you this works. Nobody likes being shown to be an ignorant fool.
And BTW, this goes for AGW critics whose arguments are flawed or based on bad science. Many people come to this blog to be educated and we have a responsibility to rebut bad sceptic arguments, just as much as bad AGW arguments.

July 8, 2008 11:30 pm

“But of course I am also aware that “Climate Change” is the rebranding of “Global Warming” ”
I’ve also noticed recently that “CO2” seems to be rebranding to “Greenhouse Gas”, particlarly used in the G8 summits. Anyone else notice this or is it just me?

July 9, 2008 12:32 am

“it’s a derivative of the enlightened speaking to the benighted”
Very true, catches the tone perfectly. JG is right to notice how common this tone and this sort of abusive rant is. One sometimes has the impression that there are a fairly small number of people, probably operating under multiple aliases, who don’t get out enough, and spend their days at a keyboard spewing out endless variations on this sort of rant on climate blogs. It has almost nothing to do with climate – it could be about politics, the Titanic, UFOs, anything.
They don’t realize they are not simply ineffective but are actually making converts in the other direction. The way it works in real life most of the lay public tend to judge scientific propositions on public policy not on their intellectual merits, but on the conduct of their proponents. This sort of thing is going to make more AGW skeptics than any number of heavy stat posts full of R code on CA.

Pierre Gosselin
July 9, 2008 12:34 am

The AGW crowd has already dug their hole, and there’s no way out for them. The planet is supposed to get much hotter, period – they’ve told us time and again. So if the earth cools, there will be no way for them to get away by rebranding.
The catstrophe I see them using later on is: ocean acidification due to CO2. But I also don’t see them getting away with that one either. In the future I suspect they’ll have to accept going back to the boring scares of nuclear power, GMOs or maybe electromagnetic smog.
Never forget – they said the planet was going to fry. Anything else makes them wrong.

July 9, 2008 1:29 am

China is making plans for tough emissions cuts but President Hu Jintao is adamant that the west, which has been “polluting the air for centuries” must act first to reduce emissions and exchange financial and technical support.
While China is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse its leaders assert that the country is only just catching up after two centuries of industrialization in the West.
Chinese policy makers are worried that an implosion of climate change – intensified by by human-made global warming – could dry up rivers in the arid north and intensify flooding in the south.
Floodwaters released from a swollen reservoir in southern Guangdong province caused a 300-meter bridge in the Baiyun district of Guangzhou to collapse, and recent unusual rainfall in Beijing killed three.
“How we cope with climate change is related to the country’s economic development and people’s practical benefits. It’s in line with the country’s basic interests,” Hu informed the central committee of China’s ruling communist party.
“Our task is tough, and our time is limited. Party organizations and governments at all levels must give priority to emission reduction … and drive the idea deep into people’s hearts.”
Chinese authorities told Daily Planet media that strategies were being worked on to encourage companies to optimize energy use, recycle resources, increase forest coverage and use water resources scientifically and efficiently.
Your trees make a difference at
For more global warming, climate change news updates, please visit

July 9, 2008 2:06 am

fred – funny you should mention UFOs:
Malcolm Robinson, founder member of Strange Phenomena Investigations, added: “There has been an unusual number of sightings recently. Some experts believe it could be linked to global warming and craft from outer space are appearing because they are concerned about what man is doing to this planet.”
The perfect example of a “news” item killing two birds with one stone. Upsetting that it comes from the only newspaper in the UK to consistently debate, and usually debunk, the fiasco of AGW.
When I stopped laughing I came back to my usual dark thoughts on this – the way the science is being set around the policy is proof enough to me that there is a massive agenda invisible to the majority.
We have a fight on our hands. Waiting for Nature to prove the envirobots wrong is not a good strategy. Amongst other things a badly timed eruption could set the general public’s enlightenment back by a long spell. The last thing we need is for the next couple of years cooling to be masked. The shrill bleating will return in 2010 when it warms up again globally for a whole year. After that is when the cold sets in for a loooong time.

July 9, 2008 2:19 am

CO2 being re-branded as a Greenhouse Gas? Seems to me it’s increasingly being referred to in the media, quite ludicrously, as “pollution”.

Christopher Hanley
July 9, 2008 3:51 am

I thought ‘Global Warming’ was supposed to increase humidity and rainfall in the latitudes of West Timor (dengue fever and all that).

July 9, 2008 4:28 am

Wow, two good terms in one blog entry: “moron amplifier” and “Kos Kiddies”!

July 9, 2008 5:01 am

I found these words by a commentator on a different blog:
“Put your hand on a burner, it hurts. Take your hand off a burner, it doesn’t hurt. Repeat for 650,000 years. Now put your hand on the burner and leave it there. Those are all of the “facts” I need. When CO2 goes up, heat goes up and right now we are off the charts UP. When you heat up ice, it melts. End of story.”
IMO, this is a terrific example of the sheer appeal of AGW. All the complexities, the vast scale , the multitudes of factors all interacting with one another in the still barely understood processes of the Earth’s climate, reduced to one simple equation, on a par with “With Jesus = Heaven, without Jesus = Hell.” (Okay, that’s actually two equations.)
I’ve also been told off a few times for questioning the scientific utterances of the climate scientists (The Magnificent 2500) . In the same way that an unseasonably cold day doesn’t signify anything but an unseasonably warm day is a sign of global warming, as a GW sceptic I don’t have the right to draw my own conclusions and must abide by the scientific “consensus”. But my GW-believing friends can look out of the window at the sinister birds, bees and green shoots of an early Spring and draw as many wild conclusions as they like, so long as they are along the lines of “We’re doomed.”

July 9, 2008 5:45 am

My favorite take on the Chinese winter was the headline of unprecidented climate shift in China which made the startling claim that China’s coldest winter in fifty years followed on the heels of its warmest summer in 55 years. Obviously this is due to CO2 induce Climate Change.

Tony Edwards
July 9, 2008 5:49 am

One very difficult canard to nail is the suggestion that the Earth is “warming up”. As I understand it, the mythological “global temperature” is the average temperature, not the maximum. As I and others have often said, Tmax plus Tmin divided by two gives Tav. Tmax plus (Tmin plus2) divided by two give a new higher average temperature of Tav plus one. But the Earth is no hotter insofar as the maximum temperature is concerned, so where’s the problem?
A bigger potential problem is that some well-meaning but mis-guided genius will actually think of a way to seriously reduce the CO2 concentration and put it into action, as Richard Branson has tried to encourage. Then we’d all be screwed.

July 9, 2008 6:06 am

Hey John, I have a great picture from a children’s weather book printing in the early 90’s about global cooling. If anyone is interested, I’ll post it. Truly funny.
REPLY: Yes please let’s see it!

The Posthumous Luger
July 9, 2008 6:18 am

Thanks for the great post John!
However, you did miss something extraordinarily galling about that CNN article, which I posted yesterday on my (significantly less-trafficked) blog.
The original title for that article — which may have affected the first few comments, and which CNN pulled after only a few minutes — was, ahem:
I kid you not! Check the cache, or do a google search on that phrase.
Reply from John: Wow, you’re right. Incredible!

July 9, 2008 6:25 am

[…] WattsUpWithThat posts a terrific response to one of the article comments on WattsUpWithThat is apparently […]

July 9, 2008 6:30 am

I disagree that “climate change” is a re-branding of “global warming.” They are not the same thing. “Global Warming” refers to the average change predicted to affect the entire planet, where as “climate change” reflects the fact that, because of evolving climate and oceanic circulation in light of global warming, not all areas will be affected equally.
Although I doubt it’s a canonical analogy, one can think of global warming as a “cause” and climate change as its “effect.”

BobW in NC
July 9, 2008 7:15 am

Can’t resist – saw this headline in Drudge this morning:
PSYCHIATRISTS have detected the first case of “climate change delusion”,21985,23991257-25717,00.html

Pamela Gray
July 9, 2008 8:26 am

My sister, a dead to rights conservative, believed in AGW lock, stock, and barrel. I am a liberal and never believed it. Our education was in conservative NE Oregon. So you can’t blame education for her belief. You certainly can’t say she believes it because she is a conservative (which logically destroys the “liberal” bashing as well). So what is it? According to her, it is because that is what she has heard on TV and in the papers (even the conservative newspapers here in NE Oregon).
Here is a possible culprit and it has nothing to do with political views or public education, or your mother: You can fool some of the people some of the time, you can fool some of the people most of the time, you can fool most of the people, some of the time, you can even fool most of the people most of the time, and you can even fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people, all of the time.
So can we PUULEASE dispense with the right/left/teacher bashing? It never fails to show up in every blog. The matter at hand cannot be boiled down to such nonsense. To post such simplistic blame statements lowers us to the same level as the AGW CO2 argument and indeed makes us look like flat landers.

July 9, 2008 8:47 am

agreed 100% Pamela. I’m quite liberal (heck, I’m even one of those Kos kiddies!), and fairly skeptical of AGW and the gloom and doom. There are lots of liberal skeptics and lots of conservative believers and as Pamela says, you can’t just boil (heh!) it down to left/right etc.
I like the term lukewarmer anyway to describe myself.

July 9, 2008 8:57 am

Pamela Gray,
Good point. On the other hand it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the right/conservative public tends to be more open to antiAGW thought. The Sierra Club and other movements which take all human growth and exploitation as evil are most definitely left.

Retired Engineer
July 9, 2008 9:06 am

I noted on the Fox New site a story that the glaciers around Mt. Shasta are increasing “in spite of global warming” but all others in the U.S. are shrinking, and some will soon vanish. Kilimanjaro could be ‘ice free’ in a few years.
Didn’t al-Gore claim that had already happened?
Some of our glaciers in Colorado apparently didn’t get this news…

Gary Gulrud
July 9, 2008 9:40 am

When we take the car in, do we let the ‘expert’ do whatever he feels needs doing? I don’t know about Marc, but I’d bet he checks the bank account, weighs the age of the car against the next years’ cash flow, etc.
When we get a physical or a diagnosis for some complaint, do we just go with whatever the ‘expert’ thinks reasonable? I kind of think we get the care we demand, and odds are Marc does as well.
Marc is likely to be deluding himself and not a great many others. I don’t trust you because you do as you say, but it makes me take a closer look.

July 9, 2008 9:47 am

Paul said (23:30:48) :
“But of course I am also aware that ‘Climate Change’ is the rebranding of ‘Global Warming’ ”
It’s called “moving the goal posts,” and the climate deceivers do it all. The. Time.
It’s like telling someone they’re going to come down with pneumonia… then seeing the guy get the shingles, and telling him, “I warned you!”
I’ve also noticed recently that “CO2″ seems to be rebranding to “Greenhouse Gas”, particlarly used in the G8 summits. Anyone else notice this or is it just me?
Even worse is the deliberately false statement that CO2 is a “pollutant.”

July 9, 2008 11:33 am

Whatever happened to proper scientific debate on the subject?
The BBc in the UK is appalling with its Greenwash every day.
They were showing electric cars and mcycles the other day saying how green they were and didnt use petrol. How do they think the electricty is generated? more than likely fossil fuels will be burnt.
If I saw proper proof of AGW which convinced me then I would be happy to accept it but I havent. All I see is spin hype and lets try and scare each other a bit more. In a nutshell it seems to me that the world got very slighlty warmer during the last qtr of the century, the amount was so small that it would not show up on most heating systems or air conditioner controls. It appears 1998 was an unusal spike as was 1934 in temperature terms. During the last 10 yrs the temperatures have not increased and presently show some signs of dropping back. I would love to see a TV programme based on legal proceedings where both sides of the argument were given EQUAL time, cross examination of experts allowed by Barristers and the jury at the end votes on it. To do the subject justice it would need to be at least 2 hrs.

July 9, 2008 12:46 pm

[…] Source: […]

July 9, 2008 1:15 pm

I have noticed that the politicians set the CO2 reduction goals for 25 or 30 years in the future. It seems to me, they do not have the snow balls to take the heat for destroying their nation’s economies on their watch. It will be even more interesting to see how the public will react several years from now when it is undeniable and settled science that climate change (caused by global warming) is a fraud. Will ALGORE me taken out and flogged?

Retired Engineer
July 9, 2008 1:54 pm

After several “Five Year Plan” failures, Castro told the Soviets to make their predictions far enough in the future that they wouldn’t be around to explain why they didn’t happen.
The CO2/AGW crowd obviously took notes.

Bruce Cobb
July 9, 2008 2:16 pm

“Global Warming” refers to the average change predicted to affect the entire planet, where as “climate change” reflects the fact that, because of evolving climate and oceanic circulation in light of global warming, not all areas will be affected equally…one can think of global warming as a “cause” and climate change as its “effect.”
So, global warming is just an average warming over time (caused by humans of course, and as measured by cherry picking the time period), and the resulting climate change can be anything AGWers want it to be. How convenient.

July 9, 2008 2:41 pm

The key takeaway from this post should be this: there is BIG difference between “climate change” and “manmade climate change.”
Casual (uninformed) readers of the term, including Marc, make the assumption that all climate change is caused by humans. “Climate realists” recognize that most is not.

July 9, 2008 2:57 pm

Commenters like “Marc” drive me nuts. They are present on all blogs about all topics, and they’re also the guys who “reply all” to SPAM forwards with a rant about something completely unrelated to the original email.

July 9, 2008 3:11 pm

“There will be an ice age, change your ways” … became …
“oh, ok, no ice age, um … there will be global warming, change your ways” … became …
“oh, ok, so maybe it isn’t warming, um … there will be climate change, change your ways”.
Bearing in mind that many will not look at the detail only the title, the title has to be incapable of disproof.
And as for “moron amplifier” I’m sitting here saying “I wish I’d said that” and then reassuring myself: “you will FatBigot, you will.”

July 9, 2008 3:35 pm

“…boring scares of nuclear power, GMOs or maybe electromagnetic smog”
Speaking of magnetics, and this is a serious question, but, I have been reading that the magnetic poles have been moving, predominantly, the North pole is reported to be moving accross canada at the rate of a few KM’s per year. In my reading of this, there are apparently results that show a weakening of the magnetosphere around the pole by 25%. My question is this, could this weaking of the earths magnetics be a candidate for the changing climate? My assumption is that if the field is weaker, more radiation will pass through possibly causing some atmospheric changes. Does this assumption stand up at all with what you guys know? I’m just curious.
Many thanks…

July 9, 2008 3:39 pm

“…the deliberately false statement that CO2 is a “pollutant.” ”
Yeah, I noticed this dirty word being banded about too. I think it must be part of the spin campaign to make it sound new and even more dangerous from before.

July 9, 2008 7:56 pm

This is the perspective of someone with an engineering degree:
If you were to ask how well we understand electromagmetics, or quantum mechanics, or other science, there would really be no purely quantitative answer, because to give it requires an assessment of what we don’t yet know. What you can say, however, is that we understand electromagnetics well enough to build reliable power grids, we understand electronics well enough to make computers, etc. In other words, it is the practical application of a science that becomes the objective measure of our understanding of that science. If there is no practical application of a science, it’s pure theory – nothing more than educated conjecture.
As noted above, many comments on climate related articles bow to the so-called “experts” on climate science, almost always scientists or mathemeticians who rarely, if ever, have to deal with applying their presumed understanding of climate in a way that definitively tests that knowledge. Thus, I would object to the use of the term “expert” in conjunction with climate science or climate prediction. The word “expert” implies some objectively measured skill in a practical discipline, e.g. a handwriting expert presumably has evidenced some actual track record of accurately identifying a person from their handwriting (in a controlled test), a chess expert has demonstrated skill relative to competitors, etc.
Assuming that there is no actual device that can control climate, and won’t be anytime soon (likely ever), the only conceivable practical, demonstrable application of climate science is prediction. But given that climate change can only be observed or measured over the course of decades at the earliest, then how exactly can someone (or a computer model for that matter) demonstrate expertise at predicting climate change in anything less than a century? Even if, for example, the current climate models are able to accurately “predict” the climate change in the following decade or two, the sample size is too small to tell whether it is actual skill at work, or random chance. Moreover, even if the model accurately projects future climate variables like temperature, moisture, etc. you don’t know whether there are other possible models with little anthropogenic forcing that also are able to accurately simulate climate. The only way to definitively rule out one of the two models is to start playing around with the input (CO2) in a controlled manner. This isn’t going to happen.
I also think that this principle is true with respect to those who insist that the present changes in climate are driven by natural forces, like the sun. You can speculate all you want about it, but there never really will be a day of reckoning by which you measure whether you are right or wrong.
Therefore, why would we even spend one dollar fighting “climate change” when we will never know whether we get any return on that dollar. It’s like asking someone to buy a ticket in a lottery on the promise that “if” you win, something good “might” happen to you down the road, and even if it does, you will never know for sure whether any particular “good thing” in your life was a result of your buying the ticket.

July 9, 2008 8:13 pm

Kilimanjaro could be ‘ice free’ in a few years.
THAT old thing.
Sure, it could be. Deforestation at its base has seriously reduced precipitation. The temperatures up there, however, are the same as always.
FB: Yes, I have also noticed that the “change your ways” is the one unchanging thing in the equation. Ever since, oh, around 1968, no matter what the gripe. (Population “explosion”, resource “depletion”, oil and much other nonsense.)
Always a different problem. Always the same solution. Like a 9-year old kid who has all kinds of problems that could be solved and all sorts of potentials that could be realized, all seemingly unrelated, IF ONLY (s)he were allowed to stay up until 11:30.
(I don’t argue AGW on that basis, but I will note that we have names for that in the history biz.)

July 9, 2008 8:18 pm

Kurt: Very good. And look at how unutterably lousy those climate predictions have been so far even with wide error bars and over a much shorter interval!

July 9, 2008 8:20 pm

Paul: I have also wondered about that.

July 9, 2008 8:23 pm

Castro told the Soviets to make their predictions far enough in the future that they wouldn’t be around to explain why they didn’t happen.
Similar story about how Nostradamus explained the story of his great success.

July 9, 2008 8:26 pm

I have noticed that the politicians set the CO2 reduction goals for 25 or 30 years in the future. It seems to me, they do not have the snow balls to take the heat for destroying their nation’s economies on their watch.
No, don’t blame them. they are being crafty, but they are also being wise. If temps are down over the next couple of decades, those measures will never be enacted.
If temps DO go up as predicted (though I bet they don’t), then maybe something SHOULD be done–but with tomorrow’s much greater wealth by means of tomorrow’s much greater technology. Probably far more cheaply (in % terms) and far more effective.

July 9, 2008 8:32 pm

For what it is worth, I agree with Mr Goetz’s observation about blog bullies.
I follow debate on AGW and other energy related blogs to try and learn something about critical issues to society.
Try as I might to let it slip, I find it absolutely infuriating to have to regularly plough through posts such as that he highlights where the writer pours scorn, sarcasm and venom on an opposing, and usually sceptical, contributor.
In essence, by criticising the opponents’ age, mental faculties and mooting likely other derogatory viewpoints of the opponent, such as creationism, without a shred of evidence seems consistent with a trend of such writers to seek to de-humanise critical opponents. Much like the label ‘denier’.
And the fear, for anyone with a scrap of historical knowledge of 20th century totalitarianism, is that once someone has de-humanised another person or group – it becomes very easy to rationalise inflicting much worse outcomes on that group. Which is where I fear this political debate will land when I read of Hansen’s calls for show trials for dissenting energy company executives. A well tried and proven method to crush dissent and probably a loud greek chorus of support on the blogosphere from persons such as Mr Goetz has highlighted.
I would love to know whether this crass and threatening behaviour by people with education levels to know better is a function of the growth of cyber debate on the internet – or is just what was always there but could not be seen in a world of snail-mail exchanges ? A Phd thesis there for someone.
But it is probably just as well that these clashes are fought in cyber-space. If someone spoke to me that way in person, I would be looking for the nearest heavy object to wrap around his head and deal with his squeals afterwards.

July 9, 2008 8:33 pm

You would think if CNN was doing a story on drought in Timor, just maybe they would have googled: Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)?

JFA in Montreal
July 9, 2008 8:35 pm

It seems that global warming zealots are censoring wikipedia…

July 9, 2008 8:45 pm

From above:
“One very difficult canard to nail is the suggestion that the Earth is “warming up”. As I understand it, the mythological “global temperature” is the average temperature, not the maximum.”
As I understand it, it’s not even an average temperature of the earth, at least not in a meaningful sense. What they do is calculate a crude local average daily temperature as the midpoint between the daily max and daily mimumum temperatures and then average that spatially across the globe. Would you, for example, take the average temperature of a high rise in this fashion, if you wanted to estimate the heat loss from the high-rise? Record the daily max and min on each floor divided by 2, then sum the averages and divide by the number of floors? I don’t think so. You would probably take a number of simultaneous measurements – one on each floor, each simultaneous measurement averaged spatially over the building and then integrate or average over time.
The real question is whether the average temperature, however it is measured, is meaningfully related to the net radiative heat transfer into/out of the earth. Using the temperature anomoly method currently employed, I don’t think this is necessarily the case. Assume, for example, that the daily min and max at a location stay the same, but the profile over the day changes so that it spends longer at the peak or less at the minimum. That location will still radiate more heat, indicating that it has warmed. The reverse is also true; you could have a change in the average daily anomoly at a location, but the net heat flux out of the surface at that location hasn’t actually changed. How likely is this? I don’t know.
More importantly, radiative heat transfer out of a surface is proportional to the fourth power of the surface, meaning that to expel an extra increment of heat entering through the surface, that surface has to warm less at the maximum daily temperature than it does at the minimum daily temperature, and also that hot areas of the earth need to heat up less than do cool areas of the earth to counterbalance any additional increment of back-radiation from greenhouse gasses. Thus, and this is just my opinion, weighting the maximum daily temperature the same as the minimum, and weighting all regions of the earth equally as they do with respect to the so-called average temperature of the earth doesn’t really produce an accurate measure to judge whether, and to what extent, the earth is absorbing more radiation than it emits.

July 9, 2008 11:47 pm

And on the subject of replying to the venom spitters, here is IMHO a fantastic reply from one of the regular troll battlers on Jennifer Marohasy’s blog that well deserves a wider audience.
“KT, Luke, Gavin, Louis and Eyrie:
My personal bias: We are in a late interglacial and the climate is warming naturally. Some level of AGW has occurred in the last century and perhaps more will follow this century. Divining the natural from the human induced is an invitation to a game of hyperlink ping-pong. For instance, the MWP was as warm or warmer than today.
Surface temperature is the noisiest and most variable component of climate, i.e. an elastic yardstick. And finally, the whole debate has serious basic epistemological problems, which undermine all propositions for direct radical human intervention at this time based upon the AGW or CC premise. There is a calm, rational approach to address our dependence on fossil fuels, which has little to do with fear driven assaults on reason.
In my risk assessment the balance of evidence is that climate sensitivity to CO2 doesn’t exceed 2c. That’s not enough to cause climate disasters larger than the one we face by allowing irrational fear to coercively deny the economic aspirations of humanity’s billions living in poverty, speciously based on a phantom of our collective consciousness.
No matter how fashionable the trope of “green” energy is to wealthy and free bourgeois, to impose it in a kind of collectivist pseudo-ritualistic frenzy has deep socio-psychological motives that have yet to be exposed in the debate.
Ultimately, a polity driven by a kind of civic madness will come to challenge of the basic principles of our civilization: reason, democratic due process, inalienable rights, freedom of speech, property and movement, scientific progress (ie, integrity of method and freedom of research.) More on this later.
That said: If a preponderance of new research eventually reveals the climate sensitive to CO2 is above 4c. (Bob Brown believes its 6c or more.) Then I would reasonably change my position on the dangers of AGW. I have an open mind to the science and look for new information to update my position all the time.
We should all approach this debate with humility and compassionate reason foremost in our minds, ready to receive and adapt to new information.
I know Luke is capable of compassionate reason should he put his heart in the right place. Personally, I bore of duelling trolls and hereby swear off engaging in ad hominem. (Hope I can resist temptation, beside I always win. ;0) So boring. Personal attacks push us into ideological corners more extreme than we would otherwise chose to defend.
I did not come to this debate with an agenda. I came to it as a young environmentalist in the 1980’s fighting on the ground in the forest to save Redwoods. I first heard of the “Greenhouse Effect” in a lecture given by James Lovelock in the early 1980’s. Today, as an old conservationist, I love nothing better than to sleep out in forest listening to the koalas talk. I live on a large remote property backed up to a national park. Most of it is primary forest. My wife and I planned to bequeath the property to the national park when we depart. So if I am a shill for anyone it would be for rational thought, perspective, Gaia and my favourite “faith”: Evolution.
Posted by: wes george at July 10, 2008 11:19 AM”
I wish I could have ‘penned’ these words, instead of just fantasising about reaching for a troll whacker.

July 10, 2008 5:07 am

“1) Inadequate education
2) Poor manners
3) The internet as a moron amplifier”
I agree with all three of the above.

July 10, 2008 5:52 am

Difference between weather and climate? When it is unusually cold, it is weather, when it is unusually warm, it is climate! Remember this simple rule and you will never shake your head in disbelief at any news story again. It has correlaries.
If you like what is goin on, good growing season, pleasant spring and fall temps, for example, it is weather, if you dont like it, hurricane hits a vulnerable spot (vulnerable spots inordinately correlate with places with dysfunctional politics) such as New Orleans or Burma, then it is climate.

July 10, 2008 9:02 am

“Hey, I dont need a brain, I’ve got a concenus instead”
Didn’t Rand refer to that as “The Aristocracy of Pull?”

July 10, 2008 9:18 am

Marc believes the std Kos assumption #21 that the Left is educated and the right is not.
Hmmm. I wonder if they are sophisticated enough to have heard of the term “educated incapacity”?

Pamela Gray
July 10, 2008 11:09 am

re: Eve and
It is truly a study in fooling people. This website uses the basic “sky is falling” rhetoric to spread consternation and ultimately unscientific political agendas. However, I think the site is also done with good intentions and complete belief (as in fooled) in AGW. For example, it hysterically states that the South Pole will melt and soon, even though a child could simply google that issue and learn readily that the South Pole is gaining ice. The fooled mob political mentality mixed with genuine concern for planet Earth demonstrated at this website will lead us to silly and wasteful economic programs that benefit few and rob many.

July 10, 2008 12:53 pm

a child could simply google that issue and learn readily that the South Pole is gaining ice.
True, Pam. (But evidently this seems to be quite beyond the capacity of a considerable majority of college-educated adults.)

July 10, 2008 1:01 pm

For that matter, look at Sea Levels:
I think the Rev should run a feature on that!

July 10, 2008 2:25 pm

Evan, here is another for your list sea level list!

July 10, 2008 5:29 pm

Why, Paul, it’s the “Axe”, himself! Good old Pappy Sea-Witch!
He FINALLY got himself a decent forum, huh? I am going to enjoy this.

July 10, 2008 6:42 pm

Before I assume the forum is decent . . .
Does anyone know the pedigree of this “21stcenturysciencetech”? I haven’t heard of them before. It’s very hard to get mainstream anything to do anti-GW stuff and you never know what the cat dragged in.

July 11, 2008 4:05 am

Something needs to be done with the Global Warming Episode !

July 11, 2008 5:58 am

I did wonder about that myself, but I figure no news is good news.

Bruce Cobb
July 11, 2008 2:16 pm

“We should all approach this debate with humility and compassionate reason foremost in our minds, ready to receive and adapt to new information.” That is a great sentiment of Wes’s. But, unfortunately, the AGWers have made up their minds already. To them, “the debate is over”, and we skeptics are all just a bunch of flat-earth creationist, SUV-loving science-hating Deniers.
So, hand me my troll-whacker, thank you.

July 12, 2008 7:37 pm

Why is it that we have to suffer through the rantings of James Hanson when he is not a climate scientist?

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