Time Travel and Causation in the Climate Debate

Scene from the 60's TV show "The Time Tunnel" - click for info

Guest post by Craig Loehle, Ph.D.

A fundamental principle of physics is that causation is unidirectional in time. An event must follow its cause. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but you will soon see why I begin with such a simple statement. Outside of temporal anomalies in sci-fi movies, time travel is forbidden by thermodynamics, among other reasons (and not just because you could kill yourself at an earlier time and create a multiple-worlds crisis which calls for Spock to give future technologies to past counterparts of Scotty…).

In the climate change debate, by contrast to physics, the force of GHGs and human evil is so great that it transcends time. Bad things happen BEFORE their cause. It is simply amazing.

Let’s establish the time frame for the analysis. When can we say that human activities began to influence the climate in a significant way? According to the IPCC it is sometime after 1950 (in their attribution section). Before that, whatever small effect GHGs and land use change had on the climate was not detectable because too small—remember, GHGs are rising, it is not a black/white single event like shooting someone but a matter of quantity. Specific attribution studies give 1950 (Thompson, D.W.J., J.M. Wallace, P.D. Jones, and J.J. Kennedy. 2009. Identifying signatures of natural climate variability in time series of global-mean surface temperature: Methodology and insights, J. Clim., 22, 6120-6141, doi:10.1175/2009JCLI3089.1) or 1960 (Hegerl, G.C., P.D. Jones, and T.P. Barnett. 2001. Effect of observational sampling error on the detection of anthropogenic climate change, J. Clim., 14, 198-207) as dates for detectability. And yet, these dates are ignored in much of the debate. I will note 3 cases here.

First, the IPCC implicitly counts warming that occured before 1950. In calculating trends, it lists the 100 year 20th Century trends, and leaves it implicit that all of the warming over this period is human-caused. It never explains the warming pre-1950 or clearly disavows it. In the public debate also, the entire 100+ year warming is noted as alarming (“the world has warmed 0.8 deg C during the past 100 years” is given as “proof” of how bad it is), but the first 50 years of this could not be human caused.

Second, particularly in blog debates or press commentaries, the melting of glaciers is given as indisputable evidence for warming (often in responding to concerns like the CRU email scandal or the surfacestations project). Let’s consider the well-documented case of glaciers in Europe. During the LIA glaciers advanced and crushed many farms and villages. Between 1750 and 1800 many began to recede. They were thus receding for between 150 and 200 years before human activity could have been the cause, yet this melting is taken as proof of AGW.

This assumption is once again based on time travel: the human impact since 1950 melted glaciers beginning in 1750. In some cases it is argued that the melting in recent decades is human caused, even if earlier melting was not. This is special pleading, with no empirical support. One must demonstrate that the cause has changed, not assume it. Assuming it creates circular reasoning: the melting of glaciers after 1950 is different than before 1950 because of AGW, and it is therefore evidence supporting AGW! The proper analysis is that melting of glaciers before 1950 does not require AGW as a cause, and therefore melting after 1950 does not need AGW as a cause unless it can be proven.

As a side-note, it is important to understand that since glaciers are slow to respond to climate changes, and slower the larger they are, the only thing a receding glacier tells us is that it is currently warmer (and/or drier) than when it reached its last maximum extension. So, it is currently warmer than in 1750 or 1800, but we do not know if it is getting warmer and warmer by looking at receding glaciers. This would only be true if glaciers were in instant equilibrium with climate, which is of course not true.

Third, the impacts claimed by the IPCC to be likely in the distant future are claimed to be already evident. The “climate resistance” blog, I believe, coined the term “future present tense” for this phenomenon. In many essays or editorials, the actual argument for present impacts invokes future impacts.

And yet, in most cases in which historical data are sufficient to compare recent with historical data, no trends for increasing bad things can be detected (see Pielke jr blog for many examples), and even the IPCC admits that effects on agriculture and forestry have so far been limited (see also R. Seppala, A. Buck, and P. Katila, eds. Adaptation of Forests and People to Climate Change—A Global Assessment Report. IUFRO World Series Vol. 22. Helsinki. 224pp. [PDF]).

There may also be the following reasoning involved:

Climate change will cause bad things, and climate change is happening.

Therefore, if bad things happen it is due to climate change. This line of argument is qualitative but climate change is not discrete but quantitative, and the bad things that are claimed to be likely consequences depend on the magnitude of the climate change, not just the existence of climate change. This type of argument also misses the necessary/sufficient distinction.

Climate change is not necessary for bad things to happen (since they have happened throughout history and even before human history), it can only be assessed by the frequency of bad things (of course ignoring the existence of good things…).

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124 thoughts on “Time Travel and Causation in the Climate Debate

  1. Well as you well know, simultaneity; even order of occurrence cannot be discerned for observers in different frames of reference (special relativity wise.)

    So maybe in order to understand climate, we not only have to know all about Quantum Chromodynamics; but we have to become Relativity experts as well.

    But I do like my cause to precede the event; it’s tidier that way. I never did like the wolf upstream blaming the lamb downstream, for muddying his water.

  2. Nothing new here, of course, but sometimes the obvious does need to be stated. It also succeeds in making AGW “theory” look ridiculous, not that it needs any help.

  3. Being married to a physicist means having to listen to all sorts of things which start off with “now let’s assume this is a perfect sphere . . .”. But it also means that I have heard the lecture where a scientist’s perception of the problem will make a difference as to what an experiment shows. A simple case is whether light is a wave or a particle. Depending on which way a scientist views the problem, they will see the result in that form. View light as a wave, the experiment shows a wave. View light as a particle, the experiment shows a particle.

    Thus, if a scientist believes in anthropomorphic global warming, all warming will come from humans. If a scientist believes in sun-based global warming, all warming will come from the sun. The hard part is finding a scientist who believes in finding the truth, and has no preconceived notions. But since all education is based on some sort of preconceived notions, we are all corrupted by it. Thus, we are caught in the time warp of circular reasoning.

    “Everyone must believe in something. I believe I’ll have another drink.” ~ W. C. Fields

  4. I’m still waiting on an explanation as to why the slope from 1700-1800 is exactly the same as the slope from 1900-2000…
    The former being perfectly natural, and the latter being man made.

    Since the slopes are the same, I don’t see a man made signature at all.

  5. No, No, No, Deniers have time machines and placed those historic accounts into the record as part of a big oil disinformation campayne. You know, because if you could travel through time, what else would you do but confuse people so you can continue to destroy the planet?

  6. I was with Lohle’s reasoning all the way–until the final line about the frequency of bad things happening. Since weather extremes tend to cluster at the peaks and troughs of long-term cycles, their frequency strikes me as insufficent basis for attribution. There has to be a distinct physically based manifestation of some quantity or quality for sound attribution of cause.

  7. This is why the hockey stick is so important.

    If you can deny that all past temperature variations occurred, then everything happening today must be our fault.

    Plus, it is a lot easier to start a climate model from a system in equilibrium.

  8. Re: Sky’s comment: yes of course it is not that simple, I was trying to make the distinction between merely observing a tornado and saying it is AGW vs comparing it to some expected “normal” behavior–and you do need to be careful of the timeframe. The recent tornados in the southern USA for example happened during a la nina which produces more tornados in this region on average.

  9. Also, only time travel, ak.a. “future present tense,” can account for how CO2 levels rise about 800 years after a warming. The Goracle foresaw the confusion this would sow among lesser minds and corrected his charts for our edification.

  10. This whole post is rendered invalid by the simple observation that CO2 did not magically become a greenhouse gas in 1950. CO2 has always been a greenhouse gas, no matter how much you wish it wasn’t, and ever since the Industrial Revolution, its rising concentrations in the atmosphere have affected the energy balance of the atmosphere. It’s really not hard to understand that. 1950 is irrelevant.

  11. Who’s that person on this site who says “Wait for it!”

    Don’t you know that the original cause of all this . . . happened in the garden of Eden!

  12. Peter said: “Also, only time travel, ak.a. “future present tense,” can account for how CO2 levels rise about 800 years after a warming.”
    yes, it is interesting that some people are not bothered by the time reversal in that case. I wonder if they measure the rat response to the test drug before they give the drug…

  13. Ok, so prior to chemical greenhouse gas effects we had no impact on our environment? Howsabout the fact that when it gets cold people burn stuff, the smoke coats everything within a substantial area in soot lowering the albedo? This would be most prevalent when the weather was coldest, eg soot on snow.
    As a child in the seventies I recall the soot flaking from buildings that had built up until cleaner means of heating became widespread. (In the north of England)
    A simplistic argument implying that all climate change is due to a single cause is specious at best, attempting to resolve the climatic aspects of all human activity against the given time frame would be a better use of your time.

  14. Craig, thanks for the article…. very nice. I would have put just a little more overt sarcasm in, but that’s probably just a matter of taste.
    I do like the term “future present tense” though. It goes well with “warmcold”.

  15. This is a masterful exercise in logic that says all that needs to be said about two topics, glaciers and natural variation. Glaciers have been melting for hundreds of years. The fact that they are melting today cannot, in itself, be used to prove that mankind has caused the melting or made it worse. The climate has been warming for hundreds of years. It was warming in 1850 and 1950 yet that must be attributed to natural variation and not human production of CO2. In addition, the warming occurring today should be attributed to natural variation, just like the warming 100 years ago, unless Warmista can come up with some actual physical hypotheses about forcings that can be used to explain excess warming caused by manmade CO2. Take that Trenberth! Hats off to the author.

  16. I am not sure if I have understood the point of the post clearly (sorry Craig!).
    With respect, it seems to me to be stating the obvious – or at least, in the sense that most skeptical folk/scientists look at the IPCC conclusions and ‘see’ these inconsistencies. I feel that most who are actually ‘understanding’ the IPCC outpourings and those of their ardent supporters, realise full well the timescale ‘fudging’, along with all the other ‘cherry picking’ metrics?
    Having said that, it is often overlooked within the many generic arguments against the ‘evidence for AGW’, so in that context is worth reminding folk about. Hence, it would probably be worthwhile (IMHO) to present it in an easily understandable manner for general public to grasp (e.g. graphs, points of inflexion where AGW is said to start, etc…) and maybe even compare it to the BS fed to them in typical mainstream media headlines? (e.g. the glaciers)

  17. Are they saying that the post-LIA glacier retreat would have stopped receding if it wasn’t for man?

    Climate change is not necessary for bad things to happen (since they have happened throughout history and even before human history), it can only be assessed by the frequency of bad things (of course ignoring the existence of good things…).

    No trend of bad climate things has so far been detected. Someone call Al Gore.

    2011
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jastp.2011.01.021
    http://itia.ntua.gr/en/docinfo/1128/
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/qj.776/full

  18. OK I’ve got one… we’re all familiar with this logic that says the frequency of ‘this’ indicates a possible trend of ‘that’ etc.

    (It’s a perfectly good argument on its own)

    So what about applying that logic to the bad arguments *themselves* which are used to promote AGW/ CC/ CO2 taxation etc?

    IOW how much bad science, fake data and illogical arguments does it take to indicate that there is in fact likely to be an agenda other than the one being presented on the surface (ie saving the planet etc etc)?

    It’s a good question, yes?

    Or to put it another way how many times in a row does a teacher have to hear….

    “My dog ate it”
    “I left it on the bus”
    “It got wet so I put it outside to dry in the sun but then a seagull landed, picked it up and flew away with it”
    etc

    … before she suspects little Jonny is not actually doing his homework?

  19. Dear Mr. Loehle

    Peter said: “Also, only time travel, ak.a. “future present tense,” can account for how CO2 levels rise about 800 years after a warming.”
    yes, it is interesting that some people are not bothered by the time reversal in that case. I wonder if they measure the rat response to the test drug before they give the drug…

    Why don’t you try to explain it to Peter? I’m sure you could if you would like.
    In fact it’s not difficult for a scientist.

  20. Of course during the MWP there were periods when the temperature was pretty warm and periods when it was intensely cold.

    Must have been something to do with the way they built and burned their wood fires!

    Pity the IPCC wasn’t there at the time to ‘document’ this AGW :-)

  21. Nice piece, Craig. Now you just have to go back in time to 1988 and when James Hansen secretly turns off the air conditioner before the Senate Committee meeting about the climate, you can secretly turn it back on …

    w.

    PS – I took the great liberty to clean up a couple typos, slightly reformat the text, and encode the link, hope you don’t mind.

  22. … QED ;-)

    I shall now demonstrate my computer model which provides compelling evidence that backward time travel is indeed possible …

  23. Craig Loehle says: “I wonder if they measure the rat response to the test drug before they give the drug…” (May 16, 2011 at 1:51 pm )

    They don’t have to measure anything at all…actually, no pesky rats needed either; we got computer modeling now.

  24. stevo says:
    May 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm
    This whole post is rendered invalid by the simple observation that CO2 did not magically become a greenhouse gas in 1950. CO2 has always been a greenhouse gas, no matter how much you wish it wasn’t, and ever since the Industrial Revolution, its rising concentrations in the atmosphere have affected the energy balance of the atmosphere. It’s really not hard to understand that. 1950 is irrelevant.
    ================================

    Please disregard my earlier post folks – it seems Craigs post is indeeed required and some obviously cannot see the wood for the trees.(my apologies to Dr Loehle)
    (I do think it is readily apparent that it needs to be made much much clearer for some, however!)

  25. Good question from CriticalBlogger, but in this case we don’t need inductive evidence. We have the writings of the original founders of the scam, Margaret Mead, Stephen Schneider, John Holdren, et al, in 1975. They made it clear that they were looking for a way to increase government power. A little earlier, a CIA document made the same clear connection.

    The other part of the agenda, the Wall Street connection, is less clearly attributed. It seems to have originated along with the Enron trick of securitizing energy around 1999, but I haven’t seen a ‘statement of intent’ as we have with Mead.

  26. Good post Dr. Loehle. Do you know if such “time violations” can invalidate scientific papers? I would think so if it touches the core of the paper’s point being made.

  27. stevo says:
    May 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm
    ===================================
    stevo, you are the only person on this planet that can separate the natural signal from the man made one……
    ….please tell the rest of us exactly how you did that?

    Hysterics aside, we’re only talking 1/2 a degree…………………..
    and a large part of that was accomplished by fudging numbers and retroactive adjustments of past temperatures

  28. Just back from the future here, (2037), to let you know how things were/will be. SC-24 and 25 did indeed sputter in below predictions and no one yet has a handle on where SC-26 went. Ocean levels have dropped 13 cm. as glaciers and polar ice caps have advanced. The hockey stick graph was indeed correct, except that it was inverted (should have been pointing downwards.) Mexican border security was beefed up to prevent millions of Americans seeking a warmer climate in Central America and respite from marauding polar bears.

  29. stevo says: “This whole post is rendered invalid by the simple observation that CO2 did not magically become a greenhouse gas in 1950. CO2 has always been a greenhouse gas, no matter how much you wish it wasn’t, and ever since the Industrial Revolution, its rising concentrations in the atmosphere have affected the energy balance of the atmosphere. It’s really not hard to understand that. 1950 is irrelevant.”
    sorry but we are dealing with a quantitative effect, not a qualitative one. Before about 1950 our affect on CO2 was too little to affect the climate, according to the IPCC, and in 1800 it was certainly too low to melt glaciers. I am basing this on the climate models and IPCC plus the other papers I cite.

  30. stevo says:
    May 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    This whole post is rendered invalid by the simple observation that CO2 did not magically become a greenhouse gas in 1950. CO2 has always been a greenhouse gas, no matter how much you wish it wasn’t, and ever since the Industrial Revolution, its rising concentrations in the atmosphere have affected the energy balance of the atmosphere. It’s really not hard to understand that. 1950 is irrelevant.
    ———
    Not so stevo.

    You give me absolute proof that the bolder portion is unquestionably true. There are current peer-reviewed research papers that say the opposite, that rising CO2 has not affected either the atmosphere or the surface we live on, absolutely none.

    If you object to my statement, prove it. Your conjecture above has already been rendered invalidated.

  31. The time thing is always an interesting one to bring up and causes all sorts of contradictions to arise. My favorite is how Tamino has claimed that modern global warming started in 1975. Then later he claimed that the Antarctic sea ice used to be much larger in extent until ~1940, when it began to drop. According to his plot, the Antarctic ice winter maximum lost about 20% of its extent between 1940 and 1975 and another 10% or so before 1979, when satellite observations began (and interestingly enough have seen SH sea ice slightly increase). The loss in the summer minimum was even larger (by %) – about 40% between 1940 and 1975 and an additional 15% or so from 1975 to 1979 (when satellite observations began and surprise showed a slight increase).

    So how can modern global warming begin in 1975 and yet we cause such drastic losses in Antarctic (and Arctic) sea ice before 1975? And why did the trends change so much in 1979…coincidentally when more reliable measurements could be made? Also, why is 3 C/CO2 doubling only (even sort of) visible in the temperature record for the last 25-30 years and not before then?

    -Scott

  32. @janice

    I expect “Anthropomorphic” is a slip of the keyboard, however a number of analyses that use incorrect statistical processing have resulted in distinct Mickey-mouse formations.

    Fields was a genius, and has much to say with respect to Climate Scientists’ behaviour:

    Zeth: “Is this a game of chance?”
    Cuthbert J. Twillie: “Not the way I play it, no.”

  33. Stevo says,
    “This whole post is rendered invalid by the simple observation that CO2 did not magically become a greenhouse gas in 1950. CO2 has always been a greenhouse gas, no matter how much you wish it wasn’t, and ever since the Industrial Revolution, its rising concentrations in the atmosphere have affected the energy balance of the atmosphere. It’s really not hard to understand that. 1950 is irrelevant.”

    Using the concept of a ‘greenhouse’ and ‘greenhouse gases’ is to misunderstand how the atmosphere works. Greenhouses prevent convection of warm air upwards by trapping the convection currents within the greenhouse. There is no ‘glass ceiling’ in the atmosphere to stop convection therefore no greenhouse effect. There is no secondary radiation downwards that can warm the ground unless the second law of thermodynamics can be suspended. CO2 is irrelevant to any energy balances. Only water in the atmosphere, exchanging between three states along with the latent heats involved in those exchanges, can do the business of shifting energy around. If CO2 could exist in three states in the atmosphere then and only then would its presence be relevant.

  34. Though I am not given to picking nits…
    Watch this particular episode piece of ATOM wherein “the measurement problem” is discussed at the end. The implications is that present observations influence the state of the universe in the past.

    Time stamp 8:40

    The concept hurts me.

  35. To clarify, I am not saying CO2 is irrelevant, or that the greenhouse effect does not exist (though I don’t believe in positive feedback aka amplification), only that our effect before 1950 (or even 1970), according to the IPCC, was trivial.

  36. Thanks for posting, Dr. Loehle, I enjoyed your article.

    Along the same lines, lately I notice references in news reports to weather of “unprecedented” or “increasing” severity — storms that are almost as bad as record setting events of 30 or 40 years ago. In others words things are getting so much worse than ever before, it’s almost as bad as it used to be. (And of course somebody must be to blame for this!)

  37. Actually, Alpine glaciers advanced again from ca 1820-1850 and only then started their most recent retreat. Advance and retreat at high (cold) altitude is much more connected with cloud cover and precipitation than with temperature per se. However your point remains valid.

  38. Philip Foster,

    Thanks for your explanation.

    CO2 was close to ten times higher than today going into the Ordovician-Silurian glaciation, when global temperatures rapidly declined by 5°C. And CO2 has been almost twenty times higher in the geologic past, and thousands of ppmv in the more recent past, without triggering runaway global warming [click in the image to embiggen]. In fact, the only correlation between geologic temperatures and CO2 shows that rises in CO2 follow rises in temperature.

    This cause-and-effect disconnect between rising CO2 and temperature is evident throughout the geologic record. How do alarmists explain that CO2 causes the temperature to measurably rise? Why, exactly, is everything diffenrent now?

    Occam’s Razor says the simplest answer is almost always the right answer. When you accept the fact that “carbon” has very little effect on temperature – at the most, a few tenths of a degree, after a very substantial 40% increase in CO2 [and much of that rise is due to natural variability] – the cause of the alarm becomes clear: climate scientists have been trained with grant funds the way Pavlov trained dogs with dog biscuits.

  39. Yes, but the counter to your argument seems to be to add the word unprecedented in front of the effect. Hence, the glacial melt must be at an unprecedented rate which, of course, has to be because of CO2. Of course there are those pesky glaciers which continue to grow just to spite the warmists…..

  40. “Climate change” caused the Little Ice Age with corresponding severe impacts on society and economies. How much of that was caused by Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) since 1950?

  41. Craig Loehle says:
    May 16, 2011 at 3:21 pm
    only that our effect before 1950 (or even 1970), according to the IPCC, was trivial.
    =======================================================
    Craig, you had made that same point back in September.
    The graphs you posted then, made it clear that the slope from ~1700-1800, with a 100 year flat lag, is the same slope from ~1900-2000. And now it looks like we are in the lag again.
    Obviously man made CO2 had no effect on the exact same 1oo year ~1700-1800 slope.

    I’m still waiting on someone to tease the man made portion out of the exact same 100 year slope from ~1900-2000.

    I don’t see it, and no one else can see it either……

    Craig’s post from Sept:
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/09/28/loehle-vindication/

  42. RE: Constant Mean Temperature in Texas since 1895.

    From the NCDC webpage “Climate at Glance”, the annual mean temperature for Texas since 1895 has been a constant 65 +/- 1 deg F and the annual 1895-2010 trend is 0.00 deg F per decade.

    You will never convince the folks in Texas that carbon dioxide causes “global warming.”

  43. Craig Loehle says: “…. I am not saying CO2 is irrelevant, or that the greenhouse effect does not exist (though I don’t believe in positive feedback aka amplification), only that our effect before 1950 (or even 1970), according to the IPCC, was trivial.” (May 16, 2011 at 3:21 pm)

    Perhaps, Dr Loehle, the default assumption that the Warmies’ dates and their amplification hypothesis are related in any serious way to science or the real world is the fundamental flaw here. They cannot ask us to reduce our sinful spewing of the CO2 poison below 1950s levels, as we’d all probably have to stop breathing. Such a request would have bummed us out and discouraged us, putting a damper on the lucrative carbon trading bonanzas, cheerful green technologies and super-smart energy schemes. The “amplification” and its timing is merely a device to make it all relevent and current, to remind our sinful and selfish butts of the imminence of the horrible eco-apocalypse that was predicted with such startling clarity and high drama by the inventor of the Internet, no less.

  44. All this of course assumes that some simple linear or even logarithmic effect from the accumulation of GH gases (with related feedbacks). This assumption is of course wrong. The upshot of this is that really bad things (relative to what is good or bad for human life) have happened in the past, and will happen in the future, and that very small nudges in the climate system one way or another, accumulated over time, can suddenly bring about a really bad thing. The problem of course is that these really bad things, or “black swan” events, while they may have very specific deterministic causes, are wrapped up in a spatio-temporal chaotic system (i.e. the climate), and so, the exact way and exact timing of their unfolding is unpredictable by any current (and likely future) climate model.

    Here’s another way to think about it. When piling up grains of sand to make a sandpile, you could argue that the early grain you add had very little effect on the eventual collapse of that sandpile (i.e. the black swan event), but in fact, it took those early grains to lead to that eventual single grain that brings about the collapse of the sandpile. Completely deterministic, with the friction between the grains of sand adding up in a very logarithmic way (just like the effect of CO2 in the atmosphere)until that one grain collapses the whole pile, with all the other grains that came before (when nothing visible happened) actually adding together to determine the collapse. This is the way chaos works.

  45. A SCAM is A SCAM is A SCAM.

    And AGW, CLIMATE CHANGE, CLIMATE DISRUPTION, THE CLIMATE CRISIS (or whatever next the Socialists decide to call it) is the BIGGEST SCAM ever pulled on mankind period.

  46. R. Gates: you assume that miniscule causes can give rise to bad things (via chaos). However, the melting of the glaciers depends on temperature–not some vague “bad thing” and there is no way in physics for the tiny amount of CO2 added to the air by 1850 to have started melting the glaciers. Further, attempts to attribute “bad things” over the past 50 yrs, such as tornados or droughts, have mostly failed, and global vegetation has actually increased its growth. So we are left with the possibility that bad things could occur in 2011, as you say, but no evidence for them yet in spite of quite elevated CO2, never mind in 1850.

  47. stevo : “1950 is irrelevant”.
    1950 is not irrelevant:

    “The mid-twentieth century” is the period that the IPCC nominate (AR4 Summary for Policy Makers) from when they are over 90% confident that the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations caused most of the observed warming.

  48. maz2 says:
    May 16, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Does this fear-mongering qualify as a “Bad things happen BEFORE their cause.”?

    “Violent Arctic storm a climate-change ‘harbinger’”.

    Scientists say “no comparable event has occurred in at least 1,000 years.”
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/violent-arctic-storm-a-climate-change-harbinger/article2023865/
    —-
    So it was as hot or hotter 1000 years ago when the same thing happened in the Arctic than 1998. It tends to be the year after the real warm ones when things get bad when looking back on history. I had the feeling this latest warming was not abnormal for our world.

    That same effect happens in the plains. When you have an super extra-warm day and the next is predicted cooler is when you begin to worry. I think that same effect happens on the week, month, and even year scale. The year of 1999 was also the year one really gigantic F5 tornado ripped through here. Coincidence? I guess even the Inuit get to complain about the 1998 El Niño and what it brought the next year.

  49. Gates also forgets that the IPCC is not arguing a chaotic system, skeptics are. The IPCC consensus is all about basic feedback (which they tend to misunderstand.) For that matter, the type of chaos exhibitied by a pile of sand isn’t really an apt analogy for climate, nor is it typical of “how chaos works.” Look up structured criticality, Gates, or keep demonstrating your obvious ignorance. I’d also suggest somewhere other than Wikipedia if you want a true understanding of feedback.

    Mark

  50. This article predictably reminds me of my favorite chemical: thiotimoline.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiotimoline

    If carbon dioxide actually is a “chronochemical” like thiotimoline, it’s entirely possible for an ice age to be ended by rising CO2 levels 800 years in the future. It’s even possible that man-made CO2 has a stronger chronodynamic effect than the natural stuff, which explains the shorter lag between the end of the Little Ice Age and the beginning of the fossil fuel age, and vindicates the eco-zealot’s view of nature as Good and humanity as B-A-D. :-)

  51. Craig Loehle says:
    May 16, 2011 at 4:56 pm
    R. Gates: you assume that miniscule causes can give rise to bad things (via chaos). However, the melting of the glaciers depends on temperature–not some vague “bad thing” and there is no way in physics for the tiny amount of CO2 added to the air by 1850 to have started melting the glaciers. Further, attempts to attribute “bad things” over the past 50 yrs, such as tornados or droughts, have mostly failed, and global vegetation has actually increased its growth. So we are left with the possibility that bad things could occur in 2011, as you say, but no evidence for them yet in spite of quite elevated CO2, never mind in 1850.

    _____

    The attribution of any single weather event to any specific single cause is of course impossible. The best we can do is look at longer term trends and the accumulation of events in terms of probabilities. We know that is is more likely that we’ll see warmer years than cooler ones with CO2 at 400 ppm than at 150 ppm, everything else being equal. It is more likely that glaciers will melt globbally withl CO2 being at 400 ppm than at 150 ppm with everything being equal. It is more likely that the arctic ocean will see lower summer sea ice extents with CO2 being at 400 ppm than 150 ppm everything else being equal. It is more likely that the sandpile will collapse when the 1,000,000th grain is added than when the 50,000th grain is added, everything else being equal etc. But in any given year, natural variability can lead to any range of things happening, and no currently known mathematical or computers models can predict exactly when any event will happen or if any single event can be traced back to any specific cause.

    Bad things have always happened with the climate, and will always happen in the future, and the slow year-by-year accumulation of small changes eventually brings about some black swan event. This happens with Milankovitch cycles and if you add enough CO2 to the atmosphere, eventually some big change would happen. The real issue is a matter of threashold and sensitivity. How sensitive is the climate to the slow year by year increase in CO2? At what point does the probabilty of a black swan event grow to become extremely likely? As you pile grains of sand on a sandpile, you can begin to get a sense that you’re getting close to a collapse type of black swan event simply by the steepness of the pile. We’re not so fortunate with CO2, as we have only the longer-term past climate records (primarily from ice cores) to show us when the probability is high that we are getting near some kind of black-swan event.

  52. I remember an interesting paper that came out in January of 2003. (See “Holocene Deglaciation of Marie Byrd Land, West Antarctica,” by Stone et al., Science, Vol 299, 3 January 2003, pg 99.)

    It’s a classic example of AWG hand wringing at the front of the article: “Melting of ice sheets at the end of the last glacial period raised the world’s oceans by about 120 m between 19,000 and 6000 years ago.” And a few paragraphs later: “Melting of the WAIS (Western Antarctic Ice Sheet) in the future would raise global sea level by ~5 m. A rapid melting event that released even a small fraction of this amount could have disastrous consequences for coastal regions.” Apparently, the previous 120 meter rise didn’t cause any problems.

    The important point is raise by a review of the paper in the same issue: “An Ice Sheet Remembers” by Robert P. Ackert Jr., where the reviewer states: “Recent ice sheet dynamics appear to be dominated by the ongoing response to deglacial forcing thousands of years ago, rather than by a recent anthropogenic warming or sea level rise.”

    This makes it hard to blame current WAIS melting on AGW without a time machine.

    Jim

  53. Mark T says:
    May 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm
    Gates also forgets that the IPCC is not arguing a chaotic system, skeptics are. The IPCC consensus is all about basic feedback (which they tend to misunderstand.) For that matter, the type of chaos exhibitied by a pile of sand isn’t really an apt analogy for climate, nor is it typical of “how chaos works.” Look up structured criticality, Gates, or keep demonstrating your obvious ignorance. I’d also suggest somewhere other than Wikipedia if you want a true understanding of feedback.

    Mark

    ______

    I would respectfully disagree with your assessment of the similarity of the climate system to the sandpile analogy as they relate to chaos. The slow astronomical changes in earth’s orbit, slow changes in atmospheric GH gas composition, the slow changes in the rock-carbon cycle, etc. are all like the grains of sand being added to the sandpile. They also interact, much like the interaction (through friction) of the grains of sand in a sandpile. Finally, just like a sandpile can collapse suddenly from some large shock (like bumping a table for example), the earth’s climate can change rapidly from some large shock (like a comet strike or very large volcanic episode for example). Fortunately, much smarter people than you and I see the value in studying sandpiles as they relate to a whole host of phenomenon in the natural world, as especially as they relate to chaotic systems. I suggest you google it and get a bit more information….but here’s a nice simple article to start with:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080331110052.htm

  54. You gotta hand it R Gates slipping in the disclaimer, “with everything else being equal”.
    Perhaps the result of drinking a sugar free version of the kool aid.

  55. R. Gates says:
    May 16, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    …. the friction between the grains of sand adding up in a very logarithmic way (just like the effect of CO2 in the atmosphere) …..
    ————————————————–

    Huh ?? I think you got your log book upside down on that one (assuming the first part’s even true).

  56. The solution is obvious; stop trying to tax carbon and tax time travel instead.

    :)

  57. Janice says: 1:25 pm
    “View light as a wave, the experiment shows a wave. View light as a particle, the experiment shows a particle.”

    Observe how light is emitted or absorbed and you will see quanta, that is particles. Observe how it travels through space and you will see a wave. It’s never emitted as a wave or travels as a particle. For fun consider a single photon emitted from a distant quasar. Its emitted at high energy, but is red shifted to a low energy when it is seen here. Where did the missing energy go?

  58. Wow, it was so unsafe in the sixties. Chairs with only four casters are highly discouraged at my workplace and require constant vigilance to avoid falling out of. Or, at least one engineer fell out of one. So, now all of us require special attention when we look like we’re about to sit in one.

  59. Maurice J says:
    May 16, 2011 at 4:53 pm
    A SCAM is A SCAM is A SCAM.

    And AGW, CLIMATE CHANGE, CLIMATE DISRUPTION, THE CLIMATE CRISIS (or whatever next the Socialists decide to call it) is the BIGGEST SCAM ever pulled on mankind period.
    ———————————————-

    ………. what ?? Even bigger than Socialism is really, really great for poor people ???

    Second biggest maybe.

  60. Stevo, you missed the point: effect follows cause. Warming preceded CO2 rise and not vice versa.

  61. GaryP says:
    May 16, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Janice says: 1:25 pm
    “View light as a wave, the experiment shows a wave. View light as a particle, the experiment shows a particle.”

    Observe how light is emitted or absorbed and you will see quanta, that is particles. Observe how it travels through space and you will see a wave. It’s never emitted as a wave or travels as a particle. For fun consider a single photon emitted from a distant quasar. Its emitted at high energy, but is red shifted to a low energy when it is seen here. Where did the missing energy go?

    Gravitational potential?

  62. Wow. Just wow.

    CO_2 doesn’t affect the earth’s energy balance? You must be dreaming. Or ignorant of the ideal gas law, Wien’s displacement law, the Stefan-Boltzmann law and Kirchoff’s law. Have fun with your plasma television.

    It would pay for some of you to learn about the Carboniferous too, and think about what might happen if we re-introduce carbon to a system from which it has been absent for about 300 million years or so.

    As for the glaciers, we’ll save that for another time…

  63. Logically you could travel backwards in time provided that you also moved through space to a point that was as far away from your origin as measured by the speed of light, as you were back in time.

    This would ensure that you would not be able to materially impact your own past and cause a temporal paradox. I.e. as no signal can travel faster than light you can’t influence events prior to your departure time.

    E.g. I move backwards in time 4 years, but move through space 4 (+ 1 second for margin) light years. my origin in both time and space is outside my cone of causal influence.

    Logically this is great as a way to avoid temporal paradoxes, now all I need is an FTL drive…

    By the same logic – there can be no temporal paradox if time travel is only into the future.

    Personally I would be deeply shocked if time travel into the past in the strong sense of being able to create temporal paradoxes was actually physically possible. Even the weaker sense that I have described above would also be very suprising.

  64. Tom in Florida says:

    “You gotta hand it R Gates slipping in the disclaimer, “with everything else being equal”.
    Perhaps the result of drinking a sugar free version of the kool aid.”

    ———-
    The scientific method would insist on changing only one variable in order to insolate the effects of that variable. My disclaimer is the only honest way to make a comparison.

  65. glaciologist says:
    May 16, 2011 at 8:54 pm
    Wow. Just wow.

    It would pay for some of you to learn about the Carboniferous too, and think about what might happen if we re-introduce carbon to a system from which it has been absent for about 300 million years or so.
    ———————————

    Errrrmmmm, we just did, allegedly ….

    …. and nothing happened !!

    (Other than the fact that vegetation seems to grow more abundantly)

  66. Climate change is not necessary for bad things to happen (since they have happened throughout history and even before human history), it can only be assessed by the frequency of bad things (of course ignoring the existence of good things…).

    Play it again , Sam. ( suppose this dates me :) )

    If I were pressed to condense in one sentence what is wrong with “climate science” it is this. Even more compact : They never learned how the words “necessary” and |”sufficient” relate to proving a hypothesis/statement.

    I blame it on “new math”. I mean these people are supposed to be scientists, it means they must have taken math courses. That is where the difference between “necessary”, and “sufficient” is drummed into the students. Oh, the triumph of being able to prove that “it is both necessary and sufficient to…”

    Since math has not changed, and is a rigorous system of study still strong in research, one has to blame the method.

    a) maybe many extra students get a pass in mathematics because the educational level has fallen

    b) maybe for non mathematician majors the emphasis on theory has been relaxed and it is only homework and problem solving that gives the big grades, maybe even multiple choice.

    The effect is that people called “climate scientists” have a very cavalier and a la cart method with the concepts of proof and the necessity of using statements containing “necessary” and “sufficient”.

    Let me give you a rather long story:

    When I came to the US in 1958 with scholarship,for a BA in a seven sisters college I was placed in sophomore year. As I wanted to do physics, I ended for the requirements doing five labs and calculus and the “advanced” calculus courses in parallel. This meant I had to hand in every week two sets of homework with about ten problems appropriate to the level of that week’s lectures. I never opened a book to relevant theory, went to courses, listened hard, looked at the examples in the book, solved the homework problems and went along fine.

    Then exams came, and we were told that the theory would be part of the examination.

    I started reading Tailor’s “advanced calculus” from page one. I remember my amazement, in truth. I had the tools, but had not realized what a beautiful system was being built up step by step, proof by proof. I felt like Snoopy dancing for joy, as if I had discovered another Jane Austen novel :) .

    What I want to illustrate is that if the tendency to utilitarian use of mathematics is entrenched in the non mathematical disciplines, and no theory is demanded, it is not amazing that students come away with the tools and the language of mathematics to use in their discipline, but very bad logic tools.

  67. R. Gates says: “…I would respectfully disagree with your assessment of the similarity of the climate system to the sandpile analogy as they relate to chaos. The slow astronomical changes in earth’s orbit, slow changes in atmospheric GH gas composition, the slow changes in the rock-carbon cycle, etc. are all like the grains of sand being added to the sandpile.”

    False analogy, with no physical basis, Mr. Gates.

    Respectfully yours,
    Jorge Kafkazar

  68. Thank you, Dr. Loehle! A return to basic logical analysis of the AGW stated data and events shows their own hypothesis to be null and void.

  69. craig.

    They were thus receding for between 150 and 200 years before human activity could have been the cause, yet this melting is taken as proof of AGW.

    No the melting is given as proof that it is getting warmer.

    The argument goes like this.

    Warmist: Its getting warmer
    Skeptic; ITS ALL UHI!
    Warmist: not really the glaciers are melting, this is a multiple line of evidence.
    Skeptic: glaciers melted before.
    warmist: well duh.

    Nobody argues that AGW is true BECAUSE glaciers are melting. AGW is true, because well, the physics are correct. What that physics predicts is a warmer world. We see a warmer world. Whats the evidence of a warmer world

    1. thermometers
    2. sea level rise
    3, glaciers melt
    4. arctic ice
    5. tree lines

    etc. These are lines of evidence to the claim “its getting warmer”

    the lines of evidence about WHY its getting warmer have nothing to do with glaciers. they have to do with radiative physics

  70. steven mosher says:
    May 16, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    the lines of evidence about WHY its getting warmer have nothing to do with glaciers. they have to do with radiative physics

    Is this a demonstration of fuzzy logic?

    The simple argument is that the climate has been getting warmer since the LIA in the 1850’s at about a steady rate. Glaciers are one clue among many others. Nobody is disputing this.

    What is being disputed is the logic of finding extra greenhouse gases after WWII and hanging the continuous increase in warmth to this excess in “radiative physics” contributions.

    Let me make a gross analogy. The temperature rises in a conservatory as the sun appears. By noon it has reached 32 C , from 20C at 6 in the morning. 2 degrees per hour . Somebody lights a barbecue. The temperature in that hour goes to 34.5 C .
    Is the barbecue responsible for the increase from 20C? Radiative physics after all.

    My point is that unless there is a mathematical theory describing the rise from the LIA ( in my example there is the sun) there is no possibility of proof in blaming CO2 from the small period after WWII for the 30 year rise, and certainly it is misleading to talk of the whole rise since the 1850s, raising alarms of AGW.

  71. Thanks, Dr Loehle, for a very entertaining and thought-provoking post.
    Various religions have utilised the practice of going back through the history books and reassigning causation for various things, both good and bad, and from this they calculate the cost and eficacy of whatever type of indulgence they can convince the public is acceptable. The methodology of this is always well organised and is all about the need for the self-styled elites to gain and maintain control over their ‘flock’ and is rather more sinister than the old fair-ground snake oil salesmen attempting to make a quick profit from a minor piece of chicanery. The promoters of the current Green religious indulgences are not after a quick profit, but are determined to control the entire Western world and have us all live ‘their way’. No thanks!

  72. Craig Loehle says: “I wonder if they measure the rat response to the test drug before they give the drug…” (May 16, 2011 at 1:51 pm )

    We stopped using rats in our lab, we now use climate scientists instead.
    The technicians dont get quite so attached to them

    /joke

  73. Dan in California is correct about past atmospheric CO2 levels. He fails to mention our very small input of CO2 compared to that of the ‘natural’ producers which is around 3-4% of the total. He also fails to mention the lag of CO2 change to temperature change showing that it is temperature driving CO2 levels.

    It is unfair of me to blame poor old Dan for this though as every ‘climate scientist’ on the alarmist side does this and more to prove that we are causing the death of the planet.

  74. Excelent post by Mr. Loehle!

    I think sceptics should use more that “sometime after 1950” when AGW became significant as an argument.

    It is officially called AGW (or ACC?), but it should really be called (A)CO2GW(orCC?).

    It is Orwelian to call it AGW and actually mean (A)CO2GW.

  75. SM;
    O’Reilly?

    And just what does radiative physics have to say about why it’s been warming (off and on) since the LIA? Or, longer term, since the Big Ice Age? Nothing coherent, apparently. Nor is its latest effort to “explain”.

  76. So how can modern global warming begin in 1975 and yet we cause such drastic losses in Antarctic (and Arctic) sea ice before 1975? And why did the trends change so much in 1979…coincidentally when more reliable measurements could be made? Also, why is 3 C/CO2 doubling only (even sort of) visible in the temperature record for the last 25-30 years and not before then?

    -Scott

    But ‘climate scientists’ are outside time: they exist only in closed rooms with artificial lighting, and teraflop computers. /sarc.
    ———

    Climate change will cause bad things, and climate change is happening.
    Therefore, if bad things happen it is due to climate change.

    When I was a lad, we used to say “non sequitur.” I recall a comment of Lubos Motls about a particularly egregious bit of nonsense, in English, where he said “It would be impossibe to say that in Czech.” English is a wonderful language for writing (even non-AGW) fiction, but for thinking, it is an absolute minefield. I suppose that is why they used to try to teach us Latin (but we, sadly, tried to avoid being taught).

  77. Time’s arrow reversed, upside down Tiljender. isn’t Post Modern Science marvellous?

  78. “Nobody argues that AGW is true BECAUSE glaciers are melting. AGW is true, because well, the physics are correct. What that physics predicts is a warmer world. We see a warmer world. Whats the evidence of a warmer world

    1. thermometers
    2. sea level rise
    3, glaciers melt
    4. arctic ice
    5. tree lines

    etc. These are lines of evidence to the claim “its getting warmer”

    the lines of evidence about WHY its getting warmer have nothing to do with glaciers. they have to do with radiative physics”

    Steven,

    Evidence of a warmer world WAS used as evidence of AGW. Maybe non-bureaucrat did not, but all the public could hear were things like thermometers, sl, glaciers melt, arctic ice, treelines…

    That’s Orwelian about the AGW scare, evidence of a warmer world was used as evidence of AGW (AGW itself is Orwelian, because CO2AGW is meant).

    And the argument actually goes like this:

    Warmist: Its getting warmer!
    Sceptic: Well duh.
    Warmist: Glaciers are melting, this is a multiple line of evidence!
    Skeptic: Glaciers melted before.
    Warmist: …UHI IS INSIGNIFICANT!

  79. It should be remembered that under the wisdom of the time the Little Ice Age was caused by humans; Human sinners as it was. It is in our nature to think that we as a species is vastly more important and having impact to a much greater extent than is actual fact. For those mired in perpetual self loathing and guilt what fun is natural variation when you can spit forth human culpability?

  80. If I may use another analogy: a boy grows up to become a burglar. People look back at crime records and blame crimes on the boy even when he was a baby. That is like blaming CO2 for melting glaciers in 1900–yeah, we had raised CO2 a tiny bit by then, but not enough to affect anything.
    And the climate is not like a sand pile.

  81. This nice expose goes to the problem of the claimed “recency of global warming” claim oft booted forth. This is an important one in the armament of AGW.

    On much longer time scales, there is a different one that seems to have disappeared from view: the paleoclimate argument that CO2 rises with T. Now, skeptics argue that increasing time resolution within the Vostok ice cores shows that CO2 levels lag – and quite decisively – by an 800 years on average. Thus, since T is insensitive to Delta CO2 on geologic timescales, it cannot be a climate change driver today.

    My question is this: why don’t Warmist’s admit this fact? William Ruddiman’s intermediated climate change textbook simply omits this inconvenient fact. and “Hot House” by Robert Strom admits this fact but provides what appears to be an elaborate rationalization, presumable drawn from a paper he references (67). He writes:

    Antarctic ice core studies have shown that during glacial terminations there is a lag of about 800 years between the rise in temperatures and the increas in CO2.It takes about 5000 years for the warming to be complete, but only 800 years for the lag. Therefore, the first 500 years were not caused by CO2 increase

    This appears to be an instance much as Loehle describes above, where cause and effect in time are (conveniently) reversed where glacial melting is concerned; or else a Double Standard is invoked.

    “However, the warming in the following 4200 years could be caused by CO2,” says Stom. He blathers on speculating but sounding confident for four sentences, until we come the models, which of course tell us what has to be true, and I think explains his omissions: “Model estimates indicate that CO2 and other greenhouse gases cause about half of the full glacial to interglacial warming.” (Uh, Occam’s Razor, anybody?)

    Thus, the of Enhanced Greenhouse Warming Effect is saved!

    My point? Skeptics need a book and articles to finally nail this line of argument: far too many Believers duck it. Or miss it. By a mile.

  82. stevo says:
    May 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm
    This whole post is rendered invalid by the simple observation that CO2 did not magically become a greenhouse gas in 1950. CO2 has always been a greenhouse gas, no matter how much you wish it wasn’t, and ever since the Industrial Revolution, its rising concentrations in the atmosphere have affected the energy balance of the atmosphere. It’s really not hard to understand that. 1950 is irrelevant.

    Please explain the drop in temperature from the mid Holocene Optimum until now with an increase in CO2.

  83. jorgekafkazar says:
    May 16, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    R. Gates says: “…I would respectfully disagree with your assessment of the similarity of the climate system to the sandpile analogy as they relate to chaos. The slow astronomical changes in earth’s orbit, slow changes in atmospheric GH gas composition, the slow changes in the rock-carbon cycle, etc. are all like the grains of sand being added to the sandpile.”

    False analogy, with no physical basis, Mr. Gates.

    Respectfully yours,
    Jorge Kafkazar
    ______

    Actually, there are lots of examples of the analogy having a physical basis, and hence why so much study has been made of sand piles and how they relate to chaotic systems in nature, but I would leave it up to you to do your own google research on this. It really is quite fascinating.

    In regards to small changes bringing about sudden ‘black swan’ events in nature, much like a single grain of sand causing the collapse of a sand pile, there are examples everywhere, and here’s yet one more very recent study indicating this as it relates to ocean hypoxia:

    http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-05-greenhouse-ocean-future.html

    Seems just a little sand grain like nudge from greenhouse gas concentrations can bring about ocean hypoxia. It was about 1750 that humans began adding CO2 to the atmosphere in amounts that began to nudge the concentration away from the previous 800,000 year averages. Without a separate control earth, free of human activity, we can’t say for certain what events were or were not caused by these changes.

  84. Time machines that travel back through time are possible but the human race was wiped out from run away global cooling just before they were completed. That’s why no one from the future is here now.

    Scientists at Cern in Switzerland had managed to produce a black hole that had strange properties. It only pulled in CO2, and all the Co2 was extracted from the atmosphere. This led to a glaciation of the whole planet.

  85. Rgates said:

    “Completely deterministic, with the friction between the grains of sand adding up in a very logarithmic way (just like the effect of CO2 in the atmosphere)until that one grain collapses the whole pile, with all the other grains that came before (when nothing visible happened) actually adding together to determine the collapse. This is the way chaos works.”

    The whole pile wouldn’t collapse, you just wouldn’t be able to make the pile any higher.

    It is not a house of cards – that is the AGW theory.

  86. Metaphors do not make good models, especially when sufficient information is at hand to develop hypotheses of the actual process under scrutiny. Gates, your argument is severely weakened scientifically by using the grain of sand analogy. To be sure, I get that as metaphor it speaks to a certain “flocks of a feather” audience, but not this audience.

  87. Craig Loehle said: “And the climate is not like a sand pile.”

    No, but AGW theory is a house of cards built on magical feedbacks and undefined tipping points.

  88. I have always thought the idea of the climate system suffering from positive feedback effects rather laughable. Anytime I have designed a system in the lab with even the slightest (almost unmeasurable) positive feedback in the system, the apparatus very quickly self destructs and I see where my positive feedbacks were introduced in the postmortem. If the climate suffered from a positive feedback problem, we would have burnt to a crisp or frozen to an ice ball eons ago.

    Now that is not to say we can’t have some impact on the equilibrium points in the system, but CAGW people lost me with the “positive runaway feedback” portions of their arguments. I guess I have too much experience with spectacular positive feedback failures to buy that noise.

  89. Steven Mosher:

    “Nobody argues that AGW is true BECAUSE glaciers are melting. AGW is true, because well, the physics are correct. What that physics predicts is a warmer world. We see a warmer world. Whats the evidence of a warmer world

    1. thermometers
    2. sea level rise
    3, glaciers melt
    4. arctic ice
    5. tree lines

    etc. These are lines of evidence to the claim “its getting warmer”

    the lines of evidence about WHY its getting warmer have nothing to do with glaciers. they have to do with radiative physics.”
    ====================================

    Does it really need to be explained that this is just another incarnation of the prosecutors fallacy, much derided by Lindzen?

    Okay then, here goes. CO2 has radiative properties that, with all else being held constant, can raise the temperature of the Earth’s surface. The Earth’s surface temperature has risen, therefore CO2 must have done it.

    Just as the prosecutor’s fallacy arises from the implicit assumption that the circumstantial evidence associated with the accused is unique to him alone out of all the individuals in the world, this AGW fallacy arises from the assumption that all else is held constant.

    The prosecutors fallacy is just another example of circular reasoning.

  90. CAGW: Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming =
    Circular Arguments for Global Warming =
    Caterwauling against Global Westernization =
    SS: Shilling for Socialism

  91. Good common sense article! I agree with Craig’s logic.

    Shame that AGW is not founded on scientific logic but seems to depend on heresay and superstition.

  92. Orson says:
    My question is this: why don’t Warmist’s admit this fact? William Ruddiman’s intermediated climate change textbook simply omits this inconvenient fact. and “Hot House” by Robert Strom admits this fact but provides what appears to be an elaborate rationalization, presumable drawn from a paper he references (67). He writes:

    What you quoted is pretty close to what I’ve heard, which can be summed up by this argument: The warming is STARTED by Milankovitch forcing, which causes CO2 outgassing from the oceans. After about 800 years, the CO2 forcing takes over and the rest of the warming to the interglacial levels is caused by that. Supposedly this is supported by the fact that the CO2 level increase seems to overtake the temperature increase at some point.

    Never quite made sense to me, as it seems to dismiss the majority of the Milankovitch forcing, and also pretty much all other factors besides CO2

  93. Maurice J says:
    May 16, 2011 at 4:53 pm
    A SCAM is A SCAM is A SCAM.

    It’s also one of the oldest . . . in my opinion.

  94. R. Gates says:
    May 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm “Bad things have always happened with the climate, and will always happen in the future, and the slow year-by-year accumulation of small changes eventually brings about some black swan event.”

    For me . . as I envision it, this is true especially when it comes to volcano’s and earthquakes . . . the volcano is like a filling ballon that bursts and an earthquake is like a rubber band that stretches and streches until it breaks . . . .

  95. Laurie Bowen said: “For me . . as I envision it, this is true especially when it comes to volcano’s and earthquakes . . . the volcano is like a filling ballon that bursts and an earthquake is like a rubber band that stretches and streches until it breaks . . . .”

    I really hope you are not claiming that humans cause volcanos and earthquakes…

  96. @Craig Loehle

    Nope . . . . not me . . . . that would be the “Lords” job . . . if you believe the fundamentalist believers . . . . it’s why people like Al Gore ,who I believe is of that stripe, find it so important to have an accurate model . . . . It’s also why I believe the second commandment is “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain (vanity)”!

    It’s also why I say AGW is one of the oldest scams in the “book” . . .

    It’s all tied together in what I call behavioral cycles . . . . in my opinion!

  97. Laurie Bowen says:
    May 17, 2011 at 9:51 am
    R. Gates says:
    May 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm “Bad things have always happened with the climate, and will always happen in the future, and the slow year-by-year accumulation of small changes eventually brings about some black swan event.”

    For me . . as I envision it, this is true especially when it comes to volcano’s and earthquakes . . . the volcano is like a filling ballon that bursts and an earthquake is like a rubber band that stretches and streches until it breaks . . . .

    ______
    Earthquakes are especially a good analogy to sandpiles as a deterministic yet chaotic process. Like grains of sand in a sandpile, the build up of stresses along a fault is a slow but steady process, and the actual point of breakage of the fault, like the collapse of the sandpile when adding that final grain, comes when just a bit more stress is added. Essentially we see a release of energy and a rebalancing or re-organizing of forces in both instances.

    An excellent intro paper on the similarities of these processes as well as related issues such as 1/f noise can be found at:

    http://www.cmth.ph.ic.ac.uk/people/k.christensen/papers/published/thesis.pdf

    Very interesting stuff. All this flies in the face of the frequent skeptics position that the slow but steady build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere can’t possible be having an sort of an effect. The history of ice core samples would show abrupt climate changes that occur very much like the chaotic nature of earthquakes or the collapse of a sandpile, representing a re-ordering the energy dynamics of a system.

  98. TonyG says:
    May 17, 2011 at 8:45 am
    Orson says:
    My question is this: why don’t Warmist’s admit this fact? William Ruddiman’s intermediated climate change textbook simply omits this inconvenient fact. and “Hot House” by Robert Strom admits this fact but provides what appears to be an elaborate rationalization, presumable drawn from a paper he references (67). He writes:

    What you quoted is pretty close to what I’ve heard, which can be summed up by this argument: The warming is STARTED by Milankovitch forcing, which causes CO2 outgassing from the oceans. After about 800 years, the CO2 forcing takes over and the rest of the warming to the interglacial levels is caused by that. Supposedly this is supported by the fact that the CO2 level increase seems to overtake the temperature increase at some point.

    Never quite made sense to me, as it seems to dismiss the majority of the Milankovitch forcing, and also pretty much all other factors besides CO2

    _____
    The idea that the slow but steady Milankovitch forcing could act as a trigger to create a larger and more potent CO2 forcing through a positive feedback reinforcment is not at all unreasonable and is certainly well within basic scientifc knowledge, but of course, to admit it is plausible takes away one of the primary talking points among some AGW skeptics, so it seems for some it must not be allowed a fair representation.

  99. Never forget that the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is the result of equilbrium with CO2 concentration in seawater. Mankind’s production of CO2 is irrelevant; Le Chatlier’s principle requires that the equilibrium will be maintained, and source/sink processes will adjust accordingly.

    Of course, the presence of CO2 is also irrelevant, given the overwhelming presence of H2O.

  100. Michael J. Dunn says:
    May 17, 2011 at 12:30 pm
    Never forget that the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is the result of equilbrium with CO2 concentration in seawater. Mankind’s production of CO2 is irrelevant; Le Chatlier’s principle requires that the equilibrium will be maintained, and source/sink processes will adjust accordingly.

    Of course, the presence of CO2 is also irrelevant, given the overwhelming presence of H2O.

    _____
    That you’d think the presence of CO2 to be irrelevent (as a GH gas?) indicates how little you understand the nature of condensing versus non-condensing GH gases under the atmospheric conditions found on planet earth

  101. Vince Causey says (May 17, 2011 at 7:58 am)

    “… CO2 has radiative properties that, with all else being held constant, can raise the temperature of the Earth’s surface. The Earth’s surface temperature has risen, therefore CO2 must have done it … AGW fallacy arises from the assumption that all else is held constant. The prosecutors fallacy is just another example of circular reasoning.”

    Great comment Vince!

    I have often argued that properties isolated in the testing conditions of a laboratory cannot simply be assumed to describe behavour when more factors are involved. But your comment puts it so much better.

  102. One nit on the article: Melting glaciers do not prove warming – melting glaciers are caused by an inbalance of incomming snow versus melting glacier ice, so they can be caused by less rain fall, or warmer temperatures, or anything else that impacts the balance (like black soot). Warmer temperatures could, in theory, cause glaciers to grow (through higher snow fall).

    My point though, is that natural systems are usually more complex than they first appear. Anyone who thinks they understand the role of CO2 in the atmosphere because they studied it in a test tube is delusional.

    The burden of proof lies on AGW promoters – they must prove that any current warming is different than warming from 100 years ago and they can’t. Since CO2 emissions are increasing the last 10 years should be dominated by rising temperatures – they aren’t (remember CO2 has dominated warming for 10’s of years according to AGW so there is simply no good explanation why the warming is not accelerating)

    And no matter how loud they scream it – Models are not evidence, they are expectations coded into a computer.

  103. Anthony,

    One thing there is evidence for is that you need to move Mosher from the rolls of the Lukewarmers to the rolls of the full-fledged kool-aid drinkers.

  104. First, the IPCC implicitly counts warming that occured before 1950. In calculating trends, it lists the 100 year 20th Century trends, and leaves it implicit that all of the warming over this period is human-caused. It never explains the warming pre-1950 or clearly disavows it. In the public debate also, the entire 100+ year warming is noted as alarming (“the world has warmed 0.8 deg C during the past 100 years” is given as “proof” of how bad it is), but the first 50 years of this could not be human caused.

    Actually it is worse than this. At a minimum, any temperature rise after 1950 that didn’t exceed the previous recorded maximum should be regarded as natural unless there are very strong reasons to think otherwise. So the amount of temperature rise we are looking at is only the difference between the previous maximum and the 1998 peak.

  105. Alex Heyworth says:
    Actually it is worse than this. At a minimum, any temperature rise after 1950 that didn’t exceed the previous recorded maximum should be regarded as natural unless there are very strong reasons to think otherwise. So the amount of temperature rise we are looking at is only the difference between the previous maximum and the 1998 peak.

    Then there’s always the question of which maximum. 1800’s max? MWP max? Holocene max?

  106. Robert of Texas: I agree with your nit. warming is sufficient to melt glaciers, but not necessary–so alarmists again have a burden of proof that has not been met.

    R. Gates: yes, it is scientifically plausible that Milankovitch cycles raised CO2 which then added further warming, but using it as proof of the CO2 hypothesis (in terms of level of sensitivity) involves circular reasoning unless you have very precise data about not only past atmospheres but past solar activity and vegetation etc –which we do not have.

  107. As long as we are nit-picking: My big irritation is with those who are saying we have changed the climate (it’s tooooooo late!), and the weather will eventually change as a result.
    That’s like saying a student can somehow improve his grade average, which will in turn eventually improve his test scores. The cart is before the horse. Climate is a region’s usual weather patterns, usually over a period of years. The change in weather must come before one can claim a climate change. You cannot change the climate before changing the usual weather patterns. Even if one argued that the “global” climate changed because of a rise in temps beginning from whenever to the mid-1990s, there has been no change in either temps or global weather patterns since then. That’s roughly sixteen years. How many years must go by before those promoting climate change must admit that the climate isn’t changing, because there has been NO change in usual weather patterns? And if the climate isn’t changing after decades of increasing carbon dioxide levels, then where is the strong correlation between those levels and climate?

    Finally, if atmospheric carbon dioxide is so catastrophic, why is only Man to be ‘punished’ but termites get a pass? We’re both part of nature. They produce more CO2 than we do (and the total mass of termites exceeds the total mass of humans). Wipe out a quarter of the termites and we would significantly reduce atmospheric CO2. (sarc)

  108. Hi All,

    Take a look at the IPCC graph here:

    http://www.grida.no/publications/other/ipcc_tar/?src=/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/fig2-18.htm

    It’s clear that while there is some glacier retreat from 1850 (not 1750) onwards, it gets much greater after about 1950.

    Craig states that “Between 1750 and 1800 many began to recede”, but this is not a quote from the IPCC. Neither the IPCC nor any other “warmist” is claiming that glacier retreat since 1750 (or even 1850) is evidence for AGW. I believe it’s called a “strawman”.

    @Latitude – You say, “I’m still waiting on an explanation as to why the slope from 1700-1800 is exactly the same as the slope from 1900-2000”, Well, maybe it ain’t! The only place you will find that suggestion is in Craig Loehle’s 2007 paper. Every other peer-reviewed reconstruction of past temperatures (yes, every one, not just Mann’s) shows late 20th century warming to be a steeper slope than any change in climate for at least the last 1000 years.

  109. From the point of view of classical logic, let : p = “Climate change causes bad things” and q = “Climate change is happening”. From p & q we can anyway logically infer: If p, then q. And by the way also the converse: If q, the p. (Do the truth table…) Since warmists assume both premisses, they cannot fail. That is the problem.

  110. R. Gates says: May 17, 2011 at 11:53 am

    TonyG says: May 17, 2011 at 8:45 am Orson says:
    My question is this: why don’t Warmist’s admit this fact? William Ruddiman’s intermediated climate change textbook simply omits this inconvenient fact. and “Hot House” by Robert Strom admits this fact but provides what appears to be an elaborate rationalization, presumable drawn from a paper he references (67). He writes:

    What you quoted is pretty close to what I’ve heard, which can be summed up by this argument: The warming is STARTED by Milankovitch forcing, which causes CO2 outgassing from the oceans. After about 800 years, the CO2 forcing takes over and the rest of the warming to the interglacial levels is caused by that. Supposedly this is supported by the fact that the CO2 level increase seems to overtake the temperature increase at some point.

    Never quite made sense to me, as it seems to dismiss the majority of the Milankovitch forcing, and also pretty much all other factors besides CO2

    _____
    The idea that the slow but steady Milankovitch forcing could act as a trigger to create a larger and more potent CO2 forcing through a positive feedback reinforcment is not at all unreasonable and is certainly well within basic scientifc knowledge, but of course, to admit it is plausible takes away one of the primary talking points among some AGW skeptics, so it seems for some it must not be allowed a fair representation.

    Actually, if you allow it, it is as much proof that CO2 causes cooling, as every time CO2 peaks in concentration we get another Ice Age.

  111. John B says: May 18, 2011 at 1:51 pm
    […]
    @Latitude – You say, “I’m still waiting on an explanation as to why the slope from 1700-1800 is exactly the same as the slope from 1900-2000″, Well, maybe it ain’t! The only place you will find that suggestion is in Craig Loehle’s 2007 paper. Every other peer-reviewed reconstruction of past temperatures (yes, every one, not just Mann’s) shows late 20th century warming to be a steeper slope than any change in climate for at least the last 1000 years.

    It is only since the IPCCs CO2 fantasy, and you don’t need proxies. Actual instrument measurements show you are wrong.

    Check out Mohbergs proxies, almost identical to Craig Loehles.

  112. Steve Keohane says:
    The idea that the slow but steady Milankovitch forcing could act as a trigger to create a larger and more potent CO2 forcing through a positive feedback reinforcment is not at all unreasonable and is certainly well within basic scientifc knowledge, but of course, to admit it is plausible takes away one of the primary talking points among some AGW skeptics, so it seems for some it must not be allowed a fair representation.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I said that it didn’t make sense to me. You say it does, so please elaborate. I’m listening.

    Actually, if you allow it, it is as much proof that CO2 causes cooling, as every time CO2 peaks in concentration we get another Ice Age.

    And there again, I don’t understand. How could something that causes runaway warming then cause cooling? And what about the Milankovich cycles role in cooling into an Ice Age?

  113. TonyG says:
    May 20, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Steve Keohane says:

    Sorry, I said nothing about The Milankovitch forcing, that was R. Gates. All I quoted was in italics. I did make the statement re: cooling being a logical result of increased CO2 if one looks at the Vostok graphs for example. Somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

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