Why a compelling theory is not enough

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Consider the following descriptions of three scientific theories. Which is the odd one out?

1. The buildup of anthropogenic carbon dioxide may lead to dangerous climate change, not because CO2 is a particularly powerful greenhouse gas, but because the slight warming caused by excess CO2 will cause sea water to evaporate, filling the atmosphere with water vapour. Water vapour is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. The evaporation of water vapour will trigger a chain reaction, a runaway greenhouse effect, in which global warming caused by the evaporation of ever increasing amounts of sea water forces yet more sea water to evaporate. In Dr. James Hansen’s words, “The oceans will begin to boil”.

2. We have already been visited by aliens, who most likely continue to monitor us. The alternative is to believe the preposterous proposition that we are the only intelligent life inhabiting any of the planets circling our galaxy’s 100 billion stars. The reason this must be true – all we have to do is look in the mirror. In a few decades, or at most a few centuries, humans will have the technology to build nanotech space probes the size of a grain of sand or smaller. Probes which can visit other stars, and transmit information back to us. Such probes are already on the drawing board.

See: http://www.space.com/612-nanotechnology-scientists-pin-big-hopes-small-scale.html

Since the probes we shall build will be incredibly small, it will be possible to launch them at near light speed, for trivial economic cost. Scientists have even discovered ways such probes could be steered and decelerated as they approach their destination, using the Galactic magnetic field. If just one group of intelligent aliens in our galaxy of 100 billion stars reached our level of technology, at least half a million years ago, and made the decision to send out such space probes, then there has already been enough time for their high speed probes to reach our star system, and report back what they found.

3. Human lives are in danger right now, from asteroids and comets flying through space. As the shock advent of the Chelyabinsk meteor demonstrated, Earth can be struck unexpectedly at any time by meteors and other space bodies, many of which have the potential to cause widespread devastation. The Chelyabinsk meteor detonated with a force of 500 kilotons of TNT – it is only due to good fortune that the explosion, which caused some buildings to collapse and widespread damage and injuries from breaking glass, did not cause serious loss of life.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelyabinsk_meteor

So which theory is the odd one out?

The answer is theory three of course. Unlike the other two theories, theory three is supported by observational evidence. The other two theories, however compelling they seem, are just speculation.


Story Title Separating fact from fantasy
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bushbunny

Gud one. I had a giggle. Maybe the story should read, ‘Look to the skies, our future is foretold’

Susie

Although the first two are only speculation, number two seemed more credible.

cnxtim

I had a teacher (who was the Dux of Fort Street High) in primary school who foretold that by the time i left school, we would all be getting around in flying cars… i left school in 1961. wonderful what idiotic nonsense academics can spout.

Bair Polaire

Wow. Mr. Hansen seems to be really alarmed.
He strongly believes a run away green house effect has made Venus inhospitable. Given the limited understanding we have of the climate developments on our own planet, it is astonishing that he grounds his fear on the hypothesized developments of another planet that we have hardly studied.
On the other hand: In the video Mr. Hansen is holding his head tilted all the time as if he wasn‘t sure about his claims. Awkward.

urederra

Be careful, If Lewandowsky reads this, he may conclude that we believe the first episode of South Park is a documentary based on real facts.

joelobryan

Theory #1 is two half-truth “facts”, presented in such a way as to intentionally mislead by supporting the concluding proposition that a runaway greenhouse will occur if additonal water is allowed to evaporate due to increasing CO2. (The absurdity is revealed by then makng the statement: OK, everyone, stop breathing. Your next breath could be the one that triggers the tipping point to a Venusian atmosphere.)
Using half-truths to build an unsupported conclusion is a “Fallacy of Composition” logic error.
The environmentalists, the Progressives, and especially the CAGW alarmists love to use use half-truths, in ever more dubious ways, as they make outwardly true statements, but then omit the other facts that won’t support their desired conclusion.

Richards in Vancouver

Here’s the full story.
The Chelyabinsk “meteor” was actually a probe from another star system. It was programmed to seek out planets with increasing levels of CO2, and when it found one it was to explode as a message to its home planet.
The evidence is right there at Chelyabinsk. The science is settled. The debate is over.

alanpurus

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/04/10/why-a-compelling-theory-is-not-enough/#comment-1609630
Richards in Vancouver – a perfect analysis to illustrate the point!
Bravo.

ConfusedPhoton

Given Lewandowsky’s lack of intellectual prowess, it would not surprise me if he thought that the people in control of the fossil fuel industry were alien lizard men who plan to kill off mankind for the water.
After all that would not be inconsistent with CAGW.

artwest

And how do you stop the next generation of scientists from letting real world evidence get in the way of wild theorizing?
Well here’s a start:
“Science community dismayed at decision to axe lab work from A-levels
Plan to end coursework in science A-levels described as ‘death knell for UK science education’ by Physiological Society”
http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/apr/09/science-community-dismay-axe-lab-work-alevel

Peter Miller

Theory Number 1 – look at the geological record. It never happened there, so why should it suddenly start happening now?
Not surprisingly, natural climate cycles and the geological record are both subject the alarmists consider to be taboo.

Steven Devijver

Don’t forget rogue planets.

It seems exploring the christian connection to climate science is a gift that keeps giving
from
“Are scientists the prophets of today when it comes to climate change ?”
http://www.christiantoday.com/article/are.scientists.the.prophets.of.today.when.it.comes.to.climate.change/36527.htm
“Christian Today spoke to Dr Isabel Carter, chair of church environmental group Operation Noah, and Christian Aid’s Joe Ware to find out what they make of the report.
JW: ….The IPCC is the gold standard of climate science, hundreds of the world’s leading scientists have reviewed the thousands of studies from across the globe. Like the prophets in the Bible their warnings need to be heeded.
IC: The report does move rather rapidly from general acceptance of climate change. Much of their findings are now recorded as virtually certain – 99 to 100 per cent probability – or extremely likely – 95 to 100 per cent probability – to adaptation.
….climate sceptics have delayed such acceptance by decades
JW:….Christians are becoming an increasingly important voice in this process because at its heart climate change is about injustice.
There are millions of Christians and people of other faiths suffering on the front line of climate change.”
————-
clearly all what they say is such a deep darkness its hard to know where to begin. Its based on parroting sound bite maxims that fit their own agenda. which is dishonest and bearing false witness. Maybe like another famous christian Tony Blair they feel the ‘hand of history’ as they promote a sexed up document that is a ‘noble lie’ to save us all [ego inflation].
In the old days christians used to burn people to purify them and ‘to save their souls” thus reasoned they were doing them a favour.

a jones

Absolute nonsense.
Did not the Institut in Paris, then the second most learned scientific body in the world after the Royal Society, declare in 1812 that the idea of stones falling from the sky was total nonsense.
So bah to that.
Except a few months later there was a fall of meteorites just outside Paris.
Kindest Regards

Alan the Brit

cnxtim says:
April 10, 2014 at 12:28 am
I also recall seeing old newspaper or science journal articles showing illustrations of us all flying about in our “flying cars”, with the men folk suitably attired in suit, tie, trilby, & pipe! This was what the “experts” believed we would all be doing in the 1970s, from the 1930s perspective. Isn’t crystal ball gazing wonderful?
@ Peter Miller.
Precisely! When CO2 levels were 19 times what they are today, runaway global warming never happened, but Ice Ages did! So why, in Heavens name, is it going to happen with 600ppm CO2 now? What, if anything, has happened to cause such an event today? Bert Onestone said, “a scientific consensus can be undone by a single fact!” Well, a few facts spring to mind. The warming in NOT unprecedented, there never has been runaway global warming on Earth regardless of atmospheric CO2 content, the warming is not rapid, the last 4 Inter-glacials were as warm or warmer than today, two of those last Inter-glacials were warmer than today by at least 2-3 degrees Celsius, the Arctic Circle was warmer in the 1940s than it is today, & most likely so in the early 1900-1920s, (one large vessel managed to hit an iceberg in 1912 & sank with a tragic loss of life due to carving of the Arctic ice sheet earlier than usual). The Arctic has been ice-free several times in the geological past! How many facts do they need?

Kano

I explain the water vapor theory being nonsense, by showing what happen during the 1998 El Nino, the temperature shot up, so did water vapor, but came down just as fast, when the El Nino was finished, if water vapor was self perpetuating or exponential there would have been no cooling after

we need a ‘great demon’ theory
Church of England vows to fight ‘great demon’ of climate change
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/12/church-climate-change-investment-great-demon-flooding
“The Church of England has said that it will, as a last resort, pull its investments from companies that fail to do enough to fight the “great demon” of climate change and ignore the church’s theological, moral and social priorities.”

son of mulder

The aliens are already here. They arrived in their ships the size of a grain of sand and the only reason we haven’t seen them is because they are hiding in the oceans.

Ed Zuiderwijk

But there is compelling evidence *against* 1:
1 describes a positive feedback system that by its very nature is instable. Suppose the system is (somehow) in equilibrium, then any disturbance will set the system on an exponentially growing deviation from that equilibrium, either to the “boiling ocean” state or to the “frozen ocean” state. It is imposible for a system like that to remain in the (near) equilibrium state due to natural fluctuations.
The fact that the Earth is not in either state implies that the assumption of positive feedback is wrong.
Now you can argue that there is a positive feedback over part of the temperature domain only. The feedback is then self-limiting. But the simple argument above tells you then that currently the
system is in that self limiting state, where there is no positive feedback.

skeptic science
As this fits in very nicely with an idea I have been developing it may be a good time to introduce it.
For many years I have tried to distinguish climate “science” by the use of quotation marks to show that I did not consider the work of most climate academics to fulfil the criteria I was taught for a science at school and university. I know many others share this view as I’ve seen similar views repeated many times, not least in this article, but also in comments regarding the failure of climate science to use “the scientific method” and for example in comments about “post-normal science”. I’ve no doubt those same views will be repeated again here.
However there is a huge problem with skeptics trying to tell scientists what standards we think they should work to. Although the majority of skeptics are perfectly qualified to comment on science being taught at degree level in the hard sciences most of us are not university academics and whilst many are “scientists” most of us are not. So, whilst skeptics may wish science to operate at a standard that we consider to be “science”, the reality is that we are a group largely outside of what most of society considers to be “science” demanding that those inside this group called “science” should meet the standards expected of us outside.
We may dislike the situation. But we are not in a position to demand. We might be able to demand if we were a body like government or in some other way had authority or control over those academics who self-identify as scientists. But the reality is that these days the criteria used to determine science is peer-review by other people who self-identify as scientists and have themselves been peer reviewed. This is in essence a self-perpetuating social group. I believe it is time we skeptics accepted that “science” is a social construct describing a group of people who set their own rules and as such as outsiders we have no right to dictate those rules for them. And irrespective of whether we might like those within this social group of scientists to use the “scientific method” I believe we have to leave that choice up to them. And as we have seen, that choice is that they have chosen to include within their group called science many thing like climate science which cannot be tested by the scientific method.
As outsiders we cannot realistically demand this group match our standards.
Instead, I believe it is time that we skeptics set out clearly what we mean by “science” and therefore I would like to develop a concept I suggest is called “Skeptic science”.
As it is mentioned so often by us skeptics, the key requirement would be that assertions are only stated as valid if and only if they are subject to the scientific method – or as many engineers will know it “it might work in theory but let’s see if it works in practice”.
But I would like to go further. As this could be described as a battle between the private and public-funded sectors, and the majority of skeptics work in the private sector where standards have to be much higher because real customers will take private sector scientists and engineers to court when there are problems, I suggest the ultimate test most skeptics would to the quality of sceptic science is this:
“That the assertions must be such that even if the assertion itself is found to be untrue, that the skeptic can show that the assertion itself was valid given the evidence then available”.
So for example if one were to say “the planet is certainly warming”, if it were later shown that the planet is not warming (almost in any period) then the assertion is not up to the standards of skeptic science. If however someone had said “based on this dataset, the temperature has warmed over the last 100 years”, that is skeptic science – because even if it were found that the dataset was a total forgery, the original assertion was that this dataset showed warming so it was not invalid. Indeed if we added to the assertion that it “… has warmed over the last 100 years and on average we expect rising CO2 to cause some additional warming”, given the hard science supporting CO2, this also would be skeptic science because it is based of substantiated evidence of the measured radiative properties of CO2 and as it includes “uncertainy” in the shape of “expect to … on average” rather than “unequivocably will”, this is a very robust statement.
In other words, this is the standard most private sector skeptics in engineering and science have to apply to their work. This is because in real life (outside academia) where there are real customers and real life and death situations which need reliable advice, when things go wrong, skeptics have to show that their advice was reasonable in a court of law. In the real world where time and resource is finite, advice has to be given knowing more data would improve it and so knowing there is a real risk that e.g. they fail to put the drill just where the geological fault is that make the whole mine uneconomic. So private sector engineers and scientists are naturally skeptics.
This is why scientifically trained engineers and scientists in the private sector expect a much higher standard.
So, whilst scientists like to portray their work as some paridigm of virtue, the reality is that in terms of quality of advice skeptics have to set themselves much higher standards. This I believe is why there has been such strong feeling. Skeptics work in an environment where they expect very high standards – just look at Steve McIntyre! In contrast scientists (i.e. academics) expect to be able to “float a few ideas and see where they fall”. They want, indeed, need, the freedom to explore ideas without worrying unduly if they are wrong. This is good within an academic context as it does allow ideas to be explored, but it clearly is not appropriate within the private sector nor when giving governments advice on policy.
So, if we skeptics stopped trying to tell scientists what they should do, and instead led by example and set out what we expected through the development of the idea of “skeptic science”, I believe much of the hostility might be reduced.
Practical examples
So, looking above.
1. Can Hansen argue he was right to say it would certainly warm ending in doomsday that that it is not currently warming? I’ve never ever seen anything that would justify that. Given that, I think that if he were sued by world governments for poor advice in a court of law (like skeptics might), on the evidence I have seen, he would be found guilty as he gave advice which appears to be unsupportable now we know it to be wrong.
So this is not skeptic science
2. Visitation by aliens. This is more difficult because we have to create a hypothetical situation where we know aliens don’t exist. But should that occur, could the wild ideation theories be argued to have reasonably led people to believe in alien visitation. I must admit I’ve never really looked at the evidence, but judging on what other says, this does not look anything like skeptic science.
3. Meteors expectantly hitting the earth. That there are meteors is a fact. That the earth has been hit is a fact. That we continue to be hit by small space objects is a fact. It is difficult to construct a scenario whereby this is proven as false, that the assertion “we will be hit in the future at some unexpected time, by a meteor (up to a reasonable size)” appears to be sufficiently robust to be skeptic science.

I should have stated that many scientist, particularly in the hard sciences already work at the level of skeptic science. E.g. when CERN said that they had found evidence that might suggest the speed of light had been exceeded, this was skeptic science at its best. Indeed, there may be many within climate science who are cautious in what they say and who would be skeptic scientists.

AlecM

25 years after this IPCC’s incorrect science started in earnest, we have had >17 years no warming. The claim that the decade 2000-2010 was the hottest recorded is false because 1930s’ data were altered. There is no ‘missing heat’**. There has been AGW, probably from polluted clouds due to Asian industrialisation, but it saturated in the late 1990s***.
The extended GHE is a falsification. The models exaggerate surface to atmosphere energy transfer 3x, matched with 3x increase of real GHE. Half the exaggerated heating is offset by incorrectly applying Kirchhoff’s Law of Radiation at ToA, leaving 40% imaginary extra energy concentrated in the lower atmosphere. To offset the extra heating, it is mopped up in hind-casting by c. 25% increased low level cloud albedo.
No professional having full oversight should have allowed this. Real observations show near zero CO2-AGW. It’s probably the end game. The next move is to switch to the new Little Ice Age from solar effects convolved with the cold ENSO.
**No professional scientist or engineer would accept the claimed heat transfer physics is valid.
***Sagan’s aerosol optical physics is wrong.

Eliza

Wow This is looking extremely interesting. My bet is that this year we are going to see a massive increase in global ice as Antarctica seems to be going definitely in one direction as we enter winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

Eliza
SanityP

The two first would be considered fringe hypotheses.
The third suggestion has the makings of an actual theory until proven invalid.

David L.

Skience on April 10, 2014 2:20am:
…”We may dislike the situation. But we are not in a position to demand. …”
———
As a PhD in the hard sciences, having been once an academic and a peer reviewer as well as peer reviewed, I agree with most of what you write. Academics is a closed, self serving community.
But I think society at large is in a position to demand, because society pays for their research through tax dollars. That is the great misdirection of academics: Academics have it both ways, they dip into the public coffer and claim a cloistered existence answerable only to the inner circle.
So the pressure needs to be placed on the government by the people and for the people to cut funding for those things the people do not see worthy, and they have every right to do so. Then let the academics try and fund their cloistered research by peer review alone.
Academics only need to answer to us if we are paying them. Otherwise you are right, they can have their science anyway they like it.

skience
… As outsiders we cannot realistically demand this group match our standards. …
No, but we can hope to expose the fragility of theories which are not well supported by evidence to public ridicule. I have no problem with people indulging in speculation – what I object to is when such speculation is mislabeled as settled science.

DirkH

Kano says:
April 10, 2014 at 2:05 am
“I explain the water vapor theory being nonsense, by showing what happen during the 1998 El Nino, the temperature shot up, so did water vapor, but came down just as fast, when the El Nino was finished, if water vapor was self perpetuating or exponential there would have been no cooling after”
If the theory of catastrophic positive water vapor feedback were right, we would expect it to happen in places that are already very humid and hot – Singapore for instance.
Before Global warming of say 2.0 deg C turns the icy planes of Germany into something less icy, the hot humid climate of Singapore right at the equator should long have turned into a little Venus climate.
I think what the climate models intentionally lack is the concept of thunderstorms.

DirkH

skience says:
April 10, 2014 at 2:31 am
“Indeed, there may be many within climate science who are cautious in what they say and who would be skeptic scientists.”
Only that they do it secretly while publicly they go along with the UN’s globalist control schemes. “I have only followed orders”; an excuse that is in practice not nearly as good as it sounds.

DirkH
I think what the climate models intentionally lack is the concept of thunderstorms.
Willis said something similar on several occasions 🙂 – http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/02/07/emergent-climate-phenomena/

Peter Champness

Well Done Eric,
I do think that is a good article.
However some comments below.
Clearly the CATASTROPHIC Green House Gas Theory lacks observational evidence. But what about the GHGE theory itself? Could it be that so called Green House Gases actually help COOL the Earth? IS there any observational evidence for that? Well yes there is.
http://www.principia-scientific.org/greenhouse-effect-does-water-vapor-increase-or-decrease-the-lapse-rate.html.
So,actually the Inverse of Theory 1 has observational evidence.
Theory 3. Meteorites could destroy the Earth, has some backing but the recent example did not actually kill anyone!

Jimbo

In Dr. James Hansen’s words, “The oceans will begin to boil”.

Dr. James Hansen went off the rails and against the consensus. They used to try to frighten us with the runaway greenhouse effect until they realised it was failing.

IPCC
“Some thresholds that all would consider dangerous have no support in the literature as having a non-negligible chance of occurring. For instance, a “runaway greenhouse effect” —analogous to Venus–appears to have virtually no chance of being induced by anthropogenic activities…..”
http://www.ipcc.ch/meetings/session31/inf3.pdf
————————–
There is no possibility of such runaway greenhouse conditions occurring on the Earth.”
Sir John Houghton, atmospheric physicist, lead editor of first three IPCC reports
[Full paper paywalled]
http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/0034-4885/68/6/R02

DirkH

Eric Worrall says:
April 10, 2014 at 3:43 am
“DirkH
I think what the climate models intentionally lack is the concept of thunderstorms.
Willis said something similar on several occasions 🙂 – http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/02/07/emergent-climate-phenomena/

Very good link in this context! Yes, they cannot simulate exactly that kind of emergence due to their fixed coarse grid size.

kolnai

In the comedy ‘The Missionary’ Michael Palin plays the naïve Reverend Fortescue. Charging him with his mission to save Fallen Women, his bishop tells him: ‘Find out why they do what they do. And stop them doing it’.
Whilst the last example quoted is good on the ‘what’ and the ‘stopping’, it’s weak on the ‘why’. Thus it is the least interesting theory, for its independent variable is largely missing.
New knowledge is interesting entirely because it speculates previously unknown connections between the past and the future. So the first examples are/may be wrong, yet interesting. Note that it is the failure of Hansen to deal with the falsifications of his theory which has led to new and more complete speculating, here on WUWT as much as anywhere else. The second example is in its way even more fruitful than Hansen, because it feeds into current debates about probability theory.
Error is not a crime; it is a spur to new knowledge. But warmists speak like the bishop when they try to ‘Stop sceptics doing it’.

After reading the comments so far, I can see a case made for number 1 being the odd man out as well. #2 is pure speculation, but there is no evidence against it. #3 is, as stated, an observed phenomenon. #1 however has evidence against it.

MikeB

Positive feedback does not necessarily mean that something will continue to increase exponentially. It depends on the loop gain. Many positive feedback loops are convergent. That is the feedback amplifies the input signal, but to a controlled extent. In the context of the climate system, positive feedback may amplify the heating effect of CO2 without leading to runaway global warming.
For example, let’s say that an increase in CO2 leads to a warming of 1 degree C. That warming produces a rise in water vapour and more CO2 (released from the warming oceans) such that the temperature rises a further half degree in response. That half degree rise in turn causes a further rise of one quarter of a degree, which causes another rise of one eighth of a degree and so on. This is a positive feedback series but it is also ‘convergent’. It does not increase to infinity no matter how long it goes on for. It converges to a value of 2 degrees C.
With no feedbacks the effect of doubling CO2 is calculated to produce a rise of about 1.1 degree C. The IPCC previously said that positive feedbacks would amplify this to 3.5 deg.C (or more). However, many recent studies have come in with much lower estimates of climate sensitivity. Consequently, the latest IPPC report now says

No best estimate for equilibrium climate sensitivity can now be given because of a lack of agreement on values across assessed lines of evidence and studies.

dccowboy

“He strongly believes a run away green house effect has made Venus inhospitable. ”
I don’t know if Dr Hansen does believe this, but many of my acquaintances on the AGW do. They constantly cite this as an example of what we face. I find the idea ludicrous. The only thing Venus and earth have in common is relatively close size. Venus has no magnetic field to shield it, it has never had oceans, it has no large satellite, the composition of its atmosphere is not only far denser, but also very dissimilar to earth’s, and finally Venus receives a good deal more solar radiation than earth. More than likely it’s atmosphere is not the result of ‘runaway’ greenhouse effect because that implies that it’s atmosphere was different than it is today and we have no evidence to support that assumption.

Hansen’s problem is that he doesn’t knw the Earth’s climatic history. The conditions about which he warns have occurred before and there was no “runaway” warming, which is prima facia evidence that Hansen doesn’t understand the Earth’s climate and how it works. His theory is thus overly simplistic.

izen

None of the three scenarios listed reaches the level of a scientific theory. At best they are hypothesis with some supporting evidence, except for hypothesis 2 for which there is a total lack of evidence, but absence of evidence is not of course evidence of absence.
The danger from asteroid impacts is in fact quite closely constrained by observation. Major events are much less frequent than the timescale of the development of human civilisation.
A runaway greenhouse effect is theoretically possible on the Earth but would take particular circumstances and is again constrained to time scales far longer than the existence of humans, never mind civilisation. However the observational evidence it is possible is obvious from the state of Venus.
The whole article of this post is undermined by the apparent indifference to the definitions of scientific theory, hypothesis and speculation.

knr

skience
I asked as a start that the professional working in this area they expect to see [from] any of their undergraduate students handing in an essay . Which although a low standard is one many of these ‘professionals’ working in climate ‘science’ cannot or do not reach.
Try some of the ‘tricks’ the team gets up to at most universities on most courses and all you end up with is a need to rewrite your work at the least. While it some cases you be off the course altogether. PHD can also be consider to mean piled higher and deeper , never more so than climate ‘science ‘

izen

@-dccowboy
Venus has no magnetic field to shield it, it has never had oceans, it has no large satellite, the composition of its atmosphere is not only far denser, but also very dissimilar to earth’s, and finally Venus receives a good deal more solar radiation than earth.
How do you know Venus never had oceans?
The surface of Venus actually receives LESS solar radiation than the Earth because the high cloud layer has a much greater albedo than the Earth. Although the time in the past when Venus became a runaway greenhouse was when the sun was much cooler. As the sun increases in output we get closer tot he Earth receiving the same sort of energy as Venus did in the Early stages of the solar system.
@- Col Mosby
Hansen’s problem is that he doesn’t knw the Earth’s climatic history. The conditions about which he warns have occurred before and there was no “runaway” warming, which is prima facia evidence that Hansen doesn’t understand the Earth’s climate and how it works.
The conditions that are similar in the Earth’s past occurred when the solar output was much {30%} lower than at present. Perhaps Hansen knows more about the Earth’s climate history than you think?

Hansen is wrong because the planet Venus has only trace amounts of water and is 96.5% CO2 with a surface pressure equivalent to 1km deep in one of Earth’s oceans. This is why Venus has such a strong greenhouse effect! As other people have said in their posts, the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere has been many times higher in the past than now, without causing a runaway greenhouse effect

David L. says: But I think society at large is in a position to demand, because society pays for their research through tax dollars. That is the great misdirection of academics: Academics have it both ways, they dip into the public coffer and claim a cloistered existence answerable only to the inner circle.
There are many people in academia who aspire to the standard of skeptic science. But unfortunately, there are many, and by the way so most institutions failed to take action after climategate it is a majority, who are willing to accept the status quo and accept work as “science” which does not meet the higher standards we skeptics would like.
The problem at the moment is that whenever we criticise “science” it is taken as a criticism of both the good and the less good. We need a way to distinguish between the two.
But most importantly we need to be able to articulate what we want in a positive way instead of constantly being portrayed as attacking all “science”. Creating a positive vision of what we want may in itself cause academia to re-evaluate its standards and “pull its socks up”. But I doubt it as many academics who don’t meet the skeptic standard have been allowed to call themselves scientists, and I can’t see them willingly changing the standards of science in a way which would necessarily exclude them.
This is why I firmly believe we need to establish a new concept of skeptic science – which is science where assertions are only made which can be substantiated by the evidence.

son of mulder says:
April 10, 2014 at 2:13 am
“The aliens are already here. They arrived in their ships the size of a grain of sand and the only reason we haven’t seen them is because they are hiding in the oceans.”
I can’t say for sure if the aliens are here or not. What I do know though is that there is definitely intelligent alien life on other planets. How do I know? Because they have not tried to contact us.

HankHenry

Anyone remember Carl Sagan speculating that the burning oil wells were going to affect the climate? We all understand that when you dream up an alarming scenario you can get people to listen to you. Climate alarm has been going on for a long time. You might say it started with the story of Noah.
http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1991-01-23/news/1991023131_1_kuwait-saddam-hussein-sagan

Steve Case

The slight warming caused by excess CO2 will cause sea water to evaporate, filling the atmosphere with water vapour. Water vapour is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. The evaporation of water vapour will trigger a chain reaction, a runaway greenhouse effect, in which global warming caused by the evaporation of ever increasing amounts of sea water forces yet more sea water to evaporate. In Dr. James Hansen’s words, “The oceans will begin to boil”.
He went on to say that’s basically what happened to Venus.
Regarding increased evaporation of water during a warm-up, he ignored:
1. The effect of clouds that primarily reflect solar radiation and only secondarily retain heat.
2. Evaporation that transports heat out of the climate system by releasing latent heat high up in the atmosphere.
Regarding the fact that the atmosphere on Venus is 95% CO2 and it’s hot enough on the surface to melt lead, Mars also has an atmosphere that’s 95% CO2 and it’s so cold there it snows dry ice. But they tell us that CO2 at 0.04% here on Earth is the driver of temperature.

Steve Case

The slight warming caused by excess CO2 will cause sea water to evaporate, filling the atmosphere with water vapour. Water vapour is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. The evaporation of water vapour will trigger a chain reaction, a runaway greenhouse effect, in which global warming caused by the evaporation of ever increasing amounts of sea water forces yet more sea water to evaporate. In Dr. James Hansen’s words, “The oceans will begin to boil”.
He went on to say that’s basically what happened to Venus.
Regarding increased evaporation of water during a warm-up, he ignored:
1. The effect of clouds that primarily reflect solar radiation and only secondarily retain heat.
2. Evaporation that transports heat out of the climate system by releasing latent heat high up in the atmosphere.
Regarding the fact that the atmosphere on Venus is 95% CO2 and it’s hot enough on the surface to melt lead, Mars also has an atmosphere that’s 95% CO2 and it’s so cold there it snows dry ice. But they tell us that CO2 at 0.04% here on Earth is the driver of temperature.

TheLastDemocrat

jauntycyclist says: “In the old days christians used to burn people to purify them and ‘to save their souls’ thus reasoned they were doing them a favour.”
This is not phrased correctly. It should be, “In the old days, there was once a historical episode where some locals mis-used the mantel of Christianity to gain power over others, committing un-Christian acts such as burning certain dis-liked members of society with the excuse that the souls of the burned were being ‘saved.’ ”
In this day and time, among educated people, Marxist-fueled demonization of Christians is no longer acceptable behavior.

re: The C of E’s climate advocacy:
The Church of England is dying – they know it, everyone knows it. Like all dying organizations, they are flopping around, desperately trying to find something politically popular to latch onto in the hope that those who have already rejected them may come back to the fold. It’s rather like a jilted lover thinking that a new tube of lipstick is all she needs to get her old boyfriend back – it never works.
And of course it has never occurred to the CofE to go back to the actual core of what was once their faith – that’s so old fashioned! And so they race and race and race after whatever their pollsters and political inclinations tell them might be trendy, never comprehending that today’s trend is always tomorrow’s bad joke.
And thus do great institutions with longstanding traditions die.
(and please don’t misinterpret my meaning, the “climate change” advocacy isn’t a cause of this, it’s just one more small symptom of the internal cancer that has now spread throughout the entire body of that church, and will kill it soon)