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Apr 09, 2007

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Peter Kirk

This report quotes the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. So why does it ignore the clear conclusions of the IPCC's recent report on the physical science basis for climate change? This report explains in some detail why the rise in temperature has not been as great as expected from CO2 emissions alone, because these are partially offset by aerosol effects, i.e. particle and liquid air pollution. The report concludes that “Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations”. Why do people find this conclusion so hard to accept?

As for the sudden cooling in 1946 which lasted until 1976, remember that this was the period of atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, so that is at least one possible mechanism.

Michael W. Kruse

"So why does it ignore the clear conclusions..."

I'm not so sure he is ignoring but you can only address so many issues in a short Newsweek article. :)

"Why do people find this conclusion so hard to accept?"

Because the conclusions are based on models created by scientists, many of whom have an agenda. Very likely is an opinion not a scientific conclusion. Either it does or it doesn’t. It does so by this much or that much. Very reasonable alternate explanations exist. For instance, the decline and rise in temperature (’46-’76 and otherwise) throughout the 20th Century corresponds almost perfectly with changes in sun radiation. We also are detecting atmospheric warming on Mars and Jupiter. Solar radiance comports more accurately than does the IPCC explanations. (See Chart)

Because people like Jim Hansen, a leading proponent of anthropogenic warming, misled Congress (by his own admission) in congressional testimony in 1989, claiming that the current state of global warming projected temperature increases four times greater than they actually did. He needed to “get the public’s attention.”

Because the IPPC uncritically included the infamous “hockey stick” graph created by Michael Mann in their 2001 report, the graph allegedly showing little climate change for a thousand years until the past century when carbon dioxide increase kicked in. Over the past couple of years statisticians writing in peer reviewed journals have show than a random set of numbers creates a hockey stick effect using the model. Evidence continues to hold that a Medieval warm period, considerably warmer than current temps, did exist and it was followed by a significant cooling period from which we are still emerging.

Because several scientists purporting that there is a global warming crisis will not reveal their models in their entirety so other scientists can analyze and duplicate findings.

Because of outrageous claims of 99.9% consensus when a slight majority of climatologists surveyed in 2003 (56% as I recall) believed that human factors were, to one degree of or another, significant in warming. Because of organized smear campaigns against anyone who does not tow the party line.

Because the United Nation’s IPCC is a deeply political organization involving scientist who are deeply dependent upon a global warming crisis to justify billions of dollars in funding for their research.

The alarmists are now pressing for changes that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars each year for the foreseeable future, diverting resources that might be spent on problems like the elimination of aids, relieving malnutrition, eradicating infectious diseases. Such diversions will also begin to cripple and choke of the worldwide economic expansion that is lifting the world out of poverty. At the top echelons of the environmental movement there is a near seamless link between the alarmists and politicos who oppose economic freedom, oppose world economic growth, and want to impose statist controls on the world economy. It is my opinion that the global warming “crisis” is about 10% science and about 90% power politics.

So instead of asking why people find the IPCC findings hard to accept, I ask why does anyone uncritically accept the work of the United Nations’ IPCC?

Peter Kirk

Actually very likely IS a scientific conclusion, not an opinion, as you will discover if you read the footnote 6 in the document: "In this Summary for Policymakers, the following terms have been used to indicate the assessed likelihood ... Very likely > 90%". This figures are not based on abstruse models which can be understood only by experts, but on a rather easily understandable description of various factors known to cause warming and cooling and what the balance is between them. Try reading this document.

And it is simply not true, according to your own graph, that "the decline and rise in temperature (’46-’76 and otherwise) throughout the 20th Century corresponds almost perfectly with changes in sun radiation", for your graph shows a peak of solar irradiance (based on a model, so you cannot consistently accept this model and reject others) from 1946 to 1950, which cannot possibly be the cause of the sudden dip in temperatures in 1946 (see NOAA data). The IPCC report notes the solar irradiance effect but estimates that its warming effect is less than 10% of that of anthropogenic CO2.

Well, let's suppose the solar irradiance effect can account for many of the historic temperature changes from 1750 to 1950, or even to 1993. Can it account for the changes from 1993 to 2007? Has the measured solar irradiance actually increased by another 2-3 watts per square metre since 1993? Not according to this graph from NASA for 1978 to 2003, which shows fluctuations based on the sunspot cycle around a long term constant figure. Older data on solar irradiance are based on modelling proxies such as sunspot numbers. So there must be some other explanation for the increase in global temperatures since 1993. Every year but one since 1997 has been warmer than every preceding year since records began. How do you explain that from the measured solar irradiance data?

One more "Because", perhaps: because the oil companies and anyone funded by them (including some scientists and many politicians) have a vested interest in pouring as much doubt and disinformation as they can on anyone who might threaten their plans to pour more and more CO2 into our atmosphere without accepting any responsibility for the possibly disastrous consequences.

Michael W. Kruse

The last issue first. Yes there are large corporate forces at work that want to discredit anthropogenic warming because it is in their economic interests to do so. Is this a surprise? Not to me. I don’t see this as an issue. The issue is why this same critical eye is not being turned toward the scientists who are enmeshed in the multi-billion dollar global warming research industry, of whom the IPCC is prime example? Many who point to the potential vested interest of skeptics at the same time implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) hide behind a veil of scientific objectivity and impartiality. Government funding of scientific research over the past fifty years or so has greatly compromised what gets studied and how issues are shaped. So again, why the uncritical acceptance of reports from groups like the IPCC?

“This figures are not based on abstruse models which can be understood only by experts, …”

This just isn’t true. The case they are making is based on complex computer models into which scientists have entered countless assumptions about how variables behave and will interact with each other on an interactive and iterative basis over time. The models don’t even agree with each other. There are countless best guesses being fed into the computer models to arrive at this 90% certainty level.

As to variations with solar radiance with temperature, envision a boat moving with a water skier pulled behind. The skier travels directly in the wake of the boat and then slides out to the left; then back out to the right; then back out to the center again. The skier is perfectly following the boat but not always directly in its path.

My point was not that solar radiance totally explains year to year fluctuations or even fluctuations of a brief period of years. If you look at the graph I linked you will see more periods than just the 1946-1950 stint where the temperature is out of whack with the radiance. But look at the long view of the solar radiance “boat” moving across the graph with the global temperature “skiing” along behind occasionally moving out of the wake to one side or the other. It is that perfect match I am referring to.

Year to year fluctuations, or even fluctuations over a period of years, can caused by an number of variations happening with ocean currents, land mass movements, volcanic ventilation, variations in cloud cover, cyclical changes, etc. The interactive dynamics are exceedingly complex.

I have uploaded a graph of the average global temperatures (land and sea combined) for the last twelve years using the NOAA data which I update regularly in an Excel spreadsheet. Temps spiked in 1998 at 14.48(C), declined to 14.26 by 2000 and the jumped to 14.39 in 2001. What is notable is the consistency of the global temperature over the last five years, staying within the 14.43-14.5 range with a minor blip upward in 2005. The spike in 1998 was attributed to an el nino effect and there is some talk that 2007 will have a similar problem. Meanwhile, worldwide CO2 emissions have increased by more than 20% over the decade. The net temp change over ten years from 1997-2006 is an increase of 0.08 degrees Celsius or 0.14 Fahrenheit. It fluctuated by this much in one year (up or down) in 1998, 1999, and 2001.

From all I have read, my take is that human activity has had a marginal effect on changes in surface temperatures. The driving forces are natural with human activity making at most a one degree Fahrenheit difference in temperature over the next several decades. We are well below the mean global temperature for the past 2,000 years and we are well below the mean global temperature for the past 8,000 years.

The issue is not that there might be some human component to temperature change. With six billion of us that seems to be a given. The question is how much and what difference does it make. Keep in mind the 186 billion tons of CO2 enter the atmosphere every year. About 90 billion comes from biological activity in the oceans and another 90 from seismic activity like volcanoes and decaying plants. About 6 billion comes from all human activities. Greenhouse gasses are only one the components that make up 5% of the greenhouse effect. Water vapor makes up 95% of the greenhouse effect (and incidentally the amount of water vapor is significantly influenced by solar radiation.)

In short, I have no problem acknowledging potential human influences on climate. What I have a really big problem with is the attempt to distort historical data to suggest we have been puttering along with unchanging climate for centuries until one day the industrial revolution came along and sent us spiraling into a global climate crisis that only a world government can save us from by using draconian police powers against evil advocates of economic freedom. :) In my estimation, it is not science that is driving the incessant drumbeat about global warming alarm.

Peter Kirk

We are well below the mean global temperature for the past 2,000 years

This is simply untrue! See this graph and the scientific papers quoted. Or if you believe it is true, where is your evidence?

186 billion tons of CO2 enter the atmosphere every year ... About 6 billion comes from all human activities.

No, the figure is 24 billion tonnes. Maybe you are confusing mass of carbon with mass of CO2.

What I have a really big problem with is the attempt to distort historical data to suggest we have been puttering along with unchanging climate for centuries until one day the industrial revolution came along and sent us spiraling into a global climate crisis

What I have a big problem with is precisely the opposite, the attempt to distort historical data to prove that this did NOT happen. Look at the facts! See further the post I am about to put on my own blog.

Michael W. Kruse

Paleoclimatology is an intensely debated field right now. For many years prior to the mid-1990s, historic temperature recreations showed temperatures well above current temperatures from about the 10th Century and through the 14th Century. The first Millennia leading up to the time of Christ were reported to be considerably warmer than the past 2,000 years. Such a chart appeared in the 1991 version of the IPCC report. However, as critics began to point out that current temps are still well below historical averages in the mid-90s the IPCC types actively pursued data that would minimize past climate changes and accentuate current change when charted.

For instance, one study looked at rings in a particular type of pine tree going back centuries. When temperature increases rings get wider and when it decreases they get smaller. What they found was that there is some minor change in the tree rings until you approach the 20th Century and the rings get wider and wider. Therefore we conclude that temperature increase has been far more significant than it is has been for hundreds of years. I believe at least one of the studies included in the chart you linked is based on this study.

What this study failed to take into account is that it isn’t only temperature that increases ring width. CO2 also increases ring width. So in essence up until the late 1800s the rings were probably reasonable proxies for temperature. From then on the rings have been telling us more about CO2 levels in the air, not temperature. Consequently it gives this distorted picture of temperature escalating off the charts.

By the 2001 IPCC report that included the infamous “hockey stick” chart created in Michael Mann without doing any verification or substantiation of his claims. However, three years later two Canadian scientists tested Mann’s model and published peer reviewed articles that undermined this chart and concluded that a random set of numbers fed into the model will generate the hockey stick effect. US Congressional hearings held last summer looked into this matter and determined the Mann study was methodologically unsound. The American Academy of Sciences reviewed the materials and concluded that Mann’s chart was likely accurate about temperature over the past couple of centuries or so but that temperature proxies for eras before the 1600s were too unreliable to make definitive claims. However, they did allow that there is a 2 to 1 chance that temperatures in Middle Ages were warmer than they are today. The wikipedia data is incomplete. Here is a chart showing the “hockey stick” chart on top and the consensus about temperature averages until Michael Mann and company began looking for new proxies that better fit the story they wanted to tell on the bottom.

Concerning CO2 put into the air, 24 tons is the correct number for humans and the total should be around 205 tons. (Although I think it is more likely closer to 27 tons according my almanac.) I was flying too quickly through my numbers and dropped in the American contribution which is 6 tons instead of the world amount. My apologies. It doesn’t alter the point about the minimal role of CO2 has in the overall greenhouse effect.

“Look at the facts!”

What exactly do you think I have been doing in this post and in these comments? Not only have been looking at facts surrounding these issues for more than a quarter of a century I have been looking at these facts with people like my dad who is an organic chemist who spent almost have of his professional life studying pollution reduction with fossil fuels and alternative to fossil fuels. I am looking at the facts with MIT educated head of the science department of a local state university who attends my church. I looking at these facts with at least two scientists I know of who read this blog but do not comment here because they do not want to be professionally drawn into this firestorm. I am processing through the eyes of the premiere hurricane forecaster I linked today and other scientists like Lindzen who wrote the article in the post.

I am looking at the facts. I am being skeptical about all sides. You seem only to be skeptical of one side and uncritcally trusting of another. That is not science. It is ideology.

I am extremely busy right now and I don’t see much more productive coming from this exchange so I will need to bow out. Thanks for the dialog.

Peter Kirk

Thank you for your response, and the chart. Now there is a clear disagreement between these two charts for the 20th century, with the lower (referring only to Europe) giving the 2000 temperature as barely higher than the peak around 1940. This is a matter of direct measurements! See page 11 of the latest IPCC report for measurements for Europe in the 20th century. Your lower graph shows a slightly higher estimated temperature for around 1200, but even these figures, the ones you chose yourself, do not support your assertion "We are well below the mean global temperature for the past 2,000 years". Rather, even the inaccurate figure given here for the year 2000 is about the same as the mean figure shown for the last 1,100 years, and I don't think anyone has suggested that the first millennium AD was warmer than the second.

Now if you had said to start with that the figures were uncertain and that it cannot be proved that the current temperature is higher than the average for the last 2,000 years, then I would have accepted that. But instead you stated as an unqualified fact a position which is more extreme even than the best data which you can choose to support your position. How can I be expected to take you seriously? The best I can say for you is that you have been seriously deceived by propaganda probably from the energy companies and their political allies. You and most of your fellow countrymen are simply enjoying your gas-guzzling lifestyle so much that you refuse to look at the evidence which shows how irresponsible and immoral it is.

Michael W. Kruse

Peter, years ago C. S. Lewis wrote an essay about a (fictional) man named Ezekiel Bulver. He claimed that Bulver was the founder of modern 20th Century debate. When Ezekiel was a boy overheard a debate between his father and mother. His father was explaining to his mother that the combined length of two sides of a triangle is always longer than the length of the third. She argued against his position and until finally she just said, “You just say that because you are a man!” At that moment Ezekiel realized it wasn’t necessary to refute an argument. All that was necessary was to assert your position, concoct an explanation as to how your opponent became so silly and then talk about that.

“The best I can say for you is that you have been seriously deceived by propaganda probably from the energy companies and their political allies.”

This is how I became so silly. Bulverism lives!

“You and most of your fellow countrymen are simply enjoying your gas-guzzling lifestyle so much that you refuse to look at the evidence which shows how irresponsible and immoral it is.”

Peter, I don’t know you and you don’t know me. I have tried every bit of the way to have a respectful conversation while being honest about my take. I have tried to talk about the broader topic but you have played games of “gotcha” on factual details. (A game which I could just have easily played with some of your comments like the one that the temperature has increased every year since 1997 when in fact it went down in four of the past ten.) This is not my full-time focus in life, I am very busy right now, and I expect to make the occasional errors with details in a conversation like this. I expect the same from others. I am not going to waste my time with gotcha games.

On what basis do you make your claims about my lifestyle? What car do I drive? (FYI, we own two inexpensive Mazdas) Where do I live? What lifestyle choices have I made regarding consumerism? Maybe you would like to hear about the passive solar heated house I spent the summer of 1978 building with my Dad. With more money we would have added the solar panels for which it was equipped. But most importantly, what does any of this have to do with scientific research on what is causing the climate to change? Zip. Nada. We are talking about how I became so silly instead of science. As I said, Bulverism lives.

My read from this comment is that you have deep ideological convictions with which the IPCC report dovetails perfectly and you are not interested in seriously engaging the alternative data available. You have made clear that you have no respect for me as critical thinker. There isn’t much point in continuing this.

Peter Kirk

I did not say "the temperature has increased every year since 1997", but "Every year but one since 1997 has been warmer than every preceding year since records began." It should be abundantly clear that by "every preceding year" I meant "every year before 1997". And on that understanding, and NOAA data, the claim is true.

As for the point about lifestyle, it was explicitly about the American people as a whole, not about you personally.

If you want Bulverism, look in the mirror first, or read Matthew 7:3-5. Here are some of your Bulverisms and similar ad hominem logical fallacies in this thread:

Because the conclusions are based on models created by scientists, many of whom have an agenda. ...

Because of organized smear campaigns against anyone who does not tow the party line.

Because the United Nation’s IPCC is a deeply political organization involving scientist who are deeply dependent upon a global warming crisis to justify billions of dollars in funding for their research. ...

At the top echelons of the environmental movement there is a near seamless link between the alarmists and politicos who oppose economic freedom, oppose world economic growth, and want to impose statist controls on the world economy. ...

Many who point to the potential vested interest of skeptics at the same time implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) hide behind a veil of scientific objectivity and impartiality.

Michael W. Kruse

First, thanks for the clarification about the recent temps. I concur.

In the first comment you asked "Why do people find this conclusion so hard to accept?" The list of “Becauses” following was in response to your question. According to Wikipedia ad hominem “…consists of replying to an argument by attacking or appealing to the person making the argument, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument.” The list following was my factual answer to that question. In several cases I have gave factual support for my conclusions. The credibility of the and potential bias of an organizations members, as well as their public behavior, statements and actions, are all relevant topics to answering your questions. They do not settle one way or the other the validity of any given claim but they do articulate why I think the reports coming out of the IPCC bear very close scrutiny just as you think (and I agree) reports coming our of industry lobbies bear close scrutiny. I substantiated some of claims in the comment. I don’t have time to sit down a write a dissertation documenting each of these. I have very factual reasons for each and every assertion I made. Here is a little more on the ones you highlighted.

“Because the conclusions are based on models created by scientists, many of whom have an agenda. ...”

And many of them make that agenda transparently clear in their public statements. I simply don’t have the time right now to go dig this all out and link them.

“Because of organized smear campaigns against anyone who does not tow the party line.”

I can personally list at list three scientists who I know personally who are extremely skeptical of the global warming hype but remain silent because the potential backlash they might get from some segments of the scientific community isn’t worth the risk to them. Here are just a couple of articles I happen to have stored in my IE6 favorites:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110008220

http://www.canadafreepress.com/2007/global-warming020507.htm (Scroll to eighth paragraph and following.)

“Because the United Nation’s IPCC is a deeply political organization involving scientist who are deeply dependent upon a global warming crisis to justify billions of dollars in funding for their research. ...”

What part of “United Nations” and “political” is unclear here? Are you claims that some skeptics are dupes of oil companies ad hominem.

“At the top echelons of the environmental movement there is a near seamless link between the alarmists and politicos who oppose economic freedom, oppose world economic growth, and want to impose statist controls on the world economy. ...”

Communist and socialist parties work hand in hand with green political movements all locally and internationally. That is not to say the every green group is communist or socialist but that there are considerable ties between the two.

“Many who point to the potential vested interest of skeptics at the same time implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) hide behind a veil of scientific objectivity and impartiality.”

We are the experts. We have unassailable scientific consensus. All dissenters are suspect! Do I really need to go dig up links to make this case?

“As for the point about lifestyle, it was explicitly about the American people as a whole, not about you personally.”

I don’t view the above as ad hominem. As to you personally, I have challenged you hard on substantive issues and tried to articulate my concerns in a passionate but respectful way. I have tired very hard to avoid dismissive personal comments about someone I don’t know. You wrote…

You and most of your fellow countrymen are simply enjoying your gas-guzzling lifestyle so much…”

I don’t know how to read that as anything but personal but I am not going there!

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