Arnold Kling  

Climate Skeptic Movie

Roberts' Rule of Ridicule... The Subprime Mess, Daily Brief...

Katy of Sybil's Star posts The Great Global Warming Swindle, a counter-documentary on Global Warming. It comes across as very persuasive, but I take the view that you can make a persuasive propaganda film for just about any position on any subject.

The most disturbing part of the movie, and what makes it worth spending the hour-plus to watch it, is the way it portrays the momentum of the global warming crusade. When you have lots and lots of people heavily invested in a point of view, how can they possibly change?


Let me discuss a bit the issue of scientific evidence. To me, scientific evidence is not "a whole bunch of scientists think X." To me, scientific evidence is "Here is an experiment or a naturally-occurring event where the results are extremely unlikely to occur unless X is true." That is what I find missing in the man-made global warming story.

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COMMENTS (42 to date)
mjh writes:

IMHO, a better video is the one created by Warren Meyer.

I think it does a better job of being focused on the science rather than the intentions of the global warming folks.

Gautam Rao writes:

Good grief! Make the effort to look around a little before posting a link to such an egregious violation of good science and policy reporting. Claiming that your interest is in "the momentum of the global warming crusade" (wow, strange choice of words -- crusade? really?) does not absolve you of the need to provide some additional context to the material. Even wikipedia would have been enough.

Excellent blog, by the way. Econlog has steadily risen in my list of worthy econ blogs (as I coincidentally progess through the first year of my econ phd!)

Barkley Rosser writes:

I don't know what is in this movie or what it claims, but indeed there is a "momentum" going on that has nothing to do with the views of the already entrenched. Former skeptics have been changing their minds and declaring that global warming is happening. Two very prominent ones who have links to Cato or two George Mason are Patrick Michaels, former Chief Climatologist of Virginia and at Cato and Fred Singer, founder of the US weather satellite program and an adjunct prof at GMU.

Both of these guys were full-bore skeptics about a decade ago. Michaels was the first to switch and start saying that global warming was happening, but that it was not likely to be as bad as some were forecasting, plus it would be mostly happening at night in the Arctic.

Singer only changed his mind very recently, within the last month or two, but he has done so. His line, partly echoed by Michaels, is that even though global warming is happening, we should not do anything (or much) about it because "it is unstoppable" and probably mostly due to natural rather than human factors.

Another skeptic, Reid Bryson, says that global warming is mostly due to a decline in volcanic eruptions, which is going on.

Anyway, these people have been very publicly identified with denying global warming entirely, and they have changed their minds. Did they do so because of other people being "entrenched" in their views? Again, I do not know what is in this movie, but the brief description makes it sound like silly nonsense.

Dr. T writes:
When you have lots and lots of people heavily invested in a point of view, how can they possibly change?
I have talked to a number of supposedly intelligent persons who became global warming crusaders. I do not believe they will change their belief even after ice age glaciers have pushed them from Chicago to New Orleans. They'll just chant the mantra "It's climate change caused by global warming!"
Barkley Rosser writes:

I would say the time to examine why people are entrenched in a view is when the view is shone to be wrong. That has not at all been the case with believers in global warming, although there certainly remain questions about the degree of the anthropogenic component of it.

I would pose as more egregious examples all the massive cupidity of most of the commentariat for Bush and Cheney's egregious lying about the nonexistent nuclear weapons program in Iran. There was in fact some serious available information that should have led intelligent people (and did eventually in the case of the intelligence community) not to believe their baloney. But most US commentators and politicians just went along with the anti-Iran war hysteria.

Another case is all the people pushing hysteria over social security's finances, even as the official projections keep being proven to be ridiculously pessimistic year after year after year. The official projectors make no changes in their assumptions, and the media and the politicians just keep on swallowing the garbage and spewing it out. I know this is a perspective most of your readers do not like (with most probably believing the baloney), but the evidence on massive public ignorance on this matter is available and widely ignored. Again, it would appear that those making these scary projections are deeply entrenched and committed to their past stupid projections and just keep making them without revision since most people seem to fail to notice what fools they are making of themselves and everybody else, hence all the hysteria when someone prominent like Krugman goes the other way and says that the hysteria emperor has no clothes.

brian writes:

"When you have lots and lots of people heavily invested in a point of view, how can they possibly change?"

I would ask the same question about you, Mr. Kling

When you have lots and lots of people heavily invested in a point of view, how can they possibly change?

The point is not whether lots of people are heavily invested in a point of view. Anyone who defends any view is in some way invested in the view defended. The point is what caused people to be invested in the view in the first place. And here we see a relevant difference: whereas scientists have been led to accept the view that anthropogenic global warming exists by looking at the relevant evidence, skeptics have come to the opposite conclusion largely by responding to the financial incentives created by the energy industry. Any honest debate about this topic must begin by recognizing this fundamental contrast in the causal histories of the beliefs held by the disputing parties.

Arnold Kling writes:

the movie tells a quite different story. I suggest that you watch it, just to see that part of the story.

Jody writes:

Since we've gone from econ to the science of AGW, here's my two biggest issues with the AGW via CO2 theory (disregarding the fact that I'm not certain we're at the "optimal" temperature now.

1. The sharp divergence between urban temperature trends (up, a lot) and rural temperature trends (flat to a little down depending on time scale).

See here for the recent paper on California trends (way up urban, down in rural).

See here for US trends (using the data set used by the IPCC to claim no UHI!! That fact relates to my second problem)

2. The AGW-CO2 science is *really* bad.

See here for how issues with siting weather stations (again odd trend that stations not surrounded by asphalt don't exhibit the warming trend);

Here for an admission of that modelers are fitting forcing parameters to data (rather than showing that data conforms to model)

Dan Weber writes:

I have no doubt that it would be easy to show that lots of people who support AGW have non-scientific incentives to do so.

However, that's not evidence that AGW is false.

Floccina writes:

It seems possible to that the invention of air conditioning makes a warmer climate better. Also the increase in aquaculture may mitigate the effects of rise in sea levels. The down side to a warmer wetter climate would be that people are trapped in their countries and some countries would be dominated by negative affects even though the global effects would be net positive. Perhaps people in Bangladesh could go into shrimp farming like many people in Thailand have. Also there is a marsh grass that produces a grain that can be used as a wheat substitute. Marshes can be very productive with relatively low fertilizer use.

Larry writes:

Arnold - you might find this interesting:

It's cant-free yet quite illuminating.

Bjorn Lomborg wrote an article in National Review back in September "Our Generational Mission". He includes this quote from Al Gore.

“The climate crisis also offers us the chance to experience what very few generations in history have had the privilege of knowing: a generational mission; the exhilaration of a compelling moral purpose; a shared and unifying cause; the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict that so often stifle the restless human need for transcendence; the opportunity to rise. . . . When we rise, we will experience an epiphany as we discover that this crisis is not really about politics at all. It is a moral and spiritual challenge.”

Climate change activism is not about assessing and prudently addressing potential problems. It is a fundamental doctrine of a worldview that gives meaning to life and all dissenters are worthy of nothing but derision and trivialization… and maybe worse, eventually.

coyote writes:

Jody linked my climate site above, but I wanted to expand on the point about the movie Swindle. While a nice piece of film-making, I get uncomfortable with all the discussion about motivations and scientific headcounts. I wanted a movie that just focused on the actual science that skeptics rely on. Not finding such a film, I made one called "What is Normal: A Critique of Catastrophic Man-made Global Warming Theory." It is available free online.

Barkley Rosser writes:

For those who are still pushing the line that global warming is not happening because of some rural area temp measures in the US, I would remind you that many glaciers and also the Arctic ice cap are rather dramatically shrinking. I think it has been these rather unavoidable facts that have pushed even such deeply entrenched skeptics as Fred Singer to change their tunes. And, in case anybody is unaware of the fact, global warming is consistent with some locations on the planet becomeing cooler, such as central Antarctica.

Lomborg is symbolic of recent trends. Previously he was playing the fuller skeptic, questioning whether it was happening. Now he says it is happening, but we should not do much to try and stop it because a) it will be more expensive to do so than getting mosquito nets to fight malaria, and b) in some places it is good thing, fewer deaths from people freezing.

So, actually a bottom line is that if the facts just keep on coming in and coming in without being able to be countered, eventually even entrenched skeptics will change their minds, or at least some of them, even if it does not mean that they change their minds about what is implied for policy.

wintercow20 writes:

Forgive my ignorance, but part of this thread feels like straw man arguments. Among even the skeptics, I do not believe there are any credible claims that the earth is not warming. Isn't the skepticism appropriately being leveled at whether or not carbon dioxide forcing is the major driver of the warming?

Not only are the GCC models extremely complex, but there are so many links which need to be connected to get from carbon emissions to climate catastrophe that is it a little brash to claim that carbon dioxide is THE reason for the warming planet. Sadly, it would be decades if not centuries before scientists will be able to answer what has caused this recent warming.

One point that is overlooked here, then, is that climate policy ought to follow a no-regrets path. Because if "we" dedicate enormous resources to mitigating carbon, and it turns out that it will have little to no affect on possible catastrophe, then we are really up the river. I just do not see what is so skeptical or dogmatic about this position.

And per Barkley's last point, there might be more facts coming in which are suggestive of resulting from a warm climate. But, that abstracts from whether these affects were human induced - for example, the glacier melting and collapses are largely a function of a warming ocean and all sorts of complicated things like changes to the thermohaline circulation. Did humans cause that? The second important point is that there is something chicken-little-ish about this. What do I mean? Well, Al Gore in his movie chooses to FIRST focus on hurricanes when discussing the global warming question. It is immaterial whether or not he said directly whether they were caused by a warming planet, the fact remains that among the dozens of things that are likely to be bad outcomes of global warming, increased hurricane activity is NOT one of them. Hurricane landings between 1900 and 1950 were far greater than in the most recent 50 years; OTOH, the last 12 years have seen more than the prior 12. The point being, the rest of the arguments tend to lose credibility when THIS is the point that is first emphasized.

The climate scientists consensus seems to be that the issue is complex because the science is young, because it is the science of nearly everything, and because of the modeling required. To assert any more than that is unwarranted.

8 writes:

The debate was hijacked by environmental extremists and socialists as a way to fight capitalism after the fall of the Soviet Union. By conceding scientific ground, many are afraid they will be conceding political ground. It's a legitimate concern because people like Lomborg, who believe in AGW, are nonetheless denounced from all sides because their solution is not "grand" enough. Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, and Freeman Dyson have both suggested land management could solve the problem. Why not try that? Does anyone believe the U.S. government would oppose increased forestry and logging to combat global warming? It has not been proposed because solving AGW is not goal, it is the delivery system for green socialism.

Daublin writes:

Many posters are missing Arnold's point. Whether or not there is a major climate change happening, and whether or not there should be a public policy change, there are a lot of people now invested both in proving major climate change is happening and in carbon-control policies being passed.

Further, I can second Dr. T's experience. There are many people out there who don't understand the debate but are nonetheless convinced we need to regulate carbon output. In my personal experience, not a single person has been interested in going toe to toe about either the science or the policy prescription, both of which are interesting but where the mainstream view has problems.

These people don't care about the truth. They just want to believe and to be part of some grand movement. It looks like a crusade to me, a crusade that frightens me far more than any looming climate disaster.

Barkley Rosser writes:


The issue is not the role of CO2 or for that matter SO2. The issue is the sources and trends of these, although there are a lot of aspects involved in their dynamics that are still not fully understood, such as carbon uptake rates in the ocean, and so on. But CO2 warms and SO2 cools, more or less.

So, the main alternative to a human driving force, and certainly humans have been increasing their CO2 output into the atmosphere, with the ambient concentration definitly increasing. The issue really is the degree of its effect and how much it is offset by SO2 trends. So, volcanoes come into play as a major generator of SO2. But their activity has been declining recently, thereby contributing to global warming, although this factor has not been discussed much in the IPCC reports and related materials.

I would agree that there are "crusaders" out there who do not know much, but who are fully convinced of this or that projection and this or that related policy prescription. Regarding what to do about this, clearly there is much room for debate, and debate is ensuing.

Dan Weber writes:
Forgive my ignorance, but part of this thread feels like straw man arguments. ... a little brash to claim that carbon dioxide is THE reason for the warming planet.

Talk about straw man. CO2 isn't THE reason for warming; the Earth was probably going to warm up regardless of CO2 levels.

However, CO2 can cause the planet to warm more than the natural cycle we are in. We've reconstructed several prior peaks, and while we are in a natural peak now, the temperatures we are seeing are higher than all previous peaks.

Now, maybe that's natural, and this peak was going to be higher regardless. (But even if it was totally natural and we could stop it, we should look into doing that.) Maybe we just couldn't notice the peaks in the past due to limitations of our measurements. Or maybe warming won't be that bad. Those are all decent arguments, although you'd have to spend a lot of thought and energy backing them up, and they might fail even then.

But back to the straw man, I'm unaware of any climate scientist saying that the current warming is due solely to CO2.

Grzesiek writes:


Let move away from fossil fuels but lets do it responsibly. Ethanol is a boondoggle so lets look to nuclear and liquefied coal.

Lets just keep the control of these endeavors away from the US government and place them in the hands of the free market.

Ben Kalafut writes:

That's a schoolboy's view of "scientific evidence". You require the impossible, that we have two Earths, one on which to perturb the climate through various emissions and another to let be. We look back three hundred years from now, and either find that "Gee, all of those geophysicists were right: we did cause massive ecological damage through warming and ocean acidification on earth 1", or we find "those geophysicists were wrong". Cute, but stuck in the dark ages. We expect, no, demand that science produce theories with *predictive power*.

Moreover, your insinuation that the climatologists' line of argument is "a whole bunch of us think so" is ridiculous.

It's aggravating to have to lay out over and over and over what a man who actually does his homework and reads up on the issue could find himself. It's doubly aggravating for science to have to stand up to flim-flam, qualitative, meta-arguments, but here goes:

Climatologists develop theories, based on the laws of physics, to predict such things as surface temperature. As happens in most scientific work, such theories involve approximations, etc. Consequently the theory is tested against real-world data such as temperature records and paleoclimatic reconstructions.

To get meaningful numbers from the theory, it must be integrated by computer simulation. This doesn't somehow make the theory suspect; we find that some problems lend themselves to closed-form analytic solutions and others don't. The earth's irregular geography (it is not a water-covered sphere!) rules out closed form analytic solutions.

The numerical solutions found are checked against data such as temperature records or paleoclimatic reconstructions.

Scientists can then play "what-if?" with the theories, taking out anthropogenic terms and other factors to attribute climate change.

Those who don't understand the physics or the math behind this process have no reason to believe the result except to trust that the people involved know what they're talking about. They also have no reason to doubt the result. Reason for trust comes from the way the business is done: climate scientists are the "skeptics" in the true sense of the word and something being the consensus view in a field means that it convinced these skeptics.

How could they possibly change? It happens often in the history of science. When one's work is tested against the real world, wrong is simply wrong: people heavily invested in (e.g.) a non-quantum reality, the phlogiston theory of heat, various failed models of high-TC superconductivity, Bohr-Sommerfeld quantization, etc. for the most part changed when better theories came along.

Just think about it from your economist's perspective. The payoff in prestige, future employment opportunities, etc. for a Young Turk who solidly knocks out AGW or even puts forth an unsuccessful major challenge is immense compared to virtually negligible costs. (Certain conspiracy-theorists invent fantasy-land high costs but have yet to demonstrate that an unscientific silencing of opposing views by credible threats against careers is actually taking place.)

It just so happens that the global warming denialists are left without scientific arguments these days. The proper thing to do if one (yourself included) believes that anthropogenic global warming is not occurring and believes one's self to have a reasonable argument is to write it up and submit it to the Geophysical Journal, JGR-Atmospheres, or some similar publication.

If you can't do that or at least cite someone who's done that, you have no argument against AGW. And if you have no argument against AGW, you have no business spreading doubt about it.

If you really want to learn why AGW is the scientific consensus (that is, the consensus of those with scientific arguments), is a good place to start.

Dan Weber writes:
Those who don't understand the physics or the math behind this process have no reason to believe the result except to trust that the people involved know what they're talking about.

Hey man, I'm an economist, and because of flibbity floppity floob and derivative marklar of the futures of contracts of fed policy, you need to give me all of your money for safekeeping right now.

What's that? You didn't understand what I just said. Sigh. This is so aggravating, you're such a child. Just give me your money and everything will be okay.

Goddamn it, are you still asking me questions instead of doing your homework? You expect me to explain things to you in a way you understand before you turn control of all your money over to me? Man, you are going to be sorry, so very sorry.

wintercow20 writes:

Per Ben Kalafut's comments and others ...

As a scientist yourself, your continued use of the word "denialist" is exactly what Arnold is talking about in his post. When even the physicists and climate scientists get caught up in the momentum ... look out.

I have attended several scientific presentations by well respected climate scientists, oceanologists, hurricane specialists, etc. and I have been shown enough science to question just what is causing the warming. I find it hard that folks like you just dismiss them out of hand. What is your opinion on Ross McKitrick's refutation of the hockey stick? You probably dismiss it out of hand. What do you say to the observation that it has been warmer in previous interglacials with much less CO2 in the atmosphere? What do you say about the different actual record of temperatures in the tropical upper troposphere than is predicted by warming models (e.g. they should be getting hotter 2.5 times faster than ground temps in other areas, but are in fact heating at 0.75 the rate)? what do you say about the fact that actual warming has been about 1/6 to 1/3 of what climate models predict there should be based on current carbon forcing? What do you say about why certain glaciers have been melting? What do you say about the uncertainty of cloud formation? What do you say about changes in the thermohaline circulation? What do you say about the impact of cosmic radiation? And so on. These have all been in reference to published, peer reviewed scientific papers on the topic of global climate change. I do not recall any of the authors coming out and saying global warming is not happening, and I do not see these guys funded by the energy industry (which by the way, why do folks believe this works in only one direction?).

The answers to the above questions are important for crafting economic policy. Why is global warming the most important catastrophe to dedicate resources to? It could possibly be directing resources away from more highly valued uses. And economic policy does need to consider the possibility that mitigating carbon dioxide will do little to help the climate. If even drastic reductions in carbon emissions are unlikely to do much to mitigate warming (as many of the "believers" even concede), then someone needs to justify the massive redistribution of global resources to this end. Good economic policy will obviously be flexible enough to not send us down this path.

One interesting proposal was to tie a carbon tax to the mean temperature in the tropical upper troposphere. That way, both skeptics and alarmists get their desired policy because both think this mechanism will prove them right.

Dan Weber writes:
One interesting proposal was to tie a carbon tax to the mean temperature in the tropical upper troposphere. That way, both skeptics and alarmists get their desired policy because both think this mechanism will prove them right.
Well, we've got to tax something. I'd support replacing the income tax with a carbon tax. Even if it turns out that AGW is wrong, it's quite unlikely that reducing carbon emissions would somehow hurt.

And in any case, it's better to tax consumption than production.

Dan Weber writes:

Okay, I spent my time on this, so I'm compelled to review it.

The first 10 minutes or so are spent ragging on the GW scientists. No data here. Better to just skip that.

The next part takes out the weakest pro-AGW theories. It's good to take these out, but I already discounted them. They were weak theories, after all.

There are a few things that I wanted to call out as immediatley wrong: saying "animals emit more CO2 than humans" ignores the fact that those cattle are part of our agricultural machinery. I'm also like to ask what they mean about "the ocean emits CO2." Are they talking about its net effect, after subtracting all the CO2 it absorbs?

I really would've liked them to show this video to some of the pro-AGW folks, gotten their arguments against it, and heard how they responded to that. I know the pro-AGW have responded to the "no, heat causes CO2, not the other way around" argument, but this video didn't address that. Same for the "solar flux" and "cloud cover" theories.

They also made a bit of the "global cooling" scare of earlier in the 20th century, but there was very little scientific literature talking about that. It was very much a torch that the media took up without the scientists.

The concept that the environmentalists are holding back Africa is a curious one to me. If they were rational than they'd be spending their time working on India and China, who are actually industrializing much faster. I'd like some information on this bit, because I'm having a hard time believing it.

Summary: for the skeptics, this is much better than anything that has been produced before. But there's still a long way to go before I'll think their case is better than the pro-AGW folk.

Ben Kalafut writes:

See, Dan M., the thing is, I do believe that we should do our homework on economics, too, learn the basics, and read opposing views from the *trained* skeptics: other economists.

On the matters of debate between mainstream economists, at the margin of the field, I as a physicist have no strong opinion. I have no business having a strong opinion.

What we have in the AGW case is economists like Arnold Kling or Dwight Lee (who had the gall to say that climatologists are "ignoring" whatever warming may be happening on Pluto and Mars, which is the same as saying they forgot about or ignored the possibility of an increase in solar irradiance!) expressing strong opinions about AGW without gaining understanding even of the nature of the argument. It's worth noting that this is a strong opinion on a matter not really in dispute among climatologists. AGW is the consensus; the real matters of debate are far more interesting!

Dan Weber writes:

I tend to think that it's more likely than not that AGW is true.

But I can't help but notice the disdain dripping off some of the scientists' lips as they talk of the great indignity of having to interact with the uneducated rabble.

If global warming really is dangerous and will devastate life as we know it, than it seems to me that spending time explaining the issues and answering complaints honestly and calmly is a small price for the scientists to pay. After all, you didn't get into science because you wanted people to obediently listen to everything you said, right?

I know that the skeptics often pull out all sorts of totally batcrap insane theories. Like "if CO2 warms planets then Mars should be super hot, because its atmosphere is 95% CO2!" And it can get annoying dealing with the utter stupidity of that, but it can be dismissed very easily ("it's 50% farther away from the sun and has an extremely thin atmosphere, so of course it's colder regardless of what its atmosphere is made of").

For example, the linked video claimed that solar wind was the best predictor of the Earth's temperature, which graphs that looked like they matched up pretty well. Instead of simply asserting that they are wrong, scientists could explain to the rest of us why that theory is bad.

Jody writes:

Since Ben is claiming that the skeptics aren't doing their science, I'll repeat what I said earlier.

AGW science is *really* bad.

From the IPCC:

Urban heat island effects were determined to have negligible influence (less than 0.0006 °C per decade over land and zero over oceans) on these measurements.

While claiming negligible effects for UHI is laughable, it's even worse than that.

If you look at the stations used in the paper used to cited to make that claim (Peterson, T.C., 2003: Assessment of urban versus rural in situ surface temperatures in the contiguous United States: No difference found. J. Climate, 16, 2941–2959), you find out that there was a GIGANTIC difference between rural and urban trends - about 2 degrees C with rural station trends being approximately flat.

Second, contra Ben's earlier assertion that:

Climatologists develop theories, based on the laws of physics, to predict such things as surface temperature. As happens in most scientific work, such theories involve approximations, etc. Consequently the theory is tested against real-world data such as temperature records and paleoclimatic reconstructions.

There's a *huge* variation in climate forcing variables across models, yet all the models match historical data. How can this be?

The climatologists are not confirming theory to observations, they're introducing fudge factors.

Pulling a quote out of the paper to illustrate just how bad the model fudging is:

One curious aspect of this result is that it is also well known [Houghton et al., 2001] that the same models that agree in simulating the anomaly in surface air temperature differ significantly in their predicted climate sensitivity. The cited range in climate sensitivity from a wide collection of models is usually 1.5 to 4.5 deg C for a doubling of CO2, where most global climate models used for climate change studies vary by at least a factor of two in equilibrium sensitivity.

The question is: if climate models differ by a factor of 2 to 3 in their climate sensitivity, how can they all simulate the global temperature record with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

For all these different models to conform to temperature histories with radically different CO2 sensitivities, it certainly looks like the climatologists are working backward from desired conclusions rather than forward from first principles.

Jim writes:

"It comes across as very persuasive"

All this tells us is that you're easily fooled. Any actual sceptic or independently-minded person would be immediately suspicious of the 'Swindle' film's scattershot tactics, creative approach to charting data and obviously one-sided choice of interviewee. Of course, most AGW 'sceptics' are actually very gullible people.

bee writes:

AGW believers assert that their is no question reagrading global warming. Skeptics ask for evidence to support a hypotheses on cause of warming which rules out historical pattern. Response from Believers is that the tempearture over the past century has increased by ~1C with peak in last few decades via the Manning hockey stick and CO2 ppms up sharply. Assertion is that we have global warming caused by Man. They then add models also show warming trends are dire. No more thinking necessary. They do not accept that alternative explanation is historical pattern. Explanation offered does not rule out vene if they had data line up the way they believe.

Skpetics start with the simple scientfic and statsistcial position that hypotheses testng must be employed. Skeptics follow their counter with temp increase not clear. Manning Hockey Stick is an artifact given research. Temp increase is real but trajectory and level is not statistcially conclusive. Skeptics assert that hockey stick is really a flat line thus not statsical definable pattern. Increase in CO2 is now not connected to temperature increase. We can now look at the geological time record between temperature an CO2 and suggest causality is historically the reverse of what belivers assert. Conclusion by skeptics is thus AGW is not a scientifically supportable hypothesis on two counts - No definable pattern of tempeature increase attributable to anything but historical flucuations and AGW story is not properly specified.

Ben Kalafut writes:

Laughable, Jody?

"Fudge factors?" No. Modern science. Read up on the models you disparage; you'll find no "cosmological constant" type terms added ad hoc.

I'd bother to rebut you, point-by-point, but it's clear you're getting your arguments from a boiler-room operation. The verdict is in your pocket, only the indictment changes.

Ben Kalafut writes:

One remark, though. There's an interesting bit of copy-and-pasted misdirection involving Urban Heat Islands.

The quoted bit from the IPCC report refers to the effect of the Urban Heat Island effect on the change in global temperature from the period 1850-1899 to the period 2001-2005. Dig deeper into the report, away from the Summary for Policymakers, and you'll find information on how the error was estimated. You'll also learn a bit reading both there and following references, about what measures are taken, when surface temperatures are being considered, to correct for the Urban Heat Island effect.

It's also worth considering that land, marine, and now satellite records substantially agree, that Parker et al found the land-based temperature anomaly to be present and nearly equal in magnitude on windy nights as well as still nights, and that the long-term rural trend is actually slightly steeper than the long-term all-stations trend. Consider also the lack of correlation between urbanization and the localized temperature anomaly on the NASA GISS map.

But you would have us believe that because McIntyre found a steeper trend for urban stations than for rural using the data from the Peterson study, that global warming is an artifact of the heat island effect? (Remember: global warming doesn't hinge on land-based measurements only, and,moreover, the people working on this are not such dunces as to merely average the land stations.) Give me a break!

Sorry, Jody, but it still appears as though you're the one not doing your science, having made an apples-to-oranges comparison. Yes, there is an Urban Heat Island effect. No, that doesn't mean the Urban Heat Island Effect has substantially thrown off the global temperature figure. there's no global warming. That's what happens, though, when you merely cut-and-paste boiler-room propaganda.

That cutting-and-pasting, without critical evaluation, is causing us all long-run harm. Shame, shame!

Ben Kalafut writes:

(My last one)

Dan W:

For those of us who aren't working in the field of climatology (I'm a biophysicist...), doing homework for people who won't do their own, then writing up an explanation, takes substantial time. There's a difference between being reasonably versed in the current state of the science and being conversant in it. I count myself as being in the former group, not the latter.

The disdain comes for a few reasons. Two that I can think of are trivial, and two are serious. The trivial ones are:
(1) It's tiresome to have to rebut the same baloney over and over. There isn't so much a discussion going on as there is noise-generation and noise-suppression. Or, one could say, and endless game of whack-a-mole. My sympathies to the economists who find themselves having to counter the anti-foreign bias and explain something as elementary as comparative advantage over and over and over!

(2) It's implicit in many of the excuses the "skeptics"/denialists dream up that professional climatologists are so grossly incompetent as to not take into account elementary things such as a possible increase in solar irradiance or the Urban Heat Island effect. If they don't believe that climatologists and those of us (the real skeptics) who like to follow the literature are total idiots, they instead make us out to somehow be part of a secret socialist conspiracy. I can't decide which is more insulting.

As for the two more serious ones:

(1) From a scientist's perspective, the would-be skeptics are behaving badly, immorally, even, working backwards from a desired conclusion, holding climatologists to an ever-shifting, impossible standard of proof, but not critically examining the arguments they're passing on. Jody above cut-and-pasted an argument that is clearly BS; worse still, a few weeks ago, hundreds of libertarian and right-wing 'bloggers--even Reason, my favorite monthly read--touted a fake paper that was clearly technolalia as though it was a legitimate argument against the AGW hypothesis. Among scientists it's also bad behavior to have opinions stronger than one's knowledge and understanding justifies. I don't have much to say about physics beyond the standard model, or porphyrin chemistry, or a slew of other things. I expect that people who have never read a climatology paper, let alone who don't understand why climatologists believe what they do, to not have strong opinions about matters of dispute in that field, let alone dispute the consensus view of the field!

(2) There's a peculiar laziness about the "skeptics". They wonder "what about Urban Heat Islands?", "what about the sun?", "what do you mean, 'model'?", etc. but don't bother to search the literature, or even pop sources like RealClimate, Scientific American, Climate Feedback, etc. Moreover one encounters, all the time, people who, instead of learning a bit of the physics, ask for the argument for AGW to be put into "lay terms", or even soundbites, and expect it to remain convincing science. It's non-obvious, it's technical by nature, the coarse-grain can be conferred by mere talking, but as soon as the boiler-room arguments contra start coming along, one needs real quantitative science.

I'm of the opinion that we're worse off because many free-market economists and policymakers, like the folks at the Cato Institute, or Arnold Kling, for that matter, have gotten caught up in this "skeptic" hooey, this question of whether or not AGW is occurring, and are consequently both not working on solutions and needlessly harming the credibility they will have when they do come to the table.

Mankiw is probably right about carbon-trading as it is practiced in Europe (with annual permit) allocations and all that: it's a tax plus corporate welfare. Many simply prefer a tax--two whose names are eluding me right now offer a tax as a sort of non-sequitur solution to the problems of the European market.

We *could* institute a market wherein the tradeable permits are permanent, allowing emission of one arbitrary unit of CO2 (or other greenhouse gas in CO2 equivalent units) per July 1-June 30 Northern Hemisphere fiscal year, and then start combating global warming and ocean acidification through a sort of pseudo-Coaseian bargaining (interest groups buy and retire permits--how's that for putting money where one's mouth is?) plus limited government permit buybacks. But nobody is talking about that...

Ramagopal writes:

Instead of denying that global warming is taking place or that it can have disastrous consequences, it would be better if free market economists think about how the market can be used to deal with the problem.

Jody writes:

Ok Ben, what would you consider to be bad science from the AGW camp?

Clearly, showing that the *same* data set used to claim no UHI effect exhibits a massive UHI effect doesn't count.

Yes, I understand that windless versus windy nights didn't show an effect, but yet the urban sites still showed a 2C rise while rural sites were flat.

E pur si muove...

aaron writes:

Ben Kalafut,

I once failed a final exam for a statistical modeling course.

There were few, if any, in that class that understood the subject better than I, and my piers turned to me for help in understanding and on assignments.

The reason I failed is that I didn't bother to write the symbol for the error term on every answer.

Just think about it.

Ben Kalafut writes:

About error terms, your point is what?

USA today, Scholastic Weekly Reader :-) , and whatever else the general public gets its AGW information from doesn't have error bars and uncertainties, yes. That's part of the dumbing-down process. An honest man can't hold dumbed-down pop reports against the science itself.

Ben Kalafut writes:

Jody: My standards for "bad science" are the same as they are for every other field.

If you really think that the assertion by the IPCC that the existence of global warming (whatever the cause) is not merely an artifact of the Urban Heat Island Effect hinges solely on the Peterson result, you need to go back into the IPCC report and read more carefully.

Yes, there is a heat island effect, which McIntyre showed to be about two degrees for cities with NFL franchises. So what! That doesn't mean that the global temperature estimate is off by that much. Follow the links I gave earlier, note that the rural-stations-only temperature estimate is actually higher than the all-stations estimate with those Urban Heat Islands included.

I think you're confused as to the difference between the following three propositions:

(1) There Is No Urban Heat Island Effect (patently false)

(2) The Urban Heat Island Effect is not significantly distorting the land-based temperature estimate (very likely true)

(3) Global warming is not an artifact of the Urban Heat Island Effect's distortion, whatever it may be, of the land-based temperature record (clear as day).

Jody writes:

It's not the magnitude. I can't show that from a single paper that only looks at US stations. What I can show is that a paper used by the IPCC to claim nthat there is o significant urbanization effect exhibits quite the significant urbanization effect.

Let me quote from the IPCC chp3, pp. 243

Over the conterminous USA, after adjustment for time-of-observation bias and other changes, rural station trends were almost indistinguishable from series including urban sites (Peterson, 2003; Figure 3.3

This, as we've established, is just wrong.

This IPCC statement is shortly followed up with a "why isn't there a significant UHI effect observed?" discussion...

One possible reason for the patchiness of UHIs is the location of observing stations in parks where urban influences are reduced (Peterson, 2003).

This too is quite likely to be wrong as actually looking at the temperatures led to a significant divergence between urban and rural trends. To give a more specific example, the central park station - which should be representative of the park phenomenon supposed by the IPCC - unadjusted temperature measurements exhibited a 2C rise - the same as seen in other urban sites.

Note that the subsequent attempted (to use the IPCC's language) debunking of McKitrick says, OK, there was more warming in urbanizing areas than rural areas, but that's entirely due to circulation changes.


But supposing a different cause admits the existence of the effect. In other words to debunk McKitrick, the IPCC document implicitly admits that there was significantly more warming in urbanizing areas. But that contradicts the rest of the section which claims that there was no warming trend divergence.

Admittedly, I'm basically hammering away on a single IPCC claim and a single paper, but that's where I have to start because discussing all the papers I think are horribly flawed is well beyond the scope of this forum (since I linked it for a different purpose, look at the screwy adjustments that were applied to the Central Park station).

aaron writes:


That's what I figured. Point is that people who hype warming ignore it.

charles darwin writes:

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