Who is Bankrolling the Climate Change Counter-Movement?

It’s mostly secret. A new refereed paper by Robert Brulle of Drexel University looks into it.

“The climate change countermovement has had a real political and ecological impact on the failure of the world to act on the issue of global warming,” said Brulle. “Like a play on Broadway, the countermovement has stars in the spotlight—often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians—but behind the stars is an organizational structure of directors, script writers and producers, in the form of conservative foundations. If you want to understand what’s driving this movement, you have to look at what’s going on behind the scenes.”

So he looked, and he found this:

• The biggest known funders of organizations downplaying the importance of man-made climate change are foundations such as the Searle Freedom Trust, the John William Pope Foundation, the Howard Charitable Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation.

• Koch and ExxonMobil have pulled back from publicly visible funding. From 2003 to 2007, the Koch Affiliated Foundations and the ExxonMobil Foundation were heavily involved in funding the climate change countermovement. But since 2008, they are no longer making publicly traceable contributions.

• Funding has shifted to pass through untraceable sources. As traceable funding drops, the amount of funding given to the countermovement by the Donors Trust has risen dramatically. Donors Trust is a donor-directed foundation whose funders cannot be traced. This one foundation now provides about 25% of all traceable foundation funding used by organizations engaged in promoting systematic denial of human-caused climate change.

• Most funding for denial efforts is untraceable. Despite extensive digging, only a small part of the hundreds of millions in contributions to climate change denying organizations can be found out from public records. A group of 91 climate change denial organizations has a total income of $900 million per year—but only $64 million in identifiable foundation support!

All this is from the original paper:

• Robert J. Brulle, Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations, Climatic Change, 2013.

and this summary:

Not just Koch brothers: new study reveals funders behind climate change denial effort, ScienceDaily, 20 December 2013.

Ironically, the original paper would probably be hidden behind a paywall if someone hadn’t liberated it. Get your copy now, while you can!

You can also get 120 pages of details—names and dollar amounts—here:

• Robert J. Brulle, Supplementary online material.

Here is Brulle’s pie chart of who is doing the (traceable!) funding—click to enlarge:

And here is his chart of the organizations who are getting funded:

Here is his graph showing the rise of Donors Trust:

And here is his picture of the social network involved in climate change denial. He calls this the Climate Change Counter Movement. You really need to enlarge this one to see anything:

140 Responses to Who is Bankrolling the Climate Change Counter-Movement?

  1. Interesting how you distort the issue with your title. Who in his right mind denies that the climate changes?

    One can accept convincing evidence of global warming while doubting that greenhouse gases are the primary cause. However, the pause in global warming over the last 15+ years – conceded by you warmists – raises questions even about that.

    • John Baez says:

      I’ve changed the title to something less snappy but more accurate.

      • pfft says:

        What a misrepresentation of data…

        Riddle me this: When did the Little Ice Age begin and has it
        actually ended?

        • @pfft,

          Can you be more specific? Rather than a shotgun blast of accusations, can you specifically identify, giving points and deviations, what you consider misrepresentative?

          Even if it were relevant the so-called “Little Ice Age” would not be covered in the graph above, since it precedes the window of time shown above.

          Check: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2000_Year_Temperature_Comparison.png

          To answer your “… has it actually ended?” it’s pretty clear “Yes”, and it’s our collective responsibility that it did.

        • pfft says:

          You misrepresent the data collected by showing only a fragment of it and that if you were to compare it to the past 15 thousand years, you’d know that the link between CO2 levels and global warming are vastly incomplete:

          http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/stomata.html

          This becomes even more evident if compared to the past 600 million years:

        • “Vastly incomplete”? We don’t need historical correlations to prove the connections, only basic physics. And that physics works because otherwise the semiconductors in all these computers would not.

        • pfft says:

          Comparing climate science to semiconductors?

          Now who’s using logical fallacies?

          It doesn’t work because we have yet to become a type 1 civilization (see Kardashev scale) in which we have the the knowledge and the technology to control our own climate.

          I believe your selective perception is getting the better of you.

        • John Baez says:

          This conversation is turning into a quarrel. Future comments from either of you containing a remark that deviates ever so slightly from polite good manners, or enters the realm of ad hominem, will not appear here. I’ve been too lax in enforcing my usual politeness rules in this thread.

    • Kyle Towers says:

      BIG LIE, Marvin. GW has accelerated. Deniers purposely focus like a laser on surface temps (indicative of ~2% of climate relevant global thermal mass) while absolutely refusing to acknowledge ocean heating (93.4% of any energy imbalance ultimately must reside in the oceans).

      John Baez – Don’t let these deceptive deniers off so easy.

      • John Baez says:

        I don’t have much time for arguments with people who don’t want to dig deeper into the science: it’s an endless chore and I’ve got a lot of other things to do. But I’m very happy for others to do it, as long as the discussions stay polite—and preferably informative!

        Clicking on the graph I presented takes you to Berkeley Earth, whose data shows that changes in surface air temperature are fairly well explained by increasing CO2 (which accounts for the general warming trend) together with volcanoes (which cause short dips in temperature). But I wish I could find a paper of theirs explaining this graph in great detail—I haven’t yet!

        They have some nice ‘memos’ on the pause in the rise of surface air temperature:

        • Berkeley Earth, Examining the recent “pause” in global warming.

        • Berkely Earth, Has global warming stopped?

        However, these memos don’t probe the crucial issue you mention: the flow of heat into deeper layers of the ocean, and how this increases when climate cycles like the ENSO and AMO draw heat from the atmosphere! So, anyone interested in this “pause in global warming” business should also read these:

        Most used climate myths: “Trenberth can’t account for the lack of warming”, Skeptical Science.

        • Stefan Rahmstorf, The global climate jigsaw, RealClimate, 17 December 2013.

        If anyone who really knows this stuff well wanted to write a post about it for Azimuth, I’d be very happy! Right now I should be editing Marc Harper’s post on information theory and evolutionary games, and writing a summary of the recent workshop at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute.

        • Well, John, Mr. Towers was not exactly polite in his reply, calling me a liar and a deceptive denier. At least your reply provides some links to a discussion of the recent pause in global warming, but you only link to one side of the discussion. I too am busy writing a book for Oxford U. Press on geometry, so I don’t have much time now to “dig deeper into the science.” When I do, I will post a link or two to the other side of the discussion.

          But I don’t wish to change the subject of this thread, which is who is bankrolling that “countermovement.” What conclusions are your readers supposed to draw from the identification of those people/groups? Or to be more specific: Why do you consider it important to post that information on your site? Is that helpful in digging deeper into the science?

        • John Baez says:

          Marvin wrote:

          What conclusions are your readers supposed to draw from the identification of those people/groups?

          They can draw whatever conclusions they like.

          Or to be more specific: Why do you consider it important to post that information on your site? Is that helpful in digging deeper into the science?

          As we enter the Anthropocene, the future of the biosphere becomes ever more deeply intertwined with human politics. So, in addition to figuring out climate science, it’s important to figure out what people are doing in response to what we learn about climate science. There’s no way to take effective action without understanding both.

          By the way, this is true regardless of ones opinions on the issues. For example, if one is trying to stop ‘warmists’ like me from infecting the populace with their false views, it should be helpful to know that Donors Trust plays a key role in the struggle.

          But needless to say, the information I provide here is chosen to be, not only true, but also helpful to people whom I believe are doing good things.

          Besides Brulle’s work, I also found it important to summarize what Radoslav Dimitrov has to say about global climate change negotiations.

        • Regarding John’s comment on the Anthropocene, something that impressed me during an early in-depth lecture on climate models (see http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=66157) was that the biggest contribution to uncertainty in future projections is predominantly not any geophysical mechanism but, rather, collective human behavior. This is why projections are parameterized in terms of “RCPs” (representative concentration pathways), these being a function of human choice and global economic behavior. Sure, there are non-linear feedbacks that might kick in at unpredictable points, but the main outcome will be determined by me and you and the guy in the straw hat down the street.

  2. André Joyal says:

    The study reveals that the John Templeton Foundation is spending a fortune supporting climate warming denial. Let me point out that the Foundation is getting some kind of social credibility by supporting the Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi). It is also supporting a project called Defining Wisdom at the University of Chicago. I find it weird, to say the least.

    • John Baez says:

      Opinions on what constitutes ‘wisdom’ vary wildly. But that’s interesting. I’ve taken money from the Foundational Questions Institute. I’m not strongly opposed to taking money from people who take money from people I disagree with. I suppose it could legitimize them. But it also pays for me to complain about them.

      The Templeton Foundation was started by Sir John Templeton, but he died in 2008 and now his son John Templeton Jr. runs it. If you read their biographies, you’ll see some differences in their focus.

      By the way, I do want to answer your question about the maximum temperature increase compatible with human civilization, but any reply will be controversial, and I want to look up some information.

      The Stern Review created this handy chart:


      (Click to enlarge.) However, even if we accept these estimates, it doesn’t quite answer your question.

      • André Joyal says:

        A naive question comes to my mind: why should conservatives support climate warming denials? Climate warming is likely to be immensely destructive of mother nature. In my mind, a conservative should wish to conserve, to preserve, what God has given to us. There seems to be a huge gap separating conservatives from the scientific community. Are conservatives truly conservatives? Given the extend of their support of climate warming denials, there must be a kind of consensus. Is this an example of group-thinking? of ideology taking over? What is this ideology?

        • John Baez says:

          In the United States something very bad has happened: beliefs regarding climate change have become markers indicating ones political views. All opinions tend to get flattened into points along a 1-dimensional continuum, with support for gay marriage, belief in the importance of global warming, the desire for government solutions, and voting Democratic at the ‘left’ end, and opposition to gay marriage, belief in the unimportance of global warming, the desire for smaller government, and voting Republican at the ‘right’ end. This makes it very hard to have intelligent conversations, and that’s why discussions of partisan politics are forbidden on this blog.

          To see how bad it’s gotten, consider this study claiming that in the US, political beliefs are a better predictor of whether people think it’s getting hotter in their neighborhood than the actual weather is!

          • Kevin Goebbert, Hank C. Jenkins-Smith, Kim Klockow, Matthew C. Nowlin, and Carol L. Silva, Weather, climate, and worldviews: the sources and consequences of public perceptions of changes in local weather patterns, Weather, Climate, and Society 4 (2012), 132–144.

          Here’s a nice summary from Ars Technica:

          As the authors put it, “the contentious nature of the climate change debate has influenced the way in which Americans perceive their local weather.”

          That authors of the study used data from about 8,000 poll responses, obtained between 2008 and 2011. The surveys included questions about how people perceived the weather in recent years. For temperatures, they were asked whether they were higher, the same, or lower than in past decades. Similar questions were asked about the frequency of floods and droughts. The survey also asked for self-assessments of political leanings, and included several questions that got at core ideological beliefs (such as egalitarian or individualist tendencies).

          To link the survey results to the actual weather, the authors also obtained the zip code that the respondents called home. For each of these zip codes, the authors generated measures of recent weather (by averaging the last three years of temperatures and rainfall) and the typical climate, by obtaining the same average for the past 30 years. This allowed them to determine whether people from those zip codes were accurately perceiving the trends.

          They checked this accuracy using two methods. For a simple analysis, they simply determined whether the perceived change in a measurement lined up with what actually took place. To get into the details, they performed a multivariate analysis to determine what factors were influencing how well a person’s perceptions matched reality.

          Both droughts and floods passed the simple test. These showed a clear trend in response to precipitation changes, and the trend was in the right direction—people perceived more floods and fewer droughts when there was more rain. And, in the statistical analysis, ideology and political affiliation had a weak effect on the accuracy of recollections, having about as much influence as education.

          Things were completely different for temperatures. In fact, the actual trends in temperatures had nothing to do with how people perceived them. If you graphed the predictive power of people’s perceptions against the actual temperatures, the resulting line was flat—it showed no trend at all. In the statistical model, the actual weather had little impact on people’s perception of recent temperatures. Education continued to have a positive impact on whether they got it right, but its magnitude was dwarfed by the influences of political affiliation and cultural beliefs.

          And those cultural affiliations had about the effect you’d expect. Individualists, who often object to environmental regulations as an infringement on their freedoms, tended to think the temperatures hadn’t gone up in their area, regardless of whether they had. Strong egalitarians, in contrast, tended to believe the temperatures had gone up.

          The authors conclude that climate change has become perceived as a form of cultural affiliation for most people: their acceptance of it is mostly a way of reinforcing their ties to the political and ideological communities they belong to. And, since temperatures have become the primary thing the public associates with climate change, people now interpret the temperatures through a filter based on their affiliations, a process termed “cultural cognition.” In other words, we tend to interpret the temperatures in a way that reinforces our identity, and our connections with others who share similar political persuasions.

          At the moment, however, this same sort of politicization hasn’t occurred with things like droughts and floods, even though changes in precipitation are one predicted outcome of climate change. However, given the attention to the ongoing droughts in much of the country, this may only be true for a very narrow window.

          It is important to add that the political distortion of perceived temperature applies to liberals as well as to conservatives. So, liberals (as well as conservatives) who are concerned for truth should constantly monitor their own beliefs and try to detect such distortions and compensate for them. This is very difficult.

        • André Joyal says:

          Thank you John for pointing out the paper of Goebbert and al. You wrote

          It is important to add that the political distortion of perceived temperature applies to liberals as well as to conservatives. So, liberals (as well as conservatives) who are concerned for truth should constantly monitor their own beliefs and try to detect such distortions and compensate for them. This is very difficult.

          It is obvious that our opinion and belief are influencing our perception of things. Local temperature is jiggling a lot in space and time and it is very hard to estimate its average correctly just by using our nose. The frequency of floods and droughts is different, because these are discrete events and everybody know when there is one. The scientific method is politically neutral and everybody should rely on science. Unfortunately, the truth seems to have a liberal bias.

        • John Baez says:

          I avoid debating partisan politics, but I don’t mind examining some facts. Here’s some interesting data from Pew Research polls of US residents. The most recent data here is from 13 October 2013, but the historical trends are also very interesting.

          It looks like in the last year a bunch of global warming deniers have stopped calling themselves Republican and started calling themselves ‘Independent’ (maybe ‘Tea Party’):

           

          This one is about what people believe scientists think:

          But in 2009, an interesting Pew Research poll showed that only 6% of US scientists call themselves Republican:

        • André Joyal says:

          Interesting! It is not surprising that scientists are deserting the republican party. Not all republicans are anti-science, but the party was taken over by a faction fanatically opposed to darwinian evolution and to anthropogenic climate warming.

          It makes it hard for scientists to support the republican party. I am canadian, and we presently have a conservative government. Scientists working for the government were recently forbidden to publicise their findings unless they obtain a permission. The canadian scientific community is upset and it makes it hard for all scientists to support the conservative party.

        • Giampiero Campa says:

          beliefs regarding climate change have become markers indicating ones political views

          It might be noticed that the same happened about evolution, and to some extent perhaps also economics.

        • André Joyal says:

          Science is valued differently by members of different political parties. Here is recent data from Pew Research polls of US residents. To the question: do you believe that humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of times? 48% republicans and 27% democrats are saying yes in 2013.

        • pfft says:

          “This report is based on telephone interviews conducted March 21-April 8, 2013, among a national sample of 1,983 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia (1,017 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 966 were interviewed on a cellphone). Interviews were completed in English and Spanish by live, professionally trained interviewing staff under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International.”

          The problem with polls is that they only give a snapshot of a narrow group of people which hardly constitutes as being a form a of legitimacy in a scientific debate.

        • John Baez says:

          pfft writes:

          The problem with polls is that they only give a snapshot of a narrow group of people…

          The problem is that you’re just claiming this: you’re not providing evidence. It’s very easy to say anything; without evidence it doesn’t mean much.

          When someone opportunistically hops around making claims on many different subjects, it’s called the Gish Gallop. An example would be saying that Antarctic is gaining ice mass—and then, when convincing evidence to the contrary is presented, saying that it’s melting due to subterranean volcanoes. Readers of this blog are sophisticated enough to be familiar with the Gish Gallop, and not take it seriously.

          Actually, well-designed polls like those of the Pew Research center choose a sample that’s representative of the population. You can use statistics to estimate the error of the polls, and you can test these estimates by doing polls with more people. I urge you to read about polling methodology:

          • Roper Center, Fundamentals of polling.

          and especially how sampling errors are estimated. The Pew Research center has many pages available on their methodology, and particularly the issue of non-response bias. If you have some particular problem with with their polls, you should start by examining these pages.

        • Todd Trimble says:

          John: That link to ‘Gish Gallop’ was great, not least because of the related links listed there. I laughed out loud when I read about the technique of “JAQing off” (which was familiar enough without my knowing this name for it; I hear it every time I’m in the waiting room where the TV is turned to Fox News, waiting for my car to be serviced). That said, I was a little disappointed in some other RationalWiki articles, such as the one on Mitt Romney. (To be sure, it was very funny, but the writers at RW seems to be indulging in some weaselly tactics of their own.)

  3. domenico says:

    It is almost a good work.
    The decisions are made by men, not by companies.
    The sociogram is not interesting, the organizational chart (in the decision time) would be more interesting.
    Some person make choices without repercussion, but I would like to know the persons that use funds to “prove” scientific fact.

  4. klem says:

    Fantastic. So out of nearly $1 billion a year in total funding, what percentage is actually spent on climate denial?

    You’re the science guys, that should be an easy number to solve for.

    Wait a minute. You’re not suggesting that its ALL spent on climate denial are you?

    …….oops.

    • John Baez says:

      Of course it’s not all spent on climate denial; I didn’t suggest it was. Brulle makes this very explicit, and he explains why it’s impossible to take the available records of these 91 organizations and find out the fraction that’s spent on any given task.

    • John Baez says:

      Andrew Revkin writes:

      Robert Brulle pushes back on Guardian $1 billion/yr spin on his study of “climate change counter movement” funding:

      “You may have seen the Guardian article on my paper: I have written to the newspaper complaining about this headline. I believe it is misleading. I have been very clear all along that my research addresses the total funding that these organizations have, not what they spent on climate activities. There is a quote in my paper that speaks directly to this: “Since the majority of the organizations are multiple focus organizations, not all of this income was devoted to climate change activities.” It is fair to say these organizations had a billion dollars at their disposal. But they do a lot of other things besides climate change activities, and so saying that they spent $1 billion on climate change issues is just not true. I did not attempt to analyze the internal spending of these organizations, and so I can say nothing about the total amount spent on climate change activities. I hope that this clarifies the findings of my research.

      Best
      Bob Brulle.

      • André Joyal says:

        If conservative organisations don’t want people to believe that they are massively supporting climate warming denials, they should open their books. I personally don’t trust them. A big oil corporation like Exxon knows that the scientific method is correct and that climate warming is real. The question is: why have they supported climate warming denials?

        • Frederik De Roo says:

          I suppose because it would hurt their short-term profits if measurable action were taken against global warming and they may think that in the long term it doesn’t matter because in the long term we’re all dead.

        • André Joyal says:

          Frederik De Roo wrote:

          they may think that in the long term it doesn’t matter because in the long term we’re all dead.

          Not caring for the young generation and the future of humanity is stupid and criminal. The total amount of carbon emission that humanity may spend without catastrophic consequences, its carbon budget, is limited and small (see a recent paper of James Hansen on PLOS ONE). Ignoring this upper bound is a bad investment strategy (see the Carbon Tracker Initiative). A carbon bubble is looming.

        • Frederik De Roo says:

          Just to be clear, I only meant “they may think that…” and I do not agree with such point of view. But thanks for the reference.

        • André Joyal says:

          Of course Frederik!

        • moziburullah says:

          I would agree that companies like Exxon know that climate change is real; but they want to protect their business in fossil fuels – hence the support denial. Now either they believe Climate Change can be mitigated by technology in the future, or, and more likely, that they can protect themselves from the adverse effects of Climate Change.

        • André Joyal says:

          moziburullah wrote:

          Now either they believe Climate Change can be mitigated by technology in the future, or, and more likely, that they can protect themselves from the adverse effects of Climate Change.

          Some people, especially in the top one-percent, may think that their kind may easily survive climate warming with more air conditioners, and by moving to cooler regions of the globe. This may be possible for a time, but they may not realise that civilised society could eventually collapse because of climate warming. A possible scenario was described by the German socio-psychologist Harald Welzer in his essay Climate Wars: what people will be killed for in the 21st century.

  5. Bradley Robinson says:

    Sure… it’s nice to know who is bankrolling the Climate Change Counter-Movement… 

    The goal of the Energy & Environment Prize Group is to generate breakthroughs in clean energy, climate change, energy distribution/storage, energy efficiency/use, and water resource management. Advances in these fields will lead to greater sustainability and efficiency, while reducing our dependence on fossil 

    fuels.http://www.xprize.org/prize-development/energy-and-environment

    However…GoogleX plans to geo-engineer the “new-built-environment”

    Freeing the Genie from the bottle!

    jobs@vannevartech.com

    In the past few years, Attia has been developing new design and construction technology, which integrates architecture and engineering, for which he has filed for a patent. He named the technology Engineered Architecture (EA). It was necessary to turn the technology into software which dramatically improves all design and construction processes.
    Eli Attia has developed an innovative building design and construction concept that Google sees generating $120 billion annually.

    “EA is a revolutionary, disruptive technology for creating superior quality buildings vastly more efficiently. EA will transform the global building industry by dramatically and fundamentally changing the ways in which buildings are designed, fabricated, constructed and utilized, while saving trillions of dollars.”

    jobs@vannevartech.com

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eli-attia/squaring-the-circle_b_504592.html
    http://www.globes.co.il/serveen/globes/docview.asp?did=1000889578

    A wasteful industry by Eli Attia
    The construction industry accounts for 10% of global GDP. It is the largest consumer of global resources and raw materials – 50% – and global energy supplies – 48%. It also creates the largest amount of global solid waste – 40% – and is responsible for 50% of greenhouse gas emissions. 

    It is the world’s most wasteful industry and the main contributor to the deterioration of the global environment.

  6. Excellent, John. This study and its Supplementary Material caught my eye as well, and I’m still going through it. You’re clearly a faster study than I am but, then, maybe I get distracted with the details of methods used (wanting to steal them for other problems!) and I look forward to completing.

    • John Baez says:

      I’m not a faster study than you; I have not delved into the methods used or even looked for patterns in the data. If you discover anything interesting (including questions), please post it on your blog and drop a note here letting us know!

  7. Reblogged this on Hypergeometric and commented:

    I was and am working through Brulle’s study, but Professor Baez has this excellent summary at his blog, and if I have anything further to say after I digest Brulle’s impressive work, I’ll probably post it there.

  8. John, you wrote in response to my second comment above

    “… if one is trying to stop ‘warmists’ like me from infecting the populace with their false views …”

    I am certainly not attempting to do that! Au contraire, I have called attention to this thread to my mailing list.

    You also wrote

    “the future of the biosphere becomes ever more deeply intertwined with human politics.”

    On the level of human politics, the tide is turning against the movement you support. For examples, Japan’s decision to sharply reduce its carbon emission goals, Australia’s scrapping of a tax on high carbon emitters, and British Prime Minister Cameron, who once pledged to lead the ‘greenest government ever’, has publicly promised to ‘roll back’ green taxes, which add more than £110 a year to average fuel bills.

    • John Baez says:

      Marvin wrote:

      On the level of human politics, the tide is turning against the movement you support.

      Note that instead of conveying information, this sentence is mainly designed to discourage the opposition. When I spoke of “digging deeper”, I meant that I prefer comments that work hard to find the truth about a specific issue.

      For examples, Japan’s decision to sharply reduce its carbon emission goals, Australia’s scrapping of a tax on high carbon emitters, and British Prime Minister Cameron, who once pledged to lead the ‘greenest government ever’, has publicly promised to ‘roll back’ green taxes, which add more than £110 a year to average fuel bills.

      This is actual information—known to everyone who reads the news. These are real and significant events, worth discussing in depth. With Japan the big issue is Fukushima—there’s a lot to say about that. With Australia and Britain the issue is different, more akin to American and Canadian politics: where Republicans/Tories typically try to block carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems. People endlessly analyze this phenomenon, and we could continue.

      But since this thread seems to be about repeatedly changing the subject: I’m actually more interested in China and India. Small countries like Japan and Britain are almost negligible compared to China when it comes to carbon emissions. China now emits about twice as much CO2 as the US, and their emissions are rapidly rising, while US carbon emissions have been dropping for the last 20 years.



      So China matters a lot, and here’s some news about them:

      • Nicholas Wadhams and Mathew Carr, China tests CO2 emissions markets before tax, NDRC official says, Bloomberg Sustainability, 17 October 2013.

      China, the top greenhouse-gas emitter, will continue to test carbon markets and may consider a tax at a later stage to reduce pollution levels, according to a National Development & Reform Commission official.

      Seven pilot programs for markets are going “pretty good,” Jiang Zhaoli, head of climate change at NDRC, said yesterday at a briefing in Beijing, without being more specific.

      China is seeking to cut emissions per unit of economic output by at least 40 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said Sept. 27 there’s enough space in the atmosphere for about 309 billion metric tons of carbon, or about 22 years of emissions at current levels, for a chance to prevent runaway climate change. United Nations envoys are seeking to seal a climate agreement by 2015 that would curb emissions from 2020.

      “Carbon trading is a very good tool for China to reduce emissions right now,” Jiang said. “The carbon tax, I believe, is also an important tool but the current conditions are not mature enough to launch this policy.”

      China may introduce a tax on emissions as part of environmental protection charges, Xinhua reported Feb. 19, citing Jia Chen, head of the Ministry of Finance tax department.

      “We hope from international experience and from our pilots to discover whether we should have a carbon tax or carbon trading or both,” Jiang said. “This is what we are considering at the moment.”

      Carbon markets are about 94 percent cheaper at cutting greenhouse gases than renewable subsidies paid to power producers, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Oct. 9 in a report.

      The U.K. this year imposed a carbon price floor support tax to help spur investment in nuclear energy, even as its factories and power stations participate in the European Union carbon market, the world’s biggest. Sweden and British Columbia in Canada are among other jurisdictions with taxes.

      California, where I live, has recently started a carbon market, and one interesting thing is how it’s having an effect on China:

      • Matthew Carr, EU, California show China how to avoid carbon-permit oversupply, Bloomberg News, 19 November 2013.

      European Union and Californian emissions markets have shown China how to avoid the pitfall of oversupply in its own carbon-trading programs, said the vice mayor of the city of Shenzhen.

      Permit prices on the EU Emissions Trading System plunged 80 percent the past five years, according to data from the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London. Officials from China examined why this happened, said Tang Jie, vice mayor of the southern Chinese city that has a population of 13 million and average income of $20,000.

      “If you look at EU ETS, excessive quota or irrational allocation of the quota for the power sector caused the lower price,” Tang said yesterday at climate talks in Warsaw. Instead of Europe’s model of initially granting allowances for free, China has opted to follow California and require carbon emitters to bid for allowances.

      China is seeking to build a national carbon market even as low prices caused by Europe’s surplus — equivalent to a year’s supply of permits according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance — has prompted direct market intervention. The EU plans to delay the auction of 900 million metric tons of emissions permits to reduce the oversupply. The U.K. took the extra step in April of setting a minimum price for carbon emissions.

      China is the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, the gas scientists say is warming the planet. Seven cities in the nation are starting carbon markets. “We need to phase out that highly polluting, dirty production capacity,” Tang said through an interpreter. “We want to push them to pay for their carbon emissions. We want to kick them out of the market.”

      ‘Lowest Cost’

      A carbon market “will be the lowest-cost way to realize our targets,” with a marginal cost of about 50 yuan ($8.21) for each ton of emissions reduced, he said.

      Putting a price on carbon is forecast to cut power demand in the city by about 16 percent the next three years to an annualized 53 billion kilowatt hours, Tang said. “If we are able to reduce demand for power, then we will reduce carbon emissions,” he earlier told delegates at the United Nations climate conference.

      The carbon price in Shenzhen may be about 70 yuan a ton, almost double the 4.43 euros ($5.99) today in Europe on ICE at 8:52 a.m., Tang said.

      Shenzhen maintained “close interaction and discussion” with the California Environmental Protection Agency in the design of its program, Tang said. China is learning from the EU and California and is withholding allocations and creating permit reserves, he said.

      California’s Experience

      Carbon markets are cost effective and will provide California “with funds so that we can invest in other kinds of programs, so there are co-benefits,” Matthew Rodriquez, secretary for environmental protection at the California EPA, said yesterday in an interview in Warsaw.

      He declined to recommend carbon markets to developing nations seeking ways to help protect the climate.

      “I’m really loath to get involved in the international discussions,” Rodriquez said. “I’m trying to do what’s best for California and I will share my experience in California with other countries and let them make the decision about whether they want to pursue that.”

      China’s adoption of carbon markets has been swift, he said. “What took California six years to get started, it has taken the Chinese provinces and governments six months to get started and that’s a remarkable achievement,” he told delegates.

      Note, I’m not claiming that these developments are bound to succeed in reducing global carbon emissions—far from it! They could easily come to nothing. I’m just trying to point out that interesting things are happening in China, which might turn out to be important. A simple metaphor like “the tide is turning against the movement you support” doesn’t capture what’s really going on.

      • You wrote

        “With Australia and Britain the issue is different, more akin to American and Canadian politics: where Republicans/Tories typically try to block carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems.”

        You have not “dug very deeply” with that remark. Yes, the conservatives do try to block as you said. Have they succeeded in California? NO. So why the reversal in Australia and Britain?

        In Britain, anyone can check that many non-wealthy voters are publicly angrily complaining about the economic costs (e.g., energy bills) of the battle against carbon.

        • John Baez says:

          Marvin wrote:

          You have not “dug very deeply” with that remark.

          Right, that’s why I wrote “People endlessly analyze this phenomenon, and we could continue.” The subjunctive meant I wasn’t actually going to do so in this comment. In general, English-language media focus a huge amount of attention on England and its former colonies, which are just a tiny piece of the world, so I get a bit bored with that.

        • One main point of my comment is that in Britain, many non-wealthy citizens have angrily complained about their increased energy costs due to anti-carbon pro-costly-alternative-energy government policies. I could document that and what is going on in Australia. You said all that is in the news and known.

          The deeper point of that point is that these many voters have turned against the climate change movement primarily because they are hurting economically. So the question of who is bankrolling the countermovement is not so important as the question of what to do about their economic pain.

        • Mr Greenberg,

          Economic pain from climate change mitigation is largely due to our delay in implementation. Had we begun in 1990, for example, the adjustment would have been largely painless. If we delay longer, not only will the economic pain of direct impact of climate change be greater, the economic pain of limiting additional change will be higher. Stocker examined this and reported on it earlier this year, with the singular graphic:

          http://hypergeometric.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/runningoutoftime.png?w=900

          That’s from T. F. Stocker, “The closing door of climate targets”, Science 339, 280 (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1232468

        • Greg Egan says:

          Speaking as a non-wealthy Australian voter, the carbon tax here involved negligible economic pain, because the financial impact on most households was more or less balanced by compensatory government hand-outs.

          It might sound as if that would render it irrelevant, but what was created was, roughly, a neutral effect for the status quo, but a greater penalty to be paid for any increase in consumption.

          However, electricity bills here have been rising regularly long before the carbon tax was introduced, because the utilities are spending heavily on updating their distribution network. To the extent that the distinction between the two influences on power prices were blurred, perhaps some proportion of people voted against the previous government from a mistaken belief that the carbon tax was the primary cause of the increases.

          But, sad to say, the previous government were spectacular screw-ups on dozens of fronts, and I’ve seen no evidence that the carbon tax was the main reason that they lost office.

          The new government’s official policy is that they accept the reality of AGW, but believe they can meet the same emissions reduction targets more effectively with an emissions reduction fund that will be used to pay large emitters to adopt new technology. I have no idea whether or not this will work, but some assessments have concluded that the fund will not be large enough to have the desired effect.

  9. Wolfgang says:

    Very nice. Could you now please do the same for the climate change movement? If not, it is nothing more than ideology.

    • John Baez says:

      Why is unearthing all this detailed data “nothing more than ideology”? Did you read the paper? It looks quite factual to me, applying careful statistical techniques to 120 pages of data—not an ideological screed. The results are valuable no matter what your views are. Indeed, people in the climate change countermovement should find it especially valuable: it’s a kind of map of this movement.

      I agree someone should do the same for the climate change movement. It will take someone about 1 or 2 years of hard work. Are you motivated enough to do it?

    • Todd Trimble says:

      Well, if you have credible evidence of clandestine funding of a “climate change movement”, then by all means you should present it.

      The assumption that there *must* be such a thing (on general grounds) reminds me of the adage “the truth lies somewhere in the middle”. Here is some material on that: golden mean fallacy; false balance.

    • @Wolfgang,

      Um, actually, equal treatment is *not* necessary for equal disposition. Past behavior should surely be considered, and that considered in the context of at least two major social movements from the 20th century: (1) the marketing and legislative and litigation campaigns to reduce existing public transport in favor of highways and personal automobiles, and (2) the campaigns designed to convince the public that scientific evidence, in hand, which proved tobacco use caused cancer was ineffectual, uncertain, or irrelevant.

      Besides, if you “believe in” the proper operation of your cell phone or your computer, you are already “ideologically committed” to the science of climate change, for the same physics that permits us, with high reliability and low cost, to engineer the semiconductors of the cell or the computer is identical to that which predicts climate will change as we emit the enormous amounts of carbon dioxide we do.

      Want to choose?

  10. pfft says:

    I find it funny that there’s 15 ads supporting global warming when you google climate change counter movment…

    I think we should be asking who’s bankrolling global warming?

    Last time I checked, we have seen both record high and low temperatures throughout 2013: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/extremes/records/

    According to NOAA, all evidence suggests that the world is now cooling which is most evident after watching the artic ice cap baloon by over 60% in the past year:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/09/10/icesat-data-shows-mass-gains-of-the-antarctic-ice-sheet-exceed-losses/

  11. pfft says:

    There’s no doubt that WAIS is experiencing a lot of change but none of the data being collected has been linked to human activity. I mean, it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that there’s a subglacial volcano rumbling below it…

    The increasing variability of our climate indicates that there is a lot more going on than just Co2 emissions. In fact, our entire solar system is going through some pretty massive changes:

    Mars is showing increased seismic activity.
    Jupiter has opened a second eye.
    Neptune has produced a superstorm that doesn’t seem to have any end in sight.
    Venus is spinning 6.5 minutes slower.
    The Sun appears to be entering into a period of little to no activity.

    And we all know the Earth’s magnetic field has been steadily decreasing well before we started spewing out tons of CO2.

    Many of these so-called climate scientists who perpetuate the argument that we’re responsible for climate change completely ignore the fact that we’re a planet in a solar system and that there are other forces outside of our system that affect our climate.

    For instance, physicists have produced further evidence that links cosmic rays with the formation of clouds on Earth:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090801095810.htm

    The real problem we’re all suffering from is not climate change, but environmental change which without a doubt, we are directly responsible for. Agenda 21 does attempt to confront some these serious environmental issues, but there are parts of it that should be considered to be dangerous for the entire planet and thus banned.

    • @pfft,

      These assertions are meaningless until they are made quantitative. Worse, they appear to be a combination of Missing The Point and Kettle Logic and Inflation By Conflict and The Gish Gallop and Hasty Generalization. Basically, they are irrelevant, because the physical phenomena cited have such a small effect upon Earth they could not be responsible.

      In contrast, increasing carbon dioxide by 2%, 3% can, we know, have a massive effect. Why look to Neptunian superstorms when humanity is releasing 6-8 GigaTonnes of carbon every year, and historically this has been increasing at over 3.5% per annum, compounded. U.S. annual energy consumption is about 60,000 trillion Watt-hours.

      I think we can do better. Cutting costs begins where there is fat.

      • pfft says:

        You’re completely missing the point and you need to drop the condescending attitude.

        Your statistics are meaningless on a geological time scale which I think most in their right mind would agree with.

        The point I was trying to make is that we know very little about the climate of our solar system (let alone, the rest of the galaxy as we circle around) and until we have that data, all of this talk about CO2 bringing about doom and gloom to the masses is nothing more than political scare tactics.

        • André Joyal says:

          pfft wrote:

          all of this talk about CO2 bringing about doom and gloom to the masses is nothing more than political scare tactics.

          Would you please explain how you know that?

        • pfft says:

          It’s a personal observation.

          I believe that the entire climate issue has become corrupted by politics given the fact that we have poolings on scientists to see who supports the theory and who doesn’t.

          I’m neither a denier nor a supporter. I simply just don’t believe we have the technology nor the data to know for certain..

          However, to say that ‘we are the absolute direct cause of climate change’ is sheer ignorance and I don’t buy it – not for one second.

          I mean, wasn’t it predicted by these so call climate experts that the ice caps would be gone by now back in the late 90s?

          Predicting how the climate will change is as easy as predicting the next CME or earthquake if not thousands of times more difficult…

        • John Baez says:

          pfft wrote:

          I mean, wasn’t it predicted by these so call[ed] climate experts that the ice caps would be gone by now back in the late 90s?

          Could you please provide some convincing evidence that a lot of climate scientists predicted in the 1990s that the ice caps would be gone by now?

          If you look at the 3rd IPCC report, back in 2001:

          • IPCC Third Assessment Report, Climate Change 2001: Working Group I: The Scientific Basis, Chapter 11: Changes in Sea Level, 2001.

          you’ll see only very cautious predictions about the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. They pointed out that these contain enough ice to raise sea levels 70 meters, but estimated that from 2000 to 2100 the melting of Greenland ice will only be enough raise sea levels by 6 centimeters, while Antarctic ice will grow and lower sea levels by 1 centimeter. So, the consensus in 2000 was that these ice sheets will melt very slowly, with the main cause of sea level rise being thermal expansion of seawater.

          The 4th IPCC report, back in 2007, also took a conservative stance and assumed that the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets would melt at a slow and more or less constant rate until 2100. Their conclusion was that about 75% of sea level rise would be caused by the oceans expanding as they warmed. The melting of small glaciers, ice caps and Greenland would account for most of the rest. The Antarctic, they believed, would actually provide a small net reduction in sea levels, with increases in snowfall more than enough to outweigh the effects of melting. They predicted an overall sea level rise of between 0.18 and 0.59 meters, with most of the uncertainty arising from different assumptions about what the world economy will do.

          However, almost as soon as the 4th IPCC report was released, evidence started to accumulate suggesting that the melting of Greenland and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet were speeding up.

          This graph, taken from Skeptical Science, shows Isabella Velicogna’s estimates of the mass of the Greenland ice sheet. Unfiltered data are blue crosses. Data filtered to eliminate seasonal variations are shown as red crosses. The best fit by a quadratic function is shown in green. The data came from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites—or GRACE for short: a remarkable project to measure small variations in the Earth’s gravitational field from place to place with extreme accuracy.

          The big news, of course, was that the melting seems to be speeding up! Here’s the same sort of graph for Antarctica, again created by Velicogna:

          • I. Velicogna, Increasing rates of ice mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets revealed by GRACE, Geophysical Research Letters, 36 (2009), L19503.

          More recently, Eric Rignot and coauthors have compared GRACE data to another way of keeping track of these ice sheets:

          • Eric Rignot et al, Acceleration of the contribution of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to sea level rise, Geophysical Research Letters 38 (2011), L05503.

          These graphs show Rignot’s results:

          Graph a is Greenland, graph b is Antarctica and graph c is the total of both. These graphs show not the total amount of ice, but the rate at which the amount of ice is changing, in gigatonnes per year. So, a line sloping down would mean that the ice loss is accelerating at a constant rate.

          By fitting a line to satellite and atmospheric data, Rignot’s team found that over the last 18 years, Greenland has been losing an average of 22 gigatonnes more ice each year. Antarctica has been losing an average of 14.5 gigatonnes more each year.

          The Copenhagen Diagnosis, written in 2009, was intended to serve as an interim evaluation of the evolving science before the 5th IPCC report. Its executive summary says, among other things:

          Current sea-level rise underestimates: Satellites show great global average sea-level rise (3.4 mm/yr over the past 15 years) to be 80% above past IPCC predictions. This acceleration in sea-level rise is consistent with a doubling in contribution from melting of glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland and West- Antarctic ice-sheets.

          Sea-level prediction revised: By 2100, global sea-level is likely to rise at least twice as much as projected by Working Group 1 of the IPCC AR4, for unmitigated emissions it may well exceed 1 meter. The upper limit has been estimated as 2 meters sea-level rise by 2100. Sea-level will continue to rise for centuries after global temperature have been stabilized and several meters of sea level rise must be expected over the next few centuries.

          In short, early underestimates of the rate of melting are being corrected by more accurate data.

        • pfft says:

          All in all, I think the general populace often confuses ‘climate change’ with ‘environmental change’ and that many if not most believe the two are synonymous with one another when infact they are on entirely different levels.

          Anything that has to do with the preservation of nature I support 100% since as it stands, we are completely juvenile about the general upkeep of our planet at an ‘environmental level.’

          If we don’t do something soon, we will be responsible for the near extinction of the remaining 10% out of the 90% of life that has ever existed…

          If we ever learn to manage our environment, then perhaps one day we’ll live to learn to manage our climate.

        • John Baez says:

          André wrote:

          The two problems are closely related: climate warming is likely to cause a mass extinction.

          The two problems are indeed closely related. These days I like to treat global warming as just part of a bigger phenomenon, the Anthropocene. I gave a talk about this:

          • John Baez, What is climate change?, Balsillie School of International Affairs, 25 October 2013.

          Extinction rates are already 100-1000 times their background level. But this is not mainly due to global warming—not yet! Habitat loss, overfishing, and other forms of intense resource exploitation are key causes.

          There are also many other ways in which we’re dramatically changing the biosphere! I list a bunch (with links to references) on the 2nd page of my talk slides. I think the Anthropocene is not something can be stopped; we can only try to guide it in a good direction.

        • André Joyal says:

          pfft wrote:

          If we ever learn to manage our environment, then perhaps one day we’ll live to learn to manage our climate.

          The two problems are closely related: climate warming is likely to cause a mass extinction. I sometime imagine that saving the biosphere is a cosmic test for humanity. It is our duty to preserve the Garden. We have the material power to save it, but we may fail by stupidity and greed. We need to better understand our role in human society and in the biosphere. We need more wisdom and courage.

          http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/n/nelson_mandela.html

        • pfft says:

          “Could you please provide some convincing evidence that a lot of climate scientists predicted in the 1990s that the ice caps would be gone by now?”

          It’s something I remember from the late 90s being said by a few scientists of that time whom I forget the names of. But these sorts of stories appear as often as those who are predicting the end of the world:

          http://english.pravda.ru/news/science/15-10-2009/109909-arctic-0/

          It’s well known to scientists that “climate change is amplified at the poles.”
          As the icecaps melt, more radiation from the Sun is absorbed by the surrounding ocean instead of being reflected back out into space:

          http://www.climate.gov/news-features/videos/explaining-why-climate-change-amplified-poles

          What makes this even worse is that the protective ozone layer over Antarctica has nearly disappeared:

          http://www.gmes-atmosphere.eu/pressroom/

          Note: Scroll to bottom.

          I am always suspicious when I only hear one side of any story. Our climate has changed throughout history and all evidence suggests that it’s happening again now. And finally the loudest voices in the world have begun to offer more than just carbon emissions as an excuse for the shift. Make no mistake, CO2 both anthropogenic and natural does play a role along with methane and water vapour.

          The greenhouse gas correlation to temperature has been remarkably more stable than alarmists would have you believe for hundreds of thousand of years. This is according to the Vostok ice core data taken back in 1999:

          http://www.globalwarming.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Vostok-Methane.jpg

          http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/icecore/antarctica/vostok/vostok_data.html

          Why it has been so stable even in within questionable periods may to some small degree have something to do with how life has evolved on this planet. Everyone now knows that as CO2 levels increase so does the rate at which plant life grows. As for Methane, there appears to be a type of bacteria that thrives on ingesting this gas before it even hits the atmosphere:
          http://www.aaas.org/news/2011/01/06/science-gulf-bacteria-quickly-digested-spilled-methane-research-says?sa_campaign=Internal_Ads/AAAS/RSS_News/2011-01-06/

          If we step back and take a second look at life in the warming Arctic waters, we see that phytoplankton, the keystone to the oceanic food chain and a devourer of CO2, has bloomed to enormousness scales.

          http://www.earth.columbia.edu/articles/view/2993

          As for monitoring current CO2 levels within the atmosphere, it appears we will hit 400ppm by 2016 according to this site which monitors it in real-time:

          http://co2now.org/

          However on a longer time scale we see that the correlation between CO2 levels and temperature has officially deviated from one another:

          http://www.southwestclimatechange.org/figures/icecore_records

          On a scale spanning hundreds of millions of years things become a lot less certain. Even if these experiments have a high margin of error, they are currently our best guesses:

          http://worldview3.50webs.com/6globalwarming.html

          One thing is for certain is that even if atmospheric CO2 levels jump to the thousands, the average global temperature (which currently is no where near the historic high mark) will remain unaffected on a geographical time scale.

          Those pushing for a lone carbon causation like to show that the Sun’s energy has remained consistent since this has all started:

          http://www.climate.gov/#dataServices

          Note: At the bottom of the page under Global Climate Dashboard click Sun’s Energy button.

          This is where the alternative hypothesis begins. But first, the Sun’s energy absolutely does ebb and flow and has generally increased over the last 70 years even if only slightly. NASA recently joined this discussion, forcefully asserting that slight solar variability can have drastic changes on our climate:

          http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2013/08jan_sunclimate/

          Scientists are observing that this is one of the most influential climate forcing factors:

          http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00411.1

          “The spectral analysis showed periodicities of ~2.6, 4, 5, 12, 16, 39, and 105 years that coincide with some large-scale climatic phenomena and also with solar activity. In particular, the ~12-yr cycle is the most persistent periodicity in this study.”

          http://iopscience.iop.org/1063-7869/36/7/A09

          It’s certainly not a new notion but we are now gaining more of an understanding of how the Sun and cosmic rays effect our climate. We’re starting to learn the true power of energy from space and it’s effect on our planet as well as others:

          http://scitech.au.dk/en/current-affairs/news/show/artikel/scientists-at-aarhus-university-au-and-the-national-space-institute-dtu-space-show-that-particle/

          “Clouds, which are drops of water, occur more easily when water vapour in the atmosphere can condense around particles – dust or large clusters of molecules. Researchers have now shown that electrons caused by cosmic radiation can create small particles that can grow in the atmosphere into such cloud condensation nuclei. This is interesting in the light of the controversial theory proposed by Henrik Svensmark, DTU Space, who postulates a correlation between solar activity and the Earth’s temperature: when the Sun’s activity increases – and thereby magnetic fields (seen as more sunspots) – more of the cosmic particles deflect and fewer therefore reach the Earth’s atmosphere, whereupon there is less cloud formation and the temperature rises on the Earth’s surface. And conversely: when the magnetic field is weakened, the temperature drops. (Graphics: DTU Space)”

          One aspect of this currently under dispute between IPCC reports and others is the mechanism for cosmic ray cloud formation which is well understood:

          http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/11/2697/2011/acpd-11-2697-2011.pdf
          http://www.leif.org/EOS/Cloud%20Cover%20and%20Cosmic%20Rays.pdf

          Recent data presents contradictory observations:

          http://calderup.wordpress.com/category/3c-falsification-tests/

          This of course does not change the fact that they ionize the atmosphere and electro-chemically destroy the ozone when nitrogen and oxygen square off:

          http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090801095810.htm

          Keeping in mind the move towards space weather influence of the climate. The piece of the puzzle that gets almost no mention in ‘recent press’ is the one I consider most important:

          http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3359555.stm
          http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/05/magnetic-field-1_2.html

          Earth’s protective interface with energy from space, known as the magnetosphere, has been weakening over the past 400 years according to this:

          http://wdc.kugi.kyoto-u.ac.jp/igrf/anime/index.html

          Even though it appears to be common knowledge within the scientific community, it’s curious that the general public doesn’t hear more about it even if NASA does a Swiss cheese impression of it:

          http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/16dec_giantbreach/

          However there are those who have taken it more seriously:

          http://geomag.org/info/declination.html

          What gets even less coverage by both climate scientists and the press is Earth’s magnetic pole shift. Earth’s magnetism changes in other ways as the pole shift has indeed begun:

          http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2003/29dec_magneticfield/

          It has been documented that the shift is accelerating but there are no reliable updates on this phenomena which seriously needs to change. Most especially since the Earth’s atmosphere is shrinking.

          We’ve all heard the phrase, “the sky is falling” but in this case it really is happening:

          http://news.discovery.com/earth/earth-atmosphere-shrinking.htm

          With a poorly thought-out assumption, they try to blame it on CO2 but nobody, not even NASA, has been able to explain why. What is known is that it’s the biggest contraction we’ve seen since the last solar minimum 43 years ago (when we were all big believers in Global Cooling) and that we expected it would happen again but not to this extreme:

          http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/solar-minima.html

          “Earth receives wind from only the edges of these holes and it’s not very fast. But in 2007 and 2008, the coronal holes were not confined to the poles as normal.”

          The recent solar minimum started normally for a few years, but since 2007 they began to leave their normal polar positions and broke for lower latitudes.

          Then, the minimum known to shrink the atmosphere deepened to lower than it had been in a long time:

          http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/30sep_blankyear/

          But it didn’t stop there and went even lower and continued to extra low levels beyond when the minimum was supposed to end:

          http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2009/01apr_deepsolarminimum/
          http://www.ips.gov.au/Solar/1/6

          “2009 1.5 1.4 0.7 1.2 2.9 2.6 3.5 [0.0] 4.2 4.6 4.2 10.6″

          (Note the 0.0 in brackets)

          At present, solar activity is as low as it was when the Little Ice Age began:

          http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24512-solar-activity-heads-for-lowest-low-in-four-centuries.html

          It is known that a solar maximum would expand the atmosphere, but with the atmosphere appearing to be clamped down, for who knows how long, due to solar activity – or lack thereof. It is no wonder that more energy from space is being absorbed by our planet.

          But it’s not just our planet that is going through climate change, but it appears that the entire solar system is shifting:

          http://www.astrobio.net/pressrelease/4581/modern-marsquakes
          http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2013/01/17/cassini-spacecraft-reveals-unprecedented-saturn-storm/
          http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2011/19may_saturnstorm/
          http://www.science20.com/news_articles/now_broadcasting_radio_jupiter-93369
          http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2010/20may_loststripe/
          http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2006/02mar_redjr/
          http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/media/cassini-062804.html
          http://www.universetoday.com/93494/is-venus-rotation-slowing-down/

          This all may seem trivial to us, but on a planetary scale it is very significant. Most especially if you compare the amount of change of other planets to Earth, you’ll find that we’re going through the least amount of change.

          Going beyond our solar system we find that the rest of the universe has to fight it’s way past our heliosphere before it can reach any of us:

          http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2009/15oct_ibex/

          “Understanding the physics of the outer heliosphere is important because of the role it plays in shielding the solar system against cosmic rays. The heliosphere’s size and shape are key factors in determining its shielding power and, thus, how many cosmic rays reach Earth. For the first time, IBEX is revealing how the heliosphere might respond when it bumps into interstellar clouds and galactic magnetic fields.”

          Little is known about the climate of our solar system and even less about the mechanics of our Suns’ heliosphere. We can only suspect that it plays some part or another in the shifting climates of our planets. In other words, we simply don’t have the data to create any accurate models to help us predict its effects on Earth.

          Although one thing is for certain and that just like Earth’s magnetosphere, it is fading along with the Suns’ magnetics as predicted by

          But the planet is changing and it’s all extremes and not just warming. And it does appear to have begun long before humans had a chance to be its genesis or do not much more than speed up the process.

          It’s not that they aren’t trying to have a say in the matter in every corner of the globe. Solar radiation management is the name given to their efforts to stop planetary warming. You’ve seen those days when the air plane trails don’t disappear but grid and blanket the sky.

          The spraying of aerosols is supposed to be a last resort and not in full operation over our heads:

          http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2009/oct/01/china-cloud-seeding-parade
          http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2012/09/04/China-promises-more-weather-control/UPI-16551346813582/

          Patents even describe spraying out of airplanes:

          http://chemtrailsplanet.net/2012/12/10/chronology-of-us-patents-for-spraying-atmospheric-aerosols/

          There are other aspects of weather modification involving wave propagation and air ionization. All types, high frequency and low frequency on land, ships, planes and even satellites – more than I can name:

          http://coto2.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/atmospheric-geoengineering.jpg
          http://justmeint.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/solar-radiation-management.jpg
          http://www.dvice.com/archives/2011/01/did-scientists.php
          http://wwwppd.nrl.navy.mil/whatsnew/haarp/

          Many believe you can see their signatures on radar and in the clouds. But when it comes to that radar equipment, there are those who believe their use of these frequencies is not just and more than what they’re telling us:

          https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NEXRAD_NETWORK.jpg
          http://www.colinandrews.net/OtherCircles.html

          This would indeed be scary considering that they are everywhere across the globe. I’m not an expert on all of these devices but I will give you one piece of advice: HAARP. The high frequency active auroral research program refers only to high frequency conductivity modulation of the auroral electro jet near the poles. There are Tesla arrays, Nexrads, and other devices that need no help from HAARP spread all across the globe but when you see stuff like this in Iowa you have to ask if this is the result of electrical changes in the northern lights or the result of localized weather modification experiments?

          I know this might seem scary when you think about these climate scientists trying to stop some magnificent shift here on Earth and if they told us the truth we’d probably panic, anarchy would ensue and ruin everything they were trying to save.

          However, it is a terrible idea to play God. I have no faith that they understand the long term effects these technologies. And this is despite the fact that humans have survived things like this in the past. They may be doing more harm than good and are lying about its implementation given the fact that aluminium oxide aerosols is toxic to all life.

          You know I never would have thought that NASA would push these topics in this way, let alone champion the ideas.

          How long until they tell us the rest of the story?

          Well for now they justify all of this activity by blaming us which is also known as Agenda 21.

        • Kyle Towers says:

          This is in reply to your latest loooong Gish Gallop. That’s what it was. John Baez identified your use of the tactic nearly a full day ago and linked to an explanation of it.

          Unlike your comment, mine, mine will be short, but sweet:

          1) It was a Gish Gallop. A GG is tactic of deception. You deserve no response to any of your rapid-fire disinformation spewing.

          2) I read part way through your screed, skimmed some more, and then quit. That’s a valid response to a GG and in no way invalidates my response to it.

          3) I believe that every point in your GG, both those I read and those I didn’t, are either long-refuted, failed arguments, transparently fallacious, or both. I noted several that most definitely were. In fact, I have refuted some of them over and over. It’s tiresome. Who repeats failed arguments endlessly? Deniers do. And conspiracy theorists. And cranks.

          4) In an earlier comment, you lost all credibility by repeating outrageously counter-factual BS (warming stopped; we’re in danger of catastrophic cooling, Arctic sea ice is ballooning upward), stating your belief in climate science being all politically driven rather than the denial industry, and referring to scientists as “so-called”.

          5) Only by accident did I get a glimpse of the end of your comment. Agenda 21! You seem to be a True Believer, not a paid shill. It’s usually the paid shills that produces monstrous volumes of BS trying to impugn the science, but they tend to shy away from the really cranky stuff because their masters know that it turns off people who lack the conspiracy theorist’s brain defect.

          6) I hope that John Baez ignores your comment altogether; He has far better things to do with his knowledge and his skills.

        • John Baez says:

          I am going to delete some of the insults in your comment, Kyle, because we don’t allow insults here. I am glad pfft wrote his latest comment, because in it he “lays his cards on the table” and reveals the full scope of his thinking about these topics. I had not been planning not to reply to it, because I consider it self-refuting.

        • André Joyal says:

          To pfft (4 Jan at 2:03 am):

          I am not a climate scientist but I think you have every right to question the idea that climate warming is anthropogenic. However, I see no reason to distrust the position of the vast majority of climatologists on the question. I would love to know your real name, as you know mine. If you are a professional climatologist, you have the obligation to convince your peers that you are right and that they are wrong. There will be a discussion and some experiments could be made. There are plenty of examples in the history of science where a dominant theory was proved to be wrong and eventually replaced by a better one. This is how science works. Your responsibility as a scientist is to convince your peers, experts like you. Please, don’t ask me to arbitrage the value of your idea, since I am not an expert in your field. But if you fail to convince your peers and invoke some kind of obscure conspiracy to justify your failure, I will grow suspicious of your judgement and honesty.

        • pfft says:

          Apparently I hit a soft spot again since you’re now throwing a temper tantrum.

          It’s not gish gallop, It’s my own personal perspective and if you don’t like it then don’t say anything at all most especially since you claim to have not read it.

          If you had followed the links, you probably would be saying something very different, but no… [some insults deleted - JB]

          I bet some of it or maybe even a lot of it is ‘self-refuting’ but it’s what I understand. I mean, I’m not a scientist nor an academic so cut me some slack…

      • pfft says:

        I really do appreciate both your thoughtfulness and willingness to mediate this difficult subject and everything that surrounds it.

        It takes a certain type of mindset to put up with it which is actually quite rare.

        As flattered as I am by your assumptions, I’m nothing more than a manager at a gas station.

        The irony, right?

        In any case, all of my ‘commentary’ should be taken with a ‘grain of salt’ most especially since I have absolutely zero credentials in any of these matters.

        If anything, what I was ultimately trying to achieve is not only quantify my own beliefs, but to see if anyone would challenge them to a degree in which I could better understand it all…

        If that makes any sense?

        But to respect this topic and to finally push forward a source that aims to refute the evidence provided by Brulle. I would like to see what your impressions are of this article that was recently released in response:

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2014/01/02/dark-money-funds-to-promote-global-warming-alarmism-dwarf-warming-denier-research/

        Don’t get me wrong, in no way shape or form do I support this conservative channel. But he does put a pretty good argument most especially when you start to track the money trails yourselves.

        For example lets take a look at the UK: (which wasn’t even mentioned in the article)

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/8933497/Millions-of-taxpayers-money-spent-on-tackling-climate-change-abroad.html

        To me it seems that many multinational corporations and wealthy governments are using the climate change scare as a smokescreen to launder money if you couple some of these activities together…

        I mean, what is the very first thing you do when you become rich?

        You create your own charity or join one to reduce your taxes.

        What better what to look legit than through a noble cause such as saving the planet?

        Again, this is just my own personal commentary which is all coming from a simple minded gas station manager…

        Don’t bite my head off!

        • Kyle says:

          There’s no need to delve into your links to refute the position that the opposing sides in this debate have remotely similar credibility. One side has mountains of peer reviewed science. The other doesn’t. One side does research and supports their conclusions by referencing it. The other misrepresents the science, lies about it, libels scientists, uses fallacious and contradictory arguments, repeats errors and failed arguments for years after they’re exposed, publishes only in blogs, etc.

          You don’t need to know anything about climate science to reach the only rational conclusion: If the deniers had valid argument, they wouldn’t use invalid ones 10,000 times/day.

        • André Joyal says:

          I am puzzled by virulence of the debate on climate warming. The idea that climate warming is anthropogenic seems to be hurting deeply some peoples, despite the scientific evidences supporting it. Science is good and modern societies are very much tributary of it. Why this new distrust of science? I find it strange and I would like to understand it. Maybe the climate warming counter-movement should be studied from a sociological and cultural point of view. It is not the first time that a new knowledge is received with hostility. The obvious example is Darwin’s theory of evolution in England during the 19th century. In this case, the opposition came from the church and from the conservative members of society. Even today, there are peoples opposing Darwin’s theory on the basis of their religious belief. But if anthropogenic climate warming is hurting some fundamental beliefs, what are they?

        • Kyle says:

          André – There has been a lot of studies of the denial phenomenon. They’re fascinating to read. It’s about the only way that science is involved with denial.

        • André Joyal says:

          Kyle, I am curious to read these studies. Could you please send me some references? Thanks (joyal.andre@uqam.ca)

        • John Baez says:

          I too would like to see which studies Kyle is talking about.

          Here’s something I found interesting:

          • Lawrence C. Hamilton, Education, politics and opinions about climate change evidence for interaction effects, Climatic Change (2009).

          In the US, for Democrats and independents, more education goes along with greater acceptance of the scientfic consensus on climate science. But Republicans who are college graduates are less likely to accept the scientific consensus on climate change than those less educated.

        • André Joyal says:

          Thank you John for pointing out this 2009 paper. I had a quick reading and find it very interesting. It shows that concern with climate change increased with education among Democrats, but decreased among Republicans! It clearly shows that education and ideology can affect how people process information. The methodology of the paper is all about studying correlation between statistical variables. This leaves open the question of why some peoples are fiercely opposed to anthropogenic climate warming. For example, many christians, (jews and muslims) are rejecting Darwin’s theory because it contradicts the Bible, or an interpretation of it. Darwin’s theory was also officially rejected in Soviet Unions under Stalin because marxists wanted to believe that (human) nature can be perfected:

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

          More recently, the socio-biology of E.O, Wilson was opposed on ideological grounds by some liberals and christians:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_O._Wilson

          I would like to identify the ideology, if any, behind the opposition to anthropogenic climate warming. It may not be directly visible or explicit in the narrative of the opponents (they dont want to sound ideological). Science itself is an ideology (not all ideologies are bad).

        • André Joyal says:

          I have a candidate for the core ideology of the climate warming counter-movement: MARKET FUNDAMENTALISM.

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

          It is pretty obvious that a market fundamentalist will oppose anthropogenic climate warming for at least two reasons:

          (1) He has the unshakable belief, despite contrary evidence, that unfettered markets are good. But climate science is telling us that unhampered carbon emissions are harmful. Therefore climate science must be wrong.

          (2) He believes that in a given society the best interests are achieved by allowing its participants to pursue their own financial self-interest with little or no restraint or regulatory oversight. But carbon emission will not be curbed without government interventions (to impose a carbon tax on emission) and international agreements. Therefore climate science must be wrong.

          Of course, these arguments are ridiculous. This is why they are not made in public. A market fundamentalist will attack the credibility of climate science on other grounds.

          Beware that I am not saying that all climate warming deniers are market fundamentalists. Also, someone may adhere to the basic principles of market fundamentalism without been aware that he is a market fundamentalist by name.

          The hypothesis that market fundamentalism is the core ideology of climate warming counter-movement is probably not new. It should be verified empirically.

        • John Baez says:

          I think that’s a good hypothesis! I think it’s been studied already, but I imagine it deserves much more study.

          Here’s something slightly relevant:

          • Anthony Leiserowitz, Climate change risk perception and policy preferences: the role of affect, imagery and values, Climatic Change 77 (2006), 45–72.

          Here’s a summary of some findings:

          Policy preferences, however, were most strongly influenced by value commitments. Support for national and international climate policies was strongly associated with pro-egalitarian values, while opposition was associated with antiegalitarian, pro-individualist and pro-hierarchist values. Interestingly, these value commitments were stronger predictors than either political party identification or ideology. In particular, the consistent finding that egalitarianism was a significant predictor of risk perceptions and policy preferences is all the more remarkable because the egalitarianism measures were not related to global warming, the risk under study, in any direct way. These measures asked respondents how much they agreed or disagreed with statements like, “what this world needs is a more equal distribution of wealth” or “firms and institutions should be organized so everybody can influence important decisions.” Despite the nondomain-specific nature of these measures, they nonetheless proved to be highly significant predictors, even after controlling for affect, imagery and sociodemographics.

          These results thus support one of the predictions of Cultural Theory – that egalitarians are more sensitive to and concerned about environmental risks. All of these results therefore suggest that underlying values and worldviews strongly condition the way many members of the American public currently think about this risk and public policy options to mitigate global climate change. These findings also imply that risk perception and policy preferences go well beyond issues of scientific literacy, analytical reasoning and technical knowledge – instead they suggest that risk perception and policy preferences are strongly influenced by sociopolitical factors as well (Finucane et al., 2000; Slovic, 1997). Future analysis will compare these factors with other potential explanatory variables, such as knowledge, trust and general environmental attitudes.

          “Antiegalitarian, pro-individualist and pro-hierarchist values” are all compatible with “market fundamentalism”, but it would be interesting (and important) to try to sort these out in more detail, and find if there’s one key set of beliefs that makes people unwilling to accept the scientific consensus on global warming, or a constellation of several.

          This study is relatively old for this new branch of inquiry, and I bet there’s a lot more to read by now.

        • André Joyal says:

          In my opinion, to be egalitarian or anti-egalitarian is not so much a matter of personal choice than one of social condition. I expect to find a higher concentration of market fundamentalists in the top one-percent, simply because this ideology serves their social position. Of course, there are also market fundamentalists in the middle and lower classes, but for different reasons. I would like to know what people think, and why they think what they think. I think the scientific community should side with the middle class. The America I love has a strong middle class.

      • pfft says:

        The reason I’m a ‘skeptic’ is not because of my political nor religions orientation. I do however think of my self as an agnostic theist (I don’t believe in god, but philosophically I won’t deny that any species will or could eventually reach their maximal potential via technology and innovation and yes, I believe in ‘evolution’) but I’m also a libertarian socialist as I believe in small government and that we need to take a socialist approach to ensuring basic human rights: food, water, shelter, healthcare, etc…

        [insults deleted - JB]

      • pfft says:

        “In the US, for Democrats and independents, more education goes along with greater acceptance of the scientfic consensus on climate science. But Republicans who are college graduates are less likely to accept the scientific consensus on climate change than those less educated.”

        So in other words, tribalism is the root of the problem in making any kind of positive advancement?

        I suppose it’s inevitable given the fact that mixing politics with science creates social and financial divides…

  12. In the graph representation of organizations at the bottom of the post, what do the arrows and symbols (circles, diamonds, etc.) represent?

  13. “Deniers” with any level of sanity only deny the proposition “anthropogenic factors, especially carbon dioxide emission is the dominant factor behind climate change”. No one in her right mind would deny climate is susceptible to change nor anthropogenic factors may have some contribution.

    Otherwise the very phrase “climate change denial” is offensive, which is not a happenstance, it is meant to be. It is created as a mirror image of “holocaust denial”, which is bad enough for skeptics, but even worse for holocaust victims or their progeny, because it trivializes an inherently serious issue. Just imagine what would come to those deniers if anthropogenic climate change turned out to be negligible indeed compared to that induced by genuine natural factors, which, considering the extremely wide equilibrium climate sensitivity probability distribution promoted and the inherent uncertainty of time constants involved is a very real possibility at this point in time.

    Therefore IMHO it is not politically correct to use the d word ever in any other fixed context than it was meant to and hereby I kindly ask you to refrain from further violations.

    As for the money thing, $900 million/annum is pittance, even if it is all spent on climate change denial propaganda, which is not proven and I doubt it. Most of the “climate change countermovement” organizations have a much wider field of activity, so only a fraction is spent to promote that particular end. Anyway, this sum is orders of magnitude smaller than the money spent on fighting climate change, Big Oil itself contributes more than that to the budget of green NGOs and to projects inspired by them.

    However, the entire money talk is immaterial, because most skeptics do not get any funding, not a penny. They do it on their own time and initiative, for good reasons.

    The trouble starts with the central stage computational climate models are given. It is said they are the only game in town to predict (project?) future climate states, therefore we can’t help but rely on them. With the same logic before the advent of large multistage rocket engines the only game in town to ever reach the Moon was a huge gun. Did it make it work? Of course not.

    Unfortunately computational climate models are light years away from being based on first principles. To make them computationally tractable, they use some oversimplified physics, in fact they rely on the Reynolds averaged Navier-Stokes equations, which have this tiny little closure problem. That is, they lend unphysical solutions if the parameter regime needed for closure is not completely covered by experimental data, which, in case of climate is not and never will be. They can’t even be validated to any degree using a single uncontrolled run of a unique physical entity, therefore they are completely outside the realm of science. Please note the dissipation scale of the climate system is in the submillimeter range, while the resolution of the most ambitious models is some 100 km, an 8 orders of magnitude gap, or rather, twenty-something, because flows are supposed to go every which way in 3D.

    The original sin, of course, was to ignore the fact we have no general theory of irreproducible quasi steady state non equilibrium thermodynamic systems whatsoever, to which class the terrestrial climate system belongs to. There is not even a straightforward way to define Jaynes entropy for irreproducible systems, where microstates belonging to the same macrostate can evolve into different macrostates in a short time due to chaos.

    Climate is huge, it can certainly not be brought into the lab, but other members of this class could be, providing rigorous experimental verification to any would be theory. Unfortunately this obvious track is completely ignored by climate scientists so far.

    For the reproducible case we have something, but it is not directly applicable to climate. One can try to generalize it though.

    There is one more clue I have found so far, it is The Observed Hemispheric Symmetry in Reflected Shortwave Irradiance, a fundamental property not replicated by computational models. It indicates a strong regulation of albedo and may be connected to rate of entropy production, as most of entropy production occurs in the climate system when incoming shortwave radiation gets absorbed and thermalized. However, it can not be a maximum entropy production state, because rate of entropy production could be increased easily by lowering albedo a bit, but Earth is definitely not black as seen from the outside.

    I do not think there is any strong argument supporting a projected detrimental greenhouse effect other than computational models and those are in a sad state indeed, lacking proper physical foundations.

    Therefore a sceptical stance is absolutely valid this time, at least from a purely scientific point of view. And science has nothing to do with politics in a sane world. In an insane one, who knows?

    • André Joyal says:

      Peter Berenyi wrote:

      Just imagine what would come to those deniers if anthropogenic climate change turned out to be negligible indeed compared to that induced by genuine natural factors.

      Climate warming is a nightmare and I dream of waking up one day to discover that it is all over. I would celebrate and dance with everybody, including the deniers! Unfortunately, the nightmare seems all too real. I am not a climate scientist, but I see no reason to distrust the position of the majority of climate scientists:

      http://climate.nasa.gov/causes

      There are plenty of evidences that CO2 is the culprit and climate modeling is one of many. You should address your critics to the experts. But why do you wish to disculpate the obvious culprit?

    • Frederik De Roo says:

      To make them computationally tractable, they use some oversimplified physics

      I’m quite sure that many computational fluid dynamics models that were in the past succesfully used in aviation or rocket science used similar “oversimplified physics” and before it became computationally tractable nobody could run a turbulence model down to the Kolmogorov scale.

      I do not think there is any strong argument supporting a projected detrimental greenhouse effect other than computational models

      Without taking feedback effects into account, a rise in carbon dioxide levels entails warming, I think that everybody agrees to that. It’s allowed to be skeptical of climate models, but I’m skeptical of people who implicitly or explicitly assume that feedback loops in the Earth system will magically protect its current state without even providing models that back up that claim.

      • Berényi Péter says:

        In engineering applications like aviation / rocket science / car body design / whatever oversimplification of fluid dynamics is justified, since one can do as many experiments in wind tunnels to cover closure as one wishes. In climate science it is not the case.

        It is the wrong way to formulate the carbon dioxide issue by looking at “feedbacks”. In a dry atmosphere CO2 can increase surface temperature indeed by a moderate amount, not alarming at all, by increasing IR optical thickness. However, terrestrial atmosphere is not dry, Earth has a resupply pool of condensed GHG on its surface called ocean, infinite for all practical purposes.

        The ten thousand billion dollar question is, what happens to Planck weighted IR optical thickness of the actual atmosphere and what happens to its shortwave albedo, if some well mixed IR absorber is added to it, which is active in a subband of thermal infrared.

        It is a difficult question, because water vapor and its airborne condensed form, clouds are not well mixed. The water contents of an air parcel depends on its history, more accurately on its temperature the last time it has got saturated, not on its immediate surroundings. What is more, shape of an originally bulky parcel gets distorted into a fine mesh of filaments with time due to turbulent flows. The net result is that at any moment atmospheric water is distributed in a pretty scale invariant, fractal like manner. The physics behind this phenomenon is not resolved by computational climate models at all.

        We have empirical proof, that the amount of shortwave radiation entering the climate system is strictly regulated by this messy process, but its theoretical explanation is lacking.

        On the other hand, contribution of an unevenly distributed absorber to optical thickness is ill defined, it is certainly not proportional to its average concentration. A wire fence is almost completely transparent, while a thin metal plate, containing the same amount of material per unit area is opaque.

        Therefore, even if we assume a constant average relative humidity, which may not be the case in the upper troposphere, but if it is assumed anyway, so average specific humidity increases with temperature, it tells nothing about its contribution to IR optical thickness. To that end we would need higher moments of its distribution as well, which are neither modelled nor measured properly.

        The story is not about implicitly or explicitly assume that feedback loops in the Earth system will magically protect its current state, but to provide proof to the contrary. We do not need models to back up this claim either, an impossible task indeed until something gets known about irreproducible quasi stationary non equilibrium thermodynamic systems in general, that is, about the very physical foundations any such model is supposed to be based on. By the way, we have positive empirical proof that nothing protects the current state of the Earth system magically or otherwise against profound change even in the absence of additional well mixed IR absorbers, just think of the last Glacial Maximum, for example.

        The precautionary principle is fine, until it entails costs. It would dictate for example to dig yourself deep into the mountains and live the rest of your life in tunnels with sufficient supplies for a century. Unfortunately it is not a life except perhaps for high government officials, who have this kind of facility ready, financed by the humble taxpayer, of course. It is far more reasonable to assume after all that the tens of thousands of clearly understood nuclear warheads currently on stock will go off eventually, than to encumber society with enormous costs in the absence of adequate physical understanding whatsoever.

        • Frederik De Roo says:

          We have empirical proof, that the amount of shortwave radiation entering the climate system is strictly regulated by this messy process, but its theoretical explanation is lacking.

          Great! I don’t know any details of this but does this mean that solar spots cannot influence earth’s climate because the shortwave radiation is strictly regulated anyway?

          We also have empirical proof of warming (I already know you don’t agree) and the greenhouse effect is about longwave radiation.

          The story is not about implicitly or explicitly assume that feedback loops in the Earth system will magically protect its current state, but to provide proof to the contrary.

          So you want proof that feedback loops do not magically protect the current state of the Earth system? Clearly it didn’t in the past, because the climate has changed before.

          A wire fence is almost completely transparent, while a thin metal plate, containing the same amount of material per unit area is opaque.

          Are you really saying this argument has to be extrapolated to gases? (rhetorical question)

        • Berényi Péter says:

          Frederik De Roo says:
          14 January, 2014 at 2:12 pm
          Great! I don’t know any details of this

          That’s unfortunate, because I have already provided the link to a seminal paper twice. Would you please read up?

          In a nutshell it is about the negligible difference, observed by CERES, in annual average reflected shortwave radiation between the two hemispheres in spite of the fact their clear sky albedoes are very different, the Southern one being inherently darker. This remarkable balance is brought about by clouds, nothing else, and is not replicated by computational climate models.

          At the same time swings in global reflected shortwave irradiance are much larger, but that must be part of a regulatory loop.

          the greenhouse effect is about longwave radiation

          The “greenhouse effect” is about the balance between incoming shortwave radiation and outgoing longwave. If more is absorbed and thermalized than emitted, the climate system as a whole is warming up. However, this precarious balance is the one not measured by CERES due to some systematic bias. These measurements are precise indeed, but inaccurate, so comparison between quantities of the same kind is justified, but one can’t calculate the balance. Therefore guys recalibrated CERES data using ocean heat content measurements, which are much less precise, are subject to huge instrumental changes and have reasonably complete global coverage down to a depth of 2000 m only since 2007, because before that they could not venture deeper than 1000 m in tropical and subtropical waters due to a technical issue with early ARGO floats.

          In the upper 700 m of oceans, for which we have reasonable coverage in the last decade (but not before), not much heat accumulation is observed. Somewhat more is assigned to the layer between depths 700 m and 2000 m, based not so much on accurate measurements but assumptions coming from climate models. As it is still not enough to close the gap between model predictions and reality, a lot of heat is hypothesized to go below 2000 m, where it has safely escaped measurement.

          The whole intercalibration effort is targeted on saving the models and I can see no clear distinction between what is actually measured and what is expected on theoretical grounds. That’s not the way to go in science.

          So you want proof that feedback loops do not magically protect the current state of the Earth system?

          Yes, I do want proof. Not about some “magical protection”, but about the system’s response to a specific kind of perturbation. I would like to see proof of how the amount of absorbed shortwave radiation changes relative to average IR optical depth in response to increases of well mixed atmospheric IR absorbers in the real Earth system, but I have seen none so far.

          Clearly it didn’t in the past, because the climate has changed before.

          Yes, climate is definitely prone to change and currently it is in a quite exceptional state called interglacial within a millions of years old uninterrupted ice age. As we have permanent polar ice sheets in both hemispheres, we are still in an ice age, technically speaking, in spite of the fact mid latitude ice sheets are temporarily gone. Exactly what brings about these short intermissions, which prevail at roughly 10% of the time, recently in every hundred thousand years or so, is unknown. What is known though, it’s not changes in atmospheric concentration of well mixed IR absorbers. The other curious fact, known from paleoclimate studies is the profound stability during interglacials, when we don’t see the huge swings known as Dansgaard–Oeschger events, which indicates a steeply decreasing sensitivity to perturbations with increasing temperature. Cause is unknown.

          Are you really saying this argument [the wire fence thing] has to be extrapolated to gases? (rhetorical question)

          Yep. Not to any gas though, just to water vapor, which is a special case. It is the only atmospheric gas which has a condensation point well within the natural temperature range, so its atmospheric lifetime is short, about 9 days. It is not enough for turbulent atmospheric flows to mix it evenly, therefore its concentration shows huge differences on all spatio-temporal scales. As it is an excellent SW reflector in its condensed state and IR absorber in any state, the details, that is, higher moments of its distribution are indispensable to calculate its contribution to both absorbed and thermalized radiative energy flux and to average IR optical thickness in the thermal range. Unfortunately data collected so far are insufficient to do that.

        • André Joyal says:

          Jan 14 at 10:49 Peter Berenyl wrote:

          The precautionary principle is fine, until it entails costs. It would dictate for example to dig yourself deep into the mountains and live the rest of your life in tunnels with sufficient supplies for a century. Unfortunately it is not a life except perhaps for high government officials, who have this kind of facility ready, financed by the humble taxpayer, of course. It is far more reasonable to assume after all that the tens of thousands of clearly understood nuclear warheads currently on stock will go off eventually, than to encumber society with enormous costs in the absence of adequate physical understanding whatsoever.

          The cost of fighting climate warming should be compared with the damage it can do. A democratic government is protecting people. You have a paranoid vision of government. Why do you find it more reasonable to assume that tens of thousands of nuclear warheads will go off eventually?

        • John Baez says:

          André: saying someone has a “paranoid vision of the government” is not the same as calling someone paranoid, but it’s close enough that this person is likely to take it as an insult, and I don’t allow insults on this blog. I would hate to have to shut down your conversation with Berényi Péter because it turned into a fight.

        • Frederik De Roo says:

          In response to Peter Berenyi, may I conclude that:

          your main point is that although there is a greenhouse effect for longwave radiation, that meanwhile also to shortwave incoming radiation is altered in such a way that the difference between both remains the same. As a hint for a deeper mechanism of this alteration of shortwave incoming radiation you are pointing towards this hemispheric balance.

          Thought-provoking suggestion! I didn’t read the paper (I have other things to do before I want to spend my time questioning the majority of climate experts, and I personally have no feeling fort what kind of physical principle could be behind that) but I clearly saw your link to it, and thanks for your summary of it. With “I don’t know much” I just meant that this I wasn’t replying as an expert, but that may have been clear from my answers too ;-) Besides, reading just one seminal paper won’t create an expert either.

        • nad says:

          Berényi Péter wrote:

          The “greenhouse effect” is about the balance between incoming shortwave radiation and outgoing longwave. If more is absorbed and thermalized than emitted, the climate system as a whole is warming up.

          I am more or less a total newcomer to this subject of climate science which hopefully excuses my irritation:
          Subtracting the overal internal heat, which comes from the hot earth kernel I imagine that the overall radiation balance more or less indicates how much energy of the sun was “left” on earth, that would include all types of radiation. Moreover from this energy left on earth some is used to “deform” the earth, i.e. goes into “mechanical energy” (whatever this includes exactly) and the rest would then go into heating the planet. ?

        • Berényi Péter says:

          Frederik De Roo says:
          15 January, 2014 at 6:18 am
          In response to Peter Berenyi, may I conclude that:

          your main point is that although there is a greenhouse effect for longwave radiation, that meanwhile also to shortwave incoming radiation is altered in such a way that the difference between both remains the same.

          You may not. The so called “greenhouse effect” depends on both the average vertical distribution of IR optical thickness in the atmosphere and on its thermal structure. Those are heavily influenced by atmospheric distribution of water in all its phases and on all scales, which is neither measured nor modelled properly. Therefore any value assigned to the global greenhouse effect, specifically effect of increasing baseline IR optical thickness on it is just a guess at this point in time.

          Specific humidity tends to decrease fast with increasing height because of adiabatic cooling and the fact that cold air can hold less moisture than warm one. Therefore terrestrial photosphere, the layer from where the majority of radiation escapes to space at any specific frequency is much thinner in water vapor absorption bands than in sidelobes of the major carbon dioxide band centered at 15 micron. However, it is not a smooth surface, far from it. It is utterly crinkly with the occasional hole in it, holes of any size that let lower, similarly crinkly but hotter &. brighter layers to shine through. To calculate or even measure the greenhouse effect on such a surface is a challenge indeed, a challenge never met, that is.

          At the same time atmospheric water in its condensed form plays a central role in regulating the radiative energy flux entering the system. The close match between average hemispheric reflectances shows it is a regulated process indeed, although the sweet spot of this regulator is set by unknown physics, an emergent phenomenon in an irreproducible non equilibrium system. If it were reproducible, that is, microstates belonging to the same macrostate would evolve to the same macrostate with time, which is not the case with climate due to its chaotic nature, then it can be shown that rate of entropy production would be held at its maximum possible value by the internal dynamics of the system. However, in the climate system most of entropy production occurs when incoming shortwave radiation gets absorbed and thermalized, so one could easily increase entropy production by making the surface a bit darker. In spite of this Earth is not dark as seen from the outside, which indicates irreproducibility is not a second order effect, but the main player on stage. With no general theory covering this case it remains a mystery how it may come about though.

          questioning the majority of climate experts

          This expert thing is tricky. In an obviously untainted field it is of course the first instinct of sane folks to rely on experts. However, let’s have a look at Homeopathy, for example. The field has its own qualified experts, schools, peer reviewed journals, conferences, you name it what more is needed to become legitimate “science”, still, I would rather ask anyone but expert homeopaths about claims in this field, first of all guys in neighboring disciplines like doctors, chemists, nurses and the like. Why is that?

        • Frederik De Roo says:

          You may not.

          Ok, I try again to understand your main point. Is it then:

          any alteration (whether positive or negative) in the longwave radiation is meanwhile accomodated by a change in shortwave incoming radiation in such a way that the difference between both remains the same.

          or rather

          with all feedbacks correctly accounted for, the atmosphere re-adjusts in such a way that there is no alteration in the longwave radiation due to a rise (or fall) in carbon dioxide levels

          If it’s again none of these, please don’t expand into any underlying reasons but try to stay close to my wording (at least in the case that you want to help me understand your main point, which is why I’m replying)

          Actually it’s a bit funny that you cite a seminal paper from a field that you compare to homeopathy (so I conclude you still trust a number of climate scientists, depending on how you judge the quality of their research)

        • Berényi Péter says:

          John Baez says:
          15 January, 2014 at 5:59 am
          André: saying someone has a “paranoid vision of the government” is not the same as calling someone paranoid, but it’s close enough that this person is likely to take it as an insult

          Relax, no offense is taken. He is probably too young to be exposed directly to the hard reality of nuclear threat. There were at least 2 occasions when only valiant efforts of specific individuals pulled the world back from the brink of an all out nuclear exchange, in 1962 and in 1983. There were possibly others, somewhat more carefully concealed &. classified. The world may have changed, but those nukes are still there, they can go to high alert any time. An appreciable effort to ease my paranoid stance regarding it would involve decommissioning all, but that’s not likely to happen any time soon.

          André Joyal says:
          15 January, 2014 at 3:44 am
          The cost of fighting climate warming should be compared with the damage it can do.

          And that damage would be what? How these calculations are to be performed with no adequate scientific understanding of the climate system? Anyway, would you be so kind as to provide a link to detailed calculations which also include potentially beneficial effects of carbon dioxide like global greening along with a thorough understanding of the discount rate?

          A democratic government is protecting people. You have a paranoid vision of government. Why do you find it more reasonable to assume that tens of thousands of nuclear warheads will go off eventually?

          That’s the theory, yes. Democratic governments are supposed to do that. In reality they just want to be re-elected and it is up to the electorate to protect themselves from utter fools as much as they can. On top of that, as you know, not all governments are spotless champions of democracy.

          While we are at it, the job of a democratic government is not so much about “protection” but about promoting freedom. In the US Constitution, for example, freedom is a central theme while protection is only granted to member states against invasion or domestic violence. Otherwise only rights are supposed to be protected. By the way, the two stances can have very different practical consequences.

          As for protecting the people, well. The Cheyenne complex is still in operation. It can withstand a 30 megaton direct nuclear hit and can protect select government officials and high ranking military personnel. I am quite sure maintaining this facility has costs, which are justified how? Really, how on earth they are justified if ordinary citizens are denied access to similar protection? I understand quite well that the costs would be prohibitive, but the damage a full scale nuclear holocaust can do surely overshadows that. If any protection is needed against 30 megaton warheads anywhere for anyone, that can hardly be anything else than a full exchange.

          Therefore it is not so much about why I find it reasonable to assume that tens of thousands of nuclear warheads will go off eventually, but why serious people are willing to keep spending taxpayers’ money on useless protection for themselves if that threat is completely unreasonable?

          You know, it is in script writer 101 that should a gun appear on stage, someone is supposed to be shot.

        • Berényi Péter says:

          Frederik De Roo says:
          15 January, 2014 at 10:03 am

          Frankly, I do not know the answer to those questions. The point is no one does.

          What I do know is that GCMs (General Circulation Models) are flawed beyond repair. Setting the main paradigm of climate science to “models are the only tool we have to make predictions (later: projections(!?)), so let’s rely on them” the field has started off on the slippery slope to become a full fledged pseudoscience. It is not quite there yet, but any climate scientist who has not recognized this state of affairs is not a scientist and those who have but do not speak up are not scientists either.

          I can see some hope to improve scientific understanding in this field by considering the general case of quasi stationary non equilibrium thermodynamic systems, of which class the terrestrial climate system is but a humble instance. Several members of said class are small enough to fit into the lab, so, unlike climate, they could be studied experimentally. I would focus on those with chaotic internal dynamics and many internal degrees of freedom. But no one has started off this road, yet.

          However, both scientists and grantors have to get rid of the false notion of usefulness first. Yes, science is utterly useless, it pursues truth and nothing but, which is good for nothing. And yes, there are invaluable spinoffs sometimes, which have already transformed our daily lives beyond recognition compared to a pre-scientific era, and life is way better indeed this way than it used to be, but that’s not the purpose of the scientific endeavor. It is a good reason for the taxpayer to pour money into the bottomless pit of science though. But only if it does its own job, that is, does not even pretend to be useful. Much less try to tell policymakers or God forbid, the general populace what to do.

        • Frederik De Roo says:

          In reply to Peter Berenyi

          Frankly, I do not know the answer to those questions. The point is no one does.

          So now I’m relatively certain that I can finally conclude that your main claim is:

          Nobody knows what will happen when we add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere due to the complicated feedback structure of Earth system.

          and then I want to answer (in case anyone is interested) that indeed I believe that nobody knows for sure. But I prefer to be cautious to change the atmospheric composition, though this is perhaps a conservative point of view. From the purely scientific point of view it would also be tempting to perform a geo-engineering experiment, wait 50 years, and see what happens to increase our understanding of Earth system feedbacks, but there is only one Earth to play around with.

          Please don’t reply again with your list of arguments, I’ve already heard most of them in one form of another and I can scroll up and down if I want to (re)read them. But I’m glad (I think) I finally understood your main claim and thank you for your cooperating to achieve this.

          FYI, somewhere else you wrote about Andre Joyal his ‘young age’. I presume he is a distinguished mathematics professor well in his sixties. Unlike climate processes, this is something we can find out for sure.

        • Berényi Péter says:

          Frederik De Roo says:
          15 January, 2014 at 5:29 pm
          FYI, somewhere else you wrote about Andre Joyal his ‘young age’. I presume he is a distinguished mathematics professor well in his sixties.

          Uh, oh. You may be right. In that case I am a bit less happy with that paranoid thing. Never mind, I am sorry for him, not for myself.

          And you must be Dr. Dr.-Ing. at IMK-IFU working on turbulence modelling. You should be able to understand my points better than I do.

          However, I am not so agnostic as you are trying to paint me. I still have hope some hidden variational principle or such will save our asses, eventually. One should have faith. And I do hate the “feedback network” picture, it is misleading right up to the wall.

          Anyway, it was a pleasure to meet you.

        • André Joyal says:

          To Peter Berenyi (15 January, 2014 at 12:16): I do not catch the technical aspects of your discussion with Frederik De Roo. Surely, climatologists would love to have a better understanding of the role of water vapour in climate warming. Did you try to publish your theory?

          You wrote:

          Relax, no offense is taken. He (andre joyal) is probably too young to be exposed directly to the hard reality of nuclear threat.

          I am actually a 70 years old retired mathematician! I do share your worries about the prolifiration of nuclear warheads. A nice way to get rid of this dangerous material is to burn it in fast nuclear reactors to produced electricity. The idea was proposed by Bill Gates and James Hansen (among others) as a way to fight climate warming:

          http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates.html

          You wrote:

          Anyway, would you be so kind as to provide a link to detailed calculations which also include potentially beneficial effects of carbon dioxide like global greening along with a thorough understanding of the discount rate?

          Such a calculation is impossible, since we cannot put a number on many things What is the dollar value of polar bears as a species? of tigers? elephants? whales? eagles? bees? spiders? pine trees? oaks? you name it. The natural world took millions of years to evolve in its present form and our species will destroy most of it by letting the climate warm without control? That would be a shame of a cosmic scale. I would regret been born human, I would want to die.

          Democracy is not perfect because human beings are not. Society is key to the success of the human species. Individual freedom can flourish with social interaction, and a true leader brings freedom to his group. Climate warming is a monster that can devour all of us, our children and future generations.

          James Hansen and Bill McKibben were among the first to face the monster and call for a fight. The beast is terrifying and I understand that people may not be prepared to deal with it. But I hope enough people will eventually open their eyes and find the courage to fight. Just watch Tom Steyer:

          http://gspp.berkeley.edu/events/webcasts/climate-change-politics-and-the-economy-rhetoric-v.-reality

          Government is a necessary organization (until we find a better one). It is useful for protecting citizens against evils of all kinds, and for collective actions. WWII was won largely because some political leaders raised up to the challenge. Fighting climate warming may command a similar response.

        • The German and English wikipedia pages on A.J. are worth this advertisement.

        • Berényi Péter says:

          André Joyal says:
          15 January, 2014 at 8:07 pm
          Did you tried to publish your theory?

          Welcome back, prof.
          Actually, I do not have a theory to be published, except perhaps the fact no one else has. I can see a faint light though, but that’s not for publication either. It is only a suggestion about a possible direction to be taken to bring climate science back to a traditional scientific context from its post-normal state.

          A nice way to get rid of this dangerous material is to burn it in fast nuclear reactors to produced electricity.

          In that we can agree, with caveats though. I believe it is technically feasible to design nuclear reactors with inherent safety, passive cooling at shutdown and no long half life radioactive isotopes left in waste. If that’s done, I’d say let’s go for it.

          In the long run we shall need nuclear energy anyway, that’s the only known source which is actually sustainable for the rest of the lifetime of planet Earth. In space, where surface area costs little and the sun shines 7×24 hours a week, solar panels may be the way to go, but on Earth real estate is one of the two resources for which no expanded reproduction is possible ever with any conceivable advance in technology, so it is a somewhat precious resource, I would say. Anyway, that’s a project for the next few billion years.

          However, I am not so sure about the next few centuries and definitely not about the doom carbon dioxide is supposed to entail. If we magically discovered a way to get rid of any excess atmospheric carbon dioxide now, it could be an extremely tough decision to actually apply it, because it would kill off at least 20% of plants living in short order. Now, that’s something I would call a global ecological disaster.

          With the advent of molecular nanotechnology and microscopic self replicating manufacturing units this choice may become hard reality in less than a century, for carbon, due to its chemical versatility will surely be the default construction material and airborne carbon dioxide a readily available source.

          Such a calculation [about monetary value of damages done by carbon dioxide emissions] is impossible, since we cannot put a number on many things

          In that case the cost of fighting climate warming can not be compared to the damage it can do, can it?

          Climate warming is a monster that can devour all of us, our children and future generations.

          Not so fast. Would you mind to provide proof? Check sources?
          Most of what you are told about the link between e.g. extreme weather and carbon dioxide is plain bullshit, you don’t have to swallow it all. Here is ACE (Accumulated Cyclone Energy) for the last 42 years.

        • (Comment moderated by JB last night, enhanced by MG today)

          Péter: global greening… Please forget about this old denialist canard. (Hilarious video: CO2 is plant food.)

          Let’s have a look at how the most important and best studied food plant is doing nowadays: Rice. The elevated CO2 doesn’t help when disproportionally increased night temperature entails disproportionally increased loss of the day’s photoassimilates due to increased metabolism. (Now guess what’s a major fingerprint of global warming…) E.g. a classic paper by Peng et al. (PNAS 2004) reports from the IRRI research farm (of green revolution fame)…

          that annual mean maximum and minimum temperatures have increased by 0.35°C and 1.13°C, respectively, for the period 1979 –2003 and a close linkage between rice grain yield and mean minimum temperature during the dry cropping season (January to April). Grain yield declined by 10% for each 1°C increase in growing-season minimum temperature in the dry season, whereas the effect of maximum temperature on crop yield was insignificant. This report provides a direct evidence of decreased rice yields from increased nighttime temperature associated with global warming.

          (My emph.)
          For a laboratory observation of tomatoes see e.g. this paper in the Annals of Botany 1989. And this all isn’t even about extreme weather stress or the basic Liebig’s law of the minimum.

          I’ve read about the rice thing first in Alan Weisman’s remarkable 2013 book, Countdown. He has visited IRRI and reports

          a 15 percent average drop in yields of IRRI’s “miracle rice” variety, IR8, that helped avert famine in Asia during the 1960s.

          –Martin Gisser (aka Flori on wordpress)

        • Berényi Péter says:

          Florifulgurator says:
          15 January, 2014 at 9:23 pm
          Péter, you’re making quite a fool out of yourself. E.g. your reference to global greening.

          I can see you are overtly unbiased and polite. Also, you are readily denying empirical facts like global NPP (Net Primary Production) and foliage cover in regions where it used to be undersaturated have increased considerably during the last several decades. You must be a great fan of radical constructivism. However, what you can’t possibly deny evah is that strawmen are splendid.

        • “Global greening” quite possibly produces more straw: Somewhere the increased NPP of C3-plants has to go. What I find foolish is generalizing from laboratory/greenhouse to outside reality. Best example is the recent IR8 rice yield decline (not necessarily its straw yield). We can’t live from carbohydrates alone. CO2+H2O+light only gives carbohydrates.

          An excellent picture of the complexity of this matter is given here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-plant-food-advanced.htm

      • John Baez says:

        André wrote:

        I am actually a 70 years old retired mathematician!

        André is being a bit modest here: he’s what I’d call a famous mathematician (to the extent that this isn’t an contradicto in adjecto), and an elder statesman of category theory. He helped launch the (∞,1)-category revolution which is now spreading throughout mathematics.

      • André Joyal says:

        On 15 January 10:23 am, Peter Berenyi wrote:


        In that case the cost of fighting climate warming can not be compared to the damage it can do, can it?

        The value of certain things is infinite. They can never be recreated once destroyed. 
This is why we mourn the death of a beloved one. Climate warming will inflict irreversible damages to the biosphere. Millions of peoples, young, old, men and women will suffer, agonise and die. Who are they?

        http://www.7billionothers.org/thematic_voices/7-billion-others-mosaic

        They are my friends.

    • Arrow says:

      I completely agree (and it’s nice to read someone else make the point I am usually trying to get across here).

      Any unbiased rational thinker has no other option then to conclude there is currently no way to reliably predict future global climate.

      It’s easy to get carried away by the incredible success story that is modern science, but science is not magic. All of it’s power derives from one source – scientific method. It follows that the reliability of every branch of science is directly proportional to the ease of application of the scientific method to it’s subject of study. What is means for climate science should be obvious.

    • Frederik De Roo says:

      Arrow wrote:

      I completely agree (and it’s nice to read someone else make the point I am usually trying to get across here).

      Although Arrow didn’t claim this literally, I’d like to add that for me the two main remarks (or what I understand as such) are not the same as they stand, and I’d prefer to crop these remarks to their bones. Funnily, after I do so, both remarks become much more similar.

      From Peter Berenyi (sorry about missing accents):

      I do not think there is any strong argument supporting a projected detrimental greenhouse effect

      “Detrimental” makes this claim complicated: what’s the value of biodiversity? What’s the value of an inhabitable Siberia? And if detrimental is difficult is to determine, then I agree that there’s no strong argument indeed.

      So I think the claim “There is no strong argument supporting a projected greenhouse effect” would be easier to discuss.

      Arrow wrote:

      Any unbiased rational thinker has no other option then to conclude there is currently no way to reliably predict future global climate.

      I assume by “Any unbiased rational thinker…” Arrow also meant “I think”. Incidentally, it’s funny to see that the proclaimed unbiased rational thinkers want to use nicknames, perhaps to hide from the self-appointed defenders of the orthodoxy ;-) So we can perhaps remove the first part of the sentence because it is superfluous in a scientific discussion and only matters in an emotional/political discussion.

      So here the claim would become “There is currently no way to reliably predict future global climate” and then one has to agree about “reliable” and “global climate”. Is the latter simply the collection of knowledge of the local climates? Or a reduced set of numbers derived from those local climates, i.e. by knowing global climate one cannot yet draw specific conclusions about local climates? Of course, one may argue that local phenomena may be indispensable in determining the feedback, so that knowing global climate (as a reduced set of numbers) would inevitably require details about the local climates. But without specification, this is not clear.

  14. I wonder who is bankrolling nonsensical articles like this one from TIME magazine, it being understood that “climate change” is now a euphemism (according to the politically correct) for “global warming”:

    Polar Vortex: Climate Change Could Be the Cause of Record Cold

    http://science.time.com/2014/01/06/climate-change-driving-cold-weather/

    • John Baez says:

      You’re not saying what you find ‘nonsensical’ about the TIME article, so there’s no way to really respond to your complaint. A complaint that an article is ‘nonsensical’ without clearly explaining what’s wrong with it is the sort of comment I’d really like to avoid here. It doesn’t push our understanding forward.

      But I’ll make a guess: you may be surprised to hear that man-made global warming puts more energy and more humidity into the atmosphere and tends to increase extreme weather events of many different kinds. In particular, scientists are very concerned about this:


      (Click for source.) It’s quite possible that this massive increase in open sea water in the Arctic Ocean, which tends to inject more humidity into Arctic air, can change jet stream patterns leading to events such as the one we just saw. For a good intro to the science, try:

      • Jeff Masters, Arctic sea ice loss tied to unusual jet stream patterns, 2 April 2012.

      Jeff Masters is a top meteorologist, and I’ll quote the start of this article just so everyone gets the point:

      Earth has seen some highly unusual weather patterns over the past three years, and three new studies published this year point to Arctic sea loss as a potential important driver of some of these strange weather patterns. The record loss of sea ice the Arctic in recent years may be increasing winter cold surges and snowfall in Europe and North America, says a study by a research team led by Georgia Institute of Technology scientists Jiping Liu and Judith Curry. The paper, titled “Impact of declining Arctic sea ice on winter snowfall”, was published on Feb. 27, 2012 in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Our study demonstrates that the decrease in Arctic sea ice area is linked to changes in the winter Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation, said Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, in a press release. “The circulation changes result in more frequent episodes of atmospheric blocking patterns, which lead to increased cold surges and snow over large parts of the northern continents.”

      The original article has links to the papers cited here.

      • John, what you explained and documented in your reply is not nonsense, and I thank you for educating me and your other readers. There is a scientific argument that melting Arctic ice could have caused the recent Polar Vortex freezing in the northeast – that warming caused freezing!

        I labeled Walsh’s TIME piece as “nonsense” after reading this sentence in it:

        “And while a muddle like that would seem to make the science less rather than more reliable, it’s actually one more bit of proof that climate change is real.”

        In my first post on this thread, I criticized your initial title “Who is Bankrolling Climate Change Denial” on the grounds that no one in his right mind denies that the climate changes. You subsequently corrected that title.

        Similarly, isn’t it nonsense to require proof that climate change is real?

        As for the reliability of science reporting in TIME magazine, in 1974, Time Magazine blamed the polar vortex on GLOBAL COOLING, saying in an article entitled “Another Ice Age?”

        “Scientists have found other indications of global cooling. For one thing there has been a noticeable expansion of the great belt of dry, high-altitude polar winds —the so-called circumpolar vortex—that sweep from west to east around the top and bottom of the world.”

        http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,944914,00.html

        • Minor correction to what I just posted: The problem in 1974 wasn’t with science reporting in TIME, it was rather with the scientific consensus at that time that we were in danger of global cooling and possibly another ice age.

        • John Baez says:

          Marvin wrote:

          Similarly, isn’t it nonsense to require proof that climate change is real?

          Okay, good. Criticizing a specific passage in an article can be useful. Asking “I wonder who is bankrolling nonsensical articles like this one?” is not useful.

          However, I’d prefer to talk about scientific papers, rather than pop fluff like TIME magazine. If we spend our time complaining about science reporting in the pop media it will become a full-time job.

          As for the reliability of science reporting in TIME magazine, in 1974, Time Magazine blamed the polar vortex on GLOBAL COOLING…

          Yeah, that 1974 article in TIME has gained fame as one of the global warming deniers favorite tools—everyone has probably heard someone say “but in the 1970′s scientists thought the Earth was cooling, so how can we trust them now?”

          People who are curious should read this:

          Global cooling, Wikipedia.

          Later Marvin wrote:

          The problem in 1974 wasn’t with science reporting in TIME, it was rather with the scientific consensus at that time that we were in danger of global cooling and possibly another ice age.

          Okay, there you go! Read Wikipedia.

          (Click for details.)

        • Thanks for your useful link to that Wikipedia article.

          You wrote:

          “Asking “I wonder who is bankrolling nonsensical articles like this one?” is not useful.”

          With that premise, why then is it useful to ask who is bankrolling the climate change countermovement?

        • John Baez says:

          1) It would not be too useful to merely ask that question; what matters is that Robert Brulle put a lot of work into answering the question.

          2) Brulle did not make an unsupported accusation like calling something “nonsensical” without explanation: instead, he wrote a level-headed and clear paper full of data. This data is useful regardless of ones views.

      • In an article entitled “Is global warming causing the polar vortex?” Judith Curry said “In a word, no.” She continued:

        “And now for the 2nd question: Does the massive cold air outbreak blanketing much of the U.S. disprove global warming?

        Same word: no.

        The media are mostly in stupid mode over this one.”

        She then links to this article

        Does the Cold Wave Imply Anything About Global Warming? The Answer is Clearly No.

        http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2014/01/does-cold-wave-imply-anything-about.html

        http://judithcurry.com/2014/01/07/is-global-warming-causing-the-polar-vortex/

        • John Baez says:

          In an article entitled “Is global warming causing the polar vortex?” Judith Curry said “In a word, no.”

          Of course not: the polar vortex is a long-standing feature of the Earth’s climate system, just like the Gulf Stream!

          The interesting question is whether the melting Arctic ice is affecting the behavior of the polar vortex, or other aspects of winter in the northern hemisphere. And here’s one thing Judith Curry had to say about that:

          The record loss of sea ice the Arctic in recent years may be increasing winter cold surges and snowfall in Europe and North America, says a study by a research team led by Georgia Institute of Technology scientists Jiping Liu and Judith Curry. The paper, titled “Impact of declining Arctic sea ice on winter snowfall”, was published on Feb. 27, 2012 in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Our study demonstrates that the decrease in Arctic sea ice area is linked to changes in the winter Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation, said Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, in a press release. “The circulation changes result in more frequent episodes of atmospheric blocking patterns, which lead to increased cold surges and snow over large parts of the northern continents.”

          Since you seem interested in Curry’s opinions on this issue, I urge you to read her paper. Here’s the abstract, to whet your appetite:

          While the Arctic region has been warming strongly in recent decades, anomalously large snowfall in recent winters has affected large parts of North America, Europe, and East Asia. Here we demonstrate that the decrease in autumn Arctic sea ice area is linked to changes in the winter Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation that have some resemblance to the negative phase of the winter Arctic Oscillation. However, the atmospheric circulation change linked to the reduction of sea ice shows much broader meridional meanders in mid-latitudes and clearly different interannual variability than the classical Arctic Oscillation. This circulation change results in more frequent episodes of blocking patterns that lead to increased cold surges over large parts of northern continents. Moreover, the increase in atmospheric water vapor content in the Arctic region during late autumn and winter driven locally by the reduction of sea ice provides enhanced moisture sources, supporting increased heavy snowfall in Europe during early winter, and the northeastern and mid-west United States during winter. We conclude that the recent decline of Arctic sea ice has played a critical role in recent cold and snowy winters.

        • André Joyal says:

          I am not a climate scientist, but the phenomenon does not seem really paradoxical. Just for fun, let me try to explain it intuitively. The polar vortex is a stable atmospheric circulation pattern around the North pole; its boundary is like a wall separating cold artic air from warmer air. The vortex is perturbed by Arctic warming and unstable atmospheric circulation patterns emerge. Cold air currents are visiting low latitude more often, and warm air currents visiting high latitude as well. The earth atmosphere is mixing at a higher rate. The Arctic cap should be shrinking faster. But I wonder if warm humid air moving north could produce more snow in the Arctic. In which case my conclusion could be wrong. This is just amateur climatology. I must learn more.

      • A friend responded to your chart of summer Arctic sea ice extent as follows:

        The extent of arctic sea ice starts dropping precipitously in 1950–at a time when global temperatures were in a cooling trend. So for about a third of the time that arctic ice was contracting, the globe was cooling slightly (roughly 1950-1975). For another third, it was warming slightly (1975-2000), and for almost another third, it’s been in stasis (roughly 2000 to today). But the trend in arctic ice keeps on going. That’s a good indication that it is caused by something else.

        Plus, the graph begins in 1870, so the “highly unusual” drop-off consists of about one half of all the measurements.

        There is a basic failure to establish a baseline of what is “usual” and “unusual”–which may not even be possible yet given the very short time period (less than 150 years) over which we have accurate global measurements.

        • John Baez says:

          The extent of arctic sea ice starts dropping precipitously in 1950–at a time when global temperatures were in a cooling trend. So for about a third of the time that arctic ice was contracting, the globe was cooling slightly [...]

          But the trend in arctic ice keeps on going. That’s a good indication that it is caused by something else.

          Heh. It would be surprising if there were a direct correlation between the rate of change of average worldwide air temperature and the rate of melting of ice in the Arctic.

          1) One is a global average; the other is happening in a specific small location, and a very unusual one (cf. polar amplification).

          2) One is air temperature averaged over the whole globe; the other involves water in the Arctic Ocean. Sometimes air temperatures drop precisely because water temperatures rise, or vice versa: heat moves from water to air or vice versa.

          3) Furthermore, it’s the temperature that melts ice, not the rate of change of temperature!

          So, a more interesting thing to do would be compare the extent of Arctic sea ice to the temperatures of nearby ocean water. You can get this kind of data if you want—a lot of it is freely available online. You could make some graphs: that would be interesting.

          Do you have some friends who are professional climate scientists? If you’re going to try to learn climate science, it would be good to talk to people like that, or read books on the subject. Wikipedia articles on this subject are also generally correct, though they aren’t very systematic or detailed, and I think you want a solid foundation.

  15. Re. the melting Arctic ice:

    Thinning Polar Ice Expected to Give Way to New Commercial Waterways and Resource-Rich Frontier

    Navy officials say the Arctic will give the U.S. its first new ocean to police since the annexation of the Pacific Northwest in 1846. As the ice surrounding the North Pole retreats, officials say, commercial shippers will be able to eventually move goods faster between Asia and Europe. More open seas will also give energy companies greater access to offshore oil and gas in regions controlled by the U.S. and estimated by military officials to be worth $1 trillion.

    Even though the anticipated change is years away, Navy and Coast Guard officials say the U.S. needs to prepare now to patrol and defend the new waterways—designing ice-resistant ships and expanding Arctic naval exercises—when military scientists predict a new expanse of water freed of ice.

    continued at

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303330204579250522717106330?mod=trending_now_3

    • John Baez says:

      I’m glad the Navy and Coast Guard are planning ahead for global warming.

      • And I’m glad to read this evidence that the melting Arctic ice can actually be beneficial to humanity.

        Freeman Dyson said long ago that global warming, if it is not too extreme, would be, for the most part, beneficial to humanity.

        • John Baez says:

          An enormous change like the melting of the Arctic is bound to have some benefits as well as damages. Which will be greater, the benefits or the harms? You prefer to focus to the offhand opinions of one person instead of reading the reports put out by the IPCC, National Academy of Sciences, and other organizations, representing the work of hundreds of experts who put years into studying this issue. Those reports show a complex and interesting mix of benefits and harms.

          So: you start with the conclusion you want to reach, and work back from there. You find one smart guy who agrees with you and ignore the thousands of smart people who actually work on the subject who don’t agree with you. This is what I call a self-refuting argument: mere examination of the style of argument shows why it shouldn’t be taken seriously.

        • John replied to my post at 8:50 AM today in part:

          “You prefer to focus to the offhand opinions of one person instead of reading the reports put out by the IPCC, National Academy of Sciences, and other organizations, representing the work of hundreds of experts who put years into studying this issue.

          So: you start with the conclusion you want to reach, and work back from there. You find one smart guy who agrees with you and ignore the thousands of smart people who actually work on the subject who don’t agree with you.”

          I refer the moderator of this forum to

          http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ad-hominem.html

        • John Baez says:

          I am addressing the style of your argument, not your personal qualities. It’s perfectly fine when someone gives an incorrect argument to say “your argument is incorrect for reasons X, Y and Z”.

          If you feel hurt, I can try to dissect the fallacies in your argument without ever mentioning that it is, in fact, your argument. But it seems a bit roundabout.

        • John wrote

          I am addressing the style of your argument, not your personal qualities. It’s perfectly fine when someone gives an incorrect argument to say “your argument is incorrect for reasons X, Y and Z.”

          If you feel hurt, I can try to dissect the fallacies in your argument without saying it is, in fact, your argument.

          John, it is very important that you get the point I am making here and that others reading this forum also get it.

          I posted the headline

          Thinning Polar Ice Expected to Give Way to New Commercial Waterways and Resource-Rich Frontier

          I also posted two paragraphs from the article, and a link to the entire article. The article was a news report, not an argument.

          You replied “I’m glad the Navy and Coast Guard are planning ahead for global warming.”

          I could have criticized that reply on the grounds that the article was about the Navy and Coast Guard planning for the melting of the Arctic ice, and you yourself, in your post replying to what a friend of mine wrote, made a clear distinction between global warming and the melting of Arctic ice (you wrote “One is a global average; the other is happening in a specific small location”).

          Instead, I posted the two sentences

          And I’m glad to read this evidence that the melting Arctic ice can actually be beneficial to humanity. Freeman Dyson said long ago that global warming, if it is not too extreme, would be, for the most part, beneficial to humanity.

          In your reply, you agreed that “… the melting of the Arctic is bound to have some benefits as well as damages.” So there’s no major argument about that.

          What ticked you off was my factual reference to what Freeman Dyson said. Instead of arguing rationally and providing evidence against what Dyson said, you then launched into an ad hominem personal attack on me, asserting

          You prefer to focus to the offhand opinions of one person instead of reading the reports put out … So: you start with the conclusion you want to reach, and work back from there.

          John, how do you know I did not read those reports? In fact, I did read some of them, but that’s irrelevant to the issue at hand. Why should I have to defend myself against personal attacks you make against me, making false accusations about me?

          And on what basis do you label what Dyson said as “offhand?”

          I am not hurt, John. I am disappointed that you have not stuck to your commitment to have a rational discussion in this forum, without personal attacks.

        • David Tanzer says:

          And nuclear accidents may lead to new and useful mutations.

        • André Joyal says:

          Greenberg 14 Jan at 9:50 wrote:

          Freeman Dyson said long ago that global warming, if it is not too extreme, would be, for the most part, beneficial to humanity.

          Sure, climate warming could be beneficial to a limited number of peoples for a limited amount time. They could eventually escape earth for a cooler place by using the Orion spacecraft.

          http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/12/the-danger-of-cosmic-genius/308306/

        • John Baez says:

          Marvin wrote:

          And on what basis do you label what Dyson said as “offhand?”

          As far as I know he’s never published a paper on this; the only remarks by him on this subject that I know come from some interviews, a commencement address, a book review, and a blog article on Edge. See references 38–43 here.

          In retrospect, “offhand remarks” was the wrong way to characterize Dyson’s approach to this subject: I was trying to be polite because I respect his work on quantum field theory and number theory. A better characterization would be “shooting his mouth off.”

          Here’s the point: in none of the passages I’ve read did he 1) perform any calculations, 2) report on results of any experiments, 3) or cite any articles that did perform any calcuations or report on experiments. He was just voicing personal opinions; he didn’t bother to write a paper and get it published.

          On the other hand, the IPCC report, the National Academy report and others cite hundreds, and probably thousands, of actual published papers where people worked hard to figure out the effects of man-made global warming.

          Of course we’re all entitled to shoot our mouths off, and Dyson more than most. But citing hims doesn’t prove much except that Dyson said stuff. If I wanted to claim AIDS isn’t caused by a virus I could cite a Nobel-prize winning biochemist who believes that, but again, it wouldn’t prove much.

          I will kindly forgive your ad hominem arguments repeatedly claiming that I engaged in an ad hominem argument.

        • André Joyal recommended:

          http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/12/the-danger-of-cosmic-genius/308306/

          This finally spoiled the nightly half of my work day! I herewith declare ths article required reading for anybody taking part in the “climate debate”. E.g. the little Dysons commenting here. The psychological insight is just a start (or, anecdotal evidence). For more I suggest Kari Norgaard’s book:

          Norgaard finds that for the highly educated and politically savvy residents of Bygdaby, global warming was both common knowledge and unimaginable.

          E.F. Schumacher’s A Guide for the Perplexed also gives some background:

          a man who fails to pursue self-knowledge is and remains a danger to society

          But please forget about Schumacher/Aristotle’s “correspondence theory” of truth, which the quote reduces ad absurdum. As Stephen Batchelor explains:

          What is needed above all is … a turning about in the deepest seat of consciousness – in this case, a return to the pulsating throb of life away from the Cartesian abstractions that still haunt us in spite of ourselves.

          …and especially haunt Freeman Dyson – see the recommended article for a hilarious quote.

          (More elaboration perhaps at planet3.org)

      • nad says:

        Yes and I suspect that russian and chinese guards are also planning ahead and ” prepare now to patrol and defend the new waterways” as was outlined in thewsj article:

        Russia, by contrast, has 25 icebreakers, including six that are nuclear powered, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently promised to reopen old Arctic bases, a sign of Moscow’s investment in the far north.

        and from this article:

        In 2011, a total of 37 vessels made the trip. But this year saw record levels of thaw, allowing China’s icebreaker an easy passage, with the crew reporting an “astonishing” lack of ice as they skirted the North Pole.

        and it is comforting to hear that:

        Military officers said despite growing tensions with Russia elsewhere in the world, there is no re-emerging Cold War in the Arctic, beyond what are viewed as routine military exercises by Russia in the Bering Strait, the passage close to Alaska that separates Asia and North America.

        • André Joyal says:

          Do not forget that the north Pole is under Canadian sovereignty!

          http://rt.com/news/canada-arctic-north-pole-claims-965/

          We will go to war to defend it!

        • “About 90 billion barrels of oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lie in the largely untapped 18-million-square-mile Arctic region, according to the US Geological Survey, making up about 10 percent of the world’s petroleum resources. The dominant portion of these resources are hidden beneath the ice that is shared between five nations bordering the Arctic: Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Russian Federation and the US.”

          China is not mentioned.

        • André Joyal says:

          Arctic oil will have to stay in the ground for at least two reasons:

          (1) the extraction is likely to provoke irreversible environnemental damage to a fragile and important eco-system;

          (2) the carbon budget of humanity is limited because of climate warming.

  16. Arrow says:

    Nice video illustrating the effect of CO2 on plant growth:

    The positive impact the extra CO2 has on agricultural productivity alone far outweighs any hypothetical negative effects.

    And then there is it’s potential to prevent the next ice age.

    Overall fossil fuels are a blessing. Future generations will likely look back at our time with envy seeing how we not only have cheap and plentiful energy but how just using it also fertilizes our atmosphere significantly increasing food production.

  17. It would be useful to define what we are talking about on this thread.

    Definition of “climate change”: “A term which attempts to take the natural weather pattern and attribute it to the activities of humans.”

    - UrbanDictionary.com

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