American Institute of Physics' history of the science of climate change

The American Institute of Physics has a fabulous resource in "The Discovery of Global Warming" -- a deep and long look at the history of climate science. If you're interested in understanding how the interdisciplinary scientific consensus on the reality of deadly human-caused climate change arose, this is the right place to start.
It is an epic story: the struggle of thousands of men and women over the course of a century for very high stakes. For some, the work required actual physical courage, a risk to life and limb in icy wastes or on the high seas. The rest needed more subtle forms of courage. They gambled decades of arduous effort on the chance of a useful discovery, and staked their reputations on what they claimed to have found. Even as they stretched their minds to the limit on intellectual problems that often proved insoluble, their attention was diverted into grueling administrative struggles to win minimal support for the great work. A few took the battle into the public arena, often getting more blame than praise; most labored to the end of their lives in obscurity. In the end they did win their goal, which was simply knowledge.

The scientists who labored to understand the Earth's climate discovered that many factors influence it. Everything from volcanoes to factories shape our winds and rains. The scientific research itself was shaped by many influences, from popular misconceptions to government funding, all happening at once. A traditional history would try to squeeze the story into a linear text, one event following another like beads on a string. Inevitably some parts are left out. Yet for this sort of subject we need total history, including all the players – mathematicians and biologists, lab technicians and government bureaucrats, industrialists and politicians, newspaper reporters and the ordinary citizen. This Web site is an experiment in a new way to tell a historical story. Think of the site as an object like a sculpture or a building. You walk around, looking from this angle and that. In your head you are putting together a rounded representation, even if you don't take the time to inspect every cranny. That is the way we usually learn about anything complex.

The Discovery of Global Warming

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  1. Cory, I have two responses to your immediate posting of three (so far) rebuttals to my questions about climate change.

    First, you are not responding to any of my specific points (such as Al Gore’s undeniable conflict of interest). Instead you are appealing to authority, basically saying “My experts trump your experts.” I don’t think this is a strong argument, if indeed it is an argument at all.

    Second, I think it is a little odd that a principal of BB feels he has to rebut some posts that deviate from the party line. I’ve never seen that before.

  2. “It is an epic story: the struggle of thousands of men and women over the course of a century for very high stakes. For some, the work required actual physical courage, a risk to life and limb in icy wastes or on the high seas. The rest needed more subtle forms of courage.”

    I have to point out that this romantic nonsense could equally well describe the people who raised an alarm against global cooling, about 40 years ago.

  3. Charles, you averred that the science of climate change was invalidated by an alleged conflict of interest by its proponents.

    Here are some unimpeachable sources for the idea that climate change is real, dangerous, and anthropogenic — and that mitigation strategies make economic sense.

    So here’s my rebuttal: I’ll stipulate for argument’s sake that Al Gore has a conflict of interest. Do NOAA, the AIP, the IPCC, NIS, and all the independent scholars, academics, and engineers who work on this problem? Is Nature Magazine in Al Gore’s pocket?

    If Al Gore is a hypocrite, does that mean that the Earth isn’t warming?

    Now, onto the idea that climate change got a free ride from credulous journalists: really? Do you think that if we totted up all the popular press articles since the idea of climate change emerged that we’d see anything like a bias in favor of belief in anthropogenic climate change?

    I *do* believe that skepticism of climate change has been all but invisible in peer-reviewed journals — which says more about the science of the skepticism than the journals’ editorial boards, I’m afraid.

  4. 19th English art historian and critic, John Ruskin, was a keen observer of weather patterns and made detailed notes of daily conditions throughout his life.

    His “The Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century” records the apprehension he felt in 1871 as he witnessed disturbing changes in the weather.

    “For the sky is covered with gray cloud;—not rain-cloud, but a dry black veil, which no ray of sunshine can pierce; partly diffused in mist, feeble mist, enough to make distant objects unintelligible, yet without any substance, or wreathing, or color of its own. And everywhere the leaves of the trees are shaking fitfully, as they do before a thunder-storm; only not violently, but enough to show the passing to and fro of a strange, bitter, blighting wind. Dismal enough, had it been the first morning of its kind that summer had sent. But during all this spring, in London, and at Oxford, through meager March, through changelessly sullen April, through despondent May, and darkened June, morning after morning has come gray-shrouded thus.

    It looks partly as if it were made of poisonous smoke; very possibly it may be: there are at least two hundred furnace chimneys in a square of two miles on every side of me.”

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/20204/20204-h/20204-h.htm

  5. First, you are not responding to any of my specific points.

    What specific points?
    As far as I can tell, the point made by Horner and his ilk is “They’re being mean to us! That means they must be wrong!”

    (Come on, the title of the book is “Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud, and Deception to Keep You Misinformed”. If that’s not mudslinging sensationalism in order to move copy, nothing is.)

    And now you stand before us, after proffering Horner’s polemic, and complain about an unfair debate? Are you serious?

    Second, I think it is a little odd that a principal of BB feels he has to rebut some posts that deviate from the party line. I’ve never seen that before.

    You must be new here.

  6. I have no real conclusion one way or another whether the observed warming trend is created by man. However, it seems prudent to try to do something about it, as well as all the other dangerous pollutants we are infusing ourselves with.

    You know, so we don’t all die

  7. I am greatly relieved to see Corey’s posts. Climate change is controversial like evolution is controversial and if it were my site, I’d be trying to counteract anti-empiricism on the front page too.

    I look forward to Charles’ posts about vaccinations causing autism.

  8. I *do* believe that skepticism of climate change has been all but invisible in peer-reviewed journals — which says more about the science of the skepticism than the journals’ editorial boards, I’m afraid.

    Maybe I’ve not been keeping track on my scorecard with the discipline that I should, but I don’t see a lot of “Even Disney shouldn’t be exempt from concerns over commercialization of our children” articles on BoingBoing. Does that lack of coverage suggest anything? Does the coverage of the latest Disneyland merch event suggest endorsement of all things Disney?

    It seems to me that publications, peer-reviewed or not, don’t have a lock on truth. An absence of coverage might suggest a hint of bias in one direction, but can not be used as evidence for or against a topic.

  9. If you think there’s been any shortage of material critical of Disney here, you haven’t been paying attention. Try again.

    Now, as to whether all sources, whether or not they are peer-reviewed, should be given equal time and attention: if you believe this, you seriously misunderstand the scientific method.

  10. i appreciate the structure of cory’s rebuttal posts more than anything else. each idea presented simply and sourced, no histrionics, everything laid out in an organized, easy to follow manner.

    compare this to Platt’s grab bag bullet points, each and every one of them controversial but presented with the laughably convenient disclaimer: “I lack space here to explain why each item is supported by at least some evidence.”

  11. hm..ok…Google’s view of BoingBoing and Disney…

    a lot of coverage on that menstration film. a nod to them adopting biometrics. a complaint about them wiping you from a wikipedia entry. concern about them and copyright. Ok, fair enough, you’ve put some dissenting opinions out there. You’ve also shilled a fair amount of their product, tangible or not (oh boy, Donald Duck’s family tree! whee!)

    It wasn’t intended as a point-for-point rebuttal. Maybe just something analogous that it’s easy to agree with something you already like, and argue against something you don’t identify with. But it’s ok, you lose a little for not actually answering the question and going for the superficial “But we’re critical of Disney too!” angle.

    The scientific method suggests that all data should be given equal time and attention upfront (while some hypotheses can be discounted for fallacious reasoning). If you’re thinking the scientific method supports “Oh, but they don’t agree with my conclusion” or “Oh, but they were (proven) wrong previously on this other topic”, then you’ve potentially got a much higher hurdle to cross than I do.

    Hypothesis. Experiment. Analysis. Conclusion. It’s a pretty simple chain.

    Can this be applied to the subject? Well, not really. We’ve got a hypothesis. We can’t rig an experiment that captures all variables. (We probably wouldn’t want to, considering the risk of taking on such an experiment without being able to roll back to where we are now.) We can analyze as best we can, but we’re really only going off what data we’ve got.

    That’s an awfully shaky platform to base solid conclusions from.

    It feels a lot like any dissenting opinion on the topic is popularly shouted down. I don’t know if that was the point that Charles Platt was making or not, but he certainly succeeded at starting a spirited discussion.

  12. Thanks Rambledeggs and Transit for opening my eyes to the discipline and rigor of the scientific method.

    I was all in a quandry wondering how to fit the dissenting views of Nigel Lawson (not a scientist), Bjorn Lomborg (Formerly an avid Greenpeace supporter), Christopher Horner (Ex Enron attorney (!) ), Bob Carter (a scientist, on a research committee for a group that receives funding from oil interests) and Lawrence Solomon (an old-school environmental activist) into my scientifically disciplined view of global warming and its origins.

    Then I compared that with the views offered by The American Institute of Physics, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and peer reviewed articles in Nature.

    I came to the fully informed scientific conclusion that Charles Platt is posting a load of horse shit from popular lay authors with far more questionable motives than the organisations he seeks to criticise, and is generally stinking up the place.

  13. Why the hell should an anti-rational, anti-Enlightenment point of view be given equal coverage to the agglomerated conclusions of an incredibly large majority of the physical-science academic community? In the media, let alone a private blog?

  14. This Global Warming discussion (all of it, from its very start) seems pretty pointless to me.
    Whether it’s real or not is not an issue. The issue here is that all which we consider could be causing Global Warming (never mind if it’s real or not) has far more serious consequences we all KNOW are real – like pollution and economic and social disasters brought on by fossil fuel dependency.
    What is so wrong about looking for alternative, FREE and clean energy sources? What is so wrong about trying to change an economical model based on something so completely flawed like fossil fuels? Do we have to be at the edge of an abyss to be sensible and responsible? Are we about to ignore everything we know we’re doing wrong because we’re too lazy or self-absorbed to change our behavior?
    Before coal and oil humanity led a pretty balanced existence with its host planet. If we can benefit from our technological advances to get that balance back, why not?
    ‘Ecology’ is almost regarded as a dirty word, when in fact, it’s nothing more than the desire to preserve balance in our own home. Balance, and everything the word encompasses. Not just recycling or leaving your car at home in favor of using public transportation, or having solar panels or wind turbines on your roof.

    We have no other home, so we have to keep the one we have as best we can for us and our offspring.
    There is no real point in doing everything you can to provide for your kids for about 20 or so years if the legacy you’re leaving them is a planet worse off than when you received it. It’s like keeping them in a tidy little clean and warm room for a number of years while all the crap is being pushed outside, out of sight. Except one day the walls of that room will collapse because there’s no more room out there for the crap, and then the kids will have to live outside, among all the shit you’ve been throwing out the window.

    Look, the Earth will always prevail – it has throughout the millennia, among volcanoes, meteors, floods, earthquakes, ice ages and all manner of natural disasters – but we, as a species WON’T if we keep wreaking it for ourselves. A number of conditions have to exist so that the planet can sustain human life and we’re actually obliterating those conditions just because we’re so selfish we needed to change the world to fit our completely insane and illogical demands for extreme comfort.

    I’m with George Carlin when he said we shouldn’t try and save the planet – we’ll get what’s coming to us in due time and we certainly deserve it.
    If we want to nitpick about stupid little arguments like whether we should try and do something to diminish our impact on the Earth or not, then we deserve to wither, we deserve to see our water supplies disappear, our breathable air be replaced by toxic fumes, to watch as empoverished populations die of starvation and the consequences of war brought up by diminishing food supplies and natural resources, and we deserve to disappear as a species.

    Some of us seem to be wiling compromise our future and trade it for a few years of living in luxury. Well, it’s a shame those same people aren’t the ones who will have to withstand the first consequences of our eternal negligence (Al Gore included).

    An animal’s strongest instincts are basically feeding and being around long enough to reproduce. Ours are to get the most amount of useless stuff we possibly can so we can pile it up in a corner and then show it to others like us and tease them because they don’t have as much.
    Pretty fucking sweet, but I’d rather be a monkey (specifically a bonobo chimpanzee, if possible – because of the whole sex thing).

  15. Excuse me #14, but how is presenting only facts in a counter argument “shouting down”? Hmm?

    And, who are exactly these “so called intelligentsia” ? Are they educated people? Actual experts in their field? Or simply people who disagree with your point of view?

    And quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of climate change denialists screaming “we’re being shouted down!” when someone, as in this case, merely presents the actual facts that blow out of the water some of the opinionated drivel like Platt’s post. He said it himself, the author of the book he was peddling in the post is not a scientist. Most intelligent people would stop reading at that point, but apparently Charles figured there was something in there that conformed to his preconceived notions that Scientists are all in the pay of the New World Order bent on charging everyone a “Carbon Tax”. It’s funny, so often with the right it always comes down to Taxes.

    But no, apparently, like the paid-tv “pundits” who come onto Fox News or CNN and spin like a loom for their masters, it’s OK for someone who has no idea about science to write a book about an issue some people spend their entire careers just barely coming to understand fully.

    You wouldn’t trust a brain surgery manual written by a carpenter, would you? And in all honesty, Climate Science is a LOT harder than brain surgery.

  16. Hi Cory,

    You wrote:

    >Here are some unimpeachable sources for the >idea that climate change is real, dangerous, and >anthropogenic.[…]If Al Gore is a hypocrite, >does that mean that >the Earth isn’t warming?

    Here’s one point – global warming being real doesn’t imply it’s being dangerous, and neither implies its’ being anthropogenic. It is possible that the Earth is warming though not due to human doings, and it is possible that the Earth is warming but there is no danger in it. This was suggested by several scientists:

    http://ripplespark.blogspot.com/2009/01/science-politics-and-money-case-of.html#comments

    You also wrote:

    >I’ll stipulate for argument’s sake that Al Gore >has a conflict of interest. Do NOAA, the AIP, >the IPCC, NIS, and all the independent scholars, >academics, and engineers who work on this >problem? Is Nature Magazine in Al Gore’s pocket?

    Well, in a sense, Possibly yes! What some people see as “academic money” is never just that. There is no “academic money”, there is money arriving from various political, ideological, economical and other interested parties, each with their own agenda. Assuming that science is “interest-free” is simply naivete. No scientist can go on practising science without gaining some fund’s interest. It would be very far-fetched to assume a sort of “conspiracy” here, but yes, interests and financial considerations are involved in all sides of any scientific (and academic in general) debate.

  17. “Do we have to be at the edge of an abyss to be sensible and responsible? Are we about to ignore everything we know we’re doing wrong because we’re too lazy or self-absorbed to change our behavior?”

    Uh, probably, yes.

    And the existence of ACC would make a big difference to our attempts to live ecologically. It adds urgency. It opens people’s eyes to the real effects of their lifestyles. It has massive consequences for our other attempts to lessen our impact on the environment, such as preserving species diversity and improving air quality.

    It IS important, but you’re right – it’s not the only issue. In fact, it’s one part of a much larger, over-arching issue.

  18. So, Adva, by that reasoning, nothing is true. Gravity? Well, yes, it’s been experimentally verified and represents a broad scientific consensus, but since all science is known to have political influence, we mustn’t discount the possibility that Big Gravity has cooked the books on this subject.

    The fact that some scientists might be corrupt doesn’t mean all scientists are corrupt. The standard of proof you are seeking (prove all scientists have pure motives) is surreal.

  19. Wow, BB is getting exciting these days! We need to have more controversial guest bloggers to spark some fun!

    But instead of just posting about the latest anti-GW books, it would be really nice if Mr Platt were to respond to the individual points that were raised by Cory and will be raised in these threads. I was disappointed that the Wal-Mart thread had several dozen questions for Mr Platt that never went answered.

    In any event, I find it interesting that Mr Platt’s posts were all focused on the politics behind the science, and non of them on the science itself. I guess if you can’t argue with the facts, attack the speaker instead. What’s that argument, logically? Is it simply ad hominem?

  20. It’s funny how people with casual interests in climate issues think they can have anything but ideological positions on the matter. The climate change debate is wildly complex and widely studied; to become an expert with a truly informed opinion means taking it on as a profession.

    What’s worse, it’s a subject that involves geological time, a notoriously troublesome element when it comes to predictions.

    That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t have opinions – we turn to experts to supply us with opinions all the time.

    This is to say, however, that all of us non-experts (and that includes both bloggers) should lift their heels from their trenches and admit, first and foremost, they don’t really know.

    ps – Charles Platt would have so been disemvoweled for disagreeing with Cory if not for his guest blogger status.

  21. Whilst initially depressing seeing a succession of Charles Platt’s rubbish spread over BoingBoing, the sensible rebuttals in comments have increased my faith in BoingBoing’s readship!

    But really, why did we have the posts in the first place? Was there an editorial decision to see how such ‘debate’ went down? What were you thinking?

  22. Thanks for your reply, Cory.

    I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that if we cannot completely trust anyone, then we should either trust no-one, or teyst those who are simply more powerful.

    Just to make one thing straight – I have to admit I’m not familiar with Platt’s views, but I am familiar with other scientists’ views (link in my #20 comment above), so I’m not referring specifically to him.

    When I see a consensus that is SO wide, as to not to let anyone else open their mouth and express opposing opinions – it gets me suspicious. Why would anyone try to shut their opponents’ mouths, unless their interests are in substantial danger?

    [And yes, I’m referring to claims that are way too difficult to be “proved”, or even extremely-convincingly argued for – just like the present issue; therefore gravity is probably not a good example].

  23. Scientists want anti-empiricists to shut up because they influence political policy and misrepresent the nature of the scientific process to the general public. And yes, a popular anti-science view, which has exploded in the Bush years, *is* damaging to the scientific community. It’s also damaging to the future of humanity.

  24. I agree with you Avda, the main point is to encourage scepticism, not stop it. There’s no need to be an activist (against global warming scepticism) when you have 90% of the people behind you anyway. I have the same reaction: when everyone is pushed to agree to something I grow wary. The funny thing is that I am working with traffic-related research and I can assure you that any project proposal for investigating the lifecycle effects of ethanol versus petrol versus diesel will never get any funding (at least in Sweden).

    My main concern is that we woke up and are running now, but are we running in the right direction? Rather than keep on trying to convince every last person to run we should make sure of the direction. For instance making your car engine run really badly will probably decrease the CO2 output at the cost of CO and other emissions, but would it be better for anyone?

    What bothers me is that our current CO2 fixation gets in the way of any other environmental consideration.

    Anyway, reduced CO2 emissions for cars are necessarily reducing fuel consumption, which is good for anyone.

    _____________
    “I’m not sure there is a god, but I’ll pray anyway, just in case”

  25. Regardless of whether or not weather is changing because of human addiction to energy, the necessity to get off fossil fuels is real. Oil isn’t going to last forever. The real poke in the eye is going to come after we on planet Crazy have cleaned up our environment, reveling in our abundant non-polluting fusion-created energy excess, only to have the planet have a volcanic tantrum which will dump a so much dust and sulfuric acid into the atmosphere that it plunges us into another ice age.

    From Futurama: Fry – “It’s a good thing global warming never happened”
    Leela – “It did. But it’s a good thing nuclear winter cancelled it out”

  26. RAJ,

    Of course “anti-sceintism” or “anti-empiricism” (or anti-rationalism in general) is damaging not only to the future, but also to our present life, in all aspects. But this present clash (again, I have no idea what Platt said – I refer to serious scientists, who claim that global warming is a cyclical phenomena, not due to human activity but mainly to solar activity, and not about to cause any damage, and this notwithstanding, we still need to reduce oil damage etc.) – this clash in WITHIN science.

    Wilco,
    You’re aware of the fact that your signature is a direct reference to Pascal’s Wager, right? :-)

  27. So, Adva, by that reasoning, nothing is true.

    Adva already addressed what a stretch this is, but I can’t pass up a chance to quote the Principia Discordia:

    “All statements are true in some sense, false in some sense, meaningless in some sense, true and false in some sense, true and meaningless in some sense, false and meaningless in some sense, and true, false and meaningless in some sense.”

    I see a lot of complaints about how many more times we need to talk about this or that before we considered it refuted. How many more times do I have to be told that either I believe some supposedly established scientific theory or I have to throw out all science ever? If we’re making a list of established things that we shouldn’t waste time debating, can we add “You don’t have to doubt all of science just to doubt anything in science?”

    Nothing in this world has such all-or-nothing authority. Science never really claimed such authority. So when did so many people start giving it to them? Cuz I hear this argument all the time.

  28. “If we want to nitpick about stupid little arguments like whether we should try and do something to diminish our impact on the Earth or not, then we deserve to wither, we deserve to see our water supplies disappear, our breathable air be replaced by toxic fumes, to watch as empoverished populations die of starvation and the consequences of war brought up by diminishing food supplies and natural resources, and we deserve to disappear as a species.”

    The ugliest truth is that it’s those who are empoverished even today will bear the brunt of the climate change. If the starving people of the poor countries whose fields are turning to dust come knocking on our borders in too big a number, we’ll tell them to go back, and if they come again, we’ll massacre them with our sophisticated automatic weapon systems in the name of law in order. The richest 10 percent of the population will survive to reap the benefits of unrestricted growth.

  29. “When I see a consensus that is SO wide, as to not to let anyone else open their mouth and express opposing opinions – it gets me suspicious.”

    Hang on. I hear the anti-ACC point of view ALL THE TIME. It’s in the news media a fair amount, there are, as Platt has pointed out, plenty of books on the subject, and it’s got pretty good representation on the internets.

    Not, admittedly, as much as the “pro”-ACC point of view, but that’s to be expected, given that there’s more support (both evidence and people) for ACC.

    Honestly, those forces apparently attempting to muzzle the anti-ACC contingent aren’t doing a very good job.

    The other thing: the reason the ACC contingent are trying to convince everyone is because this is a potentially apocalyptic disaster that requires the cooperation of as many people as possible in order to be prevented. If ACC is true, then we’re all going to have to drastically alter the way we live in the relatively near future. That’s a hard thing to accomplish without getting people to agree with you.

  30. “The ugliest truth is that it’s those who are empoverished even today will bear the brunt of the climate change.”

    That’s true to some extent. But we in the “developed”, rich world rely massively on those impoverished countries to support our lifestyle. If they go under, we go under.

    And if even some predictions are correct, the rich will not be spared the problems of climate change either.

  31. Yeah yeah! I would like to request a live webcast of a Doctrow VS Platt Rock’em-Sock’em Robot match to settle this debate once and for all! One of you may have to take a plane trip to participate, but it’ll be worth it to put this argument behind humanity once and for all.

  32. “And if even some predictions are correct, the rich will not be spared the problems of climate change either.”

    I’m sure we’ll have to give up our third and probably second cars, our lavishly sprinklered lawns, our global holidays (if only because we’ll be universally hated outside our enclave), hell, perhaps we might even be forced to commute by mass transit or work locally.
    The poor? They will have to give up eating.

  33. @ Adva in #30; if you don’t come from a science background, you may not be aware that there are very, very few theories that are widely accepted by as large a proportion as 90% of the relevant discipline’s community. When they’re emergent, like climate change, it’s almost unheard-of. There’s just too much evidence to ignore- doing so is only evidence of cognitive dissonance, fear, or commercial vested interests.

    Scepticism is about disputing irrationality and supporting evidence-based reasoning, not naysaying. I’m proud to be a sceptic, and THIS IS NOT SCEPTICISM.

  34. the easy way to find out who’s right on climate change? Jut leave it a hundred years, carry on like it’s 1975.

    If we survive, then it turns out that doing nothing was OK after all.

    If 90% of us die, then it seems we ought to have done something.

    Heads we survive, tails most of us die, hey who wouldn’t wanna flip THAT coin eh?

  35. “Platt doesn’t appear to be a scientist, but he advocates having an open mind about every topic under the sun.”

    I wouldn’t hire a doctor or lawyer on the same basis.

    Advocating ignoring the evidence for global warming is neither being open minded nor covering every topic.

    Cory’s response *might* be seen as a breach of protocol. Alternatively it might be seen as damage control necessitated by a guest blogger who has turned out to be an embarrassing useful idiot cashing in Boing Boing’s reputation to promote a few easily refuted corporate talking points.

    This is meant to be a directory of wonderful things, not the daily shill.

  36. @33 13strong:

    Honestly, those forces apparently attempting to muzzle the anti-ACC contingent aren’t doing a very good job.

    Thank you! Great post.

    The “science tries to censor all anti-AGW voices” is a carnard that we hear all the time and sounds like was pretty much the source of Mr Platt’s posts: he had to give these poor unheard people a voice.

    If that were true, why do we hear them all the time??

    Frankly, we hear them far far more than their small numbers and small scientific status would warrant, and that’s the fault of the “fair reporting” silliness in journalism, as well as the fact that we naturally hear the one dissenting voice louder than one voice in agreement with thousands. For the same reason, we hear the creationists’ voices all the time.

  37. “I’m sure we’ll have to give up our third and probably second cars, our lavishly sprinklered lawns, our global holidays (if only because we’ll be universally hated outside our enclave), hell, perhaps we might even be forced to commute by mass transit or work locally.”

    I don’t drive. I use public transport or my bike to get to work. I holiday in Europe maybe once or twice a year (I live in the UK), and plan on holidaying more in the UK. I don’t have a lawn, though I woudl like a garden. I work locally to where I live (30 mins cycle).

    I still consider myself economically rich (because I am) and I still expect to lose a lot if the worst fears about climate change are realised.

    The current global system, particularly in the “developed” world, relies massively on a network of trade and industry that spreads around the world. Should climate change impact disastrously on the “developing world”, then there will be knock-on effects on us. Do we have the industrial and resource infrastructure in place to secede from the global system?

    Not just that, but climate disasters will potentially affect both rich and poor countries. Poor countries will be worse-equipped to deal with it, but it’s not a matter of losing your second car or your finely manicured lawn – it’s a matter of flooding, hurricanes, radical temperature changes, drought, and so on.

  38. The USA produces what – 30%? – of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, to which may be added the emissions produced by foreign countries in the production of goods for export to the USA.
    That some prominent Americans do not wish to believe the evidence of global warming comes as no surprise, none at all.

  39. Platt versus Doctorow! Steel-cage climate match!

    Two men enter, one man leaves!

    (I’ll place my money on the man with the bigger bullhorn. So to speak.)

  40. Is the hypothesis that climate change is caused by human action falsifiable? In other words, does it contain a prediction that can be empirically tested?

    I once asked a really smart green tech/environmental activist that question, and he said, “Yeah, if humans stop all carbon emission and climate change is still happening.” Which is, well, kind of setting the bar really high. How about something else that can be feasibly tested now which can withstand the Popper hurdle?

  41. It’s not falsifiable in controlled circumstances because waiting for confirmation would be suicidal, but it is falsifiable in theory, of course.

  42. “Poor countries will be worse-equipped to deal with it, but it’s not a matter of losing your second car or your finely manicured lawn – it’s a matter of flooding, hurricanes, radical temperature changes, drought, and so on.”

    But the rich countries have the technical means to contain the damage and money to repair it. How many people die in the worst catastrophic floods in the USA? Tens? In case of the Great Flood of 1993, about 30 to 50. How many die in a garden variety flood in Asia? Thousands.
    The crops, as the example of Israel shows, can be raised in very unfavourable conditions given enough effort.
    As to my use of “we”, I think we both (or an average BB visitor for that matter) aren’t very typical examples of a rich country inhabitants I was speaking about.

  43. Anthropogenic climate change would be falsifiable if we found a climate forcing that was stronger than the forcings we calculate for human activities. For instance, if measurements of CO2 emissions from Volcanoes were much larger than human emissions, it would be compelling evidence that human CO2 emissions don’t have much effect on the climate. (The aren’t–volcanic emissions are about 50x less than human emissions. Vulcanologists have made these measurements for years.)

    The idea that CO2 warms the atmosphere isn’t very controversial–it’s basic to the physics of electromagnetic radiation. Falsifying that would require falsifying most of what we know about the properties of gases and em radiation.

  44. Raj77 @38 writes:
    Scepticism is about disputing irrationality and supporting evidence-based reasoning

    Maybe for you. For me, skepticism is about remembering that even the best of human reasoning is flawed and that the things that are most important to me (love, friendship–heck, even survival) are important for largely irrational reasons, anyway.

    A base level of skepticism (aimed at others and myself) helps me see things I wouldn’t have noticed with just my rationality and the evidence, and gain some understanding of things even when I can’t explain them.

    More generally, I consider the realest of real to be the stuff I can’t stop believing even if I try. Climate change is pretty easy to disbelieve, compared to the realest of the real.

    Nonetheless, I tend to lean more conservationist and environmentalist, based mostly on irrational sentiments like “I like pretty forests.” Because I can doubt that those forests even really exist, but there’s no denying that I like ’em.

  45. “But the rich countries have the technical means to contain the damage and money to repair it. How many people die in the worst catastrophic floods in the USA?”

    Well, I don’t know what the worst natural disaster in the US was. Hurricane Katrina killed 1,464 according to the Louisiana Department of Health. It also displaced thousands and thousands more.

    Now, New Orleans was ill-prepared and economically depressed. But are the richer areas of the US or Europe or wherever really much better prepared for natural disasters?

    Furthermore, if the global flow of trade, manufacturing, food and resources collapses (due to climate-related disasters in the developing world), how will the West cope? What will they eat? How will they produce pesticides and fertilisers and so on to produce crops on the necessary scale? Do we have the materials to sustain ourselves (oil, minerals, precious metals, and so on) and do we have the manufacturing industry and engineering capabilities to create our own goods and necessities?

    I’m not trying to be a doom monger, but the West can’t just buy its way out of everything.

  46. “As to my use of “we”, I think we both (or an average BB visitor for that matter) aren’t very typical examples of a rich country inhabitants I was speaking about.”

    You think the majority of rich country inhabitants have sprinkler-fed, manicured lawns and 2-3 cars? You think the majority of rich world inhabitants go on global holidays? Really? I doubt it.

    Where could we find out?

  47. @ W. James Au:

    Is the hypothesis that climate change is caused by human action falsifiable? … I once asked a really smart green tech/environmental activist that question, and he said, … Which is, well, kind of setting the bar really high. How about something else that can be feasibly tested now which can withstand the Popper hurdle?

    I think you misunderstand Popper’s point about falsifiability. Popper is talking about the nature of science. If a scientific statement or theory is not falsifiable, it’s not science.

    Is the hypothesis that climate change is caused by human action falsifiable? Yes, by the answer that the environmentalist gave you, or by any other method that you could dream up, such as showing that something else were completely responsible for GW.

    Therefore, it’s a scientific statement. And that’s all the “falsifiability” is about.

    No one suggests that “falsifiability” involves provisos about budgets, time or anything else. Theories about the big bang are falsifiable, even if we can’t go back and see it. They are scientific theories. That’s all Popper was talking about.

  48. “I’m not trying to be a doom monger, but the West can’t just buy its way out of everything.”

    Katrina disaster is perceived as a huge blunder on the part of the authorities. It was not a problem of lacking resources but rather their allocation (not only during and after but also a long time before the tragedy).
    Of course following the collapse of the world economy the rich countries will have to compromise, reduce consumption, concentrate on surviving the worst, but we have enough resources to do that. In short, we will have to sacrifice just our way of living and switch to kind of war economy. The poor have no such option.
    The image of the typical rich Western inhabitant is perhaps blown out of proportion, but nevertheless that’s what a lot of people aspire to. Hopefully that will change, and soon.

  49. Popper’s positivist gibberish! Setting limits in an a priori fashion to the knowledge of others. A bully’s epistemology.
    Akin (on the social side of things) to denying meaning itself to entire classes of statements, saying that only verifiable statements have meaning: “falsification” being the flip side of “verification”, but serving the same “gatekeeper” function, only now purporting to limit itself to the class of “scientific” statements (which can apparently be whittled down to that class prior to applying Popper’s “test”), not to the class of all statements.
    An ideological, pseudo-epistemological meta-theory which seeks to pre-empt the entire discussion. A purpose-driven metatheory, which seeks to limit the uses to which data is put, in contrast to the usual scientific practice of following the data.
    Not the science, but its use a guide to/for action, is what the Popperists are attacking: but they disguise their socio-politico agenda as an attack on the “science”…
    Is the statement: “The earth orbits the sun” falsifiable?
    How’s about the statement: ” All mass attracts all other mass”?
    How about the statement: “I am in pain”?
    Or are all first-hand observations “unscientific” for being “Unfalsifiable”?

  50. Jesus Christ, people!

    THERE IS NO SUBSTANTIATED SCIENTIFIC PROOF THAT HUMANS AREN’T THE MAJOR CONTRIBUTOR TO GLOBAL WARMING.

    Two major tenets of scientific study are that the research must be reproducible and that the methodology must be sound. In order to ensure these two things, scientific theories are not held as valid until they have been supported by research/study that has been reviewed by peers.

    AND

    An analysis was performed on all studies on “climate change” that were published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003.
    “Remarkably, none of the papers
    disagreed with the consensus position.”
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/306/5702/1686.pdf

    That’s none as in not one out of the 928 papers.

    If anyone of you out there (I’m looking at you ADVA and Charles) can present a peer-reviewed paper disputing anthropogenic causes of curernt climate change, then please bring it forward. If not, then please stop saying that there are “respected” scientists who disagree with the IPCC. Unless they’ve produced research in the area, these “respected” individuals are not scientists, they are editorialists with a degree in science.

    -end rant

    (I have had way too much caffeine this morning)

  51. Of course, where the change will go is an open question.
    Seeing how buffered and feedbacky all things seem to be, I would not be surprised if an Ice Age were eventually triggered by the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases. Wheels within wheels, so to speak – push it one way, but it goes the other. Although Hawking seems to think something akin to the surface of Venus is a more likely outcome.
    We have seen in chemistry how a miniscule amount past a critical point can trigger a great change…My old friend Prudence advises that it would be better to halt or at least slow the experiment we’ve been running with our atmosphere.
    If that means less time tear-assing around in vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines, so what? If that means a great slowing in the speed of life, so what?

  52. @Ugly Canuck

    Is the statement: “The earth orbits the sun” falsifiable?
    How’s about the statement: ” All mass attracts all other mass”?
    How about the statement: “I am in pain”?

    Erm, yes. The first two statements are obviously falsifiable (go up and look at the Earth from space; find two masses that don’t attract). The third, not necessarily, but it’s not necessarily a scientific statement either.

    AGW is also falsifiable, as several of us have posted above.

    Instead of attacking Popper’s point, attack those who try to use it in defense of their skepticism. Since it can’t be used (since AGW is falsifiable), their argument is worthless.

    Again “falsifiability” doesn’t pertain to budget, time, feasibility or desire. It merely pertains to the nature of scientific questions.

  53. It’s not the falsifiability of statements per se, but the attempt at congruence, at fitting the proposition to observed data, that makes the activity ‘scientific”. But some data is peculiarly within an observer’s unique knowledge, hence the pain example, which as I see it is a primary data point for the use/practice of medical science.
    But yes Samsam you are correct it is the use to which Popper’s analysis is put in this debate that really bothers me. If you’re going to argue with science as to a particular issue, you have to use science. Not general theories about science…epistemology does not set limits on knowledge…gee this kinda reminds me of the “debate” over evolution, which becomes a debate about what counts as a valid “theory”….
    Whatever he was, Popper was not a scientist. Just because one can see through the game, does not mean that on is gonna be good at it.

  54. If you’re going to argue with science as to a particular issue, you have to use science. Not general theories about science…epistemology does not set limits on knowledge…gee this kinda reminds me of the “debate” over evolution, which becomes a debate about what counts as a valid “theory”….

    Man, folks keep bringing up evolution, and I’m far more worried about the “heretics not allowed” attitude on that front than I am on the climate change front.

    You’ve got it backwards. If you’re going to argue in a scientific journal, you’ve got to use the scientific journal’s epistemology. If the folks behind that scientific journal want to convince the rest of the world, they’re gonna have to slip into the rest of the world’s many varied epistemologies. Science is awesome because it’s good at that, because it appeals to things we can all see; but where that doesn’t convince, further shouts of “but it’s science” don’t really bring much to the table.

    I believe that science classes tend to overstate our confidence in some of the broader reaching theories such as climate change and evolution. It weirds me out how often I see my friends with careers in science and engineering consider some of these larger debates settled, and I see the chunk of what can’t be questioned grow larger and larger.

    No, you’re never gonna convince everybody. But when the choices being presented to me are either to side with “science” or side with Christian fundies, I’m gonna side with the Christian fundies right up until they’ve cleared enough breathing room for me to have more options than that. Just like I’ll side with you when they try to settle the debate.

    The climate of the earth, the history of life and the universe–my primary compelling interest on these topics is to make sure people got plenty of room to think for themselves, cuz they’re big enough that I consider it obvious that no one can be certain. I’m not really into mocking those who disagree with me (I’m getting old) but what mocking I got, I aim to the folks who think they got those things settled.

  55. >#57 posted by umgrego2

    > If anyone of you out there (I’m looking at you >ADVA and Charles) can present a peer-reviewed >paper disputing anthropogenic causes of curernt >climate change, then please bring it forward.

    How about these (just to make it clear – Prof. Nir Shaviv is not related to me in any way and I don’t know him):

    Veizer, J. (2008). Climate, water and CO2: a geological perspective. Geological Magazine, 72, 297-298.

    N. J. Shaviv, “The Cosmic Ray / Climate Connection”, to appear in Int. J. Mod. Phys.-A., in proceedings of “The 19th European Symposium on Cosmic Rays”, Florence, September 2004.

    N. J. Shaviv, “Climate Change and the Cosmic Ray Connection”, in “International Seminar on Nuclear War and Planetary Emergencies – 30thsession”, Erice, Italy, August 2003. (Ed. R. Ragaini, World Scientific, 2004)

    Shaviv, N. J., “Cosmic Rays Diffusion in the dynamic Milky Way: Model, Measurement and Terrestrial Effects” in the “International School of Cosmic Ray Astrophysics”, Erice, Italy, June 2002.

    Variation of Cosmic Ray Flux and Global Cloud Coverage – a Missing Link in Solar-Climate Relationships, by Henrik Svensmark and Eigil Friis-Christensen,
    Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, 59 (11) (1997) 1225-1232.

    Influence of Cosmic Rays on Earth’s Climate, by Henrik Svensmark,
    Physical Review Letters – November 30, 1998 – Volume 81, Issue 22, pp. 5027-5030

    Low Cloud Properties influenced by Cosmic Rays, by Nigel Marsh and Henrik Svensmark, Physical Review Letter, December 4, 2000 – Volume 85, Issue 23, pp. 5004-5007.

    Reply to comments on “Variation of cosmic ray flux and global cloud coverage – a missing link in solar-climate relationships”, by Henrik Svensmark and Eigil-Friis-Christensen
    Journal Of Atmospheric And Solar-terrestrial Physics Vol. 62 (1) pp. 79-80

    GCR and ENSO trends in ISCCP-D2 low cloud properties, by Nigel Marsh and Henrik Svensmark, Journal of Geophysical Research , (In press)

    * didn’t bother to unify the different bibliographic formats, sorry.

  56. So far I’ve not seen any actual argument. This is all very meta. So where are the skeptic’s counter proofs?

    I think you’re afraid of being “shouted down” by the facts.

  57. I’m going to side with the flat earthers, simply because round earthers and their “science” doesn’t give me enough options. I mean, the world could be on the back of a giant turtle, but “scientists” think I’m a heretic.

  58. Whether it’s real or not is not an issue. The issue here is that all which we consider could be causing Global Warming (never mind if it’s real or not) has far more serious consequences we all KNOW are real – like pollution and economic and social disasters brought on by fossil fuel dependency.

    _Today_ it’s no question that Global Warming is real. 10 years ago it was still denied widely. It’s no longer possible because everyone sees it happening right before their eyes. Maybe in 10 more years we will finally all agree that humans are responsible for a large part of it.

  59. “Second, I think it is a little odd that a principal of BB feels he has to rebut some posts that deviate from the party line. I’ve never seen that before.”

    I dont understand your complaint here.

    Engage in any already existing group of friends. Start a polemic topic, expressing a opinion clearly unpopular or against the general consensus. You should not be surprised when one of the old timers of said group enters the debate with evidence and sources supporting his opinion. You expressed your opinion, why are you surprised when others express theirs? Especially about a topic that the whole group agrees that requires immediate action.

    It is a debate, and you seem to want to turn it into an Internet Drama. “Party line”? Trying to paint the other side of the debate as some radical ideology (as this sounds to me at least) is not debating.

  60. Yes indeed, the facts.
    Those also do science, who gather observational data, like Tycho. Observation is the base of all science, unlike religion, which is based on personal revelation…and unlike logic and math, based upon (arbitrary) axioms, elements and operations.
    Simply observing and recording what is seen, truthfully, is the heart, soul and beginning of all science.
    Those who cleave to any view serve science badly.
    First step: admit ignorance.
    Next step: observe and record.
    Then: any pattern? any thing connected?
    But the observations always rule, and to observe, one must first and above all, be attentive and be still.

  61. Excuse me #14, but how is presenting only facts in a counter argument “shouting down”? Hmm?

    Anyone who has spent more time studying a thing and is considered an expert and who disagrees with you MUST have an agenda.

    As proposed yesterday “Is this going to be forever?”

  62. Charles Platt’s main concern is that Al Gore (who is not a scientist) has a conflict of interest, and this is somehow supposed to convince us that global warming science is at fault?

    And quoting established scientific consensus may be an appeal to authority, but that doesn’t make an appeal to mavericky naysaying any more powerful.

    Boing Boing, I think you could do better in your selection of guest bloggers.

  63. Is anyone considering the idea that maybe no peer-reviewed papers with a proposed non-anthropogenic cause for global warming exists because no one would publish such a thing?

    Journals are subject to just as much bias as any media outlet, even if the research is significant. Something I’ve learned in my studies is that there is no point to doing research that would be not be published.

    I’m just playing devil’s advocate here, not really trying to jump on one wagon or the other. There’s just been a lot of mention of peer-reviewed articles as being the only “solid” source of information, but it’s an area I think that is just as subject to wary eye as any newspaper or magazine. Of course what they publish can be considered quite legitimate, but what about those articles that they don’t publish? Like any publication, they require funding to be printed. I imagine that most (such as Nature, for example) would refrain from publishing anything that speaks against what most people perceive to be an accepted theory (or an article which might go against a theory that the publication has been backing) out of fear of losing that funding.

    Then again, I’m sort of new to the world of academic publishing, so I might be way off base. But it was just a thought.

  64. Admitting ignorance may be a useful first step to unbiased observation, but it is also the first step taken by the intellectually lazy towards allowing the views of “authority” to have weight independent of the strength of their observation+theory=scientific arguments.
    On global warming IMO the observation+theory=scientific arguments for the occurrence of “man-made” warming achieved their strength ’round about 1983-84: further observations IMO have further strengthened the case: mid-depth ocean observations as to CO2 concentration has made it well-nigh undeniable.

  65. TheChickenAndTheRice said:

    “ps – Charles Platt would have so been disemvoweled for disagreeing with Cory if not for his guest blogger status.”

    I’m gonna go ahead and call “bullshit” on that one.

  66. Really, Davy? Have you seen how the moderators spring to action any time anyone insults His Royal Doctorow?

    Mind you, it’s an effective means of suppression. I’ve never been disemvoweled. I’ve just learned from others that if you want to keep your vowels, you’d better 1) treat the Cory line or 2) disagree with him in tones that would please the Queen of England.

  67. Acipolone, you have a point in journals having to obey a similar set of rules or pressures as any newspaper. Try publishing the results (TNO Netherlands produced) that one unit of alcohol actually decreases the reaction times of drivers in a driving simulator, or that talking in a mobile phone resulted in similar reaction times to those being completely drunk (now more accepted, but at the time very controversial). These results came out as a surprise when doing some general tests to find out the limits of reaction times, but you would NEVER get any funding to find this out.
    Another popular one is calculating the life-cycle CO2 production of ethanol compared to other fuels (it’s something like 3* petrol, but then you can’t compare as it takes all that carbon from the air in the first place…). Policy makers have decided ethanol is good, and you’d be crazy to try to get funding to disprove that…

  68. So now it’s time to attack science Journals more generally, eh?
    The bullies of epistemology…what’s the U in FUD stand for?

  69. @ acipolone – Yes, it’s possible. Journals can be subject to bias, so can the review process. There are a lot of journals out there though and the opportunity to shoot down a widely held theory and make a name for yourself is very tempting. This is countered by the fear of making a fool of yourself. Reputation is the coin of this realm.

    So it comes down to a matter of odds. What are the odds that the vast majority of scientific journals would all accept a controversial theory if it wasn’t based on facts? Not very good I should think.

  70. “Really, Davy? Have you seen how the moderators spring to action any time anyone insults His Royal Doctorow?”

    You’ve now switched from “disagree” to “insult.”  Try to keep your points consistent if you actually wish to have a discussion.

    And the name is “Dayv,” not “Davy.”  If that’s difficult for you, feel free to copy and paste it in the future.

  71. So it comes down to a matter of odds.

    Geesh, exactly. We’re talking odds. Not certainties. A little respect for that could go a long way when you’re chatting with someone who’s placing a slightly different bet than you are.

  72. I mentioned this in the comments of “Climatic Heresy: 4”, but it seems that most of the knowledgeable folks have moved onto this thread.

    What is the deal with global dimming?

    The basic thrust of the theory is that certain pollutants, especially but not only aerosols, affect the climate by cooling it (light is reflected right back into space) to such a degree that those very pollutants are masking the true warmth that our climate would be at without those pollutants. In other words, GW may already be way ahead of our predictions, and the only thing saving us is pollution.

    Some climate scientists have theorized that aircraft contrails (also called vapor trails) are implicated in global dimming, but the constant flow of air traffic previously meant that this could not be tested. The near-total shutdown of civil air traffic during the three days following the September 11, 2001 attacks afforded a rare opportunity in which to observe the climate of the United States absent from the effect of contrails. During this period, an increase in diurnal temperature variation of over 1 °C (1.8 °F) was observed in some parts of the U.S., i.e. aircraft contrails may have been raising nighttime temperatures and/or lowering daytime temperatures by much more than previously thought.

    What do people think of this? There is no section on the wikipedia entry dedicated to controversy or debunking, which generally points to relatively solid science (though its far from a perfect indicator).

  73. Noen,
    “based on facts”? – all scientific theories are based on facts. It’s the interpretation of these facts that makes the difference, and that’s why science is no math (so we talk of “theories” and not of “proofs”).

  74. @ #70 said
    ” Boing Boing, I think you could do better in your selection of guest bloggers.

    No, I disagree, look at all the fine debating going on!

    Boing Boing, like our new president, should continue to bring in guest bloggers with contrarian views. I draw the line at Anne Coulter though cuz she just plain annoys the hell outta me.

  75. “shrieking, lying, attention whore” does NOT qualify as “debater”. No Coulter/Reilly/Hannity/Windbag Zone!

  76. Apologies if this (or a similar) sentiment has already been expressed in the hundreds of climate change comments recently — I really did at least skim every one, but I could easily have missed it:

    Why are we treating climate change, whether it’s anthropogenic whether we ought to do something about it and whether doing something will have the consequences we want as a binary issue? That is to say, I suspect that while there is significant overlap between those who believe climate change is real and that it’s anthropogenic, and those that believe it’s anthropogenic and that we ought to do something about it, these don’t necessarily overlap.

    Yeah, I am just basically saying that this is complex and should be treated as such by everyone discussing it. Many of us don’t know the facts, and how anyone concluded that they are facts, so our efforts in these threads are probably best spent sharing information with one another instead of being angry that not everybody feels confident in one set of data or another.

    Also, because this is such a controversial topic and because it’s ubiquitous, I say we all *ought* to express our views “in a tone that would please the Queen” irrespective of whether they are rebuttals and whose views they are rebutting.

  77. If Ann Coulter becomes a guest blogger here, I will be posting exclusively with consonants for the duration!

  78. I still remember my Physical Chemistry professor in the early 80s wondering out loud what my generation (or possibly my childrens) were possibly going to do about global warming.

    As a physicist (well, former now) I have very little interest in debating the issue with non scientists. If you look carefully, you’ll find that many of the more vocal opponents of global warming really had no scientific experience or real training. They were (and remain) pedestrian hobbyists whose opinion is no merit.

    The time has really passed to continue debating this issue. If in fact one day we find that global warming was benign, there is just about ZERO is currently accepted, peer-reviewed science that indicates this.

    In other words, according to what humanity is able to determine through scientific means, we need to take some very strong actions and also prepare for what could be a very difficult century.

    The debate is over.

  79. Let me preface by admitting to being uninformed on the current state of scientific research and technical arguments around anthropogenic climate change. That being said, it seems that most of the present discussion revolves around greenhouse gasses and carbon, which are undoubtedly very real and significant factors.

    The one thing that has always really puzzled me though, is the seemingly glaring absence in the popular debate of what seems to a lay person such as myself as a much less complex and logically defensible illustration of human caused change.

    “Thermal energy time-shifting”. (for lack of a better descriptor, I know that I have heard this notion put forth before but I can’t remember where).

    Basically, if fossil fuels are stored sunlight energy (heat), which has accumulated on the surface of the earth in the past, and we release it at the present, and the earths ability to modify its heat dissipation in accord with the amount of human caused heat-energy release varies along any curve other than an exact inverse of the human caused heat addition, then it seems mind-numbingly clear that there will be *some* environmental impact. I realize that there are variables, and that’s kind of the crux of the issue, like to what degree the loss of heat from the earth is constant or dependent on things like the temperature of the atmosphere. Crazy dynamic systems are crazy and dynamic, that doesn’t mean that they’re un-analyzable.

    But the values of specific variables are a separate issue from the general form of the equation.

    Humans are creating inputs by our activities, which in a finite system should unarguably have real and finite outputs.

    It seems that if a case can be made that invokes a simpler and direct chain of logical causation it could put to rest these kinds of uber-general arguments over the existence of what is really an aggregate umbrella concept for multiple phenomena (and yes, sadly the discussion seems to too often derail into non-scientific philosophical and political debates).

    Someone more learned on this topic, please tell me why this silly or off-base, because the absence of anything like it in the discussion has been bugging me for a while.

    (on a somewhat OT note: has anyone else who is exposed to the banner ads on the top of drudger***** noticed that the right-wing-on-the-web is attempting to brand itself with the imagery of math and science lately. @keeper of the lantern, if only for this reason, I am afraid that the supposed debate is far from over, unfortunately *hearts and minds* can be more influential in policy decisions than logic, experiment and rigor.)

  80. As involving, important, and heated as this issue is (pun intended!), I am amiss to see one blogger post a stream of denial literature (one post was enough) and the other post a stream of counter-counter-intelligence after years of the debate/coverup raging, just makes me skim right over. I’ve studied most of this stuff, from hockey sticks to Vostok ice cores. Nothing here is new. We’d be just as well serviced sending the debate to comments and move on.

  81. the fact is: the war is never over. You may wish it is, especially after meritorious conduct in battle, but it ain’t. Sorry. Deal with it. People have been fighting the good fight since forever, “killing is wrong”, “helping is good” etc., but not just every new generation but every frequently forgetful generation (ie: all of them) has to be taught and convinced over and over and over.
    The “climate debate” is not something to be won,it is process to be lived.

  82. “Why would anyone try to shut their opponents’ mouths, unless their interests are in substantial danger?”

    How about my interest in staying alive?

  83. Takuan speaks the truth! And Soylent green is people. That distopia of that movie (released in 1973) shows a very warm planet in 2022. Shit can happen fast, like the New Depression and the New Florida: Michigan is going to change its name to take advantage of global warming! No one listens to the sf writers :(

    Come to New Florida, we have more shoreline than the former Florida (now called the Florida islands), and it’s FRESH water!

  84. @#62 ADVA:

    So which of those articles, exactly, disputes anthropogenic effects as being the major contributor to recent climate change? Of the eight ‘published’ papers you cite, six are in the 1993 to 2003 time frame and one doesn’t have a date. Are you saying that these articles were ignored in the literature review I referenced?

    I don’t have access to all of these papers so if you can provide links to abstracts I would greatly appreciate it.

    From the reviews of those articles (e.g.RealClimate), I understand that the authors performed experiments proving that cosmic radiation can create the building blocks for clouds. The papers do not, however (again as I understand without having direct access to the papers), quantify the effect of cosmic radiation on recent climate change. Nor do they compare the effect of cosmic radiation with that of greenhouse gases.

  85. You’ve now switched from “disagree” to “insult.” Try to keep your points consistent if you actually wish to have a discussion.

    And the name is “Dayv,” not “Davy.” If that’s difficult for you, feel free to copy and paste it in the future.

    Well, to be clear, I was deliberately conflating the two. The mods seem to view disagreements as insults. Follow?

    Please accept my deepest regrets for misspelling your handle. I can only imagine how traumatic that was for you.

  86. I’d just like to say for the record that I have disagreed with, and even ascribed some pretty shallow motives to, some of Cory’s posts in the past and never been censored in any way. I have found that by and large Boing Boing proctors moderate and censor based almost exclusively against posts which are fraught with clear and well disproved information or grotesque slander.

    In the case of this Platt fellow, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to see him debate. His opening argument on this message board was that since he had suspicious about a popular global warming proponent’s motivations (Al Gore) that somehow this undermined the entire argument. This is a classic informal fallacy. The fact is that Al Gore could be erecting massive mirrors to scorch the earth to a cinder in order to woo a decrepit Queen Elizabeth II (who is turned on by that sort of thing,) and it would have zero influence on whether or not global warming is real, nor the actual rational arguments which support this concept. As I post in an earlier thread, this is why we not only can but really must call these people denialists, because they shun reason in favor of rumor mongering, fallacy and just general inanity, in the face of a serious social issue. When you play hot and loose with the facts regarding situations which may well severely impact the fate of all humanity, I think calling you a dishonest denialist is uncalled-for politeness, myself. And that goes for all the clearly ridiculous claims that somehow those who disagree with the global warming concept are victims of a massive hush campaign. High time to reconcile beliefs with reality.

  87. Back to falsifiability for a bit: it seems to me scientists should be able to simulate in a lab or with computer modeling climate conditions before the Industrial Age, and then introduce carbon emission variables, and make quantifiable predictions of conditions that should replicate what exists now. Maybe that experiment has been done several times, but if so, I’m not aware of it. After I brought up the problem of falsifiability with my environmentalist pal, he said it was too difficult to explain in the mass media, and it’s better to emphasize the worst near future scenarios to get people moving and policies implemented. Maybe so, but it does feel like I’m being bullied, or a shell game is being played. Recall that environmentalists used to call this general problem “global warming”, but after it was pointed out that we’re seeing record cold temperatures in many places, especially wherever Al Gore showed up to speak, it now seems to be re-framed as “climate change”.

    Understand, this isn’t a normative observation. I think the “err on the side of caution” argument is totally adequate, in addition to all the many other reasons for us getting off an oil-based energy system. I just rankle at how the scientific findings are often presented, not with caution and qualifications, but as definitive statements of undisputed fact which should be anathema to true science.

    And no, I’m not on the payroll of any petroleum companies, I drive a fuel-efficient car and plan to next buy a hybrid, and believe Fox News sucks ass.

  88. Platt said
    “Instead you are appealing to authority, basically saying “My experts trump your experts.” I don’t think this is a strong argument, if indeed it is an argument at all.”

    Well, it is an argument. I AM a scientist –I am an atmospheric fluid dynamicist. BUT, I do not consider myself an expert on climate change. So, when someone asks me about it or if I need to make a decision related to it I compare the quality of the arguments and data on either side and, when in doubt, the quality of the expert. This is the way science is done in an era of immense amounts of specialised information.

    If you have taken a class or been to a doctor then you, at some level, accept the notion of expert knowledge and the appeal to authority.

  89. arrozconpollo, why the dickish tone? did cory come over to yer place and urinate on your wheatabix? poop in your punchbowl? apparently u have no problem comin over to his place and acting like a putz.

  90. W. James #100 : Penn of Penn and Teller made this same point, “if the science is there, why haven’t I heard it?” But we have all heard it. Most of us have been taught the basics of green house gasses since grade school, and yes, these various modeling concepts (introduction of said gasses to the environment as we know it,) have been run. The problem here is simply a classic one of scientist vs layman. Do you have either the time or the expertise to drudge through the oppressive data, examinations and experiments, and more complex math/reasoning? Most people have neither. The thing is, they suffer the same deficiency when it comes to the medicine they take, the Prius cars they drive, the computers they debate science on. Most people are entirely unqualified to evaluate the science that governs their lives.

    So why is climate change suddenly the random notion we call the scientific community out on? (I say random, it’s been evolution for a century and even the spherical earth concept has people espousing the same doubts we see brought to bear against global warming.) Its very simple, because a group of people with a vested interest in repressing that idea, regardless of the facts/cost, have engaged in typical propaganda against it. Doubt this? Then why is it that the argument changed so suddenly from, “climate change isn’t occuring,” to, “climate change isn’t man made.” I don’t think I’m alone in remembering that a mere twenty years ago, the idea of a changing climate was dismissed entirely by the same faction who has, for no coherent reason, decided to admit that the climate is changing, but now blindly insists that humanity has no influence.

    In summary, the science is there, if you’re willing to put forth the effort to research it. However, if you lack the time and skill (entirely reasonable in thie specialized age,) then just go the simpler route and track the money/incentive. While not infallible, that is still a fairly sure short route to the truth.

  91. Doesn’t matter if we caused it. If we don’t stop it, we die (eventually, after our civilization crumbles).

    If the North Polar icecap melts entirely, the amount of heat retained by the planet goes up drastically, because instead of most of the heat being reflected, most of it is absorbed.

    If the ocean temperature goes up enough, oxygen is no longer able to stay in solution in the water. The first result of that is massive die-offs of gilled creatures.

    Then anaerobic bacteria begin to breed in the depths. They produce…damn, can’t remember. A toxic sulphur gas. Can’t remember which one. Anyway, poison gas.

    One theory of the process that exterminated the archaic dinosaurs is such a warming event (that is, the meteor caused heat retention in the atmosphere, leading to global warming), which gassed the dinosaurs, killing the big ones first.

    Two things about “haven’t seen any evidence of climate change killing anyone.” One, it’s like saying you won’t wear a seatbelt until you’ve been in a crash yourself: by the time you see it happen, it’s too late to fix it. Two, you’re just not paying attention. Desertification has already killed a lot of people; they’re just dying in Africa and Asia, not Europe and America.

    Yeah, that means what you think it means. This ship is going down. MAYBE if we work hard, we can slow it down enough to adjust to it, but I doubt it. Meanwhile, we have people talking about the arrangement of the deck chairs.

    Honestly.

  92. W. James (#100), you say “it seems to me scientists should be able to simulate in a lab or with computer modeling climate conditions before the Industrial Age, and then introduce carbon emission variables, and make quantifiable predictions of conditions that should replicate what exists now. Maybe that experiment has been done several times, but if so, I’m not aware of it.”

    That you are not aware of it doesn’t mean it (simulating the climate just as you describe) hasn’t been done. Personal incredulity isn’t much of an argument.

    What you describe is how climate model experiments work: Run the model from initial conditions until it reaches an equilibrium state (observed climate) then alter a variable, such as doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, run the model until a new equilibrium is reached. As Spencer Weart points out on the website Cory points to in this post, there is a rich history of climate model experiments starting with simple energy balance models, to 1-D radiative-convective models, to 3-D general circulation models.

  93. “But instead of just posting about the latest anti-GW books, it would be really nice if Mr Platt were to respond to the individual points that were raised by Cory and will be raised in these threads. I was disappointed that the Wal-Mart thread had several dozen questions for Mr Platt that never went answered.”

    This is par for the course I’m afraid. Mr. Platt makes these sweeping posts, sicks around to respond to MAYBE one or two rebuttles if we are lucky, and then disappears when things turn sour for him.

    Then a day later we are blessed with another post — global warming, low income employment, hell, even rural Japan — full of generalizations based on sophomoric understanding of the subject.

  94. Ab5tract: Global dimming is for real: and its effects and interactions with climate change illustrate those unknowns (another is the possible acceleration of release of methane etc. as critical temperatures are breached on the sea floor or in the permafrost) which lead me to be skeptical of our ability to predict the effects of our massively increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere over a (relatively) short period of time. It could set up a bad self-reinforcing feedback loop, going in either direction: it don’t matter if the world gets hotter or colder, its the rate of change which is most worrisome, the too-fast rate of change which would be the killer.
    Our old friend Prudence ought to take the lead. Going out of our way to reduce the intensity of our emissions as well as the absolute amounts thereof seems reasonable, in light of the possibilities.

  95. “Its very simple, because a group of people with a vested interest in repressing that idea, regardless of the facts/cost, have engaged in typical propaganda against it.”

    It’s not that simple, actually. Some of the prescriptions put forth would involve drastic changes to economic infrastructure that will almost certainly be extremely painful to average people. Have you noticed how drastically public support for addressing climate change has fallen in recent months? It’s fallen in inverse proportion to rising concern over the economy. Can you really argue that’s a function of propaganda?

    You want to see a propaganda campaign, wait what happens when the West tries to tell the leadership in China and Russia to clean up its act in this regard. Both huge countries, heavily dependent on oil, and China in particular has been investing in producing much much more, even if that means, say, genocide. They don’t just pay big PR firms to influence the media, they also pay big men to have people in the media killed.

  96. I notice Platt hasn’t posted anything else today since his burst of startlingly ignorant and credulous drivel this morning… hopefully he ain’t comin’ back.

  97. @#94 umgrego2:

    This is about the time and energy I have for “comments-debates” :-) , But since you’re interested – how about starting with Nir Shaviv’s blog? I’m sure you’ll find lots of extremely interesting, updated information, including reference to the 2007 film which name I forget:
    http://www.sciencebits.com/

  98. @101:

    If you have [ever] been to a doctor then you, at some level, accept the notion of expert knowledge and the appeal to authority.

    Thank you! An excellent way to rebut that stupid argument that actually respecting the worth of a scientist who has published peer-reviewed articles on the subject is somehow a logical fallacy.

  99. W. James @111 sez : “Have you noticed how drastically public support for addressing climate change has fallen in recent months? It’s fallen in inverse proportion to rising concern over the economy. Can you really argue that’s a function of propaganda?”

    Yes, and easily. Remember, propaganda isn’t merely a giant black and red poster that says SMOKE on it. How we think, the language we choose, and use, to couch our ideas, to engage in a large social conversation about any subject, colors our beliefs and ideas. Those with potent social agendas work very hard to direct and control the language of any debate.

    Case in point, lets look at the notion of putting a man on Mars. Its a tricky prospect, and an absurdly expensive one, and like Climate change, proponents for the idea have gone largely silent as global recession looms. But people haven’t stopped believing that its possible. Why? Because there isn’t any social engine working hard to ensure that the international mind set irrationally associates the very concept of a Mars landing, the science of it, with business and economic effects.

    In the case of global warming, this engine does exist, and as a result the reaction a global economic crisis causes isn’t what you’d expect if there were no propaganda machine, “Sure climate change is occurring but what can we do? Economy first.” Instead those electing to reject the idea outright gain number and voice. People have come to blindly associate ideas about climate change as a threat to industrial interests, so when those interests are legitimately threatened, they are (irrationally) inclined to ignore the science of global warming more.

  100. Actually, I’d like to follow up on my post two above this.

    Could the very notion that ‘an “appeal to authority” is a logical fallacy’ be completely stricken from the books?

    Why is it considered a logical fallacy? Sure, the ancient Greeks invented it, and it probably has some fancy way of saying it in Latin, but… why?

    That’s what an authority is. Someone whose expertise in a topic authorizes him to make a strong claim about what is. The rest of our opinions are pretty irrelevant.

    I’ll answer my own question: the reason it’s considered a fallacy is because the Greeks had this idea that all arguments could be settled by logic alone, using first principles. If you start with universally agreed axioms, and perform all your logical rules, you should reach a conclusion. An appeal to authority side-steps that.

    What that fails to address, however, is cases outside high-school debating halls. When we’re actually trying to work out what is in a very complex question with incomplete information, appeal to authority should pretty much be the only argument any of us can use. Nothing else is valid until you yourself become an authority.

  101. Actually, Samsam, there’s a better answer to your question. The greeks, neither those who finally formalized reason nor anyone else, tended to think that everything could be settled by logic alone. However, a ‘fallacy’ is related directly to the reasoning behind an argument, or more importantly, the lack thereof.

    There are two types of fallacies, formal and informal, and the distinction is how much they ‘affect’ an argument. Formal fallacies are ones which are absolutely false, as in the appeal not only doesn’t support the side promoting it rationally, but is in fact demonstrably unreasonable.

    Informal fallacies are ones which simply have no demonstrable rational relationship, but may still support an idea which is true. The appeal to authority is an informal fallacy. Just because an authority claims something to be true doesn’t mean that it actually is, so claiming that some argument you are promoting is correct simply because an accepted authority believes it is not a rational defense of your argument, its an irrational, illogical fallacy because it ignored the real possibility that said authority figure could be mistaken or lying. However, it might well be tha the authority figure is right. The reason the appeal is a fallacy is because the appeal isn’t rational, and can’t demonstrate truth either way.

    As for what is or isn’t valid, if you and I decide to test my new idea of lead wing gliders, neither of us has to be an expert to discover concrete holes in the theory. Hands on is still a very common reason to believe anything, and you don’t need to blindly appeal to an authority to do it.

  102. The “appeal to authority” fallacy is when you invoke irrelevant authority. For example, the King of Sweden’s opinion on climate change. Most advertising consists of appeals to the authority of hot women. The general mode of fallacy is confusing competence in one area with competence in others.

    The non-fallacy of asking the relevant experts in a field should possibly be called appeal to expertise or something to distinguish it.

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