Top independent, peer-reviewed research indicating that climate change is real, deadly, and caused by humans

From Nature's excellent Climate Change section, excellent summation of the year's research into anthropogenic climate change -- that is, the hard scientific evidence from unbiased, independent scientists indicating that climate change is real, caused by humans, and dangerous to the planet.
4. The hockey stick holds up

A follow-up to the infamous 1998 'hockey stick' curve confirmed that the past two decades are the warmest in recent history. Climatologist Michael Mann's contentious graph has become a symbol of the fierce debates on evidence for global warming, to the extent that an independent investigation into the study was performed at the request of US Congressman Joe Barton. The 2006 report that resulted from the Barton enquiry criticized Mann and colleagues for their reliance on tree-ring data from bristlecone pines as a proxy to reconstruct Northern Hemisphere temperatures over the past 1,000 years. Although their earlier work had been largely vindicated, in September the same team revised their global surface temperature estimates for the past 2,000 years, using a greatly expanded set of proxies, including marine sediments, ice cores, coral and historical documents (Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 105, 13252–13257; 2008). The team reconstructed global temperatures with and without inclusion of the tree-ring records: without their inclusion, the data showed that recent warming is greater than at any point in at least the past 1,300 years; inclusion of tree-ring data extended this period to at least 1,700 years. According to the Christian Science Monitor: "It still looks a lot like the much-battered, but still rink-ready stick of 1998. Today the handle reaches further back and it's a bit more gnarly. But the blade at the business end tells the same story."

What we've learned in 2008

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  1. not trying to be picky or anything but i think u went a lil crazy with the hyperlinks on this one lol

  2. Nice to see a counterweight to Charles Platt’s recent polemics on this issue with links to a reliable peer reviewed source that isn’t trying to sell books and isn’t cherry-picking data to fit a pre-conceived idea.

  3. Nice collection of links, read this one but will thumb through the rest over the course of the day. Good to see a solid rebuttal of the MWP argument that’s understandable for the layman at last – hope it shuts some people up but somehow I doubt it…

  4. I check Boing Boing this morning and find all this sadness.

    I grew up during the cold war in an American city (San Antonio, Texas) that had 4 Air Force bases, 1 Army Base, and the assumption that we were a primary target. This year on Valentines Day I will be 42 years old. I never expected to be this old. I figured I’d end my life as an expanding cloud of super heated radioactive gas in my early 20’s. I became able to deal with the idea that all human civilization would do itself in, and probably take the human species with it. Like a person with terminal cancer, once you come to terms with that fact, you can go on and enjoy what time you have left to the fullest. As I see it, I’ve always been living on borrowed time, and I still am. Same thing. Different century.

    Call it ‘burn out’ but I really just don’t care any more. Besides, it’s too early in the morning to have to deal with global warming. Where’s my coffee?

  5. Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!

    No seriously though, I was going through the Climate Heresy posts on my RSS reader and I thought, uh ooh, major rebuttal coming.

    Now I’m confused–who do I believe! Not that it makes any difference who *I* believe. But still.

    For instance, what about the people on petitionproject that Charles Platt mentioned? Is there an obvious problem with that approach? (As in, does no one double-check if these people really have the PhDs they claim to have, or if it was really those people who signed the petition and not just someone pretending to be them?) Is this just a statistically expectable group of dissenters on a topic whose scientific background is too complex and badly understood to yield perfect consensus?

    Or is it the other way around, is it that those who so passionately defend anthropogenic climate change are guided by a sort of Pascal’s Wager, in that if there is no anthropogenic climate change, the development of alternative energies still gains us something useful (as we WILL run out of fossil fuels eventually) (right? RIGHT? Tell me we’re sure about that! ;P) and if there is anthropogenic climate change as catastrophic as they claim and we do nothing, we have everything to lose? I get this impression sometimes, that a lot of the passionate defenders are only somewhat convinced of their point of view but think that if there’s even the slightest chance that this might be happening, they need to passionately and with full confidence lobby for change.

    I don’t think many people have the necessary scientific background to really understand source material here, to judge things such as reliability of measurements etc, and so I think that the most useful thing us small, smelly, uneducated people can do is a form of Ornithomancy where we try to understand the motivations and actions of those who are in a position to understand the source data and thus arrive at our own, inconsequential conclusions.

  6. I’m sorry but the hockey stick still has major holes in it. One of them is actually specified here as if it had actually been fixed: bristlecone pines. The NAS panel specifically said that bristlecone pines should be avoided in future work, but guess what, the revised work still includes them. They panel and the Wegmann review both said the statistics were dodgy, and pretty much the same statistics were used.

    See http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=5071 and other similar articles for more (including their response to the “rework” paper which will be published in the next issue of PNAS, and of course the reply by Mann et al. to their response)

    The hockey stick is far from vindicated, and the real answer to whether this is the warmest decase in at least 1200 years is “who knows?” This paper certainly doesn’t tell us.

  7. To me, the most interesting aspect of global warming is the religio-militaristic aspect it is taking on.

    Recent events involving the rehabilitation of a Holocaust-denying Catholic bishop remind me that there are certain parallels between the concept of global warming and the Holocaust.

    In both cases, the loudest voices claim that ‘the discussion is over’ and ‘there is no debate over what happened’. This instantly declared illegitimate any attempt to even raise minor questions.

    In both cases, the ‘shout down’ response is the first and primary response to any dissent.

    In the case of the Holocaust, it is illegal in some countries to even hold the belief that it did not happen as history describes it – people can and have been sent to prison for simply stating their opinion on the matter in print. I feel this will eventually become true for those who ‘deny’ an anthropogenic root cause of global warming as well – it will simply become illegal to not espouse the current majority opinion on the cause of global warming.

    I do not deny the Holocaust, nor do I deny an anthropogenic cause of global warming, but I have some trepidation – even fear – of living in a world where ‘tolerance’ does not mean tolerance of an opposing opinion about either of these two issues.

  8. Wigwam, I know what you’re saying, but ‘tolerance’ for someone expressing the opinion that the holocaust didn’t happen is a complex issue. I’m not sure that’s good ‘tolerance.’ You’re talking about a well documented event, one that impacted millions upon millions of lives, and one that we hope never repeats. Denying it only opens the door to recurrence.

  9. @ #9 dculberson

    I recognize that it is complex. I’m not sure there is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ tolerance; even that is complex.

    Not looking for answers here, just noting the similarities (and for me at least, frightening ones) between the view held of ‘Holocaust Deniers’ and ‘AGW Deniers’. The actual term ‘deniers’ is even used, which is generally not trotted out under other circumstances.

    The label ‘denier’ is one which invokes a response of absoluteness. By that, I mean, not only may one not question whether or not the Holocaust happened, but one may not even question whether it was 6 million or 5,999,999 people murdered – any question, no matter how small, is instantly cast as ‘denial’ of the Holocaust. In fact, any attempt at scholarship into the history of the Holocaust is now viewed with deep suspicion – after all, we know all there is to know, and attempting to learn more can only lead to apostasy, goes the reasoning.

    To be cast as an AGW Denier is a frightening prospect. What worries me is not being so portrayed, but that such a portrayal is now possible.

    I recall the story history teaches of meteorites. Once, learned men of science said that rocks did not fall from the sky. People who claimed to have witnessed such things were considered to be insane and were sent to asylums.

  10. I simply want us to keep looking and keep measuring. Cutting back on CO2 could mean we all freeze during the next mini ice age. I’m not saying I’ll be happy with melted ice caps sooner than that (I live in LA afterall, and at least my office building would be partly under water at the Marina), but I also want to keep my job until then (something bad enough to consider now, worse if America forces itself to cut energy consumption drastically anytime soon).

    I hope we figure out how to calculate global weather even if it’s impossible to calculate local weather. I like Asimov.

  11. Wigwam – it’s not at all illegal to debate the precise figures of those killed in the Holocaust. It happens a lot. It’s historical research, based on evidence such as census figures etc.

    What is illegal is to ignore the evidence and just blunder ahead and say something that is clearly motivated by anti-semitism. Such as ‘the holocaust never happened’ or ‘there were no gas chambers’.

    Also, I don’t think you can equate the response to Holocaust denial and the response to people who don’t believe in global warming. It’s just imprecise – for a start Holocaust denial has never been the entrenched and official position of the US Government.

  12. Thought exercise: Compare and contrast.

    1) Global warming deniers

    2) Holocaust deniers

    3) Evolution deniers

    4) Moon landing deniers

    5) Impending financial meltdown deniers

    6) Food allergy deniers

    7) Terrorism deniers

    There are some interesting reflections, not only with regard to preponderance and consistency of scientific evidence, but in the treatment given by the mainstream media, the weight of personal belief bias, community identification, underlying values, and concealed or overt financial interests.

    Footnote: For the purposes of this discussion, I make no claims as to the correctness of any of these views.

  13. @ #12 Cragsavage

    Wigwam – it’s not at all illegal to debate the precise figures of those killed in the Holocaust. It happens a lot. It’s historical research, based on evidence such as census figures etc.

    I think it depends upon the situation. The current dust-up I mentioned involves a Catholic bishop who is a ‘denier’ in the exact sense you mention – he claims it happened, but disputes the exact number killed. Not illegal? Perhaps not in many countries. In Germany, it will get you put prison.

    And legal or not – the Bishop is ‘a Denier’ and for many, that ends all discussion of the issue, and makes his rehabilitation into the Catholic church most unacceptable. Illegal – in the sense of ‘this person cannot be tolerated to hold this view and be a leader in the church at the same time.’

    What is illegal is to ignore the evidence and just blunder ahead and say something that is clearly motivated by anti-semitism. Such as ‘the holocaust never happened’ or ‘there were no gas chambers’.

    That’s that murky issue issue of who gets to define what is ‘clearly motivated’. Just for the record, chances are great that I fully agree with you on the motivation of people who deny the Holocaust happened at all – but I do not feel empowered to ‘know’ what their motivation is, only to suspect it.

    Also, I don’t think you can equate the response to Holocaust denial and the response to people who don’t believe in global warming. It’s just imprecise – for a start Holocaust denial has never been the entrenched and official position of the US Government.

    There are lots of ways that they are different issues, yes. I am not equating as much as I am comparing. And I believe the ‘AGW Denier’ label and response is evolving. Over time, it will be interesting to see in what direction it goes.

    At the moment, one may ‘deny’ AGW with vim and vigor if one pleases. Some will engage in argument with those who deny it, some will refuse to do so – but there is a growing response that ‘to deny’ AGW is simply unacceptable – an opinion that people ought not be allowed to hold. In this, I find it curiously like the ‘Holocaust Deniers’ label, and as I mentioned, even that exact term (‘deniers’) has been used – not by myself, but by those who hold strongly to the AGW position.

    The above being only my observation and opinion, of course.

  14. Wigwam – I don’t really want to get into the rights and wrongs of Holocaust Denial laws. I just wanted to point out that your assertion that it was illegal to debate the figures (“one may not even question whether it was 6 million or 5,999,999 people murdered”) was, in fact, incorrect.

    And Bishop Williamson’s exact words, when speaking on Swedish TV, were “”I believe there were no gas chambers”.

  15. @ #15 Cragsavage

    Fair enough – I stand corrected. In my defense, I have not paid enough attention to the issue with Bishop Williamson (mea culpa), but it was the juxtaposition in the media of the terms ‘Holocaust Deniers’ and ‘Deniers’ of AGW that got me thinking about the parallels between them.

    @ #13 Pteryxx

    Thought exercise: Compare and contrast.
    1) Global warming deniers
    2) Holocaust deniers
    3) Evolution deniers
    4) Moon landing deniers
    5) Impending financial meltdown deniers
    6) Food allergy deniers
    7) Terrorism deniers

    That is an interesting list – thanks for the food for thought. There are, of course, any number of historical ‘denier’ issues one could make a list of, including some which have turned out the other way (history has proven the ‘correct view’ of the time to be incorrect) but those are some good ones.

    There is, however, a distinction I draw here. Items #1 and #2 are seen belonging to that class of ‘denier’ that are morally evil (or at least taking an evil position), not simply wrong.

    To wit – a person who denies that the moon landings took place is viewed by most as absolutely wrong, but I doubt anyone thinks of such people as evil.

  16. What we need right now, more than anything else on this “debate,” is an analysis of the things that must be taken as “true” in order for anthropogenic global warming to be a hoax.

    • For instance we must believe that 90%+ of all climate scientist everywhere are in on this hoax.

    • We must believe that all scientific journals conspire to lock out valid, sound papers contrary to AGW, such that 99% of all published work now supports AGW.

    •We must believe that there’s some sort of computer virus or something that blocks all attempts to make a working climate model that both matches existing data to a high degree, and discounts AGW, because no such model exists.

    • We must believe that vast chunks of data, from ice cores to satellite imagery, have been manipulated, misrepresented, tainted, or outright invented, and therefore must be discarded.

    • We must believe that all these researchers, peer reviewers, analysts, agency workers, and stakeholders, in all levels of work, from all corners of the globe, of all ages, from differing political and social walks of life, are all working together with a incredible level of agreement, to perpetuate this myth, whether they do so consciously or unconsciously.

    Feel free to correct my numbers or otherwise improve on this post, or write it up as a full article.

    My apologies for not reading this thread before posting, but I’m still a bit shocked that we are back to debating the reality of anthropogenic global warming. It’s the zombie topic that will not die.

  17. Dorkhero wrote:
    “This year on Valentines Day I will be 42 years old. I never expected to be this old. […]

    Call it ‘burn out’ but I really just don’t care any more. Besides, it’s too early in the morning to have to deal with global warming.”

    this year on Valentine’s Day I will be 46 years old.
    9 years ago, I started to become more interested in the environment due to something I saw while surfing here in Ireland. So I did Master’s Science Deg. in Environmental Decision Making & have almost completed another in Environmental Policy and while I haven’t managed to find work in the area, from my study I have both no doubt Climate Change is real, but from my research thesis, also that the majority conflate all “environmental” issues into one mental box, correctly or incorrectly,and that from short term self interest most will never do anything about it.
    I care about it all day, even in the morning before coffee, not just because I have 3 grown up kids, but because I don’t believe humans have the right to not care. Our belief that we are more important than anything is a relic of ancient religions.

  18. You know, the climate change argument is plenty scary, but can’t everyone just agree to stop shitting where we eat, and to save some money by not being so goddamn wasteful? Clean and frugal doesn’t seem like it should be such a hard sell.

    Not that it matters, of course. The Keynesian illusory wealth creation machine will populate us beyond sustainability soon enough.

  19. DanielZKlein “I don’t think many people have the necessary scientific background to really understand source material here…”
    Well, as someone who both wears glasses and went for a hike one time, I think that we can agree that I’m somewhat of an expert on the subject:
    Blame the bristlecone pines

  20. that was a ridiculous “thought excercise”. lumping various ‘deniers’ together to try to show how stupid they are.
    1) Global warming deniers
    2) Holocaust deniers
    3) Evolution deniers
    4) Monn landing deniers
    5) Impending financial meltdown deniers
    6) Food allergy deniers
    7) Terrorism deniers

    let’s try it this way then:
    1) Global warming criers
    2) Global cooling criers of the 90’s
    3) End of the world criers, happens every year
    4) Evolution criers, still only a theory
    5) Y2K criers
    6) constant exagerations by meteorologists
    7) “if mexicans don’t do those jobs, who will?” criers

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