Why do some people say the Earth isn't getting hotter?

If you haven't seen the Skeptical Science website yet, you're missing out.

Via Tom Standage


    1. Why do some people say the Earth isn’t getting hotter?

      Because it sells copies of the Daily Mail?  They currently have two articles about how global warming isn’t happening.  Next to an article about how cycads are blooming on the Isle of Wight for the first time since dinosaurs roamed the earth.

    1. Or maybe it’s so hard to admit you where so colossally wrong that you accidentally, the whole planet, so you stick your sand in the head and sing “lalalala global warming myth”.

      1. This is an interesting point; we’re probably going to reach a point in a few decades when kids will go to their parents/grandparents and ask them “Mom, why didn’t people stop warming the planet?”

        And their Mom/whoever will saw “because I thought it was a liberal conspiracy”.

  1. But . . . but . . . the number of DOWNWARD lines clearly outnumbers the number of UPWARD lines! The earth is cooling FAST!

    Hah, take that human-hating tree hugging hippie religious fanatics! algore is fat!


  2. Not saying that I know why the temp is going up, but I do believe that 40 years of data is minuscule compared to the 580 million years we’ve had multi-cellular organisms here.  Would love to see at least a few thousand years of data to look at trends…

    1. The data is out there and easily available, do a google search.  Do you think that climate 580 million years ago or hell even 100 million years ago is in anyway pertinent to the climate trends NOW?  Do you think your take on the subject has some validity that has yet to be explored?  If so, please write a paper!  The Koch Foundation will pay big money for it I hear.

      1. Scientific inquiry is bad when it doesn’t agree with my political affiliations! Get a grip, the guy is just curious, not everyone is trying to prove a point to get a gold star sticker with their political party. Even if he didn’t believe in Global Warming, sincere investigation will only bolster what is true. 

        Also Climate 580 Million Years ago COULD be relevant, as there still were Ozone Layers, and CO2. What about for example say 65 million years ago when a lot of CO2 was produced, and also many plants were killed. 

        Anyone who stamps on curiosity is an idiot, sorry. 

        1. Could you explain how climate 580 million years ago is relevant?  wendyfr decided not to.  I am honestly curious.

    2. Here.  These are reconstructions mostly based on ice cores.  Thermometer was invented in the 1400’s so that’s the best we can do.

      “Multicellular organisms” aren’t really relevant.  What’s relevant is the range of climactic conditions under which our current agricultural systems can (already inadequately) feed 7 billion.  Or, looking ahead 20 years, 10 billion.  All of human civilization has occurred within a very narrow range of climactic conditions; the risk of AGW is to the infrastructures on which technological society depends, not to biological life itself.

      1. Whether humans are meant to be a longer part of the earth’s history is anyone’s guess.  Life has existed for at least 580 million years.  Are those beginning years any more or less important than the ones now? We can do whatever possible to try to keep humans on earth for as long as possible, but there’s only so much we really have control over.  Way bigger problem, in my opinion, is overpopulation…

        1. I don’t understand what point you’re trying to make.  Why am I supposed to compare “the beginning years” to the “ones now” in terms of importance?  How does that have any bearing on questions about global warming?  But in some sense, yes, I have much more stake in the “ones now” than “the beginning years” because I’m, you know, alive now not 580 million years ago.

          If you think overpopulation is a problem then you should be really worried about global warming because as I already argued the largest threat to human beings caused by global warming is that it could undermine our ability to produce food in the vast quantities required to feed the huge populations that you’re worried about.  Unless your solution to overpopulation is to starve a few billion people to death.

          This talk may be somewhat reassuring on the subject of overpopulation.

          Again, those worried about global warming are worried about whether our current civilization can survive it. The history of biological life on earth is not relevant to this question.

    3. Even the atmospheric composition has changed over that period (e.g. the carboniferous).  You can’t compare them to today.

    4. A small portion of a change that living things would adapt to over millions of years can easily kill them if it happens in one. The larger timescale is interesting palaeontology, but doesn’t matter to life now.

  3. It seems like the whole debate is a purely American phenomenon. I’ve never heard a serious word of doubt anywhere else.

  4. I think part of the problem is partisanship, and some folks wont care until they see how it affects them personally.
    But I think another part of the problem is “science’s” inability to move people to action. Look at what is being presented… Eskimos standing on soggy ground, a graph of temperatures, and yet another ominous warning of horrible things to come. Then science seems to contradict itself by then proving that little boys want to play with trucks… Why would anyone spend any time with these ridiculous studies if we are all doomed anyway.

    I understand my concern is simplified and the answers are complex; however, I can see why there is the initial confusion, then people forget about it and drive their SUV to Starbucks.

    Or, I guess what I’m really trying to say is that “Science” needs to stop scratching it’s head and blaming the citizens, and instead find solutions on how to get a clear message out with reasonable concerns and reasonable solutions.

    1. Or, I guess what I’m really trying to say is that “Science” needs to stop scratching it’s head and blaming the citizens, and instead find solutions on how to get a clear message out with reasonable concerns and reasonable solutions.

      That already happened.  Then fossil fuel companies funded a huge disinformation campaign to discredit the clear message and solutions.  There was never any “blame” being assigned by scientists (though there certainly was by a lot of activists) — scientists are usually more concerned about how things are and how they came to be that way then in arguing about how they should be.  They basically gave a warning: keep doing what you’re doing and it looks like there will probably be pretty severe consequences.  If you choose to interpret that as “blaming” then maybe you’re the partisan.

    2. The problem here in the States is that no solution is ever liable to be adopted unless it provides ample graft opportunities for our political class.

      Which is why instead of a straightforward carbon tax, we get a “cap and trade” plan managed by Wall Street, and the government playing VC with taxpayers money funneled to big contributors.

      And when your only choice is graft from the Democrats and denial from the Republicans, don’t be surprised when nothing gets done.

    3. “Or, I guess what I’m really trying to say is that “Science” needs to stop scratching it’s head and blaming the citizens, and instead find solutions on how to get a clear message out with reasonable concerns and reasonable solutions.”That’s cute. Because science is a giant, anthropomorphic force for good that has so far been engaging in bad PR practices.You’re adorable, honestly.

  5. Because addressing global warming would require admitting that human beings need to exert self control and too many people are like spoiled children who don’t want to be told they can’t drive anything they want, have as many children as they want, consume as much as they want, build anything they want, etc.  Denying it allows people to continue to indulge themselves (for now).

  6. It’s not getting warmer.
    Oops it is.
    Well, it’s not a man made increase.
    Oops it is.
    Well there’s nothing we can do about it now, anyway.

    1. I’m sure he’ll want to know immediately!  

      My god, think of how much embarrassment he could have avoided had someone sent him this a decade ago!

  7. Why do we (in the USA) spend 90% of our time “right fighting” over climate change rather than spending 100% of our time instituting energy and environmental solutions that save money and make real sense to everyone whether they believe in anthropogenic climate change or not?

    Been saying this for 25 years and nobody’s listened yet, including the chief climate scientist for UCS and Bill McKibben.

      1. USA “rejects” about 56% of the energy we produce.  There’s a lot of things we could do to stop that.  Insulate every building that exists, google Architecture2020 which is trying to do something like that now.  A lot of that “rejected energy” is waste heat that could be used for cogeneration, Thomas Casten of Recycled Energy can tell you a lot about how to make that happen by changing a few regulations, some of which may now be in the works because of the Obama DOE.  

        If you really want to do something that has immediate effects on global climate change drastically reduce black carbon, troposheric ozone, and methane, a tropospheric ozone precursor, in the developing world.  More efficient cookstoves is one way to reduce black carbon and has beneficial health and economic benefits for the families who make that change.  May I suggest Maasai Stoves and Solar is looking for contributions to help them continue the work they are doing in  Tanzania with locally produced efficient cookstoves?  According to the UNEP 2011 on short lived climate forcers, which is what black carbon is, eliminating them could reduced expected greenhouse warming by half by 2050.

        That’s where I’d start and I’d concentrate on the poorest of the poor first.  Lots more at http://www.dailykos.com/blog/gmoke and my simple solar archive, http://solarray.blogspot.com if you’re interested.

          1. These days it seems you can never be too cynical.  Shouldn’t stop you from doing what’s practical and necessary though.  I propose the things I do because I don’t trust politicians as far as I can throw them and I try to throw them as far away as I can.

    1. “Why do we (in the USA) spend 90% of our time “right fighting” over climate change rather than spending 100% of our time instituting energy and environmental solutions that save money and make real sense to everyone whether they believe in anthropogenic climate change or not?”

      …because if there was an easy solution, it wouldn’t be an enormous problem? Coal is cheap, has been cheap, and will be cheap in the US for probably 100+ years. So short of getting a metric-fuckton of millionaires and billionaires to throw money into renewable energy so we can rush a solution to be cost-competitive to an energy source that we’ve been perfecting for over a hundred years, we’re still stuck in the same place; people want cheap energy, and renewable aren’t cheap yet. The government could easily fund more research, but then we’re back to squabbling over climate graphs in the House Science committee, and we know how that ends.This is the *perfect* example of a common-goods problem; we all want to live in a world with a stable climate, but we all want cheap energy. Everyone has an incentive to free-ride, as a solution would require a large majority to agree on emission-reductions, and many have a short term incentive to prevent agreement (Exxon, BHP Billiton, the GOP, etc).

      This is the battle you’re saying we should just ‘ignore’ right now. If you have Warren Buffet’s portfolio, and you don’t mind throwing it at any alternative energy research that has a pulse, and don’t mind losing the vast majority of this portfolio in the painstaking loss that is basic research and that rapid commercialization would require, we would all be very appreciative.Until then, I don’t think switching light bulbs is going to do it.

      1. Enviro groups used to talk about a “No Regrets” policy back in the early 1990s, meaning doing things that made sense whether or not you believed in the reality of climate change – energy efficiency and conservation, gathering all the so-called “low hanging fruit” available (I’ve heard some EHS guys who do this work say that “it’s all low hanging fruit” once they get into it).  The enviros never pushed it very hard and I haven’t heard that phrase or strategy mentioned in the last decade or so.  Too bad.  It’s a way forward without getting caught in the theological argument over anthropogenic climate change.

        Fact is, there are many things you can do to save energy and money without believing climate science.  Of course, there is now a whole industry based upon denial (not just a river in Egypt and a symptom of an addictive thinking process) but show someone how to keep more money in their pocket and the theological argument tends to evaporate.

        Saw Justin Gillis, NYTimes climate change reporter, at MIT yesterday.  He is finishing his series on climate science and about to embark on another climate series focused on possible solutions.  My Solutions to Climate Change are at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/09/26/1136484/-My-Solutions-to-Climate-Change and they start with the poorest people first with the reduction of black carbon (which has health and economic benefits that produce immediate payoffs beside the climate change advantages) and Solar IS Civil Defense which can build emergency preparedness here in the USA while also helping 1.5 billion people around the world gain access to a minimal amount of electricity if done on a buy one, give one basis.

        The metric fuckton of billionaires (lookin at you, Koch Bros) who are standing in the way of national and international actions on climate change can be out maneuvered by these small actions if they are done en masse.  

        What I see in our political discourse is a love of conflict rather than a search for solutions.  I prefer to work toward solutions than butt heads in a conflict that keeps us grappling continuously to no or little purpose.  I want to stop talking and work with those who are ready to do some real work.  Personally, solar and weatherization barnraisings are good community engagement events, taking simple solar devices to farmers’ markets is also a great idea and beginning to happen across the country.  Lots of things to do rather than just argue like Tweedledum and Tweedledee in the political Punch n Judy.

  8. It all started in 1973, just when the HP hand-held calculator came out, continuing with every improvement in calculating power. Fortunately, temperature increase has been linear while calculating power has increased exponentially following Moore’s law.

    1. There’s definitely a leveling off from about 1998 to 2005; it’s one of the lines drawn on the skeptic version. It doesn’t look that way if you include the data on either side, though, which is of course the whole point.

    2. 1. Twelve year trends aren’t especially significant in climate science.  Try looking at 30-year trends.
      2. Data points at the edges of graph are the least significant in determining long-term trends.
      3. 1998 was especially hot.  The point of the OP is that if you take trend lines starting on especially hot years you can find negative-slope trends.  As the OP also points out, this is not an especially good way to spot the long-term trend. 

      So maybe the realists aren’t off, maybe they’re just good at statistics.

  9. I think the reason for most is that they’ve picked a “team” and have been told their team doesn’t believe it and that denying it is a way to fight the other team.

    1. I think that is a good way to describe it, but since it’s probably not a rational process, they aren’t really ‘picking a team’ as much basing their opinion on an interchangeable, impermanent group of tribal, familial, political and ideological markers or biases.  

      Yes I’m just being pedantic, but I think we underestimate how much random ‘noise’ in our lives actually affects all the other decisions.  You can correlate an opinion on climate change with belief in specific religions, exact educational level (but only when combined with political identification… weeeeeird), socio-economic background, or geographical residence.  This is all stuff in the US that I’ve read, but I don’t image it would differ greatly in other locals.  

      The question I still want answered is what is the *most important factor*?  What can make educated, smart, socially grounded people take up denialism en-mass?  I know that Fox news can ‘educate’ a lot of viewers, but a lot of the opposition seems… I dunno, fanatical.

  10. “Past performance is no guarantee of future returns.”  See,  if you live and die on  Wall Street reports,  then you know better than to trust a linear fit like that.
    (a pre-emptive Whoosh to anyone  who thinks I’m serious about this particular extrapolation having the wrong sign on its slope)

  11. Change is the operative word. Change is the normal state. There can be no ideal static state in a constantly dynamic system with so many variables; sun, moon, earth core cooling, heating, continental drift, volcanism, orbit perturbations, astronomical unit change, chemical change, biomass, etc, etc… The time spans are immense. We do not even qualify as fleas on a dog. Humanity is a statistically insignificant fleeting infestation on this world. We are a rounding error. We’ll be gone soon enough.

    1. I’m sure that will all be very comforting to your children when they’re fighting malarial infections in Quebec.  

      The main problem here is that the time span isn’t looking very ‘immense’.

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