Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science

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Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 | ISSN 1556-5696

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Lies We Tell Ourselves

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Pine Island Glacier (Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team; http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_2165.html)
Donald R. Prothero on Anthropogenic Global Warming

In this week’s eSkeptic, Donald R. Prothero addresses climate change denialism head on, demolishing deniers’ arguments and rebuttals, and clearly demonstrating how we know global warming is real and human caused. Read Prothero’s bio after the article.

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How We Know Global Warming is Real
and Human Caused

by Donald R. Prothero

On January 27, 2012, the Wall Street Journal ran an Opinion Editorial written by 16 people who deny the evidence of human-induced climate change. Most of the authors of the editorial were not climate scientists; one of two actual climate scientists of the group, Richard Lindzen, is a notorious global warming denier who also denies that smoking causes cancer. Predictably, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Journal refused to run a statement by 255 members of the National Academy of Sciences, although a “Letter to the Editor” by 38 of the world’s leading climate scientists1 did manage to get published there. The letter pointed out the numerous lies, mistakes, and fallacies in the editorial, along with a scathing rebuke by climate scientist Kevin Trenberth, whose remarks were quoted out of context to make them seem the opposite of what he actually said. As the Trenberth et al. letter pointed out, the 16 authors of the editorial were so far out of their depth in discussing the topic that they were the “climate-science equivalent of dentists practicing cardiology.” And as if to answer the editorial, the earth sent a resounding message in reply. On Feb. 2, 2012, an 18-mile crack appeared in Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica (see photo above and sidebar for details), a prelude to the calving off an iceberg 350 square miles in area, one of the largest icebergs ever seen.2

Converging Lines of Evidence

How do we know that global warming is real and primarily human caused? There are numerous lines of evidence that converge to this conclusion.

Figure 1

Figure 1. The Moberg et al. (2005) plot (updated from the Mann et al., 1999, plot) of the last 2000 years of earth’s average surface temperature, which shows over 800 years of relative stability followed by the rapid warming of the past two centuries, giving it the shape of a “hockey stick.” The slight warming trend of the Medieval Warm Period can also be seen (data from 900–1200 A.D.) and is nowhere near the magnitude of the warming in the past century. (Click diagrams to enlarge them.)

  1. Carbon Dioxide Increase. Carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased at an unprecedented rate in the past 200 years. Not one data set collected over a long enough span of time shows otherwise. Mann et al. (1999) compiled the past 900 years’ worth of temperature data from tree rings, ice cores, corals, and direct measurements of the past few centuries, and the sudden increase of temperature of the past century stands out like a sore thumb. This famous graph (see Figure 1 above) is now known as the “hockey stick” because it is long and straight through most of its length, then bends sharply upward at the end like the blade of a hockey stick. Other graphs show that climate was very stable within a narrow range of variation through the past 1000, 2000, or even 10,000 years since the end of the last Ice Age. There were minor warming events during the Climatic Optimum about 7000 years ago, the Medieval Warm Period, and the slight cooling of the Little Ice Age from the 1700s and 1800s. But the magnitude and rapidity of the warming represented by the last 200 years is simply unmatched in all of human history. More revealing, the timing of this warming coincides with the Industrial Revolution, when humans first began massive deforestation and released carbon dioxide by burning coal, gas, and oil.
  2. Melting Polar Ice Caps. The polar icecaps are thinning and breaking up at an alarming rate. In 2000, my former graduate advisor Malcolm McKenna was one of the first humans to fly over the North Pole in summer time and see no ice, just open water. The Arctic ice cap has been frozen solid for at least the past 3 million years and maybe longer3, but now the entire ice sheet is breaking up so fast that by 2030 (and possibly sooner) less than half of the Arctic will be ice covered in the summer.4 As one can see from watching the news, this is an ecological disaster for everything that lives up there, from the polar bears to the seals and walruses to the animals they feed upon, to the 4 million people whose world is melting beneath their feet. The Antarctic is thawing even faster. In February–March 2002, the Larsen B ice shelf—over 3000 square km (the size of Rhode Island) and 220 m (700 feet) thick—broke up in just a few months, a story typical of nearly all the ice shelves in Antarctica. The Larsen B shelf had survived all the previous ice ages and interglacial warming episodes for the past 3 million years, and even the warmest periods of the last 10,000 years—yet it and nearly all the other thick ice sheets on the Arctic, Greenland, and Antarctic are vanishing at a rate never before seen in geologic history.
  3. Melting Glaciers. Glaciers are all retreating at the highest rates ever documented. Many of those glaciers, especially in the Himalayas, Andes, Alps, and Sierras, provide most of the freshwater that the populations below the mountains depend upon—yet this fresh water supply is vanishing. Just think about the percentage of world’s population in southern Asia (especially India) that depend on Himalayan snowmelt for their fresh water. The implications are staggering. The permafrost that once remained solidly frozen even in the summer has now thawed, damaging the Inuit villages on the Arctic coast and threatening all our pipelines to the North Slope of Alaska. This is catastrophic not only for life on the permafrost, but as it thaws, the permafrost releases huge amounts of greenhouse gases and is one of the major contributors to global warming. Not only is the ice vanishing, but we have seen record heat waves over and over again, killing thousands of people, as each year joins the list of the hottest years on record. (2010 just topped that list as the hottest year, surpassing the previous record in 2009, and we shall know about 2011 soon enough). Natural animal and plant populations are being devastated all over the globe as their environment changes.5 Many animals respond by moving their ranges to formerly cold climates, so now places that once did not have to worry about disease-bearing mosquitoes are infested as the climate warms and allows them to breed further north.
  4. Sea Level Rise. All that melted ice eventually ends up in the ocean, causing sea level to rise, as it has many times in the geologic past. At present, sea level is rising about 3–4 mm per year, more than ten times the rate of 0.1–0.2 mm/year that has occurred over the past 3000 years. Geological data show that sea level was virtually unchanged over the past 10,000 years since the present interglacial began. A few millimeters here or there doesn’t impress people, until you consider that the rate is accelerating and that most scientists predict sea level will rise 80–130 cm in just the next century. A sea level rise of 1.3 m (almost 4 feet) would drown many of the world’s low-elevation cities, such as Venice and New Orleans, and low-lying countries such as the Netherlands or Bangladesh. A number of tiny island nations such as Vanuatu and the Maldives, which barely poke out above the ocean now, are already vanishing beneath the waves. Eventually their entire population will have to move someplace else.6 Even a small sea level rise might not drown all these areas, but they are much more vulnerable to the large waves of a storm surge (as happened with Hurricane Katrina), which could do much more damage than sea level rise alone. If sea level rose by 6 m (20 feet), most of the world’s coastal plains and low-lying areas (such as the Louisiana bayous, Florida, and most of the world’s river deltas) would be drowned.

    Most of the world’s population lives in coastal cities such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Miami, Shanghai, and London. All of those cities would be partially or completely under water with such a sea level rise. If all the glacial ice caps melted completely (as they have several times before during past greenhouse episodes in the geologic past), sea level would rise by 65 m (215 feet)! The entire Mississippi Valley would flood, so you could dock your boat in Cairo, Illinois. Such a sea level rise would drown nearly every coastal region under hundreds of feet of water, and inundate New York City, London and Paris. All that would remain would be the tall landmarks, such as the Empire State Building, Big Ben, and the Eiffel Tower. You could tie your boats to these pinnacles, but the rest of these drowned cities would be deep under water.

Climate Deniers’ Arguments and Scientists’ Rebuttals

Despite the overwhelming evidence there are many people who remain skeptical. One reason is that they have been fed lies, distortions, and misstatements by the global warming denialists who want to cloud or confuse the issue. Let’s examine some of these claims in detail:

  • It’s just natural climatic variability.” No, it is not. As I detailed in my 2009 book, Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs, geologists and paleoclimatologists know a lot about past greenhouse worlds, and the icehouse planet that has existed for the past 33 million years. We have a good understanding of how and why the Antarctic ice sheet first appeared at that time, and how the Arctic froze over about 3.5 million years ago, beginning the 24 glacial and interglacial episodes of the “Ice Ages” that have occurred since then. We know how variations in the earth’s orbit (the Milankovitch cycles) controls the amount of solar radiation the earth receives, triggering the shifts between glacial and interglacial periods. Our current warm interglacial has already lasted 10,000 years, the duration of most previous interglacials, so if it were not for global warming, we would be headed into the next glacial in the next 1000 years or so. Instead, our pumping greenhouse gases into our atmosphere after they were long trapped in the earth’s crust has pushed the planet into a “super-interglacial,” already warmer than any previous warming period. We can see the “big picture” of climate variability most clearly in the EPICA cores from Antarctica (see Figure 2 below), which show the details of the last 650,000 years of glacial-interglacial cycles. At no time during any previous interglacial did the carbon dioxide levels exceed 300 ppm, even at their very warmest. Our atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are already close to 400 ppm today. The atmosphere is headed to 600 ppm within a few decades, even if we stopped releasing greenhouse gases immediately. This is decidedly not within the normal range of “climatic variability,” but clearly unprecedented in human history. Anyone who says this is “normal variability” has never seen the huge amount of paleoclimatic data that show otherwise.
Figure 2

Figure 2. The climate record from EPICA core from Antartica. It shows the normal range of climate variability over the past 650,000 years (450,000 years shown here) and the last 6 glacial-interglacial cycles. At no point in any previous interglacial was the carbon dioxide level higher than 300 ppm, or the temperatures so high, yet we are almost to 400 ppm today. This is ironclad evidence that our present episode of warming is not “normal fluctuations.”

  • It’s just another warming episode, like the Mediaeval Warm Period, or the Holocene Climatic Optimum” or the end of the Little Ice Age.” Untrue. There were numerous small fluctuations of warming and cooling over the last 10,000 years of the Holocene. But in the case of the Mediaeval Warm Period (about 950–1250 A.D.), the temperatures increased by only 1°C, much less than we have seen in the current episode of global warming (see Figure 1). This episode was also only a local warming in the North Atlantic and northern Europe. Global temperatures over this interval did not warm at all, and actually cooled by more than 1°C. Likewise, the warmest period of the last 10,000 years was the Holocene Climatic Optimum (5000–9000 B.C.) when warmer and wetter conditions in Eurasia caused the rise of the first great civilizations in Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and China. This was largely a Northern Hemisphere-Eurasian phenomenon, with 2–3°C warming in the Arctic and northern Europe. But there was almost no warming in the tropics, and cooling or no change in the Southern Hemisphere.7 To the Eurocentric world, these warming events seemed important, but on a global scale the effect is negligible. In addition, neither of these warming episodes is related to increasing greenhouse gases. The Holocene Climatic Optimum, in fact, is predicted by the Milankovitch cycles, since at that time the axial tilt of the earth was 24°, its steepest value, meaning the Northern Hemisphere got more solar radiation than normal—but the Southern Hemisphere less, so the two balanced. By contrast, not only is the warming observed in the last 200 years much greater than during these previous episodes, but it is also global and bipolar, so it is not a purely local effect. The warming that ended the Little Ice Age (from the mid-1700s to the late 1800s) was due to increased solar radiation prior to 1940. Since 1940, however, the amount of solar radiation has been dropping, so the only candidate for the post-1940 warming has to be carbon dioxide.8
  • It’s just the sun, or cosmic rays, or volcanic activity or methane.” Nope, sorry. The amount of heat that the sun provides has been decreasing since 19409, just the opposite of the denialists’ claims. There is no evidence (see Figure 3 below) of increase in cosmic radiation during the past century.10 Nor is there any clear evidence that large-scale volcanic events (such as the 1815 eruption of Tambora in Indonesia, which changed global climate for about a year) have any long-term effect that would explain 200 years of warming and carbon dioxide increase. Volcanoes erupt only 0.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, but humans emit over 29 billion tonnes a year11, roughly 100 times as much. Clearly, we have a bigger effect. Methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas, but there is 200 times more carbon dioxide than methane, so carbon dioxide is still the most important agent.12 Every other alternative has been looked at, but the only clear-cut relationship is between human-caused carbon dioxide increase and global warming.
Figure 3

Figure 3. Plot of solar energy input to the earth versus temperature of the last century. The two tend to track each other until the last 30 years, at which time the earth warmed dramatically even as solar input went down.

Figure 4

Figure 4a. The plot of global mean temperature over the past century, showing the yearly data (solid black lines) and the smoothed curve using a 5-year rolling average (blue line). Clearly, the trend has been dramatically increasing, and individual data points from one year do not tell the whole story. The anomalous El Niño warm year of 1998 is one of those outliers.

Figure 4b. A detailed plot of the past 20 years of global mean temperatures, showing how anomalous 1998 was. If you cherry-pick 1998 and the two years that followed it, it appears that climate is cooling. However, if you pick any two points other than 1998–2000, or any rolling average, it is clear that climate is warming. Indeed, most of the years from 2002 and on are as warm or warmer than 1998, so any claim that “it has been cooling since 1998” is a lie. The short-term cooling of the 2008 La Niña year can also be seen.

  • The climate records since 1995 (or 1998) show cooling.” That’s a deliberate deception. People who throw this argument out are cherry-picking the data.13 Over the short term, there was a slight cooling trend from 1998–2000 (see Figure 4 below), because 1998 was a record-breaking El Niño year, so the next few years look cooler by comparison. But since 2002, the overall long-term trend of warming is unequivocal. This statement is a clear-cut case of using out-of-context data in an attempt to deny reality. All of the 16 hottest years ever recorded on a global scale have occurred in the last 20 years. They are (in order of hottest first): 2010, 2009, 1998, 2005, 2003, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2001, 1997, 2008, 1995, 1999, 1990, and 2000.14 In other words, every year since 2000 has been in the Top Ten hottest years list, and the rest of the list includes 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000. Only 1996 failed to make the list (because of the short-term cooling mentioned already).
  • We had record snows in the winters of 2009–2010, and in 2010–2011.” So what? This is nothing more than the difference between weather (short-term seasonal changes) and climate (the long-term average of weather over decades and centuries and longer). Our local weather tells us nothing about another continent, or the global average; it is only a local effect, determined by short-term atmospheric and oceanographic conditions.15 In fact, warmer global temperatures mean more moisture in the atmosphere, which increases the intensity of normal winter snowstorms. In this particular case, the climate denialists forget that the early winter of November–December 2009 was actually very mild and warm, and then only later in January and February did it get cold and snow heavily. That warm spell in early winter helped bring more moisture into the system, so that when cold weather occurred, the snows were worse. In addition, the snows were unusually heavy only in North America; the rest of the world had different weather, and the global climate was warmer than average. And the summer of 2010 was the hottest on record, breaking the previous record set in 2009.
  • Carbon dioxide is good for plants, so the world will be better off.” Who do they think they’re kidding? The people who promote this idea clearly don’t know much global geochemistry, or are trying to cynically take advantage of the fact that most people are ignorant of science. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (funded by oil and coal companies and conservative foundations16) has run a series of shockingly stupid ads concluding with the tag line “Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution, we call it life.” Anyone who knows the basic science of earth’s atmosphere can spot the deceptions in this ad.17 Sure, plants take in carbon dioxide that animals exhale, as they have for millions of years. But the whole point of the global warming evidence (as shown from ice cores) is that the delicate natural balance of carbon dioxide has been thrown out of whack by our production of too much of it, way in excess of what plants or the oceans can handle. As a consequence, the oceans are warming18 and absorbing excess carbon dioxide making them more acidic. Already we are seeing a shocking decline in coral reefs (“bleaching”) and extinctions in many marine ecosystems that can’t handle too much of a good thing. Meanwhile, humans are busy cutting down huge areas of temperate and tropical forests, which not only means there are fewer plants to absorb the gas, but the slash and burn practices are releasing more carbon dioxide than plants can keep up with. There is much debate as to whether increased carbon dioxide might help agriculture in some parts of the world, but that has to be measured against the fact that other traditional “breadbasket” regions (such as the American Great Plains) are expected to get too hot to be as productive as they are today. The latest research19 actually shows that increased carbon dioxide inhibits the absorption of nitrogen into plants, so plants (at least those that we depend upon today) are not going to flourish in a greenhouse world. Anyone who tells you otherwise is ignorant of basic atmospheric science.
  • I agree that climate is changing, but I’m skeptical that humans are the main cause, so we shouldn’t do anything.” This is just fence sitting. A lot of reasonable skeptics deplore the “climate denialism” of the right wing, but still want to be skeptical about the cause. If they want proof, they can examine the huge array of data that directly points to humans causing global warming.20 We can directly measure the amount of carbon dioxide humans are producing, and it tracks exactly with the amount of increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Through carbon isotope analysis, we can show that this carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is coming directly from our burning of fossil fuels, not from natural sources. We can also measure oxygen levels that drop as we produce more carbon that then combines with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide. We have satellites in space that are measuring the heat released from the planet and can actually see the atmosphere get warmer. The most crucial proof emerged only in the past few years: climate models of the greenhouse effect predict that there should be cooling in the stratosphere (the upper layer of the atmosphere above 10 km (6 miles) in elevation, but warming in the troposphere (the bottom layer of the atmosphere below 10 km (6 miles), and that’s exactly what our space probes have measured. Finally, we can rule out any other culprits (see above): solar heat is decreasing since 1940, not increasing, and there are no measurable increases in cosmic radiation, methane, volcanic gases, or any other potential cause. Face it—it’s our problem.
Why Do People Deny Climate Change?

Thanks to all the noise and confusion over the debate, the general public has only a vague idea of what the debate is really about, and only about half of Americans think global warming is real or that we are to blame.21 As in the debate over evolution and creationism, the scientific community is virtually unanimous on what the data demonstrate about anthropogenic global warming. This has been true for over a decade. When science historian Naomi Oreskes22 surveyed all peer-reviewed papers on climate change published between 1993 and 2003 in the world’s leading scientific journal, Science, she found that there were 980 supporting the idea of human-induced global warming and none opposing it. In 2009, Doran and Kendall Zimmerman23 surveyed all the climate scientists who were familiar with the data. They found that 95–99% agreed that global warming is real and that humans are the reason. In 2010, the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study that showed that 98% of the scientists who actually do research in climate change are in agreement with anthropogenic global warming.24 Every major scientific organization in the world has endorsed the conclusion of anthropogenic climate change as well. This is a rare degree of agreement within such an independent and cantankerous group as the world’s top scientists. This is the same degree of scientific consensus that scientists have achieved over most major ideas, including gravity, evolution, and relativity. These and only a few other topics in science can claim this degree of agreement among nearly all the world’s leading scientists, especially among everyone who is close to the scientific data and knows the problem intimately. If it were not such a controversial topic politically, there would be almost no interest in debating it, since the evidence is so clear-cut.

Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.

—Richard Feynman

If the climate science community speaks with one voice (as in the 2007 IPCC report, and every report since then), why is there still any debate at all? The answer has been revealed by a number of investigations by diligent reporters who got past the PR machinery denying global warming, and uncovered the money trail. Originally, there was no real “dissenters” to the idea of global warming by scientists who are actually involved with climate research. Instead, the forces with vested interests in denying global climate change (the energy companies, and the “free-market” advocates) followed the strategy of tobacco companies: create a smokescreen of confusion and prevent the American public from recognizing scientific consensus. As the famous memo25 from the tobacco lobbyists said “Doubt is our product.” The denialists generated an anti-science movement entirely out of thin air and PR. The evidence for this PR conspiracy has been well documented in numerous sources. For example, Oreskes and Conway revealed from memos leaked to the press that in April 1998 the right-wing Marshall Institute, SEPP (Fred Seitz’s lobby that aids tobacco companies and polluters), and ExxonMobil, met in secret at the American Petroleum Institute’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. There they planned a $20 million campaign to get “respected scientists” to cast doubt on climate change, get major PR efforts going, and lobby Congress that global warming isn’t real and is not a threat.

The right-wing institutes and the energy lobby beat the bushes to find scientists—any scientists—who might disagree with the scientific consensus. As investigative journalists and scientists have documented over and over again,26 the denialist conspiracy essentially paid for the testimony of anyone who could be useful to them. The day that the 2007 IPCC report was released (Feb. 2, 2007), the British newspaper The Guardian reported that the conservative American Enterprise Institute (funded largely by oil companies and conservative think tanks) had offered $10,000 plus travel expenses to scientists who would write negatively about the IPCC report.27

We are accustomed to the hired-gun “experts” paid by lawyers to muddy up the evidence in the case they are fighting, but this is extraordinary—buying scientists outright to act as shills for organizations trying to deny scientific reality. With this kind of money, however, you can always find a fringe scientist or crank or someone with no relevant credentials who will do what they’re paid to do.

Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs (book cover)

Greenhouse of
the Dinosaurs

by Donald Prothero

Prothero discusses the latest findings in geology and paleontology, providing an insider’s view of the profession. His detailed, first-person narrative allows readers to experience the personalities, the debates, the controversies, the development of new scientific techniques, and the latest scientific findings as they happened. This book is a valuable, no-nonsense, must-read for anyone interested in paleontology or geology, or anyone considering entering those fields.
ORDER the hardcover

The NCSE satirized this tactic of composing phony “lists of scientists” with their “Project Steve.”28 They showed that there were more scientists named “Steve” than their entire list of “scientists who dispute evolution.” It may generate lots of PR and a smokescreen to confuse the public, but it doesn’t change the fact that scientists who actually do research in climate change are unanimous in their insistence that anthropogenic global warming is a real threat. Most scientists I know and respect work very hard for little pay, yet they still cannot be paid to endorse some scientific idea they know to be false.

The climate deniers have a lot of other things in common with creationists and other anti-science movements. They too like to quote someone out of context (“quote mining”), finding a short phrase in the work of legitimate scientists that seems to support their position. But when you read the full quote in context, it is obvious that they have used the quote inappropriately. The original author meant something that does not support their goals. The “Climategate scandal” is a classic case of this. It started with a few stolen emails from the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. If you read the complete text of the actual emails29 and comprehend the scientific shorthand of climate scientists who are talking casually to each other, it is clear that there was no great “conspiracy” or that they were faking data. All six subsequent investigations have cleared Philip Jones and the other scientists of the University of East Anglia of any wrongdoing or conspiracy.30

Even if there had been some conspiracy on the part of these few scientists, there is no reason to believe that the entire climate science community is secretly working together to generate false information and mislead the public. If there’s one thing that is clear about science, it’s about competition and criticism, not conspiracy and collusion. Most labs are competing with each other, not conspiring together. If one lab publishes a result that is not clearly defensible, other labs will quickly correct it. As James Lawrence Powell wrote31:

Scientists….show no evidence of being more interested in politics or ideology than the average American. Does it make sense to believe that tens of thousands of scientists would be so deeply and secretly committed to bringing down capitalism and the American way of life that they would spend years beyond their undergraduate degrees working to receive master’s and Ph.D. degrees, then go to work in a government laboratory or university, plying the deep oceans, forbidding deserts, icy poles, and torrid jungles, all for far less money than they could have made in industry, all the while biding their time like a Russian sleeper agent in an old spy novel? Scientists tend to be independent and resist authority. That is why you are apt to find them in the laboratory or in the field, as far as possible from the prying eyes of a supervisor. Anyone who believes he could organize thousands of scientists into a conspiracy has never attended a single faculty meeting.

There are many more traits that the climate deniers share with the creationists and Holocaust deniers and others who distort the truth. They pick on small disagreements between different labs as if scientists can’t get their story straight, when in reality there is always a fair amount of give and take between competing labs as they try to get the answer right before the other lab can do so. The key point here is that when all these competing labs around the world have reached a consensus and get the same answer, there is no longer any reason to doubt their common conclusion. The anti-scientists of climate denialism will also point to small errors by individuals in an effort to argue that the entire enterprise cannot be trusted. It is true that scientists are human, and do make mistakes, but the great power of the scientific method is that peer review weeds these out, so that when scientists speak with consensus, there is no doubt that their data are checked carefully.

Finally, a powerful line of evidence that this is a purely political controversy, rather than a scientific debate, is that the membership lists of the creationists and the climate deniers are highly overlapping. Both anti-scientific dogmas are fed to their overlapping audiences through right-wing media such as Fox News, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh. Just take a look at the “intelligent-design” creationism website for the Discovery Institute. Most of the daily news items lately have nothing to do with creationism at all, but are focused on climate denial and other right-wing causes.32

If the data about global climate change are indeed valid and robust, any qualified scientist should be able to look at them and see if the prevailing scientific interpretation holds up. Indeed, such a test took place. Starting in 2010, a group led by U.C. Berkeley physicist Richard Muller re-examined all the temperature data from the NOAA, East Anglia Hadley Climate Research Unit, and the Goddard Institute of Space Science sources (see Figure 5 below). Even though Muller started out as a skeptic of the temperature data, and was funded by the Koch brothers and other oil company sources, he carefully checked and re-checked the research himself. When the GOP leaders called him to testify before the House Science and Technology Committee in spring 2011, they were expecting him to discredit the temperature data. Instead, Muller shocked his GOP sponsors by demonstrating his scientific integrity and telling the truth: the temperature increase is real, and the scientists who have demonstrated that the climate is changing are right. In the fall of 2011, his study was published, and the conclusions were clear: global warming is real, even to a right-wing skeptical scientist. Unlike the hired-gun scientists who play political games, Muller did what a true scientist should do: if the data go against your biases and preconceptions, then do the right thing and admit it—even if you’ve been paid by sponsors who want to discredit global warming. Muller is a shining example of a scientist whose integrity and honesty came first, and did not sell out to the highest bidder.33

Figure 5

Figure 5. Plot contrasting the temperature data obtained by three original sources (NOAA, Goddard Institute of Space Sciences, and The Hadley Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia) with the data obtained by Richard Muller’s Berkeley group, which was originally attempting to deny the evidence of global warming, but found that in fact the original data were correct and the planet is getting warmer.

Science and Anti-Science

The conclusion is clear: there’s science, and then there’s the anti-science of the global warming denial. As we have seen, there is a nearly unanimous consensus among climate scientists that anthropogenic global warming is real and that we must do something about it. Yet the smokescreen, bluster and lies of the deniers has created enough doubt that only half of the American public is convinced the problem requires action. Ironically, the U.S. is almost alone in their denial of this scientific reality. International polls taken of 33,000 people in 33 nations in 2006 and 2007 show that 90% of their citizens regard climate change as a serious problem34 and 80% realize that humans are the cause of it.35 Just as in the case of creationism, the U.S. is out of step with much of the rest of the world in accepting scientific reality.

It is not just the liberals and environmentalists who are taking climate change seriously. Historically conservative institutions (big corporations such as General Electric and many others such as insurance companies and the military) are already planning on how to deal with global warming. Many of my friends high in the oil companies tell me of the efforts by those companies to get into other forms of energy, because they know that oil will be running out soon and that the effects of burning oil will make their business less popular. BP officially stands for “British Petroleum,” but in one of their ad campaigns about 5 years ago, it stood for “Beyond Petroleum.”36 Although they still spend relatively little of their total budgets on alternative forms of energy, the oil companies still can see the handwriting on the wall about the eventual exhaustion of oil—and they are acting like any company that wants to survive by getting into a new business when the old one is dying.

The Pentagon (normally not a left-wing institution) is also making contingency plans for how to fight wars in an era of global climate change, and what kinds of strategic threats might occur when climate change alters the kinds of enemies we might be fighting, and water becomes a scarce commodity. The New York Times reported37 that in December 2008, the National Defense University outlined plans for military strategy in a greenhouse world. To the Pentagon, the big issue is global chaos and the potential of even nuclear conflict. The world must “prepare for the inevitable effects of abrupt climate change—which will likely come [the only question is when] regardless of human activity.”

Insurance companies have no political axe to grind. If anything, they tend to be on the conservative side. They are simply in the business of assessing risk in a realistic fashion so they can accurately gauge their future insurance policies and what to charge for them. Yet they are all investing heavily in research on the disasters and risks posed by climatic change. In 2005, a study commissioned by the re-insurer Swiss Re said, “Climate change will significantly affect the health of humans and ecosystems and these impacts will have economic consequences.”38

Some people may still try to deny scientific reality, but big businesses like oil and insurance, and conservative institutions like the military, cannot afford to be blinded or deluded by ideology. They must plan for the real world that we will be seeing in the next few decades. They do not want to be caught unprepared and harmed by global climatic change when it threatens their survival. Neither can we as a society. END

References
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  2. http://news.yahoo.com/18-mile-crack-seen-nasa-antarctic-glacier-205345573–abc-news.html
  3. http://www.homepage.montana.edu/~geol445/hyperglac/time1/time.htm
  4. Arctic summers ice-free ‘by 2013’. bbc.co.uk. 2007-12-12.
  5. Barnosky, A.D. 2009. Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming. Island Press, Washington, DC.
  6. http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/dec2005/2005-12-06-02.asp
  7. Masson, V., Vimeux, F., Jouzel, J., Morgan, V., Delmotte, M., Ciais,P., Hammer, C., Johnsen, S., Lipenkov, V.Y., Mosley-Thompson, E.,Petit, J.-R., Steig, E.J., Stievenard,M., Vaikmae, R. (2000). “Holocene climate variability in Antarctica based on 11 ice-core isotopic records”. Quaternary Research 54: 348–358. D.S. Kaufman, T.A. Ager, N.J. Anderson, P.M. Anderson, J.T. Andrews, P.J. Bartlein, L.B. Brubaker, L.L. Coats, L.C. Cwynar, M.L. Duvall, A.S. Dyke, M.E. Edwards, W.R. Eisner, K. Gajewski, A. Geirsdottir, F.S. Hu, A.E. Jennings, M.R. Kaplan, M.W. Kerwin, A.V. Lozhkin, G.M. MacDonald, G.H. Miller, C.J. Mock, W.W. Oswald, B.L. Otto-Bliesner, D.F. Porinchu, K. Ruhland, J.P. Smol, E.J. Steig, B.B. Wolfe (2004). “Holocene thermal maximum in the western Arctic (0–180 W)”. Quaternary Science Reviews 23: 529–560.
  8. http://www.skepticalscience.com/coming-out-of-little-ice-age.htm
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  11. http://www.skepticalscience.com/volcanoes-and-global-warming.htm
  12. http://www.skepticalscience.com/methane-and-global-warming.htm
  13. http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-stopped-in-1998.htm
  14. http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/thegreengrok/2008temps
  15. http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-cold-weather.htm
  16. http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/orgfactsheet.php
  17. http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-pollutant.htm
  18. http://www.skepticalscience.com/ocean-and-global-warming.htm
  19. Bloom, A.J., Burger, M., Asensio, J.S.R., and Cousins, A.B. 2010. Carbon dioxide enrichment inhibits nitrate assimilation in wheat and Arabidopsis. Science 328: 899–903.
  20. http://www.skepticalscience.com/its-not-us.htm
  21. http://www.gallup.com/poll/126560/americans-global-warming-concerns-continue-drop.aspx
  22. Oreskes, N. 2004. Beyond the Ivory Tower: The scientific consensus on climatic change. Science 306: 1686.
  23. Doran, P., and M. Kendall Zimmerman. 2009. Examining the scientific consensus on climatic change. EOS 90 (3): 22.
  24. Anderegg, W.R.L., Prall, J.W., Harold, J., and Schneider, S.H. 2010. Expert credibility on climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 107:12107–12109.
  25. http://lightbucket.wordpress.com/2008/04/07/doubt-is-our-product-pr-versus-science/
  26. McCright, A. M., Dunlap, R. E. 2003. Defeating Kyoto: The Conservative Movement’s Impact on U.S. Climate Change Policy. Social Problems 50 (3): 348–373; Curry, J.A., Webster, P.J., and Holland, G.J. 2006. Mixing Politics and Science in Testing the Hypothesis That Greenhouse Warming Is Causing a Global Increase in Hurricane Intensity. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 87 (8): 1025–1037; Williams, N. 2005. Heavyweight attack on climate-change denial, Current Biology 15 (4): R109–R110; Mooney, C. 2006. The Republican War on Science. Basic Books, New York; Mooney, C. 2007. Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle over Global Warming. Harcourt, New York.Hoggan, J. 2009. Climate Cover-Up: the Crusade to Deny Global Warming. Greystone, Vancouver, B.C.; Oreskes, N., and Conway, E.M. 2010. Merchants of Doubt: How a handful of scientists obscured the truth on the issues from tobacco smoke to global warming. Bloomsbury Press, New York.
  27. Ian Sample, “Scientists offered cash to dispute climate study,” The Guardian, 2 Feb. 2007.
  28. http://ncse.com/taking-action/project-steve
  29. http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack/
  30. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/14/AR2010041404001.html
  31. Powell, J.L. 2011. The Inquisition of Climate Science, p. 187
  32. http://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2010/03/19/discovery-institute-praises-global-warming-deniers/
  33. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/apr/04/local/la-me-climate-berkeley-20110404
  34. http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/btenvironmentra/187.php?nid=&id=&pnt=187
  35. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/7010522.stm
  36. http://www.prwatch.org/node/9038
  37. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/09/science/earth/09climate.html?hp
  38. Epstein, P.R., Mills, E. (Eds.) 2005. Climate Change Futures: Health, Ecological and Economic Dimensions, Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
About the Author
photo

DR. DONALD R. PROTHERO was Professor of Geology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He earned M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees in geological sciences from Columbia University in 1982, and a B.A. in geology and biology (highest honors, Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of California, Riverside. He is currently the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of 32 books and over 250 scientific papers, including five leading geology textbooks and five trade books as well as edited symposium volumes and other technical works. He is on the editorial board of Skeptic magazine, and in the past has served as an associate or technical editor for Geology, Paleobiology and Journal of Paleontology. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, the Paleontological Society, and the Linnaean Society of London, and has also received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Science Foundation. He has served as the President and Vice President of the Pacific Section of SEPM (Society of Sedimentary Geology), and five years as the Program Chair for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. In 1991, he received the Schuchert Award of the Paleontological Society for the outstanding paleontologist under the age of 40. He has also been featured on several television documentaries, including episodes of Paleoworld (BBC), Prehistoric Monsters Revealed (History Channel), Entelodon and Hyaenodon (National Geographic Channel) and Walking with Prehistoric Beasts (BBC). His website is: www.donaldprothero.com. Check out Donald Prothero’s page at Shop Skeptic.

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194 Comments »

194 Comments

  1. Dr. Terry Mazanec says:

    Sirs:

    I fail to see any skepticism in this article. If you plan to continue to publish propaganda as poorly supported as the pseudo-science you frequently criticize, please remove my address from your mailing list.

    • Keith says:

      Very disappointing that Skeptic magazine would publish an article wholly lacking in science. Most globall warming believers agree that the “hockey stick” graph is completely inaccurate, yet that is the beginning of this defense. Pathetic.

      • Joseph Rogowski says:

        Agreed, there is no skeptical inquiry of the data, only the wholesale acceptance of propagandist tripe. Surely you criticize those who have any trace of religious thought, who you regularly and mercilessly taunt over their beliefs, with more evenhanded analysis than has been shown here.

    • Dr. Everett V. Scott says:

      Yes, this is nothing but ridiculous pseudo-scientific alarmist nonsense. Global temperatures have not risen for the past fifteen years. The planet itself is falsifying Prothero’s deceptive scare story. I am shocked that such a lunatic and dishonest article would be allowed on a blog with “skeptic” in its name.

      And the unreliable Skeptical Science blog is a George Soros front that repeatedly censors scientific skeptics’ comments. Even more dishonestly, it has taken comments of mine and replaced entire sentences with words I did not write, changing the meaning entirely. They did this without acknowledging to readers what they had done. Others have complained of the same disreputable tactics, as reported on the internet’s “Best Science & Technology” site (it just won that award for the third time):

      http://wattsupwiththat.com

      It seems that with the shameful Peter Gleick episode, all of the ethics violations are committed by climate alarmists. Prothero writes: “…one of two actual climate scientists of the group, Richard Lindzen, is a notorious global warming denier who also denies that smoking causes cancer.”

      Mr. Prothero is either totally ignorant, or a scurrilous liar; likely both. Prof Lindzen is the world’s pre-eminent climate scientist, with more than 230 peer-reviewed papers published. He heads MIT’s atmospheric sciences department, and his position is clear: for a doubling of CO2 there is approximately a 1°C rise in temperature, about the same rise from CO2 predicted by the IPCC.

      To label Dr. Lindzen a “notorious global warming denier” is a reprehensible ad hominem attack, and an outright, provable lie. A retraction and apology by Mr. Prothero is in order.

      Furthermore, Prothero’s dishonest charge that Dr. Lindzen “denies that smoking causes cancer” is another outright lie. Dr. Lindzen only questioned the methodology used in a very sloppy study of second-hand smoke, which many other scientists have also questioned. Prof. Lindzen’s concern was limited only to the study’s questionable methodology; he drew no conclusions whatever regarding smoking and cancer. Prothero owes Dr. Lindzen an apology for the mendacious character assassination of an internationally esteemed scientist.

      The balance of Prothero’s article is filled with pseudo-scientific, easily debunked nonsense. The hockey stick graphs have been so thoroughly falsified that the IPCC can no longer publish Michael Mann’s alarming MBH99 hockey stick chart. Given the flagrant dishonesty exhibited by Mr. Pothrero throughout his article, it would be appropriate to either provide a rebuttal by one of the many honestly skeptical climatologists who reject the notion of runaway global warming, or re-name this blog “Pseudo-Skeptic.com” to avoid misrepresentation.

      • Steve Fraser says:

        So now the Skeptics Magazine is selling Prothero’s essay as a stand alone publication and implying that Prothero is a “climate skeptic”. Incredible but true!

      • Karin Green says:

        Sadly, I must concurr with Drs. Mazanec and Scott, Keith and Joseph – in fact,the majority of comments that find this article wanting!

        For many years I have admired Dr. Prothero for his excellent work in explaining the evolution of the planet, and life on earth. His book, Evolution of the Earth, and various other of his works have been the stars in my little library. The last chapter of Evolution of Earth, fifth and seventh edition is titled, The Best of All Possible Worlds? They are a scathing indictment of humanity and all its works.

        I dismissed this strange diversion from an otherwise excellent body of scientific information as the usual homage to AGW doom that seemingly has to be paid by current authors if they wish to be published. Now I know better. I have now read this chapter again with due attention and I must conclude – he meant every word.

        Speaking of the environment, Prothero writes: Above all, we (humans) need to achieve a balance of human population in order to conserve that environment and to preserve our way of life, for unlimited growth disrupts stability of ecosystems. Remember Darwin’s early observation that most natural populations tend to be stable in size, but as a comic strip philosopher named Pogo put it in the 1960s, “we have met the enemy, and he is us.” THAT pretty well sums up where Prothero stands. He belongs to the fringe brigade that carries signs saying – Save the planet – kill yourself!

        For me it is difficult to understand how a man so deeply versed in the changing nature of our planet and its ecosytems can come to the conclusions he draws, or make such inept factual errors. On my Facebook page I have listed Prothero, Steven Gould, Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins as my inspirations. I am afraid I now must withdraw Prothero!

    • Al says:

      I’m a skeptical person, and the most I can say about anthropogenic global warming is that I’m undecided on whether it is happening. I’m not a creationist, I don’t watch fox news (except as an occasional stress test to see how long I can handle the stupidity), and I wouldn’t say I’m a “denialist”. I have only a cursory knowledge climate science.

      That said, I’m skeptical of global warming movement purely because of its tactics. I watched “An Inconvenient Truth” and was just as frustrated as when I’ve watched “The O’Reilly Factor”. In it, and every other instance of global warming in the media, I’ve seen appeals to emotion, argument by authority, the use of straw men, scare tactics, and many more logical fallacies. I hear “If we’re right, the consequences of being wrong are ghastly, so we must assume we’re right and act accordingly.” and I cringe because I think of this argument used by the religious to further their beliefs.

      In short, I am not a denialist, I am an admittedly ill-informed skeptic. I am actively trying to be persuaded that anthropogenic global warming is a thing, and this article, riddled with logical fallacies, has failed to persuade me. I truly hope y’all can do better, because I hate to be lumped in with creationists just because I’m skeptical of overly emotional propaganda.

      • Mike B. says:

        I agree wholeheartedly with your post.

      • Eric Berendt says:

        In a movie role, Clint Eastwood asked another character, “You feeling lucky?” I guess you’d answer yes.

      • Lee Syntheto says:

        I agree with your post and put myself squarely in the camp of those who dislike being badgered and insulted by skepticism concerning human industrial-based climate change.

        The 800 pound gorilla in the room is, of course, that because this is purported to be a Global problem, irregardless of local sovereign government control, it’s going to require a coordinated Global solution. That means a Global government, which means the point is moot, because that’s not going to happen. The idea that somehow the United Nations is the de- facto Terran government and can make it happen is absurd, because ultimately, all political power comes from the barrel of a gun or the point of a sword, and as events in Rwanda and Bosnia proved, the UN is incapable of enforcing anything.

        This whole ‘debate’ between climate ‘alarmists’ and ‘denialists’ is nothing more than an extension of the whole ‘liberal’ vs ‘conservative’ paradigm on another front.

        By the way, space colonization is also going to require a United Terran government, so don’t hold your breath on that happening anytime soon.

        Finally, as I wind the wind down here, just let me say that, as an atheist, I am offended whenever somebody who truly believes this stuff about climate change lumps any skepticism about the science underlying it as ‘anti-science’ and is therefore automatically lumped in as snake-handling fundamentalists who don’t believe the veracity of the theory of evolution or that the bible was written by a sky fairy who created our planet in seven days. Of course, these same folks don’t seem to want to denigrate the koran or belittle the silly beliefs of Islam. Maybe they don’t want some fool to go Theo Van Gogh on them. Sorry, i had to add that last in.

      • Paul Burgess says:

        You can debunk an “Inconvenient Truth” in with little effort. Research its sources.

      • Erik says:

        Al,

        I’m glad someone said that. This is an absurd propaganda piece, not an honest look at skepticism. Thanks.

    • Paul Burgess says:

      I’m amazed that you call climate change “propaganda” and compare it to psuedo-science. I miserably failed comparison. I suggest you keep your subscription to help distinguish illusions from objective truth.

    • Paul Burgess says:

      I’m amazed that you call climate change “propaganda” and compare it to psuedo-science. I miserably failed comparison. I suggest you keep your subscription to help distinguish illusions from objective truth.

    • Steve Fraser says:

      I agree. I also believe Skeptic magazine should remove the quotation from Spinoza on its title page saying in effect ridiculing people who hold different beliefs is not to be tolerated. The Skeptic editor completely failed to remove the rather disturbing number of disparaging comments and ridiculing of people who disagree with the author. One last point: Most of the $$$ to be made on the AGW enterprise is being made by the believers….and the big money is still to come.

  2. M.Hulme says:

    An absolutely appaling piece of propoganda that mostly references an unreliable web blog. I agree with Dr Mazanec at #1 and I have to seriously consider my subscription to what is now, in my opinion, a discredited magazine.

    • citizenschallenge says:

      #2) “an unreliable web blog”
      10 of 38 links go to SkepticalScience.com – are you calling that an unreliable web blog?
      It is an educational blog that supports it’s claims with copious reference to actual scientific studies.
      Are you speaking from ideology or can you rationally explain your angry denunciation?
      Or are their others on the list you object to?
      Can you justify your objections with specifics?

      • Mailman says:

        Yes, skeptical science IS unreliable because of its bare faced advocacy for Mann Made Global Warming ™. The simple reality is that the folks at sks, especially Cook, couldn’t be any less skeptical even if they tried.

        Actually, this article and the religious zeal expressed by a single commenter is similar to a short interview between the BBC, Whitehouse (former BBC science editor) and Bob Ward (who employs the same tactic of telling everyone not to listen to the evil ‘deniers’ that you do). When Bob was limited to the discussion piece he was an empty bag of hot air. His only tactic was to employ the “Plankton Strategy”, named after the Spung Bob character, of shouting very loudly and waving his hands about.

        Sadly for Bob, and those like him, all he achieved that day was to highlight the differences between the creationists who unquestionably believe in Mann Made Global Warming ™ and true skeptics who question the religious orthodoxy of the religion of Mann Made Global Warming ™.

        Regards

        Mailman

      • Theodore (Ted) Black says:

        Ah. I see that “Citizenschallenge” (AKA: Peter Miesler) is down in his mom’s basement again, furiously typing his pointless responses to everyone he suspects of not agreeing with his runaway global warming beliefs. That’s so 1997: no global warming at all since then. That fact would make anyone but a True Believer pretty darn skeptical.

        And this article by a guy flogging his own book is chock full of misinformation. I could falsify most everything he claims, but why take the time? As someone else pointed out, the Earth is making a fool out of the warmists and their beliefs.

        So who should we believe, the climate charlatan who’s flogging his dinosaur book in this article? Or Planet Earth, telling us it’s a phony scare? My money is on Planet Earth. That’s the only true Authority, and it debunks the runaway global warming nonsense.

        • thelaine says:

          Agreed Ted Black. As a young man, I was drawn to skepticism by Carl Sagan and his great book, “The Demon Haunted World.” The idea the extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence has become an intellectual guidepost for me ever since. I was thrilled when I found a magazine devoted to the principles of skeptical inquiry.

          On the issue of catastrophic human-caused global warming, however, Skeptic Magazine has entirely lost its way and has become an example of what it has so long opposed. A scientific theory has been proposed which, essentially, predicts the end of the world if people do not radically alter their behavior. This is an extraordinary claim, though hardly novel. Religious believers have been making similar claims throughout recorded history.

          Actual data show modest increases in temperature followed by over 15 years of no statistically significant increases. The models created by the proponents of the theory have proven to be wildly inaccurate. In spite of this, Skeptic Magazine treats actual skeptics as if they were religious heretics or holocaust deniers. The position of Skeptic Magazine on this issue is inexplicable to me and is absolutely shameful.

    • Steve Fraser says:

      I agree. What’s interesting is trying to determine what type of pressure or inducement was brought to bear on the editors of Skeptic magazine and website to risk completely destroying their credibility and brand by publishing not just this essay but the original essay a few years ago indicating they were happily on the AGW bandwagon, skeptics be damned. Any guesses?

  3. Rev. Jeeter Jones says:

    the debbil done planted all them fossilz.
    Now Scientists is blaming regular weather conditions and climate stuff on
    Adam’s right to use what the Lord give em… to wit: petrol for yer
    suburban and stock car racin’

    Rev. Jeeter Jones Hp.D, M.DIV
    Dept of Plain Folks Thinking
    Bob Dobbs University
    A subsidiary of
    Reformed Church of the Subgenius
    Pope Bobby II, prop.

  4. Timothy Arends says:

    My question is, if we are truly so concerned about global warming, why aren’t more of us concerned about immigration control — and I mean strict immigration control? If the US is truly a major contributor to pollution-caused climate change, then surely increasing the total population of US polluters is not a good idea (at the current rate, our population is projected to reach 1/2 billion by mid-century).

    America had been quite responsible about at least keeping her population down until immigration changes tipped the balance. Notice how the left has tried to divorce discussion of immigration from climate change. It’s pure hypocrisy and politics.

    So I must say I, too, am rather skeptical about global warming. Let’s call out the left on its hypocrisy.

    • citizenschallenge says:

      You are talking politics.
      Seemed to me Prothero was discussing climatological understanding.

      Appreciating the state of climatological understanding should inform the political discussion – but they are two very different things.

    • Paul Burgess says:

      Hmmm. Your theory would be great if the U.S. was independently causing global warming but it’s not. I fail to see how polluting in Mexico has less of an impact than polluting in the U.S. The outcomes are the same. I think the fact that the “right” is so adamant to fulfill its agenda that billions of dollars are focused on funding fringe science and covering up actual findings by fabricating other scenarios as the problem, like immigration for instance.

  5. Marty Nakrai says:

    I totally believe that the earth is in a warming phase. I don’t however believe most of what is in this article. One single thing is not holey responsible.

    Something no one takes into consideration is in year “One” were there approximately 200 million people on earth. In 2011 there were approximately 7 billion. Just the heat emitted from the rising population alone would account for a warming trend and that’s not counting the vastly increasing numbers of animals, also emitting heat, it takes to feed them. Each human on earth gives off approximately 75 watts of power. Do the math, it’s a giant worldwide furnace.

    As the worlds population increased things like rice production increased to feed it. Paddy fields are a major source of atmospheric methane and have been estimated to contribute up to 100 million tonnes of the gas per annum.

    There are many things that are responsible for the rising temperature now as there will be to the falling one sometime in the future.

    • citizenschallenge says:

      What are you talking about?
      There is no climatologist that claims “one thing” causes global warming.
      It’s a complex dance between many different components.
      CO2 (& other GHGs) happens to be a big daddy in the crowd, and they happens to be the one society is most radically influencing.

      There is a reason climatologist spend so many years learning and studying the subject.
      There is a reason we have a society dependent on the knowledge of highly trained specialists… no matter what field you care to consider.

      It seems most unskeptical to think that any dilettante working in a vacuum knows more that thousands of climatologists taking part in an open ‘sharing of information environment.’

    • Stephan says:

      “Just the heat emitted from the rising population alone would account for a warming trend and that’s not counting the vastly increasing numbers of animals, also emitting heat, it takes to feed them.”

      Sorry, but this is very wrong. All of of the energy humans (and animals) give off comes from food, ultimately plant matter. Plants grow by using sunlight to convert simple ingredients into complex carbohydrates. If the plant dies, this matter decomposes again, giving off the energy. Wether it decomposes in a cow, in a human, or in a dung heap makes no difference energetically.

    • Paul Burgess says:

      Your points just add more reasons why to believe in man made climate change. At this point we need to just get past the denial stage that we aren’t the problem. Only then can we decipher the true variables involved.

  6. SJ says:

    I would not call London a coastal city. the vast majority of it seems to be more than 40-50km away from the nearest coast.

    • Traruh Synred says:

      The Thames is a tidal river. It’s not a question of how far London is from the coast, but how high it is above sea level!

      -Traruh

    • Traruh Synred says:

      London is, in fact, 100-200 meters above sea level, so it won’t be wiped out like say Bangladesh. Floods and storm surge will likely get worse, but for London can likely be managed.

      -Traruh

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

      Future sea level rise could lead to potentially catastrophic difficulties for shore-based communities in the next centuries: for example, many major cities such as London and New Orleans already need storm-surge defenses, and would need more if sea level rose, though they also face issues such as sinking land.[50]

      • SJ says:

        I agree that it is not high above sea level, but the author said it is a coastal city. “coastal city” and “not high above sea level” are different things. There’s a city 40km inland from where I am. it is also not high above sea level, but i would not call it a coastal city.

  7. Rev. Jeeter Jones says:

    Mortimer Snerd sez

    ” got a point there, but you should keep it inder your hat”

    Rev. Jeeter Jones Hp.D, M.DIV
    Dept of Plain Folks Thinking
    Bob Dobbs University
    A subsidiary of
    Reformed Church of the Subgenius
    Pope Bobby II, prop.

  8. Mitch says:

    You state:

    …Richard Muller’s Berkeley group, which was originally attempting to deny the evidence of global warming…

    To be fair to Prof. Muller (whom I knew in graduate school) I had no doubt that he was never intending to deny global warming or do anything other than what he ultimately did – take his best shot at collecting and analysing the data. In fact, he hired his student Richard Rohde to do much of the work, and Rohde was clearly already persuaded the consensus position.

    Muller is certainly a gadfly and I don’t think his statements were careful, but I never thought that he would do anything other than science.

  9. Mitch says:

    P.S. While I agree with the content of this article, I agree with (1) and (2) that footnoting these statements solely to blogs is far from idea. if they are in fact interested, much of the original references can be found in the IPCC report, which can be had here: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/contents.html

    • citizenschallenge says:

      Mitch you forgot to add that most those blogs listed do a great job of linking to the original sources they make their claims on.

  10. c. glenn says:

    As an intelligent, informed SKEPTIC, I must point out: You’ve proven that the temperature is rising, and that man-made CO2 has increased, but shown only a correlation between the two. The causation is ASSUMED.

    I’m not saying we should sit on our duffs, because doing so could prove fatal. But please–don’t call something proof when it isn’t!

  11. francois says:

    The bad kick at the bottom of the article : “Richard Lindzen, is a notorious global warming denier who also denies that smoking causes cancer.” led me to stop reading it. I have no opinion on the global warming but I have a pretty good opinion on what a scientific debate should be. And this is not what I have found here.

    • citizenschallenge says:

      Have you listened to any of Lindzen’s talks?

      There’s a reason many people feel contempt for his mixing of personaly ideology with science, to say nothing of his many misrepresentations of state of the science.

    • Steve Fraser says:

      When you disparage people who do not agree with you as “deniers”, you know the issue is no longer one of scientific progress but politically-based deception.

  12. Traruh Synred says:

    Hi Michael et al.,

    A simple homework problem I did in a class on planetary science at Columbia in 1968 illustrates global warming in a simple way. Basically this is the energy balance calculation for an infinite plane. You put in the input radiation at the top of the atmosphere, albedo, black body radiation from the heated ground (sigma*T^4) and absorption of that radiation on its way back up. You solve for the equilibrium point and get out the temperature (T) as function of the inputs (like absorption). It is almost a back-of-envelop calculation.

    What this calulation illustrates is that order-of-magnitude we are putting enough C02 into the atmosphere to have a big effect. There are, of course, feed backs both positive and negative, but if as climate deniers claim, we don’t understand these things well enough, we should conclude that we _should_not _do_the_experiment, since the consequences are severe.

    Given this simple calculation the shoe is really on the other foot. The deniers need to prove that complex interactions and feedback negate the simple driver of increased absorption. Of course, real science as already done this with the climate models and they do NOT show any such cancellation.

    The pre-cautionary principle applies when the negative consequences of continuing to bump C02 into our atmosphere are so catastrophic; we shouldn’t do it till Exxon et al., prove the its safety.

    -Traruh

    • Theodore (Ted) Black says:

      “The deniers need to prove that…”

      BZ-Z-Z-Z-ZT!! WRONG.

      The catastrophic AGW hypothesis is put forth by the runaway global warming alarmists. Therefore, according to the Scientific Method skeptics have NOTHING TO PROVE. The onus is completely on those proposing a hypothesis to defend it. That’s the problem with climate “science”. It isn’t science at all because the promoters NEVER abide by the Scientific Method. If they didn’t ignore it the debate would be settled because absolutely none of their predictions has happened. When a scientist is consistently wrong about everything, he has to admit that his hypothesis is falsified. That’s the Scientific Method.

      And you made a ‘Mann Infraction’ by calling people you don’t agree with “deniers”. That negates what you say, because it becomes an emotional argument, not a rational argument. Skeptics don’t deny that the climate changes, they know the climate always changes. It was Michael Mann who tried to falsely claim that the climate didn’t change until the industrial revolution. So look in the mirror when you say “denier”.

      And no matter what your “experiment” pretended to show, the planet is not agreeing with it. There has been no global warming for 15 years, even while co2 keeps going up. Conclusion: co2 does not have the effect that is claimed. The only valid experiment is Planet Earth, and it is saying very clearly that you are wrong to blame co2 for global warming. But some people believe their eyes are lying. You could be one of them.

      • x1plus1x says:

        Ted,

        You claim that the earth has not experienced any warming for the past 15 years.

        The data that I have seen does not agree with your statement. In fact, the data I have seen says that the three hottest decades on record were the last 3 decades (1980′s, 1990′s, 2000′s).

        Would you care to share your data?

        • socal sam says:

          NASA just announced that there has been little change in temperature.
          But let’s talk about instrumentation: the thermometers used to measure the temperature were not very accurate and required a series of step to reset each day. These thermometers may have been accurate to 2 degrees over 100 degrees. Then consider the human reader and resetter.
          Not saying there is or isn’t climate change, I don’t think it is important. It is simply a white rich people made up problem.
          There is more area to gtow, longer growing season and a number of good thungs for the poorer nations. Rich white people who feel this should control their lives should quite telling what to do.
          I like the current weather so mind your own business.

    • Eric Berendt says:

      As I replied to a previous post, in a movie role, Clint Eastwood asked another character, “You feeling lucky?” I would think a skeptic want want to consult the Boy Scout motto here, “Be Prepared.” If it was good enough for Tom Lehrer, it’s good enough for me. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Do some research kiddies.

    • stevefraser says:

      In 1968 the alarmists were going on about global cooling and the coming Ice Age.

  13. Gogs of Armadale says:

    It all goes to show you can fool some of the people all of the time. The Phenomenon formerly known as Global Warming, the great Unfalsifiable Hypothesis.
    An article that begins with an ad hominem attack loses impact, suggesting scant appeal to reasoned science.
    My experience in Clinical Trials showed me how easy it is to introduce bias, and computer technology is not yet able to compensate for the many variables in climate. Just add enough “corrections” to get the result you seek.
    Weather station readings have been shown to be notoriously unreliable, and satellite readings are relatively recent.
    Gore’s Scary Movie has enough untruths to make the whole world sceptic, except for the rusted-on believers.
    When you’ve lived as long as I have, and seen the con men come and go, you learn to relax and watch it happen.
    Sit back and enjoy the ride.

    • citizenschallenge says:

      “Weather station readings have been shown to be notoriously unreliable, and satellite readings are relatively recent.”
      Can you support that claim with any actual factual study?

      Then you project:
      “Gore’s Scary Movie has enough untruths to make the whole world sceptic, except for the rusted-on believers.”

      You speak of “ad hominem attack.” What’s Gore’s documentary got to do with the “science of climatology?” Gore is a laymen, and a politician, he was presenting his understanding to the best of his abilities. He is no scientist and as a politician is prone to over simplification and dramatization and was not representing an in depth nuanced understanding of the actual climatological community. {People wouldn’t sit still for that.}

      • Doubting Rich says:

        Then why did the climate establishment welcome his film? Why are they still publicly supporting some of the bad science in it (while privately condemning it in the same way as sceptics do, as we know from the leaked emails from CRU)?

      • socal sam says:

        Seriously? The “Weather Station” was a mercury thermometer that required the reader look exactly at the level, then swing the thermometer around their head to reset it. Wind speed was captured on a paper graph using a wind up motor.
        All this in white wash box that was suppose to be located in the shade.
        This can be seen on the noaa site.
        Digital accuracy didn’t show up in any quantities till 1990s.

  14. Larry Askin says:

    The smugness and personal attacks in this article is very off putting. The author believes that everyone who criticizes the global warming hypothesis is a “denier” and accepting bribes from oil companies, and everyone who supports GW is a good and honest researcher in it for the science and not the money.

  15. Indifferent? says:

    I’m always a skeptic about either side’s argument…but after reading this article I’m losing faith in our ability to scientifically pose an argument…let alont prove one. And I quote, “If all the glacial ice caps melted completely (as they have several times before during past greenhouse episodes in the geologic past), sea level would rise by 65 m (215 feet)!” An apparently proven scientific fact, yet I quote again from this same arcticle: “The Larsen B shelf had survived all the previous ice ages and interglacial warming episodes for the past 3 million years, and even the warmest periods of the last 10,000 years—yet it and nearly all the other thick ice sheets on the Arctic, Greenland, and Antarctic are vanishing at a rate never before seen in geologic history.” Just to play devil’s advocate, this is just one of the many contradicting scientific facts proclaimed to be true to argue either side of the global warming disbute!

    • layman says:

      Do you think the “past greenhouse episodes” are the same thing as the the “interglacial warming episodes of the past 3 million years”? The Earth is older then 3 million years, isn’t it?

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

    • RickD says:

      My dear Indifferent:

      “And I quote, “If all the glacial ice caps melted completely (as they have several times before during past greenhouse episodes in the geologic past), sea level would rise by 65 m (215 feet)!” An apparently proven scientific fact, yet I quote again from this same arcticle: “The Larsen B shelf had survived all the previous ice ages and interglacial warming episodes for the past 3 million years, and even the warmest periods of the last 10,000 years—yet it and nearly all the other thick ice sheets on the Arctic, Greenland, and Antarctic are vanishing at a rate never before seen in geologic history.””

      You seem to be contending a contradiction between the claim to know how much water would be produced if the ice caps were to melt with your apparent claim that the ice caps have never melted. You display chagrin as if you have discovered some kind of contradiction.

      Prothero did not claim, contrary to what you say, that the global ice caps had melted at some point in the past. His argument was about how much water would be produced if the ice melted.

      It is very easy to calculate how much liquid water would be produced from the melting of a known volume of ice. You really don’t have to melt the ice yourself to do this. It’s also fairly easy* to measure exactly how much ice there is in the polar ice caps. *(Well, not _easy_ per se, but it’s a manageable task).

      • socal sam says:

        True but bear mind that the artic ice cap contributes nothing to the water levels because the ice is floating in water. So any statement about the ice caps is wrong.

        Plus if the artic cap melts enough to allow shipping then the world gets cheaper goods. Not a completely bad thing.

        A statement about Greenland and Antarctic fine. Might be a problem. For rich white countries. The rest of us just want you to mind your own business and get out of our way.

  16. Dr. Strangelove says:

    Dr. Prothero,

    “Geological data show that sea level was virtually unchanged over the past 10,000 years since the present interglacial began.”

    Check your data. Sea level rose 40 meters in the last 10,000 years. The rise in the past was due mainly to melting of glaciers. Now the rise is due mainly to thermal expansion of seawater.

    I agree we should prepare for global warming. But I think adaptation is more sensible and realistic than prevention. At the rate we are burning fossil fuels, it’s very unlikely we can stop global warming. We should build dikes or move out of coastal areas. It’s not that hard. The Dutch literally drained the North Sea and build their cities on what used to be a sea.

  17. Dr. Strangelove says:

    @marty

    7 billion people at 75 W per person, that’s 5 x 10^11 W. The sun shines 10^17 W of solar heat on earth, that’s five orders of magnitude higher than our body heat. By your argument, earth should be as hot as hell. Of course most of the heat radiates back to space if not for those greenhouse gases. BTW methane is a minor greenhouse gas compared to CO2 and water vapor.

    @glenn

    You must point out: I’ve proven that I dropped the apple and it fell on the ground, but shown only a correlation between the two. My conclusion that gravity is the cause is merely ASSUMED.

  18. Sextus Empiricus says:

    Global warming? Certainly plausible.
    Cause(s)? Undetermined, probably manifold, far more opaque than clear.
    Sensible responses? Curb pollution, rein in the power of Big Government central planners to collude with Big Business in churning out self-serving “regulatory” rules, manage energy consumption efficiently, yet curb the impulse to over-engineer an array of “solutions” before acquiring an empirically-based understanding of the complex interactions at play in global climate systems.
    In Dr. Prothero I see a soft-science academic who has convinced himself–and feels compelled to convince others–that a body of real-world data which lends itself to multiple interpretations most assuredly fits a particular theoretical construct founded on a carefully selected set of purely mathematical models. Yet the family of models to which these belong do in fact yield strikingly varied results and each has an informationally incomplete basis.
    It is exceedingly difficult to extract from large-scale real-world phenomena meaningful correlations to such mathematically pure constructs as distribution curves and standard deviations. Tempting as it is to measure variation to a known certainty and to establish cause-and-effect linkages, Big Nature does not play nicely with our statistical analyses and reasoned projections.
    An impassioned effort, to be sure, but methinks the good doctor would be well served to work on dialing back the hubris and histrionics.

    • citizenschallenge says:

      “ but methinks the good doctor would be well served to work on dialing back the hubris and histrionics.”

      You’re quite the one to talk the way you’ve misrepresented the reality of what’s going on within Climate Science. You reveal a great deal of Willfully Ignoring what you don’t want to see.

      Perhaps you should consider how much bias clouds your own reading of the available information.

      • Sextus Empiricus says:

        @citizenschallenge:
        Perhaps you failed to notice that I am not one of your stereotypical straw man “climate change denier” types.
        So then, please tell me, precisely how have I misrepresented what’s going on within climate science?
        Perhaps I have failed to make sufficiently clear where I take issue with climate science practice in its current state. I will speak more simply and directly to the point. To a great extent, climate science remains too much a closed system–not merely in terms of communications within its community concerning data, interpretation, and modeling–but rather in terms of its failure to acknowledge (1) the vast insufficiency in the number of available data points and (2) the enormous impact of very small measurement errors which together severely compromise its ability to project into the future with confidence the outcome of a given set of human inputs into the global climate system.

  19. mikeb says:

    Anthropogenic global climate change: now undeniably true, and perfectly natural at the same time.

    Humans are like beavers or any other species that modifies its environment to suit its own purposes. It will consume, pollute, and degrade until it can do so no longer.

    What is happening is appalling, terrifying–and immensely interesting.

    Like yeasts, we will simply die back to sustainable levels.

    And there’s nothing we can do about it.

    • Joseph Rogowski says:

      How specist of you to compare beavers with humans. Were you a true skeptic, you would realize that your argument of “pollution” by man would extend to the beaver land as well. Beavers cause global warming! How droll.

  20. Jim Hull says:

    Dr. Prothero’s essay reads like a polemic — indeed, like propaganda — filled with anger and laced with _ad hominem_ attacks against his opponents that make them out to to be incompetent or, worse, evil. This is science? This is skepticism?

    And why would his opponents be so mendacious? Dr. Prothero implies they’re essentially the same group that routinely denies evolution and other scientific discoveries, and they’re paid for by mustache-twisting fat cats in the oil industry.

    What most climate-change proponents overlook is that companies _can’t afford_ to lose this debate, because the likely result would be severe restrictions on fossil-fuel use, which, in turn, would amount to a death sentence for many huge corporations and cause an economic disaster that would make Europe’s current troubles look like a stroll in the park. (And that, in turn, could cost the lives of thousands, if not millions. Better, perhaps, to relocate the good citizens of Vanuatu.)

    But neither side speaks directly to that terrible dilemma. Each side simply argues that the other side is bad and wrong. The real conflict is rarely, if ever, broached. And unless we address that unspoken problem, useful solutions won’t be forthcoming.

    A quick show of hands: how many believe I’m a climate-change denier? Okay, hands down. Turns out _I’m not_. I’m pretty sure we humans are CO2ing our way to a prolonged hot spell. But I have yet to hear a cogent argument on how to solve that problem without creating an equally bad economic snafu.

    Instead of vilifying the other side, maybe we can use each other’s expertise to brainstorm a breakthrough. But that requires that we stop hating our opponents. It requires that we stop thinking our anger makes us right.

    • citizenschallenge says:

      JH: “… filled with anger and laced with _ad hominem_ attacks against his opponents that make them out to to be incompetent or, worse, evil.” ~ ~ ~
      Well when they (The denialist echo-chamber) constantly misrepresent what is know and what is unknown, and lie about scientists with ruthless abandon, well then such human emotions will sneak through.
      When will you scold Watts, Monckton, Lindzen, The WSJ Sixteen, Heartland, SPPI, et al. for the crap they pull ???

      JH: “… and they’re paid for by mustache-twisting fat cats in the oil industry.” ~ ~ ~
      Well the evidence speaks for itself.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXyTpY0NCp0

      JH: “What most climate-change proponents overlook is that companies _can’t afford_ to lose this debate, because the likely result would be severe restrictions on fossil-fuel use, which, in turn, would amount to a death sentence for many huge corporations and cause an economic disaster…” ~ ~ ~
      What you seem to overlook is that the climatological understanding is compelled by the accumulating evidence and understanding, not by “proponents.” Earth processes don’t give fig for our corporations or their self-serving justifications.
      It is that reality that can not be filtered through the perspective of having to “make the greatest profits at whatever it takes.”

      JH: “… But I have yet to hear a cogent argument on how to solve that problem without creating an equally bad economic snafu.” ~ ~ ~
      That one is truly a bitch of a question. And for those of us who have been watching this circus since the mid seventies it is heartbreaking in the extreme. Because you are right, given the momentum of the corporate profits-über-alles paradigm, it’d difficult to see how society will see itself through our self-inflicted self-destructive streak.

      JH: “Instead of vilifying the other side, maybe we can use each other’s expertise to brainstorm a breakthrough. But that requires that we stop hating our opponents. It requires that we stop thinking our anger makes us right.” ~ ~ ~
      I sympathize with that sentiment… but… Why should liars and manipulators and cherry pickers be put on equal footing with “good faith learning” from the available evidence?

      I agree that we need each others expertise to brainstorm our way through this mess.

      But that will never happen so long as most the people believe the denialist’s storyline which is as vacuous & dishonest as the baloney Creationists toss out at people? The only hope we have is to start taking the state of climatological understanding seriously. But alas, so long a dilettantes are given bigger megaphones than seasoned scientists, this horror show will continue.

      • Jim Hull says:

        If we need to add anger into the mix, then it isn’t science anymore. If the facts don’t speak for themselves, getting mad at the opponent doesn’t add to the truth. If they’re _that_ twisted and dishonest, perhaps the proper response should be an embarrassed sadness.

        Besides, they won’t listen to a word against them. They’ve already made up their minds. All the evidence in the world doesn’t help them understand, because their unspoken concerns about their own futures and the economy haven’t been addressed. Find a way to argue for climate repair that doesn’t threaten to devastate their lives, and maybe you’ll get their attention.

        To treat the opponents as evil instead of mistaken is politics, not research. How many peer-reviewed articles in, say, physics or astronomy attack the dissenters as lying lackeys of paid interests? This path leads down a slippery slope.

        I’m get really suspicious when I hear someone argue, “Trust me! I’m honest and have your best interests at heart, and my opponent’s evidence is a bunch of lies.” At that point, I check to make sure my wallet hasn’t been stolen.

        • SR Hadden says:

          “Find a way to argue for climate repair that doesn’t threaten to devastate their lives, and maybe you’ll get their attention.”

          Unfortunately, it appears that these companies would rather buy lobbyists to bury the problem in vacillation than pay clever engineers to devise solutions to the problem. Sniffle.

      • Theodore (Ted) Black says:

        Peter Miesler (“citizenschallenge”) says: “Why should liars and manipulators and cherry pickers be put on equal footing…”

        With that kind of attitude you have zero credibility, and you are a big part of the problem with your constant projection.

        The liars and manipulators are on the alarmist side: Peter Gleick has been caught lying and manipulating. In fact, he CONFESSED to it: http://tiny.cc/29x1f

  21. citizenschallenge says:

    This has been an interesting exercise.
    Professor Prothero it has been a pleasure making your acquaintance.

    Sincerely, PM
    http://citizenschallenge.blogspot.com/

  22. Glen McBride says:

    I insure my home. No community of scientists are telling me there is a danger to it that I should prepare for. My planet is much more valuable than my house. I would like to see the whole world taking precautions to insure it. – for there are a majority of the worlds scientists telling me that our present lifestyle is endangering it.
    Do these climate skeptics insure their houses?
    Selling oil and coal are very big businesses. Of course they would try to protect their income from their sales. But Oil and coal take many millions of years to produce. What is the real value of something that takes millions of years to create? Is it the price of digging it out and transporting it?
    It will all be gone anyway in a few hundred years – such a waste of chemical treasures by burning them – because that is the first use we found for them!
    Ho Hum!
    The change to sustainable energy has to come, the only question is when? Now or as late as possible, even if as late as possible means danger to our planet. I’m for changing as quickly as we can.
    I’m 87 and won’t be around for long – but I like to hope that my great grandchildren’s kids will have a planet as exciting as the one I had in the 30s
    Cheerily
    Glenorchy

  23. Harrison Bergeron says:

    I was under impression (a mistaken one apparently) that Skeptic magazine and the Skeptic society and being skeptic in general was all about truth, logic and rational thought only to be confronted in this recent edition by this left-wing hit piece. You don’t need to understand the “science” behind climate change in order to understand this entire issue or debate. All you need is an understanding of the nature of left-wing politics as it’s been practiced in the last 100 years. Because, that’s all this is “politics” masquerading as science.

    • x1plus1x says:

      Nice attack, but do you have any data to back up your claims?

    • Steve Fraser says:

      Yes….didn’t it start with the Global Cooling nonsense in the 1970′s, just after the New Left got traction in our society?

  24. Todd F says:

    If the debate is conceded, and it’s concluded the globe IS warming and the primary cause IS fossil fuel burning, then suspension of most fuel combustion must be the next step. Governments would have to enforce strict limits nearing complete elimination of fossil fuel consumption. That’s NOT going to happen, even with rising sea levels, rising temperatures, and regional droughts. When fossil fuels are sufficiently depleted, then release rates will drop. I see no chance of a voluntary reversion to walking instead of driving and a reversion to a non electricity based civilization with universal poverty and a bare subsistence life style. Only direct economic necessity will force change. Doomsday scenarios are not economic necessities. Necessity, not government policy, has been and will be the mother of invention.

  25. john says:

    citizenschallenge-

    “An “intelligent, informed SKEPTIC” does not cherry pick their information and willfully ignore all that contradicts their bias. A skeptic is open to having their mind changes as new information dictates.”

    All you have done is cherry pick, several of the reviews yousent angry messages to had very valid points.

    ““Weather station readings have been shown to be notoriously unreliable, and satellite readings are relatively recent.”
    Can you support that claim with any actual factual study?”

    Think about that next time the news says the storm will pass you buy as its raining outside your house, id say thats the only proof necessary.

    “Perhaps you should consider how much bias clouds your own reading of the available information.”

    This applies to almost everything you have written.

    @ the article

    it says the ocean will rise 1-1.5ft in the next hundred years. Then it says what if it rises 20ft, ok at that rate we have 1,500-2,000 years to solve the problem. which means we “have” the time to study it more and not just do a quick fix but come up with a perminent solution.

    This article has a lot of opinions but very few peices of hard evidence that can not be argued for ether side.

    citizenschallenge before you start in on my credibility id like to admit that like “YOU”, i have none, but my own personal opinion.

  26. Doubting Rich says:

    Wow.

    Why is this article in a sceptical website? The one thing it entirely denies is any idea of scepticism. It is the utter antithesis of the purpose of this site, even where it does not contain blatant misrepresentations!

    John

    ““Weather station readings have been shown to be notoriously unreliable, and
    satellite readings are relatively recent.”
    Can you support that claim with any actual factual study?”

    Why don’t you behave like a sceptic, and find the studies? They are easy to track down.

    Around 90% of US surface stations are sited so as to give uncertainty of 1 degree or greater – i.e. more than the entire supposed warming. Most of Canada is now represented by a single weather station. Bolivia by none at all. Australia and New Zealand both introduced “corrections” that represent the whole warming trend there, and the organisations which did so refuse to give out any explanation for the “corrections”. Russia’s own researchers have complained that few of their stations are used in the main temperature sets, and that if you use all then their warming trend disappears entirely. Modern temperature sensors in the sea have recently proved that the older ones give very poor data. The data are still being used from the older ones, or were until recently.

    If you were a sceptic you would know about this information. You might doubt it, but at least you would know the rather strong concerns.

    • Steve Fraser says:

      Because the AGW movement is essentially political, tragically we can no longer trust the actual data that is being gathered by the “believers”.

  27. L Nettles says:

    Questions for the self proclaimed Septics.

    Was there a MWP?

    Was there a LIA?

    Have global temperatures been increasing since the LIA?

    What is the right temperature for the Earth?

    What predictions have the climate models gotten right?

  28. Gyro says:

    Sir.

    Am I a denier if I disagree with you? Do you think sweeping accusations, broad generalizations and ad hominem, make you a credible scientist? In my opinion, it places you squarely in the activist camp. Very little scepticism here.

  29. Genuine Skeptic says:

    I assume that this article is a spoof –
    A random collection of unsubstantiated and frequently untrue claims that the author has lifted off the web;
    An illustration of the gibberish that results when people forget their skeptical manifesto.

    The usual dishonest smear tactics – Lindzen does not deny that smoking causes cancer. Where did you get that from? Read it on the internet?

    Oh look – there’s a crack in a glacier – what more proof could we want of man-made global warming?

    There’s a graph of some tree-rings and some dodgy statistics tacked on to temperature data that’s been ‘adjusted’ by climate scientists. (See the paper by statisticians McShane and Wyner for their opinion of these ‘reconstructions’).

    On point 2, the Antarctic isn’t melting as you claim – in fact some Antarctic ice sheets are actually thickening DOI: 10.1126/science.1200109 and Antarctic sea ice extent is increasing.

    On point 3 the latest news recently is that Himalayan glaciers have not melted in the last 10 years.

    The claim about sea level rise over the last 3000 years seems to have been lifted straight from wikipedia! And wikipedia says “may” and gives no citation.

    Anyway, I am sure you know all this, and the article was just a joke to test the skeptical credentials of your readers.

    • Steve Fraser says:

      A spoof? I hope you are right, but the AGW believers I know think just like the author of this essay.

  30. Mac says:

    Figure 5 is a clear manipulation of the temperature data sets. Where does this figure come from and who produced it?

    I would expect some at eSkeptic to provide this information!

  31. jason says:

    I call spoof. No article on a website called eskeptic could be so ludicrous otherwise. People who are unsure the current warming is completely manmade and will lead to runaway feedbacks so far unproven are deniers like the holocaust deniers. Hmm.

  32. jason says:

    Just in case anyone is dumb enough to not look at this article skeptically, here is nasa’s take on the pine glacier crack, note that they state on several occasions that calving is natural and this crack is no different:

    http://blogs.nasa.gov/cm/blog/icebridge/posts/post_1319635342299.html

    • socal sam says:

      I am neither a denier nor believer. I am a get of my wallet and quit taxing me ‘ier.

      Here is my message: I like the weather, I drive a prius because I pay lee taxes that way. I have a small carbon footprint because I am cheap. I am strongly skeptical about most things except for one thing: Climate change is generally a bunch of hypocrites trying to tell me how to live. Please just buzz off and leave me alone. You are useless.

  33. Sean says:

    Why does the AGW crowd takes the myopic, bi-polar view of ‘believe us or you’re a denier?’ If you believe in GW, but doubt man is the cause, well, that’s just fence sitting. In other words, you’re not with us then you’re against us.

    Well, Dr. Prothero, it’s called independent thought, it’s part of being a skeptic. I don’t have a book to sell, nor am I chasing tenure, nor am I seeking grant money, nor do I have a reputation to maintain, nor an ego to feed, so that means I lack many influences, both internal and external, that restrict my judgment. I look at the science being conducted, work the raw data when I can, and read what is being said on all sides. What people don’t say is as important as what they do say. I’m a free thinker that is informed and able to make up my own mind.

    I see words like junk science, conspiracy, and deniers (amongst others) being thrown around by either side or both. Calling something junk science has some strong implications, so I will refrain from that, but the history of science is full of it, and at times been dominated by it. The ivory tower of science is not infallible. You can point to Cold Fusion as a triumph of debunking junk science, but you also have to point to plate tectonics. It was rejected when first proposed. Even Einstein backed the belief that the earth has always remained this way. You have to look at the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs, I am certain you are familiar with this, as a paleontologist. It practically took the death of a generation to finally gain acceptance. Sir Fred Hoyle denied the Big bang theory, even coining the term out of ridicule. Science is self-correcting, but it is not an instantaneous process.

    If you want to support AGW by using numbers of scientists that support it, numbers of supporters does not equate to evidence. Just take a look at Young Earth creationism. 40-50% of US adults believe it. That’s some 150 million people. Can 150 million people be wrong?

    Yes.

    Conspiracy, no. Idiocy, lies, collusion, and exclusion, yes.

    Deniers, they’re definitely out there, but while more of the nuts appear on the denier side, the believers are herding to AGW like sheep. It’s a religion, only with a bit of science tainted by faith. The flavor of AGW nuttiness is the absolute denial of any other possibility, the sun doesn’t affect the climate, water has no effect on climate, Venus is 96% CO2, hence CO2 is the only cause of GW. Other things can influence it, but CO2, that’s the big daddy of AGW.

    The energy output of the sun does influence the earth, water has an effect on regulating temperature. Venus has no water, and receives approximately twice as much luminosity at the earth. Is it inconceivable that double the amount of energy a planet receives has no affect what-so-ever? If you support AGW, it can’t be allowed into the debate. There is no room for anything but the mindless belief in AGW.

    I’ve read both sides of the argument (more of the AGW side than the other, I’m seeking why they believe it) and am not convinced there is a single shred of evidence linking CO2 to GW. The Antarctic ice cores clearly demonstrate that temperature variations are more often than not *followed* by CO2 variation, sometimes the other way around. In fact there are numerous instances where they are moving in opposite directions. It looks more like temperature influences CO2. And even more like they act independent of each other.

    Of course, scientists don’t like inexplicable changes; they kind of like to believe that they know it all. Obviously while paying lip service to the caveat that they don’t know everything. To admit there is more going on than they understand is to admit their limits. AGWers see a correlation and use climate models to confirm causality. Climate models are the only piece of *evidence* that link CO2 to temperature increases. This is called Confirmation Bias, one of many ways that reasoning can falter.

    As a member of the editorial board of Skeptic magazine, you should be able to get a hold of Dr. Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit. I highly recommend it to everyone. It is an extremely valuable tool for critical thinking.

    The temperature increase has stalled for 15 years now (apparently it hasn’t received the memo that CO2 is still rising), the sun is headed into a minimum, and the oceans are flipping from warm to cold mode, Meanwhile, the debate rages on uselessly, AGWers can’t conceive of anything besides CO2 affecting climate, policy is being made on scant evidence and people want to wreck the economy to prove they’re right.

    I could go on, but the problems with the A in AGW has more to do with politics, money, reputation, ego, emotion, psychology, and human nature than it does with GW. These problems are addressed very well in Cynthia Crossen’s book, Tainted Truth.

    And I don’t want anyone acusing me of selling a book.

    One good thing that has come out of all of this is it has encouraged us to be a bit more environmentally friendly and to look at utilizing our resources better.

    “Doubt is the beginning, not the end, of wisdom.” – George Iles

    • JHowson says:

      You’re right, a large number a scientists claiming AGW doesn’t, itself, count as evidence to the very claim they’re making. But doesn’t it count for something?

      If 1,000 out of 998 cancer specialists are all coming to the same conclusion that a person has cancer, that, by itself, isn’t meant to be taken as direct evidence that she has cancer, but it does imply that the probability that she has cancer is extremely high.

      This is because an argument from qualified authority (in the cancer example, a near consensus) is intended to be taken as an inductive argument (a probabilistic argument). That is, if those making the claim are legitimate specialists on the subject, and if that claim is relevant to their credentials, then that claim is a strong claim, i.e. it follows with a much higher degree of probability than otherwise; and that degree of probability increases as more specialists and experts are in agreement with the claim.

      So if Dr. Prothero is right, that ’98% of those scientists who are actually doing the research’ on the relevant matter are in agreement with AGW, then it most certainly counts for something– something that truly merits all of our attention.

      (Don’t take this reply as a rebuttal to your whole comment, but rather that one paragraph)

      • JHowson says:

        Correction: 998 out of 1,000 :)

        • Sean says:

          No problem, I knew what you meant. Of course if two of those doctors had multiple personalities that were also doctors agreed as well, your original statement would be valid. :-)

          I understand the weight of numbers, and agree with you whole heartedly. But the weight of numbers has been wrong before, because people are fallible; hence my examples about plate tectonics and the metor that wiped out the dinosaurs. Numbers do have value, but don’t constitute proof.

          Following Carl Sagan’s advice, I prefer to steer clear of ‘authorities’ on any subject. Experts are fine.

          We also have to understand what an expert in climatology is. There are no climatologists per se; they are scientists who are experts in various fields, i.e. geology, weather, oceanography, and how it relates to climate. Climatology is too big to be encompassed under a single field. They have some cross-training in the other areas to help give them a broader understanding, but people being people, this broader understanding is never perfect. Any lawyer will tell you that they are experts only in their area; they may give you some general advice in other areas, but always with the caveat that they aren’t experts and you should seek someone who specializes in that area.

          I believe the experts are right, there has been a warming trend, I just think they are barking up the wrong tree. Correlation is not causality.

    • RickD says:

      “The temperature increase has stalled for 15 years now (apparently it hasn’t received the memo that CO2 is still rising), the sun is headed into a minimum, and the oceans are flipping from warm to cold mode, Meanwhile, the debate rages on uselessly, AGWers can’t conceive of anything besides CO2 affecting climate, policy is being made on scant evidence and people want to wreck the economy to prove they’re right.”

      The data provided above directly contradicts your claim that “the temperature increase has stalled for 15 years now.”

      The “debate rages on uselessly” because people like you either are not competent or unwilling to debate facts in an honest and open manner.

  34. Thomas Clayton says:

    Dr Prothero says “follow the money” to see who is supporting the deniers. What he doesn’t advocate is to follow the money to see why the supporters are supporters. They all live on grant money supplied by other believers. There will never be a reasoned discussion of this topic until ALL of the money is removed from the discussion. Dr. Mann of hockey stick fame? $3.5 million from the NSF in the current administration.

    I am a process guy. I’ve taken the time to look at the ice core data plots (which don’t agree with the article) that have been replicated and validated as reliable and noticed a few details. When you look at the plots, you see that the current temperatures are not as high as the medieval warming period. You will also notice that the current warming trend began about 100 years before the Industrial Revolution kicked off the rapid increase in carbon dioxide. You will notice that the RATE of temperature increase didn’t change when the carbon dioxide increase started, and has in fact, gone sideways since the 1930s. The fact that both temperature and carbon dioxide increased simultaneously is coincidental, not causative. There is a lot of noise in the data and Dr. Prothero is correct when he says that the weather in any given year doesn’t prove much. There is nothing in the plot that would make me ‘adjust’ the process because of carbon dioxide. The current temperatures are still within the normal variation from the nominal. The plot for the last 10,000 years is consistent with the plot of almost all of the high temperature precesses that I have managed. We thought that any process that stayed within =/- 3C was stable and didn’t adjust the energy inputs until the process variable wandered outside that band. There was a lot of random wandering within the band and a lot of noise that expanded the plot band width. No one has ever been able to write a computer program that will predict the future behavior of one of these simple, small processes.

    The reason that I’m not concerned about the 10,000 years is that the process plots are all related to the mass of the process. A small unit will present that plot in an hours time, a large unit will present that plot in a day, the earth is a bit heavier and even slower to respond. This is the thermal equivalent of the maneuverability difference between a jet ski and an aircraft carrier.

    Since the ice cores are limited (you come to the bottom of the ice), other researchers have started work on ocean sediment layers. Their data is not yet published, but the preliminary reports have said that the cores validate the ice core data and have traced the same 100,000 year ice age cycle back through 20 cycles. I have no idea how far back they will be able to go. One interesting comment about the preliminary results is that these cores have identified both interglacial and glacial periods that have same nominal temperatures and patterns as all of the other periods, but also have CO2 levels that are 10 times greater than the current level. It will be interesting to see how the discussion continues once this data is replicated, verified, and published.

    I’m disappointed that Skeptic would publish Dr. Prothero’s comments as representing the ‘real’ truth. He is too selective in choosing his sources and stays away from the ice core data since it destroys his whole argument. Do better next time.

    • Sean says:

      I thoroughly enjoyed your comments.

      Your statement about the grant money is spot on. I highly recomment the book Tainted Truth. It came out around 1992, but the conclusions it draws are still valid. There’s money to be made and a chance to make a name for yourself. By the time anyone finds out, you’re not likely to get called on it…unless someone leaks your faulty code on the internet.
      I work intimately with the gov’t everyday. I watch as people change things for the sake of a bullet on their performance review. They wreck things, declare success, move onto a new job. Eventually, someone identifies the problem that was created, and reverses the trend…maybe. The original havoc wrecker is never actually taken to task on how he/she screwed things up.

      Before I decided to drop it, I was going to point out as well that the industrial revolution occurred well after temps started rising. While we had the capability, the industrial revolutuion really didn’t get into full swing until 1830′s or so, and mainly in England.

      You don’t find many people who are willing to work with the raw data themselves. I’ve been derided for genertaing my own plots from the ice core data. The detractor dismissed my efforts, highlighting my lack of ‘expertise.’ Plotting is basic algebra. When plots are generated and sqeezed down into a minisclue picture, you lose a lot. I prefer finer granularity. It was what convinced me that temp and CO2 weren’t really all that related.

      • RickD says:

        Ah yes, the “international conspiracy” argument. It’s all about the grant money, eh?

        This is a good example of an ad hominem argument, since it does nothing to rebut the arguments provided above.

        You talk about generating temperature data from ice cores, but you do understand that the most you could be doing there is dependent on some mathematical model, yes? It is far too simplistic to say that this is “basic algebra.” If your model is wrong, then your algebra will give you bad numbers.

        • Sean says:

          Ad hominem – to attack an opponent’s character rather than answering his argument.

          Funny you should attack me with that exact tactic, then accuse me of it. I never called it a conspiracy, in fact, even doubted (in an earlier post) that there was a conspiracy. To me it’s more like ignorant trust and the “good ol’ boys club.” The fact is that as long as human beings have greed and pride, the love of money and prestige will always have a corrosive effect. Science is not immune to them, nor is it an infallible authority. People who doubt GW don’t have anything to gain, but a lot to risk when going against the grain.

          Science is not a white tower of holy knowledge handed down from on high. Plate tectonics is not real (Einstein denied it), thalidomide is safe, our Solar system is the universal planetary model, a meteorite did not wipe out the dinosaurs; science’s list of mistakes is humongous. But it’s greatest strength is its ability at self correction. Sadly, (IMO) it sometimes takes the death of the reigning generation for the old paradign to die and a new ideas to become accepted.

          I’ve been on several forums and AGWers tactics are all the same, spin the wheel and attack the scumbag denier:

          Tab 1: Call their argument ad hominem
          Tab 2: Question their ability to reason
          Tab 3: Call their arument a conspiracy
          Tab 4: Refer to an authority, topic need only be tangentally related
          Tab 5: Call their argument a “straw man”
          Tab 6: Insult them
          Tab 7: Refer to “trick” data and call it a common object, i.e. hockeystick
          Tab 8: …

          For maximum effect, spin multiple times.

          You AGWers are all the same, you have an extreme belief that people are incapable of thinking for themselves. Only an infallible authority has the power to declare what is. “You cannot look at the data and come to your own conclusion, because you are too stupid.”

          You all vehemently attack and provide no real proof. “The closest thing to proof probably comes from using climate models.” (The Open University (2007); S104 Exploring Science, Book 1 Global Warming Section 8.3, pg. 132) This textbook is being distributed to UK (home of EAU) university science students today (2013), the future generation of science. Climate models are extremely subject to bias confirmation and are poor substitutes for reality. World temperatures have been stable since 1998 and now fall below the predicted models, yet EAU says GW is still going on. It may begin to rise, or dip and rise, or just fall, only time will tell.

          There is no such thing as a climatologist. Climatology is a congomerate of different fields of science. Scientists, like lawyers, doctors and engineers, specialize in one fields, and only have a passing knowledge in other fields.

          CO2 has been rising since the industrial revolution, no denying it, but the industrial revolution didn’t come into full swing until the 1820s, the point it would really start to have an impact on CO2. Temperatures have been rising a century before then. The icecores show CO2 and temperature (often) moving in opposition to each other, with CO2 following temperatures by hundreds of years, and sometimes doing its own thing. For proof, plot the raw data and see what happens.

          So, unless CO2 is the secret ingredient in time travel, CO2 appears to be affected by temperature, in opposition to what AGWers say.

          What struck me the most about the climategate emails was the fact that several AGWers celebrated the death of people who didn’t just believe them. It shows an extreme lack of humanity on the part of the celebrants.

          And for the record, I do NOT deny global warming, I DOUBT the purported cause.

  35. L Nettles says:

    This can serve as a reply to Dr. Prothero

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203646004577213244084429540.html?mod=wsj_share_tweet

    But this ought to sting a bit.

    “While the disparity of forces puts the financial interests and media support firmly in the alarmist camp, the sceptics have some obvious strengths. The first and most obvious is an eye to detail and meticulous picking apart of data among a sizeable camp of sceptics. They are used to poring over data, of looking behind the obvious and of teasing things out of the most unlikely sources. These skills are highly prized in sceptic circles – just as they used to be prized in scientific circles. We see this at work not just in the deconstruction of the hockey stick, but in the way that the IPCC reports were dissected and the references checked (and often found to be from non-peer reviewed literature), or the BEST temperature record found to be at odds with what Richard Muller was claiming it said or… Again and again the sceptic camp shows itself to be worthy of the name. Nothing is taken on trust, everything is challenged and the data checked.

    In Gleick’s case this process happened very quickly. The allegedly forged document was checked and found to have come from a different source and different time zone. The writing style was shown to be different to the other documents. And, taking things a step further, a number of voices suggested it was Peter Gleick very early on.

    This is the sceptic blogosphere at work – and it shows why, despite the disparity of money and media, the alarmists know they are losing. It’s just ironic that Gleick fell victim to the very thing that his paranoid fantasy ignores. ”

    http://progcontra.blogspot.com/2012/02/sceptic-blogosphere-devours-gleick.html

  36. Joseph Rogowski says:

    As a young fellow, on the continent of Antarctica during the summer of 1995, I remember a Geology Department chair of a prestigious East Coast University, tell me over a bottle of cheap beer. that “Without a crisis, there is no grant money.” In my skeptical opinion, that is all that this is. Just claptrap, words to make money.

  37. Only facts please... says:

    Why don’t people understand the concepts of reality and faith? Being a skeptic of climate change is like being skeptical of humans needing oxygen, food, and water to live. Honestly, where do some of you get this idea that tangible, verifiable, reproducible data is interpretive like religion or philosophy?

    This isn’t a debate over who’s version of God is the right version. This isn’t a debate over the interpretation of someone’s dreams.

    It shouldn’t even be a debate. It really is that simple. Fact and “belief” are not one in the same. There is no “kool aid” to drink. Denying (again) tangible, verifiable, reproducible data is nothing more than choosing ignorance over knowledge.

    • Eric Berendt says:

      I figure they just feel lucky

    • David Howard says:

      Being a skeptic of climate change is based on the climate being one of the most complex areas known to mankind. The temperature and even the sea level change from moment to moment in every location, and we’ve never really needed accurate or long term data anyhow as meteorology is for short term forecasts and climatology is a fairly new discipline mainly set up in the 70s with CRU.

      I’ll just give a few established figures, mainly from the IPCC, such as the 33C difference between the surface and deep space attributing 1C to 260ppm of CO2. Double that and you get 2C. Add feedback and you have to wait and see. The models complete in 2100 which is impossible to observe as we’ll all be dead by then, certainly when the projection was made. At 390ppm the rise attributed to CO2 of the total 0.8C is 0.4C. That is slightly under the 1C, implying a slight negative feedback. Normally in a scientific experiment you observe as you go along, and with a linear system adding CO2 with evaporating water vapour providing positive feedback you’d say after half the time then the current measurements were likely to continue. The laws of physics do not allow for a heat transfer from warm to cool in a jerky way, or the evaporation of the ocean or a puddle. So logically the ocean is clearly not adding to the greenhouse signature of CO2 or it would have risen more than the base figure.

      Once you have the fact that so far the temperature has risen less than the lowest estimate for no growth in CO2 and the sea level rise is currently heading for another 8-9 inches this decade, it makes me wonder how anything else can be relevant, as once the big picture (including the growth of the antarctic despite what our author here has said, NASA’s own figures) presents a range of figures consistent with normal variations, then everything else is pretty hard to grasp.

      It’s very easy to claim that colder winters in Europe mean nothing, and when temperatures stop going up and the sea level drops 10mm in two years it’s irrelevant, but most people will start doubting you then, and you will lose support. And then when, after claiming the world’s longest chain of glaciers was losing billions of gallons of water a year new data showed they hadn’t changed for a decade many more would leave the ship if they’d been given an opportunity to read it.

      Do you understand better now?

    • Theodore (Ted) Black says:

      “Only facts please…” says:

      “Being a skeptic of climate change is like being skeptical of humans needing oxygen, food, and water to live… It shouldn’t even be a debate. It really is that simple.”

      So we shouldn’t have a debate, is that it? Sorry, but there is a debate and the skeptics are winning it, as we can see in this thread and everywhere the discussion takes place (except at anti-science blogs like John Cook’s; a juvenile cartoonist who censors out skeptical comments).

      Skeptics aren’t ‘denying climate change’. Like alarmists everywhere, “Only facts please” ignores the Scientific Method. Per the Scientific Method, the onus is entirely on climate alarmists to defend their hypothesis. They have totally failed: not one prediction of catastrophe or climate disruption has ever happened, and there is no indication that there is any kind of a problem due to co2. The onus is not on skeptics, who have nothing to prove. The job of skeptics is to tear down the runaway global warming hypothesis, and they have done a superb job of it, poking holes in all the alarming scare stories, one after another.

      Skeptics know that the climate always changes, and it has changed a lot more before the Holocene, when co2 levels were very low. Temperatures have also been much higher in the geologic past, with no ill effects. Co2 has been up to 15 times higher without causing any runaway global warming. The planet has also gone into Ice Ages when co2 was many times higher than now, and it has entered ‘hothouse’ epochs when co2 was very low. On all time scales over the past 700,000 years the rise in co2 has always followed the rise in temperature. A warmer ocean outgases co2 just like a warm Coke, and vice versa.

      The evidence shows that while co2 may have a minuscule effect on temperature, it cannot be the driver of climate change that the alarmists claim. There is just no empirical evidence of that being the case. (Remember that models are not evidence. Raw data is evidence, ice cores are evidence, but computer models are only tools, and not very accurate ones.) There are no verifiable measurements showing X amount of temperature rise for Y amount of additional co2. It is only speculation, which is the Conjecture stage of the Scientific Method. To be a Hypothesis it must be testable, and AGW is not testable in the real world.

      Those who still believe Michael Mann’s hockey stick chart (which shows almost no temperature change before the industrial revolution) are denying climate change, not skeptics. Mann tried to claim that the Little Ice Age didn’t happen, despite ice core evidence from both hemispheres. Mann’s claim has been so thoroughly falsified by McIntyre & McKitrick that the IPCC can no longer even publish his MBH99 chart.

      The debate is not about “climate change”. That is a red herring argument. The true debate is about whether co2 causes “climate change”. But there is no empirical evidence showing that co2 has any effect. Radiative physics says that it should have an effect… but where is it? For fifteen years there has been no global warming. Therefore, the conclusion must be that the effect of co2 is much smaller than previously thought.

    • LaRouge says:

      The fact that Only Facts Please uses the modifiers “verifiable,” and especially, “reproducible” in regards to “data” (of the climatic variety) shows clearly that he/she has no clue about actual science and is merely regurgitating some science-y sounding terms she/he read somewhere.

      Feynman called this going-thru-the-motions-but-not-understanding-the-underlying-processes type of science “Cargo-Cult Science,” but since Only The Facts is clearly not a scientist, Science Groupie, or Scientific Wannabe, would probably be more appropriate.

    • Steve Fraser says:

      The AGW “believers” I know are so rigid and fanatical I no longer trust any data they have gathered….I assume they threw out findings that do not agree with their viewpoint and also indirectly manufacture data to support their viewpoint.

  38. David Howard says:

    How long have you got? Besides affirming the first comment what on earth has this piece of UN propaganda got to do with the Skeptic magazine?

    Firstly, cutting and pasting old stuff written by (a non-climatologist John Cook) Skeptical Science is hardly journalism, let alone scientific innovation, it is repeating a partisan site purely in existence to quash new data as it arises when it disagrees with AGW.

    Secondly some established new data has been ignored, for example the antarctic has been growing at 1% a decade for some time, containing 90% of the world’s ice. How are we supposed to have confidence in a writer who after simply copying most of someone else’s work (not a climatologist) now makes such fundamental claims which are not based in reality.

    Next, we have a cherry picked by using a single temperature graph, one chosen by the IPCC from four, two similar but not as sharp rise, and one fairly different. I can list pages of major alterations to complete the result, but just a few include the multidecadal oscillation of 60 years, as the oceans warm and cool with the motion of the earth, recorded since 1680, and every 30 years has a low and high point. The anomaly (a questionable device, less easy to relate to and less transparent than direct figures) was set at the average point of 1980, oddly not the median but the low point of the cycle, making the steep rise inevitable. Many of the measurements were at times only 25% of the earth was covered, before satellites, and coincidentally the rise came the day the satellites were used. Did they cause the warming possibly as the correlation is perfect as well?

    His discussion of politics is crucial outside the scientific area. He accuses deniers (a term deliberately used to compare anyone who disagrees with them with Nazis, very scientific), of being right wing and believers liberals. Now although that appears to be roughly the case, it is irrelevant. Science is nothing to do with politics, and dividing society in two to convert the disbelievers is a religious or totalitarian route, the atmosphere doesn’t have a political opinion and introducing political philosophies into what is meant to be a demonstration of science is a leakage of the author’s true agenda.

    He also leaked that there is no such thing as big oil, which is absolutely right. Although the climate and the fact oil will eventually run out is the sort of non-sequitur which would get any student an F in an essay, as even if oil was unlimited and it really was harmful then people would still stop using it. As it is indeed running out we therefore need alternatives for when it does. What’s that got to do with the climate? And this from a PhD? Where are editors when you need them? Anyway, the term is ‘energy companies’. They make a profit from energy, whatever the source. So with subsidies to allow huge profits from wind power and the like then they follow the money as required by their shareholders. That’s why Shell and BP helped fund the CRU and continue to campaign for climate action. Restricting oil exploration and use makes their assets far more valuable by raising the prices, as do free carbon credits they sell for billions.

    Overall I am quite relieved at the end of this, as if this is the best he can do to convince people (supposed to be skeptical as well) man has changed the climate there isn’t much there behind it. I taught for some years and besides the obvious plagiarism (even with giving credits, using half of someone else’s website to write your essay is plagiarism as you are meant to at least rewrite and adapt it to the piece you are doing) if a student of mine turned this out as evidence for man made warming I’d have had to put ‘see me’ and explain how to write an essay and what scientific method means. Putting in clearly irrelevant and entirely political points while trying to present a case for science was an excrutiating journey through every error a new writer can ever make and a few more all rolled into one dire page of utter drivel. This PhD is clearly no more earned than Obama’s Nobel Prize and if this was a driver I’d want them to retake their test.

    • Steve Fraser says:

      I completely agree with you. The interesting question is why has the Skeptic Magazine put its brand and stated purpose in such serious danger by publishing what is little more than a politically based diatribe?

  39. Joanna says:

    Really pathetic article, for all the reasons ably summarized by many of the commentators. Won’t be subscribing to this magazine if that’s the best it can do. The comments were great though!

  40. Jud says:

    I read the whole article looking for the part that would go from correlation to causation, thinking that surely any credible scientist would understand the difference between the two.

    I was unable to find it though – can anyone point it out to me so that this doesn’t turn out to be a complete waste of time?

  41. plusafdotcom says:

    Figure 2 is my favorite, always… anyone familiar with science or engineering would look at figure 2 and say, “gee, it looks like just about every 100 thousand years, the earth cools off dramatically… I wonder what causes that?”

    and then goes on to extrapolate from the same data… “y’know, from this graph, I’d say that we’re due for another Ice Age pretty soon!”

    Perhaps a skeptic might look at the article and figure 2 and wonder whether our release of CO2 and other allegedly “greenhouse gases” might be forestalling or postponing the next Ice Age???

  42. Daniel Ernst von Bose says:

    Well, I guess only time will tell on this global warming thing. Maybe when the water gets up to the street level, or maybe even the second floor offices of Wall Street, maybe people will finally get it. Hindsight is always better than the best research money can buy.

    • Michael says:

      No sweat; just be sure your own office is on the second floor or higher and you won’t have to worry about the first floor being immersed.

      However, as that is’t scheduled to happen for 300 years or so you probably won’t be alive; but your descendents can be left with this valuable advice.

  43. George William Nixon says:

    With regards to the article and comments made above; the science is by no means complete and final. There are gaping holes in our knowledge of physics; especially pertaining to climate variability resulting from known and unknown precursors and parameters. One thing is sure we should be grateful for our ocean thermostats that have already indicated the amount of cloud cover and excess rainfall to expect from less than one degree increase in temperature. There are known and unknown consequences of global warming, however, the runaway greenhouse effect has no chance of becoming a physical reality.
    Great balls of frozen matter consists the moons orbiting the great planets, and if their orbits are elliptical, they undergo thermodynamic activity. Io, a moon of Jupiter experiences excessive volcanic activity. Comets accelerating unhindered towards the Sun all out-gas from their central interior. The elliptical orbit of the Earth does not deviate much from circular, however and varied by the position of Jupiter, there is sufficient changes to Earth’s gravity to influence the presently unrecognised Gravitational Thermodynamic affect on Earth’s weather. According to my 68 year interest in physics, the referred to effect assists to warm the Earth in summer and assists to cool the Earth in winter.
    If there is any person with an interest in physics who would be willing to read and comment on my 160 page work on Matter and Associated Mysteries, it is available for downloading free at The General Science Journal. It is listed under research paper – Unification Theory.
    The email address is available below the copyright statement.

  44. JSmith says:

    Good article, giving clear information.
    Strange to see so many non-sceptics in the comments above, though. Is this what it’s like when there are articles about 9/11 and the moon landings ? I suppose this is what happens when science fact comes up against peoples’ personal beliefs.

    • Steve Fraser says:

      Skepticism is at the very heart of the Scientific Enterprise,…Whatever else, AGW believers represent a corruption of the Scientific Enterprise itself…a true tragedy.

  45. x1plus1x says:

    I came to Skeptic.com because I thought I would get intelligent debate and comments.

    Sadly, I was mistaken.

    The article itself has a lot of good things in it and a lot of useful information, but the way it’s presented left me feeling disappointed. I can get passionate myself, and sometimes get a little worked up and things don’t come out quite right. It’s ok for me because I’m not publishing data on a scientific website.

    The comments section of this article leaves a lot to be desired. Again, I was hoping for intelligent debate and some real answers.. instead what we have here (in large part) is people with their minds already made up, commenting to support their preconceived notions.

    • Steve Fraser says:

      Weren’t you surprised by the personal attacks and the disparaging comments made by the author against those who don’t agree with him?

  46. Steven Trudell says:

    “Most of the authors of the editorial were not climate scientists; one of two actual climate scientists of the group, Richard Lindzen, is a notorious global warming denier who also denies that smoking causes cancer.”

    However the “Donald” is NOT a climate scientist either. There ARE however over 3000 scientists with PHDs in Climatology who have sent a letter to the UN stating that they do not believe that carbon dioxide causes any warming, and many believe just the opposite; that increased temperatures cause a rise in carbon dioxide.

    When we lose the ability to be skeptical, we are no longer doing science, we are practicing religion.

  47. kirby johnston says:

    hello hello… anybody there. LISTEN UP SO CALLED INTELLEGNSIA , NOBODY CARES . Let me repeat that , NOBODY CARES. Besides what the hell are we suppose to do about human caused global warming WHEN I HAVE KIDS TO FEED AND BILLS Too pay.
    Oh oh,,, the oceans are rising. Take a swimming lesson , move or drown. Those are your options, pick one. Take care eh

  48. Probability Amplitude says:

    You failed to address the crux of the argument from “climate deniers”, that being the fact that ice caps on other planets are melting:

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/02/070228-mars-warming.html

    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2003/07aug_southpole/

    Please explain how my “carbon footprint” is having an effect on Mars.

    • Ian Weiss says:

      I don’t agree that climate change on other planets is the “crux” of the objection to AGW. I’d say that the crux is the evidence of low climate sensitivity.

  49. President says:

    I used to read your magazine a while ago. Got bored of the endless line on religion, ghosts and the such like. You rarely seemed to address other areas of science. Much could be said about the book I bought on why people believe strange stuff. This is the first time Ive read anything, on my increasingly less frequent visits, here. Climate science is a mark on how skeptic and empirical a piece is. The language and one sided nature of this piece basically means to me this is not skeptical at all. Here are some pointers

    The climate is the battle ground of skeptical science – lets have a review, unbiased if you can do that.
    Check out the controversies of the g-spot
    Look into the debate of pesticides and viruses in Bee Keeping
    Are polar bears in decline or not
    What is the precautionary principle and is it at all relevant to science
    Is there such a thing a sustainability, ie wild fish or farmed fish on your plate
    Species extinction. Where are the facts and where is the field research to back it up.

    Move on from evolution please.

  50. Michael Bernard says:

    I can’t trust the arguments being expressed here, i.e. in the comments section. The intensity is great. The arguments sound reasonable, but I don’t have the time or inclination to research the issues more.

    I can’t trust my common sense on this one. I have to defer to the “experts” in climatology sciences. But are these commenters here those experts or are they the skeptics? They seem to make sense, but I am always brought back to reality when I think about the debate between the flat earthers vs. the round earthers. I mean, it DOES look flat when you only have human eyes to use, and not telescopes, etc. And it does look like the Sun goes around the Earth by using just my eyes and logic. But scientists have unique ways of looking into things, and face intense review just to get one article published much less many and then the majority and then the overwhelming majority of articles about climate.

    I trust the reliability of the scientific community to test these questions out for me.

    It would take a very strong counterargument to outweigh that mass of expertese from a topic about which I know little science.

    I know Prothro’s work. I trust him. I know how right-on he has been in explaining a scientific area of knowledge, i.e. geology and evolution, in an evidence-based way. I know how good he has been in seeing the big picture and the science upon which it is based. I’ve learned about the scientific method in reading his works about Evolution and Creationism/Inteligent Design.

    I have to pinch myself when I read diatribe after diatribe in these comments about his prejudice and poor understanding and use of the scientific method.

    Who are these people writting these comments? It raises questions about them more than about Prothro. They come across as smug and rigid. Darwin had a comment about these kinds of things and people, about the nay-sayers.

    Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.
    Charles Darwin

    • Alex C says:

      Many of the arguments aren’t even based in factuality, so debate on whether they logically refute anything simply can’t be had as that assumes too much already. Take claims of Antarctica gaining ice (read Velicogna for how Antarctica is *actually* doing, or look up GRACE results); or claims that correlation is only demonstrated here, which ignore literally old-as-evolution science that demonstrates the efficacy of CO2 as a greenhouse gas (Tyndall’s work in the late 1850s showed this, and our smart missile technology has its foundations in such spectroscopy); or claims of climatic oscillations that would explain internal variability but not the observed increase in heat content in every single store on the planet (IPCC AR4, WGI, Chapter 5, spec. 5.2.2.3); or claims of chronology with regards to hot houses and snowball Earths (a true skeptic – not a fake skeptic – might learn from Young 2009, published in Geology (a GSA journal), which correctly delineates the order or events, which was a decrease in CO2 and *THEN* glaciation because lower CO2 + low solar output = glaciation = increased albedo = more glaciation).

      Really, where can we possibly start in terms of debate if fake skeptics get such basic questions of trend or timeline wrong? Meanwhile at any scientific convention you go to, nobody is discussing *if* or *why* the Earth is warming.

      BTW, for all those bashing SkepticalScience and making all of these above exemplified claims, you may want to actually read the articles, they link to the research itself, like they always have.

  51. Joseph says:

    This article seems to have emptied the attic of a lot of bats. I am particularly impressed with the early themes – “if you don’t start publishing things I agree with, I may/ I don’t want to hear form you anymore.”

    Yawn.

  52. Pete says:

    Skeptic has jumped the shark with this embarrassingly bad position. As a statistician, I am convinced the global warming models are overstating the level of AGW by a factor of 3. Show me the science that supports a positive feedback variable for water vapor such as used in the models. No basis. As the most sensitive variable in the models, this is reprehensible.

    • Chuck Stickelman says:

      Hey, Pete.

      Can you clarify something for me? It’s my understanding that climate models are very complex with a myriad of variables; so many variables that many, if not most, have to have values assumed for them in order for the super computers to come up with a conclusion. Is the feedback variable for water vapor one of those? I seem to remember a researcher tweaking a single variable by an insignificant amount resulting in drastically different conclusions. Is that the same effect?

      Thanks!

  53. muddypaws says:

    Oh dear! It’s a good job that my confirmation bias is justified and yours isn’t.

    And for what it’s worth – my opinion on AGW being not particularly relevant – rhetoric shouldn’t have any place in a conversation about anything so-called scientific.

    Must go – time for my medicine.

  54. Ian Weiss says:

    This article is outrageous.

    Prothero says, “since 2002, the overall long-term trend of warming is unequivocal.”

    Really?

    Go to climate4you.com, click on Global Temperature, and scroll down through the numerous graphs from different sources, each showing no warming trend since 2002 (or 2001, 2003, etc). It’s just not true that the Earth has warmed since 2002. Unlike the graph Prothero shows, which ends at 2010 ( a year warmed by El Nino ), these graphs extent late into 2012.

    The Hockey Stick has been thoroughly debunked by tremendous amounts of evidence which suggests that the Earth is currently approximately as warm, or a little less warm, then it was during the Medieval Warming Period.

    Here are some sources that clearly show that the vast majority of the paleoclimatology literature refutes the Hockey Stick:

    http://coast.gkss.de/staff/storch/pdf/soon+baliunas.cr.2003.pdf
    http://www.co2science.org/data/mwp/mwpp.php

    By the way, the National Academy of Science even said that it had little confidence in the Hockey Stick. http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=11676

    Shame on Donald Prothero.

    • The Other John Mc says:

      The hockey stick data has been debunked? Try again:

      “Numerous scientific papers, using various statistical methods and combinations of proxy records, produced reconstructions broadly similar to the original 1998 hockey-stick graph…The 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report cited 14 reconstructions, 10 of which covered 1,000 years or longer, to support its strengthened conclusion that it was likely that Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the 20th century were the highest in at least the past 1,300 years. Eight or more subsequent reconstructions, including Mann et al. 2008, have supported these general conclusions.”

      See here for the relevant scientific citations supporting these conclusions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hockey_stick_controversy#List_of_reconstructions_in_order_of_publication

      Your link to a single 2003 review supporting your claim is old news and proven to be irrelevant via actual scientific research. Try reading the research.

      Your claim that “the National Academy of Science even said that it had little confidence in the Hockey Stick” is cherry-picking at its finest, and a gross misinterpretation of what they actually said if you bothered to click on the link and read it. Here’s the important conclusions you failed to mention:

      “None of the reconstructions indicates that temperatures were warmer during medieval times than during the past few decades.”

      “Surface temperature reconstructions for periods before the Industrial Revolution — when levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases were much lower — are only one of multiple lines of evidence supporting the conclusion that current warming is occurring in response to human activities, and they are not the primary evidence.”

      Shame on someone else. Again, try reading the research.

      • Steve Fraser says:

        Tragically, the AGW believers are so fanatical that the very data itself can no longer be trusted to be valid.

  55. Ian Weiss says:

    I HAVE JUST PUBLISHED A QUITE DETAILED CRITIQUE OF THIS ARTICLE ON MY BRAND NEW BLOG. IF YOU WANT TO SEE A DEFENSE OF THE SKEPTICAL POSITION AGAINST PROTHERO’S ARTICLE, PLEASE CHECK IT OUT:

    http://ianweiss.blogspot.com/2012/06/did-skeptic-magazine-demolish.html

  56. Shelly says:

    To be a skeptic means to examine both sides of the argument rationally, without bias, not taking a side until the arguments are made. That was not done here, or the article would provide as evidence the good arguments on both sides and the failed arguments on both sides.

    In fact, it is rarely done in any of your articles any longer. Perhaps you should re-examine your mission, because you seem to have forgotten what it means to be a skeptic and instead have become preachers trying to convert unbelievers. Isn’t that the antithesis of a skeptic?

    • The Other John Mc says:

      “Arguments” don’t solve much of anything, by themselves, except in philosophy.

      Evidence and empirical data are the ultimate judge in scientific debates. And no, multiple sides of an argument don’t always deserve equal consideration…it depends on the evidence.

      Logic isn’t always the royal road to truth, see here:
      http://thoughtsonscienceandpseudoscience.blogspot.com/2012/12/skepticism-is-not-same-thing-as-science.html

      • Steve Fraser says:

        What if some of the AGW scientists are faking data to further a politcal agenda? .Spend some time on a college campus as I do and you may come to see the scientific enterprise itself is in danger of being completely politicized by the Left.

        • The Other John Mc says:

          seriously you might need some help with your paranoia. I spend plenty of time on college campuses (not that it has anything to do with anything), and I don’t see at all what you are describing. If someone is faking data, it should be discoverable, not replicable, inconsistent, displaying strange patterns, etc. It’s not unimagineable that it could happen but is a very serious accusation you are making with no apparent evidence in support, except for the fact that you don’t seem to like their conclusions.

  57. Keith Patton says:

    All I see in this article is the same regurgitation of global warming propaganda that the media uses as talking points and very little science. Everytime I think that the falsified data and collusion behind it have been put to bed, another media whore like Prothero churns out another article or people like Mann are given another forum to spout their lies and half truths giving the hoas yet another lease on life. I am a professional geologist of 32 years of science work experience in the environmental and petroleum field. While I might have been inclined to respect Dr. Prothero’s credentials on their face, I am not some media empty head and don’t get overawed by a large CV especially when it is empty of any real world experience. I do question his motives. He appears to be what I would call a purveyor of “popular” science. What is not stated in the long list of affilitations, degrees and honors, is the grants he is working on and how much money he is currently getting from them. Absent those, I would wonder how much money he makes publishing junk science articles vs the peer reviewed kind. My old alma mater much to my shame and chagrin, has forsaken doing any worthwhile studies in traditional geology and sucked up to the federal teat and gone entirely environmental and climate change in order to line thier pockets with grants. I can only assume that Dr. Prothero is of the same mind as my old professors. Jumping on the latest fad craze which makes a travesty of real science and defending it to the last in order to eek out the last $$ from it is hardly commendable for a self proclaimed scientist. I think both he and your magazine have drunk your share of the PC laced coolaid. As a one time subscriber, I am glad that I let my subscription lapse it saved me the trouble of having to cancel it.

  58. Tim Hammonf says:

    So if you are scepetical about AGW you are an anit-science Creationist?

    Hmm.

    This article is full of fallacies – observations are not evidence, there is considerable doubt about recontructions of past temperatures and simply saying “it can’t be anything else” is as feeble an argument as any.

    In the last few months a number of reconstructions have shown a MWP that is higher than today”s temperatures, and a number of others have shown the appaling manipulation of recent temepratures that have changed the raw data into something unrecognisable.

    Here’s a question for Shermer – why do so many self=proclaimed sceptics (you, Singh, Goldacre) push AGW so hard?

    Heere’s another – which side of this debate “hides” declines, refuses to publish data, attempts to subvert peer review, tries tos tifel the debate and associate its opponets with holocaust deniers and Creationsist?

    Because whichever side that is, is anti-science and is hiding something.

  59. the clueless alway reply says:

    people need to realize that you give weight to the side backed up by evidence not pseudoscience and pure bs! . the old strawman technique used by people who cant understand science here is pathetic…”its propaganda payed for by the big business” etc….the science stands for itself thats why its backed by the over whelming majority of scientists….

  60. L5Rick says:

    How did we miss this article when it was first published?

    I would post a reasoned skeptical comment but trying to get the Carbon Cult to look at anything that casts doubt on their doomsday religion is utterly pointless.

  61. Tassie Devil says:

    When asked if climate change is real I always answer “I don’t know” because I don’t. In fact I would say no one really knows at this stage, it is extremely complicated and the data isn’t there at the moment. My biggest concern with the whole argument it the inclusion of emotion. In the case of this article the author included some scientific data to support his hypothesis but also added a lot of emotional and alarmist comments. For example, at the start when he explains Melting Polar Ice Caps, the very first sentence is ” The polar icecaps are thinning and breaking up at an alarming rate.” I am particularly concerned with the inclusion of the emotional term “at an alarming rate.” This is the authors opinion, is a very relevant term and I believe is used in this case to scare people into believing his side of the argument. Let’s just keep it to the science and leave philosophy and personal belief out of it, please.

  62. YA says:

    “Despite the overwhelming evidence there are many people who remain skeptical.”

    Inspired by this site I am going to use my independent judgement to determine truth. Surely if so many people say Global Warming Theory is true, it must be. I will not spend my life collecting weather data because the data may lie. I will instead rely on all those people. Yes this is a spoof.

  63. ricochez says:

    I watched “Carbon Nation” this week. It provides compelling economic and social rationales for minimizing our carbon footprint regardless of where you stand on climate change. Ultimately people are moved to action by self-interest, not theory.

  64. James says:

    Previous record low for ice extent in the Arctic was in 2007. 4.17 million square kilometeres (1.61 million square miles). Dramatically lower than ever before.

    On September 17th this year it was measured as 3.41 million square kilometers (1.32 million square miles). Today it is a bit less than that and seems to be still dropping.

    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

    • stevefraser says:

      September 2013 UPDATE: ” A chilly Arctic summer has left nearly a million more square miles of ocean covered with ice than at the same time last year – an increase of 60 per cent.” (The Daily Mail).

  65. drum says:

    I’m am now convinced (after reading the above) the right answer is somewhere in the middle, by that I mean clear and useful understanding of this issue of climate. Even if there is global warming or not, my position on the matter makes no difference to the planet, believers or deniers. The contradictions abound, emotional claims fly, masking and allusion grow legs and walk all over rationality and civil discussion.. leaving us nowhere for such a smart primate.
    If I wrap my mouth around an car exhaust I’m dead, and if I don’t, I stay alive so I know having to much co2 in concentration is not good for my short or long term goals and being forced by science one way or the other is not an option, especially when it comes to understanding what is really going on and dealing to our planet in a way it deserves.

  66. Trygve Eklund says:

    Sad that this piece of one-sided propaganda filled with ad-hominem attacks should find its way into Skeptics Magazine. No subscription for me, then.

  67. tony says:

    As I was reading this article I almost lost hope and went to the dark side. Even Skeptic magazine believes in global warming, I guess I should too. Then I saw all of the wonderful comments. The only thing Skeptic is doing right here is keeping moderators out of this forum. Some other sites that claim to promote scientific thinking moderate their forums heavily so as to make it appear there is no argument. I would urge you all to go to richarddawkins.net and argue with the fear mongers there. See how quickly your comments are removed and your account banned. Here is a good place to start: http://richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2012/11/4/america-s-theologians-of-climate-science-denial#.UKbEFIZ508E

    Thanks,
    Tony

    • Steve Fraser says:

      You are an optimistic soul, Tony. My guess is in a few years the comment section will be removed from the Website, probably because it will violate the Government’s policy of spreading “false and misleading untruths that are intended to undermine the policies of the State”.

  68. Martyn says:

    There is an easy way to determine if this article is any good or not. That is to count the number of fallacious arguments. Ideally this number should be zero. I counted 9 in the first paragraph.

  69. Jash says:

    I often wonder why the majority of the ‘debate’ in climate change that remains can be found in the blogs and comments sections of popular magazines and websites, while there is no such level of debate among climate scientists themselves, or in the published literature on this topic – in fact, according to all reputable sources, there is massive consensus.

    Either [1] There is a conspiracy among scientists to agree with one another or
    [2] The arguments by laymen in the blogs are sub-par.

    You can take your pick – I’m a computer scientist, not a climate one but I know what I’d think if a climatologist started lecturing me on the right way to program a computer.

    ** Lock in [2] **

    • Steve Fraser says:

      I asked professors at my University about AGW and they were very skeptical, but swore me to secrecy and said what they had told me was “off the record”. A very high level of fear has permeated the professional community…loss of grant money if one was labelled a “denier” would be professional death.

  70. John says:

    Climate Science “proof”:

    “99% of climate scientists agree…”

    99% of scientists agreed that Isaac Newton had the last word on physics. That is, until Einstein proved that wasn’t the case at all. Science isn’t a popularity contest. It progresses by way of skepticism and open-mindedness, continual research and a realization that extremely complex questions are never settled.

    “Climate Change skeptics are the same as (Holocaust) deniers.”

    That’s a pretty scientific analysis. In other words, don’t engage in debate, let’s just burn the heretics.

    “Climate Change deniers are as ignorant as those who believe the Earth is flat.”

    The general shape of the Earth is an easy scientific question to answer: take a picture from space. The components determining atmospheric conditions, especially 100 years from now, are not subject to an easy answer. To conflate the two scientific questions indicates the scientific ignorance of Climate Change believers.

    “The majority of peer reviewed recearch shows…”

    What a surprise. If a climate researcher questions the dogma he is denied funding, publically ridiculed as the evil equivalent of a Holocaust denier or ignorant cousin of a flat Earther, and has his career stopped dead in it’s tracks. Facing that career prospect is it any wonder that the vast majority of climate scientists and their journal peers demonstrate agreement?

    “If it’s unusually hot, blame it on Global Warming. If it’s unusually cold, blame it on Climate Change.”

    In other words, what atmospheric condition CANNOT be pegged to Climate Change? Very scientific.

    Is climate changing? Maybe. Are humans the primary cause? Maybe. How can we quantify either in an accurate way? Who knows? The problem is that this area of science has become so distorted by left wing politial pressure that the research is extremely questionable. It’s degenerated from real science to pseudo-science or, among its most scientifically ignorant adherents, Global Warming Religon.

    The loudest voices pushing Climate Change dogma are the ones with the least scientific education. It is their religon. Their logic is as unscientific and their venom is as extremem as ony other type of religious fanatic.

    As someone with a doctorate in experimantal science, I’d like to know what the answer to this question is. But the actual scientific process has become so polluted that at this point it’s virtually impossible.

    • Steve Fraser says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. As climate change science has become totally politicized, we must be on guard that the virus of scientific dishonesty does not spread. How to do this? Insist that Skepticism is at the very heart of the Scientific Enterprise and that scientific questions are never “settled science”, to quote Professor of Climate Change (Honorary) Al Gore.

      • The Other John Mc says:

        No Mr. Fraser, skepticism is NOT at the heart of the scientific enterprise. Hypothesis testing, systematic observation, controlling variables, data collection, and analysis are. You know, the stuff actual climate scientists do. http://thoughtsonscienceandpseudoscience.blogspot.com/2012/12/skepticism-is-not-same-thing-as-science.html

        Go ahead and read the scientific method. Skepticism isn’t in there. Skepticism can sometimes help, but it certainly is not the heart of science.

        • Steve Fraser says:

          Wrong…if people weren’t skeptical then why try to replicate other scientist’s methods and findings…..Climate Science is an extremely complex field is which a huge number of variables, feedforward and feedback pathways, chaotic system events and processes to just name of few are involved. Once the political back drop of the AGW movement is understood, why aren’t you more skeptical?

          • The Other John Mc says:

            So your argument is: climate is complex, and also climate science has become politicized. Any of those points have anything directly to do with climate science or the veracity of their data? Nope. Please try reading some science (primary sources).

  71. The Other John Mc says:

    All the climate change deniers here blabbing endlessly about propoganda and saying man-made climate change hasn’t been proven, how the hell would you know? I challenge any one of you to actually read some SCIENCE, directly from the sources (peer-reviewed journal articles), and then come back here with some useful comments that display you understood the journal articles and can provide a serious review of the data and its analysis.

    Try to resist the urge to read someone else’s interpretation of it for you…secondary sources don’t count, you’ll have to handle this one on your own, if you can manage to. Good luck, and hope to hear from you soon.

    • Steve Fraser says:

      Calling someone in a discussion with you who disagrees with your interpretation of scientific findings a “denier” is appalling and has absolutely no place whatsoever in Skeptic Magazine, or any scientific forum….It truly underscores the political nature of the subject matter and the motives of the believers.

      • The Other John Mc says:

        as long as you call me a “believer” you’re getting called a “denier”…you’ll have to just find some way to deal with it

  72. Chuck Stickelman says:

    I’m confused. At one point in this article you say that “98% of the scientists who actually do research in climate change are in agreement with anthropogenic global warming” and then later you say “but it doesn’t change the fact that scientists who actually do research in climate change are unanimous in their insistence that anthropogenic global warming is a real threat.” So which is it?

  73. Chuck Stickelman says:

    What are the similarities and differences between today’s concerns over global warming and the concerns about global cooling that occured in the ’70′s?

    • Steve Fraser says:

      The similarity is both are driven by Radical Leftists that want to undermine the industrial foundation of the advanced Capitalist societies. The difference is “global warming”, with the purported correlated “damage” done to the Third World (stronger storms, oceans rising), an absolutely huge amount of money will be taken from the advanced Capitalist societies and “transferred” to the third world dictatorships.

  74. Steve Fraser says:

    “Denier”? Isn’t skepticism at the very heart of the Scientific Enterprise? In my opinion, the huge amount of money to be transferred from the advanced societies to the third world tribal societies via the UN if “global warming” is confirmed has completely corrupted the scientific study of Earth’s climate change. It is so intense professor friends of mine tell me they are afraid to be accused of being a “denier” as this would lead to a loss of all their funding. I have concluded the “believers” have corrupted even the data gathering itself and it is not to be trusted.

  75. Hill says:

    Yeah, this kind of goes against the premise of scientific debate and skepticism. You’re telling us that CO2 is higher and that the temperature is warmer, yet not proving to us that it is all caused by man.

    Some of it doesn’t make logical sense. For instance, I’m a big proponent of the fact that the sun has more to do with global temperature than any other factor. You say that solar output has been decreasing over the past 40 years, and you point to the fact that man-made CO2 emissions have really kicked in since the industrial revolution some 80 years ago, but then say the drastic warming has been happening for 200 years now. Also, do you have any graphs that show the amount of greenhouse gasses caused by man in comparisson to those that are naturally occuring? I’m also skeptical… er, “in denial” about the fact that the amount of human-caused CO2 emissions trumps the amount of naturally occuring emissions to the point where it would cause the drastic difference in temperature you’re referring to.

    And, I don’t like the implication that people who don’t agree with your theory is a “denier.” It sounds like of backwards… when it comes to UFO’s, you’re a “skeptic,” but when it comes to Global Warming, disbelievers are called “deniers?” You can’t call Global Warming skeptics “skeptics,” because then you’re speaking against the very people your publication is catered towards, so you call us “deniers.” It just seems ridiculous.

  76. Brennan says:

    This is really a disgraceful article. It is false to assert that there is a wide consensus among reputable scientists that anthropogenic CO2 emissions underlie the very modest increase in average global temperatures (0.6-0.8K) observed over the past century. Given the highly public nature of those who have voiced dissenting opinions, Prothero’s assertion is at best disingenuous, if not frankly deceitful.

    Any decent person should take great exception to his characterization of scientists who do dissent. Seeing that Prothero doesn’t hesitate to descend to personal attacks, I’ll join him in the gutter and observe that Richard Lindzen is a tenured professor holding a named chair at MIT, one of the world’s pre-eminent academic institutions, as opposed to a scientific non-entity recently retired from the geology department at a piddling, liberal arts school in LA best known, to the extent it’s known at all, for graduating a handful of hack actors.

  77. Steve Fraser says:

    So now (4/3/13) Skeptic Magazine has packaged Prothero’s Climate Change believer’s credo into a separate publication for purchase. Yes, it is titled “A Skeptic’s Guide to Global Climate Change”…..Prothero’s a “skeptic”?….the only question left to answer is what power was brought to bear on the Skeptic Society to force it to commit suicide in front ot its membership?

  78. Tim E says:

    http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/12-02-08/

    Real climate history blows a hole in the Mann made change charge that you could drive the planet Saturn through.
    Prothero needs a new career.

  79. WS says:

    While the CO2 evidence is incontrovertible, it’s effect on climate and temperature is certainly not settled science. While it is difficult to argue that man hasn’t increased CO2 levels, and that this hasn’t driven up temperatures, there is still much that isn’t clear. Notably, the mechanisms driving temperature and the earth’s sensitivity to CO2 are not entirely clear.

    Perhaps more importantly, there’s no clear reason to assume that a temperature increase is “bad” — while it may have large-scale effects, they are unclear. The Renaissance, after all, was at least in part attributable to global warming.

    Much of the fear is driven by an assumption that “natural” is better and that there is some perfect “balance” which will be disrupted: “the delicate natural balance of carbon dioxide has been thrown out of whack by our production of too much of it, way in excess of what plants or the oceans can handle.” This should immediately prompt skepticism, as there is no reason to presume this is the case. Why was it “in whack” before? Why is “balance” or “nature” inherently better?

    Most of all, there is very little evidence to show the practicability or efficacy of schemes to remediate global warming. If we were to halve the CO2 output in the US, the effect on global temperature over the next century, even using the most drastic predictions of warming and carbon sensitivity, would be negligible — indeed they would be undetectable. Humans are not about to dismantle our societies and economies because of temperature increases — it will be much easier to adapt. If anything, we will find technological solutions to climate change — Luddism is not the answer.

    This article should never have been published here — it makes unfounded claims and is based on a premise which should immediately prick up skeptical ears. We are almost surely warming the globe — but it’s far from clear how much, whether it’s even a bad thing, and whether there is anything that can and should be done about it. The article completely misses the point, buying into a number of unfounded premises while supposedly making things clearer.

  80. WS says:

    Sorry — “its effect”

  81. Steve Fraser says:

    Last week two Climate Change “Scientists” posted a picture on the San Jose State University website of them lighting a book arguing against AGW on fire. It was quickly removed when someone pointed out that burning books is not the best way to get educated people to consider your ideas. What else do you need to know that Believers in AGW faith have nothing to do with the scientific method. At the very least, it sends a clear message to students in their department that data contradicting the AGW faith will not be tolerated.

  82. Joseph Rogowski says:

    Is it possible to be skeptical of these politically biased tirades of having major flaws? (I am not going to do a line by line criteria as to the truthfulness and empirically correctness of the article nor of the issue at large.) As I was told by a department chair in a bar in Antarctica decades ago. “Grant money follows a crises. There are too many stinky graphs, too many stilted statistics and too many folks dependent upon “HCGW” to not warrant an extremely skeptical examination of the facts. I see none of this in this article. Just more flat earth assumptions, using convenient statistics, to provide another meal on the table. Amazing how the eSkeptic tosses a cynical eye to any questioning of a particular party (the ones who now are trying to hide deaths in Benghazi) but accept the same political propaganda as God’s own truth. So sad.

    • Steve Fraser says:

      A nice comment, but I believe you’ve overlooked the fact that the beginning of the AGW movement is the UN and it’s part of a much broader and deeper con than just government grant money going to professors, although that is also an aspect of this movement.

  83. Steve Fraser says:

    From Wikipedia: “The Maunder Minimum coincided with the middle—and coldest part—of the Little Ice Age, during which Europe and North America were subjected to bitterly cold winters. A causal connection between low sunspot activity and cold winters has recently been made using data from the NASA’s Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment which shows that solar UV output is more variable over the course of the solar cycle than scientists had previously thought, and a UK scientific team published in the Nature Geoscience journal a link that ties this variability to terrestrial climate impacts in the form of warmer winters in some places and colder winters in others.[4] The winter of 1708–9 was extremely cold.”

  84. Russell Seitz says:

    The author’s sheer credulity in taking Oreskes and Conway’s partisan polemic at face value recalls that of The Skeptical Enquirer in swallowing Academy of Humanism Fellow Carl Sagan’s over the top ‘nuclear winter pitch.

    Their book calls for more than a little critical inquiry into its sources, methods and political baggage , but none seems on offer here.

  85. ROBERT PILPEL says:

    Assuming anthropogenic warming has been scientifically verified we’re left with the question of what can be done about it. The short answer is “Nothing”! First World nations account for less than 20% of annual carbon emissions and even the most Draconian government interventions won’t reduce the tonnage to an extent that would impact the rate of global temperature increase in a meaningful way.
    With 80% of carbon emissions originating in China, India and Third World countries you can’t avoid the political reality that environmental concerns will not reduce coal and petroleum use in those regions for decades to come. On the contrary levels of fossil fuel consumption will continue to rise since the nations involved are doing their utmost to grow their economies and increase standards of living. With coal and and oil being far and away the cheapest and most readily available sources of energy for them we’re stuck with the old dilemma — Everyone talks about the weather but there’s nothing to be done about it!

  86. Dave says:

    Whatever your opinion on climate change, it is hilarious and beyond any logic to seriously claim that the net economic incentive is on the side of scientists touting climate change.

    Fossil fuel companies are the largest, wealthiest corporations on Earth, and are backed by governments that subsidize (or even directly run) their activities all over the world. The notion that a few hundred tenured professors and environmental activists are a match to the fossil fuel lobbies is totally implausible given the funding imbalance.

    The idea that politicians, who answer first and foremost to those who fund their campaigns, are eager to fight against fossil fuel interests, is even more bizarre. Not to mention, it is unsupported by actual policy choices, as shown by the fact that global CO2 emissions continue to increase.

    Just be aware about who has the most to lose if AWG is real. You don’t have to buy in to it, but you should be cognisant of all the interests at play here.

    • Magnus says:

      Dave,

      You miss the larger revenue potential of global warming. With taxes and controls global warming is the economic weapon underperforming industries. Or a better way to frame it is, If you have a hard time following the inconsistent and often conflicting science given against and for global warming, you never have to look far to find someone making a buck. Solyndra anyone?

      Global warming is big money now with carbon taxes, EPA restrictions and press accusations it is the governments own personal witch hunt. Worse the methods used to determine the validity of the argument are still as bad. Shall you be killed for floating or drown because you were not a witch? We have not progressed an inch from the days of boogie men and power grabs based on ignorance of fact.

  87. Chris Tolbert says:

    I am a climate skeptic seeking to challenge myself by searching for a strong argument for AGW (recommendations welcome) and had high hopes in this article. I can’t say it did anything to convince me. I looked at what I could of the science he presents and found it either to be controversial or unconvincing. Mostly his methods of approach are what I find lacking greatly. I even used Michael Shermer’s “baloney detection kit”:

    1. “How reliable is the source of the claim?”
    Assume the claim is “AGW is real.” The source is Dr. Prothero. I have no right to say that he is anything but legit.
    1-0-0 for Prothero.

    2. “Does the source make similar claims?”
    Yes -google to confirm.
    1-1-0

    3. “Have the claims been verified by someone else?”
    Indeed.
    2-1-0

    4. “Does this fit with the way the world works?”
    Yes and no to this one. Yes, insofar as the climate of the world changes, always has, and always will. No insofar the doom-saying is concerned. The Earth has withstood far worse than us and a quick temperature rise.
    2-2-0

    5. “Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?”
    Indeed.
    2-3-0

    6. “Where does the preponderance of evidence point?”
    This one is tough, and I admit to being unqualified to answer it, though I’ll take a stab. My impression is that there is a scientific consensus on the rise of temperature, the rise of CO2, and the human contribution to CO2. What I have yet to find is a convincing argument for all the hubbub. Prothero’s article says that doubling the C02 would only raise the avg temperature of the Earth by 1 degree. Not too scary to me. He also says that over the next century sea levels could rise by .8 – 1.3 meters, affecting…basically nothing. And if it rose 6 meters it would start to affect sea-level cities like New Orleans. Wait…so lets convert that back into units of time; Worst case scenario we have 500 years to figure it out? Not too shabby, especially looking at what we’ve accomplished in the last 25 years alone. I’d like to give the point to Prothero on the basis of the ACTUAL scientific consensus which is, by my investigation, confirmed by sociological studies. But I am detecting for baloney after all, and he is clearly ringing alarm bells for which I do not find scientific concordance. Let’s call it a tie.
    2-3-1

    7. “Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?”
    Prothero’s article may play by the rules at times, but it unnecessarily slings an awful lot of mud and rings a fair number of alarm bells – which are practices against the rules of science. Let the evidence speak for itself. If you break the rules, you get disqualified.
    2-4-1

    8. “Is the claimant providing positive evidence?”
    There is some positive proof for temp rising, and CO2 rising. The only positive evidence I found for tying humans to climate change was his very brief discussion of isotopic analysis of carbon in the atmosphere. The rest of the article is literally formatted as negative evidence for common skeptic claims.
    2-5-1

    9. “Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?”
    There is no old competing theory.
    2-5-2

    10. “Are personal beliefs driving the claim?”
    No idea.
    2-5-3

    So let’s give Prothero all 3 ties – his article is at least 50% baloney. Would you publish 50% baloney? Disappointing and disconcerting.

  88. Magnus says:

    Skeptic? Seems like this was just a once sided attack. But a little real Skeptical work shows “Since 1983, he has received numerous grants to support his research from the National Science Foundation” I guess it is kind of hard to argue against your funding. A little more digging shows he relays on global warming to prove some theories in his “award winning” books.

    Perhaps we could get someone who is not sleeping with topic to provide some true review of the material?

  89. stevefraser says:

    FOX Online: “….CLIMATEGATE II: SCIENTISTS PUSHED TO HIDE DATA – Emails leaked to the AP show the U.S. and other governments pushed scientists preparing a new UN climate report due out next week to omit or downplay evidence that the earth’s atmosphere has stopped warming for the past 15 years.

    From the wire – “Germany called for the reference to the slowdown to be deleted, saying a time span of 10 to 15 years was misleading in the context of climate change, which is measured over decades and centuries. The U.S. also urged the authors to include the ‘leading hypothesis’ that the reduction in warming is linked to more heat being transferred to the deep ocean.”

    Bad timing for new coal regs – The Obama administration is expected today to announce new climate rules which industry leaders say will cripple the use of coal in America and cause electricity rates to skyrocket.”

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