The Oregon Petition

In comments to my previous post on Paul Georgia’s nonsense about temperature, Sarah wrote:

Yes, bad physics, but that was an easy target. I’d like to see you take on a hard target, like the petition signed by 17,000 scientists who declared that global warming is a sham. The research review is here.

At the OISM site she linked it says:

This is the website that completely knocks the wind out of the enviro’s sails. See over 17,000 scientists declare that global warming is a lie with no scientific basis whatsoever.

The global warming hypothesis has failed every relevant experimental test.

Did 17,000 scientists really say that global warming is a “lie”? I looked further and found the actual words of the petition. What they actually agreed with was this:

There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.

So they weren’t saying that it was a lie or wasn’t happening, just that there wasn’t good evidence that it would be a catastrophe. The OISM people have misrepresented their own petition.

Still, why would 17,000 scientists agree with the far weaker statement above? Well, it looks like that involved misrepresentation by the OISM as well. It seems they were mailed this letter from Frederick Seitz which said:

Research Review of Global Warming Evidence

Below is an eight page review of information on the subject of “global warming,” and a petition in the form of a reply card. Please consider these materials carefully.

The United States is very close to adopting an international agreement that would ration the use of energy and of technologies that depend upon coal, oil, and natural gas and some other organic compounds.

This treaty is, in our opinion, based upon flawed ideas. Research data on climate change do not show that human use of hydrocarbons is harmful. To the contrary, there is good evidence that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is environmentally helpful.

Unfortunately, the “research review” they were sent is not a research review of global warming evidence, but just a review of the evidence against global warming. According to the “review“, the earth isn’t warming, it’s cooling:

Predictions of global warming are based on computer climate modeling, a branch of science still in its infancy. The empirical evidence actual measurements of Earth’s temperature shows no man-made warming trend. Indeed, over the past two decades, when CO2 levels have been at their highest, global average temperatures have actually cooled slightly.

How was the “review” able to claim cooling? Simple. The authors presented the satellite data (which at the time showed slight cooling, but now shows significant warming) but dismissed the more extensive surface data because it had “substantial uncertainties”. The only uncertainty that they mention is the urban heat island effect and what they fail to mention is that the surface temperature estimated by GISS corrects for the urban heat island effect. The “review” is not honest.

As a researcher, when I see a “research review” I expect that it will cover all the relevant research. I can certainly understand how a scientist who was under the impression that it was a genuine review might be persuaded that there was no good evidence for global warming, especially because the vast majority of scientists who signed were not climate scientists. Furthermore, in his cover letter Seitz identified himself as a past president of the NAS and the typeface and format of the “review” matched that used by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This report from PR Watch explains how the NAS was forced to correct the impression that it endorsed the “review”:

“The mailing is clearly designed to be deceptive by giving people the impression that the article, which is full of half-truths, is a reprint and has passed peer review,” complained Raymond Pierrehumbert, an atmospheric chemist at the University of Chicago. NAS foreign secretary F. Sherwood Rowland, an atmospheric chemist, said researchers “are wondering if someone is trying to hoodwink them.” NAS council member Ralph J. Cicerone, dean of the School of Physical Sciences at the University of California at Irvine, was particularly offended that Seitz described himself in the cover letter as a “past president” of the NAS. Although Seitz had indeed held that title in the 1960s, Cicerone hoped that scientists who received the petition mailing would not be misled into believing that he “still has a role in governing the organization.”

The NAS issued an unusually blunt formal response to the petition drive. “The NAS Council would like to make it clear that this petition has nothing to do with the National Academy of Sciences and that the manuscript was not published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or in any other peer-reviewed journal,” it stated in a news release. “The petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy.” In fact, it pointed out, its own prior published study had shown that “even given the considerable uncertainties in our knowledge of the relevant phenomena, greenhouse warming poses a potential threat sufficient to merit prompt responses. Investment in mitigation measures acts as insurance protection against the great uncertainties and the possibility of dramatic surprises.”

Of course, some of the signatories might have signed it even if they were better informed about global warming research. The Scientific American did a check:

Scientific American took a random sample of 30 of the 1,400 signatories claiming to hold a Ph.D. in a climate-related science. Of the 26 we were able to identify in various databases, 11 said they still agreed with the petition—one was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages. Crudely extrapolating, the petition supporters include a core of about 200 climate researchers—a respectable number, though rather a small fraction of the climatological community.

And I can’t help but share the Tech Central Station take on Scientific American‘s check:

SciAm reported on the Oregon Petition against Kyoto back in October 2001, but rather than being encouraged by the extent of professional opinion supporting an optimistic reading of the evidence, the publication sniffed through the names until the editors found six (unnamed) signatories who apparently have since changed their minds.

Gee, that makes it sound like they had to search through the entire 17,000 to find the six. And who wrote that highly misleading account of the Scientific American‘s check? None other than Ross “no such thing as a Global Temperature” McKitrick.

Wikipedia has the scoop on the Liepzig declaration, another dodgy petition touted by global warming sceptics.

Update: Scott Church’s page on the petition has some more links.

Comments

  1. #1 John Quiggin
    May 17, 2004

    I also looked at the Oregon petition, with similar results

  2. #2 zizka
    May 17, 2004

    This is OT, but it’s my favorite bit of anti-science. Julian Simon is highly admired by free-marketers, but a lot of his stuff is dishonest and the line I quote below is strictly speaking, insane. It could only have been written by someone on drugs, almost certainly amphetamine (which makes all your ideas look true). What I’ve seen of Simon is so bad that he discredits anyone who cites him, e.g. Lomborg.

    To free-market Utopians, all sciences but economics are inexact, and if climatology or resource geography or demographics or anything else conflicts with their projections, then climatology is proven false. And actually, I’ve seen them expressing skepticism about economics too. It’s the purest, looniest wish-fulfillment since Chairman Mao.

    “The length of a one-inch line is finite in the sense that it is bounded at both ends. But the line within the endpoints contains an infinite number of points; these points cannot be counted, because they have no defined size. Therefore, the number of points in a one-inch segment [of a line] is not finite. Similarly, the quantity of copper that will ever by available to us is not finite, because there is no method (even in principle) of making an appropriate count of it…” (Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource, Princeton, 1981, 47)

    Source
    http://gadfly.igc.org/papers/cornuc.htm

  3. #3 Steve Reuland
    May 17, 2004

    OISM apparently mass-mailed the petition to nearly everyone in the country with a degree. Given a large enough mailing, it’s no surprise that they were able to get a substantial number of signatories. A better question is whether the tens of thousands who did not sign the petition implicitly disagree with it, which would dispel the notion that it somehow represents scientific consensus. Of course we have no way of knowing because OISM has refused to release info on the number of mailings it made.

    See comments in Nature here:

    “Virtually every scientist in every field got it,” says Robert Park, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland at College Park and spokesman for the American Physical Society. “That’s a big mailing.” According to the National Science Foundation, there are more than half a million science or engineering PhDs in the United States, and ten million individuals with first degrees in science or engineering.

    Arthur Robinson, president of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, the small, privately funded institute that circulated the petition, declines to say how many copies were sent out. “We’re not willing to have our opponents attack us with that number, and say that the rest of the recipients are against us,” he says, adding that the response was “outstanding” for a direct mail shot.

    In other words, they won’t release their petition methodology for fear that it would diminish the petition’s effectiveness as a propaganda tool. Pathetic.

  4. #4 Lars
    May 18, 2004

    Yes, but it’s an effective propaganda tool – it’s (obviously) still being cited as a counterargument to those for global climate change. Given that, I’d say that it’s served its purpose and was a worthwhile investment.

  5. #5 Sarah
    May 18, 2004

    Once again, it’s down to attacks on the petition or the proponents, not the science.

  6. #6 Dano
    May 18, 2004

    Not really, Sarah, as the actual real science is well-understood.

    You should go to the library and read the journals, and see how many skeptics have produced evidence for their claims. That is, empirical, evaluatable, testable, verifiable evidence.

    Another question to ask yourself when looking at OISM is: what degrees do these people have that qualifies them to give a valid opinion? Why, you say, I’ll check the list! Nope. No degree or affiliation is listed.

    If OISM had nothing to hide, the degrees and affiliations would be listed; since they are not, the document is specious at best.

    And a propaganda tool that is easily refuted. I, personally, enjoy it when someone trots it out. So easily refuted.

    D

  7. #7 Sarah
    May 18, 2004

    Not really, Sarah, as the actual real science is well-understood.

    Really? Any group so confident in their findings shouldn’t need to resort to personal attacks* of any kind or criticisms of opponents’ credentials and affiliations. And you lot rarely if ever bother to question those of the pro-Kyoto folks, in spite of the fact that more than a few are associated with agenda groups, such as environmentalists and socialists.

    [* My favorite ad hominem is that of Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC, when he compared Lomborg to Hitler. There's U.N. scientific objectivity for you.]

    You should go to the library and read the journals, and see how many skeptics have produced evidence for their claims.

    You mean the same journals that refuse to allow submissions that refute global warming to enter the peer-review process, because the editors deem their findings “dangerous to humankind”?

    If OISM had nothing to hide, the degrees and affiliations would be listed…

    What difference does it make? Does the truth of an idea somehow depend on who’s saying it? BTW, it’s not standard practice in my field to list credentials on research papers — none of the papers in the standard journals show them. Anyway, a cursory search through the OISM website would reveal to you that: Art Robinson has a Ph.D. in chemistry, and was a faculty member at UC-San Diego, where he was President and Research Director of the Linus Pauling Institute (he was a long-time research associate of Pauling’s); Robinson’s son, Zachary, is a doctoral student in chemistry at Iowa State; and both Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon are astrophysicists at Harvard’s CfA.

  8. #8 Steve Reuland
    May 18, 2004

    Sarah writes:

    Once again, it’s down to attacks on the petition or the proponents, not the science.

    Um, it was you who brought up the petition to support your case. I’m sure you realize that petitions are a form of the argument from authority, and thus do not themselves constitute scientific data. If you truly believe that the empirical data per se is all that matters, and that the consensus of the experts is irrelevant, then you shouldn’t have mentioned the silly petition in the first place.

    However, since you chose to use it to support your position, the credibility of the petition is relevant. Don’t complain if it looks bad; it was your argument.

  9. #9 ben triplett
    May 18, 2004

    Um yourself. The target is not the petition, but the research review that it accompanies.

  10. #10 Sarah
    May 18, 2004

    Um, it was you who brought up the petition to support your case.

    I brought up the petition for two reasons: 1) to refute the idea that there is a “consensus” amongst scientists regarding global warming; 2) because I wanted Tim to comment on the review paper.

    I’m sure you realize that petitions are a form of the argument from authority, and thus do not themselves constitute scientific data.

    Of course. Which is precisely why no one here cares about the scientific consensus re global warming?

  11. #11 zizka
    May 18, 2004

    Um, Sarah, if you use a petition to prove that there’s not a consensus among scientists, it only works if the people signing the petition are scientists. That’s not an ad-hominem.

    Between believeing that climatologists are involved in a conspiracy to hide evidence against global warming, and believing that free market ideologues are fudging the science, track record tells me to trust the scientists. In my experience, freemarketers throw all kinds of shit up. I don’t know of any evidence of that from climatologists, who seem to be a fairly nerdy, sober bunch, and in general, people who study a subject know more about it than people involved in other areas.

    There will never be unanimity. (There are probably still people arguing that tobacco doesn’t cause cancer.) There is an actual debate about a lot of things (including global warming) within climatology, just as there is within evolution science, but people whose sole concern is preventing government regulation don’t belong in the one debate any more than Bible literalists belong in the other.

  12. #12 Dano
    May 18, 2004

    Sarah, you parrot SEPP and see-oh-too science really well. Good for you. They need more folks like you. And your last line with Soon and Baliunas…haha. Good ‘un.

    My favorite titles in the OISM:

    Doctor of Dendrochronological Science

    and Meteorological Doctor.

    Who knew?

    And, BTW, your You mean the same journals that refuse to allow submissions that refute global warming to enter the peer-review process, because the editors deem their findings “dangerous to humankind”? is a dead giveaway.

    Sorry. It doesn’t work, except on the rubes. It’s Dalyesque and quackery. But anyway,

    Daly’s and others like him don’t get published in the peer-reviewed literature because their submissions aren’t empirically sound. Period.

    Do you see any of their papers on the web anywhere, in opposition to the journals? Well, do you? Do they have a testable hypothesis? Where are the repeatable methods? What are the findings? Are the findings empirically repeated? Is there, say, a Socratic method in the paper?

    Who checked their work for completeness? Did someone check their work to ensure their was no bias in, say, choice of data or hypothesis test? What about the foundations of the paper – did someone check to ensure the foundations are sound and current?

    Oh, your argument:

    BTW, it’s not standard practice in my field to list credentials on research papers — none of the papers in the standard journals show them.

    Would be better if the petition were a research paper. Care to try again? You may want to look at some research papers and see if they have affiliations (and see how many medical articles don’t have titles, hence the MD and DDS everywhere on the OISM – my point), as it’s standard practice in MY field to list affiliations. You may also want to compare similar statements of position and see if they contain titles and affiliations.

    But anyway, I plotted weather maps and other data by hand back when likely you were in diapers. I’ve read the journals since then and still do.

    So maybe I’ve been involved with and have followed the atmospheric sciences for a while.

    And maybe I’ve seen your as-yet-to-be fully assimilated arguments at their source. More than a few times. For a long time.

    Best,

    D

  13. #13 Lars
    May 18, 2004

    Nicely said, Dano. But the Oregon Petition is still out there and it’s still muddying the debate and requiring refutation (sorry, that should be the expense of time, effort and temper in refutation), and further, promoting the idea that science is a matter of counting noses.
    A great Trojan Horse. The OISM people must be very pleased with it.

  14. #14 ben
    May 18, 2004

    Zizka, I think one of the major problems with objectivity in climate science, as opposed to, say, archeology, is the degree of world politics now involved. There is a large group of people with a political agenda that is on one side of the debate. Those people have a hefty sway in many governents and can direct funds to climate research of their choosing (e.g. Al Gore and the enviro wing of the democratic party).

    When there’s that kind of money involved, and people with the money have an agenda, objectivity comes into question. The people with the agenda demand results that favor their platform. In addition, the more global warming is made out to be a global emergency, the more money will be available for “research”. If it was “global warming is no big deal, and that’s the scientific consensus”, the research money would dry up to a fraction of what we see now, no? Because, what’s the use of spending all that taxpayer money on climate science? The average joe who’s money is being spent really doesn’t care.

  15. #15 Steve Reuland
    May 18, 2004

    Sarah:

    I brought up the petition for two reasons: 1) to refute the idea that there is a “consensus” amongst scientists regarding global warming;

    Which it doesn’t do, because it’s not credible for all the reasons Tim and others have listed. But since you admit that your reason for bringing up the petition had nothing to do with the science, what then was the purpose of your complaint, “Once again, it’s down to attacks on the petition or the proponents, not the science”? It seems like Tim’s deconstruction was quite on-target given your stated reason for bringing it up.

    2) because I wanted Tim to comment on the review paper.

    As has been pointed out, it’s not a review paper. And Tim did indeed comment on it. So again, what was the relevance of your complaint?

    Of course. Which is precisely why no one here cares about the scientific consensus re global warming?

    Actually, I am interested in what the consensus is, because I know that I personally lack the expertise to wade through all of the empirical data. And there does indeed appear to be a strong consensus that anthropogenic greenhouse gasses are causing global warming, misleading petitions notwithstanding. Of course that’s a different issue entirely from a consensus on policy, but we can’t even begin to discuss policy until we’ve agreed that there exists a threat. Even Bjorn Lomborg, for all his dissembling, agrees with that much.

  16. #16 Dano
    May 18, 2004

    Lars:

    I agree, but to me the OISM is useful as an indicator of the quality of analysis or the quality of the argument.

    If a person can’t discern the mendacity behind the OISM, or do ~2-3 minutes of research to get a backgrounder, then the argumentation likely is strained, at best, or likely ill-formed.

    Someone using the OISM as argumentation is just starting out. No one who attempts to parrot SEPP/Daly arguments for any length of time uses OISM for long, due to the trouble in defending it.

    Good to see your excellent comments sir,

    D

  17. #17 Rob
    May 18, 2004

    Hey Ben! You know what? If the consnesus was pointing to global warming being a big deal, there would be a bunch of money thrown to Singer types to say nope, no way everythings fine. Proof of this? Why TCS! The best pseudo-science money can buy!

  18. #18 Steve Reuland
    May 18, 2004

    Ben:

    There is a large group of people with a political agenda that is on one side of the debate. Those people have a hefty sway in many governents and can direct funds to climate research of their choosing (e.g. Al Gore and the enviro wing of the democratic party).

    When there’s that kind of money involved, and people with the money have an agenda, objectivity comes into question. The people with the agenda demand results that favor their platform.

    Well now, here’s an excellent example of “attacks on the … proponents, not the science”. Sarah, where oh where is the outrage?

    I’ve found the notion that scientists who generally opperate on a fixed income, and who accept relatively low pay out of dedication, are willing to skew their results for more funding, to be pretty offensive. It’s a very serious charge that should be backed up with more than mere innuendo.

    The simple fact is, if scientists wanted to generate more research dollars, the most effective way to do so is not through consensus, it’s through controversy. Witness, for example, what George W. Bush has said we need to do about global warming: We need more research! The climatological community feels that this research would be revisiting issues that they considered settled, but if the money-grubbing hypothesis is correct, then they should be thrilled with Dubya’s vacillations. They’re getting paid twice for the same work. On the other hand, it’s very difficult to see how climatologists would benefit financially from any policy proposals which tried to mitigate CO2 emssions. If we were to increase fuel economy standards, impose a carbon tax, increase subsidies for alternative energy, just how would this benefit climatologists? They do better with conservatarians who think we should chronically research the issue, but take no action.

    What’s perhaps most ridicuous about the greedy scientist hypothesis is the stark level of hypocrisy involved. The global warming denialists are being lavishly funded by groups who have a massive financial stake in the issue: The fossil fuel companies. Nearly every single group promoting “sound science” to defeat global warming is being funded either directly or indirectly from oil and coal companies. (See here for example.) And yet these people have the nerve to question the motivations of hard-working scientists. Out of respect for our host, I will refrain from using the language that comes to mind.

  19. #19 Sarah
    May 18, 2004

    …if you use a petition to prove that there’s not a consensus among scientists, it only works if the people signing the petition are scientists

    A fair point.

    Then here are the two options we have:

    1. There isn’t a consensus amongst scientists. For those who think that the science is a matter of agreement, the matter is therefore not settled, and Kyoto-like measures are not justified.

    2. There is a consensus amongst scientists. However, consensus science is bogus. It’s a nice way to close the book on a subject without having to debate it.

    And your last line with Soon and Baliunas…haha. Good ‘un.

    ??

    Daly’s and others like him don’t get published in the peer-reviewed literature because their submissions aren’t empirically sound. Period.

    Really? You know this for a fact? Editors aren’t influenced by political or even personal bias? Anyway, I was referring to a comment made by Richard Lindzen, who is a member of the IPCC. I’m not sure what this has to do with John Daly, if that’s who you’re referring to.

    …from climatologists, who seem to be a fairly nerdy, sober bunch…

    Nerdy scientist doesn’t necessarily mean impartial. In my department (astronomy), the nerdy scientists can be quite shrill and emotional, depending on the topic. Also, where climatologists’ bread and butter is concerned, bad news tends to provide job security more than good news.

    If the consnesus was pointing to global warming being a big deal, there would be a bunch of money thrown to Singer types to say nope, no way everythings fine

    Wrong. There’s always money to be made when the news is dire, not the other way around. What is the justification for pouring millions of dollars into research when we know everything’s peachy? And Lindzen has reported that at least one group lost NSF funding when their findings failed to show global warming.

    Which [the OISM petition] doesn’t do, because it’s not credible for all the reasons Tim and others have listed.

    This is getting tiresome. Please go back and read the posts in order. I was accused of using the OISM petition as proof that global warming is a myth, which was incorrect. I stated the reasons I brought it up — it doesn’t matter whether it was effective or not.

    Actually, I am interested in what the consensus is, because I know that I personally lack the expertise to wade through all of the empirical data.

    And centuries ago you would have no doubt been interested to know the consensus was that the earth is flat and that God created the universe in six days.

    Well now, here’s an excellent example of “attacks on the … proponents, not the science”. Sarah, where oh where is the outrage?

    I’m outraged. Actually, I think it’s fair for Ben to point this out, as it shows that few people on either side of the argument can claim to be wholly without bias and/or affiliation.

  20. #20 Sarah
    May 18, 2004

    Follow-up:

    Daly’s and others like him don’t get published in the peer-reviewed literature because their submissions aren’t empirically sound. Period.

    Lindzen was not referring to Daly, but to Reginald Newell, a meteorologist from MIT. Newell’s funding was apparently pulled by the NSF, because reviewers believed that his results (which did not confirm warming) were “dangerous to humanity.”

  21. #21 Steve Reuland
    May 18, 2004

    And centuries ago you would have no doubt been interested to know the consensus was that the earth is flat and that God created the universe in six days.

    What a silly argument. I have little care for the consensus of pre-scientific cultures. On the other hand, scientific consensus means a thing or two, because scientific method has proven to be, a posteriori, quite reliable. Tell me, do you rely on the scientific consensus when it comes to medicine, or do you routinely reject the advice of your doctor?

  22. #22 Steve Reuland
    May 18, 2004

    I’m outraged. Actually, I think it’s fair for Ben to point this out, as it shows that few people on either side of the argument can claim to be wholly without bias and/or affiliation.

    Try reading what Ben wrote:

    There is a large group of people with a political agenda that is on one side of the debate.

    (Emphasis added)

    Strangely, the “one side” he alludes to isn’t the one with the obvious conflict of interest.

  23. #23 ben
    May 18, 2004

    I’m sure the people that own/run oil companies are really looking forward to the end of the world. They’re fine with it, obviously, because the person with the biggest hord of cash at the end wins. Right?

  24. #24 Steve Reuland
    May 18, 2004

    More likely, they’re willing to endure massive economic consequences that are spread amongst everyone equally, rather than enduring much smaller economic consequences that affect only themselves.

    It’s what’s commonly referred to as an externality.

  25. #25 Sarah
    May 18, 2004

    Strangely, the “one side” he alludes to isn’t the one with the obvious conflict of interest.

    You must be joking. Any scientist even remotely affiliated with enviros or socialists most certainly has a conflict of interest, as you term it.

    What a silly argument. I have little care for the consensus of pre-scientific cultures.

    No, it’s a valid argument, and it quite clearly shows where your kind of thinking leads.

    On the other hand, scientific consensus means a thing or two, because scientific method has proven to be, a posteriori, quite reliable.

    Uh huh. Like the consensus about Ptolemaic theory, which prevailed for two millenia after Aristarchus put forth the heliocentric model of the universe. Like the 125-year consensus that infections did not cause fevers. Like the consensus about the “pellagra germ.” Like the decades-long consensus against continental drift. Shall I go on?

    Tell me, do you rely on the scientific consensus when it comes to medicine, or do you routinely reject the advice of your doctor?

    As a matter of fact, I don’t bother with doctors at all unless it is to mend something broken. Doctors are modern alchemists — they have little causal understanding of how functional disorders work. If they did, people wouldn’t be dropping dead from cancer, heart disease, and myriad other fatal disorders.

    Tell me, Steve, do you always rely on consensus to make up your mind for you? If so, beware. The collective intelligence and morality of humans does not have a proven track record. A good example is the consensus against ending slavery in the 18th century. It’s usually one individual or a small group who is willing to accept derision and isolation to break with consensus and propose something new. There is absolutely nothing original, courageous, or progressive about your way of thinking.

    I’m calling it quits on this discussion. It has been interesting, but when it finally comes down to arguing via collective thinking, I’ll pass.

  26. #26 Tim Lambert
    May 18, 2004

    Sarah, the scientific consensus hasn’t been correct 100% of the time, but it’s certainly the way to bet.

  27. #27 caerbannog
    May 18, 2004

    (from here. )

    Human activities are increasingly altering the Earth’s climate. These effects add to natural influences that have been present over Earth’s history. Scientific evidence strongly indicates that natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures observed during the second half of the 20th century.

    Human impacts on the climate system include increasing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons and their substitutes, methane, nitrous oxide, etc.), air pollution, increasing concentrations of airborne particles, and land alteration. A particular concern is that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide may be rising faster than at any time in Earth’s history, except possibly following rare events like impacts from large extraterrestrial objects.

    Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have increased since the mid-1700s through fossil fuel burning and changes in land use, with more than 80% of this increase occurring since 1900. Moreover, research indicates that increased levels of carbon dioxide will remain in the atmosphere for hundreds to thousands of years. It is virtually certain that increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will cause global surface climate to be warmer.

    The complexity of the climate system makes it difficult to predict some aspects of human-induced climate change: exactly how fast it will occur, exactly how much it will change, and exactly where those changes will take place. In contrast, scientists are confident in other predictions. Mid-continent warming will be greater than over the oceans, and there will be greater warming at higher latitudes. Some polar and glacial ice will melt, and the oceans will warm; both effects will contribute to higher sea levels. The hydrologic cycle will change and intensify, leading to changes in water supply as well as flood and drought patterns. There will be considerable regional variations in the resulting impacts.

    The AGU membership is a much better representation of the scientific community at large than are organisations of political appointees such as the American Association of State Climatologists.

  28. #28 Scott A. Robertson
    May 18, 2004

    Say it isn’t so Sarah. It was just getting fun.

    Well, come back the next time Tim has to point out some idiotic item from TCS. It shouldn’t be long.

    I’ll go back to trying to prove global warming is happening….

  29. #29 ben
    May 18, 2004

    and I’ll go back to not trying to prove it isn’t (better things to do, you see).

  30. #30 Steve Reuland
    May 18, 2004

    You must be joking. Any scientist even remotely affiliated with enviros or socialists most certainly has a conflict of interest, as you term it.

    Hmm, scientists affiliated with socialists? I suppose you have evidence that the whole of the NAS, NASA, NOAA, etc. — all of whom have position statements about global warming — are part of a large fifth column, waiting to launch the revolution? I’m sorry, you’re going to have a tough time selling me on that one. But feel free to try.

    Hysteria aside, I argree wholeheartedly that scientists associated with environmental groups have a conflict of interest. Like any conflict of interest, I don’t think it’s a problem as long as they make that conflict open and obvious, and allow people to weigh their claims accordingly. The problem for you is that 1) the vast majority of climate scientists do not have any such conflict of interest; 2) the vast majority of global warming “skeptics” do have a conflict of interest concerning much wealthier benefactors; and 3) the latter group has never admitted its conflicts of interest — they’ve only come to light because of FOI requests from other interested parties. Exibit A in this last bit is our good friends at OISM, who funded a massive mailing for a little petition using private funds from unknown sources. I’ll bet you some extremely hard carbon vs. some carbon in fluffy pastry form as to where that money came from.

    Uh huh. Like the consensus about Ptolemaic theory, which prevailed for two millenia after Aristarchus put forth the heliocentric model of the universe. Like the 125-year consensus that infections did not cause fevers. Like the consensus about the “pellagra germ.” Like the decades-long consensus against continental drift. Shall I go on?

    So let’s see… Science was wrong in the past, therefore it’s wrong today. Something’s amiss. Like, for example, how the hell you have any idea that the heliocentric theory is correct if science is so unreliable. Either we’re making progress (in which case state-of-the-art climate science might be worth paying attention to), or it’s all a bunch of worthless speculation that can be dismissed as hooey (in which case you may as well chuck heliocentrism along with everything else).

    Obviously, science can be wrong. It almost certainly is wrong concerning many things, but it’s undoubtedly closer to the “truth” than it was in the past, and continues to be more so as time goes on. Weather forcasts are better, not worse, than they were in grandpappy’s time.

    You can feel free to doubt the reliability of science if you wish. But if you do, please don’t simultaneously pretend to be on its side. I think Tim is spot-on when he mentions that left-wing kooks who are anti-science at least admit that they’re anti-science. Right-wing kooks attack the very foundations of science, yet readily anoint themselves with the mantle of “scientific” and assume for themselves all the hard-won respectability that goes with it.

    As a matter of fact, I don’t bother with doctors at all unless it is to mend something broken. Doctors are modern alchemists — they have little causal understanding of how functional disorders work. If they did, people wouldn’t be dropping dead from cancer, heart disease, and myriad other fatal disorders.

    Well, I hope you don’t “drop dead” yourself for failing to take doctors’ advice. You’re far more likely to do so if you ignore them than if you do what they recommend. Or do you believe that statistics is also fatally flawed?

    Snarkiness aside, you do realize that we’ve made remarkable progress in treating cancer, heart disease, etc. over the last several decades, don’t you? Or have you discovered the ulitmate answer to these maladies, but have not been allowed to share your wonderful insights thanks to the brownshirts controling the medical journals? Oh, I’m doing it again…

    Tell me, Steve, do you always rely on consensus to make up your mind for you?

    Of course not. I do, however, allow the consensus of the experts to guide me when it comes to techincal issues that I cannot possibly master, given that I work in a completely different technical field. In general, the benefit of the doubt rests with the consensus of the experts. That’s true whether we’re talking about climatology or medicine or basket weaving.

    Given that rather noncontroversial outlook, I need convincing reasons to believe that climatologists are off their rockers on this one. Despite having looked, all I’ve found is a lot of dishonest propaganda from the denialists. (Like, for example, a bogus petition.) And I started out as a skeptic.

    A good example is the consensus against ending slavery in the 18th century.

    I guess the difference between descriptive and normative claims is yet one more thing that’s lost on you.

    I’m calling it quits on this discussion. It has been interesting, but when it finally comes down to arguing via collective thinking, I’ll pass.

    Well, that’s a crying shame, but remember just who it was that first made an appeal to collective thinking. Or did you forget about the 17,000 people with undergraduate degrees that you appealed to for support?

  31. #31 Dano
    May 18, 2004

    Steve,

    Sarah obviously can’t hold her untenable position. Let her move on. She’s not attacking you or your work per se. People holding those kinds of positions largely do it out of ignorance, not spite.

    D

  32. #32 ben
    May 18, 2004

    you do realize that we’ve made remarkable progress in treating cancer, heart disease, etc. over the last several decades, don’t you? Or have you discovered the ulitmate answer to these maladies

    remarkable eh? That’s why my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer less than a year ago and died a few months after that (don’t worry, this isn’t an emotional argument meant to stifle debate, say anything you like in response).

    actually, in my opinion, someone has discovered the “ultimate answer” to these diseases. The key to cancer, heart disease, depression, schizophrenia and the rest was discovered over three decades ago. The answer is totally scientific, causally correct, and ignored entirely by the scientific community.

    That said, I don’t feel like sharing the answer here, the explanation is very simple, but convincing anyone of it would take far to long and I’d just be passed off as a crackpot anyway(probably to late now).

    This is way off topic, the final thing is: global warming, global schwarming, who gives a crap. The world is going to end someday, and we’re all going to die much before then, so what’s the frigging point of giving such a crap about something so piddley?

  33. #33 ben
    May 18, 2004

    tech central has you this time. Care to comment on the following here

  34. #34 Tim Lambert
    May 18, 2004

    Ben, it’s a technical dispute between Spencer and Fu. I don’t know who is right, but if I had to bet on it, my money would be on Fu, since he has a peer-reviewed paper in Nature, while Spencer is in Tech Central Station.

  35. #35 Louis
    May 18, 2004

    Tim,

    Peer reviewed in Nature is now a tad insulting

  36. #36 Martin Wisse
    May 18, 2004

    Ben: sorry to hear about your mother, but one example does not a trend make…

    The fallacy in your reasoning is that progress can be made even though the end result isn’t perfection. People will die from cancer or heart diseases for a long time yet; doesn’t mean that these cannot be treated better then 10-20-30 years ago.

    And yes, I’m afraid saying:


    The key to cancer, heart disease, depression, schizophrenia and the rest was discovered over three decades ago.

    does sound kookish. These are complex diseaes and I don’t think they’re all solvable with one simple solution…

  37. #37 ben
    May 18, 2004

    Of course my anecdote proves nothing. However, when a family member has cancer, you learn alot about how prevalent it is in the reading you do to see if you can help (it was far too advanced, there was nothing to be done).

    To quote my mystery source:

    Cancer is the second most frequent modern cause of deaths. It is particularly prevelant in the more advanced countries. … The uniformity of the cancer syndrome proves that the cause of cnacer derives from one natural and therefore necessarily simple causal principle.

    … yet the greatest, most intelligent efforts to discover that simple cause have failed.

    why have they failed so badly if the disease is so uniform that it must obey a “simple causal principle”? I’ll leave it there.

  38. #38 Steve Reuland
    May 18, 2004

    Ben, cancer is anything but uniform. There are umpteen different kinds of cancer with widely varying prognoses. The cause of all of them is out of control cell division, but that in turn can be caused by a combination of problems with tumor suppressor genes, angiogenesis genes, apoptosis genes, or oncongenes. It is not simple at all.

    Nevertheless, we’ve made some amazing progress in recent years, and in the next 10-20 years, I’m willing to bet that we’ll be able to cure all but the nastiest cancers, or those which are not detected until very late. That is, unless that horde of charlatans out there convinces the politicians to rescind our funding.

    P.S. Is your “secret source” those vitamin C nuts?

  39. #39 ben
    May 19, 2004

    no, the vitamin C nuts are nuts. Did you notice that the vitamin C thing was started by Linus Pauling, and that Art Robinson (OISM) was the first (or one of the first) researchers to refute this, even though Pauling was his mentor at the time. They had a very unfortunate falling out over this because Pauling was willing to sacrifice his honesty for his scientific reputation (or his self image of this at least).

    How in the world is anything to do with vitamine C a simple causal principle (one that is not logical gibberish)? There’s no principle there, is there? I’m not stupid, I know exactly what I mean when I write these things down.

    yep, the PROXIMATE cause is runaway cell division, everyone knows that. Yet, that is not the fundamental cause, the thing that CAUSED the runaway cell division. And although the cancer manifests itself in many different forms, there is a general causal principle that goverens nearly all (no, not quite all) cancers.

    My secret source is not a secret, it’s out there, buried in every public university library, I just don’t feel like sharing quite yet. I’ve tried discussing this with my collegues and I don’t get much of a response (I get precisely the response I expect). Actually, a postdoc friend of mine here in pharmacology has recently warmed up to the underlying ideas, so that is hopeful. Currently, I’m convinced that this theory is correct although I’d love to argue it further in a more appropriate setting (not hogging Tim’s bandwidth). I’m fully open to the theory being wrong of course, since there’s nothing political about it. If a person believes this theory, then they are fully capable of living in accordance.

  40. #40 ben
    May 19, 2004

    also, note that there is an important difference between a “cause” and a “causal principle”

  41. #41 Tom
    May 19, 2004

    “And your last line with Soon and Baliunas…haha. Good ‘un.’

    Sara wrote in response
    “?? ”

    Sara, the problem with Soon & Baliunas’ work is that it was (1) geographically limited (2) they used proxies related to drought/precipitation rather than directly to temperature. Frex, glaciers have advanced in parts of Norway, despite instrumental data showing warming in Northern Europe; but that is because of increased precipitation, not temperature.

    Cobb, in a survey of fossil coral, showed that there was a “medieval cool period” and “little warm age” in the Tropical Pacific; this is opposite to what Soon and Baliunas contend. Similarly, there was a recent study on sea levels in the Eastern Mediterrean that indicated that sea levels were stable for the past 2000 years; that is, until the last century, when an increase of ~1 mm/year was observed. Again, this is contrary to what would be expected if S&B were correct.

    You can also see the correspondance of CO2 levels and temperature in data derived from the Vostok ice core. Note the swings in CO2 upward during interglacial periods. Also note that the CO2-concentration axis ends at 310 ppm. The current CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, 360 ppm is unprecedented in the last 420,000 years, perhaps (according to the IPCC TAR technical summary) in the last 20 million years.

    If these above are surprises to you, then consider that you’re not getting a complete view of the science from your sources. A good review of the science is Jones & Mann, “Climate over Past Millennia”

  42. #42 Mark
    May 19, 2004

    Before chickening out, Sarah complained about alleged persecution of the so-called “greenhouse skeptics”–

    You mean the same journals that refuse to allow submissions that refute global warming to enter the peer-review process, because the editors deem their findings “dangerous to humankind”?

    and

    Reginald Newell, a meteorologist from MIT. Newell’s funding was apparently pulled by the NSF, because reviewers believed that his results (which did not confirm warming) were “dangerous to humanity.”

    I did a bit of checking. The claim about Newell seems to come almost entirely from an endlessly recycled quote from Richard Lindzen, wherein can be found the claim that Newell lost his NSF funding as well as the racy quote about the “danger to humanity.” There’s also a much vaguer quote, dated circa 1990, from Newell himself that is also widely recycled. Nowhere did I find any documentation or corroboration of the alleged funding loss or of the “danger to humanity” quote.

    On a hunch, I went to Lindzen’s online vita, and checked out several of his recent papers. Not only is he able to get papers published in peer-reviewed journals, but several of them turn out to have been funded by the allegedly biased NSF.

    The reason there is no peer-reviewed research supporting the non-existence of global warming is not because journals are refusing to consider such research, nor because greenhouse “skeptics” are cut off from funding. It is because their more sweeping claims–those commonly found in WSJ op-eds and other such places–would collapse under critical scrutiny.

  43. #43 Dano
    May 19, 2004

    TOM:

    The S&B piece you mention also used certain papers that they claimed showed no temp difference, but the paper did not measure temps. I found at least three that follow this pattern.

    Also, the multiproxy papers cited disagree with S&B’s findings. And there are far more single proxy papers than the ones they looked at.

    So the evidence is robust that they cherry-picked for their conclusion.

    D

  44. #44 Tim Lambert
    May 19, 2004

    Lindzen is not trustworthy — look at this example.

  45. #45 Hipocrite
    May 19, 2004

    $10 says that ben’s grandiose, secret, not-secret, covered up by the establishment in a grand conspiracy, anti-cancer theory has something to do with religion.

  46. #46 Pop Trot
    May 19, 2004

    There’s always money to be made when the news is dire, not the other way around.

    Spot on, Sarah! We don’t need these quick-scam artist enviros trying to suppress an honest capitalist from trying to make an honest living. How can we compete in a world where government regulations are constantly… oh wait, news item coming in…

    Exxon Mobil reaps record profits
    Exxon Mobil, the world’s biggest oil company, has announced record fourth-quarter profits of $5.12bn compared with $2.7bn the previous year.

    The US oil giant attributes the huge growth in profits to soaring oil and gas prices.

    And full-year profits climbed to $17bn, hitting a world record.

    The $5.12bn profit excludes the cost of the merger – the industry’s biggest last year.

    Oil companies had claimed during the September fuel crisis that they made very little profit on petrol sales.

    And Exxon Mobil – which sells petrol and diesel in the UK under the brand names Esso and Mobil – was one of several oil companies criticised for not lowering the price of its petrol.

    But while struggling to make profits on petrol sold at the pump, the high international prices of crude oil mean that Exxon Mobil reaped massively higher amounts of money from its oil and gas production units.

    In spite of the news, Exxon Mobil’s share price ended the day marginally lower due to this year’s downward movement in the crude oil price.

  47. #47 ben
    May 19, 2004

    hah hah hah, thanks for the laugh :), ok, send the $10 please. Religion? Hardly, I’m not affiliated (except from time to time I do wonder if maybe I’ll see my old cat again in the afterlife or the frozen waffle section of the grocery store).

    also, there is no cover up, just that most people will find the theory to be boring and won’t get it. There’s no secret, like I said it’s in every university library, and I occasionally find it for $5 at used book stores. Do you really want to know what it is? The main contribution of the book is in it’s central theme, and the cancer thing is kinda secondary and arguable in it’s specifics. The books real strength is in it’s tackling of psychological disorders such as depression and schizophrenia. I have no doubt that the ideas in this regard are completely correct and instantly applicable (as well as sociology, which is simply a big honkin’ extension of psychology anyway).

    I even got Donald Luskin from http://www.trendmacrolytics.com to give it a read, and got the expected, yeah, whatever response. He agreed that the economics section was essentially correct, but not too exciting. He had some criticism of that part that didn’t make any sense in context of the book, and we ended our correspondense there (well, he ended it, because, I guess, I’m one of “those” guys).

  48. #48 Tom
    May 20, 2004

    Dano –

    I’d like to correspond with you more about S&B by email. Could you email me at tmcvey [-at-] sric-dot-sri-dot-com?

  49. #49 Hipocrite
    May 20, 2004

    ben, you’re complete unwillingness to tell us what the magical theory is is pretty much proof that it’s total bull. Call me when you decide to tell the world that you deserve the Nobel Prize, as opposed to Stalker Luskin.

  50. #50 Hipocrite
    May 20, 2004

    Wait, I just had a blinding glimpse of the obvious!

    Xenu.

  51. #51 Dano
    May 20, 2004

    TOM:

    I’ll try to drop you a line tonight (western North america time).

    D

  52. #52 ben
    May 20, 2004

    I certainly don’t deserve a Nobel, I didn’t do anything. And Luskin being a stalker? Please. Luskin is doing is exposing a lying idiot, similar to what Tim is doing with Lott. If Luskin is a stalker, then so is Lambert (I don’t believe they are).

    fine, what does it hurt. The book I recommend is “The Key to the Sciences of Man”, by D.G. Garan. I know I will get lots of dissagreement and no agreement in advance, so limit your “gotcha’s” to something interesting please.

  53. #53 ben
    May 20, 2004

    why exactly should higher crude prices lead to higher profits by the oil companies? Crude prices are something that the oil companies have to pay to buy crude, no? Seems to me that if crude prices were lower, the oil companies could charge the same price for their product that they are charging now, but pay less for the crude and thus have higher profit. Looks like the BBC is full of BS. That’s pretty unusual.

  54. #54 ben
    May 20, 2004

    Hi profits made by Exxon. Great!

  55. #55 Tom
    May 20, 2004

    “Crude prices are something that the oil companies have to pay to buy crude, no?”

    Err, no. Oil companies *sell* crude. And crude is where they make their dough. If you’re ever worked as part of an oil company, then you know the Upsteam folks are very condescending to the Downstream boys. Basically, there’s more variation in the cost of extracting oil than there is in the cost of processing it into refined products or petrochemicals*. So the upsteam exploration & production books more profit than the downstream refining & petrochemicals. Typical margins (before the recent squeeze in refining capacity) for a refinery on the US Gulf coast were less than a cent per gallon of gasoline; hence the oft-held view by oil companies that refining is not that profitable, but a necessary evil to convert that lovely profitable crude into marketable products. Hence the selloffs of refining capacity by the oil majors (some was FTC-required, but some, like the Shell/Texaco spinoff Equilon pre-Texaco’s buyout by Chevron, was indicative that the oil majors didn’t think refining capacity was that strategic of an asset anymore).

    Oil companies do pay royalties to the owners of the oilfields (either private or state actors), but that is usually percentage of revenues (maybe plus fixed payment tacked on).

    (*Mind you, once every six-to-eight years, ethylene/propylene capacity gets tight and the petrochemical division makes almost as much profit than the rest of the company put together.)

    “Seems to me that if crude prices were lower, the oil companies could charge the same price for their product that they are charging now, but pay less for the crude and thus have higher profit.’

  56. #56 Tom
    May 20, 2004

    Don’t know why my line breaks aren’t showing up in my comment. Anybody help?

    [OK, I edited your post to put in some <p>s. Tim]

  57. #57 ben
    May 20, 2004

    I put a <p> <p> or <br> <br> at the beginning of every paragraph, as in

    <p> <p> blah blah blah gives

    blah blah blah

    similarly, <i> blah blah blah <\i> gives italics. Here’s a handy list of commands:

    http://www.stack.nl/~marcolz/html.html

  58. #58 ben
    May 20, 2004

    Am I missing something? Last time I checked, it looked like it was the oil companies selling me the gas at the pump (Shell, Texaco etc.). And what about OPEC meeting to shore up production? What influence do the oil companies have in that?

  59. #59 Tom
    May 20, 2004

    “Am I missing something? Last time I checked, it looked like it was the oil companies selling me the gas at the pump (Shell, Texaco etc.).”

    Sure. But you’ll also see independent marketers of gasoline, and some independent refiners (like Valero). But the oil companies make the big bucks on finding and extracting crude, rather than on refining & marketing.

    “And what about OPEC meeting to shore up production? What influence do the oil companies have in that?”

    I have no idea. Most of the reserves in the OPEC countries are held by the state-owned oil companies. In some countries, the state oil company pumps the oil; in others, private oil companies bid for leases on prospective fields.

  60. #60 Tim Lambert
    May 20, 2004

    Ben, my thoughts on Luskin and stalking are here.

  61. #61 ben
    May 20, 2004

    I think that Krugman brings it on himself with his patent dishonesty and his position at the NYT. If Lott were at the NYT, the paper of record or whatever, I wouldn’t fault you from going after him in the Luskin style until he was gone too. Krugman is pretty damn bad. He contradicts himself all over the place and is a simple Bush hater, and that’s about all I can surmise.

    For the record, I dislike Bush myself and I will not vote for him in the fall. I severely dislike Kerry and I won’t vote for him either.

  62. #62 ben
    May 20, 2004

    To sorta get back on topic, notice how the oil companies aren’t funding any movies about how CO2 and such that gets produced by burning of fossil fuels is leading to the whole world being like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Yet Hollywood (enviro / liberal friendly) is producing one of the worst pieces of bunk ever (that the director acknowledges he hopes will affect policy) about catastrophes due to global warming. About as much truth about global warming as “Song of Russia” had about the Soviet Union.

    How many ignoramouses will believe the bull presented in “The Day After Tomorrow” as argument for GW policy? Hopefully only a few gullible teenagers. At least the climate science community seems to be largely critical of this sucker (not getting a very loud report in the major media though).

  63. #63 Tim Lambert
    May 20, 2004

    Ben, whether or not Luskin style attacks are justified, they are in fact ineffective. I don’t know whether or not Krugman is dishonest or not, but Luskin’s attacks make me less likely to believe claims that Krugman is dishonest.

    The oil companies aren’t funding movies, they are funding Tech Central Station.