In my previous post I commented on the various responses of sceptics now that both that satellite and surface record show global warming is happening. (The map below shows the global warming trend for the troposphere from the satellite record.) Scott Church left a comment giving a detailed explanation of the satellite data. He concluded: i-c8d750bf4a9984815b506c9414265cbf-rssmap.png

“Thus, the real lower to middle troposphere trend appears to be around +0.10 to +0.13 deg K/decade uncorrected for stratospheric cooling, and +0.18 to 0.21 deg K/decade with this accounted for—exactly as predicted by theory and the latest models. Due to the problems I’ve described above, few people today believe UAH[Spencer and Christy]‘s lower and middle troposphere trends. The only exceptions to this are global warming skeptics, who prefer them because they yield the desired low warming that their belief system requires. It is not surprising that they typically avoid discussing the work of RSS and other groups, and the few times they do, they are dismissive of it without being particularly clear as to why. Outside of ultra-conservative and industry special interests, the claim of satellite measured atmospheric cooling is a colossal red herring. It is sad to see so many cling to a sinking ship for reasons that are entirely ideological rather than scientific.”

In a Tech Central Station article, sceptics Patrick Michaels, Fred Singer and David Douglass (MS&D) have a new response to all this: Declare Victory!:

So, to all who worry about global warming, to all who think that people threatening to blow up millions to get their political way is no big deal by comparison, chill out. The science is settled. The “skeptics”—the strange name applied to those whose work shows the planet isn’t coming to an end—have won.

And how, you are perhaps wondering, did the sceptics win? MS&D write:

Three bombshell papers have just hit the refereed literature that knock the stuffing out of Blix’s position and that the United Nations and its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

And who wrote these “bombshell” papers? Why Michaels, Singer and Douglass, of course. According to MS&D these bombshell papers settle the issue: global warming just isn’t happening.

“Bombshell” 1 (abstract preprint) temperature trends are “mostly negative”. How come? Well, they used Spencer and Christy’s version of the satellite data rather than the other versions that show more warming, but more importantly, they chose the time interval 1979 to 1996 for their analysis. The Wikipedia page on satellite temperatures has a table showing how the S&C trend changes if you use different ending years:

End Year Trend
1979 to
end year
1992 -0.003
1993 -0.044
1994 -0.043
1995 -0.012
1996 -0.007
1997 0.000
1998 0.070
1999 0.058
2000 0.047
2001 0.055
2002 0.072
2003 0.082

Notice how 1996 is the last year for which the trend is negative? If they had used any more of the data they would have found warming trends. They don’t explain why they truncated the data at 1996. They do claim that extending the analysis to 2002 does not substantially alter their conclusions, but they don’t give any details, just a reference to “bombshell” 2.

From the reference in “bombshell” 1 you might think that “bombshell” 2 has an analysis with data from 1979–2002. You would be wrong. That paper (abstract preprint) also truncates the data in 1996, and, surprise, surprise, finds that the S&C satellite data shows no warming trend. They offer two justifications for the truncation. First, that the 1997 El Niño affects the trend. However, the trend is also affected by the four previous El Niño events between 1979 and 1996, so this justification doesn’t make sense. Second, that there is a break in 1998 in another series they examine (the R2 series). But there is no break in the S&C satellite data so this does not justify truncating that series, especially since that truncation removes the warming trend from the satellite data.

The audacity of their next move is breathtaking. In their Tech Central Station article they write about the discrepancy between the surface and satellite records:

When this was noted in the first satellite paper published in 1990, some scientists objected that the record, which began in 1979, was too short. Now we have a quarter-century of concurrent balloon and satellite data, both screaming that the UN’s climate models have failed, as well as indicating that its surface record is simply too hot.

Now that we have a quarter-century of satellite data we know that the scientists saying that the record was too short were right. If you use all of the data it shows significant warming, just as the surface data does. The only way they were able to make it “indicate” that the surface was too hot was by deliberately leaving out the last one-third of the record. MS&D have turned the truth on its head.

Next MS&D attack the accuracy of the surface record, suggesting that it is inaccurate because of the urban heat island effect. They agree that the surface temperature record shows warming of 0.17°C per decade, but they suggest that might be the urban heat island effect rather than global warming:

The IPCC claims to have carefully corrected the temperature records for the well-known problem of local (“urban,” as opposed to global) warming. But this has always troubled serious scientists, because the way the U.N. checks for artificial warming makes it virtually impossible to detect in recent decades—the same period in which our cities have undergone the most growth and sprawl.

Virtually impossible to detect? Here’s a thought—why not not look at the data from rural stations? Which, surprise, surprise, is what they actually do. How on earth could MS&D write something so plainly untrue?

Which brings us to “bombshell” paper number 3 (extract here), where Michaels teams up Ross McKitrick. According to MS&D:

After four years of one of the most rigorous peer reviews ever, Canadian Ross McKitrick and another of us (Michaels) published a paper searching for “economic” signals in the temperature record. McKitrick, an economist, was initially piqued by what several climatologists had noted as a curiosity in both the U.N. and satellite records: statistically speaking, the greater the GDP of a nation, the more it warms. The research showed that somewhere around one-half of the warming in the U.N. surface record was explained by economic factors, which can be changes in land use, quality of instrumentation, or upkeep of records.

This is straight from the John Lott school of econometrics. They found a correlation between warming and GDP but correlation does not imply causation. If you want to mount a serious argument that more GDP is causing warming in the surface record you must provide a plausible mechanism and control for other factors that could have produced a correlation. They don’t do either of these.

The mechanism they propose is that the recorded warming was caused by land use changes, instrumentation quality or upkeep of records but they don’t have any measurements of these things. Nor do some of them even make sense. If richer countries can afford better instruments and records that would mean that the surface record understates warming because the lack of warming in the poorer country could be the product of poor records.

It is more likely that the correlation was found because both GDP and warming are correlated with a third factor that they did not control for—latitude. Richer countries are at higher latitudes and there is more warming at higher latitudes (see map at the top of this post). Robert Grumbine wrote a scathing criticism of an earlier version of this paper. He made an offer to help McKitrick with it but, as Grumbine relates,

Unfortunate that it was refused. Things like understanding averaging and the expected (and reasons for expecting that) climate change patterns would have gone some distance to winding up with a meaningful result. Instead, he went with Michaels, which was an easy route for ensuring the predetermined conclusion.

Update: The McKitrick and Michaels paper was even worse than I thought. It turns out that they confused degrees and radians in their model.

I’m afraid that their three bombshells turned out to be duds. They haven’t proved that there is no such thing as global warming. All they’ve proved is that they can cherry-pick to remove the warming trend from the satellite data and don’t know how to control for relevant variables in econometrics. And declaring victory with such a thin justification smacks of desperation.

Appendix: There were too many things wrong with MS&D’s article for me to fit in this post so I had to put them in an appendix.

Scott Church sent some comments which give more details about how selective Singer et al were in choosing their data.

I read over one of the paper too the other night. First, not only did Singer et al use only UAH, they used UAH Version D (Christy et al, 2000) even though Version 5.0 is available and contains updates to non-linear correction factors and an extended dataset (Christy et al, 2003). What’s more, they said in one of the papers that only the UAH analysis (Ver. D that is, NOT 5.0) is “confirmed” by the radiosonde data. Their basis for this? One (count ‘em, one) analysis – the LKS sonde dataset (Lanzante et al, 2003). While this is a good dataset, for what it’s worth, it is but one of several that are equally valid, and none stands out as exceptionally well characterized. They ignored HadRT, RIHMI, and Angell 54, all of which have their strong points, and which differ in their conclusions from LKS. LKS was picked because it gives the best fit to the UAH dataset, and Version D was picked because LKS only goes to 1997, so only UAH Version D, and NOT the more up-to-date Version 5.0, is an apples to apples comparison – THAT’S why they stop in 1996!

Also, if you look at the coverage maps for most of these analyses, the best coverage (and therefore the best “vindication”) is in the northern hemisphere where UAH and RSS largely agree. The difference between UAH and RSS global trends boils down to differences in the southern hemisphere, northern Africa, and a few other places where sonde coverage is scant or non-existent. So the sonde data can’t truly discriminate between them. So much for the big vindication!

MS&D start their article with:

How many times have we heard from Al Gore and assorted European politicians that “the science is settled” on global warming?

The answer seems to be “zero“.

i-f1de3b4a29e4b19ecb6c0afde6a76e4a-douglassfig1stworld.png This is a detail from figure 1 of “bombshell” 2. It purports to show how the warming trend from the surface record varies throughout the world. Notice how there seems to be almost as much cooling as warming? Actually there isn’t. They just used the same colour (dark blue) to indicate missing data as they did to indicate maximal cooling. (Thanks to William Connolley for pointing this out.)

Later in the MS&D article when they are hyping their papers:

Three bombshell papers have just hit the refereed literature that knock the stuffing out of Blix’s position and that of the United Nations and its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Obviously ignorance of basic science is a job requirement for a Tech Central Station editor, but it is disappointing to see a mixed metaphor like this slip through. Surely “Three bombshell papers … that blow Blix’s position sky high” would be better? Or alternatively “Three piñata stick papers … that knock the stuffing out”. I like the second one better, because we already have a hockey stick paper and having a piñata stick paper or three would be way cool.


  1. #1 bigring55t
    August 17, 2004

    My father is a scientist (ecology). For years he has been knocking economics (how he feels about individual economists depends on what they are like as people) as a pseudo-scientific field. I am beginning to see his point.

  2. #2 Ken Miles
    August 17, 2004

    One minor correction to what Scott Church said. Spencer and Christy are upto version 5.1 So the skeptics are using data two generations old.

  3. #3 John Humphreys
    August 17, 2004

    I won’t defend economists here except to say that I think it is the only social science that even attempts to appropach a degree of scientific responsibility. More interestingly, it is worth considering why economists seem to be more skeptical of the dangers of global warming and less supportive of Kyoto than most other professions (this is anecdotal, so it may not even be the case).

    I’m sure some negative reasons could be given. One more positive reason is that economists might me more acutely aware of the dangers of large government programs and are more inclined to actually count the costs. We are taught that policy always involves difficult trade-offs and that government policy, while sometimes necessary, can often have large hidden costs. Another point may be that the third great economist in our brief history was a guy called Thomas Malthus — who predicted that food shortages would result in massive starvation (unless we all gave up sex). Perhaps the Malthus lesson in every Econ101 course has given economists a (healthy? dangerous?) skepticism of claims that the sky is falling? Finally, economists like to distinguish themselves from Lawyers in that lawyers worry about what is and economists think about what could be. And especially us free-market economists believe that the complex, unpredictable and rapid evolution of knowledge makes medium to long term predictions difficult. By the time we get to the future, we may find that we were worried about all the wrong things?

    Of course, maybe we’re just all idiot? :) Please note that this comment is not meant to be offensive and I hope that any responses will be in the same friendly spirit that this post was intended.

  4. #4 Tim Lambert
    August 17, 2004

    Malthus did not predict “massive starvation”. And it is utter nonsense to claim that economics is the only social science that attempts to be scientific.

  5. #5 John Humphreys
    August 17, 2004

    Malthus suggested that the population would increase much faster than food production. The imbalance caused by this was restrained by “positive checks” to population such as famine, misery, plague, war etc. I think my point about Malthus was relevant, not misleading and appropriate.

    As for economics v other social sciences — this debate has been run to death elsewhere and I wasn’t trying to restart it. In my opinion, economics is the only social science that approaches a reasonable degree of scientific responsibility. I understand that some people (such as Tim) may disagree, but I would respectfully ask that my comments not be referred to as “utter nonsense”.

  6. #6 John Humphreys
    August 17, 2004

    I take it the “friendly spirit” thing is a non-starter?

  7. #7 Steve
    August 17, 2004

    Here’s an article of interest:
    Climate Predictions Gain Surer Footing

    Range-based model raises global warming estimate by a degree.

    Researchers who have devised a new approach to calculating global warming say they have reduced our uncertainty about the extent of warming to expect over the next 100 years…….

  8. #8 Tim Lambert
    August 17, 2004

    You introduced Malthus as someone who claimed the sky was falling. Which wasn’t his argument. Certainly it is wise to sceptical about economists predictions. That’s why I have my doubts about the predictions that Kyoto will have massive costs. It seems to me that some of the same people made similar predictions about Montreal that proved to be false.

    If I believe (as I do) that your opinion is utter nonsense
    how do you think I should communicate this belief to you?

  9. #9 John Quiggin
    August 17, 2004

    “More interestingly, it is worth considering why economists seem to be more skeptical of the dangers of global warming and less supportive of Kyoto than most other professions (this is anecdotal, so it may not even be the case).”

    Not in Australia, I think it’s fair to say. Clive Hamilton and I organised a pro-Kyoto petition which got signatures from about 40 per cent of Australian academic economists (several hundred). John Humphreys announced a counterpetition, which never appeared – as I understand it the number of academic economists who signed was embarrassingly small.

    To pre-empt criticism, I’m not saying that academic economists are the only ones whose opinions are worth considering. But Clive and I wanted to avoid a situation where our numbers could be challenged on the basis of spurious signatures. So we confined ourselves to people with a clearly defined position as economists.

  10. #10 Bob Maginnis
    August 17, 2004

    Thank you Mr. Lambert. Your report is being argued at the CCD, website listed in the next sentence.

    I don’t have a university degree, just do refrigeration engineering, but want to make a point that the surface record should include any changes of humidity. From an older post to

    Humidity is part of the debate, because the heat content of air is both sensible heat and the latent heat of vaporization of water vapor. The total heat content, the sensible heat and latent heat, is referred to as enthalpy. In a very rough calculation, I found that for 50% RH 77 F air, a
    1.5 F increase in dewpoint would be about the same enthalpy as an increase of 2 degrees F of sensible heat. I have been writing about this for years, but Pat and I don’t have much of a following, and certainly won’t find one from those who insist that GW is an ‘ideology’ thing.

    Here is what I wrote here June 20 2002 about humidity

    1. The historical record of surface temperature must also include humidity,
    because the heat content (enthalpy) of a few percent humidity change equals
    about one degree F. of temperature change. For example:
    70 F. air at 70% RH (relative humidity) has the same heat content, enthalpy,(BTU
    per pound of dry air) as 85 F. air at 30% RH. 80 F. air at 80% RH has the same
    enthalpy as 95 F, air at 40% RH

    2. The historical record of surface temperature is skewed colder in areas where
    irrigation has increased because of the cooling effect of evaporating water.
    Maybe RCE (rural cooling effect)or RICE (rural irrigation cooling effect) should be changed simply to ICE, or “Irrigation Cooling
    Effect,” since irrigation sometimes happens close to urban areas affected by UHE
    Urban Heat Effect.

    4.2 millimeters of water evaporation at the surface requires the same energy as
    heating the entire atmospheric column above the surface 1 degree C.. References
    for irrigation quantities:
    pdf from:

    Here are some psychrometric charts:

    Bob Maginnis

  11. #11 Sonja Christiansen
    August 17, 2004

    “Both papers deal with very short time intervals, too short to draw conclusions about ‘global warming’. I am told that there is no clear correlation between greenhouse emissions and temperature ups and downs since, say 18oo; so here too correlations raise questions about causation. I find the query about the lack of causation linking economic growth with temperatures weak, afterall, mechanisms are suggested, that is as far as social science will allow you to go, it
    raises new questions. Several Russian sientists (e.g Gorshkov) have more than linked landuse change to surface temperatures.
    By the way, I just met quite a few Australian economists, none supported Clive H., a biased sample, most likely, but which sample is not, especially if researcher selects the sample?
    By the way, I love your definiton of a sceptic: The “skeptics”-the strange name applied to those whose work shows the planet isn’t coming to an end- so glad I am one, and a university teacher with grown-up children. Who would want to bring up the next generation with an ideology that claims that the world is coming to an end: what medieval
    non-sense. You ought to be ashamed of yourself preaching such a negative ideology, justified with selective science…we all select I agree, but should admit to the ideological filter. Climate science (as distinct from climate change science, a logical if empirically untested
    construct from a mixture of physics, social-science statistics – emission scenarios – and parameters (guesses about the natural world) is so complex and still uncertain if not indeterminate, that selection according to preferred outcome remains possible.
    Your piece above is just not adequate as a rebuttal, it can’t dispel uncertainty and remains as open to manipulation of data as the piece you attack. But I hope the debate continues..

  12. #12 Tim Lambert
    August 17, 2004

    Sonja, there most definately is a correlation between greenhouse emissions and temperatures. You just have to look at the graphs of both over the last 100 years.

    McKitrick suggests mechanisms but he has no evidence. If the scientists arguing that C02 increases were causing warming just had evidence that it had warmed, but no measurements of CO2, would you find their arguments persuasive?

    I find it very disappointing that faced with clear evidence of the way Singer et al have cherry-picked the data to remove the satellite warming trend, you would have the nerve to accuse me of being selective with the science. Perhaps you should reflect more carefully on who is being selective?

  13. #13 Jay Currie
    August 17, 2004

    Tim, thanks for this bracing refutation of the MS&D article which I will ling to over on my blog.

    The notion of cherry picking the data will cut both ways I suspect. The climate record since the end of the last ice age has very significant fluctuations in temperature most of which occured long before enough fossil fuels were being burnt to significantly alter CO2 levels.

    The IPCC report upon which a great deal of the Kyoto concern is based is a scientific report. As such its conclusions and evidence need to be critically examined and, where possible, tested. The issues MS&D raise should be examined.

    The difficulty which many laypeople have with the IPCC science and the recommendations which flow from it is that the science tends to be of the “there most definately is a correlation between greenhouse emissions and temperatures. You just have to look at the graphs of both over the last 100 years.” variety where correlation is confused with causation.

    I am reminded of the example in which the wages of the clergy in Nova Scotia showed a .99 correlation with the price of rum FOB Freeport.

    There is some evidence which will link “greenhouse gases” to temperature rise. However, as Sonja Christiansen points out. “selection according to preferred outcome remains possible”. The proper role of the sceptic is to question the selection of both sides in the debate.

  14. #14 Thomas Palm
    August 18, 2004

    Malthus concluded that unless we somehow check exponential growth in population would outstrip any growth in food production. This is in principle correct, and was a very important observation since it was one source of inspiration for Darwin. Malthus didn’t assume this had to lead to a disaster, however. Beeing a good Catholic he suggested abstinence as the proper way to reduce rate of birth while in reality contraceptives has turned out to be a lot more important, but that doesn’t change the basic analysis. Malthus, Lamarck and some other scientists are targets of totally unfair smear campaigns!

    Jay, IPCC doesn’t base its conclusion on any simple correlation of temperature with CO2. Sure, they have a brief summary for thosy too busy to read the full report and there they use simple graphs showing the correlation, but anyone interested in finding out more about why this correlation is believed to also be a causation can find those facts in the full report. The role of a true sceptic is to balance the evidence for and against a theory, and as shown well by Tim Lambert and others here, the “sceptics” has to rely on obvious cherry, picking of data to reach the conclusion they so desperately want to reach.

  15. #15 Scott Church
    August 18, 2004

    All, Regarding trends and correlations vis a’ vis global warming, correlations are not what lead us to believe that greenhouse gases are the cause. As Thomas pointed out, it’s based on a thorough evaluation of the peer-reviewed research on all related subjects (IPCC, 2001: “Climate Change: The Scientific Basis”). What this evidence says about climate trends and forcings, natural and anthropogenic, can be summarized as follows;

    Early 20th century to about the 1940′s – Solar driven surface and troposphere warming. Greenhouse gases building, but not yet impacting.

    1940′s to 1970′s – Solar cycle waning and surface and troposphere cooling. Greenhouse gases building and just beginnning to have an impact.

    1970′s to Present – Surface and troposphere warming at increasing rate, mainly in response to greenhouse gases.

    This is, of course, a very rough overview. There are many other factors that there isn’t time to get into here (e.g. – land use, continuing solar influence, etc.). The main point is that the record of the past century is not a matter of simple correlation – it is known to have been driven by various things, and the response is the sum of these factors. Note also that the atmosphere, continents, and oceans are a system, and it is as a system that they respond. The reason that we did not see much greenhouse related warming until relatively recently is that the oceans (which represent a very large thermal mass) and the atmosphere (a very soft thermal “spring”) have a long response time associated with their forcing. Imagine trying to drag a bowling ball with a slinky – After you started walking, it would be some time before the ball started moving. And correspondingly, once you stopped, it would be some time before the ball stopped rolling. This is why it’s so important that we act now to mitigate global warming. Even if we stopped all greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, it would be some time before we see the benefit.

    Regarding MS&D, what is disingenuous about their papers is their selectivity with evidence, not their raising of the question. Regardless of one’s beliefs about global warming, stating that the troposphere has cooled since 1979, and then deliberately defending the point with data that omits 1996 to the present, is over 2 full revisions old and missing corrections for numerous spurious signals, and completely omitting other analyses such as RSS and Prabhakara, is in fact, cherry picking of the worst kind. If someone thinks the mainstream climate science community is doing this to the same degree, I for one, would welcome specific, and cited, examples.

  16. #16 Ken Miles
    August 18, 2004

    While most of Sonja’s comment is irrelevant nonsense and strawman arguments, she does allude to one interesting point.

    Why do we call a bunch of ideological charged hacks who gave up any pretense of intellectual integrity along time ago “skeptics”?

    Beats me.

  17. #17 dsquared
    August 18, 2004

    Quickly on Malthus: the word “somehow” in this sentence

    “Malthus concluded that unless we somehow check exponential growth in population would outstrip any growth in food production”

    is misplaced; Malthus had very specific ideas about how population growth would regulate itself through starvation, disease and war. Also, Malthus wasn’t a Catholic (or at least if he was, he had a bloody nerve drawing a salary as an Anglican vicar!)

    Tim: I think it is notable, to say the least, that S&M decided to make their massive declaration of victory on TCS rather than in the literature. The refereed papers appear to be somewhat short on claims that they have exploded a bombshell and solved the issue once and for all!

  18. #18 Jay Currie
    August 18, 2004

    TCS has had a long running interest in the science and pseudo science surrounding climate. By providing a platform for the sceptics TCS performs the valuable service of ensuring that the doubters have a public platform.

    You might want to take a look at the appropriate time line for climate studies outlined at:

    And for a consideration of the ethics of making the trade offs implicit in addressing climate change in the absence of certainty as to the human contribution you can read here:

    A quick search of the TCS archive for climate change yields over 600 items.

  19. #19 Eli Rabett
    August 18, 2004

    Ah Tim, congratulations, you now have a dialog with the eminent Dr. Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen editor of Energy and Environment, house journal of denial. Denialist being much more accurate than skeptic.

    And yes Sonja as has been shown here, there and most everywhere except inside your echo chamber, the issue is denial and distortion on your side, not pessimism on the other.

    BTW, you insert paragraph marks as < p > without the spaces.

  20. #20 ben
    August 19, 2004

    ah yes, the social sciences. They sure try to mimick the physical sciences of Physics and Chemestry etc. in their methods, but they do not share the successes of these fields in the least (in solving any problems). Any idea why?

  21. #21 Dano
    August 19, 2004

    Their [social scientists] test subjects may not tell the truth during data gathering or may be aware of being observed and therefore alter their behavior. ‘Hard’ science, in part, refers to the robustness of collected data. ‘Soft’ science has less robust data.


  22. #22 Hunt
    August 20, 2004

    The social sciences are in their infancy, and they have a ways to go, but they are already quite productive. Strangely, I think economics, despite its penchant for formalizing everything (or perhaps because of it) is the least scientific, especially compared to, say, the cognitive sciences. Well, maybe it’s better than sociology, but sociologists don’t often pretend to be physical scientists.

  23. #23 ben
    August 20, 2004

    Productive? In what way? The problem with social sciences, according to my favorite source, is summed up by this:

    How could such a sophisticated vast field of learning as social sciences not be scientific? The only criterion of scientism is, however, simple causal understanding; and social sciences, apparently, do not have it. — D.G. Garan, “The Key to the Sciences of Man”

    What the social scienses, and all the sciences of man (psychology, medicine, etc.) have is the scientific method; that which mimicks the methods of the exact sciences of physics and the rest. What they lack is the fundimental causal understanding of their subjects, and so their “scientific” approach to studying problems is doomed from the outset to fail.

    How else could it be, for instance in psychology, that the more we “progress” the more people suffer from the effects of psychological illnesses (e.g. depression, which is at relatively epidemic levels in affluent countries, particularly USA)? The pat answer that “we are better able to diagnose the illnesses now that we’re so much more scientific” does not stand up to scrutiny.

    The simple truth is that the psychologists don’t know what they are doing and are making the problems worse by proceding in exactly the opposite way that they should in treatment and prevention.

    Now, about that global warming thing. I’m not convinced that warming is happening, but I can’t deny it at this point either. Fine. But, the doomsday scenarios about the effects of this warming don’t hold water. The climate system of the earth is obviously in an extremely stable equilibrium, otherwise, it would not have lasted as long as it has. Thus, small disturbances away from this equilibrium will inevitably result in not much of a big deal. It seems that the models used by the climate scientists are probably limited to a very narrow range about this equilibrium, and cannot handle the inevitable non-linear effects that would result after sufficient change. I would guess that these effects will drive the system back to equilibrium. I see no mention of this in the literature. If anyone has seen this, please point me in the right direction.

    Why should anything be done to combat global warming if there is no net negative outcome for humans? Apparently, there are many positive outcomes of some warming.

  24. #24 William Connolley
    August 21, 2004

    Interesting to see S “E&E” C coming out of the woodwork… Pity she has nothing to say. “Denialists” is perhaps better than septics.

    Meanwhile on Malthus (since we’re having fun digressing) M assumed that pop inc exponentially, whilst food inc linearly. The first is plausible, but I’ve never seen anyone point out that the second isn’t. To first order, food is produced according to the amount of effort you put into farming, ie (in his day) proportional to the population farming.

  25. #25 bedlam
    August 21, 2004

    Ben suggests “The simple truth is that the psychologists don’t know what they are doing and are making the problems worse by proceding in exactly the opposite way that they should in treatment and prevention.”

    You seem to be a couple of decades behind in your reading. Current behavioural approaches are very much aware of what they are doing and the treatment outcomes evidence the fact.

    Perhaps you were thinking the Dr Phil’s of the world were the best psychology was offering?

  26. #26 Patrick Taylor
    August 23, 2004

    ben wrote: But, the doomsday scenarios about the effects of this warming don’t hold water. The climate system of the earth is obviously in an extremely stable equilibrium, otherwise, it would not have lasted as long as it has. Thus, small disturbances away from this equilibrium will inevitably result in not much of a big deal.

    I am not a climatologist (IANAC) but even a “doomsday” scenario (ie big disturbances) does not contradict your statement that “these [non-linear] effects will drive the system back to equilibrium.” The equilibrium will certainly reassert itself in the long run, but we all know what John Maynard Keynes had to say about the long run.

  27. #27 Eli Rabett
    August 23, 2004

    Not necessarily. The climate system has several stable states, some of which are not so enjoyable for most humans. Since the system is non-linear the wrong small jog can move it out of the current (rather enjoyable) state and it might not come back.

  28. #28 Dano
    August 23, 2004

    Also, to Eli’s excellent point, the shift out of one equilibrium state to another isn’t pretty, either. The changes, like in most states in ecosystems, are rapid and the flip usually is described with population crashes (fisheries, amphibians, tree species).



  29. #29 ben
    August 24, 2004

    From what I can tell, as long as we aren’t bonked by a honkin’ big disaster flick coment, and as long as the sun keeps on keeping on, we will stay in our current equilibrium. Isn’t it the earth-sun interaction that is the dominating factor in our state of climate equilibrium? I do not buy the idea that “greenhouse” gases, in the quantity we output, will overide the sun’s role in our climate equilibrium.

    It seems more likely to me that the earths climate mechanisms, like the condensation/precipitation cycle and others will react to the honkin huge 1 deg C increase in temp to hold further increase in temperature at bay.

    Further, why is it not equally likely that without “man made” global warming that we’d end up in a new ice age that will kill off species and make man’s life crappy etc? There is precedent, after all. We’ve had ice ages before. Man had nothing to do with it happening. Happened all by itself. I don’t see to many global warming alarmists touting that theory, why not?

  30. #30 ben
    August 24, 2004

    argh, “coment” ought to be “comet”. I’m not sure what would happen if we were hit with a disaster flick comment, might be really really bad. I doubt our current climate models could handle such an event (comet or comment). In addition, that Keynes said that about the long run doesn’t make it any less, for lack of a better polite word, wrong.

    Finally, with respect to modern approaches to psychological problems… I don’t agree with bedlam. From what I read in the paper, depression, ADHD and others are at all time high levels. Why is this true if current science has a handle on the problem? I think the establishment has a handle on how to temporarily treat the symptoms (which can be a disaster in the, ahem, long run), but no idea how to prevent the problems, since they don’t know, scientifically, what causes them.

  31. #31 gculhane
    August 24, 2004

    tim lambert’s articles have been valuable to me in seeking to get some understanding of mckitrick and co. but what about the article in Nature, or was it Science, that beat up the authors of a meta survey, chiefly tree rings, on the historeical record. M and M claimed you could get as much of a warming trend, or greater, in the 15th Century, as now. If this is true it needs to be brought forward, and if it is not it needs to be pointed out just why it is not. At the moment there are any number of nay sayers welcoming M and M but all the authors of the article have had to say is a minimal admisssiion of petty errors. Not enough, one thinks.

  32. #32 Ken Miles
    August 24, 2004

    gculhane, the study which you refer to wasn’t published in Nature or Science, but rather Energy & Environment – a journal which very few would consider to be a science journal (Sonja Christiansen, who left a nonsensical comment earlier, is an editor of E&E).

    The M&M study didn’t show strong warming in the 15th Century, but was rather a clever demonstation on how not to do a analysis.

    They did identify some mislabelled data, however when correctly labelled, the results were unchanged. That the denialists lapped up M&M says more than it does the “hockey stick”.

  33. #33 Dano
    August 24, 2004

    It is also important to remember that this attack on the “hockey stick” is an attempt to bring down something iconic.

    Nowhere is it mentioned by the hired whores of the vested interests that the original MBH work [hockey stick] has been replicated numerous times, with similar results.

    Also, the main attack line on the hockey stick is that there was some purposeful omission of the Medieval Warm Period. Well, golly, the original paper didn’t go back far enough to show the MWP. If one reads an op-ed denouncing the hockey stick because it omitted the MWP, one should become immediately suspicious.


  34. #34 bedlam
    August 26, 2004

    Re: wot Ben wrote on 24/8/2004 04:30:24

    Well if you are getting your impressions from the newspaper I am beaten already…there is nothing one could put up which could possibly challenge evidence like that.

    While we are at it…tell us about the crime waves we are experiencing that those same papers are filled with evidence of….LOL

  35. #35 ben
    August 27, 2004

    Oh brother.

    OK, here’s a couple sources that say it’s at epidemic levels. First E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., another is a survey led by Ronald Kessler Ph.D. of Harvard, and as reported by the BBC, the World Health Organization. According to that last one, “Depression will be the second leading cause of death by 2020.”

    Yeah, sure looks like the behaviorists have a good handle on that mental illness thing, don’t it.

  36. #36 willis
    September 8, 2004

    Ross McKitrick has re-published the paper that Tim attacked with such fanfare, with corrections to the error Tim found.

    While the error was major (angles erroneously in degrees rather than radians), the effects were minor.These corrections having been made, there is no change to the conclusions.

    In other words, the paper still stands, and the conclusions still stand. The corrected paper is available at

    I would like to commend Ross McKitrick for publishing the paper, the data, and the analysis code. This has allowed the error to be found early on. McKitrick acknowledged the error immediately, corrected it, and published his corrections.

    Contrast this with the actions of Michael Mann, who withdrew his data from public view when questions arose, refused to answer questions, and has been very reticent about the whole matter. It is clear which one is searching for the truth …

  37. #37 Tim Lambert
    September 8, 2004

    It is not true that there is no change to the colclusions. The size of the economic effect is halved, just as I wrote in my post. You need to look at the numbers in his correction and ignore his spin. McKitrick has also failed to correct his erroneous calculation of the standard errors.

  38. #38 How Goes It
    September 27, 2005

    Re. the whole GW thing.

    Not being a scientist, but from my reading, watching, and listening, what I’ve concluded, is that those who believe in GW, well, I would say that many of those, believe that the short term solution certainly includes conservation. Alternatives would be nice, but how fast are they going to come?!

    So over the last 100 years the temperature has gone up 1 degree and since 1995, according to some, we have entered a new era. My humble opinion, if you seriously believe this stuff, that all of a sudden change is coming pretty fast, well, I would sell any seaside properties and move way inland.

    Now how can some non-scientist even began to speak such things? What does he know?

    I am a landlord who has units that caters to the lower income. My family has been recycling and conserving ever since I was born. This idea of conservation has carried through to the family business. Most of the conservation stuff is great – eg. the solar panels save us big time on our gas bills. There are many other ways we conserve and recycle – I won’t go into it all here. Oh, and by the way, we ain’t all slumlords.

    But here is the kicker, if you watch the news, the reporters would have you believe that the lower income living on the coasts (East & West) are more likely to be Democrats and the idea of conservation is owned by the Democratic party. Well, these supposed lower income Democrats, no matter how much I complain, are the most wasteful people you can imagine. Please explain to me how it is that I can live on the same sofa, furniture, blah, blah, blah, for over 20 years, with these people throwing away this stuff weekly, like it was a paper towel?!

    When you get the Kennedy that is supposed to be Mr. Green to stop flying across the country in his private jets, and when you get all the Democrats to stop grandstanding, doing what they know they should, rather than worrying about getting reelected, then maybe, just maybe …

    I live in the biggest Democratic state in America. The west side of L.A. has a whole lot of Democrats. Trust me. They don’t conserve. I can tell you plenty of stories of waste by the rich over there. When it comes to putting the supposed greeny words and ideas into action – you can kiss it off.

    So here is a moral conservative, libertarian on privacy, freedom, land use, and related, and a liberal on certain green issues, that is doing what he can, but, you can’t get the lower income Democrats to truly put your wishes into action?!!!!!

    So if you believe your ocean front property is going to get destroyed by ever worse hurricanes or flooded by the south pole ice melting, you better move, because the government is not going to be your savior. Fortunately for me, I don’t believe this. I looked at NOAA’s data and I am not convinced. BUT, I will go on doing what I have since I was young, that is – conserving, cause it makes sense in ways other than just GW.