Sunday’s radio show is going to be a very special treat for all of us. Mike Haubrich and I are going to be speaking with Kevin Zelnio and John Abraham about climate change, global warming, and science vs. denialism.

John Abraham is an expert on Heat Transfer and Fluid Mechanics and stirred up a bit of trouble (in a good way) when he responded to a presentation made by AGW Denialist Chrisopher Monckton at one of our local TRC’s1, Bethel University. Kevin Zelnio is a former Sbling, a science journalist, and member of the blogging teams at Scientific American Blogs and Deep Sea News. He has written on the effects of climate change on the sea life.

It is an especially interesting time to be speaking about climate change and denialism, given the publication just now of a remarkable paper by a climate change denialist in a peer reviewed scientific journal, as well as a second paper that is getting less attention (so far) that does not suggest that global warming is “not real” but that will be used by denialists to do so.

The first paper is described here: On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance

The second paper is here: Particles in upper atmosphere slow down global warming

The first paper is a hoax that managed to find its way into a peer reviewed journal, written by well known climate change denialists. The second study actually seems to indicate that things could be worse than they are if there was a different distribution of dust in the climate system, but I hasten to add that I’ve not read that paper yet.

Here are a few other current items you may want to familiarize yourself so that when you sit down with a cup of coffee on Sunday Morning to listen to the show you’ll be very informed.

Feel free to suggest in the comments, below, questions we might bring up with our guests. No guarantees (time is limited) but if we don’t get to them on the show perhaps we’ll address them here.

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1Tiny Religious College

Comments

  1. #1 Michael
    July 29, 2011

    One question I always want to ask:

    How to you stop yourself from smacking the denialists upside the head for their intentional stupidity?

    I have _such_ a hard time with that one…

  2. #2 Remo
    July 30, 2011

    Two recently in the news items that were on the Science Magazine podcast.

    1. That coral reefs can evolve thereby mitigating some of the effects of water temperature rise and increased acidification, and

    2. A methane “burp” that occurred at the end of the Jurassic and may have significantly altered the climate over the short-term. (Of course, we face a possible methane burp from the thawing permafrost in the north, and the possible warming of methane deposits in the ocean bottoms.)

    Both are here: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/suppl/2011/07/21/333.6041.478-b.DC1/SciencePodcast_110722.pdf

    Actually, what tends to fascinate me is the nexus between the cost of energy and the cost of food. Costs in agriculture such is fertilizer, transportation, and equipment are closely tied to the cost of oil.

    If we want to get off burning hydrocarbons, must we first develop a cheap energy alternative or risk starving the third world? For that matter, the modern economy runs on cheap energy and cheap transport, are our children destined to a lesser standard of living if the cost of energy is priced at its true costs?

    A second issue is in the “we need the earth, but does the earth need us?”. Much of the threat of extinctions from climate change are more from our development which tends to isolate species, thus leaving them more vulnerable to climate change.

    Have fun.

  3. #3 Drivebyposter
    July 30, 2011

    If global warming is such a huge problem, why don’t we just dump a bunch of ice cubes in the ocean, or perhaps one giant one?

  4. #4 Raskolnikov
    July 30, 2011

    @Drivebyposter: I suppose you’re being facetious, but just in case: how are you going to produce the ice cubes without heating the atmosphere more than the cooling they are going to bring?

  5. #5 MadScientist
    July 30, 2011

    Although the global temperature record shows that the surface is indeed warming,

    (a) why can’t the modelers/forecasters make verifiable predictions about what will happen in any particular region (less rainfall, etc)

    (b) why do people continue to do such nonsensical modeling and make claims like “80% chance of mean temperature being 0.3deg higher for this region in 40 years, 5% chance no change, etc” – how is this verified?

    (c) why do different (forecast) models produce such varying results – or indeed the same model run by 2 different groups doing something slightly different and coming up with different results – how do we know if anyone is right?

    and (d) why is there still that claim that “global warming will cause more numerous and more powerful storms” on the one hand and “it is difficult if not impossible to determine if we’re having more numerous or more powerful storms” (which invalidates the other claim to fact).

  6. #6 Scaurus
    July 30, 2011

    Modeling of radiative transfer is among the core issues in studying global warming. So I wonder:

    1) Assume the denialists are correct, that no AGW is occurring. By what factor would we need to have systematically over-estimated the IR opacity of greenhouse gases (hence, over-estimated their effectiveness at trapping energy)? How wrong would our laboratory measurements of the opacity need to be? How wrong would bottoms-up (QM based?) derivations of the opacity need to be? What other mechanism could possibly be invoked to explain why the earth is not an ice-ball (without CO2 driven warming, at 1 AU, the mean surface temperature should be closer to 273K than ~300…)

    2) In a related question, how wrong would the rest of science then be? For example, CO2 is the prime constituent of the Martian atmosphere. Have there been any successful predictions of observations on Mars that would support us having an accurate understanding of IR radiative transfer? Being able to point out to people, “If we’re wrong about this, then it was a miracle – literally, it requires either new physics or a horde of invisible faeries – when we successfully predicted X, each time technological device Y has worked, and when these two measurements Z1 and Z2 led to the same value for Z” would be invaluable. No branch of science is independent of the others… if we have something wrong in one place, that error shows up elsewhere.

    3) For a variant on question 1, how severely would we need to have underestimated the various mitigating factors – e.g. cloud cover reducing insolation, the deep ocean serving as a heat sink, dust kicked up in drought stricken areas reducing insolation – for the denialists to be correct?

  7. #7 Fred Magyar
    July 30, 2011

    Michael @1,

    Ding! Ding! Ding! aaannd we have a thread winner, right out of the starting gate!

  8. #8 Mary
    July 30, 2011

    I don’t have issues with the science at all. But what I’m wondering is: what proportion of personal mental bandwidth do you allocate to still trying to reduce impact at this point, and how much do you spend on mitigating the outcome?

    I’m getting at what seems to be the futility of getting people and governments to really make the changes we need, vs. adapting to the future we seem to be facing.

  9. #9 Lishui
    July 30, 2011

    I’m an Earth scientist, and called a denialist by many.

    What I really want to know is where I can find some actual scientific data that includes solar radiation data along with CO2 levels and temperature readings at consistent elevations and locations over significant sample sizes.

    What I am called a denialist for is the fact that I protest being presented with insults and propaganda as a replacement for real information and scientific discussion. By even bringing up any scientific questions or uncertainty, I have been shot down dozens of times by people who aren’t scientists.

    There is something extremely suspicious about this. An untestable hypothesis (such as, “Denialists intentional stupidity”) has no place in any scientific debate. Even the word “denialism” takes the whole thing out of science and places it squarely in the realm of religiosity. In the old days, we were called “heretics” or “witches.” It neither proved nor disproved the prevailing understanding of reality.

    I conclude, since it’s so far stood up to every test, that my own hypothesis is the correct one. That is, “We, as a society, have a very important social agenda that requires as many people as possible to believe in and be terrified of anthropogenic climate change. It doesn’t matter what the facts are. It matters that those who question anything about this belief be smacked down immediately.”

    My hypothesis is testable: simply provide an answer to the question, “Where are the solar data correlated with CO2 and temperature data?” without using a single personal insult or lofty philosophical point of view about my intentions toward society by asking such a question.

    I doubt this comment will be published. I’ll check back after a while to confirm that prediction, which will further support my hypothesis.

  10. #10 elspi
    July 30, 2011

    Lishui says “An untestable hypothesis (such as, “Denialists intentional stupidity”) has no place in any scientific debate. ”

    Oh contraire:
    The book “Merchants of Doubt” makes falsifiable claims about what sort of nonsense should appear in a denialati-troll infested comment section of a climate change blog post.

    Your denilist word salad “scientific data that includes solar radiation data along with CO2 levels and temperature readings at consistent elevations and locations over significant sample sizes.” is exactly the gibberish objection Oreshes predicted.

    It isn’t clear yet exactly which denialist talking point you are angling for, but maybe you are claiming that CO_2 is not well mixed in the atmosphere. This claim has been falsified, but I expect you already know this and will now perform a Gish gallop with a half-twist, 5.4 degree of difficulty (also predicted by Oreshes). But maybe you will continue with the You-have-to-have-a-CO2-sensor-right-next-to-the- thermometer-or-it-doesn’t-count bullshit.

    Oh by the way. If you do actually have a technical background and are interested in understand the evidence of AGW, you go to the blog “Open Mind” http://tamino.wordpress.com/ where it is all laid out in black and white.

    However, since you are a textbook “Merchants of Doubt” troll, I think we both know what your response will be.

  11. #11 zerrin dogan
    July 30, 2011

    I don’t have issues with the science at all. But what I’m wondering is: what proportion of personal mental bandwidth do you allocate to still trying to reduce impact at this point, and how much do you spend on mitigating the outcome?
    good istanbul yeşilçam
    zerrin dogan…

  12. #12 J.T. Waldron
    July 30, 2011

    My skepticism is solidified by the pompous orthodoxy that has become the Anthropomorphic Global Warming (AGW) movement. It has become comedic. The laughable term “science vs. denialism” is a great example. You see, nothing in science that contradicts AGW can ever be called science. They must impose these mutually exclusive parameters as either science or denialism.

    Perhaps it’s something picked up from the PR firm hired by East Anglia’s Climate Research Department.

    Previously, mainstream media began the slow, tacit admission that global warming hasn’t manifested in the way it was so definitively predicted 10 years ago. This admission was presented last month through a recent study suggesting that Çhina’s sulfur emissions were to blame for the lack of global warming. Floods resulting from late melting mountain snow-packs offer unique challenges this summer to the country’s eroding infrastructure. Little preparation for anticipated heavy winters will be the norm as the propaganda for disastrous anthropomorphic global warming will only increase in the near future. Now, volcanoes are the recent scapegoat for foiled predictions.

    If you have a group of environmentalists in your area that refer to global warming as one of the reasons for great ideas like localization, cleaning up the eco-sphere or reducing automobile exhaust, introduce some of the contradictory information involving climate change and see how they react to you. Pay close attention to the way they try to dismiss you or shape the argument away from what you present in support of recent conventional climate research. See if they actually answer your questions or address the specific points you present. Turning over this rock may involve an ugly discovery underneath.

    How does CO2 influence climate change? What level is influence by human activity?

    Wouldn’t we like to know. Unfortunately, not much will come from a bunch of folks beating their chests and definitively assuring us that AGW is not something that needs to be questioned.

  13. #13 Drivebyposter
    July 30, 2011

    @Raskolnikov
    I was joking. That’s how they solved it on Futurama. They just took ice from a comet every so often.

  14. #14 StevoR
    July 30, 2011

    @ ^ Drivebyposter | July 30, 2011 7:58 PM :

    Yup. Till Halley’s comet was mined dry. Then they had to destroy all robots which fortunately failed and ended up moving the Earth outwards to fix the problem for good! Once and for all. Until next time?

    Question~wise I’m with (#6) Scaurus (July 30, 2011 5:23 AM) in wanting to ask something like :

    If our increasing Co2 is NOT causing global warming then how wrong would our present understanding of basic physics be and what would the implications be for Venus, Mars, etc.?

  15. #15 StevoR
    July 30, 2011

    Or a few more suggested questions :

    1. Do you think we’ll need to start terraforming Earth, turning to geoengineering the planet or putting giant sunshades in orbit?

    2. Could ideas like creating artificial inland seas in the centres of Australia, the Sahara, the Gobi desert (among others) as suggested in KS Robinson “science in the capital trilogy” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Stanley_Robinson#Science_in_the_Capital_series ) work to mitigate or halt our problems with sea level rise by giving the extra water somewhere to go?

    3. What do you think would be the best possible solutions to address the issues of Global Warming, what would you advise we do to have the most impact on mitigating the problem?

    4. What questions do you (the climatologist) think most need answering and what things are most frequently overlooked in the whole area of climate change?

    5. Mght it be better to replace the term Anthropogenic Global Warming which has some positive implications (“warm” being a mild descriptive word with positive, pleasant associations in many contexts) with the most direct and expressly negative harsher desciptive term : Human Caused Global Overheating? (HCGO)

  16. #16 elspi
    July 31, 2011

    “My skepticism is solidified by the pompous orthodoxy that has become the Anthropomorphic Global Warming (AGW) movement. ”

    Which part of “tell it to the arctic sea ice” do you not understand.

    When the northwest and northeast passages are closed for a whole year (the way they were for almost all of the last 10K years) then you might have a point. Until then, you are just in denial.
    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

  17. #17 MadScientist
    July 31, 2011

    @Lishui: Solar data? I can tell you know next to nothing about observing the earth and meteorology. The sun’s output has been measured by people for over 60 years (well, I’m not including the lenses used to burn a trace to show how often the sun was not behind a cloud – that goes back over 2000 years). For at least the past 50 years the radiance at the top of the atmosphere has been estimated from the ground, and over the last 30 years there have been measurements from space; in the past 20 years there have been a few very precise measurements made. The solar output is well constrained and it is not responsible for the observed warming since the industrial revolution. The information you’re asking for is out there and virtually all of what is relevant in the past 30 years is even available for free in an electronic format (if you go beyond that you have to look at paper copies), but you obviously don’t know where to look. I have no idea what you mean by “earth scientist”.

    Now as for the concern about non-CO2 greenhouse gases – come on, the CO2 effect so far is small – the methane effect is insignificant even though it’s the next biggest one.

  18. #18 Southern Geologist
    July 31, 2011

    MadScientist:

    “I have no idea what you mean by “earth scientist”.”

    “Earth science” is a pretty broad field (geology, climatology, physical geography, oceanography, etc.) so I can understand the confusion.

    In this case, however, my money is on petroleum geologist.

  19. #19 Southern Geologist
    July 31, 2011

    I find suggestion #2 above terrifying. Whether it’s the Mojave or the Sahara (and the fragile ecosystems therein) why are deserts almost always the first thing sacrificed to mitigating global warming?

  20. #20 Jason Thibeault
    July 31, 2011

    MY skepticism is solidified by the pompous orthodoxy that has become the Round Earth movement. It has become comedic. The laughable term “science vs. flat-eartherism” is a great example. You see, nothing in science that contradicts a round Earth can ever be called science. They must impose these mutually exclusive parameters as either science or flat-eartherism.

  21. #22 J.T. Waldron
    July 31, 2011

    The irony is not lost on me. Especially when responses to my comment do such a great job at illustrating my point. Thanks for the laugh this morning!

  22. #23 elspi
    July 31, 2011

    @Jason Thibeault
    “MY skepticism is solidified by the pompous orthodoxy that has become the Round Earth movement.”
    I think you just won the intertubes.

    @J.T. Waldron
    “The irony is not lost on me.”

    Is this your I-am-aware-of-all-internet-traditions bid for internet immortality?

  23. #24 Chris O'Neill
    August 1, 2011

    J.T. Waldron:

    Previously, mainstream media began the slow, tacit admission that global warming hasn’t manifested in the way it was so definitively predicted 10 years ago.

    You are sadly mistaken if you believe that global warming was “definitively” predicted over a period of ten years because there is no way anyone can predict the effect of El Nino/La Nina 10 years in the future which can easily overwhelm the effect of rising CO2 in that period. All you can see is the noise and not the signal. Come back when you’ve considered a climatically and statistically significant period like 30 years.

  24. #25 Greg Laden
    August 1, 2011

    Ah, excuse me. Global warming was predicted in the 1960s, it was already happening then, and it continued to happen and then it got worse.

    As predicted.

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