A small “Signal-to-Noise Ratio” means that there is not enough real information (signal) compared to the background noise to make a definitive statement about something. With a sufficiently high Signal-to-Noise Ratio, it is possible to make statistically valid statements about some measure or observation. This applies to a lot of day to day decisions you make in life.

ResearchBlogging.orgClimate change denialists understand this principle and they use it to try to fool people into thinking that “the jury is still out” on Global Warming, or that scientists are making up their data, and so on. Here, I want to explain very clearly what a Signal-to-Noise Ratio is and now it works in a totally understandable way; What this means for understanding Global Climate Change (in particular, warming); and to point you to an excellent paper (“Separating Signal and Noise in Atmospheric Temperature Changes: The Importance of Timescale”) about to be published by Ben Santer and several other authors. Sander’s paper effectively puts an end to Climate Change denialists misuse of data which has come to be known as “cherry picking” but that I prefer to call “dishonesty.”

Think of any system in which measurements are made again and again and the measurements matter. When to mow the lawn (measurement: length of the grass); When to buy more milk (measurements: How much milk is left, how fast does it get drunk); Is the Earth’s climate warming because of fossil fuel burning (measurements: change over time in global temperatures, amount of previously trapped CO2 added to the atmosphere over time).

In some cases the measurements are almost always accurate enough that you just take them as they come. For instance, you measure a hole in your wall and you cut a piece of wallboard that will fit in there. Your measurements will be close enough that you need not worry about the variation introduced by changes in temperature of the metal measuring tape, or shrinkage or expansion of the wall board owing to moisture content. The signal to noise ratio is high. (except when you invert a number or make some other huge mistake, which I’m sure rarely happens to you!) So that’s a system with very high signal (real) to noise (irrelevant variation) ratio.

What about your body weight? Let’s say you are out of shape and eat poorly and one day decide to go on a diet and exercise a lot. Before you do anything, you weigh yourself, then you start working on your new routine, and after two days you weigh yourself again. Assume you lost three pounds. Does this mean that over 6 more days you will lose 9 pounds? (That would be the extrapolation from your first two days over six more days.)

The answer of course, is no, and if you’ve been through this before you’ll know why. First, you cheated. You wore heavy clothing and kept your keys in your pocket and had a big meal for the first measurement, knowing that if you take the second measurement naked and after having trimmed your eyebrows and not eaten for several hours you’ll get some extra poundage off. Also, as you may know, when you shift from a positive energy balance (low activity levels, high caloric intake) to a negative one (dieting, exercising) the first thing that happens is you lose “water weight” (a form of energy storage called glycogen, which is relatively heavy being mostly water and used up first when you start to “burn fat”). These two factors are the main causes contributing your loss of weight over the first two days. They are not real fat loss, which is the loss of weight you are trying to effect and measure over a few months of hard work and dieting. This measurement, three pounds in two days, cannot be used to estimate your future progress. Too much noise, not enough signal.

If, on the other and, you weigh yourself every week for 12 weeks while doing the same sorts of activities and eating the same diet, and plot those data on a graph, you could reasonably well predict your future body mass with a proper analysis of the line the data produced. The signal has gone up, the noise has been swamped out.

Did you notice that thing that just happened? When we went from a short time period to a longer one, we got more signal and less noise. Well, this is what usually happens with Signal-to-Noise Ratios. When the data are expanded in scope appropriately the variation in the data tends to be caused by long term, larger scale, over-arching trends and if that is what we are trying to measure, then we are getting more signal and less noise.

I quickly add that some analyses require smaller scales … if you want to measure the effects of burning off glycogen … that water weight stuff… than there will be too much “noise” in long term dieting data which would mostly reflect changes other than glycogen storage and use. If I want to know if it is true that people commit stranger crimes during a full moon, than I need to divide my data up into segments of time that match full moon vs. not full moon. The way the data are sliced up determines what you can study with those data, and how well that study can turn out.

And since the relationship between releasing fossil fuel’s Carbon, in the form of CO2, into the atmosphere and global temperatures is a long term phenomenon occurring over several decades, it is appropriate to measures this phenomenon over several decades.

The earth’s temperature is measured in three broadly different ways. All are “proxyinidicators” (aka proxies), or indirect measures, even though only some of them are called this. The three ways are 1) Temperature gauges, such as thermometers, measure temperature indirectly by expansion/contraction of liquids, changes in resistivity of conducing materials, etc. There are thousands and thousands of these “thermometers” around the world and they have been applied to measuring the temperature of the air just over the surface of the earth for a very long time. There are millions of measurements in this data set. 2) Satellite measurements. Satellites collect temperature data in different ways, and can measure the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere at various levels, or the earth’s surface (including the ocean’s surface). The key thing to know about Satellite measurement is that a very large amount of data is collected in a short period of time, so it is really good data, but the data set itself goes back only a few decades because Space Travel has only recently been developed by Earthlings. 3) Biological or chemical signals in ancient records. These are diverse but often quite accurate measures of temperature that are often expensive and difficult to obtain but that allow measurements to be extended in time and space well beyond the other techniques. For instance, certain kinds of “plankton” do well in certain ocean surface temperatures, other prefer different temperatures. By looking at which plankton thrive vs. do not thrive one can estimate the sea surface temperature fairly accurately. In many places the plankton die off in large numbers seasonally and their tiny corpses are trapped in layered sediments on the ocean floor. By sampling these layered sediments, extracting and counting the plankton, we can reconstruct sea surface temperatures going back many tens of thousands of years.

These three sources of information are independent of each other and are used to verify and calibrate each other. I am fortunate to have been able to work with these data and to supervise MA and PhD students working with this data at the University of Minnesota’s Lake Research Center (LRC) where I was an advising faculty member for several years. Squiggles (climate data over long periods of time) and the study of squiggles are huge fun.

There are several different factors that determine the earth’s temperature. The first one, and the one that I’d like to dispose of right away, is horizontal synchronic variation. What I mean by that is how temperature varies across space at any one moment. Right now as I write this it is 79 degrees Fahrenheit in Minneapolis, MN, but it is probably some frightfully cold measurement on Table Mountain by Cape Town, South Africa. It is colder there because they are having winter in the Southern Hemisphere while it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere, because Table Mountain is thousands of feet above sea level, and because it is night there and noon there. This sort of variation is easily dealt with by average out all the measurements over a large area across an entire year. Check.

A second major form of variation in the temperature of the sea surface and the atmosphere are short or medium term changes such as ENSO (which you may know of as “El Niño or La Niña”. Heat from the sun falls unevenly on the earth, and then spreads out across both land and sea. The resulting dynamic is very complicated. Some of this dynamic turns into seasonal weather patterns such as monsoons, some of this dynamic turns into regular ocean currents, and some of it turns into a kind of oscillation which causes several years in a row in a given spot to be one way (say, cool and wet) and then the next several years in a row in that spot to be a different rway (say, warm and dry) with in between years being in between. These cycles are long by seasonal standards and short by climate-change standards. The influence that ENSO has over our climate is large and comes in chunks several years long, so the temperature change (or any other weather change) over, say, five years or a decade may be more influence by this factor than anything else.

By now you know exactly how to fix this, right? Average out temperature readings over periods long enough to swamp out ENSO variations. Compare decade to decade rather than year to year, for instance.

A third form of variation comes in the form of gasses and aerosols (dust and yeck and stuff) belched out by major volcanoes (or even groups of smaller volcanoes). Generally speaking, a major volcanic eruption will cause cooling of the earth’s atmosphere pretty much right away, with the effects of that cooling becoming less and less over a few years, and slowly diminishing to the point where it is not measurable. Again, averaging out over several years helps to eliminate the effects of volcanic activity.

And there are other factors as well.

With climate data, you must adjust the scope of the data to the question being asked. Century-long average of data from Ipswitch Massachusetts will not reveal ENSO related climate patterns. Annual temperature data for sea surface temperatures in the Pacific examined over 30 years will. To study the effects of releasing previously fossilized Carbon into the atmosphere, via the burning of fossil fuels (mainly coal and oil) since 1850 requires averaging across space (taking a “global” temperature reading) per year over several years, and then overlooking the squigles that show ENSO or volcano-related variation and focusing on multi-decade trends.

And now on to the paper by Santer et al.

There are two take home messages that go with this paper. First, the data showing that the Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere are warming is overwhelming and come from different independent sources. Second, “cherry-picking” of temperature data by those who for some reason can’t (or refuse to) grasp that the science on global warming is very clear creates unnecessary and in my view dangerous confusion in the media and among the public.

The scientific record of surface temperature changes are based on millions of temperature measurements taken with thermometers located at thousands of weather data collection stations around the world. These records clearly show pronounced warming of the land and ocean surface since 1900. The paper by Santer et al. analyzes measurements taken by satellite of the temperature of the region of the atmosphere from the surface to roughly 5 miles above the surface (the lower troposphere). These measurements are totally independent of millions of thermometer measurements but they show the same pattern for the period that can be compared; The satellite data also show statistically significant and very obvious global-scale warming of the lower troposphere. The magnitude of the lower tropospheric warming is about 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 degrees Celsius) over the last 32 years for which there is a good satellite-based temperature record.

Numerous studies have identified a human “fingerprint” in global temperature change, and they do so by looking at temperature change over several decades, as described above. In doing this, the influence of year to year or other short term “noise” is reduced, allowing the identification of a signal caused by greenhouse gases.

Recently, politicians, climate change denialists, and a very small number of scientists have argued that the small surface and tropospheric warming we have observed since 1998 is at odds with what we would expect from warming by greenhouse gases released by fossil fuel burning. In addition, there has been a claim that computer climate models cannot produce 10-year periods with little or no warming, suggesting that the models are broken.

This paper shows that such claims are wrong. Climate models can simulate 10-year periods with minimal warming. The study shows that lower atmosphere temperature records must be at least 17 years long to be good at sorting out the noise from the signal. When people chose to look only at a single, noisy, 10-year period they are cherry-picking.

So, what does the study show about Global Warming?

For many years, satellite-based estimates of temperature change developed by scientists at the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH), which show warming but that are also influenced by shorter term natural “noise,” implied that there had been no global-scale warming of the troposphere since the beginning of the satellite records in 1979. This temperature record was thus considered to be “evidence of absence” of human effects on climate. However, the UAH dataset now has a signal-to-noise ratio of almost 4; Global-scale warming over the 32-years from 1979 to 2010 is now four times larger than computer model estimates of internal climate “noise” on the same timescale. Purely natural changes in climate are highly unlikely to explain the overall warming trend in the UAH data. The study also looked at the relationship between computer models and actual observations at decade-long time scales, to test the assertion that noise and signal have different relationships in the models than they do in real life (this has been proposed). The study found no evidence of such a bias. The study examined 22 different computer models, and found that on average they overestimated the size of observed temperature “noise”. Thus, Signal-to-Noise Ratios found in this study of the UAH satellite data are conservative, and it is likely that the true signal-to-noise ratio of CO2-based global warming (signal) to natural variation (noise) is probably even larger than 4.

Global warming is real. When you hear things like “the last decade was colder than the previous decade” or “during the years X to Y (where the differences is less than 15 years or so) the earth cooled,” you are probably hearing about data from only one part of the planet (failure to average across space) or from a cherry picked time period just after a volcano went off or some other short term variation occurred. To put a finer point on it, when you hear that sort of thing, you are being lied to.

Oh, and by the way, when you repeat those lies, or say things like “Huh… global warming … the jury is still out…” then you look and sound, well, dumb. Because you are being dumb. Don’t be dumb. We can’t afford any more of this distraction.

Santer, B., Karl, T., Lanzante, J., Meehl, G., Stott, P., Taylor, K., Thorne, P., Wehner, M., Wentz, F., Mears, C., Doutriaux, C., Caldwell, P., Gleckler, P., Wigley, T., Solomon, S., Gillett, N., & Ivanova, D. (2011). Separating Signal and Noise in Atmospheric Temperature Changes: The Importance of Timescale Journal of Geophysical Research DOI: 10.1029/2011JD016263

Comments

  1. #1 dean
    September 3, 2011

    As I try to get across to my students, statistics is about explaining variation.

    Sander’s paper effectively puts an end to Climate Change denialists misuse of data which has come to be known as “cherry picking” but that I prefer to call “dishonesty.”

    I agree and disagree with parts of that. I agree with the dishonesty term. Unless I’m missing something tongue-in-cheek on your part, I don’t think it (the study) will end the dishonesty.

  2. #2 Richard Simons
    September 3, 2011

    An illustration of the effect of signal-to-noise ratio that I like is the height of children. Take a group of four 6-year-olds, one born in each month January to April, and measure their heights. You would not be surprised to find a poor relationship between age and height. Indeed, you could find that height reduces with age. However, take more samples and in particular extend the range of ages and it will gradually become apparent that children do grow as they get older.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    September 3, 2011

    Unless I’m missing something tongue-in-cheek on your part, I don’t think it (the study) will end the dishonesty.

    You must believe. You must believe.

    Richard: An improvement on your model: Do this with three year olds, five year olds, seven year olds, 9, 11, 13,16 and 19. Or whatever (boys, every three years, or something) starting with toddlers and crossing puberty.

    Age will predict height better for the early years than for the later years.

    Puberty (timing of) will be the biggest factor for two or three of your samples.

    The overall trend will be from more predictive (but still pretty bad) to less predictive.

    Oh, and if you mix boys and girls, than post-pubesence, sex does a better job than anything probably.

    The point being that it is very easy to relate to (which is why your example works so well and is an excellent teaching tool) but it also includes all sorts of interesting complexity.

  4. #4 Ender93
    September 3, 2011

    So how do you reduce the noise? Simply saying, “you lie” or providing sources doesn’t seem to work when you enter a denialist website. You generally get attacked by a gang of denialists who support each other by either 1) mocking you, 2) mocking your sources as being from liberal sources, 3) repeat arguments that if they were more informed they would know became irrelevant. You’re right Greg, the other side does know their tactic works and there has to be an equally loud strike against their tactic. Now, as a commenter on a blog site I’m the lowest of the low when it comes to influence, but hopefully some of your readers see this and maybe spread it (big “hopefully”). I propose on Saturday, September 17, 2011 we increase our noise. Now I’m new to this whole blog scene and what happens, but I think there is a large, educated, pro-AGW community out there that wants to make some facts clear (97% of climatologist support AGW, Climate-gate flopped hard, July’s “holes in AGW” headlines were wrong, Phil Jone’s anti-AGW quote is a lie). What I generally see is a lone wolf supporter arguing with denialists and losing because he/she either doesn’t have the needed sources, support, or ability to keep arguing. This arguement has gone on too long and so we need to put our foot down. So, take these week to spread the idea, to learn and gather what sources you need, and then on the 17th make sure your voice is heard along with everyone else. Reading global warming articles and getting mad is not enough, it’s time to make sure the deniers are educated. Here are some starting sources, please add more and give me some feedback on organizing this. Again, I’m new to all of this and could really use the help organizing it. Tell everyone!

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/news.php?n=734
    http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/08/24/national-science-foundation-clears-climate-change-researcher/
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/all-opinions-are-local/post/the-neverending-mann-witch-hunt/2011/03/10/gIQAEceqgJ_blog.html

    Look for sources from conservative blogs or accredited places that cannot be denied. The argument “oh that’s a liberal site, I can’t trust it” should never arise. If you don’t help out with this, you’re as responsible for the ignorance that prevades this nation. It’s your fault that people like Bachmann and Perry can run on platforms where they deny AGW and still be considered respectable candidates.

  5. #5 Robert Stringer
    September 3, 2011

    Humanity has been using the oceans as a rubbish dump for centuries but in recent decades this has increased alarmingly by both deliberate and accidental causes.
    The result is an increase in general ocean turbidity.
    The result of this is a decrease in the depth for complete absorption of the incident radiation from the sun.
    This means that the same sun energy heats less water so of course there will be an increase in ocean surface temperature.
    If all the CO2 in the atmosphere decreased in temperature by one degree C the heat content would be sufficient to heat water to a depth of 1.234 centimeter by just one degree.
    The science of global warming has been falsified absolutely. Re-radiation by CO2 has been grossly exagerated

  6. #6 Robert Stringer
    September 3, 2011

    Humanity has been using the oceans as a rubbish dump for centuries but in recent decades this has increased alarmingly by both deliberate and accidental causes.
    The result is an increase in general ocean turbidity.
    The result of this is a decrease in the depth for complete absorption of the incident radiation from the sun.
    This means that the same sun energy heats less water so of course there will be an increase in ocean surface temperature.
    If all the CO2 in the atmosphere decreased in temperature by one degree C the heat content would be sufficient to heat water to a depth of 1.234 centimeter by just one degree.
    The science of global warming has been falsified absolutely. Re-radiation by CO2 has been grossly exagerated

  7. #7 BrokenDrum
    September 3, 2011

    @Robert Stringer:

    Would you care to clarify how your model of a change in the fine-structure of heat absorbtion in oceans (not, I hasten to point out, a change in total heat absorbtion by the oceans) is related to global atmospheric temperatures? It sounds pointedly like desperate obfuscation.

  8. #8 SplatterPatern
    September 3, 2011

    BrokenDrum, September 3, 2011 9:31 PM,

    Stringer posted a variation on the meme that the atmospheric CO2 fraction is too small to mater, I think. A drive-by where the only quantified item is the CO2 reference in an effort to appear “scientific”.

  9. #9 Mick Nammensma
    September 4, 2011

    What an absolute load of garbage.

  10. #10 Nick
    September 4, 2011

    I thought the term “global warming” was officially dumped for the more correct term of “climate change” which has been an on-going issue with the Earth since… inception.

    At any rate, I’m not a denier, but I have skepticisms based on a couple relatively simple thoughts:

    1. Climate change is on-going, and always has been. The smarter thing to do is to adapt humanity to the ever-changing climate rather than do something foolish like trying to adapt the climate to us. Essentially, I’m generally terrified of what kinds of asinine legislation politicians might come up with in the guise of “helping the planet.” Until they stop listening to the oil lobbyists and start paying attention to electric cars, then I’ll think they give a crap.

    2. Various estimates give the earth, as a whole, about 30-50 more years of oil–this comes from a WIDE variety of sources over several decades. We’re supposed to be at peak oil right about now, give or take the rate of consumption and other estimates. Gradually, we’re going to be losing our number one method of delivering human-caused global warming with a few decades. Maybe we shouldn’t be so worried about an “ever-warming earth” when we have a much bigger problem of an “ever-emptying earth” looming terrifyingly on the horizon.

    Or does the science backing oil consumption and remaining reserves somehow seem less important because there are no boisterous politicians in giant energy consuming mansions, like Al Gore, touting the fear?

    A lot of global warming “future estimates” I’ve read seem to stretch to the year 2100, which seems extremely silly given that the Oil Age won’t last remotely that long. The human race can adapt to a global temperature increase of 2 or 3 degrees. The coastlines might rise and we might deal with some underwater cities, but we’re going to have a very hard time dealing with that until we start looking for real replacements for oil.

    It’s time to put some of these issues, like global warming, out to pasture until such time that we have the resources to worry about it. As of right now, we have a ticking clock threatening our current lifetimes where oil is concerned.

    Just thought I’d share.

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    September 4, 2011

    Mick/Nick:

    ,—-
    | I thought the term “global warming” was officially
    | dumped for the more correct term of “climate change”
    | which has been an on-going issue with the Earth since… inception.
    `—-

    There is no “official” body that handles these things so, no. the term “climate change” was initially proposed to replace “global warming” by “global warming denialists” because they wanted to remind people, as you do below, that climate change goes in both directions. Later, “global warming” was replaced by “climate change” by actual scientists discussing this issue because of ocean acidification, a product of releaseing large amounts of Carbon into the atmosphere, which has some of us worried even more than warming.

    However, global warming is a real thing and is a feature of climate change. This post is about global warming. Therefore, the term “global warming” is perfectly appropriate and was chosen purposefully for that reason.

    ,—-
    |
    | 1. Climate change is on-going, and always has been.
    `—-

    As has death. Yet, that would be a poor defense if you ran someone over with your SUV.

    ,—-
    | The smarter thing to do is to adapt
    | humanity to the ever-changing climate
    | rather than do something foolish like
    | trying to adapt the climate to us.
    `—-

    Agreed. No one is trying to adapt climate to us, though.

    ,—-
    | Essentially, I’m generally terrified of
    | what kinds of asinine legislation
    | politicians might come up with in the
    | guise of “helping the planet.” Until
    | they stop listening to the oil
    | lobbyists and start paying attention
    | to electric cars, then I’ll think
    | they give a crap.
    `—-

    A reasonable concern, though I should note that much of the legislation the US has come up with too “help the planet’ over the last century and a half has not been as bad as some of the other legislation.

    ,—-
    | 2. Various estimates give the earth,
    | as a whole, about 30-50 more years of
    | oil–this comes from a WIDE variety
    | of sources over several decades.
    | We’re supposed to be at peak oil
    | right about now, give or take the
    | rate of consumption and other estimates.
    | Gradually, we’re going to be losing
    | our number one method of delivering
    | human-caused global warming with
    | a few decades. Maybe we shouldn’t
    | be so worried about an “ever-warming
    | earth” when we have a much bigger
    | problem of an “ever-emptying earth”
    | looming terrifyingly on the horizon.
    `—-

    Again, a reasonable question, but … Peak Oil does not mean that there is no “oil” (and you mean “fossil fuel” here, really) left. In fact, there is enough coal to run the entire planet and have our electric cars for a few decades at least. The vast majority of fossil carbon that could be release by humans is still in the ground.

    So there is this big glass of poison, and we’ve drunk a fourth of it. From that point, I’m not sure where the logic is in saying that it makes no sense to stop us from drinking the rest of it.

    ,—-
    | Or does the science backing oil consumption
    | and remaining reserves somehow seem
    | less important because there are no
    | boisterous politicians in giant energy
    | consuming mansions, like Al Gore, touting the fear?
    `—-

    This statement/question makes no sense to me, perhaps you could rephrase.

    ,—-
    | A lot of global warming “future estimates”
    | I’ve read seem to stretch to the year 2100,
    | which seems extremely silly given that the
    | Oil Age won’t last remotely that long.
    `—-

    See above

    ,—-
    | The human race can adapt to a global
    | temperature increase of 2 or 3 degrees.
    | The coastlines might rise and we might
    | deal with some underwater cities, but
    | we’re going to have a very hard time
    | dealing with that until we start looking
    | for real replacements for oil.
    `—-

    I don’t think we need to look for anything. We know what the replacements are. We just need to do it. Also, your statements about what we can adapt to are, no offense, pulled out of your nether region. If only we could just say stuff that is convenient and have it be true!

    Here’s two interesting facts for you: During maximum carbon “freedom” (highest atmospheric carbon) the earth was warm enough that there were probably no polar glaciers, or very few. Do you have any idea how high sea levels would be if all the polar ice melted?

    High enough that the Ozarks would be an island and you’d probably be able to navigate between Hudson’s Bay and the Gulf of Mexico via Mankato, Minnesota and never be on a river. More or less.

    Yes, we can adapt to that, but if you lay out the fact that 90 percent of the earth’s population would have to move very far away and instead of 70 percent of the earth’s surface being covered with “sea” it would be closer to 90-something … well, that would require a plan harder to implement than the one where we stop releasing this fossil carbon.

    ,—-
    | It’s time to put some of these issues,
    | like global warming, out to pasture
    | until such time that we have the
    | resources to worry about it.
    | As of right now, we have a ticking
    | clock threatening our current
    | lifetimes where oil is concerned.
    |
    | Just thought I’d share.
    `—-

    Oh, and the part where you said you are not a “denialist” but just “concerned”? Bullshit. This is something like Step Seven in the Denialist Doctrine. After all the “science” is done (and it is done … you guys have NOTHING left to go on) it comes down to “It’s hard, don’t make us do this”… Which is an utter fail, and a rather offensive one at that.

    I’m guessing that you are old enough that this won’t matter to you. Which makes you a bit selfish, doesn’t it?

  12. #12 Alexander Biggs
    September 4, 2011

    Yes, atmospheric climate change did happen between 1910 and 1940 – a rise of 0.45C, due to carbon dioxide. This is percolating through the oceans resulting in further temperature rise, but this will be limited as saturation is occurring in the 14 micron IR band. This is all explained on my website at http://members.iinet.net.au/~alexandergbiggs in An Alternative Theory of Climate Change.

  13. #13 Disposable Glass
    September 4, 2011

    Use of disposable items need to be reduced if we have to reduce the green house gases. We are trying this small campaign using this site..

  14. #14 Daniel J. Andrews
    September 4, 2011

    I thought the term “global warming” was officially dumped for the more correct term of “climate change” which has been an on-going issue with the Earth since… inception.

    You thought wrong. Both terms have been used in the scientific literature for decades. Google Frank Luntz memo. Luntz was in the Bush admin and advocated that the admin use the term “climate change” because global warming was too frightening and if the admin wanted to delay action, cause confusion, then adopt the term climate change to make it sound less like something that needs to be dealt with.

    Rather ironic though that it wasn’t scientists who changed the term, like you thought, but a Bush administration denier intent upon confusing the issue. Incidentally, Luntz now says that warming is indeed happening.

  15. #15 Nick
    September 4, 2011

    Note:

    Oh, and the part where you said you are not a “denialist” but just “concerned”? Bullshit. This is something like Step Seven in the Denialist Doctrine. After all the “science” is done (and it is done … you guys have NOTHING left to go on) it comes down to “It’s hard, don’t make us do this”… Which is an utter fail, and a rather offensive one at that.

    Science is never “done.” Science is always on-going, and always advancing. Saying it’s DONE is the political mumbo-jumbo of Al Gore. Science can come to reasonable conclusions, and I never denied global warming, I just think its a smaller issue than our energy needs and consumption. But DONE? Ppfff, that’s just a total lack of understanding of what science actually is. We all know evolution is a fact, but that doesn’t stop science from continued study of it. Politicians or people who put politics ahead of science and reason, on the other hand, they can go that absolutist route. If scientists went that route in the 70’s–when the scare was a coming ice age, due to our pollutants–then we never would have reached the place we’re at now, where warming might actually be an issue.

    It goes like this, if you idolize Al Gore as an environmentalist super hero, then you’re in it for the politics. If you think Al Gore is full of shit and largely only out to make himself richer, but you care for the earth, then you can think for yourself and you actually do care about the planet. …and for that matter, if you think that trees “feel pain” when other trees are cut down, you probably should’ve tried maturity and sobriety several years ago.

    Independent studies showed that Al Gore’s mansion consumes as much electricity in one month as the average American home in 17 months. Now, this was a couple years ago, so I’m sure that he’s added a solar panel or two and now the house only consumes as much as the average American home in 15 months. His “buying carbon offsets” is a sham to make himself richer since, at the end of the day, it’s paying someone cash money for the privilege to pollute. When recycling is studied independently, it shows that it’s just as wasteful, if not more so in some circumstances, than landfills–with the exception of aluminum, which does benefit from recycling. The problem is getting politics mixed in with the science. That’s when people ignore actual science and say things like “it’s done.” Science is never done. It’s science, and it’s continuous.

    Again, our ability to pollute the earth and contribute CO2 to the atmosphere will largely run it’s course when the oil is gone in 30-50 years. Are you going to care about the temperature of the earth when your city doesn’t have food because shipping lanes are dead and farms don’t have the fuel to harvest crops?

    The thing is, the earth… the Earth will survive. As it has before. It’s survived far more dangerous impacts than the human race. Society and human lives are really at stake, and where we are right now, society won’t last a week without oil. Absolutely everything in your home is either a petroleum by-product, or it was delivered there by petroleum, or is powered by petroleum. You plastic water bottle is an oil product. By the way, those don’t recycle into new plastic bottles–it’s an inferior plastic used in things like reusable grocery bags.

    It’s important to care about the Earth, no one will argue that. Hell, even that dunderhead W Bush, who every leftist hated even for things they agreed with, knew this. After all, unlike Al Gore, Bush’s house is actually carbon-neutral. He doesn’t have to pay anybody for the right to pollute. The point is, we need to prioritize the problems–and global warming is not an immediate problem like oil will be in the next couple decades (if you magically don’t consider it a problem now). And again, when the oil is gone, our capacity to warm the globe will have pretty much run its course.

    So what do you care about more? Politics, the Earth, or humanity?

    “Science is done.” Yeesh. Might as well say “creationism is an alternative theory.” Just as accurate.

  16. #16 JAtheist
    September 4, 2011

    Or, you know, saying “science is done” is the equivalent of saying the issue has been settled.

    Just like in the case of creationism-the science is done, and it came down firmly on the side against creationism.

    “Science is done” can mean something has been disproven, too, you know.

    Also, what is up with people’s obsessions with Al Gore whenever global warming is being discussed? /relevance

  17. #17 dean
    September 4, 2011

    Nick, I know you aren’t big on facts, so I’m sure this won’t change anything but;
    Al Gore’s house is LEED certified
    Nobody here worships Al Gore
    Many people here understand and trust the scientists

    I realize you did not know the first item (and will probably continue to ignore it)
    I’m sure you don’t worship Al Gore
    I’m sure you don’t pay any attention to science

  18. #18 SLC
    September 4, 2011

    Re Nick @ #17

    Again, our ability to pollute the earth and contribute CO2 to the atmosphere will largely run it’s course when the oil is gone in 30-50 years.

    A prime example why denialists like Mr. Nick don’t know their posterior orifice from an excavation in tierra firma. Just for the information of Mr. Nick, 47% of the CO(2) emitted by the US is from coal burning power plants. The percentage for China and India is even higher and growing rapidly as both countries industrialize. And yet, more coal burning power plants are in the planning stage in all three countries.

  19. #19 Kid Geezer
    September 5, 2011

    Raving indeed.

  20. #20 Patrick
    September 5, 2011

    Thanks for the read, initially I just accepted the media-presented view, but after reading some of the types of books and articles I had some serious doubts. Now I’ve come (almost) full circle again after reading this and some other papers and articles recently. I like to think I’m a lot more informed now than I was, and have a better picture of the scope of the issue and how we can go about solving it.

  21. #21 JMurphy
    September 5, 2011

    Unfortunately, Raving has been allowed to take-over this thread and kill it with his/her raving.
    Did anyone actually read all/much of it, though ?

  22. #22 Spence_UK
    September 5, 2011

    Has anyone seen the paper? The article says “in press”, is it actually available anywhere? I see a PDF link, but it requires an AGU login, which I do not have. I can get to it from my local tech library but I don’t want to have to make that trip only to find out the article isn’t there. Can anyone with an AGU login verify this?

    Or Greg, do you have an embargoed copy or a preprint from the authors?

    If this is to be used in online debate, I hope the authors have paid the fee to enable this to be freely reproduced. It will be difficult to discuss if it is paywalled.

  23. #23 Spence_UK
    September 5, 2011

    OK, I think I have my answer. I’ve had it confirmed that the PDF link does go to the article, but it seems to need AGU access. I guess it’s a trip to the tech library for me.

  24. #24 Mary Luce
    September 5, 2011

    It never surprises me the ferocity with which AGW deniers ignore science. It almost rises to the level of religious fervor. Thank you for an excellent blog that demolishes their rabid yet feeble attempts to present AGW as a myth or as an unsettled question.

  25. #25 Greg Laden
    September 5, 2011

    Sorry about that, folks. I’ve been away from the Internet quite a bit this weekend. Raving is gone.

  26. #26 Greg Laden
    September 5, 2011

    Spence, I can not personally control what is available from a publisher vs. what is not. In this particular case, the paper is in press. It is possible that once it is printed it will be available on that web site, but I don’t know their access policy.

    If anyone ever really wants a copy of a paper that is not open access, there are several ways other than subscribing to the journal, being on staff/faculty as an institution that gets it, or being one of the authors. The two most straight forward are:

    1) Ask the authors (email the corresponding author).

    2) Go to a University or large Municipal library and read it there (maybe download it or send it too yourself if possible)

    3) Interlibrary loan.

    And while you are at it complain politely to someone that the paper is not open access!

  27. #27 Greg Ladeng
    September 5, 2011

    Oh, and I should mention, I did write this post on the basis of an actual copy of the paper, and that paper was not embargoed. If it was embargoed you would not be hearing about it from me, until the embargo was lifted!

  28. #28 Rich
    September 5, 2011

    Mr. Stringer, for all the effort you expended on your diatribe, would it have bothered you to provide some science to back it up? I mean, you expect us to believe you and roll over just on your words alone? Really?

    And did you even read the article? It was more about data collection and statistics than causes. Try it. You might learn something.

  29. #29 Rich
    September 5, 2011

    And Al Gore’s house versus George Bush’s house? Really? Is this fourth grade or something?

    Hello! Al Gore didn’t invent the notion of global warming. He just put together a nice little slide show that was seen by lots of people. It was pretty effective. But there was nothing new in it. And that was nearly 10 years ago.

    Some advice then. Invoke Al Gore and you lost me. You need to try harder.

  30. #30 Always Curious
    September 5, 2011

    It seems to me that most of the complaining about switching to alternative energy is lead by people with the most to gain under the status quo. If the US government chose to make energy a priority, they could create jobs mass producing the science, components, and finished products necessary for a complete switch to almost any alternative currently available. Much of the complaining I’ve heard from people about alternative energy are half-baked miscalculations of impact, spiced with the underlying assumption that switching energy sources will be/should be free/cheap.

    But alas, oil companies are rich and if we weren’t dependent on foreign oil, we wouldn’t have as many foreign countries to invade, occupy, and otherwise browbeat. So the rich arms dealers wouldn’t have anything to sell either.

    I also had to smirk at how fast Spence_UK jumped on Greg about the paper’s availability. I don’t read a whole lot of fresh science papers, but I’ve seen several articles from journals that publish things online in advance of putting it into print. This trend has been around for at least 5 years & is growing as journals become more web oriented & want to make new science available as soon as possible rather than whenever the article happens to fit into a print copy.

    Anyways, this is a nice article about global warming. And I sincerely hope that one day people will finally stop viewing it as some strange idea that scientists dreamed up to scare big business.

  31. #31 MadScientist
    September 5, 2011

    @Nick:

    1. Despite the claims of Lomborg, Monckton and the like, “adaptation” is meaningless. What do they imagine it means? Survival of the species? Humans will almost certainly survive, although the civilization we have grown to love might not. The whole point of reducing CO2 emissions is to avoid increasing temperatures to the point where we start to have far more crop failures. Perhaps nature will do that on its own one day, but certainly not as quickly as we humans are doing it.

    2. When oil is gone we will likely be cracking coal to produce the hydrocarbon fuels for our engines. We will likely go on increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere even without oil. Not to mention that the atmospheric burden of CO2 at the time will be huge compared to today, and that is not a good thing. Nor are reducing CO2 and developing other sources of energy mutually exclusive propositions.

  32. #32 Joe
    September 6, 2011

    I’ve been told that at one time an ice sheet covered a large part of North America, I think it must be warmer now than it was then, but I don’t think me driving my car or heating my house caused it to melt.

  33. #33 Greg laden
    September 6, 2011

    Joe, and your point is?

  34. #34 JMurphy
    September 6, 2011

    Joe, there is a very accessible page about Ice Ages on Wikipedia. That will tell you all you need to know about how and why ice-sheets come and go, and points to further information if you need it.

  35. #35 Spence_UK
    September 6, 2011

    Thanks Greg. Didn’t mean to suggest that you might be breaking an embargo (clearly the abstract is up so the paper isn’t under wraps), I just know that sometimes full copies with an embargo note are sent out to journalists in advance.

    “Always Curious”, I’m not sure why you think I jumped on Greg? My question was genuine. I can’t see the paper and I wondered if I was missing something. I know I can get it from my local tech library (which has access to most journals etc. online) but I just wanted to be sure the article was there prior to making the trip.

  36. #36 Raging Bee
    September 6, 2011

    It never surprises me the ferocity with which AGW deniers ignore science. It almost rises to the level of religious fervor.

    “Almost?” It IS religious fervor, nothing more or less. These people are retreating from reality into a world of pure tribalistic bigotry. This new wave of anti-rationalism is what Marx might have called the crack cocaine of the masses.

  37. #37 Greg Laden
    September 6, 2011

    “I just know that sometimes full copies with an embargo note are sent out to journalists in advance.”

    In this case I was sent a copy “In advance” but there also was no embargo! I don’t know if the embargo was broken, if this journal only embargoes some items, or what …. it is a little strange that something can be published on line in advance. PNAS does this too … I believe this is a left-over fetish whereby issues have fixed publication dates that related to actual printers and dead trees and stuff.

    Anyway, yeah, I don’t think anyone is jumping on anyone.

  38. #38 Cornflower
    September 6, 2011

    Other ways of saying Signal to noise ratio:

    Muddying the Waters
    Diversionary Tactics
    Too Much Information

    The AGW deniers have a very effective way of adding noise to the debate. They use well-funded right-wing think-tanks who have over the last few decades prepared and funded “commentators” to get on mainstream media.

  39. #39 TTT
    September 6, 2011

    Others have already pointed out Nick’s lies and stupidity, but let’s not overlook:

    If scientists went that route in the 70’s–when the scare was a coming ice age, due to our pollutants

    There was no such “scare” and scientists never said any such thing. Don’t bother disagreeing: you are wrong and your opinion is worthless.

    It never ceases to amaze me how the denialists are able to cultivate false memories for themselves and succeed at convincing themselves that their own false memories are true. I can’t even count the *hundreds* of different people who claim to “remember” or “were told” or “learned in school” of the Fear Of An Ice Age In The ’70s. This is no less delusionally dishonest than accusations of witchcraft or ritual Satanic child abuse. It’s the technique that allows people to kill without guilt.

  40. #40 Raging Bee
    September 6, 2011

    I can’t even count the *hundreds* of different people who claim to “remember” or “were told” or “learned in school” of the Fear Of An Ice Age In The ’70s.

    I was a teenager back then, and the only thing I remember along those lines was an ad for a movie about an Ice Age freezing all of Europe (called “Ice” IIRC). Never saw the movie, never heard any buzz about it, never heard anyone mention it since, even disaster-movie fans. That’s it. The rest is nothing but made-up bullshit, a blatant attempt to rewrite history. Just another flat-out lie from the same assholes who steal email without a warrant, lie about what said email says, and call it “science.”

  41. #41 dean
    September 6, 2011

    “I was a teenager back then…”

    I was too, in the early 70s. For the most part the only Ice Age threats I heard were from the ladies: “Earth will freeze over before ….” (happily that changed in college)

    From scientists? Not so much ice gloom and doom.

  42. #42 ligne
    September 8, 2011

    I can’t even count the *hundreds* of different people who claim to “remember” or “were told” or “learned in school” of the Fear Of An Ice Age In The ’70s.

    hey, be easy on them — maybe they got all their education from Time magazine ;-)

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