Respectful Insolence

If there’s one characteristic of denialists of all stripes, it’s that they have a strong tendency to personalize their dislike of their particular bete noir science. For instance, anti-vaccine activists tend to attack Paul Offit as though he were the Dark Lord of Vaccination. Creationists tend to attack Charles Darwin (who, being conveniently dead, can’t defend himself) and Richard Dawkins (who, being one of the most vocal atheists in the world, makes a convenient target because creationists are almost invariably motivated by religious objections to evolution). Climate change denialists tend to attack, more than anyone else, Al Gore. The reason, of course, is that cranks can’t attack the science using good science and, of course, it’s far easier to attack a person than well-supported science. After all, all people have flaws that can be ridiculed or used as the basis of ad hominem attacks. In the case of Al Gore, he’s been called a hypocrite, a liar, scientifically ignorant, and all manner of other things by the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) denialist set. You would think from the vitriol and concentration on Al Gore that he were the equivalent of what Charles Darwin is with respect to evolution. Indeed, I was recently in a rather heated discussion on Facebook with an AGW denialist whom I’ve discussed before, and he kept coming back again and again to Al Gore, claiming there were numerous errors in his book and film, as though, even if there were (and there are not), that would say anything at all about the science behind AGW.

Yet, even though Gore is the most famous popularizer and activist for AGW, contrary to the impression you might get based on what his enemies say about him, Al Gore did not invent AGW, nor was he the first to sound the alarm. The alarm began to be sounded over 50 years ago:

These videos are a couple of weeks old, but they’re really good. Heck, even I didn’t know that the idea that CO2 emissions are contributing to a significant warming of the earth’s climate dates back more than 50 years.

Who knew? Al Gore didn’t invent global warming.

Comments

  1. #1 daedalus2u
    November 24, 2010

    Over 100 years ago. It was Arrhenius who first proposed that CO2 in the atmosphere would cause global warming.

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

  2. #2 Joseph
    November 24, 2010

    The first person to suggest that CO2 from fossil fuels will likely cause the planet to warm, to suggest the effect is approximately logarithmic, and to give the first estimate of climate sensitivity to CO2 doubling, was Svante August Arrhenius, in 1896, no less.

    His paper “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground” is quite impressive. I highly recommend it.

  3. #3 blf
    November 24, 2010

    I didn’t know that the idea that CO2 emissions are contributing to a significant warming of the earth’s climate dates back more than 50 years.

    It goes back far more than that, over 100 years. Högbom, Langley, and others were making the argument in the 1890s(and possibly earlier). And the Pffft! of All Knowledge refers to an 1837 paper by Fourier.

  4. #4 Composer99
    November 24, 2010

    I believe the first peson to suggest that human emissions of carbon could effect large-scale changes in the Earth’s climate was Svante Arrhenius of Sweden, back at the turn of the last century.

  5. #5 THarding
    November 24, 2010

    Asimov wrote “No More Ice Ages” in 1959.

  6. #6 Greg
    November 24, 2010

    The reason why these videos and evidence was lost in time is beacause the 1970s were freezing and that was in direct disput of their evidence. Scientis in the 70s was concerded about Global cooling.
    Just the fact that their fix for global warming, oops….I mean climate change, ehhh….. climate disruption is some marxist weath redistribution scheme is enough evidence that it’s all bullshit. Global Warming=Corrupted science used to grow government and it’s control. The biggest fraud protrayed on man!!!!!

  7. #7 Left_Wing_Fox
    November 24, 2010

    @6: Bull. Global cooling was a fringe theory in the 70′s that got a lot of popular press, but was largely rejected in favor of the mounting evidence for warming.

    But naturally, people assume a magazine cover story is representative of the scientific literature as a whole.

  8. #8 Joseph
    November 24, 2010

    The reason why these videos and evidence was lost in time is beacause the 1970s were freezing and that was in direct disput of their evidence. Scientis in the 70s was concerded about Global cooling.

    @Greg: I wouldn’t say the 70s were freezing, but there was a cooling trend, which is probably anthropogenic as well (due to aerosols, with CO2 enjoying a brief plateau about a decade earlier.)

    In any case, there were a lot more papers about global warming than global cooling in the 70s.

  9. #9 Eric Lund
    November 24, 2010

    I see it took under an hour to draw a troll on this topic, and you don’t usually write about this topic.

    The basic physics has been established for a long time: it’s called conservation of energy. Earth absorbs solar radiation and tries to radiate it back into space. Some of the latter radiation gets absorbed by gases in the atmosphere, and those gas molecules ultimately re-radiate about half of that energy back toward the Earth’s surface. So the Earth becomes hotter, allowing it to radiate more energy back into space until an equilibrium is reached. If you disturb that equilibrium by increasing absorption either of incoming solar radiation by the Earth or the re-radiated energy by the atmosphere, the temperature of Earth must increase. There is at least one positive feedback loop here: raising the temperature of the Earth causes ice and snow to melt, leading to increased absorption of solar radiation. Carbon dioxide is one of the gases that absorbs photons in the energy range emitted by the Earth (it is second to water vapor in importance). We can calculate how much CO2 has been produced as a result of burning fossil fuels, and we find that the total is more than enough to account for the observed increase in atmospheric CO2 (most of the rest gets dissolved in the oceans, increasing their acidity and thereby creating other problems). Case closed; the only question is how bad it’s going to be.

  10. #10 Eric Lund
    November 24, 2010

    I just watched the Bell Labs clip, and I noticed the name Frank Capra in the credits. So not only is the idea of CO2 causing global warming more than 50 years old, so is having famous non-scientists produce videos relaying that idea to the public.

  11. #11 anon
    November 24, 2010

    Nothing I hate more than Aether deniers.

  12. #12 Sid Offit
    November 24, 2010

    Next thing you’ll try to get us to believe is that Algore didn’t invent the interwebs.

  13. #13 Chris
    November 24, 2010

    Eric Lund:

    so is having famous non-scientists produce videos relaying that idea to the public.

    Actually that has been happening since the beginning of motion pictures. Especially when the sponsor has deep pockets like Bell Labs.

    Also a look at Frank Capra’s IMDB page show a long dry spell between 1951 and 1956, when that television science series first aired. I would say that Mr. Capra needed the work.

  14. #14 David N. Brown
    November 24, 2010

    I consider myself a “skeptic” as far as CO2 emissions as a cause of global warming. What I have reservations about isn’t whether there is global warming or whether it’s man-made, but how the role of automotive emissions compares to other anthropogenic phenomena, especially “desertification” and “urban heat islands.”

  15. #15 blf
    November 24, 2010

    Next thing you’ll try to get us to believe is that Algore didn’t invent the interwebs.

    Al Gore didn’t and he never said that he did. Your point please?

  16. #16 David N. Brown
    November 24, 2010

    Another thought: A cooling trend in the 1970s would actually fit well enough with the theory of global warming from anthropogenic CO2. That was, after all, the decade of the energy crisis.

  17. #17 Todd W.
    November 24, 2010

    @David N. Brown

    IIRC, urban heat islands are not a significant contributor to the overall warming of Earth.

    For those who are interested, Skeptical Inquirer recently ran an interesting review of three books on the climate wars.

  18. #18 Composer99
    November 24, 2010

    My favourite website on this topic is Skeptical Science (http://www.skepticalscience.com).

    They do, I think, a very good job of summarizing the science – at different levels of scientific comprehension, no less! – showing the effects of the anthropogenic CO2-induced global energy imbalance.

    Greg, some of the proposed fixes for AGW are already implemented elsewhere (cap & trade for sulphur emissions, for example) with no appreciable Marxist-style destruction of private enterprise. So I’ll have to call BS on your claims.

  19. #19 Composer99
    November 24, 2010

    Hmm.. clarification required by me:

    Some of the proposed fixes for AGW are already implemented elsewhere for other cases of harmful human atmospheric emissions.

  20. #20 Mal Adapted
    November 24, 2010

    What I have reservations about isn’t whether there is global warming or whether it’s man-made, but how the role of automotive emissions compares to other anthropogenic phenomena, especially “desertification” and “urban heat islands.”

    I welcome the opportunity to draw the attention of Orac’s readers to SkepticalScience. It offers rebuttals, with citations to published research, of common AGW-denier arguments. For example, David N. Brown would do well to look at it’s Urban Heat Island effect, and it’s land use.

  21. #21 Keith Harwood
    November 24, 2010

    I first heard about AGW from articles in the New Scientist in the early 1960′s and I don’t recall anyone demonising Al Gore at that time.

  22. #22 Joseph
    November 24, 2010

    What I have reservations about isn’t whether there is global warming or whether it’s man-made, but how the role of automotive emissions compares to other anthropogenic phenomena, especially “desertification” and “urban heat islands.”

    Urban heat islands are localized. They exist, and you can actually see that in the data (although there’s some controversy over this.) But the effect is only significant in very big cities, and once you consider all available temperature stations, the UHI effect can’t be detected. Indeed, there’s no difference between rural stations and mid-size city stations. And to put it in perspective, the US is only 2% of the surface of the Earth.

  23. #23 tresmal
    November 24, 2010

    Some history. And some reading.

  24. #24 Greg
    November 24, 2010

    Here”s an IPCC official admitting to their wealth redistribution goal.
    http://thegwpf.org/ipcc-news/1877-ipcc-official-climate-policy-is-redistributing-the-worlds-wealth.html

    So go ahead and polute all you want, just give us money and it’ll be okay. Another marxist scam.
    The world was warmer in the Medievel Warming peroid then came the Little ice age. Check the ice core data, before every ice age there was a warming period. Maybe we are headed for another ice age?

  25. #25 Greg
    November 24, 2010

    Eric Lund, you left out solar output in your writing. Just like all the Global Warners always do.
    What causes Global Warming??? The Sun.
    The sun never puts out the same amount of energy. Case closed!

  26. #26 David N. Brown
    November 24, 2010

    @17, 21:
    Where I LIVE, in the Phoenix metro area, could satisfy the description of an urban heat island. Something I’m convinced of is that issues with climate can be subtle. For example, the Phoenix population isn’t that big, but we’re spread over a large area, which means more concrete and asphalt, which absorb and release a lot of heat. Another problem I have heard about (once from an ASU science TA) is that the heat here seems to deflect rainfall, which strikes me as something that might have effects far beyond our immediate vicinity.

    Overall, my main concern is just whether all of the things that might be contributing are being recognized and quantified. I also feel that the emphasis on lowering emissions from cars distracts from other issues which, whether or not they have a comparable effect on global climate, can make a city a lot harder to live in.

  27. #27 Greg
    November 24, 2010

    Here’s a video from the seventies. Research the scientist that gave them the evidence for this video and you’ll be surprised of what he does today. He’s been trying to scub this video for some time now.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ndHwW8psR8

    The 70s= Globla cooling!!!!
    80s= Acid rain!!!!
    Late 80s, early 90s= Ozone layer….the ozone layer!!!!!
    Mid 90= Global warming!!!!!
    2000= Climate Change!!!!!!
    2010= CLIMATE DISRUPTION!!!!!!!

    Enough already!!!!! We understand that Earth Day is celibrated on Comrad Lenon’s birthday!!!!!

  28. #28 tresmal
    November 24, 2010

    @ David N. Brown.
    The Urban Heat Island effect is accounted for.

  29. #29 NJ
    November 24, 2010

    Greg @ 25:

    Enough already!!!!! We understand that Earth Day is celibrated on Comrad Lenon’s birthday!!!!!

    Just looked that up; what an odd coincidence. Given the random all-caps, serial spelling errors, and wildly excessive exclamation points, I’ve gotta figure this guy’s pulling a Poe, and not a very good one at that.

  30. #30 novalox
    November 24, 2010

    @Greg

    The amount of misspellings, exclamation points, conspiracy theories, ad hominem attacks, and overall lack of logic in your posts make me wonder how the heck anyone believes in what you are posting.

  31. #31 purenoiz
    November 24, 2010

    Greg you miserable sack of ignorant bliss. While yes, there was a medieval cooling trend in europe, while the rest of the world was warm. Hence the term GLOBAL, I know that you don’t read or watch anything that actually challenges your pre conceived notion of the world.
    maybe a view of military people saying things that will negate all the crap you believe. When a Rear Admiral of the Navy raises concerns that negate your beliefs, you look like a fucktard my friend.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/greenman3610#p/u/14/cqBURjOdOG8

    http://www.youtube.com/user/greenman3610#p/u/47/hWJeqgG3Tl8

  32. #32 Jonsi
    November 24, 2010

    @Greg 25:

    Interesting how you bring up acid rain and atmospheric ozone depletion: two problems successfully mitigated via international government action, at a much cheaper cost than industry projected, leading to greater profits because they invested in more efficient operations.

    You have the wrong litany.

  33. #33 Composer99
    November 24, 2010

    Posting a link to a denialist website (the Global Warming Policy Foundation) is hardly going to convince people who follow the peer-reviewed literature and the data from the world around us of the correctness of your cause, Greg.

    Per the GWPF features such luminaries as Ian Plimer on its academic advisory. Really? Ian Plimer?

    Give me a break.

    Also, as far as your ‘global cooling’ (with multiple exclamation marks) claim goes, perhaps look at this review of the peer-reviewed literature of the time.

  34. #34 purenoiz
    November 24, 2010

    Hey Greg,

    The boys in tehran might love you for your protection of oil and it’s deniers. You want our boys to come home, starve the oil profiteers, and the madrassas will have no funding to teach 8 year olds to be suicide bombers. I guess everything is okay if you pay our enemies to exist.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_375745&v=vmv3NAO9sRc&feature=iv

  35. #35 purenoiz
    November 24, 2010

    One last thing, you said the
    “What causes Global Warming??? The Sun.
    The sun never puts out the same amount of energy. Case closed!”

    You probably go that misinformation from the Great Global Warming Swindle. You probably forgot that our atmosphere is responsible for keeping the earth 60% warmer than it would be without it. And while the sun does have, they don’t explain the trend of upward warmth. You are obviously passionate, but a good capitalist see’s an opportunity in what we are discussing, not protecting legacy company profits now at the expense of future profits.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/greenman3610#p/u/51/_Sf_UIQYc20

  36. #36 Brett
    November 25, 2010

    Every time some denialist brings up Al Gore in a climate change debate, you should immediately interrupt him/her with “Who gives a shit what Al Gore says? He’s not a climate scientist. Why don’t you debate the science rather than changing the subject?” Just repeat that over and over until they finally realize that they’re not going to get anything out of Ad Hominem attacks on Gore.

    So go ahead and polute all you want, just give us money and it’ll be okay. Another marxist scam.

    I’ll be by in my black helicopter to pick it up. In the mean time, try not to get caught in traffic – that tends to happen to people with room temperature IQs.

    More seriously, you’re full of shit. They’re already compensated for the sun, and it doesn’t explain the warming.

  37. #37 Joseph Hertzlinger
    November 25, 2010

    Speaking as a wingnut, I think “Greg” is an obvious leftist trying to discredit us.

    As for a right-wing response to global warming there are three obvious planks:

    1. Reserve more fossil fuels for the purpose of tarring and feathering anti-nuclear activists.

    2. More carbon burial. This can be done most easily by banning recycling.

    3. Increase global albedo. One plausible way to do this to increase the production of plastic peanuts. When these are washed down to the ocean, they will float and reflect more sunlight.

    I was initially disinclined to take the Global Warming Crisis seriously on the grounds that it was often defended with arguments of the form “They say” instead of “It is.” On the other hand, the non-Warmers have their own version of “They say” (known as the “Petition Project”).

  38. #38 Cousin Achmed.
    November 25, 2010

    Defending Al? Pleaze the turd is an opportunistic dickhead. People can’t stand him for the same reasons they couldn’t stand him when he was the presidential candidate and ought to have won in a landslide. He’s a fake.

  39. #39 Glaxo PharmaBase Orbital
    November 25, 2010

    [holiday] MESSAGE BEGINS———————

    Shills and Minions,

    Just a little reminder to you that your reptilian overlords want the Earth just a tad warmer. Those of you who’ve been up to orbital know that we like it at about 39ºC most of the day, so we certainly don’t want to slow your species down as you careen, white-knuckled and screeching, towards the precipice of climate change.

    Now, I feel just awful about missing this Conrad Lennon’s birthday. Is he important? Lady Astra says that she seems to remember something about him being a famous singing hotelier in the last century. Is that correct? In any case, should we send a card from the crew up here at orbital HQ?

    Anyone with information on the proper protocol for this sort of thing kindly notify Cindy and she’ll send a fruitcake or something.

    Oh, and enjoy your day of creche-gatherings and consuming those large bipedal avian creatures. Really, watching you rip into those things makes us feel almost . . . close, to your species. I said “almost.”

    Remain vigilant. Vigilance brings PharmaRewards.

    ——————–MESSAGE ENDS

    Lord Draconis Zeneca, VC, iH7L
    PharmaCOM Orbital HQ
    0010101101001

  40. #40 Mark P
    November 25, 2010

    Climate change denialists tend to attack, more than anyone else, Al Gore.

    Um, only in the US. And it because he is the political figurehead of the movement. Many “denialists” believe quite strongly that the whole thing is a political beat-up, so go to the source. They argue, without any especial crankiness, that to fight the science without fighting the politics is silly. Just as Greenpeace is a political organisation, not a scientific one, with a similar modus operandi of attacking soft political targets.

    (No doubt some fool will now post trying to get us to believe science is free of politics. If you believe that, I have a bridge for you to buy.)

    You could equally argue that US liberals focus excessively on Sarah Palin. There’s no need to invoke any crank-magnetism when trying to describe the attacks on her. It’s for the same reasons – she’s a buffoon.

    Outside the US Al Gore is a figure of fun anyway, just like Sarah Palin, so attacking him is rather pointless.

    Intriguing Orac that the only time your wander off topic on this blog is AGW. You never argue the science, unlike the other topics. It’s all “settled”. So is the science of homeopathy, yet you are willing to fight that with data. Stick to medicine, I say, it makes you look less grumpy.

  41. #41 Beth
    November 25, 2010

    I heard about AGW (though in different terms) in my first Children’s Yearbook, the one for 1990. One of the first articles was on the greenhouse effect: what it is, what causes it, and what, if we don’t do differently, it’s likely to do. (No mention of Gore.) There’s even a map in the article of predicted changes in average temperature across the US — which made it clear that it would get warmer most places but cooler in others while the article explained that the average temperature of the earth would still be warmer overall. All this in a manner such that an elementary school child could understand. Granted, not nearly as early as these vids, but I’ve known about it for almost 20 years and I can hardly be faulted for not knowing about it earlier — as it was, I learned about AGW before I knew what multiplication was!

  42. #42 JakeS
    November 25, 2010

    @ David N. Brown #24:

    Cars are targeted because they’re low-hanging fruit. The current auto-über-alles transport policy is a one-size-fits-(almost)-nobody solution to the transportation needs of modern society. So reducing automobile emissions has a negative marginal cost to society (but of course a positive marginal cost to the vested interests defending transportation monoculture).

    But the emissions from automobiles will resolve themselves shortly anyway, because the oil that goes into gasoline is gonna go away. Even the International Energy Agency “forecasts” have started showing this (at least when you strip out the most obvious fantasies, such as maximum ramp-up of Iraqi production and an increasing rate of new discoveries). The medium-term problem is coal (although with the newest reserve estimates from China, there may not actually be enough coal in the world to push us into the most pessimistic scenarios either). The long-term problem is deforestation (which, like the overuse of automobiles, is a problem for a whole host of reasons, only one of which is climate change).

    - Jake

  43. #43 Clam
    November 25, 2010

    Back in 1955, my Geography teacher taught us about Global Warming. And most convincingly. Since the early 1930s he habitually holidayed in the Swiss Alps, lugging a 9″ mahogany and brass plate camera and its equally massive tripod to the top of Swiss peaks and taking photographs to illustrate physical geography (corrie, cwm or cirque, hanging valleys, bergschrund – he must have been a good teacher for me to still remember this!). Anyway, he was able to show us photos that he had taken himself of glaciers in the 1930s and the same glaciers in the 1950s. Lo and behold, the latter were markedly shorter.
    When, in 1970, I bought a house near the Somerset Levels, I checked that it was at least 300′ above sea-level because I remembered his warning that if all the ice melted, sea-levels would rise by nearly 100 meters.
    Al Gore, eat your heart out!

  44. #44 who Cares
    November 25, 2010

    @Clam(#39):
    The sad fact that what your teacher showed is just an anecdote. There are myriad of reasons why glaciers in a (small) geographic area are melting in a short, for glaciers, time frame instead of growing.
    What constitutes evidence is that the trend (retreating glaciers) is global and continuous.

    @David N. Brown(#14):
    One of the bigger problems might not be desertfication but the opposite. Take the pole regions, those are deserts. The denialists sometimes use the fact that the growth of the layer of ice is increasing as a point against the science. That is a scary lack of knowledge being shown since the only way that an increase can happen is an increase in precipitation which means that it needs to get warmer at the poles since cold air can contain less water. Which is one of the main reasons the poles are deserts.

  45. #45 Joseph
    November 25, 2010

    The world was warmer in the Medievel Warming peroid then came the Little ice age.

    @Greg: That’s not true, but I’d like to emphasize that’s not the point. It wasn’t warm in 1896, but that didn’t stop Arrhenius.

    Most temperature reconstructions (and there are many, based on different techniques) do not find the MWP to be warmer than today.

    What matters is the warming trend, though. Natural climate change is usually slow.

    Check the ice core data, before every ice age there was a warming period. Maybe we are headed for another ice age?

    If you actually check the ice core data, you’d see that we came out of the last glacial period about 10,000 years ago. We’re in what’s called an interglacial. 20th century warming is an anomalous, fast and recent event, independent of the fact we’re in an interglacial.

  46. #46 Joseph
    November 25, 2010

    What causes Global Warming??? The Sun. The sun never puts out the same amount of energy. Case closed!

    It’s true that the sun never puts out the same amount of energy, but this energy is measurable, and there are reconstructions of solar irradiance going back at least a hundred years.

    It’s also not that difficult to know the effect of changes of solar irradiance alone. Even in Arrhenius’ time, he could do that, because Stefan–Boltzmann Law was already known.

    We’re taking at most 0.2C warming in the 20th century due to changes in solar irradiance.

  47. #47 Doghouse Riley
    November 25, 2010

    Purely scientific issues are things like “Did dinosaurs have feathers?” or “Is Pluto a planet?”.

    What makes AGW a political as well as a scientific issue is of course not the scientific research, but the policy prescriptions that are generated thereby.

    If an increase in people’s energy bill of 20% turned upon the question of whether or not Pluto was a planet, there would be armies of Plutoists and antiPlutoists contesting the issue in every public arena.

    I think the question that the AGW orthodoxy needs to address is not so much “is there AGW” but for each proposed solution (such as the late, unlamented by me, “cap and trade”)….(1) How much of the problem will this solve, and (2) What is the cost of implementing this solution?

    Too much of what I see in supposed measures to counteract AGW have the flavor of “We must do something. This is something. Therefore, we must do this.”

  48. #48 Just Sayin'
    November 25, 2010

    Who knew? Al Gore didn’t invent global warming.

    The only thing Al seems to have invented is the art of being credited with saying he invented things that he didn’t really invent, and didn’t say he did or didn’t invent.

  49. #49 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 25, 2010

    I’ve been convinced of the fundamental physics behind AGW (as it now seems to be known) for some time. However, there’s something I (seriously, honest-to-gosh) haven’t seen an answer to.

    Periodically I see numbers published for the average temperature of the Earth and its trend over n years. I have no reason to doubt that information, but don’t understand what methodology is used to measure it, how that methodology has been validated, and how we know that it is consistent over the years.

    Anyone know?

  50. #50 Joseph
    November 25, 2010

    Periodically I see numbers published for the average temperature of the Earth and its trend over n years. I have no reason to doubt that information, but don’t understand what methodology is used to measure it, how that methodology has been validated, and how we know that it is consistent over the years.

    Temperature is measured by different means, such as thermometers and satellites. Agreement is good. There have also been studies that compare “good” stations with “bad” stations, and so on.

    In the different instrumental record data sets, they often perform adjustments, by looking at nearby stations. For example, if the thermometer is replaced at one station, and there’s a step change, this can be detected statistically. Of course, there are many informal analyses of adjusted vs. unadjusted data. These sorts of things are debated and analyzed all the time on the AGW blogsphere.

  51. #51 Wow
    November 25, 2010

    > IIRC, urban heat islands are not a significant contributor to the overall warming of Earth.

    Indeed, since 99.99999999999999999999% (made up number, but it’s really small) of the earth is urban, that heat island effect would have to be incandescent to change global averages.

    Then there’s the sterling work done at WUWT that shows that if you take out station records for stations in the US that are possibly affected by the UHI effect, the warming trend is, if anything, HIGHER, the role of UHI is accounted for, even over-accounted to underestimate the warming trend.

    David, why are you skeptic about cars but not about UHI?

    As to the effect of fossil fuels, all you have to do is go round all the sellers of oil, coal and gas and ask how much they’ve sold.

    Turn that into CO2 and you find out how big the problem is from those sources.

    For someone claiming skepticism, you seem unwilling to do the work required…

  52. #52 Wow
    November 25, 2010

    > Periodically I see numbers published for the average temperature of the Earth and its trend over n years. … what methodology is used to measure it

    Thermometers.

    And, just like you can measure the average intelligence of a population, the average height, the average birth weight, the average calorie consumption and so on, you can work out the global average by taking lots of different readings that should not be correlated with each other (like picking 10,000 random people from the field of track-and-field sports to work out the calorie intake of the average human).

    > how that methodology has been validated,

    Statistically, like average income.

    Proxies that use different effects (more heatwaves needs more heat on average to arrange).

    Other independent measures like satellite pictures that look at the entire-globe radiation budget. Just like we know the sun’s temperature is 5600K or that indoor light is at 3500K.

    > and how we know that it is consistent over the years.

    It isn’t consistent in measure because the temperature is rising.

    However, if you’re talking about how we know 5C measured today is 5C measured 50 years ago, the physical processes are the same. Mercury’s thermal expansion coefficient hasn’t changed.

  53. #53 NJ
    November 25, 2010

    MarkP @ 37:

    Intriguing Orac that the only time your wander off topic on this blog is AGW.

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/11/skeptoid_disappoints.php

    Blog grok FAIL.

  54. #54 Militant Agnostic
    November 25, 2010

    Intriguing Orac that the only time your wander off topic on this blog is AGW.

    Orac never blogs about non-medical issues such as holocaust denialism, ID/Creationism or 911 conspiracies.

  55. #55 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 25, 2010

    I should have expected that response.

    I understand completely that one measures temperature with a thermometer, and that the scale for temperature has been standardized for some time.

    A thermometer gives a great moment in time temperature of a single location. Yesterday, for example, I traveled about 500 miles. The temperature in my starting point varied between 35 and 37 F that day; in my ending point it varied between 58 and 70 F. I’m sure the point in time temperature of different locations on the surface of the earth vary on the order of 250 F at any one time (from the hottest point to the coldest).

    I can imagine any number of ways that one could average temperature recordings at multiple locations together to get an “average” temperature of the earth. I don’t know which is used, nor how it was determined that that particular method is in fact representative of the actual temperature of the earth. I also don’t know – but am perfectly willing to believe – that the method of collecting that data and creating an average temperature of the earth has been consistent over the years.

  56. #56 Wow
    November 25, 2010

    > I should have expected that response.

    Then why did you ask?

    > A thermometer gives a great moment in time temperature of a single location.

    Indeed it does.

    > I can imagine any number of ways that one could average temperature recordings at multiple locations together to get an “average” temperature of the earth.

    Indeed there is.

    Just like there’s several ways of discerning the temperature of the sun.

    > I don’t know which is used

    Do you make a big problem out of the average income? After all, there’s several ways of calculating that.

    All of which makes naff all difference because when you’re talking about temperatures increasing, all you need to do is make sure you’re using the same one through time.

    > nor how it was determined that that particular method is in fact representative of the actual temperature of the earth.

    See above.

    See also the various temperatures of the sun. Despite that, we know whether the sun is hotter or colder than it was before.

    And it causes no controversy.

    > I also don’t know – but am perfectly willing to believe

    So accept it. Or do you think that since you haven’t checked for monsters in the closet that now they’ve moved in? Do you keep opening the fridge door to see if the light is still working?

    Manufactured doubt.

    You’re using it.

  57. #57 Joseph
    November 25, 2010

    I can imagine any number of ways that one could average temperature recordings at multiple locations together to get an “average” temperature of the earth. I don’t know which is used, nor how it was determined that that particular method is in fact representative of the actual temperature of the earth.

    @Mephistopheles: Initially I thought you were asking how they make sure thermometers don’t have a systematic bias over time, or something like that.

    I happen to know a bit about methods of combining temperature station readings, because I’m the author of an open source tool that does just that: GHCN Processor.

    Typically, you divide the Earth in gridcells, e.g. 10 degreees by 10 degrees. You take the stations in each gridcell and you “average” them out. You don’t just get a simple average, because stations can be at an offset from one another, even if they are close by. There are methods to deal with this problem, such as the temperature anomaly method, the first difference method, the reference station method, and others.

    I have my opinion as to which method is better at producing an abolute measurement average, based on simulations involving hypothetical stations.

    Either way, all the methods produce similar results.

  58. #58 Peter
    November 25, 2010

    While methods and statistics are infinitely debatable, at least to the denialist camp, basic arithmatic is not (OK, maybe to them it is…) If you REALLY want to convince people of the necessity to stop using too much fossil fuels, have them watch this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-QA2rkpBSY

    Fighting Climate Change starts with decent math instruction! Watch the video and you will understand what I mean. It is about steady growth in the consumption rate of a non-renewable resource. It is a real eye-opener and part of the reason I bike to work, even through wind-chills of -30 and worse ;-).

  59. #59 BrianX
    November 25, 2010

    I find the psychology of GW denial to be fascinating — for a lot of people, it’s just uncritical acceptance of an argument from authority, but for a very few it’s from a very cockeyed concept of rationalism. I like to think of it as Brodeurism, after the guy (Paul Brodeur) who started the microwave scare back in the 70s by blowing off the science in favor of assuming his conclusion and going with “cui bono” as his main unifying factor.

    Even more remarkable is the extreme egotism it brings out — vehement, vehement denial that they could possibly be wrong, as well as an unshakeable conviction that climate science is a fraud, with no thought given to the possibility that fraud in climate science would discredit several other areas of science, including big swaths of geology, geophysics, and biology.

  60. #60 Cyclonebuster
    November 25, 2010

    “Underwater Suspension Tunnels” return our climate back to pre-industrial revolution conditions! Still perfecting them though.

  61. #61 BrianX
    November 25, 2010

    Cyclonebuster:

    You watched that episode of Extreme Engineering too, huh?

  62. #62 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 25, 2010

    @Peter,

    Thanks very much – out of curiosity, do you pick a single temperature reading for each cell or integrate all of the temperature readings over the course of a day? I realize it must be kind of a basic question.

    @Wow – if you don’t know, it’s OK for you to say that. If you are simply incapable of explaining, there’s no shame in admitting it.

  63. #63 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 25, 2010

    Then why did you ask?

    Because if you don’t ask you won’t learn. If you do ask, you’ll get harassed over asking and your motives will be questioned, but maybe someone will provide a serious and informative answer. The answer “just accept it” is not a science-based answer.

  64. #64 David N. Brown
    November 25, 2010

    @39: “But the emissions from automobiles will resolve themselves shortly anyway, because the oil that goes into gasoline is gonna go away.”
    I’m not aware of any serious predictions of petroleum reserves running out. But, shortages for any number of reasons can be expected to occur regularly. I suspect that they are and will be a significant factor in getting the public interested in better fuel economy.

    @41: “One of the bigger problems might not be desertfication but the opposite.”
    I think you have garbled things a bit. As you mention, the arctic regions are deserts, as defined by aridity. Expansion of the ice caps can be considered a sign that they are becoming more arid, as more ice means less water circulating as precipitation.

    @48: “the sterling work done at WUWT that shows that if you take out station records for stations in the US that are possibly affected by the UHI effect, the warming trend is, if anything, HIGHER”
    That could be because UHIs have a cooling effect on immediately surrounding areas, due to deflection of cool and/or moist air.

  65. #65 Stuart
    November 26, 2010

    I watched a BBC documentary recently where the last ice age was explained by virtue of the way that the earth rotates on its axis and also its path changes so consequently the different amount of direct exposure that parts/or all of the earth get to the heat of the sun.

    According to the program the earth is due to enter the part of its cycle where it is further away from the sun and the last time that happened the earth experienced an ice age.

    Maybe, just maybe, however unintentionally, global warming may just save the day.

  66. #66 Barry
    November 26, 2010

    Yes, the idea itself is quite old.

  67. #67 David N. Brown
    November 26, 2010

    Also, @39:
    “The long-term problem is deforestation (which, like the overuse of automobiles, is a problem for a whole host of reasons, only one of which is climate change).”
    I would consider deforestation equivalent to “desertification”, as both involve the destruction of vegetation, whether it’s by immediate natural causes, human development, or combinations thereof. It makes a big difference in temperature.

  68. #68 Ender
    November 26, 2010

    Wow, you’re embarrassing yourself. Why go through his comment in a pedantic and annoying manner if you’re not going to answer the question?

  69. #69 Joseph
    November 26, 2010

    Thanks very much – out of curiosity, do you pick a single temperature reading for each cell or integrate all of the temperature readings over the course of a day?

    @Mephistopheles: Temperature datasets normally contain monthly data. GHCN contains max, min, and mean for every month. I understand the max is the average of the daily maximums, the min is the average of the daily minimums, and mean is the average of the daily min-max average.

  70. #70 adelady
    November 26, 2010

    This page at NOAA gives a basic introduction on temperature records – lots of links to get to any specific info you need. http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cmb-faq/anomalies.html

    NASA-GISS has similar overviews if you’re interested.

  71. #72 Composer99
    November 26, 2010

    Stuart, the issue is the rate of change imposed by global warming, which is, as best we can read the geological record, unprecedented – and leading to baleful consequences for humans and other species.

    Emitting carbon to warm the Earth to fend off glaciation might be a good idea. However, even without global warming we’d at least ten thousand years away from glaciation, and we’d only need to maintain a CO2 concentration of 280-300 ppm in the atmosphere to counteract the orbital shifts that would result in glaciation.

    As it stands, we’re hitting 400 ppm CO2 if we’re not already over it and going up approximately 3 ppm per year.

  72. #73 LW
    November 26, 2010

    “Indeed, since 99.99999999999999999999% (made up number, but it’s really small) of the earth is urban, that heat island effect would have to be incandescent to change global averages”

    Wow, if you’re going to be offensively pedantic to Mephistopheles … sauce for the goose and all that I seriously doubt that every square millimeter of the planet is urban. Maybe you should review the definition of a percentage.

  73. #74 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 26, 2010

    @Peter – thanks very much. That’s good to know.

  74. #75 JakeS
    November 26, 2010

    I’m not aware of any serious predictions of petroleum reserves running out.

    The link in my name goes to a figure made by the International Energy Agency, that we had a little fun with over at European Tribune. A substantial part of the “to be developed or discovered” figure is from Iraq or deep sea fields – so that’s not gonna happen in the real world, at least not on the sort of time scales involved here.

    I think you have garbled things a bit. As you mention, the arctic regions are deserts, as defined by aridity. Expansion of the ice caps can be considered a sign that they are becoming more arid, as more ice means less water circulating as precipitation.

    On the contrary. Ice does not evaporate from the high Arctic, it slides out. So increasing ice in the high Arctic can only come from increased snowfall, which can only happen if the air is more humid when it comes in.

    the sterling work done at WUWT that shows that if you take out station records for stations in the US that are possibly affected by the UHI effect, the warming trend is, if anything, HIGHER

    That could be because UHIs have a cooling effect on immediately surrounding areas, due to deflection of cool and/or moist air.

    Doesn’t work that way. Urban heat islands are not big enough to affect wind and cloud formation on a continent-wide scale.

    According to the program the earth is due to enter the part of its cycle where it is further away from the sun and the last time that happened the earth experienced an ice age.

    Maybe, just maybe, however unintentionally, global warming may just save the day.

    Newsies don’t understand time scales, exhibit one million.

    Anthropogenic global warming has a time scale on the order of a hundred years. Milankovitch cycles have a time scale of roughly thirty thousand years.

    - Jake

  75. #76 Joseph
    November 26, 2010

    Milankovitch cycles have a time scale of roughly thirty thousand years.

    Additionaly, Milankovitch cycles by themselves can’t do very much. They need feedback from albedo and greenhouse gases. So if the CO2 concentration is stable at, say, 600 ppm at some point in the future, Milankovitch won’t save the day.

  76. #77 LW
    November 26, 2010

    “Expansion of the ice caps can be considered a sign that they are becoming more arid, as more ice means less water circulating as precipitation.” Could this be referring to the fact that during a glacial period the world as a whole becomes more arid because so much water is tied up in the continental glaciers? I’ve read that that’s a fact; feel free to correct me if that’s not how it works.

  77. #78 David N. Brown
    November 26, 2010

    @72:
    “A substantial part of the “to be developed or discovered” figure is from Iraq or deep sea fields – so that’s not gonna happen in the real world, at least not on the sort of time scales involved here.”
    A real problem, to be sure. I think the best way to put it is that, even if the estimates are accepted or at least considered in good faith, there are issues (esp. political and technological) with accessing them.

    “Urban heat islands are not big enough to affect wind and cloud formation on a continent-wide scale.”
    I’m not saying a heat island could have truly continental effects, but it seems at least plausible that the effects could extend well beyond the urban center. With enough heat islands, and especially with additional aggravating factors, large scale results could occur.

    @74:
    “Could this be referring to the fact that during a glacial period the world as a whole becomes more arid because so much water is tied up in the continental glaciers?”
    Over an extended period of time, that is what would occur.

  78. #79 JakeS
    November 27, 2010

    It takes a year and a half to get financing for a major energy project, and two to five years to build it. So Iraqis have to stop shooting at each other and at foreigners tomorrow, and deep-sea drilling has to become technically feasible by the end of the decade (or some combination) for those forecasts to actually happen on schedule. And then only the first half of the forecast, because the second half features accelerating new discoveries. And new discoveries have been declining for a long time.

    Peak Oil: Coming to a gas station near you.

    - Jake

  79. #80 dedicated lurker
    November 27, 2010

    I’m stil wondering who Conrad Lennon is. The illegitimate child of John Lennon?

  80. #81 stigger
    November 27, 2010

    @78: Conrad Lennon is the chief financial officer for Tasmanian water and sewerage corporation

  81. #82 adelady
    November 28, 2010

    David – UHI continent-wide effects? Remember always that the continents occupy only 30% of the earth’s surface, 70% is ocean.

    Most importantly, UHI issues of temperature recording cannot affect satellite measurements of temperature. One thing that many people also forget about urban centres is that they’re a bit like climate generally – the effects are complicated by various offsets. Albedo in particular is often much higher in cities with concrete paving or metal roofs on its factories and warehouses than it was when the same area was previously covered by woodland or grassland.

  82. #83 Ron
    November 28, 2010

    @Greg-as is usual for deniers, you do not really read what you use for backup of your specious claims. You linked to an interview of ‘German economist and IPCC official Ottmar Edenhofer’. But the gist of his interview does not support the very headline on the article. He is calling for rationality and a realization that we cannot just tell the rest of the world to ‘stop what you’re doing’.

    “there is always the risk that individual rationality leads to collective stupidity. Therefore, one cannot solve the climate problem alone, but it has to be linked to other problems. There must be penalties and incentives: global CO 2-tariffs and technology transfer.”

    You and others tend to just look at this as ‘redistribution of wealth.’ like it’s a big plot by a group of overlords in some fancy bunker somewhere in the world. It’s so easy to buy into that conspiracy nonsense because 1- you don’t have to do anything, it’s under someone else’s control, and
    2, the big one- by ‘discovering’ the plot, you can act like you’re smarter than the average bear. Others have not seen it, but you have, even if you have no expertise or schooling. oh what a wonderful mind!
    Another quote from the very article you use wrongly.

    “a parable: A group of hikers, who represent the world community, walks through a desert. The industrialized nations drink half of the water and then say generously: “Let us share the rest.” The others reply: “This is not possible; you have already drunk half of the water. Let us talk first about your historical responsibility.” I think if we are arguing about the water supply because we cannot agree on the ethical principles, then we will die of thirst. What we need to look for is an oasis that is the non-carbon global economy. It’s about the common departure for this oasis.”

    Developed nations have been using the world as their piggy bank and toilet at the same time. Now that some others are trying to develop, instead of finding innovative ways to bring up their standards without adding to the cesspool, some of us run under the umbrella of world conspiracies and deny that gravity exists.

  83. #84 David N. Brown
    November 28, 2010

    @80:
    Calling paving an offset is counterintuitive at best. Asphalt, in particular, is extremely effective in absorbing heat. I have seen footage from infrared cameras where asphalt glows from released heat. This is the most likely reason why UHI effects are greatest for nighttime temperatures.

  84. #85 adelady
    November 28, 2010

    Now, now, David – did you see the word -concrete-?

    And when we’re talking offsets, look at a factory or other large complex. For albedo effects, I’d rather expect that the near white of a galvanised iron roof would be equal and opposite to that of the same area of near black asphalt parking lot. And thereby neutral in total albedo effect. If part or all of the parking area were concrete or pale dusty dirt instead of asphalt, then that would increase the average albedo of the whole area considerably.

    When it comes to city and suburban streets, you’ll find in many places that asphalt roads have pale concrete paths running beside them which often cross over to concrete driveways on private property. Judging total or net albedo for a city environment is not the easy, slam-dunk conclusion many people think.

    And there are just as many other complications for other effects, like dust, moisture, and the rest.

    Just take the satellite measurements for temperature as reliable. If anyone wants to affect the _local_ environment, then all those things like painting roofs white or planting more trees should be considered as sensible first steps.

  85. #86 Harry Eagar
    November 28, 2010

    Orac, you badly underestimate how much we denialists disesteem James Hansen.

    Gore is a greedy crackpot with no claims to scientific relevance. Hansen is a gloryhound with claims to scientific relevance. Making fun of Gore is sport. Poking holes in Hansen’s claims is serious business.

    Edward Lorenz once said (in the Danz Lectures, which it would do you a heap of good to read) he couldn’t estimate whether climate is mathematically chaotic or not. You will, no doubt, recognize why this statement from this man is significant.

    Running off models before knowing whether the system is susceptible to modeling is not really science. You can get any result you want that way.

  86. #88 Joseph
    November 29, 2010

    Running off models before knowing whether the system is susceptible to modeling is not really science. You can get any result you want that way.

    Much of science is based on models. Evolution – that’s a model of how the frequency of alleles change depending on the probability of reproduction given adaptation. In medicine, there are all sorts of models, e.g. tumor growth models.

    Don’t tell me models don’t work. Even simple models (e.g. linear regression) work better than random chance predictions. Models work even better if they are based on the laws of physics and lab-derived data, as climate models typically are.

  87. #89 Yojimbo
    November 29, 2010

    I’m late to the table, but I had to note that @Greg uses one of my all-time favorite arguments, which is to string together some garbled misinformation and then announce “Case closed!” His problem is that he doesn’t apply the Bellman’s Rule: “…what I tell you three times, is true!”

    Everyone knows that if you assert something forcefully and repeat it enough it becomes fact.

  88. #90 Harry Eagar
    November 29, 2010

    Hindcasting against an unknown base. I am not impressed.

    Did you ever ask yourself how Hansen knows so precisely what the global surface temperature was back when most of the globe was unobserved?

    Just under this comment, I see a map showing where people are logged on. It’s a fairly close fit to where there were surface observations back around 1880, where Hansen sets his base. The interesting thing is, most of the globe was unobserved.

  89. #91 BrianX
    November 30, 2010

    Harry:

    Assuming your conclusion is generally considered a logical fallacy.

  90. #92 Harry Eagar
    December 2, 2010

    What conclusion do you imagine I have assumed?

    It is a fact that Hansen claims to have a temperature series back to 1880, and that it cannot be global, since most of the globe was unobserved then, and for many decades after.

    What data do you think Hansen was using?

  91. #93 trrll
    December 12, 2010

    It is a fact that Hansen claims to have a temperature series back to 1880, and that it cannot be global, since most of the globe was unobserved then, and for many decades after.
    What data do you think Hansen was using?

    This is the sort of comment that really reveals the crank nature of AGW denial. Note the implication that Hansen is somehow dishonestly “claiming” to have a temperature series that cannot exist. Of course, Hansen’s temperature reconstructions are derived from peer reviewed publications in the scientific literature, which are required to include a detailed description of methods, along with their uncertainties and weaknesses. Indeed, there is a huge literature devoted to indirectly inferring temperatures where no direct observations exist. But rather than attempt to understand and honestly critique those methods, the crank resorts to insinuations of impropriety

  92. #94 Joseph
    December 12, 2010

    GHCN contains temperature data all the way back to 1880. Of course, you don’t have data from all the stations that far back. The farther back you go, the less stations that report, and the data is, of course, more biased to North America and Europe.

    There are some stations from the Southern Hemisphere, nonetheless, that report far back. And note that temperature averages are area-weighted (as opposed to station-weighted.) Yes, it would be best, statistically, to have data from all stations going back to 1880, but data doesn’t have to be perfect to be usable.

  93. #95 Estela Conelly
    September 1, 2011

    I really want to recycle but my apt complex doesnt have any options. Where do i go?.

  94. #96 Chris
    September 1, 2011

    Estela Conelly, well not to a several month old blog posting.

    Have you looked up drop off places in your community? There are several places where I live that actually pay for aluminum cans, paper and such. Have you called your city’s utility department?

    Or move to a city that has an ordinance requiring apartments to recycle.

  95. #97 Chris
    September 1, 2011

    Call your community’s waste management department.

  96. #98 SLC
    September 1, 2011

    Re David Brown @ #14

    Actually, automotive emissions are considerably less important then the contribution from coal burning power plants. CO(2) emissions from coal burning power plants in the US account for about 47% of the total US emissions. This doesn’t include the CO(2) from the diesel powered locomotives that haul freight cars full of coal from the mines to the power plants.

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