“There is no question that climate change is happening; the only arguable point is what part humans are playing in it.” –David Attenborough

If you had never heard of global warming before, how would you figure out whether it was happening, whether humans played a role, and what the magnitude of it was?

Image credit: NASA, Johnson Space Center, Apollo 17 crew.

Image credit: NASA, Johnson Space Center, Apollo 17 crew.

Thankfully, we already have all of the scientific pieces in place, we just need for them to be put together in a way that we can understand it. What follows below is my attempt to do exactly that, with plenty of help from the planetary, atmospheric and climate science communities.

Image credit: Levitus et al., Geophysical Research Letters, 2012. S. Levitus.

Image credit: Levitus et al., Geophysical Research Letters, 2012. S. Levitus.

Go and read the whole thing.

Comments

  1. #1 John Duffield
    April 4, 2014

    “It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything about global warming…”

    Nearly a whole month. See this. But it’s been 5+ months since I cut my lawn. And Chicago has had its coldest winter on record.

    IMHO you should stick to cosmology Ethan. And IMHO you should also stop peddling the multiverse.

  2. #2 dean
    April 4, 2014

    John, it is amazing that there is a topic you are less knowledgeable about than relativity, but climate change seems to be it.

    How is you ridiculous statement about Chicago’s weather relevant in any way to climate?

    Never mind, we don’t need any more foolishness from you.

  3. #3 Doug
    April 4, 2014

    The winter of 2012 was Chicago’s warmest on record. So what? Weather is not climate and Chicago is not the whole world.

  4. #4 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    April 4, 2014

    @dean #2: Mr. Duffield is (especially when you read his posts on several other science Websites) a decent example of crank magnetism.

  5. #5 veyd
    bucuresti
    April 4, 2014

    while i’ve long accepted that rising climate temperature is an ongoing and scientific fact, it’s also been a long time since i had any interest of reading any more about it.
    i’m not an activist and there is not very much we can do as individuals about this

    so i was going to skip this one too, but the explanation involving the planets was such an interesting twist, i just had to read on..

    amazing talent!

  6. #6 Mark
    K-town
    April 4, 2014

    Re-explained in yet, a new way… now to get the governments of our only world to understand.

  7. #7 Dale
    April 4, 2014

    “i’m not an activist and there is not very much we can do as individuals about this”

    We don’t have to do this as individuals. Become an activist.

  8. #8 Stephen Spencer
    Melbourne, Australia
    April 4, 2014

    I love your blog, Ethan, I check almost daily to see if there are any new posts.

    Thanks for this interesting astrophysical approach to Global Warming.

    I had expected lots of anti-science ideologues in the comments denouncing you. As I write this only one has appeared.

    As far as I can see the only way of getting the message out is to keep talking about the science. Keep up the good work.

  9. #9 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    April 4, 2014

    @Stephen Spencer #8: No anti-science ideologues yet :-) Cranks, yes, but solidly pro-science cranks.

  10. #10 Lotharloo
    April 5, 2014

    My hope is that one day I’ll read an article about AGW without a silly science-denying crank comment in the first top ten.

    I really like Ethan’s explanations. It is a stake in the heart of brainless zombies who reject science in the name of politics. In fact, every time I meed a crank, I’ll tell them the story of Venus vs Mercury.

  11. #11 John Duffield
    April 5, 2014

    Dean #2: my statement about Chicago’s coldest winter on record was utterly relevant. If it had its hottest summer on record you wouldn’t dismiss that as mere weather.

    Stephen #8: I’m not anti-science. I’m pro-science. And I’m against governments taking money away from science and giving it to renewable energy that isn’t going to work when the wind doesn’t blow. You can’t do science by candlelight.

    @Michael #4: I’m no crank, and you know it. You had to admit I was correct about the point particles here. Don’t come crying to me when you lose your funding because it gets redirected to renewables.

  12. #12 dean
    April 5, 2014

    If it had its hottest summer on record you wouldn’t dismiss that as mere weather.

    That is a load of crap John – although I’m sure you believe it. If I thought mentioning a year in which the weather was warmest in recent history would be a reasonable rebuttal I would have made it. Apparently that is too complicated for you to think about. Doug’s reference illustrates that idea.

    The point you made has no relevance to climate at all, as everyone except you can see. Stamp your foot as hard as you want in faux outrage: your comment was far from relevant, to the point of being silly.

  13. #13 dean
    April 5, 2014

    Lest it somehow be taken that I was belittling Doug’s comment: My intent was to reinforce the idea that identifying a recent year in Chicago as unusually warm would say no more about long-term climate than identifying one that was cold – that is exactly what he did.

    John, maybe you should study topics instead of just looking at the words used.

  14. #14 dean
    April 5, 2014

    And if bounds of civility were bent in my recent posts – apologies. I do not appreciate the implication about me made in 11, and typed in haste.

  15. #15 Doug
    April 5, 2014

    Dean — not problem. You took it the way I intended it. I am a climate scientist — a bioclimatologist to be precise. I used to be a bit of an AGW skeptic, myself. However, I can’t maintain that position anymore. The key flaw in the denialist argument is that it cannot identify another viable mechanism to explain the current temperature increases. Once you’ve eliminated all the other potential causes, you’ve got to go with the one that’s left. Increased greenhouse gases is the only explanation that’s still standing. Incidently, I love this blog. Was an astronomy major as an undergrad, but switched to atmospheric science for grad school. this blog makes me occasionally regret that choice!

  16. #16 Ragtag Media
    August 4, 2015

    SCIENTIST, do you support the ‘secret science’ reform act?
    You should here is why:

    “EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy took a drumming yesterday (Couple weeks ago) when she refused to release the ‘secret science’ her agency used when drafting new regulations.”

    “Rep. Smith also quoted Obama’s science adviser, John Holdren, saying “The data on which regulatory decisions are based should be made available to the committee and should be made public. Why don’t you agree with the president’s science adviser?” McCarthy replied that while she supports transparency in the regulatory process, the bill would make public the personal information of the people working on the science.

    Smith reiterated that in his secret science reform act, personal information would be redacted but the underlying studies and data that are being used to justify costly regulations would be made public so that other scientists and the American people can review it. This is especially important as the EPA has a 60-day comment period after a new proposal is issued, but the science behind the new regulations is not included. Smith’s new bill would rectify that issue.”

    “McCarthy also said she “doesn’t actually need the raw data in order to develop science. That’s not how it’s done.”
    http://www.examiner.com/article/epa-head-we-don-t-need-to-justify-our-regulations-with-data

    So we have our secret science data that grants us power to regulate how ever we feel all in the name of a lower global temperatures 1/100 of a degree
    This is what happens when Science becomes politicized

  17. #17 Wow
    August 4, 2015

    “SCIENTIST, do you support the ‘secret science’ reform act?”

    No.Why? Because it’s government interference. It doesn’t produce anything that isn’t already the case and is grandstanding and harassment because science isn’t giving the answers the politicians want.

    “So we have our secret science data ”

    Ask GSK or Monsato about secret science data.

    Climate data?

    Despite it being available for 20 years, including models, deniers still whine and bitch that the data is secret.

    It’s not secret, it’s just you’re too lazy to do any damn work. Doubly so when your rhetoric and bullshit is skewered by the facts.

  18. #18 Wow
    August 4, 2015

    When it comes to secret data, what about all those republicans who killed bills making some small amount of transparency on political donations in secret and are introducing two more that will kill even the owners of the companies themselves (the shareholders) from being told what money is being spent where for lobbying?

    Strangely silent there, aren’t you?

  19. #19 Denier
    United States
    August 4, 2015

    @Wow #18

    There is a huge difference there. The scientific method is supposed to be open and transparent. Papers are pier reviewed then published. Methods are detailed so other scientists can duplicate and possibly build on the results. Open. Open. Open.

    Ballots are secret to prevent voter intimidation.

    This conversation is a little like Ragtag bringing attention to a group of motorist going through intersections when the light is red, only to have you counter that in other places motorist are going through the intersections during green lights.

    Science should be open. Ballots should be closed.

  20. #20 Wow
    August 4, 2015

    “The scientific method is supposed to be open and transparent.”

    It is.

    Just because you’re being told by idiots that there’s a conspiracy doesn’t mean there IS a conspiracy.

    “Ballots are secret to prevent voter intimidation.”

    Who the hell is talking about ballots? I’m talking about payments to politicians. You know, bribing.

    And don’t give me “Oh, it’s no tillegal, it’s speech, as per Supreme Court” because the ruling there they said that the payments would be fine because everyone could see who paid what to who for their vote and that would inform people of who to distrust and who to stop buying from.

    Now they want to make sure that nobody can find out.

    Not ballots.

    Bribes.

    DO get with the program.

    OR is this your way of pretending you’re not massively hypocritical here?

  21. #21 Ragtag Media
    August 4, 2015

    Well looky who’s JAQing Off Now:

    “Ask GSK or Monsato about secret science data.

    Climate data?

    Despite it being available for 20 years, including models, deniers still whine and bitch that the data is secret.

    It’s not secret, it’s just you’re too lazy to do any damn work. Doubly so when your rhetoric and bullshit is skewered by the facts.”

    She has “HER” departments FACTS FUCK FACE she just won’t release them.
    “Rep. Smith: “But why don’t you give us the data you have and why can’t you get that data you do have? Surely you have the data that you based the regulations on?”
    McCarthy: “EPA actually has the authority and the need to actually get information that we have provided to you.”
    Rep. Smith: “You’re saying you can’t give us the information because it is personal and then you’re saying you don’t have the information. Which is it?”
    McCarthy: “There is much information we don’t have the authority to release.”
    “The scientific method is supposed to be open and transparent.”
    “It is.

    Just because you’re being told by idiots that there’s a conspiracy doesn’t mean there IS a conspiracy.”

    No It’s NOT Retard, it’s being politicized, and you are being snookered willfully which brings any other point you make on these topics suspect to that of an ideologue.

    “When it comes to secret data, what about all those republicans who killed bills making some small amount of transparency on political donations in secret and are introducing two more that will kill even the owners of the companies themselves (the shareholders) from being told what money is being spent where for lobbying?

    Strangely silent there, aren’t you?”

    Obfuscate VIA CONJECTURE!!!!
    I bring FACTS you bring conjecture, but I am willing to take a look and call the spades spades if fitting, something your in-capable of.

    Conspiracy??
    What do you make of this:
    EPA colluded with environmental groups on new climate rules, GOP report finds
    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/epa-colluded-with-environmental-groups-on-new-climate-rules-gop-report-finds/article/2569539

    Be objective, go on.. Or piss and moan GOP REPORT.

    Did you take any course in college on small group communication? I doubt it because you lack an understanding of “GROUP THINK”.

  22. #22 Ragtag Media
    August 4, 2015

    And YES JAQing off, Just ASSclowning the Questions.

  23. #23 Wow
    August 5, 2015

    ““Ask GSK or Monsato about secret science data.

    Climate data?”

    Yup, you’re JAQing off.

    What science does GSK or Monsato do? It isn’t climate, is it, moron, no, it’s MEDICAL science, isn’t it, shithead? Yes, it is.

    But is their data open and available to all?

    Hell no.

    But that’s not why you want this witchunt: you want climate science to be “disproven” and you’ll go for insinuation that it’s faked because, frankly, you moron deniers relly don’t have any reality on your side.

    So despite science data being hidden by GSK and Monsato, you only want climate data to be available.

    But, as usual, your demands are fake, because the data IS available.

    Ask BEST.

    Oh, no, you don’t want to. Because if you looked and found what you’re demanding (which you can), you’d no longer be able to insinuate that it’s faked because the data isn’t open.

    Because you’d have the data you’d said wasn’t available.

    So you don’t even look.

    Or even just PRETEND you haven’t.

    “She has “HER” departments FACTS FUCK FACE she just won’t release them.”

    She won’t have any “facts fuck face”. So not releasing that thing that doesn’t exist is inevitable and not even possible.

    And who *is* “her”?

    “No It’s NOT Retard, it’s being politicized”

    Yes, you moron, YOU are politicising it. Because you haven’t got any reality on your side.

    See, for example, the moronic political hackery of this “Open Data Act”. You do realise that it’s politicians doing political things, right?

    But goodness you really DO hate life, don’t you?

    “Obfuscate VIA CONJECTURE!!!!
    I bring FACTS you bring conjecture,”

    Nope, you’re bringing insinuation and claim of fraud, much like all deniers, without any evidence, just assumption.

    Meanwhile, it is a fact that, for example, the Kock brothers have spent several hundred million already on the republican candidates, and the HI is there as a lobbying tool to funnel dark money.

    It is a FACT that Obama is trying to bring out a law to make the IRS force disclosures of tax relief “charitable donations” that are going to political lobbying and the republicans blocked this initiative.

    It is a FACT that there are two more bills to make it definitively legal to refuse to tell your company owners where you’re spending their money on political lobbying.

    Those are facts, moron.

    But you’re strangely violently vituperative in your attempts to distract from these facts with your “SQUIRREL!!!!” moment here.

    Because you’re a fucking idiot and you have been told that environmentalists want to take your money and you HATE that. You want it all for yourself.

    Greed. The root of all evil.

    “EPA colluded with environmental groups on new climate rules, GOP report finds”

    What do I make of it?

    It’s a load of bollocks made up by moronic shitheads given power by other moronic shitheads like yourself that makes a claim that you already believed because you’re, as said before,a moronic shithead overwhelmed with greed.

    It’s a load of fiction.

    Just like the “IRS is attacking RightWingSupporter charities”. Which was complete and utter bollocks. They were upholding the law. And they were investigating as many or more “LEFT WING” charities.

    And just like the hatchet job against Planned Parenthood, where they edit the shit out of the video taken to make it appear like they kill babies for money. And, despite all you fuckwits being the same shit-for-brains morons that “defended” the Apache helicopter pilot with “But you don’t know what Wikileaks edited out!”, not one peep on the edited footage here.

    Why?

    Because you WANT it to be true.

  24. #26 Wow
    August 5, 2015

    Mind you, your link to the examiner shows how insane you nutbar deniers are:

    McCarthy: we have just reached levels of 400 parts per million.

    Opinionated idiot: As previously reported here, carbon dioxide levels reached a global level of 400 parts per million (ppm)

    Opinionated idiot decries: This is not the first time McCarthy has flunked knowing basic science.

    Also claims “even though global temperatures have not risen for nearly 19 years.”

    Despite having to link to the denier blog to “prove” that. Because it’s a lie. Basically.

    Damn you’re a bunch of retards.

  25. #27 Wow
    August 5, 2015

    “Be objective, go on.. Or piss and moan GOP REPORT.”

    But it’s been politicised. Funny how you whine about how climate science must be bad or wrong “because it’s been politicised”, but when a political report that is inherently politicised comes out in your favour, you’re all “Oh, but you’ll just piss and moan about how it’s GOP!”.

    Sorry, are the only political claims allowed to be true GOP ones?

    How?
    And if all you’re doing is trying to prove the GOP claim it, then OK, that link is proof.

    However, the proof of the claim being factually correct is nonexistent.

  26. #28 Ragtag Media
    August 5, 2015

    Keep bloviating about only the GOP politicizing this issue and you dig your hole deeper:
    McCarthy?
    Prof. Roger Pielke, Jr, I am Under “Investigation”
    https://theclimatefix.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/i-am-under-investigation/
    But do go on…

    You rail on about GSK & Monsanto.
    Your, so isolated in your socialist womb you obviously don’t know the difference between a corporation and a bloody GOVT body.
    You don’t have to buy, plant, or eat Monsanto’s corn and you can tell them to piss off, they can’t use force and jail you.
    The GOVT CAN you idiot twit.

    Koch Brothers?
    You conveniently always fail at mentioning people like Tom Steyer.
    I wonder why, is it perhaps that you have swallowed your own political load of bollocks and it is causing self denial on a grand scale?
    Tom Steyer..Go on:
    “For those unfamiliar with Steyer, he’s the billionaire behind NextGen Climate Change who has promised $100 million to Democrats in the midterm elections. Some have called him the Democrats’ Koch brothers of the election cycle.”

    Tells us about Al Gore, the failure at a presidential bid so he has to leave his shit stain on the world one way or another. the whole ” our planet has a fever” bull shit and sells out to Al Jazeera, the cable channel funded in part by oil-rich Qatar.
    Better yet, let Jeff Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean at the Yale School of Management, who studies corporate governance. tell us:
    “It’s reeking with irony,” “It seems to be at least a paradox in terms of his positions on sustainability and geopolitics.”

    OH No, in your unicorn and fairy filled world only the GOP is all about politics.

    You have been had by a fad old chap.

  27. #29 Wow
    August 5, 2015

    “Keep bloviating about only the GOP politicizing this issue ”

    You misspelt “informing”. Of course, you already knew, but you LIKE it.

    “You rail on about GSK & Monsanto.”

    And you keep avoiding it.

    “The GOVT CAN you idiot twit.”

    So can big business.

    Worse, business can ensure that you die homeless and out of work. Government can’t do that.

    “Koch Brothers?”

    Yes, you know, billionaires that spent near a billion on buying politicians.

    “Tells us about Al Gore”

    Yeah, sorry, what does that have to do with purchasing politicians? What does it have to do with making sure that the money spent on bribes can’t be traced?

    Nothing.

    So, you don’t care about open science data.

    You don’t care about open government.

    You only demand the death of everyone who doesn’t agree with you.

    Psycho.

  28. #30 Wow
    August 5, 2015

    “Prof. Roger Pielke, Jr, I am Under “Investigation””

    Yes.

    Because when you break the rules you get investigated.

    Just like Michael Mann.

    However, unlike Michael Mann, Rog here hasn’t been found innocent.

  29. #31 Ragtag Media
    August 5, 2015

    Lie, Obfuscate and Deflect.. Surly you can do better.

  30. #32 Wow
    August 6, 2015

    What lie? He DID break the rules. Sources of funding by deniers has been lied to by congress to them before.

    Funding transparency is all part of the same”Open Science” that you started bleating on about.

    Yet somehow it shouldn’t be open if it’s going to expose the deniers’ motivations for their lies.

    Indeed that was an obfuscation there in an attempt to deflect the point, and by promoting it on to me in error, it was a lie.

    Gosh. Projection. Who’d a thunk it?