Telegraph takes lead from Australian

The Australian has fallen well behind in the race for the 2009 ward for most consistently wrong media outlet. They've published a piece by Mike Steketee that debunks common denialist arguments. He points out the difference between long and short term trends, that the Oregon petition is very light on climatologists and that climate models have got it right:

Neville Nicholls, of Monash University's School of Geography and Environmental Science, has been studying climate change and climate variability for 35 years and his advice has been drawn on by the IPCC. He says it is basic laboratory physics that increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere produces warming. "A paper published in 1972 by the director of research at the UK Meteorological Office, John Sawyer, predicted that the world would warm about 0.6C by the end of the century," he says. "That was remarkably close to correct: the warming we actually got was about half a degree. There were a handful of people studying the subject at the time and there already was a consensus that doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would lead to warming of 2C-3C. That is pretty well what the consensus is after another 36 years of research."

I expect they'll balance this with a Bob Carter piece in a few days, but for now, well done.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph has published this witless piece by Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent

Greenhouse gases could have caused an ice age, claim scientists

Researchers at the University of Birmingham found that 630 million years ago the earth had a warm atmosphere full of carbon dioxide but was completely covered with ice. ...

Such glaciation could happen again if global warming is not curbed, the university's school of geography, earth and environmental sciences warned.

While pollution in the air is thought to trap the sun's heat in the atmosphere, causing the planet to heat up, this new research suggests it could also have the opposite effect reflecting rays back into space. ...

Dr Ian Fairchild, lead investigator,

is probably tearing his hair out right now. I found the story from Press Association that Alleyne likely rewrote:

Scientists at the University of Birmingham studied 630 million-year-old limestones and found evidence that even large amounts of greenhouse gas could not stop severe ice and snow conditions occurring.

This could only have happened if the planet was nearly all covered in ice, researchers said.

Scientists at the university's school of geography, earth and environmental sciences, warned that such glaciation could happen again if technology was wrongly used.

If Earth's atmosphere reflected too much solar radiation - a process that could be triggered by a nuclear war - or if too many particles of sulphate were pumped into the atmosphere through industrial pollution or volcanic activity, similar conditions could occur again, they said.

So they said that you could have an ice planet despite large amounts of greenhouse gas, and Alleyne turned that the "despite" into "because of".

Update: Ian Fairchild replies to my question

your are right, the report sadly does garble what we say and essentially has confused greenhouse gases and sulphate aerosols. We've a web page which gives a fuller story.

From that page:

A paper published by Science on 2 January 2009 (Bao et al., 2009) is the latest and perhaps most significant development in Ian Fairchild's collaborative research over the past 30 years on Precambrian ice ages and their associated carbonate rocks. The paper comes up with a new line of evidence to support a key, but counter-intuitive prediction of Snowball Earth theory: that carbon dioxide levels were high in the Earth's atmosphere during an ancient ice age. During a Snowball event you can think of the Earth as being like a baked Alaska pudding - hot on the outside surrounding a cold middle (ice-cream in the case of the pudding). This strange situation arises if the Earth is largely covered in ice and snow in contact with an atmosphere rich in greenhouse gases in which heat is trapped. The covering of ice and snow stops rocks being weathered by carbon dioxide: weathering is the key process that uses up this gas which is continuously released into the atmosphere from volcanoes. So, during an extreme glaciation (probably triggered by low levels of greenhouse gas in the first place), levels of carbon dioxide progressively rose to unusually high levels (Hoffman et al., 1998).

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> > Dr Ian Fairchild, lead investigator,

> is probably tearing his hair out right now.

No matter. In a few months' time (or a few weeks', if he's lucky), Dr. Fairchild will find himself appearing as a 'signatory' in some random 'petition' to stop greenhouse gas regulation.

And then, when he comes out to set the record straight, the 'skeptical' whackos will claim that it's due to coercion by the Climate Inquisition. And then they'll continue to tout his name in the 'petition'.

After yet another few months, the 'petition' to stop GHG regulation will transmogrify itself into a 'petition' to sue Al Gore.

The snowball of climate crank bollocks will just get bigger and bigger.

Alleyne deserves denialist kudos for his very neat and effective conflating of "pollution" (ie. reflective particles) with CO2.

Perhaps I'll lend him my gold Nobel price pin.

Uh, that should be 'prize', not 'price'.

Mike Steketee is easily one of the most consistent and rationale journos working in Australia, on almost every topic he has reported on.

And check out some of the responses in comments section to his article. For example:

Paul Obvious of Brisbane 11:36am today
'Climate change' is a left-wing fabrication, designed to further increase the crippling levels of taxation in this and other countries. 'Climate change' cloaks itself in science. But it ignores any scientific fact which contradicts it, and that therefore makes it a religion. 'Deniers' of this religion are branded as heretics. When 'climate change' is proven to be a rort, is our government going to apologise and refund to us all the extra money they have ripped from our unwilling hands? (Of course not, they'll have p...d it up against a wall.)

and;

Geoffrey of Paddington 10:32am today
I suggest that readers should consult Nigel Lawson "Appeal to Reason" where there is a balanced argument on this issue.

and;

Old Fogey of Brisbane 8:38am today
The whole debate is Left-generated lies and eye-wash designed to cripple western economies in favour of eastern authoritarianism; authoritarianism the Left wants to apply to us, so it can control our thoughts and lives. Carbon trading is a tax theft, which passes money from me to the government, with a bribe to big Business. When the enemy is at the gate, Mike, you might recall the fate of pro-communist dummy-gentsia in eastern and central Europe when the Soviets arrived - they were next into the gulag after the politicians, police and military.

And they deride as irrational hysterics those who believe the science supports the AGW model?

There are some sane comments as well.

They're referring to Snowball Earth theory. It's a good one, though still controversial. At my Uni in Adelaide we have Dr Galen Halverson who does research on this period (the Sturtian Glaciation), and recently had Paul Hoffman from Harvard visit (world expert on the snowball).

The basic idea is that once CO2 was drawn down by a period of active weathering over the previous 50 my, there was an 'albedo flip' that led to pole-to-pole glaciation (probably slush in the low latitudes). Once that much ice forms, it tends to maintain its own climate (i.e. reflects so much sunlight that it keeps the Earth system very cold). But a near-global ice sheet also effectively stops weathering and carbonate formation, so the CO2 draw down stops. Volcanic activity over a few million years is then sufficient re-prime the atmosphere with large amounts of CO2 that is not recaptured (due to an poorly effective carbon cycle).

So you then have the interesting situation where you have very high greenhouse gas levels at the same time as you have a very cold, ice-bound Earth. This is the situation Fairchild is referring to. But as the CO2 continues to accumulate, a supergreenhouse is eventually created and the albedo flip reverses, turning Earth into one hell of a steamy 'jungle world' (with ocean temperatures estimated to be up to 70C!), until sufficient CO2 is once again drawn down.

It's thought that the post-Cambrian explosion visible life was sufficiently moderating to stop such flip-flops occurring in the Phanerozoic, except for rare catastrophic events such as the Deccan traps and large bolide strikes.

Thanks, Barry! I've added an update to the post:

**Update:** Ian Fairchild replies to my question

>your are right, the report sadly does garble what we say and essentially has confused greenhouse gases and sulphate aerosols. We've a [web page which gives a fuller story](http://www.gees.bham.ac.uk/staff/fairchildresearchglacial.shtml).

From that page:

>A paper published by Science on 2 January 2009 ([Bao et al., 2009](http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/323/5910/119)) is the latest and perhaps most significant development in Ian Fairchild's collaborative research over the past 30 years on Precambrian ice ages and their associated carbonate rocks. The paper comes up with a new line of evidence to support a key, but counter-intuitive prediction of Snowball Earth theory: that carbon dioxide levels were high in the Earth's atmosphere during an ancient ice age. During a Snowball event you can think of the Earth as being like a baked Alaska pudding - hot on the outside surrounding a cold middle (ice-cream in the case of the pudding). This strange situation arises if the Earth is largely covered in ice and snow in contact with an atmosphere rich in greenhouse gases in which heat is trapped. The covering of ice and snow stops rocks being weathered by carbon dioxide: weathering is the key process that uses up this gas which is continuously released into the atmosphere from volcanoes. So, during an extreme glaciation (probably triggered by low levels of greenhouse gas in the first place), levels of carbon dioxide progressively rose to unusually high levels (Hoffman et al., 1998).

Thanks Barry, that was very informative. The reactions to the article are quiet interesting too. I wonder if we'll see a spin to this article in the anti-AGW world. I mean, CO2 causing the whole planet to freeze over is of course a great argument to counter the argument that CO2 heats the planet up.

BTW, I recently read about a theory that states that 'yes, the earth is warming, it's caused by humans and because of it the Arctic will soon be free of sea ice in the summer.' However, this is to induce a negative feedback due to the 'ocean snow effect'. Massive amounts of snow will reflect sunlight and because of the albedo feedback a new Ice Age will start. It's based on a theory put forth in the 50's by Maurice Ewing and William Donn.

Is this theoretically possible and if so, would it be canceled by the increase of CO2?

re: #8 Neven

Ewing-Don theory is addressed by Spencer Weart in The Discovery of Global Warming (2008) or at his AIP website version. (Search for Ewing).

Summary: it's been looked at hard, doesn't really fit.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 03 Jan 2009 #permalink

Pure speculation follows: I'd think in a "baked-Alaska" environment, that there would be plenty of life developing _in_ the top layer of the snow and ice, the way life shows up now. Wouldn't a layer of algae, at least, grow right over a snow layer given warmth and plenty of CO2?

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 03 Jan 2009 #permalink

Thanks, John Mashey!

I had read about it in Spencer Wearts's on Google books but there's much more about it on the link you provided. Which me reminds me that I still have to read that whole AIP website. :-)

Hank #10 - yes, algae probably did grow on the ice surface during the snowball period, much as red algae do today, though not in any great density due to lack of mineral nutrients on an ice-based substrate.

Another problem is that if the ice doesn't melt, the CO2 has nowhere to be sequestered, other than in the plant tissues. So even a veneer of algae covering most of the snowball planet will simply reach a new carbon-cycle equilibrium and the CO2 accumulation will continue. You need long-term sequestration, such as in carbonates and via tectonics, to pull significant amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere over an extended period. The algae wouldn't do that.

Barry.

To what extent might any decreased albedo arising from the growth of widespread snow-surface phytocommunities contribute to increased warming, and thus ultimately to an acceleration of melt, and hence of CO2 exposure to the carbonate cycling mechanisms?

Or is it that snowfall in the snowball model over-rides the effect of 'dirty' surface snow?

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 04 Jan 2009 #permalink

I do find it interesting that you consider it ok for media (or climate scientist) to exaggerate in support AGW of but it is willful obfuscation or ignorance if what is presented does not support your point of view. Following this line of logic, it was fine for Hansen, in his initial presentation before congress, to only have 12 years worth of data showing a warming trend and say Global warming is coming and going to destroy the world even though there had been pretty steady cooling for 30+ years before that while it is not acceptable to say that for the last 10 years there has been a cooling from the peak year of 1998 because that is to short term and is only weather fluctuations. Hansen's 12 years worth of a warming trend was climate and the last 10 years show that show cooling* is just weather? Like how the Roman Warm Period, the Medieval Warm Period, and the Little Ice Age were regional but Mann's over sampling high-altitude southwestern US "stripbark" pines (bristlecones, foxtails, etc.) is not regional but reflective of the world. Like Hansen's consistently over the top claims of 5 meter sea level rise by 2100 is a naïve exaggeration but pointing out that sea level rise has not been accelerating is a willful obfuscation.

*Before you start playing the "it is only climate if you take 30 years to do regression on", try applying that to Hansen's work with the data he had when he first addressed congress. If you are consistent, then you have to admit that with the facts Hansen had when he made the presentation, he was talking about weather not climate because at that time he no basis to support a claim about climate.

Vernon:

Did you read Hansen's 1988 paper in its entirety? It's pretty long and certainly talks about a lot more things than just 12 years' worth of data.

But of course you had to throw away some of the evidence so that you can claim there was insufficient evidence, eh?

Actually I did and it still comes down to he took 12 years worth of warming trend and then used this starting in 1984 (his zero year, the year that GISS and actual matched) to prove the GISS model. What He presented to congress ignored the fact that his model did not work before the 12 years of warming in 1988.

And once again your hearing what you want to hear. I am saying that if anyone not supporting the AGW position took 12 years of worth of trend, they would be ridiculed for not knowing the difference between weather noise and climate signal whether they were right or wrong. The same way that it is constantly stated that the RWP, MWP, and LIA were North Atlantic regional events but that Mann's over sampling high-altitude southwestern US "stripbark" pines (bristlecones, foxtails, etc.) is not regional but reflective of the world.

My point is not whether they are right or wrong, just in the way they are treated.

Vernon,

you are clearly misinformed, but that's not surprising as there is a lot of intentional and unintentional misinformation surrounding this subject. I'm sure if you do some proper research for a few months you'll find it easier to recognize misinformation.

Think about it: If what you believe is wrong, you'll feel doubly sorry. First, because you were duped into believing misinformation that promotes inaction. Second, because you didn't do anything to mitigate consequences that your children will have to bear the brunt of.

I'm alarmed about many things, one of them being AGW. If I'm wrong about AGW I'll just feel sorry for being stupid but my actions won't have as drastic an effect on my children's lives. I don't mind being stupid, as long as it doesn't hurt other people too much.

So, please do some more thorough research. Use Google Scholar or start by reading this website (I'm doing that as we speak and it really broadens your perspective): http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.html#contents

Greetings,

Neven

Please point out where I am misinformed. I am discussing how the proponents and opponents are treated. If you support the cause then whatever you say is accepted and if you do not, then your attacked.

If opponents to AGW point out that the 'accepted' paleoclimat record does not show the MWP, RWP, or LIA they are ridiculed for not knowing these were regional events. Mann on the other hand Mann 2008 has 19 out of top 24 proxies being high-altitude southwestern US "stripbark" pines (bristlecones, foxtails, etc) and 3 of the remaining 5 are the Tiljander lake sediment series, which are known to be corrupted. Once these are gone, Mann's study fails but you do not see him challenged in the pro-AGW science sites.

Vernon,

Hansen did not in any way make a statistical extrapolation from previous data, but a physical estimate based on the physics of how the atmosphere and the oceans circulate solar energy. What you seem unable or unwilling to understand is that global circulation models are not expected to predict short term weather, but to simulate it. They diverge quickly from real world weather changes because of small initial condition differences, but have utility because the simulated weather patterns and their response to external forcings are realistic. Hansen's model was crude and simple compared to modern multi-terabyte programs, yet over time has proven remarkably accurate. Modern model ensemble means have gotten much better at hind-casting.

The moisture sensitivity of upper tree line bristlecone pines is closely correlated to ENSO events, which have a strong global signal. It's been known since the 1980s and long confirmed in other tree stands, ocean and lake sediment cores in Canada, the US, Mexico and South America:

Cook, E.R. 1992. Using tree rings to study past El Niño/Southern Oscillation influences on climate. In Diaz, H.F., and Markgraf, V., eds., El Niño: Historical and Paleoclimatic Aspects of the Southern Oscillation. Cambridge University Press, New York: 203-214.

D'Arrigo, R.D., and Jacoby, G.C. 1991. A 1000-year record of winter precipitation from northwestern New Mexico, USA: a reconstruction from tree-rings and its relation to El Niño and the Southern Oscillation. The Holocene 1(2): 95-101.

Lough, J.M., and Fritts, H.C. 1985. The Southern Oscillation and tree rings: 1600-1961. Journal of Climate and Applied Meteorology 24(9): 952-966.

Stahle, D.W., and Cleaveland, M.K. 1993. Southern Oscillation extremes reconstructed from tree rings of the Sierra Madre Occidental and southern Great Plains. Journal of Climate 6(1): 129-140.

Swetnam, T.W., and Betancourt, J.L. 1990. Fire-Southern Oscillation relations in the southwestern United States. Science 249: 1017-1020.

Woodhouse, C.A. 1993. Tree-growth response to ENSO events in the central Colorado Front Range. Physical Geography 14(5): 417-435

By luminous beauty (not verified) on 04 Jan 2009 #permalink

> Actually I did and it still comes down to he took 12 years worth of warming trend and then used this starting in 1984 (his zero year, the year that GISS and actual matched) to prove the GISS model. What He presented to congress ignored the fact that his model did not work before the 12 years of warming in 1988.

So first you said that Hansen's congressional testimony was based on "only" "12 years worth of data". And now you say that Hansen's testimony was based on "12 years worth of warming trend" plus a climate model.

So what else is Hansen's testimony "only" based on?

(Here is Hansen et al.'s 1988 paper, for those who are interested.)

> Please point out where I am misinformed.

We already did. You simply ignored what I said about Hansen et al. (1988) and repeated your inactivist talking points.

Vernon:

I do find it interesting that you consider it ok for media (or climate scientist) to exaggerate in support AGW of but it is willful obfuscation or ignorance if what is presented does not support your point of view.

That wasn't Tim's argument. His argument was that Richard Alleyne change the meaning of a scientist's statement from "despite" greenhouse gases into "because of" greenhouse gases. You are doing some willful obfuscation and ignoring of the facts yourself.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 04 Jan 2009 #permalink

The Torygraph has always been a bit strange, but having Richard Alleyne and Christopher Booker both writing for it does make it seem like they are trying to be the house journal for kook central. Since Monkton is popular around the office, it only remains for them to bring in Melanie Philips from the Mail to obtain kook critical mass.

Alas the Telegraph is not alone in advanced stupid. A comment on Eli Rabett's site points out that some guy called Harold Ambler has written a truely pathetic screed againt Al Gore http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harold-ambler/mr-gore-apology-accepted_15… - apparently he's writing a book....

Please someone fisk this guy - life is too short for me to bother, although its tempting when someone cites Svensmark. And check out his website, lots of nuttiness.

Someone should tell HuffPo that someone who has previously written a book about rowing does not fit the bill as a climate expert. HuffPo - you've embarrassed yourself, now say sorry.

As it is currently the wee small hours in my corner of the world I am quite fatigued, and my brain keeps unintentionally spoonerising the Huffington Post's contraction to PuffHo.

For a while I didn't even realise that it worked even better that way...

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 04 Jan 2009 #permalink

Following this line of logic, it was fine for Hansen, in his initial presentation before congress, to only have 12 years worth of data showing a warming trend and say Global warming is coming and going to destroy the world even though there had been pretty steady cooling for 30+ years before that while it is not acceptable to say that for the last 10 years there has been a cooling from the peak year of 1998 because that is to short term and is only weather fluctuations.

Did you so much as look at Hansen's paper? It is not, as you seem to think, a statistical attempt to extrapolate 12 years of data into the future, which would indeed be stupid. It is simulations from a detailed climate model based on known physics under various levels of CO2 production.

And why are you bothering to go after a 20-year old paper, anyway? One of the signal characteristics of denialists is that they always obsess about the early papers in a field. I suspect that they are under the delusion that a scientific field rests upon those early results much as a building rests upon its foundation, and that if they can cast doubt on that early finding, then the whole field will come tumbling down.

But science doesn't work that way. Every result is constantly reconfirmed. Climate modeling did not end in 1988. Since that time, many climate models have been developed by different groups, and the results have confirmed Hansen's general conclusions many times over. Similarly, the agreement of the models with actual climate data has been investigated and reinvestigated, including all of the temperature records that exist, as well as other measures of estimating global temperature back into prehistoric times.

No modern scientist cares whether Hansen's 1988 model was perfect, or whether the statistics used in Mann's original "hockey stick" study were absolutely correct, because they are purely of historical interest insofar as the modern global warming consensus is concerned--those studies have been repeated, refined, and improved, so that it is now clear that whatever the limitations of those early studies might have been, they were good enough to enable the authors to reach an essentially correct correct conclusion.

Hansen didn't say that global warming was "coming". He said it was "here". That conclusion was not based on a "12 year warming trend." The model anomalies were based on a 100 year control run with atmospheric GHG fixed at 1958 levels (and no treatment of anthropogenic aerosols). Based on those results, the likelihood of temperatures as as high those in 1988 coming about by chance was about 1%.

http://cce.890m.com/hansens-88-scenarios

I'm sure if you do some proper research for a few months you'll find it easier to recognize misinformation.

Neven and others, don't hold out hope for Vernon. He's been a climate science denialist troll for much longer than a few months ... or at least someone with the "vernon" handle, similar poor writing style, and entirely unoriginal arguments poached from the usual suspect sources.

Well if that's the case, dhogaza, I wouldn't want to be in Vernon's shoes if it turned out the information he has relied on was actually misinformation.

On the other hand, it's no wonder he turned into a troll with you barking at him like that. Maybe you should reconsider the way you react to people who are misinformed or just ignore them.

Neven:

On the other hand, it's no wonder he turned into a troll with you barking at him like that.

Dhogaza wasn't barking or talking to Vernon, he was talking to "Neven and others" about Vernon.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 04 Jan 2009 #permalink

But...but...but...AAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL GOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRE!

The Australian has taken your post to heart and insists on trying to reclaim top spot with this woeful piece today.

looks like, in this instance, a background in virology was of no use whatsoever in criticaly analysing global warming!