Global Warming is Real; But Not Everything is Caused by Global Warming

I've ben a bit tied up and unable to blog yet today. Thankfully Sheril has taken up some of the slack. I'll have an entry later, but in the meantime, definitely check out this cool post by frequent Intersection commenter Fred Bortz. Bortz is drawing on a recent article in American Scientist by two glacier experts (including Philip W. Mote who I've interviewed in the past about Pacific Northwestern snowpack loss) on how Mt. Kilimanjaro has been used as an inappropriate icon of global warming. The article argues that while many glaciers are melting, and while global glacial retreat has indeed been linked to climate change, Kilimanjaro seems to have something more complicated and subtle going on....

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Tick Talk:

The Latvian tick is a vector
For diseases throughout that small sector,
But to blame global warming
For its increase in swarming
Is more errant, that is incorrect-er.

Thanks, coturnix, for the uptick-tick-Baltic remark.

Seriously, it's good to have a collection of these things so thoughtful people can recognize that scientists are more careful than ever not to attribute events to global warming unless they have good evidence.

If denialists claim conspiracy, which has become their remaining reason to resist the consensus, then let's hit them with numerous examples where scientific dialogue is as vigorous and skeptical as ever.

Limericiously yours,
"Dr. Fred"

Mt. Kilimanjaro is such a cross cultural touchstone that despite abundant evidence that its retreating glacier has little or nothing to do with global warming it continues to be heaped on the list of alleged casualties of AGW.

I guess since "the debate is over" it really doesn't matter if empirical evidence can be linked to any one concrete negative consequence. It is much more important to whip up emotional backing for sweeping economic and political change.

After all as Al Gore and other Climate Change warriors will tell you it's no longer a scientific issue but a moral one.

Thanks for drawing our attention to the Kilimanjaro item, Chris. American Scientist has become a great resource for contextual stories about climate change.

As one of Al Gore's warriors, I feel obliged to remove the slides relating to this particular mountain from the slide show -- there's now too much doubt for them to stay in a science-based presentation.

Lance, would you care to elaborate about why one incorrect inclusion on that "list of alleged casualties of AGW" negates all the others that have been legitimately attributed to AGW?

Your assertion that "It is much more important to whip up emotional backing for sweeping economic and political change," ignores the following advice to you and other advocates of inaction, whom I call skeptics in my blog posting:

"But the skeptics need to be equally careful about claiming Kilimanjaro as the poster child for a flawed scientific process. This article, and the peer-reviewed research on which it rests, are powerful examples that an ongoing, robust scientific dialogue continues on all aspects of this important question."

Of course, I would be foolish to think you'd accept my advice in any case. :)

Hey Fred,

I am all for "robust scientific dialogue". Oh and I take no umbrage at being called a "skeptic". As a scientist I pride myself on my skepticism. "Denialist" on the other hand takes on shades of holocaust refutation. A slight that is clearly intended by those that use the term to disparage those that disagree with the "consensus".

I am confident that a dispassionate examination of the evidence does not support the contention that anthropogenic CO2 is likely to cause "catastrophic climate change" in the near or distant future.

It is only AGW proponents that continue to proclaim that the scientific debate is over. I pour over any and all evidence, when time allows, with equal skepticism. That is what good scientists do.

As far as "peer review" is concerned the climate science community is a bit dysfunctional at the moment. The process has been heavily politicized and emotionally charged, to be fair on both sides. I am confident that time and the scientific method will sort it all out.

I am significantly less sanguine that the political and socio-economic issues will equitably sort themselves out.
Dispassionate examination of evidence is not the currency of these dynamic systems.


Point taken about denier or denialist. Still, skeptic seems a little too mild. I'm very much a skeptic, but given the evidence, I find the consensus persuasive.

So I guess the word I'm looking for is "doubter" or "megadoubter," to make a point about what appears to be an aversion to the consensus.

I will take issue with one of your statements on similar grounds:
"It is only AGW proponents that continue to proclaim that the scientific debate is over." By making that statement, you are mis-stating the position of those who disagree with you.

The very nature of science means that scientific debate is never over. It just moves to other areas where new questions lie.

The political debate is not over, nor should it be. My concern is that people who take your position are debating the wrong thing.

When the concern is public policy, the place to begin is with the scientific consensus. From there, you can consider alternative scenarios on both sides, making judgments based on the best scientific estimates of all those scenarios.

That defines the problem in a way that productive political debate can begin.

So don't get uptight because you heard (and perhaps Al Gore actually said these exact words) "The scientific debate is over." That is not a useful statement, no matter who says it.

A much more useful statement is "The scientific consensus is strong and growing stronger that we are facing problems. It is time for policy-makers to stop arguing about the science and start arguing about solutions."

So I'll stop calling you a denier and call you a doubter, with or without the "mega" depending on whether I want to pull your chain. :)

In exchange for that, perhaps you can stop claiming that people like me, who are persuaded of the consensus view, have proclaimed the end to the scientific debate. We haven't. We just think the evidence of potential problems is too strong to delay the difficult political debate any longer.


This 'denialist' ground has already been gone over.

Denialists don't like to be called denialists. John Quiggin proposed 'delusionists' to back away from the holocaust meme, but this is another distraction and denialist is perfectly OK in human psychology without having to dredge up the holocaust.

Denial is a human trait. It is perfectly OK to use denialism.


Seconding Dano...."denialist" springs from "in denial," with no specific Holocaust reference.

You can be in denial about warming...evolution...or the fact that your marriage is ending.

I now specifically try to use "denial" simply to spite this ridiculous attempt to rule a perfectly good word in the English language out of bounds.

No problem Fred. You and I simply disagree on the strength of the evidence for anthropogenic climate change. At least on its extent and the severity of the consequences.

To use the word "denial" or "denialist", even without any linkage to the holocaust, is an attempt to label AGW the "truth" and those that disagree as being detached from reality or delusional as Dano suggests. This is a dishonest political ploy.

Chris, your attempt to link those of us that see little merit to the case for catastrophic AGW with creationists is nearly as insulting, and baseless, as the holocaust connection. The theory of evolution has nearly a century of well developed evidentiary support and no real scientifically valid alternative theory to refute it.

I don't think even Gavin Schmidt or James Hansen would claim that the state of climate science was on an even footing with evolutionary theory. The case for anthropogenic CO2 as the major driver of climate is very weak indeed.

Those that want to enact Kyoto-like "remedies" with very real costs would rather smear opponents than debate the validity of their scientific claims.


To quote Ronald Reagan in the 1980 Presidential Debates, "There you go again."

Please state your own positions without misrepresenting the positions and approach of those who disagree with you.

Those that want to enact Kyoto-like "remedies" with very real costs would rather smear opponents than debate the validity of their scientific claims.

Who's smearing whom here?

The Kyoto protocols were enacted as a result of political discussions that considered both the scientific claims and the costs of various actions (including inaction). Unfortunately (in my view), the United States decided that obstructing the implementation was a better route than taking a leadership role to persuade China and India to follow.


I used no smear words. The statement that you quote is my opinion of the word "denialist". I attack the arguments of others by impugning the scientific validity of their data and conclusions, where it is warranted.

Now when someone says the "science is settled" and only "denialists" refuse to accept this fact it is an attempt to impugn the "person" not their ideas. As you well know many activists have employed this technique and have even tried to stifle public discourse by encouraging media outlets and publications to "ignore" climate change "deniers".

They try to label any scientist that disagrees with AGW, of which there are legion, as cranks, kooks, oil industry shills or even "climate criminals".

Now before you go searching my every past utterance I will admit that in the heat of the moment I have responded to ad homs in kind, but NOT in this thread or unprovoked. I have tried to take the high road. But when people use words like denialist and insist that it is an accurate label for those with whom they disagree I rightly point out the dishonesty of this practice.

At any rate I have no bone to pick with you. You try to be above board and address mostly the science. We may disagree on the evidence but I think we both respect the scientific method and the importance of an open and honest forum with out preconceived ideas.

Nice to see the link to Andy's story (and the story). I remember making the point that Kilimanjaro's problems were not necessarily an AGW thing in an op ed I wrote for the times the year before (paywalled). That op ed, fwiw, which was about Euan Nisbet's idea of saving the snows with a tarp, garnered the fairly rare distinction of being directly opposed in a subsequent editorial at the Times (paywalled). No real problem with that (though I was not quite clear why Tanzania would be better served by a "a new icon -- a bare mountaintop underscoring the folly of reckless destruction of the forests" than by a remarkable tourist attraction and source of uplift, or for that matter a symbolic human effort to preseve said source). But I wish they'd do it to Sam Brownback too.