The Age Of Embarrassment

Second in a series

I got started on this topic (see above) through a note that was passed to me by a former classmate from high school. If you have not already, take some time to read through the initial post. It’s about a local climate report from 1922 telling of exceptionally warm weather around Spitzbergen Island, Norway. The gist is we were expected to conclude from reading this 93-year-old report that warming climate has been with us since before the consumption of fossil fuels kicked into high gear. Therefore, there is no basis for claiming that current human activities are contributing to unwarranted global warming.

I posted a link on Facebook and was pleased to get some response. I reconstruct the conversation below. I stated:

Thanks to an old school chum for sending me this:

And I posted a link (see above) to the original post. The remainder of the dialog continues:

Dan Haha!

Don’t forget the 60s – 70s scare about Global Cooling, and the Population Bomb.

John Blanton How can I forget. Unfortunately, anthropogenic global warming is no scare. Some are beginning to be impacted already. Check your friends who live in the Marshall Islands.
http://hi.water.usgs.gov/studies/kwaj-serdp/

USGS Pacific Islands Projects: Impact of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change on U.S.…
HI.WATER.USGS.GOV

Dan What’s the proof this is man-caused?

CO2 is 1.4 times heavier than air, so it can’t be that.

John Blanton Excuse me. Is that your argument?

Dan That is 1/12 of it.

Is that your answer to my question?

John Blanton Maybe we need to start over. Do you have an argument/statement to make? If so, let’s see it. We will go from there.

Dan Your statement was that Anthropogenic Global Warming ™ is no scare. I reacted to that.

John Blanton I will elaborate. As opposed to a scare, AGW is a for real thing. Hopefully that clears things up.

Dan It clears up your beliefs.

Thank you.

John Blanton Dan, Thank you for thanking me. But back to the topic. The post on Skeptical Analysis was about the failed assault on climate science, and my position is that climate science comes down in favor of the fact that human activity is causing global warming, along with many of the consequences discussed elsewhere.

Your position is either 1) you agree with my position, or 2) you disagree, and you are about to give me the reasons why. You mentioned “CO2 is 1.4 times heavier than air,” which is not strictly true, but it does get across the idea that CO2 is denser than air. Then you continue, “…so it can’t be that..”

My background on the density of CO2 is not relevant to the discussion. The number 1.4 is not correct, but Dan’s point is pertinent. CO2 is denser than air. The problem is that Dan never connected this to any argument about the validity of AGW. Given the opportunity, I am sure he will make his point in the future. I continued my response:

If you have evidence that human activity is not responsible for global warming, now is the time to lay it out. You can also post your response as a comment to the blog post.

Remember, my post on Skeptical Analysis pointed out that there is a crowd of people who object to the conclusions of the climate scientists, but they never give any evidence that human activity is not responsible.

Dan You call yourself (or associate yourself with) a skeptic. However, your response appears mostly emotional:

1. The burden is on one positing an assertion to support it. Proving a negative is not required, if it’s even possible (e.g. prove there is no God).

2. When you say “the climate scientists,” it implies those are the only ones, or the only ones that matter. That is not the case. There is a huge and growing group of climatologists who see huge flaws in “Global Warming.”

3. You did not refute the evidence I did give. Why should I supply more?

4. On which other Earth-like planet is CO2 a “greenhouse gas?”

5. If “Global Warming” (meaning anthropogenic) is happening, why have the key researchers been caught three times cooking the numbers? How many times were they NOT caught (not asking for a number).

6. If GW is true, why have they again changed the name? Now, it’s “Climate Change?”

7. On that note, what exact change are they denoting, or (as we’ve seen) do they squeal loudly at any supposed anomaly? Obama recently blamed ISIS attacks on “Climate Change” with ZERO scientific support.

8. If GW is true, what is the proper average temperature that we should be experiencing now, and on what basis is that number calculated?

9. The current “deviation” of temperature is statistically insignificant. That is, it’s well within the plus/minus 3% of a GOOD (that is, not cooked) statistical sample of temperatures. As we’ve seen, we DO have a cooked study, so the margin of error is higher.

10. If GW is true, why won’t the IPCC release details of its model so other climatologists can examine its validity?

11. How, exactly, will paying a tax to Al Gore’s “Carbon Exchange” in England save the planet? The exchange was moved from Chicago after that exchange’s political connections were exposed.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2013/11/03/blood-and-gore-making-a-killing-on-anti-carbon-investment-hype/

I have more, but how’s that for a start?

Blood And Gore: Making A Killing On Anti-Carbon Investment Hype
FORBES.COM|BY LARRY BELL

As can be seen, the conversation initially took an erratic path. A bit of back and forth got it back on track, resulting in an excellent response from Dan. I will diagnose pertinent parts of the conversation in turn.

1. Dan posted a short chuckle and a comment concerning some history, likely not relevant: “Don’t forget the 60s – 70s scare about Global Cooling, and the Population Bomb.”

I responded and attempted to get the discussion back on line: “Unfortunately, anthropogenic global warming is no scare. Some are beginning to be impacted already. Check your friends who live in the Marshall Islands.” And I posted a link to the problem in the Marshall Islands.
http://hi.water.usgs.gov/studies/kwaj-serdp/

2. Dan asked, “What’s the proof this is man-caused? CO2 is 1.4 times heavier than air, so it can’t be that.”

I was confused about what Dan was referring to. I was unable to find the antecedent to “this” as in “this is man-caused.” I was also confused about the statement that CO2 is 1.4 times heavier than air. It is not.

I asked Dan if that was his argument. He replied that was 1/12 of it. At that point I put in some ground work to restart the dialog, and Dan responded with his 11 points. I will go over those points, each in turn.

The first point is unnumbered:

You call yourself (or associate yourself with) a skeptic. However, your response appears mostly emotional:

Yes, I do call myself a skeptic. To do otherwise would be disingenuous. I will leave it to readers to determine whether my response is mostly emotional.

1. The burden is on one positing an assertion to support it. Proving a negative is not required, if it’s even possible (e.g. prove there is no God).

Dan’s point is well made. Proving the absence of AGW is proving a negative. A couple of points in response:

The original Skeptical Analysis post is not about proving the absence of AGW. It is about people who claim AGW does not exist and the methods they employ. Emphatically, the post is about the methods they employ.

My position is that AGW is real, and I am prepared to demonstrate good evidence it is.

2. When you say “the climate scientists,” it implies those are the only ones, or the only ones that matter. That is not the case. There is a huge and growing group of climatologists who see huge flaws in “Global Warming.”

When I say “the climate scientists” I do intend to imply these are the scientists who count. My observation is that there are relatively few actual scientists who doubt the reality of AGW, while the vast majority of climate scientist agree with the reality of AGW.

Dan asserts, “There is a huge and growing group of climatologists who see huge flaws in ‘Global Warming.'” He needs to justify that statement in a manner that does not require redefinition of the word “huge” and maybe even the word “growing.”

Here is a (possibly incomplete) list of scientific organizations taking the position that AGW is real:

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Chemical Society
  • American Geophysical Union
  • American Medical Association
  • American Meteorological Society
  • American Physical Society
  • The Geological Society of America

Discount the AMA if you want, but the remaining on this list involve studies directly related to AGW. Add to that the United States National Academy of Sciences, some others, and 197 other organizations listed at this link.

Anticipating that Dan will respond to the foregoing that science is not a democracy, and scientific fact is not determined by majority vote, I will remind him that he is the one who introduced the argument incorporating the words “huge and growing group of climatologists.”

3. You did not refute the evidence I did give. Why should I supply more?

I did not refute the evidence that Dan gave, because I was unable to locate said evidence in Dan’s comments. At this point I ask Dan to remind me what evidence he posted.

4. On which other Earth-like planet is CO2 a “greenhouse gas?”

Dan has me there. I am unable to answer that question. Neither am I able to answer the question, “What’s the average weight of the American bald eagle.?Both are equally relevant. I will be permitted to bypass this point of Dan’s.

5. If “Global Warming” (meaning anthropogenic) is happening, why have the key researchers been caught three times cooking the numbers? How many times were they NOT caught (not asking for a number).

Two points in response to this:

  • Dan needs to demonstrate the factuality of his premise that “key researchers been caught three times cooking the numbers.”
  • This is not a statement, rather a question. Dan needs to employ a statement of fact, supposed or otherwise, rather than ask a question. For example: “Key researchers been caught three times cooking the numbers.” Then there will be something to debate. What Dan is doing is what I discussed in the original post. People who deny AGW are not presenting factual arguments. Instead, they are putting forward peripheral issues, many of which do not bear on the validity of AGW.

Regarding that last, if opponents of the science behind AGW want to prove their case, they have ample opportunity to do so. All they need to do is to demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • Carbon dioxide, methane, and other such gases do not trap heat from solar radiation in the atmosphere.
  • The concentration of these gases is not increasing and has not been steadily increasing for the past 50 years (and more).
  • Human activity is not contributing significantly to the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
  • Events beyond human control are alone responsible for the warming.
  • The temperature of the combination atmosphere and hydrosphere is not increasing and has not been increasing for the past 50 years and more.
  • The increase in global temperatures has had little or no impact on human well-being.

That last point may be superfluous to my argument. My argument is that the AGW is real. It’s impact on human well-being is another matter.

6. If GW is true, why have they again changed the name? Now, it’s “Climate Change?”

See above. This is a question and not an argument. Also, were it posed as a statement of some kind, it would still not be relevant.

7. On that note, what exact change are they denoting, or (as we’ve seen) do they squeal loudly at any supposed anomaly? Obama recently blamed ISIS attacks on “Climate Change” with ZERO scientific support.

A statement this time, but again one that is not pertinent. Dan needs to elaborate on the statement before I can attempt to address it. How about some actual quotes?

8. If GW is true, what is the proper average temperature that we should be experiencing now, and on what basis is that number calculated?

Again a question and not a statement. Dan needs to argue his point. That aside, these two questions will be addressed later in this post.

9. The current “deviation” of temperature is statistically insignificant. That is, it’s well within the plus/minus 3% of a GOOD (that is, not cooked) statistical sample of temperatures. As we’ve seen, we DO have a cooked study, so the margin of error is higher.

Point number 9 and finally a statement of fact. If Dan will be so kind as to supply some references I will check them out.

10. If GW is true, why won’t the IPCC release details of its model so other climatologists can examine its validity?

Again a question. If I may be permitted to offer assistance, I recommend this point be posed as a statement. For example: “The IPCC refuses to release details of its model. This does not allow other climatologists to assess the validity of the model.”

As it is, Dan’s point 10 is a classic example of “begging the question.” The question is posed in such a manner as to state a conclusion, the conclusion being that the IPCC refuses to release details of its model. It could be the IPCC has refused to release these details, but Dan does not state that, and, further, he does not cite any references to support this in the event it is factual.

11. Dan’s point 11 is again an irrelevant question. The fact is that Al Gore is a politician and does not remotely resemble a scientist. His views on the matter have no bearing on the validity of AGW. The absurdity of associating Al Gore and the validity of AGW is exemplified in a collection of memes I posted a few months ago. Here is one.

Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute along the inbound Eisenhower Expressway in Maywood, Illinois. Photograph: The Heartland Institute

Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute along the inbound Eisenhower Expressway in Maywood, Illinois. Photograph: The Heartland Institute

The summary of Dan’s excellently-composed comments is that he has followed the example of those I sought to pillory in my original post. Tom Vittrup wanted to portray AGW as baseless, and his means was to post an irrelevant story from The Washington Post in 1922. Breitbart News Network wanted to portray AGW as baseless, and their means was to post a fact-deficient item about scientists cooking data.  The Washington Times wanted to portray AGW as baseless and their means was to imply NASA was hiding data. None of the sources I presented in my previous post made any effort to disqualify AGW using scientific data. This despite the excellent opportunity to do so by demonstrating any of the cases I mentioned previously (disprove carbon dioxide traps solar energy, etc.).

That dead horse now well beaten, I do need to address a very legitimate point made by Dan. That is, I should not only charge others to disprove the validity of AGW, I need to demonstrate its factual basis. This cannot be done exhaustively in just a few paragraphs, so I will, instead, demonstrate some points bearing on the basis of AGW. I have previously posted on this matter, and I will refer back to that post rather than completely rehash the issue. I said this:

What is it about otherwise intelligent people that bubbles the stupid to the top the moment they get the hots for public office. Do they feel the need to plumb the depths of the electorate gene pool? Possibly.

Presidential candidate Jeb Bush was commenting on the science behind AGW:

“Look, first of all, the climate is changing. I don’t think the science is clear what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It’s convoluted. And for the people to say the science is decided on, this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you,” he said.

“It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t even have a conversation about it. The climate is changing, and we need to adapt to that reality,” he said.

At that point I started a discussion of the science behind AGW. I will go over a few points that post touched. First, is carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere rising? The answer is yes. The data plot below is called the Keeling Curve.

875px-Mauna_Loa_Carbon_Dioxide_Apr2013

The Keeling Curve is a graph which plots the ongoing change in concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere since 1958. It is based on continuous measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii that began under the supervision of Charles David Keeling. Keeling’s measurements showed the first significant evidence of rapidly increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Many scientists credit Keeling’s graph with first bringing the world’s attention to the current increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Charles David Keeling, of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, was the first person to make frequent regular measurements of the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration, taking readings at the South Pole and in Hawaii from 1958 onwards.

Examine this data plot. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has been rising since Keeling started making measurements in 1958. The wiggles in the curve reflect fluctuations in CO2 concentration due to the greening of foliage in the Northern Hemisphere. This planet’s northern hemisphere holds the abundance of green plants, and during the spring and summer in the Northern Hemisphere these plants suck up a lot of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The drop in the concentration of CO2 is plainly visible in the plot. In the Northern Hemisphere’s cold season deciduous plants drop their leaves, and CO2  absorption decreases (evergreens keep sucking up CO2). Also, the leaves that have dropped during the current season and in previous seasons continue to return their carbon content back to the atmosphere as CO2.

If there were no decades long increase in CO2 concentration, this curve would be nearly horizontal except for the yearly fluctuation shown. This is called a steady state condition. The continual rise demonstrates the atmosphere is not in steady state.

Further, observe the scale of the rise. It starts at 320 parts per million (ppm) in 1958 and approaches 400 ppm in the current decade. The concentration in October 2014 was 396.21 ppm, and in October 2015 it was 398.70 ppm. This was last updated 7 December of this year. This is a more than 50-year trend. Were it to be extrapolated back in a naive manner, then a few centuries ago there would have been no CO2 in the atmosphere. This is obviously not the fact, so at some point in the past the CO2 began its inexorable rise. Here is a plot obtained from ice core data:

CO2LongRangeTrend

Data source: Reconstruction from ice cores. Credit: NOAA

The same source notes the November 2015 concentration was 402.23 ppm. The CO2 concentration has fluctuated wildly the past 400,000 years, but since about 1960 it has remained higher than it ever was before during that period.

So much for CO2 concentrations. What about the average yearly temperatures? Here is a plot of these temperatures for the past 135 years. The Earth has been growing warmer during the time the CO2 has been making its sharp rise.

800px-Global_Temperature_Anomaly.svg

What about the argument that other factors besides human activity are to blame? What could these be?

  • Variations in Earth’s orbit
  • Volcanic activity
  • Fluctuations in solar activity

The following plots are from a Bloomberg site titled “What’s Really Warming the World.”

OrbitComparison

Volcanoes

SolarWarming

In all three of these the heavy black line is global temperature, and the relatively horizontal, wiggly line is the phenomenon against which the temperature is tracked. In all cases it is obvious Earth’s temperature is tracking none of these. Readers are encouraged to visit the Bloomberg link and get a better view of the plots.

Besides these, I have data and scientific principles to demonstrate the relationship between human activity and the recent rise in average global temperatures. Many of these have been pulled into a presentation from earlier this year for The North Texas Skeptics. I am always happy to explain and to expand on any of the points. I will attempt to do so by means of a follow-up post in order to give the matter as thorough a treatment as I can make it.

Keep reading.

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