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October 27, 2003

GLOBAL WARMING....In a weird sort of echo of the Bellesiles/Lott gun disputes, David Appell reports on a couple of amateurs who have audited the raw data that produced this famous chart of historical global warming trends and claim to have found "collation errors, unjustifiable truncation or extrapolation of source data, obsolete data, geographical location errors, incorrect calculation of principal components and other quality control defects." When they corrected the errors, they say, the graph looks quite different.

The guys who did the analysis are not climatologists, and David says that the journal they published in is well known for favoring papers that are skeptical of global warming. Still, the authors say their data set and methodology are public and they "welcome" scrutiny.

I don't know how important this graph is to the overall climate debate these days, and in any case the authors may have found some genuine errors or they may turn out to be entirely full of hot air (so to speak). David has some additional background about this on his site and promises to follow up as responses come in from the climate community, so check back at his place periodically if you're interested in the latest updates.

UPDATE: Probably a false alarm. More here.

Posted by Kevin Drum at October 27, 2003 10:27 PM | TrackBack


Comments

Graph, schmaph, all we have to do is close our eyes and repeat, "There is no global warming, there is no global warming, ..."

Posted by: Dick Durata at October 27, 2003 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

Unwisely commenting after just looking at the graphs (since I couldn't find the paper), it seems to me that the critics in question make the egregious error of removing the error bars and then drawing conclusions from the worst part of the data set - from over 400 years ago. Clearly the data improves past 1600 or so, and in that time frame the original conclusions appear to stand. Of course if the original paper can be shown to have mistakes in data handling that's not good - but I'm not going to lose any sleep over this report as it stands. (Fwiw I'm a particle physicist.)

Posted by: rilkefan at October 27, 2003 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

That's not a seismograph? Oh. Well, back to SchadenCaleeforneya.

Posted by: squiddy at October 27, 2003 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

Geologist with a lot of Paleoclimate experience here.

My take:

Assuming that the data they were given by the original authors is the data used by the original authors in the original paper;

and,

Assuming that they have correctly identified accounting and tabulation errors in that original data set;

and,

assuming that their re-calculation based on the "corrected" data set is up to snuff;

then the original authors should be embarassed and the paper withdrawn;

However!

1) Third-hand recapitulations of large and complicated data sets is not a very convincing argument...they MAY have shown mistakes in the original data set, and good on them, bad on the original authors...but all that shows is that scientists need to be very careful handling data sets...

2) Assuming that everything they have shown is correct, which is as big an assumption, or bigger, than the orignal authors' implicit assumptions about proxies, then what have they shown?

Have they shown that there is no global warming?

Have they shown that the massive spike in temperatures and proxy temperatures in the last century does not exist?

Have they disproven the hypotheses underlying the global warming thesis that enhanced trapping of thermal energy related to a number of factors including H2O vapor and CO2 and Methane causes climate change?

No, no, and no.

What they have shown is that one attempt to push dodgy data farther back into the past is flawed.

Ask any climatologist how they feel about tree rings and coral rings and other proxies with regard to temperature modeling...they will snarl at you. Ask them how they feel about ice cores...they will grumble a bit less nastily.

The Nature and IPCC papers may well be flawed. If they were flawed by mistake, then that's not good. If the data were selectively skewed on purpose or by design, then that's really really bad.

These two have done the scientific community a real service by their efforts, regardless of how it turns out...but I would not be particularly eager to scrap the entire Climate Change science because of one debunking of one study.

Posted by: Dan at October 27, 2003 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm...neither of these graphs seems to work very well with the idea of a "little ice age" between about 1400 and 1800...

Posted by: John at October 28, 2003 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

One of my "tipping point" moments in taking Global Warming seriously was when I discovered that the US Navy was busy figuring out how it was going to defend and patrol The Northwest Passage, fer chrissakes; and that the USA and Canada were busy squabbling (in a low-key fashion) about whether it would constitute an international waterway under Maritime Law.

Posted by: Ray Radlein at October 28, 2003 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

We don't have to worry about global warming because by the time the world would be in trouble lord and savior jesus christ, who you athiests do not love and whos coming is your doom, will appear and cure pollution for us. So why put people out of work if the benifits post date the upcoming rapture.

Christina

Posted by: Christina Jackson at October 28, 2003 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, it's utterly wrong of you to say that this is "reminiscent of the Lott/Bellesiles" issue; the people who produced this study certainly don't make that claim. It's also fairly equally obvious from looking at the actual anomalies in the dataset that some are obvious mistakes (series pasted in the wrong row of Excel files) and some refer to datasets which are available from different sources. I'd say that they fell within the boundaries of "forgivable errors" in an estimation method that's always going to be riddled with errors of one kind or another (to be honest, anybody who based their concern over global warming on estimates of temperature in 1400 AD was always a bit of an idiot anyway.

Posted by: dsquared at October 28, 2003 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

After the last couple of days here in Southern California, let me just say that I'm a believer in global warming. 170 days without rain has helped create these fire conditions that are devastating my town, and if the weather had been a little cooler, its a good bet we would have gotten a little rain before this shit started. Even a half an inch would've made a world of difference.

Posted by: Jesse in SD at October 28, 2003 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

remember that the original study was a "proxy analysis" -- all of which should be deeply suspect anyway.

I prefer to use the Greenland, Antarctic, and Mountain Glacier Ice Cores, myself....

The proxy studies of tree rings, lake beds, coral growth rings, and etc are deeply, fundamentally location dependent, preservation dependent, and subject to massive amounts of interpretive bias...

So are the Ice Cores, but less so..

Here's a link, play around a bit...you will find that the ice cores are better than many other proxies:

National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA

Posted by: Dan at October 28, 2003 01:01 AM | PERMALINK

From what I've read, it looks like the scientific consensus is with those predicting global temperature increases. I used to believe that global warming alarmists exaggerated the situation (still do, actually) but now I believe the balance of the obfuscation lies with the deniers. That said:

1) the changes the guys made to the graph only affect the years 1400-1500 really.

2) skipping the issue of scientific funding and conflicts of interest, I'll just add that their website says this about the researchers: McKitrick is a Senior Fellow of the Fraser Institute, a Canadian policy think tank that has taken a stand against Kyoto. McIntyre has worked many years in the mineral exploration industry. McIntyre is a shareholder of a micro-capital energy exploration company

Science is science an' all, and the warmers get their money and motivations from somewhere too, so I'm just saying.

Posted by: andrew at October 28, 2003 02:54 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, like Rilkefan and others say, bickering about what the temperature was like 500 years ago hardly matters, with the vast increase you clearly see in the last century.
I thought the latest line of the "optimists" was that there was a temperature increase, yes, but that it was from some (unspecified) "natural causes", and not from CO2. They should get their act together.

Posted by: Matthew at October 28, 2003 03:33 AM | PERMALINK


Well, unlike most of the posters, I read the article.

A couple of things stick out.

First, the "traditional" graph indicates global warming has leveled off (just a little) while the corrected graph shows that it is still going up.

Second, while everyone is making dismissive comments about the core of the errors, they are the ones that were used to push today's temperatures as the highest ever, when they were not.

Third, the corrected graph explains the mini-ice age better.

Fourth, you can audit all the numbers yourself now.

I quote:

How can a third party decide whether you are right or Mann et al. are right?

* We have created an audit trail so that third parties can verify these findings for themselves. This includes what we think is the first Internet posting of the original proxy data used in Mann et al (1998). Some of the points are very easy to verify. To verify the collation errors resulting in duplication of 1980 entries in the data, one needs only inspect a few numbers. We’ve created excerpts from the data and directions to the exact locations in the original data base. Anyone can check this. Similarly, we’ve created excerpts and pointers in the data base so that anyone can verify the extrapolations and “fills” merely by inspection. To verifying that the MBH data base contains obsolete data, we’ve made graphs to show the differences between the MBH versions and the updated version in every case found (so far); we’ve also included data files showing both versions together and URLs for the updated data. Anyone can check this for themselves. We’ve included computer scripts in R, which will collect the data from the URL site and make the graphs. Verifying the principal components calculations is more work, but we’ve also made the tools available to do this. We’ve provided collated data files for the underlying tree ring series as well as descriptions of how to collect the data. We’ve provided computer scripts showing our principal component calculations and the explained variance using MBH principal components. We’ve also provided a collated version of all the data and scripts for how we replicated the MBH reconstruction. We believe that audit trails are extremely important for this type of analysis and that the Internet provides an ideal mechanism for ensuring public accessibility to such audit trails.

That they are inviting people to audit them and evaluate their work says a great deal.

Posted by: Anon Again at October 28, 2003 04:26 AM | PERMALINK

speaking of ice cores, my microbiology professor is currently hard at work identifying long dormant virus and bacteria found in them... such organisms could possibly wreak havoc as glaciers melt and these little suckers get re-released into the system. Anyone want another go-round of spanish flu, or something equally horrifying?

My personal take on global warming is that it's a serious threat though historically, as Dan should know, there have been major fluctuations in both estimated mean global temperature and CO2 levels in the atmosphere. However, whether the current warming trends are solely linked to modern technology or not, I do know that excessive CO2 & SO2 emissions from power plants in Ohio do increase the acidity of rain over the northeast. I still have a standing offer for Tom DeLay to join me on a fishing trip in the adirondacks since he believes that acid rain is a figment of the environmentalist's imagination.

Posted by: ChrisS at October 28, 2003 04:41 AM | PERMALINK

If I take Christina's irony correctly, I think she is right.

This admin and its party will never give the data a fair hearing, and, like many other issues, there simply is no point in arguing with them.

Excepting maybe family, there is nothing more important, everything else becomes trivial, in this country, this world, this age than politics.

Posted by: bob mcmanus at October 28, 2003 06:20 AM | PERMALINK

Pleae correct me if I'm wrong, but in the corrected graph using 20 year moving averages, there appears to be a large spike upwards in temperature beginning in 1900 to the present, figuring from about 1600 onwards.

Isn't that consistent with the highest rise in temp over 400 years?

More importantly isn't the rate of temperature change during the past 100 years the most dramatic change from 1600 onwards? If so, wouldn't that be consistent with a manmade global warming?

One final question: How reliable is the data from say, 1850 back to 1400?

Posted by: tristero at October 28, 2003 06:30 AM | PERMALINK

McIntyre and McKitrick should have submitted this paper as a Comment in Nature, since that is where the original Mann et al. article was published. Then Mann et al. could offer a Reply. Often you'll see Comments and Replies together in the same issue.

Maybe McI & McK couldn't get their work past the Nature referees, and that's why they went to Energy and Environment. At any rate, I'd be really interested to see what Mann et al. have to say about this. They would be the most qualified to reply to this criticism of their work.

Posted by: Timothy at October 28, 2003 06:36 AM | PERMALINK

Well, the river crested over a foot higher than I've ever seen it last week...and this morning I'm in a t-shirt with the furnace off...but that's not global warming. And in a sense, they're right....global warming will be much worse.

But, hey, you know, anything to make the rich richer......

Posted by: serial catowner at October 28, 2003 06:44 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, and did I mention, SIX MONTHS with no rain. First time I've ever seen a Doug Fir turn brown like an old christmas tree. So not Puget Sound. Nosireebob, no global warming here....

Posted by: serial catowner at October 28, 2003 06:47 AM | PERMALINK

>That they are inviting people to audit them and evaluate their work says a great deal.

Science traditionally does this through peer review and, as Timothy said, Comments to the original journal. That they are not doing so, buth rather publishing in a journal that will print astrologers (Theodor Landscheidt) does indeed say a great deal.

Posted by: Craig Snoeyenbos at October 28, 2003 06:53 AM | PERMALINK

As noted above, the only real difference between their version and Mann at al is the pre-1500 temp.
However, they seem to have stopped short of the
very rapid rise of the last 20-30 years (see their
first graph, showing the Mann curve and theirs);
so they end with the cooling of the early 20th
century. (I suspect that Mann et al just took
these most recent decades from some well-known source, and didn't include them in their spreadsheet.) Their graph, plotted from 1500 to now, would presumably still look like a hockey stick, with much noisier data.

I take the point about comments and replies, but
there is a problem with the journal system, in that a short publication from a large dataset is not something that can be checked--and there is no way to "replicate the experiment". Putting all the information on the Web was probably a service, irrespective of the (rather dubious) motivation (and they should realize that climatology isn't accounting!)

Posted by: DCA at October 28, 2003 07:11 AM | PERMALINK

At first glance it looks like we must now disbelieve all the reports about the growing permafrost in Greenland and the increasing difficulty (because of ice in the water) of getting to Greenland in the 1400s.

Posted by: P. Clodius at October 28, 2003 07:11 AM | PERMALINK

The other journal articles that can be found at

http://www.multi-science.co.uk/ee.htm

do not inspire confidence. In particular, the last
one seems to contradict quantum mechanics and the well-tested and well-developed theory of radiative transfer, which is extensively used in the interpretation of stars.
Basically, quantum mechanics says that atoms and molecules only absorb some kinds of light. Black bodies radiate with a distribution of light that depends on their temperature. You don't need much more than this to understand how the greenhouse effect works. The last paper seems to be challenging basic physics. If it got past their refereeing process it is rather lax.

This appears to be an advocacy journal rather than a refereed one, and I therefore have trouble taking it seriously. I will pay attention to the response of the original authors - note the back-and-forth on another "debunking" claim appears pretty deadly to the debunkers on the page I referenced.

cheers,

Marc

Posted by: Marc at October 28, 2003 07:32 AM | PERMALINK

serial catowner:

You (and all of the rest of the people out there who offer "look out the window" evidense for global warming) make your side look really, really bad when you assert that whatever phenomena you are observing right now is due to global warming.

I'll listen to arguments based on controlled data sets compiled in a rigorous way. Arguments based on the fact that gosh golly gee its hot out aren't so persuasive.

Posted by: sd at October 28, 2003 07:42 AM | PERMALINK

To me, the important question is not whether global temperatures have been warmer any time in the past ten millennia--no doubt they have. It's whether greenhouse gases are driving a sharp spike in temperatures (or are even just worsening a natural increase), what sort of climate we can expect if we change nothing, and what kind of climate we can expect if we make partial or drastic changes to our present carbon-based energy cycle.

Sure, historical data is important for helping us understand the physical underpinnings of climate, but it doesn't matter a whit to me whether we are in the hottest time since 1600 or since 800 or since 6000 BCE, and the effort made in arguing over that is time that would be better spent beginning to mobilize the mass of humanity to tackle what will be an enormous challenge--whether its revamping our energy system or adapting to radically altered climates. (Sure, you can see where I'm coming down on the science.)

It's like standing in the driveway as a hurricane is bearing down and debating whether it's a category 5 storm or just a category 4. Either way, standing there isn't helping matters much and if we stand there too long, it will be too late to evacuate.

Posted by: jlw at October 28, 2003 08:00 AM | PERMALINK

Get your NOAA data now, because the Christian Ayn Randers in the House are set to cut the funding for some 200 scientists there who research global warming.

That said, if the two amateurs are right (I'm a true American amateur -- when I look out the window, I never my believe my eyes, because the voices in my head say differently. Verily!) the next time I require brain surgery I'm going to hire them for the operation, because it's obvious we can't trust the experts. I mean, take Newton, please.

I might need to force them to do the surgery at gunpoint. But, at least, John Lott could release a study confirming that guns increase the incidence of brain surgery.

Posted by: John Thullen at October 28, 2003 08:17 AM | PERMALINK

It would be useful if they could explain why there was a peak at that time. The original graph makes more sense because the industrial revolution and its aftermath (esp. fossil feuls) can explain a lot of the warming that takes place at the end (which isn't noticibly different from the revised graph). But why would there be a peak at this earlier period? And wouldn't there be some effects that we could measure to show what this warming did? Data needs to be matched with theory and evidence - not just more data...

Posted by: Kerim Friedman at October 28, 2003 08:25 AM | PERMALINK

"Arguments based on the fact that gosh golly gee its hot out aren't so persuasive."

Especially since global warming could result in local cooling if, say, an area starts getting more air from Canada than from the South due to a change in wind patterns.

Posted by: Jon H at October 28, 2003 08:43 AM | PERMALINK

SD has a point. "Global Warming" is a misnomer, sort of like "survival of the fittest".

Climate change is what they be talking about, and specifically climate change due to human activity.

The mean tempurature of the earth is rising, presumably due to human activity, and assumed to continue rising, but that's the whole globe taken together. The real worry isn't warmer tempuratures in general but more severe weather patterns. That can mean colder in some parts, wetter in others, and hotter and drier in still others.

It can means things like the gulf stream shutting down, which would cause much of Europe to get a lot cooler. It could mean loss of permafrost in northern tundra, or increased desertification in the southwest.

And hot weather where you're at doesn't necessarily mean anything, and is proof of nothing. Weather naturally fluctuates, what's at issue here is climate change, meaning instead of So. Cal getting little rain (which is pretty average) it gets tons of rain for months and months.

That would fuck things up.

Posted by: Tim at October 28, 2003 08:56 AM | PERMALINK

"You (and all of the rest of the people out there who offer "look out the window" evidense for global warming) make your side look really, really bad when you assert that whatever phenomena you are observing right now is due to global warming."

I do absolutely agree. But it's very much worth noting, though, that this is done pretty damn often, and to just as ridiculous an effect, on the other side. I remember during Limbaugh's tv show once he showed record-breaking snowfalls somewhere, and invited the audience to use these images of snow-bound vehicles as another chance to laugh at silly liberals all worked up over global warning.

Posted by: JW at October 28, 2003 08:58 AM | PERMALINK

"Who wants to bother with this environment nuisance? Back in Texas, we got rid of it! And, it made all of us a lot happier"

-this is my attempt to quote the Texas oil-tycoon character on the Simpsons. Yeehaw!

Posted by: bj at October 28, 2003 09:05 AM | PERMALINK

Climate change is a more general term than global warming that was adopted by the critics of global warming theory because it sounds less frightening and because it conveys a less accurate picture. Global cooling, for instance, fits nicely under the term climate change, but that isn't what the issue is. The issue is global warming and those who choose to call it climate change are helping those who would do nothing about it.

Posted by: exgop at October 28, 2003 09:16 AM | PERMALINK

I second what Tim said above. The phenomenon of "global warming" is a rather misleading symptom of climate changes (at least according to most of the theories I've read). The real fear is of much more severe and unpredictable weather patterns, hotter hots, colder colds, wet where it is usually dry, etc. These theories take into account and help explain the "mini-ice ages" that have occurred in the past and if the theories are to be believed, that is what they ultimately predict, mini- or major ice ages in the not too distant future.

One needs to look no further in the past than the "Dust Bowl" era of the 30's to understand the devestating effect even relatively small climate changes can have on an economy and a population.

Posted by: danno at October 28, 2003 09:22 AM | PERMALINK

Even if every criticism made in the re-calculation is true, all it proves is that there were higher temperatures some centuries ago. It doesn't do anything to change the extraordinary spike in temperature recently.

As to the cause of this spike, no proof is offered. But we ought to assume that human agency is a cause, because that we can do something about. (It's a bit like preventing forest fires. You can't do much about lightning strikes, but you sure can make an effort to stop people tossing cigarettes out windows.)

As to the people citing anecdotal evidence ...

Look, what's our proof that temperature is rising? An accumulation of statistics which are each single instances. If instead of treating anecdotal evidence as -proof-, we treat is as -examples- of something that's already proven through more rigorous study, the anecdotes are relevant.

Posted by: Simon at October 28, 2003 09:34 AM | PERMALINK

Global warming isn't an inaccurate term, as long as you keep in mind that it doesn't necessarily mean local warming. There's a net increase in the amount of heat energy present in the atmosphere and oceans. That results in more violent weather systems of all kinds: more extreme heat, more extreme cold, changes in storms and currents. Doesn't mean the heat is always in every spot at once.

Posted by: Eli Bishop at October 28, 2003 09:43 AM | PERMALINK

The issue is global warming and those who choose to call it climate change are helping those who would do nothing about it.

That's silly. What's your basis for asserting that?

Posted by: Tim at October 28, 2003 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

What's the big deal? All the revised graph shows is that there was a lot more emissions of greenhouse gasses, presuambly from power plants, motor vehicles, and factories, during the 1400s. Hence, global warming is proven!

Posted by: Al at October 28, 2003 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Actually what happend Al, is when the black plague came in the 1300s, everybody died so there weren't as many fires and people breathing to emit Co2 so the temperature dropped.

Posted by: Reg at October 28, 2003 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

BTW, it was, like, in the 60s in New York City over the weekend. I was quite warm and didn't even need a jacket. Like our friendly cat-owner, I think this means that global warming is proven!

Posted by: Al at October 28, 2003 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, that's it, Reg! You sure its not that there were simply less cars in the 1600s as compared to the 1400s? I think that's far more likely to result in less greenhouse gasses in the 1600s, and thus lower temperatures.

Posted by: Al at October 28, 2003 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

McKitrick is a Senior Fellow of the Fraser Institute

Anything with the Fraser Institute's hand in it is deeply suspect. Their mandate is political /social pornography for the hard right. McKitrick couldn't have gotten that post without being a whore through and through.

Posted by: sagesource at October 28, 2003 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Al and Reg both ably demonstrate how reducing the issue to the simplistic sound-bite of "global warming" draws idiots to snark like moths to flame.

Posted by: Tim at October 28, 2003 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Global warming isn't an inaccurate term, as long as you keep in mind that it doesn't necessarily mean local warming.

Exactly right. There has been some counter evident to contradict global warming, specifically colder temperatures in Antarctica and lower than normal temperatures in the northern hemisphere further south than there should be, but global warming can and does explain both phenomenon.

It's the region between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn where the air is heating up. This causes a basic atmospheric expansion (science 101 - materials expand as they heat) that puts pressure on the atmospheres within the Arctic and Antarctic Circles. In Antarctica it's having the effect of trapping the Antarctic air over the south pole and not allowing it to mix normally, driving temperatures in certain area lower than historical norms.

In the Arctic the opposite effect is taking place. To understand what's happening picture squeezing a balloon with your fingers spread apart. The balloon is going to go squirting out somewhere. The increase in atmospheric pressure on the Arctic's air mass is being released by an unusually large "bulge" of Arctic air extending a larger cold air mass further south than historically normal (this would be the unusual cold and snow Rush was using for his counter-argument).

Both these events are a result of increased air pressure on the poles due to the warming of the non-polar atmosphere. It's also why even slight atmospheric warming plays such havoc on weather patterns - it messes with the jet stream, the boundary between polar and tropic air.

Posted by: Thumb at October 28, 2003 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Tim-

From the Luntz memo:

It's time for us to start talking about "climate change" instead of global warming and "conservation" instead of preservation.

"Climate change" is less frightening than "global warming." As one focus group participant noted, climate change "sounds like you're going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale." While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge.

Don't be a sucker.

Call it global warming.

That's what it is, and it does have catastrophic consequences.

Posted by: praktike at October 28, 2003 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

sorry--italics should extend until after "challenge."

Posted by: praktike at October 28, 2003 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Praktile-

I disagree. "Global warming" is too simple and too stupid a term to use. Yes, techinically it is the correct term as others have noted, but your average moron reading about "global warming", if winter comes and it's a cold one their immediate reaction is going to be, "those eggheads don't know anything".

It's too easily abused. Maybe climate change isn't any better, but global warming... hell, look are Reg and Al's posts. "Global warming" invites that kind of stupidity, in my opinion.

Climate change is not a black and white term, global warming is. The Republican party speaks in nothing but black and white terms, they frame everything in black and white terms. The same goes for fundementalists of any stripes. It's either one or the other, and that's it. You can't make thoughtful decisions thinking like that- that's why the modern conservative movement is so morally, ethically, and intellectually bankrupt.

So, no, I'm not going to stick to global warming because the problem isn't global warming, it's people's stupidity.

Posted by: Tim at October 28, 2003 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

tim,

will you stipulate that the globe, on average, will be warmer due to climate change?

Posted by: praktike at October 28, 2003 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

A lot of comments here are starting off on the assumption that global warming exists, and then arguing that the data is irrelevant. ("Who cares if there was a spike 500 years ago -- that doesn't tell us anything about the spike now!")

The reason this is important is that global warming is just a theory. The climate is still too complicated for us to model well; current models don't even predict the past within any sensible error range, much less the future.

The import of graphs like this one (which was used, among other things, in the IPCC report which is treated, journalistically and apparently policy-wise, as the gold standard on climate change) is that they give what looks like a convincing picture of an unprecedented spike that neatly coincides with the massive increase in carbon emissions that started around 1850. If the corrected graph is right, that unprecedented massive increase is well within the limits of normal climate variation. Since the historical record is one of the main tests of the accuracy of the global warming theory, this would seem to carve a large chunk out of its underpinnings. (I'm certainly no expert, however, there may be other, good data sets that still back up the theory.)

As for the argument that data from 400 years ago is irrelevant, my impression is that the proxies used from 400 years ago are the same as the proxies used from 150 years ago, no more or less reliable. Temperature data, rather than data from proxies such as tree rings, is only available from about 1850 on.

Finally, I agree with Kevin that this has the potential -- but no more than the potential -- to be an academic scandal. The authors have identified four sets of errors, all of which run the same way (in favor of the authors thesis), and which conspire to produce a massive effect. Academically, that's bad news. Worse news for the authors of the original study is that the critics have left an audit trail for their own work, which suggests they're pretty confident about their findings. But good news for us, as if they've cut corners or made favorable coding errors of their own, their critics are sure to find it. Should be interesting to watch.

Posted by: Jane Galt at October 28, 2003 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

The importance of the data change is as follows:

If higher global temperatures are shown to exist in the recent past (1400/1500's), current global warming could have entirely non-industrial causes.

Posted by: james at October 28, 2003 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Forget about the graph for a moment, Jane.

Do you agree that ice caps are melting?

Do you agree that this is bad?

Do you believe that an economist has a better understanding of climate than thousands of scientists around the world?

Posted by: praktike at October 28, 2003 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

A lot of comments here are starting off on the assumption that global warming exists, and then arguing that the data is irrelevant. ("Who cares if there was a spike 500 years ago -- that doesn't tell us anything about the spike now!"

The reason this is important is that global warming is just a theory.

The North pole, exposed to open water for the first time in tens of thousands of years. Theory?

Glacial retreat (nearly no glaciers left in Glacier Nation Park). Theory?

Ocean levels threatening to submerge Milena old islands. Theory?

Ancient, massive, ice shelfs breaking away from Antarctica. Theory?

The climate is still too complicated for us to model well; current models don't even predict the past within any sensible error range, much less the future.

Yeah, much to complicated. Best we wait for something a little more catastrophic than the above events, just to be sure. We wouldn't want to make any unnecessary adjustments to our fossil fuel consumption, now would we? Can't have that.

Posted by: Thumb at October 28, 2003 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Melania.

Posted by: Thumb at October 28, 2003 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Most of the posts herein are a miss. "David says...?" "Amateurs?" McIntyre has prepared a few questions for Dr. Mann. Let's see how many "professionals" here exposed can even understand them, let alone answer them. Also, they never said a word about global warming being natural variability or anthropogenic. Their central point is that a paper that became the theme of the IPCC TAR, and which is used daily for alarmism toward major public policy actions, may be flawed. (Mann was the lead author of the chapter) Unlike Dr. Mann, they posted every thing they did, every step they took and invited either substantiation or correction to their work. Finally, there is no such discipline as "climate science." All the strawman attacks on their credentials and the publication are red-faced admissions to an unwillingness to read the paper for it merits, let alone really understand what it says.

A true scientist, not an Ideologue, would appreciation calm and gentlemanly answers to these questions. Afterall, the matter is not an insubstantial one.

QUESTIONS FOR PROFESSORS MANN, BRADLEY AND HUGHES THAT ARISE FROM THIS ANALYSIS.
These questions summarize the results of our audit of the data set. Answers to these questions are required to settle the contradiction between the original and corrected results.

1. Does the database contain truncations of series 10, 11 and 100? (and of the version of series 65 used by MBH98)?

2. Are the 1980 values of series #73 through #80 identical to 7 decimal places? Similarly for the 1980 values of series #81-83? And for the 1980 values of series #84 and #90-92? What is the reason for this?

3. Where are the calculations of principal components for series in the range #73-92 that would show that these have been collated into the correct year? Do you have any working papers that show these, and if so, would you make them FTP or otherwise publicly available?

4. Do the following series contain "fills": #3, #6, #45, #46, #50-#52, #54-#56, #58, #93-#99?

5. How did you deal with missing closing data in the following series: #11, #102, #103, #104, #106 and #112?

6. What is the source for your data for series #37 (precipitation in grid-box 42.5N, 72.5W)? Did you use the data from Jones-Bradley Paris, France and if so, in which series? More generally, please provide, identifications of the exact Jones-Bradley locations for each of the series #21-42. Where are the original source data?

7. Did you use summer (JJA) data for series #10 and #11 rather than annual data. If so, why?

8. Does your dataset contain obsolete data for the following series: #1, #2, #3, #6, #7, #8, #9, #21, #23, #27, #28, #30, #35, #37, #43, #51, #52, #54, #55, #56, #58, #65, #105 and #112?

9. Do you use the following listed proxies: fran003, ital015, ital015x, spai026 and spai047? If so, where?

10. Did you commence your calculation of principal components after the period in which all dataset members were available for the following series: #69-71, #91-92, #93-95, #96-99?

11. What is the basis for inclusion of some tree ring sites within a region in regional principal component calculations and others as individual dataset components?

12. Did you commence your calculation of principal components before the period in which all dataset members were available for the following series: #72-80, #84-90? If so, please describe your methodology for carrying out these calculations in the presence of missing data and your justification for doing so?

13. What is the explained variance under your principal component calculation for the period of availability of all members of your selected dataset? Would you please make your working papers that show this FTP or otherwise publicly available?

Posted by: Hugh Ferguson at October 28, 2003 01:16 PM | PERMALINK

prak-

I'm not going to play some logical corner deduction game. I already stated the term is technically accurate. I have no more to say on word usage.

If the corrected graph is right, that unprecedented massive increase is well within the limits of normal climate variation.

Define "normal". There's normal like the earth tilting, causing the bulk of the sahara to be formed relatively quickly, and then there's normal like no more forests on iceland exposing the land to harsh winds guaranteeing there never will be any more forests on iceland, scotland being nothing but peat and heather, Lybia being lots of desert rather than cedar forests and grasslands, sea walls washing away beaches, acid rain, pcp contamination, deforestation...

It's all due to human activity, sure, some things get accomplished "naturally", but on such a vast scale and not as quickly, either (save the occasional tilting of the world). They all effect climate. Vegatation patterns and density effect climate. Air quality effects climate. Water quality effects climate.

There's nothing normal about vast manipulation of the earth's environments over a time scale that, geologicaly speaking, is about equivalent to a split-second. We've done more in the last 3 or 4 thousand years than the earth ever did on its own in such a small amount of time.

So again, define "normal".

Posted by: Tim at October 28, 2003 01:17 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that no matter what your opinion of global warming's existence, one has to admit that it is far from objective truth, and not knowing it exists, and if it does, whether we are causing it, doesn't it seem awfully radical to suggest huge changes to our economy which would harm millions of people and cost countless jobs?

Posted by: Reg at October 28, 2003 01:24 PM | PERMALINK

The importance of the data change is as follows:
If higher global temperatures are shown to exist in the recent past (1400/1500's), current global warming could have entirely non-industrial causes.
Posted by james at October 28, 2003 12:38 PM
------------------------------------
Sigh.

1) No climatologist will tell you that temperatures were perfectly stable before humans came along. Those rises and dips had natural causes, ranging from changes in the circulation of ocean water to fluxuations in the energy output of the sun.

2) Climatologists I've spoken to (I'm a science writer) all say that there is a compenent of the present-day warming that is due to similar causes. We are rebounding from the Maunder Minimum, when the sun's output dropped considerably.

3) The experts whom I've spoken to and trust on this matter all agree that the lion's share of the warming we've seen so far is due to human-induced changes in the atmosphere. No one who isn't living in a fantasy land believes this is entirely natural.

4) Although the climate models have a lot of wiggle-room in them, and we are far from completely understanding the effects of ocean sinks and forest growth on the short-term greenhouse outlook, the concept that adding CO2 and methane to the atmosphere will cause warming is well established physics. It isn't a question of whether industrial CO2 is causing warming, it's how much warming it is causing.

There is no painless solution. Remediating greenhouse gases will mean accepting higher energy costs as we shift to non-carbon (or zero net carbon, per Klaus Lackner) fuel sources. Accepting global warming will mean consigning my child and yours, and their children, to an impoverished existance. Me, personally, I'm willing to sacrifice to make my child's life better.

It's funny. I find environmentalism to be an inherently conservative world-view: I want my son to know the kind of natural world that my father and I knew growing up. And I find the industrial apologists and unconcerned libertarians as frighteningly radical as a gaggle of 1950s urban renewal experts--things will be just fine, they assure us, and we might even like it better.

Posted by: jlw at October 28, 2003 01:28 PM | PERMALINK

tim, i apologize.

Reg, these aren't huge changes. In fact, if you look at the avoided costs of dealing with global warming now versus in the future, they're smart.

And the prudent thing to do, in the face of "uncertainty," is to act according to the precautionary principle. If you're driving a car along the Pacific Cost highway, and it's foggy, maybe you should slow down...maybe you won't get to San Francisco on time, but at least you won't drive off a cliff.

Posted by: praktike at October 28, 2003 01:31 PM | PERMALINK

Reg-

You're wrong on every count.

Pretty much every environmental scientist on the planet is in agreement regarding the generalities of global warming. That is, it's most likely happening and human activity may (probably) has something to do with it.

There is no consensus on the why's how's and what-for's, but most everyone whose opinion is valid agrees it is a real phenomenon.

And for your second point:

The federal government recently released an extensive analysis of the economic costs of some regulations. The study concluded that the benefits of Environmental Protection Agency regulations -- benefits to both health and the economy -- significantly exceeded the economic costs of complying with those regulations. The reporting agency was the president's Office of Management and Budget, historically a skeptical watchdog accustomed to restraining the EPA's regulatory enthusiasms. And the official responsible for the study was John Graham, former Harvard professor and authority on cost-benefit analysis, whose confirmation was vigorously opposed by most Washington environmental groups.

From:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A21852-2003Oct13.html

But, you're creating a straw-man argument anyway. You're asserting that what is wanted in response to global warming is undefined "huge changes to our economy". I'd like you to back up that assertion.

Explain how increasing mileage requirements or emissions requirements constitute a huge change? Explain how requiring power plants to install scrubbers are a huge change? Explain how increasing and expanding public transportation is a huge change?

What are you basing your assertion on besides stuff you made up in your own head?

Posted by: Tim at October 28, 2003 01:42 PM | PERMALINK

Kyoto called for our CO2 output to be rolled back to 1990 levels. That isn't a drastic change?
If you are driving in fog, you know its foggy. We have no clue how much warming will take place, if any, and we don't know if we are the cause, and we don't know if we can do anything to stop it, and we don't know what the effect will be. To use the precautionary principle in such a situation would be silly, if it wouldn't be so harmful to our country.

Posted by: Reg at October 28, 2003 01:43 PM | PERMALINK

Regardless of anything else, if these guys are right, then maybe Mann "sexed up" his chart - all in a "good" cause. We don't like that in Iraq, why should we likt it here? One man's precautionary principle is another man's preemptive strike.

Posted by: Nigel at October 28, 2003 01:47 PM | PERMALINK

Regardless of anything else, if these guys are right, then maybe Mann "sexed up" his chart - all in a "good" cause. We don't like that in Iraq, why should we like it here? One man's precautionary principle is another man's preemptive strike.

Posted by: Nigel at October 28, 2003 01:47 PM | PERMALINK

Tim, do you think all those changes and implementations are free? Added up over the entire economy the cost would be enormous.

And your article does not refer to CO2 at all. Only general EPA regulations, with which I mostly agree. I don't agree that CO2 ought to be regulated at all

Posted by: Reg at October 28, 2003 01:50 PM | PERMALINK

Reg, the cliff represents global warming. the fog represents uncertainty. i think scientists are pretty certain that global warming is caused by human activity, but even if they weren't, it would be prudent to act as if global warming were a certainty.

There are all kinds of innovations that can help...carbon sequestration, for instance.

I suspect that I'm wasting my time with you, Reg. But I'm cautiously optimistic. Tim, don't get your blood pressure all bent out of shape on his account.

Posted by: praktike at October 28, 2003 01:53 PM | PERMALINK

Reg-

You're wrong. You understand your defense is ignorance, right? Well, we're not ignorant to the problem, we're aware of it and are sorting it out.

As for Kyoto-...

You know I wonder why I even bother. You pose a question as if you're actually interested in dialogue and when you're answered you say "nuh-uh!". You haven't backed up your assertion, anyone familiar with the english language and rhetoric would tell you that.

If you think the Kyoto protocal was radical and would cause huge economic impacts you have to back that up. How would it have a huge economic impact? Just because Bush said it would doesn't mean it's true.

And you ignored the OMB report.

How can you live like this? Constantly deflecting anything that doesn't reinforce your assumptions?

Why don't you be a man and discuss the issue with some integrity?

Posted by: Tim at October 28, 2003 02:00 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Tim, you could look at the Clinton administration report that seemed to indicate that a fairly massive change in the economy, on the order of a 2-4% reduction in GDP, would produce a fairly trivial offset in global warming, delaying it by about six years. That would seem to indicate a really massive economic dislocation in order to have a large effect on emissions -- while such things can be non-linear, I'd suspect that the low-hanging fruit would be plucked first, making subsequent changes more, rather than less, expensive. (Barring technological breakthrough, or a shift in public sentiment on nuclear fuel.) Put it this way: if the consensus among climate scientists on global warming is fairly secure, the consensus among economists about reducing our fossil fuel consumption by the levels needed to abate it is rock solid. Fossil fuels are the engine of our economy. Such a change could be necessary -- but it will not be painless. And increasing CAFE standards in the face of the sort of catastrophe scenarios global warming advocates postulate is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Your other suggestions are unlikely to do much: scrubbers don't take out CO2, which is the problem here, and public transit is simply a massive failure everywhere it has been tried outside of the old core cities that developed around public transit in the pre-automobile era. Public transit that runs below capacity is worse, not better, for the environment than cars, as it consumes energy without moving anyone.

Other posters are quibbling with word choice. I apologize: I should have said anthropogenic global warming. People are in agreement that the surface temperature seems to be getting warmer in the 20th century, but absent evidence that the warming trend is severely abnormal, it becomes much harder to attribute that warming to our industrial output. If the climate change is not anthropogenic, then there's no sense worrying about it (other than to discuss strategies for mitigating the damage), as our knowlege of climate is currently, IMHO, far too imperfect for us to risk trying to alter the trend with any of these lunatic schemes you occasionally see on libertarian sites, such as seeding the oceans with iron. If industrial activity is causing the climate to warm to an extent that will bring catastrophe upon us and the species sharing our planet, we have to do whatever is required to avert the danger -- and we have the ability to do so, by reverting to a subsistence farming lifestyle if nothing else. But if anthropogenic activity is not a major source of warming, then signing onto expensive emissions reductions will hurt us at no benefit. And if the data are really this shaky (I assume they aren't) then it's simply idiotic to demand that we DO! SOMETHING! NOW! when we don't even know what's causing the problem.

Posted by: Jane Galt at October 28, 2003 02:01 PM | PERMALINK

Tim, do you think all those changes and implementations are free? Added up over the entire economy the cost would be enormous.

See? Why do I bother? You're changing what I'm saying into some bizarre absolute. I ask you to explain how increasing fuel effeciency would be a radical change and you turn that into "do you think all those changes and implementations are free?". It's pathetic.

And again, another unfounded assertion:
"Added up over the entire economy the cost would be enormous". How do you know this? What exactly is it you're talking about?

US automakers said efficiency standards would bankrupt them in the 70s... and they didn't.

The toyota prius gets 70 mpg, something the big 3 had all but said was impossible.

Why do I bother, Reg? Be a man for once.

Posted by: Tim at October 28, 2003 02:06 PM | PERMALINK

jane, pumping co2 into the ground is one possibility, and it's something that the netl is working on, despite the administration's public pronouncements on global warming. so at least someone in the administration is acting prudently.

one thing we can do is to realign subsidy regimes around clean energy, not fossil fuels. get rid of the ludicrous "synfuels" credit, for instance.

Posted by: praktike at October 28, 2003 02:10 PM | PERMALINK

Tim, I have more to do than research global warming so my answers reach your desired level of specificity and responsiveness. JG responds to all of your issues, and I don't think I need to add anything else. Also, I'm curious what a poll of Americans would reveal if we asked them whether they would all drive toyota priuses and pay more for electricity and risk losing their jobs to lessen the possibility that the earth might warm, when we don't know whether we can fix it or what the result would be.

You seem awfully uptight by the way.

Posted by: Reg at October 28, 2003 02:21 PM | PERMALINK

Never said it would be painless and I don't think the "it's to late to do anything about it" argument, even as a supposition, is a valid one.

People are in agreement that the surface temperature seems to be getting warmer in the 20th century, but absent evidence that the warming trend is severely abnormal, it becomes much harder to attribute that warming to our industrial output.

That's a false tautology, or analogy, I'm not sure which.

You're implying a few things that make no sense. I'm not sure how to start. First of all, you're implying there is a mean or an average and that every fluctuation away from that average since the beginning of time is part of "normal" fluctuations because, well, people didn't do it therfore it's normal.

If there's a mean or an average then wouldn't it make more sense to label large fluctuations as "abnormal"? If the moon blew up by some freak, natural disaster and the oceans went nuts and weather patterns changed severly, etc., etc., would you lable that "normal" simply because humans didn't do it?

Or, if the moon did blow up, and shit got messed up, etc., and 100 years later humans did something that caused climate change nearly as great as that of the moon blowing up, would you call that normal because it was less than the moon blowing up?

You're defining "normal" as "anything not done by humans", and of course that's silly. "Natural would be the right word, and still it doesn't mean "normal".

Second, you're implying in order for climate change to be attributable to humans the change would have to be distinctly different and unique to all other instances of climate change.

That's silly too. If a twenty thousand years ago the sun was putting out much more heat, and the earth tilted a little more one way or another, and that caused ice caps to melt, which shut down the gulf stream, which cooled Europe, which created a moisture trap... etc., that would be an obvious change in climate patterns from what came before (that is how change is indetified, right?). We could be pretty sure people didn't contribute too much, but it would still be a severe change.

Now, twenty thousand years later ice caps are melting, air is heating, deserts are expanding, etc., etc, all of this represents a change in what's been the average for the last few hundred years. If it can't be explained by other "natural" causes, then it's not wildly off the mark to attribute it to humans given the rock-solid science of what happens when the chemical composition of the atmosphere is changed.

Not only that but it's not wildly off the mark to call it abnormal, or to view it as a negative, or to consider it worrisome. It could look exactly like a "natural" climate fluctuation from 1,000 years ago, or whenever, that wouldn't make it "normal".

If the climate change is not anthropogenic, then there's no sense worrying about it (other than to discuss strategies for mitigating the damage), as our knowlege of climate is currently, IMHO, far too imperfect for us to risk trying to alter the trend with any of these lunatic schemes you occasionally see on libertarian sites, such as seeding the oceans with iron.

No one in their right mind wants to seed the oceans. And yes, even if it's not due to us we need to worry about it. How could you possibly think just because it's not human caused we don't need to pay attention? If we started entering a new ice age we could ignore it? Of course not. It doesn't matter what's causing it, it's still going to effect us and our economys (how about natural desertification of the breadbasket?). So no matter what the cause, I think it's perfectly reasonable and correct to say we should still be paying attention and, yes, worrying about it.

But if anthropogenic activity is not a major source of warming, then signing onto expensive emissions reductions will hurt us at no benefit. And if the data are really this shaky (I assume they aren't) then it's simply idiotic to demand that we DO! SOMETHING! NOW! when we don't even know what's causing the problem.

Did you read the OMB report? Can you really see no health benefits via cleaner air and water? The activities needed to take place to address global warming have fungible results. You can't pretend air without harmful dioxides wouldn't be a plus.

And "we don't even know" is not an argument. We (that is, just about every environmental/biological scientist on the earth) have good reason to believe it's due to human activity. That's not the same as not knowing.

Posted by: Tim at October 28, 2003 02:54 PM | PERMALINK

You're a real pussy, Reg. Remember that.

Posted by: Tim at October 28, 2003 02:55 PM | PERMALINK

Reg, seriously: "I have more to do than research global warming".

That seems to be your whole strategy on every thread you participate in. Whether or not you know anything, you chime in. You throw up random stuff which has been already disproved, you ask dumb leading questions and dumb rhetorical questions, and you don't care. Nothing seems to embarass you.

Are you locked in a jail cell with a lot of time on your hands? Having you in a discussion is like having a guy on the court who's never played the game before before.

Do you really think that, as a lawyer, you'll be able to get away with this? In court, stupidity and ignorance have consequences.

Posted by: Zizka at October 28, 2003 02:59 PM | PERMALINK

"Are you locked in a jail cell with a lot of time on your hands? "

Heh, I guess you could say that. I don't spend a lot of time on this, just 5 minutes here and there. Currently I am researching New Source Review, not global warming. A post like Jane Gaults takes quite some time to put together.

And Zizka and Tim, whats with the insults? I disagree with you on the proper response to global warming so you question my abilities as a lawyer and call me a pussy.

You guys are laughable.

Posted by: Reg at October 28, 2003 03:09 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree with you on the proper response to global warming

That's precisely not what you did, or do, ever. You threw out some catch-phrases and sound bites and complain when you're challenged.

I'm not calling you a name, I'm describing you accurately:

You're a pussy, Reg.

Posted by: Tim at October 28, 2003 03:12 PM | PERMALINK

Hi Tim.

Some unsolicited advice: don't feed the trolls.

My rule for online discussions is to only argue with people I respect. It's better for your blood pressure and leads to more interesting reading for the rest of us...

Posted by: jw mason at October 28, 2003 03:28 PM | PERMALINK

JW-

I know, but I was giving Reg the benefit of the doubt, and when I do that, and I get the same old crap, lately I prefer to hurl some invective and then move on. It's not my fault the guy has no dignity.

And, I should point out, I'm only describing him, not feeding.

Posted by: Tim at October 28, 2003 03:38 PM | PERMALINK

Heh, Tim, lemme-splain.
I'm a libertarian, and judging from the enlightened commentary on your site, you aren't a big fan. So I don't feel so bad now. And for other libertarians, this is what Tim thinks of you:

God I hate libertarians. No one stupider or more arrogant than a libertarian....They want to use all that shit but don't want to pay for any of it....
Fuck libertarians....I'd like to take a few of them pseudo-intellectual, willfully ignorant cocks out to the desert. The lizards would know what to do with them.

Heh. That made my night. Thanks tim.

Posted by: Reg at October 28, 2003 03:48 PM | PERMALINK

Jane Galt may or may not have a solid scientific argument; I wouldn't know. But I am automatically suspicious of any argument that uses the phrase "But it's just a theory," since that is the idiotic mantra of the creationists about evolution -- trying to make "theory" mean "far-fetched daydream". As someone else pointed out, Glacier National Park is about to melt out of existence; nothing "theoretical" about that.

Posted by: Temperance at October 28, 2003 03:56 PM | PERMALINK

Also-

Gravity is just a theory, if you want to be technical.

Does that mean it may not exist?

Posted by: Tim at October 28, 2003 04:07 PM | PERMALINK

Or I should be specific, gravity is a phenomenon, gravitivity is the theory explaining it.

We shouldn't spend any money constructing things on the ground because gravity is just a theory- e just don't know.

Posted by: Tim at October 28, 2003 04:08 PM | PERMALINK

I didn't mean to say that GW is just a theory, in the sense that therefore it's nothing to worry about; I meant it in the sense that we don't actually *know* there's anthropogenic GW a priori. We have a theory that carbon emissions cause significant atmospheric warming; the only way we know whether it is true or not is to test it. Because the models have so little predictive ability right now, the best test is the historical record. One of the most compelling arguments for AGW was the fact that the carbon emissions seemed to be causing grossly anomalous warming. If the dataset used in the most influential reports on AGW is flawed, then we need to seriously reevaluate our belief that it is occurring.

Tim, your response has nothing to do with my argument. All I'm saying is that if the warming trend is not anthropogenic, there is nothing we can do to stop it; we need to focus our energies on accomodating ourselves to it. And if the evidence upon which we have been basing our belief in global warming is as flawed as this paper seems to be arguing, then trying to stop it by curtailing our industrial production may be about as effective as trying to stop it by throwing virgins into the volcano. Since the kind of curtailment that would be necessary to seriously slow or halt global warming would be extremely drastic, it behooves us to make sure that the preponderance of the evidence indicates that we are truly on a catastrophic, but reversible, course.

Posted by: Jane Galt at October 28, 2003 04:40 PM | PERMALINK

1. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the spike in global temperatures over the past 100 years is an established fact. The criticism of this paper is over the earlier period, and this paper is only one of many, many supporting this view.

If the dataset used in the most influential reports on AGW is flawed, then we need to seriously reevaluate our belief that it is occurring.

2. Do you have any particular reason for thinking this is "one of the most influential reports on global warming"? Can you give me, say, an example of its being cited by other scientists, in arguments for stricter regulation of carbon emissions, etc.? If not, you should amend your statement to read, "If the dataset used in any report on AGW is flawed, then we need to seriously reevaluate our belief that it is occurring." Which frankly is what I think you meant.

3. As far as what portion of the well-established increase in global temperatures is anthropogenic, yes, this is a very difficult question. But from a policy perspective, it doesn't matter that much. As Thumb put it in a nice comment above, reducing the number of cigarettes tossed out of windows is a better way of fighting forest fires than reducing the frequency of lightning strikes. This is equally true if cigarettes cause 90% of fires and lightning 10%, or the reverse.


Posted by: jw mason at October 28, 2003 04:52 PM | PERMALINK

Oops, the forest fire analogy was Simon's But thumb's comments are good too.

Posted by: jw mason at October 28, 2003 04:58 PM | PERMALINK

"the spike in global temperatures over the past 100 years is an established fact"

I've read quite a bit disagreeing with this. I don't know if what I've read is clearly false or not, but here:

http://www.marshall.org/pdf/materials/170.pdf

I don't know how much effect the urban heat islands have on temp. readings, or whether changes in measurement techniques introduce discrepencies, or whether the temperature increase is due to the sun, but both objections seem logical. And I have read that air temperatures have not increased.

Posted by: Reg at October 28, 2003 05:07 PM | PERMALINK

jw mason, that depends on what is proposed to curtail throwing out cigarettes. If it amounts to spending a very small percentage of government expenditures on public education, then it may be worthwhile. If it involves shrinking GDP by 2 to 3 percent, it may not be worthwhile. If 90 percent (or more; who knows?) of global warming is non-arthopogenic, then undertaking massive efforts to reduce the arthopogenic portion may be destructive, on balance. Even if it were known how to reverse non-arthopogenic warming, and what the costs were, even roughly, one would also know how ultimately damaging reversing non-arthopogenic would be, and what the rough chances of such a reversal would have other unintended ill effects, before making such a undertaking worthwhile. We are so far from that point that it is ridiculous to pretend otherwise.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 28, 2003 05:52 PM | PERMALINK

Will-

It's my belief that the costs involved are small. In fact, they might even be negative, since many of the activites that (we beleive) contribute to global warming have other, cleaer negative externalities as well.

But here's the beauty part: we don't need to know. Just impose a modest carbon tax. Businesses are free to decide for themselves if it's more costly to reduce their emissions, or pay the tax. History suggests that when actually faced witht his choice, they'll find that reducing emissions is much cheaper than they thought. But if not, the level of the tax sets an absolute ceiling on their costs.

(A lot of people make the same kind of argument for tradbal permits. That's a mistake. Formally the tax and the permits are identical, and the tax is much simpelr to administer.)

Posted by: jw mason at October 28, 2003 06:04 PM | PERMALINK

"tradbal" = "tradable."

Posted by: jw mason at October 28, 2003 06:06 PM | PERMALINK

jw, if reducing carbon emissions are as critical as is supposed by some, then allowing businesses to decide whther they wish to pay a modest tax makes no sense. Either this is critical, or it is not. If it is, then leaving businesses with the choice of paying a modest tax is inadequate; we didn't give individuals or businesses the choice of whether to pay a modest tax to rebuild the Pacific Fleet after Pearl Harbor, we imposed a certain tax, along with massive borrowing to get the aircraft carriers built. If this isn't critical, then the whole exercise is pointless. If the task is critical, than the carbon tax must NOT be modest, but instead massive, to ensure that the critically required behavior is produced. "If not" is not an acceptable outcome, if the reduction is as critical as is asserted.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 28, 2003 06:21 PM | PERMALINK

Jane G:: And if the data are really this shaky (I assume they aren't) then it's simply idiotic to demand that we DO! SOMETHING! NOW! when we don't even know what's causing the problem.

Um. Iraq?

I always liked the fermentation analogy to human life on earth.

Posted by: degustibus at October 28, 2003 06:29 PM | PERMALINK

Allowing a carbon emissions is costly. Reducing carbon emissions is also costly. So we want to find that level of carbon emissions where the sum of these costs is lowest. Follow me so far?

So we make our best guess fo the costs of carbon emissions. is it 1 cent per ton? ten cents? a tenth of a cent? Yes the science is uncertain, but we have to do this. In fact we, already are doing it: our estimate is zero. I don't think there's any principled defense of this estimate, tho we can certainly argue about how much above zero our best estimate would be.

Now, how about the costs to business? that's the beuaty of the tax -- it leaves it up to business to determine if a one-ton reduction in carbon emissions is worth the extra equipment, less-efficient process or whatever it would take to achieve it. So if it turns out to be very costly to reduce emissions, they won;t be reduced much; if it turns out to be cheap, we'll reduce them a lot. And no government planner makes the determination, the afffected businesses do so themselves.

Either this is critical, or it is not.

You, my friend, have not studied economics. Reducing carbon emissions is desirable, but so are other things. That's why we have a price system.

we didn't give individuals or businesses the choice of whether to pay a modest tax to rebuild the Pacific Fleet after Pearl Harbor

That tax was intended to raise revenue. This one is to change incentives.

Posted by: jw mason at October 28, 2003 06:41 PM | PERMALINK

First,

Please folks, read the post from the Science writer/editor, and read my posts in the early part of the thread -- I am a Geologist, and I have spent a large part of my career studying these types of problems (including my BA thesis and a number of research expeditions)...

First of all, Jane Galt, please, use precise language in context, there is a massive difference, in scientific writing, between Hypotheses and a Theories -- hypotheses are testable predictions...theories are hypotheses that have been tested numerous times in numerous ways without being disproven.

Reg, there may be such a thing as "objective truth", but we have no way of knowing it or proving that we know it, because we cannot observe each and every instance over all space and time, and all it takes is ONE counter example to disprove an assertion/hypothesis/theory.

And, when commenting on things like this:

I don't know how much effect the urban heat islands have on temp. readings, or whether changes in measurement techniques introduce discrepencies, or whether the temperature increase is due to the sun, but both objections seem logical. And I have read that air temperatures have not increased.

Please keep in mind that you are not a scientist, you are not a specialist in the field of modern atmospheric temperature change and temperature measurement using land surface, ocean surface, balloon, or satellite measurement, or ice-core/coral/lakebed/ocean floor/tree ring proxies...

To deconstruct:

I don't know how much effect the urban heat islands have on temp. readings

Urban heat islands have a large effect on temperature readings in or on the margins of such heat islands, to the point where some cities seem to have developed their own seasonal microclimates.

However, two things make this objection moot: 1) There are many MORE, and many LARGER urban heat islands now than there were in 1900, and the areal coverage of concrete and tar is MUCH larger...more heat islands = more heat trapped.... and 2) There are a large and growing number of non-urban temperature stations all over the globe...

or whether changes in measurement techniques introduce discrepencies,

They do, but the changes in techniques do not change trends that are consistent within the same measurement technique and between different techniques...and, where changeovers between methods have occurred, there are a large number of "dual" stations.

or whether the temperature increase is due to the sun

Changes in absolute solar output over time certainly would have an effect, but that is still a hotly (heh) debated topic...both in terms of absolute scale/impact and in terms of time-scale/periodicity.

And I have read that air temperatures have not increased.

You read something that was both completely simplistic and wrong.

What has happened is that the average temperature of the entire atmosphere has changed over the period of time that we can monitor it...30 years or so...and it is a positive change.

AND, since the advent of more sophisticated satellite monitoring changes, we have noted that different layers of the atmosphere (it is layered) change in different ways -- the lower atmosphere is warming more strongly than the upper atmosphere, and, indeed, the upper layers in the stratosphere MAY be cooling...

Posted by: Dan at October 28, 2003 06:41 PM | PERMALINK

oops, forgot the /b tag after "business". oh well.

Posted by: jw mason at October 28, 2003 06:42 PM | PERMALINK

thanks Dan. I felt like I owed reg a response. you've provided it.

Posted by: jw mason at October 28, 2003 06:43 PM | PERMALINK

Who is to say that the R&D and infrastructural investment needed to deal with anthropogenic (or not) global increase in the thermal energy trapped by the Earth will not more than offset the short term reductions in GDP necessitated by such changes?

An example:

Several scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have devised and tested some interesting methods of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and converting that CO2 into mineral-locked Carbon (limestone, dolomite, etc).

They suggest that the construction of large "factories" in remote areas to "scrub" the atmosphere of carbon down to what we THINK are "normal" levels will work over a relative short period to rebalance the atmospheric carbon budget...

Stripping CO2

Talk about a growth enterprise!

Posted by: Dan at October 28, 2003 06:53 PM | PERMALINK

Well Dan, because I am not a scientist I prefaced everything with "I don't know" and I was looking for somebody smarter to comment on the arguments I've heard. Thanks.

Posted by: Reg at October 28, 2003 07:12 PM | PERMALINK

Reg,

You're welcome.

Posted by: Dan at October 28, 2003 07:14 PM | PERMALINK

Dan,

I agree with you that measures to counter global warming might well be a stimulus to the econbomy rather than a drag. My point is just that even if those measures are costly, it's not a reason to Do.Nothing.Indefinitely, to coin a phrase.

Posted by: jw mason at October 28, 2003 07:25 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, JW, but it has not yet been established how important it is to what degree the incentives will affect behavior, so we have no idea whether your "modest" tax is appropriate. If, in fact, it is critical that the incentives change behavior massively, then a "modest" is inadequate, since you have already conceded, with your supposition that begins "If not...", that a modest tax may not have the desired effect, and the predicted catastrophe will occur anyways. A "modest" tax is appropriate , when the desired goal is, say, a reduction in current levels in lung cancer caused by air pollution. If the incentive doesn't change behavior suffciently , it's unfortunate, but not catastrophic. When the consequence that the incentive is designed to avoid is portrayed as catastrophically as global warming, a "modest" incentive cannot be chanced, for it may not change behavior sufficiently to avoid the catastrophe. Logic dictates that the incentive not be modest, but massive.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 28, 2003 07:34 PM | PERMALINK

FWIW - EdZ writes the following at David Appell's site:

"I e-mailed Mann about it and he had already written a preliminary response. Mann said that the M&M paper did not retrace his original work, but mixed up different datasets and normalizations - ones which were different from Michael Mann's original paper. The fact that other researchers did repeat Mann's work and came up with the same results (within error ranges) - this fact was not mentioned in McKitrick's website. McKitrick totally loses credibility when he claims the paleoclimate data is not available for others to examine."

Posted by: rilkefan at October 28, 2003 07:37 PM | PERMALINK

Will, if you want to argue for a very high carbon tax and other drastic measures to reduce the risk of global warming, that's fine by me.

My point is just that if you reject drastic action because it's too costly, there are low-cost alternatives that still beat doing nothing.

Posted by: jw mason at October 28, 2003 07:39 PM | PERMALINK

Will, the other point here is that we don't know how expensive it is to reduce carbon emissions, because currently there is no incentive to try. So the other thing the carbon tax does is access what Hayek called "tacit information" about the costs of countering global warming.

If emissions don't respond to the tax, that's not a failure of policy. It just means that we now know reducing emissions is more costly than we expected, so we may in fact not want to reduce them so much after all.

As I've said before, I don't think that's what would happen. I think a modest carbon tax, sutained over a reasonable period, would lead to very large reductions in emissions. But if I'm wrong, I would very much like to know. And implementing a tax, or something similar, is the only real way to find out.

Posted by: jw mason at October 28, 2003 07:48 PM | PERMALINK

Rilkefan - M&M put up the dataset that they said that Mann sent them. I saw it on their website. Is Mann saying that there's still another dataset? This seems pretty weird.

Posted by: Nigel at October 28, 2003 08:06 PM | PERMALINK

Dan, one more question. You said that "What has happened is that the average temperature of the entire atmosphere has changed over the period of time that we can monitor it...30 years or so...and it is a positive change."

But I knew I had read that the air temperature has not changed at all, and here is one example.

http://www.cnn.com/2000/NATURE/02/01/global.warming.enn/

"Data collected by satellites and balloon-borne instruments since 1979, however, indicates little, if any, warming of the atmospheric layer extending about five miles above Earth's surface."

Now I don't trust CNN's spin on things usually, but this seems legit.

Posted by: Reg at October 28, 2003 08:07 PM | PERMALINK

a comparison of adjusted and non adjusted radiosonde tropospheric data...compared to Satellite Data from ONE station in Russia that is looking into the instrumental effects you touched on...

Their correction - a static shift- indicates that the lower Troposphere has warmed.

A comparison of Radiosonde, Surface, and Satellite temperature... this is the "graph only" page...

For the entire chapter of the National Academy Press article on Reconciling Observations of Global Temperature Change click the link and read on...

the conclusions?

Findings section of the same chapter

1) Surface temperature is rising...

2) Based on current estimates, the lower to mid-troposphere has warmed less than the earth's surface during the past 20 years. For the time period from 1979 to 1998, it is estimated that on average, over the globe, surface temperature has increased by 0.25 to 0.4 °C and lower to mid-tropospheric temperature has increased by 0.0 to 0.2 °C.

Note that they do NOT say that the Tropospheric temperatures have not changed...note that they DO say that the tropospheric temperatures have WARMED LESS than the surface...

(3) Current estimates of surface and lower to mid-tropospheric temperature trends are subject to a level of uncertainty that is almost as large as the apparent disparity between them.

(4) The observed trends have been partially, but not fully, reconciled with climate model simulations of human-induced climate change.

(5) The record of satellite observations of lower to mid-tropospheric temperature is still short and subject to large sampling fluctuations.

(6) It is not currently possible to determine whether or not there exists a fundamental discrepancy between modeled and observed atmospheric temperature changes since the advent of satellite data in 1979.

Okay?

CNN is not a good source for talking about science.

Posted by: Dan at October 28, 2003 08:34 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and Reg...I hate to be snarky (actually I love being snarky)...but did you read that CNN excerpt for comprehension?

You wrote But I knew I had read that the air temperature has not changed at all, and here is one example.

CNN link


And they wrote: "Data collected by satellites and balloon-borne instruments since 1979, however, indicates little, if any, warming of the atmospheric layer extending about five miles above Earth's surface."

Do you know the difference between "not changed at all" and "little, if any, change"??

Please...smarter monkeys (to shamelessly plagiarize numerous folks)...

Posted by: Dan at October 28, 2003 08:49 PM | PERMALINK

All I'm saying is that if the warming trend is not anthropogenic, there is nothing we can do to stop it; we need to focus our energies on accomodating ourselves to it.

That isn't what you were saying, though. That's what you're saying now because it's a more sensible argument, but it wasn't what you were arguing previously. You were supposing that we could not know if human activity caused climate change and, besides that, human causation wasn't anything to worry about unless it was greater than any natural fluctuation.

It seemed to me that's what you were arguing pretty plainly. Your current argument is more sensible and... not even worth debating really, because you're changing the point of contention to simply: can humans do anything to avert natural (non anthropogenic) climate change? And that's sort of an unfair starting point.

Posted by: Tim at October 28, 2003 08:49 PM | PERMALINK

Nigel - probably the issue is how to combine information from various sources. Typically one knows that set A has more noise, that set B needs to be globally corrected by x percent, that set C is invalid outside a certain range, that sets D and E have correlated uncertainties... It sounds like Mann is saying M&M are wrong or frauds - you should probably wait for him to publish in a peer-reviewed forum though, if you're still interested. As my post at the head of the thread indicates, the M&M webpage looks wrong to me on its face.

Posted by: rilkefan at October 28, 2003 08:52 PM | PERMALINK

Rilkefan- it's pretty strong stuff both ways. Did you see where M&M say that Mann has exactly the same values for 9 different series in 1980? And claim to show an excerpt from Mann's data. This is really strange. Is this what you mean by comining data. How would they even think up such a thing? But it should be pretty easy to sort out who's right and wrong.

Posted by: Nigel at October 28, 2003 09:12 PM | PERMALINK

I've just looked at the competing graphs, not the technical analysis, but even the revised graph shows a sudden upward temperature spike in the 1900s, and global warming is the most plausible explanation for this spike.

Posted by: KeithH at October 28, 2003 09:33 PM | PERMALINK

KeithH- I don't get the impression that M&M are actually saying very much about temperature one way or another. It looks to me like they are mostly just savaging Mann's data.

Posted by: Nigel at October 28, 2003 09:47 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, Dan, I never make scientific arguments because I'm not a scientist. Yet I read all over the web from reputable sources that air temperature readings don't show change in climate, or sorry, at least no significant change in climate. You yourself say that "lower to mid-tropospheric temperature has increased by 0.0 to 0.2 °C" as does the National Academy report.

I don't know what this means as far as global warming goes, what I said earlier was this:
"I have read that air temperatures have not increased."

You said this:
"You read something that was both completely simplistic and wrong."

It seems to me that I was more right than you were.

Posted by: Reg at October 28, 2003 09:49 PM | PERMALINK

Nigel - they are claiming (falsely, I believe) that their version of the data contradicts Mann's conclusions. Using someone else's data set is often highly non-trivial - I used to work at a European lab that had four very similar experiments doing the same physics, and it took special working groups to combine their results. It sounds like Mann's analysis has been replicated by his peers, so I'm reasonably satisfied. If you want more I suggest waiting for Mann's response.

Posted by: rilkefan at October 28, 2003 09:58 PM | PERMALINK

reg,

just read what you wrote.

I tried to be nice, to explain, to point you in the direction of numerous data and analysis sources...

They all say the same thing:

Surface temperatures are increasing, and (caveat: at present given that the period of observation is too short and the changes in measured values are still statistically slight), we measure smaller positive increases in Tropospheric temperatures...which positive increases are recorded on both satellite and radiosonde data sets.

In short, there is a signal, it is positive, but the strength and robustness of that signal is still too low to make hard pronouncements...

And yet all you can do is keep repeating the same garbage "there is no measured tropospheric warming" and etc.

You are simply wrong.

You also have no intention of arguing in an honest fashion.

If you cared to have an honest discussion, you would find that you are conversing with a non-religious scientist who is as skeptical of "wiggle-ology" as they come, who remains agnostic about many aspects of global warming, specifically models, timescales, magnitudes, and overall effects, while being convinced based on sound science that CO2 and Methane levels HAVE increased and accelerated in increase since the Industrial Revolution...

that temperatures HAVE gone up in tandem, but that Correlation and Causation are two different things, and that Climatologists need to be very careful with their data and their models before making grand pronouncements in either direction.

Instead, all you do is smirk, sneer, and play stupid games with words you seem to barely understand.

Ass.

Posted by: Dan at October 28, 2003 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

RF - Mann's response will be interesting. But it seems to me that M&M are saying two different things. First, that there are errors in Mann's data. This seems to have significance by itself.
Second, that the errors make a difference in what the graph looks like. They say that they got their data from Mann. As you say, we'll have to wait and see.

Posted by: Nigel at October 28, 2003 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

Well I'm trying to be polite. But from our discussion it is clear that there is more to the question of whether air temperatures are warming than it being a completely wrong conclusion as you originally stated. I was only seeking clarification.

Posted by: Reg at October 28, 2003 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

I never make scientific arguments because I'm not a scientist. Yet I read all over the web from reputable source

Dear Lord. And you get to vote. Good for you.

Posted by: Thersites at October 28, 2003 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

reg,

The correct way to recount the observed data is to say that tropospheric air temperatures apear to be increasing, with the caveat that, because the time length of observation, and the resolution of the measurements combine to make error bars/uncertainties that are very close to the overall change in the signal, it requires more comprehensive analysis over a longer time period...

Look at the data.

There is an increase, but that increase is just on the border of statistical significance.

Of course, to you that means that "there has been no increase"...but then, you continue to be wrong.

Posted by: Dan at October 28, 2003 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know what this means as far as global warming goes, what I said earlier was this:
"I have read that air temperatures have not increased."

You said this:
"You read something that was both completely simplistic and wrong."

It seems to me that I was more right than you were.

reg - Just because it's an ad hominem doesn't mean you're not an idiot.

Stick to arguing political ideology where facts are less likely to interfere so obviously with what you want to believe.

Posted by: Thumb at October 29, 2003 06:17 AM | PERMALINK

jw, when you have some empirically developed proof that reducing carbon emmissions will result in a change in the earth's atmospheric temperature that will be desirable, and some well developed, empirically speaking, notion as to how beneficial the change will be, at a given level of reduction, then we can have a useful discussion as to whether a carbon tax is appropriate, and how large the tax should be. Until then, what you are advocating is simply an appeal to Faith. Why is it so untenable to simply acknowledge ignorance? Why must one pretend to "know" things that are, given the current state of science, unknowable? A forthright admission may actually win you allies in a effort to investigate these issues with a much greater sense of urgency.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 29, 2003 07:51 AM | PERMALINK

"even the revised graph shows a sudden upward temperature spike in the 1900s, and global warming is the most plausible explanation for this spike."

And both graphs also show a "sudden upward temperature spike" in the late 1400s too. What's the most plausible explanation for that spike? Did Ferdinand and Isabella lower CAFE standards? Did the Ming Dynasty decide not to use mass transit? Really, the ignorance here is amazing.

Posted by: Al at October 29, 2003 08:25 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, Thumb.
Open water in the Arctic for the first time in tens of thousands of years?
Do you know this? Were you there? Was anybody?
Nope. Open water in the arctic practically every summer.
The NYT tried this last year and eventually had to run a correction.
You probably didn't get the memo.
"Ancient" ice sheets? Do you know when Antarctica was discovered? I believe it was 1815, something like that.
BTW, the Little Ice Age is far less important to this discussion than is the Medieval Warm Period. Warmer than today. Greenhouse gasses? Catastrophe?
In our area, and in others I've seen from time to time, record heat is said to be the hottest since 1933 or 1934. What was happening sixty years ago that would make things hotter than today?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 29, 2003 08:40 AM | PERMALINK

hey Will, Fuck Off.

jw out

Posted by: jw mason at October 29, 2003 08:56 AM | PERMALINK

"Ancient" ice sheets? Do you know when Antarctica was discovered? I believe it was 1815, something like that.
Posted by Richard Aubrey at October 29, 2003 08:40 AM
--------------------------------------------
Dear God, and I thought I'd read it all.

Permanent ice sheets are layered, like tree rings, except from top to bottom rather than outside-in. Count the layers and you can get a good estimate of how old a given ice sheet is (with lots of caveats).

This idea of not knowing how old the ice sheets are because no one lived down there is kith and kin to "How do physicists know there was a Big Bang? Were they there?" Can we coin a term here? I nominate Easterbrookism.

Posted by: jlw at October 29, 2003 09:53 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks, JLW, or should I say, Cha-ching.
If ice layering is holy writ, then I guess it's the same for, say the Medieval Warm period.
Right?
Or is that somehow not so hot, so to speak, when it's not useful?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 29, 2003 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Last time I checked, the idea that temperatures were higher in the 1100s than in the 1800s was considered orthodoxy. Vikings settled Greenland when it was relatively warm and died out when it became colder.

Did I miss a dispatch? Aren't we still at war with Eurasia?

Posted by: jlw at October 29, 2003 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Orthodoxy? What do you mean by that, JLW?
It happens to be true. 1100 is medieval, 1800 is not, btw.
Therefore, the Norse settled Greenland during the Medieval Warm Period, which, as far as anybody knows, was not a catastrophe. By the time the MWP started changing to the Little Ice Age, about 1400, getting worse for several centuries, the Norse could no longer sustain what had been marginal to begin with.
Anyway, my bad about the ice sheets.
Thumb was talking about ancient ice sheets breaking away. That means sea ice breaking loose from its continental moorings, not glaciers. I gather the big one that got loose from the Ross Ice Shelf this year takes the solid ice border back to where it was in 1911.
Ice layer interpretation is not relevant when you have actual maps going back nearly a hundred years and the ice in question is coming and going within the limits shown on various maps.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 29, 2003 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Well, we certainly know who Bush is playing to with his faux idiot act. Talk about a receptive audience.

Posted by: Thumb at October 29, 2003 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

The whole idea that some "scientist" can claim to know what the worldwide average temperatures were a century ago, let alone a thousand years ago, is the most bogus of claims. Especially when they're talking about tenths of a degree in difference. It's absurd.

Who was that brave soul in 1400 who stood at the North Pole with a modern, accurate thermometer, day in and day out? What intrepid sailor anchored his boat in the mid-Atlantic in 1650 as a permanent weather station, and somehow gauged a tenth of a degree?

It's like debating the color change of dinosaur skin from the Triassic to the Jurassic. It's a pseudoscience at best.

But really, to claim such certainty in their calculations, to the extent of committing worldwide economic hardships to combat their imaginary armageddon, is out-and-out fraud.

Now who would be the proponent for such a scam? Let's see... Well, who would want to impose heavy fines and impediments on western business interests? Hmmmm...

We'll have to think about that one for a while, comrade.

Posted by: Mick McMick at October 29, 2003 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Jeez, Mick. You saying green has red roots?
That's not polite to say, you know, no matter what we think.
However, as to scientists knowing exactly, there are ways, known as proxies, which are more or less generally accepted as saying things were a degree or two warmer or cooler than some other time--like now--although as you point out, they are approximations.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 29, 2003 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

So, anyway, Thumb, are you going to argue with the NYT's eventual admission that the Arctic Ocean generally has open water most summers?
Or that the Norse settled Greenland when it was just as cold as it is today?
Or that the Antarctic ice sheets have been growing and shrinking within recorded history?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 29, 2003 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

So Richard, are you going to argue that the glaciers in Glacier National Park haven't been in sharp recession? Are you going to argue that the ocean levels haven't been rising beyond historical record? Even if the timing and frequency of open water at the North Pole is in dispute, that the ice caps are shrinking is not. Even though the cause of global warming is in dispute, that it's happening isn't either (except by some Flat Earthers, Creationists and Bush administration/oil industry/Saudi [same thing] sycophants).

But hey, let's not consider alternatives to sending billions of dollars to a part of the world that incubates terrorism off our dime. We wouldn't want to wean ourselves of our oil dependency now would we. Heaven forbid we try and take the world lead on alternative energy. Nooo. That would be down right communistic, right Mick.

I'm glad the whale oil and buggy whip industries didn't have today's lobbyists.

Posted by: Thumb at October 29, 2003 01:49 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Thumb, "even if" the crap about the Arctic Ocean being open most summers is true.... The sea levels have been rising for several thousand years.
How about an idea of whether the glaciers in the park have done this think in the last, say, five hundred years, or thousand years.
If warmning is happening, which some doubt (general news reports in the last week or so show record cold in South Africa and Norwegian ski resorts opening a month early), the question is whether it is anthropogenic.
Since it's happened several times in the past without our help, it seems reasonable to think the same thing is happening now.
The problem is proving whether it is anthropogenic, when the natural climate change process garbages up the opportunities to get the data.
Some of the arguments in earlier posts are arguing whether the detected warming exceeds the margin of error or what is known as "noise" in the monitoring systems. If that's all the warming there is, and if it's happened before without our help, why the hysteria?
Last time it happened, the Medieval Warm Period, a degree or two warmer than now, no recorded catastrophes occurred.
We are going, said a documentary on the tube the other day, into a decade-long mid-continent drying cycle. They've happened before. This time, though, they're A Cause.
Around the turn of the century, the upper Plains were abnormally wet, luring a number of over-optimistic would-be farmers immigrate and to ruin when the precip returned to the average.
This stuff happens. El Nino/La Nina has been happening for centuries.
The real kicker for me is the admission that the models used cannot predict the past.
It seems unreasonable to make major changes in our economy based on such flimsy evidence.
Now, if you want to discuss how to manage a natural warming cycle, that would be different. It might even be necessary.
But to use it as a club with which to reinstate command economies and interfere with the lives of people simply because you think they aren't living as they ought,won't fly.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 29, 2003 04:03 PM | PERMALINK

If warmning is happening, which some doubt (general news reports in the last week or so show record cold in South Africa and Norwegian ski resorts opening a month early), the question is whether it is anthropogenic.

I addressed this specific thing further up-thread so I won't go into it again.

Some of the arguments in earlier posts are arguing whether the detected warming exceeds the margin of error or what is known as "noise" in the monitoring systems. If that's all the warming there is, and if it's happened before without our help, why the hysteria?

And if it's not just "noise" and the warming that's been going on for "the last, say, five hundred years, or thousand years" is being accelerated we might not be able to fix the problem after a certain point. Get it?

Last time it happened, the Medieval Warm Period, a degree or two warmer than now, no recorded catastrophes occurred.

Of course there was only a few hundred thousand people scattered across the Americas, and they weren't keeping records, so who's to know?

It seems unreasonable to make major changes in our economy based on such flimsy evidence.

And at the point that it becomes obvious, it's too late. Kind of like, "You don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

Now, if you want to discuss how to manage a natural warming cycle, that would be different. It might even be necessary.
But to use it as a club with which to reinstate command economies and interfere with the lives of people simply because you think they aren't living as they ought,won't fly.

If you can give me one, just one, example of advancements in technology ruining the economy or otherwise adversely interfering with people's lives you'd have a point. As it is, your argument is little different than "if God meant for man to fly he would have given us wings." Fact, there is a finite supply of fossil fuels. Fact, 50% of our domestic usage comes from outside the country. fact, much of that revenue goes to governments that have either attacked the US directly or sponsor those that have or want to attack the US. Conjecture, burning hydrocarbons is artificially accelerating the warming of the planet.

I can think of several good reasons why it would be in our best interests to begin to move away from fossil fuels. Global warming is just one of them.




Posted by: Thumb at October 29, 2003 04:48 PM | PERMALINK

In jw's last response, we see the usual Faith-based approach to the topic.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 29, 2003 05:21 PM | PERMALINK

Thumb, you really don't get it.
For one thing, there were people in the world a thousand years ago besides in the Americas. Europe. Asia. Africa.
There are proxies such as pollen showing things like which crops grew--which is important as some eat better than others--and how long growing seasons might have been.
An improvement in technology? Nobody's asking for an improvement in technology. They're asking for a reduction in the use of fossil fuels and that's that. If there's an improvement, I suppose your side would think it good only if it allowed the government to increase its intervention into our lives.
If an improvement in technology shows up, we won't need the Nanny State and a bunch of frustrated fascists to introduce it. It will be taken on by people who think it's a good idea.
So forget the "improvement" bit. You don't care if it happens.
Remember cold fusion? It got a lot of ink because people wanted it to be true. Too bad it wasn't. That indicates that real improvement won't have to depend on law. But, of course, that's just a blind.
Let's see. Since the end of the last ice age, the oceans have risen by about three hundred feet. What are now the continental shelves, maybe ten million square miles, was dry land. And you are trying to get the adults excited about the last three feet.
There have been less ignorant arguments.
Hmm. If global warming causes cold spots, maybe global cooling causes warm spots.
You may not be aware--I presume you're seventeen or thereabouts--that thirty years ago, the Cause was The Coming Ice Age (also the title of a book).
Stephen Schneider, the current guru of GA, was interviewed on the old In Search Of, going on about global cooling. Gotta have a cause. Some folks just can't do their work in anonymity.
Anyway, I challenge you to find a time since the last ice age, say the Holocene Maximum, which was so warm that there were catastrophes.
Now, perhaps the warming in the higher latitudes led to fewer people starving to death and population pressure which cause volkerwunderings which annoyed the people on the receiving end. You want to say that having more to eat is a catastrophe?
Today, just for grins, we can do better. We can move food by thousands of miles from where it's grown. Oops. We already do. Sorry about that. Even before gene splicing, we had thousands of variants of important food crops which can be chosen to deal with whatever conditions are. Corn which matures faster, in case of shortened growing seasons. Wheat which can put up with less water. That sort of thing.
The Little Ice Age is said to have caused widespread hunger in Europe. That means war and pestilence.
You speak of accelerating the warming. From what to what?
Where, exactly, does the catastrophe come in?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 29, 2003 06:17 PM | PERMALINK

Thumb, you really don't get it.

Pot. Kettle.

If an improvement in technology shows up, we won't need the Nanny State and a bunch of frustrated fascists to introduce it. It will be taken on by people who think it's a good idea.

I'll skip the rest because you're only reading into what I'm saying what you want to believe long enough to twist it into what you want to say (I presume you're in your retirement years because you really have a thing about rambling endlessly). But I will address this much of your diatribe; "we won't need the Nanny State and a bunch of frustrated fascists . . ." Oh really? Who subsidized the railroads? The airports? The interstate highway system? The hydroelectric dams and bridges? University research centers? Our whole freaking infrastructure? How much does the government still subsidize the oil industry? You libertarians kill me, you really do. Yeah, like there was no government involvement in any of the technological or economic breakthroughs we enjoy the benefits of today.

I'm obviously talking to a wall. I'm outta here.

Posted by: Thumb at October 29, 2003 07:27 PM | PERMALINK

Missed again, Thumb.
Your last point is about subsidizing new technologies until they get going.
The Greenies may or may not want that. The don't really care.
What they really want is to take away things--by making fossil fuels either too expensive or over regulated--and damn the question of whether there is replacement technology around.
We're living too large and it offends their esthetics. So global warming is their crisis du jour.
Your argument began with non-starters like the Arctic Ocean nonsense and continued from there.
Which ought to provide some insight into your actual views.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 30, 2003 07:19 AM | PERMALINK

Somebody mentioned satellite measures of air temperature. Worth pointing out that there are three different reconstructions of the satellite data (it's not a simple task). One of these (the famous one) gives negligible warming in the mid-troposphere over the past 20 years. The other two give substantial warming. Here's a link to the one of the 'other two' (it's the most recent methodology): http://www.ssmi.com/msu/msu_data_description.html

Posted by: TomR at October 30, 2003 08:48 AM | PERMALINK

NB, when I say 'negligible warming, I'm talking about MSU 2 analysis of Christy et al at University Alabama. Their MSU 2LT analysis, which is what people are often talking about (the lower troposphere), does indeed show warming (but still only at around half the rate of the surface).

Posted by: TomR at October 30, 2003 08:53 AM | PERMALINK

With reference to the market etc. The problem is that the cost of fossil fuel to the user does not reflect the full life-cycle costs. It only reflects the costs involved in extracting, refining, marketing etc. Nuclear fuel is non-competitive because it includes the downstream costs of having to clean up. If fossil fuels were correctly priced in the same way the nuclear is, they would not be competitive - or, at least, they would be much more expensive. As it is, the market is skewed, meaning that there is little incentive for folks to develop and implement what is, in real terms, the most efficient solution (renewables).

Posted by: TomR at October 30, 2003 09:21 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know, Tom. I think you have planted the axiom that the downstream costs of cleaning up must include some massively expensive process for cleaning CO2 out of the air or something. Or perhaps you're talking about having to accept the costs of global warming, should it occur.
Are you thinking we should raise the tax on fossil fuels to reflect one of these possibilities, or some other one?
Imagine some 'crat deciding whether my personal problem stemmed from the fossil fuel part of global warming so I can get my share from the trough. It would all depend on my party affiliation and most recent donations, I expect.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 30, 2003 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Well, in principle it makes sense that if you've incurred loss or damage as a result of my actions, then you're entitled to some redress. This is a very good principle because it encourages me not to cause the damage in the first place. If I were to get benefit from an action, and you were to bear all the damage, then that massively increases my incentive to carry out that action.

In the nuclear industry, this is implicit. If they leak radiation, then they'll be sued. Also, they have to clean up their sites when done. All of this increases the cost. Without it, nuclear would be much more competitive.

Now, if you assume that greenhouse gas emissions are going to cause damage to people who did not emit them, then the same principle should apply. Without it, the market is skewed, and so can't operate effectively.

Problem is, it's tough to tell who will suffer, and by how much. But I think the market can play a role here too. You need to ensure that GHG producers are insured against future law suits resulting from damage resulting from their product. The premium of the insurance will be set by the market. Those who think that global warming will not have the effects predicted will be able to offer low premiums, and so get loads of business. I think that the reality is that the threat is very real, so such insurance costs will be fairly high.

But whatever, the basic principle is to get people to put their money where their mouth is. This will insure that the true cost of fuel is relected in the price, without recourse to clumsy bureaucracy. It may be that the need for fuel is so high that consumption continues at a high level, and we get just as much global warming. This is fine - if the market decides that the benefits outweigh the costs then so be it. My beef is that the current set up does not allow the market to do this.

Posted by: TomR at October 31, 2003 12:49 AM | PERMALINK

I think that anyone who sees Global warming as a problem is extremely narrow minded. The problem with all of these overacting liberals is that they do not look at the big picture. I am an Earth Scientist, and if you ask any geologist, we will all tell you the same thing. LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE. The problem is people are looking at this issue from one or two lifetimes. When you zoom out, and realize that every 100,000 years we go through a period of ice age, with about 10-12,000 years between each. We are currently between. It is recorded to be just like clockwork. Do we have ANY influence on temperatures in our society? YES. It is significant? no. Can we correct it? No, which is why we should not sink billions into attempting to correct the natural cycle of the earth! What am I missing????????

Posted by: Rob at November 2, 2003 04:26 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, I see where this is leading...

Global warming is caused by "industry." Industry has money. Left-wing pseudoscientists see an opportunity to SUE somebody for "damage to the environment" which I guess causes their severe depression. (They do all seem clinically depressed, don't they?)

It's like the "studies" that fat kids are more easily targeted by McDonald's ads.

It's all about the litigation.

Well, that plus the taxes and fines the EU types just love to impose on industry to prop up their failing socialist systems. Bush tearing up the Kyoto treaty was the second best thing he's ever done. We would now be in Belgium's shoes if he hadn't. (Clue: they're suffering for signing it.)

But to insist that anything mankind could ever do, good or bad, would ever compare to a single Mount St. Helens or Tunguska blast is to give way too much credit to the relatively meager abilities of carbon units.

Posted by: Mick McMick at November 3, 2003 09:29 AM | PERMALINK

Please, all of you... ZOOM OUT... stop looking at history for the past 100 years, and focus on the big picture. There is geologic proof in rock outcroppings, tree rings, ice cores etc. that we have glacial periods for hundreds of thousands of years, followed by 10-12 thousand years of INTER-glaciation. (Which is clearly our present location.) There is nothing we can do to change a cycle that has been occuring for 4.6 billion years. I don't understand why everyone looks at the past hundred or even thousand years as proof for "global warming." That amount of time is MINISCULE compared to 4.6 billion years that the earth has been in the universe. Why can't people understand this simple concept???

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