March 16, 2013

Climate Tribes

"Deniers" versus "Warmists"
"Skeptics" versus "Alarmists"

They are mirror images of each other in many ways.

Both have close communication among an "in-group" of similarly minded individuals with denigration of the character and intelligence of the "other side."  Each has its heroes and incarnations of evil among its opponents. Both see themselves as guarding the sanctity of science and protecting the interests of mankind.  In a bizarre sort of way, they need each other.

The climate "debate" is about a technical subject-- whether mankind's addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere is causing and will cause global warming-- and it has become a tribal conflict; a development that one can argue is not helpful for either the science or mankind's efforts to deal with a potential threat.

The battle among these groups is particularly intense in the blogosphere:

Watts Up With That, Climate Audit, Climate Science, Climate Depot, Roy Spencer's Blog, among others, on the "skeptic" side.

Real Climate, Climate Central, Climate Progress, and SkepticalScence represent only a few of the "warmist" blogs/webpages.

The media, crippled by a reduction in science reporters and unwilling or unable  to carefully analyze a technical subject, headlines the most ominous warnings and predictions, which are often based on press releases or material lacking proper peer review.

And perhaps most of disturbing of all, this scientific issue has become a political football, with Republicans and Democrats increasingly divided on this and other environmental issues.   Recently I went to a talk by Harvard Professor Theda Skopol in which she showed a figure on the environmental voting records of the two parties (see below) and it was stunning.  Before roughly 1992, both parties had a middle of the road stance, with Democrats being modestly more likely to support environmental spending.  But during the last few years, the differences have become profound (roughly 90% for Democrats, 10% Republicans).  Talk about polarization.
As noted above, in a strange sort of way the extreme sides of the climate debate feed off of each other.   Here is an example of how this works.

Many believe that global warming is going to be very real and a threat to mankind (and about that they are certainly correct). The evidence of human-induced global warming is subtle right now because natural variability is large and obfuscates the relatively weak global warming signal AT THIS TIME.   However, actions must be taken now to stop large warming later in the century.   The problem is that few folks are willing to make substantial sacrifices NOW to use radically less fossil fuels (including climate scientists, by the way, who probably fly more than anyone else).

So what do some "alarmist" folks do?   In the hope of getting society to do the right thins, they hype current big storms, droughts, and other weather events, claiming that such events are either signs of or "consistent with" human-caused global warming.   The media, always hungry for apocalyptic headlines and unwilling to fact check the claims, highlights these scary, but generally unfounded, claims.

Now these unsupported claims (e.g., Hurricane Sandy is a sign of global warming) are fairly easy to disprove and the skeptic sites (e.g., Climate Audit, Watts Up) have a field day tearing them apart.  Surely, if the alarmist claims of warming-induced extremes are obviously false, the whole global warming business is unfounded!

On the other hand, the "skeptic" side is fixated on the lack of warming during the past decade, wrongly believing that the warming due to greenhouse gases must be linear and continuous.  The "pro" global warming side can easily show that natural variability will inevitably produce such plateaus in temperature, particularly today when the global warming signal is relatively weak, and use this obvious fact to criticize the skeptics.

The "pro" side accuses skeptics of being on the payroll of oil and coal companies.  The skeptics suggest that global warming researchers are swayed by the allure of big research grants for "right-thinking" studies.

The blogs of each side are followed and commented upon by similar thinking communities, folks that feel camaraderie with each other and enjoy making fun of their confused opponents. God help you if you express a dissenting opinion.   I tried that on and it was suggested that I was either a liar or ignorant.  Name calling has become a frequent characteristic of some of these sites.  To some degree, having thoughtful folks on both sides of an argument can be good thing, and I do think that blogs such as Climate Audit, Real Climate, and Watts Up often make valuable contributions to the discussion.  But the debate too often gets ad hominem and extreme, even on these sites.

The transition of an essentially scientific and technical issue to one being divided on political/social lines surely reflects the increasing polarization of our society, as reflected in our hapless Congress.   One could argue that with  the climate issue, no one has contributed to this division more than Al Gore.   The 2000 election divided the nation in many ways, and when a Democrat partisan took up the issue (along with his movie), politicization was perhaps inevitable.

I believe that one of the most problematic effects of this tribalism has been its influence on the scientific community.   Nearly all members of the atmospheric science community recognize the potential for substantial warming of the globe due to anthropogenic (human-caused) emissions of greenhouse gases (and other impacts such as deforestation).  But it is more than that..there is an orthodoxy and accepted view.   Talk about serious impacts, one gets knowing nods. But dare to say that some claims are overblown, and a cool wind blows.

I learned this first-hand about ten years ago when some local scientists and politicians were making claims of huge reductions in NW snowpack due to mankind's emissions, and the deputy WA state climatologist was fired for bringing the claims into question. I supported him and was pulled aside by some other UW faculty, who warned me that I was providing aid to the "deniers."  A bunch of us wrote a paper on the subject and sent it to Journal of Climate.  I have never had such a difficult and poorly handled review process--the sub-editor was obviously trying to kill it.  Finally, after a huge effort and the intercession of the editor (who was local) it was published.

And the pressure of the skeptics have made some scientists defensive, circling the scientific wagons, so to speak.  The Climategate emails show the unfortunate result.

The politicization of climate change also has had a major impact on government resource allocation, with bountiful funding going into climate change research, while other areas, such as weather prediction are poor cousins.  How else can one explain that climate research gets more than one hundred times the computer resources provided to weather prediction, with the latter having huge benefits for people TODAY?  NOAA administrators have continuously pushed the climate agenda, while downplaying weather prediction.  This needs to change.

How we get out of this polarized situation?   I am not sure.  But it sure is a problem.


  1. I'm sure you'll get (likely verbose) flack in these comments from both tribes in response to this post! But thank you for continuing to claims accountable to scientific scrutiny.

  2. Reminds me when HIV-1 was just in the discovery phase. The media caught on to the numbers of folks dying from it. Then funding disappeared from TB research and went into AIDS research. Today we have a TB nightmare going on with resistant strains. Politics everywhere and only a limited supply of money. At the time, we called it 'Disease du Jour'. I think it is all about the squeaky wheel and who wants the power and money. Only scientists care about the science. Thus, if you need funding for research simply ask the media what they care about. Focus on that and you are set for life.

  3. Cliff, I like your blog. There's a lot I could say in response to this post because I disagree with so much of it. But I'll keep it simple.

    As you know there are some recent studies pointing to a possible impact on NH Rossby waves slowing down, having higher amplitudes, and more frequent/longer lasting blocking events. Some have linked this to the record arctic sea ice melt, as the "wacky" article you highlighted does.

    I've read you on this blog briefly dismissing this theory, and you might be surprised to find that Gavin at RealClimate is also a skeptic. But you could do us all a favor by laying out in detail your objections. What major flaws are there in this line of research? I'm genuinely curious and persuadable.

    I don't mean saying things like "we wouldn't expect to see this, it's too soon. It must be natural variability." That doesn't hold much water, so to speak, as many scientists did not expect the rapid arctic melt either.

    As you probably know there is now a PNAS paper from the Potsdam Institute lending some more support to the Francis and Vavrus (and others) findings.


  4. Cliff, I think you missed a third cluster, which I take some credit for defining--namely (for want of a better word)the lukewarm view.

    It is acknowledged, even by some alarmist scientists, that the temperature trajectory we have embarked upon is below the median of the midrange emission models, and it is not surprising that a number of papers are appearing showing lower sensitivity or lower maximum possibilities (I have one of these that I couldn't publish because of a famous climategater, who the wrote something very similar--even to the point of aping our unique probability diagram).

    Be that as it may there are good arguments that the (somewhat arbitrary) sensitivty has been systematically overestimated, and it is a reality that economic incentives (not environmental ones) lead to increased efficiency---witness that the US is now down to 1992 emissions in the energy sector thanks to hydrofracking/horizontal drilling.
    There's no reason to believe that will not spread worldwide, so it's time for the community to throw in the towel and cut the forecast, isn't it?

  5. I agree with you, Cliff, that the politicalization of climate change has been unfortunate. I really believe, and I think your chart supports this, that science first became a political football during the Reagan administration. There was enormous push back at that time against environmental science and laws. The economic impacts of these laws are what brought this about.

    I don't think anything can be done to change the political climate. And like you say, the media are so passive and fractured now, they are of little help to either side.

    Climate scientists should focus on refining the science of anthropomorphic global warming. A more realistic and still important goal may be to develop accurate long term forecasts, rather than trying to stop this runaway train. It is, however, unfortunate that economic interests hold such sway over public policy. The human race is burning the candle at both ends.

  6. Cliff, I think you miss an important point by presenting this as an either/or proposition. By placing all scientists in the alarmist camp, you do a discredit to the massive number of them who carefully caveat everything they say and write in order to avoid overstating what we know.

    Most of the really alarmist people - the folks who say we're all gonna get killed by hurricanes and drowned by the ocean in our lifetimes - are not climate scientists. They are people from all walks of life who only have a partial knowledge of climate change, poorly informed by the media you rightly criticize. Even the climate scientists you might point to as alarmist - Hansen, Trenberth, etc. - are more careful in their statements.

    For every Hansen, there are dozens and dozens of climate scientists who know that global warming is a serious danger who are not alarmist. These are the people who carefully avoid saying that any hurricane or heat wave is the product of global warming. These are the people who caution others against making big claims. This is nearly everyone I've ever met in climate science. I wish you would acknowledge these people and their work, rather than forcing a black-or-white alarmist-or-denialist dichotomy.

  7. One of my friends describes the state we're in as fundamentalism. Toeing the party line or the ideology becomes the whole deal which tees up the polarization. As you said, Cliff, folks mostly operating in vacuums of like-minded folks unwilling to find out where the cusps of truth and agreement are.

  8. Unknown,
    Let me be clear...I am NOT putting the bulk of scientists in any of these camps...although to be fair there are undoubtedly more scientists in the "alarmist" camp then the skeptic came. All good scientists are skeptics to one degree or another...cliff

  9. Cliff, why not post scientific information to back your complaints? It's hard when scientists such as yourself complain about other scientists being 'too alarmist', but don't present anything technical to back it up. For lay people, it ends up looking like 'he said, she said', as what may seem obvious to those in the field flies over our heads normally.

    That way we can at least learn something!

  10. My initial impression and problem it that appears there is no way you could be convinced not to be a "warmist". If you are coming to the table saying you are permanently part of one tribe, polarized, you can only attempt to offer to defuse the politicization or polarization.

    Yet I do not think you can accomplish this if you aren't honest enough - if there is sufficient evidence that man is NOT at fault, or that to prevent a small climate change will require slaughtering (perhaps in a nice way, give euthanasia poison instead of food to the starving) billions of people, you are for it, you are a high-priest of Gaia, not a scientist.

    Science itself has been contaminated as you point out. Warmist nonsense passes peer review, even the slightest criticism is met with a heretic hunt.

    Perhaps what is needed is to place science, and the integrity of science first. The mortal sin needs to be quelling dissent, not making arguments, etc.

    I doubt it will happen. Too much cash is at stake now from both sides. WWE/WWF, "rassling" is big business and needs a hero and heel. But it is entertainment.

  11. I appreciate this presentation of the scientific/political climate change debate and empathize with some of the challenges you face personally and professionally. One of the strengths of your approach in this blog is your consistent effort to keep it factual and call b.s. when you see it, regardless of the source. While your effort may not be without cost, it is immensely valuable to those of us in your audience who don't have enough background in the field to independently verify each claim and counterclaim.

    Interestingly, it was your reference to Al Gore playing a crucial part in the politicization of the issue around the year 2000 that prompted this comment. I'm not even sure if I agree or disagree with your statement. What I can say is that the issue was already highly politicized prior to "An Inconvenient Truth" and interestingly enough, by then he had already been receiving strident criticism for many years.

    In the late 80's and early 90's, former Washington State Governor Dixy Lee Ray began actively taking on environmental extremists. She attempted to discredit many of their claims by citing scientists with opposing perspectives (fair enough, I guess) and by rhetorically associating them individually and collectively with socialism or worse. From page 204 of Environmental Overkill: Whatever happened to common sense.

    First, we must recognize that the environmental movement is not about facts or logic. More and more it is becoming clear that those who support the so-called "New World Order" or World Government under the United Nations have adopted global environmentalism as a basis for the dissolution of independent nations and the international realignment of power....

    It was published in 1993 and Al Gore had already earned a chapter of his very own in her book -- Chapter 15. The Gospel According to Gore. Environmentalism Out of Control.

    She published a anti-global warming piece in the June 1989 Policy Review: The Greenhouse Blues -
    Keep Cool about Global Warming. The byline given her was:

    DIXY LEE RAY was formerly Democratic governor of Washington State and chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, a precursor to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This article is excerpted from a forthcoming book on the excesses of environmentalism.

    I wish I knew how to de-politicize the issue, the best I can come up with for now is to thank you again for your work.

  12. This is why I love the CMWB. Keep up the good work Cliff!

  13. Asked the question does AGW exist and got a few replies including:

    1. It is obvious that CO2 is not a stabilizing greenhouse gas. Temperature fluctuations in the past, while co2 was stable, show there is a wide range of variability.
    2. Man can and does change his local environment. Regional variability exists.
    3. Climate variability is normal. Fast change is actually normal, as shown in proxy data.
    4. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. It has to cause a certain amount of temperature increase, all by itself. When combined with other greenhouse gases, differences in waveband emissions, is it a strong forcing? Proxy data once again indicates it is not.

    TOA measurements show a reduction of energy leaving in the CO2 band. They also show an increase in energy leaving in the other bands. This is a fact that is seldom brought to attention. Do the other bands of energy, at higher levels, overcome the reduction in the CO2 band? I really don't know.

    Proxy data, once again, show that CO2 continues to increase at the ends of interglacials, while the temperature drops. There are orbital forces to consider, however, it is well documented that there have been FAST changes in temperature, both up and down, that no one knows why happened.

    In my humble opinion, I can't make a scientific opinion as to whether AGW is a strong force or not.

    and this one

    However, if you note my articles and forecasts online you will find that I know that there is no such thing as 'man-made global warming." It does not exist.

    And yes, it has been, and as always been my contention that the Sun is the cause of global warming, global cooling and everything else in between. Nothing has changed.

    As for 'belief,' the Sun and the laws of physics do not require anyone's belief to continue to function as they have since the origins of the Earth - which cannot ever become a man-made greenhouse.

    The reason why this physical fact is so, is the laws of physics which prove that it is the Sun that rules our climate and its weather.

    As for your question, there is nothing (including C02) that can act as a 'lid' over the Earth.

    The cold of space comes closer to Earth, then retreats again, as most of the radiation from the Sun's cosmic rays, by means of its solar winds to the Earth, is sent back out into space.

    What is retained naturally on earth is the energy that provides for life to exist on our planet and that produces our climate and resulting weather.

    So, there is no such thing as man-made global warming since for that to be possible [and it is impossible] there would have to be a perpetual machine with incredible amounts of power to be able to drive heat constantly up into the Earth's atmosphere - and no such machine exists.

    There are many people out there who play games in the serious business of climate and weather forecasting who do NOT forecast but who make pronouncements that I, as a forecaster, know for a fact are not true.

    And let's not forget that the climate modelers who alarm the world about 'man-made global warming' have been busted, that's been wrong on the seasonal climate for five (5) years in a row, and have been wrong in for the summer seasonal climates for nine (9)years in a row. That is actually a worse performance than random guessing.

    Those who say that humanity is the cause of 'global warming' aka 'climate change' are not playing with a full deck. The laws of physics absolutely prove 10,000% that the Earth can never become a greenhouse. Period.

  14. I think the only thing that will fix the polarization is a giant slap in the face that only the Earth will be able to give.

    It will have to be an event so obvious, so undeniably linked to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming up to now, that it literally snaps us out of it.

    By then though, I fear it will be too late to truly reverse course in time for our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren not to curse us for our idiocy.

  15. I also believe by the way that your post completely ignores the proven and very significant influence of corporate lobbyists.

    In other words, in the face of billions of dollars thrown at the denial industry... what are people supposed to do? Lie down and take it?

    We will never know what the discussion would have been like had there not been a tobacco style industrial push to delay any concrete action to limit CO2 emissions.

  16. Research on the subject -- how harsh responses polarizes discussion online:

    I do miss Usenet -- newsreaders like "NN" provided very competent killfile tools, so when someone's posts led to flamewars you the individual reader could choose what not to see, knowing what kinds of bait-to-be-stupid you preferred not to be tempted to take. It was possible to have a sober scientific hard argument 'under the noise' by ignoring the people who weren't contributing, from all sides.


  17. Cliff I love your blog. Here is the one and only one reason why I am a skeptic. Short range prediction models fall apart on specifics after about 7 days. You have stated how much wasted energy this causes from erroneously closing air ports etc. So from this same field albiet a different aspect, I am supposed to change my life based on their future predictions. The logic makes about as much sense as telling me I need to prepare for snow storm because we had one last week. Solution is to fund the short range prediction model to the point where they can tell me the weather 2 months out, and then and only then will I will believe cause and effect of man made factors in the global warming debate.

  18. One side is trying to prevent huge problems in the future (which YOU Cliff Mass, agree with).

    The other is being a much more dangerous level of dishonest by trying to do everything in its power to confuse the layperson into thinking there is some kind of debate on whether or not global warming is a danger to us.

    Just some of the comments on this board show that there is a huge lack of scientific knowledge on the subject.

    Make sure not to lend to much credence to the side you know doesnt deserve it.

  19. This story is a good lesson in a powerful tactic long used:

    The tactic: fund the extreme opinions, those points of view out at the edges around an issue -- polarize a discussion, hollow out the middle ground where agreement could be possible, and so delay action.;imgWidth=600;pageNum=8

    It's unpleasant to doubt the motivation of those who want to give you money to promote your ideas in a controversy. And it's necessary.

    "Just because you're on their side doesn't mean they're on your side."
    -- Teresa Nielsen Hayden

    A thoughtful discussion here:

    "When one side has chosen to make science their battleground, the public will hear a wide range of conflicting bits of scientific information. Most of what they hear will be from people who are at either extreme of the range of scientific opinion....

    "The public receives this mixed scientific-political information, and now how do they choose what’s reliable? ... they know which networks, commentators, or political parties they trust ....

    "What can scientists or educators do for those people ... whose knowledge about climate change is strongly driven by the political sources whom they trust, and which will inherently be one-sided, no matter which side it falls on?

    "My answer is simply this: be in perception and reality a reliable apolitical source of scientific information....

    "State climatologists are almost designed to fulfill that role...."

    -- John Nielsen-Gammon, writing in the Houston Chronicle

  20. Art:

    Just look at what is happening in the Arctic. It well on track to be ice free in September within the next 5-10 years, some even think this year if conditions are perfect.

    There is absolutely nothing that can create those changes other than AGW. And the predictions for that change to happen have now been proven extremely conservative.

    If that can't convince you the world needs to change its collective lifestyle, surely nothing will?

  21. Cliff, great info as usual. Although I'm not an expert is either field, I'm sold on your view of the two sides in the climate debate, and sold that weather forecasting deserves greater resources and specifically computer power.

    However, I see no destructive competition between the two - if anything, greater public and political focus on climate should spill over to greater interest in understanding and forecasting weather. The warming deniers are AGAINST climate research, not diverting weather dollars to climate research.

    I think it might be more fruitful to emphasize that just as understanding climate is important in the long run, understanding weather is important in the short run, and in fact discovers and quantifies critical details about how the Earth works to climate science. Sell investing in the science of weather on its merits rather than by tearing down its perceived competitors.

  22. Al Gore started looking at what needed to be done decades ago. He went out of his way to make it a bipartisan issue. About 2000 oil lobbiests science deniers decided this was a great issue to turn into partisan politics.

    The Democratic concensus is that it is time to increase efficiency, end subsidies to oil and coal, and provide moderate subsidies to renewable. This is not an extremist view. At one time it was the view of most Republicans (except they all seem to love oil and coal subsidies).

  23. Chrisale

    "There is absolutely nothing that can create those changes other than AGW. And the predictions for that change to happen have now been proven extremely conservative."

    Those are just statements that nobody has convinced me of, perhaps I am ignorant and stupid ? I'll concede that as a possibility of a starting point. I do not study global warming, I am an engineer, but I can't tell you how many hundreds and (thousands ?) of times I have seen disaster in a solution based on red herrings. What evidence unequivocally proves AGW , without putting its head in the sand and ignoring other possibilities?

  24. I'm with you Branden. Asserting that some theory is wacky and easily debunked without providing any actual debunking only leads to more confusion.

    Just a few days ago meteorologist Jeff Masters had this to say about the Arctic-Rossby waved theory on his blog at Weather Underground: "Humans tend to think linearly--one plus one equals two. However, the atmosphere is fundamentally non-linear. What may seem to be modest changes in Earth's climate can trigger unexpected resonances that will amplify into extreme changes--cases where one plus one equals four, or eight, or sixteen."

    Whom to believe? At least Masters laid out the theory in some detail.

    - Douglas

  25. The funny thing is that all the recommendations for solving GCC are things we should do anyway: reduce energy use through increased efficiency, stop using coal because of all of its byproducts, make transportation more efficient, stop making and buying disposable junk, etc.

    Most of us know the difference between weather and climate forecasting. Climate forecasting depends in part on hindcasting: can our models replicate the climate cycles of the past geological periods, can our climate models use the parameters from hindcasting to forecast probable future climate scenarios using known chemical and physical laws? Are current events today consistent with the models?

    Mean global temperatures in the past 200 years appear to be increasing at a rate consistent with only known possible forcing function, an increase in atmospheric CO2. We have fewer data concerning the positive feedback from melting of methane clatherates in the Arctic but it's something to look for.

    If the glaciers are melting, sea level rising, redistribution, frequency and intensity of severe weather events increasing, shouldn't we expect these events to continue unless there's some known reason they shouldn't? Whatever their cause shouldn't we be attempting to ameliorate the results?

    One implicit reason for rejecting the GCC hypothesis is that current economic policies and practices are already too unstable to cope with remedation and mitigation for future climate scenarios. If conditions continue to worsen, it's likely instability will increase and then we'll be powerless to exert any control over events.

    Australia is similar in size to the contiguous United States, but closer to the equator. Thus it has a greater area of desert but has a tropical forest environment on its northern coast. The Australians are seriously concerned with GCC. Take a look at this website:
    ------Herb Curl

  26. The media opinion should be disregarded since they are just looking for the next headline.

    Global warming is real. However, the changes takes place slowly over multiple human generations.

    Homo sapiens are not good with multi-generational problem solving. We just aren't wired that way. Most of us are basically still tribal in social networking abilities. We are evolving, just not fast enough.

    As long governments are nearly the sole source of research money. The only way to get anyone's attention and government funding is scare the living crap out of as many people as you can.

    The funny thing is, Global Warming is the symptom. And no one wants to address the cause, over population.

    There are over 7,000,000,000 people on the planet now. The population is expected to rise to about 10,000,000,000 before it starts to decline due to lower birth rates.

    10,000,000,000 people can create a lot of atmospheric greenhouse gases.

  27. Even though as you say in the USA you seem to be still stuck in a rut debating whether or not humans are causing global warming, that's not so in much of the rest of the world.

    The main problem with polarisation of 'opinions' is that it inhibits proper consideration, let alone agreement, of strategies to follow. It ends up with a scatter gun approach trying to wend a way through the opposition to clean energy.

    IMO that is the whole purpose of the thought-leaders who (publicly) reject climate science. They don't want change and they want to defer the solution to some vague time in the future. They hope that at worst, the public will think reality is somewhere in the mid-point of opposing camps.

    In reality the science describes where we are at. And it could be even worse, given science is conservative by nature, because conclusions are mostly drawn after the facts which themselves are shifting (eg Arctic ice melting faster than anticipated).

    Problem being that the longer we leave it the more difficult and costly it will be to change direction.

    IMO business / private sector is currently ahead of government on implementing solutions (clean energy). I hope governments catch up soon and create an environment for a faster shift.

  28. Don't forget the other important category -- those who manage to conflate bits and pieces of science, alarm, denial, and nonsense. Call the result, oh, "batshit insane" wouldn't be too harsh. E.g.:

  29. Art:

    On Arctic changes:
    "What evidence unequivocally proves AGW , without putting its head in the sand and ignoring other possibilities?"

    I'm not a climate scientist either, so I can only work from my own sense of logic, reasoning, and tenuous grasp on current research.

    The arctic hasn't been seasonally ice free for at least 10,000 years... and possibly as long as 100,000 years. The modern human species has only been practicing agriculture for 12,000 years. In other words, climatic variations of large magnitude are supposed to be over millennia, not decades.

    So for such a gigantic change (75-100% loss of ice volume according to PIOMAS/Cryosat) to happen in the Arctic in only the past 30 years, a heartbeat geologically, cries out to me that other forces are at work here that have never been involved before in Earth's history.

    And those other forces can only be us and the trillions of tonnes of CO2 we have emitted into the atmosphere that was previously locked in rock

  30. Watts Up With That - a bastion of sound scientific thinking where they debunked the idea that Venus is warm due to the greenhouse effect. It's adiabiatic warming. (Forever!)

  31. I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that nothing we are in a position to do will be enough to prevent climate change. The fact is, for all intents and purposes, CO2 emissions = energy. And our high standard of living is spectacularly energy intensive. To become carbon neutral would essentially mean returning to a pre-Industrial Revolution lifestyle -- living in cabins, subsistance farming, and rarely traveling more than a few miles from our birthplaces. I don't see people lining up for that.

    Basically, climate change is inevitable because preventing it would require us to voluntarily dismantle our own civilization. (Mind you, it will be dismantled for us eventually, either by climate change or when we run out of fossil fuels, but "let's lower our standard of living now instead of waiting 100 years for it to be forced on us" is not a plan destined for popularity.)

  32. I have a comment, prompted by Art's opinion, above:

    I am sure it does seem to the laymen a lot to ask that we accept that scientists can predict the general effects of global warming when we can hardly predict the weather a few days away. But in fact it is not so far-fetched to say what the average effects of a change in parameters will be on the climate.

    Weather prediction and climate prediction are very different! Climate is essentially the average weather of a place. It will always be much esier to foretell the average effect of various factors, such as increased carbon dioxide in the air, than it will be to predict the weather on a specific day two weeks away. Anyone wanting more insight on this should read up on Chaos Theory (which is scientific fact, and whole books are written on it, but the basic idea is quite simple).

    We know that certain influences TEND to warm the climate (i.e., the average weather). But we will NEVER know exactly when to schedule a vacation to the beach if we need to put in for the exact time off from work three months ahead. Unfortunately, all we can do there is look at the average weather for the time and place in question, and hope for the best. But we know what greenhouse gasses will do to the world- on average.

  33. I live on First Hill, walk everywhere, do not own a car, do not take commercial flights, and don't have an air conditioner, and have a paperless household.

    Yet, I count myself a global warming skeptic.


    Because the global warming believers, all whom preach to me ad-nasueum, pollute far more than I do.

    See, if you want to know what people believe, and I mean truly believe, don't listen to what they say … watch what they do.

    Al Gore says global warming is real, but his house uses 20x the power of an average home. Cliff Mass says global warming is real, yet I dare you to find his books anywhere but in paper form. When Earth Day participants come to town, I dare you to find parking anywhere near the event.

    Instead of actually living a low-carbon lifestyle, climate change evangelists preaching recycling, an activity which actually causes more pollution than not recycling. How do you think those objects get to the recycling center, how do you think the recycling equipment is powered, and how do you think the recycling employees get to work? Magic Pixie Dust-powered cars?

    Paper companies plant more trees than they cut down, but we pass a paper bag ban because it makes people feel good about themselves.

    Hypocrisy is always the smoke that is emitted from a fire of lies.

    Global warming is not about the planet. It's a social club.

    When the climate change evangelists stop preaching to me, and start putting their money where their mouth is -- When they start turning in their cars doing things that actually inconvenience them, I'll start to worry. Don't tell me. Talk us cheap. Show me.

    Until then, I'll continue laughing at their hypocrisy, content known that if it is real, I've been way ahead of them in carbon footprint reduction for the past 20 years.

  34. > Art
    > solution is to fund ....

    They did fund it and are working on it (Europeans, not the US): Climate Predictions to Better Serve Society's Needs
    12 MAR 2013
    DOI: 10.1002/2013EO110002

    "... there is a growing and urgent need to improve society's resilience to climate-related hazards and better manage the risks and opportunities from climate variability and climate change. This situation was recognized by governments, scientists, and decision makers at the World Climate Conference-3 in 2009, subsequently leading to the creation of the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) under the leadership of several United Nations agencies...."

    (Full text is paywalled for AGU members, but any local library can get you a free copy to read)

    That project is improving the middle-range forecasts -- months to years -- that you said you require. Watch for it.

  35. Thanks Unknown - I do generally want to get as much information as possible.

    Ars Technica in fact has an article out today mentioning a study saying that we should see stronger hurricanes due to climate change, but I'm not sure the timing (meaning cliff's post wouldn't necessarily disagree):

    A warmer planet means bigger hurricanes

  36. Thanks for the thoughts, Cliff.

    I'm not sure this problem easily fits analogies with other more familiar partisan issues.

    It helps to remember that polarization doesn't mean that both sides are equally correct. The camps around "2+2" are also highly polarized, though in that case one camp is much larger than the other.

    10 years ago if somebody had the descriptive means to publish a paper predicting the current state of Arctic sea ice it's dubious whether such a paper would have found a journal to call "home." The author would likely have been decried as "alarmist," part of a polarization (sorry!) problem. Yet today that hypothetical author's alarmism is shown to be justified.

    As well, it may help to remember there's a qualitative difference between the two camps. One person may be passionately defending a way of life justifiably seen as comfortable and pleasant, the other may be equally passionate in their frustration with the failure of people to take heed of warnings we see in science and (more latterly) observation. While "feelings don't lie," at the end of the day these qualitative differences in feeling don't matter as much as does physics. In this case physics is going to end up justifying one set of feelings more than the other.

  37. Issues regarding the environment have always been politically polarizing. If you cared about the environment at all you were a hippie liberal. If you didn't think it was more important than human jobs, you were a dispassionate conservative. Global warming was just more fuel to the fire, LOL. If not for Al, the polarization would still be heavily in place.

    Thus, I would give Al Gore more credit than blame for his "work". He brought the issue to the masses in a way that may have converted some. Without him, the issue would have been more in the abstract.

    What's probably hurt the issue was his label "global warming". (I'm not sure who was really responsible for that, but he's the one who placed it in the mainstream.) It should have been called "climate change" from the outset.

    It's so easy to say "global warming" does not exist as I sit here looking at the snow out my window in March. But climate change is more about facts and figures.

  38. The irony here is that the Warmist/Hyperbole crowd acts offended that no one instantly bows down to their decrees, even as they fudge data, control peer review, and make wildly outrageous predictions that do not hold up for even a year or two out.

    It is simple. Humans are very adaptable, and everything changes all the time. Resources are a function of technology. Today's fuels will be not tomorrow's. So there is never any reason for panic and hysteria. And just to take our local region as an example. We all visit the Sound at least a few times a year. For example, I have relatives with property on the Sound. They have lived there for 60 years and there has very little change to their waterline. Certainly no change that they cannot easily adapt to both financially, and physically in terms of keep a seawall up to date, etc.

    The wild claims of sea level rise appear to be ridiculous to the point, that nobody takes people like Al Gore, Gavin Schmidt or James Hansen, or their media sycophants seriously anymore.

    If you cry wolf as much as the Climate Hysteria crowd has, you can expect to be dismissed.

    It's nice to read from real scientists like Cliff, but seriously, there is NOTHING to worry about any time soon. And if there is, you cannot predict it anyway.

    The whole thing is like a future large meteor strike or an earthquake. A reality to be sure, but not one worth fretting about becasue there is probably nothing we can do anyway.

    Get back to the real science please, and stop asking for money and handouts. Go raise your own the old fashioned way.

  39. Also, let us not forget that all of this hysteria preparation sounds great when you can afford to pay extra for a Prius or to buy "sustainable" (laugh) foods at Whole Foods.

    But when you live in a dirt or cardboard hut, as most of the world's population does, you burn wood or do what you can to survive. And if your banana republic leaders sell you out at the UN because they got to go to a fancy all expense paid Climate Hysteria Conference in Brazil, or Sweden, you still suffer.

    The arrogance of the Climate Hysterians is what turns the rest of us normal people off the most.


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