The Climes they are a-changin’

(Opinion from a sceptical point-of-view.)

Climate Change has been described as everything from the greatest moral challenge of our time, to the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the human race – depending on who you listen to.

Let’s face it, anyone who takes more than a passing interest in current affairs has an opinion on climate change. Remarkably, though, most people who have strong opinions on the topic hold no formal scientific qualifications to inform those opinions. Like it or not, this issue has become more political than scientific, and the two sides of the debate line up roughly along the left-right political divide. To make matters worse, partisans – from both sides – tend to take on board only those arguments which support their own chosen position.

The term itself – climate change – is meaningless: it has been appropriated by the proponents of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis – or AGW – to rescue their theory from refutation. There is no weather or climate event which could not be attributed to climate change. Sir Karl Popper – who wrote extensively about the philosophy of science – said: “A theory which is not refutable by any conceivable event is non-scientific. Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory (as people often think) but a vice.”

So it is actually AGW which the political and media elites refer to when they mention climate change. The theory states that as atmospheric levels of CO² increase – due to human, or anthropogenic, activity – the greenhouse effect will be exacerbated, leading to a corresponding increase in earth’s average global surface temperature.

There is even controversy surrounding the methodology used in arriving at such an average temperature. There are several independent organisations, using different means of temperature collection – from garden-variety surface weather stations, to satellites using microwave technology – and each then employs their own method of converting the data to a global average. Not surprisingly, their results often differ.

A common feature of the resultant temperature anomalies (the divergence – in tenths-of-a-degree – from “normal”), however, is that temperatures have stopped rising. Ever since the abnormally high el nino year of 1998, temperatures have stalled, while CO² has continued to rise, placing the hypothesis under immense pressure.

If temperatures happen to resume their previous upward trend – of 0•7° per century – as the theory’s boosters predict, the AGW hypothesis will remain as just one of many plausible explanations. If, however, temperatures continue to plateau, or even fall, the hypothesis must be rejected.

Tony of South Yarra

Advertisements

103 Responses

  1. I’m not an expect on this (or any other) subject (for that matter), but I think the traditional idea of “Global Warming” – the idea that temperatures were rising everywhere has now been replaced with “Climate Change” which suggests that it is not just necessarily related to temperatures rising, but instead, that we would see more distinct and greater degrees of divergent weather patterns.

    In which case I think there is plenty of evidence that this is occuring. We only have to look at the longest periods of drought we have ever had in Australia, followed by almost unprecedented floods and hailstones (in November!) in Queensland and the recent floods in Canberra.

    Also, the increasing frequency and voracity of storms in the US.

    In Sydney, summer temperatures can now reach 46 degrees, when I lived there 10 years ago, we might get mid-thirties max.

    To conclude that the emissions from millions of motor vehicles around the world, the pollutants from industrial manufacturers and the drastic reduction in rainforests is not having an impact I think would be niaive.

  2. The term itself – climate change – is meaningless: it has been appropriated by the proponents of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis – or AGW – to rescue their theory from refutation.

    Well bad start Tony when you get that wrong.

    The term Climate Change was first coined by the opponents not the proponents, and it was not coined for the reason you state.

    This is the official US EPA definition and Climate Change has always had this meaning. The definition for Global Warming is also given, which also was never changed by the proponents:

    The term climate change is often used interchangeably with the term global warming, but according to the National Academy of Sciences, “the phrase ‘climate change’ is growing in preferred use to ‘global warming’ because it helps convey that there are [other] changes in addition to rising temperatures.”

    Climate change refers to any significant change in measures of climate (such as temperature, precipitation, or wind) lasting for an extended period (decades or longer). Climate change may result from:

    * natural factors, such as changes in the sun’s intensity or slow changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun;
    * natural processes within the climate system (e.g. changes in ocean circulation);
    * human activities that change the atmosphere’s composition (e.g. through burning fossil fuels) and the land surface (e.g. deforestation, reforestation, urbanization, desertification, etc.)

    Global warming is an average increase in the temperature of the atmosphere near the Earth’s surface and in the troposphere, which can contribute to changes in global climate patterns. Global warming can occur from a variety of causes, both natural and human induced. In common usage, “global warming” often refers to the warming that can occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities.

    Then you give a simple statement on a very complex subject, doing exactly what the political pundits on both sides do.

    You say temperatures have stopped rising but give no links or corroborating data for that, yet the GIS decadal climate data shows a rise decade on decade, and the last decade was no exception, only that the rate of the rise was less than in previous decades.

    To give readers an idea of just how complex this subject is, and why it should be left to the scientists to say one way or the other and for governments to act on the best information and highest consensus, which is exactly what they are doing, here is a paper (PDF) on Exploring Climate Patterns Embedded in Global Climate Change Datasets

    Also go through the GISS website and check the decadal climate data they post and come to your own conclusions. Plus there are plenty of other purely scientific sites and sources of information that are not in any way political and don’t try to push anything one way or another, they just present lots of complicated data.

    Also as a last discussion point one of the most recent indicators to global warming have been flora and fauna. The CSIRO recently released info on this along with several other bodies.

    If global warming isn’t taking place then way are animals and plants adapted to the cold moving further to the north and south, and higher into alpine regions, areas they have never been found before? Why are topical flora and fauna now being found in more northern and southern latitudes also in areas that have always been too cold for them and where they have never existed before? Why are plankton and krill in the Arctic and Antarctic losing the ability to swim because of heat stressed induced deformities? And many other examples of nature indicating that things are not normal with our global climate and that abnormality is showing a warming not a cooling.

  3. Thanks Adrian. The definition you provide helpfully points out that climate change may result from “natural factors” and “natural causes”. Yes, it does also state that “human activities” may play a part – and they may – but there is no known way of proving it.

    A theory – climate change – which as evidence points to changes in weather and climate – which have a high probability of being caused by natural processes – is not scientific. It makes no risky predictions about any event which we would not normally have expected to occur.

  4. T of SY

    Again the meme of the cooling in the last 10 years is brought up. No matter how many times it is proven to be a misleading arguement, it gets brought out again.

    And so have a careful read of this link by Michael Le Page in New Scientist, especially this bit:

    Water stores an immense amount of heat compared with air. It takes more than 1000 times as much energy to heat a cubic metre of water by 1 degree Centigrade as it does the same volume of air. Since the 1960s, over 90% of the excess heat due to higher greenhouse gas levels has gone into the oceans, and just 3% into warming the atmosphere (see figure 5.4 in the IPCC report (PDF)).

    Globally, this means that if the oceans soak up a bit more heat energy than normal, surface air temperatures can fall even though the total heat content of the planet is rising. Conversely, if the oceans soak up less heat than usual, surface temperatures will rise rapidly.

    This is why surface temperatures do not necessarily rise steadily year after year, even though the planet as a whole is heating up a bit more every year. Most of the year-to-year variability in surface temperatures is due to heat sloshing back and forth between the oceans and atmosphere, rather than to the planet as a whole gaining or losing heat.

    Maybe we need to have a program like Mythbusters that is on a continual loop to refute allegations like this “earth getting cooler” one.

  5. Being of a practical nature. So we have climate change, so what do we do about it?

  6. Also, I note that you use the term “global surface temperature”, which again is a point that the article I linked to refutes. It is the average global temperature that is increasing.

  7. reb, Adrian, joni…

    You’re wasting your time talking to Tony of South Yarra.

    He’s a common-or-garden troll.

    He has form.

    I remember his tedious postings on Deltoid.

    Either he can’t get his head around the science, or he doesn’t want to.

    Let’s move on.

  8. If AGW is a hoax it’s a bloody good one. And as far as hoaxes go, it has its problems. For a start, there are all these pesky scientists all round the world who keep pointing to changes and providing explanations that are remarkably robust. They predict developments, not perfectly, but with some precision and when they are inaccurate they have plausible explanations.

    Sure these explanations didn’t convince the Bushs or the Bolts of this world but that only adds to their credibility.

    As Tony says, the debate, if it can be called that, has a Left/Right divide. It also divides on the basis of short-term and long-term interests.

    Nevertheless on the basis of probabilities, I am in the AGW camp. It’s the only one that makes sense to me.

  9. Grrr guys. Climate change is a fact. It is man made, it is a part of nature’s ever changing cycle or is it a combination of the aforementioned. What do we do about it.

  10. Hi Joni. As I mentioned, there is much controversy surrounding the temperature anomalies, so for the purposes of this argument, and to avoid debating technical points, I’m prepared to concede they may still be rising. That doesn’t change this most important fact, though: it is not possible to show that such observed changes – in temperature, or climate – are anything other than natural.

    (I did use the full “average global surface temperature” term, before then using shortened versions.)

    Hello Min. If the changes are caused by natural factors and processes, nothing.

  11. T of SY,

    The point is that taking surface temperatures is what is wrong. That is the point that the linked article was making – the earth is warming, just because the surface temperatures are not rising does not refute this fact.

    And there is NOT “much controversy” surrounding the temperature anomalies, it is the people who take data out of context who are deliberately creating the controversy.

    And in your final question, you are asking to prove a negative. From the people who know (who I trust more than those like Bolt) seem to agree that AGW is the cause of the changes. Can you link to someone who says that they are not?

  12. Mangrove Jack:

    First, most of the others here know me from another blog, and I hope don’t consider me a troll.

    Second, I’ve commented at deltoid exactly three times. (Not exactly the behaviour pattern of a ‘common or garden variety troll’, do you think?)

  13. Joni,

    Some of the controversy is being explored here:

    http://www.climateaudit.org/

    Here’s one example of someone who offers alternative explanations:

    http://www.climate-skeptic.com/2007/09/chapter-6-skept.html

  14. Again – the skeptic’s are doing what they accuse those who support AW of doing – which is trying to skew the debate by the selective use of facts. The link says:

    But it turns out, interestingly, that solar irradiance may be close to its highest point in centuries.

    and

    But the most striking feature, he says, is that looking at the past 1,150 years the Sun has never been as active as it has been during the past 60 years.

    But the this peer reviewed article says:

    Some researchers have also suggested that the increase in the average global temperature over the last century may have been solar in origin. This statement, however, is difficult to prove because accurate data on solar output of radiation only goes back to about 1978.

    So – if the data on solar activity only goes back to 1978, how can the statement that talks about over 1000 years be true?

  15. Re Hello Min. If the changes are caused by natural factors and processes (do) nothing…from Tony of South Yarra

    I would suggest that changes in climate and the causes thereof are purely academic. The fact is that there are changes which we need to address. Do nothing is not an option.

  16. I disappear for most of a year and nothing changes but the venue 😉

    I don’t see much point responding to the same arguments with the same responses, given that Google will find you multiple Blogocracy threads on the topic – and plenty of real climate scientists whose websites are quite happy to go into a lot more detail about why these arguments don’t seem to hold much water.

  17. Hi Lotharsson. Has it been a year? Nice to see you again.

    I do wish you would come up with maybe one response, just for old time’s sake.

    How about the one where I say climate change theory is unscientific, and you show me where I’m wrong. 🙂

  18. Min, I agree the issue is ‘What to do about Climate Change?’

    Another is “Is perpetual economic growth as an ideology compatible with arresting/reducing climate change to the required level?

    Personally I think the answer to question 2 is a resounding ‘no’.

    The next question then; “Is acting on climate change more important to us than economic growth”?

    We can survive without economic growth, but can we survive the affects of climate change and the social upheaval that will result?

    As long as we cling to the belief that our lifestyles are non-negotiable we have lost the battle, IMO.

  19. Has it been a year? Nice to see you again.

    Nice to see you too!

    It’s been roughly a year – I’m not really sure. I’ve been chronically ill for a few years, and about a year ago I just stopped reading blogs and commenting altogether. Maybe I’m getting a little better now – I poke my head up on the blogs every now and then 😉

    How about the one where I say climate change theory is unscientific, and you show me where I’m wrong.

    We could rehash all of our previous discussion, but I’m fairly sure it’s there on the Blogocracy threads and nothing seems to have changed in your argument.

    As life is too short, I might instead point out that you assert that the AGW hypothesis is not falsifiable, which is at odds with legions of climate scientists. But fortunately we don’t have to rely on what the scientists think about falsifiability as we have an authority at hand that you trust more than them:

    “If, however, temperatures continue to plateau, or even fall, the hypothesis must be rejected.”

    This implies that even you think the hypothesis is indeed falsifiable…

  20. Lotharsson,

    Sorry to hear about your illness. I sincerely hope you keep feeling better. 🙂

    This implies that even you think the hypothesis is indeed falsifiable…

    Yes, the global warming hypothesis, where increased CO2 leads to increased temperatures, is falsifiable.

    The climate change ‘theory’, when any and all climate events can be claimed as evidence, is not.

  21. Yes, the global warming hypothesis, where increased CO2 leads to increased temperatures, is falsifiable.

    Ah, good. Thanks for elaborating.

    I think the problem I have with your argument is that it misrepresents the “AGW”.

    The AGW has as one of its sub-hypotheses that human activities have increased the level of CO2 in the atmosphere significantly above and beyond what it would have been otherwise. AFAIK few disagree, although some claim otherwise. Do you think this hypothesis is falsifiable?

    The climate change ‘theory’, when any and all climate events can be claimed as evidence, is not.

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean by this “climate change theory”, but given my best guess II suspect it badly misrepresents the climate science (although it probably represents a lot of the popular conception of the science, which is another thing entirely). Perhaps you could elaborate?

  22. Sorry to hear about your illness. I sincerely hope you keep feeling better.

    Thanks 🙂 We figured out what seems to be causing it about a year and a half ago, and I’m on a course of treatment that should fix it but may take another year or two – but it’s a much better state of affairs to know what it is and what to do about it.

  23. Here we have the nub of the problem.

    My approach to this issue is not from a technical perspective, but a Popperian philosophy of science pespective.

    A theory needs to have a hypothesis, an initial condition, and a testable consequence. AGW, as I understand it, meets those criteria.

    Forgive me if I now rehash a portion of our blogocracy debate, but I believe it still applies:

    The hypothesis H is that an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide will lead to an increase in average global surface temperatures.

    The initial condition A is that atmospheric CO² increases.

    The testable consequence O is that average surface temperature will also increase.

    If there is a repeated failure of the average surface temperature to show a measured increase, then the hypothesis is false.

    (H · A)→O
    not——-O
    not-(H · A)

    Climate change, as I understand it, meets none of these conditions.

  24. Sorry, but I still don’t understand what you are calling “AGW” and what you are calling “climate change”. Are both of them hypotheses in your world view, or are you using one of those terms to label some observations? Would you please clarify?

  25. Tony

    Again you want to talk about average surface temperatures. And that is not what AGW is about.

  26. Tony – How many angels can fit on the head of a pin?

    i think when it comes to AGW, you are hoist on a petard of irrelevance. Woods for trees. And all that.

  27. Many debates – and court cases – come down to the meaning of a word. Unless we can at least agree on the meaning of the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘AGW / global warming’, our discussion can’t really progress.

    Perhaps you would you kindly set out your definition of each? (Or at least point me to the ones the ‘experts’ rely on.)

    Me, I think global warming is a valid theoretical concept. Climate change, on the other hand, has about as much meaning as society change or economy change.

  28. Here we have the nub of the problem.
    My approach to this issue is not from a technical perspective, but a Popperian philosophy of science pespective.

    Contrary to what philosophers would like believe, science is not a Popperian enterprise.

    The standard for a scientific theory is that it predicts the outcome of experimental results better than any other theory. By that standard AGW theory is the current hands down winner, nothing else is even close.

    The testable consequence O is that average surface temperature will also increase.

    Yes, but only averaged out over the appropriate time period, in this case 30 years. It is not valid to claim that because the rate of temp increase may have slowed on the last 10 years, therefore the increase itself has ceased.

    Also, you do your argument no credit by continuing to use the extreme outlier of 1998 as the baseline or starting point by which to judge temp changes. Nobody with a shred of statistical understanding would make that claim.

  29. Perhaps you would you kindly set out your definition of each?

    No, you’re the one arguing that one of these concepts is bulldust because it’s unfalsifiable, so you need to define what you mean (presumably in hypothesis form). Depending on your definition there might even be deafening agreement.

  30. Ok Joni – I take your point, but it isn’t just me who refers to global surface temperatures.

  31. While we’re at it, I’d like to point out that:

    The hypothesis H is that an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide will lead to an increase in average global surface temperatures.

    is NOT one of the hypotheses being considered by the climate scientists, because it is vastly oversimplified to the point that it becomes useless. The earth is a highly complex and (in the technical sense of the term) a chaotic system. Writing a hypothesis in a form that applies only to single-variable-at-at-time experiments doesn’t get us anywhere, and indeed can lead one to erroneous conclusions – even if doing so can make an application of Popper easier to come by.

    Then I would like to note that practically the whole of medicine is unfalsifiable under your definition. There’s never a single event that can falsify any particular clinical trial under your version of Popper because one can always propose that there were other factors at work…but I’m betting you still take prescriptions from your doctor, don’t you?

    JimJim’s trenchant comment captures the key issue here. Science isn’t all black and white certainty; much of it is primarily about predicting better than any alternative theory. On that note have a read of “Is Climate Modeling Science?”

    “At first glance this seems like a strange question. Isn’t science precisely the quantification of observations into a theory or model and then using that to make predictions? Yes. And are those predictions in different cases then tested against observations again and again to either validate those models or generate ideas for potential improvements? Yes, again. So the fact that climate modelling was recently singled out as being somehow non-scientific seems absurd.”

    I think the problem you are suffering from is you can’t see how to cast sufficient doubt on the current climate science. The answer is surprisingly easy. You build a model that (a) models the earth’s climate about as well as the current best models – or even better, and (b) when you run your model on the best real world data we have it has the property that changing CO2 (and other greenhouse gas) levels by roughly the amounts that humans have does NOT lead to statistically significant global warming. And there are plenty of scientists attempting to build such a model – because if they are successful that will advance their career and possibly make them famous.

    And all of this seems to be exactly like the points that have been made when you previously presented this argument. Got anything new?

  32. Oh I know – that is why I pointed you to the link earlier. It is the warming of the oceans that is the really scary part. The oceans drive the weather. When the currents in the ocean change – the weather patterns will alter dramatically – and that is the big fear of AGW.

  33. JimJim,

    As I said to Joni earler, I’m willing to concede temperatures may still be rising. However, repeated measured increase in temperature is not probative of the hypothesis, but merely render it more probable.

    The standard for a scientific theory is that it predicts the outcome of experimental results better than any other theory.

    As far as I know, there is no crucial experiment to prove the AGW hypothesis. Do you know of one?

  34. No where are we gonna find another planet to conduct the experiments under controlled conditions to satisfy Tony? Anyone got a spare planet?

  35. Lotharsson:

    No, you’re the one arguing that one of these concepts is bulldust because it’s unfalsifiable, so you need to define what you mean (presumably in hypothesis form). Depending on your definition there might even be deafening agreement.

    I have set out my understanding of the AGW hypothesis in comment 23. Please criticise that definition, then perhaps we can move on from there.

  36. As far as I know, there is no crucial experiment to prove the AGW hypothesis. Do you know of one?

    You’ve got science exactly backwards, because

    As far as I know, there is no crucial experiment to prove the gravity hypothesis.

    There are, however, thousands and thousands of failed attempts by some of the best minds in the business to disprove it – and THAT is what leads us to a strong degree of belief in it.

  37. I have set out my understanding of the AGW hypothesis in comment 23. Please criticise that definition, then perhaps we can move on from there.

    Well, some of my initial thoughts on that part in comment 31. And heaps in previous Blogocracy threads, I suspect.

    But just as importantly I was also asking (e.g. in comment 21) what you meant by the term “climate change theory” (e.g. in comment 20) because you claim it to be unscientific. Please elaborate?

  38. That was in response to JimJim’s comment #28 about ” the outcome of experimental results”. I have never said an experiment is required.

  39. At the risk of repeating myself – because you either refuse to or won’t accept my definition:

    Climate change – where any climate event can be attributed to the concept – is not testable, falsifiable or refutable, therefore it is unscientific.

    Global warming – as defined in comment 23 – is.

  40. Yay! Lotharsson has made it here, one of my favourite posters from Blogocracy; been wondering as to your whereabouts.

    Excellent to read your contributions again.

    BTW, to whom it may concern, Tony, IMHO, is a little more rational (however ideologically opposite I may find him at times) than your garden variety troll. I gotta say, I found his recent posts at Bolt’s tedious & way below the standard I came to expect from him at Tim’s; but most of the “denizens at Bolt’s” seem to fall into type, reflexively dismissing the “left” as stereotypical & unworthy…Uncle Andy does so love to foster some less than admirable contributors. I never found Tony to be this way, conservative yes, ignorant to reason NO (for the most part anyway).

    Tony, nice post champ, but I must beg to differ. Cynicism is healthy but I’ve got a kid that’s gonna inherit the fruits of rampant consumerism & unfettered “growth”; to me there is an obvious toll being exacted upon the planet.
    It’s 15 years since I studied Earth Science et al at uni & it was fairly obvious then that what we’re up to is unsustainable & will bear a cost; things have gotten worse since, not better.

    Personally I think that on the whole, over time (especially on a geological timescale if you prefer to think of it that way) we are pretty well f@cked. The interests of so many of the planets niche groups are so mutually exclusive that there’s not going to be rational consensus & action to mitigate the downward spiral.
    I belive that when I die I shall rot, entropy is always increasing.

  41. OK, so I don’t think as clearly as I did before I got ill, but I still don’t see the content in your statement. So let me take it as face value for the sake of argument.

    Sure, if you have any hypothesis where any observation can validly be argued to support the hypothesis, then the hypothesis is not testable. No-one much will argue with you there.

    But how does this connect with climate science? All I can see is a gigantic strawman, because I don’t recall any climate scientists seriously proposing hypotheses that aren’t testable.

    Yes, you’ll get ignorant commenters and even lazy journalists claiming that any and all sorts of climate observations somehow validate global warming – but you and I know that’s not a scientific judgement, and that newspapers and commenters are known to print dubious argument rather more frequently than they’d care to admit.

    So does your concept of “climate change theory” relate in any way to the hypotheses or models that climate scientists put forward? Or is it just a term that you use when you see the pattern of bogus logic that says “no matter what happens, it validates my claims about the world”?

  42. I still look fondly back upon your “denialists deck of cards” Lotharsson; more appropriate now than ever methinks.

  43. #40 BuffaloBill

    Point taken about Bolt’s blog. When there is no worthty opponent it is very easy to regress. That is definitely not the case here and you guys have made me feel – unexpectedly – welcome. Vive la difference.

  44. Tony@43

    I know that I am biased, not to mention repulsed by many of his regulars, but you are so much better than the 95% of the vitriolic automatons who take their cues from Bolt. The link you posted to (unpartisan) literary style on another thread more than proves this to me.

    I note, with some irony that, THE dean of Doonside has found a comfortable home there. My last post as Human Dividend (even more ironic, it was at Bolt’s) was predictably derided by nematode who referred to me as a “Tim Dunlop exile”, LOL. How tempted I was to copy & paste some of his past comments in which he stated such wisdom as “McCain in a landslide”…I may have my own ideological filter but I’m not blind to trends in the world around me.

    Soz to get off topic.

  45. No44 LavMeister

    Not wanting to get sentimental or anything, but I loved my time at Tim’s place (which I first visited when AB was on holidays). It was much more challenging and stimulating to interact with ideological opposites. In fact, it forced me to listen to your lefty arguments, some of which I found – reasonably? – convincing *wash your mouth out*.

    Anyhow, thanks again to the blog comptrollers reb and joni, and to everyone else who has welcomed me back. Much appreciated.

  46. Out, out, brief candle, etc.

    I hope you all feel better now.

  47. It was much more challenging and stimulating to interact with ideological opposites.

    Hear, hear. Echo chambers are really poor at detecting things that don’t stand up to scrutiny.

    And apropos the topic, that idea of interacting with those with other opinions is the key mechanism underlying the scientific method – and the adversarial legal system.

  48. Here we go again,

    This topic does becomes tedious at times and there are those who make it so but some fundamental questions are always lost in the debate.

    1. If climate change is due to man, why has the planet throughout its long history changed so dramatically without our input?

    2. Why are we using data that has been accumulated over the past 100 plus years to predict phenomena that spans millions and is clearly beyond just interpreting ice cores?

    3. If it is a combination of both man and natural cycles, how can we be sure to what extent man is responsible for that change when even now we cannot explain or predict the natural cycles fully?

    What is not in doubt however is that man is surely causing harm to the planet in many different forms and at our current rate of consumption and destruction; we are coming to a head. Call it what you want, AGW, debate surface temps, computer models etc. but what is painfully clear is we are destroying our home. I have beaten this subject to death but it all comes back to one cause, “unsustainable /exponential human population growth”. The rest of this talk is trivial and simply irrelevant in the short term. Until we take measures to curve/manage human growth and the consumption it leads to, we will continue to harm the planet we depend on.

  49. This clip seems uncomfortably relevant.

    No folks, I am not advocating we cause any harm to anybody simply pointing out a very uncomfortable analogy that seems fitting given this subject. I would ask however, how did we begin to disrupt this “equilibrium” and how do we get it back without imposing any draconian measures; no condemnations please.

  50. I am not a scientist or an expert and I do not know what the answer is. However anyone with an ounce of nouse knows it is a combination of natural change and man made change.

    The earths soil is designed to grow things which create oxygen and shade the planet from the suns rays and provide food for its creatures. Humans lay bitumen on the land preventing it from doing its natural job. Go into a city during summer and see how hot it is with all of the bitumen roads and then go and sit under a tree and tell me we do not contribute to warming or the damage of this planet with our actions.

    I am NOT advocating we do not build roads I just want sceptics to maybe even concede a small bit that we do contribute to the degradation of this planet by our actions which are not the natural phenomenon or design of the planet.

  51. Hi Sparta,

    I’ll have a bit of a go at answering your points :

    1. I don’t think any party to the discussion asserts that ALL climate change is due to mankind’s actions – such an assertion is patently ridiculous – there are many factors contributing to climate change, and the concerns about AGW have only arisen because there seems to be additional factors OUTSIDE these “natural ” mechanisms which are affecting, and have the potential to further affect the global climate. The most tenable current hypothesis is that an accumulation of greenhouse gases (particularly CO2) is leading to a significant change in the global climate – this accumulation can be traced to the increased industrialisation of society, which is directly attributable to us.

    2. Instrumental data on climate variables has only been collected for about 150 years, beyond that, data is derived from a number of sources (or proxies), including ice core analysis, tree ring analysis, geological phenomena (eg vulcanism, glaciation) etc.,. A fuller explanation of this process can be found at RealClimate, if you are interested.

    3. ANY climate change currently underway will be a combination of anthropogenic and “natural” causes – the point of the whole “debate” being the level (and nature) of mankind’s contribution – once again the RealClimate site will provide you with a more “in-depth” discussion and analysis of this point.

    While I generally agree with your concluding points, i disagree with your statement that :-

    “it all comes back to one cause, “unsustainable /exponential human population growth”.”

    I think that the problem lies not in excess population growth, but in the misallocation of resources (on a global level). Huge quantities of resources are wasted on munitions and planned obsolescence, and resources are allocated to “profit” rather than according to “needs” or “equity”, and I believe that, unless such issues are addressed, the downward spiral of our civilisation will continue.

    PS sorry about the (lack of) links – haven’t quite mastered the art of including them here 🙂

  52. Shane, I’m a sceptic. I’m probably heading down the path of outright denial rather than the other way. It just seems to me that the story has changed over time to fit the observed weather patterns and I feel I’m being bullshitted to. I, however, and I’m sure Tony and other sceptics, have no objection to positive actions to clean up our act on this planet. Probably the best place to start is better management of deforestation. Things like Soy and biofuels are sooo politically correct until you find out that acres of the Amazon are being cleared to meet the world demand. There’s not enough food to go around, or water, yet in Victoria we spend billions on a desalination plant, at what environmental cost I don’t know, and watch as Gippsland floods a couple of times a year again at what environmental cost I don’t know but at massive cost to farmers and insurers. If the current financials crisis has taught us anything, it should be that you can’t trade something that has no inherent value. The carbon trading scheme has to fail. And it’s being created to solve a problem where apparently the 17 parts per million that is the human contribution to the feedback process of carbon into the atmosphere is the very 17 parts that makes humans most probably responsible for the difference between naturally occuring global warming which is mostly generally harmless and catastrophic warming which causes floods, hurricanes, islands to disappear etc etc. Because scientists have modelled it.

    I just get sick of having my thought and behaviour manipulated by various parties for their interests and not mine, my family’s or my community’s.

  53. You don’t have to be a climate scientist to understand the link between CO2 and warming.

    But you do have to grapple with some some tricky concepts which I suspect are beyond the capacity of many sceptics/deniers.

    CO2 has this strange ability to absorb infra-red radiation. Even at only 350 ppm.

    And the Earth maintains its equilibrium temperature by re-radiating its excess heat back to space at night. Earth heat bounces around inside the armosphere via CO2 molecules (and water vapour) until it works it way up to what scientists refer to as the Top of Atmosphere, where it finally escapes to space. Not by convection, but by radiation. At the TOA it is very cold, but black space is even colder, so the net radiation of energy is from the TOA to space.

    When more CO2 is dumped into the atmosphere, the altitude of the TOA increases ( where it’s colder). so the temperature difference between the TOA and space is now less. Objects at different temperatures exchange radiation in proportion to the 4th power of the temperature difference between them, which exaggerates the effect. For equilibrium to be regained the Earth now has to warm slightly. And that’s precisely what’s happening.

    This is what is commonly, and incorrectly, called the “greenhouse effect”.

    After 50-odd comments, I thought it was about time it was said.

  54. Sparta, yes I can see your point with the link. There are too many of us & many more to come.
    Peace love & understanding can only take us so far when we are ultimately faced with finite amounts of basic necessities.

    The problem is that nobody is legitimately qualified to make the cold decisions, & even if they were they would not be accepted by enough of humanity to avoid widespread conflict & ensuing bloodshed.

    Tick tock tick tock tick tock…

  55. James of Melbourne

    You might be a sceptic and I respect that. I too am a sceptic of many claims about amny things, but surely even you can see that soil covered with bitumen affects this planet by creating heat, not permitting growth of plants and therefore starving the earths creatures of food and the planet of oxygen creating plants.

    I am not trying to convert anyone just speaking with commonsense and my own observation.

  56. Shane, I certainly agree with that, at least on a local level. And there are some that argue that it’s that very thing, the growth of cities and associated roads etc that have caused much of the temperature anomolies (had the thermometers been positioned away from cities the effect wouldn’t have been as great). Now I’m not saying I agree with this, I don’t know. Bitumen? Well I guess better roads mean cars spend less time on them. I’m not really sure. But it’s interesting that you raise this, Shane. I understand that in rural areas the acreage is getting larger and larger before you are entitled to build a house on a property. This is forcing more larger farms and less smaller ones. Now I know this is helpful for dairy companies and the major supermarkets in terms of efficiency, but is it socially helpful? This is forcing people to move to cities or regional centres. It’s supported by state and local government, probably federal also, I don’t know. To me, it’s a disgrace.

  57. James

    You have plenty of logic in your observations and as I said I do not know the answer. One of the main problems is that our cities are on some of the most productive land in the country.

  58. James

    What temperature anomalies?

  59. Joni, there are some that argue that the sharp increase in temperature observations over the last 30 odd years has something to do with the positioning of the measurement apparatus being close to towns, where localised temperatures have increased due to roads, buildings etc over and above global temperatures, and that’s made the graphs look worse. I don’t know the truth of it, I was simply remarking on it in relation to Shane’s comment on bitumen.

  60. Shane and James, I believe what you are referring to is the urban heat island effect, or UHI:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_heat_island

  61. James

    I know – these memes keep getting repeated and we keep knocking them down. The data that is being used for the global temperature are sattelite based and are not measuring the surface temperature.

  62. James, I believe what you are referring to is called the urban heat island effect, or UHI.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_heat_island

  63. Joni, don’t the satellite based measurements show no significant warming?

    http://spacescience.spaceref.com/newhome/essd/essd_strat_temp.htm

    Again, I don’t claim to know or understand, but there sure is a lot of contradictory noise. I got this from a Google search.

  64. OK – let me find the scientific refutal of this… gonna take some time as I need coffee and I have a meeting v soon.

  65. James,

    Good to bump into you again, by the way.

  66. They should have 2 thermometers, one located in the cities and one located out of the city and that would show how much we have contributed through our actions ( if any) to the temperature.

    Also with cities being hotter more energy is required for the running of air conditioners.

  67. You too, Tony. As much as I continue to deny occupying a pigeon hole somewhere to the right of Pauline Hanson, things have been pretty lonely here for a “non-leftie” until recent times, although for the most part, the commies have been pretty gentle.

    Joni, shouldn’t take long, there are websites dedicated to rebuttal of sceptics 🙂

  68. Ah, but Shane, rural areas are colder, hence more need for heaters and wood fires!! Now I’m just being contrary and should just get on with my work 🙂

  69. What is not in doubt however is that man is surely causing harm to the planet in many different forms and at our current rate of consumption and destruction; we are coming to a head. Call it what you want, AGW, debate surface temps, computer models etc. but what is painfully clear is we are destroying our home. I have beaten this subject to death but it all comes back to one cause, “unsustainable /exponential human population growth”. The rest of this talk is trivial and simply irrelevant in the short term. Until we take measures to curve/manage human growth and the consumption it leads to, we will continue to harm the planet we depend on.

    Well, well Sparta, something else we agree on. I’m a not sure whether the problem is so much the increase in population but rather the increase in consumption.

    While it is true human population is increasing, most of our damage is a result of increase in industrialisation and consumption.

    Luckily it is the easiest one to do something about. Simply consume less. Of course this solution is unpopular because our economic system Inot to mention the wealth of some) depends on growth.

    Population control opens one big nasty can of worms and one only has to look as far as China to see the problems that result.

    For those that do support population control, you would think it would make the issues of abortion and euthanasia a no-brainer. I suspect the discussiion would be more along the lines of ‘entitlement’ to breed, receive medical treatment etc.

  70. Abortion and Euthanasia as methods of population control? Yep, no slippery slope at all!!

  71. Actually – the link that T of SY provides does a good job in rebutting the effect of the GHI.

  72. Here’s an article on our own Melbourne weather station and what effect if any UHI has had.

  73. This is forcing people to move to cities or regional centres. It’s supported by state and local government, probably federal also, I don’t know. To me, it’s a disgrace.

    I think you will find that lack of jobs and opportunity is more of a factor in this James.

    The drought, not to mention decades of ecologically damaging farm practices, (maybe there’s a corelation there) have decimated many rural communities, and lack of water is going to become ever more of a problem.

  74. Tracie, if there were 20 dairy farms in a given area, and now there’s only 5, what does that do to jobs?

  75. James trust you. Personally I agree with abortion, and euthanasia, but do not support population control.

    There is no slippery slope from one to the other. Abortion and euthanasia are personal decisions a person makes pertaining to their life, whereas population control is certain elites making the decisions for others (usually not themselves or their peers).

    You can see the difference can’t you?

  76. It’s all about perspective, Tracie. I didn’t link the issues, you did. I doubt that anyone against abortion or euthanasia would be in favour of population control.

  77. James if the 20 farms were viable businesses they would still be operating.

  78. I think it is about free will. As long as abortion and euthanasia are decisions a person makes for themselve alone, I have no problem. I would not agree with forced abortion or euthansia as population control.

  79. Tracie

    The twenty dairy farms would still be viable if the industry was not deregulated with horrendous results, mainly the supermarkets creating a monopoly and paying farmers next to nothing for their produce. In addition deregulation of the industry cost us taxpayers billions of dollars and our milk went up not down as it was promised. Then again deregulation of anything has not resulted in many benefits for the consumer, especially if the item is essential such as milk.

  80. “The twenty dairy farms would still be viable if the industry was not deregulated with horrendous results, mainly the supermarkets creating a monopoly and paying farmers next to nothing for their produce”shane

    I’ve worked in the industry before & I can attest to that.

  81. Hi Toilet

    I was in rural lending with the Bank at the time so experienced the heartbreak and angst first hand and the disgraceful offerings of pittance by the supermarkets as soon as deregulation was put into effect.

    Howard has a lot to answer for on that one. Plus many more of his wonderful deregulation and competition authority judgements.

  82. Still to my amazement cockies blindly support the coalition.

  83. I agree with you to a certain extent James, another ‘benefit’ of FTA’s and free market principles. However I do think some farmers (or their associations) have not been pro active in their own interests.

    Some farmers, like NSW Farmer of the Year Nigel Kerin, are gaining an advantage by changing their land management practices

    SEAN MURPHY, REPORTER: The central west of New South Wales may be in drought, but Nigel’s Kerin’s lands are growing fat on lush pastures. It’s the result of a farming philosophy which puts environmental wealth before money in the bank.

    NIGEL KERIN: To get environmental wealth, most of it comes without spending a lot of money, there’s very few input costs into it because all we are doing is managing grass, rather than managing livestock, because it’s very hard to have money in a money bank if you’ve got no grass bank in a livestock operation.

    Perhaps they could increase their profit by finding ways of selling direct ot the public through food co-ops, or community food bowl projects? Not only do they benefit, but the community benefits from fresher (perhaps cheaper) produce, and the environment benefits from reduced transport requirements.

  84. Shane and Toiletboss, dare I ask the obvious questions?

    What should Rudd do to change the status quo? Will he?

    As far as I am aware, the ALP have been just as quick to implement free trade practices and pursue FTA’s as the Howard mob were.

  85. Tracie,

    Well I can get on board with euthanasia thing granted the strict guidelines are in place for its utilization. In regards to abortion, I tend to be one who understands why it may be necessary but feel it has just become an out for poor decision making. If it was limited to those rare scenarios advocates use as rationalization for it’s being, then I might get on board with it also. Now, as it stands is a disgrace.

    China’s experiment is certainly not a model to follow but I might point out the “cycle of consumption”. Yes, westerners consume much more than most of the world but I would ask you, who has made up most of the Western world’s growth over the last 20 years? We keep the 3rd world alive, just barely, and import large numbers of their populous. The US currently has accumulated over 20 million “non-citizens” since 1986 and has accumulated another million a year legally in this same time frame. Most come here expecting the same standard of living as the rest, rightly so, but one cannot deny this phenomenon has not contributed disproportionally to the increase in consumption and the negative impacts on the environment. Simply put, despite grate disparities still existing, many have come to know the comforts of the 1st world in numbers never before seen in all of human history. Although we applaud these gains, they have come with a price, with our planet bearing most of the burden.

  86. Simply put, despite grate disparities still existing, many have come to know the comforts of the 1st world in numbers never before seen in all of human history. Although we applaud these gains, they have come with a price, with our planet bearing most of the burden.

    Well some may applaud what they consider to be ‘gains’ Sparta, I would dispute that. Sure more may have access to consumable goods than ever before, but that is the problem. Are societies any happier for all their new material wealth.

    While the toys we can now buy have increased, our planet, our communities and our society in general is poorer IMO.

    If people consume less they don’t have to work so hard (as long as wages are realistic), and they have more time for family and community activites. People who are actively engaged in society help keep it strong and safe.

  87. It just seems to me that the story has changed over time to fit the observed weather patterns and I feel I’m being bullshitted to.

    So your feeling is apparently grounded in “the story” changing over time? As Winston Churchill apparently once said:

    “When the fact change, sir, I change my mind. What do you do?”

    Science is the process of changing hypotheses (which includes models) to fit the observations, and continually attacking the best hypotheses and models we have to try and find weaknesses that ultimately lead to improvements. If the story doesn’t change for any given area of science, it’s either fairly completely understood – or there’s no progress being made. We’d still be treating many diseases with leeches and traveling to Europe by sea and communicating via paper if we had refused to consider any scientific “story that changed”.

    So are you skeptical because you have a grounded reason to believe the current models aren’t much good, or merely because the “story changed”, or you have a “feeling”?

    …apparently the 17 parts per million that is the human contribution to the feedback process of carbon into the atmosphere is the very 17 parts that makes humans most probably responsible for the difference between naturally occuring global warming which is mostly generally harmless and catastrophic warming which causes floods, hurricanes, islands to disappear etc etc.

    That’s a sloppy characterisation of the issue, and you’re wheeling out a big straw man if you claim scientists think “all natural CO2 increase good, all human CO2 increase bad”. It won’t really matter where the CO2 came from if the levels rise to the point that very bad effects are felt – we’ll still be feeling them either way.

    What matters most is what we can do about it – and THEN it matters where it came from. We have the option to significantly reduce the human contribution to the problem, but very little chance of reducing the natural changes.

  88. …there are some that argue that the sharp increase in temperature observations over the last 30 odd years has something to do with the positioning of the measurement apparatus being close to towns, where localised temperatures have increased due to roads, buildings etc over and above global temperatures, and that’s made the graphs look worse.

    It’s true that some argue that, but AFAIK there’s very little support for that position in the literature. Even the Wikipedia link for Urban Heat Islands that was provided above says that if you read it, as does the RealClimate discussion.

    Part of the reason why UHI doesn’t explain the temperature observations is that we’re interested in the trends in temperature at each measuring station, not the absolute values. But it’s a good deal more complicated than that, and scientists have spent quite a bit of time and effort studying and accounting for the effect.

  89. Gack! Sorry folks, looks like I have an unclosed HTML tag or something. Hopefully a moderator can fix it.

    joni: poof! it is fixed.

  90. Simply put, despite grate disparities still existing, many have come to know the comforts of the 1st world in numbers never before seen in all of human history. Although we applaud these gains, they have come with a price, with our planet bearing most of the burden.

    Yes, and the even larger problem is how future expectations are handled. The 2nd & 3rd world populations mostly want to be like the 1st world, and there’s no way the planet can support that. So does the 1st world go backwards in the interests of equity (and possibly self-preservation), or do we end up with resource wars, or at the very least simmering discontent that expresses itself in various ways?

  91. Tracie

    It matters not which political party implements policies, what is amazing is the blind ideological following of the coalition by the majority of farmers even when it destroys their own industries. I know as I am off the land.

  92. Tony, I didn’t get an answer to 41, and in the meantime another interpretation of your definition:

    Climate change – where any climate event can be attributed to the concept – is not testable, falsifiable or refutable, therefore it is unscientific.

    occurred to me.

    Are you stating that (for example) the assertion that “Global warming caused that big storm we had last night” is unscientific? (The causality here runs the opposite direction to my initial interpretation of your statement.)

    If so, absolutely – and pretty much every climate scientist in the world will agree.

    However, there’s nuance here too. Global warming can make certain events more likely to occur on average, and more intense than they would otherwise be. But it’s not the case that global warming alone causes any individual big event, and we can’t determine whether or not such an event would have occurred without global warming (as that’s the nature of a chaotic system – the exact path it takes depends heavily on initial conditions and system parameters).

  93. “When the fact change, sir, I change my mind. What do you do?”

    Keynes

  94. “Still to my amazement cockies blindly support the coalition”shane

    Yeah, it never ceases to befuddle me. Definitely the case with the “cockies” in my part of regional S.A.; my father being a rare exception. This area reeks of inherent conservatism & I doubt that anything much can change that. I am in one of the safest Liberal seats in the country.

    Tracie, you’re right regarding the ALP & it’s adherence to the coalition penchant for dubious FTA’s. Many of the perceived differences between the two major partys are purely cosmetic.

  95. Keynes

    I stand corrected. Must update my mental model 😉

  96. Toilet

    The fact is Kevin Rudd could pay off all of the farmers debts and they would still go for his juggler. They do not seem to be able to see fault in both sides. I have only ever witnessed the labor party being blamed for anything that is wrong and the liberal party receiving credit for anything that is good, yet who do they think slashed and burnt services to country areas over the previous 12 years, removing tax offices and centralising many other federal services to canberra in the name of budget savings.

    Amazing silence on those issues yet when the previous government announces maybe a part time operating office in a small town then alleluia the coalition are the saviours of the the bush. Sorry but I am very cynical about this and used to have long and healthy debates with my late father of this very topic.

  97. don’t the satellite based measurements show no significant warming?

    http://spacescience.spaceref.com/newhome/essd/essd_strat_temp.htm

    Not sure that page is up to date, and I doubt the conclusion is either. Note the graphs only go to ’99 (which was before some of the satellite measurement issues were fixed). Doing satellite-based measurement is somewhat complicated, but pays off because you can measure things you can’t measure easily from the ground.

    For a couple of more recent discussions see this simple one and a much more detailed thread. There may be still more recent news in the area too…

  98. Shane (91) almost amazing as the blind ideology of some who will ridicule bad policy but do not seem interested in changing it.

    Of course it doesn’t matter who implements the policy, what does matter is not changing bad policy when it is recognised as such.

    It is a bit rich of Rudd to condemn ‘extreme capitalism’ when he will continue to adhere to its practices. Current argument against more regulation is ‘we have done ok so our system doesn’t need changing’. I would say it may be a bit early to tell.

    Certainly our system isn’t perfect if the Govt has to move to guarantee bank deposits and boost spending in an effort to avoid recession.

    Same with Climate Change. If the ALP are serious about acting on this issue, then why are they so slow about it? Perhaps it is true that the reason they won’t commit to a target is because of lack of consensus within the party.

    How about some of that accountability the ALP think is essential for teachers also apply to the Govt as well.

    Howard was into accountability for everyone but himself and his party. Will Rudd continue this proud political tradition? Given the lack of inquiries into Howard ministers and actions, I’d say so.

  99. The fact is Kevin Rudd could pay off all of the farmers debts and they would still go for his juggler. They do not seem to be able to see fault in both sides.

    Wow that’s a fact is it? A fact is that people are more likely to support a party that mostly reflects their personal values which is why many country people support conservative parties.

    If the ALP can offer nothing more for them than what the Coalition are doing what incentive is there for them to change their vote?

    IMO ‘finding fault’ is not a solution. It is counterproductive to lambast Howard for bad policy, if you are genuine about fixing the problem. Only the ALP can change the policy, so they are the ones you need to direct your concerns to.

  100. Tracie

    I find it futile to have discussions with you.

  101. Why? Because I don’t join the cheersquad?

    Before the election alot of Howard supporters called those of who were critical of the Govt ‘Howard Haters’.

    The name always annoyed me because I did not hate Howard. I did hate his policies.

    I was overwhelmingly relieved when he and his party were voted out last year, but if his policies remain the victory is hollow.

    Isn’t it futile to complain about Howard’s terrible policies, yet not expect the new Govt to change those policies?

  102. Lotharsson @ 92

    My apologies for no reply. I missed your question at 41 as well. Am flat out at the moment though, so will get back to you shortly.

  103. Lotharsson:

    @41 So does your concept of “climate change theory” relate in any way to the hypotheses or models that climate scientists put forward? Or is it just a term that you use when you see the pattern of bogus logic that says “no matter what happens, it validates my claims about the world”?

    I’m not even certain what the climate change hypotheses (are there more than one?) put forward by these climate scientists are (unless they’re the global warming hypothesis I set out at comment 23). Are you? But, yes, the common usage of the term climate change seems to allow any weather or climate event as evidence of its legitimacy.

    @92 But it’s not the case that global warming alone causes any individual big event, and we can’t determine whether or not such an event would have occurred without global warming (as that’s the nature of a chaotic system – the exact path it takes depends heavily on initial conditions and system parameters).

    We’ve found another thing we can agree on. 🙂

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: