It is easy to think from comments such as those made by these 16 in the WSJ that there is serious uncertainties about Global Warming. Of this list only Kinninmonth, Lindzen and Tennekes have backgrounds in Climatology/Meteorology. Burt Rutan for instance is an Aerovautical Engineer.
I am a Mechanical Engineer by training but I have spent the last 5-6 years self-educating myself about Climate Change. Abd Debating/Arguing with skeptics. In the process I have come to realise how few of the dissenting scientific opinions are actually from people that I would call 'honest brokers'. Routinely they will make statements that simply are not true, but that can't be clearly seen to be false by a lay audience. Seldom if ever do these 'skeptics' publish in the scientific literature and of the few papers that have been published, they are usually filled with flaws that lead one to suspect the purpose of the paper was simply to claim that publication has occurred with out regard to the quality of the science done. Because then they can use the claim of publication in their on-going PR campaign in the general media.
For example, in an interview here Kininmonth makes the following statement - a regular claim from skeptics.
WILLIAM KININMONTH: That is certainly one of the points in the letter that over the last decade there has been no significant change in temperature of the globe.
Technically true if we are only looking at surface temperatures although once we allow for the effects of the El Nino/La Nina cycles, warming on the surface has continued. What he fails to mention, knowing most people won't spot the omission is that warming, as in accumulation of heat, doesn't just hhappen to the atmosphere. In fact that is only a small part of the heating in the last 1/2 century. 90% of the warming has gone into the oceans with the atmosphere accounting for only 3%(The land and the Cryosphere accounts for the rest). So by only looking at what atmospheric temperatures are doing, without showing what has happened in the main heat sink, he paints an incomplete picture.
Some skeptics will then claim that the oceans haven't warmed either in the last 10 years. However they don't cover the decades before and the figures they cite are actually for the top 700 metres of the ocean, not the whole ocean. But they don't say that.
So here is Ocean heating for the top 700m and the top 2000m since 1950:
As you can see the oceans have continued warming all along. It is just that the last decade has seen a change in some of the ocean's circulation patterns, drawing more heat down to deeper layers. This has kept the upper ocean cooler and thus held air temperatures down. However warming has not stopped.
There is more of this including alternative analysis of sea level rise due to heating here.
If you look at the vertical scale above, the total warming is over 2*10^23 Joules. That is the equivalent of over 2 1/2 Hiroshima bombs every second since 1970. And since warming of the oceans is such a large component of the total heast accumulation, this cannot have come from heat transfers from the other heat sinks - Air, Land, Cryosphere. Heat generated from within the Earth is nowhere large enough to account for this either.
So this heat can only have come from an energy imbalance between the energy reaching the Earth from the Sun & the energy being radiated by the Earth to Space. Since we know that the Sun's output has if anything declined slightly over the last 1/2 century, something effecting the heat loss to space is the only remaining viable answer. So GH Gases, Clouds or Aerosols. Aerosols have a cooling effect and may if anything have moderated the warming. Clouds might do it but it would require a significant change in the mix of cloud types since some are cooling and others warming. And a cloud based explanation would produce a specific signature to the heating pattern - more heating during the day and summer. Incontrast GH gases would produce just as much warming at night and in winter. Also they would cause cooling in the stratospherewhere as a cloud explanation would not.
And observations show the warming pattern matches GH gases.
So a fairly conclusive case that GH gases are causing a net heat imbalance for the whole planet.
Someone like Kininmonth (or Lindzen) has the professional background to know that it is this sort of whole-of-system data that needs to be examined to draw a conclusion. Yet they are out there presenting to the lay public (and even Congress) ideas that seem plausible because they are cherry-picking what data to present.
Draw your own conclusions about them but to me, they are embodiments of an old idea. How to Lie Artistically. Tell The Truth, But Not All Of It!
Good points, Droid. I had the opportunity to speak to Professor Happer of Princeton at length, and he went out of his way to mention that this group includes scientists on both sides of the political aisle. Several of the 16 are registered democrats; one is a socialist. I can only imagine that his reasons for mentioning this is to reduce the number of politically-based attacks. My impression is that Professor Happer is sincere in his scientific belief.
Having little or no expertise in weather or climate studies, most of us cannot speak from a vantage point of hard scientific knowledge. However, this article does touch the surface of why so many of us have the raised eyebrows of skepticism when it comes to this subject.
While I wouldn't be so brash as to completely discount the notion of global warming or more specifically man-made global warming, I remain solidly in the skeptic camp for several reasons.
First, it does seem curious that the believers and non-believers are often split so conveniently along other ideological lines. For example, why does a belief in global warming seem to be generally associated with the politically left while most of the skeptics are on the politically right. Further, why are all the so-called solutions to global warming so conveniently politically left solutions and so conveniently similar to the solutions which might have been proposed back in the '70's when gobal cooling was a discussed.
The second extraneous reason for skepticism has to do with research funding. If the idea of global warming were to suddently disappear, it might be safe to assume that a number of those involved in scientific research of the issue would lose funding.
The third reason for skepticism is a simple look at the historical climate record. Since historical records give clear indications of past climate change, it seem presumptuous to think that present day climate should be rock-steady from here on out.
Finally, there is skepticism because of the number of factors involved. Anyone who has performed design of experiments on complex processes knows that it is often difficult to correctly identify all the factors and interactions which affect the result being measured. Unlike a scientific experiment which we might duplicate in the lab, climate can really only be observed and we cannot readily play with the knobs to adjust the factors while observing the results minutes later. Regardless of the supercomputers working on this problem, it seems a stretch to say that we've largely pinned down the cause for climate change in this entire complex process to one factor -CO2 from the evil fossil fuel and it's carbon emissions.
Good point Evo1. From a completely non-science observation, weather is certainly odd in recent years, with each of the last three decades getting warmer. Just in the last two years, we experienced record-breaking drought, fires, cold temps, hot, temps, floods, and tornados. Time after time, we see some extreme in terms of "hottest in 150 years," or "coldest on record," or "widest tornado ever recorded."
Well, you have to dig a little deeper into the editorial and its authors to really see what's going on. First, while they all have superficially impressive credentials, most of them also have fairly close associations with the petroleum industry. And 3/4 of them have little or no expertise in climatology or any closely related field. Not all scientists are really qualified to speak on climate change, so while they may be leading scientists and engineers, that doesn't automatically mean that they know anything substantive about the topic at hand. That's not to say that we should discount everything they say. Certainly we should question whether all the claims about predicted climate change are accurate, especially if they don't match up with known data.
But at the same time, some of their statements are pretty stupid. To claim that CO2 is automatically not a pollutant simply because it is a naturally occurring, and even important part of the atmosphere is not only grossly over simplistic, but incorrect. Just because iron is a necessary nutrient for forming hemoglobin doesn't mean that it can't also be a poison. Like CO2, it is necessary in extremely small trace amounts, but at higher levels it is in fact extremely toxic and does lead to several deaths every year, particularly in children. Excess CO2 is a pollutant, and can be damaging to the environment in a number of ways, of which elevated temperatures due to increased greenhouse effect is just one.
So when looking at the "95%" figure on scientists who support the claims that global warming is a significant problem, the question isn't so much whether the number is correct as it is "who are the remaining X%, and why don't they agree?"
This is interesting, Chuck. For years I assumed the skeptics were shills for the extractive industries who didn't want to see public opinion go against their goods (oil, gas, coal). You article points out there are legitimate scientists who have a different point of view.
For all I know, Rob, that 95% figure may be correct. But I guess that's the point. No One knows for sure. And I suspect that the number of scientists who don't believe is bigger than we are led to believe.
Your article is really quite surprising, Chuck. For years we've listened to the claim that 95 percent of scientists agree global warming is real and that it is man-made. This certainly changes the perception that the science is done on this subject.
I really do like your level-headed approaches to this sometimes overly reactive debate. It doesn't sound like the debate is about whether there is global warming, so much as, the root causes, rates, and impact. Naturally all these models go out the window if we have one major volcano or large asteroid hit dumping mega-doses of warming CO2 and sulfur, follwed by mega-doses of shadowing/cooling dust globally throwing us into a period of perpetual winter.
Thinking in risk probablility terms it seems prudent and responsible for us to minimize our environmental impact. This puts CO2 generation, recycling, waste minimizing, raw material conservation, and energy conservation (among others) all under consideration. We should not take radical steps to minimize one, at the expense of ignoring resultant abuse of another cause for concern. Naturally, balance is much harder to promote than a radical single pronged campaign.
Concurrently, it never hurts to plant some grass and some trees (as long as we don't dry-up our western aquafers to do it). Green plants work well as God engineered them. These will generate CO2 and O2 in balance, scrub some pollutants, and moderate temperatures. They warm-up the winters and cool the heat in the summer. It's always interesting to experience this first-hand during a motorcycle ride in the country. (e.g. - On a hot day, it is almost always more comfortable, perhaps 5-15 degrees cooler, to ride under shady trees than around concrete buildings. During a cool, clear evening, it is 5-15 degrees warmer when you pass under the canopy of trees than on the open road.) Perhaps that is food for thought.
@Beth: That's a really good point. Environmental sustainability is a complex subject. Reducing it to carbon footprint can be extremely misleading. That kind of thinking allows you to justify all kinds of wasteful and inefficient practices provided that you plant some trees somewhere.
I think the evidence for global warming is compelling, and as evo1 points out, so do the scientists who signed the editorial. Their argument is that the extent of global warming is less than some models have predicted, and the consequences may not be as dire.
(Their argument is also that those who disagree with them are like Stalinists and that they are motivated by greed and selfishness, so clearly there's more than enough demonization on both sides).
But eliminating waste and increasing efficiency are things which I think everyone can agree about. These things make sense economically, not just environmentally. And conservation of natural resources for future generations is something which has wide support across the political spectrum. Angry rhetoric sometimes distracts us from just how much common ground there really is.
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