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Out, damned spots!
April 10, 2007 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Sunspot activity is closely linked to climate. Although it observes an 11 and 22 year cycle, the overall trend of activity shows much longer term variations. The so-called Maunder Minimum (1645-1715) coincided with the Little Ice Age, while the Medieval Maximum coincided with the Medieval Warm Period. Analysis of beryllium isotopes from ice cores in Greenland shows that sunspot activity is currently at a 1000 year high. Could this account, at least in part, for global warming? Recent data from Mars suggests this may be so, while others remain sceptical. Bonus pix, more here.
posted by unSane (60 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Clearly the scientific consensus is "no, not entirely", since they just released the report blaming humans for the majority of the problem.

Also: Over the past 20 years, however, the number of sunspots has remained roughly constant, yet the average temperature of the Earth has continued to increase.
posted by DU at 7:46 AM on April 10, 2007


Could this account, at least in part, for global warming?

I'm inclined to say no. I'm no astronomer, but it seems pretty conceivable to me that the sun would go through cycles of activity, with upswings or downswings possibly lasting decades.
posted by poweredbybeard at 7:48 AM on April 10, 2007


Could it account, at least in part, for global warming? Sure.

That doesn't mean we should continue using the atmosphere as a gaseous and particulate toilet.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:48 AM on April 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


RealClimate on sun-earth connections.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:51 AM on April 10, 2007


so its gotten so bad that our impacts are actually having an effect on the sun? when... when will the insanity end?
posted by wumpus at 7:51 AM on April 10, 2007


Sunspot inactivity, on the other hand, has been linked to obesity.
posted by srboisvert at 8:01 AM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Let's see, wikipedia, wikipedia, wikipedia, three and four year old articles, toss in something from heartland.org an industry global-warming debunking site - the sun's heat might not go through cycles, but old lame arguments do.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:22 AM on April 10, 2007


I guess you missed the Finnish paper that was the whole point of the post, then?
posted by unSane at 8:31 AM on April 10, 2007


Recent comments by Richard S. Lindzen.

"Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research has always been funded exclusively by the U.S. government. He receives no funding from any energy companies."
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:32 AM on April 10, 2007


Also: dismissing Wikipedia articles is cheap. I used Wikipedia for definitions of the non-contentious stuff. In any case the sunspot content is actually pretty good. There is no real argument about the correlation between climate change and sunspot activity, or about the periodic variation of sunspots. Causation is another matter. The Finnish paper indicating that sunspot activity is at a 1000-year high has not been substantially challenged, that I am aware of.
posted by unSane at 8:34 AM on April 10, 2007


I guess you missed the Finnish paper that was the whole point of the post, then?

That's the PDF from 2003?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:51 AM on April 10, 2007


There is no baseline climate on the planet earth.

Climatic effects of the precession of the equinoxes and the Milankovitch cycles.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:54 AM on April 10, 2007


I remember growing up in the 80's seeing TV commercials telling my childhood super-ego that the oceans would be dead seven years ago. Granted, they're in horrible shape, but they're not dead and I still had shrimp I didn't ask for in my fried rice for dinner tonight. I also remember a great deal of the available data saying something serious would happen in January 1, 2000. Nothing happened besides fireworks and a few DUI's. I also remember hearing about a veritable army of Cat 5 hurricanes that were supposed to bear down on my beloved Florida last summer. They never came.

Correlation is not causation and I know we have a mountain of relatively reliable data saying one thing, but it's kinda hard to turn the Gut-O-Meter off when I hear anyone say that when there were no sunspots, things cooled down. When there were a whole lot of sunspots, things started heating up. And wait... doesn't the sun have something to do with temperature? I've heard of this for years and it's stuck on a deep level.

I want to believe in Global Warming©. I really, really do. And I really think we should be cutting down on emissions no matter what... but, that said, it's really hard to turn my Gut-O-Meter off and buy into the new and improved secularized version Judgment Day.

I think inside of everyone is this eschatological voice screaming that everything will, and should, come to a screeching halt in the very near future because of our sins against each other and our planet. It's inside all of us. It fuels most religious faith. I think there's a very real chance this thanatos seeps into interpreting results. Add in group-think bias and extremely strong pressure to arrive at certain conclusions and I think we're building ourselves up for a widespread loss of faith in the scientific community at the time when we need it most.

I don't want to be a part of the same group that also chooses the simpler, and wrong, claim there's also no massive stockpile of aged and long-sense useless chemical and bio munitions buried somewhere in the Iraqi desert. It sounds easier to say there never were WMD and that's that, just like it's easier to say emissions cause GW and that's that.

In fact, I don't want to be a part of any prediction that's anything but mediocre. We're dealing with desertification, water shortages, and beach erosion now... they're all very serious, but it's not the end of the world. In fact most peoples lots in life keep getting better. There's no reason not to assume that even quite a bit worse isn't manageable.
posted by trinarian at 9:01 AM on April 10, 2007 [6 favorites]


I think inside of everyone is this eschatological voice screaming that everything will, and should, come to a screeching halt in the very near future because of our sins against each other and our planet.
posted by trinarian at 12:01 PM on April 10


Very well said. I would add to this the whole peak-oil/impending economic doom movements as well.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:10 AM on April 10, 2007


Regarding one of your links, I have no idea who the "Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change" is, but judging from their articles, they don't seem very reliable a source. For added fun, check out their staff -- All four officers share the same last name (Idso) and they're in that hotbed (ahem) of scientific research: Tempe, AZ.

Between that, some old papers, and the Heartland.org link, you'll have to pardon us if we're thinking that perhaps, maybe, these ideas aren't as scientifically sound as your phrasing might imply.

I don't like being dismissive of what was apparently at least something of an effort to put together an informative post on the blue, but it reads to me like you grafted together some weak and/or outdated science onto a few (too many) Wikipedia links and hit send. I'm not even particularly on the global climate change bandwagon and I see this as a bunch of BS.
posted by wolftrouble at 9:10 AM on April 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology
Hmmm....
posted by pascal at 9:19 AM on April 10, 2007


Yes, the paper from 2003. I wasn't aware that research went off, like milk.
posted by unSane at 9:26 AM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why do people worry about the temperature predictions for 50-100 years in the future? We can't predict it accurately and consistently 10 days into the future.

I don't believe in global warming, but even if it were happening, I wouldn't mind it because I don't like to be cold. :)
posted by tadellin at 9:31 AM on April 10, 2007


trinarian: So therefore you do not believe in hurricanes when they are out to sea, because they are not to you yet. If you don't see it, then it doesn't exist, right?

Put differently, you notice you are standing on some train tracks. You look around, and do not see a train. Therefore, you decide to take a nap on the tracks, because obviously there's no train around.

Out of sight, out of mind, may work for old girlfriends and drugs, but it's not a particularly useful strategy for dealing with impending disasters.

pastabagel: Surely you don't think oil will last "forever" do you? If you agree it will one day run out, then all that is left is for us to try to discern WHEN it will run out. And at that point, we're of the same mind, just perhaps differently timed.

tadellin: you have quite a bit of remedial work to do. Start with "weather does not equal climate".
posted by Ynoxas at 9:41 AM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


But when you base your cultural, economic and industrial stability on practices that are inherently unsustainable, you do face serious trouble when they inevitably stop working. It's called putting all your eggs in one basket, and you don't have to believe in magical revenge for imaginary sins to realize that it will be a problem for any society that turns a blind eye to it.
posted by redhanrahan at 9:55 AM on April 10, 2007


I came here to say a more scatter brained version of what trinarian said, and because he did it better than I could have I'm flipping him off.
posted by The Power Nap at 10:04 AM on April 10, 2007


Yes, the paper from 2003. I wasn't aware that research went off, like milk.

That is one of the most unintentionally funny things I've ever read. I eagerly await your next FPP on the validity of the ether as an explanation for electromagnetic fields.
posted by wolftrouble at 10:04 AM on April 10, 2007 [4 favorites]


Damn it, and here I am without my asbestos underwear again.

Oh, well, might as well get a nice tan out of it...

(*goes outside, sets up lawn chair, watches the tourist traffic flow into the desert and up to the Las Vegas strip*)
posted by daq at 10:08 AM on April 10, 2007


wolftrouble

CRAP!

I have to tell everybody in the engineering dept. to quit using calculus because it was invented well over 200 years ago!

Mmmm, snarky!
posted by The Power Nap at 10:14 AM on April 10, 2007


Yes, the paper from 2003. I wasn't aware that research went off, like milk.

Maybe they don't, but the sunspots-are-causing-global-warming idea has since been fairly thoroughly rebutted. Here's another RealClimate link, specifically about it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:16 AM on April 10, 2007


pastabagel: Surely you don't think oil will last "forever" do you? If you agree it will one day run out, then all that is left is for us to try to discern WHEN it will run out. And at that point, we're of the same mind, just perhaps differently timed.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:41 PM on April 10


It certainly won't last forever, but there will still be oil in the ground a long long time from now. Long after we don't need it anymore.

But when you base your cultural, economic and industrial stability on practices that are inherently unsustainable, you do face serious trouble when they inevitably stop working.
posted by redhanrahan at 12:55 PM on April 10


There is a very subtle flaw in this reasoning, which is that the current unsustainable practice could always be replaced with another unsustainable practice that will outlast the previous one. In particular, we could reduce our oil consumption immensely by building nuclear power plants and switching to electric cars. But nuclear power requires uranium, which is yet another thing that has to be dug up out of the ground. It just so happens that uranium will be cheap longer than oil will be cheap, but it is similarly unsustainable.

Regardless of the details, none of these things leads to economic collapse. Economies don't collapse over multi-century time frames. They may decline, but in that same time, other economies rise.

Economies only collapse because of shocks - unexpected changes in future expectations. A shock would be the sudden realization that there is only 10% as muich oil in the ground as we thought. A shock would be a nuclear explosion in a major world city. The price of oil creeping up 20% a year is not a shock. It will mean things have to change and adjust, but they are always changing anyway. And because things happen relatively slowly there is time to adjust them to compensate.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:18 AM on April 10, 2007


And another.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:20 AM on April 10, 2007


trinarian, I remember those same commercials, and the same stories and articles and news specials. The thing is, they didn't say we'd all be waste deep in dead ocean now (well, some did, but most didn't). The problem was that we have such short attention spans that we as the consumer assumed if it didn't happen right then and there, by golly, it wasn't going to happen at all.

That isn't what was predicted, just like its not now. Global warming isn't something you wake up the next day to. "oh, the global warming is bad today." No. Its something that is happening slowly compared to what we foresee as a disaster. Buildings blow up and crumble in a matter of minutes. Hurricanes strike and destroy cities in a matter of days. That sneaky bitch global warming takes decades, maybe longer. Its too far out to comprehend as an immediate threat, so instead, inaction wins the day.

FWIW, I remember the majority of predictions about global warming from my childhood placing the real disasters, both natural and economical, coming about the middle to end of the 21st century. That's what my Weekly Reader said, and by golly, I believe(d) it.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:23 AM on April 10, 2007


"Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research has always been funded exclusively by the U.S. government. He receives no funding from any energy companies." -- Steven C. Den Beste

Yet again Steven is wrong. What he's saying is not just slightly in error, it is the complete opposite of what's true.

For the most part the industry has relied on a small band of skeptics—Dr. Richard S. Lindzen, Dr. Pat Michaels, Dr. Robert Balling, Dr. Sherwood Idso, and Dr. S. Fred Singer, among others—who have proven extraordinarily adept at draining the issue of all sense of crisis.

[…]

Lindzen, for his part, charges oil and coal interests $2,500 a day for his consulting services; his 1991 trip to testify before a Senate committee was paid for by Western Fuels, and a speech he wrote, entitled “Global Warming: the Origin and Nature of Alleged Scientific Consensus,” was underwritten by OPEC.

posted by delmoi at 10:23 AM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I want to believe in Global Warming©. I really, really do.

Whew. Dodged a bullet there. I'd totally fallen for the hypnotic effect of the rigourous research of thousands of scientists, their eyes spinning Kaa-like as they issued their entrancing reports, but that copyright symbol broke the spell. Much more convincing than scientific consensus ever could be.

Pope Guilty's already linked to it, but The Stupid is so strong in this thread it deserves re-linking: RealClimate on solar forcing. And on Richard Lindzen.
posted by gompa at 10:25 AM on April 10, 2007


External sources, such as said sunspots, may well be an explanation for the cycles in this chart, but it seems everyone, that is digging very hard for alternative explanations, fails to see how the sunspots do not explain the recent upswing at the end of the chart... (a second chart displaying the CO2 concentration increases in the last few decades, a third chart displaying temperature/CO2 correlation...)

Another point I'm always sad to notice is that the (euphemistically) "alternative explanation seekers" fail to realize, that even if we are not the reason, we have the means to reduce the effects and it seems the most prudent thing to use these means.

We use umbrellas when it rains, even though it's not our fault. We use technology to heal the "naturally" sick and disabled, even though it's not our fault. We spend billions to help victims of natural disasters all around the world, even though it's not our fault. Heck, everything we do, that is counter to the natural environment, lighting, heating, wearing clothes, building houses, civilization etc pp, (effectively humanity's total GDP), this is all done because nature did something else and it was not our fault...

Why do we do all this? Because it is in our best interest.

We have used hard science, experience, knowledge, culture (and alot of cheap energy) to afford our present state of society. It's baffling how many people now choose to ignore these "tools".

On a leaving note: it seems strange that the loudest proponents of a wait-and-see, a fatalistic, a let-nature-go-its-course approach to what is happening are themselves not eco-extremists, tree-huggers, gaia-earth-radicals, that think mankind should get what it deserves, but instead people that are on the other side of the spectrum...
posted by umop-apisdn at 10:28 AM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


In the past year or so whenever I've listen to climate scientists talk about global warming and someone brings up sunspot activity as a possible explanation (and there always at least one person who does) they've gotten pretty pissed off, it's like explaining that the earth isn't flat for the 50,000th time.
Yeah the climate is always in flux, we go trough cycles of hot and cold, but only a complete numbskull would fail to realize that putting the mass of your gasoline into the atmosphere would have some effect. think on that, when you fill up your tank with gas, and your tank burns it up, the damned near entirity of it ends up coming out your tailpipe. Now times that by the number of cars, trucks, SUVs, semis, trains, boats, planes that every fucking day do this and tell me with a straight face that global warming has nothing to do with human activity.
posted by edgeways at 10:30 AM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I remember growing up in the 80's seeing TV commercials telling my childhood super-ego that the oceans would be dead seven years ago. Granted, they're in horrible shape, but they're not dead and I still had shrimp I didn't ask for in my fried rice for dinner tonight. I also remember a great deal of the available data saying something serious would happen in January 1, 2000. Nothing happened besides fireworks and a few DUI's. I also remember hearing about a veritable army of Cat 5 hurricanes that were supposed to bear down on my beloved Florida last summer. They never came. -- trinarian
1) Environmentalists warn about some thing.

2) Environmentalists enact laws to prevent said thing from happening

3) Said thing doesn't happen.

4) Idiotic conservatives run around screaming "[thing] didn’t happen! I told you those envros were full of shit!"

I want to believe in Global Warming©. I really, really do. And I really think we should be cutting down on emissions no matter what... but, that said, it's really hard to turn my Gut-O-Meter off and buy into the new and improved secularized version Judgment Day. -- trinarian

Well, who cares what you think? If you're not capable of understanding the scientific data, then you're opinion simply doesn't matter.
posted by delmoi at 10:32 AM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


trinarian: I really fail to see the point of your comment. So your gut tells you that climate change isn't real. That doesn't mean shit, and using it as an argument just makes you come off as some who isn't serious and who isn't concerned about anything beyond their own petty concerns.

Climate change is a lot like peak oil, in that their detractors use the same straw man to refute them, that is that these theories predict a catastrophic global apocalypse that is to ridiculous to be even be considered. However in both climate change and peak oil, serious people who study them do not claim some apocalypse will occur in the real future, but simply that rather mundane bad things will happen, (
as you said desertification, water shortages, and beach erosion in the case of global warming and more expensive oil and more political instability in the case of peak oil), and that we can act now to prevent these bad things.

By saying that your gut tells you that these aren't that important, you makes it harder for the people that are actually trying to fix these problems because people will take you less seriously.

And the oceans are dying no matter how many shrimp you have with your fried rice.
posted by afu at 10:36 AM on April 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


"In fact most peoples lots in life keep getting better. There's no reason not to assume that even quite a bit worse isn't manageable." -- Trinarian

Most? HAHAHA... The well isolated white rich bastards who continue to consume the majority of resources and can import water are the ones whose lives are "getting better" No... Most peoples lives are getting worse. People whose sole sources of water is drying up (glaciers on mountain tops are melting at an exceedingly rapid rate.)

Tell that to all the brownskinned people who just happen to live on islands that are already, RIGHT NOW, being flooded and taken over by the rise in sea level. This isn't some abstract far off thing. It IS now.

No dead oceans? Check out the increasing numbers of Dead Zones

Oxygen deprived regions of water where no animal life thrives. But, that's ok... you got yr shrimp. So, of course there's not massive die-off happening. Nothing like monoculture.
posted by symbioid at 10:51 AM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Maybe they don't, but the sunspots-are-causing-global-warming idea has since been fairly thoroughly rebutted. Here's another RealClimate link, specifically about it.

If you actually read through the threads and the comments of this and the other threads there you will see that there is a fairly stable consensus that solar variation is at least a second order influence on climate.
posted by unSane at 10:52 AM on April 10, 2007


Yes, the paper from 2003. I wasn't aware that research went off, like milk.

Wolftrouble: That is one of the most unintentionally funny things I've ever read. I eagerly await your next FPP on the validity of the ether as an explanation for electromagnetic fields.


How long does it take for a theory to go off, Wolftrouble? General Relativity is getting pretty old. As for Copernicus...
posted by unSane at 10:53 AM on April 10, 2007


It certainly won't last forever, but there will still be oil in the ground a long long time from now. Long after we don't need it anymore.

Excuse me, I was busy shooting carrier pigeons. They blacken the skies, you know.
posted by dhartung at 11:06 AM on April 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


think on that, when you fill up your tank with gas, and your tank burns it up, the damned near entirity of it ends up coming out your tailpipe.

Yes, but a lot of it comes out as harmless H2O and N2. A lot of it is CO2, but you make it sound as if the gasoline is just being put into a gaseous state and thrown into the atmosphere.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:13 AM on April 10, 2007


The well isolated white rich bastards who continue to consume the majority of resources and can import water are the ones whose lives are "getting better" No... Most peoples lives are getting worse.

Who? Examples please. And please note that "isolated white rich bastards" includes Japan, Korea, and China.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:19 AM on April 10, 2007


How long does it take for a theory to go off, Wolftrouble? General Relativity is getting pretty old. As for Copernicus...

It depends on the field. In something rapidly changing, like climate science or medicine it can be pretty damn quick.

I'll give you an example. I took a class on brain chemistry and structure in collage, but I couldn't afford or find the text book for some reason. They had an older edition of the book at the library, so I used that. Pretty straight forward, and I remember in the book that it was discovered that Nitrous Oxide was used as a neurotransmitter, but that no one had any idea how it was used or what it was used for. It was surprising because it was a poison.

I get to the test, and one of the questions is "What is Nitrous Oxide used for?"

Things can move quickly. And in any event, the sunspot thing has been debunked over and over again, and this FPP is just a rehashing of bogus denier bullshit.
posted by delmoi at 11:38 AM on April 10, 2007


A shock would be the sudden realization that there is only 10% as muich oil in the ground as we thought. A shock would be a nuclear explosion in a major world city.

Or increased hurricane and flood activity crippling ports, major droughts and wildfires wiping out agricultural breadbaskets and other predicted results of an unsustainable practice that won't be immediately reversible by switching from oil to uranium after the fact.

What you're saying, Pastabagel, has validity in terms of the amounts of the actual resource in question, but not so much in terms of the unintended consequences of its use, which render the practice no less sustainable.

Besides, my point was that it's misguided to dismiss concerns about global warming in the same breath as The Time of Rapture and Tribulation. One is a hypothesis based upon scientific reasoning and the other is a story based upon religious cosmology.
posted by redhanrahan at 12:01 PM on April 10, 2007


Excuse me, I was busy shooting carrier pigeons. They blacken the skies, you know.

Carrier pigeons are doing just fine, thank you. It's the ones that they would carry in their mighty talons -- the passenger pigeons -- that are extinct.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:08 PM on April 10, 2007


SpaceWeather.com's Yearly Average Sunspot Numbers, 1610-2000.

While we may, in the long term sense, be at a solar maximum, the global warming numbers do not quite match up with recent sunspot numbers.
posted by danman_d at 1:10 PM on April 10, 2007


Delmoi, that was a quote from the article to which I linked. And when did "Sadly, No" become an authoritative source on anything?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:40 PM on April 10, 2007


Delmoi, that was a quote from the article to which I linked.

Doesn't mean it's true. I had already seen the sadly no entry, which is why I linked too it. Sadly No linked too an old Harper's article written by Ross Gelbspan, who's books have been read and reviewed by Bill Clinton and Al Gore. The Newsweek op-ed was written by, uh, Richard S. Lindzen himself. Also, both statements may be true, if Lindzen's research isn't "funded" by the Oil companies, it doesn't mean he isn't taking consulting fees, rather then research grants.

By the way, the entire rest of the issue of Newsweek is devoted to global warming (and treats it as a fact)

The point is, you have once again posted completely inaccurately information as fact. It's a very irritating trait.
posted by delmoi at 4:20 PM on April 10, 2007


Perhaps because his comment was so long, people seem to be missing a critical part of trinarian's comment.
Add in group-think bias and extremely strong pressure to arrive at certain conclusions...
This is what makes me question the anthropocentric theory of global warming. I'm not a scientist, and I don't claim any expertise in the area of global climate change, but it seems that everyone who even questions the idea that man is responsible for global warming is swiftly ostracized. For example:
Well, who cares what you think? If you're not capable of understanding the scientific data, then you're opinion simply doesn't matter.
The fact that the proponents of anthropocentric global warming are saying "If you disagree, you're too stupid to understand the evidence" indicates to me that their argument is suspect.

The other thing that makes me question the modern-day prophets of cataclysm: Vineyards in Greenland, a thousand years ago. If the world was hotter then, before anything remotely resembling modern industry was around, and the world didn't end, why should I be concerned now?
posted by JDHarper at 4:48 PM on April 10, 2007


This cracks me up. One hundred years of weather station temperature data all over the globe and these guys still don't buy it. Three photos of one piece of ice on Mars and they have no doubts!

On Earth, we have poles melting, surface temperature rising, tropospheric temperatures rising, permafrost melting, glaciers world wide melting, CO2 concentrations increasing, borehole analysis showing warming, sea ice receding, proxy reconstructions showing warming, sea level rising, sea surface temperatures rising, energy imbalance, ice sheets melting and stratosphere cooling which leads us to believe we have GHG driven global warming.

One Mars we have one spot melting which leads us to believe...one spot is melting.
posted by stbalbach at 6:13 PM on April 10, 2007


JDHarper, are you honestly saying that someone who disbelieves hard evidence based on "gut" instinct is in even remotely the same category as dissenting scientific opinion? Really?

Here is what I hate when someone declares "but its group think!" A group of people review data and come to the same conclusion - isn't that how you're supposed to validate scientific findings? Or is it better to believe the once dissenter by default, because, you know, he's not corrupted by group think.

Fuck that, group think is a phrase someone came up with when they disagree with an overwhelming majority.

oh, and your link provides examples of exactly why you should be worried:
"Or could California suffer extended droughts, lasting centuries, just as the region endured roughly a millennium ago? "
posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:18 PM on April 10, 2007


everyone who even questions the idea that man is responsible for global warming is swiftly ostracized.

Frankly, they should be. This is not religion it is science. The science is very clear for anyone willing to approach it as science and not some football game where you cherry pick favorite facts and ignore the rest. Do we know everything about climate change? No. Are there still questions? Yes? Are there some contradictions? Yes. But the confidence level is extremely high right now. Nothing in science is certain, but at some point it becomes good enough for all practical purposes.

Look, if your serious about learning more about earth science, might I recommend The Teaching Companies Earth's Changing Climate filmed in Jan 2007 and up to date and no politics, a basic high-school level science class.
posted by stbalbach at 6:19 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Speaking of group-think, ever notice how every single global warming denier falls on the same side of the political spectrum?
posted by dirigibleman at 6:35 PM on April 10, 2007


Sun spots playing hobs with 6 dimension bee dance.
posted by hortense at 7:42 PM on April 10, 2007



everyone who even questions the idea that man is responsible for global warming is swiftly ostracized.


Well, frankly it's because you're either being stupid (willfully or otherwise) or you've got other motivations for advancing a thoroughly discredited idea. I'm sorry but the vast body of current scientific research says that humans are causing global warming. If that doesn't match your gut feeling or breaks your world view or somehow offends you, you are just going to have to get over it. The truth is the truth and you can't will it away. Sorry.
posted by octothorpe at 8:25 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


JDHarper, are you honestly saying that someone who disbelieves hard evidence based on "gut" instinct is in even remotely the same category as dissenting scientific opinion? Really?
No, of course not. But the doomsayers are not listening to the dissenting scientific opinion or the gut-instinct folks.

This is what "groupthink" is. It's not just a phrase used by people holding the minority opinion; it describes people who are completely unwilling to tolerate dissent. This debate has moved from the realm of scientific inquiry to the realm of religious dogma.
oh, and your link provides examples of exactly why you should be worried:
"Or could California suffer extended droughts, lasting centuries, just as the region endured roughly a millennium ago? "
True. But doesn't the fact that the climate was changing before modern industry indicate that the climate does, in fact, change without human intervention? Isn't this a strong argument against anthropocentric global warming?
posted by JDHarper at 8:53 PM on April 10, 2007


No, JDHarper, the climate changes naturally AND we change it. And the medieval warm period which your Greenland link refers to wasn't global.
posted by Listener at 9:56 PM on April 10, 2007


JDHarper, the problem with the opposing opinion is not groups of dissenters being ignored and ostracized because of their opinions . . . its they're being ignored and ostracized because of how they came to those conclusions. They're using faulty science, things that have been proved to be incorrect. They twist what current scientist say to their own ends, (with the objection to how they're being misquoted - see the recent mefi post on "The Great Global Warming Swindle")

If these people were coming out with hard evidence against man made global warming, I would understand the skepticism. But right now, the nay-sayers are gut instinct type reactions and groups that have their own vested interests to protect.

Yes, global warming and cooling is a naturally occurring phenomenon. But here is the great thing about that revelation - its given us models to see HOW our effects on the earth will cause warming.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:49 PM on April 10, 2007


The bit I don't understand is how so many people seem to think that some scientists noticed some climate warming and started looking for an explanation for it, and conlcuded humans were behind it

That's ass backwards.

Warming was a prediction - the inescapable future consequence of the then-observed amount of CO2 that human activity was adding to the atmosphere. It was expected to be decades before any aspect of the warming would become detectable. This was decades ago.

So there is no way to pin the blame on sunspots or anything else - in fact things are much worse if sunspots are warming the climate, because human activity is also warming it. Two plus two equals four, not zero.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:50 AM on April 11, 2007


But doesn't the fact that the climate was changing before modern industry indicate that the climate does, in fact, change without human intervention? Isn't this a strong argument against anthropocentric global warming?

In case Listener was at all unclear, the answers to these questions are unequivocally yes and unequivocally no, respectively.

And frankly the reason it might appear to gut-thinkers and/or those who perceive groupthink where it isn't that they're being dismissed without a hearing is because this is so absurdly far from a strong argument it barely warrants the routine dismissal its proponents so consisently demand. If you have the slightest clue what the science behind the anthropogenic part of the climate change equation looks like, then debunking this specious shit, as a matter of course, every time the goddamn subject comes up, is in fact the equivalent of having to reiterate the proof of the earth's roundness before being able to talk about the nuances of quantum mechanics or something.
posted by gompa at 9:40 AM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Could this account, at least in part, for global warming?

Who cares? Global warming by CO2 is much more interesting. You can make politics with it, create fear, sell Kyoto certificates....
Who gives a f. about sun cycles? Budy, there is no money to be made...
posted by yoyo_nyc at 10:26 AM on April 11, 2007


Pastabagel: "The well isolated white rich bastards who continue to consume the majority of resources and can import water are the ones whose lives are "getting better" No... Most peoples lives are getting worse.

Who? Examples please. And please note that "isolated white rich bastards" includes Japan, Korea, and China.
"

Fair 'nuf. Straw(hite)man. That said, I said rich white bastards particularly because that is the statistical case. Wealthy people, globally this is disproportionately skewed towards White people in general and Americans in particular. America has a hell of a lot of land to "fall back on" as it were.

China, already suffering under massive toxification of their environment, is beginning to realize the dangers and working towards solutions. The US on the other hand, continues to be isolated from the consequences. Don't get me wrong, I hate defending China.

Also, I tend towards Derrick Jensen camp/anti-civ folk who believe that modern industrial society is the problem, and that no matter what solutions are laid out, it's not enough, especially if those solutions tend to be more of the same (technology).

So, I picked on "white men" generically for a reason. I'd be a fool to say there are no wealthy Asians or Africans or Middle-Easterners, or whatever...

Also, interesting to note the debate about "groupthink"... Norvig, who was linked to in the other post about spellchecking code, has an analysis of the "consensus view", and he in fact notes that there is a very small fraction of dissent in the reviewed articles. But NONE of this dissent was from any scientific source, merely editorial/opinion pages. His analysis tends to show an even stronger agreement with the consensus view (80 some percent) vs what a similar analysis done in Science magazine showed (75 percent).

Anyways... I think dirigibleman hits it on the head regarding "groupthink" and opposition to climate science.

Funny that these same people ally themselves with the same party that pushes anti-science teaching with regards to evolution as well. Hmm... Gotta love it!

Finally, as others have pointed out so well... Just because there was climate change previously doesn't mean we aren't contributing nor that the changes that are currently occurring are far beyond anything that's happened before. And I really love the informed comments here (not sarcastic) of people who do know more science on the topic than I do or the naysayers.
posted by symbioid at 10:32 AM on April 11, 2007


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