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Denial is an increasingly full river in Egypt
April 10, 2009 4:58 PM   Subscribe


 
These are quite good.
posted by tkchrist at 5:21 PM on April 10, 2009


These really are quite good. Fact checking is always a good thing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:32 PM on April 10, 2009


"Now I'm going to do what many climate deniers will say is radical and unfair. They may want to close their eyes here, because I'm going to read the article." (from Mars Attacks).

I like his style, because that snark is delivered in a slow, sincere Mister Rogers cadence, the same as the rest of the video.
posted by maudlin at 5:35 PM on April 10, 2009


Looks like he handles the YouTube Comments Army with equal grace and precision.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:51 PM on April 10, 2009


Excellent series! This should be spread like wildfire. Only without, y'know, the carbon emissions.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:55 PM on April 10, 2009


Darren McGavin!

Sorry, I like Darren McGavin. It was a bit of a shock to have him show up in "I Love the 70s" without warning. There should be some sort of McGavin alert.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:57 PM on April 10, 2009


And if this happens, an inland sea would fill a good portion of the Mississippi valley. Tourists in glass-bottomed boats would be viewing the drowned towers of Miami through 150 feet of tropical water. [2:20 of I Love the 70s!

Huh. Suddenly, it seems global warming might not be that bad a thing.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:07 PM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, I am very disappointed that scientists have been advising — accurately — what our carbon emissions were going to do.

Goddamn politicians have been entirely unwilling to educate the public so that we can make the necessary changes.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:08 PM on April 10, 2009


That was a very well done video. Here's a lurid magazine cover from November 1969 that warns us "EXPERTS SAY A NEW ICE AGE IS IMMMINENT!"
posted by Tube at 6:24 PM on April 10, 2009


Oh good, my complete lack of planning or acting like an adult will work out. I can be a Jellyfish-fisher of the future, working my boats off the rolling sea-breeze kissed hills of the Appalachia..

That or die horribly. I'm set for anything save survival.
posted by The Whelk at 6:25 PM on April 10, 2009


The denier misunderstanding that bugs me the most is the idea that climate change science was based on the observation of global warming, and then while searching for the cause of this mysterious warming, CO2 emissions were seized on. (Hence many deniers question either the observations of warming, or supply an alternative explanation for the observed warming, and in either case think that this refutes something)

Of course, that is completely backwards - the known, demonstrable physical properties and quantities of emissions were predicted to inevitably result in climate change, and this fact was known decades before any change was expected to be observable. Now, decades later, the observations are merely confirmation of what was already known, their value as evidence is in revealing the details of how - and how fast - the climate is changing, not whether it is changing.

Is there a Crock of the Week that covers this one? I see it so often, it might give me some comfort to see it addressed.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:27 PM on April 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


harlequin--I don't think he's covered that yet, but it sounds like he's open to suggestions. Drop him a line and you might see it before long.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:29 PM on April 10, 2009


The funnest thing to do with climate change deniers is to ask them what evidence they would need to see before they accept the reality of anthropocentric climate change. They generally immediately crumble into a pile of quasi-religious mutterings about how humans could never ever have any impact on the planet, and all the data is collected by members of the global environazi conspiracy anyway...
posted by Jimbob at 7:20 PM on April 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


The denier misunderstanding that bugs me the most is the idea that climate change science was based on the observation of global warming, and then while searching for the cause of this mysterious warming, CO2 emissions were seized on. (Hence many deniers question either the observations of warming, or supply an alternative explanation for the observed warming, and in either case think that this refutes something)

Huh. Back in the 90's, I remember people saying that warming wasn't even happening. And it wasn't that obvious either. So if people are at least admitting that the earth is warming, that's obviously a change in their thinking. They've gone from saying "Carbon can't warm the earth" to saying "The earth is warming, but you can't blame carbon!"

Of course I've heard some people say that, hey, global warming might be happening, but you have to ask if the economic costs to fix it are actually less then the costs of letting it happen(!!!)
posted by delmoi at 7:20 PM on April 10, 2009


Of course I've heard some people say that, hey, global warming might be happening, but you have to ask if the economic costs to fix it are actually less then the costs of letting it happen(!!!)

That is a fair question to ask. Of course, the answer produced by every economist who's tried to tackle the problem has been "No, the economic costs of fixing it are less than the economic costs of letting it happen."
posted by Jimbob at 7:46 PM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen a horny toad since I was a little kid. They were fairly common in Oklahoma in the early 1960's, but now I don't know if I will ever see one again.
posted by yhbc at 8:08 PM on April 10, 2009


Have you guys looked at what Roy Spencer, Pat Michaels and Richard Lindzen say? They all accept AGW, they just say that water vapour feedback is likely to be neutral or negative. Indeed, the debate with scientists of their ilk is actually about water vapour feedback rather than AGW.

And currently, with the temperature trend right at the bottom of the IPCC projections at 0.16C +-0.02 per decade it looks like these types of skeptics might be right. It will be interesting to see if the global temperature trend continues at these levels how things will go.

There are certainly a lot of crazy climate skeptics. The ones who believe it's due to aliens are fun. But to say that all the skeptics are like that is wrong.

Also, Bjorn Lomborg and the economists at The Copenhagen Consensus looked at the economics of climate change, accepting the IPCC results and then used a discount rate that is remotely close to that used by governments on other questions (i.e say 4%) came to the conclusion that spending on climate change other than to increase research was not wise. They included 5 Nobel laureates. To say that all the economists who have looked at the question have reached the conclusion that mitigation is cheaper than dealing with the consequences is wrong.
posted by sien at 8:20 PM on April 10, 2009


The funnest thing to do with climate change deniers is to ask them what evidence they would need to see before they accept the reality of anthropocentric climate change.

It just occurred to me that the same question could be flipped around - what evidence would one need to see before one would accept that human activities are *not* a significant factor in global climate change?
posted by storybored at 8:25 PM on April 10, 2009


Have you guys looked at what Roy Spencer, Pat Michaels and Richard Lindzen say? They all accept AGW, they just say that water vapour feedback is likely to be neutral or negative. Indeed, the debate with scientists of their ilk is actually about water vapour feedback rather than AGW.

Well, I'm not too familiar with what Spencer and Michaels have said, but if you're saying that Lindzen's only argument with the AGW consensus is over water vapor feedback, that's just not true.

Actually, let me back up a second there. You don't bother to give any source that says that Lindzen has done any modeling on water vapor forcing that would lead him to that conclusion. Wait, let me back up again. You don't even give a source that says that Lindzen is willing to defend that statement now. And unless he's changed his mind again, he does not:
In 2001, Lindzen published a paper speculating that as the Earth warmed, water vapor would decrease in the upper atmosphere, allowing heat to escape back into space more efficiently, and thereby reducing overall temperature.

The paper met with vigorous criticism. Eventually, he disavowed the idea. “That was an old view,” Lindzen said about his five-year-old hypothesis. “I find it insane that I am still forced to explain this.”
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 8:40 PM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


It just occurred to me that the same question could be flipped around - what evidence would one need to see before one would accept that human activities are *not* a significant factor in global climate change?

Any evidence at all would be a start.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:16 PM on April 10, 2009


These are excellent - thanks for the post.

Things like this restore my faith in the Internet - I appreciate the tone that acknowledges the existing counterarguments, thoroughly and completely debases them, and goes on to enlighten and inform. I know the temptation to wield the truth like a club, and I appreciate it when it's used more like a scalpel - excising the bogus information and replacing it with the good.

On the other hand, I've had some success regarding arguments about climate change by supporting the benefits of efficiency and conservation. "Imagining what you say is true," I'll say, "and there is no global warming - is it a bad thing that people are finding ways to make the same amount of energy using fewer resources?" So far, no arguments in favor of the energy companies, but I do travel in limited circles.
posted by Graygorey at 11:22 PM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


It just occurred to me that the same question could be flipped around - what evidence would one need to see before one would accept that human activities are *not* a significant factor in global climate change?

I'm like the townspeople of Springfield in the Simpsons - when hearing two opposing speakers mount their arguments, we are totally swayed by the first speaker, but then the second has his say, and we are totally swayed by that, and then the first says anothe sentance, and we realise that he is really correct, then the second adds something, and we're back on his side again. Then the first says "But I'm more handsome than that guy!", and we're back on his side.

Given how easily I can be swayed by even mediocre argument, I would have to say that the answer to your question is "probably not very much evidence would be needed", but that by the same token, it doesn't look good if the deniers are not managing to sway even the fickle folk of Springfield.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:17 AM on April 11, 2009


Also, Bjorn Lomborg and the economists at The Copenhagen Consensus

Bjorn Lomborg has no credibility at all, see here, here, and here for starters.
posted by natteringnabob at 5:42 AM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Have you guys looked at what Roy Spencer, Pat Michaels and Richard Lindzen say?

Roy Spencer: Supporter of intelligent design

Pat Michaels: Still denies CFCs thin the ozone layer, financial ties to 'energy industry'

Richard Lindzen: A renowned devils advocate who also denies the public health impacts of passive smoking and the links between smoking and lung cancer

And lets not forget these are the most trustworthy voices on the deniers—because that's what they are—side.
posted by stepheno at 5:57 AM on April 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


This contains the clearest and most concise explanation of El Nino/La Nina I've ever heard.
posted by Eideteker at 1:38 PM on April 11, 2009


Yo dawg, we heard you like being hot so we put come carbon in your air so you can fry while you lie.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:31 PM on April 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have a coworker who swears that carbon emissions from humans pale in comparison to those emitted by volcanoes. He also mutters to himself about airplane contrails and black helicopters, so there you go.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:34 PM on April 11, 2009


In response to:

"It just occurred to me that the same question could be flipped around - what evidence would one need to see before one would accept that human activities are *not* a significant factor in global climate change?"

AstroZombie said:

"Any evidence at all would be a start."

Ok, here's a hypothetical. If the Earth suddenly started cooling in the next few years, would that mean that there there is no such thing as anthropocentric climate change?

I'm bothered because it seems that people on both "sides" of the issue, deniers and non-deniers aren't giving proper respect to the uncertainties involved.

What it comes down to is that we're missing the key element in scientific truth-seeking - a controlled experiment. We don't have two Earths, where we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and compare the effects of it against an Earth where greenhouse gases are increased.
posted by storybored at 9:17 PM on April 11, 2009


It just occurred to me that the same question could be flipped around - what evidence would one need to see before one would accept that human activities are *not* a significant factor in global climate change?

Easy. If atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations dropped to pre-industrial levels, but the trends in climate continued, I would accept that the climate change is independent of humans. So what do you say, let's drop greenhouse concentrations and see the result, hey?

Ok, here's a hypothetical. If the Earth suddenly started cooling in the next few years, would that mean that there there is no such thing as anthropocentric climate change?

An experiment would be nice. GCMs are the closest thing we have, and they generally aren't bad.
posted by Jimbob at 11:05 PM on April 11, 2009


If atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations dropped to pre-industrial levels, but the trends in climate continued, I would accept that the climate change is independent of humans. So what do you say, let's drop greenhouse concentrations and see the result, hey?

I would love to do the experiment! But even if global warming were to continue after we've reduced GG emissions to pre-industrial levels, it still wouldn't give us the definitive answer as to the extent of the impact of humans on climate. What if it were due to temporary or cyclical factors that happen to override anthropocentric changes for the short term?

I think there's a huge trap lurking here. What if (for whatever reason) we experience say three years of really cold weather. The climate changers who've made statements that global warming is inexorable and definite are stuck. There would be a huge backlash that would cause mainstream opinion to dismiss anthropocentric climate change out of hand. But in actual fact, three years of cooling, or three years of warming for that matter doesn't tell us anything....

GCMs are the closest thing we have, and they generally aren't bad.

I think this is where the source of my discomfort is. A lot of faith is being put into models when it isn't clear that a) all the factors that affect climate are included b) the extent and relative weights of climate factors are accurate and c) the feedback relationships between these factors are accurate. Finally there is the issue of non-linearity - tiny changes in model inputs could mean diverse outcomes.

Fans of modelling claim that the models are good because it fits historic data. But this is a classic model integrity error - it's backfitting. You can always fiddle with a model until it matches the data, but that doesn't mean the model is right.
posted by storybored at 8:16 AM on April 12, 2009


(A) You should probably watch all the videos; chances are your questions are answered.

(B) The changes we'd be making to reduce carbon emissions are changes that are better for the environment in any regard.

We have one, tiny planet with a horrifyingly thin atmosphere and not nearly as much fresh water as we'd like. Reducing carbon emissions, and reducing our pollution in general, is only smart.

Why can't we humans be smart for a change?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:37 AM on April 12, 2009


What if (for whatever reason) we experience say three years of really cold weather. The climate changers who've made statements that global warming is inexorable and definite are stuck. There would be a huge backlash that would cause mainstream opinion to dismiss anthropocentric climate change out of hand. But in actual fact, three years of cooling, or three years of warming for that matter doesn't tell us anything....

I'm confused. If three years micro-trends don't matter (and I agree that they don't), then why would one present a problem for climate change researchers? I don't think anyone has ever said that "each year will unfailingly be warmer than the previous one." Of course they won't. If there's a huge backlash in this scenario, it's because some people are idiots, not because climatologists have done or said something wrong.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:45 AM on April 12, 2009


Storybored:What it comes down to is that we're missing the key element in scientific truth-seeking - a controlled experiment.

A controlled experiment is not a key element in scientific truth-seeking. For some science, sure, but if that's your standard, then you have to rule out all of astrophysics, geology and evolutionary biology, just for starters.

Here are a few things that would convince me that the case for anthropogenic climate change needs revising.

(1) A more compelling reason for the post-industrial temperature trend than current consensus emerges. This would require:

(2) The discovery that either fundamental (and experimentally verified) physics about the radiation absorption properties of various molecules turned out to be incorrect OR

(3) The discovery that a, as yet undiscovered feedback process, is about to kick in to mitigate the predicted warming effects of current and historical GHG concentrations. Lindzen suggested -- as a fairly reasonable hypothesis -- that perhaps increased cloudiness would counteract increased GHG concentrations and decreased albedo. However, other groups' work came to the opposite conclusion. Consensus [realclimate.org link] does not favour Lindzen. But, perhaps, as we learn more about the climate system, we'll find out that there are other, more important mechanisms.

It is incorrect to suppose that AGW theory rests entirely on models, or a certain kind of model. There is a long historical record of both temperature and atmosphere composition, for instance; there is first-principles physics (i.e. calculating black body temperatures, etc.); experimentally known properties of molecules and radiative energy transfer; predictions about other planetary atmospheres and so on. Finally, we've been running climate models for long enough that they don't only have to be tested by back-casting. Hansen's GISS group has been running climate GCMs since the 80s, and its always impressed me that Arhennius' rough calculations of CO2 warming potential from the 19th century are pretty good, and fall within uncertainty of the best current estimates[pdf, page 37]

Welcome to geophysics, home of Nature's experiment run once!
posted by bumpkin at 4:07 PM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


All that space junk that's floating around out there, threatening the space station and occasionally crashing to earth?

Yeah. Heat reflection. We're saved by our own garbage.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:55 PM on April 12, 2009


(A) You should probably watch all the videos; chances are your questions are answered.

Alas it doesn't look like it. I skimmed through the videos, but I didn't find what I was looking for which is a statement of the degree of uncertainty in the data and the models. In other words, if the models make predictions, what's the +/-, the range of error?
posted by storybored at 4:59 PM on April 12, 2009


(B) The changes we'd be making to reduce carbon emissions are changes that are better for the environment in any regard.

I agree!
posted by storybored at 5:01 PM on April 12, 2009


If three years micro-trends don't matter (and I agree that they don't), then why would one present a problem for climate change researchers? I don't think anyone has ever said that "each year will unfailingly be warmer than the previous one." Of course they won't. If there's a huge backlash in this scenario, it's because some people are idiots, not because climatologists have done or said something wrong.

It wouldn't present a problem for those climate researchers who kept their respect for the uncertainties. It would present a problem for those who are unequivocal in their views.

Just to illustrate the glaring gaps in our knowledge though here's another thought. We both agree that a three year micro-trend isn't significant. So what would be a significant trend? Ten years? Twenty years? Fifty? A hundred? How can we say?

One of the videos talks about the earth being warmer now than any time in the past 2000 years. Two thousand years seems like a long enough time to be of significance. But then I think of the millennial time span of the Ice Ages. Clearly there are climactic factors that operate on immense time scales that we can't even begin to fathom. At what point does anthropocentric climate change intersect these larger climate factors?

The uncertainties boggle me. An example question: When a glacial starts, does it start quickly or slowly? If it starts quickly (e.g. within decades), then we should be factoring this into the climate change models....but of course we don't know how glacials start...
posted by storybored at 5:40 PM on April 12, 2009


Bumpkin, you're right about controlled experiments not being a prerequisite for science. I should be more specific: Controlled experiment is a prerequisite for predictive science. If I can't make a controlled experiment in a field of study, then the more uncertainty I have in making predictions.

So where does climate science belong? I'm saying it belongs in the same list of "hard-to-predict" disciplines and we should treat it as such. In geology, can we predict the speed of continental drift? In astrophysics, can we predict the occurrence of supernovae? In climate science are we really justified in predicting the global temperature range?

Here are a few things that would convince me that the case for anthropogenic climate change needs revising....

That's a thoughtful answer. The wall I come up against when I think about it is that if someone comes up with a new climate feedback mechanism, how the heck do you test it?

There is a long historical record of both temperature and atmosphere composition, for instance; there is first-principles physics (i.e. calculating black body temperatures, etc.); experimentally known properties of molecules and radiative energy transfer...

I agree there's plenty of foundational chemistry and physics but there's still at the end of the day the need to knit together of all these components into one gigantic system. Sadly complexity is inversely related to understandiblity and predictability.

Finally, we've been running climate models for long enough that they don't only have to be tested by back-casting.

The valuation models used by the finance industry worked very well for a decade and then suddenly they broke. The fault lay in incorrect probability distributions. How do we know that the GCMs don't have flaws of their own? We don't.
posted by storybored at 6:13 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


So the hockey-stick climate graph isn't convincing? Clearly something is happening. IMO.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:58 PM on April 12, 2009


Something *is* happening. It's probably not a good idea to keep increasing greenhouse gas emissions. But can we say definitely that we're in for continued global warming? That is where I think we'd be "outrunning our headlights"....
posted by storybored at 1:56 PM on April 13, 2009


Oh, we can definately say we're in for continued warming. The permafrost is melting and with that, huge amounts of methane are being released into the atmosphere. This is happening right now. It is going to cause a warming effect that will raise ocean temperatures enough that seabed methane ice is going to be released. There is no way to turn back the clock on this one: we are headed to dinosaur-era climatic conditions.

Our effect on our global climate system has been akin to kicking the keystone out from a bridge. In the aftermath, our action was minor — it was only a single stone! — but the consequences major: complete collapse.

We have screwed the pooch on this one.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:29 PM on April 13, 2009


As a question, to those who believe strongly in this, if the temperature rise were to fall out of the IPCC band, i.e. under 0.15 C / decade for, say, 15 years, would you regard this as showing that their predictions were too dire and would you change your beliefs?

If climate change were to reach, say, 0.3 C / decade for 15 years I'd change my opinion. But that is pretty much double the current rate.

The rebuttals are there for both sides, but for those who are interested in what skeptics say before rejecting it reading Climate of Extremes by Pat Michaels and Cool it by Lomborg might be interesting. I've read various Green books and continue to do so.
posted by sien at 6:54 PM on April 13, 2009


Just one thing to remember about the IPCC - their reports are, by their nature, actually incredibly conservative. They publish by consensus - the text of their reports has to be approved by all the nations involved. Even the IPCC's "worst case" scenarios are actually not that bad compared to those some researchers are coming up with.
posted by Jimbob at 2:10 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


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