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Climate change irony: Can’t We At Least Agree That There Is No Consensus?

August 22, 2010

Science achieves a consensus when scientists stop arguing. When a question is first asked – like ‘what would happen if we put a load more CO2 in the atmosphere?’ – there may be many hypotheses about cause and effect. Over a period of time, each idea is tested and retested – the processes of the scientific method – because all scientists know that reputation and kudos go to those who find the right answer (and everyone else becomes an irrelevant footnote in the history of science). Nearly all hypotheses will fall by the wayside during this testing period, because only one is going to answer the question properly, without leaving all kinds of odd dangling bits that don’t quite add up. Bad theories are usually rather untidy.

But the testing period must come to an end. Gradually, the focus of investigation narrows down to those avenues that continue to make sense, that still add up, and quite often a good theory will reveal additional answers, or make powerful predictions, that add substance to the theory. When Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev constructed his periodic table of elements, not only did he fit all known elements successfully, he predicted that elements we didn’t even know about would turn up later on – and they did!

So a consensus in science is different from a political one. There is no vote. Scientists just give up arguing because the sheer weight of consistent evidence is too compelling, the tide too strong to swim against any longer. Scientists change their minds on the basis of the evidence, and a consensus emerges over time. Not only do scientists stop arguing, they also start relying on each other’s work. All science depends on that which precedes it, and when one scientist builds on the work of another, he acknowledges the work of others through citations. The work that forms the foundation of climate change science is cited with great frequency by many other scientists, demonstrating that the theory is widely accepted – and relied upon.

In the scientific field of climate studies – which is informed by many different disciplines – the consensus is demonstrated by the number of scientists who have stopped arguing about what is causing climate change – and that’s nearly all of them. Several studies confirm that “…the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes”. (Doran 2009). In other words, more than 95% of scientists working in the disciplines contributing to studies of our climate, accept that climate change is almost certainly being caused by human activities.

We should also consider official scientific bodies and what they think about climate change. There are no national or major scientific institutions anywhere in the world that dispute the theory of anthropogenic climate change. Not one.

In the field of climate science, the consensus is unequivocal: human activities are causing climate change.

Footnote: this post was written for SkepticalScience as part of an ongoing project to add ‘basic’ rebuttals of common climate change denial arguments. References for all statements can be found in the intermediate discussion “There is no consensus“.

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. The King In Yellow permalink
    August 22, 2010 5:44 pm

    I liked the third paragraph the most.

    Maybe adding Gravity remains a theory, but that a consensus exists may also strengthen it ?

    All the best.

  2. Graham Wayne permalink*
    August 22, 2010 7:26 pm

    King – not quite sure what you meant there regarding a consensus strengthening it. Could you elaborate?

  3. The King In Yellow permalink
    August 22, 2010 9:32 pm

    As in:

    “Similarly there is a consensus on the theory of gravity – we have no absolute proof, but there is a consensus that scientists agree that the evidence supports the theory. There are no alternative theories that command anything other than fringe support in the scientific community.”

    Just a thought.

    All the best.

  4. August 24, 2010 3:59 pm

    I like this one too, though I thought your Arctic sea ice post had a couple of things that could be improved, as I mentioned on SkSci.

  5. Graham Wayne permalink*
    August 24, 2010 5:08 pm

    Cheers Byron – I didn’t realise the ice article was out yet, so I’ve only just seen your comments (and indeed others). I’ll zip over there shortly and make amends – thanks for tipping me off…

  6. Graham Wayne permalink*
    August 24, 2010 5:44 pm

    …and then again, it turns out the text and illustrations are, in fact, the intermediate (old) version. I’ve now posted the real thing here – John Cook will catch up in time, once he’s recovered from the beating 🙂

  7. elsa nasser permalink
    August 25, 2010 2:18 pm

    Hi there! Nice to see this site. I did not appreciate from our past discussions that it existed.

    As ever you are wrong. Science does not progress by consensus and consensus does not demonstrate that a theory is right. You have only to think of eg past consensus medical opinion, plague caused by bad air etc to see that. Science progresses by ideas being proved wrong. We do not talk of a scientific consensus on the subject of the creation: we know for a fact that the biblical explanation is wrong.

    The climate change bunch that you support are not scientists, although not unnaturally they describe themselves as such. They fall down in two related areas. First they use “models” to demonstrate that CO2 increases have caused temperature increases. The problem for them is that there are many factors that alter temperature, some of which we know and probably some that we don’t know. We can describe the relationships elegantly using algebra but unfortunately we have no way of solving the equations, putting values on the unknowns and working out the relationship, if any, between CO2 (or other factors eg sunspots) and temperature. There is simply no way that this can be done any more than we can use mathematical models to determine the economy or other essentially complex phenomena. The people who say otherwise are simply deceiving themselves and their audience. The second failure, and this is what means that their self labelling as scientists is incorrect, is that their views are incapable of being falsified. If an event happens that might prove them to be wrong, such as fall in temperature between 1940 and 1975 (which incidentally gave rise to their forerunners claim of a consensus on a coming ice age) they simply say that it is due to other factors. But if you say that any event will always fit the theory. It can never be falsified and is therefore not worthy of the label “scientific”.

  8. August 25, 2010 2:57 pm

    Of course the theory of ACC can be falsified in a number of ways. The theory never claimed that anthropogenic GHGs were the only forcing on global atmospheric temps and the fall in temps mid-century is fairly well understood as being primarily the result of aerosols. That GHGs would overwhelm this forcing by the 80s was predicted and has proven accurate.

    Models are one of four lines of evidence, along with (a) physical principles established for well over a century about the behaviour of certain gas molecules, (b) the record of the distant past, and (c) the record of the recent past. This recent publication from the Australian Academy of Science is very useful on this matter.

    Consensus does not demonstrate that a theory is right, but it does demonstrate that the vast majority of the most qualified people are presently persuaded that it is the best explanation of the data. Such situations have been overturned in the past, but on the whole, this is relatively rare, and it would be silly to not assume that the current best theory (without serious competition for a decade or more despite herculean efforts of investigation) is worth paying a bit of attention to.

    By the way, you seem to be confusing the concept of creation, the biblical narrative and (young earth) creationism. The latter is one (poor) attempt to read the middle without reference to a proper historical understanding of the former.

  9. elsa nasser permalink
    August 25, 2010 5:22 pm

    You rightly state that the theory never claimed that anthropogenic GHGs were the only forcing on global atmospheric temps. But how can you disaggregate all of the different factors? There is no possible way. You say the fall in temps mid-century is fairly well understood as being primarily the result of aerosols. That is something that has been determined in retrospect not in advance and is a perfect example of fitting the story to the facts after the event. By doing this sort of thing the theory moves beyond falsification. As I said if we go back to 1975 the forecast by climate “scientists” was of another ice age not of warming. You say “That GHGs would overwhelm this forcing by the 80s was predicted and has proven accurate.” You find me a prediction made in or before 1975 on this and I will take you seriously on that point. I have looked and I have yet to find one.

    I would reject your claim about the models being a line of evidence completely. A model cannot prove anything, it is not what they do, although they are often presented as doing so. The physical principles point I accept, although we have no way of knowing just how much additional CO2 affects the temperature. The record of the recent past can be read to support either view. A year or two ago I obtained temperature figures for Central England and Northern Ireland from the Met Office going back 200 years or so. The only conclusion I could come to from looking at them was that England is as warm as it has ever been in the recent past but it is not particularly out of the ordinary. It has been as warm before and then cooled. I saw recently that the US was warmer in the 1930s than in the 1990s (usually paraded as the warmest decade) and than now. This sort of evidence is never highlighted because it is not what the climate scientists want to prove. It was only accepted by the warming set after a huge argument where they claimed that the 1990s were the warmest years. I will read the document you recommend with interest and come back to you on that.

    The very fact that we use the term consensus demonstrates that the argument is not over. If we knew there would be no need for a debate. The consensus is a false one because on the one hand there are people who claim to have knowledge and on the other there are people who say we do not know. There are, as far as I am aware, no scientific denialists, although this term is used endlessly by the believers in CO2 global warming. Not knowing is not a tasty proposition for most people. They prefer to have knowledge and, when told that we know warming is true and shown complex mathematical formulae, models and graphs which are doctored to exaggerate the point, fall for the pretence of knowledge. The level of expertise of “climate scientists” could also do with some investigation. You note that the global warming stuff comes from East Anglia, not Cambridge, not Oxford, not Imperial College but a place without a physics or chemistry department.

    Turning to creationism I am not sure what you mean by “the concept of creation”. As far as the biblical story and young earth creationism go I think my point stands. There is no scientific debate, nor do we need to talk of a consensus, they have been falsified by science and are simply wrong.

  10. Graham Wayne permalink*
    August 25, 2010 5:23 pm

    Hi Elsa, you crazy gal.

    This is from my comments policy:

    “My policy is very straightforward. I will discuss anything with anyone, so long as you can provide evidence if you make a claim about science, so long as you are civil, and so long as you don’t come here just to tell me why I’m wrong”.

    You score two out of three against already…

  11. elsa nasser permalink
    August 25, 2010 5:58 pm

    Which two? I see one in the “don’t come here to tell me why I’m wrong” but which is the other one? I hope I’m civil and I think I have provided evidence about the science, although you might disagree with that. Not that I want to be argumentative or anything but shouldn’t you want people to tell you why you are wrong, or at least disagree because otherwise it’s going to be quite a dull site devoted to patting you on the back. Nothing wrong with a pat on the back but only pats could be dreary.

  12. August 25, 2010 6:01 pm

    I don’t have time to answer every point here. But I’ll have a go on a couple.

    It was simply not the case that most scientists were worried about an ice age, though the media pushed that angle because it was sexier. See here and the relevant page on Skeptical Science.

    You find me a prediction made in or before 1975 on this and I will take you seriously on that point. I have looked and I have yet to find one.
    How did you look? Took me about two minutes. Or a summary and some commentary here.

    A model cannot prove anything
    Models are used in all kinds of situations.

    we have no way of knowing just how much additional CO2 affects the temperature
    Actually, we do have a pretty decent idea, even if more work needs to be done. Somewhere between 2-4.5ºC for a doubling of CO2.

    The record of the recent past can be read to support either view.
    Not so. Your examples are local. We’re talking about global warming.

    The very fact that we use the term consensus demonstrates that the argument is not over.
    Yes, just like we say that there is a consensus on the theory of gravity. Obviously, there must be some conspiracy. You would do well to note the top ten arguments at Skeptical Science and read them carefully since you’ve managed to touch on most of them. Here’s number three.

    You note that the global warming stuff comes from East Anglia, not Cambridge, not Oxford, not Imperial College
    Um, Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial College all study climate change. I don’t mean to be too rude, but I found each of those links in under five seconds by typing the name of the institution and “climate change” into Google. Ever thought of using it?

    Creationism is a theory of how to read the biblical narratives at the start of Genesis. It is a minority position throughout the world and throughout history. Most Christians (and Jews for that matter) who read the opening chapters of Genesis do not subscribe to young earth creationism.

  13. Graham Wayne permalink*
    August 25, 2010 7:09 pm

    Elsa, you have posted a litany of bad science, strange opinions, circular arguments and bizarre claims. You have posted no evidence at all, because there cannot be any. It is not possible to discuss such a vast and rampant gish gallop, although Bryon has made a brave attempt, but of course he’s not as familiar with your posts as I am.

    It isn’t a matter of telling me why I’m right or wrong either, it is a matter of arguing science with better science – not opinions, your stock in trade. You don’t have any evidence, no science, no research, no data – but as I frequently say in CiF – go ahead, prove me wrong. Cite your authorities or stop talking this rabid, anti-science nonsense.

  14. elsa nasser permalink
    August 26, 2010 10:11 am

    Thanks for coming back guys. I am short of time too so I will try to be brief.

    1. The 1975 warming prediction I will follow up with interest.

    2. The models point is not answered. The reply says that the models fit the past. Well they would do, they are made to do so. So do economic models but as recent experience has shown they tend to work perfectly until they don’t.

    3. Your attribution of numbers to the likely warming is derived only from these models but we cannot test them. That is at heart my most fundamental point. They are “back tested” in the way that economic models are and made to fit the data.

    4. I do not believe in gravity because of a consensus, I believe in it because it is a testable proposition. It would be very easy to prove it wrong but no-one has succeeded in doing so. That is quite different to climate change models which cannot be tested.

    5. You say the examples I give are local and that you are talking about global warming. Just think about the task you set yourself. Today the warmest place on earth may be say 40C and the coldest may be -40C, a spread of 80 degrees. Looking at the Australian publication that you referred the level of warming is a fraction of 1 degree. Now how accurate is your figure for mean temperature if there is such a wide variance between top and bottom, there are seasonal variations, there are special factors affecting each year etc etc? Not very is my guess and to say that you can attribute a very small rise in temperature to CO2 is a claim to knowledge that we just do not have.

    6. I clicked on the first one Cambridge. I see that it is not related to any of the science departments there but rather the department of land economy.

    7. Creationism: I am not an expert in the fairy stories that have been told in the past about the coming into being of the world. Whatever large numbers of people may believe and whatever the consensus may be amongst the world’s population Christian, Jewish or otherwise the genesis story is a testable proposition and is just wrong.

    Mr Wayne: I would completely stand by my view that science proceeds by refutation not consensus and I would say that the gravity point is a demonstration of that. The fact that you even talk of a consensus over global warming is an indication that the science has not or cannot be decided. What you have is a correlation between two variables (and a poor one at that) CO2 and temperature which you have dressed up through mathematical models as causation. While I completely accept that you may be right we have no way of testing your theory. Whereas we can drop any number of objects to test gravity we cannot re-run the weather/climate.

  15. August 26, 2010 12:41 pm

    2. Economic models are trying to model a phenomenon very different to climate models. The former are trying to model human decisions, the latter, physical processes. I assume you don’t have a problem with weather models? Climate models are not exactly the same, but they are much closer to weather models than economic models.

    They are not perfect (and don’t claim to be), but their uncertainties cut both ways. Things could just as well turn out to be considerably worse than the models predict, for instance, through unforeseen black swan events (the models hadn’t predicted the “blocking” event that caused both the Russian heat wave and devastating Pakistani flooding. Whether it is related to ACC remains to be seen, but it was an illustration of a “black swan” event), or thought various feedback mechanisms that are not yet fully incorporated into the models. However, earlier models have done a pretty good job at predicting the correct ballpark of our currently experienced climate changes. They have also correctly predicted all kinds of details (such as tropospheric cooling, greater warming in winter and at night, Arctic amplification and so on).

    To anticipate Graham’s reply: can you provide any studies or firm evidence to support your comments about the unreliability of models? The Skeptical Science link I gave above includes links not just to the hindcasting success of models, but also forecasting.

    3. Climate sensitivity estimates are based on a range of data, including, but neither limited to nor dependent upon models.

    4. It is very easy to prove ACC wrong. Simply show that (a) greenhouse gases are not increasing or (b) the increase is not primarily/significantly anthropogenic or (c) that they do not trap heat or (d) that the earth’s climate is not changing or (e) that there are sufficient negative feedbacks to overwhelm the positive feedbacks within a range that is of little concern to human society or (f) that there are other more plausible explanations for the range of climatic phenomena observed across a wide range of fields. Any of those would falsify the theory. No falsification has been achieved so far, so it remains the best explanation and is accepted by the vast majority of relevant experts.

    5. Your comment doesn’t understand how statistics work. The ability of thousands (millions) of measurements across a wide range of climatic conditions to determine shifts in patterns is made more robust by the diversity of those measurements. The rise may appear only small, but that small rise represents a staggering amount of extra energy in the climate system (and more than ten times that amount of extra energy in the oceans, which is where most of the warming is going) and results in all kinds of well-measured shifts in climate patterns. Warming is only one of those changes.

    6. You stopped at one? Of course there are many other fields involved (law, ethics, social sciences, psychology, economics, politics), but just look in the earth sciences if you want to see work being done at Cambridge that relates to the physical bases of CC.

    7. Is Shakespeare’s Hamlet a testable proposition? The opening chapters of Genesis provide a theological orientation to God, humanity and the non-human world, they are not aiming to give an eyewitness historical account, much less pretend to be a cosmological textbook. Treating it as the latter is a little like trying to read Hamlet in order to demonstrate the architecture of Danish castles.

    You didn’t mention the 70s Ice Age meme. Are you going to stop using that now?

  16. elsa nasser permalink
    August 31, 2010 6:07 pm

    2. I will return to the subject of models because it needs some time. I would expect them to fit the data, as you say they do, but this is because they are made to do so for the past, it does not mean we can place much, if any, reliance on them for the future.

    3. The estimates, like the models, have to be based upon some assumptions. Presumably for the sake of consistency they are the same assumptions as the models. So whether you call the predictions from those assumptions a use of a model or are deriving the information direct without plugging it into a computer at heart it is the same thing.

    4. I don’t think anyone doubts that there is more CO2 in the atmosphere than there once was. Nor does anyone doubt that a higher concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere would, other things being equal, lead to an increase in temperature. What we do not know is how a very small change in the composition of the atmosphere alters the climate. Unfortunately there is no way of showing that the warming after 1975 is or is not anthropogenic. The logic you employ is there is warming, there is additional CO2 and on the basis of post hoc ergo propter hoc the warming must be man made. You could be right but there is no proper evidence at all.
    There has been falsification: temperatures fell in the period roughly 1940 to 1975 when CO2 levels were rising. The standard warmist response to this is that there were other factors particularly other pollutants at work. But if we take that line we are in the situation where the theory can never be falsified and ceases to be scientific. If the world warms it shows there is warming. If it does not warm it is because there are other factors at work. The theory will be right whatever happens.

    5. I am afraid that your comment shows that you don’t understand how statistics work. To calculate a mean temperature for the world as a whole is a difficult (probably impossible!) task. Indeed I would say I am very sympathetic to the warmist cause in this respect because I can see that if the world has warmed by say 0.5C it is very very difficult to show it. Because of the wide diversity in global temperatures I would say it is extremely unlikely that you could calculate an accurate mean so that even if the world has warmed by 0.5C it would not necessarily be apparent. As a second point I think it is a bit cheeky to say I need to look at the globe not one location, when the warmists frequently talk about specific areas or events. The Arctic is a favourite and often with talk about ice levels not temperatures.

    6. My point was really about the research from these places. It is interesting that the Cambridge climate mitigation research is in the department of land economy and not connected to the department you have now pointed to, which is clearly a proper science department. Interestingly it researches climate change but on a brief visit it seems to me (wisely) to express no view on man made global warming. I don’t think that law, ethics, social sciences etc really come into the scientific investigation of global warming and whether it is happening and its causes. I do think a few proper statisticians would help though.

    7. Shakespeare’s Hamlet is not a testable proposition nor was it intended to be. For many people the bible supplied an explanation of how the world came about and many people believe it still. It provides a testable proposition and we know that it is just not true. You may choose to read it as a theological orientation to God, humanity and the non-human world if you wish. But that is a bit like the warmist approach, whatever happens you will always be right.

    Having been around in the 70s, I can well remember the fuss about the coming ice age (and in the 60s too). I knew quite a few environmentalists at the time and I never remember one bit about global warming. When I get a moment I will read the 70s items because it is really interesting to see the past views on these topics.

  17. August 31, 2010 6:41 pm

    2. You have not addressed my points. Climate models are very different to economic models, being more akin to weather models, which clearly do (quite accurately) predict the weather.

    3. Until you show what these assumptions and what the problems with them are, then you have made no ground. All knowledge, scientific or otherwise, is built upon assumptions. The only question is whether they are justifiable or not.

    4. What we do not know is how a very small change in the composition of the atmosphere alters the climate
    It is not a very small change. CO2 levels have gone up by about 40% since pre-industrial times. If you feel that parts per million is too small to have any effect, try putting 390 parts per million of arsenic in your coffee.

    And we do have a pretty good idea of how certain molecules interaction with solar radiation to produce greenhouse warming, and have done so for more than a century.

    Unfortunately there is no way of showing that the warming after 1975 is or is not anthropogenic.
    Yes there is. Please refer to this site before posting any more points to ensure that they have not already been answered.

    For you to claim that a period of cooling falsifies anthropogenic climate change simply shows that you haven’t understood the nature of the claims being made. It is quite falsifiable in all the ways I listed.

    5. Please return to statistics class. Calculating a mean can be done with a simple calculator. Getting the data in the first place is more difficult, but far from impossible and very good data exists. Provide evidence in peer reviewed studies that rejects all the various data sets available.

    6. You could very easily email the department I mentioned. I will eat my laptop if they are deeply sceptical of the mainstream position.

    7. This really is a separate argument to the rest of our discussion, but it is the case that the vast majority of Christian biblical scholars from the time the text was written until today have not taken it to be offering a literal historical or scientific narrative. That you may find individual Christians who believe it is neither here nor there. But (to link this discussion to our previous one), it is like finding numerous people confused about anthropogenic climate change who believe that the earth is warming because of the hole in the ozone layer. That such people exist (and even exist in significant numbers) tells you very little about the scientific understanding.

    And this also links to your point about the 70s. Whatever the popular press chose to make a fuss about, there simply wasn’t a widespread scientific understanding of a likely global cooling in any analogous way to contemporary concerns about warming. Make sure you follow the link above to see that even in the 70s there were more scientists publishing papers on global warming than global cooling.

  18. elsa nasser permalink
    September 1, 2010 9:20 am

    I will try to get back to you as soon as I can. I just need to earn a living for a few days.

  19. fred permalink
    September 2, 2010 11:51 am

    Crazy woman Elsa. But Byron she may have a point. If a period of cooling doesn’t falsify global warming then what would?

  20. The King In Yellow permalink
    September 2, 2010 2:33 pm

    @Fred:

    When the cooling period will be continuous and overwhelm the AGW effect.
    We know the 1940-1970 period where AGW stalled was due to the short term effect of particulates produced by heavy industry – just as we know the clean air acts in the UK stopped the ‘pea soup’ smogs in London and other large cities during the same period.

    (That’s the simple answer)

    All the best.

  21. fred permalink
    September 2, 2010 4:37 pm

    Yes, thanks. That’s very clear.

  22. elsa nasser permalink
    September 3, 2010 10:35 am

    I am about to go away (to work sadly) for a while. Here are some comments meantime:

    2. I would say climate models are quite like economic models in that they ought to contain a large number of variables, and we have no proper knowledge of the relationship between those variables. Weather is different. Usually it has a very few variables and operates over a very short period of time. We can for example easily see a storm coming to us tomorrow if it is only a few miles away today. Take it for more than a few days and I would think you end up with last year’s barbecue summer and mild winter forecasts. Funnily enough I have seen your comment put exactly the other way round. The argument goes something like “although we cannot forecast weather very accurately this does not mean we cannot forecast climate accurately, because weather is subject to short term unknowns whereas climate is all about a long term trend.”

    3. I wouldn’t say it was for me to say what a modeller has assumed, that is surely for the modeller to do and to make very clear to anyone who looks at the forecasts that the model produces. I completely agree that knowledge is built upon propositions or assumptions but would add the proviso that they need to be testable. Unless they are they are unlikely to add to our knowledge.

    4. Whether it is a small change or not depends on how you look at it. If you start with a minute salary and receive a 100% pay rise you may well still have a very small salary. Whether you like it or not the change in the composition of the atmosphere has been tiny, but I would completely accept that even a very small change could have quite large consequences. The problem is that we do not know whether they do or not. You say they do but I am not clear where you obtain your knowledge.
    Since you say that we know the consequences perhaps you would let us know what you think the relationship is. If we call the mean temperature of the world T and the concentration in parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere C, can you express T in terms of P, other things being equal?

    I am slightly (well completely!) at a loss to know what would falsify the proposition of global warming if a period of cooling does not. That is really my main point: if cooling does not falsify the theory then the theory is a matter of belief not science. It may be right, just as God may exist, but the proposition cannot be tested.

    The things that you say would falsify the CO2 global warming hypothesis are (a) greenhouse gases are not increasing or (b) the increase is not primarily/significantly anthropogenic or (c) that they do not trap heat or (d) that the earth’s climate is not changing or (e) that there are sufficient negative feedbacks to overwhelm the positive feedbacks within a range that is of little concern to human society or (f) that there are other more plausible explanations for the range of climatic phenomena observed across a wide range of fields.

    I have already accepted (a) as true. (b) may well be true I am not sure that it is relevant. For me the question is “how does CO2 affect the temperature?” where it came from is not really relevant to the issue here, although I appreciate it is an important question. (c) I have accepted that with more CO2 the world will, other things being equal, be warmer. The question is whether it will be significantly so. This is a question to which we have no answer. After all if you look at the CRU figures in the graph in the Australian publication that you refer to above the world was no warmer in 1980 than it had been in 1880. Although I do not have the numbers I would guess that during the whole of this period the CO2 concentration was increasing. (d) I don’t deny the climate has changed and will go on doing so. What I don’t see is why you think it is all down to CO2 when there are clearly other factors at work. How would you disaggregate the various influences, particularly as we may not even know what some of them are? With regard to (e) I don’t need negative feedbacks if the CO2/teperature relationship is slight. The 1880 to 1980 numbers suggest that there is little relationship (f) The fact that I don’t have a better theory does not make you right. To take the creation example: we know that the world was not created in seven days. I do not need a better theory about the coming into being of the world for that one to be wrong. It is testable and it is wrong. I think that is in many ways my point. You have a pretence of knowledge, I am quite open about the fact that we just do not really know.

    5. I don’t need to return to the statistics class, I already have a degree from a good university in the subject. The temperature in all areas will alter with the time of day and the season, quite apart from other factors. We then have a difference of say 90C between the warmest and the coldest place. We need to adjust for the relative size of areas at different temperatures. This means that the mean can only be established with quite a wide margin of error and makes it very difficult to establish that the mean temperature has risen in a statistically significant way when the increases are as small as they have been.

    6. I have hardly enough time to write to you never mind e-mailing people that I don’t know. My guess is that most of them would sympathise with what you call “the mainstream position” but that they would also acknowledge that we do not know that it is correct. If they felt strongly that we did, I think they would advertise the fact on their website, but they don’t seem to. These departments are a bit of a diversion from my point here, which was that a huge proportion of the UK’s output on climate research comes from a place with no real science departments apart from the climate department, very little of it comes from top science based universities.

    7. I think we really agree on this. If a huge number of people believe something it does not show anything (you say very little) about scientific understanding. As you accept that, I am not sure why you think a consensus, even if it existed, would be important. Let us not forget that the IPCC has been unable to use its figures to show with 95% confidence that global warming is coming about because of man made factors so even the warmists are not yet in a position to claim meaningful certainty.

    I will read the 70s stuff with interest if I get the time. My guess is that there was not very much output on the subject (warming or cooling) at the time. Whether we have really advanced much in our understanding seems to me an interesting question. I rather doubt that we have.

  23. fred permalink
    September 3, 2010 12:25 pm

    Nicely put Elsa. But are you right?

  24. September 8, 2010 3:50 pm

    Not a single reference. I’m still waiting for references demonstrating the problems with the huge numbers of published papers in support of the theory of anthropogenic climate change. The Skeptical Science website has very accessible pieces that link to relevant literature on each point you raise.

  25. September 8, 2010 4:39 pm

    PS You might like to start here for empirical evidence for CO2 enhanced greenhouse effect.

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