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Was There a Global Cooling Consensus?

Most climate scientists believe that human activity is contributing to a gradual warming of the atmosphere. But these same scientists used to believe that human activity was producing a "global cooling," right? Not quite. In the 1970s, several popular publications ran high profile stories about the threat of "global cooling," but such concerns were not particularly prominent in the scientific literature. According to a new report, relatively few peer-reviewed publications supported cooling fears.

The '70s was an unusually cold decade. Newsweek, Time, The New York Times and National Geographic published articles at the time speculating on the causes of the unusual cold and about the possibility of a new ice age.

But Thomas Peterson of the National Climatic Data Center surveyed dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles from 1965 to 1979 and found that only seven supported global cooling, while 44 predicted warming. Peterson says 20 others were neutral in their assessments of climate trends.

The study reports, "There was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an imminent ice age."

PETN Sandwich (mail):
Try this on:

Global warming will result in an ice age.
2.24.2008 10:20pm
A Law Unto Himself:
The unraveling of AGW has begun in the scientific community. Within 5-10 years we will look back on Man-made Global Warming in the same manner as the "Coming Ice Age" in the 1970s.

My only fear is that the politicians will act before the corrected scientific knowledge reaches the mass media. They could spend trillions of dollars and destroy the western economies before the scare is over.

Politicians are usually about 5+ years behind the leading edge of research. Just look at the great progress with adult stem cells while the politicians are still fighting over embryonic stem cells.
2.24.2008 10:44pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
Many years ago Bob and Ray wrote a radio sketch spoofing a certain kind of kids' show, in which the brilliant-but-bumbling "Mr. Science" tries to explain to his credulous young assistant, Sandy, how gas refrigerators make ice. "Wow," cries Sandy, "so the hot flame makes the water freeze! Cooool!"

"Weeeellll," harrumphs Mr. Science, "not quite, Sandy. But never mind."
2.24.2008 10:45pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Within 5-10 years we will look back on Man-made Global Warming in the same manner as the 'Coming Ice Age' in the 1970s."

Apparently the point of Jonathan's entry was lost on you. But never mind.
2.24.2008 10:49pm
Randy R. (mail):
Interesting -- so actually the consensus on scientists from the 70s is not inconsistent with their findings today.

Grover: "Apparently the point of Jonathan's entry was lost on you."

It's the Fox News Effect. Any and all evidence supports your contorted view of the world.
2.24.2008 10:55pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Scientific consensus means little. Einstein was asked about the many scientists who were skeptical about his theory of relativity when it first came out. His response was "It only takes one to prove me wrong." Scientific consensus once held that continents can't drift, and that rocks don't fall from the sky. It means nothing to hear 7 papers predicted global cooling while 44 predicted global warming. This is the kind of thing that impresses non-scientists. The less you know the more you rely on "consensus."
2.24.2008 11:00pm
Laura S.:
Its interesting how quickly after the AR4 report, the consensus seems to be unraveling. No not in the physics, but actually in the temperature record of the past 100+ years.
2.24.2008 11:01pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Zarkov: Scientific consensus means little.

Statements like yours are foolish. What could you possibly want our political leaders to base their judgments on if not the consensus judgments of the scientific community? Can that consensus be wrong? Yes. Can it change? Yes. Is it the best data we have at the moment? Yes.

Will politicians do any better doing their own science and coming to their own consensus? The very idea is ridiculous.
2.24.2008 11:22pm
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
Zarkov: People often make statements like your, my favorite being that everyone thought that the Write Brothers were crazy when they said that man could fly and look at them now.

It's definitely true that many people have been mocked for challenging generally accepted principles only to be proven right in the end, but most people who challenged generally accepted principles have been proven wrong.
2.24.2008 11:40pm
Fub:
Crackmonkeyjr wrote at 2.24.2008 11:40pm:
It's definitely true that many people have been mocked for challenging generally accepted principles only to be proven right in the end, but most people who challenged generally accepted principles have been proven wrong.
Global warming (whether anthropogenic or not) is not a principle. It is a hypothesis, subject to proof or disproof.

The Wright brothers did not challenge a generally accepted principle. In fact, they based their work on a generally accepted principle, Bernoulli's principle. They did challenge a broad popular hypothesis that was generally accepted as true, ie: that man could not fly.
2.25.2008 12:09am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Scientific consensus means little. Einstein was asked about the many scientists who were skeptical about his theory of relativity when it first came out."

And yet here we are, a hundred years later, knowing about a billions times more about universe than we did then. How do you suppose that happened? By suppressing Einstein's theory? By sending him back to the patent office with a slap on the wrist and a condescending smirk?
2.25.2008 12:09am
pmorem (mail):
Chris Bell,
Your words summarize nicely the incompatibility between science and politics.

The best any politician can do is look at the stances taken by various parties. Unfortunately, the normal political reads are wrong. Key indicators from science are openness, acceptance of questioning, and willingness to entertain doubt. Politicians read that as weakness, where they read certainty and fanaticism as strength.
2.25.2008 12:11am
ithaqua (mail):
"But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown." -Carl Sagan
2.25.2008 12:14am
Zombie Richard Feynman (mail) (www):
The law of gravity means nothing. All it takes in one floating object, and the whole thing falls down.

Indeed, since some things I think now may be proved wrong in the future, I think it's best not to think anymore.



Braaaains...
2.25.2008 12:15am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Your words summarize nicely the incompatibility between science and politics."

...which nonetheless does not obviate the need for science in determining policy.

"Politicians read that as weakness, where they read certainty and fanaticism as strength."

That plays both ways, friend.
2.25.2008 12:18am
Brian K (mail):
Politicians read that as weakness, where they read certainty and fanaticism as strength.

can you read my mind too? what number am i thinking of?
2.25.2008 12:25am
Curt Fischer:

Scientific consensus means little. [...] The less you know the more you rely on "consensus."


I also find this statement ludicrous. Everyone, including scientists, relies on scientific consensus all the time. Do you believe that lightning is a form of electricity? That the sun shines because of nuclear fusion? That germs can cause disease? That a body in motion tends to stay in motion? That matter is composed of atoms?

If you do not believe these things, can you explain what you do believe about lightning, the sun, disease, motion, and matter? And also the basis for your belief?
2.25.2008 12:33am
jesse (mail):
Interestingly enough, some scientists have started thinking that the late arrival of solar cycle 24 (now a year overdue) and lowered solar magnetic activity could indicate that we're heading into a period of lowered solar activity like the Dalton Minimum.

It would certaintly suck if we managed to get everyone on the same page with respect to global warming and then have to deal with crop failures from unexpected cooling instead.
2.25.2008 12:35am
Elliot123 (mail):
"Most climate scientists believe that human activity is contributing to a gradual warming of the atmosphere."

That tells us nothing unless some quantitative measurement is also provided. Lighting a match is a contribution to atmospheric warming.
2.25.2008 12:41am
Randy R. (mail):
Zarkov's idiocy against itself: If the scientific consensus was the there is no global warming, and only a few scientists believe it is real, Zarkov's Razor would require us all to believe in global warming.
2.25.2008 12:41am
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
Fub: You entirely missed the point and nothing you said in any way invalidates my point which is: just because some deserters have been right, doesn't mean that they all are.
2.25.2008 12:42am
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
deserters = dissenters
2.25.2008 12:43am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Chris Bell and Crackmonkeyjr:

First let's distinguish between a consensus about engineering and consensus about research science. In engineering we do rely on consensus. That's why we have things like standards and codes, which reflect generally accepted engineering principles. However in those areas of research physical science where we can't make definitive experiments consensus means little. Do you believe in dark matter? Should we have scientists vote on this question? Consensus also tends to fail on matters that involve rare events. Look at rogue waves. Until pretty recently the consensus viewpoint was that a wind driven water wave a hundred feet high would occur about once every 10,000 years. The theory was dead wrong.

In general politicians should stay out of basic science, and when they do have to get involved they should rely on their own advisors to look at the competing arguments and make a decision on the quality of the argument and not the number of people making the argument. This means the president needs a really smart science advisor that he can trust.

Crackmonkeyjr, who is the "everyone" that thought the Wright Brothers could not make a flying machine? What augments were advanced to along these lines? As far as I know the concept of a flying machine violated no laws of physics known in 1900.
2.25.2008 12:45am
Elliot123 (mail):
"If you do not believe these things, can you explain what you do believe about lightning, the sun, disease, motion, and matter? And also the basis for your belief?"

The basis for the belief is observation followed by hypothesis that explains the observation and makes a prediction about the outcome of experiment. If subsequent experiment verifies the predictions of the hypothesis the hypothesis is on the road to acceptance. Subsequent experimental replication and verification of the hypothesis provides further reason for acceptance. At any time, the hypothesis may be falsified by experiment.
2.25.2008 12:49am
ithaqua (mail):
To enlarge on that: there's a concept in skeptical circles dubbed the 'arrogance of ignorance', usually applied to homeopaths, the vaccines-cause-autism crowd, and other such types. The malady is distinguished by an unwarranted belief that one's own amateur experience is sufficient cause to discard entirely the entire body of scientific research on a given subject.

Sufferers tend to manifest delusions of grandeur, comparing themselves to Einstein or Galileo or other scientific notables. (This is particularly noticable among the staff of the Discovery Institute.) Other symptoms include the belief that scientists who disagree with you are involved in a conspiracy to conceal the truth (see: evolution, AGW) and that the moral/financial/economic/other consequences of a scientific theory are reason enough to argue against it (see: evolution, AGW).

The scientific consensus on AGW may be wrong. Absolutely! But you're not going to be in a position to determine that from reading World Net Daily articles, and it continues to annoy me that various people drag up Einstein's poor mouldering corpse to sneer at 'scientific consensus' when all they have on their side is a mass of ad hominem and the mere that 'they could be wrong'. It's bad logic, it's bad argument, and it's especially aggravating that they're happy to claim that minority scientific viewpoints 'demonstrate' the proof of their preconceived claims when they have no better reason than said preconceptions to believe the one over the other.

Argh. Sorry for the rant. :P
2.25.2008 12:50am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Is Al Gore one of those peer-reviewed scientists?

I was alive in the 1970s. I remember the "coming ice age". I remember someone (can't remember who and couldn't find it last time I searched, or much mention of that belief at all) said "An ice age? What will that do to the baseball season?"

But who am I going to believe, Thomas Peterson or my lying eyes?
2.25.2008 12:55am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Curt Fisher:

"Everyone, including scientists, relies on scientific consensus all the time. Do you believe that lightning is a form of electricity? That the sun shines because of nuclear fusion? That germs can cause disease? That a body in motion tends to stay in motion? That matter is composed of atoms?"

We accept that matter is composed of atoms because of Brownian motion, not because a majority of scientists say so. The seminal paper came from Einstein. Before that atoms were a convenient fiction. We accept most of the items on your list because evidence backs them up, not because some majority says so. But the germ theory of disease is not quite right if you believe in prions. Prions are a problem because they violate the central dogma of molecular biology. Another consensus bites the dust—maybie.
2.25.2008 12:55am
A. Zarkov (mail):
" … when all they have on their side is a mass of ad hominem and the mere that 'they could be wrong'."

Not true. We have much more than ad hominem arguments against AGW. We have problems with the cloud physics and other feedbacks. We have alternate theories to explain the observed warming.
2.25.2008 1:03am
ithaqua (mail):
"We accept that matter is composed of atoms because of Brownian motion, not because a majority of scientists say so."

Aaaaaand how do you know what the evidence backs up? Have you run the experiments personally? You must be awfully busy, taking the spectrum of sunlight and experimentally verifying the hydrogen band and all. But I guess it beats trusting the 'scientific consensus' :P
2.25.2008 1:06am
ithaqua (mail):
(ah, that last refers to the sun shining because of nuclear fusion, not the atomic composition of matter. Sorry.)
2.25.2008 1:11am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Randy R.

"If the scientific consensus was the there is no global warming, and only a few scientists believe it is real, Zarkov's Razor would require us all to believe in global warming."

No, I am not saying say that the contrarian viewpoint is necessarily right. What I am saying is that empirically the consensus viewpoint is often incorrect. Therefore we must rely on the quality and not the quantity of the arguments.
2.25.2008 1:15am
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
Zarkov:
First, I mostly reiterate what ithaqua has said above. Consensus certainly doesn't prove something, but when most scientists studying a field think that a particular conclusion is the most likely conclusion, the chances are that the available evidence supports that conclusion.

Second, you say that politicians should stay out of the global warming issue like it is some neutral choice. In reality, there are no neutral choices. Deciding not to do anything about global warming is as much of a decision as deciding to do something about it. Both options (keeping in mind that there are a number of ways we can decide to deal with global warming if we want to deal with it), have consequences and we have to decide what consequences, when weighted by their likelihood, is worse.

Finally, whether or not people laughed at the Wright brothers is irrelevant, it was included as an example of a saying I've heard. If you haven't heard of it, let me just point out that it is common enough that it made it into a Frank Sinatra song (google: "they all laughed" and "Frank Sinatra"). None the less, people did have significant doubts about the Wright brothers (see the Wikipedia page for Wright Brothers). I've even heard that they originally could not get a patent because the PTO did not believe that their invention was workable
2.25.2008 1:19am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Have you run the experiments personally?"

Actually I did do Brownian motion. I did run many of the basic science experiments myself as a freshman. I ran the gravitational constant experiment, the Davidson-Germer experiment for electron diffraction, and many others. Generally we can rely on those principles that have stood the test of time. We can have confidence when the scientist tells us, "here is how you can do the experiment if you want to check us." That's a far cry from, "believe it because we say so, and we are a majority."

Remember Nuclear Winter? Well Carl Sagan wouldn't give you his TTAPS computer model to run for yourself. You had to take it on faith. GW guru Hansen won't give out his computer models either.
2.25.2008 1:29am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Prions are a problem because they violate the central dogma of molecular biology."

No,they *were* a problem because they APPEAR to violate the central dogma. But read carefully from your own link:

"Although this represents a transfer of information, it is not an exception to the central dogma, since the sequence of the protein remains unchanged; but it is the exception when you see the central dogma as describing nucleic acid as the central form of replicative information (the protein-only hypothesis)."

And again, from the University of Edinburgh web site:

"The central dogma is not really a dogma in the traditional sense of the word, like all scientific theories it is modified as we learn more details of the processes.

"The biggest revolution in the central dogma was the discovery of retroviruses, which transcribe RNA into DNA through the use of a special enzyme called reverse transcriptase has resulted in an exception to the central dogma; RNA → DNA → RNA → protein. Also, some virus species are so primitive that they use only RNA → proteins, having not developed DNA. With the discovery of prions, a new exception to the central dogma has been discovered, Protein → Protein. That is, proteins directly replicating themselves by making conformational changes in other proteins. Although retroviruses, certain primitive viruses, and prions may violate the central dogma, they are technically not considered 'alive', and thus the rule that 'all cellular life follows the central dogma' still holds true."

At any rate, prions, like retroviruses, are no longer a "problem," nor are they controversial.

Another "consensus" myth bites the dust.
2.25.2008 1:34am
Brian K (mail):
Prions are a problem because they violate the central dogma of molecular biology.

not necessarily. as you're own link states: "Although this represents a transfer of information, it is not an exception to the central dogma, since the sequence of the protein remains unchanged; but it is the exception when you see the central dogma as describing nucleic acid as the central form of replicative information (the protein-only hypothesis)."
so it all depends on which version of the central dogma you accept.

What I am saying is that empirically the consensus viewpoint is often incorrect.

just how often is "often"? since you used the word "empirically", I'm assuming you have percentages and data to back up your claim.
2.25.2008 1:40am
A. Zarkov (mail):
" … but when most scientists studying a field think that a particular conclusion is the most likely conclusion, the chances are that the available evidence supports that conclusion."

The problem is that the GW scientists can't give you the chances that the available evidence supports the conclusion, except as a "subjective probability," which is a fancy term for an opinion. They can evaluate data uncertainty, and parameter uncertainty, but they don't know the model uncertainty. That's why they get such a big range for climate sensitively factor. They don't know the cloud physics, so they run about a dozen different models and use the envelope to get a range. They admit they can't assign a probability to each of cloud physics models so as to weight the various scenarios by their respective likelihoods. All this stuff is in the IPCC report for those who care to delve into the details.
2.25.2008 1:41am
Brian K (mail):
i see grover beat me to it...and not by a little either.
2.25.2008 1:43am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"We can have confidence when the scientist tells us, 'here is how you can do the experiment if you want to check us.' That's a far cry from, 'believe it because we say so, and we are a majority.'"

Yet you initially spoke of Einstein's theories and continental drift as proof that "scientific consensus means little." You seem to to be talking out of both sides of your mouth, as it were.
2.25.2008 1:46am
CrazyTrain (mail):
Global warming (whether anthropogenic or not) is not a principle. It is a hypothesis, subject to proof or disproof.

Global warming is more than a hypothesis, it is a theory; a theory with a lot of supporting evidence. Most sciences, however, do not deal in "proofs" and "disproofs", rather they deal with evidence; mathematics is the exception (accepting that mathematics is a science). Einstein's theory of relativity has never been "proven." Newton's theory of planetary motion, and his theory of gravity, have never been "proven." Rather, our observations have supported them. Further, those theories help explain other observations. They cannot, however, be "proven" in the same way that, for example, a-squared + b-squared = c-squared.

This is really a polite way of saying: You don't know much about science so you should shut your trap.
2.25.2008 2:01am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Grover Gardener and Brian K:

In 2005 when I was studying prions, the reference did say prions violated the central dogma. So I should have said, "seem to violate."

If you want another example, look at a proposed soliton model for how signals propagate in neurons. This model challenges (consensus) Nobel Prize winning Hodgkin-Huxley Model, which says that the signals travel as action potentials. In this model the signals are actually sound pulses instead of electrical waves. This model also has a lot to say about how anesthetics work. Now I don't know what the ultimate success of this new theory will be, but as you can see, we have numerous examples of the failure of consensus in basic research science.
2.25.2008 2:25am
Grover Gardner (mail):
And while we're at it, let's look at the history of the theory of continental drift:

"[Wegener's] ideas were not taken seriously by many geologists, who pointed out that there was no apparent mechanism for continental drift. Specifically, they did not see how continental rock could plow through the much denser rock that makes up oceanic crust. WEGENER COULD NOT EXPLAIN THE FORCE THAT PROPELLED CONTINENTAL DRIFT [emphasis mine].

"Wegener's vindication did not come until after his death in 1930. In 1947, a team of scientists led by Maurice Ewing utilizing the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's research vessel Atlantis and an array of instruments, confirmed the existence of a rise in the central Atlantic Ocean, and found that the floor of the seabed beneath the layer of sediments consisted of basalt, not the granite which is the main constituent of continents. They also found that the oceanic crust was much thinner than continental crust. All these new findings raised important and intriguing questions."

So here we have a scientist who advanced a theory suggested by observable evidence (continental shape, fossil records) but with NO EXPLANATION for how, contrary to contemporary understandings of geophysical processes, such a thing could take place. Until the actual geophysical processes were more fully understood and confirmed by more sophisticated methods of data collection, the theory met opposition. By the same token, it was hardly dismissed or suppressed. It was vigorously debated from the time of its publication onward.

It's too often the case that these "consensus" myths fall apart when one looks at the actual history of science.
2.25.2008 2:27am
Taltos:
WEGENER COULD NOT EXPLAIN THE FORCE THAT PROPELLED CONTINENTAL DRIFT

Yes, but Wegener wasn't demanding that the entire world band together and drive enormous steel pylons through the earth to keep the continents in place. I would have no problem (apart from my leariness toward basing anything so complex on computer models) with the AGW folks if they just said "Here's our theory, here's our data, have at it" ,but they don't. They demand that everyone obey them and implement their proposals or face certain doom (in theory)!
2.25.2008 2:49am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Now I don't know what the ultimate success of this new theory will be, but as you can see, we have numerous examples of the failure of consensus in basic research science."

I'm sorry, but that statement is simply unsupportable. Again, from your OWN LINK:

"It has been known for SEVERAL DECADES that an action potential traveling along a neuron results in a slight increase in temperature followed by a decrease in temperature. The decrease is not explained by the Hodgkin-Huxley model..."

And again, elsewhere:

"The Hodgkin-Huxley model is widely regarded as one of the GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS of 20th-century biophysics. NEVERTHELESS, modern Hodgkin-Huxley-type models have been extended in several important ways:..."

And yet again:

"The authors [of the soliton model] claim that their model explains the PREVIOUSLY OBSCURE mode of action of numerous anesthetics."

There is no "failure of consensus" here.

The fact that exceptions are found to widely-accepted theories or models, which must then be expanded or re-evaluated, is by no means evidence of a "failure of scientific consensus."
2.25.2008 2:51am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Yes, but Wegener wasn't demanding that the entire world band together and drive enormous steel pylons through the earth to keep the continents in place."

Neither was Wegener proposing that the continents would crash together within a generation if we didn't.
2.25.2008 3:08am
Brian K (mail):
This model also has a lot to say about how anesthetics work.

some anesthetics function by interacting with K+ channels resulting in membrane hyperpolerization. This provides proof for the current consensus theory. Other anesthetics work by interacting with Cl- channels or facilitating GABA-A through a similar process as the K+ channel anesthetics. The association between potency and lipid solubility is easily explained by the fact the greater the lipid solubility the easier the anesthetic reaches it's site of action: the cytoplasmic side of the membrane.


And you still haven't answered my question. just how often is "often"?
2.25.2008 3:51am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"I was alive in the 1970s. I remember the 'coming ice age'."

Indeed, that's the point of the study, show that the media grabbed the story and ran with it, with little support from the broader scientific consensus at the time.

"But who am I going to believe, Thomas Peterson or my lying eyes?"

Since your eyes weren't lying (and Peterson isn't claiming they were) you needn't torture yourself with a false choice.
2.25.2008 5:11am
David Schwartz (mail):
The difference between science and many other fields of endeavor is that the number of scientists who endorse a view just determines the probability that it will be taken seriously. Once you decide to analyze a scientific question, it makes no different how many people agree with a view. Whether one person or one million make an argument, it is still only as strong as the evidence they have to support it.

You may follow a "scientific consensus" about an area of science you don't particularly care about or don't have the time to analyze personally. For example, if I said I had a dime in my pocket, you'd likely believe me. But if I asked you to stake your life on it, you probably wouldn't.

The proponents of AGW ask us to stake quite a bit on the correctness of their views. As a result, we have to care about global climate and we have to analyze the data personally. As a result, the "consensus" is irrelevant. It only matters how good their arguments and evidence are.
2.25.2008 6:24am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Grover Gardner:

You're nit picking. While the Hodgkin-Huxley doesn't explain everything, the soliton model challenges the accepted idea of action potentials. That's where the consensus lies.

Brian K:

From the reference, The Thermodynamics of General Anesthesia
While it widely believed that local anesthetics are sodium channel blockers, a satisfactory general model of how anesthetics act on proteins is again lacking. The action of anesthetics is still mysterious.
" … just how often is "often"?

Often enough to give us pause about accepting a basic research science model on consensus alone. We don't have and don't need a precise frequency.
2.25.2008 6:37am
donaldk2 (mail):
There are a number of things that militate against taking AGW seriously as a guide to policy.

1. Its best-known advocate is Al Gore, surely one of the biggest fakers in Christendom.

2. Its adherents are suffused with a quasi-religious zeal, ready to term dissenters "deniers" comparable to Holocaust-deniers, and ready also to urge them to "shut your trap."

3. The not insignifcant possibility that even if there is in fact GW, A is responsible for little or none of it.

4. Prudential consideration must measure the likelihood of its truth, against the certainty of the economic cataclysm that enforcement of its "remedies" would entail.

5. And after all that, the futility of it, given that the Chinese and Indians would never in the world submit to these remedies.
2.25.2008 7:08am
Chris Smith (mail):
Back to AGW, maybe there is room for a pragmatic analysis that concludes:
a) Smarter resource stewardship is a Good Thing, even if achieved through buffoonery,
b) The lesson of buffoonery is that we all have to filter out the emotional appeals involved in campaigns like AGW, think, and strive for reasonable conclusions.
Just sayin'.
2.25.2008 7:34am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Indeed, that's the point of the study, show that the media grabbed the story and ran with it, with little support from the broader scientific consensus at the time.

The loudest voices today seem to be coming from the media, not the scientists, especially the voices talking about doomsday scenarios and how immediate action must be taken. It's a sleight of hand for them to be saying "When our predecessors were saying we were headed for icy doom a generation ago they were just blowing it out their butts, but this time when we say we are headed for a hot doom we've really got science on our side."

Popular writers take it as a given - they've had to buy an air conditioner not because we've had a couple of hot summers, but because GW (always assumed to be AGW) has raised the average global temperature half a degree Fahrenheit in their lifetime. On the other hand, we get a brutally cold, or particularly snowy winter, and they tell us how GW predicts that as well. It would be a small shame if polar bears became extinct, and if you could no longer get your favorite wines, but increasing crop production and fewer people freezing might be a good thing. My favorite was the protestor at an anti-car rally in NYC who had outfitted his child with a sign that said "I'm 10 years old and I've never seen a white Christmas" — I took a look at the NWS records, and that was pretty much the expectation for most decades over the past century.

Bullshit in the name of science offends me.
2.25.2008 7:37am
donaldk2 (mail):
Bravo to Chris and David, who express my thoughts better than I can.
2.25.2008 7:45am
Curt Fischer:
I see now that A. Zarkov and others have drawn a line between two types of scientific consensus. My take on their view: on one hand are AGW-type consensus, in which scientists believe a certain thing but cannot provide a falsifiable mechanism or evidence in support. On the other hand are consensus like matter being made of atoms or germs causing disease. Brownian motion (as well as presumably, a slew of other experiments, observations, and data sets) add up to the atomic theory of matter being believable, independently of whether scientists agree on whether it is or not.

I find this distinction to be one of degree instead of fundamental quality. Even in the case of atoms, you must rely on an entire set of observations, and subsequent interpretation and analysis of those observations by scientists , in order to conclude that observing Brownian motion means matter is made of atoms. Without the widely-believed Newtonian theory of physics, the theory of optics of Fresnel and others (else how would you know that the microscope lens as anything but an illusion machine?), Einstein's theory of Brownian motion, as well as a Daltonian acceptance that the water you used as a medium in which to suspend your "atomic" particles is comprised of two units of hydrogen to one of oxygen, and the resulting atom is too small for you to observe.

That's a lot of reliance on the views and theories of others, and thus I see little to differentiate the AGW scientific consensus and the consensus that Brownian motion proves atoms.

David Schwartz says that

The proponents of AGW ask us to stake quite a bit on the correctness of their views.


I agree, but it seems to me his conclusion from this fact relies on conflation of two very different bits of things. One is whether AGW is real. This is a scientific question. The majority of data, experiments, observations and scientists support it.

However, the other thing is "what will be the practical impacts of AGW?". Here, we have much less evidence that AGW will be uniformly bad, or how impactful the supposed consequences will be on human activity. Therefore we also have no way of being sure whether a given policy course will mitigate the uncertain and nebulously defined risks that AGW harm humanity. Of course, it is the policies and not the science that would force anyone to "stake" anything on AGW.
2.25.2008 8:38am
NaG (mail):
The more dramatic the proposed "remedy" for the problem, the more you'd better have the science nailed. If you're wondering why people are balking at the draconian remedies being bandied about in response to global warming, it's probably because despite the claims of "consensus," there isn't one, and despite claims of being able to predict future weather trends, those predictions have almost uniformly been wrong.

What interested me about CrazyTrain's comment, about how man-made global warming was a "theory" with "supporting evidence," is that all the models for predicting future global warming use, as "supporting evidence," prior weather measurements. After all, any new model for predicting future weather has to also accurately predict yesteryear's weather. But that does not make the model based on "supporting evidence," especially when the model consistently fails to make accurate predictions and constantly has to be reworked.
2.25.2008 8:53am
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Zarkov: Do you believe in dark matter? Should we have scientists vote on this question? Consensus also tends to fail on matters that involve rare events. Look at rogue waves. Until pretty recently the consensus viewpoint was that a wind driven water wave a hundred feet high would occur about once every 10,000 years. The theory was dead wrong.

Great questions! Here is what I am saying. I don't know if there is dark matter, as I am not an astrophysicist. I can't tell you anything that I didn't read on CNN. However, there is no need to do anything about dark matter at the present time, so we should just leave scientists alone. They can tell us the answer in a modestly interesting popular science book once they have the details worked out.

Now, it's much easier to imagine having to do something about rogue waves. For example, an insurance company needs to decide how much boat insurance should cost. How should the insurance company go about doing this? Should it start up its own oceanographic institute? Probably not. Instead, the company will go find an expert and ask her for science's best opinion. She will survey the research and tell the company what most scientists think, and they will act accordingly.

You correctly point out that if the insurance company asked this question before rogue waves were considered common, then the scientific consensus would have given the company the wrong answer. This probably cost them lots of money! My point is that it was still the most rational course to take.

What I am saying is that empirically the consensus viewpoint is often incorrect. Therefore we must rely on the quality and not the quantity of the arguments.

Another good point! Often there is a very clear majority/minority, but sometimes there are competing theories. It would be best to wait for the controversy to resolve itself, but sometimes actors (like the insurance company) can't wait. They have to include wave insurance or not include it, and they need to decide now. Perhaps, as you suggest, we should look at the quality of the science itself. The problem is, who should do this? The insurance company CEO - who majored in accounting? Of course not. Instead, they will ask their scientist researcher to evaluate the different sides. Which side is in the majority? Is the research of good quality? The point is, only scientists are qualified to assess the quality of the work of other scientists. If someone comes along with better research, his colleagues will recognize his high-quality work, and the new opinion will spread until it becomes the majority opinion.

I do not want the U.S. Congress deciding which experiments were performed well and which results are unfounded. I want them to listen to their scientific advisers.

...and the National Academy of Science (the most elite scientific organization in America) has given their opinion. Let's listen to it.
2.25.2008 10:12am
rlb:
What I don't understand is why global warming is such a big deal if it's fueled by fossil fuels. After 100 years of burning the stuff, it's still far from obvious that it's had any effect on temperature at all. There's no reason to believe that burning every last fossil fuel over the next hundred or two hundred years will have much more of an effect.

And when the oil and coal is gone, then what? They'll go back to bitching about how scary nuclear power is, and how windmills kill birds.
2.25.2008 10:14am
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
rlb, maybe this graph will answer your question. We call that an "exponential increase".
2.25.2008 10:43am
Dan Weber (www):
I think the proponents of AGW have done a poor job of explaining themselves and the science.

However, their opponents have done an even worse job. Most times I listen to someone say how AGW is a bunch of crap, they vomit forth a bunch of stupid inane hogwash, like how Mount Pinatubo put out more CO2 in a day than mankind has in a century.

To be fair, there are some honest criticisms of AGW, but they get lost in the noise about cow farts.
2.25.2008 10:59am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
You mean all the AGW skeptics who constantly parrot "but thirty years ago all the scientists were predicting a new ice age" are simply repeating talking points that have very little basis in fact?

Who'd a thunk. I thought only Al Gore did that.
2.25.2008 11:11am
DLM (mail):
I find it kind of funny that, at the same time some are saying we're sure to run out of oil soon, the climate scientists are basing their models on vastly increasing consumption of this supposedly non-renewable resource through 2100. I guess there's no shortage on the horizon.

But more to the point of this thread, just what is the consensus we're talking about re: AGW? Well, if you take the IPCC report as the consensus, it's that global temps will increase anywhere from .6 degress C to 3.4 degress C over the next 92 years. You can call that a consensus if you wish. I call it a terribly uncertain guess -- i.e., IF we are able to accurately predict temperature change, and IF we are able to forecast all sorts of changes in human behavior over 92 years (population increases, energy consumption, etc.) then even so we get a range that varies by well over 100%.

What's the consensus re: warming we've already observed? That it's "very likely" caused by human activity. What's that mean? A 90% confidence level. So there's a consensus that there's a 1 in 10 chance that human activity has had no effect on temop increases we've seen to date.

Should we accept all this as true? I don't. First, just 6 years ago, the IPCC's confidence level was only 66%. What advances in science justified an increase in confidence level by roughly a third in that relatively short time? Smells fishy to me. Also, just 6 years ago, the IPCC told us that long-term prediction of the climate was simply not possible, as climate is a non-linear and chaotic system. Yet all of s sudden the nature of the system is different, and now we're supposed to not just believe their predictions, but "change the way we live" based upon them?

And of course, all this leaves open the question of whether it is even remotely possible to predict what will happen in 2100, no matter how sophisticated your computer model. To me, any such assertion is arrogant folly. We can't predict 2100 any more than the people of 1908 could predict life in 2000. Can someone tell me what oil prices will be in 2025? In 2050? Hell, in 2009? Because if the IPCC knows, I wish they'd give me that tip.
2.25.2008 11:23am
DLM (mail):

but thirty years ago all the scientists were predicting a new ice age"


Well, of course no one ever claimed that ALL the scientists were predicting a new ice age. But some of them were, and it was not a lunatic fringe.
2.25.2008 11:26am
NaG (mail):
Chris Bell: And yet that "exponential increase" has not resulted in temperature increases that are anywhere in proportion.
2.25.2008 11:33am
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
NaG: That comment doesn't make much sense. Do you expect temperature increase to match cabon increase, atom for degree? Do you expect temperature to have increased 5 giga degrees?

Perhaps by "in proportion" you only meant that temperature should be increasing exponentially to match the exponential increase in carbon emissions. (Note that you could have an "exponential increase" that only goes up a few degrees. It's the rate of increase, not the amount that would be in proportion.)

But if that were true, then a graph of temperature increase might look something like this....
2.25.2008 11:52am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I ran into this today right before I saw this thread here: Forget global warming: Welcome to the new Ice Age:
Snow cover over North America and much of Siberia, Mongolia and China is greater than at any time since 1966.

The U.S. National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported that many American cities and towns suffered record cold temperatures in January and early February. According to the NCDC, the average temperature in January "was -0.3 F cooler than the 1901-2000 (20th century) average."
Obviously this doesn't disprove AGW, but ...
2.25.2008 12:13pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
Chris Bell:

A couple of items I'd like clarified

1) Isn't the (direct) warming effect of CO2 actually a downward sloping curve? That is, doesn't each ton of CO2 increase temperature less than the last? On a graph where "Warming Effect" in on the vertical axis and "CO2" is on the horizontal, is zero the asyptote as CO2 --> infinity?

2) Aren't the exponential effects caused by positive feedbacks?
2.25.2008 12:16pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
DRWN: I do not know. As a former scientist (but not a climatologist) I will say that the answer to your first question is probably yes, but it could be an S-curve. (Meaning that initial gains are exponential, but the effect levels off as the atmosphere becomes carbon saturated.) As to your 2nd question, I think the answer is yes and no. Some increase is probably due to the exponential increase in carbon emissions, and some is probably due to positive feedback.

But these are just educated guesses on my part.
2.25.2008 12:28pm
Brian K (mail):
From the reference, The Thermodynamics of General Anesthesia

While it widely believed that local anesthetics are sodium channel blockers, a satisfactory general model of how anesthetics act on proteins is again lacking. The action of anesthetics is still mysterious.


That's odd. I mentioned K+ and Cl- channels. no where in my post did I say that anesthetics function by blocking Na+ channels. But I see what you're doing now. You shifted from talking about anesthesia in general to local anesthesia. If I had my pharmacology book on hand, I'd provide you references in which researchers demonstrated the binding site of some local anesthetics onto Na+ channels. (My spring break just started and lugging a heavy pharm book around would easily put me over united's weight limit for checked baggage.)


" … just how often is "often"?

Often enough to give us pause about accepting a basic research science model on consensus alone. We don't have and don't need a precise frequency.


I gotcha. despite your earlier claim that it is "empirical" you seem to be basing your belief entirely on anecdotal evidence.
2.25.2008 12:51pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
I find it kind of funny that, at the same time some are saying we're sure to run out of oil soon, the climate scientists are basing their models on vastly increasing consumption of this supposedly non-renewable resource through 2100

Hint: Oil is not the only CO2 producing energy source.

Hint 2: "Some" may not be synonymous with "climate scientists."

Hint 3: "Soon" is not inconsistent with still having oil in 2100.
2.25.2008 12:55pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):

"You mean all the AGW skeptics who constantly parrot "but thirty years ago all the scientists were predicting a new ice age" are simply repeating talking points that have very little basis in fact?

Who'd a thunk. I thought only Al Gore did that"


Actually, all this article really means is that if you look for dissenting views you will find them. In 30 years, when people look back to the silly AGW "consensus" a similar study will be able to reveal lots and lots of well-recognized scientists who proposed other idea and did not buy into AGW. Thus, by the same analysis, there is no "consensus" now.

The slight of hand is really among those who want to play revisionist with the history of this.
2.25.2008 12:58pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Chris Bell:

You raise some good points nicely expressed by the example of insurance and rogue waves. What does one do when you need an answer now to make a policy or a business decision? Let's look at what an insurance company might do.

The company has to decide whether to go with the consensus theory that rogue waves can't happen, or with the eyewitness reports and mysterious marine catastrophes that seem to back up those reports. First I would decide how big a loss my company would take if the standard theory were wrong. I don't want a "black swan" event to take down my company. If most everybody believed the standard theory, then I would hedge against that loss with reinsurance, which should be cheap because everyone else believes the standard theory. If the reinsurance turned out not to be so cheap, I would really start to doubt whether the theory really had a consensus.

Can we apply this mode of reasoning to AGW? I think we can. If the world really believes that AGW poses a serious threat to the planet then we should take some real mitigation measures. This means India and China must curtail their use of fossil fuels in a big way. Then no more private jets, all the CEOs and politicians will have to ride standard commercial with the rest of us. Then we ramp up construction of nuclear power plants. This means we reprocess nuclear fuel. And so on. Until I see a lot of actors willing to change the way they personally behave, I'm not going to take them seriously about AGW.
2.25.2008 12:59pm
DLM (mail):
Crazy train, I did not suggest that any particular group was guilty of an inconsistency here; only that two popular doomsday scenarios seem to be more or less in conflict. And of course, we don't need to "run out" of oil for supply to become highly relevant to the global warming scenarios. If stocks declined 50%, for example, I think that would have a sufficient impact on price to cut our carbon emissions back signifcantly. The point being -- which you of course ignored -- since climate scientists have no idea where prices will be in 20, 10 or even 5 years, their projecttions of usage (and hence emissions) are extremely suspect.

But far be it from me to deny you an opportunity for snark, so please continue.
2.25.2008 1:08pm
Brian K (mail):
Until I see a lot of actors willing to change the way they personally behave, I'm not going to take them seriously about AGW.

So you think scientific consensus is a bunch of hogwash, but you readily accept other types of consensus? You'll accept a consensus based on random peoples' perceptions but not one based in large part on scientific evidence and research?
2.25.2008 1:10pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I am officially agnostic about AGW, as I was about AGC almost two decades ago, when I had to listen to the same Global Cooling speech by CO Sen. Tim Wirth three times in one year.

The global temperature goes up, and it goes down. Always has, and hopefully always will. It has been much colder here, and it has been much warmer. So, some guy who got a C- and a D+ in his two science classes in college tells us that the world is coming to an end because the temperature is going up, and then he gets a Nobel prize for that.

And yet, the missing dialog is really:
- is a change in temperature really a BAD THING?
- what is the best temperature? Might we be better off with a warmer planet?
- If we really don't want a warmer planet, then what is the most resource and cost efficient solution?

What bothers me is the jump from some models showing AGW to the general belief that we need to spend trillions of dollars in resources cutting our fossil fuel and carbon emissions, without ever bothering to answer those questions.

Oh, and it also bothers me that the people leading the charge often travel on private jets and ride in limos or own SUVs. Nothing like leading from the rear.
2.25.2008 1:14pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The old televesion show "In Search Of" had a piece on global cooling decades ago. One of the scientists who spoke was Stephen Schneider, an early AGW proponent. The one who said that, choosing between drama and actual facts, he'd go with drama, because he had to sell the idea. Speaking of AGW. No idea if he was screwing the pooch about GC.
2.25.2008 1:19pm
Dan Weber (www):
If we institute large carbon taxes or carbon credits, the rich will still be able to use lots of gasoline and fuel and all that.

I don't get why that's a problem with this crowd, though. Sure, it's anti-populist, but when did the Volokh Community worry that only pro-populist positions are good ones?

Only the rich can use private golf courses and personal doctors and butlers and yachts and a whole bunch of other scarce resources that normal people will never have. If "gasoline" gets added to that list, I don't see why there's any more moral outrage over that than the other things that only they have access to.

(And, really, it's not like gasoline will get an order-of-magnitude more expensive. Within a factor of 2 of today's prices, using nuclear power to make gasoline from CO2 in the air becomes economical. Volokh. I really doubt that's the most efficient method available to us, but it serves as a nice upper-bound.)
2.25.2008 1:23pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Can we apply this mode of reasoning to AGW? I think we can. If the world really believes that AGW poses a serious threat to the planet then we should take some real mitigation measures. This means India and China must curtail their use of fossil fuels in a big way. Then no more private jets, all the CEOs and politicians will have to ride standard commercial with the rest of us. Then we ramp up construction of nuclear power plants. This means we reprocess nuclear fuel. And so on. Until I see a lot of actors willing to change the way they personally behave, I'm not going to take them seriously about AGW.
But no one really debates whether AGW is a serious threat, rather, "science" supposedly shows it to be true, and it is assumed to be a serious threat. When you see the maps showing how much of Florida would be under water if the oceans rose 20 feet (which I still don't buy as likely), no mention is made of the billions of acres of farmland that would be opened to living and farming in Canada and Russia (esp. Siberia).

There are reasons that Northern Europeans still primarily drink whiskey and beer, and not wine, like they did in Roman times, and why the Vikings retreated from Vinland, and these things were not caused by Global Warming.
2.25.2008 1:23pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
"You're nit picking."

I certainly am not. You offered two examples of the "scientific consensus" being wrong. In each case, the scientific consensus is not wrong at all. The Central Dogma of Molecular Biology and the Hodgkin-Huxley Model are valid, useful models, and both are *correct* in as much as they apply to the things to which they are intended to apply. The fact that there are exceptions to both models does not make them "wrong," any more than Newton's Laws are "wrong" because they don't explain larger-scale phenomena.
2.25.2008 1:38pm
DLM (mail):

When you see the maps showing how much of Florida would be under water if the oceans rose 20 feet (which I still don't buy as likely), no mention is made of the billions of acres of farmland that would be opened to living and farming in Canada and Russia (esp. Siberia).


The IPCC, I believe, predicts a worst-case scenairo of 6 feet. Which raises one of the major problems about AGW: the scare tactics. If the hard science were solid enough and scary enough, no one would need to resort to exaggeration. But they do, which itself is quite telling.
2.25.2008 1:48pm
Curt Fischer:
Bruce Hayden:
And yet, the missing dialog is really:
- is a change in temperature really a BAD THING?
- what is the best temperature? Might we be better off with a warmer planet?
- If we really don't want a warmer planet, then what is the most resource and cost efficient solution?



Yes! I agree wholeheartedly that this is the missing dialog, and where more attention of policymakers should be focused.
2.25.2008 1:48pm
rmark (mail):
Has anyone actually read the study? From the article it appears it hasn't been published yet, and I can't find it in the recent online issues of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

I would interested to know the number of sources sampled and how they were selected.
2.25.2008 2:44pm
rmark (mail):
Does anyone have a link to the actual study?

Somewhat like Ben Steins characted in Ferris Buehlers Day Off

"anyone? anyone?"
2.25.2008 2:58pm
Smokey:
Grover Gardner:
Another "consensus" myth bites the dust.
Yep. But not in a way that supports the belief in AGW.

As we can see here, the entire 0.6 degree C. rise in temperatures since the late 1900's has been entirely reversed. Where is your AGW god now?

Furthermore, the so-called AGW 'consensus' is phony. The central pillar of the AGW promoters is based on the discredited notion that CO2 is the cause of global warming.

Only 52 scientists participated in the UN/IPCC summary. Hey! Where'd that AGW 'consensus' go?

For a much better consensus, here is a report of 400 international scientists who state for the record that they are skeptical of AGW claims.

Want more actual consensus? OK, here's a list of close to twenty thousand scientists and technical folks who have signed and mailed a hard copy [not an email] agreeing with this statement:
We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.
[source]

The undeniable fact is that the main purveyors of the AGW conjecture, James Hansen and Michael Mann [leaving out wackos like David Suzuki and Al Gore] have absolutely refused to publicly archive their taxpayer funded methodology, algorithms, or data. Isn't that more than a little suspicious? In other words, they are expecting us to take their science on faith alone.

The only reason Hansen and others deliberately hide their data and methodology is that the data and methodology will be falsified if it is publicly archived. So they refuse to disclose it. That's not what a real scientist would do. That is what a charlatan does.

Finally, Anthony Watts' site gives an excellent overview of the real science involved in this debate. Watts is the one who singlehandedly falsified the data of surface temperature recording stations due to the Urban Heat Island [UHI] effect.

Of course, none of these facts matter to the AGW True Believers. Unlike AGW skeptics, their minds are already made up and closed tight. That's a shame, because any real scientist wants to see all of the raw data, and the specific methodology used to arrive at their "planetary catastrophe" conclusions.
2.25.2008 3:16pm
Curt Fischer:
Here is a moderately-but-not-overly technical presentation of the greenhouse effect co-authored by AGW skeptic and professional climatologist Prof. Richard Lindzen and a colleague of his on the other side of the AGW issue, Prof. Kerry Emanuel: link.
2.25.2008 3:34pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"First, I mostly reiterate what ithaqua has said above. Consensus certainly doesn't prove something, but when most scientists studying a field think that a particular conclusion is the most likely conclusion, the chances are that the available evidence supports that conclusion."

1. Can you tell us exactly what that conclusion is?
2. Can it be quantified?
3. What quantitative range does the consensus cover?
4. Does the conclusion hold that natural climate cycles are operating?
5. Does it recognize they operated in the past?
6. What does the conclusion say about the relative force of natural cycles vs human action?
7. What percentage of the quantified predicted temperature rise is due to natural cycles?
8. What percentage is from human action?
9. What would the temperature rise be without human activity?
10. How do we know there is a consensus about a single conclusion by "most scientists studying a field?"
11. What are the alternative hypotheses about global warming? How does the conclusion deal with them?

These are simple questions. I would expect anyone advocating drastic social change based on a conslusion should have answers. Perhaps you don't. But I would expect any members of the consensus to have them.
2.25.2008 3:50pm
Randy R. (mail):
" Until I see a lot of actors willing to change the way they personally behave, I'm not going to take them seriously about AGW."

Well, that makes no sense. The issue is whether AGW is real. the issue of whether anyone is actually doing anything is completely independent of whether AGW is real.

Some people keep persisting in this belief that scientists were predicting global cooling in the 70s. Hasn't it already been proven that few scientists actually said that, and that the media is to blame for taking a non-story and running with it? Yet everyone keeps bringing up that dead horse. Why?

Also, the proper term is not global warming, but rather climate change. Why? Because as the planet warms, some areas are going to get warmer, and some areas are going to get cooler. Anyone who thinks that the planet will uniformly get warmer obviously hasn't a clue as to the topic. For instance, northern europe is warmed by the Atlantic converyor belt, which bring warm water, and hence warm winds, from the topics to the north. When the water reaches the north, the density increases (due to salinity), and it falls deeper into the ocean, taking the cooler water with it as it flows to the south, to the equator.

If the glaciers melt, that changes the salinity of the water in the north, and could stop this conveyor belt. If so, europe cools dramatically, possibly enough to start another mini-ice age. People won't be making wine in Sweden; rather, they will be hunting reindeer in Berlin.

Finally, anyone who doesn't know that there is enough coal reserves in the US alone for the next 300 years, and that coal is a significant contributor to the release of CO2, should refrain from making any statements regarding climate change.
2.25.2008 10:04pm
Randy R. (mail):
One should note that Britain, with its rather temperate climate, is as far north as Newfoundland. If the Atlantic converyor belt stops, Britain will be at least as cold as northern Canada.
2.25.2008 10:06pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
One should note that Britain, with its rather temperate climate, is as far north as Newfoundland. If the Atlantic converyor belt stops, Britain will be at least as cold as northern Canada.
Which must be why the Romans were able to grow grapes for wine there.
2.25.2008 10:40pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
If the glaciers melt, that changes the salinity of the water in the north, and could stop this conveyor belt. If so, europe cools dramatically, possibly enough to start another mini-ice age. People won't be making wine in Sweden; rather, they will be hunting reindeer in Berlin.
Oh, I just learned something new - that mini-ice ages are caused by global warming (or, apparently by your definitions, a warming global climate).

Snark aside, I would think that a cooling of the North Atlantic would result in more ice, not less, and thus negate the effect that you are talking about, at least as far as northern hemisphere ice, and in particular, that in Greenland.
2.25.2008 10:48pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Snark aside, I would think that a cooling of the North Atlantic would result in more ice, not less, and thus negate the effect that you are talking about, at least as far as northern hemisphere ice, and in particular, that in Greenland."

And gas refrigerators freeze water! Huh--that must mean if I put a pot of soup on the stove, I'll wind up with a block of ice!

Here, read the report yourself instead of just flaunting your ignorance. It's just a little paper done up for the Pentagon. It won't bite. You don't even have to believe it. Just make your best attempt to understand that someone with some knowledge of geophysical mechanisms put some thought into it:

http://tinyurl.com/2d5djt
2.25.2008 11:52pm
Randy R. (mail):
You can pretty much grow grapes in most places around the world. It doesn't mean you are producing a well balanced Bordeaux. It might just be slightly above swill, which is what a lot of ancient wine was.

Thanks, Grove. What people fail to understand is that the oceans all have these conveyor belts that move warm water and air around the globe. This isn't a theory, or an idea, and there isn't a 'consensus' about it -- rather, it's an undisputed fact that these belts are responsible for weather conditions around the globe.

It stands to reason that if for any reason they slow down, stop, or reverse, all of which are possible, then we will have quite drastic changes in regional climate, including dramatic increases or decreases in average temperatures in certain places. And we know from the past that they have, and they have been blamed for the mini-ice ages.

But once again, facts aren't as important to believers in Fox News.
2.26.2008 12:29am
Gilbert (mail):
I find the lack of empirical arguments ON BOTH SIDES in this ongoing discussion distressing. For example (donaldk2):

1. Its best-known advocate is Al Gore, surely one of the biggest fakers in Christendom - Ad Hominem

2. Its adherents are suffused with a quasi-religious zeal, ready to term dissenters "deniers" comparable to Holocaust-deniers, and ready also to urge them to "shut your trap." - Ad Hominem

3. The not insignifcant possibility that even if there is in fact GW, A is responsible for little or none of it. - Unsupported postulate

4. Prudential consideration must measure the likelihood of its truth, against the certainty of the economic cataclysm that enforcement of its "remedies" would entail. - Unresponsive

5. And after all that, the futility of it, given that the Chinese and Indians would never in the world submit to these remedies. - It was America that backed out of Kyoto

A note on #5 - This is the hold-out problem, if you pursue it you simply make the case for world government. I prefer to think we can recognize shared obligations of good faith cooperation.
2.26.2008 2:12am
Randy R. (mail):
Worse, the hold out problem is actually wrong. China agrees that global warming is occuring and that they are one of the leading causes of it. That alone puts them further ahead of the US. But even more, they actually have plans to combat it.

For instance, they have allocated several billions of dollars to pursue alternative energy sources, putting their technology ahead of us in some cases. They have planted millions of trees. They have declared a wide swath of land to the north and west of Beijing off limits to develop to stop the encrouching desert. They are requireing all new buildings in Beijing to be 'green buildings.'

Whether China would submit to drastic remedies remains to be seen, but the fact is that they are far more along than the US is. So if you say the US must wait until China gets on board, you've just lost the argument.
2.26.2008 11:20am
Elliot123 (mail):
"It stands to reason that if for any reason they slow down, stop, or reverse, all of which are possible, then we will have quite drastic changes in regional climate, including dramatic increases or decreases in average temperatures in certain places. And we know from the past that they have, and they have been blamed for the mini-ice ages.

But once again, facts aren't as important to believers in Fox News."


I think the Fox folks agree that these currents operate as described. But there is one thing they would like to know. If they changed in the past, what caused them to change? Can we presume it wasn't human produced carbon? If so, what caused the change? And if they changed in the past without human help, can we expect them to continue that pattern?
2.26.2008 3:43pm
Randy R. (mail):
One theory is that the earth tilts slightly on its axis, but that this changes over the eons. A slight change in the tilt would be enough to make the earth warmer or cooler, thereby changing lot of weather patterns. Many scientists believe that this is what cause the big ice ages, with glaciers coming down from Canada as far south as New York and Ohio, for instance.

The last Ice Age ended about 10,000 years ago, which allowed for civilization to develop. No one knows exactly when the next one will occur, but there is a strong liklihood that one will again, based on past cyclical events. However, even the most pessimistic don't anticipate a natural ice age to begin for at least several thousand years from now.

Why rush it along?
2.26.2008 6:19pm
Smokey:
Randy R:
If the Atlantic converyor belt stops...
Allow me to introduce Randy R to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is the cause of the Atlantic conveyor belt. CO2 has nothing to do with it.

But hey, maybe the Second Law of Thermodynamics has been repealed. If so, your living room could easily be 32 degrees at one end, and ninety-five degrees at the other end, for years at a time. Even with the windows open.

See, the conveyor belt is a mechanism to distribute heat from warmer to cooler areas of the globe. It is irresponsible alarmism to claim that a tiny change in CO2 -- which is itself only a tiny component of the atmosphere -- can overturn the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and stop the ocean's conveyor belt. That conjecture is complete lunacy -- or the scientifically illiterate ravings of True Believers with Sociology and English Lit degrees.

Grover:
"Here, read the report yourself instead of just flaunting your ignorance."
OK Grover, me boy, I read your silly "report." That hokum is equivalent to Gore's discredited Inconvenient Truth. There is zero attribution; no indication that the Pentagon ever requested it, or paid for it, or ever saw it -- and it is riddled with inaccuracies. But nice try.


The following quotes are very instructive. And, as everyone can see, the scientific consensus is huge:
"Meteorologists... are almost unanimous in their view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century."
That's a clear scientific consensus, and not one scientist is quoted as being skeptical of the impending 'planetary catastrophe.' The report continues:
"The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard pressed to keep up with it... Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects... The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality... A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale."
So we had better start worrying... Oh, wait. The above 'consensus' quotes are taken from here.

heh.
2.26.2008 6:50pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Why rush it along?"

What is the marginal effect of human activity on the temterature? What is the marginal effect of human activity on the timing of the next change in the currents? When is the next cycle of change in the currents due?
2.26.2008 8:46pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
"There is zero attribution; no indication that the Pentagon ever requested it, or paid for it, or ever saw it..."

The report was prepared for the Department of Defense by Global Business Network, a scenario consultant. From the GBN website:

"This public report, prepared by GBN for the Department of Defense, has been the subject of several news stories. Fortune magazine excerpted the report in its Feb. 9, 2004, issue ('The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare,' by David Stipp). The actual report, titled 'An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security,' was written by Peter Schwartz (GBN chairman) and Doug Randall (co-head of GBN's consulting practice) and is attached here in its PDF version. Contrary to some recent media coverage, the report was not secret, suppressed, or predictive."

"-- and it is riddled with inaccuracies."

Perhaps you could point a few out.

"That's a clear scientific consensus, and not one scientist is quoted as being skeptical of the impending 'planetary catastrophe.'"

Not one scientist or scientific organization in that 1975 Newsweek article is directly quoted as saying the global cooling is inevitable. So what's your point?
2.27.2008 1:05am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"But hey, maybe the Second Law of Thermodynamics has been repealed. If so, your living room could easily be 32 degrees at one end, and ninety-five degrees at the other end, for years at a time. Even with the windows open."

Closed system, and all that.

"See, the conveyor belt is a mechanism to distribute heat from warmer to cooler areas of the globe."

Yes, that's understood, Smokey. The point, as Randy said, is that IF FOR ANY REASON the thermohaline circulation were to shut down, the European continent could see drastic cooling, since thermohaline circulation is considered the major reason for Europe's temperate climate. There is speculation that this could result from global warming, via the mechanisms described in the GBN report, which is why I linked to it. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is beside the point. No one is talking about the cessation of heat exchange. The point is that the specific geophysical processes that contribute to local climate conditions could change due to the effects of global warming.

Richard Seager has written that he believes the effects of thermohaline warming on the European climate have been overstated, and proposes other mechanisms, but his claims have been challenged by other scientists.
2.27.2008 2:49am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Closed system and all that."

Oops, you did mention open windows.
2.27.2008 2:53am
Grover Gardner (mail):
And it's worth emphasizing that the notion of the THC actually "shutting down" or even slowing is very speculative and much debated. I didn't post the link to the GBN report as "proof" of global warming or changes in the THC. My point was that global warming, anthropogenic or otherwise, could have paradoxical effects.

In that respect I owe Bruce an apology. I overreacted to his "snark." In all fairness his question about cooling in the North Atlantic was not unreasonable. I certainly don't know the answer, but what I have read suggests that the cooling, if it occurred, would not be enough to reverse the melting of the ice sheets. Which in turn raises questions about any "ice age" occurring as a direct result of global warming. I'm not committing myself to that, and I'll let Randy duke it out for himself, if need be. :-) But it has been suggested that the THC may have been responsible for the Little Ice Age.

http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/97/4/1339
2.27.2008 4:41am
Smokey:
Grover:
"This public report, prepared by GBN for the Department of Defense, has been the subject of several news stories. Fortune magazine excerpted the report in its Feb. 9, 2004, issue ('The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare,' by David Stipp). The actual report, titled 'An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security,' was written by Peter Schwartz (GBN chairman) and Doug Randall (co-head of GBN's consulting practice) and is attached here in its PDF version. Contrary to some recent media coverage, the report was not secret, suppressed, or predictive."
Anyone can write science fiction and send copies around. The statement above appears to be tap-dancing around the fact that this silly 'report' is nothing but an uninformed, unreferenced opinion, issued by one of the numerous Luddite/Malthusian wacko organizations that do their wild-eyed arm waving over a fabricated 'problem.' Can you provide a reference that the Pentagon acted - in any way - on this 'report?'

It should have been noted [but it wasn't -- was it, Grover?] that the two (2) writers of this report are not climate scientists. They are lobbyists.

Reasonable folks prefer to listen to real scientists, like Ball, Lindzen, Wunsch, Seitz, Dyson, and the numerous other mainstream scientists who question the AGW conjecture, over this special-interest duo with an agenda. As previously linked, over 400 international scientists have gone on record, in writing, to dispute the unproven AGW hypothesis. Where is your god now?

Grover me boy, if you continue to rely on the ravings of pseudo-scientific alarmism like this 'report', it's no wonder that you're so irrationally frightened of the [non-existent] black cat lurking in your dark bedroom. Turn on the lights, and you'll see that there is no cat in the room -- and there is nothing out of the ordinary occurring outside, as we can see here. But if you believe there is, then there is nothing anyone can do to help you. AGW True Believers are beyond help; they are religious converts. Your misguided beliefs trump the rational science that is being discussed here.

This thread specifically asks: Was there a global cooling consensus? I provided a conclusive link from a national news magazine that showing that there certainly was. So aside from saying, "No, nuh-uh, no way," what, exactly have you got to show there wasn't a global cooling consensus? [hint: Grover's got nuthin,' as usual.] That silly "consensus" talk cuts both ways, my scientifically illiterate friend.

Condolences for your irrational fright. You've got your panties all bunched up from speculating that the oceans' conveyor belts will suddenly stop. Ooh, that must be uncomfortable! It's clear from your comment that you lack understanding the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

My advice: quit being so scared of the AGW boogeyman, Grover. There are actual problems in the world that you should be worrying about.

AGW isn't one of them.
2.27.2008 8:02am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"...this silly 'report' is nothing but an uninformed, unreferenced opinion, issued by one of the numerous Luddite/Malthusian wacko organizations that do their wild-eyed arm waving over a fabricated 'problem.'"

GBN is a "Luddite/Malthusian wacko organization"?!? Hardly.

"They are lobbyists."

No they're not. They're futurists. There's an enormous difference.

"Your misguided beliefs trump the rational science that is being discussed here."

I made it pretty clear that the report does not reflect my "beliefs."

"This thread specifically asks: Was there a global cooling consensus?"

No. This thread asks: Was there a global cooling consensus AMONG SCIENTISTS? You have offered no proof whatsoever that this was the case.
2.27.2008 12:14pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Anyone can write science fiction and send copies around."

Yes, but "anyone" didn't. The study was commissioned by the Pentagon's futurist advisor, Andrew Marshall, who heads the internal DOD think tank that is responsible for scoping long-range trends and threats. They were paid $100,000 for the study. This is all a matter of record.

The report deliberately ranges outside the mainstream consensus to present a worst-case scenario. That doesn't mean the science is wrong, or that their conclusions are implausible. GBN is a highly respected consulting firm and wouldn't be in business if their scenarios weren't founded on plausible events. For example, *if* the saline content of the North Atlantic were drastically altered, the THC would also likely be altered in some way that could possibly affect the European climate. This is entirely possible, from a scientific point of view. The THC depends upon the interaction of parts of the ocean that vary in density, which is in turn determined by salinity and temperature. This issue of an altered THC has been explored in several recent studies, the merits of which are being debated as we speak. From what I've read, the global warming factor would have to be several factors higher for such a thing to occur. But the mechanisms of the THC are not in dispute, as far as I know. So in order to understand why someone might claim that global warming could lead to localized cooling, we can look at this report and other recent papers in order to understand why anyone would even make such a conjecture.

You want to see this report as yet another attempt to hoodwink the public into buying AGW. GBN has made it very clear that that is not the purpose of the report. Nor was that my purpose in linking to it.

The only response you have is to say, "I'd rather believe so-and-so" or "Look at al these people who think AGW is bunk." Fine, but that's rather beside the point in this case.
2.27.2008 2:29pm