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« Peer Review | Main | Global Warming – Part 4 »



"GIGO + fear = grant money.

Posted by: DWH"

And that is what Big Oil are doing:

GI: Volcanoes produce more CO2 than humans
GO: Therefore we can't do anything about it
Fear: If we try, we'll all be poor and starving


I agree with the last sentence of your last paragraph. Thank you.


Weather is based on chaos, climate of forcings. It's rather like rolling a rugby ball down a lumpy hill.

Where's the ball going? To the bottom of the hill (climate).

What path will it take? To start with, probably that way, but after that, who knows (weather).

In a similar vein, we know in a 10 million years that pluto will be in the same orbit as it is now. Unfortunately, we don't know which side of the sun it will be.

So climate models may know it will get hotter and dryer in the midwest but can't tell you what the precipitation will be like in June 2100 in St Louis.

Angela S

You've probably done more research in the last few days than most people have in the last year. Both sides are full of "tell me what I want to hear"s.

Me? I'm not 100% sure. I do believe there's a price to pay for all the conveniences we've created that just so happen to emit gasses and pollutants. If someone can say pollution irritates the lungs and causes lung cancer, why can't we admit it can do damage on a larger scale.

How large that scale is, I don't know. But what harm does it cause to try and reduce those things anyway? It might not change things - this may be a typical cycle the earth goes through. But what if it did? What if each person did 1 thing differently - just 1 thing, such as using a different type of light bulb. No, 1 person alone can't affect change in the same vein that 1 person can't make or break an election.

But 1 person plus 1 person plus 1 person, etc ... can change the world. Or so the saying goes.

I fall in the category of ... maybe it won't change things in a huge way, but is that really an excuse to continue to add pollutants to the air and to suck up the earth's limited supply of yummies?

Farmer Beavis

Here's a link, probably too late to change anything.

Has anyone asked the question, 'What do you think the temperature should be? A little warmer, a touch cooler on Thursdays?"

Being broke is no way to stop asteroids or turn off volcanoes.

DL From Heidelberg

1. Is global warming happening? Maybe.
2. Is human activity contributing to it? Maybe.
3. Amount of money it will take to stop a trend that may be happening and might be partially caused by human behavour. All the money that has ever and will ever exist.
4. Chance it will make a difference. Nil.


I think it is obvious that an exponentially increasing world population has polluted the world, and the effects are finally catching up with us. The planet can no longer absorb all the waste because the equilibrium has been broken.

But simultaneously, the availability of non-renewable resources like oil and gas is decreasing exponentially.

Whether or not this will result in social chaos or revolution as we possibly head back to pre-industrialisation remains to be seen.

But one thing is sure: we will be unable to sustain such a wasteful lifestyle because energy resources will soon be unable to keep up with demand.

So quit yer whining!


I make a living modelling how individual companies make money, and these models help the companies make more by allowing them to test decisions. One of the more important inputs to these models is the time horizon they are interested in looking towards, because this strongly influences the impact of the large, low frequency events which will, now and then, cause havoc, such as a serious rail crash or an explosion at an oil depot. Complicated models make most sense to the layman when the outputs are long-term averages. If you don’t accept the long-term nature then you need a strong understanding of statistics to be able to make anything useful from the outputs – all because of those terribly important but very infrequent events which will make models look like they are full of crap. And my models are fly-crap compared to climate models which have to consider the odd asteroid or super volcano.


Some of these arguements are actually making sense...want more general nonsense in the 'general nonsense' section :-(



"But the IPCC have declared with 90% certainty that human beings have been mostly responsible for the temperature rise since pre-industrial times."

What does that even mean? That if i get 10 copies of earth. That in 9 of them the warming was due to man and the other one is 100% natural? That if i get 10 copies of earth only 9 would be warming at all. Its not a scientific statement. And most scientist think that at least some of the warming is natural. (See the IPCC report you quoted)

And no, scientist don't do all the things you think they do. There are lots and lots of uncertinaties... But that does not fit the current political agenda, eps of the UN.

It should also be noted that generally p values are set to 0.05 or less ie 95% change with some hypthosis test. Also you have to reject the null. We can't reject the null. So is substandardnd even in that regard.


"Both sides argue very eloquently. However, I keep going back to the fact that we know that there have been ice ages in the past and that we aren't having one now. Thus, we know that the tempature of the Earth is cyclical. What's the big deal?"

The big deal is that ice ages don't happen spontaneously, they have a cause. Mostly the cause is atmospheric CO2.

In the past the level of CO2 in the air was changed by sudden spurts of plant growth, stuff like that (this is why coal is found in distinct layers).

In the present, humans can have great influence on the level of atmospheric CO2. Before you naysay, remember that the air is only 20 miles thick. That's not much, we can *definitely* change its composition.


What I fail to understand is why the climate extremists don't attempt to bridge the gap to the republicans by getting them on board with oil conservation. If you pull the right (in both senses of the word) levers, such as:
- Oil is enriching muslims and causing war
- Oil is central to our way of life and needs to be preserved for your kids
- A healthy lifestyle requires less pollution
- Jesus said love your neighbour as yourself and that means not causing killings
- "What would Jesus Drive?" was fad of the week for a while.

If they really wanted to change the world, they would connect those rational reasons with the rednecks / republicans. Because they don't do that connection, I assume they don't really want to fix the problem. Or if they do really want to fix it, they aren't prepared to build bridges to do so.

Maybe they are more interested in proving their superiority than solving the problem.


I have worked with some of these models. So what do you want to predict? name it, we can predict it. Oh even better, after the fact I can explain why i was wrong and why you should still trust my predictions.

The models are SO approximate at this point in time and we have close to ZERO evidance that we can predict a dam thing (matching past climate with a model with more free parameters than NZ has sheep is called OVERFITTING). Its still science, but folk don't mention "sensitivity" for a reason. Its not hot enough for you, fix it with a forcing term.

If you don't belive me, check out the ocean models they use and how it couples to the atmosphear. Or how clouds affect albedo..... Aproximate Aproximate Aproximate.....But its "accurate", trust me


I see two things as quite clear:

a) Historically, earth temperature is linked to CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

b) Humans are currently dumping billions of tons of it into the air.

Both these things are very easy to measure and very quantifiable.

There's wiggle room about exactly how bad the consequences are going to be, but only a fool would say there's zero consequences.

Now, given that a few simple changes in human habits could drastically reduce the amount of CO2, for very little cost (all this "trillions" is bullshit) I think it's stupid not to try.

Let's have diesel SUVs, efficient fridges and lightbulbs mandated by law - those three things together would actually *save* people money and are about 25% of the problem.

Next, some minimum standards for building construction - wall/roof insulation, decent windows, that sort of thing. This puts up the price of a building by a few percent but in the long term it saves you money.

Next, nuclear power. People need to learn that not all reactors are equal to the one built at Chernobyl in the 1960s (seriously - a shitty reactor without even a concrete bunker around it????*) Nuclear power is far cleaner and safer than coal, oil or any of the other power sources in use today.

There, that's most of our CO2 emissions killed and looking long term it's not even clear we've spent any extra money or not.

If you want a debate, let's debate why these things aren't being done.

{*} For the record, the main reason these cheap, shitty reactors were built in such a hurry in the 50s and 60s was the arms race. One of the byproducts of cheap, shitty reactors is nuclear bombs.

These days we can make reactors without the "bomb" requirement, and that's a big difference.


For me, the most convincing argument that continuing to burn fossil fuels is dumb is presented in an Australian documentary called Crude.

In summary:

Usually organic matter is broken down straight away and returned to our planet's biosphere in a continuing cycle. 160 million years ago there was a lot more carbon in the atmosphere than at other times, this caused plants and especially oceanic plankton to accelerate their growth to the point they covered whole oceans. Ocean currents are driven by the temperature difference between the equator and the polar regions. The warmth from the increased carbon also caused the polar ice caps to melt and stopped these currents.

The still oceans full of huge amounts of plankton turned stagnant ("anoxic"). The stagnant oceans trapped increasing amounts of undigested carbon in sediment. After a while enough carbon was trapped that the planet cooled and ice caps reformed and oceans return to a more normal cycle.

In certain conditions this sediment can turn into crude oil. So far we have burnt about half of the known available crude oil in less than 150 years.

From this:

1. There is historical evidence that in past epochs the Earth has much more atmospheric carbon than it has today.

2. Much of the fuel we use today was created from these past epochs of global warming and our entire way of life commits us to put as much of it back into the atmosphere as we can find.

I just hope we can't find enough to trigger the next global warming epoch.

Lake Kubilius

"I’m bothered by the fact that the people trying to save me are feeding me nuggets of potentially useful facts buried in huge loads of what looks and smells like bullshit."

That's a valid and reasonable complaint. Those sorts of thoughts used to bother me much more than they do now. But I'm not nearly so bothered these days because of one other point of view that I came up with on my own:

If it weren't for the people who can sculpt that "bullshit" into (astonishingly) effective "carrots on a stick," society would never do very much. Bullshit makes for great leadership, sad as that may be. The leadership does not usually seem to have much to do with what is eventually described as real progress, though it may make an effort to take credit.

Actual progress is usually made by a relatively small handful of people who have a clever knack for filtering out the "nuggets" from the "bullshit." These people rarely clamor for too much attention, because they did not become what they are by thinking it was a good idea to pick fights with people elbow-deep in the stuff.

Here's a question for you. Do you know any research scientists at the head of their fields? Do you know any who are at the head of controvertial fields? My life puts me in the middle of a lot of them, and they all have developed the exact same technique of dealing with unexpected media interviews. It does not involve making a lot of noise.


Scott, did you read the site linked from your link as to when the models have "predicted the future"? The original model predicted three different increasing temperature trends. The actual earth has continued on an increasing trend and one of them came with in a few tenths of a degree per decade. That's not prediction. The model couldn't predict any of the underlying data correctly (e.g. any of the global temps for the intermediate years, or the 1st derivative of temperature, or certainly not any locally useful temperature/cimate data), so the result is meaningless.


"For the record, I think it’s entirely possible that human activity is warming the earth, we can predict its consequences, and those consequences are dire. I just think that case hasn’t been made to my personal satisfaction. I’m bothered by the fact that the people trying to save me are feeding me nuggets of potentially useful facts buried in huge loads of what looks and smells like bullshit." - Scott

Same here. Plus, I'm aghast that forcing of the "human influenced GW problem" has an effect that other big problems are getting overlooked, as I have said before:

- overpopulation
- light pollution

and to add to that short list:

- faith and religion. As a matter of fact, I think that is the main problem, since it robs people of common sense and critical thinking which would help them solve all other problems.


So...though I do believe globabl warming is happening, and I do believe we are the major cause of it, I also believe that we have a very limited grasp of what is really going on and what the most important factors in globabl warming are. As most of the responses read along the lines of: "Yeah, the models might not be highly accurate, but the general trend is there and we need to act now!" I question what actions we can actually take without knowing what the hell is going on in the first place. This is my biggest problem with the global warming debate at this point. We don't know how to fix this problem because we really don't know what the biggest problem is. Right now, most evidence suggests that high CO2 levels is the major factor, but how do we go about correcting that? Do we need to just reduce emissions or do we need to find methods for reducing the levels already in the atmosphere. I mean, come on people, there is no way to know how to fix the problem with our current understanding so instead of standing around with our collective thumbs up our asses bickering about it we need to find a way to remove political influence as much as possible and get real research done 15 years ago so that maybe, just maybe we might actually have a chance to fix this thing. Cause, guess what, if the models showing that we're already going to undergo massive climate change are accurate, it's already too late folks and we might as well enjoy fossil fuels till they run out.


How accurate are the computer models being used? How trustworthy is the IPCC? Have a read here:

Big S

Hi Scott,

Not sure if you ever have read a financial market commentator called Dennis Gartman, but he has said a lot about global warming, which is quite insightful and not too far away from your view point and which i agree with.

The 1st point is that everything nowadays is attributed to global warming, whether it is too cold, too warm, too wet or too dry. He also asserts that despite all the evidence that glaciers and the poles are melting, the sea level has not actually risen a jot yet.

The 2nd point is that is global warming actually occurring. Throughout history the earth has warmed and cooled, without any bad effect. Its certainly worth curbing emissions, and being environmentally friendly, but its not worth of the hysteria that is currently being generated. Along with this point is that if you look at the leading causes of carbon dioxide release, mankinds contribution is minute.

The 3rd point is that the media and mankind need an issue to focus on at any one point. Back in the 1970's the world was actually worried about Global Cooling. Other hysterias that you have been in the news in the last few decades include - mass hysteria about acid rain, mass vegetarianism and the extinction of meat eating, concern about nuclear power stations etc. etc. And probably many others. The point is that every so often the world needs something to get its teeth into. This time its Global Warming.

The 4th point, as you also raised, is whether global warming is a bad thing. Mankind prospers more in warmer climates than in cooler climates. There are more living in the equator than in the northern climates. And the warmer weather will heat up a larger land mass, including Russia and Canada, which will allow for more food production further north, which will arguably trap more greenhouse gases. The downside is that this could make Russia the breadbasket of the world. The upside is that it could lead to the world becoming even more prosperous than it already is.

The various points are that it is certainly good to curb emissions, and be more environmental, resources are only finite after all, but that the mass hysteria pushed by the few and the curbs to economic growth that the measures to be introduced will cause, are not worth it.



as far as I know computer models are very successfully used in the stock markets by
former math MIT teacher James Simons and his hedge fund Renaissance Technologies. Now 64th richest person in the USA . Earned an estimated $1.7 billion in 2006 and $1.5 billion in 2005. Of course if he would take all your money at once, people would probably go and ask him how he did it. Limiting yourself to a billion or 2 in personal income a year seems like a smart move.

Angry T.G.

[I am exhilarated that global warming is finally coming to Norway. Maybe we'll even be able to go to the beach without wearing a sweater. Posted by: Janis]

One think is for sure, nobody truly knows what the future will bring us locally with all this climate change. Maybe you will be on more deep ice :P, but, aren't you the ones who think 15º is really hot and lets go bath on the sea?

We have a profound effect on local climate as it is bounded to the landscape and vegetation, especially on some areas, and our intervention, since historic times, has lead to harsher conditions, i don't think many without personal interests would argue againts that. In global scale there is quite an argument of the human made contribution to warming, but let it be only a 20% i think is much, but worst, is the caos we are bringing to the local climates and we are disrupting the mecanisms of compensation (vegetation mainly). How hard is to accept that? Again I say that you americans are screwing a lot around, and all this climate change "awaraness" you speak about loudly is bullshit as you really don't do a thing to reduce emissions but just undermine global efforts. Your environment measures have nothing to do with climate change or world health but with your own crap at home, you heard about pollution in LA and other california cities? isn't california the most enviroment sensible state? (lol) Aren't in there with quite a new scale problem with wildfires? Welcome to the mediterranian, here we had thousands of years of screwing it, but your are catching pretty quick.
So please, stop talking like that, we know you would do whatever s**t you want, but please don't insult the world and pretend to do otherwise.

Scruffy Dan

If you want facts and no (or at least little) bullshit don't rely on the media to cover scientific issues, stick to scientific journals. If you want to read about the limitations and uncertainties with climate models reed the journal articles where they are discussed. The model creators usually go to great lengths to discuss the models assumptions and limitations.

Avi Bernshaw

"Remember Y2K disasters? The consensus of almost the entire scientific community, political community and business community was that major disasters were imminent and unavoidable. The U.S. government spent over $50 million on a "Y2K Preparedness Center" Businesses spent billions to "fix" Y2K, when in fact there never was any threat of disaster whatsoever. If the problem had been anywhere near the size the pundits were claiming, there would have been at least ONE disaster. But not one. Nada. Nothing."

Geoffrey, my uncle was one of those boffins who helped "fix" Y2K here in Australia.
Admittedly, it was rather overblown, with many people who had no idea professing to be experts. Planes didn't fall out of the sky, and no nuclear missiles launched themselves...
The only REAL looming disaster was in the financial sector, of which there would have been a serious shit storm if it hadn't been for the billions spent to fix it. Shitstorms like the bank insisting you don't open your account with them for another 70 years... "Hey, look at all this money that's now ours because these accounts don't exist!" Might've been good for those mortgaged to the hilt, but it would have buggered the economy something shocking...

The point of this is that certainly some of the effects of Global Warming have been exaggerated, just like Y2K. However there are still plenty of problems with climate change that will screw us over BIG TIME if we don't fix them.
Considering we're not entirely sure which of those problems it will be, from rising oceans to desertification of continents or massive algae blooms killing off fish stocks, wouldn't the smart solution be to hedge our bets and try to fix all of them?

Or for the more paranoid in the U.S.A., use more renewable electricity and get an electric car so you can simply stop using fossil fuels... because that oil money goes to terrorists like Iran *cough*

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