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xBRIANx's avatar

What do you think about the hacked e-mails/documents that have allegedly proven that global warming is overstated and human influence on the environment is overstated?

Asked by xBRIANx (237 points ) November 23rd, 2009

You can download 61MBs of files – including e-mail and documents – that the hacker took from the UK’s leading climate research center or read CNN’s article about this discussion. What do you all think? Have we been led to believe all along that humans have been contributing to global warming?

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46 Answers

grumpyfish's avatar

Last I heard (please correct if wrong) the data research center verified that documents were stolen, but did not authenticate the documents that have been released. (Although from the CNN article, it sounds as those certain statements are being authenticated by their authors, although with much “please read this paper” statements)

The problem I think is that (1) Your question is not what these documents show, and (2) They are taking a decade’s worth of e-mails without context, and without the published research that they are referring to, don’t necessarily make sense.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

I agree with @grumpyfish. Any statements taken out of context can be made to indicate the exact opposite.

John6273's avatar

I think the hacked documents prove nothing. As Yetanotheruser pointed out, any statements taken out of context can be made to indicate the exact opposite. This also applies to documents.

Me, I just need to look at the shrinkage of the ice in the Arctic and Antarctic regions to know that global warming is a fact. The speed and timing which it is occuring so strongly indicates human involvement that no other explanation is remotely likely.

rooeytoo's avatar

There are many scientists who espouse the theory that the climatic changes we are experiencing are not caused by humanity.

But Al Gore should know and he wouldn’t lie (even if he does have a book to sell)?

Critter38's avatar

When you consider the efforts involved in going through that much stolen text, I can only imagine the wankers responsbile were extremely disappointed at how few sentences they could take out of context to support their climate change denial/delay agenda.

The fact remains that this issue is a scentific one and has been well adn truely played out in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. In the arena of science the jury is as in as it can be, the climate is warming and the best accumualtive evidence we have is that human greenhouse gas emissions are the primary culprit.

There is simply no convincing scientific evidence to the contrary, so the delayers are forced to steal emails and hope their tepid findings are sufficient to muddy the public waters. Unfortunately, it works, as the general public is sufficiently ignorant of the weight of scientific evidence for climate change (let alone how the scientific process works) to be swayed by such misinformation and inuendo.

@rooeytoo espouse yes, publish no. Thanks for the timely example of exactly what I mean.

dpworkin's avatar

All that material shows is the ordinary way in which scientists correspond and compete with one another. No one serious doubts that there is active climate change caused by human activity, and that, for now, it’s getting worse. The rest is just inside baseball, and fodder for deniers and conspiracy freaks, but they have been left behind anyway.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Reducing waste, conserving energy and cleaning up pollution still sound like good ideas.

rooeytoo's avatar

There have glaciers and melts since the beginning of time. They were occurring long before the earth was so densely populated with people and their pollution.

Before someone sailed around the world, the scientists of the day espoused, published and swore the earth was flat.

As @The_Compassionate_Heretic says, reducing waste is a good idea in any scenario but I have not yet been convinced to join either the black or the white crowd in the absolute blame game.

Better to keep an open mind. There are big bucks involved which always makes me suspicious.

fireinthepriory's avatar

Oy… Ok. The documents really don’t prove that global warming (or as it is technically called, climate change) or that the human influence on climate change is overstated. They don’t even hint that. They do call people who don’t think humans are contributing to climate change (or that don’t think that climate change is occurring at all) “idiots” and other sundry insults, which, you know, isn’t really fair as these people are very educated and they’re talking about people who aren’t. But it’s frustrating to commit your life to work that is supposed to be helping humanity yet is met with such resistance and disbelief. I don’t blame them for being a little testy.

I have seen many lectures on the matter of climate change and human impact. If you don’t think it’s “real,” then man, you haven’t seen or truly understood the data. The normal pattern of the earth’s climate does include periods of dramatic (well, dramatic over thousands of years) heating and cooling, but looking at the data, humans are undoubtedly causing a drastic (as in, tens of years) increase in the earth’s temperature. The data is so dire that honestly I feel extremely overwhelmed by it, and I am unsure if we could return the climate to its natural pattern even if every human on earth was utterly convinced of “global warming” and 100% behind trying to reverse our effects. Unfortunately we’ve now reached the point of no return in terms of the ice caps melting completely. When that happens the gulf stream will halt, and the gulf stream controls the weather patterns over the entire planet. Who knows what will happen at that point. But if you don’t want to believe it, then don’t. We’re probably screwed either way. :)

dpworkin's avatar

Thanks, @fireinthepriory, that was quite eloquent and said what I intended to say much better than the way in which I said it.

rooeytoo's avatar

Okay I take your word for it, but can you tell me please the date we all going to die, I want to max out my credit cards right before. :-)

RedPowerLady's avatar

Another agreement with @grumpyfish

Also we still need to save the environment regardless of anyone’s opinion on global warming.
See @The_Compassionate_Heretic

filmfann's avatar

Devils advocate: Do the emails reveal how scientists are melting the polar Ice Cap?

fireinthepriory's avatar

@filmfann Ok, I mean, I was up there with my hairdryer going full blast, pointed at the polar ice caps earlier today… Ok, just kidding. I was wondering what you’re talking about, though, I’ve never heard of any such thing, are you talking about something specific you could link to?

filmfann's avatar

@fireinthepriory The Earth seems to be warming. The polar ice cap is melting. These are facts.
The question is what is causing it.
The scientists have been picking and choosing the data they want to use to show it is man made, rather than the normal warming and cooling of the planet.
I am saying that while the scientists are wrong in faking their data on what causes it, you cannot dispute that it is happening, even if their data is wrong.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@filmfann I mean, the data that I personally have seen is the sort that can’t really be picked and chosen. Things like yearly CO2 levels going back thousands of years, including the normal (which are radical, over thousands of years) fluctuations that take us in and out of ice ages. And the abnormal fluctuations are correlated with industrialization.

But yes, it is possible that they just typed in those numbers into their excel spreadsheets and it’s a huge hoax and their measuring devices are really just cardboard boxed covered in tin foil. Anything is possible! :)

filmfann's avatar

The thing is, we cannot say its man-made and be positive. The Earth is hundreds of millions of years old. How do we know this isn’t just a normal cycle? What caused the Ice Age to end? It wasn’t pollution.
Don’t misunderstand me. I feel lowering our greenhouse gases is a good thing. Decrease our carbon footprints, stop polluting the planet. I was a Boy-Scout, and know you need to keep your campsite clean.
I’m just not positive we are causing this, and the scientists have proven they can’t be trusted.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@filmfann I don’t implicitly trust anyone, let alone scientists!! However, science has a lot of checks and balances built into the system of how it works as a whole. They’re hard to see from the outside. I’d say it’s entirely possible to get a few bad studies published in reputable journals. A collaborative body of work as large as all the studies that say human activity is a huge factor in climate change? I don’t think that could be faked.

I wish I could find the graphs that I’m talking about!! They go way beyond Mauna Loa. I study evolution, not climate change… all I can say is that I am very hard to convince, but I am convinced. Funnily enough the biggest problem in terms of CO2 levels is our beef farming. If only we could keep the cows from farting so damn much, we’d be in much better straights, environmentally!

filmfann's avatar

@fireinthepriory The methane the cows emit could be a valuable energy source, so the solution might be somehow capturing it, rather than stopping them.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@filmfann I like the way you think. If we could do that, we’d be golden. :D

Critter38's avatar

Several of you are making the same basic mistake of arguing that because a pattern can have a natural cause, it can’t have a man made cause. So by the same logic because forest fires occurred for millions of years before we evolved, forest fires can’t be started by humans. It’s basic flawed reasoning.

We can calculate the contribution of greenhouse gases to the Earth’s climate. The Earth would be approximately 33 degrees C cooler if we removed the approximately 1% of the Earth’s atmosphere that consists of GHG.

We have increased (for example) one of the major GHG by approximately 30% above it’s pre-industrial levels (CO2). This has a direct and measurable impact on the % of the Sun’s radiation that is captured by the atmosphere and C02 alone has increased the net radiative forcing by approximately 1.7 W/m2 since 1750.

We can then calculate the net contribution of other GHGs, our impacts on Ozone, Stratospheric water vapour from methane, surface albedo, total aerosol impacts (which provide a net cooling), linear contrails from aircraft, changes to solar irradiance, to get a total anthropogenic net radiative forcing.

And you know what, this has been done with accompanying error bars and the equations work out with sufficient confidence to say that there is no natural process that is causing the net increase in recent heating of the Earth, because if there was, that would then have to be additive to the contribution from us.

As such we would then be left trying to explain why the Earth wasn’t heating to a greater extent. Got it?!

To put it another way no one can account for changes in the Earth’s climate over the last century if they leave out human contributions from GHG emissions. Or another way, the overwhelming evidence is that the majority of warming since 1950 has been caused by us. Nothing else. And the info is freely available from the IPCC and any scientist can challenge it and if they were right they would surely win the nobel prize and I have a vague feeling that there are lots of vested interests which would happily fund their work. See page 39.

And yet repeatedly in the media, on sites like this, from ignorant politicians, and “scientists” whose claims just happen to lack what makes a scientist a scientist…ie verifiable scientific evidence to support their claims (which is why they fail at the peer-review process and concentrate on influencing those that are uninformed), we repeatedly get assertive ignorance.

Case in point…
@filmfann “The scientists have been picking and choosing the data they want to use to show it is man made, rather than the normal warming and cooling of the planet.”

“I am saying that while the scientists are wrong in faking their data on what causes it..”

That is utter baseless nonsense. May I suggest you stop for 1 second and ask yourself what would actually have to be the case if this was true.

For this to be the case (as you claim it is), then there must be conclusive evidence available that 1) the increased concentrations of GHG that we have emitted into the atmosphere are not in fact GHG gases as we know them, do not in fact increase radiative forcing, and all the independent calculations conducted by multiple independent scientists in diverse institutions around the world are completely wrong (despite repeatedly withstanding the open scrutiny of the modern scientific process) and GHGs don’t heat as much as we think they do and yet not a single scientist has been able to redo the calculation to demonstrate this error for others to confirm (which begs the question how you know this). But wait there’s more…and 2) despite our knowledge of Milkanovitch cyles, ocean current contributions, changes to solar Irradiation, volcanic contributions, etc and all their respective contributions to the Earth’s climate, there is some as yet other unaccounted for natural process that has an effect on global temperatures that just happens to nicely overlap with the exact effect you’d predict if you pumped gigatons of GHG into the atmosphere….and but wait there’s more…and not one scientist has bothered to inform us of this other miraculous natural process.

So how do you know that the scientists are “faking their data”. Because you read it online or heard someone say it somewhere and therefore it must be true.

Now I don’t know how your brain sorts crap from truth. But I sincerely hope that at this stage there is some neuron that isn’t firing so assertively and just maybe you’ll acknowledge that you don’t know what your talking about. That your claims are pure conspiracy and you don’t have a clue about the scientific process. Which results in making you unskilled in judging the veracity of scientific claims.

Then perhaps you might hesitate before accusing literally thousands and thousands of people of fraud who are meanwhile working to try to avert as much as possible a man made disaster that our collective consumption and ignorance is helping to propel us towards.

rooeytoo's avatar

If you google anti co2 theory, you will get about 5 million hits, this is just of the them.

I am not a scientist but I have read the theories of both sides and I personally don’t know which to believe. History says there have always been dramatic climate shifts. Supposedly they are still occurring on planets that have no man made co2 emissions.

It seems to me the jury is still out. There is a nay for every yea.

dpworkin's avatar

Yeah. One jury is constituted of teams of well-known, highly educated scientists distributed world wide, and one jury is made up Creationists, Oil companies and their paid minions, global industry, the former USSR and right-wing Republicans. I just can’t decide which jury to trust.

rooeytoo's avatar

So none of the 5 million have any legitimacy but all of the others do. Wow those are amazing odds.

I think it is important to know who foots the bills for the research of the well-known highly educated scientists, isn’t it possible they too have a vested interest, hidden or otherwise.

I’m just not ready to join the chicken little brigade quite yet.

Critter38's avatar

I sympathize rooeytoo. I too would be baffled if my source of information was the general media.

All I can tell you is that this question is a scientific one. Scientific questions are answered in the peer-reviewed literature where they can be challenged by other experts in the field, not in the general media.

Try not to confuse the screaming crowds with what went on in the ring.

There is no competing theory for recent climate change that is left standing. Nada. Beside, as I suggest above any competing theory would also have to account for the inevitable climate change associated with pumping excess GHGs into the atmosphere.

Neither the physics, biochemistry, maths or logic supports an opposing case. Which is why the vested interests and reality challenged have flooded the non-peer reviewed media with unsubstantiated and misleading crap. To keep the general public like yourself confused, thereby helping to delay the inevitably necessary political action.

Read the IPCC reports. There is even a summary for policy makers who may not be climate literate.

Read the statements from the World’s National Academy of Sciences. If there is a true scientific debate, why hasn’t the leading academy of scientists noticed it?

And if you wish to read a blog, read one that provides information that is entirely consistent with the best available scientific evidence.

And if you want to understand the prevalent fallacies and their scientific rebuttal then read the following.

Then you can get really up to date and read the monthly reports from the world leading science journal, Nature.

They are available here. Click in the archives for past editions.

“So none of the 5 million have any legitimacy but all of the others do.”

No. None of the online posts are by default even remotely relevant, unless they are peer-reviewed scientific articles which have withstood scrutiny from the scientific community, and have had their findings replicated by independent researchers. And it is the collective weight of those articles that say that 10 billion arguments from ten trillion deniers/delayers don’t matter squat unless they can put some scientific evidence on the table and have it withstand scrutiny by experts in the respective field.

“I think it is important to know who foots the bills for the research of the well-known highly educated scientists, isn’t it possible they too have a vested interest, hidden or otherwise.”

Which is exactly the problem. At the basis of all your objection is an unsubstantiated ass backwards global conspiracy theory.

Do you honestly think a university academic would find greater financial backing in todays world concluding that we need to burn less fossil fuels or we are free to burn as much as we like? Let alone you are now back to square one having to explain how all the world’s scientific journals, the overwhelming majority of publishing climate scientists, science academies, world governments, etc have kept this all a secret and where all the gazillions of dollars comes from to motivate such a conspiracy….How much money do think there is in putting up windfarms? Oh and a little hint…how much fame and fortune would come to the scientist who betrayed this massive conspiracy? Ever heard of game theory?

“I’m just not ready to join the chicken little brigade quite yet.”

But you are completely comfortable misrepresenting other people’s positions and propagating unsubstantiated nonsense? Don’t kid yourself. You are taking a position and that position is unjustifiable.

Now you are free to ignore me. I after all am just an anonymous responder. Or you could decide that this is an important issue and it might serve you well to think for even just a little bit about whether your current position actually makes any sense. Let alone, perhaps spend some time reading some science. See links above.

You said previously that you were “open minded”. By my definition that means being open to changing your position in light of new evidence. Here’s your chance.

filmfann's avatar

@Critter38 You need to flame off. I didn’t say a lot that you attribute to me. I believe I was very clear on saying that it COULD be man made, or the natural cycle of the planet. Your attacks on things I didn’t say don’t make me think you are right. When you attack me for what I didn’t say, you are doing what those scientists are accused of doing, and that hurts your argument, as it did theirs.

dpworkin's avatar

@filmfann I didn’t notice any attack. All I saw was useful information. Did you even read the material at any of the links? @Critter38 provided you with substantial reasons to alter your point of view, and you declined even to entertain them. In my mind, that makes your credibility suffer. Why should I believe that you are honestly open to being convinced?

Critter38's avatar

@filmfann “The scientists have been picking and choosing the data they want to use to show it is man made, rather than the normal warming and cooling of the planet.”

“I am saying that while the scientists are wrong in faking their data on what causes it..”

Re-read these sentences of yours and ask yourself whether you’re really in any position to be challenging my tone.

Now perhaps when you wrote “faking their data”, you somehow don’t really mean “faking their data”? Is that what you’re trying to say?

If so, glad to hear it.

But don’t play the “above the fray” card after that initial post, and don’t side-step the issue with false claims that I misrepresented your position.

John6273's avatar

I think you all may want to check where the scientists get their paychecks. As far as I know, right now only the scientists paid by oil, gas and coal companies are claiming that man has no influence in the current weather state of affairs. There seems to me to be too much evidence that humanity is directly involved with the increased tempratures for anyone who dispassionately looks at the evidence to come to any other conclusion. And it is evident that it is due not to anything we are doing specifically, but simply by the numbers we have in this world.

That said, I do not think we need to “jump on the Chicken Little Bandwagon.” Circumstances are now upon us that dictate we will be forced to reduce carbon emissions. With Peak Oil upon us, Peak Gas upon us, and Peak Coal almost here, we will have no other choice but to build and depend on renewables. This will, of course, have the added benefit of reducing carbon emissions over the next hundred years, lowering the average worldwide temperature down to where it should be in the long temperature cycles and return to the cooling period we were in until the sheer number of human beings exploded in the 20th century, causing the increase in global tempratures.

I think the upcoming Copenhagen Conference will produce some remarkable results. They may be doing it for economic reasons, but the temperature will benefit from the conference.

filmfann's avatar

@Critter38 @pdworkin After reviewing my posts, and those opposing, I find myself completely comfortable with my position. I am not saying global warming is not man made. I am saying all the facts aren’t in.

dpworkin's avatar

There will never be a time in the history of the universe when all the facts are in. The standard is “the preponderance of the evidence” which means sufficient facts are in.

filmfann's avatar

@pdworkin Why should I believe that you are honestly open to being convinced?

Fortunately, I don’t have to make you believe anything.

dpworkin's avatar

@filmfann On this subject perhaps the best thing for you and I to do is to agree to disagree, and let it go. I hope that’s OK with you; I will not be addressing you on this topic further.

filmfann's avatar

@pdworkin Hey! I thought you called quit-sies!
Once again, I don’t despute what is happening. I just question what the cause is.
And your link doesn’t work.

dpworkin's avatar

That was not directed to anyone specifically, I just thought it was interesting. Thanks for letting me know about the broken link. (Link works fine for me.)

Critter38's avatar

@pdworkin Thanks for the link, (it works fine).

Not sure if you’ve seen this, its a fascinating and brief talk on the extensive history of climate science.

Critter38's avatar

@filmfann “After reviewing my posts, and those opposing, ...

Yes, but did you read even one of the links provided? If so, what did you think?

”...I find myself completely comfortable with my position.”

Young Earth creationists are also comfortable with their position. It doesn’t say much. I can only conclude that you, like YECs, are comfortable retaining positions which are entirely inconsistent with the weight of scientific evidence.

If so, fair enough. I can’t argue with that worldview.

“I am saying all the facts aren’t in.”

The facts are more than in, and easily to an extent sufficient to motivate action (which is rather self evident from the positions increasingly taken by the world’s governments over recent years). Similar delay tactics of arguing for more data were used by the smoking lobby to stall action against their products. Knowledge is never complete. This is a common red herring, as also pointed out by pdworkin.

Nevertheless, here’s a question. What evidence is currently lacking that if provided would convince you that the majority of warming observed over the last 50 years was due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions?

“I just question what the cause is.”

There is nothing reasonable or ‘open minded’ when it comes to climate change in “just” questioning what the cause is. Because the whole issue is entirely centred on the role of anthropogenic emissions, and what the the long term prognosis is if we continue emissions at current levels.

To sit on the fence is to align yourself with non-action. That is taking a position. One which, as part of the collective whole of society, has significant repercussions for the extent of action that elected governments are likely to take.

If you are saying that you don’t know enough to have an opinion, okay, so read the science. But don’t externalise your lack of understanding and suggest the evidence isn’t there when it is.

And no I don’t mean to target you personally. Its just that your views are all too common and the issue is too important not to be discussed, and yes, challenged.

@John6273 You’re mistaken. The peaks you are referring to are not nearly close or encompassing enough for us to rely on them to avert severe climate change. There is just too much of the stuff, which tehreby shifts the issue to the rate of their combustion.

We need to at least halve current GHG emissions for natural sinks to offset increases in atmospheric composition of GHGs. To do so steadily, and to reach the goal of hopefully not exceeding 2 degrees C of warming (this is a messy area, but it makes the point clearly enough), the World’s government are aiming to plateau emissions within hopefully the next 7 years (ASAP…it makes the drop less precipitous), drop global emissions by 20–30% by 2020, and 50–80% by 2050.

Current reserve estimates well exceed any expectation that we can rely on their limits in supply to do that rate of work for us. Furthermore, any such expectation ignores the issue of tipping points in natural carbon stocks (methane hydrates, boreal peatlands, forest soils) which can override human actions if thresholds are exceeded by continuing on our current course (ie these are feedback loops, where sufficient anthropogenic heating causes more heating form degassing of natural carbon stocks).

So, unfortunately no. Nature provided us with more than enough rope.

filmfann's avatar

@Critter38 Your comments preceeded by *****

*****Yes, but did you read even one of the links provided? If so, what did you think?

Yes, I looked at many of the links (not all).
I remember first reading about theories of Greenhouse effect about 30 years ago. I found it fascinating. I followed the science as it was explored. I originally supported the idea, but later began questioning the theory.

*****Young Earth creationists are also comfortable with their position. It doesn’t say much. I can only conclude that you, like YECs, are comfortable retaining positions which are entirely inconsistent with the weight of scientific evidence.

Wow, you are lumping me with a group I have nothing to do with, and I disagree about the weight of the evidence.

*****The facts are more than in,

The Earth is probably 6 billion years old. We are judging it on what is probably not more than 250 years of temperature readings. That is like one day in it’s life, maybe shorter.

*****Nevertheless, here’s a question. What evidence is currently lacking that if provided would convince you that the majority of warming observed over the last 50 years was due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions?

An increased data-field.

*****There is nothing reasonable or ‘open minded’ when it comes to climate change in “just” questioning what the cause is. Because the whole issue is entirely centred on the role of anthropogenic emissions, and what the the long term prognosis is if we continue emissions at current levels.

So, your argument here is you cannot possibly be wrong. I am not so sure.
You think I am open minded? Perhaps. Perhaps you are too closed minded.

*****To sit on the fence is to align yourself with non-action.

Not true in the least. I have already said that I support cleaning up the polluting sites, and trying to control the damage we leave on the planet. I think that is just good manners. I am just not locked into the belief that such action will reverse Planetary Warming.

*****If you are saying that you don’t know enough to have an opinion, okay, so read the science. But don’t externalise your lack of understanding and suggest the evidence isn’t there when it is.

The planet has gone thru a lot of weather changes. We have had ice ages. Why did those end? Was it car or factory emmisions? We didn’t have cars or factories then.
Is pollution a problem we should address immediately? Of course.
Will the end of pollution stop global warming? Who knows? But of course it is worth attempting.
One last note: this question discussed Scientists purposely diminishing and tweaking figures to make their callculations seem indesputable. Why would they do that? Don’t the figures show they are right?
The Earth is a remarkable place. I think it warms and cools like we breathe.
Remember the very intelligent words written not so long ago:

“History shows again and again how Nature points out the folly of man.”


Critter38's avatar

So the whole issue for your revolves around whether the science is ”in” or not.

So let’s imagine you’re in charge of the planet. You’ve got multiple climate scientists coming to you saying that continuing to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is dangerous and has to be limited. They provide you with lots of peer-reviewed scientific papers, but to be honest this isn’t just an issue of the science. This is risk analysis pure and simple.

To act to reduce GHG emissions without need (ie the science was wrong) shifts the entire global carbon energy economy into another direction for no legitimate reason with costly implications for global economies, regional politics, etc.etc. etc.

To fail to act sufficiently and rapidly (ie the science was right) could result in catastrophic climate change with widespread adverse impacts for the entire planet and humanity.

One of these scenarios is true. You can’t afford to just flip a coin because you can’t afford not to make the “right” decision, in line with the very best available scientific evidence.

What could you do to solve the problem?

You know that the scientific process is reliable, but answers can oscillate between opposing theories prior to settling in on some level of conscilience, once enough independent minds address the issue and intellectually beat the shit out each other’s theories in the peer-reviewed literature. Then the first scale errors dissipate, and more minor scale issues are argued…and so on and so forth, until we have a pretty good idea as to what’s going on with respect to X.

So why not being the biggest most comprehensive scientific review ever conducted to see whether there is enough scientific agreement to form a conclusion that is strong enough to warrant policy action?

Well you could get together the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program, and get them to organize a global comprehensive review of ALL the best peer-reviewed published science available. And you could get them to meet on a regular basis with literally hundreds of expert authors and government delegates to see whether the field is moving in one direction or the other (ie greater or less urgency for action, or even no need to do anything). Basically what you need is the judgment of many experts, with regards to existing scientific knowledge, so that credible answers are provided that are directly relevant to policy.

Now what if there is some aspect of scientific controversy? Well you could make it a rule that in order to find consensus the summary reports of just such an endeavour would have to be agreed (every single word in every single line), by all government delegates represented in these UN bodies. Now unfortunately this can lead to political bias. Players and powerful sates like the US, OPEC states, China, and Russia, are all major exporters or producers of oil and gas and or coal. So unfortunately this is going to make the science lean to the conservative. In other words it will lean the whole process in favour of resisting any science that isn’t extremely vigorous and independently verified by multiple bodies. This is consistent with what we know about agreements, many independent players (nations) tends to limit extreme positions, and hence favours more conservative positions.

Not only that, depending on the rate of the science, this process is slow. Which means the science is usually well ahead of what is being summarized (out of date by about a year). Furthermore, very worrying issues which are at the edge of our understanding (but are extremely policy relevant) are left out…to keep it easier for agreement between nations. So things like carbon cycle feedbacks or changes in ice sheet flow are left out…despite their implications for the global climate.

Now luckily someone was already wise enough to foresee the need for such a process over 20 years ago. As you may have guessed it is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and it has met four times over those twenty years, with the most recent assessment conducted in 2007.

It’s conclusion was that “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” and “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely (ie more than 90% confident) due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

To put it mildly, you don’t get that type of agreement by that many delegates, representing that my countries summarizing literally thousands of scientific contributions if the science isn’t in.

Furthermore, every IPCC report has gotten stronger in its findings over the last 20 years, and likewise the science is stronger since the IPCCs release in 2007 (ie it was based on 2006 evidence). Alternative speculative explanations for the Earths warming have been considered in the scientific literature over the years, and thoroughly dismissed (ie changes to solar irradiance or cosmic ray hypotheses…nope).

As you correctly point out, we know that the Earth’s temperature now and in the past has and is influenced by multiple processes (solar irradiance, Milankovitch cycles, tectonic plate movement, oceanic current, volcanoes, meteorites, atmospheric concentrations of GHG), which results in cyclical, natural and sometimes extreme changes in the Earth’s climate.

Yet there is no evidence that the majority of the extremely rapid changes in global temperature occurring over the last 50 years is caused by anything other than GHG emissions. The potential impact of each process can be measured against what its current contribution is to global temperatures versus what we are observing in the climate. None of these other processes can explain what we are observing, while GHG emissions do. Quite simply. the calculations, models, empirical data, paleoclimatic record, ice cores, etc. etc .. etc.. all lead to the one conclusion, that anthropogenic releases of GHG gases are responsible for most of the recent increases in global temperature with dire consequences if continued. And as I have tried to repeatedly make clear, any alternative process that is supposedly currently heating the planet would have to be additive…ie it doesn’t negate the scientific understanding of GHGs and their effects on global temperature. This stuff is known (go back and check the IPCC page link I suggested earlier to get an idea of what I mean).

Please also take a quick look at the Nature Reports Climate Change link.

If you read the titles of the articles listed, they are well and truly dealing with fine scale specifics of GHG influences, feedbacks etc.

That’s because the science is in and the overwhelming vast majority of actively publishing climate scientists know it (and those that don’t, can’t offer any viable alternative that withstands independent strutiny). The world’s governments know that the science is in, hence the December COP 15 meeting (they aren’t arguing about whether GHGs are responsible (they’re convinced), they are trying to agree to how much of the burden of de-carbonizing the world’s energy supply each country will carry). The world’s national science academies know that the science is in, hence the joint statement on climate change listed above.

The only people who don’t know that the science is in, are those who simply don’t understand the weight of scientific evidence (or rely on arguments from personal incredulity), don’t like the conclusions (fallacy of consequences, vested interest, contrarian self-image), all possibly combined with a healthy dose of the Dunning-Kruger effect (the less competent are more confident in their opinion than they should be).

So if you were sitting in a position of power and you had to weigh in on one side of the debate today. Not tomorrow, not next year. GHG emissions are cumulative, and heating of the Earth’s atmosphere will continue until we drop emissions to approximately half of current rates and the longer we wait the harder the economic hit and the more impossible it is to drop emissions in the time period necessary to keep global temperatures in check. So, we have to decide now.

What would you think is the most justified thing to do, listen to the deluge of scientific evidence and start reducing GHG emissions, or do nothing on the basis that you’re assuming that some unknown, unidentified, conveniently GHG effect mimicking process might turn up that has literally no scientific supportive evidence whatsoever?

What’s your choice?

Here’s my quote “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

rooeytoo's avatar

Your know it all, no possible room for error attitude is a large part of the reason why many people don’t believe or are still sitting on the fence. You preach as if you are the pope speaking ex cathedra.

I can’t help but wonder, since you are so convinced of the causes, have you stopped driving your car, heating your house, using electricity, buying groceries not packaged in plastic? Or are you one of the guys who walks around saying YOU BETTER DO WHAT I AM TELLING YOU!!

You can dismiss fence sitters as ignoramuses but they constitute a much larger portion of the population than such as you. Perhaps your “recruitment” speech needs to be tweaked.

dpworkin's avatar


rooeytoo's avatar

@pdworkin – If that is directed at me I must ask if it is a typo or you are calling me charming? If it is the latter, I demur, you hold the record in that department, I am a mere neophyte.

Critter38's avatar

When all else fails, roll out an ad hominem.

xBRIANx's avatar

Wow, I take a one month leave of absence to Fluther, and come back to it and find this discussion. Correct me if I’m wrong but I thought only the Arctic polar ice caps were melting. The Antarctic ice cap is actually expanding.

What about the increase of Manatee deaths in Florida? Global Cooling? @rooeytoo, thanks for your perspective and links.

dpworkin's avatar

Global warming doesn’t predict universal warmth – it predicts more extremes, which we are already seeing. Katrina, the Florida Winter that endangered strawberries and citrus this month, etc.

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