Did public opinion change after ‘climategate’?


by Guest    
11:15 am - January 12th 2010

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contribution by Climate Sock

Following the UEA email hack, it’s become part of the media narrative that opinion is turning against man-made global warming.

It’s usually worth checking any such media claim about changes in public opinion that have supposedly occurred following a series of news stories, particularly ‘dramatic revelations’.

Even when people are aware of these stories, they are often not interested, or may be disinclined to believe them and change their opinion.

Testing the impact of the UEA story is tricky, because there are currently no public polling firms that have regular polls with consistently phrased questions about climate change. But data from two polls, one taken in early November, the other in early December, do suggest that the UEA story has had no measurable impact on belief in man-made global warming.

Satisfyingly, both polls were commissioned by newspapers that tried to use them as evidence of growing public doubt in man-made global warming.

We’ve already seen the Times/Populus poll from early November – good poll, twisted beyond recognition in its reporting.

The other is a Sunday Telegraph/ICM poll, conducted Dec 2nd-3rd (when the UEA stories were still at a peak) which was similarly reported as showing that large numbers now don’t believe in man-made global warming.

These two polls are pretty good tools for comparison as they both ask one quite similar question to measure belief in man-made global warming.
The options presented to the respondents in the two polls were:

  1. “It is now an established scientific fact that climate change is largely man-made” (Populus) / “Climate change is happening and is established as being largely man-made” (ICM);
  2. “There is a widespread theory that climate change is largely man-made but this has not yet been conclusively proved” (Populus) / “Climate change is happening but is not yet proven to be man-made” (ICM);
  3. “Man-made climate change is environmentalist propaganda for which there is little or no real evidence” (Populus) / “Climate change is not happening” (ICM);
  4. “Don’t know” (both polls).

So while the wordings of the answer choices were slightly different, the sentiments were essentially the same, and we can be comfortable comparing the results.

The scores turn out to be startlingly similar:

In fact, there are no statistical differences between opinions towards man-made global warming before and after the UEA story broke.

That said, there are two health warnings that should come with this. Firstly, we’re only looking at two polls here. Since the post-story poll was taken only a week after the story first broke, it may be that the impact hadn’t yet filtered through. The next poll to ask this question will help us be more confident in what we’ve seen here.

Finally, even if the UEA story has had no impact on belief in man-made global warming, it almost certainly has harmed the credibility of climate scientists.

A Sunday Times/YouGov poll on 3rd-4th December primed respondents with the UEA story and then asked them whether they trust climate scientists to tell the truth. Not surprisingly, only 41% said yes. Since scientists/independent experts are usually the group trusted the most in such questions, this is a very low score.

But overall, the picture remains bright.

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Reader comments


So 50/50-ish – not bad given the mighty warmist propaganda machine.

I’m hopeful we’ll be at 65/35 in 12 months time.

http://www.samizdata.net/blog/archives/2010/01/cold_wars_1.html

The fall out from Clmategate has not finished. Scientists are still re-analysing data. The ability for those stating that AGW is supported by independent peer reviewed scientists has taken a knock. There is going to have to be a change in the way peer review is undertaken such that completely independent scientists are used which will include assessing all raw data and all computer codes . The same level as scrutiny as used in drug trials/medical research will have to be introduced.

There is going to have to be a change in the way peer review is undertaken such that completely independent scientists are used which will include assessing all raw data and all computer codes

Oh dear.

Charlie 2 screams: “I DON’T UNDERSTAND PEER REVIEW!”

There’s no such thing as a “completely independent scientist”……………

First up, I’m horrified at the 39% of idiots and then I’m horrified at cjcjcjcjcjcj bad maths and place in the uber-idiot 7%.

Good grief.

OK, being scientific about this;

All you’ve show is that either;

1. There are no statistical differences between opinions towards man-made global warming before and after the UEA story broke (as you so rightly say). BUT ONLY between these two polls.

2. People weren’t as convinced about AGW warming as the writer initiall believed.

7. Dick the Prick

If it’s just a ruse to kick start variant industries then fine – if they actually believe that shit then screw ‘em.

Apart from climategate there has been a constant stream of misinformation spread by certain parts of the media. There was a particularly dishonest example in the Mail on Sunday (followed by a slightly re-written version in Monday’s Mail), see here –

http://climateprogress.org/2010/01/11/foxnews-wattsupwiththat-climatedepot-daily-mail-article-on-global-cooling-mojib-latif/#comments

If you look at the coverage of Climate Change in the newpapers the amount of space given to “skeptics” is vastly disproportionate to the scientific backing for their views – Melanie Phillips, James Delingpole, Christopher Booker, Ian Plimer, Nigel Lawson, Dominic Lawson, Peter Hitchens, Christopher Monckton et al. In a sense it is surprising that the 50% figure is not lower.

So the notable fall in belief in man-made climate change (from c. 60% to c. 50%) was in progress before the fall-out from the UEA emails? And this is regarded as a good thing (I presume this is the tone of the post, that it is good that belief has stayed the same)? If I were a believer (which seems to be the appropriate description) I’d see this as something of a worry.

More importantly, comparing two polls with different methodologies and questions is not exactly good science, albeit a useful rule of thumb. You need to compare two similiar polls (or preferably a run of them) to detect patterns.

Man Made Climate Climate Change (Global Warming) is the left’s eqivalent of Lehman Brothers, something that is supposedly too big to fall.

Tiiiiiiimberrrrrrr!!!!!!!!

EAU, the dreary inconclusive Copenhagen conference and the freezing weather has made it ‘Oh so noughties’.

@8

andrew

I challenge you to find one paper other than the Mail and Express in the last three months where there is more sceptical than accepting (or at least regurgitating press release) coverage of man-made climate change. Never mind the broadcast media.

The increasing number of sceptical voices is creating a balance (obviously not in the Express, but there is always the equally pointless Independent). Is a variety of viewpoints and opinions not always better than everyone subscribing to a particular line.

And in the meantime I shall continue to read both James Delingpole and George Monbiot, and like most readers, draw my own conclusions from the information available.

“More importantly, comparing two polls with different methodologies and questions is not exactly good science, albeit a useful rule of thumb. You need to compare two similiar polls (or preferably a run of them) to detect patterns.”

Indeed, this article is somewhat like a climate change denier pointing out the window this last week and shouting “See! I told you it was a conspiracy!”

13. Col. Richard Hindrance (Mrs), VC, DSO and Bar, Buffet, Dancing 'til late

Blimey, “rumpypumpy” doesn’t get any less stupid (or pompously sure of himself), does he?

He’s one of the many new trolls round these parts.

@12

To be fair, yes. Unless there is a themometer outside the window in question? ;-)

Anyway, in general we need slightly less immediate scoring of points (see above comment…) and more understanding of methodologies. Snow does not disprove climate change; two seperate poll findings does not disprove popular dislike of supposed anti-climate change measures.

So Col Richard,

Do you not think that world governments increasing investment in green policies, collection of green taxes on the premis of helping combat climate change might make them regard the issue as too big to fall no matter what the scientist say?

The EAU emails have made people less willing to accept the scientific ‘consensus’ without daring to ask questions. The Copenhagen summit was treated as if it was the political equivalent of the Olympics by much of the serious media, and surprise surprise no agreement was reached and the world continues to spin on it’s axis. The recent freezing weather, apart from the fact it wasn’t supposed to happen any more, was dismissed by the advocates of Man Made Global Warming as irrelevant as it was just weather, whereas the recent floods were not just weather as they were cited as proof of Global Warming.

I would rather be a sceptic, and risk being called an idiot by you, than be a conformist too frightened to ask questions of my ‘superiors’.

rumpy my friend,

As someone who is generally sceptical, could I ask you to bugger off and learn how to conduct a debate cordially and with some actual evidence. Weather of any sort does not prove anything much (although the repeated failure to accurately forecast it causes questions of the models which is significant). Copenhagen is irrelevant to the debate as to whether climate change is man made. And the UEA (not EAU!) emails effect on public opinion is what is being discussed (poorly) on this thread, so unless you have more evidence this cannot be an established fact.

I agree with your viewpoint mostly but I think expressing it as established fact as you do is no better than assuming man-made global warming is established fact due to the oxymoron that is scientific consensus. Argue your case – don’t just state it, or you will be acting the Troll that Mr Hoffman-Gill believes you to be.

‘Climategate’ made a few tinfoil hat wearing nutjobs think it vindicates them, but broadly nothing’s changed.

So 50/50-ish – not bad given the mighty warmist propaganda machine.

At least that is based on sound science – compared to the amount of bullshit the right-wing media churn out.

I’m hopeful we’ll be at 65/35 in 12 months time.

How’s your bet turning out cjcjc? Not saying much about that given someone took you up on it and now you look to be losing eh? Funny that isn’t it?

Is your prediction as water-tight as your belief about temperatures falling? I hope so.

Sunny,

My last post to rumpypumpy might be appropriate to you as well. Tinfoil hat wearing nutjob eh? Reasoned debate this is not – clearly you believe and everyone else is wrong. Just like rumpypumpy. I doubt you can troll your own site, but this seems a good attempt…

Bluntly, neither of you has the right to be certain because the science is not that decisive. It is a question of degrees of belief and action, not of absolute truths.

Haha – actually I sent you the Dec update to our bet today – and, yes, you are still winning. (83 months to go though…!)

You’ll note I haven’t employed any “tricks” to “hide the trend”… ;-)

I’m watching that stats page as you are cjcjc – so you can’t employ any ‘tricks’. Though I wouldn’t say the same if I relied on the Daily Mail to offer me some information.

Watchmen: Tinfoil hat wearing nutjob eh? Reasoned debate this is not

There’s no reasoned debate with conspiracy nuts who are no different to those think evolution didn’t happen and that the earth is flat. These people only deserve ridicule. They are the 9/11 Truthers of tomorrow.

“Do you not think that world governments increasing investment in green policies, collection of green taxes on the premis of helping combat climate change might make them regard the issue as too big to fall no matter what the scientist say?”

There are two issues on the subject, one is the actual science, and one is the politicisation of it. Unfortunately for yourself the presence of people exploiting the opportunity to increase taxes (with varied sincerity) doesn’t not disprove the science.

If you’re disbelieving of man made global warming, show us where the science is wrong. Showing us how politicians are being politicians when it suits them isn’t proof of anything other than how you can’t trust a politician further than you can throw them.

Sunny,

As I have stated I do not believe in man made climate change at the moment. I could be convinced if you have better arguments than those I currently think best (not correct just best).

I do not believe the earth is flat (as hardly anyone ever has – this is one of those silly myths, as anyone who is used to horizons will tell you the earth is curved, especially if they have to travel to a place over the horizon). Nor do I believe evolution didn’t happen – although I would point out this is still a theory, simply because we cannot replicate it. But if scientists came up with an alternative to evolution based on science (not the Bible) I would listen to it and try to make up my own mind. I would not stand there, like say a creationist, saying ‘I am right and I do not need to consider other viewpoints’. I would engage, and if I did not believe the new theory, I would start to deny it and be sceptical and support evolution once more. Such is science, the quest for knowledge (for scio, the root of science, is the Latin verb ‘to know’). To stand there and say those who disagree with you on the basis of their reading of science (please note, not a religious text or a political creed) wear tin hats simply because you will not (or cannot) debate is lazy, non-scientific and worst, a waste of your own potential as a person.

If your dogma is that climate change sceptiscism is nutty and equivalent to creationalists or flat earthers, then stick to this by all means. And stand alongside those you condemn for having unsustainable beliefs.

Meanwhile, I shall continue to test and challenge. And I have tested my hat (well looked at the label). It is not made of tin foil but apparently of polyester and natural fibres. But I am not the one who fears contamination by believers of an alternative viewpoint; rather I am the one who wants you to get off your pillar of religious belief and debate those you believe are wrong.

23. It might be more useful to hear what most compelling argument is for man made change, and indeed what the most compelling argument is for the climate change being natural, in your eyes.

“I challenge you to find one paper other than the Mail and Express in the last three months where there is more sceptical than accepting (or at least regurgitating press release) coverage of man-made climate change. Never mind the broadcast media.”

The Telegraph publishes Delingpole and other columnists’ articles daily.

No newspaper, other than the Guardian and the Independent, will touch a climate change columist with a bargepole. And it looks like the Indy’s new editor is going to be a denier.

It looks like the UK media is moving to a strongly anti-science position so it’s little wonder people are getting confused. No surprises really if you look at the press record on other topics like MMR.

Don’t worry, inks, the BBC is still on your side…for now.

Ok, so ‘climategate’ didn’t exactly hurt opinion of it, but I also wouldn’t call 50% an ‘overwhelming consensus’ as many who argue for AGW like to suggest.

Take for example a recent YouGov poll. In that, the Conservatives led 46% to 35% in the ‘preferred government – Labour or Tory’ question. I wouldn’t call that an ‘overwhelming consensus’.

CJ @ 26

Surely you mean that the BBC are still reporting the science objectively?

“Don’t worry, inks, the BBC is still on your side…for now.”

Like cock is it.

“but I also wouldn’t call 50% an ‘overwhelming consensus’ as many who argue for AGW like to suggest.”

The “overwhelming consensus” is of those people that actually know what they’re talking about, not you and I.

Watchman,

Although I didn’t present any facts just observations of the politizing of AGW, a viewpoint you aparantly agree with mostly you suggested I bugger off until I can conduct a debate cordially.

Er, are you in charge of who can and who cannot contribute to this board?

As Voltaire famously said about free speach: “I’ll defend to the death a man’s right to say it, but I’d prefer he’d bugger off so I could talk instead”.

Watchman,

I agree that some newspapers are worse than others and the Mail and the Express are certainly the worse, although I think the Telegraph merits a mention as well, as inks says above. What I would say about most other papers is that they generally accept the reality of AGW but don’t make a very good job of explaining the basic scientific arguments and the supporting evidence to their readers, or of directly countering the skeptics’s arguments.
But the point about balanced coverage of an issue is not whether a newspaper gives equal weight to two opposing arguments, or whether an equal number of newspapers are on the opposite side of the argument. If the media gave equal weight to arguments for creationism and intelligent design as to evolution in order to be “balanced” we would surely think this absurd.This is not to say that views which challenge the consensus should not be published, of course they should, but publishing a serious article backed up with real evidence is one thing, the kind of nonsense churned out by most of the writers I mentioned is something else. Look at the MoS piece I mentioned above. On the surface it appears perfectly reasonable – there was nothing in it which I could say at first glance was obviously wrong, but the author cites three main sources to support his argument and two of them have since come out and said that he has blatantly misrepresented them. And many other “skeptical” articles I have read do not even have this veneer of respectability – they are just obvious nonsense to anyone who knows anything about the issue. This is a vitally important issue and people are being misled – the overwhelming majority of expert scientific opinion does support AGW, even if it ultimately (highly unlikely as I believe that to be) proves to be mistaken, and it is irresponsible to pretend otherwise based on arguments which are at best weak and at worst fraudulent.

@30 Lee Griffin

The “overwhelming consensus” is of those people that actually know what they’re talking about, not you and I.

Isn’t it concerning that scientists can [apparently] come to a consensus on AGW and yet completely fail to convince the general public? Perhaps a sign that when politicians (of whatever party) jump onto something, especially something like AGW where the solutions are all higher taxes, people immediately become suspicious. I’m not saying that’s right, but it does seem to be the case.

“Isn’t it concerning that scientists can [apparently] come to a consensus on AGW and yet completely fail to convince the general public?”

It’s not really concerning. Scientists aren’t PR merchants, they’re scientists. They simply find things out and where necessary their employers send out press releases about the findings. Sometimes they write to publications other than journals but in all honesty the market for them is usually generally in the community anyway.

I think it’s flattering that people after “climategate” have come to assume that scientist should not only work out everything for us, but spend their time (which in terms of the money being spent on them is valuable, and not to be wasted) on explaining it to us.

There is a gap, I will absolutely agree, for reporting science discoveries and progress in a format that is easily understood by the general public and exciting enough to “sell”. Alas, do you also see the issue with trying to convince an editor that they should have prominent space in their paper (or on their airtime for TV) for science updates when they could instead spill the gossip on the latest celebrity tantrum, or political spat?

Sadly, I do see the issue there, although I do disagree about it not being a scientist’s job to explain their work to non-specialists. In my view that’s the final part of the research.

There’s no good me coming up with some cure for cancer, say, if I can’t find a way to explain to the general public (who will, after all, be consenting to allow my cure to be used on them) that the research is accurate and reliable and the conclusions are rock-solid. Now perhaps I might use a third-party to help convert the technical details into layman’s terms, but it’s a step that needs doing if we’re to make progress. The days of public acceptance of a scientist saying “trust me, I’m right but it’s too technical to explain it to you” are gone. Joe Public wants to see for himself.

36. So Much For Subtlety

18. Sunny H – “At least that is based on sound science – compared to the amount of bullshit the right-wing media churn out.”

That depends on what you mean by AGW. Some trivial level of warming due to CO2 emission is probably pretty sound science. But catastrophic climate change? There is no sound scientific reason to believe that. Nor that the coral reefs will die or that thousands of species will become extinct or that there is any real chance of a run-away Greenhouse effect. None of these is backed by sound science. None.

21. Sunny H – “There’s no reasoned debate with conspiracy nuts who are no different to those think evolution didn’t happen and that the earth is flat. These people only deserve ridicule. They are the 9/11 Truthers of tomorrow.”

I agree. And anyone who thinks this is all part of some Vast Right Wing Conspiracy is in tin foil hat territory.

22. Lee Griffin – “Unfortunately for yourself the presence of people exploiting the opportunity to increase taxes (with varied sincerity) doesn’t not disprove the science.”

No but they do suggest that the science needs to be treated cautiously.

“If you’re disbelieving of man made global warming, show us where the science is wrong.”

What science? There is so little science behind CAGW that there is virtually nothing to disprove. Take the existence of a “tipping point” if CO2 levels continue to rise. Evidence of this? None. We simply do not know. Take the Hockey Stick. Now it has been shown to be comprehensively wrong. Take the “decline” they were trying to “hide” – the proxies they were using do not show any Twentieth Century rise in temperature so they used the instrument record instead – seamlessly merging the two data sets without telling anyone in the IPCC report. But if the proxies do not show 20th century warming, they cannot be relied on to reconstruct the past. If they are wrong after 1960, they can hardly be right before 1900. It looks as if they have calibrated the proxies incorrectly and so made the past too cold. There goes the whole basis of Global Warming. It looks as if they have been using Russian data in odd ways – the rural stations do not show any warming, even if the urban ones do. It also looks as if they have been “adjusting” past temperature data in ways that cannot be explained but which invariably make the past colder.

What we do have is the satellite records from the 1970s (which show two or three decades of warming, part of the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, and now one decade of leveling out if not actual cooling) and some laboratory tests which suggest that doubling the level of CO2 might cause some minor increase in temperature. And that is it. This does not look like a solid basis for policy to me

23. Lee, I was not actually debating the point, just the way in which we debate (or in Sunny’s case, refuse to). My belief is based on a number of concerns with the ‘conclusion about man-made global warming’, to whit:

a. The actual temprature record does not appear to be objective: check the sudden fall in the number of thermometers used in the main records since 1990, or the fact that increasing numbers of ‘rural’ thermometer stations are now urbanised, or near air conditioning or other inevitable results of human progress. Also, moving stations to combat these problems still invalidates the data. It may be the fall in stations reflects these concerns, but the basis on which stations are chosen seems rather random (so despite the increasing heat usage at airports, these have a tendency to remain for example). Note also the surface temprature figures do not agree well with satellite figures which is not explained to my knowledge.

b. The reconstructed temprature record appears very suspicious. Most notably the fact that the hockey stick will be created by any data put into the statistical package used. But also the fact that key records such as tree rings stop after 1960, when they are replaced by observed temprature records. No good reason for this has been put forward. Anyway, I’ve studied the eleventh century, and if that was not a warm period there was something very odd going on (for a start archaeologists have never challenged the assumption from environmental analysis, and believe me they would if the evidence did not stack up).

c. The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is so tiny to be insignificant comparred to say water vapour (also reflective of heat). Perhaps there are processes in place to explain this, but the approachable presentation of the theory as to why carbon dioxide retains heat so well have not been made. We are told to rely on expert opinion, and that is never an argument. If science cannot be explained to an intelligent layman then it is not properly understood, however complex it may be.

d. If, as still seems likely, the planet is warming, then no-one has explained why this has to be the work of mankind? There are natural cycles, and it clearly has been warmer in the past. This strikes me as the sort of arogant assumption that mankind is responsible for anything that in earlier centuries assumed everything was God’s will. And do many believe that now?

e. There are clearly vested interests, including big corporations (often those with interests ironically in oil etc) who stand to do well out of things like carbon trading. Governments want to be seen to do something about the ‘threat’ (in response to Daily Mail like cries of something must be done). Corporations and governments give most of the funding for science research. I can see problems here – and remember the appropriate funding council had specified for climatic research applications for funding should have relationship to man-made climate change.

f. There clearly was an attempt to subvert the peer-review process by some academics. Thus it is not possible to trust peer-reviewed literature’s conclusions in the field of climate change, at least until a housekeeping takes place.

g. A scientific recommendation is not the same as something we must do, else why do we have democracy. But this seems to be often forgotten, and we are told the scientists say something so it must be done. Why? Do I not have the right to express another opinion, even if it ‘sod the kids, I want to destroy the world now for my own pleasure’. And do you not have the right to hear views however stupid and to vote for them if you please? What’s that, Islam4UK you say? OK, maybe we do have to do what we are told is correct by government, but I think that is the wrong line to take.

Hope that brief summary sets out my concerns. The evidence is flawed, I am not sure about the models, there is clear evidence of manipulation of processes (and motivation to do so) and ultimately, this is asking the world to make decisions because scientists say it is best, not always a smart move (unless eugenics etc were actually good moves – scientists supported them remember). I do not rule out man-made global warming, I just think that as a theory it is weak on all counts and needs a lot of work. Until then, I see no benefit in acting on it.

@31
rumpy,

See, your next contribution was a lot better. Appologies for my intemperate language, but I did feel what you wrote was just polemic. And I find it bad enough coming from those who disagree with me; those who basically line up alongside of me (I suspect we have differences, but that Sunny would have us both in nice shiny hats) have enough evidence not to play their game of passing observations of as facts.

And please note I asked. I felt that was polite…

@32
andrew,

Newspapers have no obligation to be balanced anyway, so this is an odd discussion in some ways. Also, I would not use the cherrypicking of quotes by journalists as evidence for anything – they do it for and against anything they are writing about, especially in the Mail.

My concern is that you try the old analogy of climate change=evolution, scepticism (or perhaps denial, but I think this term should be abandoned as polemic)=intelligent design. Bloody awful idea though, as evolution is a theory which all observations support whilst man made climate change still has many observations that do not fit (to be fair this could be because it is about a fifth of the age of evolution and therefore not polished, but the analogy is still not exact because of this). Intelligent design is in scientific terms a rival theory to evolution, albeit a bloody stupid one with no evidence that cannot be better explained by evolution; its flaw is not only its lack of methodological base (other than Genesis…) but also its inability to explain the evidence coherently, none the less it cannot be disproven in laboratory conditions so it has to technically remain a very discredited theory. The analogy really breaks down here though, because scepticism about the theory of man-made climate change is not a rival theory, simply a questioning of the same theory which concludes it is not yet satisfactorily proven. Even if (and despite Sunny’s rants, this is clearly not the case in most sceptics’ cases) there was a correlation between climate-change sceptics and believers in intelligent design, there is a world of difference between supporting a stupid theory in one debate and opposing a theory on the basis of the failure of the evidence to convincingly explain it in another.

This is not a case of a correct (technically probably correct, but I will bet anyone as much as a tenner that evolution is not disproved in my hopefully long lifetime) theory being challenged by a bunch of religious idiots who are playing with the rules of science not the evidence. This is a case of people challenging a theory they do not feel works, which is different.

So to return to the question of balance, there is a good balance across all media now of people who believe the theory and those that do not. This is healthy. There is not, to return to the analogy, a balance between evolution and creationalism, because that would be silly. And whilst the media is at liberty to be as silly as they like (Daily Star anyone?), or indeed as unbalanced, in the current climate I do not feel that is.

whilst man made climate change still has many observations that do not fit

Really? Perhaps you could give some specific examples?

SMFS,

Take the existence of a “tipping point” if CO2 levels continue to rise. Evidence of this? None.

The tipping point is indeed speculation and scientists who support AGW are perfectly open about this – see here. The fact that we have had warming in the past to which the positive feedbacks have contributed but we have not turned into Venus is evidence that runaway warming is not neccessarily a danger. But then the case for action on AGW does not depend on a tipping point occuring, the potential effects of AGW are serious enough anyway.

Take the Hockey Stick. Now it has been shown to be comprehensively wrong.

Not true. The controversy which there has been is around one particular paper (MBH98) which is now over a decade old. This paper was broadly vindicated by the NAS but even if we dismiss it there have been a number of other reconstructions since which have produced a comparable result. Furthermore, the hockey stick is not even central to the case for AGW.

Take the “decline” they were trying to “hide” – the proxies they were using do not show any Twentieth Century rise in temperature so they used the instrument record instead – seamlessly merging the two data sets without telling anyone in the IPCC report. But if the proxies do not show 20th century warming, they cannot be relied on to reconstruct the past. If they are wrong after 1960, they can hardly be right before 1900. It looks as if they have calibrated the proxies incorrectly and so made the past too cold. There goes the whole basis of Global Warming.

Firstly, the IPCC report shows the instrumental and proxy records separately (although the proxy record ends in 1960 when the divergence problem occurs). The merged data set is in a different document – the WMO report. The divergence problem only occurs in some tree-ring data sets, not all of them, and some temperature reconstructions use a number of different proxies and get similar results to those using only tree rings. As far as I know the divergence problem has not caused dendrochronology as a whole to be thrown out of the window so, with respect, your assumption about what we should believe about the pre-1960 data is obviously not shared by those with actual expertise in the field. As for “there goes the whole basis of Global Warming”, well we can see that there has been warming in modern times based on the instrumental records regardless of what the proxies say.

What we do have is the satellite records from the 1970s (which show two or three decades of warming, part of the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, and now one decade of leveling out if not actual cooling) and some laboratory tests which suggest that doubling the level of CO2 might cause some minor increase in temperature. And that is it. This does not look like a solid basis for policy to me

The total effects of increased levels of CO2 are based partly on its known physical properties but also on a great deal of research based on studies of how climate has changed in the past. Numerous independent lines of research point to climate sensitivity of between 2°C and 4.5°C with a most likely value of around 3°C – see here.

Watchman,

Sure, newspapers do not have any obligation to provide balanced coverage on any subject, but I do think they have a responsibility to cover important issues in a responsible way and this is where I think some of them fail. And I still think that the amount of space given to “skeptics” is disproportionate both to the strength of their arguments and the amount of uncertainty on the question in the actual science (I think we have to disagree on this but I’ll try to address some of your doubts in another post if I get time.).

My point about evolution was more about the notion of “balance” than it being a directly comparable theory to AGW, although I think that ID is suficiently lacking in any evidence whatsoever to be treated as plain denial of evolution rather than an opposing theory. Where I do think a comparison can be made is that in the case of both evolution and AGW experts in the field are broadly agreed that the basic theory is correct (ok, more so in evolution) but admit that there are gaps in our knowledge but those who question the theory tend to see any such gap as tearing the whole thing down. But, as I said, it was really the principle of “balance” in reporting which was the point.

andrew,

I’ll accept the comparison between evolution/creationalism (lets not call it intelligent design – it denigrates the word intelligent by association) if you can show me a publishing biologists who support creationalism over evolution.

I can show you publishing academics in climate-relate fields (not simply ‘climate scientists’ as this is not a recognised field in many institutions – academics who work in areas where climate change needs to be discussed) who disagree with climate change.

As to your argument about the space given to sceptics (it is spelt with a c, unless you are trying to denigrate someone or make yourself look stoopid), it boils down to your reading of sthe strength of the argument and the amount of uncertainty. As you say, this is a matter of belief. It is to the credit of all our papers (and also possibly the Mail – I don’t check it personally) that they find room for both viewpoints to some extent; it is a matter of personal judgement (for editors) and market demand to what extent this is.

I would appreciate your addressing my doubts. Far too often I am called a tin-foil hat wearer and forced to assume that those I am not convinced by have no argument; it’s nice to debate with someone who can go beyond that.

Dunc,

Lets say the fact the last decade has not warmed as predicted by the late 90s models (carbon dioxide has however increased as required by the models, although probably not to the exact amount). I think that doesn’t fit, don’t you? And I have yet to see any sign the model is getting more accurate.

I know this can be explained away, but that is not what a model is for. A model is a way of showing what you think will happen. If it does not come to pass, the model is not valid, and the underlying theory needs to be reassessed. The observed results (if measured properly) cannot be wrong, and it is clear that the planet is somewhat cooler than models said it would be.

45. So Much For Subtlety

41. andrew adams – “The tipping point is indeed speculation and scientists who support AGW are perfectly open about this – see here.”

I am sorry but did you read that article correctly? It argues there is not one tipping point but it is probable there are many. That is not helping is it? But what evidence do they have for any of it? Notice they take the extreme – and non-scientific – view that CO2 survives for a hundred years in the atmosphere.

“The fact that we have had warming in the past to which the positive feedbacks have contributed but we have not turned into Venus is evidence that runaway warming is not neccessarily a danger.”

I would like to know what evidence there is that any positive feedbacks have contributed to past warming. So we are agreed that runaway warming is not necessarily a danger, that is, there is no proof it will happen. Good. That makes you a skeptic most places.

“But then the case for action on AGW does not depend on a tipping point occuring, the potential effects of AGW are serious enough anyway.”

Really? What known effects of a 2 C rise are there? Again you rely on words like “potential”. Sure, it is potentially serious. But that is not the same as being serious. The fact they don’t know is proof of what I said, the science is weak.

“Not true. The controversy which there has been is around one particular paper (MBH98) which is now over a decade old. This paper was broadly vindicated by the NAS but even if we dismiss it there have been a number of other reconstructions since which have produced a comparable result. Furthermore, the hockey stick is not even central to the case for AGW.”

It is true and it was and is central to the CAGW case. After all, if the warming is not unprecedented then there is no reason to think humans are to blame. If you put the MWP back in, then the 20th century is not unusual. The controversy is over more than one paper. The IPCC Report uses it for instance. And NAS absolutely savaged it. Either you have not read their report or you did not bother to understand it. It all but called it fraudulent. There have been no independent reconstructions and even Mann is not admitting the MWP exists. Spin this as you like but it won’t work. The Hockey Stick is dead.

“Firstly, the IPCC report shows the instrumental and proxy records separately (although the proxy record ends in 1960 when the divergence problem occurs).”

So you have not read the IPCC report either. The proxy records do not end in 1960. The data was replaced. They had it for the period after but it did not show the warming they believed in and so they use other data.

“The divergence problem only occurs in some tree-ring data sets, not all of them, and some temperature reconstructions use a number of different proxies and get similar results to those using only tree rings.”

So no warming after 1960 in those proxies too? This is not true by the way.

“As far as I know the divergence problem has not caused dendrochronology as a whole to be thrown out of the window so, with respect, your assumption about what we should believe about the pre-1960 data is obviously not shared by those with actual expertise in the field.”

Strawman. I did not call for the whole field to be thrown out the window. I pointed out that if their tree rings do not agree with modern temperatures, given the absence of an explanation, their interpretation of those rings is useless.

“As for “there goes the whole basis of Global Warming”, well we can see that there has been warming in modern times based on the instrumental records regardless of what the proxies say.”

For the 1970s to the 1990s. Not since 2001 or so. We don’t have enough instrument data to be sure this is unusual or not. It appears not.

“The total effects of increased levels of CO2 are based partly on its known physical properties but also on a great deal of research based on studies of how climate has changed in the past.”

No they are not. We do not understand the link between CO2 levels and the climate in the past. What is more people worked out the theory and then looked for evidence. It is not that ice cores prove this, but that they found some cores that supported their theory. An important difference.

“Numerous independent lines of research point to climate sensitivity of between 2°C and 4.5°C with a most likely value of around 3°C – see here.”

Ummm, nonsense. There are no independent lines of research. And citing yet another PR shill is not proof of much. What is more these guestimates are based on models, which are useless and a limited understanding of the world and its climate. They are doubly useless. But even so, 3 C? So what?

46. So Much For Subtlety

42. andrew adams – “I do think they have a responsibility to cover important issues in a responsible way and this is where I think some of them fail. And I still think that the amount of space given to “skeptics” is disproportionate both to the strength of their arguments and the amount of uncertainty on the question in the actual science”

But the issue is not merely determined by the skeptics or the science. There is also the cost. The CAGW Camp is about to impose a larger cost on the human race than any event known to history up to now. They are going to push Britain’s economy back to the level of somewhere like Haiti. Newspapers have an obligation to examine the arguments – and all arguments – over this very carefully. And they have been amazingly remiss and lazy in doing so. There is no credible basis for the policies we are being asked to implement and yet the newspapers have embraced the CAGW camp like long lost brothers. That is their mistake.

Lets say the fact the last decade has not warmed as predicted by the late 90s models (carbon dioxide has however increased as required by the models, although probably not to the exact amount). I think that doesn’t fit, don’t you? And I have yet to see any sign the model is getting more accurate.

I’m afraid that’s quite simply untrue. The actual temps over the last decade have been well within the 95% confidence interval for model predictions used in AR4. The closest we’ve ever come to moving outside that range was 1998, which was a high outlier right on upper limit.

Is that the best you’ve got?

Watchman

“a. The actual temprature record does not appear to be objective: check the sudden fall in the number of thermometers used in the main records since 1990, or the fact that increasing numbers of ‘rural’ thermometer stations are now urbanised, or near air conditioning or other inevitable results of human progress. Also, moving stations to combat these problems still invalidates the data. It may be the fall in stations reflects these concerns, but the basis on which stations are chosen seems rather random (so despite the increasing heat usage at airports, these have a tendency to remain for example). Note also the surface temprature figures do not agree well with satellite figures which is not explained to my knowledge.”

There are three separate temperature records maintained by three separate bodies. All the effects you mention have been analysed and picked over and the records still stand up. If you are seriously attempting to claim the measured temperature record since 1850 is insufficiently accurate to be meaningful you are deep, deep in the paranoid paranormal world.

“b. The reconstructed temprature record appears very suspicious. Most notably the fact that the hockey stick will be created by any data put into the statistical package used. But also the fact that key records such as tree rings stop after 1960, when they are replaced by observed temprature records. No good reason for this has been put forward. Anyway, I’ve studied the eleventh century, and if that was not a warm period there was something very odd going on (for a start archaeologists have never challenged the assumption from environmental analysis, and believe me they would if the evidence did not stack up).”

Lots of confused denier blog memes jumbled up in there. What was the temperature in the southern hemisphere in the eleventh century? There is nothing to indicate the “Medieval Warm Period” was anything more than regional in Northern Europe. Also the exact date seems to vary considerably depending on who is claiming what from Roman times to, in your case, circa 1000.

Anyway, it is pretty much past the point. We know it has been warmer in the past and colder in the past. That doesn’t say anything useful about the current warming trend.

“c. The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is so tiny to be insignificant comparred to say water vapour (also reflective of heat). Perhaps there are processes in place to explain this, but the approachable presentation of the theory as to why carbon dioxide retains heat so well have not been made. We are told to rely on expert opinion, and that is never an argument. If science cannot be explained to an intelligent layman then it is not properly understood, however complex it may be.”

The explanation is simple and has been known about since the 1950s. Water vapour hangs out in the lower part of the atmosphere. CO2 is a gas and spreads evenly throughout the atmosphere, so is present just as much higher up. Think about it. When it comes to heat escaping it’s the outer layer that’s most significant. This is the bit that regulates how much heat gets out. Not too hard was it?

For more details: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/06/a-saturated-gassy-argument/

“d. If, as still seems likely, the planet is warming, then no-one has explained why this has to be the work of mankind? There are natural cycles, and it clearly has been warmer in the past. This strikes me as the sort of arogant assumption that mankind is responsible for anything that in earlier centuries assumed everything was God’s will. And do many believe that now?”

There’s no evidence of temperature cycles equivalent to today’s warming in measured temperature records since 1850 and no sign of anything in the reconstructed records. So if it’s cyclical you have to explain: why the cycle has previously been invisible; what’s causing it and why we’ve not noticed it so far; why isn’t the CO2 causing the expected temperature increases.

Good luck with that.

“e. There are clearly vested interests, including big corporations (often those with interests ironically in oil etc) who stand to do well out of things like carbon trading. Governments want to be seen to do something about the ‘threat’ (in response to Daily Mail like cries of something must be done). Corporations and governments give most of the funding for science research. I can see problems here – and remember the appropriate funding council had specified for climatic research applications for funding should have relationship to man-made climate change.”

Irrelevant. “Should have a relationship to man-made climate change” would also cover disproving the theory. That there are vested interests, and there are in any important area of life / science / whatever, doesn’t alter the fundamental, established science. You’re heading back into paranoid paranormal conspiracy world with this one.

“f. There clearly was an attempt to subvert the peer-review process by some academics. Thus it is not possible to trust peer-reviewed literature’s conclusions in the field of climate change, at least until a housekeeping takes place.”

Which scientific papers do you think should have been published that weren’t published? So far no-one has come up with one. The peer review process hasn’t been subverted. You can trust the scientific literature just as much as ever.

“g. A scientific recommendation is not the same as something we must do, else why do we have democracy. But this seems to be often forgotten, and we are told the scientists say something so it must be done. Why? Do I not have the right to express another opinion, even if it ’sod the kids, I want to destroy the world now for my own pleasure’. And do you not have the right to hear views however stupid and to vote for them if you please? What’s that, Islam4UK you say? OK, maybe we do have to do what we are told is correct by government, but I think that is the wrong line to take.”

Er… I’m not sure I follow you with that one. I’m beginning to suspect I might be wasting my time, to be honest.

With kin in North America and the UK shivering in bitterly cold weather, I was not surprised to read that some apparent supporters of the ‘warming’ theory are now talking about a new ‘cooling’ period.

SMFS

I would like to know what evidence there is that any positive feedbacks have contributed to past warming.

Read up about how the last ice age ended. Also estimates of climate sensitivity based on past climate change which I referred to previously signify positive feedbacks as the total figure is higher than that which can be attributed to increased CO2 alone.

So we are agreed that runaway warming is not necessarily a danger, that is, there is no proof it will happen. Good. That makes you a skeptic most places.

Yes, it is not neccessarily a danger, as most scientists agree. Of course there is speculation about possible feedbacks which could lead to a tipping point but no one pretends that it is anything other than speculation.

Really? What known effects of a 2 C rise are there? Again you rely on words like “potential”. Sure, it is potentially serious. But that is not the same as being serious. The fact they don’t know is proof of what I said, the science is weak.

2° is looking increasingly like a lost cause, we are probably now looking at 3°. There is a lot of information out there about the potential consequences of global warming, go and read it. Of course we can’t say exactly what the effect will be for any given increase in temperature – the kind of global temperatures we are talking about are well outside anything we have experienced before. But to say that because we don’t know exactly what will happen then we effectively know nothing is just nonsense, and things such as sea level rises, increased desertification, water shortages will happen.

It is true and it was and is central to the CAGW case. After all, if the warming is not unprecedented then there is no reason to think humans are to blame.

Logical fallacy. Climate can change for more than one reason.

If you put the MWP back in, then the 20th century is not unusual.

No one has taken it out. There is no reliable evidence that the MWP was hotter or as hot as it is now.

The controversy is over more than one paper. The IPCC Report uses it for instance. And NAS absolutely savaged it.

“The basic conclusion of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on ice caps and the retreat of glaciers around the world, which in many cases appear to be unprecedented during at least the last 2,000 years.”

Hardly a savaging. It also notes

“Surface temperature reconstructions for periods prior to the industrial era are only one of multiple lines of evidence supporting the conclusion that climatic warming is occurring in response to human activities, and they are not the primary evidence.”

Either you have not read their report or you did not bother to understand it. It all but called it fraudulent.

Cite?

There have been no independent reconstructions

There are several mentioned here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2000_Year_Temperature_Comparison.png

So you have not read the IPCC report either. The proxy records do not end in 1960. The data was replaced. They had it for the period after but it did not show the warming they believed in and so they use other data.

Sorry, I meant that on the chart in the IPCC report it ends in 1960 (at least for Briffa’s tree ring data – the other proxy data continues after 1960). Of course the data after 1960 exists, which is why we know about the divergence problem.

So no warming after 1960 in those proxies too?

Yes, there is warming after 1960 in those proxies. As there is in some tree ring data.

I pointed out that if their tree rings do not agree with modern temperatures, given the absence of an explanation, their interpretation of those rings is useless.

Your qualification for making that judgement is?

For the 1970s to the 1990s. Not since 2001 or so. We don’t have enough instrument data to be sure this is unusual or not. It appears not.

See Dunc’s reply @ 2.15pm

No they are not. We do not understand the link between CO2 levels and the climate in the past.

Completely untrue. There is a very god (although rather long) explanation here.

What is more people worked out the theory and then looked for evidence. It is not that ice cores prove this, but that they found some cores that supported their theory. An important difference.

Evidence?

Ummm, nonsense. There are no independent lines of research.

What is your basis for this statement?

And citing yet another PR shill is not proof of much.

This “PR shill” is a summary of a peer reviewed paper (Knutti & Hegerl 2008) which presents a summary of the various research done on the subject.

What is more these guestimates are based on models, which are useless and a limited understanding of the world and its climate.

Untrue. Some research uses models, much is done, as I said, by studying past climate change. Perhaps you can point to some refutations of the paper I mentioned or the various other papers cited therein?

They are doubly useless. But even so, 3 C? So what?

See above.

Completely untrue. There is a very god (although rather long) explanation here.

Sorry, here

http://www.agu.org/meetings/fm09/lectures/lecture_videos/A23A.shtml

andrew adams: “no one pretends that it is anything other than speculation.”

I think SMFS’s point is that perhaps politicians do pretend it’s something other than speculation. But once again it’s interesting to see that the arguments here are ones of being confused by how politicians (who do have reason to twist things to meet their own agenda) take the issue on.

But like I also said, and like you’ve demonstrated, it doesn’t affect the validity of the science in any way, only how the public trust the science.

Thanks for the comments Watchman, it’s interesting that you share the same sort of concerns that others I speak to who are skeptical have, and even more interesting is how the fallacies are always the same regardless of who brings them up. I’m not saying you don’t know what you’re talking about, it seems as though you think more about it than some that criticise the evidence…but some things you mention aren’t as ill-explained or non-existent as you make out. I won’t go through everything, people more capable than I are pointing out references for you, so I’ll just pick out things of interest to me.

“a. The actual temprature record does not appear to be objective:”

This argument is one usually of distrusting the scientific method. I’d agree with you if it weren’t for hundreds of thousands of others in the scientific community working with this data, analysing it and testing it’s integrity over a period of decades.

“b. But also the fact that key records such as tree rings stop after 1960, when they are replaced by observed temprature records. No good reason for this has been put forward.”

The good reason has always been the effect of acid rain on the sizing of tree ring data. It’s interesting that you seem to distrust the scientists when they stick with some data sources, but when they try to mitigate that data you distrust it also?

“Anyway, I’ve studied the eleventh century, and if that was not a warm period there was something very odd going on (for a start archaeologists have never challenged the assumption from environmental analysis, and believe me they would if the evidence did not stack up).”

Eleventh century world wide or eleventh century western Europe, out of interest?

“but the approachable presentation of the theory as to why carbon dioxide retains heat so well have not been made.”

I would look here (and to the whole site which is very informative) http://www.skepticalscience.com/CO2-is-not-the-only-driver-of-climate.html

“d. If, as still seems likely, the planet is warming, then no-one has explained why this has to be the work of mankind?”

Well, scientists have explained why it has to be the work of mankind, because they have found that the primary effect is greenhouse gases and can’t find any other explanation for the rise in greenhouse gases (in particular CO2). It’s a little simplistic to say that but that’s where the science lies. I wonder what cycles you think would effect to the earth’s warming more than both el nino/la nina and the solar cycles? Both of which are only about a decade in length I might add.

“e. There are clearly vested interests, including big corporations (often those with interests ironically in oil etc) who stand to do well out of things like carbon trading. Governments want to be seen to do something about the ‘threat’ (in response to Daily Mail like cries of something must be done).”

There is a genuine concern about the politicisation of the subject, that’s for sure….

“Corporations and governments give most of the funding for science research.”

…yet the same governments and corporations really didn’t want to know about global warming until…and I’m being generous here…the mid 1990′s. almost half a century of climate research went on before corporations got on board to make some money, and yet in that time the consensus built up and built up.

http://www.grist.org/article/show-me-the-money1/ also has a good “common sense” kind of view as to why, if scientists are “gaming the system” for funding, that they’re stupid for choosing to all come to a consensus on this.

“I can see problems here – and remember the appropriate funding council had specified for climatic research applications for funding should have relationship to man-made climate change.”

Funders tend to have a goal, this is true, but all they’re doing is setting the parameters. “we’ll give you money if you do research in to global warming, and man’s effect”. This doesn’t mean that the scientists MUST link man’s effect to climate change, only that it has to revolve around that subject.

f”. There clearly was an attempt to subvert the peer-review process by some academics. Thus it is not possible to trust peer-reviewed literature’s conclusions in the field of climate change, at least until a housekeeping takes place.”

Where? I see this levied and I assume it’s to do with the CRU emails that showed scientists wanting to write strongly worded letters to peers (oooh scary!) and to stop journals from being subscribed to?

I think people misunderstand how critical peer-review can be. They’re not there, certainly not in the respected journals, to simply tick boxes…they are there to make sure that what they’re publishing is going to add to what is already known.

“g. A scientific recommendation is not the same as something we must do, else why do we have democracy. But this seems to be often forgotten, and we are told the scientists say something so it must be done. Why?”

Because the people that are telling us to do it are our politcians…and funnily enough THAT is democracy. Scientists advise, lobby and debate…we mustn’t forget that they aren’t telling us to do anything, we can be stupid and ignore their collective intelligence because we singularly have some deep seated prejudices against agreeing, and then collectively affirm each others ill informed views.

In my opinion if there was ever a working example of the two extremes of wisdom of crowds, in terms of how it works well, and how it can be devastating, it’s in the climate change debate arena.

Public opinion hasn’t changed? Surely, you jest.

But then, the two polls cited were conducted about a month before and a week before the Copenhagen UN Climate Change Conference 2009, respectively.

Perhaps you’d get a better idea of the shift in public opinion if you examine expectations going into Copenhagen, and then compare and contrast those with the actual results coming out of the Copenhagen conference.

If I may summarize for you, expectations going in: golden; results coming out: shambles.

The largest part of this decline, if you’ll pardon the term, was/is a result of the CRU email leaks, and the subsequent discoveries that, upon checking, not all of IPCC’s data is peer reviewed, not the product of top scientists in their field, not backed by preserved copies of original data and/or adjustments that were made to said data.

Not to mention how the folks of CRU and IPCC are coming off as conceited and petty jerks who were eager to receive accolades and grants, but are apparently highly allergic to responsibility.

The actions of these people, their practice of bad science, has harmed not only the standing of Anthropogenic Global Warming, but the standing of all science.


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