I want to be like Richard Alley when I grow up

Dr. Richard Alley: "You would be amazed at how many people still want to argue about gravity."
Photo by Penn State
Dr. Richard Alley: “You would be amazed at how many people still want to argue about gravity.”

If you are worried that your children will grow up to become scientists, you need to do everything in your power to keep them away from Dr. Richard Alley. He casts spells on young minds. He can make science seem wonderful, interesting and exciting. I’ve watched him testify before Congress, I’ve listened to him lecture and last week I ate a grilled cheese sandwich at lunch with him.

I am now seriously considering becoming a scientist. I want to be like Richard Alley when I grow up.

He was invited to the Science Museum of Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas to speak to students and faculty for the school’s sustainability week events. The National Science Foundation (NSF) paid for the visit. The NSF is also sponsoring Dr. Alley’s new television series on PBS titled “Earth: The Operators’ Manual (ETOM).” It is the closest PBS has come to putting science within the reach of the average person as Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos.” “ETOM” is a direct descendant of “Cosmos” and the bloodline can be traced to Sagan’s senior producer, Geoffrey Haines-Stiles, who is now teamed with Alley.

Populizers of science have not always been welcomed warmly by fellow scientists. Sagan was denied membership in the National Academy of Scientists despite the fact that he had done more to make science accessible than anyone else in a century. Not a problem for Dr. Alley, who is already a member of that exclusive club. He is a climate scientist, a geologist and the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at Penn State University.

He is slight of frame, but plays soccer on weekends. When he’s not bungee-jumping in New Zealand or climbing mountains or traversing glaciers, he teaches and conducts experiments and publishes peer-reviewed papers. Dr. Alley knows more about Earth’s historical climate than just about anyone around. He has measured the ancient bubbles of air trapped in ice cores taken from Greenland and Antarctica, some dating back 400,000 years. What the ice core chemistry and data reveal, he tells students and politicians, is that the planet is warming and humans are causing it.

Jumps, runs and bursts into laughter
Dr. Alley never seems to stay put for very long, even when he is delivering a lecture. He jumps up and down, runs, crouches, bursts into laughter and tells his audience the painful truth.  Alley says: “What’s really bizarre is that there are people in this world who don’t seem to like what we are discovering. Rather than us sharing and helping, they’d rather we just shut up and go away.”

Sometimes it is worse than that. “One man looked at the ice core data curves we produced and said I hadn’t interpreted them right and called the president of my university and demanded I be fired,” Alley said.

But it got uglier. “Another gentleman decided that we showed the right curves, but hadn’t emphasized one element sufficiently. Then, he said, because you didn’t, you should be damned to hell.'”

The saddest part of the tale is that Alley’s work, in fact, detailed exactly what his critics said he’d failed to do.  

He gets more than his share of that kind of reaction, especially from politicians and their staffs. Alley said: “I was speaking to a young staffer who said, ‘I didn’t take science in college. I don’t like science. I don’t know anything about science, but I know your science is wrong.'”

One of the most frequently stated positions on why the planet is warming is that it is being brought on by natural causes. No science exists to support such a hypothesis, but politicians, like former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, choose to cling to that forlorn and misguided hope. Alley says: “In just 250 years, we have blown past the natural change limits…far more than anything in the last 400,000 years. Forty times longer than the oldest human civilization.

“There is really no question we are far outracing what nature has done in the past,” Alley adds. “We are burning fossil fuels about a million times faster than nature put them aside.”

Cooling story
Part of Dr. Alley’s charm is his frankness. Another threadbare argument is that scientists in the 1970s predicted global cooling. Detailed research into the published record shows that those who suggested the planet may cool were not only wrong, but represented the tiniest of minorities.  Nevertheless, journalists looking for a story out of the ordinary (which is rather ordinary itself) picked the cooling story to tell, even though the bulk of the science pointed to warming.

“The idea that scientists have flip-flopped on this is complete blithering idiocy,” Alley says. Then he reminds his audience, “You would be amazed at how many people still want to argue about gravity.”

Studies are showing that by mid-century most of the world’s scientists will be working in Asia. And since about half of America’s economic growth over the past half century has come from science and technology, it might not be a bad idea to let your kids hang around Dr. Alley after all.

As he comes to the conclusion of his talk, Dr. Alley looks out on the fresh-faced students who have come to hear him and says: “If any of you are thinking about careers in science, my  job description is to get with some really great people, go to the most beautiful places on the planet, help discover what nobody knows and share it with senators and students and other citizens, and help them use it in good ways.”

I’m sold. I wish I had run into somebody like Dr. Richard Alley about 50 years ago.

Maybe it is his enthusiasm, or maybe it is his optimism that so attracts students. “We are finding that if you combine environmental science with what we know how to build, and combine that with what we believe is right, there is a way forward,” he says. “That way will get us a more sustainable future, a better environment, a stronger economy, which gets us more jobs and greater security…and it is truly a wonderful vision to get a world where this works.”

Scientists who have shown that the burning of fossil fuels by humans is the cause of global warming are often cast by conservative media as godless leftists bent on the destruction of the American way of life. Alley has a surprising response to that attack, too.

He says: “I want you to know that I’m a registered Republican, and I go to church every Sunday.”

I finish my grilled cheese sandwich, bid Dr. Alley goodbye and drive home for a nap. I have had enough amazement for one day.

Comments (39)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/11/2011 - 12:56 pm.

    You know Don, for a guy who claims to *love* science as much as you do, you sure seem reluctant to share any.

    All of your posts feature claims such as “studies have concluded” “reseach clearly shows” and “detailed research of records indicate”…but you never, ever share the source of your wisdom with your readers.

    Why is that Don?

  2. Submitted by Thomas Anderson on 10/11/2011 - 03:23 pm.

    Because people like you wouldn’t understand/be willing to accept straight scientific data.
    I find it odd that somebody like swiftee here can berate Don, but not offer a single shred of evidence for what he’s claiming…which itself is unclear. Casting doubt without offering a counter explanation is very telling. Why does it bug you so much that some people know more than you swiftee?

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/11/2011 - 04:23 pm.

    Haven’t claimed a darn thing this time Tom(ee), just asked the question. But, given Don’s example, I could inform you that according to (un named) reports, anything I *do* claim is a confirmed fact and that mounting evidence (from an undeclared source) gives warrant to anything I *might* claim in the near future.

    It doesn’t bug me that many, many people know much, much more than me Tom(ee), what does bug me is when those few that know much less than me try to blow smoke up my posterior.

  4. Submitted by Brian Nelson on 10/11/2011 - 04:57 pm.

    Mr. Quick,
    Why ask a loaded question? You already have your mind made about this article.

    What the heck–I’ll play the game too: why do you continue to bore us with your typing exercises?

  5. Submitted by Thomas Anderson on 10/11/2011 - 05:09 pm.

    The exact science behind man made global climate change is easily found on the internet, along with the the fact that climate scientists are in almost total agreement about it. You can’t question science.
    And you know that, which is why you claim to have innocent motives, or that you were “just asking” a simple question, when it’s clear you won’t listen or consider any answer you’re given. You’ve made up your mind, and no amount of data or fact based argument will be able to make you change it.
    In short, you’re being extremely intellectually dishonest with both yourself, and everyone who reads your comments. You should think about that a bit.

  6. Submitted by Joe Musich on 10/11/2011 - 09:00 pm.

    Thanks Don

    Just more information from another source making the pile as Sly Stone said, “gonna take you higher.”

  7. Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/11/2011 - 09:56 pm.

    Thomas (#5):

    “You can’t question science.”

    I had to leave a couple spaces following that one, because it is such a gem. Actually, you can question science; that is how it work; that questioning helps it to advance.

    “Alley said: “I was speaking to a young staffer who said, ‘I didn’t take science in college. I don’t like science. I don’t know anything about science, but I know your science is wrong.'”

    Does anyone believe this unattributed quote is real? Does someone wholly discredit themselves before making such a claim? It strikes me as a fabrication. All of the outrageous quotes are unattributed. Don, did you get anything “on the record”?

  8. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/12/2011 - 11:37 am.

    @#1
    As already pointed out, those studies are easy to find. You know that. You keep finding them and then removing inconvenient words, then posting them here and telling us that the reason we didn’t find these quotes is because you have to subscribe to the journals that are publishing them (which is patently untrue). Don’s readers are not all so stupid as to require that he provide hundreds of links to the hundreds of studies that support global warming.

    @#5
    You’re right. Data should be questioned. That’s how science works. (At least I assume that’s what you meant when you said science should be questioned, because science itself is a process not an answer, and that process is the very definition of “science” and so can’t be questioned, really. But then, maybe you’d argue what the definition of “is” is, too.) And the data has been questioned and tested. Each and every time, that data has been supported by new data. At least, I have see no data to support a conclusion that the Earth is not warming or that it is cooling. Here’s the thing, the data can be questioned, but the veracity of any statements that contradict the data can only be determined with more data. A simple statement without data is worthless. And there are a lot of worthless statements out there supporting a concept contrary to global warming.

    As for the “quote,” I’m sure it’s paraphrased. Not a difficult conclusion to make, and I really didn’t feel deceived. These articles are written for people who are of average or higher intelligence, not for those that would read the internal quote and honestly believe that it is word-for-word quotation from some unnamed staffer. The message is the same, regardless of whether it is taken literally or not, though. That is, the people who are desperately holding on to the smidgens of “evidence” that the globe is not warming have not a clue what the science is, or how it works, yet will call the science wrong. Some will even remove inconvenient words from scientific journal article abstracts to support a belief that is in direct contradiction to what the original words intended.

  9. Submitted by Tim Larson on 10/12/2011 - 06:53 pm.

    Don,

    Good to know that you want to be a “registered Republican” when you grow up. There’s still hope for you!

  10. Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/12/2011 - 08:22 pm.

    Rachel:

    As for the “quote”, quotation marks are typically reserved for real quotes. I thought that Don wanted to be a journalist when he grows up.

    The earth has warmed about 0.8 degrees over the past 150 years. It has been less than 100 years that there have been reasonable instruments and access to isolated places to use them. What do we expect? Is there a correct answer? Is it 0.1 degree? Would that be considered stable over 150 years?

    Settled science; what is that? As far as I know, that term occurs only in the vernacular of AGW discussions. In AGW discussions, the idea that “You can’t question science” is prevalent. Drink the kool-aid, and ask no questions; ridicule anyone not walking in lock-step.

    What of the unabated leap to the human cause. Climate scientists are fully aware of the medieval warm period, which lasted for hundreds of years. What caused that, and what makes that cause impossible now?

  11. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/13/2011 - 12:56 pm.

    @#10
    “Drink the kool-aid” and “ridicule anyone not walking in lock-step.” Please, observe your own writing and that of your fellows. You’re throwing stones in a house of glass.

    To correct you, though, the average global temperature has changed about 0.8 degrees Celsius, or about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (important distinction), over the last 100 years (not 150). We know that there is a standard range of average temperatures over the last 40 THOUSAND years. We are exceeding the upper limits of that range right now, and at a rate that has increased exponentially in the last 100 years. And, if we consider the standard range of atmospheric carbon over that time period, we can easily see an even greater increase. So, your questions have already been answered. Suggesting that they have not been is disingenuous, at best. If you feel the need to test the science, go right ahead. But, keep in mind that any answer must be considered in light of MULTIPLE sets of data that already shows one trend. Outliers must be tested even more thoroughly.

  12. Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/13/2011 - 02:08 pm.

    That statement is not only in light of, but because of my writing and the writing of my fellows. Let me know if you think I have not been ridiculed regarding my AGW comments, and I will provide you the MinnPost quotes.

    Yes this is science, and in science, we use Celsius. AGW apologists like Fahrenheit. Might they be prone to exaggerations?

    40,000 years of data? Who gathered that data? Perhaps you are referring to computer models based on the fossil record. 0.8 degrees over 150 years is exponential growth? What is the measurement error on that number? Show or provide a link to your math.

    Rachel, what about the hard hitting data presented in this present AGW argument? I think this might be the fluffiest piece I’ve read on MinnPost. “One man . . . demanded I be fired,”; “Another gentleman . . . you should be damned to hell.” This doesn’t seem to be written for readers of above average intelligence, as you asserted.

    I may not often agree with Black and Brauer, but I respect their ability to write and to source their quotes.

    I like the science, but I don’t like the incontrovertible conclusion. Some seem to love the incontrovertible conclusion, “You can’t question science.”

  13. Submitted by Thomas Anderson on 10/13/2011 - 03:56 pm.

    Congrats on completely ignoring what Rachel said and instead attacking her for not “linking her math”. Wow. I’ll say it again:
    The evidence and datat supporting the case for man made climate change is found easily on the internet. The comment section of Minnpost isn’t an academic paper or journal, and we’re not going to spend our time making an air tight case, complete with sourcing of our claims, every single time we leave a comment. If you’re so much smarter than us, and climate scientists why don’t you find your own data to support your argument? Oh wait, you don’t have any data. Maybe that’s why you’re reduced to making your case on the comment section of minnpost instead of in an academic setting.
    If you want I have some great opinions on the laws of physics that those elitist physicists won’t listen to because I don’t have the data to support my claims.

  14. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/13/2011 - 04:07 pm.

    @#12
    I know scientists use Celsius (I am one), but your average American non-scientist does not understand what 1 degree Celsius IS simply because we do not use it regularly. The Celsius scale is much more compact than the Fahrenheit scale, so a degree Celsius is a much larger difference. 0.8 degrees Celsius over an entire globe is a BIG difference.

    As for the 40k years of data, no, I’m not talking about computer models based on the fossil records. Rather, I’m talking about the proximations made based on various empirical evidences, including tree rings, isotope deposits in snow, etc. While we can’t be certain of the EXACT temperature based on these, we can take them as a whole, calibrate them using modern temperature readings, and estimate with reasonable accuracy. We also know that carbon levels in the atmosphere correlate and slightly precede trends in temperature, further supporting the data. We also know that the levels of atmospheric carbon have certainly exceeded the levels over the last 40K years. Physics and chemistry dictate that the increase in carbon-based greenhouse gases in the atmosphere must necessarily lead to increases in overall temperature.

    As for a “link to my math,” I’m afraid it’s not MY math. However, I have provided links to the data in the past. As I’ve already said, it’s easy enough to find. Go for it. I’ve found it difficult, however, to find data that supports your stance, perhaps you can point me to it. I want a peer reviewed journal article with data, not some website that supposedly correlates all of this elusive data.

    As for “hard hitting data presented in this present AGW argument,” I presume you mean Don’s article. This article wasn’t about hard hitting data. It was about a scientist that understands the science and has found that there’s a Cult of Belief that claims to trump Logic and Science. This same scientist has taken upon himself the duty to teach Logic and Science to a new generation before the Cult of Belief drags us into a new Dark Age.

  15. Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/13/2011 - 06:18 pm.

    Thomas:

    I don’t think Rachel needs your help. I think you said enough when you stated, “You can’t question science.” (Direct quote, attributed to the source (see above)).

    Rachel:

    Lots of assumptions, as you noted, in reaching 0.8 degrees warming in 150 years. What is the margin of error, when considering the accuracy, resolution, and repeatability of the instruments? I searched and found nothing.

    I asked the exponential question, to see if you would answer it, knowing you would not. Generally, the factor in the exponent (multiplied by the number of years) is 0.02. Wow, that is some exponent! Not the order of magnitude that comes to the minds of people that measure temperature in Farhenheit.

    What is being taught to the new generation? Don’t question the majority, don’t be skeptical, just believe that which you are told. Cult? Sounds like one to me.

  16. Submitted by Thomas Anderson on 10/13/2011 - 09:15 pm.

    Yeah mature dude, don’t actually answer to what I said, just repeat how you misunderstood what I wrote above. I meant you can’t question scientific data without offering counter data. It is a bit funny that you’re running out taunts and unfounded claims to repeat over and over. I’ll say it again: present your counter data and then we’ll listen. That you think global warming is false based on the conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit is laughable and pretty indicative of what weak ground you’re standing on. Seriously, how have you convinced yourself of this?

  17. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/13/2011 - 09:24 pm.

    @#15
    I answered your question. You chose to ignore it. Your “look over there!” tactic isn’t an effective debate tactic.

    But, if you wish to talk about exponential factors, feel free to show YOUR math. Even on a logical basis, the factor you provide would indicate that the temperature is normalizing, when the empirical data shows very clearly that it is not. If, rather, you meant that 0.02 was the exponent, it would mean essentially the same thing. If you meant that both the factor and the exponent were 0.02, the math would lead to a conclusion of normalization. Again, no matter how you manipulate 0.02 in an exponential manner, it is in contradiction to the actual measured temperatures from thermometers, not just temperatures derived from other means. So, the data does not support such a “factor in the exponent.”

    Your suggestion that I noted assumptions in the 0.8 degrees C in the last 150 years is false. I noted no such assumptions. We have had calibrated thermometers for about 300 years. The change of 0.8 degrees C has happened within 1 HUNDRED, not 150 years. No assumptions needed.

    It appears that I just questioned the numbers you put in front of me. If there is a cult in which my views are held, at least I am able to independently come to my own conclusions. I can’t speak for anyone else, but at least I’m not drinking any Kool-aid.

  18. Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/14/2011 - 09:36 am.

    Thomas:

    Your argument seems to be aimed at the messenger rather than the message. I have few words to spend on name callers.

    Rachel:

    I thought I had shown the math, when I explained that 0.02 is the factor in the exponent, and that the number of years is the variable. For example, for the period from 1950 to 1990 would be 0.02(1990-1950).

    Regarding the 150 year period, which is the period for which measurement data is available, see this link and the excerpt below.

    http://www.ecoworld.com/atmosphere/atmospheric-science/global-warming-facts.html

    “Global Warming Data

    The data in the following set of tables, compiled by Dr. Richard Lindzen, an atmospheric scientist from MIT, only goes back to the mid 19th century; there are only about 150 years of data. Per-WWI data could be skewed. Depending on whether or not that is true, or even so, there is only about a 0.5 (one-half degree) centigrade change in global temperature that is clearly indicated.”

    That is my source, show me yours.

    Yes, this planet is slowly changing, as it always has. Are humans the cause? The self-loathing answer is YES, what else could it be?

    What the carbon calculations show is that the earth should be a lot warmer than it is. Why is that?

    The data shows the warming (0.5 degrees in the past 150 years), what it does not show is the cause. There is no data for that supports a human cause.

  19. Submitted by Thomas Anderson on 10/14/2011 - 01:13 pm.

    Apparently nobody has ever told steve to stop when he’s behind.

  20. Submitted by Thomas Anderson on 10/14/2011 - 01:21 pm.

    Which is why you’re such a well respected scientific mind. Oh wait….you’re not.

  21. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/15/2011 - 02:13 pm.

    @#18
    …That’s a LINEAR SLOPE, not an exponential curve. A HUGE difference.

    Even if the article to which you get your data was accurate (it was written by a well-known global warming skeptic, that claims that all of the data is the same data and only includes data up to 2006), which I do not concede, even a linear slope would be significant.

    However, in order to get a more accurate view, with actual data, not the opinion of an aging scientist who would rather poopoo someone else’s data than get his own, let’s look here:
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/global/global-land-ocean-mntp-anom/201001-201012.gif
    This graph shows the yearly combined ocean surface/land temperatures as compared to an average combined temperature from 1901-2000. (To understand where this data comes from, go here: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cmb-faq/anomalies.php)

    If you want to believe Dr. Lindzen, and presume that the pre WWII measurements are inaccurate, you must concede that the temperature has still risen by about 0.6 degrees C since the end of WWII, not the 150 years that Dr. Lindzen claims.

    If you want to see the effect of human activity on temperature, feel free to take a look at the time during WWII, where the temperature bumped up and then leveled afterward. Is it just coincidence that the years associated with a petroleum-fueled industrial frenzy of building war machines was associated with a bump in the average? How about the post-WWII rebuilding period and a cooler average? Maybe. Still, it proves that what your article claimed is patently false.

    Try again.

  22. Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/17/2011 - 08:34 am.

    Rachel:

    Yes, it is a LINEARly changing exponent. I was referring to a mathematical model with which I thought you were familiar. In comment #11, you stated, “We are exceeding the upper limits of that range right now, and at a rate that has increased exponentially in the last 100 years.” The claim of an exponential increase is yours, so you can back it up, if you care to. Do I, and your esteemed colleague Thomas, have to do all the heavy work in this conversation?

    Since you like NOAA links, I will provide you this one and an excerpt. But first, the question that always goes unanswered about our turbulent system of climate, what is considered stable? Over 100 or 150 years, what is acceptable? If we could control it, would we dial it down to 0.01 degrees of variation?

    Link:

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/globalwarming/medieval.html

    Excerpt:

    “Medieval Warm Period – 9th to 13th Centuries
    Norse seafaring and colonization around the North Atlantic at the end of the 9th century indicated that regional North Atlantic climate was warmer during medieval times than during the cooler “Little Ice Age” of the 15th – 19th centuries. As paleoclimatic records have become more numerous, it has become apparent that “Medieval Warm Period” or “Medieval Optimum” temperatures were warmer over the Northern Hemisphere than during the subsequent “Little Ice Age””

    The temperature goes up and the temperature goes down, with or without our industrial activities.

    Dr. Richard S. Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, yet you dismiss him because he is a skeptic and is aging. Really? Actually, we are all aging. If you meant he is aged, let’s not forget that the only thing sought after but not achieved without age is wisdom. A scientist that is not a skeptic, is a scientist with an agenda.

    Regarding WWII, pre and post, I don’t think so. During WWII, existing factories were retooled to war materiel. For other than government use, cars were not built from 1942 through 1945. One could not buy a refrigerator; gas was rationed, and many sold or parked their cars. Following the war, there was a building boom, and lots of new cars and major appliance built. The war did not change the climate.

  23. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/17/2011 - 11:52 am.

    @#22
    Regarding exponents, your graph showed it quite well.

    Regarding the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period, your graph showed that both were minor and the “Warm Period” pales in comparison to the current warm period.

    Regarding Dr. Lindzen, your claim regarding his merits have little impact on the fact that he has not provided his own data showing what he claims. He’s a smart cookie, but his views on global warming are not supported by any evidence, let alone any he has provided. They are based on hypothesis, not data.

    Regarding WWII, you don’t think so. That’s nice. I will concede that existing factories were used and it was difficult to get every day items that required manufacturing. However, I won’t concede that the output was equal to pre-WWII and post-WWII. If, in fact, manufacturing levels were the same as pre-WWII, then why was there a huge scrap metal and rubber drive? Why would we have decided to recycle during the war when we didn’t bother to think that much about it prior to the war, if we didn’t need more materials? Nor do I concede that any of this energy consumption was clean energy consumption. In all probability, no one cared at the time they were cranking out tanks and bombs and bullets, whether or not they were doing so without putting tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

  24. Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/17/2011 - 01:17 pm.

    You may consider the medieval warm and the little ice age to be minor, but they illustrate natural variations that occur, which cannot be attributed to human activity. Again, what variation do you consider stable over 100 or 150 years? Irregardless of the period or the whose graphs you like, we are still talking about a fraction of a degree.

    The dirty thirties started over ten years before WWII; a period of drought, heat, warm winters, real Grapes of Wrath stuff. The planet must have anticipated the actions of the Germans and Japanese a decade in advance.

    I found this link regarding the anti-science of global warming to be interesting:

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/11/when_the_warmest_in_history_is.html

    excerpt: “a UC San Diego science historian who reviewed 928 abstracts of peer-reviewed articles on global warming published between 1993 and 2003, and concluded, “Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.”

    Remarkable, indeed. It causes me to question why we continue to invest millions in research each year, if we have a consensus on this settled science.

  25. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/17/2011 - 04:43 pm.

    @#24

    Natural variations occur in hair color, too. But saying that the current global warming is a natural variation is akin to saying that a person born with blue hair is not an anomaly.

    I’ll consider the “natural variation” argument valid when I see data that even suggests an era during human existence where the temperatures and atmospheric carbon exceeded the current trend. But, it had better be repeatable.

    Of course, by Mr. Swift’s logic, we should stop spending money on something if we get data once, because once we validate, it’s no longer worth considering. But then, Mr. Swift would rather believe Debra Saunders over 928 abstracts by scientists. Of course, we all recognize Ms. Saunders as an expert in…well…nothing. She blogs. She’s not even a trained scientist in ANYTHING. And, quite frankly, if I had the time and inclination, I could probably poke a thousand massive holes in the particular blog post you cite to, as well, Mr. Swift.

  26. Submitted by Thomas Anderson on 10/17/2011 - 08:41 pm.

    #24

    Burn.

    Grasping at straws doesn’t even begin to cover what you’re doing.

  27. Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/17/2011 - 08:44 pm.

    Rachel:

    Mr. Swift? Mr. Swift has not been a part of this conversation since comment #3.

    How did carbon enter the conversation? I thought we were discussing temperature. They are not the same, and there link is not well established.

    928 abstracts were review by a UC-San Diego science historian, not a blogger. We also know that there are some climate science experts who are skeptical of the consensus opinion. Dr. Richard Lindzen of MIT comes to mind. It seems that what gets published is the majority position, and the minority position gets disregarded, and not published.

    If this were truly the level of consensus, there would be nothing left to research. However, the consensus dam is developing some significant cracks, which are sloughing off some desperate repairs and repair attempts.

    P.S.: Still no opinion regarding the desired temperature stability over a 100 or 150 year period?

  28. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/18/2011 - 09:43 am.

    @#27
    Oops. Mr. Rose. Different name, same argument.

    At least two major carbon-based compounds act as greenhouse gases. But you knew that, and the link is, quite contrary to your allegation, well established.

    The 928 abstracts were reviewed by a historian (not a scientist, let alone a climatologist). A blogger (not a scientist, let alone a climatologist) mentioned it. The interpretation that 928 abstracts agreeing means that no one questions the science is the blogger’s (not a scientist’s, let alone a climatologist’s). And it’s simply silly.

    Dr. Lindzen is a prolific publisher. Your contention that the minority position doesn’t get published is simply wrong. The reason Dr. Lindzen is disregarded is because he has no data to back up his opinion, just hypotheses.

    This IS truly at the level of consensus. Further research is important for understanding the detail, the potential consequences, and the potential mitigation. Suggesting otherwise is a matter of making up your own opinion, which is, of course, without support in the evidence.

    Opinion on the “preferred temperature stability” over 100 years or 150 years: opinions on these things bear little weight without support. I could make stuff up, but I prefer not to. I’ll leave the “preferred temperature stability” to the experts. Until there’s logical support with at least some evidence to back it up, I will ignore any opinions on such.

  29. Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/18/2011 - 10:18 am.

    Rachel:

    “Same argument”, from the one bravely defending the majority position? How do you and Thomas do it?

    We were warned that this greenhouse gas phenomenon was a runaway (exponential) sort or phenomenon. However, in 2010, Professor Phil Jones admitted that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming. It makes the greenhouse gas thing sound like a hypothesis with no data to back up the opinion.

    What we do know about AGW, is that it is a fraction of a degree problem, and the desired and unidentified stability is a fraction of a degree too.

  30. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/18/2011 - 12:36 pm.

    @#29
    Easy. You and Swift say the same things, why should we change the way we respond? Besides, I have no need to change my views, no matter who I’m debating. Until you provide me with evidence that global warming is not happening instead of rewarmed opinions by skeptics with no data, my response will be the same to you and Mr. Swift. Hence, “Different name, same argument.”

    Phil Jones’ statement did not indicate that global warming wasn’t happening, even in the last 15 years. His statement was that, in the last 15 years, the measured warming did not exceed a statistical significance of 95%. It does not make “the greenhouse gas thing” sound like anything of the sort.

    What we do know about AGW is that massive amounts of evidence point in its existence. “Fractions of a degree” problems make the difference between ice, water, and steam. A fraction of a degree turns ice into water. Ask Texans what extra water means. (Feel free to play with this to see with your own eyes: http://www.csc.noaa.gov/digitalcoast/tools/slrviewer/)

    Even within those extremes, smaller temperature changes make a huge biological difference. Male crocodilians hatch when eggs are incubated at 31 POINT 6 degrees C. Females if higher or lower. (Check it out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crocodile)

    Proteins are stable at specific temperatures and denature within fractions of a degree. Heat stroke happens at a body temperature exceeding 41 POINT 1 degrees C and results in the denaturation of proteins, the literal melting of lipids that hold our cells together, and leads to cardiovascular collapse. (Read about it here: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/166320-overview#)

  31. Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/18/2011 - 02:07 pm.

    Rachel:

    I see that yours is a digital world; there are those that are with you and those that are not. Your comments exhibit an intolerance for diversity, an intolerance for those that don’t buy your dogma. I am not selling dogma; I am skeptical of yours.

    Over centuries, species adapt, or fail to adapt, to a changing planet. Dinosaurs didn’t make the cut. The Coelacanth has been around for about 360 million years, and persists today. Your crocodilians have been around a few years too, and seem to be doing well too.

    The present drought in Texas pales in comparison to the dust bowl of the 1930’s. AGW supporters, while intolerant of anecdotal evidence presented to them, certainly like to dish it out, and provided links, when it supports their position.

    “Until you provide me with evidence that global warming is not happening …” Rachel, perhaps you have not been reading my posts, because I never said that. It seems that you are debating your idea of a generic AGW skeptic.

  32. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/18/2011 - 02:58 pm.

    @#31
    My “comments exhibit an intolerance for diversity.” Eh? Since when is disagreeing with someone’s conclusory statements by asking for facts to support them an intolerance for diversity? I think you’ve assigned an overly broad definition to “diversity.” Simply because everyone has an opinion doesn’t make all of them valid. That’s not an intolerance for diversity, it’s an intolerance for unsubstantiated statements.

    I’ve read your posts. I fail to see where you’ve got any basis for your arguments. You’ve thrown the opinions of others out as a basis for your own opinions, yet neither they nor you have founded those opinions on anything other than hypotheses. All point to a generic AGW skeptic.

  33. Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/18/2011 - 04:03 pm.

    Rachel:

    Real diversity goes beyond the superficial, like skin tone, to deeper things, like what we think and what we believe. That is really who we are, isn’t it?

    If only we could all be AGW-bots; wouldn’t the world be a better place? We could all think like you. We could all have opinions, but you could decide which ones are valid.

    I have not thrown out the opinions of others, nor have I stated that “that global warming is not happening”, as you charged.

    You’ve shown no link between carbon and warming, just a hypothesis, which seems to have no data to back it over the past fifteen years. Oh for the late 90’s when we had several consecutive warm winters; your dogma was so much easier to peddle in those days.

  34. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/18/2011 - 06:13 pm.

    @#33
    I don’t need to show the link between carbon and warming. That link has been proven and the data is not hard to find.

    This argument has been exhausted, as evidenced by the fact that you’ve suggested prejudice on my part (intolerance of diversity, really?! I’d say what I’m intolerant of, but this post wouldn’t show up.). I won’t bother tugging the straws at which you grasp.

  35. Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/18/2011 - 08:51 pm.

    Rachel:

    You are correct; you don’t need to show the link between carbon and warming. Participation in this conversation is voluntary.

    Carbon as it relates to warming is a theory; it has not been proven. While there is data on carbon, the causal relationship with warming is not proven. Many things are correlated without a causal relationship. I can provide examples if it would help.

    You think that you are tolerant of my skepticism? I see nothing in your posts to indicate tolerance for anything except AGW dogma.

    Instead of substance, you and Thomas offer hyperbole, like “straws”, “Burn”, and “I could probably poke a thousand massive holes”.

  36. Submitted by Thomas Anderson on 10/20/2011 - 09:40 pm.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/20/global-warming-study-climate-sceptics

  37. Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/21/2011 - 09:23 am.

    Thomas:

    Thanks for the link. However, it is not particularly germane to this discussion.

    I will quote myself from comment #10, “The earth has warmed about 0.8 degrees over the past 150 years.”

    The Guardian article is about skeptics of global warming. I am a skeptic of the human cause, as I have clearly stated above.

  38. Submitted by Thomas Anderson on 10/24/2011 - 11:46 pm.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-scientific-finding-that-settles-the-climate-change-debate/2011/03/01/gIQAd6QfDM_story.html

  39. Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/25/2011 - 10:14 am.

    Thomas (#38):

    Are you reading the links that you are providing? Yet again, no human cause.

    From your link, “It is true that Muller made no attempt to ascertain “how much of the warming is due to humans.””

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