The Great Global Warming Hoax Hoax

Please read my post on The Las Vegas Stylings of Science before you read this one–it relies on it heavily.

In January 1991 I heard Al Gore give his Global Warming talk. It was in PowerPoint then too. It was at a meeting of environmental statisticians in New Orleans. Of course, then, Brother Gore’s hockey stick graph was a little shorter and we had not had the hot 90’s to add to his arsenal. He was stumping for a possible presidential run, but because he was recovering from his son’s nearly fatal accident he would choose not run that election year.

Interestingly, that same day, in fact just a few hours earlier, a statistician from the Woods Hole Marine laboratory gave a presentation saying based on his analysis of water temperature he did not think that global warming was a real. He put his skepticism that global warming in terms of a probability: it was only about 30% likely. His opinion was didn’t think it was real.

We all sort of felt bad when Al included old information on sea temperatures that had been refuted earlier that very day. At that conference Global warming was the topic of hot discussions in the hallways and lunch tables of the meeting. I would say among the scientists I talked to, most of who were actively researching the topic, it was running about the same: 30% had data and analysis supporting it, and the rest were seeing things that made them skeptical. Odds of global warming being a real phenomenon based on an informal poll of the researchers? About 3:1 against. Global warming studies were just getting off the ground in a big way in the early nineties and despite the long time Al Gore had been talking about it, the data just were not in. I didn’t care enough to feel strongly one way or the other. I was working on an EPA study on the state of the nation’s ecosystems and there were plenty of other worries to occupy my growing list of environmental concerns. Global warming, which had at the time mounds of conflicting data, had not been moved up on my list by attending this New Orleans meeting (I did shake Al’s hand and would of voted for him if he would have run. It was rare to see a candidate with such a keen mind and so scientifically literate). Most of the scientists in 1991 were unconvinced by the data supporting global warming.

That’s all changed. As studies proceeded, the evidence began to accumulate. It was coming in from all sides: Better satellite measurements of sea temperatures and sea level measurements (these increasing in accuracy from satellite measurements), calving rates of arctic ice, melting glaciers being reported worldwide from the Urals to the Andes, permafrost melting in Canada, Alaska, Siberia. The first evidence that the salinity was changing in the great sea pump that has driven the Gulf Stream for 100,000s of years came in. Moreover ecological studies of multiple species, were showing world wide habitat and range redistributions, birds were nesting earlier worldwide, coral reefs were dying in ways never seen in human history. Tropical diseases were moving out of their traditional ranges–moving northward and to higher elevations. And we began to understand why better. Ice core data 100,000 years old began to connect the dots between our actives and climate. Our computer simulation models were beginning to get better and better and we began understanding what was driving these changes. Humans. (By the way, I do ecological simulations for a living. I write about the philosophy of their use. These climate models are some of the best in the business. They are an important tool in sciences arsenal of information interpretation. These are often a point of attack from the nay-sayers.) The data for these changes was getting clearer and clearer as data became more abundant. Here’s the link to the Woods Hole’s take on climate change now.

Scientists have changed their minds. As economist John Maynard Keynes said to the charge he was flip-flopping: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

(We now call it climate change, because people kept pointing out that it snowed a lot this year or was colder this winter than ever before thus is Global Warming refuted! It’s the poles and alpine regions that are now baring the brunt of the warming and it’s causing climate redistributions world-wide. Rain in places it doesn’t rain. Cool in warm places. Drought where it usually rains, rain where it is dry. Climate change is a more descriptive change than Global Warming.)

Plus we understood why it was happening. If an advanced space race ever came to our planet and said. “Hey guys this planet is perfect! Let’s move in! Only . . . it’s about four degrees too cold!”
“Dang. Too bad. Wait!. The crust if full of organic hydrocarbons, if we took those and put them in the atmosphere we could greenhouse it up to the perfect temperature.”
“Make it so.” their glorious leader would say.

And it would work.

Now the scientific community is nearly unanimous in its assessment (For a summery of this click on the UN’s intergovernmental panel right) In addition, it’s running at well over 50:1 in the scientific literature by my count in favor of human-caused climate change. In the peer review literature, mind you, and that’s all I count as science. And this is my most important point so I’ve underscored it for your connivence: Science requires publication in the peer reviewed journals. The papers by think-tanks, writers like Michael Crichton do not count (I only read his book Prey which so misunderstood evolution and natural selection I never went back to him) and economists and others who look at the simulations and engage in that Humean skepticism I talked about last post. I haven’t seen a negative study in years in a respected peer review journal. When there wasn’t data. Scientists disputed it. Now it is consensus. That’s the way science works. Of course, I’m sure some of you could point out a study or two. There are always holdouts. Richard S. Lindzen, comes to mind. Of course, There were still people writing against and disputing continental drift well into the 80s.

Why doesn’t everyone believe in it? I shouldn’t say ‘everyone’ I should say mostly Americans. Here in Europe they’ve been convinced by the scientific evidence and even among the hoi polloi it’s taken as a fact. Climate change skepticism is more an American (although there are exceptions) phenomenon. Why? There are lots of explanations. First Climate change in the US became politicized. It was seen as a political stance rather than a scientific one. Next, there were big interests to keep the pot stirred. A year or so ago there was a nice Newsweek article that followed the money from Big Oil to the efforts to keep Climate Change perceived as an uncertainty in the US. It was reminiscent of Tobacco company efforts to keep smoking and cancer separated by attacking the studies. But I hate to descend into conspiracy theories when the science is as strong as it its. (But hey, the most powerful economic force in the world has a vested interest in there not being global warming—do you think there is a connection? We can always trust the most powerful lobbies on Earth right?)

Second, the average citizen has trouble distinguishing peer-reviewed science from the numerous articles that are written to cast doubt on climate change. Then, of course, there are the lists of distincuished physisists, economists, dog catchers, etc. who don’t believe in human caused climate change. These are meaningless. I could sign a list saying I thought string theory was great, but it wouldn’t mean much just because I, a scientist signed the statement, I’m not a physicist. There has to be relevancy (See Project ‘Steve’ if you want to see these lists being made fun of, its a list of scientists named Steve who believe in evolution (and yes I’m there!)). The internet is chalk full of official sounding articles from impressive credentials who play the language game of science without the substance thereof. Peer review is the key to science. Without it, it’s not science. If you want a good quick assessment f\of what peer review is saying on Climate Change, look in the journals Science and Nature. These are highly respected journals where much of the Global warming debate has played out. Because the articles are written in such a way that any discipline should be able to read them they tend to be highly understandable, even the deeply technical stuff. You can actually follow the debate (when it was a debate) from the 80’s to the present and get an idea of how science plays out.

So is there a chance that global warming is not happening. Sure. But you are running at 50:1 odds at best, maybe even 500:1 odds (could only find a handful of articles doubting human caused global warming in peer reviewed literature) so I’m being very conservative in my estimate of the odds reflected in the peer reviewed literature. That’s not a very good bet. (But, hey, people still play the lottery.) You don’t have to believe in global warming, just don’t think current Science backs you up. And maybe, just maybe, it’s time to update your probabilities: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

Next time we’ll talk about the ethics of action.

P.S. Just a reminder, I’m in Vienna and I have to approve comments (don’t worry I still approve them if you disagree with me–just not if they are angry, vitriolic, swearing, irrelevant rants (I think I’ve only not approved one comment on this entire site so far) and it’s bed time here and they might not appear until morning and they might in general seem slow to show up because of the time difference. I’m not dissing you if they don’t appear quickly, I’m just asleep.

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47 Responses to The Great Global Warming Hoax Hoax

  1. David says:

    Thanks for this. I’m very much looking forward to your next post. I’m sorry I don’t have more of a substantive comment, but I appreciate your blog and think it’s great addition to the interweb.

  2. ed says:

    I’m not sure I understand the skeptical scientists from 1991. I believe it was well established even then that atmospheric CO2 was increasing substantially, and that the first order effect of increased CO2 would cause some warming. Were they doubting that?

    The larger question (I think) is whether positive feedbacks in the climate system would amplify that warming, and to what degree. Maybe the scientists in 1991 were simply doubting that there would be large positive feedbacks? I’m not sure that counts as doubting “global warming,” especially since the world might well also be warming due to non-human factors.

    Overall, it seems to me that (1) climate models are very very complicated and not really understood, even by most scientists, (2) the idea of a global warming threat is consistent with the political, economic, and aesthetic interests interests of most climate scientists, and (3) all research and experience indicates that most people tend to be over-confident in their own beliefs.

    Therefore, although I would never describe global warming as a “hoax,” I wonder how much confidence I should have in things like the IPCC predictions.

    What would you say are the major pieces of evidence that confirm for you that current climate models are broadly correct to predict substantial positive feedbacks?

  3. Mark D. says:

    If global warming is such an certainty, why have mean global surface temperatures been falling for seven years now?

    In the 1970s the scientific consensus was for global cooling. At the rate things are going perhaps that will be the renewed consensus a decade from now.

  4. Momma says:


    Love the article. Love, love, love the blog.

    I have a (perhaps petty) question regarding something you said: “I would say among the scientists I talked to, most of who were actively researching the topic, it was running about the same: 30% had data and analysis supporting it, and the rest were seeing things that made them skeptical. Odds of global warming being a real phenomenon based on an informal poll of the researchers? About 3:1 against.”

    Now my degree is in (pure) math, not statistics, so you could be right on this. But if the PROBABILITY of something happening is 30% – roughly 1 in 3 – then aren’t the ODDS of it happening 2:1 against? Am I missing something here?

  5. Allen says:

    Thanks, Steve, for this post and your Vegas post. They have given me, a non-scientist, a better understanding of the value of science. I wonder, though, how free of bias the peer review process is. A decision is made by editors to send a manuscript out for peer review or not. Decisions are made about which persons will be asked to review an article. Decisions are made whether or not an article that has been reviewed will be published. Decisions are made whether rebuttals to a published article will be published. The process of “peer review” is based on human judgments, and that opens the door to a process that might not be objective.

    Steve, how do scientists satisfy themselves that the peer review process is objective? More importantly for us non-scientists, how can we satisfy ourselves that that process is objective and that the fact that an article was published indicates that article has a good basis in science?

  6. fg says:

    Bureaucrats will just use the climate crisis to issue red tape and run peoples’s live, ensure their job security, not solve the problem of climate change. And when their mansions and limos are threatened they’ll issue population control orders. When it comes down to them vs. us, they’ll have the camps and ovens ready overnight.

  7. steve says:

    Momma–You are absolutely right on ‘odds’ vs. ‘probability’. Thanks for the correction AND thanks for the nice demonstration of the importance of Peer Review!

    Allen—You bring up an excellent point. Peer review is not perfect. It is filled with all of the mistakes, biases and weaknesses of any human endeavor. I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that peer review is the ideal gate keeper. I think I’ve seen enough papers that left me wondering, “How did this get published?” and seen something that you think belongs on the cover Nature get rejected, not to see peer review’s flaws. I think the strength of peer review is that it is a strong standard of excellence to meet. An analogy is the fact checking that goes into a New Times Article compared to the National Enquirer. It’s not that the NYT always gets things right, but it tends that way over NE. Peer review does not ensure perfection, but it’s the best system we have (given lots of debate about how to accomplish it). That is why I argue Science provides a way to bet, rather than an infallable system. No system has ever been as successful as Science in sorting out the objective facts of the world, but it is still a flawed human activity. But because of peer review, errors tend to be reduced, standards must be met, blunders tend to be discovered, and in the long run the publication processes opens debates, exposes poor thinking or logical fallacies, and sets people into deeper and more careful data collection, experimentation, and observation. Not perfect, but a darn-sight better than any alternative we’ve seen (again speaking about objective facts, not subjective certainties that come through faith and are individually-based).

    Note to people that want me to comment on specific pieces of data: I’m not going to get into arguing about specific claims of the Global Warming defenders or detractors. The only thing I’m interested in talking about is the process of science in arguing for or against climate change not the individual facts. Read the journals Science or Nature for a nice overview of those. This is about what makes something a scientific claim.

    But Ed has brought up something important in asking why should we believe the models? So important I’ve decided to dedicate a post to it. This is something I am very interested in and so watch this space!!! Good question.

  8. Matt W. says:

    So what’s the best solution? Euthanize 50% of the population of every animal type? Aren’t animals (including humans) and their breathing a major cause of Global Warming? Murdering half the human race would also have the benefit of lowering Car emmissions and make more space for planting trees…

  9. Clark says:

    Mark, where’s your evidence global temperatures are cooling? All the evidence I’ve contradicts this. Check out the graph at this blog post for instance.

  10. steve says:

    Thanks Clark. That’s a useful link.

  11. Ed Gulachenski says:

    Steve, you do not mention the satellite data that shows no global warming in the last 10 years.

    Nor do you try to explain why the temperature change in the lower troposphere is the same as or even less than at the surface. Greenhouse gas theory requires the temperature changes in the troposphere to be 2 to 3 times that at the surface.

    The IPCC models show this difference but actual measurements do not. When that happens, you correctly point out that the models must be reevaluated to find out the reason for this basic discrepancy between calculated results and actual measurements. Has the IPCC undertaken this task? No they have not. Instead the impacts due to these grossly exaggerated calculated temperature changes continue to be reported in the press and used as the basis for recommending cap and trade legislation.

    You also make reference to the IPCC Fourth Report as being the last word on the science of anthropogenic Global Warming. Not so. No peer reviewed papers published after May, 2005 are included in the 2007 report.

    This is a pity since these papers show that the observed changes attributed to man made global warming are actually better explained as due to natural causes.

    You also give the impression that the skeptics of anthropogenic global warming consist of a few little known scientists. This cannot be further from the truth. The American Physical Society had been a proponent of the “consensus” on anthropogenic global warming/climate change — until now. While the main organization has not addressed its position — yet — a major unit within APS has declared global warming unproven and that the IPCC’s conclusions unsupportable. The APS will re-open the debate on global warming with a new paper accusing the IPCC of deliberate obfuscation .

    And finally, peruse this list of studies that refute much of the hyped AGW impacts.

    Arctic ice melts in the summer and freezes in the winter. No big deal as shown in:

    Antarctic is gaining ice, even at the edges as shown in:

    Studies show that the Polar Bear population is not in danger; in fact they are doing just fine. :

    And for sea level rising; it is not happening:

  12. Cap says:

    Thank you Steve for this blog. It wasn’t until recently that I had been more involved, and concerned about Global Warming. This blog was informative, and I am glad that you are trying to help people in… America to become more informed about this. Excelent blog.

  13. jhayes says:

    this just goes back to my comments in your last post about the issues with science education in this country. i knew of the scientific method and how it worked throughout much of elementary, middle, and high school, but it wasnt until my freshman year of college that i began to understand how science really worked. when i was in high school i just wanted to be left alone and when i started getting into political thought when i was 15 that was my only concern so for a while i dabbled with objectivist philosophy (oddly, at the suggestion of my Bishop’s 2nd counselor). i really liked a lot of the ideas and turned into a somewhat radical libertarian. i used to view global climate change as entirely political. my views were strongly influenced by those types of people and groups that you mentioned in your post. i still have my copy of the satanic gases by patrick michaels somewhere. but the fact is, he has never really gone through any peer review and kind of cherry picks his evidence. my first semester in college i had a professor who spent the first week of every semester in every one of his classes explaining how science worked. he thoroughly explained to us how peer reviewed journals worked and the difference between hypotheses, hunches, and theories. ive often thought to myself how different i might have perceived the world had i been taught this 4 years earlier in high school, how different would the world be if people had a concrete understanding of how something goes from being an idea to a supported scientific theory. today, politically i find myself in a really moderate position in my views. i accept global climate change as a fact, but i have to admit that i still view some aspects of it as being politicized. i simply dont buy into the extreme doomsday scenarios being pushed by some. i can buy 6-10 feet sea level rise by 2100, but not 30-40. secondly, ive been forced by way too many left leaning professors to watch an inconvenient truth in classes that are totally unrelated to the subject. i didnt like al gore before seeing that movie, and i like him even less afterwards because he comes off as a whiny, condescending egomaniac. (theres also a graph in that movie that i felt was very misleading, the one that showed how our emissions would look after we did such and such thing by the middle of the century.) i think the science curriculum needs a shakeup and people should be taught starting in middle school what i was taught my freshman year of college. has anyone here seen the movie Jesus Camp? theres a scene in that movie where these homeschooled christian kids are being taught a creation science curriculum. then the mother goes on to say (paraphrased) “yeah, i mean when you really look at it, science doesnt prove anything!” unfortunately, thats the mentality that we are dealing with.

  14. Clark says:

    I’m not sure I understand the skeptical scientists from 1991. I believe it was well established even then that atmospheric CO2 was increasing substantially, and that the first order effect of increased CO2 would cause some warming. Were they doubting that?

    I think the were doubting whether the climate was that simple. i.e. whether there were other balancing effects. At least that was why I was, in the 90’s, a skeptic. The models seemed too simply and too unable to make sufficient predictions. I think the evidence has changed considerably the last decade or so.

  15. Mark D. says:


    Please refer to the following:

    Christopher Monckton article in APS newsletter, July 2008

    Monckton’s response to heading above the article

    The APS pulled a fast one on Mr. Monckton here, but that is beside the point. If you look at the first graph in the article, derived from “Hadley Center monthly combined land and sea surface temperature anomalies; University of Alabama at Huntsville Microwave Sounding Unit monthly lower-troposphere anomalies” you will see what I mean.

    Here is the APS invitation to open this debate:

  16. steve says:

    I think this statement from the APS website says it all:

    APS Climate Change Statement
    APS Position Remains Unchanged

    The American Physical Society reaffirms the following position on climate change, adopted by its governing body, the APS Council, on November 18, 2007:

    “Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate.”

    An article at odds with this statement recently appeared in an online newsletter of the APS Forum on Physics and Society, one of 39 units of APS. The header of this newsletter carries the statement that “Opinions expressed are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the APS or of the Forum.” This newsletter is not a journal of the APS and it is not peer reviewed.

    Was not peer reviewed. It’s meaningless. It should be treated as gibberish in terms of what it contributes to the scientific debate until it is.

    (and be suspicious when you see that word ‘derived’)

  17. steve says:

    jhayes, I wish science education would start more early too. There seem to be forces pulling it both directions. Unfortunately the evangelical atheists, with their entrenchment against religion, are helping no more than the creationists in opening American education.

  18. steve says:

    Thanks CAP stay involved!

  19. Anne says:

    enjoyed the post, and the blog, thanks.I personally find it hard to believe that people can remain sceptical about issues such as global warming when icepacks are melting in front of our very eyes.

  20. One quibble, Steve. You talk about the massing evidence for global warming quite convincingly, but then you slip in “human caused” as if evidence for climate change is necessarily evidence for anthropogenic climate change.

    I’m no scientist, but what I see from the data doesn’t seem conclusive that human activity is the sole, overwhelming, or even major contributor to climate change. (Contributory? Of course. You can’t remake the environment to suit your needs without, well, remaking the environment.) I’ve yet to see any method to control for other causes of climate fluctuation, the like of which this planet has always experienced without human agency.

    Maybe before you get to the ethics of action — which I assume is about the steps humanity should take to reverse its ill effects on the environment — could you put in the connective tissue, if there is any, about the anthropogenic origins of global climate change? THAT, I think, is the most politicized and rhetoric-laden part of the whole debate.

  21. steve says:

    Hi TOTAL Nathan,

    ‘Human caused’ really is the key here. Very few people don’t see the globe is warming, it’s the ‘human caused’ that is controversial and is all I’m really focusing on here. I’m not going to get into the evidence itself if just because it would take blog after blog to do it justice. All I want to do here is gesture at where you should get your evidence, which is peer reviewed literature in main-stream journals.

  22. Allen says:

    Steve, your emphasis on getting info from peer-reviewed literature in main-stream has caused me to wonder how non-scientists like myself can tell if a particular journal is peer-reviewed.

    As you know, I have a blog that concerns science and religion, and I’ve limited my use of lay-science sites for information to 9 sites that have some degree of credibility. An article from those sites will report on some development in science and will usually give the name of the journal that has or will publish the information. How do I tell if that journal is peer-reviewed or not.

  23. Mark D. says:

    The problem is the APS is contradicting itself. First they say they want to host a debate, they invite participation, they accept a submission from an eminent scientist, they have at least one other eminent scientist review that submission before publication, and then at the last minute they claim that the article is bogus and has not gone under any peer review. Well why in the h*ll did they publish it then?

    In other words, their appears to be internal division at the APS about the legitimacy of the debate, and the people in charge assert as a matter of dogma that no such legitimate debate exists at all, contrary to the assertions of their own reviewers. In other words, not open inquiry, let alone science, but a political position masquerading as such.

    Please refer to Monckton’s letter I posted a link to above.

  24. Blackhatseo says:

    Added. Nice work on this one. Btw, my blog is dofollow, stop by and grab a link. Walter

  25. steve says:

    Hi Mark, Actually from my perspective it looks like something funny is going on with Monckton. A society’s newsletter is never peer reviewed. A newsletter typically contains news from the society, or an essay on a topic thought to be relevant to the members, or other such things. A debate within the newsletter would be something they might invite discussion on, but it is not a forum for peer reviewed research. So if they invite essays or debate, it would be just to air opinions. What they would do is maybe have someone read through an essay to see if it were appropriate and releveant for such an essay format, but it is not peer review. Peer review means carefully checking the sources, going through the arguments very carefully, checking the equations for accuracy and relevance etc. To me it looks like Monckton is either being deceptive (an uncharitable reading) or is naïve (a more charitable reading) about how peer review works. Newsletters are never peer reviewed. If they invite debate it is to have knowledgeable people on the topic share their opinions. Monckton story of peer review does not ring true. A newsletter would never be a forum to submit genuine scientific work. Either he’s clueless about the way peer view and its venue works or he is trying to pull a fastone. I’m not sure which would be more disturbing.

  26. steve says:


    Your site is indeed very useful! Many times the first news I have of some scientific finding is your site!

    Peer review is the standard but there are good sources that have built their reputations on fairly and accurately portraying what’s going on in the peer reviewed literature. A short list of these would include places like Science News, Discover Magazine, American Scientist, Scientific American, ScienceDaily, New York Times Science News, New Scientist, etc. There are just too many things being published in peer review to ever keep up with it all, so these sorts of places abstract the most publicly interesting and publish them in general fairly accurately ways, often by the authors of the peer reviewed science itself. Science and Nature both publish original peer reviewed work and provide this kind of abstracting. Of course these sources will have their own biases and foci, but in general the things that I do read in the peer reviewed literature and then see the write up in the sources for the most part I have no quibble.

    This of course can be dicey and maintain hidden biases. If something really, really matters, it is better to go to the peer reviewed source or if it is out of your area of expertise sample a variety of sources.

    But your site is a wonderful place. Keep up the good work!

  27. steve says:


    I can’t see it either. I mean for the first time in history the Northwest Passage is actually going to be open in the summer. Shipping routes directly from Europe to Japan and back are possible for the first time. I don’t know what the people who deny this warming are seeing.

  28. Mark D. says:


    Leaving aside the Monckton incident, my main point still stands. There is no dispute that a standard linear regression of satellite measurements of the lower troposhere from 2001 to the present shows a marked downward trend. You can verify this in any number of places. Monckton didn’t just make the data up.

    Now it is true that this recent seven year down trend does not reverse the 0.171 K / decade up trend measured over the full ~thirty year period. It does, however, raise serious questions about whether rising carbon dioxide levels are the primary driver of global warming.

    Look at the closely at the last fourth of the lower tropospheric temperature (“TLT”) graph here (the period covered is 1979 through 2007):

    The common response of course, it that climate scientists have established a minimum thirty year period before they consider any trend legitimate. Of course there is no mention that (according to NASA) U.S. land based measurements were in a marked downtrend from 1930 to 1980 of comparable magnitude to the upward trend from 1980 to the present (leading to worries of an impending ice age at the time).

    More commentary here and here.

  29. steve says:

    Sorry Mark but this looks like the typical cherry picked graphs that seem to tell a story, but don’t. Why do you think the “Global Brightness Temperature Anomaly” is relevant here? It’s a hand picked downward trend that is used as one component of a climate model.

    Look at this data of Global Temperatures from NASA. It would be positively unpatriotic not to believe NASA. Right?

    But rest assured that if the Global Warming Story changes, I will change my mind. I’m going to follow the data. I may be wrong, but that is not the way to bet right now.

  30. Mark D. says:


    The difference is that land based temperature trends are suspect due to the urban heat island effect. Satellite measurements do not have this problem.

    By the way, one cannot exactly cherry pick when there are only a limited number of satellite data sources and they all show the same results.

  31. Ed Gulachenski says:

    Steve, You wrote in response to Anne’s post:
    “I can’t see it either. I mean for the first time in history the Northwest Passage is actually going to be open in the summer”. Not so. In 1905 the Passage was clear enough of ice for a wooden sailboat, with a crew of seven, to successfully navigate it. How many times in the history of the planet do you think a similar – or even more ice-free – condition existed in this area? Want to see a picture of the crew. Go to:

  32. Phil says:

    I am not a scientist but really enjoy reading your blog. I would love your reaction to this article which grabbed my attention because it uses the same Keynes quote you do, but from the opposite perspective. Here’s the link:

  33. steve says:

    Thanks, Phil. As I say, there are no end to the doubters and their web-analyses. It’s just not coming from Peer reviewed science.

    Ed, ‘One swallow does not the summer make’ I’m taking about a permanent opening to the NW passage, one you can count on enough to redraw the shipping lanes.

  34. Ed Gulachenski says:

    Steve, it looks like the Northwest Passage will not be open this summer. The National Snow and Sea Ice Data Center reports that Arctic sea ice on July 16, 2008 was 410,000 square miles greater than on July 16, 2007.
    Oh well, better luck next year.

  35. Mark D. says:

    It is worth mentioning there is internal evidence that NASA has been systematically distorting their surface temperature data.

    The UK Meteorological Office’s Hadley Center for Climate Studies shows worldwide surface temperatures declinining for the last decade. NASA on the other hand, has been rejiggering their own data to artifically create non-existent global warming. More details here:

    Given the extent of the distortion, I would say that it would be positively unpatriotic to believe that NASA is on the up-and-up here. The UK Hadley Center is NASA’s peer and they show nothing of the kind. Nor are their own internal measurements radically distorted from what they presented a decade ago.

  36. steve says:

    Sorry, the Register is not peer reviewed. It’s not a source I’ll take. Let me know when this delate about the Hadley / NASA data discrepancy enters peer review, then I’ll know how to assess it.

    Incidentally, the Nature paper the article sites is only about North Atlantic cooling as the global temperature continues to rise. It’s funny how hard these authors try and distort the primary literature. Why do they have to distort the literature to make their case? Funny that.

    And odd how they believe the simulations when they seem (and they don’t here if you go to the Nature paper) to support their view.

  37. Ed Gulachenski says:

    In response to Ed you wrote:
    “But Ed has brought up something important in asking why should we believe the models? So important I’ve decided to dedicate a post to it. This is something I am very interested in and so watch this space!!! Good question.”
    I am watching and waiting. Please explain why the measured temperature change in the lower troposphere is the same as or even less than at the surface. Greenhouse gas theory requires the temperature changes in the troposphere to be 2 to 3 times that at the surface.

    The IPCC model outputs show this difference but actual measurements do not. When that happens, you correctly point out that the models must be reevaluated to find out the reason for this basic discrepancy between calculated results and actual measurements. Why has the IPCC not undertaken this task? Instead the impacts due to these exaggerated calculated global temperature changes continue to be reported in the press and used as the basis for recommending cap and trade legislation.

  38. Mark D. says:

    Steve, the fact is there aren’t any peer reviewed articles that establish that there is such a thing as anthropogenic global warming. In addition, as of late there hasn’t been much in the way of warming period.

    Take a look at the first graph of the HadCRUT3 global surface temperature on the following page from the U.K. Meteorological Office’s Hadley center:

    Their best data shows a down trend for nearly a decade now.

    Here are the actual numbers (temperature anomaly w.r.t. 1961-1990, degrees celsius), which I quote from a link on the same page:

    1997 0.355
    1998 0.515
    1999 0.262
    2000 0.238
    2001 0.400
    2002 0.455
    2003 0.457
    2004 0.432
    2005 0.479
    2006 0.422
    2007 0.405
    2008 0.246

    The citations for this dataset are:

    Brohan, P., Kennedy, J.J., Harris, I., Tett, S.F.B. and Jones, P.D., 2006: Uncertainty estimates in regional and global observed temperature changes: a new dataset from 1850. J Geophys Res, 111, D12106.

    Rayner, N.A., Parker, D.E., Horton, E.B., Folland, C.K., Alexander, L.V., Rowell, D.P.,
    Kent, E.C. and Kaplan, A., 2003: Global analyses of SST, sea ice and night marine air temperature since the late nineteenth century. J Geophys Res, 108 D14.

  39. steve says:

    Why do you think they say this on the page you sent:

    Research at the Met Office Hadley Centre using state-of-the-art climate models has shown that this behaviour can only adequately be accounted for by a combination of natural and human factors: the latter dominate.

    Why do the authors of the papers you cite believe climate change is occurring?

    Are they blind to the trend? Or are these downward cycles explainable by the models and the doward trends the results in terms of their more complete evidence and analyses?

    There are lots of peer review article’s in support of CC. You just cited two. Look at the papers themselves not naysayers take on the papers. The funny thing is the authors of the papers that the naysayers pull data from, out of context, and ill-analyzed, believe in CC. Why do you suppose that is?

  40. Mark D. says:

    Whether the Hadley center researchers believe that anthropogenic global warming is occuring is not a germane objection. I cited them to establish the fact that on average, surface temperatures have been falling for nearly a decade. According to their records, this is the coldest year since 1996.

    That is in addition to much more comprehensive, and much more accurate satellite data showing that temperatures in the lower troposhere has also been falling for the same period.

    Now perhaps the Hadley center researchers believe that this is just a temporary setback, but that is irrelevant. As of yet there is no sound scientific evidence that there is such a thing as anthropogenic global warming. Any opinion to the contrary is just speculation.

  41. steve says:

    As of yet there is no sound scientific evidence that there is such a thing as anthropogenic global warming. Any opinion to the contrary is just speculation.

    I think what you must mean is that your, and those you cite’s, interpretation of the data differs from 95% of those actually doing the research and studying the phenomena. The same argument can be and as been made by tobacco companies and lung cancer “It’s all a matter of opinion.” If science means nothing to you than fine. It’s just speculation. If it has any meaning at all, Climate Change is real and anthropogenic. In the world of climate change science these contrary voices are loud, but a vary vary minor chorus. However, they have well funded amplifiers (think tanks, talk radio, etc.) from groups who find this data will affect their pocket books (and which are deep!). As I keep saying, Look to the Peer Reviewed literature. There it’s a very clear story: Climate Change is real and being caused by us.

  42. Mark D. says:

    There is plenty of scientific evidence that smoking causes cancer. It is not simply a matter of speculation.

    Anthropogenic global warming is. It seems plausible, but where’s the evidence? In fact, attempts to correlate the pattern of global warming with carbon dioxide emissions have given evidence to the contrary.

    Was the Medieval Warm Period anthropogenic? What about the last Ice Age?

  43. steve says:

    Mark, If you don’t accept any evidence that goes against your preconceived belief, you’ll never see it. What are you missing that 99% of the scientist studying it are seeing? (Yes. 99%) You keep claiming no evidence, when the literature is clear and abundant. As long as you will not accept evidence that contradicts your take, and only focus on the 1% that are the naysayers loud voices. It will never be there. That’s not science though.

    No, Neither the Medieval Warm Period nor the last Ice Age was anthropogenic. This is.

  44. chads says:


    As an LDS physician currently taking a biostatistics class, I find your blog (and this post in particular) interesting, needed, and timely.

    Before I question and quibble with your methods, however, let me say that it is my opinion that the probability that climate change is anthropogenic is high enough that action is needed.

    Having said that, I find that your methods to make the point that climate change is NOT a hoax undermine your underlying point, that rigorous review in peer reviewed journals is an essential part of the scientific query.

    Please consider the following in your future posts:

    -I hope you are not claiming that the ratio of published articles (50:1) correlates to the same probability (50:1) of truth (“that global warming is happening”). You seem to be. If not, then what is the probability that global warming is happening, and where what is the specific data supporting that particular probability?

    -Certainly the 50:1 ratio of published articles (what were your methods in counting them?) could be due to a number of other factors such as publication bias, the scientific culture’s focus, and the amount and focus of funding, factors that ARE political.

    -How strong is the evidence in the articles in Science and Nature? I’m not sure how you would be able to come anywhere close to a randomized, placebo-controlled trial when studying climate change. But you would know better than I.

    -Does your 50:1 probabilty of global warming happening refer to the probability of there being warming, the probability that humans are causing it, or the probability that proposed policies will be effective at responding to it?

    -Association does not imply causation.

    Again, thanks for your blog and I hope you’ll be more precise, rigorous, and clear in the future.

  45. SteveP says:

    “I hope you’ll be more precise, rigorous, and clear in the future.”

    Why do I need to when I have great readers like You? 🙂

    I don’t think we have any assessment of the probability that GW is happening, only to the extent that we can claim that science is moving closer to some objective truth. That itself is a disputed claim. Most studies (50:1) suggest reasons for believing an anthropogenic cause. There doesn’t seem to be any natural contenders so that is the best explanation. Until there is an alternative that is the ‘best’ explanation. If another comes along it will likely be Science that figures it out and Science that establishes it. So my claim is that’s the way to bet. That’s all a clinical trial will ever give you too (you are probably familiar with the concept of hidden or masked variables).

  46. chads says:

    Thanks for your response, Steve. I think we agree.

    It seems to me that discussions like this would be much more fruitful if it focused mainly on the process/methods as opposed to the conclusion.

    I think that’s what your post and blog are all about: What is science?, what does it tell us?, what are its limitations?

    I was a tad turned off, however, when you and Mark D. started quibbling. The tone seemed to imply some underlying agenda.

    You say “no, the Medieval Warm Period was not anthropogenic. This is.” Do we really know that, or, as you point out, “that’s the best way to bet”?

    (BTW, in my medical practice, I often have discussions regarding risk and benefit that go something like this: “The chance of you having a blood clot in your lungs in fairly low, maybe 10%, but that’s not something we want to miss. The result could be fatal. So, even though the chance is uncertain and probably small, I think we should find out and do something about it to avoid catastrophic consequences.” Maybe we should have a similar discussion about climate change??)

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