I've promised this diary for months (years?). I've been lurking here for a long time now, not posting much recently (diaries or comments). So, any newbies around here may be totally unfamiliar with me, but I'm a meteorologist. I have a particular focus on hurricanes and post hurricane diaries here whenever there's a particular threat to the U.S. But more in line with political discussion is the issue of global warming or global climate change (I, for one, am not afraid of the boogieman term "global warming" as, indeed, the earth is warming). I have long promised a diary on global warming. I posted one long, long ago to mixed reviews as many readers had a "duh, no kidding" attitude (yes, I realize I'm preaching to the choir here). But with the resurgence of the "skeptic" community in the last couple of years, I hope the ground is more fertile for setting the record straight. Follow me below the fold...
My point here is to debunk the myths and outright lies being spewed by the "skeptic" community. I put "skeptic" in parenthesis because most of them aren't true skeptics. Skepticism is an honest questioning of a theory based on some reasonably debatable premise. There is no reasonably debatable premise amongst the skeptics. What they are offering is deliberate obfuscation of the facts. Plain and simple. They are not skeptics. They are liars.
So, I'm going to run through this point-by-point. But first let me point out that I will rely on research, publications, data, etc from climatologists. I am a meteorologist. Climatology and meteorology are distinctly different even though they are both in the atmospheric science field. Okay, then, let me start by making that my first point in debunking the "skeptics"...
- "Scientists still debate the issue." No, they don't. Meteorologists do. But the problem is, climatology and meteorology are very distinctively separate fields. Meteorologists are NOT experts on climate change... though many seem to think they are. Notice that most of the "skeptics" are meteorologists (Joe Bastardi, Bill Gray, Joe D'Aleo, Weather Channel founder Joe Coleman, etc) while there are virtually NO climatologists with dissenting opinions. In fact, a recent poll of scientistsindicated that 97% of climatologists involved in climate research "believe" (and I use that term loosely, because they KNOW... THEY are the experts... they don't simply "believe") in anthropogenic global warming/climate change; meanwhile only 64% of meteorologists were sold on it, and only 47% of petroleum geologists were (shocking! ...yes, I'm being sarcastic). The only experts here are the climatologists! Imagine this: You are in an automobile accident and suffer a massive head injury. Do you go to a podiatrist? No, you go to a neurosurgeon! But they are both doctors! This is EXACTLY the same thing... meteorologists and climatologists are both atmospheric scientists, but that does NOT mean you should be going to the meteorologists for your climate information. And, in fact, a meteorologist offering up his/her uninformed opinions on the subject amounts to scientific malpractice (which is why I'm not offering my opinion... I'm trying to pass along information). Those meteorologists are the podiatrists performing brain surgery on you... they aren't to be trusted... they are committing scientific malpractice.
- "Recent scandals have undermined the credibility of the climate change community." Seriously? There were about three cases of falsified/massaged data, misused publications or other such underhandedness. These are indefensible. However, these are isolated cases. There have only been about three such incidents, while there are volumes and volumes and volumes of heavily-researched, peer-reviewed, data-verified documents on the subject. You could probably fill an entire library with all of the research and documents on climate change. Yet, the media's laser-focus on these isolated errors and corruption made the issue seem huge. It, quite simply, is not. Finding a few crooked scientists, poorly researched papers, or the like should be EXPECTED in such a large research field. Every field has its crackpots and crooks. I don't think, for example, Fred Phelps (of Westboro Baptist Church fame) exemplifies Christianity.
- "Humans can't impact the atmosphere." Not only is this wrong, but it is far better understood than "skeptics" will have you believe. Climatologists can and have lab-tested all atmospheric component gases to know their absorptivity and transmissivity. Hell, the radiative forcing equations have even found their way to Wikipedia!! The bottom line is climatologists know EXACTLY what every greenhouse gas does in the atmosphere. Moreover, they have reasonable, if imperfect, estimates of global outputs and sinks and what the contributions are coming from. Anyone who questions the relationship between carbon dioxid concentrations and the global temperatures need only look at the scatterplot that follows. While, admitedly, correlation doesn't equal causality, a correlation of nearly 0.9 is pretty difficult to ignore. Anyway, climatologists also know the volume of the atmosphere and, therefore, can make specific, good estimates as to the global warming due to human greenhouse gas emissions. The only reason there is debate as to the amount of warming is due to questions surrounding feedback effects. For example, a hotter earth will produce more clouds, blocking sunlight and capping the warming. On the other hand, a hotter earth will see the melting of permafrost which, when melted, releases the very potent greenhouse gas, methane. These are only two of MANY feedback issues.
- "The models have so far overpredicted the warming." This myth is sustained by images like the two at the bottom of this segment. Both of these images are hugely misleading. The first, in the barely readable fine print, notes that the 2008 data is only January through June. How convenient!! ...the latter half of the year was warmer, globally, and pushes the year up to +0.44C warmer than normal. You can check the data for yourself here. Then, 2009 was +0.57C. And now, 2010, though only just started, is beginning quite warm as well. As for that second image. Well, it's just downright despicable! The "observed" data isn't the global mean temperature! Frankly, I don't know what it is. Check out the link above. You will see NO recent month below zero, as you see in that graph. Even if you use the alternate resource it gets close to zero in January 2008, but never below. Neither is August 2008 0.3C cooler than August 1988 (as the notation reads). Forget the fact that it's moronic to pull out singular months as proof or disproof of climate change... the fact is, August 2008 (+0.37C) was 0.09C warmer than August 1988 (+0.28C). Furthermore, this dishonest data-twister made sure he compared his false data to one of the warmest existing forecasts (Hansen A). The bottom line: when comparing most forecasts to the real observed data, the models are performing exceptionally well. They predicted, on average, about 1C warming from the beginning of last century to this. The first decade of the 1900s averaged -0.29C; the first nine years of this century (2010 ongoing) averaged +0.53C... an increase of 0.82C. 2010 will likely nudge this up a bit. So, while the models have, perhaps, overpredicted things very slightly, they are extremely close.
- "The warming is caused by solar cycles." Wrong. Check out the next image showing contributions to the forecast. The model predictions are not done in a vacuum. The climatologists and modelers know full well that there are other ongoing factors. And they also know what the solar cycle is. This is already factored into the models and has been determined to account for no more than about 30% of the warming. The image, though it is something of a hindcast, does at least represent the understanding of the various parameters and the fact that they are modeled into the forecast (as best as is known... obviously, going from hindcast to forecast, future volcanic eruptions cannot be modeled in).
- "Look at all the snow in the Mid-Atlantic this year!" This is one of the most absurd arguments and it's horrific how often it's repeated any time there is a snowstorm. For one thing, though Al Gore was laughed at for suggesting that the snowstorms were actually ENHANCED by global warming, he's correct. El Nino seasons (like we have now) typically feature East Coast storms; so, these storms likely would've happened anyway. But global climate models have invariably predicted that storms would be stronger in a globally warmed environment. The earth has already warmed almost 1C in the past century. So, yes, these winter storms should, in fact, be getting more severe. And, so, it is reasonable to conjecture that these winter storms may have gained a bit of their potency from global warming. Moreover, snow doesn't equal cold. Obviously, if it snows it's cold... but you could be snowing at 30F, instead of snowing at 28F. In fact, for the winter as a whole, the Mid-Atlantic's temperatures were NORMAL - despite record breaking snow! Never mind the ridiculousness of trying to disprove a global, long-term trend with localized, short-term weather. It's just dumb.
- "Urban heat island effects have contaminated the data." Wrong. The ocean-only data shows a similar, if muted (which makes sense due to the higher heat capacity of water), warming trend. Furthermore, the land data has been heavily scrutinized to ensure such problems do not exist.
- "The 1930s were hotter than the recent hot years." This is a favorite of AccuWeather meteorologist Joe Bastardi and is so unbelievably ignorant that he should have his meteorology degree revoked! Bastardi is looking at U.S. temperature data to argue a GLOBAL trend. We have the global temperature data from the 30s and present years to compare (again, see the link in item #4 above). We don't need to make some wildly absurd inferences from U.S. data. Here's the data for you: The 1930s had a global mean temperature anomaly of minus 0.03C (yes, MINUS) with the warmest year being +0.10C. The 1990s (which isn't even the warmest 10-yr period of the recent years, but I'll be nice and just use a simple decade) had a global mean temperature anomaly of +0.31C with the warmest year being +0.56C. This isn't even close. The 1930s aren't even in the ballpark.
- "There has been no warming since 1998." This is the only argument that you can find a climatologist or two to agree on. However, even they argue that it's only short term (due to a short-term - in climatological view, decades long Pacific pattern - known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation - going into a negative/cool phase). But most climatologists don't even agree with THAT assessment (most believe warming is continuing)... for various reasons. First of all, one reason for this denialist statement is because 1998 was the warmest year on record (+0.56C)... "was" being the operative word. Well, that's no longer true and hasn't been for years. 2002 equalled it (+0.56C), 2005 surpassed it (+0.62C), 2007 surpassed it (+0.57C), 2009 surpassed it (+0.57C) and it's still very early in 2010 so we'll need to see what happens, but 2010 could easily smash the record. Second, short-term climate variations overlay the long-term trend, so most climatologists understand the 1998 was anomalously too warm due to a record El Nino; as such, it does not represent some climatological high point. Indeed, every year from 2001 to 2009 has been warmer than 1999 and 2000 (the two years following 1998). Third, a smoothed, decadally averaged line, to help smooth out these shorter-term perturbations, shows no cessation of the warming (see below). 1999 and 2000 are cool enough to show the line stagnating for a bit, but the 2000s have been hot enough to start pulling the line back up again - and barring renewed cooling in the next couple of years, just wait and see what happens to a 10-yr average plot once 1999 and 2000 roll off... it'll go through the roof!).
- "The earth goes through natural cycles like this." I've sort of already covered this, but let's look again since this is probably the number one great denialist argument. Why? Because climatologists can't dispute it! It is inarguably true! The problem is, it is a "false choice argument". That is, it presumes that there can only be one singular causality. The argument is essentially saying that since the earth goes through such natural variability this, in turn, must be such a natural variation. Frankly, it's moronic. It's like saying there's only one way to get into an auto accident... that since a few accidents were the result of drunk driving that, therefore, every accident is a result of drunk driving. Dumb nonsense, obviously. There can be more than one cause for an effect. Climatologists, unlike the deniers, recognize this and do not try to argue that natural variations do not exist. Instead, they have provided MULTIPLE sources of factual evidence that this is anthropogenic. One piece of evidence is circumstantial, it has to do with showing that the present rate of change is more rapid than anything previously witnessed by natural variation. The other evidence, more direct and provable, is what I mentioned previously... the fact that they know the specific effect of CO2 and other gases, and can reasonably model their output and the impact on atmospheric concentrations and, in turn, the impact on temperatures. And those global climate models (GCMs) have been very accurate. Why? Because the climatologists KNOW the impact and can properly model it!! The only cause for error is, as mentioned earlier, the various feedback mechanisms.
On a side note, related to hurricanes... Yes, Atlantic hurricanes are likely to increase in intensity due to global warming. Dr. William Gray, from Colorado State, has done some excellent hurricane work in the past, but, as a climate change denier, he is, unfortunately, twisting some data to try to argue otherwise. He recently wrote a paper with multiple factual errors. For one, he stated that the upper troposphere will warm as much as the lower troposphere. If you don't understand that, don't worry. His basic point was that the atmosphere will be no less stable, meaning that thunderstorms associated with hurricanes and, in turn, hurricane intensity, will be no stronger. Two problems: One, there is no assurance (and conflicting data - some suggesting otherwise) that the upper troposphere will warm as much as the lower. He just states this highly debatable point as fact. Here is an image of predicted lower tropospheric versus lower stratospheric temperatures (yes, lower stratosphere doesn't equal upper troposphere... but with overshooting storm tops, they could be treated the same):
Then, he treats hurricanes like a simple instability machine, totally ignorant of the increased latent heat from a warmed ocean... even though this latent heat is the energy source for hurricanes. Increasing that won't assist in the development of hurricanes???? That's simply wrong. But he does raise some interesting points. Plus, global climate models do indicate increased shear in the Atlantic (which would decrease storms). So, global warming's impact on Atlantic hurricanes is a complex question to answer. The best way to deal with it is complex modeling of the environment. This has been done! The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory has done the best testing possible on this. The determination is that total number of Atlantic storms will remain the same or decrease, but the occurence of MAJOR hurricanes - which are responsible for the vast majority of destruction - will increase significantly in number/intensity over the coming century.
Well, I don't think I wrote that all up as well as I would've liked it. But, there you have it. I don't know how many skeptics are still "persuadable", but hopefully this information will arm you with more tools to discuss this issue.