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Earth Science

Global Warming 'Confirmed' By Independent Study 967

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-crank-the-AC dept.
chrb writes "The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project — an independent study of Earth's historical temperature record partly funded by climate skeptics, including the Koch brothers — has released preliminary results that show the same warming trend as previous research. Project leader and physics professor Richard Muller, of the University of California, has stated that he was 'surprised' at the close agreement, and it 'confirms that these studies were done carefully.' The study also found that warming in the temperature record was not caused by poor quality weather monitoring stations — thus rejecting a frequent claim of skeptics. Climate skeptic Stephen McIntyre has previously said 'anything that [Muller] does will be well done.'"
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Global Warming 'Confirmed' By Independent Study

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:33AM (#37790568)

    Because that's the real issue that most skeptics have been questioning of late. Anyone who isn't an idiot knows that the earth's climate is ALWAYS changing (and always has been). The real issue that people are talking about when they say "global warming" is the question of how much influence human activities have had on the normal warming/cooling cycles, if this is a negative influence, and, if so, what can humans do within reason to mitigate any negative influences. And *those* questions are a helluva lot harder to answer than "Has there been a general warming trend over the last 100 years?".

    I'm not sure pure science is up to answering those questions. And it doesn't help that the issue has become hopelessly politicized--to the point where I've grown very skeptical of BOTH sides and their respective penchants for self-serving hyperbole and increasingly shrill fear-mongering.

    Of course, there is also the question of DEGREE of warming, an issue where it's getting harder and harder to distinguish between mainstream science and Chicken Little fear-mongering. IIRC, initial models were showing a 1-2 degree increase over the next 100 years, something that clearly needs to be addressed but not something that's GOING TO KILL US ALL TOMORROW!!!!!. Somewhere along the way this kept getting more and more ramped-up to the point now where I hear advocates claiming that the entire east coast of the U.S. is going to be underwater by 2050. I can no longer tell where the truth begins and the humbug ends.

    Of course, I'm going to be criticized here for even daring to question the accepted narrative.

  • Even in principle (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:34AM (#37790586)

    There is no amount or type of evidence, even in principle, which would answer climate change sceptics. They will disavow the fundimental principles of science if that is what is necessary to protect their beliefs.

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:37AM (#37790618)

    To answer your questions, the warming we see is consistent with anthropogenic climate change models, it is going at a rate which requires remedial action within a century, and I have yet to see anyone outside of the lunatic internet fringe claim that climate change is going to kill us all off, Roland Emmerich style.

  • by AdamJS (2466928) on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:37AM (#37790620)
    Dear gods! If it wasn't caused by man, then our actions would just end up making a better world for nothing! How horrible!
  • by imric (6240) on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:38AM (#37790650)

    Yup - since they can't 'deny' that it is happening at all anymore (thus absolving deniers of any need to do anything), now they assert that it's (some sort of a) a natural phenomena (deniers disagree as to which), that has to be wholly independent of our actions (thus absolving deniers of any need to do anything).

    See a pattern here?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:40AM (#37790676)

    Dear gods!
    If it wasn't caused by man, then our actions would just end up making a better world for nothing!
    How horrible!

    A world with cleaner air, water, and land, sustainable clean energy sources, and solutions that preserve the environment for future generations?

    Such a world would be horrible! I want nothing to do with such a hell!

  • by Xugumad (39311) on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:41AM (#37790688)

    > Anyone who isn't an idiot knows that the earth's climate is ALWAYS changing (and always has been).

    Also, earthquakes & tornadoes are totally not humanity's fault, so we shouldn't plan around them either.

  • by nickco3 (220146) * on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:41AM (#37790702)

    The Economist estimates 2% of global GDP to meaningfully cut emissions. (By comparison, the recent round of bank rescues cost about 5%)

    Nobody know what the cost of adjusting is, because we don't know what scale of the change will be. If the changes are less than 2 degrees, that's likely to be tolerable. ON the other hand, some of the worst case predictions are very, very bad for human civilisation.

    This uncertainty is being used to encourage inaction when the opposite is true: any sensible approach to risk management would suggests taking reasonable action to avoid it.

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:45AM (#37790780)

    Not true. A depressingly large part of the climate change denial community still insists it isn't happening at all, and hasn't moved onto "yes, but...".

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:46AM (#37790814)

    Your hypothesis is that the world's best climate science researchers all spontaneously had strokes and started doing really bad research for no reason, that all pointed in the same direction? Or you prefer the conspiracy theory scenario?

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:52AM (#37790922)

    So your idea of the best climate scientists is... people who aren't climate scientists? Who's your doctor, the postman?

  • by Arlet (29997) on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:56AM (#37790990)

    True. A lot of climate deniers talk like this:

    - It is not warming
    - Even if it's warming, it's natural fluctuation
    - Even if it's not natural fluctation, it's not due to CO2
    - Even if it's due to CO2, human didn't cause it.
    - Even if humans caused it, it's not bad.
    - Even if it's bad, I don't want to act.

  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:56AM (#37790992)

    Did it "confirm" it was caused by man? Because that's the real issue that most skeptics have been questioning of late.

    Of late? Yes. That puts us on step 3.

    The Republican 8 Phase Denial Plan
    1) There's no such thing as global warming.
    2) There's global warming, but the scientists are exaggerating. It's not significant.
    3) There's significant global warming, but man doesn't cause it.
    4) Man causes significant global warming, but it's not economically possible to tackle it.
    5) We need to tackle global warming, so make the poor pay for it.
    6) Global warming is bad for business. Why did the Democrats not tackle it earlier?
    7) ????
    8) Profit.

  • by Atzanteol (99067) on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:59AM (#37791068) Homepage

    Different scientists are funded by different institutions. You're telling me that all of these institutions, people, grant funders, etc. are slanted the same way?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 21, 2011 @09:01AM (#37791088)

    Everyone needs to own their own house on a few acres of land. And have two cars to drive to the store and work 50 miles away. That's the only possible way to live, and anything else is just Communism. Oh, and I want to grow corn to make ethanol because have you seen corn prices lately? Now where can I get some slaves to tend the fields?

  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday October 21, 2011 @09:02AM (#37791118) Journal

    And once they can no longer deny it is caused by man, they will assert that it's not a bad thing at all (thus absolving deniers of any need to do anything). Global warming just means more rain in the tropics and temperate weather in Canada and Russia. How could that be bad?

  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday October 21, 2011 @09:06AM (#37791204) Journal

    Won't matter. Remember, Nixon had an independent commission study the issues surrounding marijuana (LaGuardia). They came back and recommended decriminalization. We're still fighting the war on drug users today. Right wingers are immune to science.

  • by flaming error (1041742) on Friday October 21, 2011 @09:08AM (#37791238) Journal

    > Can we at least agree that scientists are human
    > and thus vulnerable to the same pressures that motive
    > other human beings?

    Nope. Different humans are motivated by different things. Some of us live for sports, some of us live for money, some of us live for love, some of us live to build, some of us live to discover, some of us live to please, some of us live for power.

    Research scientists in general did not choose their profession for its salary or its power. Most scientists would not falsify research for money. Virtue and integrity aside, they know if nobody can reproduce their results they're unlikely to have a long career.

  • Garbageman, actually. You wouldn't believe how many of those guys have PhDs at this point.
  • by Myopic (18616) on Friday October 21, 2011 @09:15AM (#37791386)

    So, to be clear, you are saying that climate scientists somehow think they will make more money working for tree huggers than working for oil companies? Please respond to this and say "Yes, I think there is more money to be made pushing AGW than denying it."

  • Yep that's basically a flowchart of the climate denialist life cycle. Once the evidence for one of their points of contention becomes incredibly overwhelming, they move onto the next.

    It starts at the first step and ends at the sixth. Most are on step 4 right now, a few are still on step 3, and some of the go-getters have moved onto step 5. Once they all make it to 6...well, I dunno, we're fucked I guess :-( but at least we can stop wasting our breath on them.

    Considering that in the late '90s they were on step 1, assuming linear progress they'll be on 6 somewhere around 2015~2020.

  • by Aquitaine (102097) <samNO@SPAMiamsam.org> on Friday October 21, 2011 @09:22AM (#37791516) Homepage

    Question #1: Is the Earth appreciably warmer lately? Answer: Yes. There seems to have been some skepticism over this question but this appears to be where the nutjobs on the 'denier' side fell (we'll get to the nutjobs on the other side in a minute). To some extent we 'already knew this,' but the point of this study appears to have been that we need to start from this point -- that if we can't even agree whether the Earth is warmer, we certainly aren't going to agree on why or what to do about it.

    Question #2: Is it our fault, i.e. is it anthropogenic global warming (AGW)? Answer: This study doesn't have anything to say about that, but as others have pointed out, it is 'consistent with AGW models.' This seems to be the most difficult question because there are so many variables. The earth is warmer, sure; but it's been warmer before without our having done anything to it and the crucial piece of information that would easily answer this question -- what would temperatures be if we hadn't been mucking about doing things for the last 200 years -- would require a control planet. I've been trying to educate myself about global warming for a while but it's been very difficult filtering through the noise and vitriol. It doesn't seem possible to me that can conclusively answer this question, and to some people, that's a reason to forget the whole thing -- but the realization that we can't prove it doesn't excuse us from having to make a decision. It just means that we have to make a decision with imperfect information.

    (Question #2A would be 'if the Earth has been warmer before, is it necessarily a bad thing that it's warm again -- is that just a natural cycle? This is an interesting question but let's set it aside for the moment. Even if we assume that there is a natural cycle, let's still also assume that what we're concerned with here is the extent to which humans are changing that natural cycle, not whether 1 degree celsius is going to cause an apocalypse.)

    Question #3: To what extent should we handicap our own consumption of natural resources or industrial production to alleviate AGW? If we aren't entirely certain about our answer to #2, it's difficult, but by no means impossible to make a quantitative analysis of the 'value' of reducing carbon emissions by, say, one ton a year. But this question is so political that it'd be tough to have a reasonable conversation about it even if it didn't depend on equally, but differently perplexing questions like #2, because it allows for a scenario where an elected leader has to make a judgment call that is going to favor the environment over his or her constituents' jobs. We don't like to think about it in those terms -- we prefer to just imagine that everyone will buy a Prius or bicycle to work -- but it's important to realize how far-reaching these decisions are. It's also quite naive to imagine that industrial interests only exist on one side of this equation. The green industry has just as many crooks in it as the oil industry does, as any industry does, because it is composed of homo sapiens. Throwing money at solar and wind is well and good, but it's a luxury that a rich country ('rich' being relative these days) like the United States can afford; it's a joke to imagine that India or Indonesia or China are going to handicap their economies when they've only just lately (to varying degrees) got round to having economies in the first place. That's not to say that they won't invest in wind and solar (China certainly has) but this is merely diversifying their own energy portfolio -- reducing their dependency on oil -- which is related to but not the same as pursuing green energy for its own sake.

    Speaking as an American business owner for a moment, it's tough for me to accept that the solution here is to make it even more expensive to conduct business via something like cap-and-trade, though not because it will affect my own business (it won't, much). This is clearly a problem that requires huge expenditures of capital to solve, and a

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday October 21, 2011 @09:28AM (#37791680) Journal

    In other words you're cherry picking your experts. You're committing a classic example of the No True Scotsman fallacy.

  • by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Friday October 21, 2011 @09:31AM (#37791728) Homepage Journal

    > Anyone who isn't an idiot knows that the earth's climate is ALWAYS changing (and always has been).

    Also, earthquakes & tornadoes are totally not humanity's fault, so we shouldn't plan around them either.

    That's exactly what we should do about climate change - plan around it. But that's not what's advocated by the AGW alarmists. Instead they are claiming that climate change can actually be stopped or reversed, if only we put some experts in charge of how everyone is allowed to use carbon. Nobody is going around claiming that some resource-controlling global bureaucracy can stop tornadoes and earthquakes.

  • by Myopic (18616) on Friday October 21, 2011 @09:42AM (#37792024)

    You missed some steps:

    3) There's significant global warming, but man doesn't cause it.
    3.1) Man causes it, but it isn't a problem.
    3.2) It's a problem, but it's not a problem for man, it's only a problem for other animals and plants.
    3.3) It's a problem for man, but man is incapable of solving it.

    4) Man causes significant global warming, but it's not economically possible to tackle it.

    Trust me, dude, the goalpost can be moved one inch at a time.

  • by laing (303349) on Friday October 21, 2011 @09:42AM (#37792044)
    OK so now we have proof that there has been a recent warming trend. Where is the proof that it was caused by human activity?
  • by j-turkey (187775) on Friday October 21, 2011 @09:49AM (#37792178) Homepage

    There is no amount or type of evidence, even in principle, which would answer climate change sceptics. They will disavow the fundimental principles of science if that is what is necessary to protect their beliefs.

    Couldn't the same be said for climate change zealots?

  • by tmosley (996283) on Friday October 21, 2011 @09:59AM (#37792388)
    I see, so any question of existing consensus by highly skilled outsiders is arrogance and blasphemy and should be verboten, ja?

    Questioning the unquestionable and challenging consensus is what science is about. A GOOD scientist will adopt a skeptical approach to anything being examined, just to encourage debate and to ensure that the answer he really thinks is correct holds up to scrutiny. Trying to discourage that is the realm of religion. Stop it.
  • Re:Why so hard. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by compro01 (777531) on Friday October 21, 2011 @10:06AM (#37792558)

    Why is it so hard to accept that human actions can have consequences ?

    Because God wouldn't allow that to happen.

    No, seriously, that is essentially what many of these nuts believe.

    http://www.cornwallalliance.org/articles/read/an-evangelical-declaration-on-global-warming/ [cornwallalliance.org]

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Friday October 21, 2011 @10:11AM (#37792692)
    Unlike the "climatologists", who ignore the earth in the past has had much colder temperatures with much more carbon dioxide, who ignore the sea levels have been rising since the last ice age (and for most of that time much faster than now), who ignore the antarctic land was once a tropical paradise, that Greenland was indeed very green, etc.etc. I won't deny a minute amount of warming has taken place in the last 100+ years, maybe 0.8 to 1 degree C, whoop de doo, proves exactly nothing except the climate is ever variable on Earth.
  • by Myopic (18616) on Friday October 21, 2011 @10:14AM (#37792754)

    Awesome. That's the first time I've had anyone bite on that bait.

    Okay, now this is an important follow up: please say that yes, "tree huggers" have MORE of a 'direct line' to the general treasury of the USA than the big oil companies. That was implied in my first question, but you didn't really address it.

    If you are willing to say that, out loud, then wow I'll have no retort. We will simply disagree on who has more power and influence and money -- big oil or big tree.

  • by Myopic (18616) on Friday October 21, 2011 @10:25AM (#37792964)

    Dude, don't worry, after this there are still lots and lots of places for you to move the goalpost to. You have plenty of options left to preserve your denial until you are dead. You will never have to face the truth.

    Even after the anthropogenic part is undeniable even to folks like you (having been proven in the 1990s), you can move the goalpost to "but it's insignificant", and then to "okay, but it's too expensive to fix", to "okay, but it's too hard to fix", to "okay, but humanity will never cooperate to fix it", to "oh, well I just don't want to fix it". I bet there are even more steps in between you can fall back on.

    So don't be too concerned. Your denial is as safe as any other denial. Toward the end of your life, you can just devolve into a delusion of universal conspiracy, where even your tending nurse is getting paid off.

  • by shellster_dude (1261444) on Friday October 21, 2011 @10:25AM (#37792966)
    Unlike the Slashdot Editors, I actually RTFA.

    The study does not "confirm" global warming, and certainly not man-made global warming. It confirms that the analysis from various temperature stations over the last 100 years has been fairly accurate. This indicates a light global average increase in temperature over this period. This tells us nothing about whether the planet is truly warming, or if we are in some sort of long term earth cycle. It also tells us nothing about man-made warming, if it exists. Finally their analysis still can't fully account for the so-called "fudge factor" which has to be applied when you consider the positive effect of concrete cities on temperature readings. All they can prove is that previous samplings of the data were adequate, and that our somewhat inherently faulty data shows a positive temperature trend over the last 100ish years. They also reconfirmed the El Nino impact.

    Finally, I think it's important to note that if this study had come to the opposite conclusion, it would have been derided as quack science and laughed off of Slashdot. Furthermore, the fact that the Koch brothers funded an apparently legitimate scientific study is unlikely to challenge the conception of most on this forum that they are a bunch of purely evil monsters, but it should.
  • by DrXym (126579) on Friday October 21, 2011 @10:27AM (#37793000)
    Yeah sure that's it. It's all some conspiracy. Every climate scientist is the pay of... who? Who are these glorious benefactors you're talking about? How come no scientist has come forward to blow the whistle on this vast conspiracy of yours?

    A more reasonable interpretation is that scientists have gathered evidence, analysed it, made models, drawn conclusions and published their findings. Findings all point at the same direction - that climate is changing and it is manmade in nature. And for reasons unknown some people cannot accept that fact and prefer to concoct some vast conspiracy to rationalise the scientists saying what they're saying.

    AGW deniers are in the same camp as creationists, 9/11 truthers, Holocaust deniers, moon hoaxers. Even when faced with overwhelming evidence they still refuse to believe it preferring to grasp for pseudoscience, quote mining and other nonsense to pretend evidence doesn't matter.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 21, 2011 @10:32AM (#37793098)
    The problem with your argument is that the primary reason those who argue man is responsible for climate change want us to do something is because we're interfering with the natural state of the planet. If we actually found out man wasn't directly responsible, that would negate their argument to do something entirely (in fact, doing something to prevent climate change would be interfering with the natural state of the planet). So unlike the plane example, the cause of climate change (and I don't think anyone but the most deluded would argue the climate isn't changing) is vital in establishing whether we should address the problem or not. You can't take the moral "don't f*** with the planet" high ground when it suits your argument and switch to "screw the planet, let's make life comfortable for us" view when it doesn't, otherwise you're just as jaded as the anti-climate crowd you're complaining about. The truth should be far more important than point scoring, even if the truth goes against what your gut told you.
  • by Rockoon (1252108) on Friday October 21, 2011 @10:47AM (#37793430)
    ..heaven forbid someone repeats a study in order to verify it.
  • by epine (68316) on Friday October 21, 2011 @11:16AM (#37793910)

    Climate skeptic Stephen McIntyre ...

    If I find flaws in a proof, does that make me a math skeptic? A tolerable statement would have been:

    Smoking gun skeptic Stephen McIntyre ...

    Stephen is not convinced that steam from the morning sunrise should be included in the assessment of smokingness. He's be less of a skeptic if more of the vapour was actually smoke.

    So your idea of the best climate scientists is... people who aren't climate scientists?

    Michael Mann defended weaknesses in his statistical methods on the basis that this paper survived peer review, despite the peer review failing to include a statistician with expertise on the statistical methods employed. How does that work in any other walk of life? What gives science the passing lane to miracle quorum?

    Working in another field, Stephen McIntyre does have expertise on the application of statistical methods to inflated conclusions and he elucidated flaws in the approach to the tree ring analysis which notable statisticians have commended as very astute.

    Mann responded by playing a game of "you can't have my data", so it was a long time before notable statisticians had anything to pronounce upon.

    Mann is representative of the climate believers who feel it's more important to be right than to get to the right answer on the best possible foundation. In part this is a defense against well funded detractors who wish to distract the climate debate to go around in endless circles of mock debate. I understand the frustration.

    The problem with Mann's approach to McIntyre is that McIntyre had actually filed a valid bug report. All Mann needed to do was fix the bug, publish a supplement to his paper with less convincing hockey sticks, then go back to the grindstone to find data or an analysis of the data the proved what we all suspect on a foundation of watertight analysis. What any scientist working in dull obscurity would accept as everyday life.

    Mann behaved like a project manager who had a progress graph on his wall showing 80% complete after a developer comes to him and says "we've made a huge mistake in estimating the scope of one of the subsystems, so the remaining work is twice what we thought". A good manager updates his chart to show 60% complete, then works his ass off to follow through on the 40% that remains. A bad manager says, "but we had a board meeting and everyone signed off on 80%" Then the developer gets painted as a progress denier.

    I am absolutely thrilled to see this analysis being repeated by a group of people I suspect would rather fall over dead than mutter some of the vague defenses employed by Michael Mann. I think Mann is a fairly decent guy who did a good piece of work on a very difficult subject, made a few extremely subtle mistakes, then reacted very badly when those mistakes were identified, primarily by saying things about science that no-one trained to speak about science would be caught dead uttering.

    The thing about peer review is that it catches more problems than it misses most of the time. It's not rock solid in any particular instance. In the fullness of time, the process converges to good science. But the whole point of the climate debate is to incite a radical economic response far in advance of the fullness of time that makes science a faultless enterprise.

    There's another group that wishes to claim that the radical economic response isn't actually that radical. People trained to study this are called economists, not scientists. I know, that's a horrifying reality. I've yet to meet a scientist with a fourth year credit in global intervention, yet there are no shortage of these guys telling the world what it needs to be doing.

    Some of them are speaking with wisdom and common sense. Are they trained to take these positions? Absolutely not.

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