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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.

    • 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.

      • I think the real threat of climate change is typically ignored for more "dramatic" scenarios. People like Al Gore seem to focus way too much on issues like sea levels rising a couple feet.

        Whereas, the real threat of AGW is more mundane: starvation and the wars that food shortages will invariably cause. In Western democracies, it's been so long since we've had food shortages that nobody can really relate to the risk of it. If you are relatively wealthy (by world standards not US) and live in say a flyover st

    • 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 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 Sockatume (732728)

          You know, people point to the second world war as a time when the Western world threw all its intellectual might into solving a single problem, and reaped enormous economic, social, and scientific benefits for decades after the war was over. Maybe this is our moment.

    • 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 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 Karellen (104380) on Friday October 21, 2011 @09:32AM (#37791780) Homepage

        That reminds me of the Yes, Prime Minister foreign office 4 stage strategy [imdb.com]. You've just outlined stages 1 and 2. I guess that once they can no longer deny it's anthropogenic, they'll move to saying that there's nothing we can do (stage 3), again absolving them of the need to do anything. Then they won't need stage 4 until after some coastal cities are already underwater and millions of climate refugees/victims are making their lives a misery.

        It'd be funny if it weren't so tragic.

    • 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 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 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 durrr (1316311)
      It was probably caused by man.
      By measuring temperatures in dumb-ass places, the BBC link in the article sums it up nicely with a picture of a weather station next to an airplane, and you could argue that jet exhaust and black tarmacs are natural, but you can't argue that jet exhaust and black tarmacs are representative for the earth surface in average.

      A graph, is always a very shitty representation of reality.
      • by cosmicaug (150534) on Friday October 21, 2011 @09:03AM (#37791134)

        It was probably caused by man.

        By measuring temperatures in dumb-ass places, the BBC link in the article sums it up nicely with a picture of a weather station next to an airplane, and you could argue that jet exhaust and black tarmacs are natural, but you can't argue that jet exhaust and black tarmacs are representative for the earth surface in average.

        Actually, the heat island effect was one of the things that this study was meant to address. The climate skeptic's contentions on this are basically threefold:
        - Urban heat islands exist and they are warmer than they otherwise would be if urbanization had not happened (I don't think anyone disputes this).
        - Urban heat islands exaggerate warming trends.
        - Unlike TV weathermen, climate scientists are too stupid to realize that urban heat island effects could affect their data and too stupid to correct the data for it (even though it is quite likely that clever TV weathermen probably read about this effect in the climate science literature in the first place).

        What this group has found on the matter, to their great surprise, is that not only doesn't the urban heat island effect not exaggerate warming trends, it actually dampens them a little bit. In other words, if you are not accounting for the urban heat island effect it makes the hockey stick less steep, rather than more steep.

        Which is no great surprise to me because others have already looked at this due to the stink Anthony Watts was raising and found the same thing (though I would guess Watts probably doesn't talk about that too much).

    • by jeffmeden (135043) on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:45AM (#37790776) Homepage Journal

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

      If the question of whether or not the warming is anthropogenic, then why the Climategate stink? The researchers involved in those studies (as referenced here) had no skin in the anthropogeny game, they were merely reporting on collected warming/cooling data. If self-proclaimed "skeptics" were not contentious about warming and instead only worried about the cause, there would not have been a scandal at all...

      But there was.

    • by Shisha (145964) on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:45AM (#37790778) Homepage

      It didn't "confirm" it was caused by man, as it didn't set out to and doesn't claim to.

      Nevertheless the collected data seem to indicate a steady increase in temperature. This has coincided with increased emissions of CO2 (while many other factors remained constant, or more precisely didn't vary enough to allow anyone to claim correlation). This of course does not mean that it's _caused_ by the increased emissions of CO2.

      But if my belly starts aching I look at what I ate that others didn't. And if I ate something that others didn't (say a dodgy kebab) and I feel bad and they don't then of course I can't claim I feel bad because of the kebab. But I'm sure not going to have the same kebab next time. I don't wait for a double blind study done on a statistically significant sample to confirm to within some statistical error that the kebab is indeed bad.

    • 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 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 gothzilla (676407)

      It's actually rather simple to understand the real problem.

      The earth's temperature changes on a large number of different cycles. The longest being hundreds of thousands of years long and the shortest is a few hours. It's easy to look for patterns in short cycles. We've got a hundred years or so of actual measured data, so it's not too hard to predict what the weather will be like tomorrow or the next day. When you have 100+ years of actual data, it's easy to spot changes in patterns that are days or maybe

    • by jbengt (874751)

      . . . . 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.

      Hell, the entire east coast is underwater every high tide.

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by j-turkey (187775)

      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?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rubycodez (864176)
      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 i
  • Why did it take them seven years [slashdot.org] (almost exactly to this date) to come to this conclusion?

    Does Muller stand by this statement on Principle Component Analysis from 2004 [technologyreview.com]?

    In PCA and similar techniques, each of the (in this case, typically 70) different data sets have their averages subtracted (so they have a mean of zero), and then are multiplied by a number to make their average variation around that mean to be equal to one; in technical jargon, we say that each data set is normalized to zero mean and unit variance. In standard PCA, each data set is normalized over its complete data period; for key climate data sets that Mann used to create his hockey stick graph, this was the interval 1400-1980. But the computer program Mann used did not do that. Instead, it forced each data set to have zero mean for the time period 1902-1980, and to match the historical records for this interval. This is the time when the historical temperature is well known, so this procedure does guarantee the most accurate temperature scale. But it completely screws up PCA. PCA is mostly concerned with the data sets that have high variance, and the Mann normalization procedure tends to give very high variance to any data set with a hockey stick shape. (Such data sets have zero mean only over the 1902-1980 period, not over the longer 1400-1980 period.)

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Why did it take them seven years [slashdot.org] (almost exactly to this date) to come to this conclusion?

      They were doing first-rate science on an enormous data set? Pulling off a major research project in less time than it takes to train two PhD students is pretty quick by any science's standards, regardless.

  • No one disagrees that the earth's climate has warmed and cooled repeatedly over the last 100,000 years and beyond. Many disagree, however, about the extent of man's involvement in climate change. This sort of study is as if police were to report 'Yes a crime has occurred' when what people really want to know is 'who dunnit?'

  • Things look different when not done by agenda-driven "climatologist". warmest year was 13 years ago, let's all have some retroactive panic
  • by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:50AM (#37790872)

    A real important thing to note was that this was paid for privately- with a large chunk of that capital coming from Climate-change-deniers who wanted to prove that climate change wasn't happening.

    Climate-change-deniers often say that government paid studies are fake because governments are encouraging the scientists to come back with fake positives to promote various policies... ... they can't say that anymore.

    The debate of man's involvement will still go on- but STOP DENYING THE PROBLEM! Let's put that to bed now.

    • 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.

  • Finally. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Friday October 21, 2011 @08:57AM (#37791032)

    "But for Richard Muller, this free circulation also marks a return to how science should be done."

    I've long been sceptical of 'man made global warming' because of the science involved. It didn't help that people would say, "Only university-trained scientists can understand the data", either. (Obviously an idiotic claim. Anyone with a brain can learn, and Universities are not a requirement for learning.)

    But this is the moment I've been waiting for. Someone finally did the science openly and put all their cards on the table. They aren't hiding anything, including their funding sources. They even used new data that wasn't tainted and made sure to watch for the things sceptics have been critical of.

    So, as a long-time AGW sceptic, I'm saying: Thank you for finally proving it.

    Now if we can only find ways to counter or offset it that don't hurt the environment even more than we already are, we'll be in good shape.

    • Re:Finally. (Score:5, Informative)

      by sstamps (39313) on Friday October 21, 2011 @09:28AM (#37791654) Homepage

      Except for:

      1) None of the scientists ever said "only university-trained scientists can understand the data".
      2) All of the science was done openly with all the cards on the table. Published papers are, well, published.
      3) You could always discover the funding sources for the vast majority of all scientists, because most of them are required to disclose it.
      4) Vanishingly little data was used that could be considered "tainted".

      The only real difference between this research project and previous ones which came to the same conclusions was the personalities involved.

  • by Aquitaine (102097) <sam.iamsam@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

    • Cap and trade is a terrible idea. The right approach is much simpler.

      1) Carbon tax. Use the revenue from this to lower other taxes. E.g. we'll add oil/coal/natural gas taxes, but we'll reduce business taxes to alleviate at least some of the economic drag caused by the carbon tax.
      2) Carbon tariffs on imports. If something comes from a country that isn't making similar efforts to curb carbon usage, then we put that into the tariff on the good. An ideal tariff would be some value equal to the extra carbon emit

  • It is inappropriate to draw any conclusions from this research because it has not yet been peer reviewed. Watts of wattsupwiththat.com fame was shown a draft, and found some problems with the study, specifically with the selection of weather siting data. No doubt there will be other issues that need to be corrected, that's the whole point of having peer reviews. Everybody wants to skip to the end, but we need to let the process work.

    You'd think that the /. crowd would be a little more sophisticated about this kind of thing than the average MSM reader, but apparently not in this case, given the comments I've read thus far.

  • 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 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 quantaman (517394)

      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.

      Well yeah.

      If you interview a 100 mathematicians, 99 say x=3, and the 100th says x=2, than one of three things has happened. Either the 100th was right, the 99 were right, or neither were right.

      Now it's not impossible that the 100th is right, but siding with the 100th on a regular basis is a very good way to be wrong.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by scot4875 (542869)

      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.

      Because for it to come to the opposite conclusion, it would probably have had to have been quack science. And before you accuse me of not wanting to challenge my "religion" of AGW, a couple of months ago when a report came out that claimed that warming was basically not happening, the first thing I thought was "wow, that's fantastic news. I hope they're right and not just partisan quacks." In case you missed that one, I'll leave it to you to guess if they were right or not.

      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.

      Good on them. Now let's see if

    • by Xyrus (755017)

      "This indicates a light global average increase in temperature over this period."

      I think you have a strange definition of "light". According to paleoclimate studies, a change of a degree or two Celsius is enough to drastically alter the climate of the entire globe.

      "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."

      Bunk, and there have been several papers on this. Having t

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