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Earth Science

Last Bastion For Climate Dissenters Crumbling 963

Layzej writes "The New York Times reports: 'For decades, a small group of scientific dissenters has been trying to shoot holes in the prevailing science of climate change, offering one reason after another why the outlook simply must be wrong.' Initially they claimed that weather stations exaggerated the warming trend. This was disproven by satellite data which shows a similar warming trend. Next, solar activity was blamed for much of the warming. This looked like a promising theory until the '80s, when solar output started to diverge from global temperatures. Now, climate contrarians are convinced that changes in cloud cover will largely mitigate the warming caused by increased CO2. The New York Times examines how even this last bastion for dissenters is crumbling. Over the past few years, Several papers have shown that rather than being a mitigating factor, changes in cloud cover due to warming may actually enhance further warming."
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Last Bastion For Climate Dissenters Crumbling

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  • Last bastion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mseeger ( 40923 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:13AM (#39866443)

    What is the basis for the assumption that this is the "last" bastion? I am pretty sure, they will find another reason to hold out within days.... This is an issue of belief (at least for them), so arguments ain't gonna change a thing.

    • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:26AM (#39866539)

      There is significant evidence that the earth's climate changed dramatically in the past, without any human intervention. So there is all kinds of historic evidence for climate change. The issue is how significant human activities are for climate change.

      • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Insightful)

        by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:40AM (#39866683)

        That's why SCIENTISTS MEASURE the things that could affect global climate instead of just flapping their arms and lips.

      • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jawnn ( 445279 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:58AM (#39866829)

        There is significant evidence that the earth's climate changed dramatically in the past, without any human intervention.

        Yes, but some of the findings associated with such changes have never graphed anywhere near like they do now. For example, going back at least several hundred thousand years, the rate of rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide has never come anywhere near what we are seeing now, but yeah, you're right. That simply must be "natural phenomena". The burning of millions of years worth of carbon deposits in a few decades couldn't have anything at all to do with that. And unicorns are real.

        • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Informative)

          by Wulfrunner ( 1213776 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:40AM (#39867231)

          It is interesting to note that the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide may have been as much as 20 times higher as it is today at points in Earth's geologic past. Of course, you wouldn't want to live there :)

          Sometimes people compare today's warming with the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum [].

          • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Interesting)

            by mikael ( 484 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @09:22AM (#39867685)

            I always wondered how insects in prehistoric times grew so large. As they have no lungs, they depend entirdly on Brownian motion for the exchange of O2 and CO2. During those times the percentage of oxygen in the air was even higher as well. Even fo the point that any dry wood would burst into flame, unless the air was extremely humid.

          • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Interesting)

            by jd ( 1658 ) <<imipak> <at> <>> on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @04:10PM (#39872857) Homepage Journal

            True, but it took millions of years to reach that point and millions more to change to a more hospitable environment. This time, it has taken around a century to do what would normally have taken hundreds of millennia to achieve. That's a huge difference. Atmospheric oxygen was also much, much higher during periods like the Cretaceous (the figures I've seen have been in the vicinity of 35%) but no such rise has occurred here. It is this rise in oxygen that allowed for massive insects.

            The current imbalanced rise in CO2 is much more troubling because studies show that plants do NOT like massive levels of CO2 unless they come combined with massive levels of O2. CO2 rises alone, without any other alteration to the environment, will cause plant growth to decline and is eventually toxic. As such, it is very unlike the majority of historic events, which have tended to be balanced in some way. (PETM, for example, is linked to a massive increase in vulcanism. Volcanic ash contains superb nutrients for plants and algae, which meant that once the volcanoes stopped, things were ideally positioned for the CO2 released to be locked away on a much shorter order than it would have otherwise taken.)

            This means that the potential exists for the end result to be far worse than for PETM. There's no introduction of a compensating variable, so even if industry stopped tomorrow, you would NOT see a rapid recovery as happened with PETM. Instead, things would worsen for a long time and - since chaotic systems leap from one orbit to another in dramatic and unpredictable shifts - a catastrophic switch could still occur at any time. The reason we've not seen the originally predicted shifts is that climate ISN'T linear, it's chaotic and Strange Attractors act in a manner analogous to quantum states -- systems don't change much until they leap from one state to another (the "quantum leap").

            Natural climate shifts have built-in mechanisms that prevent quantum leaps, but this shift does not. If we want such mechanisms, we'll have to add them via geo-engineering of some kind.

        • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:41AM (#39867233) Homepage

          The problem is that while this may be the last scientific reason to think global climate change isn't happening or won't be a problem, what's really the last bastion is "la la la la I'm not listening! It's all a conspiracy!" And if issues like the the shape of the Earth and evolution are any guide, it may be several centuries before we're done dealing with that one.

          Here, I think, is the reason that this one is so difficult to accept for many people: Western society is fundamentally based on the ideas of growth and progress, where society produces more than it used to and by so doing enables scientific discoveries that enable it to produce even more which in turn leads to more scientific discoveries in a nice virtuous circle that has exponentially increased our quality of life. The challenge presented by global climate change (and peak oil and several other related problems) is that growth and progress can't continue exponentially forever. It's no different, really, than a colony of bacteria filling up their petri dish and being unable to expand any further. And what's worse, capitalism, while admirably suited to allowing humanity to produce more useful goods than ever before, is completely ill-equipped to handle situations where further growth or even preventing a catastrophic decline is impossible.

          • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @09:41AM (#39867887)

            First of all, the shape of the Earth was never a controversy: the Greeks not only knew it was round, they calculated the radius to within a few hundred km or so, and that knowledge stayed with humanity through the time of Columbus (who knew it was round, but miscalculated the exact circumference by a fair bit). Pretty much the only people who may have thought it was flat were the peasants.

            Second, capitalism works perfectly fine with a non-growing system. Plenty of companies maintain stable levels of profit and production over years or decades, producing steady profits for their investors. A huge number of investors prefer start-ups and expansion, because those yield massive profits (or complete loss) much much faster, but capitalism doesn't require that. All it requires is that the stable system be large enough to create local instabilities. There will be sufficient fluctuation between the companies within the stable system to allow for new corporations in any case, and of course the progress of science means we will (for the forseeable future) be able to utilize more resources and do so more efficiently: oil is not the only source of energy in the world. It isn't even the cheapest or most efficient, just the easiest to utilize.

            • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Insightful)

              by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @10:23AM (#39868375) Homepage

              First of all, the shape of the Earth was never a controversy

              ... among non-idiots after about 300 BCE. That's precisely my point: Even though modern humans have had every reason imaginable to believe the Earth is an oblate spheroid, and pretty close to complete proof of the idea by about 1550, there are still Flat Earth believers []. That's why idiocy and denial are the last refuge of a stupid idea.

              Same story with the development of life on Earth. Evolution was widely accepted scientifically by about 1880 or so, but surveys show a solid 30% or so of Americans still believe that life was created by God 6000 years ago.

              • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Interesting)

                by hoggoth ( 414195 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @11:09AM (#39869073) Journal

                > Americans still believe that life was created by God 6000 years ago


                I met one of those. Nice family. They an incredibly detailed history chart on butchers paper running all around the walls of their house. I was walking along it reading all of the diverging lines of societies, wars, inventions, etc. It was fascinating. Then I reached "the end". I said, 'where is the rest?'. "What rest?" they replied, "that is when God made the Earth."

                The hairs went up on the back of my neck in an involuntary reflex inherited from my Ape-like ancestors... or was it?

          • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Insightful)

            by tibit ( 1762298 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @09:54AM (#39868037)

            I think that there are valid reasons for distrusting the group think here. To me, there are four orthogonal issues: whether there is a warming, to what extent it's anthropogenic, what will the fallout be, and for how long. I think that the first two are answered with a yes, perhaps even a resounding one. To the third, there's plenty of reasonable scenarios. My main beef is with presumptions and handwaving on the last one. That's the real policy driver.

            It's not unthinkable that the warming and cooling would happen with different time constants, as would increase and decrease in atmospheric CO2. Suppose we stopped all fossil fuel use right now. How far would the warming trend go, and for how long? One presumes that if we merely reduce emissions, it'll go farther and longer. How much are our sacrifices worth?

    • Re:Last bastion (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:26AM (#39866547)

      What is the basis for the assumption that this is the "last" bastion? I am pretty sure, they will find another reason to hold out within days.... This is an issue of belief (at least for them), so arguments ain't gonna change a thing.

      Belief for the hoi polloi who vote and put pressure on politicians and politicians use the Global Climate Change or Global Warming as a distraction issue to be not like the other guy. With other distraction issues like how GW will "increase taxes" or "eliminate US sovereignty" or "kill jobs" or what have you.

      The real reason why there's so much resistance to the data and the conclusions drawn from that data is that there are some very powerful entities whose business will be adversely affected by any policies implemented as a result of stemming the effects of GW. In other words, there are folks who believe that they will lose big if GW is accepted as fact for policy sake - like the big oil and auto corporations.

    • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Interesting)

      by buchner.johannes ( 1139593 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:31AM (#39866587) Homepage Journal

      I find it quite interesting to compare this to other historic debates such as

        - whether the universe has always existed or came into existence (steady-state vs big bang)
        - whether the milky way is the only galaxy
        - whether earth is the center / only place with life
        - whether humans are different in any distinctive way compared to (other) animals

      The common theme is "can something come from nothing" and "is this place special". Some resistance in the debates comes from "it has always been like this". There seems to be some attractive simplicity to the idea that things never change and that there is only one of something.

      The world seems to be consistently contradict our intuition on that principle.

    • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:31AM (#39866599)

      What is the basis for the assumption that this is the "last" bastion? I am pretty sure, they will find another reason to hold out within days.... This is an issue of belief (at least for them), so arguments ain't gonna change a thing.

      You only have to look at creationists, 9/11 truthers, moon landing hoaxers, anti-vaccinationists to know that you could lock such people in a warehouse full of evidence contradictory to their worldviews and they'd still deny it. I really don't see climate change deniers being any different.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      These aren't deniers, these are scientific dissenters. There is nothing wrong with that. Without scientific dissenters we wouldn't have as much confidence as we have today on theories such as evolution, quantum mechanics (with Einstein being a major dissenter), and Big Bang cosmology. Often, the dissent strengthens the theory, leads to new branches of study, or points out actual flaws that need to be adjusted.

      • Re:Last bastion (Score:4, Interesting)

        by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:46AM (#39866735)

        No they're not honest scientific dissenters. The evidence is that they shift from one unsupported hypothesis to another as their ideas are disproven by data and careful analysis.

        • Re:Last bastion (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:54AM (#39866795)

          Einstein did the same damn thing. This is how science works.

          I understand that it is disconcerting that people don't agree on this topic since it will have a major impact on the world. But that is why politics and science are separate. The politicians need to be wise enough to know that scientists will probably be debating global warming for the next 50 years, but that their time to act is very short.

          Don't bash the scientists, bash to politicians who don't have the guts to do what they should.

        • by brokeninside ( 34168 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:33AM (#39867167)

          I realize that it was Einstein being discussed. But I think the same point about Einstein can be made about Galileo.

          We see that Galileo's view of the origin of Copernicanism differs markedly from the more familiar historical accounts. He neither points to new facts which offer inductive support to the idea of the moving earth, nor does he mention any observations that would refute the geocentric point of view but be accounted for by Copernicanism. On the contrary, he emphasizes that not only Ptolemy, but Copernicus as well, is refuted by the facts, and he praises Aristarchus and Copernicus for not having given up in the face of such tremendous difficulties. He praises them for having proceeded counterinductively. [Feyerabend, Paul. Against Method. Verso (London and New York): 2010. Pages 77-88]

          Galileo's observations, even the ones with the telescope, were arguments against his own heliocentric theory just as much as they were evidence against some forms of geocentrism (keep in mind that Tycho Brahe created a form of geocentrism that worked quite nicely). It wasn't until Kepler that a form of heliocentrism fit the observed facts any better than geocentrism. Despite the observed facts telling him his theory could not be correct, Galileo continued to pursue his theory. He did so by means of a propaganda campaign that sought to promulgate his (quite wrong) theory of optics, its accompanying technology (his telescopes), and his metaphysics. Eventually, he got other scientists to look at the world from a different point of view and, once he did that, new facts could come to light and enable such men as Kepler to develop theories to account for those facts.

          In the end, I'm not certain that distinguishing between `honest' and `dishonest' dissent is very fruitful. Whether honest or not, dissent is important to prevent falling into a morbid state of what Feyerabend calls ``conceptual conservatism.''

          This does not mean that one can't make the argument that most climate change deniers aren't kooks. It just means that when making policy decisions, it can be profitable to look at their analysis and examine what has to hold for it to be an accurate analysis and what would be the end result if it is accurate. This can be compared to the consensus view and a reasonable decision arrived at. And it will be a stronger, more reasoned decision than if the kooks were just ignored.

        • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Informative)

          by rgbatduke ( 1231380 ) <`ude.ekud.yhp' `ta' `bgr'> on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @11:25AM (#39869315) Homepage
          Actually, they are honest scientific dissenters. At issue isn't whether or not there is a greenhouse effect -- it is true that only nut-jobs try to claim that there isn't. It is that the warming expected from a doubling of CO_2 per se is not likely to be catastrophic. To make it catastrophic, its effects are multiplied by a presumed positive climate sensitivity that is multifactorial and impossible to measure, and that no two global climate models set the same way to hindcast some carefully selected portion of the historical temperature record. The sensitivity then amplifies the (rather weak) additional warming caused by the CO_2 by a factor of 3 to 5 and you finally get the desired "catastrophe" that justifies spending trillions of dollars to avert it, taking steps that even the proponents admit will not, in fact, avert it. A catastrophe that has to in the end cost trillions of dollars or it isn't worth averting it in the first place.

          The problem is that the global climate models suck at hindcasting outside of their fit region because they omit major variables (such as solar state) that almost certainly contribute as much to the climate variability as modulation of the CO_2 per se does. The GCMs also suck at forecasting. Compare the forecast temperatures from any of the early IPCC reports to the temperatures outside today, and you will observe an increasing divergence. The UAH lower troposphere temperature has been stable to slightly decreasing for well over a decade at this point and is actually bouncing by a tenth of a degree C around its 32 year average month to month at this very moment. Arctic sea ice is back to its 30 year average. Antarctic sea ice is actually above its 30 year average (so sea ice in general is both net surplus and on a positive trend). None of this makes any sense at all in terms of a model based on greenhouse gases with huge climate sensitivity, but it makes a great deal of sense if one considers variables omitted in the GCMs, such as solar state.

          The Earth is in the middle -- well, honestly at the very beginning of -- an ice age. One likely to last roughly 300 million years. We do not have a very good understanding of why this is the case -- there are major competing hypotheses and some of them involve things like helium burning episodes in the core of the Sun where we have a very hard time "seeing" them and where in any event the timescale of variation is enormous, or the passage of the solar system through galactic regions with variable mass content, again on timescales and at density scales almost impossible to measure. Note well that I'm not talking about the "modulation" of the ice age with brief interglacial episodes -- those episodes are correlated to be sure with orbital periods (although not particularly well or consistently correlated) -- I'm talking about why the Pliestocene itself began.

          It is also a simple fact that in the last 15 years, the Earth's albedo has increased by roughly 7% while the water content of the stratosphere has gone down by roughly 10%. If you want an even more interesting true fact, the albedo decreased sharply in the late 60s -- in consonance with an arguably extreme solar maximum -- and remained low for precisely the period where the earth was supposedly experiencing runaway greenhouse warming, and went down almost exactly when that warming seems to have gone away. For example and references:


          This article is a bit specious. The effects of an increased bond albedo -- especially a daytime albedo which is what "planetshine" directly measures -- are perfectly simple to understand. If you visit:


          You will discover a simple formula for the Earth's expected "greybody temperature". You will also learn that:

          The Earth has an albedo of 0.3, meaning that 30% of the solar radiation that hits the planet gets scattered back into space without absorption. The effect of albedo on temperature can be approximated by assuming that the energy absorbed is multiplied by 0.7, but that the planet still radiates as a black body (the latter by definition of effective temperature, which is what we are calculating). This approximation reduces the temperature by a factor of 0.7^1/4, giving 255 K (18 C).

          Now, of course, a 7% increase suggests that the bond albedo is more like 0.32. We should thus multiply T_2 = 279K by 0.68^1/4 = 0.91, getting 253.4 K. The GHE adds warming on top of this baseline, but the reduction in baseline is "off the top" (of the atmosphere, literally) and all things being equal will have a powerful cooling effect, one multiplied by exactly the same "climate sensitivity" as the warming supposedly has/had. Which the data suggests is actually rather small to neutral, but that's another argument.

          So let's see, the total warming of the entire 20th century was roughly 0.6 K, with roughly half of it concentrated in the last 40 years during the 30 year stretch where the bond albedo was anomalously low. The bond albedo has now returned to normal, and -- if the Earth had had time to equilibrate over a mere 30-40 years, which it certainly did not -- we could reasonably expect a reduction in average temperature close to 3 times the entire warming of the 20th century, back to levels not seen since the Dalton minimum if not the Maunder minimum (correlated with the Little Ice Age). Yet we have heard absolutely nothing about this in the news or media, right? Did anybody who is insulting the scientific integrity of the scientists who do not buy into the CAGW hysteria -- including a list of nobel laureates and NASA astronauts and scientists and physicists, I should point out, not that their credentials matter any more than the credentials of the scientists that do buy in matter, science should tolerate dissent and argument! -- know about the increase in measured bond albedo of sunnyside-up Earth and its predicted mean effects on the climate? I think not.

          What causes the increase in albedo? More tropical dayside clouds. Why are is cloud coverage increasing? Nobody really knows -- there are widely divergent hypotheses, all supported by some evidence, none of them convincing as of now. Will it remain high? How can we tell, lacking a solid knowledge of cause or the causality and probable time dependence of the probably multifactorial cause? It is correlated better with solar state than with anything else, but solar state is the great omitted variable in GCMs because although we have historical correlation -- noisy, but there -- we don't understand the causality and again climate is highly multivariate and non-Markovian and chaotic. Simply changing the phase of major decadal oscillation, e.g. the PDO, alters the concentrations of warm and cold temperatures on the Earth's surface, which in turn modulates its radiative efficiency, as paradoxically patterns that confine heat in the tropics are net cooling globally, while circulation patterns that mix the atmosphere and oceanic heat more uniformly are net warming, all effects equal to or in excess of the logarithmic modulation of the GHE in an atmosphere already pretty much as opaque as CO_2 can make it up to the top of the troposphere where IR radiation finally takes place.

          The really funny thing is calling all of this "settled science". The Universal Law of Gravitation is settled science (oh, wait, it's not, what about dark matter, dark energy, general relativity, quantum mechanics on the Planck scale). The Earth's climate is arguably the most difficult problem ever tackled by humanity, informed by an absolutely trivial amount of reasonably precise data that still sucks as far as sampling coverage is concerned and is still being tweaked at will by this group and that with bones to pick and horses in the race. How dare anyone call this science settled enough to justify diverting an enormous amount of the collective productivity of the human race into taking steps that -- even if they are taken -- will have almost no effect on the outcome even according to those proposing those draconian measures?

          Personally -- having looked over the science rather carefully -- I think that it is a non-problem. I think that the Earth will probably warm between 1 and 1.5C by the end of the century if the Sun returns to an active state, and that it is entirely plausible that the Earth will cool if it does not or we enter a Maunder-type minimum instead of simply a more normal, less active Sun. In the meantime, photovoltaic solar follows Moore's Law (so far) and in roughly 10 years will be break even, unsubsidized, for large scale electrical generation. It could be sooner -- people are working on clever ways indeed to improve cost efficiency by an order of magnitude that aren't dependent on improved semiconductor design. Energy storage is similarly a hot topic, with people working on zinc-air and lithium-air batteries that might have the storage capacity to make them viable ways to store and buffer solar energy for delivery in the dark. Within no more than 20 years people will be building massive solar generation facilities not because of "carbon taxes" or other horrendously expensive tax or investment laws or because of taxpayer funded subsidies, but because they are more profitable than coal or natural gas burning plants. And then there is fusion, the long shot but one that if it ever comes home makes the entire discussion moot.

          In the meantime, there is no reason to panic, or spread alarm, or prematurely force investment into unprofitable and expensive technologies that don't and won't solve the actual problem, especially not to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. The Earth simply isn't warming at the moment, however fervently CAGW supporters are seeking a "warming signal" through the stable UAH lower troposphere temperatures and are constantly tweaking GISS or CRUTEM to further accentuate their supposedly objective thermometric record of warming. Sea surface temperatures have similarly been stable for a decade or more, and have varied in the past in a most interesting way suggesting of a Kolmogorov-type process, one that is actually visible throughout the climate record -- short, sudden jumps or drops followed by a period of local approximate stability.

          Now go ahead. Don't bother addressing the actual Stefan-Boltzmann equation or the evidence for the increase in dayside albedo, don't bother looking up the NASA evidence for decreased water vapour in the stratosphere (or its probable cooling effect on the climate), don't concede that we don't, actually, know what the temperature outside would be right now if planetary CO_2 were 300 ppm instead of 400 ppm at the top of Mauna Loa because we don't really know why the Pliestocene began or why the Earth's climate is currently bistable with brief warm phase excursions followed by cold phase excursions where the atmospheric CO_2 drops to around 180 ppm (not leading the temperature, following the temperature, note well as it is absolutely unmistakeably clear that the decrease happens in spite of atmospheric CO_2) which at half the modern partial pressure is enough to severely impact plant growth and reproduction. Instead accuse me of being paid off by the Oil Industry. Accuse me of not being a "real scientist", because real scientists all agree with the CAGW scenario and support carbon taxes and subsidies and wealth redistribution through the UN. Accuse me of hating little baby polar bears and seals (who somehow managed to survive the Holocene Optimum, note well). Call me "a denier" to try to make it sound like I'm blinding myself in a modern Holocaust. Tell me to trust the GCMs -- sure, they don't actually work to predict things, but they're very cool and must be right in spite of the free parameters that everybody sets differently because they can't be measured or theoretically computed and in spite of the variables they omit. And above all, don't acknowledge that my dissent is either honest or scientific, based on direct observation and even simpler physics than the GHE.

      • by Jawnn ( 445279 )

        These aren't deniers, these are scientific dissenters. There is nothing wrong with that. Without scientific dissenters we wouldn't have as much confidence as we have today on theories such as evolution, quantum mechanics (with Einstein being a major dissenter), and Big Bang cosmology. Often, the dissent strengthens the theory, leads to new branches of study, or points out actual flaws that need to be adjusted.

        If they really were "scientific" dissenters, that would be OK. Indeed, good science demands well reasoned "dissent", but the plain fact is that most of the "dissenters" are anything but scientific, and good share of the "science" on the dissenting side has been bought and paid for by energy interests. Please...

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .nhojovadle.> on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:13AM (#39866449) Journal

    Over time, nearly every one of their arguments has been knocked down by accumulating evidence, and polls say 97 percent of working climate scientists now see global warming as a serious risk.

    Despite this large consensus in the peer reviewed scientific community, it doesn't take much searching to find comments like this one [] modded up as high as it can go that say crap like:

    Global Warming/Climate Change may or may not be happening.

    Frankly, I avoid these discussions now. There is no reason to try to inform people of what you read like this NY Times article. Ignorance backed by corporations has won. It has won in the mind of the general public, it has even won on the "elite tech site" of Slashdot, even in the minds of those here who hold the moderator points.

    • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:15AM (#39866979) Homepage Journal
      It is interesting, however, to see public opinion change as those with vested interests in the past become less powerful. For instance, it was not that long ago that smoking was not considered bad. It was even considered a healthy thing to do in moderation. As new scientist were produced, educated in the most recent research, fewer of them were willing to take corporate dollars dedicated to proving smoking was good, or at last not significantly harmful. As new people reached their teens, uneducated by the promotions of the smoking interests, fewer of them started smoking, therefore fewer people have an interest in being able to consume drugs in public, something which has been discouraged for any drug other than tabaco(some surveys suggest that smoking among teens has dropped about 15 percentage points over the past 10-15 years). This in turn has lead to a reduction in money, i.e. power, of the smoking establishment, which in turn has lead to tabaco being treated the same as other legal drug, like alcohol.

      Right now we are in a carbon economy. It is critically important to many people to show that humans have no impact on global warming, so there is a lot of money invested in promoting that point of view. Even if the science remains as is, we are going to be moving away from a carbon economy simply because new scientists and engineers are going to be educated in the possibility that the carbon economy is not the best solution, and, being scientists and engineers, many of them are going to looking for a better solution. As time goes on, and those vested in the carbon economy become less powerful, than a more balanced picture will emerge. Remember that the first paper show smoking was harmful was published over 100 years ago. Fifty years ago it was clear that smoking caused severe health problems. it was only 10 years ago that the smoking interests admitted that smoking was a serious problem. And smoking is not nearly as ingrained in our society as energy from carbon sources.

    • It has its uses. The subject seems to provoke some people to spew various crazy conspiracy theories, and it's possible to note who those people are and discount their opinion in the future on other topics. Think of it as a canary in a mental coal mine.

      Would be interesting to keep (and provide) statistics like "number of AC responses". I am guessing that climate change topics would rank relatively high.

  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:24AM (#39866519)

    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 does cause it, but it's not a net negative.
    5) It is a net negative, but it's not economically possible to tackle it.
    6) We need to tackle global warming, so make the poor pay for it.
    7) Global warming is bad for business. Why did the Democrats not tackle it earlier?
    8) ????
    9) Profit.

    • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:51AM (#39866767)

      1) There's no such thing as global warming.

      This has been proven true. We have enough temperature data to confidently say that temperatures have been steadily increasing since about 1850.

      2) There's global warming, but the scientists are exaggerating. It's not significant.

      This has been proven false. The 6 degree increase we should be experiencing now according to alarmists simply doesn't exist.

      3) There's significant global warming, but man doesn't cause it.

      This may be true, we have proof that there were much bigger climate changes even before man.

      4) Man does cause it, but it's not a net negative.

      This is a tricky one, I would say that too rapid change is never good for the environment, at least not in the short term. But if you only care about the effets on agriculture, it may very well be possible to breed/engineer crops that thrive in the new climate.

      5) It is a net negative, but it's not economically possible to tackle it.

      That's most certainly false, but the real question is whether its negative effects cost more than to stop it.

      There is still much more research needed on the topic, and bringing politics into the debate is exactly what's halting progress.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:26AM (#39866537)

    Not because of anyone's ideology. Because good science demands people check other people's work, look for errors, ask hard questions, and the like. If we all agree, pat ourselves on our collective back, and stare away people who would dare question what we've decided must be the truth, we've transitioned from science to religion, and are doing everyone a disservice.

    Trust mainstream media to not understand this. *sigh*

    • by Gonoff ( 88518 )

      There is a difference between questioning and dissent - unless you are intolerant.

      Science needs everything questioned. It does not need the very basis of arithmetic, like 1+1=2, denied. That would be silly.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:37AM (#39866655)
    First I will not say which "side" I am on as that is unimportant as my total climate knowledge is based on grumbling about weather. But this whole discussion has gone off the rails in that regardless of what scientists think or know the public is turning against man made climate change. Want to lose an election in North America then propose a carbon tax or something similar. Al Gore got people cheering one side of this issue but being Al Gore managed to alienate and effectively create an opposing side. While healthy discussion in science is what science is all about people on both sides have begun to turn this into a religion with people calling for firing of scientists who they disagree with and another person calling for burning others houses down.

    A much better example of good science was the recent discovery that neutrinos were going faster than light. Turned out to be wrong but most people were sort of excited as this would potentially be a huge change in physics. Another good example of the separation of science and policy would be nuclear weapons. Nuclear reactions are cool; nuclear weapons are not. But very few people criticized the work Niels Bohr for bringing the world to the brink of total destruction. It would have been a crap argument to say his work was the beginning of a science killed a whole lot of Japanese and thus was invalid. His models of how atoms and whatnot worked have changed significantly enough that they could almost be just called all wrong. But as will all good science people expanded and improved his work.

    Where I am going with this is that the hysteria of dragging the scientists out for trials in the court of public opinion not only doesn't help the climate people get on with their research but it opens up other areas to the concept that somehow public opinion can shape science. Opinion does not change a fact. Opinion is to be used to decide what to do about those facts. Both sides on this issue are getting into the realm of those fools who try legislating that =3.
    • I agree to some extent. I look forward to the day when we can have miserable overly dramatic arguments about how best to approach the problem rather than ones over the existence of the problem.

      To some extent these are the first salvos of that argument. Deciding the center is a function of impact and cost. Once we can move past debating whether the impact is effectively zero or infinite we can get on with the fun that will be whether the cost to correct is effectively zero or infinite. The initial hyper

    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:49AM (#39867311) Homepage Journal

      Al Gore got people cheering one side of this issue but being Al Gore managed to alienate and effectively create an opposing side.

      That's a lot of crap. People used what they didn't like about Al Gore as an excuse to talk a lot of shit about AGW and now he's become a kind of curse word that they shout incoherently in the middle of arguments. If I have to hear one more global warming denier blame the fact that we're talking about CO2 on Al Gore I may fucking snap. What I find hilarious is that the nerd crowd here on Slashdot overwhelmingly berates him for being too boring when that is precisely how the rest of the world views us when we launch into an explanation of how something works — something the listener has asked us to explain to them. And you start explaining it and they say "don't tell me all that shit, I just want to know how it works" and you just want to slap the fucker, because clearly he's not capable of understanding this thing without extensive further education. Railing against Al Gore for being boring is a vote for the further dumbing-down of America. I don't want leaders who wave their hand and say "you don't need to see my four-year plan." I don't want them to say "you're too dumb to understand this." Unfortunately, that is precisely what the majority of the American people want. They have said so time and again.

  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:51AM (#39866757) Homepage

    Science is not politics or military action, both of whom require proponderences in numbers and quality. Science is about discovering underlying truth, quite irrespective of who believes what or how well they speak.

    This is why the Climategate email scandal is an irrelevant distraction. It might mean something about the credibility of the individuals invovled, but science is supposed to be testable, so personalities are irrelevant. The climate does not care about emails much -- just from the slight additional power generation, somewhat less than for JanetJacksons nip-slip.

    It is very odd (&revealing?) the NYT doesn't know better.

  • by retroworks ( 652802 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:53AM (#39866783) Homepage Journal
    It wasn't all that long ago that we had a "bastion" of people in Waco who rejected the idea that the Moon is not a source of light, but reflects light from the Sun... So I have trouble believing the Global Warming debate will end with this NYT announcement. []
    • by MattskEE ( 925706 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @10:58AM (#39868901)

      Go read your source a little more carefully, including the linked interview with the original reporter. When Bill Nye criticized literal interpretation of the Bible, there were a few people who left upset, but it was apparently very low key, no booing, no "bastion" of people storming out or making a scene, and Bill Nye's lecture was uninterrupted and Bill may not have even realized the reaction of these few people.

      Sure I'd like to live in a world where all religious people accept that the Bible should not be taken literally, but you (like many according to the followups in your source) appear to have greatly overstated the negative reaction at Bill Nye's lecture by repeating the inflammatory punch line without reading any deeper.

  • by Troyusrex ( 2446430 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:53AM (#39866785)
    Until temperatures start rising again there will always be a bastion for the deniers that temperature increases are far below IPCC predictions and, for now, continue to increasingly deviate from predictions. You can have all of the models and theories in the world but until you can show that your predictions are spot on your opposition will have lots of ammunition to shot at you with.
  • by Bugler412 ( 2610815 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:00AM (#39866861)
    For the scientific process to function as desired, informed and educated opposing viewpoints are required. Politicizing those viewpoints is counterproductive to the process.
  • by Nathaniel ( 2984 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:01AM (#39866869) Homepage

    'The climate' is a complex system. Of course it's changing. Constantly. And of course there are trends in those changes. We get hung up arguing about how much the numbers are changing, when that's not even the interesting question.

    The reason people take this issue so seriously is the idea that the system will run out of control if/when things get 'bad enough'.... That there's some sort of tipping point, after which things will somehow run wildly out of control. This is what we ought to be discussing. Instead we're yelling at one another about how much change we've seen and what it might mean.

    We ought to be discussing things like positive vs negative feedback loops.

    Instead, we've bickering over the numbers that people have seen on various gauges.

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:05AM (#39866903)

    Neither side cares about the science. Both sides are totally convinced in their virtue. Neither side is willing to look at the case dispassionately. Both sides are so invested in what they want the correct answer to be that they will not tolerate anything that contradicts their position.

    Is there a case for AGW? Absolutely. It's a totally valid hypothesis. Is it proven? Of course not. There's no causal link. Getting a causal link is very hard but that doesn't mean you don't need one. AGW proponents almost all propose that we should accept a correlative link as proof of a causal link. That's not science. They say we don't have time to wait and we should assume there is a causal link based on the correlative data. That is a political response and again not science.

    The anti AGW people are no better in that they'll ally with various political factions just like the pro AGW factions to form political pressure groups. And of course they don't want to hear they might be wrong any more then the AGW group might be.

    Everyone has their egos, world views, political interests, and often careers involved in this matter. There are a lot of pro AGW scientists that might lose their jobs if AGW collapses and there are of course a lot of professional "skeptics" that likewise will find their employment terminated should that fall apart.

    In this environment how can anyone really be sure what is going on? I'm not stupid and I'm not ignorant... but I can't sort it out. And find it to be unacceptable generally to simply assume one side or the other is right as so many seem to do. Sure, that's easier. Just believe the church is right about is and isn't true. Just trust the king to sort it out. I'm not a f'ing peasant though and I don't like having other people do my thinking for me.

    I'm obviously going to get hate messages or... at least negative messages likely from the pro AGW people to the effect of "anyone that doubts the unquestionable virtue of our position is a fool or a heretic"... but that only underscores the sadness of this issue.

    We're probably all bored to tears explaining the science of it to each other.

    I've read through more material on the issue then I can pretend interest in. I just wish the issue hadn't been politicized.

    I don't know when it started... was it when Al Gore made his fatuous little film? Or was it before? Some think the politicization was inevitable given the interests threatened by it but I'm not so sure.

    Anyway... for those offended by my contrary nature... I'm not contrary to annoy you... It's just the best opinion I could come to with what information I have. If I'm wrong, I at least arrived at this position in good faith. If we can all say as much then it will at least be an honest conflict.

  • by Curunir_wolf ( 588405 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:27AM (#39867089) Homepage Journal
    More evidence that there are no more journalists at the New York Times.
  • Straw Man Arguement (Score:4, Informative)

    by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @09:09AM (#39867539) Journal

    I am a dissenter. I am however not paid by any coproration, and I would say I am "more educated and scientific than most" when it comes to the global warming debate.

    As far as I am concerned, the NYT article is constructing a straw man to tear it apart. As a dissenter, I *know* that water vapor is a green house gas and is a positive feedback on the system. In fact one of the reasons why I am a dissenter is because water vapor is so much more absorbing of the infre red spectrum than CO2. Yet we don't call on our industry to condense steam back into water rather than directly vent it to the atmosphere.

    Also the article describes this as the last bastion. The title is wholly undeserved because there are plenty of bastions still going on. The solar debate is still on, and stronger than ever since we're in a weak cycle and we have had no warming since 1998. In fact, Antarctica is still adding ice, and the Arctic has recovered to the 1979-2000 average and is currently within 1 standard deviation, which is impressive because just 3 years ago it hit it lowest point since being recorded.

    I could go on, but that's enough to refute the article.

  • by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @09:29AM (#39867769)

    Why is it that nobody checks the Earth's orbit at correlates it with temperature changes?

  • troll story (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @09:50AM (#39867985) Journal

    I've seen troll posts, but this is perhaps the first time I've seen an entire article that's a troll.

    Oh, I know I'm going to be castigated as a "dissenter" (Yikes, just that name reeks of quasi-religious orthodoxy. How dare he disagree!) but sure, I'll bite:

    'For decades, a small group of scientific dissenters has been trying to shoot holes in the prevailing science of climate change, offering one reason after another why the outlook simply must be wrong.'
    I'm not sure "decades" applies, as it's only been about a decade and a half since the alarmists started warning us that the sky was falling. When initially presented by a blowhard self-promoting politician, it's hard to take the 'science' seriously. If Rush Limbaugh produced a propaganda film insisting that 2+2=4, I'd likewise start to doubt whatever it was he was promoting. Let's also remember that there's a bit of a 'cry wolf' case here; the people claiming that armageddon was now approaching, had previously told us that:
    - we were going to all starve to death
    - we were going to run out of oil
    - we were going to run out of fresh water
    - we were covering our country in landfills
    - DDT was going to kill us all
    - nuclear power was going to kill us all
    (etc. ad infinitum) ...and that sort of bombastic pessimism HAS been going on for decades (real decades, not inflated decades).

    Initially they claimed that weather stations exaggerated the warming trend. This was disproven by satellite data which shows a similar warming trend.
    I'm not sure that's true. Well, probably SOMEONE somewhere said that. My concern was that weather station data was sparse, extremely questionably interpolated in a way that seemed to encourage bias (upward), anecdotal evidence that many of the long-standing weather stations in the US had been subject to encroaching urbanization without (as far as I could see in the data) any correction for that, etc. Further, while the "hockey stick" (that started this) shocked me as fully as it did Mr Gore, I was suspicious of the statistical methods that had been broadly explained in its initial presentation. Further, I'd (anecdotally) remembered stories about oranges growing in England that didn't seem to be reflected in the data. As more discussion followed, people who were far more savvy than me presented a more-convincing case that the statistics used were deeply flawed. This of course made me wonder why someone would do this - by accident or on purpose. To be frank, I immediately categorized Messrs. Mann (et al) as eco-alarmists, the broad group of discredited wierdoes I'd been ignoring since the 1970s. Frankly, that's the hole that "global warming" alarmists have had to try to climb out of since then. I'll be very clear: In my mind, this definitely weighed against subsequent AGW claims.

    Further, and regardless of his conclusions (many of which I believe to have been either overstated or otherwise flawed; I *do* feel strongly that his whole point about opportunity costs of chasing CO2 vs other beneficial ecological investments is the baby that's gone out with the bathwater) the vitriol and fury directed against Bjorn Lomborg for daring to doubt the data was even more confirmation for me that this was no longer a scientific issue - this took on the tenor of a secular Inquisition.

    Next, solar activity was blamed for much of the warming. This looked like a promising theory until the '80s, when solar output started to diverge from global temperatures.
    Really? [] seems to present fairly soberly.

    Comparison of the extended solar activity record with the temperature series confirms the high correlation between solar activity and northern hemisphere land surface air temperature and shows that the relationship has existed through the whole 500-year interval for which reliable data exist.
    A corresponding influence

    • Re:troll story (Score:4, Insightful)

      by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @11:58AM (#39869837)
      Well yes, I think you've got a point when it comes to the effects of climate change. The end-of-the-world types are nuts, even when they're professors.

      climate change seems a staggeringly massive system that we are only starting to understand

      True. And this applies to almost all systems. Even seemingly basic things like how a block slides down ramp. Friction has some crazy nuances to it. But that's no reason to throw your hands in the air and declare that we know nothing about the system. There is always room for improvement. Always, because perfection is impossible.

      there is every reason to try to be more efficient at energy production, distribution, and eliminating waste regardless of global warming

      Well duh. Was this up for debate? Was someone arguing FOR waste? Did I miss that somewhere?

      the histrionics of the AGW folks scare me badly.

      Meh, there are crazy half-baked ideas whenever you have really big problems. Consider it brainstorming. Everyone laughed at the concept of a space elevator, but that's going to happen eventually. Cap&Trade, as a system of ecological indulgences, is perfectly fine, as long as we use those funds to counter the negative impact. You can chop down trees if you plant new ones.

      What I see is yet another wave of mostly-white first-world conservatives who are ignoring the externalities of their businesses and don't want to be held accountable for fucking shit up for the rest of us. They're pushing an anti-intellectual agenda, buying corrupt science papers, and spinning whatever PR they can.

      And you're certainly not the person to listen to on the matter. You've admitted that you no longer accept input and have officially put your head in the sand. Good luck with that.

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