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Climate Change Schizophrenia

That the discussion of global climate change, even among professional scientists, has become utterly schizophrenic was dramatically demonstrated by a symposium—or was it symposia?—at the Denver meeting sponsored by the Division of Small Chemical Business.

The Sunday morning session, entitled “Global Climate Change: What Citizens of the World Need to Know,” featured five prominent climate scientists talking about measurements of how the Earth’s climate is changing and how emissions of greenhouse gases is forcing that change. The afternoon session, entitled “A Critical Look at Global Warming Data: An Examination of Driving Factors in the Wickedly Complex System Called Climate,” featured six speakers whose focus is undermining the data and analyses of scientists like the ones who spoke during the morning session. There was almost no overlap in the audiences.

Because of a prior commitment, I was able to attend only the first four of the morning session talks. That was unfortunate because I am very interested in ocean acidification resulting from increased atmospheric CO2, the topic of the fifth talk. Nevertheless, the first four talks built solidly on each other to make the case that humans are dramatically disrupting Earth’s climate.

Stanley Manahan, an emeritus chemistry professor at the University of Missouri, published the first edition of the textbook “Environmental Chemistry” in 1972; the ninth edition is now out and Manahan is working on the 10th edition. In his talk, Manahan compared the current debate over climate change to the debate over chlorofluorocarbons and Earth’s stratospheric ozone layer 30 years ago. “Rowland and Molina’s findings on CFCs were ridiculed by some,” Manahan said, but the discovery of the ozone hole over Antarctica in the early 1980s vindicated their ideas and resulted in regulations that eventually banned CFC production and use.

Ted A. Scambos, the lead scientist at the National Snow & Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder, observed that “the past two decades have seen large changes in the Earth’s cryosphere, especially the Arctic Sea ice and the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica.” These changes have been greater than those associated with the ends of previous ice ages, Sambos said.

There has been a steady decline in Arctic Sea ice, with 2007 a record breaking year; 2011 “is vying to set a new record,” Sambos said. The difference is that there were a number of exceptional factors contributing to the decline in 2007 that are not factors this year. “What was exceptional not long ago is now becoming the norm,” Sambos said. By 2100, there will be at least three months each year where there will be no Arctic Sea ice, Sambos predictted. “It will be a different planet.”

David M. Anderson, of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Climatic Data Center in Boulder, discussed various aspects of paleoclimatology. Data from ice cores and oceanic floor cores provide good data sets on Earth’s climate dating back as much as 50 million years, Anderson said. That data indicates that the natural variability of the surface temperature of the Earth is small—about 1 °C—in the absence of a forcing factor. The data also indicate that Earth’s surface temperature is sensitive to the atmospheric concentration of CO2—to the tune of a 4-5 °C increase in response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2.

And Pieter P. Tans, senior scientist at NOAA’s Climate Monitoring & Diagnostics Laboratory, presented definitive proof that, the “increase in greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are entirely due to our emissions. We are committing the Earth to thousands of years of enhanced greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And the direct impact of greenhouse gases on Earth’s heat balances is known accurately.”

Tans insisted that climate change deniers and skeptics who claim that all of the data on atmospheric CO2 isn’t available for their analysis are simply wrong. “This is the way these people work,” he said in obvious exasperation. “They just make stuff up. All of our data is available on the web.”

And the afternoon session? The speakers participated by webinar, which was fine except that the first speaker, William F. Stewart, a partner with the law firm NLdH, cut out for several minutes just after he had declared the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change an “overtly political process.” Stewart didn’t question whether atmospheric CO2 was rising or even that climate change was occurring. But he did suggest there wasn’t much anybody could do about it. Population is increasing, he pointed out, a greenhouse gas treaty is unlikely, and it’s technically challenging to wean humans from fossil fuel use.

The second speaker, Nir J. Shaviv, a physicist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, drew a connection between sunspot activity, the amount of cosmic rays reaching the Earth’s atmosphere, cloud formation, and global warming. I’ve been told since that this is not a new set of connections to prove that sunspots are causing the warming that’s been observed on Earth, but it smacked of tin-foil hat loopiness to me when I hear Shaviv’s talk.

I only made it through one more of the six afternoon talks. Ross R. McKitrick, an economist at the University of Guelph, is a superstar among climate change deniers. McKitrick argues climate change data that shows that Earth has warmed significantly over the past 30 years has been analyzed improperly and is wrong. There are thousands of climate scientists around the world working with a variety of data sets and a variety of analysis techniques, and they’re all wrong. Oh, and by the way, anyone who challenges McKitrick’s approach is wrong, too. The arrogance is nothing short of astonishing.

Occam’s razor isn’t always the best metric against which to judge competing ideas, but it often yields a correct result. What amazes me about climate change skeptics and deniers is their utter rejection of this principle. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, its atmospheric concentration has been rising since the beginning of the Industrial Age, Earth’s temperature is rising—these are empirical facts. I can’t understand why some individuals will go to such great lengths to deny their connection.

9 Comments

  • Sep 5th 201110:09
    by Gaythia Weis

    I attended the ACS Sunday morning Small Chemical Business session, described above, entitled “Global Climate Change: What Citizens of the World Need to Know”. These were excellent presentations. At the time, it seemed odd to me that the ACS had not offered these eminent speakers a larger venue than that provided by the Division of Small Chemical Businesses. I am a small business owner. That is the reason I was interested in interacting with this division and the only reason why I consulted their section of the ACS program catalog. It seemed strange to me at the time that these sessions appeared to be entirely disconnected from other parts of the ACS National Convention program, for example the talk by Dr. Susan Solomon, featured as the “The Kavli Foundation Innovations in Chemistry Lecture”
    I also attended two of the afternoon SCHB sessions, “A Critical Look at Global Warming Data: An Examination of Driving Factors in the Wickedly Complex System Called Climate”, those by Richard Lindzen and Judith Curry. . By this time I had figured out that something was very peculiar about this arrangement. There was no pre-anouncement of the “webinar” format. The other audience members that I spoke with were quite disappointed to realize that Lindzer was not present and would not have come to the meeting if they had known. They were not ACS members and questioned whether or not this was a general ACS practice. I wasn’t really counting, but Lindzer had a handful of listeners in the room, certainly less than 10, some of whom left during the presentation, most of whom left afterwards. For Curry, there was me and maybe one or two others.
    In my opinion, it was clear from speaking with him that session moderator, Peter Bonk, was driven by a personal agenda. I am very disheartened by the posts that have appeared on Judith Curry’s website, regarding this program. In particular this one http://judithcurry.com/2011/09/04/acs-webinar-the-backstory/ seems to me to demonstrate that Peter Bonk not only has an agenda, he is driven by personal political aspirations, which seem to me to involve a desire to put himself at odds with the ACS leadership.
    It seems to me that the ACS has a serious governance issue here. In the blog post above, Peter Bonk states: “The full afternoon symposium that Prof. Curry participated in was recorded via the GoToWebinar package. I am reviewing it now and will make it available as soon as I can after returning from an overseas trip. The morning session was recorded by the ACS, and I will find out if/when that recording will be accessible to non-ACS members.”

    Are these webinars his to control? If so, can he promote them as “ACS webinars”?

  • Sep 5th 201110:09
    by Gaythia Weis

    OOPs! Lindzen, not Lindzer (I got it right once above)

  • Sep 6th 201112:09
    by Rudy Baum

    @Gaythia Weis: You raise important questions in your comment about how content from ACS meetings can be distributed, and I’ve referred them to the the ACS Secretary’s office. I’ll post as soon as I hear back from them.

    In Peter Bonk’s post on Judith Curry’s website (which you provide a link to), he implies that the ACS Position Statement on Climate Change is a product of ACS’s “DC HQ folks,” who could change that position if they chose to do so. This is not true. The ACS Position Statement on Climate Change was developed in 2007 by the ACS Committee on Environmental Improvement (CEI), which is broadly representative of the ACS membership. It was reviewed in 2010 by the ACS Board Committee on Public Affairs & Public Relations (PA&PR)as required by the ACS Constitution & Bylaws. Working with CEI, PA&PR reaffirmed the position statement after seeking broad input, including a town hall meeting during the national meeting in Boston. The full ACS Board of Directors also voted to reaffirm the society’s Position Statement on Climate Change.

  • Sep 7th 201121:09
    by racerx

    Dr. Baum-

    When presented with alternative evidence, the conspiracy nut simply draws the circle wider: “Of course the ACS CEI is in on it, and so is the PA&PR, and any other letters you can come up with. They’re all part of the conspiracy.”

    Keep up the good work!

    RX

  • Sep 8th 201108:09
    by Peter Bonk

    Gaythia,
    It isn’t that hard to count to beyond 2, and while I was disappointed at the turnout the attendance reported to the ACS was 30- this is the maximum number of people in the room during the symposium. Attendance dropped as the end of the symposium approached but was never 2.

    There were 2 separate symposia, developed with little or no coordination. “Artistic differences” might be the nicest explanation. The afternoon symposium was advertized in C&EN as a Live Webinar/Symposium. I am quite certain there is currently no way within ACS to designate a symposium as such unless it is in the title.

    Yes, putting the afternoon symposium together was a bit of personal labor of love as it were, as described in the post ”ACS Webinar: The Backstory” on Professor Curry’s Climate Etc. blog.

    ACS as a whole does not decide programming, the Divisions (and to a lesser extent some ACS Committees such as WCC and YCC) make their own programming choices. Divisions do try to coordinate programming with other Divisions via the “P2C2” meetings, which allow Divisions to know what others are programming to avoid similar symposia at the same time.

    Rudy Baum is correct in saying that the Public Policy Statement on Climate Change was reviewed and renewed in 2010. Suggestions as to allowing a “minority report” (after all the SCOTUS rarely votes 9-0) was rebuffed. Suggestions that the ASC sponsor work on this important topic and not just rely heavily on the IPCC reports were also not considered. When I met with many of the ACS folk in DC in Feb. 2010 most of them could not get out of the room fast enough. A skeptic in the house, oh my! No member has the forum Mr. Baum or Ms. Jacobs has.

    I am very disappointed in Mr. Baum’s flippant dismissal of the very interesting work that Prof. Shaviv described. Really Rudy, “tin-foil hat loopiness “? It isn’t that hard to envision an earth without a magnetic field- it’s not going to be a happy place.

    Also disappointing is Mr. Baum’s characterization of Prof. McKitrick’s studies and the way they have been dismissed out of hand. Ross’s presentation was focused on very specific analyses he had carried out.

    The thing to remember is science is about exploration, questioning, challenging assumptions, etc. It should be an intellectual free for all to arrive at the best explanation of the facts. Facts have to be, well, factual, and they too need to be held to high standard.

    Politics, on the other hand, seeks to build consensus. Skeptics on global warming feel the politics has run far too ahead of what is justified by the science. Please note tho, that we kept policy out of the afternoon symposium as much as was humanly possible as befit a scientific meeting.

    Rudy on Prof. Tans from the AM Symposium:
    “Tans insisted that climate change deniers and skeptics who claim that all of the data on atmospheric CO2 isn’t available for their analysis are simply wrong. “This is the way these people work,” he said in obvious exasperation. “They just make stuff up. All of our data is available on the web.””
    Most likely Prof. Tans data is available on the web. Of all the speakers I was disappointed in his attacks on skeptical scientists. Unfortunately, having the data available for study by others has not been true of all work: Models used without full disclosure, unique historical temperature records destroyed or lost forever, the Climategate and GlacierGate issues, etc. There is much to be skeptical about.

    Interestingly, after the symposium Prof. Tans did seem to agree that the 280 ppm pre-industrial level of CO2 was probably too low a value for optimum life on earth. Not mentioned in his talk also was an embrace- if not somewhat reluctant- of the use of nuclear power. Perhaps some things can’t be brought up in public discussion least one be considered a skeptic of sorts…

    All of the scientists that spoke in the Sunday afternoon symposia believe global warming has occurred, but also realize that simple explanations, while attractive, are not always the right ones.

    Mr. Baum states: “Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, its atmospheric concentration has been rising since the beginning of the Industrial Age, Earth’s temperature is rising—these are empirical facts. I can’t understand why some individuals will go to such great lengths to deny their connection.”

    The skeptics (the preferred term, please) seek to put this in its proper perspective. Mr. Baum’s desire for simplistic explanations would ignore how the earth has warmed and cooled significantly in the recent past. Sorting it all out is not easy, nor simple.

    Gaythia, you wrote:
    “Peter Bonk not only has an agenda, he is driven by personal political aspirations, which seem to me to involve a desire to put himself at odds with the ACS leadership.”

    This is science, not blind obedience to authority. Mr. Baum feels strongly about his stance on global warming, and so do I. If speaking out about it is an agenda, then so be it. There is a significant minority within the ACS that sees global warming much the way I do. Read about the Open Letter in the Climate, Etc. post.

    The webinar software makes recording of the proceedings a two click procedure. ACS currently records a number of symposia in a somewhat labor intensive process. I would be more than happy to turn over the recording of the Sunday pm session to Richard Love, who coordinates these recordings and makes them available after the meetings as podcasts. Richard is resource limited into the number of recordings he can do at any one meeting and should be glad to have another to offer to ACS members that could not be in Denver.

  • Sep 8th 201111:09
    by Jay Alt

    Author Spencer Weart writes a thorough and interesting story of the issue in his book, The Discovery of Global Warming: A History. Dr Weart began his career doing high energy physics research but switched to science historian, working now for the American Institute of Physics. The book is available in print and as a hyper-linked text online.

    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.htm

    The information contained in it is very helpful to help you discern the wheat from the chaff.

  • Sep 13th 201113:09
    by Gaythia

    I would assume that the number of people reported to ACS as having attended “the symposium” would be based on the total number of name card scans, all day long.

  • Nov 19th 201102:11
    by David Samson

    Mr. Baum,
    May I inquire why you think that “it smacked of tin-foil hat loopiness to me when I hear Shaviv’s talk.” He was speaking of proven data about the Sun’s cycles. Are you suggesting that the Sun is not the source of heat for our solar system? Or is it not worthy of exploring the possibility that the Sun’s output is dynamic and not like the constant output of a !,500 watt heater? Why is it we can not accept the Sun as the source of global warming when there is real scientific data showing the Sun’s output is not constant. Instead we accept junk science that points to human produced, growing, CO2 amounts as the cause. The only proof that supports that assumption is the Keeling Curve. The Keeling curve is taken from one sensor which is placed over an ever increasing lava flow. This lava flow is known for producing increasing amounts of CO2. If you think that Mr. Shaviv wears a tin-foil hat then you must think AL Gore and Dr. Keeling must live in tin-foil houses. How does a sensor that monitors a natural emission of CO2 point to man as the cause? Isn’t it a shame that America’s children and young adults attend schools and universities made up of buildings with tin-foil roofs? Why must it be so? Do you recall at what point you made the decision to turn your back on scientific method and accept junk science when so much is at stake? So many others have done the same. Could you please think back and let me know how and when that happened? I truly would like to know and understand. Am I the last believer in science and in truth? The only way I know this could happen to so many people is brain washing. Can you explain another way? (He says while removing his tin foil hat and tears flow from his eyes due to seeing the effects Dr. Keeling and AL Gore have had on American and world economics.) Our children will suffer greatly because scientific method no longer means anything to men and women of science.

  • Nov 19th 201103:11
    by David Samson

    Mr. Baum,
    Did Ted Scambos also explain that there is a volcano under Antarctica. Could it be, if you place a huge heat source under ice, some ice is going to melt? How can I know this yet the people who believe that man causes global warming don’t? Are you certain there is no brainwashing going on? Doesn’t a volcano under the Antarctica seem like something people should know about before deciding why the ice is melting?

    You said; “What amazes me about climate change skeptics and deniers is their utter rejection of this principle. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, its atmospheric concentration has been rising since the beginning of the Industrial Age, Earth’s temperature is rising—these are empirical facts. I can’t understand why some individuals will go to such great lengths to deny their connection.” I hope my last post to this tread as well as this one will help you understand why the skeptics and deniers can not accept what you accept as science. I have done my best to explain on what my sides logic is based. Now will you help me understand why scientific method has been thrown out the window and you have suspended disbelief? Can you honestly say that the Keeling curve is anything but a measurement of the Kilauea volcano’s growing CO2 output since 1958. Are the facts I have presented news to you? If so please, please I beg you, please ask yourself why??? How can people like yourself not know these important facts when deciding if man is the cause of global warming. You have to admit they are pretty obvious. How is it a high school drop out like myself figured this out and not a single person in that large “concensus” of scientist could? The answer is I do not believe they are that ignorant, they know it too. I also know that you now know you have been lied to by everyone you believed in. You will either live in denial or you will do the hard work of becoming a man of science and demand scientific method be applied.

    If it sounds like I am hitting a little hard, remember you are the one who brought up tin-foil hats and Occam’s razor. You have little tolerance for my point of view yet I understand why you believe what you believe even though you are wrong sir.

    Most sincerely yours,
    David Samson

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