Really Sciency

Visit my other blog 'Really Sciency' looking at Climate Science and its portrayal, misrepresentation and denial in the media.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Things falling downward doesn’t mean gravity did it.

Any one with the slightest interest in climate science will now know that The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project has released the conclusions on global temperature data for feedback before peer review and publication.

The project funded independently and including part funds from oil interests, brought together more temperature records than any previous study and when first announced became the climate ‘skeptics’ last great hope for showing that if the world was even actually warming it was overstated by unscrupulous climate scientists looking for further funding.

Unfortunately Richard Muller, a physicist and head of the project announced that the average global land temperature has risen by about 0.9C in a century, which is slightly higher than the 0.7C – 0.8C normally quoted by climatologists, and  said;

"My hope is that this will win over those people who are properly sceptical. Some people lump the properly sceptical in with the deniers and that makes it easy to dismiss them, because the deniers pay no attention to science."
When the news was announced I mentioned it on Paul Hudson’s blog and theorised that if they haven’t already accepted the planet is warming  the ‘deniers will say something like they now accept there is global warming but not what the scientists say is the cause’. I wasn’t disappointed either with many now making claims that they do accept it is warming and in most cases claiming to always have accepted it. But this warming they say, is actually caused by (Insert appropriated denier myth here). The typical reasoning is that there are too many unknowns or it’s been warming since the end of the last ice age, etc.

Even The Daily Fail held up my theory with the headline; ‘New analysis of 1.6 billion weather records concludes the world IS warming (but still can't say what's causing it)’, which was very kind of them since the Berkeley Earth project never even considered the cause. But scientists have been not only saying it has been warming but that human emissions are the main cause. So good on the Daily Fail, with a headline like that not only do they imply that the cause was considered but the scientists have no idea why – science reporting at it’s very worst.

However this set me thinking how I would deal with their ‘Yes it’s warming but science doesn’t know why’, arguments that will keep appearing. The logical thing to do is to point out that research has looked at all the other possibilities, natural cycles, the Sun, cosmic radiation etc, and discounted them as improbable compared to increasing green house gases, but that hasn’t really worked up to now. I did think of a couple of other simple ways though.

Yes it is warming but science doesn’t know why

The only reason scientists were looking to see if warming was occurring was that the basic physics worked out in the 1800s by the likes of John Tyndall, Joseph Fourier and Svante Arrhenius suggested that the increase of certain gasses in the atmosphere would warm it. Those gasses (principally Carbon Dioxide), had increased through man made emissions and if the physics was correct, then at some point a warming signal would be detected within the natural background variation.

So basically, scientists said Man should be causing warming and found warming. For skeptics to then say; ‘We can’t know if the warming is man made’ is just like saying; ‘Scientists say Gravity should cause things to fall downward, but just because they do doesn’t mean that Gravity is the cause’!

So I would argue that it is up to those who believe current warming might not be due to emissions to come up with a more scientifically acceptable theory. I know that most actually believe they have done this with 'It's the Sun' or whatever but that is only half way there. Not only do they need a theory to explain this current warming trend but they also need another theory to explain why the physics worked or in the 1800s hasn't caused the warming that  scientists were originally looking for and believe they have found. A rather tall order and one that might push the limits of Occam's razor.
Of course it is warming; it has been since the last Ice age

I see this argument more and more often and it gets more ridiculous the more I think about it.

Yes it has been warming since the last Ice age, but it has warmed about 1C in the last century. The Ice age was about 4C colder than now and ended over ten thousand years ago – DO THE MATH!

Actually if the planet was to heat up 1C every century then in the last 10,000 years the world would be over 100 degrees centigrade! Or hotter than boiling water!


  1. Small correction, at 1 degC/century over 10,000 years would be 100 degC. The warming since the ice age is still nonsense - the evidence shows it's been cooling.

  2. Fixed thanks. What an idiot after saying do the math! So much for the benefits of further education.

  3. What about warming since the little ice age? Or has that been removed from the records like the MEWP has?

    But the point is, no one I know "denies" the planet is warming. What people are "skeptical" about is the cause and the extent and just how bad any warming may be and as long as climate scientists act like the KGB when any one dares question their data, people will remain skeptical around every single alarmist claim they make.



  4. Mailman,

    Go actually learn the science!

    I was sceptical, which in practice meant I was being suckered, I wasn't critically analysing my own reasoning or that of those who were feeding my notions. Then I decided that to get to grips with the subject I had to go find out what the scientists were saying in their papers, i.e. without any kind of 'filter' or intermediary. Now I have a blog, mainly about the Arctic, which to me is the most exciting aspect of climate change because it's happening so fast.

    There is no room for reasonable doubt that the post 1975 warming is due to humans, with CO2 emissions accounting for much of that.

    There is little room for doubt that the equilibrium warming for a doubling of CO2 will be around 3degC (+/- about 1degC).

    It's difficult to tell exactly what GW means for people in practical terms. However on balance the science suggests impacts are much more likely to be bad than good.

    Nobody is acting like the KGB. People are just sick and tired of a bunch of know-nothing idiots who deny a basic aspect of reality - that humans are changing the climate of this planet. If people are dismissive and call those in denial 'denialists' it's because they (like me) are thoroughly bored with the deniers.

    As for warming since the LIA. The LIA was clearly driven by solar activity, and was mainly a winter cooling pattern over north west Europe. As solar activity recovered and went into the recent Grand Solar Maximum so there was warming. However since the 1950s both solar irradiance and cosmic ray flux have been level (until the last few years), so the Sun cannot account for the post 1975 warming.

    Nobody is dismissing the MWP - the claim that they are is made by the denialists alone to create the impression they're fighting for the truth. You can see the MWP on this page -
    On that page you'll find a list of references at the bottom - they're the papers on which that graphic is based. Only Jones & Mann 2003 doesn't show the MWP, Jones & Mann 2004 improves on that earlier paper, and shows it. All of those references support the statement: "The recent warming is exceptional in the context of the past 1000 to 2000 years."

  5. Hi mailman I’m sure I have seen you post on other sites I hang around and you are the sort of person this post was aimed at.

    “But the point is, no one I know "denies" the planet is warming.”

    Really? No one? The likes of Anthony Watts have made their blogging reputation on promoting the idea that either the planet might not be warming or any warming is very over stated. How many posts have there been suggesting apparent warming in the data is caused by the Urban Heat Island effect or because measuring stations are badly sited?

    Do you at least accept my point about the only reason scientists were looking for a finger print in the temperature data is that physics established in the Victorian era and modern GHG emissions suggested there should be a man made signal accumulating in the atmosphere?

    So if you think you have a credible theory (natural warming since the LIA) what is the mechanism that stops this basic Victorian physics from causing warming? The science suggests that there is enough of an increase in GHG to cause about as much warming as we are seeing. What physical process unknown to me, and perhaps science, has stopped this warming from happening?

    As for scientists acting like the KGB, this is an image those making ‘vacuous’ FOI requests want to propagate. The researchers may have badly handled this and even not been very nice chaps but all the data and more has now been in the public domain for some time and nothing has seriously questioned their conclusions, including this latest research.

    Not liking the way people behave doesn’t mean they are hiding something.

    As a true sceptic I certainly agree with you that people should be sceptical and as a true sceptic I work on the balance of probability that those dong the research and scientific publishing are far more likely to be correct, regardless of how alarmist it sounds, than those that are unqualified to do so.

  6. As if on cue, the day after I challenge the idea that no one mailman knows denies the planet is warming (perhaps he meant personally) Roger Helmer MEP posts on his blog a letter from denier Prof. Fed Singer listing the usual denier myths about badly sited stations etc. with the clear implication that the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project has got it all wrong and warming remains unproven;