Hi, I'm Sam, and I'm a Global Warming Skeptic

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Many that have talked with me about Climate Change, will be familiar with my position as a skeptic. Initially, like everyone else, accepting “happily” that climate change was real, at some point I got indoctrinated into the field of skeptics. I listened to a lot of arguments to see the holes in the theory.

And I’m still skeptical.

However, my skepticism has been narrowed down over the time I’ve investigated the topic. Almost all of these supposed “open questions”, I’ve found, do have clear answers. The science is actually a lot more in depth than many sources I read give it credit for - especially places like the Climate Science Coalition’s website.

It’s clear that there’s an information war being fought about this topic. It’s like a Usenet flame war, except it’s global, and it’s still 1992 so people don’t know about trolls yet, and we don’t have a good measure yet of Godwin’s Law for the Blogosphere as a whole.

So, I find myself still skeptical, but leaning towards the consensus position that indeed Human CO₂ emissions are a serious problem. However if I can’t find satisfactory answers to my remaining areas of skepticism I’ll have to return to deviating from that!

The key resources that swayed me

In particular, IMHO above many, these resources are worth watching, reading and knowing of:

  1. Scam of the Great Global Warming Swindle (~43min) - a very accessible video that both shows the flaws in many of the arguments, and the argument style. highly recommended.

  2. Spencer and Weart essays, especially the first recommended essay, the history of Climate Change science (these are long reads, so put aside an hour or two for each, but definitely worth it). I also read several other essays that covered areas which I was also very curious about, such as Solar variation and Climate modeling, but that essay alone would give you plenty of ammo to tear down most arguments.

  3. Skeptical Science has a ranked list of skeptic arguments, with the consensus scientific position listed. An excellent handy reference, but best used after reading one or two of the above essays.

My open questions

The only questions I’ve really got left, are very specific like:

  • How can we be confident in the trends in surface temperature measurements?

  • How is the climate sensitivity figure (which specifies how much of an effect a doubling of CO₂ would have on global temperature) of 0.75 ± 0.25 °K W¯¹m¯² arrived at?

Skepticism area 1: Surface Temperature record

Sites like SurfaceStations.org point out the poor positioning of some of the sensors. On WattsUpWithThat (now the most highly read blog on wordpress!), Anthony Watts is journalling extensively the problems with a series of articles with titles such as “How not to measure temperature, part 67”. In addition, with a mathematician Steve McIntyre they are independently auditing NASA’s post-processing of the data using their own computer programs written in the mathematical language “R”. They seem to have identified instances where the post-processing leads to dubious results.

Update 2: the answer to this lies in the method by which the “urban heat island” effect is removed from the data. Various corrections are made by comparing the differences between the urban stations and nearby rural stations, and deriving a “bias” for each station. A repeated analysis using only the “Class 1 and 2” stations listed on SurfaceStations.org confirmed the effectiveness of this, but its result should be considered preliminary (I can find only comment references to it; but was produced by OpenTemp, a project hoping to build an open reproduction of the results). It’s certainly possible to find cases where the data needs excluding or adjusting, though. Hopefully the feedback from SurfaceStations and Watts will make it back in via these projects or even GISS itself.

Skepticism area 2: Climate Sensitivity

The Climate Sensitivity Figure is currently the topic of big debate. The figure directly affects the prediction of the warming models.

First, one editor of a sub-group within the the American Physical Society, the group called “Forum on Physics and Society” (FPS), called for papers skeptical of the IPCC consensus.

And so, a Viscount Monckton of Brenchley gladly submitted a paper. The presence of this quickly excited the skeptic community, with headlines such as Myth of Consensus Explodes: APS Opens Global Warming Debate.

The APS then quickly clarified that the FPS did not speak for the entire society; currently on their home page is the message:

APS Climate Change Statement

APS Position Remains Unchanged

The American Physical Society reaffirms the following position on climate change, adopted by its governing body, the APS Council, on November 18, 2007:

“Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate.”

An article at odds with this statement recently appeared in an online newsletter of the APS Forum on Physics and Society, one of 39 units of APS. The header of this newsletter carries the statement that “Opinions expressed are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the APS or of the Forum.” This newsletter is not a journal of the APS and it is not peer reviewed.

They also plastered this notice on the actual paper:

The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review. Its conclusions are in disagreement with the overwhelming opinion of the world scientific community. The Council of the American Physical Society disagrees with this article’s conclusions.

On the other hand, Lord Monckton assures us that indeed he did have to clean up the paper at the request of “an eminent physicist” on behalf of the FPS, and that this constituted peer review. Well, that’s probably a bit of a storm in a teacup - as in, it’s passed FPS peer review but not the overall peer review of APS. Update 4: this is priceless

I even went as far as commenting on the affair, eliciting a response from the Viscount. I did a very simple search for responses and rebuttals to prior work of Lord Monckton’s. I’ve really hit my limit on this - I’m way out of my depth, so here’s a braindump of what I’ve found;

Telegraph on Sunday article by Christopher Monckton, November, 2006.
This article seems to have attracted responses from:
Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate.
Which was in turn followed up by a rebuttal by the Science and Public Policy Institutue (SPPI), called Chuck it, Schmidt!. This rebuttal includes a long list of apparently supportive papers, which I have not had the chance to review yet: mostly in support of the esistence of the Mediæval Warm Period. I previously looked into this with respect to Willie Soon and found that the data was far from conclusive. So, this might be an example of “cherry picking” selected supportive results, but there are a large number of papers cited.
Stephen Harrison
The journal allowed a right of reply, which was taken up by Monckton
George Monbiot, a science journalist for the Guardian, also weighed in
Several others listed on the RealClimate wiki, including Al Gore.
And of course the current paper
This one seems to make the same point as the earlier paper, except focus on the Climate Sensitivity thing. My own assessment is that it just seems wrong that he could just make an argument in a handful of pages that the sensitivity figure, which I believe is arrived at through extensive climate modeling, is off. A lot of atmospheric physics goes into arriving at that result!
This follow-up comment by David Hagen lists a series of supportive papers:
For much greater detail on climate modeling and the energy conservation assumptions and local thermal equilibrium that Global Warming Models do not make or satisfy see:
* Ferene M. Miskolczi, Greenhouse effect in semi-transparent planetary atmospheres” IDŐJÁRÁS, Quarterly Journal of the Hungarian Meteorological Service, Vol. 111, No. 1, January-March 2007, pp. 1-40
* Ferene M. Miskolczi, Physics of the Planetary Greenhouse Effect, 2008 International Conference on Global Warming, New York March 2-4, 2008, Audio or Powerpoint
* Miklós Zágoni, Some paleoclimatic consequences of Dr. Miskolczi’s new greenhouse theory, (2008), 2008 International Conference on Global Warming, New York March 2-4, 2008 Audio & PowerPoint presentation (PDF format)
* Miklós Zágoni Developments in greenhouse theory 2008
While there are questions on some of Miskolczi’s steps, his work challenges the very foundations of climate modeling, going into greater detail than Monckton.
Update 4: and Monckton’s paper is full of holes. Looks like Monckton’s work is based on unreviewed papers, which he further confounds by misreading them. Hat tip: comment from Joel Shore
I can certainly concur with Schmidt’s finding that Monckton appears to have “obviously too much time on his hands”, as he seems to really go to extreme efforts to get the forums to issue retractions from his articles, and makes a lot of fuss about things like off-hand remarks made by and certainly the amount of effort gone into his follow-up on SPPI indicate a lot of time put into the argument over the case.

Update 1: added list from David Hagen’s post.

Update 3: I see now that Roy Spencer has also come forward in support of Monckton. I wondered if I’d seen his face before - and I have! He appears at 26:38 into “Scam of the Great Global Warming Swindle”, above.

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