Is “climate change” real because models tell us the earth is warming?
Yes and no.
Climate change is real because geophysics tells us the earth’s climate should be increasingly changing, and, overall, likely warming; data tells us this is in fact happening and has been for quite some time; and models try to “model” this out, and help us hone our understanding of the issue and more directly provide projection ranges for the types and extent of changes we’re likely to see over time.
Yet it’s constantly claimed that anthropogenic climate change can’t be real, we don’t know enough to conclude we’re likely altering our climate, or that climate scientists “aren’t credible” because climate change models haven’t (and can’t) perfectly map the exact path of atmospheric temperature change well in advance.
This popular but wild assumption (and claim) is badly mistaken.
This insistent if also badly mistaken claim and “conclusion” it conveniently produces is also a key example of the broader pattern of so called climate change “skepticism”-a badly mislabeled socio-cultural political adherence to the desired belief that humans aren’t likely altering our long term climate in a significant way.
And which, of course, being as it’s badly mislabeled, is not “skepticism” at all – either in the scientific or dictionary sense, but is almost the exact opposite; ultimately consisting of the pursuit or acceptance of any claim, argument, criticism or notion that seemingly reinforces the often predetermined belief or heavily desired conclusion that we’re not altering our present and future climate, under of course the argument (and much convincing) that it is “objective” and “reasoned,” rather than the advocacy or a pre determined conclusion or belief – or the continuation of misinterpretations of the issue in order to keep that belief. Which, of course, as the claims with respect to simply models and predictions alone illustrate, it is.
That is, if one thinks models are what “establishes’ climate change (they don’t, though a few climate scientists reasonably imply they do, as they’re an attempt to somewhat document and more detailedly attempt to project what we’re doing rather than just grapple conceptually; an important part of our understanding on the issue; and further support for the basic climate change construct), and that when models don’t predict exactly what happens this somehow means climate change is less significant or less real, is misinformed on the basic issue.
And if someone doesn’t have the basic issue right- no matter how zealously they insist, or how popular their usually (but not always) politically far right wing site climate change “column” “news” or takes are (and which are often popular because they don’t have it right but “smartly” seem to reinforce what people want to believe) – then they probably don’t have a better understanding of it than actual professional climate scientists.
But what makes so called climate change skepticism far more belief in a desired conclusion rather than scientific skepticism of the (anthropogenic) climate change phenomenon, is that it reflects – in fact requires – adherence to a belief (i.e, we’re changing long term energy recapture, but that change in energy is somehow not altering earth’s expression of energy – aka climate), that has no real foundation.
Climate change “skeptics” confuse the entire issue and “poke holes” (or at least that is the belief – again, see below – as poking real holes, so to speak, are part of what good science is all about), in the claims and data of anything that goes against this skepticism belief. (And once again why it’s the opposite of actual scientific skepticism necessary for good science – aka the pursuit of physical truth about the physical world around us; as it doesn’t seek to objectively assess the issue, but under the guise of “being objective” seeks to refute it by any argument that might seem to work.)
But to refute a “theory” that over 97% of climate scientists deem accurate (with the few who don’t, almost to a person, being ideologues who consistently also misconstrue the very basic issue itself in order to continue their alleged “view,” again, see below) – or even 2% of climate scientists deem accurate – requires showing why it’s wrong; not cherry picking slivers of it, taking issue in ways that are either irrelevant to the issue or mischaracterize it, or that do nothing to support the contrary “skeptic” claim; which in this case is that we’re not significantly altering our climate as leading – and also the great majority of – climate scientists vehemently assert, or that there’s a good probability we’re not. Yet nothing supports this but hope (and even that is extremely weak given the basic geophysics), or unyielding fealty to a predetermined conclusion.
Hope isn’t skepticism. Hope, and unyielding fealty to a predetermined conclusion, are belief.
There’s also the complicating factor of risk, as well as the fact that this isn’t a lab controlled or even field controlled experiment, but a zero controls, decades to centuries long, global “experiment” of immense scale: And to say we are doing “this” to the climate requires knowing exactly what climate would have been in the absence of mankind’s activity, which by the nature of climate would be impossible. (And while it would show we’re changing it, it still wouldn’t address the more important issue of more systemic changes to our earth, earth surface composition, and atmospheric system that drive future climate.)
To jump from this basic physical reality to the idea that therefore the issue is not significant or we’re not even altering our climate – exactly what skeptics do, if contained in all sorts of nice sounding rhetoric – is exactly what the belief of so called “skepticism” requires.
Also, saying we aren’t “100 %” sure, therefore climate change isn’t relevant or shouldn’t be addressed, would be like saying that though we launched a boomerang asteroid that stands a significant chance of boomeranging back and hitting Arizona, U.S.A – detonating multiple square miles and ultimately changing earth’s climate by several degrees in average temperature, etc. – instead of boomeranging into a nice safe “asteroid” orbit, it’s nevertheless not an issue because we can’t say with 100% certainty that it WILL hit earth.(Although the argument that we can’t say with certainty that we are altering the climate is extremely weak, given basic energy dynamics, physics, and what climate is.)
That is, despite the mountains of misguided and always irrelevant cherry picked or issue misconstruing rhetoric that
- our politicians;
- certain ideological groups;
- “conservative,” often advocacy oriented “news” sites and channels;
- certain ideological think tanks that erroneously conflate one issue (their presumption that capitalism is valuable, and “real” growth occurs, only if we produce what most quickly explodes us with the highest quantity of material possession in an ever onward and fast as humanly possible upward spiral regardless of pollution, earth or individual health altering consequences rather than producing to improve the quality of our lives which includes both material possession, improvement and less destruction of our very own world that we rely upon in the process therein), with another (the purely geophysical risk and science assessment issue of anthropogenic climate change);
- social media and the Internet
..are near drowningly awash in, this very misnamed “skepticism” is still a belief that has no real scientific support; let alone any plausibly vetted scientific theory in support of it.
Skeptics claiming they are practicing “real science,” or attacking criticizing, mocking or impugning climate scientists, “hockey sticks,” Al Gore’s jet rides, or climate change activist claims, is not actual scientific support or plausible theory for the idea that while our atmosphere is suddenly capturing far more energy (incontrovertible) by its – by recent geological standards – suddenly extremely elevated long lived greenhouse gas concentrations, this increasing energy is somehow not relevantly increasing earth’s net energy; or if it is that increase in energy is somehow not altering climate. (Let alone that if it’s somehow not, this would have to very oddly be the case even at the same time as we’re starting to see geologically significant, long term consistent, accumulating, and increasing overall signs of just such energy shifts, and which if bizarrely unrelated to the huge ongoing and more important sudden increase in net captured energy by changes in the long term chemical structure of the atmosphere that at its foundation is “climate change,” would constitute an extremely bizarre “coincidence” on top of the even more statistically unlikely and independent fluke of just such an enormous ongoing increase in overall earth atmosphere net energy capture somehow not increasing earth’s overall energy level, and thus ultimately somehow not altering its climate. )
That is, the so called, and badly mislabeled “skepticism” phenomenon is a belief that has no support, apart from the appearance of and thus “belief in” the existence of such support, that comes from:
- Piece meal – and often highly erroneous – critiques of cherry picked aspects of climate change assessment, statements, and carefully selected and even still often misrepresented slivers of data;
- The mistaken conflation of what we don’t know with what we do;
- The mistaken conflation of the very essence of scientific discovery and pursuit – assessment, mistake, correction, adjustment – with the conclusion that therefore the basic underlying idea that is well understood and rests upon incontrovertible and often overlooked fact, is itself therefore “wrong”:
- The conflation of the idea that because things have been “wrong” in the past, that assertions that we want to be wrong now – such as “man is changing our climate” are therefore wrong now;
- The transcendence of the general over the specific: e.g; “science is the belief in the ignorance of experts” – a quote by the physicist Richard Feynman to keep us mindful that science is the pursuit of knowledge, not always knowledge itself, and a”skeptic” favorite repeated ad nausuem, almost as a “magic card” to pull out in order to simply disregard what one doesn’t want to accept or to somehow support what one wants to believe, under the fake auspices of having Richard Fenyman or “reason” on one’s side. That is, what matters is what climate change is and what we do and don’t know – the specific – not Fenyman’s quote, which can just as easily (but no more ludicrously) be used to say the earth is flat, gravity doesn’t exist, giraffes fly, or humans routinely self levitate because, if science says otherwise, well, “science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” Ano e.g; what matters is not that huge scientific majorities can be wrong, but why they are wrong, which in the case of climate change “skeptic” claims requires getting the actual climate change issue itself wrong, or cherry picking the issue apart, which on a complex issue can always be done to reinforce any belief one wants to hold;
- The mistaken conflation of individual prediction and speculation about specific events and timelines (see, again, opening paragraph) that are inaccurate, with the conclusion that therefore the far different and otherwise unrelated basic fact we are almost assuredly and significantly altering our long term climate is as well.
- The constant conflation of the irrelevant with the relevant, and very much related;
- Basic misconstruction of the actual issue itself.
That is, the pattern referenced at the outset.
In other words, this belief in incorrectly termed “skepticism” of the anthropogenic climate change phenomenon (or slightly more reasonably, yet very incorrectly, “skepticism” that this phenomenon should much matter to mankind), is incorrectly labeled. And understanding this is important to understanding the issue, and more importantly, how the issue is presented, perceived, and discussed (and ultimately responded to), as well.
“Climate change isn’t real because [this or that] model was wrong” or, much more commonly, far more right than mere randomness would suggest but, – as predicting the exact path of future climate is a near impossible task – of course off by some degree or another, is another example of this pattern, as well as an example of the basic misunderstanding of the actual anthropogenic “climate change” phenomenon that this “skepticism” pattern attempts to refute, disregard, or argue against.
That is, “climate change isn’t real or significant” because models can’t tell us an exact global average of any generic measurement – such as ambient air temperature – or exactly what climate will be in any one region of the globe, falsely, and somewhat ludicrously, presupposes that for it to be real we would have to be able to not only predict exactly what earth’s climate will do (both regionally and globally) – or would do but for our own impact upon it – from now well into the distant future, but suddenly be able to also do so with the geologically radical increase in long term recapture of thermal radiation that we’ve suddenly occasioned within our own atmosphere.
It makes no logical sense. Yet it sounds good if one wants to believe climate change isn’t a big deal, is otherwise misled on the issue, or (heaven forbid, even though it actually includes a large proportion of the human population), confused about it -with most such confusion coming from those who are adamantly certain they are not confused about it, but in fact along with “completely objective” cohorts online are convinced they – not actual professional climate and geophysical and atmospheric scientists practicing science – are doing the real “science.”
But if a person believes an enormous ongoing additional influx of energy into a complex, global, open system isn’t very likely to change what is ultimately an expression of energy within it if man kind can’t simultaneously model out the precise future well in advance, the person either has very little relevant understanding of the actual issue (something which those who remain “skeptical” of climate change work hard to self convince of the opposite), or is simply bent on “denial” of it by any means of advocacy possible.
Nevertheless the use of model imperfection – both as self sustaining “skeptic” refutation of climate change, as well as confusion over what the basic climate change issue actually is – runs rampant throughout the western world, and yet is barely covered.
And it also, again, sits among countless other examples of the very same pattern of trying to ‘refute’ the idea that anthropogenic induced net increases to earth’s total atmospheric energy recapture will somehow not effect climate, by almost any means of advocacy that can be concocted, and seemingly reasonably presented or believed.
And in misconstruing the role of models in assessing the reality of the anthropogenic climate change phenomenon, as with all other examples of the same pattern, so called “climate change skepticism” once again couldn’t miss what the issue is by a wider mark:
That is, predicting the exact path of future climate is almost impossible.
So, again: the fact we can’t predict climate’s path well in advance and precisely – rather than generally and with margins of error, doesn’t have anything to do with whether man is severely impacting climate against our own interests. (And particularly against the interests of the world’s poorest citizens and regions – citizens and regions which also, ironically, are often those that contributed the least to this problem.)
But if precisely predicting future climate wasn’t already difficult enough, as briefly noted above, it’s been made far more difficult by this sudden large and ongoing influx of energy onto an already complex and sometimes varying global system of energy and its expression – our climate system.
This new and accumulating addition of energy is a result of a sudden increase in atmospheric levels of long lived heat “trapping” gases: Enough of an increase, geologically speaking, to almost instantaneously raise those levels to atmospheric concentrations not seen on earth in millions of years: Possibly even as long as fifteen million in the case of the “lead” greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (but more likely at least several million or so); and who knows in the more enigmatic and often very underestimated case of methane. Yet methane has at least almost assuredly risen well above – in fact, more than doubled – the highest average levels that earth has likely seen in nearly a million years (graph found at EPA; see the left chart in particular, which puts the recent rise – appearing as a sharp spike straight upward on the far right side of the left chart – in some type of geologic perspective):
Not only would this increase in the long lived gaseous particles that continually “trap” heat energy almost invariably have to affect what’s ultimately driven by net energy – i.e, climate – in the phenomenon commonly referred to as climate change – but the overall trailing geophysical picture has been heavily corroborative of just such an affect, as earth’s key longer term climate driving systems – such as our world ocean and the world’s vast ice sheets that both modulate and help determine long term climate, are starting to significantly change in response as well.
Even the long term ambient average atmospheric temperature pattern alone has been corroborative of a slowly accumulating – if, in air temperatures in particular, lagging, effect. (The effect of our actions into overall climate has a large lag because as energy accumulates it slowly changes the aforementioned stases systems that retain most of our earth atmospheric system’s energy; and which again modulate and drive long term climate. And into which most of the increase in net accumulated energy is now pouring – changing the conditions that alter not just present, but, cumulatively, future climate.)
Again, this can’t be repeated enough – a constant long term pattern of temperature increases has occurred even though there’s a large lag between this long lived atmospheric greenhouse “energy re-absorbing” gas increase and overall visible (atmospheric) climate impact, as our planet’s ongoing change in re-absorbed atmospheric heat energy continues to have an accumulating effect on its major systems that, along with the atmosphere itself, drive climate.
That is, these are systems that drive climate, along with to some extent the sun when solar output changes. Though in the modern era the effect of changes in solar output on climate has been minor in comparison to anthropogenic effect. And for the last three decades plus, the effect of changes in the output of the sun has been in the exact opposite direction from “skeptic” claims- that is, it’s been in a “cooling” direction. In other words, the effect of changes from solar output have had a slight net cooling, or climate change “mitigating” effect, so arguing that anthropogenic climate change is not real or is less real because of the sun is largely irrelevant, and to the extent it is relevant, has it opposite. Right now its somewhat”hiding” the effect (if relatively slightly.)
Note though that “skeptics” take false refuge in their desired and anti-geophysical reality (or simply convinced) belief system, and continually also assert irrelevant -and incorrect – things like “the sun drives climate!” The sun doesn’t drive climate. Earth’s energy balance, its atmosphere, oceans, ice sheets, trapped and released long term greenhouse gases, and reflectivity – that is, how much sunlight is reflected back as short wave radiation that is not “captured” by the atmosphere, versus absorbed and later re-radiated as longer wave radiation that is – shape and drive climate.
The sun is the source of energy that makes climate possible in the first place.
Climate though, as just noted, can also be changed by changes in the output of the sun, along with changes in the tilt of the earth and other external affects that change earth’s total net energy: Such as the impact of an enormous meteor. Or a sudden major change in our atmosphere’s long term molecular “trapping” of radiated energy through a geologically sudden and major release of long built up greenhouse gases from the earth’s surface – such as a fireball from space that suddenly melted much of the earth’s permafrost regions and released large amounts of trapped methane and carbon dioxide (and changed its albedo) – or, say the effect of a highly advanced species that suddenly started changing the surface of the earth and digging beneath it to release long trapped greenhouse gases as fuel and didn’t see -as part of the process of “growth” it thought it was fueling – to alter to more modern and self benefiting processes.
But it’s worth noting yet again that while the sun doesn’t drive climate yet “deniers” (or non knowers – in some cases, it is argued, willing non knowers) of relevant climate change information, and mislabeled “skeptic,”following the pattern of any kind of argument to advocate a desired position or belief, constantly assert that the sun does: as if this has anything to do with the very specific if large and broad issue of anthropogenic – or man induced, long term climatic impact upon the overall system that does exist (which gets its energy to even exist as a system rather than an absolute zero chunk of lifeless matter in the first place); when it doesn’t.
Yet changes in solar output can affect climate, and certainly temperatures. And while (very slowly and very long term), solar output is rising, again, for over 30 years – not even a microscopic pinprick of time when it comes to the length of the sun’s existence – solar output has been slightly lower than the trailing norm and receding, which if anything would decrease total net energy reaching earth.
Yet in terms of our geologically new, extremely sudden, and very sharp ongoing accumulation of net energy (what more accurately characterizes “climate change” than the overly popular but issue confusing “temperature rises) we now see significant and accelerating melt of the ice caps on both ends of the earth; radical changes in south polar area winter sea ice extent as cold runoff from increasing glacier melt both adds a layer of non saline, colder surface water and insulates it from the slightly wamer water below, and a major shift in the Southern Annular Mode wind intensities over many decades past drives more and more of the newly formed ice northward, making room for new winter melt; the ongoing march of dwindling arctic, and truly polar, summer sea ice extent; the slowly increasing signs of change to total net northern permafrost and lower glacial area coverage and land surface temperature; the increase in previously long frozen methane gas releases and the attendant warming of long stable sea bed floors; and the rampant pace of world ocean energy heat accumulation.
But again, with respect to just air temperature alone, which from the vast increases in ocean temperatures should, if anything, if earth wasn’t accumulating net energy, have been colder with so much extra net energy going into accumulating long term ocean heat, notice the last few years in the chart just below, representing new global yearly mean ambient temperature highs: With 2015 beating the previous mark by what a larger deviation above the norm than any prior record; and January and February 2016 (not included) both setting records – with February absolutely obliterating the record for hottest monthly anomaly above the norm – as with January (and December, 2015 before that, and October 2015 before that), for any month up until that point ever recorded. [Update: since then multiple months, in fact nearly every month of the year 2016 up through September, set a record for the hottest ambient global air temperatures for that month ever recorded, with again multiple anomalies records set for highest average temperature above the norm for that period ever recorded.]
All this has occurred, again, while, more significantly, the world ocean continues to gain heat energy – that is, drawing it, and massive amounts of it – out of the atmosphere on an ongoing net basis: And yet still, this in overall temperatures (chart by NASA):
On the other hand, once again, the inaccurately named phenomenon of climate change “skepticism” is the belief climate somehow isn’t being altered in any meaningful way as a result of this sudden yet long term and accumulating energy shift,* and that there isn’t even enough of a reasonable (let alone likely) chance of it to act sensibly mitigate it; or at least stop adding to it.
This socio-cultural phenomenon of mislabeled “skepticism” is also usually driven by considerations that have nothing to do with climate change itself, including widespread but likely very misplaced economic presumptions. And it is also often tied to unrelated political ideologies; which in turn is usually the driving force for the most fervent anti climate change “belief” advocacy that in turn has led to a great amount of misperception on the issue of anthropogenic climate change, as well as a sort of “self sealing” belief on the issue among many who want desperately to believe that man isn’t affecting the climate or that it doesn’t matter if man does.
And this socio-cultural phenomenon of mislabeled “skepticism” is also a belief – or, in pursuit of that belief, a claim – that anything we observe signaling overall change – that is, corroborating what basic atmospheric and geophysic theory would dictate – is largely some bizarre fluky coincidence,” because, namely, earth has changed before.
The three current leading candidates for the U.S. GOP 2016 presidential nomination, all fairly to very far right wing, adhere strongly to this general belief; well exhibited here by Ted Cruz, here by Donald Trump (though he denies that also, despite a consistent, repeated pattern), and here, explicitly, by Marco Rubio.
But again this represents a pattern of advocacy by irrelevant, miscontrued, or illogical (but logical “appearing”) arguments in order to support a belief. For – and this can’t be repeated enough, but, unfortunately, as with many such things on climate change, rarely is – the fact that earth has changed before has nothing to do with whether we’re changing it now. And the only relevance of the fact that (at times over its approximately 4,000,000,000 year history – of which the last 2oo years represents only 1/20,000,000th of its existence) earth’s climate has changed significantly or at least somewhat rapidly, is to suggest that earth’s climate can and does change.
In other words, it’s an argument supporting climate change further, since the only argument – although there is no support for it – that our huge long term changes to the atmosphere’s structure aren’t much impacting future climate is that the earth is somehow self stabilizing in a way that specifically and uniquely benefits modern man, and thus for some strange (and unknown) reason is very resistant to the effects of geologically sudden and ongoing net shifts of additional energy.
It’s also yet another telling sign of climate change skepticism that one of its main arguments – anthropogenic climate change isn’t real or it doesn’t matter because “climate has changed before” – is an illogical supposition (if earthquakes happened before and we caused one – or a thousand – now it wouldn’t make it any less relevant; nor is it related to the issue of what is happening now), and to the extent the statement itself is true – climate has changed before – it actually further supports the notion of anthropogenic climate change rather than “refutes it.” Yet its used merely because it’s a nice sound bite, a way to cling to a belief, and sounds good.
The aforegoing – if horribly poor – argument is also used because of confusion, and often poor illumination, on the climate change issue itself, as if the issue consisted of these “perplexing” set of signs of a changing future climate, and we humans were desperately trying to come up with a reason why: In which case it would be logical to consider that it may not have an explanation, or at least a relevant one or one we can do anything about, and may just be a fluke event that “happens” because “climate does change,” even though the coincidence of such signs of extensive change in our ice caps ocean permafrost methane release regional pattern changes volatility and overall global ambient air temperature creep as we are seeing right now would, for any random 100 year period of time, as best as we can tell from the geologic record, be extremely unusual for any random 100-200 year period.
But in fact the issue of climate change is exactly the opposite – though again poor focus on and illumination of this does a great disservice to good understanding on the issue, often shoved aside due to the widespread presumption that everyone should “just know” because “we all know” or “scientists tell us” or “we can see its slowly getting warmer.”
That is, it’s not the signs of change that are the issue – they are nice things to report and talk about, to help give a ‘feel’ for the issue on top of the far more important but less resonant “idea.” The signs of change simply add corroboration that is extensive. (Corroboration that, broadly, was widely predicted and expected despite yet another false skeptic meme – similarly, like all the others repeated ad nauseum millions of times until simply believed as gospel – of how “scientists predicted ice ages back in the 197os!” when even back in the 1970s, and with far less understanding of (and data on) the issue scientific papers touching the topic predicted warming over cooling by over a 5:1 margin).
The real issue is the sudden, major, long term structural change to our atmosphere’s long term molecular chemical composition, resulting in a geologically radical increase in the long term concentration of long lived thermal radiation absorbing and re radiating molecules, in essence trapping more energy long term; either being somewhat offset by a net decrease in the most common “greenhouse gas” – water vapor, which would be awful since it would only greatly exacerbate the already potentially most devastating result from climate change – increased drought and water issues as a result of geo-regional changes as well as more intense (and thus much more subject to runoff as well as flooding, waste, and intermittent periods of longer term dryness or drought) precipitation event patterns, a result which both theory and data contradict; or being augmented by, in a warming world, an overall increase in water vapor, which both theory and data support.
So again, in a nutshell, the issue is this long term structural change to the atmosphere’s long term heat or energy trapping quotient. This would increase net earth atmospheric energy, which would in turn alter earth’s climate, which ultimately is a direct reflection of energy.
The issue is not the exact opposite – wow, the climate seems to be shifting, why is that? But rather, instead “how can the climate not shift if this atmospheric change is happening, but as scientists we don’t presume, so lets keep searching to see if there is any way it can’t or won’t or might not.” (And despite the best efforts and in many cases global zealousness of the anti climate change cause, including by a few actual “‘skeptic’ climate scientists” who despite popular perception otherwise are so few in number they can almost be routinely ticked off by name, nothing has been so discovered or plausibly articulated that passes muster). And “let’s also look at the accumulated and accumulating data to see if it somehow ,despite a complete dearth of explanation why, suggests a different story.”
Not, again, “why is climate changing” (in which case the otherwise irrational skeptic argument that anthropogenic climate change isn’t real because “climate has changed before” would be relevant), but “how could it not change?” Valid theories – as opposed to fanciful, if often gussied up with tautological and issue misconstruing “logic” ones to support this, don’t exist. And they don’t for basic reasons – we’re changing earth’s energy and energy ultimately drives climate and there is nothing magically offsetting that energy.
And the data that we do see, if anything, corroborates what we would heavily expect to see.
But of course, following yet again the very same pattern of advocacy to fit a belief, and not engage in healthy skepticism of “claims” (the irony of the acceptance of claims to “refute” anthropogenic climate change by “skepticism,” as well as the absurdity if not logical “appearance” of calling believers in earth’s “Gaia like” climate self modulating to offset mankind’s own patterns for mankind’s benefit “skeptics,” is also part of this same remarkable pattern), so called “skeptics” self selectively cherry pick the data to once again advocate a misrepresentative picture to fit preconceived and desired belief.
Claiming climate change can’t be real or sufficiently reliable or is somehow less valid because models can’t, and so often don’t, predict the exact course of measurable change over a precise time period is part of this very same pattern; and once again fundamentally misconstrues what the basic issue even is. (But, see below, overall climate models do a fairly good job given the complexity of the task, and overall have a positive correlation with climatic direction that were anthropogenic climate change not real could not reasonably be explained by mere fluke alone. And not to mention the fact that climate model or individual scientist prediction “mistakes” are also routinely if irrelevantly advanced to assert some sort of refutation or rejection of anthropogenic climate change, while the the better predictions, or, more accurately projections, by individual scientists and by climate models, and of course the array of under projections of intensity of climatic and earth changes effects by both specific individuals as well as models, are, simultaneously, all completely ignored – which is yet again part of this same pattern.)
In essence, dumping a huge amount of additional energy into it our climate system, as we are doing right now, is more likely to have a longer term dramatic effect than if the long term geophysical record suggested that climate was somehow highly static. (Note that in one of the most bizarre “science” papers published in modern times (in the off topic and seemingly will accept anything Chinese Journal Science Bulletin by the way), and one of the extraordinarily rare, allegedly vetted papers claiming that climate change is relatively insignificant, a noted group of “skeptics” simply assumed that climate was very “stable,” thereby directly contradicting a main claim of climate “skepticism” because they needed to in order to create what’s best described as a non geophysical earth related but instead “closed circuit” model that was designed to support their conclusion, rather than lead to wherever it did – and the opposite of actual science. They also, and outlandishly even for a bad high school paper, simply assumed that any increase in atmospheric energy would be instantaneously reflected in climate; which defies the basic reality of earth and its geophysical systems in a way that, to put it charitably, is bizarre for scientists who ostensibly have at least some relevant knowledge of the issue – let alone to be publishing papers on it.)
And again, a random one hundred year period (say, 1915 to 2015 or 1916 to 2016) also represents only one-forty millionth of earth’s geologic history. So the fact “earth has changed before” wouldn’t be a very satisfying explanation for why it’s changing so much and so quickly now in this 100 year period – particularly in the latter end – even in the absence of any knowledge of our atmospheric changes.**
It would also be pretty remarkable for earth’s oceans, ice sheets, and even ongoing ambient global temperatures, to show the increasingly significant signs of change they’re showing – and in an upward accumulating energy direction just as anticipated – at the same time (a sort of geologic “pinprick” of time) our sudden yet major addition to earth’s “insulation layer” – which changes total net absorbed energy – was somehow not relevantly altering climate.
In short, being able to predict future regional and global climate – as if otherwise almost as easy as a three day local weather forecast – isn’t connected to the question of whether (in a sort of long term, completely uncontrolled, global experiment with, to boot, a major time lag between cause and effect) suddenly and dramatically increasing the atmospheric concentration of long lived energy absorbing molecules is invariably changing the climate and presenting a range of long term climate altering possibilities or severities (risks), and in any event very likely a long term average increase in overall temperature.
But that doesn’t mean scientists, through a solid understanding of the issue and climate dynamics, haven’t been able to come up with models that aren’t useful. And in fact, models haven’t even been that far off overall – and more importantly have been far more accurate than not – even more than previously thought. And for whatever it’s worth, their accuracy in comparison to “skeptic” forecasts, which are predictions of what people want to happen, is absolutely “off the charts.”
Thus the main basis of skepticism – as with essentially all the others – misses what the issue really is. Models aren’t climate change.
Models are supportive. That is, they help further validate and solidify our understanding of the issue, because they have not only been remarkably far from simply meaningless random predictions, overall they have been fairly accurate in terms of projecting relevant ranges; and, though scientists would always like to forecast things exactly before they happen – and continually working on and attempting to do so produces better and better understanding and projections – models realistically are ultimately just an attempt (albeit an important one) to try and approximate or project what’s most likely to happen from that impact, and approximate some range.
One of the grandfathers of serious climate change concern, and vast early knowledge of the issue – James Hansen – was even part of the large team that came up with one of the first powerful set of long term projections based on our ongoing alteration of the atmosphere – back in 1981. (More here.) They’ve turned out to be very accurate; ridiculously so if one believes the ambient temperature signs we’ve seen (forget about the more important and larger upward changes in ocean and ice sheet heat energy accumulation) to be a largely random event, at the exact same geologic time our anthropogenic actions have changed the atmospheric composition of heat trapping gases to levels not seen on earth in millions of years.
For the climate change “skeptic” who is intent on staying a skeptic, this probably won’t matter. But it’s an important part of the issue to be covered, because the confusion over models has played an extremely large role in overall perception – and more importantly – misperception – on climate change: As this fact -that we can’t predict exactly what will happen – has erroneously served as a main basis for refuting the fact that atmospheric alteration is both significantly affecting climate, and even more importantly, creating a large risk range of potential affects.
It’s a big part of the story of climate change – one that hasn’t received fair or balanced coverage. And covering the relevant arguments and facts herein would help further better understanding on, and assessment of, the issue.
*When the surface of the earth is warmer than the surrounding air, it emits thermal radiation, or heat energy. This energy is of medium wavelength, and it is absorbed and re radiated outward in all directions (and re absorbed and re radiated outward, and so on), very much unlike reflected sunlight, which is short wavelength radiation and passes through the atmosphere unabsorbed.
**Again, the process of anthropogenic limate change”skepticism” seems to also cherry pick out slivers of data to claim that earth isn’t really changing all that much, and even less persuasively: except to the hundreds of millions of people in the United States and Britain alone – including many in regional and national legislatures – who either intrinsically have this belief, or have been convinced of it through a near mountainous avalanche of just such advocacy and mis-impression.
Congressional Testifier Judy Curry: The Great “Self Correcting” Mechanism of Climate Change “Skeptics.”
Delusions at their finest. From Judy Curry, a frequent testifier to a generally scientifically illiterate and ideological U.S Congress:
However, the main point is that this group is rapidly self-correcting – the self-correcting function in the skeptical technical blogosphere seems to be more effective (and certainly faster) than for establishment climate science.
Curry includes a few non skeptics in her group. But she seems to be relying on the fact that some of the most ludicrous claims of skeptics are contradicted by other skeptics (as part of the process of believing they are engaging in objective, non results oriented, non advocacy, science), as evidence for her belief sealing assertion that skeptics are “self correcting.”
This sort of phenomenon also goes on at the WattsUpWithThat website that is heavily referenced in the above linked piece: A place where hard core “skeptics,” regardless of the most relevant facts, yet under fervently believed auspices of them, consistently advocate that climate change is either a hoax or trivial.
WUWT is a site that, along with a random smattering of other erroneous information sites, comes up on the first page of most google climate change related searches, and which has an astoundingly high and greatly underestimated influence on broad public perception of an issue that, otherwise, at its core at least is a pretty simple no brainer:
Namely, we rapidly and suddenly changed our earth’s insulation layer to what are geologically unheard of levels relative to the otherwise exceedingly long course of mankind’s evolutionary transition into a species.
And while conditions on earth – e.g, ocean temps, ice sheets and overall albedo – also interact with and affect that insulation layer and help drive longer term climate, the two main direct drivers of long term climate as well as those just referenced earth systems that in the long run also help stabilize and drive climate, are the sun (incoming energy); and earth’s atmosphere – its long term insulation – or, simply put, the recapture of otherwise escaping energy.
So of course climate likely has to change, possibly in (to us) geologically profound ways. And our sudden geologically relevant change to the atmosphere’s long term, and accumulating, recapture of energy presents an enormous risk range of what to us may seem “slow,” but would in fact be geologically very rapid and (again, to us), potentially severe lurches or changes that are probably still hard to fully comprehend or predict.
At the so called “most viewed site on climate science in the world,” the most hard core “skeptics” sometimes wax on about how they are debating and looking at things “objectively” in order to arrive at the best science, while in fact everything under the sun is tried out in order to most effectively advocate for this desired position.
This includes a rigorous assessment of claims to find those that can be sufficiently believed and self perpetuating in order to continue said advocacy and belief under believed guise of the “better science.”
Thus, when commenters therein suggest the idea that carbon dioxide levels have increased is wrong, or the accepted knowledge that the increase is due to anthropogenic activities is in fact wrong, many “skeptics” argue against this. For, they are, after all, “reasonable” and “objective.” (And the ability to recognize that atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen due to clear and specific anthropogenic processes, naturally, “proves that.”)
It is easy to confuse the hell out of the climate change issue, as Judy Curry’s site, along with WUWT and a near endless host of others – and with eloquent language and rhetoric almost always inversely related to the underlying accuracy of what she is really communicating – aptly shows.
And it is so easy to continue to pick apart almost anything under the sun (no pun intended) on a potentially complex issue such as “climate change,”almost all of which misrepresents the issue, gets it wrong, or wildly, almost radically, cherry picks and simply omits anything which fundamentally conflicts with pre determined conclusions drawn and assertions made, that why undermine credibility with what are obviously wacky claims even to the not very scientific?
Even for some, going to the level of simply calling NOAA and NASA outright frauds – while some of the most hard core (and usually not very scientific) Tea Party deniers literally believe this as a way to stay with their beliefs -loses credibility.
That is why in the above post Paul Homewood is looked upon as “reasonable,” and Steven Goddard, for making some of the same ultimate claims about “fraudulent” NASA, not as much, since Homewood “shows” the claims.
As Curry eloquently argues:
..Whereas Homewood more carefully documented the actual problem with the data set.
What’s interesting is that months later later, Homewood struck again. He found some temperature stations in South America (or somewhere) that had been recalibrated. He took out the recalibrations and the temperature rise for the region wasn’t as large.
He did this for a few other carefully selected geographical areas as well.
This set off an even bigger tempest among the real “skeptic” blogosphere, as well as many mainstream news sources either ideologically predisposed to the claim that climate change is all but a bunch of hooey (especially Rupert Murdoch’s ideologically driven empire, and especially Fox New there); confused about the issue; or confused about what actual “balance” in reporting is – thinking it means just parrot what everybody says without the context of relevant facts or why they’re relevant, and sort of split the difference overall. (And thus, on complicated issues, create the ability of any group to change any truth by simply claiming it vociferously and consistently enough, and with enough seemingly logical made up rhetoric in support.)
Homewood’s claims – dismissed too quickly by many who “know” climate change is a big problem and who often assume “everybody else knows it too” and aren’t much influenced by the huge cacaphony of misleading and confused information on a topic that is often poorly understood – helped to further add to the confusion and skepticism on the topic of climate change and man’s inadvertent impact on our long term climate and future climate risk range; even as ice sheets continue to melt, and the ocean gets hotter, precipitation patterns slowly become more generally intense and variable, and long term temperatures slowly continue to rise.
The problem with Homewood’s claim and the ensuing worldwide cacophony that ensued is: The temperature recalibrations weren’t represented as “mistakes,” nor the “find” by Homewood as part of the natural process of science that, aside from observation, esssentially defines it – namely, ongoing learning, adjustment, mistake, correcting, adjustment, refinement, etc.
Instead, they were represented as a “fraud.” Which is itself actually a fraud. (If a fraud can be perpetrated under guise of belief, since hard core skeptics actually believe they are being objective; and in finding ways that help to advocate their desired conclusions, self seal in their belief of those conclusions as well as their objectivity – a classic example of which is the ludicrous post by Curry linked to at the top, and the point herein.)
Temperature station recalibration is incontrovertibly considered good science. If some stations were recalibrated incorrectly, then that’s the mistake, and, as part of the process of science, it should be adjusted, corrected, or improved.
Yet the hard core “skeptic” blogosphere, picked up by much of the mainstream media, and represented basic science – routine recalibrations – to the world, as fraud.
That’s blind zealotry.
But it got worse. Homewood, as well as much of this great “self correcting skeptic community” to which Curry self convincingly refers, also neglected to mention in their constant representations that this “tampered data” (aka routine recalibrations), were not only routine, but also routinely done in both directions – upward and downward. The fact that temperature data was “changed downward” – further presenting the false impression of on its face fraud – was simply omitted as if it didn’t exist, leaving an incredibly false impression.
In essence, some of this “self correcting” skeptic community, led by Homewood, Curry’s Golden Boy for objectivity, apparently – and with zero evidence in support but for desire – broadly and repeatedly represented that routine recalibrations were tampering to raise temperatures. And did so by presenting the case to the world as if temperature station data was never supposed to be changed.
This was done when in fact a) it is considered bad science to simply refuse to recalibrate raw data – and b) such “changes” or recalibration (mostly due to lesser maintained weather gauges) were also and just about as exhaustively done in the downward direction as well.
If it was tampering, or there was credible evidence of it (some disgruntled scientist who thinks the temperature data set isn’t showing the problem and thus pulls a fast one on 100,000 plus climate, atmospheric or geo physical or paleo physical scientists, and the world round the globe, as observational indices over the years world wide, just happen to cooperate by sheer coincidence), then the non fraudulent way to allege such would be to first and foremost represent: 1) that recalibrations are part of science; not implicitly represent that raw data is what is used, so that if the raw data is “changed” it is a fraud; and 2) that the recalibrations or (“fraudulent”) changes were done upward and downward, not just that the changes were done upward alone.
And lastly, though of less import, had no recalibrations been done at all, the possibly erroneous(?) or, in the eyes of skeptics, “fraudulent” total global warming measurements would in total not even be any lower.
So the ultimate conclusion of the three part “scandal” fraud – 1) NOAA fraudulently tampered with data as opposed to recalibrated data (and, if so, with support still largely lacking, but if with support it’s simply part of the scientific process – erred on some of its recalibrations; 2) The “changed data” (again, rather than simply what it is, recalibrated raw data) was only done in an upward direction; and 3) In order to purposefully create the false appearance of a “warming world” – was also, incredibly, false.
These representations were also not just made in non stop rhetoric by politicians, comments, and an endless line of highly frequented blog sites, but in mainstream editorials and articles as well. (Most notably here, where routine recalibrations cherry picked in only the upward direction and represented as something entirely different, were in a major newspaper labeled “The Science Scandal of the Century,” in a bit of irony for the ages.)
An irony that Judy Curry, to perpetuate her own beliefs, seems completely immune to. The same Judy Curry who not long before this still largely unrecognized scandal scandal, self sealingly writes of the self correcting “skeptic” community on this issue, as opposed to the basic process of science, which she finds pales in comparison.
And still without yet coming up with a single shred of evidence, support – apart from rhetoric, hope, religious belief that a chosen God sets aside the basics laws of physics he himself created in order to keep mankind from inadvertently damaging his own interests and too radically altering the Goldilocks climate we and the species we rely upon evolved under, or misrepresentations and wild cherry picking of actual climate science itself – as to how the earth’s long term insulation layer could, as a clear result of specific anthropogenic activities, and almost breathtakingly fast, rise to levels that in Global Warming Potential Equivalent (GWPe) the earth now hasn’t seen in millions of years, and somenow not impact the climate.
While of course also cherry picking to extremes (consistently taking the far end of the far end of all estimates and leaving out other relevant facts entirely, including on Judy Curry’s far too influential blog), in order to claim that the earth isn’t really changing, or ascribe it to some mathematically fantastic coincidence that in this particular 100 year period, increasing and long term consistent signs of general changes exactly in the direction that would be expected, just “happen” to be by some bizarre coincidence.
For climate science can not be literally proven until well after the fact. (If, technically, even then.)
And since skeptics don’t want to accept it for a host of reasons and, often, broad (and often incorrect) presumptions, economic and otherwise, and have turned skepticism into an avenue for advocating against the general climate change “theory” in any seemingly plausible way possible (hence Curry’s piece above, and the delusion of the “self correcting” mechanism), the ironically misnamed”skepticism” perspective and its proponents can in fact continue to cling to that belief until well after the fact, and decades after the changes that represent what many are concerned about, are inextricably set in motion, or have already come to pass.