back to article Cheney shoots down Bush message on climate change

Dick Cheney has torpedoed his own administration's attempts to flip its rhetoric on climate change. In a TV interview in Australia, the Vice President parroted a stance against the scientific consensus on global warming which is well past its use by date, even among his colleagues. INTERVIEWER: But what's your sense, where is …

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VP Opinions Come Highly Valued

Vice President Haliburton's thoughts on global warming come highly valued. Mr. Haliburton profited greatly from his management position in the energy, private sector prior to assuming public office. His position on global warming places him fortuitously able to service the working class electorate bent over with their noses to the grindstone. Vice President Haliburton's servicing of the American people will position him in history on a level surely unequaled.

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When has science ever needed consenus?

"Some" global warming may be happening, and it seems to pre-date major industrialization, but this whole debate has become so emotionally charged, that people, most of which have never looked at the real data (and yes, I'm talking about the U.N.'s), are starting to make this an almost religious debate. I say religious, because when you can't prove something, it becomes a matter of faith.

Science, good science, requires only one person, who happens to be right, to prove something. Every time someone in the media seems to mention global warming, they seem to want to invoke "consensus". Consenus is usually the first refuge for scoundrels.

A .6 rise in temperature is almost meaningless, and besides, the world has been decarbonizing for 150 years.

Let's move on to things like eradicating malaria and other very curable things like water borne illnesses.

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Not curious?

Not wondering where all that industrial crap might be going? No interest in studying how those known "greenhouse" agents might be affecting things? What a very curious scientist you are.

Granted, the figure "0.6" doesn't look like much. It is, after all, less than 1, and we all know that 1 is not very much. So it must be meaningless. Never mind the very noticeable increase in overall warmth in our climate, the shifting onset of the seasons, that changes to plant growing patterns, the desertification of former fertile lands, the breaking up of the Arctic ice-flows. It's "0.6", you see. Meaningless.

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Since when has the media been the arbiter of scientific truth?

"Professor" Nix is right to point out their irrelevant concern for consensus. Since when has science ever needed consensus? he asks. But what conclusion does he draw from this? You have a stadium-full of scientists, each one of them, having studied the data, concluding that human activity is the most probable cause of global warming. Ah, says Nix, but that constitutes a consensus, and that makes their conclusions invalid. Very scientific.

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Cheney shot down nothing

Cheney stated facts. There is much disagreement over the extent to which man is to blame for current warming.

The earth's climate has been changing since it was formed and will continue to do so. It has been much warmer and much cooler than it is today. Scientists are not in agreement as to what caused these past wide variations and man was certainly not a factor until now.

When anyone dares to question the science, methods and numbers of researchers investigating the current fluctuation they are attacked instead of debated.

The full IPCC report has not been released, only excerpts edited by bureaucrats.

The screaming alarmists (epitomized by Al Gore) need to take a deep breath and step back and get some perspective.

It seems that many of them would have the world economy come to a screeching halt in order to keep the climate in stasis. With or without man, that will never happen.

This page has some perspective:

http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/temperature/temperature.html#1.35Myr

Some may notice that in the roughly 12,000 year warming trend that we are in now, human civilization has somehow grown and prospered right along with it. A coincidence?

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Anonymous Coward

Dumb cop, bad cop

I think it was planned. It lets Bush and Cheney lie out of both sides of their smirks.

What I wished the reporter had asked: "Since your administration supports creationism, and you say this is part of a natural cycle, just how many times have the Polar Bears gone extinct in the last 6,000 years?"

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No, Ryan, let's not

The thing is, if we don't act soon to reverse this, we may cause tipping point effects to occur. The world was warming slightly before industrialization, but that's because agriculture causes global warming too. Ploughing a field is most assuredly not a carbon neutral process. Neither is being a cow. Modern high density farming is even worse, of course, and flying your vegetables tens of thousands of kilometers does not help either.

If temperatures reach a certain level, irreversible events like the release of deep sea clathrates may occur. This would lead to a further rise in temperatures that would be extremely difficult to reverse. We can stop global warming, and many trends will help us to do this. For example, the laptop computer I'm using to type this uses about fifteen watts of power when it's just typing a comment on el Reg, which is a lot less than the two hundred watts the PC it replaced used to use. It's just stupid stuff we need to watch out for, like patio heaters and Hummers.

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The less influence we have, the more we must do

In response to Ryan Nix - the Earth is currently warming and it will have significant effects on the way we live our lives. That is a very well supported scientific fact, (no matter how much the skeptics look the other way). How much we are contributing to global warming is not certain, but that we are contributing to some extent is very, very probable. All that CO2 we make has to go somewhere!

It is worth noting that even if temperature changes in the future are smaller than they are now expected to be, global warming can still lead to significant temperature changes in some regions, eg there has been a 3 degree rise in some areas of the US in the last 100 years. A temperature rise of 1 or 2 degrees on average could easily lead to a 5 or 10 degree rise in, say, the temperature of the western seaboard of the US. This would obviously have a catastophic effect on the agriculture and the water supply of that region.

Considering we cannot presently do much to stop some of the suggested causes of natural warming (eg, volcanic eruption, solar activity), we must do absolutely everything in our power to minimise our own contribution to global warming. We must also put all our efforts into finding ways of reducing the current atmospheric levels of CO2, methane and other contributors to warming.

It is ironic, but, I'm afraid, a logical truth that if we have it in our power to avert the disaster, or at least minimise the problems coming, then a smaller than expected current human global warming contribution means we will have to work harder to have a meaningful influence on global warming.

As for the suggestion that we should be fighting maleria instead - maleria is currently spreading further and further over the globe. The reason? Global warming! A warmer Earth means more malaria and other tropical diseases, as well as more parasitic diseases, drought, flooding etc etc. If global warming is half as bad as the vast majority of the climatologists think it is going to be, fighting diseases will quickly become an lot more expensive and logistically and politically much, much harder.

As for science - it takes only one scientist to invent a hypothesis but it takes many scientists to find the necessary evidence to turn it into a proper theory. It is impossible for a single scientist to conclusively prove (in the scientific sense, as opposed to the legal sense) any scientific hypothesis. One scientist, or a small number of them, can very easily be wrong - no matter how popular they are with the political establishment. I'm afraid hostory tells us that only three types of scientist can stand alone and defy the scientific 'consensus' - the genius, the mistaken and the charlatan. Unfortunately the latter two significantly outnumber the former.

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Lies to idiots and the collapse of Science

It is a hard and thankless task addressing the never-ending stream of climate panic-mongers, but someone has to do it!

Ryan Nix is quite right to say that what should have been scientific enquiry has now become a religion. 'Consensus' is a good example of a religious term which must have no place in the search for scientific truth.

He is also right to require people to look at the real data. If the alarmists did, they would be considerably more alarmed, because what we are watching now is the wholesale sacrifice of scientific integrity on the altar of politically-obtained grants. Real data is now becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. The 'Hockey Stick' controversy (Mann/McIntyre et al) is instructive here.

Mr Russell, for example, is a very curious scientist indeed, because his explanation of why an average shift of 0.6C might be 'meaningless' is 'because it's less than 1'. I hope that Mr Nix will explain the concept of Error Bars to him, and point out that when dealing with averages, a signal whose magnitude is within the error bar (as 0.6C is), is pretty likely to be meaningless for that reason. He also suggests that complaining about 'consensus science' is not an argument - true, but no one has suggested ignoring a carefully prepared paper because it represents the consensus view. The panic-mongers have frequently barred from publication very good research indeed because it is funded by a group they dislike. Shades of Brent Spar?

Tony is correct to point out that only the 'Political Summary' of the IPCC report has been released. What he did not point out, and what is much worse, is that the IPCC have announced that this is so that the scientific chapters 'can be edited to conform to the political summary'. This is an outrageous abuse of everything that science once stood for.

Mr Butterworth notes that ' there has been a 3 degree rise in some areas of the US in the last 100 years.' May I invite him to look at the current scandal involving the USHCN? US mean temperatures over the last century actually rose to a high point in 1931, and then declined to our current value, about 1C colder than that point. In 2007, this data was modified by the CRU (see Brohan et al 2006) to remove the 1931 high point. When scientists asked why, they were told that it was due to unspecified 'adjustments'. When they asked for the original raw data to examine for themselves, they were told it was no longer available. If this is what Mr Butterworth bases his trend on, he is living a lie. He also seems to think that we could save people faster by trying to reverse warming trends than by revising the ban on DDT (another example of hysteria overcoming science and killing people). Even he must see the idiocy of this position? Though perhaps not, as he also appears to think that ' It is impossible for a single scientist to conclusively prove .... any scientific hypothesis'. What planet is he living on?

In parting, Jasmine Strong might like to know that the concept of a 'tipping point' has been invented by the politicians and model fanatics as part of their justification for the Brave New World of carbon taxes. As far as we know, it has no basis in reality, though it does make for good cinema.

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Anonymous Coward

Media dogma

How disappointing to see yet an other media outlet jumping on the dogmatic consensus band wagon of CO2 being the root cause for global warming with human intervention to blame.

A few points here: Every time we are asked to go on a collective guild trip, only the consensus of the science is quoted. There is no such consensus. The anti CO2 lobby is a close nit community where every one who disagrees is excluded. We never get real data presented with methodology of data collection. For a reason because I know some real scientists who claim the statistics on which this so called consensus is based is deeply flawed. Of all the data available only 10% is used, and data that is in conflict with the theory is filtered out. (This regarding the so called hockey stick theory that shows a rapid increase of temperature.) No one seems to look at sun activity, the most obvious root cause for climate changes. No one questions if CO2 concentration increase is the cause or effect of global warming. No one has presented a graph of lets say the global temperature in north Europe over the past 2000 years, together with CO2 concentrations and evaluated if we are falling outside historical fluctuations. (Which seems not if you only look at the climate the Romans had to name one).

All in all stop blabbering politics, and start presenting data.

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A "prediction" is never a "fact"

Responding to all of the responses to my posting, I'd like to clear up a few things:

I believe that decarbonization is a good thing, for many reasons. We're making it naturally. Recyled paper, glass, hybrid cars, etc have become common place in our everyday lives in the past 10-15 years. Yes, CO2 levels are up 30% in the past 100 years, and things like cars, factories, even farm cows, are a major contributor for this. Lastly, I'd like to say that I recyle my trash, I don't own a car and use public transportation to get to work everyday.

I just don't believe global warming is a catastrophie. From 1940-1970 the earth showed cooling, and celebrity scientists like Paul Ehrlich predicted half of all species being extinct, and a new ice age. It didn't happen. Who honestly believes that the atmosphere is a simple linear system, and by reducing one or two components, maninly Co2, will change or "stabilize" our environment, when it's never, ever had a history of being stable? My problem with this whole debate, is that it's becoming so emotionally involed and people really aren't looking at the data. It's more about how people "feel" when they see a tree being cut down, or see black smoke coming out of a tail pipe.

Jasmine, Richard and Tim's posting are not only wrong in fact's, but wrong in speculating. NONE OF US KNOW THE FUTURE. Consenus is the business of politics, not science. Lastly, a crash program to try and reverse global warming is unwise, and unwarranted. Also, I never said that CO2 was increasing malaria out break, but banning DDT did.

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Manufacturing Consent

Perhaps the best characterization of a scientific education, or any education, that I'm familiar with came from James Clerk Maxwell. Mr. Maxwell wrote: "...the student must make himself familiar with a considerable body of most intricate mathematics, the mere retention of which in the memory materially interferes with further progress …”

IIRC an American author of business books would later popularize Maxwell's idea as 'the Peter Principle', wherein we individually rise to our level of incompetence.

Achieving consensus on global warming and acting as members of the global village may not satisfy the requirements of rigorous scientific investigation but it may be the best we can do. Acting on global warming from the perception of man made causes forms a consensus that lends the political will necessary to wield the blunt instrument that is government. Some may see it as a way to wean the west from a reliance on middle east oil supplies. Some may see it as a way to further a green agenda. And so it goes. We attempt to govern by consensus implementing necessary checks and balances open to transparency and accountability. The informed members of the scientific community who criticize consensus on global warming and the impending agenda provide checks and balances.

Our economy is directed by fiat and fueled by consensus. Choosing to funnel resources into a war on global warming that may wean us from a reliance on middle eastern oil may not be such a bad thing no matter that it's misdirected.

Going back to Maxwell's quote it's fair, I think, to say achieving consensus for governmental action based on informed scientific reasoning ain't gonna happen. Most people can at best muster a 19th c. Sherlock Holmes characterization of a scientific solution based on a single variable, ceteris paribus, reductionist, deterministic experiment. Asking them to acquire the education necessary to entertain a multicausal, time tiered world punctuated by random catastrophies isn't likely to fly. The recent headlines announcing the woeful state of science and mathematics in grade school education speaks all that needs to be said.

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Amazing!

Hard to know where to start with these comments - some just show an astounding level of ignorance of the subject.

It's abslutely fine to state an opinion on something which you are informed about, but it's always struck me as strange that so many people (Cheney and Bush included) feel free to state opinions on climate change without knowing any of the first principles on which the scienec is based. I wouldn't state any opinions on international currency fluctuations without knowing something about the subject, but so many people seem to feel themselves qualified to jump in on this.

Mr. Nix says 0.6 degrees C is almost meaningless - perhaps he should go and find out how much of an average global temperature change lead to almost 3 km of ice forming over Northern Europe and North America.

Tony says that people who he disagrees with attack their critics, he proves this by attacking people he disagrees with. The URL he references makes no conclusions either way, except to show variation over different timescales. He also calls Al Gore a screaming alarmist, but the scientists who work in the field (as opposed to people who disagree with Gore's politics) have almost universally praised Gore for his hard work in understanding and presenting the science in a clear and concise manner.

Mr Amalfi states some opinions on why he thinks scentists are playing with data and making things up - but doesn't provide any proof or data to back up these assertions. Tens of thousands of people have spent many years analyzing cliamte records, but somone who has looked at one diagram thinks that the trend lies within the error bar, so he knowsbetter than they do (not to say that scientists and consensus cannot be wrong, but give us a little credit, please). The term "tipping point" may be new to many people but the ideas of threshold behaviour, non-linear response, etc. hve long been studied by many branches of science and are necessary to explain many physical phenomena (search for hysteresis and magnetism, or laminar flow, for example).

The anonymous "media dogma" commenter makes a number of silly assertions such as that only 10% of available data is used (source?), "No-one looks at sun activity" - well, if you ignore 100 plus years of research and data. "No one has presented a graph of lets say the global temperature in north Europe over the past 2000 years, together with CO2 concentrations..." - well perhaps not on the Fox news website, but those graphs certainly do exist and have for 15 plus years.

This is not a simple thing to study or to understand. Understanding and analyzing requires some background in physics, chemistry, atmospheric science, etc, and simply stating that all the people who have put that time and hard work in are wrong because they disagree with you is umb and insulting. There are many things we don't know about climate change and its impact on the planet - but simply shouting down people and claiming that "many of them would have the world economy come to a screeching halt" is unhelpful and simply shows your ignorance. Do the reading, understand the science, participate in the process; but unless you hve the basis in facts and training, your opinions are ignorant and worthless.

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Anonymous Coward

Changing the past

It's true that the warming is man-made. Made by changing the way in which historical temperature records are used. Between 1999 and 2006, the USHCN records have been adjusted to increase the difference between 1920s and present by 0.5 degrees.

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been here before

The argument that global warming is a myth reminds me greatly of the 'smoking isn't bad for you' campaigns by tobacco giants some time ago. Vast quantities of misinformation generated by patently interested parties seeking to silence the obvious truth, believed by the gullible and those who just want to justify their discredited lifestyles. The problem is that the interested parties might just get away with it long enough for their own self interest; sell-out, retirement or death, leaving every one else to clear up the mess.

Look at the two sides of the argument. What do they have to gain? On one side the vast profits on ever increasing consumerism and on the other... well what do the advocates of global warm gain? They are not selling anything.

Look at the sort of arguments people use. Some people say we should all try to cut down on energy use. Other say they enjoy their energy rich lifestyle and don't want to give it up.

Look at the people making the arguments. I'm not anti-American but most of the head-in-the-sand talk comes from the highest energy per capita country in the world by far. Who backed out of the Kyoto agreement? Which county has a leader from an oil baron family?

Whether or not you believe in the science of global warming it is clear that everything we do has an effect somewhere and global resources are not limitless. Many of us have children and grand children and for them we should seek to leave the world a better place that when we entered it. It's not about the science, that's all been done. It's about politics, business and self interest now and a cursory glance shows what 's going on there.

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Still too much uneducated comment

Very good comment by Raoul Miller above. People who don't understand the science really should read up on it before commenting.

I would point out that Ryan Nix really doesn't understand the science when he claims "Yes, CO2 levels are up 30% in the past 100 years, and things like cars, factories, even farm cows, are a major contributor for this". Ryan, Farm cows do produce CO2, but no-one cares about that. However, they also produce a large amount of methane which is why they are commonly brought up as an issue.

Neither is scientific concensus a bad thing - the person making that comment seems to believe that the more people who believe something, the less likely it is to be true: a very strange viewpoint.

For any climate sceptic: please, go, read, discover, learn. Don't just read the sceptic websites, read the science. Try and learn the valid scientific reasons for uncertainty, and ask yourself whether that uncertainty is worth the gamble. Because that is what it is: a giant gamble.

The basic science of the greenhouse effect is known. Where there is discussion, it is in regard to the magnitude of the change and how this will be altered by feedback effects (again, if you don't understand this term, read up on it, a wuick comment is not enough to explain the science). This is where the confusion arises, but simply ask yourself: what are the options? Here's a range of options

1)We act: the threat was not as bad as is currently feared.

Result - positive, as oil/gas will last longer for both ourselves and our descendants, and humanity as a whole will benefit.

2)We act: the threat was as bad or worse than currently feared

Result - positive. We will still suffer from global warming but we will have mitigated the worst effects.

3)We don't act - the threat was not as bad as is currently feared

Result - negative. Oil/Gas prices are already going up, and we will STILL pay higher costs for energy.

4)We don't act - the threat was as bad or worse than is currently feared.

Result - Disaster.

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Anonymous Coward

Please do your research before you post

Tim Butterworth - please google "northern european malaria " and read some of the results.

As for global warming well,

1) Is the world warming: yes it is

2) Is man responsible: yes, but only for some of it.

3) is CO2 the only culprit: no

4) What is the best way to deal with it: This is where the science becomes politicised and where most of the argument is.

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Mourning the Death of The Scientific Method

What irks me most concerning the debate about global warming is the lack of clarity that occurs when lay people proffer opinions as a de facto substitute for a methodology of structured inquiry that has quite literally brought mankind out of the caves and forests, into a much more sophisticated style of life.

The heart of the scientific method is as follows:

1. Observe some aspect of the universe.

2. Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed.

3. Use the hypothesis to make predictions.

4. Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.

Where we've gotten sidetracked in this whole debate is at the point of sorting out the discrepancies. We're talking about an observed phenomenon (global warming) that by itself is deceptively simple and straightforward, but which is one outcome of a highly complex and interactive set of variables. There are three major groups of variables - vivocentric variables (man-made and bovine CO2 production, arboreal O2 production and bacteriologic nitrogen fixing are all good examples here); geocentric variables (volcanic eruptions, seasonal albedo variablity and plate tectonics are good examples here); and finally, exoplanetary variables (perturbations in Earth's orbit and mean solar output are good examples of these variables).

The problem I have with global warming rhetoric is that it puts the cart squarely ahead of the horse. The truth is that we have yet to produce a comprehensive theory that accounts for all of the variables. This is not particularly surprising because I'm not sure that we can even identify all of the variables involved in determining climate. But, nonetheless, in our anthropocentrist style, we seem all too content to stop at the point of blaming ourselves. This in spite of the fact that our current explanations fail to adequately explain the reality of previous climate changes. I'm referring, of course, to the climactic variability that has occurred over the 99.9999 +% of the planet's history during which mankind didn't exist.

That is a very important point - before we go willy-nilly suggesting solutions, isn't it reasonable to thoroughly understand the full nature of the problem? In the worst case, taking action based on incomplete or inaccurate theories could well have unintended and far-reaching consequences that are negative in some other way. I was taught as a lad that the point of the scientific method was to get definite, provable and repeatable results, and then take action. Much in the same vein as medicine's first rule: primum non nocere - do no harm, we need to understand what we're doing, not just act.

Many of the "compelling evidence" pieces cited in popular articles are based on computer generated predictions of mean global temperature change that are based on a few variables (few relative to the total number of variables). There is no proof that they are the key variables, and there is no evidence presented that the interactions between them have been correctly modeled. As anyone who has done a bit of 'what-if' modeling can attest, one can produce a huge number of outcomes given incremental changes to each of the variables. I suppose that if given free access to a supercomputer, I could come up with some pretty graphic presentations of the globe heating up and cooling down as well as the next chap. To the extent that I'm better educated than the average person, it might serve as persuasive evidence to others that it's "the answer" - but then again it might just be pretty pictures that I got from one of my millions of 'what-if' simulations.

I think most of us have seen studies that purport to "prove" a point using correlation as the key argument in their proof - hemlines and the stock market is a commonly cited example. The weakness inherent in this methodology, however, is that it fails to unequivocally establish a causal link - it merely establishes a statistical link. Much of what is passing for science is thinly disguised correlative work that neither proves or disproves anything. If you think that correlative works constitute adequate proof, then explain for us the causal link between NYSE changes and hemlines, please.

It's a shame that this issue has become politicised and emotionalised to the degree that it's become a market sector unto itself with a life all it's own - just ask Mr. Gore about the ways he's profited from beating the global warming drum; just ask the owners of all those media outlets, whether print, electronic or web, about the myriad ways they've profited by bleating about global warming. It's unfortunate for us all that our scientists, both pro and con, have been hijacked by the politicians and media around them to such a degree that we no longer have scientific dialogue and discourse over global warming, in their places we've accepted screed and hate-mongering.

There's nothing rational or sensible about the current state of affairs. I don't know what the final outcome of the current observed trend toward higher mean global temperatures will be, but I do know that standing on opposite sides of a picket line shouting expletives at one another isn't doing a damn thing to advance our understanding of and ability to deal with climate change. Dealing with climate change is the real heart of the issue here - we do know that the planet has been significantly warmer, and significantly cooler than it is today. It's safe to assume that the real constant in the history of climate is not its stability, but its variability. Therefore, it's also safe to assume that our future survival depends on understanding the whole climate model, not just parts of it. Whatever the outcome of the current trend, it is evident that we need to use our proven scientific method of analysis and discovery to keep ourselves alive into the future - not the loud "sky is falling" vs "head in the sand" debate.

-Geoff

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good arguments but you miss the point

Geoff, you make some good points but you miss a few key facts. First of all is the risk if we get this one wrong. If the vast majority of climate scientists are wrong, but we listened and acted, whats going to happen? Simply speaking, slightly higher fuel bills in the short term and slightly lower fuel bills in the long term.

THAT'S IT.

If those scientists are right on the other hand, and we don't act...then we're in serious trouble.

So do we wait for the science to be absolutely proven (rather than almost absolutely, as is the case currently - the haggling now is over the precise magnitude of change, not whether that change will happen), even if thats another 20 years - 20 years the scientists warn us could make a significant difference?

"Dealing with climate change is the real heart of the issue here - we do know that the planet has been significantly warmer, and significantly cooler than it is today. It's safe to assume that the real constant in the history of climate is not its stability, but its variability. "

Rate of change - this is an abnormal weather event already, due to both the temperatures but more importantly the rate that this change has happened. When you talk about variables such as volcanoes - do you think scientists are so stupid that they don't consider these? They do - the magnitude of them is not enough over such a small timescale.

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But still...

A couple of points...

...given that many of the cyclic systemic changes involved in creating/causing mean global temperature increases occur over time scales that far exceed the ability of any human or generation of humans to fully comprehend, can we predictably say what will result from any groups of actions that we humans undertake? I think not.

...given that ice core evidence as well as geo-archaeologic evidence point to both slow climactic 'drift' as well as dramatic local and regional shifts in climate of 10's of degrees F, can we state without equivocation whether we're in a slow change cycle or a rapid change cycle? I think not

...given that European records from the late 1200's to mid 1800's indicate a significant lowering of average temperatures in spite of the deforestation and burning of wood and coal, what exactly can we conclude about the correlation of CO2 and temperature? Very little, I think.

...given that well over 95% of the species that have ever lived on earth are extinct, largely from an inability to adapt to change (climate, competition, food source, etc), isn't it a bit anthropomorphically arrogant to think that the same won't happen to us? I think so.

Being human, we are hopelessly bound to the temporal, dimensional, spatial and perceptual myopia that comes with being human. In spite of our proficiency at gathering and analysing, we're still unable to effectively grasp those large, long-lasting and far-reaching aspects of our universe that impact us.

While we should continue striving to learn, understand, analyse and theorise, we should also recognise our limitations - just because we can't know all the answers doesn't mean we shouldn't try. But this is the very first time in the recorded history of mankind that we're contemplating intentional environmental change on a global scale. Hurray for us - we're starting to think REALLY BIG! But all caution to us, for it's the first time we're intentionally attempting to change systems that are this large and about which we have more questions than answers.

My original premise, as I recall, was not that we shouldn't change our ways and actions, but that we shouldn't stray from a structured method of thinking that has brought us farther ahead than any past species of which we're aware. And that takes me back to my original posting title - Mourning the Death of the Scientific Method.

Whatever is going on right now with respect to the "debate" on mean global temperature increase, it isn't science. It's a mixture of science, pseudo-science, hucksterism, politics, religion, showmanship, self-promotion and flim-flam. That's a combination to which I'm loathe to entrust my future and the futures of my children and grandchildren. Give me some solid science that can produce irrefutable and repeatable results, and I'm there with you - but when there are holes in the science that's being presented big enough to drive the bus of evolutionary change through, I'll pass, thanks.

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Anonymous Coward

More facts

A couple of points to consider:

1. That most of the Glaciers around the world are growing, including the largest one in Greenland and the two largest ones in the southern hemisphere. The Antarctic is getting thicker and colder. So the case for arguing global warming is not decisive. Ref: http://www.iceagenow.com/Growing_Glaciers.htm

2. We don’t understand why global climate changes take place, please see Henrik Svensmark article Ref: http://www.spacecenter.dk/research/sun-climate/a-new-theory-of-climate-change

There is lot more going on then the media are pushing.

3.The fear of: Not to act, just in case: Well my house and cars produce 21.5tonnes of co2 each year. To reduce this means not using electricity and purchasing fuel. Off course I can try to reduce it but unless the energy industry starts to produce c02 free energy, it will not happen. To shut down our existing industries and manufacture new ones will cause massive social upheaval. I not trying to scare any one but if you convert all cars to electricity but the power stations burn coal were is the gain? (other than clean cities).

4.The global economy would need to shut down eg. in Australia we ship iron ore to Japan, they produce metal to manufacture cars then ship the cars back to Australia to sell. How many tonnes of C02 was produced in the manufacture, production and distribution off your new Pirus?

My point being economically such huge changes will create high inflation and unemployment who wants to be unemployed when you have a wife and family to support? The argument thats better than global warning is all academic as in the end the burden wont be carried by all of us, lest of all the Politicians and the public service but by people who are in the industries that are effected eg the coal/oil industry, Aeroplane travel and manufacturing industry.

So, before we rush of and panic about global warning how about we put all the cards on the table and make a well informed decision not a misinformed decision.

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To the anonymous poster above

I examined the site you mentioned, "Growing_Glaciers", and found much of it to be anecdotal. For example, a paragraph half-way down a BBC news report states that an Antarctic base repeatedly gets buried under increasing snow. Quite so. It doesn't say exactly where the base is, or whether the "five feet" of annual snowfall is more or less than has previously been recorded.

Frankly, I find it hard to believe that a group of scientists would spend their time combing such articles in order to extract titbits like that. It smacks rather of an organised group whose aim is to counter the effects of the global warming consensus. Might such a group exist? It might. It might be funded by Exxon-Mobile. We unscientific world citizens can only wonder.

Meanwhile, I note that during the last 20 years my planet has been getting distinctly warmer. I understand that CO2 acts to trap heat, and I see also that increasingly vast amounts of the stuff (along with all kinds of pollutants) are being produced by our industry. I also realise that the earth has been subject to natural temperature variations over the millennia, and that this could be responsible for current warming. However, commentators - especially on the sceptical side - insist we know too little about how these work. Which means, in short, that we have NO EVIDENCE that natural causes are currently operating, while one apparent cause - our own industrial emissions - certainly is.

I am open to the suggestion that the search for funds distorts the direction of scientific research, as I am to the possibility that the nuclear fuel industry has a vested interest in promoting the global warming agenda - and yes, I remember the great K2 fiasco (which I never believed in). However, to suggest that the whole global warming movement is little more than a scientists' scam, as some have done, amounts to a vast conspiracy theory.

My mental resources are limited, as is the world I live in, but I would opt for cautious action on the assumption that we are causing damage to our environment over sceptical inaction, which merely seems to be self-serving.

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And yet, then again...

"...smacks rather of an organised group whose aim is to counter the effects of the global warming consensus. Might such a group exist? It might. It might be funded by Exxon-Mobile...."

In other words, a global conspiracy of oil barons is attempting to despoil a consensus among those who notoriously fail to reach consensus, namely scientists? Further, when scientists eventually do fall into a consensus, often those consensus opinions have historically been wrong - steady-state universe; biological demise of the dinosaurs are but just a few of the more recent consensus opinions to fall into disrepute.

"...commentators - especially on the sceptical side - insist we know too little about how these work. Which means, in short, that we have NO EVIDENCE that natural causes are currently operating..."

But we do have evidence - credible evidence from ice cores, tree rings, fossil evidence, geological evidence. Evidence isn't the problem here - it's how all the evidence connects. What we don't possess is a broad overarching view of what all of the evidence means within the context of all of the other evidence.

"I am open to the suggestion that the search for funds distorts the direction of scientific research, as I am to the possibility that the nuclear fuel industry has a vested interest in promoting the global warming agenda - and yes, I remember the great K2 fiasco (which I never believed in). However, to suggest that the whole global warming movement is little more than a scientists' scam, as some have done, amounts to a vast conspiracy theory."

Hold on, I''m confused here - conspiracy theories are OK when they work for you as in your first paragraph, but not when they work against you as in the paragraph above? Rather than to rely on rhetoric and polemics to further the debate, I think the prudent course is to continue developing a better understanding of how what we know all fits together.

"My mental resources are limited, as is the world I live in, but I would opt for cautious action on the assumption that we are causing damage to our environment over sceptical inaction, which merely seems to be self-serving."

I think you can see that there are people and organisations who hold vested positions on both sides of this debate, and who therefore are self-serving. Ultimately, I think we have to let the facts lead the way and make decisions that are driven by solid science, rather than ones that are driven by a religious-like zeal to dominate the marketplace of free ideas..

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. . .and again

Not at all. Of course proper scientific procedure is the way to go, but there is a political decision to be made now, because - as you say - science cannot yet give us the necessary clarity on climate change.

My point about conspiracy theory is simply that it is unlikely that a disparate group of international scientists, whom you yourself say are inclined to disagree anyway, could organise such a world-wide scam as to promote a misleading notion of human-driven global warming as a means to gain funds. On the other hand a small and powerful group, such as the global oil industry, is capable of setting up an effective counter-campaign. I'd be surprised if they weren't.

Concerning natural factors being responsible for the current warming process, I understand that this has happened over the millenia, but I don't see anyone citing evidence that those factors actually ARE operating. Only that they can.

Which still leaves us with political decisions to make about observed global warming on the basis of insufficient scientific input.

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...and yet again...

The devil is in the details (as it always is), or should I say the devil's in the methodology in this instance.

The single biggest factor in my remaining skeptical of this alleged groundswell of opinion is that I read too many public proclamations being made by organisations such as the United Nations, that cite an overwhelming majority of climate experts who agree that the upward change in mean global temperature is due to mankind. I find this misleading because:

1) there is no central registry of "climate experts" of which I'm aware, and if there is, I'd like to know who is responsible for the creation and maintenance of that list and the criteria upon which it is based. In order to have a majority, let alone an overwhelming majority, both sides in the discussion need to establish a mutually acceptable list of experts whose opinion we'll all accept;

2) in these broad pronouncements, there is no effort to reproduce the research, and thereby repudiate the science, of the primary investigators;

3) there is no attempt to attach weighting to the absolute value of each of the individual studies. To the contrary, there appears to be an underlying assumption that all research is of equal probative value;

4) far too many of the primary research efforts use correlative statistical methods, which as you must surely know, carry the least weight because of their inability to attach the element of causality;

5) there is no evidence that the bodies making these pronouncements have performed any statistical manipulations to exclude, or at the very least, minimise the impact of duplication of data, the funding source issue that you've correctly cited, or the impact of "me-too"-ism, a well-documented phenomenon to which any group of humans is susceptible.

In short, if I was sitting on your doctoral thesis committee and you handed in a report similar to the recent UN white paper on mean global temperature rise, I'd send you back to answer at least the few points that I've raised here, if not more, before I'd hear your defence of your thesis. My comment to you would be that what you'd put forth so far isn't particularly persuasive without stronger evidentiary material and analysis.

Now, onto the subject of whether the current trends are the result of these longer-term oscillations in mean global temperature that you refer to as "natural factors". I think you're missing the point on this. Many of the skeptics, scientist and non-scientist alike, believe that the current observations are in fact due to the "natural factors" of the planet. These "natural factors" fall into three general domains - that due to living things, such as trees, mankind, cows etc; that due to geological forces, such as volcanoes, plate tectonics, variations in mean planetary albedo etc; and that due to exoplanetary forces, such as orbital variations, mean solar output and galactic movement, etc. That has been the evidence on the table throughout this whole discussion.

This is a significant point - it's just not that these "natural factors" can cause change in mean global temperature, it's that they do cause change in mean global temperature. What the skeptics are waiting to hear is definitive proof that the activities of mankind are unequivocally causing the results that we're observing. The burden of proof, here, is on those who suggest that the causes of planetary warming are different from what has been identified through years of prior research, not on those who believe that 3+ Bn years of evidence represents persuasive proof.

When you speak of making political decisions, you're really talking about socio-economic decisions that have the power to stultify the progress of mankind and to my way of thinking, decisions of that magnitude ought not be rendered on incomplete, inaccurate or misleading information. Because of their impact they deserve to be made on facts, not speculation.

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